I am writing my past in order to reclaim my future…..if it touches others that is a bonus….
I was a sinner, perhaps more than most, but don’t judge too harshly, lest somewhere in my work there lurks a mirror!
THE STORY OF KEVIN April 2009
I was at a nightclub somewhere in London, can’t remember where. I met this bubbly blonde in the Ladies Room and complimented her on her hairstyle, scrunched and lion like in the early 80’s. ‘Oh, come to my salon, I’ll do yours!’ she exclaimed in a hyper, giggly voice. She was dressed superbly and looked like a Barbie doll. She gave me her card and it was only a couple days later I realised her salon was in Hertfordshire and I lived in the West End!
She piqued my curiosity though, so I called and giggled about the ‘distance’. ‘No problem!’ she quipped, ‘Come stay the weekend!’ so I did. And thus began a friendship which though not current, was vibrant for years in our 20’s.
Because of the distance we agreed to meet weekly for dinner at Stringfellows nightclub in the West End. We were quickly given ‘model membership’ for decorating the place with our looks, dress sense (one can NEVER be over-dressed was Lorraine’s motto!) and our vivacious delight in good food, great champagne (at least one bottle always comp’d by management!) dance music 80’s style and our pleasure in a girly night out with non-stop chatter.
Suitors were fascinated precisely because we were NOT on the pull, content to just giggle and chatter, eat and dance. Lorraine did eventually have an affair with the manager, and I declined a breakfast invitation from Peter Stringfellow, disdaining his Rod Stewart aspirations (I had a crush on the original) and not wanting to be another notch on his skyscraper bed post. We would dance and flirt and bask in adoring attention, but invariably left alone by choice, Not lesbian or frigid, just girly!
We ‘did’ the London circuit together for a few years. Ascot Ladies Day at the Races; the Pro-Celebrity Golf Tournament (I hated golf, yawn, but any excuse to wear a hat!) Club openings, Henley Regatta, we had an absolute ball as single girls about town. Lorraine was determined like it was part of her job description to land a wealthy husband, and she was a joy to drape on any millionaire’s arms, with her furs and jewels (all worked for and bought herself from her thriving salon…she had trained under Tony n Guy) and sense of style but mostly her effervescent personality, her joie de vivre…..
The social circuit in the end was not the hunting ground that yielded fruit, Kevin came into her salon for a haircut, and they dated from that day on.
He was a beautiful-looking, tall, fair-haired Englishman. He was a gentleman. He owned a house in the country with electronic gates when they were still impressive, a race horse, fabulous cars, a plane which he piloted himself…. Lorraine was in love and in her element, and very quickly became the perfect hostess and social asset to this successful high-flying entrepreneur.
I too had started seeing a man about town, London was such fun if you were young and single, and my German junior diplomat whisked me into another phase of life parallel but separate from Lorraine.
Our girls’ night out weekly dinners at Stringfellows tailed off, and we just caught up every month or two…we still adored each other…our birthdays were the same day, we could click in to each other instantly, and invariably ended up finishing each others’ sentences and giggling at things no one else understood. Every girl should have a girlfriend like that at least once in her life.
A few years passed, each of us living our lives. I emigrated to California, and gave birth to my first-born, Gabriella, an unplanned but ultimately treasured surprise. Nine months later Lorraine gave birth to her first-born, a son to Kevin, and once again our lives connected and we met annually on my extended visits home to Europe.
But the dream for Lorraine had started to unravel. Kevin had made his name as a young top salesman for Sun Alliance, a life assurance company in England. He was head-hunted by a syndicate of wealthy entrepreneurs to be the chief investment director for a project to extend Luton Airport. Investment Director was a nice title and brought a fabulous income, but Kevin did most of the footwork having couples and pensioners and normal everyday people invest 50,000 here, 30,000 there…all based on a fabulous investment plan sealed in stone by the reputable syndicate of accomplished businessmen.
Like a bad movie, the project failed at the final hurdle….something to do with planning permission or local resident opposition, or politics ultimately, these things are in and out of favour in cycles. But the water-tight investment was a sinking ship and sinking fast.
Before Kevin could fully grasp the enormity of the ramifications of this meltdown the other directors had fled the country, basking in their fortunes in sunnier climes with no extradition treaties and refusing resolutely to honour any of the investment returns even the interest.
The media had a field day. Kevin’s photograph was plastered over the front pages of every newspaper, he was vilified and demonised as the smooth talking con man who robbed pensioners….
The political climate was also in ebb and flow and the public outcry demanded someone’s head on a platter. Any head would do.
I had missed the details and drama of all this, still living in California. But a few months after I returned to Ireland to live, Lorraine begged me to come to Hertfordshire and do her job for her for a month so she could visit Kevin in Florida. This was just prior to his agreeing to return to the U.K. to face trial and ultimately be the only one of the syndicate to go to jail. The others politely declined the invitation to face the music.
Her job at that time, as well as having the salon, was a live in job at a training yard for racehorses near Newmarket. There was a bungalow with the job although Lorraine had moved in with a new boyfriend, despairing of Kevin coming home, and not intending wasting any precious time…..an alleged ‘con man’s wife was not in her script for life.
I took my precious daughter, about 3 at the time to this training yard, placed her temporarily in nursery school in place of Lorraine’s boy who went with her to see his Dad, and I rode thoroughbreds and did some other light work for a month of pleasant diversion, with a roof over Gabriella and my head and time to take stock and see what was next.
To my shame, I ended up in bed with Lorraine’s boyfriend whilst she was away with Kevin. His name was Tony, he was besotted with my best friend and was devastated because she said she had to visit Kevin even if it was just to say Goodbye face to face. So in my over-zealous attempts to comfort him in her absence, I exceeded my job-description of filling in for Lorraine in her absence….one of my regrets in life.
And then to make things worse, I confessed when she returned. With hindsight, I think it was a selfish unburdening of my conscience and not the wisest course or the kindest. But she and I had been so close she sensed straight away that something was up.
She got over it remarkably quickly. ‘It’s ok, she told us both. I slept with Kevin again while I was out there, it’s messy all round, forget it!’
Kevin was sentenced to a few years, 7 I think, for fraud, and went from his privileged and charmed lifestyle to the horrors of Pentonville and Brixton Prisons, before he ended up in a slightly more bearable but still awful prison in the Home Counties outside London.
I moved on, Lorraine and I put the mess behind us, but not really. I had crossed a forbidden line, girlfriends should not entangle themselves with each others’ beaux, past, present or future, right?
Kevin went to Jail. Lorraine never visited. She carried on her substitute relationship with the beautiful Tony, well-dressed, attentive, remorseful and adoring, but it was doomed, he was a pale imitation of Kevin in his glory days, and he and I had dealt the death blow ourselves in self justified tit for tat ‘sin’.
I never made it back to Ireland that time when the eternal month was up. I had been courted and relentlessly pursued by another Englishman, and I rolled over and got involved with him when he threatened to follow me back to my small rural Irish hometown if I ‘left him’ Jeez, we hadn’t even slept together we had only casually dated, I should have run but in flashback to helpless submission in my childhood I stayed.
Stupid spaniel like submission borne out of my history of abuse but no matter.
We got engaged, Paul and I. We did finally sleep together in the temporary thrall of the engagement, but after a week we went back to our now mutual christian ideal of waiting for sex until we were married. We lived together for a year, slept in the same bed, but just stopped short of penetration….crazy with hindsight, and only lip service to abstention. Jesus was right when he said the church was full of hypocrites.
We set two wedding dates which both slid off the map due to Paul’s messy divorce, his multiple lies to me about his marital status when I met him, and his approaching bankruptcy, another mountain of hidden chaos in his life. He had borrowed the convertible Mercedes he dated me in. He had fantasised about projected inheritances and wealth his father had acquired but which sadly eluded him to this day. I was not a gold digger but like a good Southern girl, I had my standards. And boy were they sadly compromised.
Karma? A far cry from Lorraine’s and my glory days on the social circuit of London…here I was stranded with a new man, also a wannabe compared to my normal suitors, in the depths of East Anglia which Jade Goody so poignantly imagined was ‘abroad’. And my father-figure deprived daughter was being pursued and courted by this man as much as I had been.
I broke it off with Paul after a year or so. Too late for my standing in this tiny hamlet in Suffolk…as far as the locals were concerned I was a scarlet woman, I might as well have had the letter A branded on my forehead. My protestations that Paul had told me his marriage had been over for two years fell on deaf ears. With hindsight I would venture Paul was alcoholic and probably doesn’t even remember half the lies he told me in a desperate attempt to woo and capture. He could regularly drink 10 pints on a night out, washed down with a good few vodka chasers too.
Not long after I left Paul, and strangely settled in East Anglia with my daughter, Lorraine made a bizarre request of me. She was going to live in the States to get away from the media debacle still ongoing despite Kevin’s incarceration. Her mother and sister lived in Florida and she was going to start a new life. Tony was gone by the wayside. She had declined all Kevin’s despairing requests for visits, even the opportunity to see his beloved son, now 4 years old, blonde like his parents, and adorable.
Lorraine didn’t want her son exposed to the underbelly of life, shielded him from as much horror as possible, and left Kevin to rot…..as they say in tabloidese….
Still with a twang of conscience she asked me as her friend to write to him, stay in touch with him, he had some plan afoot to appeal his sentence and on the outside chance he succeeded and regained his lost fortune Lorraine would consider coming back to him. But she doubted it….
So predictably like a bad B movie plot, Kevin and I fell in love. Shit, even I see the pattern here…Lorraine’s ‘leftovers’ casually tossed my way if they lost their appeal to her. I had a real ‘second-best’ self image and recreated it in reality over and over. And then I would get innocent revenge by having the guys either bed me or fall in love with me or both to prove I wasn’t really gonna play second fiddle to anyone. Horrible behaviour. Lorraine and I had been alike in a lot of ways, although her mercenary and seeming cold-hearted approach to husband material left me always a little open-mouthed. And maybe self-righteously standing waiting in the wings….
Like the lonely messed up woman I was, I dutifully visited Kevin fortnightly, wrote weekly at first, and finally daily. I took birthday cakes in, I think he had his 40th there and it was tragic, but my daughter and I always dressed impeccably, Gabriella even wore a hat, reminiscent of days gone by in a greener England. I stooped to share the pain Kevin endured at Brixton prison, in fear of his life almost daily because his face was infamous, and his crime white collar. He could be stabbed in the dinner queue, in the shower, in the cell…people were raped and killed, or committed suicide at horrifying rates, and survival was a feat of endurance….it was a nightmare.
I had told Kevin what I knew of Jesus MY comfort and ultimate life-saver, and the scriptures, especially Psalm 91 for protection, in long love letters. Finally, in total despair that over rode his superior intellect, he cried out to this Jesus in his cell….. he was amazed at a supernatural peace that came over him like a blanket that never lifted for the rest of his prison term. He said it was a feeling of the most perfect love he had ever experienced in his life. It was the missing piece of the jigsaw, the empty corner of the heart, the Holy Grail yielding up her secrets, and the ultimate experience in a life of adrenalin and excess….the guarantee of eternal life was something far more relevant than Kevin realised at the time.
Kevin pleaded his innocence of the crimes of defrauding millions from the start, and like every dutiful girl on the outside, I believed him. He however seemed to be one of the few who really was innocent and the Royal Court of Appeal in London after a year of red tape and perseverance on Kevin’s part, with me acting as advocate on the outside, agreed to hear his case.
The accountant of the firm had come forward and agreed to testify as to the inner runnings of the company which had awarded a hasty directorship to Kevin. Appealing to his ambition and pride, but possibly setting the trap for a fall guy should anything go wrong. And boy did it go wrong. Only with hindsight would one wonder if this was not the first high level con operated by this band of merry ‘entrepreneurs’ although Kevin graciously insisted they had all been shocked by the final collapse of the airport project. It stood to have made multi millions for all involved and it had been indeed ahead of it’s time.
Then disaster struck again. In the run up to the appeal, the accountant dropped dead of a heart attack. Kevin was totally and utterly devastated. I believe bitterness can cause or activate many physical ailments, and sadly this unfolded….
When I got news from the Royal Court of the date for the hearing, I phoned the prison and asked special permission to speak to Kevin outside of the ‘phone calls’ time, on grounds of urgency. I couldn’t understand the hesitancy in the prison guard’s voice as he said in a mumbling fashion that he would have the governor call me back. For a millisecond I feared Kevin had been attacked, stabbed, ambushed worse….
It was worse. The governor told me, ‘You had better come immediately, Kevin is in hospital under prison escort and it won’t wait.’ He could not give me details over the phone but would make sure I was briefed at the hospital. I was filled with dread as he greeted the news of the Appeal date with irony which later made sense.
I have not done justice to the depth of feeling between Kevin and I. I kept the love letters tied in bows but they were so copious they filled boxes…such love, such utter exposure of the soul one to another. Such poignancy and humour even, the utter nobility of the human spirit to endure the most horrific ordeals….I have not done justice to it because most of my life my personality disconnects from acute pain…and until now I had not re visited this heart break….I had burned the love letters on the eve of my wedding to a man I am now divorcing. And I had filed this pain away in the compartment of my shattered mind that hitherto was marked unavailable…records not accessible…pain turned inward, abandon hope….
Until my present love, perhaps the grandest and ultimate love of my life, told me of a medical condition that had caused his doctors to warn him to put his affairs in order as the next attack could kill him. ‘Stop Stop I can’t bear it!’ I cried…and then memories of Kevin flooded back to remind me why.
And 3 hours driving later, on a wet and dark and forbidding night in 1993 my world collapsed. Kevin was in a coma. He had complained for months of stomach pains and been told it was irritable bowel syndrome and he should watch his diet. Finally hospitalised from the prison in excruciating pain, the surgeons opened him up and discovered his poor body riddled with cancer that had spread unabated, undiagnosed and untreated. They said he would be dead in ten days.
And even worse, as I rushed in tears towards his bedside determined to the depths of my soul to see him healed by my Jesus, the prison official gently restrained me to tell me Kevin’s ex-’wife’ had been called because of their child, and living closer, she was at his bedside.
A cross-road moment in time that changed my life.
The catholic in me rose up, belated shame and guilt and I was too ashamed to take my place beside the man I loved and who loved me. I forgot they had never actually married. I forgot Lorraine had abandoned him in his darkest hour. I forgot she had replaced him in an unseemly hurry. I forgot this was her first visit with him in years…
And I ‘honoured’ her role as the mother of his child and simply left.
I wept uncontrollably all the way home to the horrid East Anglia, hardly able to see through my tears to drive, and caring only with a whisper of life force inside of me that wanted to mother my precious daughter. It was not the first time her very existence had saved my life.
I attended the pre-hearing at the Royal Court in London, showing them paperwork from Kevin’s superbly gathered dossier of evidence in his defence, and begging them to defer the date by a month for him to clear his name, even if he died after that. Afford him this honour I begged….
But they had a more convincing document from the hospital, with the deadly prognosis of fast approaching death…and they simply told me that in all good conscience they could not waste public money on a court case clearing the name of a man who probably would not live to witness it.
They agreed with letters of recommendation from the governor of Her Majesty’s Prison that Kevin would be immediately released with an exceptional shortening of sentence on compassionate grounds….I cried that he would hate that and never be publicly vindicated as he had been publicly vilified but to no avail. Kevin was discharged to Lorraine’s care to die. And still I did not visit or talk to him. Or her. Except briefly and tersely to tell her of the Appeal Court decision. I had had power of attorney from Kevin to liaise the whole appeal from the ’outside’.
Nobody knew how my heart was broken. Utterly devastatingly terminally shattered in a million unspoken pieces….
And nobody knew the secret Kevin had poured out in total relief to me after his cell revelation of the love of God. A sordid secret of molestation at the hands of his sailor uncle home on leave every few months of his childhood and secretly abusing the sensitive, gentle, blond-haired boy who grew up to be so driven and private and apparently blessed….the same sailor uncle who also conducted an affair with his sister-in-law, Kevin’s mother, whilst molesting her son unbeknownst (?) to her. Now that is treachery. And Kevin was finally free of the sins of his fathers that had blighted his life and hardened his heart. He was reborn. He was free.
It says in the Bible and I know with all my being that Satan and his demons are every bit as real as God and his angels…and Satan’s documented job description is to ’rob, kill and destroy’ as many souls as he can on this earth, preferably without them ever accepting the substitute sacrificial death of Jesus which would ensure eternal life in glory….
Too late for diverting salvation, but still he stole my Kevin’s life.
As for my twisted mode of acquiring second hand love, I was a mess. Plenty of background in my troubled early life to validate or explain my bizarre behaviour, but it matters little here because Kevin and I genuinely fell in love.
He later told me he was devastated I abandoned him. Oh my God, I thought I had done the noble thing, the righteous thing, the necessary and honourable thing. I broke his heart. And damaged his tender shoot of sapling faith. Faith for healing. Faith for a hope and a future. Faith for good and not calamity….Faith for true love no matter how discovered….
He had gone to a healing service in London in desperate seeking of an extension to his life. It would have been enough to live for his son alone, even if he never found or felt love again.
It should have been predictable that the Florence Nightingale mantel would not sit well on Lorraine. Much as I adored her and the fun we had had in our foot-loose and fancy-free 20’s, I knew she simply could not bring herself to stand by her man. Especially in ill health, poverty and terminal illness. Those that truly honour every marriage vow, (in sickness and in health…for richer for poorer….) are few and far between….I haven’t honoured mine to another man. My heart had not been mine to give, it belonged to another….I cannot judge….we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Kevin and Lorraine’s ‘compassionate’ reunion only lasted 3 months. Kevin phoned me desperately and I refused all his phone calls until my wedding day. I had married Paul on the rebound from this tragic debacle with Kevin. On my wedding day Kevin called, not allowing me to speak before he pleaded with me to come to him, to cancel the wedding, to honour our love and stand with him in search of a healing from this Jesus we both now loved. Kevin had already defied the ‘dead in ten days’ prognosis, and went on to live another 18 months before finally succumbing to the cancer.
But I am haunted with the knowledge that had I been braver and better equipped to buck the apparent ‘honourable course’ for the actual one in my heart….he could have lived. And so could we.
One of the reasons I declined his entreaties to cancel the wedding only hours away, aside from my fear of causing turmoil, upset and disapproval, was that Lorraine was already at my house. We laid aside our recent history in honour of our past friendship to mark this wedding day which was in fact a travesty.
She fussed around arranging my wedding dress and train, trying hard to re create days gone by of our sharing furs and swopping clothes and driving to clubs with heated rollers in our hair and nail polish drying on our hands and feet….
I couldn’t even bring myself to tell her or anyone, who it had been on the other end of the phone. I acted and felt more like someone going to their own funeral than wedding. I had quietly and as if talking to a stranger told the love of my life that I was marrying Paul that day and could not discuss the matter in hand at this time.
My heart was so broken I disconnected, a feat learned and perfected in years past as self-preservation in the face of horrific sexual abuse in my own childhood.
Little had Kevin and I known we had that in common when life threw us together. Everything for a reason, a philosophical heart might dream….
I had organised the wedding to Paul in 3 manic weeks, convincing everyone that we had no need to wait, we had lived together a year in the past, and all was wonderful….
Both sets of parents disapproved of the match. Oh how I wish, and Paul too, that we had listened.
And yet in the 9 years we stayed together desperate to convince ourselves and others that we were happily married, we did have my two beautiful sons, our two beautiful sons. Once again, everything for a reason. Or out of the ashes of tragedy came beauty and hope for the future.
Maybe my sons will live better. I pray they will always follow their hearts and honour God in a way that is pure and not simply religious or legalistic. False or misguided humility on my part had robbed Kevin and I of our love. And even those precious 18 months if he had never been supernaturally healed would have been worth it.
It had been a love sublime, a beautiful love nurtured in pain and suffering and deepened in long letter-writing and hope deferred….we had never done more than kiss as passionately as one could under the watchful eyes of supervising prison warders….anticipation had been cruelly dashed and destroyed, at my own hands, in foolish religious remorse.
Perhaps the saying was true…all is fair in love and war. I will never know.
Lorraine asked me to give the eulogy at Kevin’s funeral. Another bizarre request, but our friendship had mutated so many times by now, and my grief was tinged with sadness for her and her son, Kevin’s son, his pride and joy…..
It was the saddest most forlorn funeral I have ever been to in my life. Only 12 people attended. He had been infamous to the nation. And in his glory days he had had an adoring entourage where ever he went. Best tables in the best restaurants, best treatment where ever he went….friends aplenty?
Lorraine and I tried in vain to re frame and ressurrect our friendship years later. Finally, after sporadic bi annual greetings for Christmases and birthdays, we finally dropped out of touch.
The last time I saw her she had found a wealthy English husband, had the status and social standing she had always craved, and had had a second child to this man with whom she once again led a charmed life. She told me in a reminiscent moment of honesty that this time around it was companionship not passion she was seeking. Seemed to me she had ‘settled’ in more ways than one, but I will always love her, and feel badly for the way our lives got so incestuously entangled. We had always said we were soul-sisters. Sisters shouldn’t have behaved that way. Forgive me God ….and K…., Kevin’s beautiful now 21 year old son. Your father was a gentleman. And I truly loved him.