Quavers

Six hundred miles give or take. Twenty hours give or take on trains. We read, ate, did crosswords, slept, laughed, bickered and cuddled. It was a joy to see them. To see her and her. A Tasmanian Devil. A Tasmanian Devil with a beautiful smile. What a winner. She trashed the place but no one seemed to mind. And the sun shone. And on.

Bristol Temple Meads station and we’re waiting for our connection. He is watching a seagull. He acts like he owns the place, he says to me. Look, look. And nudges me in the ribs. He’s right, the bird is strutting about wholly unperturbed by the waiting passengers. One of the railway staff is walking towards us grinning. I grin back. A nice face with warm brown eyes. He must’ve seen us watching the gull. He stops to talk and tells me how that particular bird hangs around the kiosk on the adjacent platform waits until the assistant has gone into the back and then flaps up onto the counter and steals a packet of Quavers. He does it every morning, like clockwork, he tells me. Always Quavers? I ask. Always.

There was a dead wasp on the hallway floor when we got home last night. I was sorry. It must’ve been flying around trying to escape all day.

I’m going to apologise right away, said the woman with the red hair, we’re going to be really noisy. And drink has been taken. It’s about 10.00 am and we’re on our way to Plymouth on the train. She has taken a seat across from us. Then her friends arrive. The same orange tans, lacy black bras under jackets, tattooed ankles and false eyelashes. They sit at a table and gesture for her to join them. She grins at me. We’re still going to be noisy, she said, sorry. And they were. But lusciously so. They were going to the races and were clearly determined to have a whale of a time. Stories were recounted, in particular one about a club called the Barracuda (though the woman telling it kept pronouncing it Bar-ra-cuda) and a friend who’d been legless. When the train got to Newtown Abbot there was a mass exodus and when the guard’s voice came over the tannoy announcing that this was the station to disembark at for the races they all let out a whoop of delight. I felt a tinge of sadness when they went. And the train became silent.

‘Already the first of his summer freckles had come.’ (William Trevor)

Today we will see if we can fix my heart.