“The feeling of your own mattress, eh?” He stretched out with a sigh.
“I’ve been looking forward to this all night”, she replied from her dressing table. Or undressing, he liked to joke.
He picked up his book and flicked to the page he had folded down. Quite out of character, but they were on holiday, after all.
She got up and went to the bathroom. She could only have been away a few moments. But when she came back, she found him.
His book was covering his closed eyes, drooped unceremoniously upon his face. She took it and folded the page.
Alec lived for that in mistakable click of cards as their drawn. He counted them out as they were slide across the green felt to his area: one two three for five. He loved his little joke, all the cards, working for the five-card hand.
Once the lady had dealt the table, he grabbed them up and started weighing up the options. Two-twos, shite pair, but two eight ten hearts, loving the risk.
“Two please.” He slide the two non hearts across to the dealer. Two new cards made their way to his hand. He reassessed: utter shite.
He silently counted off the peels of the church bell as it curled round the buildings and into his study: one – two –
He was running up the stairs, two at a time –
three – four –
Five people stood crowded around the bed in his memory, staring at his mother lying there.
Six hurried steps to push through the barrier of visitors, stealing her from him. He looked at her face, crying ‘mummy, mummy!’ seven times before she stirred, glazed eyes searching for him.
Eight words was all she managed to say, before she faded away at nine o’clock.
The ringing stopped.
The faster he ran, the closer they felt. Robbie’s feet slapped on the cobbled surface. Each step was agony. He tried to look back over his shoulder as he rounded the bend. He couldn’t see if they were still there.
He spotted him too late. He slipped as he tried to swerve around the old man dawdling along. They both crashed to the ground. The old man cried out in fright and pain. Robbie’s face smashed against the railing. Blood filled his mouth. His head swam as he heard the crash of the waves nearby. Then he heard their voices
The sun was slowly beginning to set behind the roofs of the buildings further down the street. Nicholas looked up from his book, noticed the pint glass was almost empty and tried to get the attention of the waiter who was busying himself at the tables at the other side of the bar.
He tried to make his presence felt through the heat of his gaze. He tried to imagine tiny pulses of energy flowing from his eyes into the sweaty back of the man stopped over the laminate surfaces. Nothing: he just sauntered away off to the next one.
“I used to think I was so sophisticated and complicated,” said Justin, taking his pint in both hands and rotating it between them on the tabletop, “embarrassing”. He stared through the flat lager to the depths of the glass.
“How’s it embarrassing?” asked Sarah, “just young, weren’t you?”
“Ah know, but y’know…” he snatched the glass up and drained off the remaining liquid, “want another?”
“Not till you tell me what you mean? What’s brought this on?”
He placed the glass back on the table, careful to get it in the middle of the ring of condensation. “Something I found.”
The distant sigh of cars on the main road drifted across the back gardens to where Darren sat. He lounged in the soft seat with his cigar held between his teeth and his glass of whisky sitting on the short grass at his feet. He waited for the stars to blink on, tracing the delicate wisps and rich clouds of smoke as the floated up and away into ever-darkening sky. Occasionally, the neighbour’s old cat would activate the security lamp as he slounged across the lawn. The harsh glare would block the sky from view, but only for a moment.