Hubby’s floozy was a fella

Snoop­ing led to a shock

Real People - - THIS WEEK IN YOUR FAB VALUE -

The grey naval ship loomed above us, like a moun­tain on the move. A band struck up, and on deck the crew stood to at­ten­tion.

‘Hold the ban­ner up so Daddy sees it,’ I told my two-year-old son, Jay­den, as I rocked baby Madi­son’s stroller.

She’d only been a few weeks old when my hus­band, Lead­ing Sea­man Alan Rowe – ‘Skid’ to fam­ily and friends – set sail for the Mid­dle East as a radar op­er­a­tor with the Royal Navy. Now, it was July 2009 and Skid had been away for eight months.

It was tough on my own, but be­ing a navy wife was what I’d signed up for.

I’d met Skid on­line when

I was just 16. Is any­one here from Ply­mouth?

he’d posted. Me! I wrote, ex­cited.

His pro­file pic­ture showed him in his navy uni­form. Swoon!

When Skid re­turned to Ply­mouth for a week­end’s leave, he asked me out.

I told him to meet me out­side Boots, where I worked part-time.

I spot­ted him be­fore he saw me – medium-height with a shaved head and bright blue eyes.

‘Is that your navy boy?’ my col­leagues teased.

‘He’s gor­geous.’

I took him to a party to show him off to my friends.

Soon, we were meet­ing up ev­ery time he was home. But my mum, Carla, 50, wor­ried. ‘You’re only 16, and he’s 20,’ she said. ‘And if you marry him, you’ll be called Erika Rowe!’

The year be­fore I was born, a woman called Erika Roe had fa­mously streaked across the rugby pitch at Twick­en­ham… Still, it didn’t put me off ! Skid pro­posed in our lo­cal, and I planned a big white wed­ding. As for Erika Rowe, the vin­tage car hire com­pany gave me a dis­count think­ing I was the fa­mous one!

We mar­ried on Bon­fire Night 2004. Talk about fire­works – some guests had a row and, at the re­cep­tion, chairs and punches were thrown.

‘That was a night­mare,’

I sighed to Skid the next day on the plane to Malaga.

But while the weather on hon­ey­moon was rub­bish, the sex was scorch­ing-hot!

In March 2006, I fell preg­nant. We’d been try­ing for a while, but Skid was al­ways away.

Jay­den was born on 21 De­cem­ber, weigh­ing 8lb, fol­lowed by Madi­son in Oc­to­ber 2008, and Ella in Oc­to­ber 2010.

Life was good, but when Skid was on de­ploy­ment, I’d be a mis­er­able cow for the first week. Then I’d just get on with it, get­ting used to do­ing things my way. When he came home and tried to help, I’d grum­ble he was do­ing it wrong.

‘Typ­i­cal navy wife,’ he’d tease.

At my 25th birth­day party, Skid stood up and asked, ‘Shall we re­new our vows, Erika?’

I’d al­ways joked that, be­cause of the fisticuffs at the first wed­ding, I wanted a sec­ond! This time round was per­fect. Jay­den was a page boy, and Madi­son and Ella were flower girls. We had 40 guests at the ser­vice, fol­lowed by a big party.

‘I couldn’t live with­out Erika,’ Skid said in his speech.

A cou­ple of months later,

I was preg­nant again. Char­lie was born in Jan­uary 2013 and, a year later, we talked about our fu­ture. When Skid’s 22 years in the navy were up, what would he do?

Still in mar­ried quar­ters, we de­cided to buy a house as an in­vest­ment, but Skid was hope­less with money – I nagged him about his credit card bills. But, on the an­niver­sary of our vow re­newal, he pre­sented me with a bracelet from Pan­dora. It had charms in the shape of a mother, fa­ther and their chil­dren. So sweet.

Two days later, we went to a din­ner for the naval kids. Back home, I put our sleepy four to bed and pulled on my py­ja­mas.

‘Do you want a cuppa?’

I asked Skid, peer­ing into the front room.

He looked up from his com­puter and stared at me, a blank ex­pres­sion on his face.

‘Our mar­riage isn’t work­ing,’ he said. ‘I’m leav­ing.’

I was so shocked, I felt winded. Then I started laugh­ing. A joke?

But Skid looked se­ri­ous. ‘I’ll give you plenty of money, and see the kids all the time,’ he told me.

‘But we’re look­ing at houses,’

I gasped, my mind spin­ning. ‘I love you, but I’m not in love

with you,’ he told me qui­etly. I burst into tears, then I got an­gry. ‘Are you hav­ing an af­fair?’ I shrieked.

‘No way,’ he said.

I told him to sleep on the sofa. But, by morn­ing, I’d de­cided it was a kind of pre­ma­ture midlife cri­sis. If I stayed calm, ev­ery­thing would re­turn to nor­mal…

Sure enough, ‘What time shall we drive to Cardiff ?’ Skid asked cheer­fully over break­fast. We’d booked tick­ets to see Olly Murs, and were stay­ing with Mum.

It was as if Skid’s bizarre an­nounce­ment had never hap­pened. Over the week­end at Mum’s, he chat­ted to her about houses we’d viewed and our up­com­ing hol­i­day in Corn­wall.

It had ob­vi­ously been a mo­ment of mad­ness.

When we re­turned from Wales, Skid dropped me at my Slim­ming World ses­sion. ‘See you back home,’ he smiled. But, when I turned on to our road two hours later, he was putting his suit­cases in the car. ‘What are you do­ing?’ I cried. ‘Mov­ing out,’ he said. ‘I told you the other evening.’

‘I thought you’d changed your mind,’ I choked.

‘I was be­ing po­lite to your mum,’ he said. Then he drove off.

‘Daddy will be back,’ I told the kids – and I was right. Skid re­turned two hours later – he couldn’t find any­where to stay!

So, for the next week, we lived to­gether – Skid sleep­ing on the sofa. In front of the kids, we be­haved nor­mally but, af­ter they’d gone to bed, rows broke out.

‘You’re ob­vi­ously hav­ing a ner­vous break­down,’ I screeched.

‘I un­der­stand your anger,’ he said. ‘I have to do this – for me.’

His calm­ness in­fu­ri­ated me, and I used lan­guage that would make a sailor blush. Not Skid – he just lis­tened, calmly, as if I was a child throw­ing a tantrum!

Even­tu­ally, he moved in with his step­mum, and all I could think was, ‘Why?’

Some­times, be­cause I was so used to be­ing on my own, the split didn’t even feel real.

But a few months af­ter Skid left, I met Scott, 38, a chef, through friends. He made me laugh, took my mind off things.

Then, one Satur­day in Novem­ber, Skid col­lected the kids. ‘I’ll take them to get their hair cut – try some­where dif­fer­ent,’ he told me.

‘OK,’ I shrugged.

But, a few weeks later, me and the kids were out for a drive when Jay­den pointed at a hair salon.

‘That’s where Daddy took us,’ he said. ‘His friend works there.’ His friend, in­deed?!

As soon as we were home, I logged on to the salon’s web­site and stared at the

Meet the Staff page. Skid had to be see­ing one of these women.

I typed their names into Face­book and snooped around. No men­tion of Skid…

So I typed the male stylist’s name in: Jim*. Maybe there was some­thing in­crim­i­nat­ing there – a pic­ture of Skid and one of the girls snog­ging…

There were pic­tures of Skid snog­ging all right, but not who I’d ex­pected. He was kiss­ing Jim!

I stared in hor­ror at the pho­tos, try­ing to make sense of them. Could this snog be just a drunken lark?

No, this Jim was ob­vi­ously as camp as a row of tents. The clos­est he’d ever been to In The

Navy was no doubt dress­ing up as one of the Vil­lage Peo­ple!

Be­wil­dered, I called Skid. But it went straight to an­swer­phone – and again, and again…

So I texted him: You’re gay. You’re see­ing Jim.

Let’s meet in Costa for a chat to­mor­row, he replied calmly. Scott had to pin me to the floor to stop me driv­ing over to punch him!

In Costa, I breathed deeply to keep calm as

I sat op­po­site Skid. ‘I won­dered how long it’d be be­fore you in­ves­ti­gated me,’ he said. ‘Jim’s a nice bloke – he’ll give you a dis­count at the hair­dressers’.’

He thought a cheap hair­cut would make up for find­ing out my hus­band was gay! ‘Did you just use me as a cover?’ I spat. ‘Did you sleep with men while you were away?’

‘I’ve never cheated,’ he said. ‘I loved our mar­riage, and didn’t know I was gay. But af­ter I left, I was con­fused and re­alised I might be. Then I met Jim.’

‘I’ve wasted all these years in a sham mar­riage,’ I raged.

But, over the com­ing weeks, I grew to be­lieve Skid’s story. Our sex life had been bril­liant – no way he could have faked that. And why would he have re­newed our vows if he didn’t love me?

So, in De­cem­ber 2015, me and Scott went for din­ner with Jim and Skid. If Jim was part of my kids’ lives, I wanted to meet him.

See­ing my hus­band with his hand on a man’s leg was bizarre but, de­spite the awk­ward­ness, I liked Jim. He was funny.

So, two years on, I’ve grown to ac­cept that Skid is gay – so have the kids, al­though Jay­den strug­gled a bit. I’m liv­ing with Scott, and my divorce from Skid is due any day.

When I saw him the other day, I asked about the tat­too on his back – scrolls with the chil­dren’s names in­side them. And mine…

‘Are you go­ing to re­move the Erika scroll?’ I asked.

‘Of course not,’ Skid shrugged. ‘You’re part of my fam­ily.’

And, de­spite ev­ery­thing, he’s right. We are fam­ily – the fact that he’s gay doesn’t change that!

Erika Rowe, 31, Ply­mouth, Devon

I’ve wasted years in a sham mar­riage

Our first wed­ding ended in chaos…

… so we re­newed our vows in 2012

I thought me and Skid made a great dou­ble act

Skid with Madi­son and Jay­den He’ll al­ways be part of my life

I now live with my part­ner Scott

Alan ‘Skid’ Rowe says, ‘Mak­ing the de­ci­sion to leave Erika and the chil­dren was very hard. But it came to a boil­ing point one day and enough was enough. Then I re­alised I was gay. But I will never re­gret meet­ing her, get­ting mar­ried and hav­ing chil­dren.’

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