The Most Unlikely Best Friends; Awesome Forgiveness? or Devilish Revenge? the Cheated Wife Who Made Her Husband's Mistress Part of the Family and Created

Daily Mail (London), July 2, 2014 | Go to article overview

The Most Unlikely Best Friends; Awesome Forgiveness? or Devilish Revenge? the Cheated Wife Who Made Her Husband's Mistress Part of the Family and Created


Byline: Frances Hardy

THEY share a passion for adventure, culture and travel. They go to the opera together and to football matches. David and Mary Harper and their friend Gilda have been close for the past 16 years.

Despite the fact that Gilda lives abroad in Frankfurt, they meet regularly. A few years ago, they all went on a cycling tour of northern Spain -- not on individual bikes but on a [euro]5,000, three-person cycle that David built for them. He mischievously dubbed it The Threesome. They even wore matching cycling gear. Gilda took the middle seat behind David, who steered, with Mary, who is the shortest, at the rear.

If this arrangement seems remarkably close, it is all the more incredible when you consider its origins. For while he was working away from home in Germany, in 1998, Gilda was David's mistress. The Harpers had been happily married for 20 years when Gilda and David began their affair. David, then aged 40, was European marketing director of a large multinational company and the father of two teenage boys.

Gilda, an economics student at Frankfurt University, was single and 13 years his junior. When she discovered her husband's betrayal, Mary, a computer programmer, was distraught. Yet today she feels a sisterly bond with 43-year-old Gilda, who is now a commercial pilot, divorced, and the mother of eight-yearold twins.

As for David, he's relaxed enough to crack those jokes about their Threesome bicycle. The sheer effrontery of it seems boggling.

Isn't Mary irked by her husband's none-too-subtle suggestion of a menage a trois? Doesn't she resent her erstwhile rival's constant presence in their lives? Is she certain a vestige of attraction does not persist between her husband -- now 56 -- and the beautiful, leggy, much younger Gilda? And what in heaven's name are the sleeping arrangements on their holidays?

Extraordinarily, Mary laughs at these questions -- and even claims that making friends with her husband's former lover has helped her marriage.

'Gilda has become a very good friend,' she says. 'I care about her as I would a sister, and genuinely enjoy her company. We all laugh about The Threesome, but I know there is no frisson between David and Gilda now, and there wasn't on that cycling break either.

'When we're on holiday, we retire to our double room, Gilda to her single.

'It took me about four years to totally trust David, but I don't worry any more. Actually, I feel our marriage is safer since his affair.

'And to be jealous about his cerebral relationship with Gilda would be to suggest I had no confidence in myself.

I'm not a little mouse. I'm not dull or unintelligent. So I don't perceive Gilda -- funny and clever though she is -- as a threat.

'Her affair with David made us realise what we valued most was each other. We're still madly in love. I still feel a little leap of the heart every time his car turns into the drive.'

For Gilda, it seems, the conclusion is a similarly happy one and she seems to carry not a jot of guilt. 'Today, I love both David and Mary in a platonic way,' she says. 'They are wonderful: funny, loyal and, above all, honest.'

So how on Earth did three people who would, in normal circumstances, be bitter adversaries, become the most genial of friends? The answer, it seems, turns on Mary's remarkable response to her husband's infidelity -- which is described in a book, Counting Wild Strawberries, in which David, writing under a pseudonym, tells their incredible story.

The Harpers had what appeared to be a solid, happy marriage when David strayed. They'd met at Glasgow University (he was studying biology, Mary mathematics) and fell in love when they were both 19. They started living together after their first date, and married three years later, in 1980.

Their relationship was affectionate, and they insist they enjoyed a satisfying sex life. …

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