The lie left my mouth before I even realised it was a lie. Just a little white lie that no sooner had I uttered it, I knew my life would change. It came out through a simple conversation I was having with Jane, my girlfriend, about nothing in particular.
We lived together in a nice apartment in town. I was washing the pots after tea, stood with my back to the dining table where Jane was sat reading a magazine. I was facing the tiled splashback and concentrating on cleaning crockery.
We weren’t talking about much, in fact Jane was doing most of the talking and I was daydreaming. You’ve probably had the same thing happen to you.
Jane had asked about my day.
‘Oh the usual,’ I answered, knowing what question was coming next
‘Has that new person started yet?’
Since Duncan had left, I’d been in the office alone for nearly three months, while the lengthy process to recruit his replacement took place. Jane knew that someone was starting today as we have few secrets in our lives. She was asking the question as I’d failed to mention the new person at all through tea.
‘Oh yes, they started today.’ I wiped down a gravy-stained plate, placed it on the drain, then rubbed at a gooey fork. My subconscious wanted to say more but my brain wasn’t allowing it.
Jane perhaps sensed I wasn’t being totally forthcoming.
‘What’s his name?’ came the next question. I could sense she was looking at me now and not Glamour magazine.
I paused and briefly thought of my reply. I could sense Jane’s gentle probing. She wouldn’t like the answer I was going to give.
‘Diane. It’s a woman,’ I said.
‘Oh’. A brief pause while Jane fought the irrational jealousy urge as her hackles raised slightly. ‘That’s unusual. I didn’t think there were many women in chemical engineering. What’s she like?’
And here it comes, just an innocent white lie, fluttering out of my mouth, across the room at 340.29 metres a second into Jane’s ears. As she was sat only two and a half metres away, the difference between me speaking and Jane hearing was so small as to be barely negligible. So small I thought I should pre-warn you in case you missed it.
‘She seems nice,’ I answered.
Did you see it? Those three words were it: ‘she seems nice’. I told you it wasn’t much but this was the whitest of snow-white lies. It was as if the lie had been bleached for a thousand years, so white it was. Though the lie was white, it was by no means clean. It was loaded with sentiment; full of lust and sorrow, dripping in regret. Sometimes the smallest things do all the damage. All I’d said were three words and the first brick in my world with Jane had been removed, weakening the whole structure and starting an irreversible chain that would ultimately lead to me and Jane breaking-up.
Jane knew what those three words meant. She knew that I knew what those three words meant. She knew I was hiding Diane from her already and it was only the first day. Battle lines were being drawn in her mind and I would be lucky in the end to walk away with the TV and the kitchen knives.
She gave the back of my head her full attention and cranked up the intrigue. ‘What colour hair does she have?’ asked Jane.
‘Erm, I’m not sure,’ I lied and replied. ‘Brown, I think?’ Lies follow lies like a kitten follows string. I knew she had long blonde hair, I’m not even sure why I lied this time, I think it was because I knew blonde girls were supposed to be trouble. I scrubbed at a particularly stubborn part of the grill pan that hadn’t had this much attention since I welded a sausage to it through forgetfulness in 2009.
Jane sensed that I was lying, that’s why she asked me the hair colour question, so if I gave an answer which turned out to be wrong later she would know. And I’d failed her. Failed myself. And then she’d know for certain. When she finally met Diane, she’d know that everything I’d said about her was a lie, that Diane was the opposite of the person I’d given and Jane would lose all respect and love for me. Jane would be shocked at the amount of lies that I’d told. She weep to her friends that she’d known all along I was lying and that I’d been ‘a shit’. It would all be true, too. And it started with something so insignificant.
‘To be honest with you, I’ve been so busy today that I didn’t get much of a chance to get to know her yet.’ Lie after lie after lie was flowing from my mouth; three times was far from a charm. I’d spent nearly the entire day with Diane, carrying out the local induction, showing her the canteen and the cash machine, how to make sure the fob reader always works, explaining to her the office politics, who was separated from who and who called the boss a ‘racist twat’ at the Christmas party and lived to tell the tale. We even went to lunch and I had a salad and not my usual chicken, bacon and cheese baguette, because I wanted to stay in shape for Diane.
It was ridiculous, I’d only known her for less than a day and I was already planning my life around her and had already lied three times to my girlfriend about her. I was a ruin of a man.
I finished off the grill pan and stacked it on the drainer, took out the plug and rinsed the last of the suds and greasy detritus down the plughole.
‘Fancy the cinema tonight?’ It was an off the cuff suggestion and unusual for me. I was not known for doing things on the spur of the moment. I liked to have a plan, to know in advance what would happen. I hated surprises.
Jane’s ears perked at the suggestion, the little white lies quickly dismissed – but never forgotten. ‘Really? Yeah, let’s. There’s that new Jennifer Aniston and Gerrard Butler film at the moment which we haven’t seen yet.’
I could only agree. I was on the ropes and reeling from all the tiny lying. I needed the respite that two hours at the cinema with its enforced silence would bring me and I needed Jane distracted from the other woman who was now in our lives.