The Way We Lied

Once Helen had left, Caroline reflected on what Evelyn Tinwell had said and realised that if she really wanted to know more and to fully understand, she would have to visit her and ask her what she had meant. And those whispered words in that aged voice echoed again. “Be careful with Mary, my dear. I know she’s started on you. Don’t let her take you over.”
It was all the more disturbing, because it was only a few weeks previously that Mary had first sketched her. They had been drinking tea in the kitchen, and Caroline had been telling her about the huge amount of paperwork David was increasingly bringing home so he could continue working late into the evening. “He works so hard it really worries me and it means he is losing touch with the children, he sees so little of them.”
Suddenly Mary had said, “Stop there! Stay just as you are. I want to capture that look right now before you lose it.” And she had picked up a large sketch pad and a stick of charcoal and begun working with swift, bold strokes. “Keep talking to me while I draw you. I want to get that little frown and that intense look you have when you are fretting.”
So Caroline had continued to talk, telling Mary all her fears for David and the children and finally telling her how alone and unsatisfied she felt. “Sometimes I think I’m just a facility, not the girl he loved. We have no time alone any more. If we go out together it’s to some boring official function and if we’re home then David’s working in his study or on the phone. I feel his job is draining him and me and slowly killing our marriage.”
At that point, as Mary ripped yet another sheet of paper from the pad, she had looked up and asked, “So how often do you sleep together?”
Caroline had blushed as she answered. “Well all the time of course, unless he is staying overnight in London.”
“No, I mean how often does he make love to you? Come on, Caroline, how often does David fuck you?”
“Oh Mary, I couldn’t answer a question like that. I never talk about such things.”
Mary had shrugged and resumed sketching. “Fine. But look, I’m not asking out of crude curiosity. I’m asking you because you’re a friend and you’re unhappy. And if a husband and wife don’t get it off on a regular basis, that’s a recipe for disaster.”
“Well I suppose if you must know, the answer is not very often. In fact, I’m not sure if I can remember the last time.”
“And does that bother you?”
Now it was Caroline’s turn to shrug. “Sometimes I suppose. But when you’re tired and bored, it hardly seems important.”
Then Mary had said the words that had been troubling her ever since that afternoon. “My dear, you have got to rediscover your desire. Passion is a life force. You will die all too soon if you don’t experience ecstasy.”
But Caroline felt doubtful that she could rediscover desire and passion. In fact, she was not sure she had ever known how to find them in the first place. David had been loving and gentle from the start, but his lovemaking had never inspired depths of passion. It was pleasant enough, but that was not ecstasy, was it? It was not that she had set sex on a pedestal as some of her school friends had done, when they were seventeen. She had actually been one of the first to lose her virginity. But when they had asked her what it was like, all she had been able to truthfully tell them, was that it was alright. She had slept with a couple of other boyfriends before David, but that was all it had ever been for her,‘alright’.
Sometimes she had wondered if there was something wrong with her when she watched films in which actresses writhed and moaned, or when friends giggled about certain men having an ‘amazing technique’. And Alex sometimes slipped into areas that made Caroline feel uneasy, referring to Hazel Spillers’ gardener as ‘really fit’ and saying ‘he could come and hoe my borders any day’, with a knowing wink. Caroline was never sure what the wink implied, and she didn’t like to ask. It hadn’t seemed that interesting before, but now that Mary had spoken,she began to wonder. And she wondered whether Evelyn knew what Mary was encouraging her to think and to question.

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