The Half Truth
pregnant. No, mentioning Pavel would certainly be a bad move.
    Tina squirted a dash of perfume on her wrists and rubbed them together before gathering her small shoulder bag and going downstairs.
    John was waiting in the living room. As she walked in, Tina was aware she had taken a large and loud intake of breath. She was also aware John had done the exact same thing. They looked at each other and laughed.
    ‘Well, don’t you scrub up well?’ she said casting an approving eye over his grey chinos and pale-blue shirt.
    ‘You don’t look so bad yourself,’ he replied. He looked down at himself. ‘I hope it’s okay, only I haven’t got a great selection with me in my travelling wardrobe.’
    Tina looked over at his holdall on the sofa. ‘I think you’ve done very well, considering.’
    John held out his arm. ‘Shall we?’
    Tina hooked her arm through his. ‘Yes, let’s.’
    The birthday party was a bit starchy at first and after thirty minutes of circulating amongst other guests and explaining that John was ‘just a friend’, Tina was regretting her decision to invite him along. Fay had bailed out at the last moment, citing a headache. Tina wished she had had the foresight to do the same.
    ‘I’m so sorry,’ she said after her boss’ sister had subjected her to a particularly long interrogation. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if Jessica came back with her clipboard and a whole survey for you to complete.’
    ‘Don’t worry about it,’ said John.
    ‘Although, I must compliment you on your new identity,’ said Tina. ‘You’ve got a great imagination. I mean, who would have thought I’d be bringing along John, an accountant from London who I met through a friend at a party. That’s John who also has his own pad in Fulham and left school and worked his way up through the firm of accountants. It’s like you’re a professional at this. The original hustler.’
    John shrugged and grinned, but didn’t mask the uncomfortable look that lingered behind his eyes. A moment of awkward silence sliced between them before John spoke. ‘I had to come up with something. It was the first thing that came to mind.’
    ‘And how much of that was the truth and how much fabrication?’ said Tina. She injected a light-hearted tone to her voice. John was, no doubt, just uncomfortable having to lie about himself to her boss and his wife. After all, he was a policeman, so it wasn’t in his nature to tell lies.
    ‘About fifty-fifty,’ said John. ‘I was basing it on my cousin, who does happen to be an accountant. As for your friend …’
    ‘Boss’ sister,’ interrupted Tina. ‘Let’s get that bit straight, Jessica is by no means my friend.’
    ‘Okay, Jessica – she could work for the intelligence service with the sort of grilling she was giving me. It’s a wonder MI5 haven’t signed her up by now.’
    ‘Oooh, I like this sort of conspiracy story. We could invent a whole new life for Jessica. She could actually be part of the secret service,’ said Tina, enjoying the banter between them. ‘Her job as manager’s secretary at the bank may just be one big cover-up. She could be working deep undercover to penetrate a money-laundering ring that she suspects certain members of staff to be involved in.’
    ‘Now who has the overactive imagination?’ John laughed and shook his head.
    As her own words, flippantly spoken, sunk in, Tina’s mood dropped. ‘Sorry, that joke was in bad taste in light of the whole Pavel thing.’
    ‘Hey, don’t worry about it,’ said John. He put his arm around her shoulders and gave a quick squeeze. ‘Come on, you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself.’
    ‘Enjoying might be pushing it.’ Tina looked around at the groups of guests mingling and chatting. ‘Hopefully it won’t be too long before they do the birthday cake and then we can go.’
    ‘It’s entirely up to you,’ said John. ‘You don’t have to leave on my account.’
    ‘Believe me, I’m leaving as much for my

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