The Way We Lied

All around her in The Human Foundation headquarters, the walls were hung with drawings and paintings, some by childish hands, some quite accomplished, all displayed with as much respect and dignity as the work of recognised artists.
“I want you to understand me better. So one day you must come and see the other half of my life,” Mary had once said. “Come and see the work that means so much to me. That’s how I really want to be remembered; it’s much more important than the corporate commissions. They just help to fund my real work.”
Caroline had often wondered what she meant and now that Mary had gone she wanted to know more. She had not planned this visit today, but after leaving David’s Pimlico flat that morning, she had realised she had time to go to Bloomsbury before catching the train home. She came to London more frequently now, sharing a renewed intimacy of hot dinners and a warm bed with David.
The London offices of the Foundation, a charity for asylum seekers and victims of torture, were in a tall imposing house overlooking one of the many garden squares in this part of London. Mary had established an art studio here for the benefit of the charity’s clients and it was open to visitors on the first day of every month.
“I don’t actually teach those who need the Foundation’s facilities,” Mary had told Caroline. “I just encourage them and give them practical help. Many of them still have painful stories to tell about their terrible experiences and their survival. For some, their artwork could be the most effective means they may ever have of expressing their feelings and confronting the horrors of the past.”
Caroline hesitated in the reception area, looking at the walls filled with the work Mary had helped to create. Then she asked the slim black girl on duty if she might visit the studio. “Wait one moment and I will ask someone to take you there,” the receptionist replied with a delighted smile. “We are very proud of the wonderful work our clients produce here.”
After a few minutes, during which Caroline studied some paintings depicting harsh scenes of burning villages, a wiry young dark-haired man approached her and asked her to accompany him. They walked along a wide corridor to the rear of the building where a large light room overlooked a garden filled with shade-loving plants and rippling water. A bronze statue of a woman tenderly cradling her child, was positioned on a plinth in the centre of the terrace.
Caroline instantly recognised the compassion with which the piece had been created and moved closer to the french windows, wanting to reach out and stroke the gleaming limbs formed by her friend’s touch. “That sculpture is one of Mary Reid’s, isn’t it,” she said.
“Ah yes,” replied her guide. “Miss Reid has given the Foundation many wonderful gifts, as well as her time and skill. We are so very proud to enjoy the support of such a talented and acclaimed artist. She is a truly gifted and generous person. She is like a saint for us.”
Caroline continued to gaze at the sculpture, remembering Mary’s strong yet sensitive hands. “Yes I know, I’ve met her. She is the most extraordinary woman. Do you know if she is in London at the moment?”
“We understand she is travelling extensively at present, but when she is in the country she frequently spends many hours here. She is most generous with her time.”
He turned away from the view of the peaceful green garden. “And this,” he said, waving his hand around the room, “is our London studio, which Miss Reid has equipped for the benefit of our clients at her own expense. She has said the door should always be open. Even when she cannot be with us herself, it is a warm and happy place, where people can work if they are so inclined, but it is also a space in which they can reflect.”

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