One bitterly cold day just a few weeks before Christmas, things began to get out of hand with Julie’s complicated relationships. During one of Julie’s visits, Jeanette began giving strong hints about spending Christmas day with her daughter and son-in-law.
“We’ll have to come to some arrangement about Christmas dinner,” she said quite casually while sipping her tea.
Julie was dumbfounded. This placed her in an intolerable position as she’d always invited her mum and dad to stay for Christmas lunch; she wasn’t going to change her usual arrangement. Her parents had come to her for Christmas ever since she’d had the twins. It was easier in those days to stay home with the babies and not having to cart toys, nappies, and feeds around. When she and John were first married, they’d taken it in turns to stay with each set of parents on Christmas day, but since the twins arrived on the scene, both sets of parents came to her home. Sadly, now John’s parents are deceased it would be just her parents, the same as last year. She wouldn’t be able to get out of inviting them even if she’d wanted to; they’d begin to wonder what was going on.
No, she couldn’t have their suspicions aroused. It would have to be Jeanette and Arthur who were disappointed. After all, Christmas was mostly for the children and she had to be with them at that special time. She’d just have to think of a crafty excuse to put Jeanette and Arthur off that idea. It would have to be pretty soon too, because the festive season was looming ever nearer.
To gain time, Julie deliberately steered the conversation well away from the coming holiday period and instead, concentrated on asking Jeanette about the recipe she’d just used. If she could keep control of the conversation, she could avoid having to tell Jeanette that Christmas was out of the question. The holiday season wasn’t mentioned again and Julie really thought her ploy had worked as she began putting on her coat ready to leave.
Jeanette hadn’t been put off though, and taking advantage of the lull in the conversation, she brought up the topic which had obviously never been far from the forefront of her mind, “Well what are we going to do about Christmas?”
She stood waiting patiently for an answer, and as none was forthcoming, she asked again as she followed Julie down the drab and gloomy hallway to the front door, “It’s only five weeks off you know.”
She managed to get in front of her guest before she reached the end of the dark hallway, and now stood blocking the front door, deliberately stopping Julie opening it.
“Yes, I know,” Julie answered resignedly, recognising she was being coerced into making a commitment, and hoping desperately for some inspiration to solve her dilemma. She knew what her plans were but she couldn’t let Jeanette know.
“You could spend Christmas here,” went on Jeanette, “but you know how cramped it is.”
“I know.” Julie acquiesced, still frantically trying to think up an excuse.
Then it came to her, the solution to her problem. If she told Jeanette they were going abroad for Christmas she might just be able to get herself out of this tight spot. Perhaps she could even convince Jeanette that they always went away at this time of year. After all, Jeanette thought they were childless and had no other parents, so Christmas would hold no joy for them here with everywhere closed. It would make sense for them to use this time to have a holiday in a resort where everywhere was open. Julie thought this ruse might work and so she was prepared to give it a try. She had to get out of this mess somehow.
“Are you listening Julie?” Jeanette asked, losing her patience and showing an impatient side to her nature that Julie had never seen before. She was still blocking the door waiting for a satisfactory answer before allowing it to be opened.
Julie was surprised by her obstinacy. “I did hear you,” she said a little more assertive, “but to to tell you the truth,” she crossed her fingers behind her back now, “John and I usually go away for Christmas.”
“Oh!” Jeanette sounded disappointed and Julie felt a distinct twinge of guilt.
God! How awful this was all becoming. She was acutely aware she’d told more lies in the past eight months than in all her 31 years. She hated to deceive like this, but it seemed like she had no choice. Her main aim at the start had been to re-unite with her real parents without upsetting the two people who had raised her; if that meant lying then so be it. Now that she’d embarked on this relationship there was no other course open to her.
Looking at Jeanette’s forlorn expression, still managed to fill Julie with pity though, so throwing her arms around her, she explained.
“I’m sorry Jeanette, I should have mentioned it earlier but I wasn’t sure if we would be going away this year. You know, with John’s parents dying in the aeroplane accident. You see, we usually went away with them, and I thought perhaps John wouldn’t feel like going. It would revive a lot of painful memories for him. I know it happened more than a year ago, but he’s taking a long time to recover from it. We haven’t been abroad since the accident. In all honesty, I thought we’d never fly again. That’s why I haven’t mentioned it before. John only decided last night,” she lied, her fingers still crossed behind her back. “He wants us to go away for Christmas again.”
Julie knew she was lying but tried to use as much of the truth as she could. It was true that John’s parents had been killed in an air crash, just a few short months before Jeanette and Arthur had come into their lives, a year last October to be exact. Their chartered light plane had gone down in a wood due to engine failure. It had also been true, that she and John often went abroad with them and since that tragic crash, John was reluctant to fly.
Julie looked at Jeanette who was still down hearted and continued more soothingly, “Never mind though, we’ll be back for New Years Eve I promise, and perhaps we can have an evening out then to celebrate.” She watched Jeanette’s expression visibly brighten at her last statement.
This had cushioned the disappointment to some degree, for Jeanette replied with a smile on her lips whilst opening the door she’d been barring, “That would be lovely.”
Sharing some of the festive season with Julie and her husband, was obviously preferable to having no time at all with them, in Jeanette’s eyes. Although disappointed over the Christmas arrangements, she at least had something to look forward to on New Year’s Eve.
Julie was outside the door of the tenement flat and now able to leave, but she chatted further with Jeanette, outlining plans for New Years Eve, before finally saying goodbye.
In time, Julie became disturbed by all the lies. Terrified she might slip up and give the game away, she hit on the idea of keeping a little notebook and writing down all the fibs she told. She could study and learn it, and she hoped by employing this method, she could minimise the risk of being tripped up by her tongue. John had laughed when he’d seen her writing down all the lies she’d already told. He’d taken the little book off her once and wrote “Tissue of Lies” boldly on the front cover. They’d both laughed even though they knew it wasn’t really a laughing matter.