Lies

Irina Derevko lies.

She lies, all the time. She lies to her husband, her daughter, her next door neighbors, her best friends. Sometimes she lies just to stay in practice. She lies so much that really, she can't tell what's the truth and what's a lie anymore.

How was your day, mommy, her daughter asks, and Irina swallows the truth even though it begs to be told. She doesn't say that she had received new orders, orders to kill, orders she wants so desperately to ignore. I went down to the shops, she lies in an even voice, and even though Sydney can't see a single thing her mother could have needed to buy, she trusts her and drops the question.

Where did you go when you got that phone call and rushed out the door last night, her husband asks, and she curses herself for being so damn obvious. Down to Emily's, she lies, making a mental note to cover for herself later. He nods, and she continues chopping up the mushrooms.

She goes to work, and it's the same old routine. Teaching English is a job she loves to hate, and that's one of the only truths she has to hold onto. Her students ask how her weekend was, and she doesn't mention the man she killed, or the nauseating feeling she felt when she realized her hands were covered with his blood, nor how much she berated herself afterwardsfor the guilt. No, she smiles politely and says it was fine.

Irina goes home, and her husband kisses her. She smiles, and the smile is genuine. A sudden wave of confusion flitters through her – pleasure at his love, guilt that she loves him, pleasure that in some parts, at least, she didn't lie, and guilt for caring. It must have shown in her eyes, because he asks if she's all right. Fine, she lies, and goes upstairs to change.

It's her turn to pick Sydney up from piano. Irina arrives five minutes early and watches Sydney with pride, careful to stay out of sight as not to startle her daughter. Sydney finishes her lesson and realizes that her mother was watching her. Irina hugs Sydney, who blushes, and tells her that she could best any musician. That's a lie, but the love shining out of Irina's eyes isn't. Irina tells Sydney that mommy is so, so proud of her, and loves her very much. That is not, and will never be, a lie.

Sunday afternoons are spent at the markets with Emily Sloane. Emily usually invites her to dinner afterwards with Arvin and Jack, and Irina pretends to enjoy the occasions, telling only her husband the truth. Emily tells Irina that she has a beautiful soul, and Irina has to bite her lip for fear of laughing out loud over the irony. She returns the compliment, and is glad that this compliment at least is the truth.

Her husband goes on a new business trip, and she meets with her handler in his hotel room. This is nice, she compliments, and waits for her new orders. An extraction. She doesn't like this – at all – but lies that it'll be a pleasure to finally get out of this hellhole.

I miss Russia, she says, and when once upon a time that would have been the truth, it was now a complete and utter lie. Irina smiles, and leaves, and curses Laura for the tears forming at the corners of her eyes.

It was another two days until her extraction, and Jack arrives home just hours before she's due to leave. What did you do while I was gone, he asks, and she looks him in the eye for a long moment before finally replying.

I missed you, she says, and wishes with all her heart that this would make itself a lie.