Deceit by Jonathan Wainwright

I shuddered at the thought of letting Sara down. I had promised to attend the opening night of her concert and knew exactly what that meant to her. Even the seat she had reserved for me was in her eyeline, so our souls would meet every time she looked up from the keyboard. Instead, all she would see now would be an empty seat. And when it came down to it, I had no choice. I had a dirty little secret, a son by another woman, who needed me as he was about to go into hospital. 

Sara’s concert was at the Royal Albert Hall, with its jaw dropping acoustics and regal and stately reddish and gold tone decor, said to be architecturally inspired by Rome’s Coliseum. She would be playing her favourite piece, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 27, on her beloved vintage Steinway. Sara’s attention to detail was exquisite, the seat she had reserved for me was in one of the Logia boxes for four. I was to enjoy the concert and hospitality as a guest of three of the board members from her new Publicists. 

How could I wriggle out of this one? Andy’s operation at Great Ormond Street was scheduled for the evening. However, the time the surgeons started was dependent upon how well the list progressed. Perhaps I should just tell Sara straight. Although right now I didn’t want to jeopardise our relationship. We’d been together for nearly five years, and I’d had plenty of opportunities to tell her but could never quite find the right words or time. 

Think big, think big, I thought. The only other family member who knew my secret was my brother, maybe he would help me? I called Rich and couldn’t help noticing that my hands were shaking. 

“Rich. Hi, it's James here. You, OK?” I said, with a quivering voice. 

“Good thanks mate, nice to hear from you, it’s been a while,” came back his warm supportive reply. “Look, I’ve got a bit of a problem. Andy’s due in hospital on the evening of Sara’s London concert to have a heart valve replaced. I promised her I’d be at the show, but I can’t be in two places at the same time.” 

There was a brief pause before Rich replied, “I’m sorry to hear about Andy, but I’m not sure what can I do to help?” 

My next words rather gushed out, “I was rather hoping that you would take my place at the concert. Seeing as we are identical twins nobody would know.” 

“What!!” Replied Rich, aghast, “I don’t know any of these people! Even if I did agree to this, how could I pull it off?” 

“Is that a ‘Yes’ you might help, Rich?” I meekly replied, continuing, “As it happens, I don’t know any of the others either. Sara’s got new Publicists and I’m their guest in a box of four. Nobody will have met you before, so you just turn up and pretend to be me. What do you think?” 

“I’m not sure, it’s a big ask. I’m no good at this sort of deception.” 

I could hear the conflict in his voice, so I didn’t want to add any more pressure. 

“Look, I understand, it’s a one off. Please at least consider it. Maybe think about it over the weekend?” 

“Yeah, OK, let’s chat on Monday. Meantime you think about how it will work. OK, speak then.” And with a click the line went dead. 

I wasn’t sure what Rich would do. It wasn’t a no, but it was nowhere near a yes either. We were very different people but as identical twins, people mixed us up all the time. It was our party piece. We’d often go to parties wearing the same outfits and turn the ‘Identical twins’ stereotypes to our favour, rather than be the butt of others' humour. 

My weekend was a bit jittery to say the least. I struggled to find a better solution. Fortunately, Sara was preoccupied with her concert too. This was the big one and several record company executives would also be attending, to check out her talent. 

She had first come to light accompanying the angelic voice of Jennifer Sheehan, singing songs from her beautiful album “Stardust: A night in the Cosmos”, performed in New York’s Carnegie Hall. Such a special occasion three years ago, but since then Sara’s career had really taken off and a record deal would inevitably include a tour. 

I thought about telling her outright but hesitated as the timing was awful. I didn’t want to do anything that might jeopardise her opportunity. Right now, I just wanted to escape this mess. 

When I rang Rich, I had no idea how the call would go, so to say the least, I was apprehensive. I needn’t have worried, “Hi James, let’s treat it like those party games,” he said. “Do you remember the fun we had?” 

“I do, I do mate, cheers, I’m so grateful. You asked me to think about how it will work. Here’s the plan. The show’s next Tuesday evening, starting 7.30pm. There’s a dinner in the Box beforehand and the concert’s an hour and a half, with drinks afterwards. You’re 

coming straight from a meeting so apologies you will have to miss the dinner and you are travelling up to Birmingham immediately afterwards, so you just have the interval small talk to deal with. The rest of the time just smile sweetly at Sara and enjoy the concert. That’s the outline I’ll brief you later in the week. Does that sound OK?” “OK, that’s cool. I can do all that, let’s chat later in the week.” 

Over the next few days, I set things up. Sara was disappointed I couldn’t meet her new team but understood, she knew my ‘Start-up’ business needed all my attention right now, so all looked good. 

On Tuesday morning my thoughts turned to Andy. We’d had several conversations and he was nervous about the operation. I met Anja and Andy at the hospital. They were both pale, and conversation was quiet. As Andy was being prepared for surgery, I could see the worry in Anja’s eyes. She hugged me for comfort, and it reminded me of the old days. I never did understand why she finished with me, especially as she was pregnant at the time. 

“Do you regret that we separated?” I asked her quietly. 

“No,” came back the firm reply, “You lied to me about your secretary. I could never trust you again after that. I’d never know if what you were telling me was a little white lie, a life changing whopper, or the truth. I can’t live like that. I’ve no regrets, for the most part, life as a single Mum is good.” 

Andy was nearly ready for Theatre and woozy from the pre-med. Anja and I held his hands whilst he gently slipped off to sleep under the anaesthetic, all very quiet and undramatic. I stayed at the hospital and waited. The hours went by, and Anja and I chatted like old friends over countless coffees. Then the news came. Andy was in recovery, and we were by his side as he came round. The surgeon popped in and was happy with the result. “He’ll be back on the rugby pitch within a couple of weeks,” he said as he floated out of the door. 

Rich was happy too. The show went smoothly, and he had an enjoyable evening. Nobody suspected anything. And Sara was over the moon too. The concert went well, and she had a meeting set up with the record company the following week. Everything looked great. 

I thought about what Anja had said to me. So once all the drama had subsided, over the weekend, after dinner I sat down with Sara and told her the whole story. She sat motionless and quiet as my tale spilled out. 

When I had finished, she looked me frostily in the eye. She then told me that she realised it wasn’t me, but Rich, at the concert. She had seen him put a programme into his right-hand breast pocket, which I would never have done as I’m right-handed. Then all it took was a few simple questions to the Publicists about how the evening went, a call to the hotel and a chat with Rich, and the deceit came tumbling out. 

Then she took me in her arms and her words uttered in a low powerful voice, chilled me to the core. “Don’t ever test me like this again. If you do, it will be the end of our relationship. Is that clear, do you understand?” Sara meant business, so I knew she was deadly serious. Then with a very ‘Matter of Fact’ voice she said, “Oh, and I’ll cancel my appointment with my Divorce Lawyers, afier the record Company meeting next week.” 

Forty years on, that was the first and last time we ever spoke about the matter. 

Published in Issue #25

No comments:

Post a Comment