She would persist, always. But like the tea she stirred before her, a whirlpool opened up in her stomach, sucking up her insides and leaving only emptiness behind.
I seem to have loved you in numberless forms,
In life after life,
in age after age, forever.
The cake was hideously stale. It had taken on a jaw-breaking hardness, and the icing was tasteless like snow. It sat upon the white plate abandoned and ignored. The tea thankfully, was significantly better. Steam rose from the spout into the brisk London air like smoke from a cigarette.
The café was tiny: very rarely occupied, it was wedged between a tailor and a florist, and the only seating available was outside on the street. Marie like it that way. She liked the sense of space. The smell of tea wafted and mixed exotically with the fragrances from the flowers next door. It was like having her own personal aromatised bubble of oxygenated earl grey.
On the table in front of her sat a pile of hastily placed items; a newspaper open to a half-attempted crossword, with lines through wrong answers and messily scribbled corrections. A pen sat atop the newspaper, and beneath it, a book; Stefan Żeromski’s Ludzie bezdomni. A ragged and worn leather bookmark peeked out from the pages of the front half of the novel.
A fresh, cold breeze blew down the alleyway, causing Marie to reach for the newspaper before it blew away. The wind caused the edges of her dress to flap, and cooled her legs. There was a typically British sky above her today; a sickly grey colour, with dark clouds trudged along like sulking children.
There were days when she missed Poland; days of inescapable, reflective melancholy. But the time elapsed between such days was growing longer every time; she’d been in London for so many years, now, and there were so few things to remind her of Poland.
The alley was not commonly traversed, but there were constantly two or three people walking past. They were businessman-looking types, art directors and writers from the nearby advertising agencies walking to the main street in search of a taxi. There was something about the British man Marie both admired and pitied. They carried so much emotion within, and yet – without even realising it – wore it upon their faces like a grim beacon. She was unsure at times, if she had ever seen such a miserable species.
A distance a way, at the end of the lane, a man exited a taxi. Picking up his briefcase and placing his hat on his head, he began to walk towards her. Marie relaxed into her seat and crossed her legs. She watched the man approach, and when he got close enough for her to make out his face, his serious face stretched into a smile, and Marie felt her heart skip.
Peter was not overly tall, and of a medium build. Echoes of the Essex County no.3 batsmen remained in his legs and forearms. He was dressed for work: suit and tie, and a large black overcoat. His brown hair, so unruly in the morning, was combed and neat, and the beard he had worn when they had met all those years ago was now shaved. There was a tiny mole on his forehead.
Peter placed his hat on the table, reached down and kissed Marie. He sighed as he sat down, then looked to her and winked. Looking to the lettering above the café, he said ‘I still don’t understand why you like this place so much.’
Marie looked up. Herbaciarnia z Dwóch Dusz. ‘I like the cabbage soup. It reminds me of my mother’s cooking.’
Peter raised an eyebrow. ‘Your mother’s cooking is ghastly. You didn’t even order the soup,’ He laughed and indicated the dried-up cake.
Marie shrugged. ‘It’s about more than the food. I’ve told you this before.’
Taking her hand in his, Peter said. ‘I remember, dear.’
Marie ran her thumb along Peter’s fingers and his palm, feeling every ridge, every muscle and joint. They were things she knew by memory. She squeezed tightly. Peter squeezed back.
The newspaper, lying flat on the table, the edges of its pages curling slightly in the breeze, felt like a wall between them. Its thin pages radiated a weight that hung in the air and the bold lettering of the headline formed a blackness around their hearts.
Peter spoke first. ‘You know I don’t…’
‘But you know that I…’
‘It’s just. I can’t… not.’
Marie shook her head. ‘Be quiet, Peter.’ She squeezed his hand again.
‘I’m going to take you back to the Isle of Mann,’ said Peter decisively. ‘Yes. That’s settled. We’ll get on my motorcycle and just… ride. Like we did last year, remember?’
Peter’s excitement spellbound Marie. She smiled. ‘Keep talking.’
‘We’ll ride along the coast. The eastern side… watch the water foam on the rocks. We’ll go back to Douglas, and see the Calf of Man, and we’ll just… get away.’
‘And we should eat strawberries!’ said Marie, sitting up straighter.
Peter made a face of intense pleasure. ‘Oh. So many strawberries.’
‘But how quickly you’ve forgotten,’ remarked Marie. ‘You crashed us into a fence the last time we were there.’
Peter smiled and leant forward, taking Marie’s hand in both of his. ‘It was a hedge, technically. So, you know…’
‘We flattened the award-winning rose garden of an 80 year old lady.’
‘Well, she took it very well.’
Shaking her head, Marie said, ‘She insisted on getting us a cup of tea.’ She giggled.
‘God, it was awful,’ declared Peter. ‘Who likes their peppermint tea that strong?’
The waitress from the café stepped outside. Peter turned and ordered another pot of tea. As Marie watched, she used a teaspoon to stir the tea counter-clockwise before her. Ritualistically her fingers twirled, her world spun like the liquid; upside down, back again. Until she suddenly stopped, and the ocean in the teacup was reduced to a wild roil of uncontrollable tides.
Their wedding had been small; Marie’s family was gone, or in Poland, so there had only been twenty people in the church, all of them friends. They’d said their vows as August rain pelted the stained-glass windows. That was three years ago, and if Marie knew one thing, it was that three years was not long enough. She wanted more.
Enough, she thought.
She was Polish, after all. She was nothing if not durable. She would persist, always. But like the tea she stirred before her, a whirlpool opened up in her stomach, sucking up her insides and leaving only emptiness behind.
She wanted more than one lifetime with this man.
She leant forward, and kissed the mole on his forehead.
‘Marie?’ Peter’s voice caused her to blink. What would he say next? Would he promise something else? Would they return to Denmark, too? Or would he tell her how much he loved her – a topic he liked to revisit. Perhaps he would promise not to fight. Perhaps he would promise to run. Or simply promise not to die. But Marie knew he wouldn’t. She knew he couldn’t. So she sat in her seat, her heart skipping every fourth beat as she awaited his next words.
‘How is the cake? Should I get a slice?’
‘No,’ said Marie. ‘You’re fat enough as it is.’
Peter looked back to the waitress. ‘A slice of the cake, please.’
The Aurora Islands. 1843
Ryan pointed his gun at the head of the old man. There was blood between his boots. The pistol shook in his hand. It quivered. Vibrated. Not with fear. With barely-contained rage.
Another man tapped him gently on the shoulder, and walked away, leaving Ryan alone with the cross-legged balding man. Wrinkled, the hair the old man did have was white like the feathers of an albatross. Ryan looked at the pistol. The tattoo along his arm was moving; the hector’s dolphin dips and dives as his body attempted to steady itself. A bead of sweat rolled down his freshly-shaved chin. There was blood between his boots.
The old man’s coat was ragged. The blue of his Royal Navy overcoat is torn and ripped. He held his side, but sat on his cushion, calmly, his breathing relaxed. He seems to know something, Ryan thought, even in those hours of madness, he was aware of… something… Perhaps the inevitability of what was about to happen. Maybe he thinks I won’t do it, Ryan thought to himself. But he doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know what just happened to me. The old man, Ryan’s former Captain, looked directly into the barrel of the pistol. He spoke to it, as if Ryan never existed. Only him and the gun.
He said, ‘I haven’t got forever.’
Ryan shivered as a cold wind blew through the what was left of the window behind the captain. There were bullet holes all around the Captain’s quarters, and Anders wasn’t the only one lying dead on the ground. The cook’s roast lamb lay cold on the wooden floor, the carving knife lodged in the chef’s eye; Ryan looked to furniture he had once admired, even chatted about with the Captain: the imperial-looking set of drawers that were a gift from the Admiral, and a chair, elegant, and hand-crafted by the man’s brother. There were tiny dedications around the room, most of which spoke of some untold aspect of the Captain’s life; a present from a lover, a picture and a frame, a lamp, a letter. All of which were strewn about the cabin. He looked once more towards the limp form of Anders.
His eyes were still so blue, there were still shining, still glistening with their hazel flecks as a few bars of sunlight managed to pierce their way through the clouds of the storm raging outside.
They both loved storms. They loved the wind, the howl. They liked the miasmic clouds, and the sound of the rain on their tin roof back in Hobart. They liked to walk out to the headlands, huddled beneath an umbrella, in the depth of night when no one could see them. The dark and the rain shielded them from prying eyes, and as grey clouds splintered and set their downpour upon the world, they would embrace. Ryan’s heart shattered into further pieces as he realised that he would never feel Anders’ arms around him again.
He had a become a vessel minus a sail, a book without pages. He just seemed… vacant. There was nothing left in him. No details. No focus. His body was adrift now, somehow apart from the usual logic of the world, and he was capable of anything. He tightened his grip on his pistol and snarled as he clenched his teeth.
It was a brief romance, sharp and as unpredictable as the storms they loved to watch. But for a man who had never felt the love of another before, to suddenly have Anders, and then to just as suddenly not have him, was far too much for Ryan to bear.
There was a gunshot from outside the cabin, and Ryan wheeled.
The Captain rushed to his feet, and Ryan just barely managed to wrestle free of the Captain’s attack; they tangled together on the deck of the cabin, amongst the blood and bits. They rolled, but Ryan was stronger. He lay a swift knock to the Captain’s head, and scrambled to his feet. The blood on his face was already drying. It wasn’t his.
The wind howled through the cabin. Water leaked through the wood. They stood face to face, and there was blood between their boots.
‘You won’t kill me?’ asked the Captain. ‘Am I to be betrayed, mutinied, by a first mate too cowardly to kill me? If you’re going to do this, do it right.’ He laughed.
‘Oh I will,’ Ryan said confidently, finding his voice. ‘I’m just taking it all in. The satisfaction.’
‘Satisfaction, is it?’
‘Have you no idea what you’ve done?’ Ryan grew teary, as he once again looked to Anders. Anders was sick even before the mutiny. He was dying even before they tried to kill them all. This was supposed to save him, not end him forever.
When they’d left Hobart, they’d done so with smiles; walking towards the ship with their rucksacks on their shoulders, Ryan dressed in his officer’s finery, and Anders in his sailor’s uniform.
Anders was the bigger of the two; the thick-moustached man played as a prop on the rugby team, and enjoyed a solid ale at the end of practice. He had massive hands; he could grip the rugby ball in one hand when running through defensive lines. He was a big Tasmanian with a loud laugh and a heart of gold, a love for the outdoors instilled in him by his farmer father, a wanderlust that reached to mountains and waters alike. It was that same explorer’s spirit that had brought them here, onto this accursed voyage.
The Aurora Islands.
They were fabled. Mythical, like Atlantis, or the Isle of Demons. They had been spotted half a dozen times, but no one knew their exact whereabouts. The Captain was sure he’d found a map to them, supposedly the map that Amerigo Vespucci had charted in 1502, when he first found the islands. The Captain had come to Ryan full of hope and stories, and Anders had listened with imaginative eyes.
Ryan’s mind was swallowed up with the knowledge that the responsibility Anders’ burial would fall to him. Ryan was Captain now. It’ll be he who read Anders’ name to the ocean wind. It would be him, who had to say the prayers without crying. Prayers Ryan no longer believed in. What God would allow men to be born into storms such as that? What God would allow his children to experience such heartache as he felt?
His mentor sat at the end of the barrel of his gun, and his lover was dead beside him, their blood between his boots. Ryan shook his head side to side.
The Captain replied, ‘I know what I’ve done. I picked a flower boy, a man-lover as a First Mate. I chose a woman, when I should of chosen a man.’
‘You think this is about me?’ Ryan cried. ‘Look around you. Four months we’ve been looking for the islands. Four months, we’ve been dying and suffering under your cruel whip. This hopeless task killed us all, Captain.’
The crew started getting scurvy four months into the voyage. Ryan had known they should’ve turned around, made for port – any port – but the Captain pressed on, even as they saw more and more men to the sea. The Captain would praise their bravery, their dedication. None of the crew really hailed the sacrifice, they saw it as needless. Under the surface, resentment for the Captain grew more and more, as the Aurora Islands continued to elude them. They had set sail hoping to become explorers, forming a brotherhood forged from a desire to discover the unknown, but over time, that passion fizzled like wet gunpowder as they realised – bit by bit – they were never going to find the fabled isles.
‘You did this,’ Ryan continued, ‘This is your doing.’
‘You are mistaken.’
‘Trying to rediscover the Aurora Islands – they never existed, Captain,’ The pistol quivered again. ‘They’re a Phantom, Captain.’ He looked to Anders. ‘And now so am I.’
Ryan met his mentor in England, in an island community off Cornwall that had no business raising navy men. His father had been a horse shoer, and his mother raised a formidable kennel of border collie dogs. His mother’s exploits were known far and wide – frontier settlers in New Zealand and Australia purchased dogs for their farms as they attempted to farm new and inhospitable areas such as the Mackenzie. His father, meanwhile, was content with a life of mediocrity, and while his mother sought new business, exciting opportunities, Ryan’s father continued to be bothered only by his horses, and their steel shoes.
When his father died, Ryan’s uncle came to live with the family for a period of time. The Captain, who Ryan had then called Uncle Trenton, was a strange and upright sort, with formal manners that set him apart from the usual company in Scilly. Amongst the heathland and white sand beaches, his Uncle had attempted to distract Ryan’s restless mind from the death of his father. They went bird-spotting around Bryher, through the rugged wilderness full of contrasts and epic stone. He’d always loved the viking stories, of glory and valhalla, and he thought of them often as he trekked through the wild. All whilst his mother contemplated a big decision.
When the summer winds began to blow in from the north, and the summer shops across St. Mary’s began to open their doors to a fresh influx of tourists from the mainland, Ryan’s mother decided to move to south. Her business was growing through New Zealand and Australia via word of mouth, and she was going to move her entire kennel down to the frontier in order to tap into the business opportunities there. Ryan went with her, mostly as a formality, for he journeyed on his own to Tasmania, where he met Anders.
The bite of the wind upon his ears caused his focus to return to the cabin. Ryan looked to his Uncle, who still stood directly before him, the pistol barrel pressed against his forehead. He smiled.
‘We are all just passing through, young one.’
He curled his finger around the trigger.
‘Our spirits float through the universe, like unguided trekkers through the wilderness. Kill me now, child, and see me onto the next phase of my voyage.’
‘You were like a father to me,’ Ryan said. ‘Back in Scilly. After Dad died.’
‘I’m sorry I made you choose,’ said the Captain, glancing towards Anders’ body. ‘I think now I can say that.’
‘I forgive you for that. I did that to myself,’ said Ryan. ‘But not what you’ve done.’
He squeezed the trigger.
The bang was loud, final.
There was silence.
Nothing but the wind.
And more blood between his boots.
Ryan turned on a heel, and exited the cabin, into the storm.
He’d only known Anders for a few short years, but their connection was beyond anything in imagination. It was natural. Easy. They were picking up where they left off.
Ryan was buffeted by the intense winds of the storm, and almost immediately swept from the deck as the vessel keeled. There was creaking noise, a loud snap, like a broken bone.
‘The rudder chain has snapped,’ Yelled the helmsman. ‘We’re out of control.’
Remnants of his uncle’s followers were still fighting against Ryan’s men, duelling cutlass-to-cutlass in the piercing rain. Ryan walked towards the starboard side, and looked towards the momentous shadows looming overhead. Massive cliffs, the size of mountains, were careening towards the ship. Or rather, the ship was barrelling towards the cliffs. They weren’t going to avoid them.
Ryan laughed, and leant on the railing. ‘Land,’ he said to himself. ‘We found them,’ he whispered to himself, ‘We found them.’
Men and officers began yelling commands. Abandon ship. Brace for impact. It wasn’t going to matter not in this storm. Not in this wet hell. Ryan closed his eyes in his final moments, and wondered. There was always something nagging him about he and Anders’ relationship, something he could not avoid, no matter how much he had wanted to. Like a wall moving towards them, a barrier not of their making that was trying to manoeuvre between them. Now, Ryan knew, the barrier was death – but it could’ve been anything: distance, circumstance, war or work.
They were destined to be together, but they were destined to also be apart.
BHP Outpost 11. 2131
Jean Harrison-Knowles knew what dream she would dream before she even lay down for bed. It was the same dream she always had after such a day.
The dream began with a beach. In every instance of the dream, Jean was always observing, never participating. From a distance, she watches herself and Katy sit side by side beneath a palm tree. Orange light was slowly fading from the world as stars began to dot the night. It could’ve been any beach, but in her unconscious mind she knew it to be the beach by her family’s old holiday home.
Katy’s face is blurred. Unclear. But again, Jean knows it to be her. She watches as the dream version of herself kisses Katy. She turns, and walks away from the scene. Jean passes through darkness, subconscious and memory. She navigates an improbable labyrinth, and when she exits, it’s the same beach. The same star-spotted night sky, and again, she’s sitting on the sand. Only this time, instead of Katy, Bec sits beside her. Unlike Katy, her face and features are perfectly accurate and clear. She turns around, and ignoring the version of Jean sitting on the sand, stands and walks towards the “real” her. Bec smiles.
So when Jean awoke, she did so calmly. So familiar was she with the nightmare that she no longer erupted from her slumber delirious. She removed her blanket, and moved to the side of the bed. She sat up, swung her legs over the edge of the bunk, and felt her body go cold as the air touched her sweating skin. Jean took a deep breath, and put her head in her hands.
‘That dream again, baby?’ asked a voice.
Bec Randolph sat on the ledge of a window, an A3 size notepad in her lap, and a pencil between her teeth. By her side, the sound of Corrine Bailey Rae’s Put Your Records On could be heard from the earpieces of a vintage i-Pod. Outside the window, the enormous form of Jupiter illuminated the sky. Dressed in only a shirt and underwear, her skin was bathed in a gold aura by the orange light of the gas giant.
‘The same again.’ Jean nodded. ‘Although I wouldn’t call it a dream.’ She stood. ‘Why aren’t you in bed?’
‘You were kicking me. And sweating.’ Bec sighed, ‘Again.’ She placed the pencil in an old glass jar. She was a short woman, skinny, but athletic. Like all members of BHP’s Interstellar Division, her blonde hair was shaved to a short length.
Jean leaned over Bec to look outside. The heavily-cratered landscape of Callisto stretched out before them, ancient fields of water-ice expanding into the horizon. Enormous drill-rigs, standing on four-pronged legs, were scattered about the craters, their light glowing upon the mountainous ridges like lighthouses. The drills spiralled into the surface, boring deeper and deeper. Jean could only smile, and shake her head.
Bec placed a hand on Jean’s face. Unlike Jean, she had been born amongst the moons of Jupiter.
Jean chuckled. ‘It’s been months. Look at me; still a child.’
‘Still a child,’ repeated Bec with a wink.
Jean looked to the pad of paper in Jen’s lap hoping to catch a glimpse of the artist’s latest work, and noticed with disappointment that Bec had already covered it up. ‘When does our rotation start?’ Jean asked.
‘A couple of hours. Go back to sleep.’
‘I can never get back to sleep afterwards. You know that.’
Bec angled her body away from Jean. ‘And why is that?’
‘You know that, too.’
Jean walked over to the window by her own bunk, which looked down into one of the many craters of Callisto and the domed structures of the colony below. She paused. What would Katy be doing? Was it night for her right now? Or day? Callisto didn’t rotate on its axis, and so the inhabitants of the colony operated entirely on their own time schedule – the only permanence coming from the ever-present Eye of Jupiter in the sky, watching them like a concerned mother.
Bec spoke from the other side of the room, solemnly. ‘Will you do it today?’
Jean lowered her head. ‘You haven’t asked me that for a long time.’
‘I find my mind coming back to it more recently.’
‘Don’t apologise. It’s…’ Bec breathed deep. ‘It can’t be helped.’
Jean sighed deeply and loudly.
‘That’s a big sigh,’ Bec accused.
Jean closed her eyes.
She and Bec were old souls reuniting again, companions from eons past reborn into each others lives, picking up where they left off. Their connection was inarguable, and magically thrilling.
But Jean also loved Katy, deeply and truly.
‘Yes, it was a big sigh,’ was all Jean could say.
Bec said, ‘I know… it’s not that simple.’
‘I brought her out here,’ Jean said. She closed his eyes, and tried to remember Katy’s face. How many weeks had it been now since she’d seen their home? Another stint away from the rig was approaching. Soon, she’d be falling asleep beside Bec one night, and the next beside Katy. Jean felt a coldness drilling into her gut.
She looked over to Bec, who had returned to her sketchpad. She watched silently for many minutes, watching the strokes of her pencil rapidly marking the paper with precision; an artists percussion. Jean watched the furrow in Bec’s brow and the puckering of her lips as she concentrated harder. She watched the rise of her breasts as she breathed, the curve of her thigh as she shifted her weight.
Jean looked across the room again. ‘Bec, you know that I…’
Bec held a hand out to stop Jean talking. She stood, walked towards her, and leant over Jean. Bec kissed her rapidly on the forehead. ‘I’m getting coffee. You want anything?’
Jean resigned herself to her purgatory. ‘Sure.’
‘Black, two sugars?’
As Bec departed the dormitory, Jean lowered her eyes, and let her fingers trace the spot where Bec had kissed her; around the small mole on her forehead.
Jean closed her eyes and thought: If only I’d met you first.
Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. 2015
Henry George sat in the dark. Above him, the dim, pathetic glow of the airplane reading light tried to illuminate his book. Henry rubbed his eyes, adjusting the angle of the page in a vain attempt to better perceive the letters. He wriggled in his seat: the curse of height. His legs were too long for such a small space, and his knees caused the wobbly seat tray to sit on an incline. On the tray sat black coffee within a paper cup. It was fresh; wispy steam rose steadily into the air, and while Henry strongly desired a sip, he was convinced the thin cup would now be just as hot to the touch as the coffee itself. Unwilling to melt the skin off his hand, Henry, with regret, let the coffee continue to sit untouched on the tray, perched stably at an angle of 30 degrees.
Henry turned the page, and exhaled. The mathematical proof was impossible to absorb; the equations blurred together into jumbled, random letters. Reading on the plane felt less like a pastime and more like a exercise in distraction. He rubbed his temples impatiently. Beside him, the blind was down on the window. He lifted it slightly, like a child trying to sneak a peak at a present. Outside, the shadow of night blanketed the world before him, the lights on the airplane wings blinking continuously and in intervals.
‘Don’t suppose you could turn that thing off?’ asked a voice.
Henry looked to the shape beside him. It was bundled up in a blanket, yet slowly revealing itself to him like a butterfly from a cocoon. He decided to reply. ‘Sorry, what was that?’
The blanket flew off to reveal a young woman. Her eyes were half closed, her brow furrowed in frustration, and one side of her hair lay flat on the side of her head. She lifted a hand to shield her blue eyes. ‘I asked if you could turn that thing off.’ She had a Scottish accent.
‘The reading light?’ Henry asked.
‘Oh,’ said Henry, with a smile and half-laugh. ‘Sorry. I’ll dim the light a little bit.’
‘Thank you,’ said the woman, rolling over and turning away from Henry.
Henry reached up, and turned a small knob beside the reading light. The light dimmed, but once again, the woman yanked off her blanket.
‘Damn it. Now I can’t sleep.’ She angled her head towards Henry, unenthused.
Henry made a face to show he empathised. ‘If it helps, I can’t sleep either.’
‘No, it’s fine,’ she said, sitting up straight in her chair. ‘I’m sorry. I just bit your head off. A complete stranger. Oh fuck. Jesus, Eva.’
Henry laughed. ‘No, no.’ He closed the book. ‘You’re totally within your rights.’
‘No, that was horrid of me,’ said the woman. She looked at her phone. ‘Jesus, is it only 9.30?’
‘It’s deceiving, isn’t it?’ said Henry, looking out the window again.
‘Absolutely,’ said the woman, eyes wide and nodding. A steward walked past. ‘Can I have a coffee too, please?’ she asked. Looking back to Henry she offered her hand. ‘I’m Eva. Eva Deepdene.’
Eva’s dark hair had streaks of crimson, and her irises were a deep cobalt. Her smile had a charm to it; like a favourite movie revisited years after viewing. Henry was filled with an strangely nostalgic sense of change, as if it were New Years day. He introduced himself in return, ‘Henry George.’
‘Are you American?’
‘Canadian,’ Henry replied, quick to correct the mistake. ‘Toronto.’
‘Oh God, sorry,’ said Eva. She giggled, ‘That must be such an insult.’
As the steward brought Eva her coffee, she turned to pay him. Henry looked away, smiling, unsure how long he’d been doing it for.
‘So,’ Eva said, turning back to him. ‘I guess you’re a Raptors fan, then?’
‘You like basketball?’ Henry leaned back. ‘Are you tricking me into telling? Are you a Nets fan? Are you going to kill me?’
Eva winked. ‘You’re a Raptors fan, not the devil. If you were a Heat fan, however…’ She made a face of evil cunning.
‘Oh, those mother-fuck…’ He quickly tried to cover his mouth as the sleeping form of the person in front of him stirred. He looked to Eva, who had her tongue poking out, fighting back laughter.
She stopped however, and looked past Henry to the window. Outside, the clouds were parting, and they could see right down to the ocean below. A pond of glistening oil, the moon’s light refracted off the surface in a ghostly aura.
Eva leant back, and looked Henry up and down. ‘What’s…’ She reached towards Henry’s head, pointing at his forehead.
‘Oh. It’s just a mole,’ Henry said, rubbing a hand over his head.
Eva laughed with a snort. ‘I thought you had chocolate on your head or something!’ She shook her head, and the regarded Henry with a smile. ‘This is so unusual. I could swear I’ve met you before, or…’ she shook her head with a mild smile.
She went to take a sip of coffee.
‘Caref…’ but before Henry could warn her, Eva took a mouthful of the steaming hot liquid. Her eyes went wide, and she immediately let the coffee dribble out her mouth and back into the cup.
‘…It’s really, really hot.’ Henry finished.
Eva turned bashful. ‘Oh. Feckin’. Jesus.’
‘I dribbled as well,’ replied Henry. ‘You were just asleep.’
Eva smiled. Their eyes met for second that contained a lifetime, and countless more to come.
‘So… what are you reading?’