The Way We Lied

He knew that Mary was at the cottage because he heard her whistling as he walked up the path. It could have been a workman, but he somehow knew it would be her because she was always so confident, so masculine in everything she did. And he was right.
Mary was standing in the backyard, an axe in her hands, preparing to split a pile of logs. A paint-stained dark blue fisherman’s jersey was paired with her usual tight jeans, tucked into muddied boots. She stood and looked at him as he walked slowly towards her. Then she lay down her axe.
“I rather thought you would eventually come here one day,” she said. “Helen told me how much you disagree with her plans.” She folded her arms and stood before him, her calm blue eyes and slight smile challenging him.
He could not speak. He could not find the words he wanted so much to throw at her. She was so unashamed, so strong and he had hoped and imagined she might have been contrite.
“Come in,” she said, turning towards the house. “I’ll make us some tea.”
He followed. He did not want tea. He wanted an apology and her cooperation. But he entered the warm kitchen and stood while she busied herself with mugs and boiling the kettle.
“Have a seat,” she said, waving at one of the sturdy wooden chairs placed beside the scrubbed table, which was littered with letters and newspapers.
“I’m perfectly alright standing,” he said, then sat down a moment or so later.
She leant against the sink, looking down at him while the tea brewed. “So, Simon, what have you come to say? You’ve obviously been brooding about what I said the last time we met. I can see it in your eyes.”
He frowned. “I’m entitled to my opinions.” He paused for a moment, considering his words. “I want you to talk to Helen again. She has too many responsibilities at home for her to go away and leave us. I want you to stop giving her these impossible ideas. I want you to persuade Helen to stay here with me and her family.”
She laughed at him. “And why on earth should I do that? Helen can make up her mind for herself, can’t she?”
“Look, she seems to be completely under your spell. She won’t listen to me anymore. She keeps saying Mary says this and Mary says that. I can’t make her change her mind, but I know that you can.”
“But why should I? All I’ve done is help Helen to think clearly for herself and decide what she really wants from life. It is absolutely nothing to do with me if she wants to leave her home and have new experiences. That decision is hers entirely. I approve of her intentions, of course, but it really isn’t down to me.”
He clenched his teeth in frustration, breathing quickly and looking angry, then said, “Well all I can say is that Helen never talked about leaving her home and family for months on end till you came along! She was perfectly happy! We all were!”

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