29th March


‘Do people still do this?’ she said. ‘Have affairs in hotels in the middle of the afternoon?’

‘We’re doing it.’

‘Yes. But it seems . . . I don’t know . . . it doesn’t feel real.’

He laughed. ‘It felt real enough just now, didn’t it?’

She laughed too. ‘Of course.’ But that wasn’t what she meant.

While he was in the shower she dressed, then went to the window and drew back the curtains. She did this surreptitiously, not making herself too visible even though no one could possibly know she was there, no one who might recognise her would be down in the street looking up accusingly or in surprise. And so it was: the street was deserted. It was a grey, nondescript view, which in a week or a month she would struggle to recall. Unless they came back, but they wouldn’t, not to this hotel. If they came here again the excitement, the pleasure, which had been real enough, would not return with them. She felt this very strongly.

There was a block of flats, a terrace of identical houses, a brick-built factory or warehouse where nothing seemed to be going on. There were trees in a tiny park with railings, a bench and flowerbeds. A woman she’d not noticed at first was on the bench, while a small white dog sniffed the flowerbeds and the sad patch of grass they surrounded.

This is nowhere, she thought. I’m looking at one of those empty, vague, precise, dreamlike scenes painted by . . . but she couldn’t remember the artist’s name. It will never look like this again, she thought, because I won’t be here to see it.

The shower stopped. She heard him whistling. He was trying too hard to whistle tunelessly. It might have been endearing but she thought it ludicrous. He would know she was listening and would be assessing, wrongly, the effect his unmusical whistling was having. She considered leaving right then, before he came back into the room, but she didn’t go. She stayed at the window, watching the white dog and the woman on the bench. She thought they must belong to each other, but she could not definitely conclude that this was so.

Reader: Kate Molleson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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