The Way We Lied

“Good to meet you at last,” she said in a rich voice that conveyed scotch, smoke and sex. “I hope you realise that you are married to a very talented artist. She has immense potential.”
He was silent for a moment, but knew he had to make some kind of response. “Of course she does. Yeah, she’s great. I always knew she had it in her. Yeah, well done, Helen.”
Mary’s mouth displayed the slightest of smiles and he knew she could tell immediately that he was not enthusiastic about Helen’s work. Then Mary said, “She could go far you know. If she can continue to work as hard as she has this last year, she could be extremely successful indeed. Her paintings are accessible and commercial, as well as having artistic integrity.”
Helen was simply glowing with pleasure and could not stop smiling. “Mary’s so kind. She has been so encouraging. And we’ve even started talking about the next stage. I mean, I know we’ve only just finished working for this show, but Mary was saying we’ve all got to think about where we’re going next, now we’ve got this far. Isn’t it exciting?”
“I totally agree,” said Nicky, shaking her head so her long earrings twirled and flickered. “We’ve all got to maintain this momentum. I think we should all meet up in say a month, once the initial buzz has quietened down and talk about our plans for the next year. It would be good to set another theme too, as I think that has been an instrumental discipline in pushing us all forward productively and creatively.”
Mary was nodding in agreement. “Good thinking,” she said. “But do give yourselves time to recharge the batteries and gain a fresh perspective. I always feel that after a period of such intensive work it’s really important to find another dimension by discovering new sources of reference. One year I went on a retreat which revealed some interesting spiritual ideas, and next year I’m planning to spend time in India. There’s the most wonderful ashram in Kerala. You should all think about doing something like that for a while.”
“Oh that sounds wonderful.” Helen smiled with adoration at her heroine. “I’d simply love to go somewhere really exotic like that. Seeing different colours and landscapes would be such an inspiring experience.”
“Maybe we can plan something for the group,” Nicky suggested. “I mean, not everyone likes travelling alone and we might be able to travel more cost effectively if we all go on a group deal together.”
“But Helen can’t go,” Simon said, then noticed that all them, particularly Mary, were staring at him. He halted for a second then decided to carry on, “Helen can’t do that because of her work and also the children. Anyway, we’ve already decided where we’re going on holiday.”
There was silence and then Mary said, with that slight, irritating smile, “How efficient of you. And where are you going for your holiday?”
“Majorca. A very nice complex actually, with a pool. We’ve been going there for several years and it suits us all very well. I don’t see the point in going somewhere new and risking disappointment.”
“Yes, it is very nice,” added Helen. “We always have a lovely time. And it’s very relaxing.” She was quiet for a moment, then said, “But it would be nice to try something new.”
“Well you should,” Mary said with passion. “Relaxing holidays are one thing, but if you are really interested in developing your work you need stimulation and contrasting experiences. You can relax once you are back in your studio in familiar surroundings. That’s when you can begin to assimilate all those new and exciting sights and they will filter into your consciousness and begin to influence your work.”
“Oh you make it sound so inspiring,” said Helen, regaining her enthusiasm. “And I’m so keen to keep working on new ideas. Even if the others don’t want to go out to India, I’d really love to go.”
Simon remained silent. He would discuss this with Helen later. But he noticed Mary looking at him with amused triumph as if she had scored a point over him. He would show her, he thought. He would dissuade Helen and make her see that this was a ridiculous idea that could never happen.

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