The Way We Lied

When he returned home it was Friday, a day when Sarah was slightly less tense because the pace of the week relaxed and she would respond to his advances after a few glasses of wine. He took her roughly from behind and imagined she was dark and tall.
But there was still Alex to divert him and she was pretty enough to amuse him for now. A few weeks after he returned from Cornwall, they met up at a country house sale and he thought if she was in the mood they might manage to nip along to the show house later. Alex was always good fun and she looked and smelt gorgeous today. Nick could not help rubbing his hands over her rounded bottom and nibbling her neck as they walked around the house, commenting on the lots listed in the catalogue. Most of the contents were not his style, but he sometimes liked to pick up the odd artefact for home or one of his show houses. It gave them an individual touch. A bit of character and class.
But today, to his surprise, it was not the garden statuary, or the bronzes or the ornate candelabra that caught his eye, it was the paintings, or rather one painting in particular. Amongst the fruit and flowers, the portraits and the landscapes was a striking painting of a man that grabbed him. Yes, that was what it did. It grabbed him with its dark strokes and its pitiful eyes.
He was surprised by his reaction and wanted to study the painting at length, although it was clear it did not appeal to Alex. He checked the catalogue and realised it was by an artist Mary had mentioned at some point during his time with her in St Ives. He almost laughed at himself; some of her instruction must have sunk in then.
And then he heard her voice. He turned instantly, but it felt like an age. Her voice pierced his heart and his body thrilled with the sight of her. She had not changed. She even wore the same kind of clothes still. She had obviously heard him talking about the painting as she asked if he was thinking of bidding for it.
Moments later she was walking away and he had no choice but to follow. He made excuses to Alex then ran down the stairs, through the hall and out into the driveway. She was striding along the gravel, her head held high. He wanted to stop her and called out. “Mary! Mary, wait for me! Please don’t go!”
She stopped and turned towards him. He ran to her breathless. “I need to talk to you. I couldn’t talk to you at the concert in the cathedral, but I’ve been thinking about you ever since we were in Cornwall.”
But she seemed unmoved by his urgency or his reference to their time together and with an unsmiling face just said, “Are you really planning to buy that painting?”
“Yes I am. And if I’m successful, then you could come and see it whenever you wanted to.” He felt hopeful. This could be a new beginning. He felt sure he could make her want to see him again.
She raised an eyebrow and stared at him. “That wonderful painting should live with a philosopher, not a Philistine. Don’t even think of buying it. It is not for the likes of you.”
He was stunned for just a second and then a second or two later he was angry. How dare she insult him. “Bloody cheek! I’ll buy it whether you like it or not!”
“Don’t be so sure. It will only work for those who have pure intentions.” Then she walked away, striding towards the parked cars.
“Just you wait and see! I’ll damn well get it. You’ll see!” Nick clenched his fists and ground his teeth. He would have it. And she would never see it again. He would bid by phone. Anonymously.
He turned away from the maddening sight of Mary, back to the house. Alex awaited. There was always lovely, comforting, forgiving Alex with her warm thighs.

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