Liz Thurlow, Part Nine: Lies and More Lies

‘The usual?’ Bob was already reaching for the gin bottle.

‘Why would it be any different?’ Liz’s tone was waspish, unnecessarily sarcastic. She was still feeling fragile, off-balance.

Bob gave her a hard look as he poured the gin and tonic. Liz turned back to the stove. Bob took his beer around to the other side of the kitchen bench where he could see her side on.

‘You okay?’

‘Why wouldn’t I be?’

‘You look a bit . . . peakish.’

‘Thanks for the compliment.’

‘Liz. I’m only asking. You don’t seem to be yourself lately.’

‘So nice of you to notice.’

‘So what is it?’

‘Nothing . . . everything. Oh nothing. I just get sick of doing the same thing, day in, day out.’

Bob took another sip of his beer. ‘Dot rang me today.’

‘Dot?’ Liz felt her stomach freeze. ‘Dot who?’

‘Dot. Your tennis friend.’

‘Oh? Why would she do that?’

‘She says you haven’t been at tennis lately. They’re all worried about you. She says she’s been ringing the house – no answer. And no answer to her messages either.’

‘Well, I haven’t heard the phone ring.’ Liz tried to sound off-hand. ‘Hasn’t rung much at all lately, come to think of it.’

‘Have you stopped tennis?’

‘Yes. I got a bit bored. Same old, same old. And those biddies. Always got too much to say about other people’s business.’

‘You didn’t think to tell them first?’ Bob was dialling a number on his mobile.

Liz ignored his question, tried to deflect the conversation, ‘Who are you calling?’ she asked.

‘Us. Checking out whether the phone is ringing.’ They both paused, listening to the ring-out tone on the mobile. The home phone stayed silent.

‘Strange,’ Bob strolled over and picked it up, ‘Oh! Here’s the problem. The volume button is pushed way down. I wonder how that happened?’

‘Maybe I did it when I was cleaning,’ Liz’s stomach was doing back-flips now. ‘I disinfected everything a few weeks back.’

‘Mmmm, doesn’t explain why it is not recording messages though.’ Bob dialled the number again and let the phone ring out to the message bank. ‘Testing, testing,’ he spoke into the mobile.

He was just about to play it back when Liz banged the dinner down on the table. ‘Oh, stop fussing will you. I’ll check it out tomorrow.’ She stabbed at the remote control. ‘Here – the news has already started. You’ll miss the headlines.’

————–

Bob didn’t doze off on the lounge after dinner. He seemed to be unusually alert. Around ten, he suggested they turn in together. As he pulled back the covers on his side of the bed, he frowned.

‘Liz. Clean sheets?’

‘Yes. So?’

‘Liz. It’s the second pair this week.’

‘You notice these things?’

‘Well, I can hardly not notice. Yesterday’s were brown, these are blue.’

Liz hadn’t counted on this. She imagined Bob staggered up the stairs and fell in to bed each night oblivious to these things.

‘Look,’ she said, ‘I had a lay down, and . . . well, I had an accident. Embarrassing really. I had to change the sheets.’

‘What sort of accident?’

‘Really, Bob. I don’t want to talk about it.’

‘Liz,’ Bob was looking very concerned, ‘are you sure you are quite well? You wouldn’t keep anything from me would you?’

‘Why would you think that?’

‘Well, when I was talking to Dot, I suggested you might have been still helping that new woman.’

‘Which woman?’ Liz was confused.

‘The new one at the tennis club. The one you said needed to have a second breast scan.’

‘Oh, her. No . . . no I haven’t seen her in a while.’

‘Well, it’s just that Dot said there was no new woman.’

Liz felt she was going to throw up. She wasn’t used to lying. She never imagined it would be so complicated.

‘Silly old -‘

Bob cut in. ‘Liz, it was you wasn’t it. You got a call back on your last scan. And you didn’t tell me. Why would you keep something like that from me? I’m your husband. I’m here to support you.’

Liz breathed out. Of course! Why hadn’t she thought of that!

‘Look,’ she said, more smoothly than she could have imagined she was capable of, ‘I didn’t want to worry you. Over nothing. And it was nothing – really.’

‘So why have you stopped tennis? And why are you lying down in the day? You’ve always been so energetic.’

‘Oh, I don’t know. It’s probably menopause. Hot sweats and all that.’

‘But, you’re only fifty Liz. Would you be menopausal already?’

‘Lot’s of women are at that age.’

Bob looked unconvinced. ‘Well, I hope you’d tell me if there is anything serious. I’m concerned for you Liz. Something doesn’t seem quite right lately. You would tell me, wouldn’t you?’

‘Of course, silly.’ Liz gave him a hug and a kiss. ‘Thank you. You’re such a sweet man.’

Her mouth was saying one thing, her head was thinking another. And her stomach was roiling.

————–

A few hours later Liz stirred to the sounds of gas rumbling in her stomach. It wasn’t long before she could feel hot acid churning in her gut. It was burning, running back up towards her throat. She couldn’t stay lying down. Liz shook herself awake and stumbled to the bathroom for some antacid. Then she sat in the big armchair in the bedroom, the one she used to nurse the children when they were little babies. She tried to doze off, sitting upright, like she used to do so long ago, but the reflux attack was the worst she had ever experienced. Her stomach and chest were on fire. She was in agony. She tip-toed to the bathroom downstairs and tried to throw up quietly, but nothing happened. She didn’t want to wake Bob, couldn’t face any more of his questions right then. She took another antacid and propped herself up on the lounge, willing the pain away. Eventually, she drifted into a light doze.

She was dreaming, images and conversations mixing and melding. Tony, Bob, houses, utes, number plates . .  I BLD 4U. Srce Moy. My darling one. Dostoevsky. Caravans. Boring holidays. Her children. Babies nursing at her breast. Jan tap dancing. Her watering Jan’s garden. Tony again. Breast scans. But she wasn’t sure if she was dreaming. There was a voice in her head. It was asking over and over, is this dream or reality? And she was answering, this one is a dream, this one is reality.

It was the pre-dawn bird calls which stirred her again. After all, she must have slipped into a deeper sleep. She padded back upstairs and slipped into bed beside Bob. He rolled over and cuddled into her. ‘You okay?’ it was a muffled mumble into her hair.

‘Mmmm. Needed the toilet. Nothing to worry about. Go back to sleep.’

He pulled her closer and snuggled in. The snuffles a moment later told her he had dropped off again. She lay there planning what she should do next. She knew she had seen the answer in her dream. She just had to remember the message.

————–

 As soon as Bob left for the station, Liz was on her mobile. She jabbed in the number from the slip of paper she still had in her wallet. It answered on the third ring.

‘Tony?’

‘Yeah. Tony Babic here.’

‘Tony. It’s Liz.’

‘Liz?’ he sounded surprised.

‘Are you on your way to Jan’s?’

‘Yeah. What wrong Liz?’

‘Are you alone?’

‘Of course. Like usual.’

Liz took a breath. ‘Tony. I don’t want you to come here any more.’

‘Oh! You mean Liz – you wanna’ stop? Just like that? Why?’

This is it Liz. This is the moment where you say: ‘That’s right Tony. I don’t want you coming here any more. This was a bad idea. I don’t know why I didn’t realise before. I thought I was bored, but really I was content. I have a perfect life, perfect husband. He knows I am hiding something from him. Now he is worrying that I am sick with cancer and not telling him. This has got to stop.’

Liz clutched the phone tighter. ‘That’s right Tony. I don’t want you coming here any more. This was a bad idea. I don’t know why I didn’t realise before. My husband knows I am hiding something from him.’

‘Liz? You wan we stop seeing each other?’

‘No, silly. I mean it was a bad idea doing it here. I’ve had the key to Jan’s house all along. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before now.’

‘You wan meet in Jan’s house?’

‘Yes, of course. Much simpler.’

‘You think that good idea?’

‘It’s a great idea. Should have thought of it ages ago.’

‘Well, whatever you think is good.’

‘And another thing Tony . . . From now on, I choose the timing.’

‘Sure, boss.’ Liz could picture the grin on his face, ‘so I see you soon, ne?’

‘Mmmmm, might be time for me to keep you guessing.’ Liz was laughing now, ‘See you.’

Liz rang off, checked back into her call log and deleted the record. No point leaving a trail, she thought.

This is the ninth part in a story building exercise for character, Liz Thurlow.

Previous Episodes: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32 thoughts on “Liz Thurlow, Part Nine: Lies and More Lies

  1. Well, Gwen. May I call you Gwen? I feel as though I know you, like we’ve been friends for a long time. Writing has a way of doing that – bringing people together in a way they never imagined. At least, good stories will do that and your stories about Liz, Tony and Bob et al are very good indeed! Here I sit (recline is more like it) with a pinched nerve in my back and I just read the 9 stories of Liz’s crap boring life. What a joy they were to read! Funny with a smooth flow – very relatable, So many of us women can get what Liz is going through, either in real life or in our own stories. I was immediately reminded of a short story I wrote called “Lamb Stew” about Liliiana, a mature American woman now residing in Sicily and Gaetano, the local handy man for the area. You get the picture, I’m sure. Believe me, I can relate BIG TIME and I look forward to reading more of your work. What a wonderful way to pass a little time, pinched nerve and all. Omar Sharif eyes, indeed! I can definitely dig it. Lovely to meet you!- Nancy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Nancy, yes, please, call me Gwen – most people do. Except for those who call me Maria, and that is a whole other story. In fact, I have the feeling you and I share Siciliano ancestry, but in my case, I was not brought up in the culture. Nevertheless, you might like this (not sure what happened to all my photos, but it was early days with my new iPad): https://garrulousgwendoline.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/caltagirone-stepping-in-my-fathers-footsteps/

      It is curious you have stumbled across my old Liz Thurlow posts. I don’t consider myself a short story writer, so I was way out of my depth on this one. Just writing once a week, with a time and word limit, and waiting to see what the characters would do. It came to an abrupt halt when I left on an overseas trip and I did not return to the theme. However! I had jotted a note to myself to return to this story to enter a competition that is closing at the end of June. And then here you come along with your positive feedback. Serendipity, I call that 🙂

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      • Hi, Gwen. Indeed I am Siciliana; wonder what your first clue was?! I loved the link you sent and found Caltagirone not too different from my father’s hometown of Cattolica Eraclea. I am 1st generation Sicilian; both my parents were born there but did not meet until 1937 in NY. They married 2 years later. I also have family who emigrated from Sicily to Australia; they operate a large gelato business and speak Italian with an Australian accent! It’s quite surreal to hear and difficult to explain what it sounds like but I have a feeling you’d be amused. Re Lis Thurlow, I actually didn’t ‘stumble across’ those posts. As a short story writer, I went directly to your story section on your website and Liz popped up. The description was enough to get me to try at least one and I was immediately hooked. Some of the titles alone had me cracking up! I want to read more about Liz’s bloody crappy boring life and hope you’ll resurrect her. You’ve stirred my imagination and gotten me thinking perhaps I can turn a compilation of short stories into a little book. I never thought of writing a book but it doesn’t seem so daunting when you look at it one short story at a time. I hope you enter that competition in June; I’ll be watching. Thanks for reading and liking my stories. Always good to make a new friend. À dopu, novu amicu! 😊 🇮🇹 🇺🇸 🇦🇺 🙋🏼‍♀️

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Nancy, I’d like to claim I’m psychic but it was probably a comment on Mitch Teemley’s post that pointed me in the right direction of being Siciliano.
          Never having grown up with my father, I did not speak the language until I went to Rome and then Florence for lessons, which of course, introduced me to those dialects, rather than Sicilian.
          When I returned to Australia and met my Dad, I stopped speaking Italian because it sounded like someone from Oxford conversing with a Cockney Londoner. No offense intended, I’m merely trying to point out the gulf in our accents. And as you say, the language becomes distorted. I call it Itlish. Quella casa era really cosy, for example.
          I was lucky enough to have my memoir published back in 2015 and that has set me on the path of long form. I have two manuscripts at the moment that run to 110,000 words each. I’ve tried my hand at short stories, but generally, people don’t understand them. LOL.
          Blog posts are a different matter again. More reportage than creative. Anyway, glad to know the hours I spent wrestling WordPress categories paid off and you found Liz Thurlow. I have combined those episodes all into one document today, and have around 4000 words up my sleeve to play with to bring it to a conclusion. I had no plan when I was writing it. I merely sat down every Sunday with the timer on to see what would happen. Now I’ll have to think up something. I’m feeling an idea tickling in the nether regions of my brain. Something like Liz returns to tennis to reduce suspicion, discovers another lady is quoting Dostoevsky, realises Tony Babic is getting around and something drastic happens. Maybe Jan will return from travelling and console Bob. He deserves a break, I think.
          Anyway, looking forward to following and reading your stories. Combining them into a novella or full book is a good idea. Especially if you select the ones that have a similar theme. Or develop as a cohesive story. I’m sure you know much more about craft than I do! xx Gwen

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes! So glad to hear about Liz. It’s a fab story and I think your followers would love to know what happens. Count me in!
            Very interesting/humorous the things you said about Itlish; I can so dig it! My dad was adamant about us telling people we are Sicilian, not Italian. He was very proud of his homeland and believed there was a distinct difference. I have several cousins still living in Cattolica and I exchange emails with one on a weekly basis.
            I used to belong to an online writing group with rules such as prompts, word count and a time limit, etc; it was fun but the group fell apart and now I’m writing for myself. Not being in that group opened up a chunk of time as well as my imagination. I just might get to that book after all. I have many stories that are variations on a theme. Sounds like I have a little project ahead of me.
            Lovely ‘talking’ with you! I will close with my favorite quote: “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Brilliant – Nancy xox

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, for a moment I thought she had figured it out already and come to her senses. Not so …. I quite enjoy seeing her squirm with gilt now 😉 Hope you had a lovely Christmas and end of year. I don’t know where the time is going, I hope I’ll be a bit better managing my to-do lists in 2015 xx

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  3. I knew I was missing something from my Christmas – it was YOU! Hope the Holiday Season is treating you as well as you deserve, Gwen. Here’s wishing you only the best – 🍸

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    • Thanks Kate. I appreciate your feedback, as you are very skilled at this short story caper, which is not really my forte. I am discovering how differently people read in going through this process. Some are interested in the characterisation, others think it lacks action. Nearly everyone is growing to dislike Liz. I am impartial (I think). But surely she is headed for a fall . . .

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    • No, I don’t think Bob would be physically ill. I suspect he is such a nice guy that he would feel uncomfortable around Liz and clam up in case he says something that would trip him up. He would withdraw from her. And that would cause him inner turmoil, but not physical illness. He would probably stop being affectionate (to the limited degree he is) because he feels compromised – or he may go the other way and be overly solicitous. In my experience – sigh – another personality would turn the tables and accuse the woman of having an affair. But I wouldn’t see Bob reacting like that. But if he was confronted, he would deny it. Because he wouldn’t even want to admit to himself that he could cheat on his wife. Hmmmm – sounds like a plot outline 😱

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    • I am so happy to hear you say that. For a while, I thought this story might be going flat, not developing much. Short stories are not really my forte, and this is the first sequel I have attempted. So your feedback is greatly appreciated.

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    • Yes, I so want Liz to be a likeable woman who has reached a mid-life crisis – as so many do – but unfortunately, she is just digging a bigger hole for herself. And she looked so sweet in the photo which inspired her character. Oh well. We are all cheering Bob on now.

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