She looked out from Westminster Bridge.
She’d woken in last night’s make up, eyes glued. Her mother would say it was too early for the dress he’d bought her, but no bother. The tortoiseshell-peep-toe-Louboutin heels made her taller, she liked that. None of it mattered now. She had left without a word, eyes front, squinting.
It was eight-fifteen and all life, no life snaked past. Marched past to its tribal rhythm. No-one looked, but she did, staring straight at them, every face defiantly familiar. She was invisible to them, their heads down in reverence to the morning, locations locked in. Spat out to be digested later, pulled towards the centre. Deja du.
Where the fuck is he? He’s always fucking late. For fuck’s sake. She didn’t want to doubt him; he’d promised her before, and for once, she’d believed him. She had to. She flipped the lid and pulled out her lucky Lucky, checked her pockets for her lighter – he’d given her that casual souvenir of a Thursday night out.
The greying clouds swam, before meandering past. It hadn’t been like this the last time, but that was Putney Bridge; he was there first, wrestling with Araucaria – it was Wednesday.
‘Have you got a light?’
She had missed his face, caught in thought, but had seen a whir of brown: suit, shirt, shoes, no tie, and square rainbow cufflinks. An offbeat distraction. Liver-spotted hands clutching a roll-up in the left and a book in the right. It looked like de Maupassant.
She had just found it and could hear the zip of the wheel, feel it gouging, as the light glowed orange and red and her face ashen.
Why was he wearing a brown suit?
‘Yes, you have.’ He was still there and even that look hadn’t shifted him. He smiled, mugging to some unknown audience, and started to head on past.
‘What do you want from me?’
‘Oh.’ She handed him a drooping, moistened butt. He took it and flicked it into the Thames; that ubiquitous, ever-changing splodge sketched by a pre-schoolers fist. It was so close, she could touch it.
His unlit roll-up, now, in the corner of his mouth, he looked at her a second time.
‘What’s wrong with your lighter?’
Why would he ask that? She ignored the question and said, ‘That was like my last one.’ It wasn’t, but it might have been.
‘You look freezing, do you want a coffee?’
‘I don’t see no ice and coffee wakes me up.’
‘There’s a shop just over the bridge. Do you want to go and get some?’
She knew she couldn’t go back, but inching towards her future chilled her more. Her toes the same colour as the polish. She saw him now, and saw the bridge and saw the sun and saw the river and finally she got it. It all seemed so obvious, as she slipped off her shoes and took a step towards home.