The Way We Lied

Tuesday was Sarah’s morning at the hospice charity shop in Godalming. It could not be Monday because there was always so much to do at home after the weekend and it would never suit her to do a Wednesday because that was when she had her Pilates class, so she always did a shift in the shop on Tuesday. It fitted in well with her day and gave her time to pop into the club for a swim after lunch, then maybe a quick flit round Waitrose before collecting Tom and Amy. They both stayed late for music classes on a Tuesday, so she always bought something from that lovely salad bar for their supper. Tom simply loved the pasta and bean salad.
And Tuesday was a better day too because most of the bags of cast-offs, deposited after people’s weekend clear outs, had been rummaged through and the worst items had been binned or bagged up for recycling. Honestly, some people donated ( well, to tell the truth, you could hardly call them donations) heaps of unwashed and torn clothes, unmatched shoes and desperately old videos. How they thought such revolting rubbish would help to raise funds for the hospice Sarah simply could not imagine.
Dear old Penny Lancaster, who came in every single day, even though she was nearly 80 now, always loved telling Sarah about the ghastly horrors that often lurked in some of the donated bags and boxes. “My dear, I’ve learnt over the years to wear a thin pair of rubber gloves and an overall when I’m on unloading duty. We had a pair of men’s pyjamas here once and there was an unused you know what in the jacket pocket! It was disgusting! And as for dirty hankies and tissues, well something lurks in nearly every pocket I tell you!”
But sometimes there were gems to be unearthed as well and Sarah particularly liked sorting through what she liked to call her ‘treasure box’, into which all jewellery was placed for her inspection. Plastic beads and bangles all went into a 50p basket while other items were closely examined, as many an 18 carat chain masqueraded as costume jewellery and vice versa. Precious gems were often hard to identify but Sarah had befriended a local jeweller who would happily put his magic glass to his eye and an antique dealer who would check for silver hall marks and was also an absolute whiz on ceramics.
Today, little new stock had emerged from the weekend haul, so Sarah rearranged the pieces displayed in the glass jewellery cabinet to advantage, pinning the brooches onto black velvet and draping the chains and necklaces. Then she turned her attention to the window, which was currently displaying a dismal collection of tattered but collectable books and video tapes. With Easter approaching she had decided the shop should have a spring theme and she began hunting for appropriate goods in the store. A cloth embroidered with yellow and pink flowers was soon spread on a low table, to display a collection of egg cups and various pieces of floral china. Over a chair she draped a pink and blue dress, then accessorised it with a flowery hat and a yellow clutch bag.
Then she went outside the shop to assess her work from the pavement. It was so important to have an interesting window and making it topical always seemed to succeed in encouraging more custom. She was just deciding whether to add Easter cards to the display and maybe scatter a few foil wrapped chocolate eggs, which she could buy from the nearby newspaper shop, when she realised that the window was already attracting attention.
A motorised wheelchair bearing a frail but not elderly man had stopped alongside her. He was accompanied by a tall dark haired woman in jeans. Sarah did not like to stare at them, so she continued appraising her efforts and thinking about possible additions to her display, whilst trying to listen to their conversation. The man’s voice was laboured as if he found it difficult to speak and the woman bent over him to catch his words.
“Cards,” he said. “See what cards there are. I like to send charity cards.”
“I’ll take a look for you. Birthday and general?” The woman spoke in a rich confident voice, hovering by the door until she received a nod from him. He inched the wheelchair clear of the entrance and sat outside waiting for her.

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