The Way We Lied

“So good of you to join us, Mrs Harper,” breathed Audrey Taylor, taking Caroline’s elbow and guiding her into the village hall. “The afternoon WI has been dying for you to come to one of our meetings and we’ve got such an interesting agenda for you this afternoon. You’re our star turn of course, but we’ve also got Jessie Evans who’s going to treat us to a demonstration of some interesting ways to wear scarves. She picked up some marvellous ideas at a class on her Mediterranean cruise this summer! And I do hope you are going to enjoy judging the Most Unusual Tea Cup Competition. Our little competitions are always very popular with our members.”
Caroline concentrated on smiling and not laughing. Helen would be highly amused when she heard all about this. They had both long resisted the pressure to join the local Womens Insitute, citing school runs and other commitments as major obstacles. But the Elham branch of the WI had caught her at last because of David and now she would have to grin and bear it.
David had promised Audrey, who was this year’s WI Chairman and a stalwart Party worker, that Caroline would come along to a meeting and talk about “Sleeping with my MP”. Caroline had been a little unnerved at the somewhat racy title, but Helen, who had dreamt it up, insisted that it would liven up the proceedings enormously. “Well you do sleep with him,” she had said in mock indignation, “and they aren’t exactly going to expect a detailed account of your sex life, are they?” And Caroline had given her a weak smile and not told her of the sad shadow that fluttered past at this reference to sex.
Enthusiastic applause greeted her as she stepped up to the podium to face the WI gathering and even more concluded her presentation. “That was simply marvellous Mrs Harper.” gushed Audrey, handing her a strong cup of tea and a thickly iced butterfly cake. “I’m sure none of us had any idea that you had to represent your husband on so many different occasions. But we all appreciate it, we really do. Now why don’t we take a look at the competition entries while we are having our tea. I know it is going to be a hard task, as there are so many lovely cups today, but I am sure you will be able to choose a worthy winner.”
A side table displayed around twenty cups, some with saucers, each with a little numbered card by its side. “ We don’t name the entries, so they can be judged completely objectively,” explained Audrey. “Now don’t you think that is a lovely one?” she said, pointing to a gilded cup scattered with purple violets, inscribed “A little corner of Devon”.
Caroline admired the cup as bidden and scanned the others, finally alighting on a strange cup with a form of pierced ledge inside the bowl, just where the tea drinker’s lips would sip. “Now that one is very different,” she said.“I’ve never seen a cup shaped like that before.”
“Aah, yes, that one is very interesting, isn’t it. I believe I am correct in saying it is what’s known as a moustache cup,” exclaimed Audrey with great delight. “ Maisie Simpson…oh dear, I shouldn’t have told you who brought it. Oh well, never mind, she said it was her grandfather’s and so it must be quite old. I should think it has been in her family for at least a hundred years. It was designed like that to keep the gentleman’s moustache dry while he drank his tea.”
Caroline held it up, peering at the lip of porcelain and imagining some firm masculine lips draining the cup of tea. “Well I think this one really is the most unusual tea cup and so it must surely be the winner.”

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