She was pretty, the girl by the shop window; pretty and blonde and young. She stood with one hand resting gently against the glass, staring at a bright blue dress, lost in a world of her own.
"I wish," he said, as the two of them walked past, "I wish a woman would look at me like that."
"That woman?" she asked.
"No, not her," he said, glancing back over his shoulder. "Well. Maybe, I suppose."
The last girlfriend, Cora, was long gone and as far as she knew, there was no one else, no one new.
They turned a corner and the blonde vanished.
"What I'm talking about," he said, "is desire."
They walked to the end of the street and turned again, heading towards the river. She looked up at him but he, frowning at his feet, didn't notice.
"Yearning," he said.
"Yup. Got it."
They walked along the quay, to where the little red tourist boats were moored. They'd been out in one once, a year, two years ago. It had been early in the season, the grey evening air had been cold, and they had both been fantastically incompetent, neither of them able to keep the little cruiser on course, neither of them really trying.
Afterwards they'd gone for a beer in one of the pubs that huddled under the shadow of the castle and she'd got home late, made lighter somehow by fresh air and laughter.
They found an empty bench and sat down, side by side. He tilted his face up to the sun and closed his eyes. "Passion," he said. He folded his arms. Narrow wrists, long fingers, good hands.
"Yes," she said, fixing her gaze across the river.
She didn’t need to look.
She knew him piece by piece, the tilt of his head and the long bones of him, the rhythm of his walk; the curve of his mouth, the line of his throat; his scent, his skin, his every imperfection. She had stolen him in glances and put him together in the dark, heat and breath and blood; rising, rolling, sighing.
"How’s Simon doing?" he asked.
"He's fine," she said, "You know, the same as usual." She resisted the temptation to check her watch; she wasn’t due back for ages yet.
"Good." He opened his eyes and looked down at her, "That's good," he said.
"Yes," she said, "I suppose it is.” She stretched out her legs, and concentrated on the river and the way the sunlight skimmed across it, dancing. There was nothing else to say, no comment she could make that wouldn’t turn into a betrayal, sooner or later; no words that would fit.
“This is nice,” she said, “peaceful.”
“It’s alright, I suppose.”
He was smiling, she could tell, she could feel it.
She didn’t need to look.