Mid January 2009
Did he say, “You’d better read this”?
Or have I imagined that? Was he too stunned even to speak?
He was standing, right there by the side of the kitchen table we’d had specially made for our vicarage in Parson’s Green, near the window of that little cottage which stood right on the pavement, looking out over the street and the C of E primary school Rosie attended. Where she must have been even at that moment.
And as I said before, swaying slightly, as if he’d been sandbagged.
I took it from him. It was four pages long. And it was written on official church writing paper. A proper, formal letter. Signed by several people, I suppose.
What... how... expressions fail me.
Thus must Peter Sutcliffe’s wife have felt, when she heard the charges against him.
I remember reading an account of the Cambridge rapist’s wife or girlfriend or partner, or whatever she was: that she should have realised... that he used to demand sex four times a day and still not be satisfied... why hadn’t she worked it out?
I had been married to Shaun for thirty years – had loved him all that time – and I knew none of this about him.
I’d had no idea.
He was guilty of Gross Misconduct. Over and over again.
I read it again. He’d done all this stuff?
Hadn’t he been the much-loved and respected parson of Parson’s Green? Hadn’t he put a nearly-dead and vicious church on its feet and filled it with life and love and a future?
And again, a third time.
I didn’t even have room for all these jangling thoughts. All the discrepancies between the man I loved and the one in these pages.
At some stage I must have taken a deep breath. Perhaps finished my mug of tea, always near me and topped up for the first two hours after breakfast.
And read it for the fourth time. Properly. Word for word and sentence by sentence. No longer skipping and swirling over the phrases in a whirl of panic, but weighing and assessing all these dreadful claims and accusations.
And the evidence for them.
Bear in mind Shaun only read it once. And he was in the midst of a debilitating breakdown. True, he was talking again now. And applying for jobs, with my help.
But he wasn’t Shaun. He couldn’t think, or evaluate, or do anything demanding. I don’t think he was even reading again. The paper, perhaps. But not proper, theological books.
Nor, it appears, was I. On first reading. Or second or third. In that giddying first fug of horror.
It wasn’t until I read it for the fourth time. And examined what I was reading.
That the mists began to melt.
“Shaun,” I said. “This is bollocks.”
“This letter. It’s a load of nonsense.”
“It’s just made up crap.”
“There’s nothing here. You haven’t done any of this stuff.”
That’s how convincing it was. Smoke and mirrors.