For the taxman, a love story
When she said she was having an affair I didn’t believe her, as simple as that, I just did not believe her. Not of course that she ever put it that way. She never looked me straight in the eye, over a second cup of coffee or a drink, and said, “Sheila, I’m having an affair.”
I don’t suppose people say things like that; “I’m having an affair,” I mean. It’s more like a word they use in books, or magazine articles, or even on early morning chat shows, but never heard, or said by real people. You know the sort of things you hear.
“Good morning, we have a lot of interesting items for you today, why are dogs roaming our streets? The Greenhouse Effect, is it responsible for our atrocious weather? But first, affairs, who’s having them and why, are they sometimes necessary, how common are they?”
However, this is not about the significance of words as used in magazines and on radio, or words as used in real lives, your’s or mine. This is about Anne. Anne and her…, what shall we say then? Entanglement? Sounds spidery. Relationship? God bless her and all who sail therein.
“There’s something I want to tell you.”
That I remember is how she began, “there’s something I want to tell you.”
I suppose as well that as any other foolish way of trying to tell me, her best, indeed almost at times, her only friend, that she, Anne, of all people, was now and had been for sometime past, going out with a man who was married. To someone else.
In telling me all of this she came at it in a roundabout way. That particular conversation, I remember, was going along fine, right up to the point where she said she was seeing someone on a regular basis.
Good for you, I thought.
She liked him, she said, and yes, they had been to bed together.
Why not, I thought, why not.
I needn’t tell you I was interested. I was pleased for her, we were after all, really very good friends and then she said, “the only thing is, he’s married.”
I said nothing. Neither, for a while, did Anne. I don’t know what I thought, what could I say? I asked her what he was like.
“What do you mean,” she snapped, “what’s he like? He’s married, that’s what he’s like!”
Do you know, I could not disagree with that. No matter how hard either of us might try on that point we both knew she was right. Anything else she could or would say, was totally and completely irrelevant beside that one great statement.
He was married. Needless to say he, they, had children. Three of them, two boys, one girl. They had a fifteen year old marriage, personal problems, obviously, financial problems and now, an Anne problem. Well at least he had, or knew he had. Bernie was the other third of this cosy little threesome and she as yet knew nothing. She also had an Anne problem but lived on for the moment, in ignorant bliss.
Anne, who did some baby-sitting from time to time. Nice, harmless , poor old Anne, who actually worked in the same building as Bernie, well what can I say? Those two, Anne and Bernie, Bernie and Anne, shared an awful lot more than working together on monthly motor-tax returns.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not that old-fashioned and I would never dream of judging anyone else. I have my own life to live and I always say let others live theirs. I’m single, mid-thirties and I’ve never slept with a married man but I’m no prude. The only reason I mention any of this is that I was so stung when Anne said, “the trouble with you is you’re becoming so bitter.”
That was so unfair, it was really uncalled for. I mean we are such good friends and the only reason she said that was because I could see no future in what they were at and told here so in no uncertain terms. After all, what are friends supposed to be for? If I couldn’t say these things who could? How could she think they’d be any different? All married men who have such, involvements, said they would and never could leave their wives and certainly not their children. That’s what I felt and that’s what I said.
But that came later, at first I listened to her, all her sympathy for David and his problems. I listened to her delight in the things they did and the places they went and the people they met. think of it! They actually went about together, a public pair, a couple who met other couples who sometimes knew and sometimes didn’t. They weren’t so bold around here of course. That wouldn’t be David’s style, as far as I could gather from Anne. However, there are other places, it’s a small world now, London is merely short hop, accountants travel and Paris is only a weekend trip.
I listened to it all. I didn’t say very much, just a few pertinent comments now and then, but when she said I was bitter, well, we just didn’t see each other after that, not for quite some time.
I will admit I was upset when I realised she wasn’t coming around anymore. I missed the company, but I put all that behind me and carried on.
I heard various bits and pieces through mutual acquaintances, the sort of people you know well enough to swap a few words with at bar counters. I’m sure you know the type as well as I do, jumpers slung casually around their shoulders with the sleeves hanging over their breasts, ordering drinks with notes folded lengthways pointing towards the barman, “hello there, gosh I haven’t seen you in ages, how’s whatshername?”
On that sort of grapevine I heard that Anne had gone away on some sort of course and then, for a good while, I hear no more.
Until, well really, there she was. That’s it exactly. The bell rang one evening and there she was and then we were inside and we talked and talked.
Oh, the things she told me!
I’ve never had a ringside view of a fight but this was as good as. The language she used! I’ve never heard such words before and I’m glad of it.
Naturally it had all ended badly. There was no need for me to say I’d known all along this would be the case. Any fool could have seen that. Mind you, I have to admit it didn’t end exactly the way I thought it might, perhaps it was, if anything, even worse than that.
Bernie and David had separated, the business had finally proven too much, he’d gone working for another firm. Anne had stopped seeing him, she’d gone back to him, they fought, they made it up, they fought again.
Now I heard her say, “it’s over for good this time, no question of it, I’ll never have anything to do with that bastard again.”
So she said but I couldn’t help wondering what would be so different about this time. Of course I asked her straight out and with a bit of dithering and a lot of beating about the bush she finally told me. It was something else all right. David must be a very fine accountant indeed, but whatever about accountancy he’d get full marks for neck. He’d written Anne off against his tax.
I just looked at her. I don’t know which was worse, to do such a thing, or having done it, to tell her. I suppose in a way it was something which made a perverted kind of sense.
It seems that after Bernie and David had gone their separate ways, Bernie returned to work and claimed the full married couples tax credit. Now that was reasonable enough to my way of thinking, he wasn’t working for a while and had no need of any tax credits. But then, when he did land himself a job, what did he do? He got a little bit greedy, not surprising, considering his track record, and being greedy he used mother’s maiden name as surname when he went about settling his tax, claimed he’d been working abroad and that Anne was his dependant spouse.
Anne, being neither spouse nor dependant, was livid when she heard this. He talked about different tax districts and she talked about the right to live her own life and on that sort of note they parted.
“Forever, I’m telling you, I’ll never see him again, or have anything to do with him, nothing, just absolutely nothing!”
So she said, but when she had taken all the tea and sympathy I had to offer, when she was gone, I sat and thought it over for a while.
Anne had dived in deep in the first place. She’d risked her name, her friends, everything, for this David. Would she do the same again? Look at this tax thing, I thought, something should be done about that.
He’d get away with it, thousand sand thousands of people paying income tax and who’s going to notice a little thing like that? I’ve thought about it a lot lately and the more I think about it the more I feel it’s wrong. I don’t want to see Anne hurt even more, but I don’t think she would be. He’s the one who’s cheating the system, not her.
She needn’t come into it at all, just the fact that this man is making false declarations on official forms. If it’s to be done maybe i should wait until the right time, the end of the tax year would be just about right.
Yes, that would gave me time to think it through. After all, I don’t want to rush into things, I just want to do what’s right.