The Way We Lied

They were waved off as if they were embarking on a lengthy expedition, instead of a short drive, but Caroline felt as if this could be the beginning of an arduous journey because Evelyn remained silent. It was almost as if this was not the woman who had whispered to her only a few days ago and whose words had made her feel so disturbed and curious. As they drove through the twisting lanes and beneath the avenues of blazing autumn colour, Caroline attempted to make conversation as a prelude to more searching questions.
“Isn’t this weather simply glorious? I just love these crisp mornings and bright sunny days. It really is a lovely time of year.” She glanced at her passenger, safely strapped into the seat beside her, staring intently ahead as they sped past woods and fields. They came to the crossroads outside the village and Caroline turned right, passing the track to Mary’s cottage. Just at that point she thought she heard a faint murmur, closer to a moue than a clear utterance, nothing more. She glanced quickly at Evelyn again, noticing that she was looking in that direction and that she had raised her hand towards the window, almost as if she was signalling to someone in the trees, but there was no one there.
They soon came to the gallery that Caroline had in mind. It was set in a clearing near woods, at the foot of a hill which was sprinkled with daffodils in spring and now was scattered with brown and gold fallen leaves. “I thought we could have a little look around here and then perhaps get a bite to eat,” she suggested. “Would you like that?”
All she received in reply was a nod and hands fumbling to unbuckle the seat belt. Caroline jumped out of the car and walked around to the other side to help Evelyn. Offering the old lady her arm in support, they began to walk slowly along the winding path that led to the gallery. It was housed in a converted and extended chapel and large sculptures were displayed in the churchyard, amongst the old gravestones blotched with orange and grey lichen.
As they walked, Caroline continued with her conversational crutch, commenting on the statues they passed. “That one rather reminds me of Henry Moore. I quite like his work. I think I prefer him to Barbara Hepworth.”
Then suddenly, just as she was becoming used to the silence of her companion, Evelyn spoke. Her words were soft, but still quite sharp. “Cruel hard-hearted woman. Abandoned her children.”
“Sorry, what did you say, Evelyn? Something about children?”
“She left them. Left them with a nanny. Didn’t want to be a mother to them.”
“Oh yes, I think I’ve read something about that. I suppose she must have been devoted to her art and couldn’t be both mother and artist.”
“There’s no creation more precious than a child,” Evelyn pronounced definitively.
Caroline looked at her with interest, wondering whether to ask if she had ever had children of her own, but not sure if she would be entering a delicate area. “You are so right Evelyn, I felt overwhelmed when my first child was born. It seemed like a miracle. And now I have three and though I love them all to bits, I sometimes look forward to the day when I shan’t have to run around after them any more!”
“I had a child once,” Evelyn murmured. “Just the one.”
“Oh did you?” Caroline wondered whether this was possibly leading to a delicate disclosure about an untimely death or a still birth, but wanted to hear what else might be revealed and pressed on. “What did you have? A girl or a boy?”
“A girl. Just the one. “

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