The Way We Lied

As the summer months progressively warmed, drowned, then scorched the geraniums at Dover Court, Nick gradually abandoned his hope of having a sculpture in the gardens. Sometimes he wondered if he had ever truly wanted one or whether in reality he only wanted to create a development to rival that of the Rural Homes Society. He had tried calling Mary a couple of times and even sent her an email, but she had not responded. That irked him. He did not like to be defeated.
So when he suddenly received an email from her in September, he felt triumphant. “If you want to have your eyes opened, come down to Cornwall next week. I have decided it is time for me to educate you.” He was excited. She was asking him to join her in a cottage in St Ives.
“I’ll be away for a couple of nights,” he told Sarah. “A contact has put me on to a lead in the West Country. Thinks I should look into it smartish.” No need to mention Mary. No need to say where he was staying. Mobile phones take care of the location problems and the cover stories.
He drove down in blazing sun, past field after field of harvest stubble and verges of dusty dry grass. Following her directions he found the cliff top car park she had described and as he stopped the car and jumped out, suddenly felt himself halted by the sheer beauty of the still sunset and the wheeling gulls. Perhaps the education had already begun before he had even seen her again.
She took him to dinner at a little restaurant overlooking the harbour. A cool breeze was blowing onto the terrace, but it was still mild enough to eat outside next to the sun warmed walls.
“You’ve been hard to reach this summer,” Nick said, as they started with bowls of moules mariniere and chunks of crusty bread.
“I’ve been teaching the odd week at a summer school down here. I haven’t been able to do it for the last few years because of work commitments, but it’s been really rewarding to be with fresh minds again.” She piled the blue shells in a side dish and dipped her bread in the liquor, which ran over her chin, glistening. “And now that the course has finished, I thought perhaps you and I could carry on where we left off.”
Nick was transfixed by her bronzed skin, darkening where it met the swell of her breasts and felt very pleased he had accepted her invitation. “I’m extremely flattered you found the time to remember me, Mary.”
“Oh I hadn’t forgotten about you, or your request,” she said, drawing deeply on her glass of cold wine. “In fact I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot lately.”
“Have you really?” Nick leaned a little closer. He thought he could smell the sea on her skin and watched as she licked the wine from her lips. “Does that mean you’ve decided to take up my offer of a commission?”
She sat up straight in her chair. “No, not yet, but for now I have decided I am willing to explore some ideas with you. While you are not my usual kind of client, I am interested in seeing whether you can be helped and then I will make a final decision about your request.”
Nick grimaced. “All sounds a bit alarming. Some kind of therapy, is it?” He then risked winking at her.
She looked stern. “I’m totally serious, believe me. I loathe that sort of art by the yard mentality that so many people possess. If you want to buy real creativity then you must make the effort to understand the kind of art that has meaning. And I will never do anything for you unless you agree to do as I say for the next two days.”
Despite his best efforts, Nick still could not restrain himself and pulled another face. “Alright then Miss. I’d better be a good boy and do as I’m told. Don’t want to land myself in detention, do I.”
And in bed that night, after she had firmly told him what time he had to be ready in the morning, he lay and thought of her strong hands and the deep, sunburnt cleavage he had glimpsed beyond the open buttons of her loose shirt.

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