Something different than you’ve seen from me before, a complete short story from the vault. I’ve always been proud of this one. Figured it was time to dust it off and show it to the world… I hope you enjoy it…
By Cameron Lincoln
It usually took a respectable average of five pints of Old Speckled Hen and a shot or two of JD for Trevor Trent to tell his ‘I met a superhero once’ story, and decidedly less if he started imbibing on an empty stomach, as had been the case today. Usually it was just his well-worn attack in the battle of verbal one-upmanship so he could swoop in and rightly declare himself the conversational victor, but he had it primed for a different purpose today: to impress a girl.
His colleagues were as pleasantly tipsy as he was. The day’s deadlines, crunches and management-speak-oriented targets were behind them. That it was Friday slapped on a veneer of relief and hopeful excitement on a weekend that would go by too fast and yield little in the way of creative or personal growth. All six of them crowded round a too-small table in the nearest watering hole to their building, ties loosened, high heels kicked off, breathing in the sweat and smug success of a day of good solid graft.
In the world of estate agencies, Sterling Residential was, by a small margin, at the top of the heap. Not the kind of long-hours, nose to the grindstone job that would leave you sleeping three hours a night with nothing but a worn, bloody strip hanging in the centre of your face, but neither a slacking, laissez-faire operation that dealt only with poor students and pensioners. Their customers were comfortable, middle class types, their properties equally as comfortable and middle class, their sales techniques tailored accordingly. The firm owner, Dexter Bleak, presently slurping the head from his third Guinness, liked his employees to pursue all opportunities with a persevering tenacity, eager yet never overt; but Dex also liked to shut up the office early on a weekend to beat the rest of the local businesses into the Dog & Parrot. Trevor had once joked that Sterling Residential was like Glengarry Glen Ross with less swearing and a better social life. His peers had laughed at that, all but Suzy, who’d never seen Glengarry Glen Ross, a factor that Trevor had deemed to be a great shame. He still intended to lend it to her on DVD, but suspected it would go unwatched among a stack of chick flicks and Gossip Girl box-sets.
Suzy Sanderson had worked with them only a few weeks, Dexter choosing to ignore an empty CV in favour of an ample cleavage and a penchant for short skirts. She was always cheerful and bubbly, and had the kind of smile you couldn’t hold a grudge against for long, regardless of how limited her viewing habits were. Though she had not, to Trevor’s knowledge, been intimate with any of the men in the office, she had a whispered reputation of being, in Dexter’s unprofessional parlance, ‘a bit of a bike’, an accusation based on nothing other than her dress sense and an apparent lack of much between the ears. With a sliver of shame, it was she that Trevor was saving his prized story for.
Joining Trevor, Dexter and Suzy at their cramped table were The Twins; James Johnson and Ken Spericki were neither brothers nor bore any likeness to one another, except for a vague similarity in height. They’d simply walked through the door one after the other one unremarkable day and Dexter had greeted them with the nickname that had stuck for so many tenuous years. If boiled down to online profile-friendly soundbites, Jimmy liked cars, James Bond and Steve Perry-era Journey; Kenny was into cricket, curry and Queen. Trevor liked them well enough to share a few laughs with over drinks, but was quietly glad their time together went no further than a post-work pint.
Capping off their sextet – or the Property Patrol, as the Twins had coined during an equally bored afternoon – was Pamela Preston, their diligent accountant, the only one of their number who had managed to hold down either a marriage, a family or a healthy lifestyle, or indeed all of the above, throughout a rich life which, had the gentlemen in the office been true gentlemen, they would never have guessed totalled a wrinkle-defying forty five years. Trevor liked Pamela the most amongst his workmates. She was warm, charming and caring, could keep pace on a night’s drinking and knew more dirty jokes than the rest of them combined. Being twenty years his senior also made her strangely protective of Trevor, a maternal affection that he pretended to be playfully scornful of but secretly liked. Nothing cloying, just a genuine interest in his wellbeing.
Dexter was finishing his oft-heard saga of the time he met ‘that bird off of that programme that isn’t on anymore’ to the customary faux applause and snide remarks about the encounter’s veracity, and before Jimmy or Kenneth could began a tale of their own, Trevor slammed down a half-empty pint glass with enough force to slop it all over his wrist. He ignored it and ploughed on, drawing a deep breath.
“Here he goes,” Kenneth muttered, and Trevor pretended not to hear it.
“With what?” Suzy asked.
“The ‘I met a superhero once’ story,” Dexter yawned.
“You met a superhero?” Suzy repeated, without sarcasm.
“I met a superhero,” Trevor announced, eyebrow raised dramatically.
The other men leaned back, allowing him the floor but ready to snipe throughout. Trevor rarely enjoyed the thrill of this, hating how transparent it was. He saw everyone around that table with a Y chromosome, every penis-toting simpleton in that room, as a simplified bald peacock, unable to show their feathers so opting instead for the muscular or vocal equivalent. Trevor had never been a strong man, no matter how many attempts he had made at the gym, but he liked to think he could tell a story. He leaned in closer to lay down the story as thickly as he could.
“It was a dark and stormy night!” Ken announced theatrically.
“It was indeed a dark and stormy night, Kenneth!” Trevor agreed without stumbling, cursing his companion with a sharp glance.
“There was a chill in the air and fear on the streets, remember,” added Jimmy, stuffing peanuts into his mouth and pretending not to stare at Suzy’s cleavage as she reached for her wine glass.
“It was very chilly, and the streets were very fearful, thank you Johnny. By the way, you’ve got a salty mess on your chin.” He shot a quick glance at Pam.
“Not for the first time, either!” she cackled, to raucous approval.
“It’s the end of a long hard day, I’ve worked late to carry out an audit, or whatever bullshit Dex had me doing that night.”
A chorus of ‘oohs’ and a mock-offended face from the boss pierced his words.
“I’ll do my own punctuation, people. My car’s in the garage and I have to bus it home. I’m walking the last few hundred yards, and I cut down an alleyway, and suddenly…”
He let his voice trail off to silence, let Suzy lean in closer.
“Milk it, son, milk it for all it’s worth,” Jimmy whispered.
“There’s a guy running towards me at top speed, he’s carrying a purse. We’re nowhere near the Pink Triangle so I doubt it’s his. And I see a body slumped down the alley. An old woman. She’s unconscious.”
“He’d mugged her!” Suzy offered.
“Nothing gets past this one,” noted Pam.
“And this guy’s running at me,” Trevor continued. “Headlong. I’m thinking ‘What do I do, what do I do? Do I tackle him, do I trip him over?’ I’m about to take him down when there’s a shadow on the ground between us, I hear something flapping in the wind and then he’s gone. Just gone. I’m looking all over but he’s not there.”
“Who was it?” Suzy wondered. “Who got him?”
“I go running over to the old woman, she’s got a graze on her head, she’s knocked out, so I try to bring her round.”
“Kiss of life,” Dexter chipped in. “Loves the crumblies.”
“And before she can,” Trevor went on, “He’s there, scooping her up in his arms.”
“Captain Courage?” Suzy blurted out hopefully.
“No,” Trevor tried to disguise the sound of his windless sails withering. “Macro Man!”
Suzy’s disappointment would have been audible three continents away, super hearing or not. “Oh! That’s… pretty good.”
“You should have seen him!” Trevor went on, trying too late to salvage the spectacle. “The cape, the boots, the spit curl, he was amazing. He thanked me for my help, then…” Trevor made a whooshing sound and thrust his fist towards the ceiling. “He took off into the sky with her.”
Suzy nodded, expecting more.
“And she was never seen again!” Jimmy joked.
Kenneth snorted a laugh. “Macro Man’s probably still got her chained up in his cellar. He’s a wrong ‘un, that one.”
“My sister saw Captain Courage once,” Suzy said, changing the subject deftly without actually changing it. “It was when he caught that fighter jet at the air show before it went into the crowd. Said he flew over her head with the plane still on his shoulders like it was a backpack.”
While Dexter, Kenneth and Johnny acted like that was the most significant achievement since Pasteur’s bin scrapings, Trevor sat back, story ignored, vicarious triumph unsung, social victory a resounding failure.
Pam patted him on the shoulder.
“I know I don’t count, but I like that story,” she assured him.
Suzy took her cigarettes from her handbag. “I need some fresh air.”
He thought for a second about going with them; he’d pretended to be a smoker in the past in order to prolong the company of an attractive girl, but it was a ruse that rarely yielded anything other than a sore throat the next day. The three other men escorted her outside, the four of them smoking beyond the window as Trevor pretended not to watch the game continue. Seeing it through glass made it all the more obvious and sickening, like he was the zoo. Three savages dancing around a suddenly average-looking totem pole, a pillar of sexual wonder he was destined not to climb. He cursed himself for making the scenario sound grander than it was; one of them out there was getting laid tonight and he wasn’t. End of.
Pam bought him another pint and caught him looking as she sat next to him.
“You don’t seriously like her, do you?”
“Of course not,” he said, entirely truthfully. “But it’d be nice not to go home alone for once, even if it is with someone who’s been nailed more times than a faulty floorboard.”
“Look at the clip of her. She’s riddled.” Pam’s tone softened. “That’s no way to get over her.”
“It’s how she got over me. She got a head start too, I’ve got to catch up.”
Trevor had avoided thinking about Natalie for all of four minutes; the last instance had been the spur to tell the Macro Man story, a pathetic attempt to secure a night of forgettable, shameful passion he’d regret the very moment it was over. His and Nat’s relationship had been a five month stretch that threw up memories ranging from intense lust and hopeless love, through to meandering complacency, past crawling suspicion to gut-punching disappointment and betrayal.
They had met, as most seemed to, when they were drunk and barely able to hear one another over the din of dreadful music. A clumsy fumble on the dancefloor led to an exchange of numbers, and a real first date that revealed they did have a couple of things in common, enough at least to warrant another few meetings. The term ‘whirlwind relationship’ was one Trevor had always despised because he’d never had one, but Natalie had been his own tornado, coming into his life without warning, moving all the furniture and leaving a wake of shattered everything. She had moved in to his flat too soon, marked it with the scent of her perfume, and within weeks she was heralding the whole thing as a mistake, expressing regret by sleeping with a guy she worked with weeks before she had the courtesy to tell Trevor which, of course, she did without words. One evening he had come home to an empty flat that bore very little trace that she had ever been there. The only evidence to suggest that he had ever cohabited, however briefly, was a black skirt that, when questioned about over the phone he swore he couldn’t find, and an umbrella she hadn’t cared enough to ask for.
The five weeks between then and this moment had been an unsuccessful trawl for empty physical closeness, a time when his games console had seen far more action than his crotch. Still, his gamerscore had never looked healthier, something that filled him with both pride and personal ignominy.
He realised Pam was talking, and he hadn’t heard a word.
“Doing anything nice tomorrow?”
He wasn’t, and he knew Pam knew he wasn’t, but a torrent of self-pity and the resulting maternal hug wouldn’t have made him feel any better.
“Oh, packed schedule,” he yawned. “The world is my lobster.”
“Lucky you. We’re taking the kids swimming, then to Nitro Bites for tea. I hate it in there, it’s so tacky.” Pam wrinkled her nose. “Everyone in there over ten is just miserable, especially the waiters. The costumes are so crap. I bet a theme restaurant isn’t what Captain Courage or Macro Man had in mind when they started. If I was wearing a cape, things would be different.”
Pamela didn’t like the supers. Never had.
Trevor smiled. “I was going to fly. I had it all figured out.”
Everybody, save perhaps Pam, had the same fantasy. In another life, you might have wanted to be a rock star or a Hollywood icon, but those were old dreams for an older generation. The masses wanted powers, cursing those lucky enough to have been granted them, be it by evolution or industrial accident, as was so en vogue these days. X-ray vision was the new rich, invisibility the new famous. The supers were the pinnacle of fantasy, their life of danger and derring-do synonymous with sex, style and glamour. Trevor had spent hours as a kid designing his costume, a blue one piece with a hood and a green cape. The joy that was puberty held the promise of abilities yet-to-manifest, and even though there was no super blood in his family, he knew he’d be different.
Just like his friends at school knew. His cousins and neighbours. Looking up to the sky, knowing they were destined to soar higher and further than everyone around them. Everyone was going to be unique, and they all wound up the same. Now they all had lives, husbands and wives, rent and mortgage payments, homes that wouldn’t heat themselves. Childhood desires gave way to boring responsibilities, and the world turned as it always did. Few flew. Fewer soared.
They finished their drinks. Trevor looked over at the television, at the rolling news report. Girlfight had just stopped a bunch of masked men robbing a bank, and took off into the evening sky as police loaded the criminals into the van.
Trevor pulled on his coat. “Better go, that ready meal isn’t going to cook itself.”
They headed outside as Dexter, Jimmy, Kenneth and Suzy were crushing cigarette butts beneath their feet.
“You off?” Kenneth wondered obviously and without concern.
“Watch out for muggers,” Suzy giggled, and Jimmy slapped her on the shoulder, laughing too forcefully. For a fleeting second, Trevor hoped it would be Jimmy who got lucky tonight, hoped he was unsatisfying, and even hoped he got her pregnant.
“Or at least a decent cape,” he guffawed, stumbling back into the pub with the others, leaving Dexter to wish them a good weekend and a see-you-Monday.
Trevor walked Pamela to her car.
“You want a lift?” she asked.
“I’m alright, I’ll walk.” His tone was enough to let her know he preferred to make the journey alone.
“I know a few girls, I can set you up if you’d like. Mind you, they’re a bit classier than the Peroxide Avenger there, I don’t know how keen you’d be.”
“I’ve never liked you, Pam,” he smiled.
She kissed him on the cheek.
“Have a good one.”
He watched her pull away, talking on her mobile phone, no doubt informing her husband that she was one her way, cementing plans for their weekend. The first drops of rain from the black evening sky dripped down his neck. He took Natalie’s umbrella from his pocket and opened it, thankful for the meagre shelter as he trudged off down the road.
He chose the route through the burn, down old steps now choked with branches and nettles, stinging his ankles, though he had enough alcohol in his system that he didn’t notice. This was a shortcut known only to true locals and drunks and Trevor was currently happy to be both so he could use the footbridge over the river at its narrowest point for miles. The odds of running into anyone down here, let alone trouble, were slim.
The noise of the distant traffic and pubs faded into nothing as he went deeper into the dark, the way lit by old fashioned street lamps that barely shone through the descending fog. He thought about stuffing in his earbuds and taking the opportunity to catch up on one of a dozen albums he hadn’t listened to properly, but he preferred the quiet, the sound of a city falling asleep.
He thought about Natalie, about what she would be doing at that moment, likely grinding against a stranger far more handsome than he, and was glad he had deleted her number from his phone.
He thought about the misfire his story had been. What made meeting Macro Man pathetic in comparison to Captain Courage? The only decent answer he could conjure was the fickle nature of the public. Sometimes an unlucky cape just fell out of favour for no reason more complicated than the public likes a whipping boy, or girl. Maybe the cat jumped out of the tree before he got there. Maybe her skirt was hiked too high and a schoolyard full of kids went home with a few uncomfortable questions about anatomy. Them’s, as they say, the breaks.
He’d thought about lying, about telling the story with Cap in place of Macro Man, or stretching as far as The Shimmer, or even Girlfight, but what would ultimately be the point? Oversaturation was the problem. Seeing one in person didn’t matter. There were so many of them around, and so many cameras and twenty four hour coverage of everything, being all over the papers and on all channels every waking hour had lost them their sheen. “You saw a superhero in person? I saw Manhammer stop that building from falling.”
Of course you did. Everybody in the world saw that, from seven angles and in slow motion, on their Facebook page and on their phone. Seeing a super meant that you had eyes and the ability to focus them. Some power that was.
He thought about Natalie again. The caring, sweet Natalie whom he had fallen in love with, and the selfish, flighty Natalie who had broken his heart. He was unable to separate the two. He wished he hadn’t deleted her number.
The rain had stopped by the time he reached the footbridge and he packed away the umbrella as he crossed to the centre, leaning against the railing beneath a lone orange lamp, looking down into the rushing water below. The fog was thick enough that he could see nothing beyond ten feet in any direction, neither shore. There was just him in the whole world then, safe in an amber bubble, time trickling away beneath him.
He smelled cigarette smoke on the breeze, head snapping to the right to see he wasn’t as alone as he had thought. He hadn’t heard anyone approach, but there she was – there she was – smoke and hot breath drifting before her in the crisp air, staring into the water with piercing blue eyes that looked out from behind the red mask glued to her face. The white jumpsuit she wore looked like little more than cotton this close up, and bore dirt stains and spots of blood, and a few singed bullet holes revealing pale skin beneath. Her sturdy red boots were scuffed, the crimson cape hanging to her waist slightly torn, her delicate yet powerful features framed with a thick bob of golden hair that looked strong enough to repel bullets, and probably was, but which was now a little dishevelled.
Before she tucked the pack into her utility belt, she offered him a smoke.
“I don’t,” he managed.
“I wouldn’t if I wasn’t invincible,” she informed him. Her voice was his favourite song on a warm summer evening, if that was possible, and these days, what wasn’t? Yet it was also quiet, vulnerable somehow, and tired. “And only in costume,” she added nervously. “I don’t like people to know.”
Trevor wasn’t sure how that made any sense; a crafty smoke in costume caught on camera was enough to get the ire of the public. Hydrogal had taken months of flack because a paparazzi caught her with a hipflask.
He looked around for support, half expecting to see a camera crew filming his bewildered reaction, but there was nothing. Just the two of them, alone but for the sound of the water.
“Screw it, I’ll have one.”
He lit the cigarette, barely able to taste it, which he was thankful for.
“What’s your name?” she asked him.
“Trevor. What’s yours?”
Trevor tried not to cough. “I knew that.”
“I’d tell you my real name. I wouldn’t even have to kill you. It’s just a bit boring.” She hesitated a moment. “Alison.”
“That’s not boring.”
He studied her profile, the pout of her lips and curve of her jaw. He knew she was beautiful, but without the mask she would have been stunning, that soft, girl-next-door type of beautiful that trumped all others. Natalie had never quite had that quality; she was very pretty but worked for it, hair and make up and contrived attitude.
“I heard people rarely ever come through here,” she said softly.
“I know. I live nearby.”
She dropped the last of her cigarette into the cold water and he followed suit, thankful he didn’t have to finish it to the filter. He couldn’t think of anything to say. Everything sounded pathetic in his head. How did you ask a superhero if they’d had a good day, or what they were doing this weekend? He had so many questions and couldn’t think of a single one. Anything he felt awkward saying to a regular girl, he’d feel infinitely more so saying to a super.
“You shouldn’t feel so nervous,” she assured him.
“Can you read my mind?”
She shook her head.
“Good. Not that I was thinking anything I didn’t want you to hear.”
She asked him where he worked, and he told her, making it sound far duller than he intended. He quickly added the Glengarry Glen Ross comparison to spice up the description, knowing it was pointless.
“Sounds nice,” she said. “I like that film.”
Trevor looked at her again, now truly impressed.
“You can ask me, I don’t mind,” she said.
“Are you sure you can’t read my mind?”
She looked back, twisted her mouth into a teasing smile.
“Okay,” he stalled for a second. Then: “Would you like to come in for coffee?”
She smiled, cheeks flushing. “Finally.”
Alison thought of nothing but her misery as she tossed the last masked thug into the riot van. He heard him insult her under his breath, adding the c-word to ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ on the list of names she’d been called in the last three minutes, and it took all of her gargantuan strength not to squeeze his head until his skull creased. The cameras were watching, and it wouldn’t look good. Not that it mattered to her anymore, but it would be selfish to give the new girl coming in a hard time.
She turned to her audience. A rudimentary smile, the hands on hips stance they’d come to expect and she threw an aching arm into the sky and glided towards the stars. Job done. The last memorable moment of her career had been for a foul-mouthed wideboy in a ski-mask to make her feel worthless. No statement, no voxpop, no fanfare, no farewell.
She soared higher. She thought about Clive, the prick the public knew as Manhammer, about how he’d thrown her out the night she’d told him she was done. The cape was everything to him, not because of any sense of duty or love for humanity, but because he loved the attention. Vanity was his weakness, narcissism his kryptonite. He adored the teenage girls fawning all over him as he flew overhead, middle aged women throwing their delicates, each pair an unsanitary declaration of lust he lapped up like a hungry dog wrapped in corporate sponsorship and bullshit. She pictured him in his hideout with one of his conquests, hoped he caught something degenerative, something that ruined his healing factor, then cut himself shaving with the diamond razor she’d bought him for his birthday.
She was an idiot when she volunteered, young enough to think it was what she wanted. Why wouldn’t it be? If life gives you lemons, you beat up the wretched for a living.
She hung in the lower veil of the clouds, looking down at the lines of crawling dots of cars making their way home for the weekend, knowing it was over. Relief bathed her aside the high-altitude breezes, cleansed her through the costume. So delightful was the feeling that she couldn’t stop a tear falling, arcing down through the burgeoning rain shower where, unknown to her in a shade of a secret origin, it landed on an umbrella that didn’t really belong to the one who carried it.
She fumbled in her utility belt for her phone, almost dropping her cigarettes a thousand feet into the traffic below. She had only started since she put on the cape, hoping to get caught and released from duty, but scared of an entire world calling her trash or a bad role model, so she had never lit up publicly.
She scrolled the menu, found the initials ‘MM’ and dialled.
The Match Maker’s voice always put her at ease. She had been the one Alison had gone to first, when she knew it was time to hang up the cape. Double-M took care of everything. She set up the replacement job, and Alison had been in for a few hours every day that week, getting to know the place, the responsibilities, finally putting into practice all the skills she had spent all her time training for, in the brief moments when she was able to take off the mask. It wasn’t all that different. Helping the afflicted and disenfranchised, occasionally being insulted and threatened, but generally making people better. To do that without every soul on earth staring right at you was more wonderful than she could describe. The nurse’s uniform suited her much better anyway.
Alison thanked her for everything; the Match Maker had been the fourth Girlfight, back in the eighties, and had retired in much the same way. She understood everything, how the thrilling feeling of the super lifestyle could wane and she took special care of every girl who took on the mantle, for however long they kept it, dozens of them now, each one eventually chasing the same dream. A life free of the limelight, away from the spandex and the spirit-gum. A normal, boring life, with husbands and children and mortgages and rent.
“One more thing,” the Match Maker said as their conversation closed, and gave Alison some strange directions that would take her down the course of the river to a footbridge in the dark.
Monday rolled around in that inevitable way that Mondays tend to do, the memory of the weekend fast dwindling as the prospect of the next one crept inexorably closer. Trevor Trent found himself at work earlier than usual with an eagerness he thought he had forgotten, but everybody was already there. The reassuring boredom of routine was destined to continue.
Dexter and the Twins were bickering as ever; Ken and Dex were extolling the virtues of Journey’s new singer as Jimmy visibly became more worked up.
Pamela was on the phone. Trevor noticed that she had changed her desktop picture, to one of her and her family at a table in a colourful themed restaurant surrounded by servers in gaudy outfits, masks, capes and fake smiles. He nodded at the photo, his eyes asking the question of the day’s success, hers answering with a withering roll.
Suzy made a quieter entrance and bade them sheepish good mornings. An awkward glance between her and Ken gave Trevor the answer he’d suspected. The details would come later; the silences would build to boiling point, the regret and the tears would burst out over drinks in the pub that coming Friday.
Trevor sat at his desk and opened his diary, pencilled something in: the reason he had strode to work a little happier than usual.
Pamela released the call, logged the viewing appointment.
“Morning. Good weekend?”
Trevor shrugged. He had a story to tell, but was content for now to keep it his own.
Pamela looked at the new booking she had just pencilled in to her diary. “Do you want to take that one? Twelve o’clock today.”
“I can’t, I’m already on a viewing.”
“That’s right by you, isn’t it?” She crossed to him, peered at his diary. “Alison Jones. Bit of a dull name, isn’t it?”
“She’s a nurse,” Trevor told her. “Meeting on her lunch hour.”
Come noon, Pamela sat alone in the office, eating the sandwiches her daughter had helped her make before dashing off for school. She looked again at the photographs from their day out on Saturday, smiling as if she was looking at them for the first time.
She checked the news online, looking at the snaps of Captain Courage and Girlfight safely averting a train crash. Onlookers cheered, and nobody noticed that the heroine’s hair was slightly different then it had been the week before, her bust a little bigger.
Pamela recalled the first time she had put on that costume, already well-worn in by three others. It itched and they had to take it in, just slightly, because her twenty-something puppy fat had yet to become muscle. She thought about the last time she took it off, the joy and the relief, the same way she later felt when she’d had the children. It was a strange and lonely life, all that flying around, constantly on camera. The only respite came from the secret identity, which always ended up being the thing you strived for. Saving a schoolbus of grateful children was no match for being able to talk to people about it, because you’d seen it on television like they had.
She kept her hand in, and they gave her a name; it was easier to hide behind a name than a mask, and she was glad to help those girls once their time had passed, finding them homes if they needed, making a secret identity the one that mattered.
The Match Maker ate her sandwiches, looking at the photograph of her family with motherly contentment as her lunch hour ticked away.
Down the block, Dexter, Ken, Jimmy and Suzy visited the Dog & Parrot for a pub lunch peppered with innuendo and awkward silence. Across town, a volunteer in a local charity shop unpacked two items from a plastic bag, a black skirt which was soon buried in a pile of other donated garments, and a well-worn umbrella. Elsewhere, in a government funded penthouse, an eager young girl tentatively applied spirit-gum to her face and fixed a red mask in place for the first time, as a stylist cut her hair to match an iconic, expected blond bob.
In Handon Gardens, Trevor Trent made tea in a flat that no longer smelled of old perfume, and handed a mug to a smiling brunette nurse who didn’t like to smoke in front of her friends.