The Way We Lied

The journey home on the evening of the show was not totally silent. Helen was driving and she was still chattering about the pictures she had sold and how visitors to the exhibition had reacted to her new style.
“Alex came quite early, before you arrived. But she bought one of my old still lifes. I don’t think she liked the new work quite as much as everyone else did , but it was still really nice to see her and have her support, don’t you think?”
Simon could only manage a grunted reply. He was still thinking about Mary and the hold she seemed to have over Helen. When they were home, Helen said she would like to open a bottle of wine as she had been careful not to drink at the show because she was driving. So they sat in the kitchen with the bottle on the table between them and Simon finally spoke.
“I do hope you’re not seriously thinking about this travelling idea. It doesn’t sound at all practical to me. I think it’s out of the question with all you have to do here.”
“I know what you mean, Simon, but, you know, I was thinking that maybe next year, when Emily’s finished her A levels and Richard is back for the summer holidays, it wouldn’t be so out of the question.”
“Oh that’s very nice. You wait till our son comes home from university and then you push off! That’s going to make him feel very welcome!”
“Oh, do you think that’s a bad time? I don’t think he’d mind. He’s planning to go away with friends for part of the summer anyway and so is Emily. I’m sure they wouldn’t miss me all that much for a couple of weeks.”
“And what about me? How am I supposed to manage? You know how overloaded the business is sometimes and then I get run off my feet.”
“Yes, I know. I’d feel awful if it was during one of your busy patches. I suppose maybe we should wait and see.”
Then they had drunk all the wine and made love like they used to and Simon felt sure Helen had agreed with him. He thought it was all forgotten as it was not spoken of for months.
But around the beginning of December, when the first of the Christmas cards began arriving, he noticed large envelopes addressed to Helen turning up in the mail nearly every day. She did not say what they were and so he asked her one evening over supper.
“Oh they’re just brochures,” she said, giving him a plate of cottage pie. “I’ve been wondering again about going away for a bit next year. It’s just a thought at this stage. I haven’t decided on anything yet. I might wait and see if Nicky goes ahead with a group holiday after all.”
“Helen, I thought we’d already agreed that you wouldn’t be going anywhere on your own or wit h your friends from the Guild.” Simon mashed his food with his fork. “Or is this all about joining up with that Mary woman?”
“Maybe. I haven’t quite decided. She hasn’t made any final decisions yet, so I thought perhaps I might make my own arrangements. I don’t think the children would be bothered about me going for away for a while and I am sure I could organise lots of food for you before I go. You don’t really mind do you?”
“Of course I mind. I don’t want you to go away. I need you here. This is where you belong. I thought we’d agreed that it would be extremely inconvenient for the rest of us if you weren’t here.”

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