The last of her clothes

A few taps on his screen and the sound of trumpets fill the little flat.

“It’s my favourite,” he smiles.

For a few moments she struggles to make sense of the cacophony.

Had she been walking past a bandstand in a provincial park, or pressed to the edge of pavement as the tourists at her back thronged to snap the marching band on its way from Buckingham Palace, her brain wouldn’t have demanded a moment’s thought.

But in the cramped studio three floors above a pub, the trumpets and the trombones and the tubas

(Where they actually tubas? What is a tuba anyway?)

didn’t occur to her as music.

And his hair was curly and immense and vaguely red, and as he had bent to retrieve the contents of her split bag from the pavement she’d caught the scent of it.

Two hundred and fourteen pavements away, if she were to count.

A moment’s high embarrassment as the withered hand of fate snipped the fibres at the bottom of her over-sized, over-loaded brown paper bag, filled with the last of her clothes from Georgio’s flat.

Her toothbrush.

Her underwear.

All on the pavement in an instant.

And he, a perfect stranger, simply scooped it all up.

And two minutes later he returned from a nearby shop with a large plastic bag and everything was neatly, deftly taken care of.



More coffee.

And after the third hour slipped delightfully by she allowed herself to wonder

“Are we on a date?”

And now, in his flat, he’s just put on a brass band compendium.

So no, then.



The customer stepped into the doorway, his eyes sweeping the room, and then he left and carried on up Villiers Street. His confidence was palpable. Valentina could smell it. She noted it, caught the look, the bearing and remembered. It would be part of her body language now. All Londoners seem to have that confidence, that busy indifference.

She’ll have it too. She’s been watching and learning, and has been getting good. The others all think she’s sure of herself, and she loves it when they tell her so. And Marios has noticed too. She’s caught him taking glances at her when they’re both working on the coffee machines.

There are drinks at Lena’s flat tonight (hopefully her boyfriend won’t be there).

She’ll ask Marios then.


He’ll ask her.

And then a surge of customers bears down, bellowing orders, and there’ll be no time for thinking until the mid-morning lull.