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I read the email through five times before I clicked send. I found myself checking for grammar just to be sure I sounded the superior party. Petty, but true. Should I end with ‘sincerely’, a nasty little spike to the addressee’s heart? Oh, yes, I’m SO sincere in spitting on your twisted little face. I hate you. YOURS SINCERELY… Perhaps not. I should at least try for politeness, for civility, right? I don’t know what last shred of manners held me back. Social convention, maybe. I don’t believe in that normally.

Two women, one man, the old story. And I won. I was low enough to send my victory, farewell missive by email, not even in person. I didn’t care, after everything she had put me through, I was happy to do it. So many women would hate me, hell, so many men would hate me. Everyone would judge me who didn’t know the situation if I just stated it, but I don’t care. I know what happened.

I remember the looks she gave me when she realised he preferred me. He would speak to me with a smile and she would snipe at him, as she had done for years, now, her ugly face twisted up with hate and patronising spite. Before, he would wince and apologise to her and hang his head; she would smirk in victory over the weakling man. After he started paying his attention to me, he brushed her off. I could make his face light up. I knew it, and that made me happy. He deserved it; he had nothing but pain from her.

When he said he was moving out of their house, moving in with me, she screamed and hired lawyers and private detectives and burned his clothes, but he was too glad to be free. He said, calmly, he’d pay her whatever settlement she wanted and that detectives meant nothing. They petered out after that. She emailed me evil poison-letters and threatened to track down our new house and set fire to it. I told her if she carried on like that, I’d report her to the police. She fell more silent after that, at least.

I care for him and love him like she could not. I look after him and cook our favourite meals. I can do what she was meant to do so much better than she ever could. We shop together and everyone smiles, to see a happy pair as us out and about. Those who know her give us sympathetic smiles; those who don’t just think we’re a normal pair in such a situation, out in the sunshine. I like that. I feel more normal that way. I hated feeling like a freak for the way I felt about her, for taking him away, and at such a young age, too. Only 16. People say I’m mature for my age – I think this has made me so. I have him to support me. Most people need more, but I think I’m OK.

I hold his wrinkled hands and ignore the faint white patch on his ring finger where the gold had once sat. It’s gone now – I made him sell it; we need all the money we can get, even though he has a reasonable job. I want to go to college, but I think I can work as well. Maybe I can get a grant. Paying the rent isn’t easy, but it’s worth every penny. We watch silly television together and he’s happy to let me go out with my friends as long as we don’t go anywhere she might be. As if I would. She never knew where I went socially anyway. She never cared who I was before I had him.

It’s a short email, but final. I have had enough of the contact – the begging, the fake apologies, the threats. I tell her to send the last of our property that might remain and leave us alone. He isn’t her property, and neither am I.

“Goodbye, mother,” I say, and finally hit Send.