The Way We Lied

Sarah’s life was organised to such a precise degree that chance occurrences were simply not permitted. The children’s school calendars were pinned up on a notice board in the kitchen and important dates were transferred into a large diary which always lay open on a table beside the telephone. Holidays were booked months in advance, meals were shopped and catered for with maximum efficiency and minimum waste. And while unforeseen events did not shake Sarah’s composure deeply, they unsettled her when they were beyond her control.
And she was beginning to feel that she had just become aware of an element beyond her influence in Mary Reid. Normally she would have dismissed coincidence as being of no consequence whatsoever, but this was different. This woman suddenly seemed to be intruding into various compartments of Sarah’s carefully scheduled life and she did not like it one little bit.
First there had been the unpleasant disclosure at the hospice shop, then the possible contact with the girls at the school and now Sarah had just discovered that Mary was suggesting projects to the vicar of St Michael’s Church. It was Sarah’s turn to help with the flowers and although Ursula Timms who was the principal flower arranger was frightfully conservative and loved her chrysanthemums and carnations and would never consider incorporating a single piece of corkscrew hazel or a brightly coloured gerbera, Sarah rather enjoyed helping with this task every couple of months.
Today they had created two large urns of late spring flowers, adding scented sprays of purple lilac donated from local gardens. Sarah was just sweeping up the fallen florets and leaves from the floor beneath the pedestals, when Ursula said, “Now what do you think about our vicar’s idea for a flower and sculpture festival in the autumn?”
It was the first Sarah had heard of it, so Ursula went on, “Richard’s very keen to do it for this year’s Harvest Festival when there are so many lovely brightly coloured chrysanths around. And he’s been talking to a local artist woman he’s met, who has promised to lend us some of her pieces of sculpture. It sounds as if it could be very exciting, don’t you think?”
Sarah’s ears were suddenly alert. She knew immediately who this would be and felt irritated that this woman was violating yet another area of her life. Ursula could not recall the artist’s name; she only knew that Richard White the vicar had assured her of their fame and that their work was highly acclaimed.
“New ideas like this can be such a help in drawing new people into the church, Richard thinks. Don’t you agree?” Ursula was enthusiastic but Sarah was noncommittal, feeling sure this had to be another instance of Mary infiltrating the ordered composure of Little Elham with her louche ways.
When the floor had been swept and the flowers given a final spray of refreshing water, Sarah left promptly for her swimming session. She swam twice a week at the sports club, constantly trying to beat her personal best in terms of speed and numbers of lengths. She calculated that she had already swum the English Channel since Christmas and was now nearing the Isle of Wight on the home stretch. As she swam, keeping her head and chin neatly out of the water because chlorine did so wreck one’s highlights, she thought about the growing annoyance that was Mary.

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