Deaf Ears and Sudden Assumption 

The wall is flooded with orange light. So hard that it forces the bricks back a millimetre or two; and it renders passing figures from the plunging shadows fleetingly two dimensional; and it dazzles them. 

Or it would have done, had they paused.

Drunken and hurrying in zigzags. 

Except one. And in the obliterating light her hair might be any colour.

Except red. If the orange light were to strike anything red (or, god forbid, actually orange), the object in question would ignite, dazzling the zigzaggers in the streets around Seven Dials into prone submission. 

And one of them suddenly bumps into her, and they spin together.

Hands on the other’s arms to steady themselves. 

“Watch out darling,” she says to ears still ringing with trance beats.

And had he refused the last four drinks he would have dwelt on that word: “darling.” It would have confirmed to him her position in the throws of kindly middle age.
Something about the tone. 

And he would have looked at her face and figure as hard as was politely possible. And the evidence of his eyes, her smooth skin, glossy hair and athletic figure, would have failed the test of sudden assumption. 

And she’d be middle aged and young at the same time. 

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One of those mornings.

She knew it was going to be one of those mornings. She could feel it as soon as she opened her eyes.

“Rosy?” Michael had called in the night.

“In here, I’m fine,” she had said. “Don’t get up.”

Muffled objection from the bedroom.

Soft and concerned.

Resigned.

Night passed.

“Is today going to be one of those days?” asks Michael, shuffling into the kitchen. “You really, really need to see the doctor.”

But it’s happening.

She’s drowning again.

The air turns to water in her lungs and she’s gasping.

The room dissolves and a solid brown mass rushes to her, and the crack of her face against the kitchen floor is inaudible to her.

Ambulance men.

Oxygen.

Many hours.

And as Michael holds her hand the doctor says,

“you’re fine.”

She isn’t fine.

At Holborn Station the commuter glacier oozing in from four directions thaws and becomes a torrent. Currents of human beings rush towards the heat that can be felt from the street, some towards ticket machines, some towards barriers, others bumping sideways against the stream of bodies delivered to the surface by the escalators.

And as a small woman in a huge, swaddling scarf bumps into her, Audrey steps backwards on instinct, feels her foot twisting sideways, her legs crumpling and she hits the floor hard.

Suddenly arms are round her shoulders, and a young man is leaning in asking if she is ok.

She isn’t.

“I’m fine, thank you. Yes, nothing to worry about.”

She’s been operated on for her hip three times. She isn’t fine. But she needs to get home. She can assess the damage there.

Two more people emerge from the ceaseless torrent and help her to stand, one brushing her down gently, in a professional sort of way.