The Way We Lied

At the age of 45, Simon Grant noticed his first white hairs and his 18 year old son shaved properly for the first time. That was the day he began to feel old and past his peak. He unlocked the door to his design studio in a cobbled mews in the old part of the market town and slumped in front of his computer. Business was good, he had plenty of work and he had Jack, his young production assistant. He should have felt positive, but today he felt as if this was all that life was going to offer him and it would never get any better.
Amongst his emails was a complaint from one client that their latest leaflet was ‘too small’ and from another that the typeface was ‘too old-fashioned’. There was not one single piece of good news. He sighed and stared out of the window at the old stable doors and loft hatches on the other side of the mews. This did not look like it was going to be a good day. He had to get out of here. The sun was beginning to cut through the shadows and he decided he would make a quick trip to the bank then head out to the new development at Dover Court to take photographs for the brochure he was preparing for Nick. And perhaps the sun and fresh air would revitalise him.
After banking several cheques he decided he could afford to take half an hour over coffee and the newspaper. Jack was more than capable of handling queries in his absence, so he did not feel he was seriously neglecting the business. When he was settled in a window seat with his cappuccino he glanced at the headlines and then allowed himself to watch two attractive girls rearranging the display in the window of the fashion store opposite. They weren’t provocatively dressed, they were just normal girls in tight jeans and vest tops that rode up to reveal taut midriffs and dipped down to display pert breasts. As they stripped the three female mannequins he enjoyed the sight of them peeling denim shorts off plaster buttocks gripped between their legs and clipping stringy bikini tops over pointed white nipples.
The young were so lovely and so confident. Twenty years ago or more he would have stood right outside the window, ogling them. Twenty five years ago he would have written his phone number on his palm and held it up to the glass.
Well actually he would never have done that. Instead, he would have done just what he was doing now, peering at them from time to time, then glancing down again at his newspaper. He had never been sure of himself with girls; never able to approach them with the bold chat and confidence of his friends.
Helen had been his only success. There had been a couple of girlfriends before her, but Helen was the first girl to respect him and then love him. Sometimes he thought it was because he was the only one prepared to be gentle with her and care for her. They had met at an art school 21st birthday party when she was 20 and he was 23. Neither of them were attending the college by then; Simon had left the year before and was working for a graphic design practice and Helen had just started training to be a teacher. He did not know it at first, but he soon heard from friends that Helen had found art school ‘difficult’ and it was rumoured she may even have had a breakdown. But he liked her shyness and because she was quiet he could talk to her. Gradually he found out that she had become pregnant in her first year at college and had a miscarriage. When her boyfriend abandoned her, she became deeply depressed and was unable to continue her studies.
They married soon after their first meeting, when Helen was only 21. Richard was born four years later. Helen had managed to qualify and taught for a couple of years before they had a family, but she had only been able to start work again in recent years when both the children were older. So ever since he had met her, Helen had relied upon Simon as first her lover then husband, provider and decision maker. He had approved of her working at the Manor Care Home, nor had he objected when she had begun showing her paintings at the Guild gallery. Neither occupation had taken up very much time, although the painting did often disrupt the dining room and he hated coming home to find her paints scattered across the table.

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