Reaches for the milk.

A basement room in Finsbury Park, a woman places water on a ring in a pot.

And the ring reddens, hot.

And bubbles form in an office in Farringdon, the switch flicked by Jessica.

And it boils and steam climbs the window in the kitchenette (really more of a glorified recess) in the studio in Kingston.

And Stewart waits dutifully for the terminal click.

Lifts.

Pours.

Gazes at the traffic on Fulham Broadway.

And as Petra’s gaze is arrested by a woman on the street below, tripping as she crosses the junction at Kew Green, she overfills the cup.

It flows onto the counter, eagerly.

And she swears.

Stewart pushes a spoon against the tea bag.

Strains.

Reaches for the milk.

Jessica slugs milk generously.

And bubbles are slowly forming in Finsbury Park, as the red ring tries its hardest.

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Ripples against the hull.

A low, gently thundering, stuttering vibration.

And movement, as the reddening hull judders under the engine’s compulsion.

And moves forward through the Thames.

Cutting through currents and making currents of its own, dark water moves over its rust.

Ripples against the hull.

Ripples cast outwards on the surface.

Light strikes.

Light is cast, fragmented.

And it lands in ripples on the ceilings of offices beside the river.

And the shimmer on the ceilings catches eyes and they look away from screens.

Just for a moment to notice blue sky.

And the river glistening.

The Actaeon’s hull, once dark blue, now patched with dark rust, reddening and invisible as it glides now at a fair clip.

And it casts ripples out, light upwards and out.

And it makes currents quicken as it hastens to Tilbury.

He hates landing on iron.

The pigeon finds a perch.

Paint and wood firm enough to grip.

And balance.

He hates landing on iron.

Railings, then, are a no no.

Stone is too hard.

And somehow paint and wood, those shelves sticking out from windows and often balancing flowers, equally often are guarded by cats.

None here though.

He settles.

Below, people mill flightlessly, somehow not bumping into each other.

At the end of the street a great edifice.

E-M-B-A-N-K-M-E-N-T

It’s meaning isn’t clear.

But it seems to breath them in and out, these tall, flightless people.

Further away, another pigeon attempts to land on the perch he himself has just attempted, and it too now flaps frantically, gaining the air again as wood splinters and white flecks fall below.

And now away.

A cat can’t be far.

Rotted long since

A pigeon lands and steadies itself on wood.

Crumbling.

And with wings flapping.

Splintering.

And a piece of the window sill falls away, and away flies the pigeon for another perch further along Villiers Street.

Morgan doesn’t notice the flecks of ancient paint landing on her hair. Mark doesn’t see splinters with flecks of ancient white land at his feet, crushed under the tread of crowds breathed in and out by Embankment Station, ceaseless.

And high above them, the freshly splintered wood of a window sill, anonymous among the many window sills, is exposed.

For the first time since it was painted thickly, a hundred and thirty two summers ago, by hands rotted long since next to St Mary’s Battersea, which tipped halfpennies to street performers and waved a Union Flag vigorously at Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, arthritically at her Diamond Jubilee, that wood meets the sun again, somehow new-looking as it was before.

At once the London air sets upon it, as it does to all that’s new-looking.

It can’t be him.

Lizzy checks her phone.

11.40.

Literally twenty minutes late and no message.

Unbelievable.

She looks across the street.

“If she comes out of a cafe…” Matty’s notorious for popping into coffee shops before arriving when she’s already holding people up.

But there…

Lizzy squints and steps forward, to the edge of the pavement, the traffic on Southampton Row thickening at the red light.

It can’t be.

Chris Stock. Serving coffee.

It can’t be. He looks identical.

How long since they were at uni? twelve years?

She weaves through the stationary cars and up to the window.

Same face. Same movements.

Same watch?

It can’t be. Eighteen year olds all look the same.

She’s getting old.

But still she scrutinises.

And he looks up.

Spots her.

Waves.

Pulling off his jumper

“Do you actually own this? You’re not bullshitting me?”

He hears his tone and checks it.

He knew Adam was minted the moment he set eyes on him, so it really shouldn’t surprise him that much.

And Christian hates to sound surprised.

But Adam doesn’t own it.

He says so, and now Christian is disappointed.

“Should’ve known,” he says, smiling, shrugging.

“I don’t think anyone actually owns flats in Covent Garden. Not ‘real’ people, anyway.”

But someone ‘real’ does own it, explains Adam. His partner.

“Partner?” asks Christian, nonchalantly.

He could’ve guessed.

Did, in fact.

Not that it matters. Seemingly not to Adam, anyhow.

“How long have you been together?” asks Christian, pulling off his jumper.

Only three weeks, is the answer.

“Wow, quick to move in together. Where did you meet?” He’s unbuttoning his shirt.

And suddenly his attention is arrested.

“When you were living rough?” he repeats. “You mean actually living on the street? Three weeks ago?”

And now things are interesting, and surprise is all over his face.

Watching like a god behind glass.

She doesn’t know why she’s spotted him; the human currents lapping the sides of Golden Square tend to anonymise. But his face stands out, somehow.

No.

Not his face.

His glance.

He glanced at the man next to him on the bench.

And again.

Astrid knows that glance. She leans closer to the glass.

Shuffles on her stool.

Nursing coffee.

The man next to him (she labels him ‘Blondie’ and leaves the glancer nameless, following some law of her own), he shuffles on the bench.

But a cup shatters behind her, and she glances round.

Apologies are exchanged between two girls and a member of staff is already on hand with a dustpan and brush.

She looks back again.

Silently curses.

Blondie and the man are already speaking.

She missed the moment, and she’s pissed off.

It’s so rare to see it, watching like a god behind glass.