The Way We Lied

The first time Caroline saw the woman standing on the verge she thought she must be searching for something. Perhaps she had dropped an earring while walking down the country lane, perhaps she was waiting for a lift home. But the second time Caroline noticed her she was sitting in her car. She was quite, quite still, staring straight ahead as if no one could see her and she did not have a care for passersby.
For a week Caroline forgot all about her, even though she drove along the same lane at various times of day. And then suddenly she saw her again. She knew it was her immediately, because each time she saw her the woman was wearing a short, pale blue coat and dark trousers. She was standing in the same spot, her head bent, her dark bobbed hair hiding her cheeks and Caroline could not help thinking that she must be crying.
Caroline drove home to a busy household; children home from school, husband phoning to say he would be at the station earlier than usual. She quickly cooked the pasta, then left Lisa in charge of tossing the rapidly cooked ravioli in basil and tomato sauce so she could meet the train on time. On the way back they passed the spot where she had seen the mysterious woman earlier on and Caroline suddenly thought to say to David, “Why do you think someone would be standing at the side of the lane always looking at the same place? I’ve seen the same woman there several times in the course of one week.”
“God knows,” he yawned. “Probably too lazy to walk their dog properly. What are we eating tonight?”
“I was planning to grill some chops with broccoli and new potatoes. That do you?”
“Fine, fine.” He yawned again. “Course she could be one of those people who leave flowers at the roadside.”
“Where there’s been an accident you mean?” Caroline frowned as she drove along the winding lane. “No, I’ve never noticed any bunches of flowers there. And I don’t ever remember hearing of a car crash along this road.”
They drove home without talking about it any more and Caroline forgot all about the strange woman as she prepared supper and listened to David moaning about his annoying new researcher in the office, then reminding her that they had to leave one hour before their usual time in the morning so he could catch an extra early train.
But Caroline never objected to the running around as it meant he came home to the family most nights, only staying at the London flat when he had late sessions or extra committee meetings. Many MP’s wives hardly saw their husbands during the week and she certainly was not keen for him to become one of the permanently in town crowd. They were mostly up all night or up to no good and Caroline was determined to ensure that he did neither. When she could be confident that the children were well looked after and could book Maureen, their regular babysitter, she joined him at the London flat for the night, taking a home-cooked meal with her and staying on the next morning to iron a few shirts to hang in the closet and straighten the place up. He had never wanted a regular cleaner, although she had suggested it a few times. He claimed confidential documents and security clearance would make it far too difficult.

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