I try to shut the thoughts away but the words he says prise open my every defence. I can’t not hear it. He talks about his life, his friends, the plans we’ve made, the things we’ve achieved, places we’ve been. He talks about his grandmother, about my own family history. He claims he’s talked to the bank manager. He shows me photographs of us in the pub, laughing with his mates. One of me in a dress – says I look fit. But he never once asks me how I feel: never imagines that I could be the one in charge.
Downstairs in the shop it is sweltering. I am at a designer furniture launch. This is my job. Bring on the canapés, I should be eating dinner. Sean works for a competitor. He tells me about when his wallet was fat, when he was drunk every evening. Across the room Seb shakes hands. Everyone wants to meet Seb. But I can tell by the way he pulls at his ear that he wants out. Away from sales, marketing and clueless creatives. My forehead runs with sweat. The kids won’t want to go to bed tonight. I wish I was home.
A light aircraft just dropped out of the sky, enmeshed, literally, in its own trail of propaganda. Over our own heads are helicopters and, down in the square below, hundreds of office workers have congregated for a fire drill.
We are booking my birthday meal and discussing people’s relationships: how friends are feeling; what might happen in future.
I have made an Earl Grey tea with an out-of-date tea bag. Now it’s back to work.
The sun is out. Tonight we will drink.
Things go up. Things come down. It’s how they land that counts; the state we’re all in.
There had been arguments, but girls and boys always fall out if they live in each other’s pockets for six weeks. Rome was the worst – that morning with hash paranoia. Now, in their last week, their last country, they were giggling at the policeman in his smart blue clothes and funny hat. Stefan said the hat looked just like a woman’s breast. He rummaged in the pocket of his combats and got his camera to take a photo. The policeman stepped forward and stamped his feet:
Never! he shouted – and grabbed the camera with such force that Stefan winced.