At ten to six my alarm clock rang, pulling me out of a rather nice dream, and the arms of my lover. I grumbled, but got up. I had to be in Ringwood by seven thirty to take a friend to the airport.

She was off to spend a weekend in Cairns with the fellow she's been seeing for the last four weeks, leaving her son with her ex.

I was already feeling quite unhappy with her, because the break-up was very very messy because of her. She asked him to leave 10 months ago, which was fine, but kept calling him up in the middle of the night saying "I'm horny - come over"

And, foolish-person-deeply-in-love that he was and is, he went. They've been sharing sex and other intimacy ever since the break-up. He's been spending up to five nights a week in her bed.

The last night he spent with her was four days before she met the new man, at which point she just put a stop to the non business contact with her ex.

He'd been harbouring hope all the time - and who would not? "It's not just the sex" he said to me "It's the spending hours snuggling and kissing on the couch. How can that have meant nothing? I thought I was getting closer again."

He is far more my friend than she, in spite of the fact I have known her longer. I was at school with her from grade five till high school. I knew her briefly again at sixteen. And I met her at a bus stop while she was pregnant with their son and I with my daughter, and we renewed our friendship, and I met her man.

He's a good man. He's incredibly obliging, if a little unreliable at times, and I love him like... well, I love him in the way I would have liked to be able to love my brother.

So when she asked me to take her to the airport, there is no way I should have agreed. I should have known what it would do to my real friend. But I have this problem with saying "no" to people. So there I was, at ten to six, climbing out of a soft, warm, lovefilled bed.

I got everything ready for my daughter to go to school. Uniform out and ready, lunch packed, a little note written asking her to be good for her grandmother, and I left.

My girl friend was almost ready when I arrived, and I even managed to back out of her drive without incident.

I didn't get lost on the way to the airport, either.

She offered to pay for my parking if I would come right inside with her, rather than dropping her at the two minute parking spots, so I did.

She found where to get her E-Ticket and all the rest of the stuff one must do before getting onto an aeroplane, and then bought me a cup of coffee. Which I don't drink and never have. Then while she was in the loo, my mobile rang.

"Is She still with you?"

oh fuck

"yes"

"can I talk to her?"

"She's in the loo"

"Then can you give her a message? Tell her I said to have a nice flight, the FUCKING BITCH!"

The connection broke loudly.

The phone rang twice more, but I wanted to just get her off my hands as quickly as possible. I rejected 2 calls, then switched off.

I told her he'd called, and that he'd said to have a nice flight. I didn't tell her what he'd called her, or how upset he was.

She blanched anyway, and started to look sick.

At the metal detectors we separated, and I went to phone my friend.

"Where has she gone?"

I told him. Then the weeping began. I couldn't hear most of the rest of his words... but it ended with "I just can't do this, Trini...." and he hung up.

The airport is an hour away from my friend's house, and I sped most of the way, convinced I would be met by locked doors and silence. Wondering whether breaking the doors down would be better than calling an ambulance, imagining calling my lover from the hospital saying "I was too late"

But for a wonder, he opened the door.

He cried a lot and didn't talk much for the half hour he let me stay, and promised to come in when he picked his child up from school that night.

When I came home my lover was filled with irritation. Not directed at me, but big, and large, and slightly threatening in itself - some people don't deal well with conflict. I just don't deal with it at all.

We were about to snuggle into bed and be still together when my mobile beeped, and a friend from the UK wanted to talk with me. I almost burst into tears. Jon is a lovely man, but never wants to talk unless he has a problem. And he can't talk about them in a normal way. He categorises and subcategorises both problem and possible solutions, bes overly rational and methodical about even the most emotional questions, and while I am very fond of him, he's extremely fatiguing and he drives me INSANE.

So I did something which is very hard for me. I messaged back "I'm a bit busy. Would in a few hours, or tomorrow be OK?" and trembled while I waited for his answer.

He just said OK, really. I don't know why I always expect people to go into a fury or a weeping fit if I say no to them.

But I did say no, and was accepted, and snuggled down into bed with my love.

He was kind and gentle and loving with me, and the middle of my day was sweetness and light, passion and care, ham rolls and chocolate milk.

At three he went home, and my friend from the morning arrived in readiness to collect his child from school.

He talked to me about how bad he felt from three until five, when he took his son home. There was nothing I could do but listen. He wants me to say he should try to get back with his ex. He wants me to say he can, that she will have him if he finds the right thing to do or say.

I cannot say it. He cannot get back to being loved by her, and he should not. He's in the deepest throes of heartbreak, and I can do nothing about it.

He doesn't even want to be hugged. I never can deal with sad people who don't want to be hugged. I'm good at hugging.

So he took his son home, and I waited for my son to get back from camp. The bus came in on time, I found the bags, we signed him back into our responsibility.... and he didn't hug me, or smile at me, or even seem to notice me particularly.

Once we got home, he decided he didn't want to spend his weekly Friday night at his father's. And so my daughter joined in. It was too late to phone, so when Richard arrived, I had to stand there while the littles told him he had come all the way for nothing.

He glared at me.

But then, he always glares at me.

When he left, I thought the day was over - no more sadness or nastiness or anything which I would have to "deal with"

But there was another thing coming. Not a big thing, just the last thing.

My sad friend called me again.

He was furious with his ex.

She hadn't phoned their son to say goodnight, even though she had promised him, and my friend had had to cope with his own feelings and with his little son asking "Why hasn't mummy called me? Can we call her?" and telling him that he didn't know why, and no, mummy's phone was switched off...

I came online for a while, and talked with my lover. He always makes me feel better. When I couldn't keep my eyes open I fell into bed.

My lover SMSed me and I fell asleep three times while answering... but I managed to get all the way to sending it before I slept properly.

I've never been so utterly spiritually exhausted.

And I have achieved precisely nothing for any of the friends who needed me.

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