The Way We Lied

Temporary service has been restored….for those who have forgotten what had happened, Sarah had tailed Mary to find out where she lived, after seeing her at the show house with Nick…..

It was so inefficient and inconvenient. Only half the checkouts in the supermarket were open and there were several people queuing at each of them. Everyone had full trolleys and looked bored and irritable. Sarah’s basket was not full; she was only buying a few last minute essential items for the weekend ahead, but she knew she would have to wait like the others.
Behind her, a plump elderly woman, in a heavy woollen camel coat despite the warmth of the store’s heating, bemoaned the shop’s organisation, “My goodness, you’d think they’d try harder. And some people look as if they’re afraid they’ll never see food again,” she said with a nod at the loaded trolleys nearby. She arched her heavily pencilled eyebrows in disapproval and pursed her thickly lipsticked mouth, “Still we should be thankful. At least we have food, unlike some poor beggars.”
Sarah nodded in polite agreement, wishing the queue would move faster so she would not have to prolong the discussion. She felt unkind however, when she heard the woman repeat exactly the same phrases to man queuing behind her. She was a lonely old woman, looking for company, seeing the other customers preparing feasts for their families when she was likely to be alone.
But Sarah also felt irritation when the woman nudged her in the queue, her bulk urging Sarah forward, her impatience made all the more obvious. Why are the elderly so intolerant, thought Sarah, when they’ve all day to shop, and she stood her place firmly, resisting the pressure to move ahead by even an inch. As she finally reached the head of the queue and paid for her purchases, she felt her space being invaded still further by the camel coat, so she deliberately took her time packing and paying.
Glancing back as she left with her bags, she saw, with an icy jolt of surprise, a pair of cool blue eyes watching her from the neighbouring queue. She knew those eyes and she knew that confident, challenging expression. She left hastily, walking briskly to the car park and throwing her bags onto the passenger seat of her car, eager to leave quickly. Then an unexpected call on her mobile from Nick delayed her departure and by the time she had finished talking to him there was a rapping on the car window.
Oh my God, she thought. Mary had followed her. Sarah was frozen, dreading this encounter. She stared through the glass as the figure stood back expectantly. When Sarah did not respond, Mary rapped sharply on the window again and Sarah felt obliged to wind the window down a little and ask with unconcealed irritation, “Well, what do you want?”
Mary smiled. She was not angry or agitated. In fact she appeared to be amused. She spoke in a calm tone. “Oh I just wanted to tell you that I know perfectly well what you did. I know that it was you.”
Sarah felt herself blushing, but she protested, “I don’t know what on earth you are talking about. I mean, I hardly even know you!”
“That’s true,” Mary said in a level voice. “A pity really. But more of a pity for the others you have deprived. You really don’t understand, do you? You haven’t the slightest idea what your stupid bigotry will cause them to miss.”
Then she shrugged. “Fortunately, I can go elsewhere. But as for you – well, you can only stay here.” She gave Sarah a pitying look. “Yes, that’s the best thing for you. Stay here in this safe little world, where you can feel so, so important.”
Sarah could feel herself getting hotly indignant. “I’ve simply no idea what you are talking about. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have important things to attend to.” She raised the window and Mary just stood there watching her, staring with those laughing blue eyes.
Sarah reversed out of the parking space and still Mary stood there, calmly observing her. Then, as Sarah turned the car to drive past her she saw that Mary was actually laughing and giving her a fluttery wave, dismissing her, belittling her.
Sarah felt sick. How could Mary know anything about the letters she had sent? But what might she decide to do next? No, she could do nothing. Sarah was sure she was safe. And she had been right to act. Standards had to be maintained. She straightened her shoulders, breathed deeply and drove home. She was planning to make the Christmas puddings today. And while they were steaming she would write her Christmas cards. Order had been properly restored and nothing would intrude into her efficient world again.

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