I met Elliot at Glastonbury Festival in 2010; I was 25. It took just seconds for me to abandon my friends – and my sensibilities – to fall in love. At last I had met someone who wasn’t afraid of intensity, in fact he
demanded it too. That summer was spent in rapture. He told me I was magnificent and we displayed our love to the world. As I settled further into the comfort of having found my ‘one’ I allowed my own ambitions to slide. In contrast, Elliot’s business enjoyed success and work took him away for weeks at a time. Almost two years into our shared life Elliot’s wild tendencies became frenetic; he became at once possessive and distanced. I heard dark whispers about his reputation. One moment he’d sling insults at me, the next he’d tell me how much he respected me, or return home with extravagant presents. I never knew what to expect, and the uncertainty kept me hooked. That, and the sex. Passion was never lacking and in more ways than one we were addicted to each other.
One day everything changed. I scrolled through my emails at work and noticed Elliot’s name in a subject box. It was from a woman named Cate. Something about her name I recognised but I couldn’t quite place the memory. I opened the email. ‘I really hope I’ve got this wrong… Elliot and I were in a relationship all last summer and have been seeing each other all this year … he’s always presented himself to me as a) single and b) in love with me.’
My insides screamed, I vomited onto my desk and fled the office to ring Elliot but he didn’t answer. Cate had left her number so I called her instead.
What followed was one of the most surreal conversations of my life. Calm and polite, Cate and I confirmed the facts: both of us had been promised the world, and thought it belonged exclusively to us. I’d never questioned Elliot’s fidelity, although he’d sometimes disappear all night and come home wasted on cocaine, full off self-loathing or erratic.
It turned out Cate had experienced similarly spiked highs and hideous lows but finally she’d had enough. After trawling the internet, Cate found a tweet I’d posted mentioning Elliot as my boyfriend. Bingo. Our phone conversation could only tell us so much, we had to meet, immediately. Elliot had no idea that his double lives were about to collide…
As I approached our meeting point that same day I was as high as I’d been when I first met Elliot but this rush was for protection, my body raging with adrenaline to numb the reality of what was about to happen. Then I saw Cate: beautiful, sad and scared. She was shaking and so I turned into my father, a jovial host, offering drinks as if we were celebrating: a ridiculous party for two. The ice was broken and we laughed, then began to relax before the sordid, crazy story poured out. Did I mention Cate was beautiful? Not just any sort of beautiful, she is one of the most successful supermodels the UK has ever produced. An actress now, in her time she was a darling of the fashion world.
I’m no supermodel but I recognise my own value. I didn’t compare myself to this woman. Instead, I found myself drawn to her, as I’m sure my boyfriend had been. She was funny, irreverent, kind… A bottle of wine down we were still comparing notes. On this we agreed outright: Elliot is sexy, dangerous, spontaneous and charming. He’s also greedy, cunning, cruel and selfish. Believe me – us – it’s a potent mix.
Cate allowed me to read Elliot’s emails. I needed to see the sickening proof of what he’d done. This graceful, dignified woman was conned by the person who pretended to protect her and she was completely in love with him too.
I couldn’t begin to gauge my own feelings. I was in shock. No detail was spared: we dissected our sex lives, imitated his mannerisms, shuddered at the scale of deception. Elliot had recycled the baby names we’d dreamed up, sent us the same playlists and cheesy lines, and – this one stung in more ways than one – even knowingly shared an STD between us both.
The night wore on and Elliot was calling me incessantly. Finally I answered, drunk, suddenly exhausted and deeply, profoundly sad. ‘Where are you?’ he said. My response? ‘I’m in Soho, with your beautiful lover Cate…’ Both dangerously drunk and horribly sober, I arrived home to face the man who had destroyed what I had loved most in the world.
‘What do you think you were doing?’ Incredulous, cold and despairing, I asked Elliot the same question over and over again. The coward didn’t know where to start – I could see him manipulating his next move. What’s more telling is what he didn’t exhibit: he wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed, he didn’t berate himself or beg me to forgive him. A narcissist to the end, Elliot was even disrespectful in defeat.
I lost my lover, my home and the plot and, fuelled by fags and antidepressants, I limped into the darkness. Cate was my wing woman in these months; we clung to each other for comfort and it offered temporary relief. Now, I’m excited about the future, enjoying my present and trying to let go. I will be ready to fall in love again and, when that moment comes, I’ll bring my boundaries.
Words by Olivia Palamountain.
Image credit: 20thC.Fox/Everett/REX
This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Marie Claire.