The Way We Lied

When Nick recalled that afternoon, he remembered the sculptures growing in the garden and Mary’s passionate account of Barbara Hepworth’s commitment to her work. She was almost evangelical in her praise of her heroine’s dedication, even to her account of her last days and her death in a fire in that very house. He had been impressed, honestly he had, but perhaps it had been partly the moment, the warm September sun, the end of summer and Mary’s enthusiasm that had really moved him.
Later that evening, when they had returned from dinner and were sitting in the little courtyard garden at the back of the cottage, Nick, relaxed with alcohol and feeling he had been a good student that day, sought his teacher’s approval by expressing himself with old habits. After opening the wine he had just brought from the fridge, he had stood behind her then leant down to kiss her neck and fondle both her breasts.
At least she had not screamed or slapped him. No, that would not have been her way. She had flicked his hands from her bosom as if they had been an irritating fly or a dropping from one of the many gulls that dipped and dived over the harbour. She did not even look at him. She just continued to talk and drink her wine.
Nick had not apologised, but the exertions of the day and the drinks had made him easily amused and he had begun to laugh. And to his surprise, she began to laugh too.
For a moment, he thought they would continue to laugh together, all the way to the bedroom, then she stood up and with a straight face said, “That’s it. I’m afraid you’ve disappointed me. I shan’t ever be able to work for you.” And she left him. He continued to sit there, still laughing, unable to take her mood seriously and drank the rest of the bottle before retiring to his bed alone .
In the morning the cottage was empty. She had left without speaking to him, but there was a brief note in the kitchen. It simply said, “There can be no second chances.”
He was so irritated he screwed it up and threw it into the garden. Now he wished he’d kept it. The thought of her gnawed away at him. He was annoyed he had not tried harder. He could have persuaded her, he was sure of it. He felt certain he could have convinced her to take on his commission and his physical attentions as well. He wanted her to produce work for him and he wanted her body even more.

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