Thursday, 2 August 2012

How far can a friend go before you can no longer forgive them?

Years ago when I was single I lived in a little terraced cottage down a quiet lane. It was tiny, just a two up-two down with a living room so small that one friend referred it as a 'cupboard'. But it was perfect for one person and I loved it there.

The house was in a row of five and had a slightly quirky setting with access to all five via a shared cobbled courtyard, where our variety of  colourful plants were displayed in pots and baskets .

The other reason I loved it there was because I had lovely neighbours. We all got on well, but I was particularly friendly with the woman who lived next door.  I considered her to be a really good friend. We'd be in and out of each others' houses all the time, helped each other out on many occasions and shared many a bottle of wine together - plus her husband did the occasional odd-job for me.

I'd been living there for about 12 years when I met the man I would later marry, and a few months after we met he moved in with me.

That's when things started to wrong, and yes I know it might have been an omen of things to come, but I was in love and we were happy together at that time.

You see, the problem wasn't between the two of us, but between my soon-to-be-husband and the next door neighbour - let's call her Jill. The two of them took a total dislike to each other quite early on, but things became really intolerable when I became pregnant with our first daughter.

She became what I can only describe as slightly unhinged by the fact I was having a baby. She told me she'd had to give her first baby up for adoption because she hadn't been married at the time (it was in the days when having a child illegitimately was a huge scandal).  She started shouting at us if we were in the garden, mainly abuse at my then husband, or sometimes even through the kitchen window and really not making much sense at all.

For some reason (I think she had a confrontation with my husband) things escalated to the point where I was terrified of bumping into her on the courtyard, so would go out the back way. It was a really difficult time for us, and being so far into my pregnancy I was getting very stressed out when I should have been relaxing and enjoying the final couple of months.

On two occasions, when I was more than seven months pregnant, we had to call the police when the situation seemed to be getting out of hand and I thought she might do something physical. It seemed to do the trick with regards to the verbal abuse although her erratic behaviour continued.

After the baby arrived things seemed to settle down a little, although we still avoided each other and our friendship was never renewed. I felt I couldn't forgive her for making our lives so awful in those precious months when I should have just been nesting and buying baby clothes.

Now there was three of us in the tiny house, so we decided we needed more space and within six months we'd moved to a bigger place, which was a huge relief. That was sixteen years ago. I've seen her a couple of times over the years, from a distance, and I still felt angry about the way she'd behaved.

So, imagine my surprise last week when I received a Facebook friend request from her!

My first reaction was one of shock. Then I felt intrigued. I wondered if she wanted to apologise for everything and was tempted to respond, but then I thought that too much had happened between us all those years ago.

Then I was in two minds about sending her a message and telling her how much she'd hurt me and how she had never apologised for anything, but I think it'd be like opening a can of worms and I'm not sure I want to deal with those bad feelings again.

There's something that makes me want to resolve this issue and perhaps even forgive her and renew some sort of friendship with her.  Then again, as soon as I wrote that last sentence I thought it was a mad idea. But still....

I'm struggling to weigh up the different things in my head.

What would you do?