Two years. That's how long we'd been married. I'd been married before, to Tony, but that was a disaster. He broke my wrist once. He was brutal, especially when he was drunk, which was often. I didn't tell the Police, because I was terrified of him. Later, he assaulted a man in a pub and got two years.
I stayed with my mum in Braintree until I could find my feet. I got a new job with the local building society and started to piece my life together. There were no children, thank goodness - they might have turned out like him.
When I felt a little more self-confident, I rented a flat in Hatfield Peverel, still close to my mum, but which gave me the independence I needed.
I joined an art class. I'd always been interested in watercolours, and some of the landscapes I'd done weren't bad. One particularly, of bleak Dungeness, was especially pleasing. It was at the art group at the local school where I met Stuart. We were to paint a portrait of a live female model. Stuart was sitting next to me. I remember he looked over and started a conversation.
'You haven't quite got her ears right,' he said.
'I'm not so good with ears,' I replied, 'nor noses nor mouths, either.'
With a few strokes of his brush, he corrected my clumsy work.
'You've done this before,' I said.
'It's a gift,' he replied, 'not given to us all.'
His eyes twinkled like dancing fireflies.
'My name's Stuart Taylor. Whom have I the pleasure of addressing?'
'You're quite the gentleman,' I said, 'nobody uses the objective pronoun 'whom' any more. I'm Katy Raven.'
'I'm pleased to meet you,' he said. 'May I suggest a touch more cobalt around the hairline?' 'No thanks - it'll spoil my perm.'
At the end of the evening, he spoke to me.
'Is there a Mr Raven waiting for you at home?'
'I'm divorced. Raven’s my maiden name.'
'I, too, am a singleton,' said Stuart. 'Might I suggest that we share a meal at the only place around here that serves decent food - the Wheatsheaf?'
'I'd be delighted,' I replied, 'fish and chips would suit me very well.'
The Wheatsheaf was packed, but we found a corner table. Stuart made me giggle with his fund of funny anecdotes. He was ever so handsome - dark hair with a splash of grey at the temples, clean-shaven, firm jaw and the most appealing grey eyes. I suppose I was carried away by his
easy manner and his ability to make me laugh. I asked him what he did for a living. 'I'm a solicitor,' he said. 'Hall, Mabbutt and Hall, in Chelmsford. Nothing exciting - I'm the probate specialist, in actual fact. Relatives of the deceased - they're my clients. They've all got one thing in common - they're out for what they can get.'
He took me out on several dates after that. I found myself quickly falling for his easy charm, impeccable manners and self-deprecating humour.
One evening, I think it was in June, after we'd been for a late walk around the village, Stuart stopped me under a street lamp.
'Katy, we've been going out together for quite a while now.'
'Yes.' I had no idea where this was leading.
'And we get on well together?'
'I've bought you this.'
He took from his jacket pocket a small square box and opened it.
'Will you do me the honour of becoming my wife?'
It was a wedding ring - a simple gold band inlaid with a trio of tiny diamonds. It gleamed and sparkled under the yellow glow of the street lamp.
'Oh, Stuart, are you serious?'
'I've never been more serious in my life.'
At that moment, any clouds of doubt I had about him disappeared.
'Yes, oh, yes. Stuart, I wasn't sure before, but I am now. I love you.'
'And, Katy, I love you.'
We married in St Andrew's church. His parents lived in New Zealand and couldn't come. Mum wore the cloche hat she'd been dying to wear since my father's funeral. We honeymooned down by the Seine in Paris. I couldn't have been more happy if I'd won the lottery. Stuart would go out to work resplendent in a navy blue suit, blue shirt and floral tie, and I found him irresistible. I asked him a few months later if he worked with any young women, for I was becoming a little jealous.
'Dozens,' he said.
He laughed and told me there were a couple of secretaries who were about a hundred years old, but that was it.
We lived in his flat in Chelmsford, not far from the cricket ground. It was soberly but beautifully decorated - light grey walls, white doors, abstract paintings he'd done himself. I felt comfortable living there.
Roll on two years. Stuart’s hair is greyer, but he’s still handsome. It’s a warm spring morning. I have arranged to meet my mum for coffee at Eaton's coffee house in Braintree, but I've only driven ten miles or so when my mobile rings and mum says she’s sick and would I mind taking a rain check?
I drive home. I walk into the living room and I almost faint. There’s Stuart, in his immaculate blue suit, leaning over and about to kiss a beautiful blonde woman, about twenty-eight years old, clad in a smart business suit. A brief-case lies on the floor beside her. Her name is Ellie Kendall, and she is a fellow solicitor at Hall, Mabbut and Hall. He's been seeing her on the sly from almost the day we were married.
They're together now, a couple, an item. I'm living with my mum again.
I've been unlucky twice and I'm not inclined to try for a third time.
My watercolours are getting better, though, and that's something for me to be proud of.