I carry my hair downstairs in a red plastic bag. Kit hears the fridge or the toaster or the clink of my glass high-fiving its friends on the way out of the cupboard because she walks in shortly afterwards stretching and yawning. She looks at my head. She looks at the bag. Her face is a mask of disturbed sleep. It is four forty in the morning.
“Well,” she says, “you.”
“You look different.”
I reach over and pull a flowered plate from one of the beige floor cupboards. I put a piece of toast on the plate and slide it across the table.
“Wanted something new,” I say.
She sits down, her eyes flick constantly to my bald head. “At four in the morning.”
“New is different for you.”
Silently we take small bites of toast.
“Something changed,” she says.
I don’t know how to respond so I don’t.
She changes tack, “Sally and her boyfriend Christian are coming round tomorrow for dinner.”
“That’s good.” I nod.
“Water?” she asks, half-standing, half-sitting, looking down on me to get a better view. I shake my head and hope it glistens.
Her hips move underneath the red rippling jumper I bought at a market and have never worn. She stretches for a glass and pink fluffy skin is exposed within the dimples of her back. Padding to the sink she turns on the tap.
“I have an idea,” I announce. The tap gushes but the glass is motionless. Her hair touches her tail-bone. “A new project.”
She moves the glass under the tap.
“Right,” she says without turning, taking a big gulp.
“I’ve had an epiphany. Something has changed. You’re right. Nothing bad. Nothing too bad. I just have to try and write for myself.”
“Sounds good,” she says as she moves back to her chair, trailing her fingers on my head, “that’s quite a smooth head. I like it. Did you use my razor for the finish?”
“I’m starting with Ruth,” I say.
“Ruth?” she asks. “Ruth Ortis?”
Her eyes rest easily on mine. Perplexed and passionate. Nobel Laureate ingredients. Those are the eyes I had fallen in love with.
“You know she isn’t all -”
“I was the one that told you about her,” she says.
“Right, right,” I push my plate forwards slightly on the table and prop myself up on my elbows, “I talked to your new friend Sally, she mentioned her Mum’s condition… I just asked if she wanted some company. She seemed pretty eager for me to go over.”
“Approaching my friend with a proposal for a new writing project to document her mother’s descent into senility, is this what you woke -”
“I didn’t mean to wake you.”
She makes a soundless oh. She pushes her toast at me and stares at me through the full glass, my head is glowing, I imagine, from the artificial light. There is a pause before she puts down the glass and says, “Then come back to bed.” I can’t read the tone. Chastising or hopeful. I am focused on the smell of the toast.
“Not now. I’m…I’m going for a walk,” I say.
“A walk. Now.”
“Yes,” I nod.
“Sure. A walk. Go for a walk.”
Before I can say anything she has gone. She doesn’t take the water or the toast. I pick up her toast and chew it whilst doing up the laces of my shoes. Sure. Go for a walk.