I’m delighted to welcome H.A. Leuschel to the blog today for a guest post and an excerpt from her new book My Sweet Friend. Enjoy!
Lies Change Lives
There are small lies and big lies but 18th Century moral philosopher Immanuel Kant famously declared that one should ALWAYS be honest, never tell lies, no matter what!
No matter what? You may ask. Does honesty stand above all other moral premises? Could a range of exceptions not require the debunking of his claim at the very least in extreme situations such as when a person has the power to decide between life or death?
I would argue that white lies can be excusable even when voiced simply to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or to help someone out of a gloomy mood. However, there is a fine line between laziness and the more flagrant goal of deception when lying. The latter can be the reason for families breaking up, spouses divorcing or the cause for deep-rooted hurt. The longer a person has been lied to or the longer someone has been lying, the harder it will be to find a redeeming excuse.
Lies therefore have the ability to change loyalties that until their discovery seemed solid and they hence have the ability to fundamentally change lives.
Lying is a symptom shared by the most convincing, cunning and ruthless individuals such as psychopaths and narcissistic manipulators. They have an invincible sense of self-importance and an addictive urge to project an image of power and perfection at all cost which are fueled by the rewarding tools of charm, diversion and … clever deception.
Hence, coming back to Kant, he most likely had a good inkling when he suggested that ‘you should always treat another as an end and never merely as a means to an end’ and that even small seemingly innocent lies always have the risk of becoming bigger ones, especially when the guilty itch isn’t quite itchy enough or your intentions simply turn out less honourable than they initially appeared. If further the bigger lies become a habit and don’t rob the liars off their sleep, worse, leave them feeling satisfied, it is hard to define under what conditions lies can be defendable. Like anything in life, whether the skill is morally laudable or not, skills require training, effort and hard work. The danger lies in the brain progressively adapting to the dishonest behaviour and the longer the lies, the harder it would seem to be able to change the conditioning of one’s sensitivity to telling the truth. The truth and nothing but the truth or at the very least the intention to do so most of the time therefore appears to be a basic requirement for any interpersonal trust.
In my new stand-alone novella, I explore the idea that when crossing the line between truth or lie too often, it becomes a curse the person is eventually unable to shed …
About the Author
Helene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.
For more information about the author and her upcoming books, please visit:
About the Book
A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives
A perfect friend … or a perfect impostor?
Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships.
But is Alexa all she claims to be?
As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack’s, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted?
In this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.
Excerpt from My Sweet Friend
Monday, September 18
I breathed a sigh of relief as the sea air ruffled my hair, and then slipped on a pair of large-framed sunglasses in an attempt to hide the dark shadows under my eyes. They were the result of many long working hours; weeks and months of relentless efforts to live up to the high expectations at work and the desperate struggle to always stay on top of my game.
Here, no one knew me. No one would judge me for skipping my usually elaborate make-up routine. No one would notice that I’d chosen unremarkable outfits on purpose to blend into the crowd, and had donned a pair of comfortable sandals instead of the achingly-high heels that complemented my typically carefully selected office clothes. If I’d learned one thing over the years, it was the fact that both immaculate looks and controlled behaviour could go a long way towards influencing people’s impressions of me.
I swatted a fly away from my calf which then tickled my neck and, after a few moments, returned to my knee. I sniggered about the analogy – I felt somewhat like a fly myself: swatted, and in danger of being crushed whenever I made a mistake. The corporate world was ruthless, especially in the competitive field of sales and marketing where I belonged. It was an area I’d come to love and hate in equal measure over the last ten years, the high point being that it allowed me to move to exciting and trendy places such as Paris, my latest stop in a long string of jobs.
The cappuccino in front of me emitted a delicious aroma. I picked up the spoon and mixed the white fluffy top which was sprinkled with chocolate powder, into the dark strong coffee. It had been a while since I’d had the leisure to sit on a beach café’s terrace, lick sweet white foam off my lips, and watch the world go by.
I slipped an elastic band off my wrist, pulled my long blonde mane into a ponytail and then, in a few swift moves, lifted the hair into a loose bun at the top of my head. The hot coffee warmed me from within and sweat trickled down my back.
The sun had been scorching all morning, much to my surprise, as we were well into September already. I was on a week’s sick-leave for which I had rented a small, inconspicuous apartment in the centre of France’s southern seaside town of Biarritz. I needed to clear my head and allow myself the space to think. What had brought me here was exhaustion, maybe a burnout as my doctor had suggested, the result of working too hard for too many long shifts. A yawn escaped my mouth at the thought, and I craned my neck to catch the waitress’s attention. A warm, sugary smell suggested that a fresh cake or a plate of pastries had just come out of the oven. The idea of having a sweet appealed to me.
Just as I was about to signal to the staff again, my mobile vibrated with an incoming call and I smiled weakly when I saw the caller’s name on the display, then grudgingly tapped to respond and lifted the phone to my ear.
‘Hi Rosie, dear,’ I said, my voice calm and cheerful, yet inwardly I felt slightly on my guard.
From the moment Rosie and I had first met we’d seemed like two peas in a pod. There’d been an instant solidarity between us, but it was a friendship that appeared to have recently cooled, for reasons I could not yet fully understand. Leaving my colleagues to do my job as well as their own was the most likely reason. It couldn’t have been easy to accept my demand for an immediate break, especially when it had happened so suddenly. I’d had no choice though. I stifled another yawn, then focused on Rosie.
‘Hi,’ she said, her voice sounding far away, so I slid my finger along the side of my phone and increased the volume. ‘Where are you? You sound distant … or maybe it’s a bad reception. How are you feeling?’ Her choice of words was benign and casual; however her tone of voice was anything but. Instead of the usual warmth I would feel when she enquired about my well-being, I felt a stab of pain in my stomach. She wasn’t being genuine and I thought I could detect suspicion.
‘Yes, all’s good. I’m resting. I can’t believe how much I need to sleep but hey, it’s just what the doctor ordered.’ I suppressed my irritation, keeping a jokey undertone in my voice.
Everything had been going so well this time. I reminded myself just how helpful and supportive Rosie had been. I admit that sensing the camaraderie between her and the team had irked me. I wanted to be the focus of Rosie’s quiet, attentive gaze, her head set to one side when she listened. Now that I was included in her circle of friends I couldn’t let anything jeopardize that.
‘That’s good. I hope you recuperate quickly because it’s tough without you.’ Was there a slight whine in her voice?
‘I know, and it’s sweet of you to say that. I’ll do my best. Look, I’m sorry, darling, for leaving you in the lurch like that, I really am. I do understand how you must feel but my health is more important than …’
‘Than what, Alexa?’ Rosie cut in. I was lost for words, and unsure about how to explain my current state of mind. My free hand closed in a fist as I pressed it down on my lap.
‘Well, health is everything, don’t you think?’ My question sounded desperate, so I added another few comments for good measure. ‘You hear about more and more people dropping like stones because of a sudden heart attack or a nervous breakdown. It’s awful to feel so utterly exhausted.’
‘Of course it is, it is for all of us …but you’re still new to the team. It doesn’t look good to take time off like this, doctor’s certificate or not. But, as you say, health is everything. I know that more than anyone.’ Rosie had softened; I heard her sigh. ‘You do what you have to do and rest. We’ll weather it,’ she said with her usual compassionate warmth and what I believed to be her insatiable source of understanding. I exhaled with relief.
‘I just had to get away for a bit. The pressure in the office is inhumane. From the word go I was out with clients, writing reports, even taking stuff home to finish. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but maybe I need to get my heart checked with a cardiologist. The GP mentioned that, too, what with my Dad suffering a heart attack.’
‘You never said, Alexa.’ Rosie’s voice was solicitous.
‘You know me better than anyone, Rosie. I would never moan or tell others about my family issues.’ The line went silent for a moment. ‘Sorry, darling, did you take that the wrong way? I wasn’t implying that you can’t talk to me about yours. You know that, don’t you?’
‘Sure I do. Listen, I need to head off, got to pull the campaign together, remember?’ Rosie’s voice trailed off. I had to admit to myself, and myself alone, that staying in control had become increasingly harder.
‘Of course. Anything you need, just text or call me.’
‘Okay. I really hope you get better soon. Let’s speak later, right?’ She clipped off our conversation and hung up. There’d been a glimmer of hope at the end of our chat that she’d come back round to me, the tone of her voice mollified.
I smiled and slipped the mobile into my bag and wiped my forehead with the back of my hand.
‘Well, well, you never really know people,’ I muttered under my breath, eager now to eat the small square of dark chocolate that had come with my coffee. I slipped the flat tablet out of its packaging and placed it on my tongue to melt, pleased with myself. The waitress looked in my direction, so I lifted my hand to ask for a glass of sparkling water and the bill.
As I left the café, the heels of my sandals clicking on the pavement, another call made my phone vibrate again. I decided that it was best not to answer it and let whomever it was believe that I was asleep or under the shower. It was most likely another office enquiry and, if so, they should struggle to work out the problem themselves and see just how invaluable I was.
I squinted, sheltering my eyes with one flat hand against the sudden brightness of the sunlight, and then swung my bag over my shoulder as I continued on my way, still feeling the vibration of my phone through the fabric until it went silent. All I could sense was the breeze tugging at the loosened strands of my hair, and the sound of the waves luring me in.
I walked towards the sea and stopped when I reached the edge of the pavement where the beach began. A walk in the warm sand was just what I needed to alleviate my frayed nerves. Do something good for yourself, the doctor had advised – a break, a weekend in a spa, anything to de-stress. Okay, doctor, I responded to his comment in my head. A walk along the shore was exactly what I was going to have. My hand snaked into my bag and I pushed the phone’s off button to silence the other world, the one I’d gotten away from for now.