The Way We Lied

While Helen finished preparing supper, Simon retreated to his study and loaded that day’s photographs onto his computer. He flicked through the file, glancing briefly at the exterior views, deleting a few and mentally noting which ones he could use, but he stopped when he came to the final shot.
Although it was taken from a distance he could see that the woman was attractive, or handsome as some would say. She was at least as tall as Nick, but she did not stoop; she held herself erect and looked proud. Bit of a change from Nick’s usual taste in petite blondes. More of a hard dominatrix than a cosy bit of fluff. Bet she’d look good in a tight black corset and long shiny boots. He closed the file and his hand hovered over the computer mouse, hesitating.
Just then, Helen called that food was ready and Simon switched off his laptop. His other life could wait until Helen was asleep. She liked to go to bed early so Simon often stayed up late working, or so she thought. What she didn’t know, couldn’t hurt her, he reasoned. It was harmless. It couldn’t hurt anyone. He was careful to cover his tracks and he was the only one who could access his files. The children had their own computer, so his preferences were safe from his family and no one would ever know how he liked to relax alone in the evenings.
He left the study and found Helen setting out supper in the kitchen. “Why aren’t we eating in the dining room?” he asked. “ Don’t tell me you’ve left it in a state again.” Simon opened the connecting door to find the room in more of a mess than usual. Sketch pads were thrown all over the table and some of her paint was even smeared on the sisal carpet.
“Oh I’ll clear it up soon, Simon, I promise. I thought we could eat in the kitchen as it’s just us tonight. And I wanted to leave everything where it was so I could go back to it after supper. I’ve started a new painting. I’ve had lots of ideas since we met Mary Reid. Would you like to see?”
“No I wouldn’t, Helen. I’m not very keen on the way your work is suddenly taking over your other responsibilities. It’s really not very nice to come home to all this stuff. It’s a dining room, not a studio. Do you really have to do any more tonight?”
“I don’t have to, I suppose, but I’m in the middle of it and I want to get it finished before next week when we see Mary again.”
“Oh you’re still doing that are you? I thought you weren’t very keen on her.”
“I never said that Simon. I may have said I was nervous about seeing her the first time, but I appreciate her help now. I’m really keen to work on some new ideas.”
She spooned portions of lasagne onto plates and placed one in front of him. “It would be so much easier if I had a proper place of my own to work in. I know the dining room isn’t the most convenient place, but there really isn’t anywhere else at the moment. Mary says it’s important to have your own work space. And so I was wondering…..”
“Isn’t there a salad?” he interrupted. “You have done a salad, haven’t you?”
She smiled and shook her head. “Sorry. There isn’t one. I forgot to get any today, I was so busy…..”
“But we always have salad with lasagne. How could you forget?”
“Oh I don’t know. It doesn’t matter just this once, does it?”
“Well it does matter actually. It isn’t a very well balanced meal without the salad. And this isn’t the first time that this sort of thing has happened, is it? Seems to me your painting is taking priority and your family is right at the bottom of the list at the moment. I mean, when was the left time you hoovered or changed our sheets? We’ve run out of toilet paper as well.” Despite his complaints he took a large mouthful of the pasta and began eating quickly and hungrily.
Helen picked a small forkful from her plate then laid it down again. “I suppose I am working hard on my painting just now. But I’m trying very hard not to let things slip. Mary says we have to be really focused and determined if we want this show to succeed.”
Simon let his fork drop onto his plate with a loud clatter. “Mary, Mary! Sod bloody Mary! I hear nothing but Mary these days. I’ll be glad when that sodding woman stops giving you orders.” He gulped the red wine and helped himself to more lasagne. “Then we can get back to normal and you’ll pay more attention to your proper responsibilities. You have got a family who need you, you know. We aren’t part of your Arts Guild!”
Helen had only managed to eat a couple of small mouthfuls and was quiet for a moment or two after he had spoken. Then she said, “I think this show is important for me. I think I am going to like working under Mary’s guidance even though it’s stretching me and I know the pressure is going to build up.”
Simon stopped eating and smacked the table. “See, I knew she was pushing you too hard. Pressure! Now you’ve said it yourself. And you know you can’t cope with stress and overwork. It’s not good for you. I seriously think you should consider dropping out of this show. You don’t need to do it anyway. You can still sell your paintings show or no show.”
Pushing her plate away, Helen looked at him. He was expecting her to look nervous, but she seemed calm. “But it’s not a worrying sort of pressure, Simon. I really don’t feel anxious. It’s more like a feeling of excitement and energy. In fact, I’m loving it and I’ve really enjoyed meeting Mary too . She is so invigorating. And I’ll have an individual tutorial with her next month.”
Simon sniffed and poured more wine. “Well carry on if you must. But don’t let any more things slip. You’ll probably find it will all come to nothing anyway. These things usually do in my experience.”
Then at last, Helen’s face showed concern and she pleaded, “Mary’s sure it’s going to boost sales and commissions for all of us in the long run. She says she’s seen it happen with other art groups. I really hope so. And to be honest I want to keep working at this pace. It’s making me feel so motivated, so please try to understand and give me your support, Simon.”
He didn’t answer. He just poured another glass of wine and walked away to his study and slammed the door. He heard her loading the dishwasher and then she went upstairs. Good he thought, at least she didn’t do any more of her dreadful painting.

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