Friday, 28 June 2013

Despair

I sat in the bath and wept.

You had left twenty minutes ago to spend time with another woman. The woman who you insisted you were just friends with, but whom you admitted you were attracted to, you liked better than me and said you didn't want me there because I got in the way.

I should have packed my world up and left you then.

Instead, I ran a bath and chose a book. I didn't add any bubble bath or scent to the water - it was perfectly clear. I sat in the water and hugged my knees.

At some point I started to cry.

At some point the water got cold.

At some point I heard my razor calling to me.

Do you know how hard it is to take a safety razor apart? I finally had the blade, and the broken plastic was at the bottom of the tub. That irritated me, I wanted the water to be pristine. I wanted to be comfortable.

The blade slid up my leg, following the path it had taken so harmlessly before.

The blood in the water didn't pearl or run as it does in the air. Instead it was caught and suspended, gradually dissipating into a cloud. The pain was clean and sweet. It was nothing like the horrendous turmoil you caused me; nothing like the black hollow of misery that you gave me.

I wanted more.

Gradually the water turned red and at some point you arrived home.

"what the Hell are you doing to yourself?" you screamed at me when you saw.

Ahh, but this wasn't me. If it hadn't been for you, this would never have happened.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Rambling

I stood before the Museum of Science and Industry, contemplating going in for a look. Before I did, I happened to glance down the road and received for my pains a figurative kick in the memory. Bewildered, I looked some more.

No idea what the memory was trying to tell me.

I decided to wander along a little and suddenly I knew I was supposed to turn left.

So I turned left. I was utterly disoriented by discovering a Roman fort ruin and reconstruction of a gate of some sort. This, according to my head, was all wrong. Maybe I should walk past, under the railway arch. That too, I thought, didn't look promising. Also, I was dressed like a hobo and if I was murdered under the bridge no-one would look twice. Therefore, I decided to stay in the open as much as possible.

I wandered around the fort, reading the signs (I usually like those signs, they're deeply interesting, but these didn't capture me. Possibly because I had slept very badly the night before) and generally trying to figure out what my brain was so insistent on finding.

In the end I threw it to the fates and stepped wherever my feet led.

It took five minutes and a little walking in circles before I reached the canal. I sat on a bench, watching the world go by, until my head became too insistent to ignore. I felt I should not cross the bridge that the jogger ran over, instead I should wander over to the right.

This led me to wondering what the hell was wrong with me because I promptly found myself on a wobbly, creaky bridge, in a dark tunnel, next to a sandy wasteland about to be threatened by geese.

I persevered, as my head was sure it was OK and I was too lulled by the lapping waters to argue. I crossed the bridge of terror, skirted the geese of death, got sand in my shoes and was rewarded with a conviction that I should see lumps on the ground.

Lumps in the ground.

Really? That's all you're willing to suggest? Stupid brain.

So, I walked a while. I strolled around a hotel, and down a slightly alleyway type thing, but I wasn't getting a strong urge in any direction and my bag was getting heavy. Since there were picnic benches out the front of the hotel, I returned there and dumped my bag. As I stood there (trying not to pant in the face of the smart business men casually strolling past) I looked down a flight of stairs.

And I saw them.

Along the canal at this point are mooring things. Lumps of iron that you tie ropes around. And I remembered.

Last time I was there was my last birthday before my wedding. My brother was getting married that weekend, and I was getting married five months later. My fiance had recovered completely from the surgery he'd gone through, he had been employed for a few months, we were able to afford our wedding and everything was going well.

For the first time in several years I was relaxed, happy and looking forward to the future.

On that day we went in to the spa attached to the hotel and had manicures, pedicures and massages in preparation for my brother's wedding.

Within a month or two, my fiance was unemployed again, I was afraid for the wedding and I'd had a canoeing incident that made my body unreliable. I was scared, and everything was falling apart.

I haven't spent much time up North since my marriage ended because I was afraid of being reminded of all the negative stuff I ran away from. But when I revisited Manchester, the thing I was pulled to was the place where I had been at the time I was happy.

I sat for a while being grateful that I'm happy now, despite all that has happened to me since then. I did pause to be slightly creeped out because I realised I'd talked about this place with my sister the previous night at the Josh Groban concert when he mentioned his hotel was on a canal, but I reassured myself that the entirety of Manchester is on a canal and the likelihood of that being his hotel was miniscule.

Then I tried to get a manicure but they are closed on Monday. So I went to the Museum of Science and Industry and had a very large coffee instead.

A lot has happened over the last few years, but I never missed the North with the kind of longing that I'm missing it now. It's home...

Alicia

Monday, 24 June 2013

Are you?

It was dark outside. The rain had been drumming soothing tones onto the roof of the car for almost eight minutes now. Amy was sure of that, because she had been watching the seconds tick by, absolutely adamant that after two minutes she would get out and do it. Two had been extended to three, then five and now ten. Soon, she firmly believed she would get out of the car.

Nevertheless, the little assurance remained that no one would ever know if she waited for ten minutes or fifteen. After all, she wasn't expected.

Nine minutes fifteen seconds. Of course she would get out at ten minutes. She'd get out right now, except that she said she'd wait and ten minutes had a nice ritualistic tone to it.

Nine minutes thirty eight seconds. It would be 10:05 if she got out after ten minutes. Surely 10:10 would be better.

Maybe she should just leave. No-one had seen her. It wasn't like running away. It was late, raining, he might be out, he might be in bed. And wasn't it just a little desperate?

If he was attracted to her, he would have told her, surely?

Was the clock broken? It had slowed down - surely she had been here a lot longer than 9 minutes 46 seconds?

Suddenly she growled in frustration, seized her bag and leapt into the rain. She wasn't waiting for the permission of a clock!

Having got so far, her fingers locked around the frame of the door and refused to move. The wind blew the coat against her skin and the rain felt unnaturally cold. She was incredibly conscious of herself out in the open, afraid and alone, with a barren wasteland of a small estate road separating her from the potential safety of the house and its front door about twenty paces away.

She had come this far and made her decision. She straightened, relaxed her death grip and slammed the car door. She didn't notice the clock telling her that the door slammed exactly ten minutes after she had parked.

She strode towards the house with an even, swaying stride. A slight smile hinted at a wealth of confidence and womanly strength. Inside her head, she was desperately pleading with the fates in general to not let her get hit by a car now, not let him be home, let him be home, let him like her, let him think it was a joke, let him be excited enough to ravish her so she didn't have to think it through, let him be slow but interested, let him be alone. Above all else... Don't Let Anyone Else See Her.

The door loomed before her. Huddled under the shelter of the tiny porch, she glanced back at the car. It looked incredibly welcoming. At that point the internal light winked out, as if to tell her to get on with it. Gulping down a deep breath, she raised an inexplicably shaking hand to the door, and rapped lightly with her knuckles.

She had enough time to agonise over whether it was loud enough for him to have heard, whether she had to do it again or just decide he wasn't there and walk away before the light appeared in the house.

Her right ankle buckled slightly as half her brain tried to move her feet away from the door and back to the car and the other half tried to keep her in place. The stationary feet required less input and so won by proxy.

The door opened and she looked with quiet terror into Tony's eyes. He seemed surprised.

She went hot and cold and fought to stay upright as her terror once again threatened to tear her in half. A failed attempt at a gulp caused her to cough nervously and she managed to squeeze out a single word.

"Hi." Thready, breathy, possibly asthmatic sounding. Not sexy! She gulped - successfully this time.

He seemed about to speak, but she had planned her speech beforehand and she didn't want to mess with the script now. She reached out her left hand towards him, trying to silence him, while her right fumbled with the belt and her words spilled out in a panicked rush.

"You're only allowed to say yes or no, OK? Are you alone?" A pause. He looked more confused.

"Err, yes?"

Her mind suddenly froze as she realised she had made a basic assumption that she needed to check: "Oh! Are you still single?"

He smiled a little but still did not seem welcoming in the least. "Yes."

She heard a high pitched whine, her heart beat escalated rapidly and the shaking in her legs intensified to the stage where her right foot actually took a step towards the car of its own volition. Wrenching her terror under control once more, she employed both hands in solving the mysteries of her belt buckle.

She opened the coat to display the underwear she had carefully selected an hour earlier, fumbling a little as the flaps around the collar threatened to fall forwards and cover her bra.

"In that case," a flood of heat then cold shot down her spine and she was grateful for the darkness which she falsely imagined was hiding the crimson in her cheeks, "are you interested?"

Monday, 17 June 2013

Josh Groban live

Last night, as I sat in seat HH11 of the O2 Apollo, it was easy to forget that Josh Groban does this several times a week, as his job. The energy and enthusiasm that went into each part of the show was a beautiful thing to experience.

The venue isn't a small one, the queue to get in was winding a considerable distance around the block (a circumstance which has forced me to regretfully admit a pair of shoes I have loved for ten years are no longer the most comfortable footwear I possess), but one inside it seemed as though the band were able to connect on a personal level with each member of the audience. I occasionally felt like I was watching a bunch of friends who also happened to be exceptional musicians, just having fun and showing off at an invite only gig. 

The show opened with Brave, and I haven't seen a guitarist having that much fun since Iron Maiden. Later, I realised how fluid the band/orchestra were, despite having no visible conductor. It was two thirds of the way through "The moon is a harsh mistress" that I observed the pianist's hair appeared to be the primary conductor for the piece. Later, I thought it might be the lead violinist's elbow, but I've come to the conclusion it's one of life's ineffable mysteries. 

The music was interspersed with commentary and Josh's signature blend of wit and humility. His engagement with the audience felt genuine and his response to some of the more crazy elements in the room was both kind and courteous. It must take a lot of self control to handle that kind of situation, and he did it well. 

I was waiting for Happy in my Heartache. For me, the acid test of his performance would be my response to this one song. 

I wept.

It turns out that Josh Groban live has the same quality that Josh Groban CDs offer, but in the live show you have no protection from the emotional onslaught.

Absorb the music, enjoy the performance and if, like the woman behind me you need a sing along to have any fun, learn the words to "You Raise me Up" and prepare for the encore.

Alicia

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Phrase

Sorry, just didn't want to forget this - I rarely describe appearances because I genuinely believe the way you look is superficial, so I like my readers to decide what my characters look like. I'll throw in a few personality indicators, but it's still not a specific image.

This phrase sprang to my mind the other day - I was contemplating the beginning of an online relationship. At which point on first seeing someone face to face do you really meet them? I don't think it's when you see them. I think it's when you have a voice to put to the mails/ message you've been reading. The phrase below is a character describing the day he met the love of his life. I hope I get to use it :)

I was really looking forward to meeting her. And when I finally saw her... I was still waiting to meet her. It wasn't until she spoke to me, and I heard her voice that I realised I knew the person speaking.

Alicia

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Escalators

I want a man who will stand in front of me on an escalator.

So simple, isn't it?

As with so many things in my life, this is both literally true and a metaphor for something much deeper and more complex.

We can spend our whole lives getting to know one individual. With some people, a lifetime isn't enough. How can you decide within a few years, months, weeks or even seconds that this person is the one to whom you will entrust your everything?

Thus, The Escalator Test (patent pending).

We are out on a date and need to traverse an escalator going downwards. "Oh dear," say I, "I know it's a strange thing to ask, but would you mind going on first?"


  • I know a man who refuses to stand in front of me on an escalator because he thinks it's a stupid request is disrespectful.
  • I know a man who will hear my request and leap onto the escalator then never ask why is uninterested.
  • I know a man who will hear me, ask why and then take the escalator without ensuring that I am comfortable behind him is slightly obtuse at best, uncaring at worst and uninvested in me either way.
  • I know a man who asks why then mocks my fear is unkind.
  • I know a man who will accept my reasoning, suggest we find a lift because he has the same fear, but then accept without hesitation my offer to go in front of him (because it's not impossible for me to go on an escalator first, it's just very uncomfortable) is discourteous. (In addition, I try to choose men with a different set of fears, so we can support each other).


I know a man who will step on the escalator and watch me get on after him, casually moving up to ensure he's on a step near me when I hesitate that bit too long is caring, respectful and kind.

This is the man to whom I will entrust myself.

He can tease me about it if he likes, but he clearly cares about my comfort and happiness, so I know he won't take the teasing too far.

Standing on an escalator is a tiny thing. It means nothing. I could probably pull a complete stranger out of a crowd, explain my fear and ask for help and there's a good chance they'll do it. You could consider it a basic indicator of common decency and humanity. If a guy I'm dating won't do it, when a stranger probably will.... What else will that guy fail to do for me in future?

And for those who are interested in what my problem with escalators is: I suffer from vertigo and acrophobia. Standing at the top of an escalator going down triggers the vertigo - watching the moving runway makes me dizzy and it's very difficult to judge my step. Being at a height means that I'm already scared of moving and the vertigo exacerbates it.

If somebody is stood a step or two before me, I can't see the drop and my brain can only focus on a small moving target which eliminates most of the vertigo.

Incidentally, if you ever see someone going down an escalator backwards looking a little confused, it's probably one of my friends who is so used to going down backwards when I'm there that they've started doing it when I'm not.

Alicia

Monday, 10 June 2013

When I was a kid

When I was a kid all of my biggest heroes were - purely by coincidence - called James. Kirk, Bond and Herriot were the big three. I wanted to be as brave and adventurous as Kirk, have all the gadgets and wit of Bond (Roger Moore was always my favourite) and be a vet like Herriot.


I thought Bond was so cool I actually sat for hours practicing raising my eyebrows. Now they dance by themselves and I cannot, absolutely cannot, prevent the left one doing a double flick when I find something especially attractive. This is slightly weird because I never practiced a double flick and I never assigned a particular emotion to any of my supercilliary1 antics.

When I wasn't working my eyebrows with a pencil and a piece of string, I was often walking to and from the local library. My whole family read a lot, but for some reason I mostly remember walking there alone. Possibly because when I was alone I didn't have to be sociable and I had far more fun.

I had a few games I would play. The one that inspired me to write this was one I played for one summer holiday. This is the first time I've ever tried to explain it, so I'm not sure where to begin.

...

Nobody knew, I certainly wasn't supposed to know, but I was an experiment. I had been designed and grown to look exactly like the woman they called my mother, so no-one would be suspicious as I grew up. As I became adult I was supposed to unlock my abilities, but something had gone wrong.

I'd noticed that I was always being treated differently. My teachers set me extra work, additional tests that no-one else had to do. My parents wouldn't let me play out after dinner like the other kids did. I was never, ever sick. Once I started wondering about how else I was different, I noticed the watchers.

No matter where I went there was always someone there. Peeking out of a house window, following me down the street, or into shops or other buildings. It's a massive rota of people, endlessly cycling. Sometimes the same person sits in the same place, covering that portion of the town, sometimes three or four people follow me around and into the different shops.

The knowledge that I was under surveillance broke some of the locks on my programming. I suspect it was an emergency measure, so if I was discovered I would be able to protect myself.

I don't know what they have planned for me, but I am clearly important. I don't want them to know I have discovered them until I know their plans. For now, my task is to see if I can evade them and find out what my abilities entail.

...

Sadly, having grown up, I can confirm this was just a fantasy. No special abilities were forthcoming and, although over time I developed a complex backstory, codename and set of triggers, I was never called upon to live my life as a super secret space spy adventurer.

Let's believe in reincarnation for long enough to say: maybe next time :)

Alicia

1 I literally just discovered supercilliary means "of or pertaining to the eyebrow". Isn't it a fantastic word?

Friday, 7 June 2013

A good place to read

The rhythmic drip of the coffee filtering on the counter had long since faded into the background noise. The foam on her cappuccino had hardened into a shell, broken into spirals by her periodic absent-minded stirring. The waitress didn't bother to ask if she wanted anything - any response would be completely unintelligible.

She sat, nestled in the security of the booth, utterly engrossed in the words before her. A girl was dying - cancer - and the book was the diary of her attempt to seize life before it was completely stolen. Anyone who looked in the booth could chart the passage of the story in her expression and body language. She shifted awkwardly in her seat, held the story at distance and blushed in shame whenever the character was about to do something only a teenager could believe was smart; she sat upright and leaned excitedly into the kindle whenever an adventure was reaching its climax and right now she was curled around it, sheltering the words from the outside, her eyes were downcast and unblinking and her cheeks were flushed.

At some point the dam broke and the tears poured down her cheeks. She didn't sob, or dry the tracks - a continuous flow simply bathed her cheeks, chin and dripped onto her t shirt. As the flow touched her nostrils she picked up a napkin and vigorously blew her nose, before continuing in her silent grief.

Eventually the book ended and she laid it down. She spent several minutes scrubbing her face dry and blowing her nose repeatedly.

When her breathing had steadied she reached for the coffee she had purchased when she began the book. She took a swig and grimaced. It wasn't usual for her to drink a fresh cup of coffee, but this was beyond even her tolerance levels. She waved at the waitress who came over with a sympathetic smile on her face.

"Good book, honey?"

"Yeah. I'm gonna have to read it again when I get home, though. I got so caught up in reading forwards I just skipped some bits that didn't make sense."

"You want another drink?"

"Yeah. Can I get the same again?" Her stomach interjected a loud gurgle. "And maybe a full English?"

"Sure thing, honey. I'll get you some fresh napkins too, in case you decide to pick that up again."

"Thanks, Anna." Helen smiled as the waitress walked off. She'd first come here a few months back and at some point had fallen into the routine of coming here for breakfast with a new book every Saturday. Well, it was supposed to be breakfast, but the normal thing was she'd get her first coffee, then get distracted by her book. The food often didn't get a look in until a couple of hours later.

The first couple of times Anna clearly hadn't known what to make of her, but after she'd caught her weeping over Greyfriar's Bobby she apparently decided that what Helen needed was to be looked after. Anna never let her leave without making sure she'd eaten something. She made sure Helen wasn't distressed when she wasn't reading, and let her be as miserable, happy, embarrassed, excited or afraid as she wanted to be when she was reading. Most importantly, Anna made sure no-one interrupted her when she was in the middle of a book.

It was a good place to read.

Anna delivered the cappuccino and moved to the adjacent booth to check on its contents. Helen sipped, sighed in satisfaction and leaned her head against the seat. Her mind wandered over the conclusion to the story she had been reading and she felt herself becoming weepy again. A sudden shout of laughter from behind the booth jerked her out of her introspection and back into the real world.

Always alert to stories, she tuned in to hear the tail end of the one being recounted by the contents of her neighboring booth.

It didn't make sense, but that didn't matter to her. She liked hearing words and how language could be used. She could take as much pleasure from a single well-constructed sentence as she could from a whole story. In this case, the individual sentences had a nice cadence to them and the structure was... unusual. She unconsciously leaned forward and focused on the words.

Seconds later the speaker finished, his friend responded inaudibly and she knew the topic was changed. She was mildly frustrated but at that precise moment her breakfast arrived with a pile of fresh napkins and she dug in enthusiastically.

After the first mouthful or two her mind wandered back to the book. The main character had set tasks for herself: among them have to sex and fall in love. She mused over that for a while, trying to remember if love had been an original task, or if it had been introduced as a secondary to sex. Her thoughts progressed swiftly, considering the implications of either route and the eventual outcome. However, before she could become embedded in her thought processes to the point where she picked the book back up, the voice behind her started again.

This time he was talking about a mutual acquaintance and adventures in this person's life. Family, babies, cars and money troubles were all mentioned. She smiled at an offhand reference to the clone wars and was surprised by an allusion to Robin Hood. Bewildered by her own surprise she analysed it for a moment. Two or three sentences down the line she realized that the voice was American and his obvious familiarity with a part of the old English folklore that didn't make it into Hollywood films intrigued her.

She began to listen for indications of his personality. He clearly cared about his friends and family and  was at least mainstream geeky, although he may not be hardcore. He had a way with words and seemed to have a lot of cultural references available. She rested her chin on one hand as she listened to him speak, and continued grazing on her food.

He was witty too. Every now and then she'd chuckle quietly at the wickedness of his words and once, when taken by surprise, she almost choked on a baked bean.

All too soon he mentioned leaving and they discussed the bill. Soon, one of them walked past her and to the checkout. The booth behind was silent. The one who had gone to checkout was about 50, white, balding and had the look of a trucker. She hoped that her guy was the other one.

Once he'd paid, he waved to his companion, looking slightly puzzled, and the second guy got up and walked out. She watched him walk past. He was lovely. About 40, over six foot, beautiful dark skin, shaved head and, sadly, a stonking great wedding ring.

She leaned grumpily back in her seat and reflected that a man like that was bound to have women throwing themselves at him.

She plunged her fork into the final piece of sausage on the plate and then the fork and pork combo dropped with a clatter as he said:

"You've been eavesdropping on me for about twenty minutes."

Looking wildly around, she realized he was still in his booth. Unable to keep her lips closed on the thought she asked:

"How many people are you expecting a response from?"

He chuckled. "Just the one. I heard you laughing at me earlier."

"Every time, or just the time you nearly killed me?"

"Every time. The time you nearly died I actually tried to get you, but since that seems to be dangerous, I won't do it again."

She felt the need to giggle rising again, but managed to choke it down and say in a solemn tone: "Smart. Otherwise I'd have to get you to do a full risk assessment on the dangers of humour in a dining establishment. Of course, you could just learn the Heimlich maneuver."

"I don't know. I like sitting opposite the person I'm talking to, not immediately behind them ready to punch their sternum."

"Yeah. I suppose you'd also have to make sure you never ate with someone who makes you laugh too - if you're positioned to Heimlich them, who's gonna Heimlich you?"

"I'd have to bring along a friend who won't eat and is just there to keep me alive."

"Well, without the friend you'd face a bit of a moral dilemma. When you're on a date, do you tell the girl you're funnier so you should be the big spoon, or do you risk appearing unchivalrous and insist she be prepared to save your life?"

"I think dating is plenty difficult enough without adding new worries about who is going to survive the night."

"Well, the only guys I date are the ones I can outrun in case of velociraptor attack, or throw to the zombies when the time comes. My survival is pretty much guaranteed."

"So if I tell you I can only run about a hundred meters before collapsing in a heap, would I stand a chance at getting a date with you?"

"Would you let me throw you or your record collection to oncoming zombie hordes?"

"Maybe not my whole collection, but yeah, I'm willing to take that risk."

"I'm free on Friday."

He didn't speak. There was movement at the entrance to her booth. There stood a guy, a few years older than herself, long hair, wearing a black t-shirt and rings on every finger of his right hand. He looked down at her and smiled. "Where should I pick you up?"

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Dancer

The music took her away. She lifted her arms and waved them above her head. The rhythmic bass line led her into a little hip bumping before she suddenly span, flung her head back and froze in a perfectly formed X shape for that brief moment where the song silenced.

It kicked in and she bent forward at the waist, bowing and pouring her hair forward - it was the most fluid extension of her body and she made every possible use of it. Her torso drew a large circle in the air and her hair windmilled along behind her.

There was no power on earth that could stop the smile that crossed her face as she started strutting and shaking her stuff in time to the music.

Her technique was by no means flawless; she almost fell a few times as a poorly placed foot was unable to take the weight it needed to and her audience appeared singularly unimpressed, but she had stopped caring about the outside world. Her gestures pantomimed the meaning of the lyrics and she poured her heart and soul into each moment.

She mimed along with the song as she performed her routine. Occasionally she broke out into audible song, but only for a line or two - her breathing was heavy enough to indicate that she couldn't manage both singing and such an energetic routine.

The introduction of a guitar solo altered her dancing - fast bumping and curving motions were replaced by long drawn out moves that seemed to be more of a slow motion transition from one extreme pose to another.

She was leaning dramatically backwards, extending a mocking imitation of a guitarist wailing for all he was worth when suddenly she shifted her whole body weight into a rapid foxtrot step. Her audience were startled into sitting upright and staring at her, bemused at the sudden motion. It had, however, been exactly timed with the beat of the drums and, grudgingly acknowledging that she seemed to at least have this under control, the audience settled back into stupor with only a mild grumble.

The bass beat picked up again and she began whirling and gyrating wildly around the stage which was, sadly, slightly too confined for such enthusiastic exercise. She bumped her hip against a piece of scenery and stumbled. Having fallen out of time with the music she stood panting and absently rubbing the bumped hip for a second before leaping back into the zone with uninhibited enthusiasm.

Standing with her feet firmly planted she rocked her hips back and forth, before beginning to whirl them like a belly dancer, and stepping in a modified grapevine. Her arms were flowing all over - possibly for effect, but more likely in an effort to remain upright - and as the song burst into its final, glorious verse she returned to strutting and quick steps.

Finally she subsided into a more subtle shrugging motion as the song began to wind to a close but she punctuated every few shrugs with a large, open movement in an effort to seize as much joy from the moment as she could.

"And that was the forever epic "I want to break free" by Queen, and we'll be hearing another of their tracks before the end of the show. You're listening to BBC Radio 2 and right now we are going to the news: Moira! Are you there?"

She relaxed, still smiling, and headed into the kitchen. The kettle had finished boiling early in the song and she flicked it back on. Her audience had followed, meowing and rubbing against her ankles in the hopes of treats.

She picked him up for a brief cuddle and scratch behind the ears before passing him some treats and, at last, making that cup of tea.