If left in a room, or wandered there by chance, I would stand in the middle, still enough to not creak the boards underfoot, staring at all of the objects that filled the space. There was a teaspoon rattle in a milky mug from the kitchen. Grey sunshine came in through the tall sash windows, and over everything there was a silence, the likes of which I had not known in seemingly forever! Every movement she made in the room next door could be heard as though it were an inch from my ear. I looked at the light on the plants, the books on her shelf, film collection, photographs & polaroids stood on their edge against the wall, little trinkets, but most of all the plants on every surface in every arrangement and possibility of green shapes. It was cold, winter’s air bleeding underneath the sash windows, and the cup of tea she brought in with her had little loops of steam rising off it. We sat on the sofa, draped her legs over my lap. ‘Show me this thing you been watching, then.’ And she laughed, leant, levelling the mug, grunting up the remote and poking it at the television. ‘After this, we’ll go buy dinner.’ I was outside smoking on her balcony when she emerged, locking the door, jingling the keys and we walked to her car—‘I’ve devised,’ I said—‘three ways for us to make dinner: easy, medium and hard.’ She smiled, let us in below the dark sky. Her slim thigh, the left, next to the handbrake, softened and tensed every time she changed gear. The first time I noticed, it sent a charge through me, that something could go from limp to firm. So long I kept my hand there and so excited I became that I worried my perspiration would soak into her jeans and disturb her; politely making sure my grip would not interfere with her reaches for the gearstick, I kept my hand absent-mindedly squeezing. We took off through the suburban hills, blank headlights bobbing up & down, catching the asphalt, catching nothing but misty air. At the quiet supermarket, a strip of fluorescence barred through and spilled out just far enough to illuminate the parking spots, the regimental bars and wires of shopping trolleys that curved messy; everyone who needed groceries for dinner had already been and gone, left behind half-empty shelves and stragglers. I pushed the trolley. Something about shopping for food with a girl feels as though it were something special. It is surely inane but it stirs within me a great sense of romance, meandering, always disorganised, always more likely to pause before a shelf of chocolate, and eventually coursing towards the till with a terrible sugar-to-real-food ratio.
    Her cat was waiting for us when we got back, his royal gingerness poking out from behind the fence, eager to show us a mouse he had caught, and then left at her front-door looking like a sock drawer of tiny organs. I prepared us dinner as she stood next to me, watching, choosing the music. Was I putting her on edge? I was interrupting her space; locked-down just her with the cats – one of whom had been hiding in the spare room and only regarded me with suspicious eyes – in a first floor flat with five rooms, the three of them like a family. The other cat was not threatened by my presence at all, and in fact saw no issue climbing up on the work-surface and sniffing the edge of my knife or putting his nose to the salty puddles of chopped capers. I shooed him away and she picked him up where he did not struggle but put out his long neck and cold wet nose. ‘He never lets me hold him this long.’ It was peaceful. We took our dinner in the living room and watched Ghost World. The cat sat next to my head and soon my eyes began to itch. He crept down and sat between us. I washed my eyes but the itch would not stop until I could barely see. The cat violently scratched its throat, little tufts of hair & dust in the light from the television set and a bug flew out and landed on my arm. It started to crawl. ‘A flea!’ I gasped – my phobia! And I tried to pick it up but could not! I started to panic. She reached out with her fingers and picked the little bug from the hairs on my arm, tried to crush it, but then it fell onto the sofa. I recoiled. The thought of parasites makes me itch all over, and so preoccupied with it – my one good eye scanning the sofa – that I missed the ending of the film. A sudden uneasiness overcame me. This unfortunate event had completely ruined my mood, had thrown me off! She seemed not to mind at all, and I felt foolish. ‘Let’s go to bed.’

    Every little speck of black cotton on her bedsheets became a flea. I peered down and probed in the lamplight. There was nothing. Under my scrutiny, not a speck moved or reacted to the poke of my cautious fingertip. I undressed and got in. She entered a few minutes later, having locked the cats away. I watched her remove her clothes at the end of the bed—‘Is it cold in there?’—although I sensed she was not completely comfortable with me watching. She turned her back to me, folded her clothes and set them upon the cushioned chair. Slid in beside me. Her eyes much larger without her glasses. She smiled and we kissed. My mind was elsewhere; I sought to ignore every inch of my body that itched; still, I could not open my right-eye for the irritation. I was so unnerved that I would have put us up in a hotel if I had the opportunity. I lay there, looking up, trying to enjoy the feeling of her against me.
    Her leg was soft over mine and I felt it between my hairs. She stared at me and raised it up my thigh. She was bringing me back into the room. The cool firm skin of her feet found my softest and most sensitive. She smiled at me as she worked. The lamp remained on; I worried that she would turn it off. After a while, my eye no longer stung, so I lifted up the duvet and watched. She had painted her toenails the same deep red she had painted her fingernails. So much light from the lamp reached underneath the sheets, as I lay there frozen, mouth open. It was a spectacle, I suppose, because I did not believe that someone’s five-foot-six away could so expertly manipulate me. There was a whole lot of motor, whole lot of nerve and muscle, between that and what she wanted to do to me from behind blue eyes. I dripped between her toes, until I leapt up, pulled off the lace.
    Afterwards I lay there again, in a state of panting repose. She had risen to use the bathroom and retrieve some tissue. As she did so, she covered herself. I had wished to watch her nudity leave the room but could not. She was used to the cold, but every time she withdrew her nakedness from the bed, she conjured a blanket from thin air and draped it about her shoulders. I could feel the cum running its cold trails down my belly and off my shoulder and a little tickle in my beard that Tarzan’d from hair to hair down my throat. Soon I would be able to clean myself up, meanwhile lube leaked to tickle the between of my thighs. I looked around. On the wall was a star-chart of the sky in November twenty-fourteen when she and her ex had kissed for the first time in London. It hung there, up high, looking down at me, peering with a thousand-or-so white eyes. Nervously I gazed back. It did not break its stare. I turned away. The skin on the side of my back is sensitive, dimpled with goosebumps, cum bobbling into the bedsheets. She still had not returned, but, in the quiet, I regained myself, rubbed puddles into a vein that runs over my hipbone, recalling somewhere from a time ago that it was an important vein. Witnessing the night sky underneath their first kiss, six years later, two after he had left, cast upon me a sad feeling. I could neither turn away nor ignore it this hovering black disc with specks upon it. I put my attention to the end of the bed, upon a shelf that holds all of her cameras. She was still not back, and such was the size of the flat that I could not even hear her. In amongst all the cameras and books she kept there, there was a drawing from a boy she had been seeing – or still was – of the pair of them in bed, and underneath written—I LIKE SPOONING YOU. I sighed. On the shelf above was a zine another ex-boyfriend had made of a holiday they went on to Amsterdam, full of adoration and memory, of a closure that never came, an ending neither of them wanted.
    She returned, still covered in a blanket, producing a roll of toilet paper from its folds. I thanked her and went about wiping myself up, already half-dry. The rest had already soaked into the mattress and could not be wiped away now. I went on cold tiptoes to the bathroom where, without flicking the switch, I stretched nude before the large sash windows through which trails of street- and moonlight came. It was cold and it moved up through my legs. The rolled ball of toilet paper slowly wilted in the pan, either swallowed into it or succumbing, one could not be sure. The flush choked, then finally it was dragged down and round.