The Way We Lied

The New End Gallery was at the end of a cobbled walkway in an old part of the town where the smarter boutiques were located, far away from the charity shops. Simon rarely came here but he had promised Helen he would show his face at her new exhibition. It was getting late but he had never intended or promised that he would be there for the start. He had worked until 6.30 when the preview began and then gone to the pub for a couple of drinks. Helen could cope without him. Her arty friends would be there. She didn’t need him and if he dragged his heels this pathetic event should be almost over by the time he got there.
But when he wandered in at nearly eight o’clock he was surprised to see her still surrounded by people, most of them holding a glass of wine. He nodded at her from a distance and helped himself to a drink, then slowly toured the gallery to look at the other exhibitors first.
To his satisfaction there were very few red stickers on the paintings and none at all on the pottery and sculpture. He had known this ridiculous fuss would not make any difference to Helen’s sales. It had been blown up out of all proportion. Preparation for the show had dominated their lives for months now, disrupting routine and making life most difficult for him. Hopefully, seeing what a waste of time it had been would finally make her see sense and things would get back to normal at last.
But then he rounded the corner to the area where Helen’s pictures were displayed and noticed not just one red sticker but several. He could not believe it. One after another of her dreary new paintings had sold. As he looked in dismay, Helen grabbed his arm, saying, “Oh I’m so glad you’re here at last, Simon. It’s all going so well!” She was rosy with delight and pulled him into the middle of the group to stand by her side. “Nicky was just saying she thinks this exhibition has really set the gallery on the map at last, weren’t you Nicky?”
Simon faintly recalled meeting Nicky before; her spiky cropped blonde hair and long dangling earrings seemed familiar. She gave him a big smile and grasped his hand with enthusiasm. “I have to congratulate you Simon, on having such a talented wife. She’s turned out to be the star of the entire show!”
He pulled away a fraction, feeling hemmed in by exuberant women. “I didn’t think people were buying paintings much these days,” he muttered.
“Oh but they are,” gushed Nicky, “especially when they can actually meet the artist in person and understand how a concept has been developed. This show has been such an important turning point for all of us, but particularly for Helen. She has reached a pivotal stage in her career. You must be so proud of her!”
Simon frowned. “Of course I am.” He turned to look at his wife. “Well done Helen.”
His wife beamed back at him. “I’m so happy. It’s been such hard work, but it’s all been worth it. And we owe it all to Mary. She’s been simply amazing, Simon. I so want you to meet her.” Then she darted across the gallery to where a tall dark haired woman was standing with another group, spoke to her for a second and then pulled her back towards Simon and Nicky.
“Simon, this is Mary Reid. She has been the most wonderful source of inspiration and encouragement. I really don’t think we could have done all this without her.”
Well, well Simon thought, so this was Nick’s secret visitor. Simon could feel Mary’s steady gaze assessing him as she held out her hand for him to shake. It was large and firm and there was a roughness to the skin.

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