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After Ever After

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Once upon a time there were three girls who lied.

For we all lied, even Alice – though I don't know why I say 'even Alice', just because I was the one who was expelled from school and Bella was – well, she was Bella, and if it comes to it her faults lay in the opposite direction; she was too honest, too truthful, too candid.

Actually, that's not entirely true. We weren't girls when we lied, we were women, by any definition you choose, and I suppose none of us lied, technically. We left things out, but we didn't say a word that wasn't true.

And so, because there wasn't really a lie, this isn't really a story. It's just some things that happened, that you can slot in before and after and between the truths we've already told you.

1. Up in the Tower Room, after lights out, Bella demonstrating how to find the clitoris.
2. Me explaining, 'This is what they used to do in the harems, you know, when they were bored waiting for the king to show up and make his choice for the night...'
3. How it felt when Alice brushed my hair.
4. Sitting on the lawn at the Castle Next Door, me and Bella either side of Alice, very close so as to hold her up, hold her together so she wouldn't fall apart, reading her rose diary and wanting to make it better somehow, any way we could.
5. Practising kissing with Bella.

And then, of course, there is what happened after. After. After Simon and I divorced, and after Jean-Luc was killed in the car smash, Alice and I found a house together, in a little market town about fifty miles from London.

There isn't much to say about that, really. We have a large garden, and two cats and a dog. The children (all grown-up now) come and go, and pretend not to notice that we share a bed. Bella divides her time between England and America, or, rather, between us and Mark. I think he knows everything. I think she tells him.

When she's here, we sleep, the three of us, all tangled together in the big oak bed, between heavy white sheets. Alice talks in her sleep, and Bella steals the covers, and I prod them both in the ribs for the sheer pleasure of knowing they're with me.

It isn't remotely how I ever imagined things would work out, but we seem to be living happily ever after.