The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark – The Mendocino Beacon

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“The Lies I Tell” by Julie Clark, author of “The Last Flight” is the story of two women, Kat who watches Meg and Meg who watches Ron Ashton. Author Clark grabs the reader from the first page. Although Kat hasn’t seen Meg in ten years, she knows what’s going to happen. This reader wants to find out.

Meg is at a fundraiser and she sees Veronica, a new friend in Los Angeles from yoga class. Her husband is Ron’s campaign manager. Ron is a typical politician and womanizer, according to Veronica. She had employed Meg as a real estate agent after they met and thought they had gotten a good deal with the place they had purchased. Meg knows what she’s doing. She can’t wait to see Ashton again after he cheated her mother and ruined her life. But he doesn’t recognize her, or her name even though it’s her real last name this time.

She goes through Ron’s real estate portfolio and his financial accounts. She tells him how well she did in Michigan while in LA it’s slower. Author Clark takes the reader back ten years to 2009. She considers sleeping in her car and decides she needs to date older men to get more than a one-night stand. She knows she needs a safe place to live and dinners at better restaurants. His mother likes to be independent and does not accept houses or car repairs for free.

Meg sees a face she knows on her computer: Cory Dempsey, a math teacher from her old high school who is “hot” as the students called it. The girl he was with, Kristen, is missing. Meg types into her computer that she likes to surf and she invents a new person who surfs Zuma Beach, good waves for a valley girl, and sends the message.

Cal, her best friend, lets her live in his house when he’s away when he and Robert travel. He takes her to lunch once a week. On her computer as Amelia, her last alias, she asks Cory personal questions and tells him personal stories she made up. She likes to be a different person.

Later, we meet Kat, a junior reporter for the LA Times. Cory Dempsey’s story made headlines when it appeared Dempsey was having trouble with two of his high school students. Kate had learned from her mother to work harder, be smarter and take risks as a journalist in order to succeed. So she calls Dempsey’s parents to find out his ex-girlfriend’s full name. Meg set up the whole scheme, then disappeared.

Meg moves in with Cory and spends four nights a week with him, and he takes control of her school hours and her friendships. She agrees to move in with him and logs in as Amelia on his computer while he sleeps, and deletes Amelia’s account and her Circle of Love account.

At a local bar, they meet Nate and Cory tells him what to wear and orders a beer. She prefers wine. At home, Kat finds Meg William’s picture in the yearbook and arranges to meet another friend of Kristen’s, Laura Lazar. The women have lunch together and Kate asks what kind of revenge they could have planned. Laura tells her how Dempsey taught Kristen about sex and how she got pregnant. She had an abortion and moved out after telling her parents. But Cory came back and made jokes like it was nothing serious. Meg remembers Ron’s advice to her mother when he said there were winners and losers. Rosie, his mother, is a loser and he tells her to be smarter next time. Meg plays the innocent, naive, and addictive Cory, making him the hero. One day, she finds photos of Kristen and Cory, naked.

The next day, she meets Nate, Cory’s former best friend at a bar to tell him the story. After a few glasses of whiskey, she finds herself unconscious in her bed next to him. She takes a taxi to her car and goes to school. She thinks like a man, as her mother advised her.

Meg sells her car, her last bond with her mother, and deposits $5,000 in her account and $500 in Cory’s family account. She tells Cory that the van broke down on the road and fixing it would cost more than it was worth. They buy a new used car and Meg makes sure her name is on the title when Cory is out of the room. She says she will transfer ownership later. He believes her. She finds pictures of another woman, Stacy, at the beach in a bikini with Cory.

The next day, Nate appears at the door to find out who Meg really is. He had made a few calls and no one really knew her. He says she lied to Cory and she has to leave now. She thinks men always win even if they don’t play by the rules. Meg opens the door and cries out loud for help. His neighbor Mrs. Trout hears him. Meg says she was attacked and Nate leaves. Cory believes him when Mrs. Trout supports Meg. Meg says Nate wants what Cory has and always wanted to be him. After that, every day, Meg goes to the ATM and withdraws the maximum from her family account. She prints out copies of photos of Cory and Kristen as well as photos from their emails and places them in three envelopes.

As she prepares to leave, she wonders where to go to reinvent herself, to leave California. Copies of each article are given to the school board president, the LA Times newspaper, and the chair of the math department. Author Clarke now takes us back to Kat who quit her paper job and became a financial researcher, learning a lot about Meg Williams. She discovers that her mother had inherited a million dollar house in Brentwood and put Ron Ashton on the title. Kat finds a neighbor, Mrs. Nelson, who has lived next door for almost fifty years and knew the Williams family well.

Kat meets a man, Scott, and they go together. He wants her to finish her novel but she says it won’t pay off Scott’s gambling debt. She wants to help him like he helped her. Kat makes up a story like Meg had, and it convinces Meg that Kat is looking for a million dollar house. Meg wants to show her the list and they ride together and Meg tells Kat how she lived in her car for a year after losing everything. Kat also has issues such as a job she dislikes and paying off Scott’s gambling debt. Things gnaw at her like they gnaw at Meg. Kat wants to keep Meg close so keeps saying she still wants to look for a property. Meg invites Kat to a yoga class and says she wants to be a friend. They are two strong women who compete to dominate each other.

Meg takes Ron to view the property with structural flaws, trying to gain his trust by being honest. He has money and power and she wants both. He is impressed by her honesty and she is content with his plan to wait patiently. Kat tells Meg about Scott’s gambling debt and it cements Meg’s trust in exchange for Kat’s truth. They are two women who weave a web of lies, but does it matter?

Author Clarke takes us back two years to Reading, Pennsylvania, where Meg meets an eligible man, Phillip, at a dinner party. She was the consultant for the decoration of her sister’s elegant house. They compare stories about their rocky divorces and Phillip invites her over for a round of golf at the local country club. Does Meg see a possible target for a scam here? Or simply a possible sexual attraction? She advises Phillip to pay for services, not goods. She gives him a business card that says “Life Design by Melody” and knows he will use it. She stole photos of interior designers and pasted them on her website, which includes the names of famous clients. She explains that her reduced cash flow is a benefit and for this advice she charges $20,000 per month which goes towards life coaching. She plans to list Phillip’s lakeside home at below market value and pocket the difference. She thinks of her house in the canyon and her mother who was forced to sleep in her van and died penniless. Now Phillip isn’t sleeping well and looks haggard as Meg continues to drive him crazy. Now Kat finds out what Meg did in Pennsylvania with Phillip’s lake house when Citi Bank claims the $30,000 in debt. Scott gets angry at her accusations and says he’ll take over the investigation of Meg.

Meg makes the deal on the Canyon house and Ron has moved into a hotel until his election to the Senate for which he is running. She sees Scott watching her from across the street. She is in a traffic jam and feels her car crash into hers. She takes pictures but is on her way to the airport to fly to Las Vegas where she will see a notary about a new DBA, banned in California. Meg showed Ron a house in Mandeville Canyon perfect for entertaining voters and election volunteers. Ron says get the papers ready and he’ll be home on election night. Kat tells Scott to get help for his gambling addiction and he agrees. The tension mounts as the two women get closer to their goals. When Kat tries to contact Meg the following week, there is no response and no one answers the door to her empty house.

On the dining table is a stack of notebooks and a cashier’s check for the money Kat owes CitiBank. Where is Meg? Where has she gone? The notebooks describe what she did, but how did she do it? Discover the true story of Meg and Kat, coming soon to your local library’s new fiction shelf.

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