I thought Matthew was being caring when he offered to keep an eye on our poorly lodger. I just didn’t expect him to care quite so much…
By Shirley Drury, 45, from Scunthorpe
I clasped my hand on my mouth as Matthew got down on one knee and proposed. ‘I know it’s soon, but I want to be with you forever. Will you marry me, Shirley?’
Soon? I’d only met Matthew a couple of days before!
But both smitten teenagers we were caught up in the romantic whirlwind and of course, I said yes. Three days after his dramatic proposal, I fell pregnant with the first of our five children.
Matthew picked me up and swung me around when I told him our baby news. Beaming at me, he said: ‘I know it’s all happening quickly, but it feels so right. I can’t wait for us to be a family.’
I was 19 when we walked down the aisle a year later, and made our love official in front of our friends and family.
In time, we added to our brood. We’d always wanted a big family and although life with five little ones was hectic, ours was a happy home, full of love.
So when Tracy, 22, needed a place to stay earlier this year, Matthew and I were the first to offer.
Tracy was the daughter of my cousin, Anthony. I’d always been close to Anthony so when he died when Tracy was just three, it was a huge blow.
Tracy grew up with my own daughters, Jackie, now 24, and Catherine, 21, and the three of them became inseparable.
‘Things are difficult at home with my boyfriend,’ Tracy admitted one night after we’d invited her round for tea.
‘I want to leave him, but I’ve got nowhere to go.’
Tracy had never got on well with her mum so Matthew and I agreed she could stay with us.
‘You know you can always stop with us, love,’ I told her. Our three-bedroom house was already bursting at the seams but I was determined to help if I could. I owed it to Anthony.
‘Really?’ Tracy beamed. ‘That would be amazing, thanks Shirley!’
When Tracy moved in, she settled in right away. She felt at home with us and when she began calling me ‘Mum’, and Matthew ‘Dad’, I knew I’d done the right thing.
‘It’s like having another one of our own,’ I smiled at Matthew. ‘I know,’ he replied. ‘It’s nice that she calls me ‘Dad’. She’s my baby girl.’
But things weren’t easy for Tracy. She told us she had type 1 diabetes and epilepsy, which meant she was at risk of having a seizure at any time.
‘They’re particularly bad at bedtime,’ she explained. ‘Sometimes I can have as many as 40 to 50 fits a night.’
It meant that she needed round-the-clock care.
‘It’s ok love, you can come in with me,’ I told Tracy as I made space for her in my bed. ‘Matthew can crash on the sofa.’
But it was exhausting and a couple of weeks later, Matthew offered to keep an eye on Tracy instead.
‘I’m worried that she’s getting worse and you’re walking around like a zombie, you need some proper rest,’ Matthew said, concerned.
It was typically thoughtful of Matthew and we agreed that Tracy would sleep downstairs with him, while I got a decent night’s rest up in my room.
It seemed like the perfect arrangement, but within a few days, Matthew grew cold and distant.
‘Not today love, the kids are around,’ he told me when I leaned in for my usual good morning kiss.
It seemed strange. He always gave me a peck in the morning – and besides, the kids were grown up, they were used to seeing their mum and dad share a good morning kiss.
‘How about a quick cuddle then?’ I asked later when Tracy was in the bathroom. ‘No,’ Matthew said, pushing me away. ‘Tracy will be back soon.’
I shrugged it off at first but then I noticed that Matthew insisted on taking Tracy to her doctor’s appointments, alone.
‘What’s that all about, Mum?’ Jackie asked one day as the pair of them headed out of the door together – again. ‘Dad never takes you to your appointments.’
She had a point, but I told myself he was just looking out for Tracy. ‘He just wants to make sure she gets there safely, that’s all,’ I told our daughter.
However, when I caught the pair of them snuggled up together on the sofa, under a duvet, I began to doubt myself. Something wasn’t right.
Tracy had grown up with our own daughters, she called me ‘Mum’ and Matthew, ‘Dad’. There couldn’t be anything going on between them… could there?
‘I don’t know Mum,’ our eldest son, Jonathan, said. ‘It’s not right. They’re always together, under that duvet. It’s shifty.’
I refused to believe them at first. I told him: ‘Don’t be silly – Matthew’s old enough to be Tracy’s dad. In fact. she calls him Dad!’
But once the seed of doubt had been sown, I couldn’t shake it. All I noticed was their intimate chats, their lingering glances, and their evenings spent snuggled on the sofa.
One day, four months after Tracy had moved in, I went round to my mum’s house and promptly burst into tears. Jonathan was there, and he immediately rushed to my side.
‘It’s him, isn’t it? Dad? He’s having an affair.’
My mind was all over the place and I could barely speak through the tears. I sobbed: ‘I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you. But I feel awful.’
Jonathan hated seeing me in that state and he marched back to the house, taking Jackie and our other son, Anthony, with him.
I sat with Mum for a while, as she soothed me – before Jonathan burst back in. ‘He says you’re making it up,’ he spat. ‘He’s basically calling you a liar.’
I saw red then. Matthew should have rushed to my side to console me. Instead, he’d told our children I was a liar.
‘That’s it, I’m going to confront him,’ I stormed, grabbing my handbag. ‘I need to know the truth.’ I left Mum’s and headed back home.
But as I went to push the door open, it wouldn’t budge. Matthew had locked me out. I fished around in my bag but then I realised, I didn’t have my door key.
I hadn’t thought I’d need them – it was my own house!
‘Just tell me!’ I yelled at Matthew as I hammered on the door. ‘Are you having an affair with Tracy?’
Matthew came to the door but he wouldn’t open it. Still, he didn’t waste any time getting to the point.
‘Yes,’ he shouted back, not even bothering to deny it. ‘Yes, I am… and she’s carrying my child.’
My world collapsed in that moment. It was almost too much to bear. Matthew was cheating, with Tracy… now she was expecting his baby.
How could they?
I’d gone out of my way to help Tracy, offering her a place to stay when she needed it. She’d even called me ‘Mum’. And she repaid me by stealing my husband. It was sick.
‘Don’t you dare touch her,’ Matthew hissed as the pair of them eventually sloped out, leaving me in the house with the kids.
Watching Tracy walk out with my husband, with a smug look on her face, broke my heart.
Matthew tried to worm his way back into my life, begging me back, but it was over. The trust was broken.
He went back to Tracy and now they’re awaiting the birth of their baby, due in the new year. I thought blood was thicker than water, but Tracy’s welcome to that rat.
Matthew, 45, said: “There’s probably a lot she hasn’t told you. It goes back further than that. She had an affair. There’s a lot of previous there. No, not really (I don’t feel guilty) because I only stuck around for the kids. Yeah (Shirley and I were almost acting as parents to Tracy). Yeah (it was in that time when we were caring for Tracy that my relationship started with her). Our little girl is due in February. It is true, I’ve never lied about anything. Even when the divorce came through I admitted everything, to get the divorce through.”
Tracy, 22, said: “No not really, I don’t feel bad about what happened because I saw how bad she treated Matthew while I was there. The way she was, how she was doing things, how she talked to Matthew. It didn’t start straight away (the affair). It took quite a while. I moved in and Shirley had me upstairs with her for two or three weeks, then she said to Matthew, ‘I can’t cope with this, you’re going to have to take over.’ Matthew said that was fine. At the end of the day, she (Shirley) didn’t really do anything for me. It was mainly Matthew that did it all. Matthew saved my life that many times (because of the seizures). I didn’t take him away (from Shirley), it was his own choice.”