CHAIN OF LIES • by Catherine Nichols

Jeffrey Josephs kept the lies his wife told him in a shoebox. After a year of marriage, the box was almost full. Already the white slips of paper pushed against the lid. What would happen when there was no more room? Would he start another box?

On the evening of their anniversary, Maria hadn’t arrived home. They had planned to dine at their favorite restaurant, a Thai place over on Third. She had promised that morning she’d be home by six.

At seven Jeffery removed his jacket and hung it in the closet. He fixed himself a bourbon. Then he took out the box. It was heavy, bursting with her lies. He removed the lid and dumped the contents onto the coffee table. Slips of paper spread out on the oak veneer, some falling to the carpet.

“I was there waiting for you, hon. We must have gotten our signals crossed.”

“Sorry, won’t be able to make the movie. Car broke down.”

“He’s just a friend. Honest.”

“It was a social kiss, nothing more. Trust me.”

It was past eight when he finished reading them all. He had loosened his tie by this time and his shirtsleeves were rolled up. The papers lay crumpled around him. What new lie would he have to add to his collection?

He poured himself another drink and sat back on the carpet. He picked up a slip of paper and began folding it. Once, when he’d been sick in bed, his sister had shown him how to fold gum wrappers into a chain. One wrapped piece fitted snugly into another, making a zigzag. The repetitiveness had soothed him then, and it soothed him now. He folded one paper after another. His chain of lies grew.

By the time he heard the key turn in the lock it was almost nine. Maria stood swaying in the doorway, a little tipsy. She stared at him, her perfectly arched eyebrows furrowed in puzzlement. He continued folding.

“Sorry I’m late. We had a client meeting I couldn’t get out of.” She blew him a kiss, then hiccupped. “Let me freshen up. We still have time for dinner.” She bent down to ruffle his hair as she passed. Her warm breath tickled his neck.

He caught the lie she had tossed and wrote it down, adding it to his chain. Her last lie, he thought.

He pulled on the finished chain and found it as taut as a rope. Then he went into the bedroom to confront his wife with her lies.

Catherine Nichols is a freelance writer and editor living near Philadelphia, PA. She enjoys writing flash fiction and has had work published in Vestal Review and in Flashquake.

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