I pulled out of the junction on to the main road and slipped round the corner to the left. Shafts of dusty orange light cut through the dark and fell in soft chunks through the windows and on to my hands, gripping the steering wheel. I joined in with Ellie Goulding singing ‘Your Song’ through the speakers as I sailed down the empty road.
I braced myself to swerve and brake as a square of light picked out someone about to step out into the road but, as I slowed and looked again, I saw it was only a shoe. A single, black, high-heeled shoe, standing upright on the edge of the path, ready to run out into the road. Its owner had clearly continued crossing the road without noticing she had left it behind. There was no second shoe and no person around to claim it. It was frozen mid-step on the kerb, coming from nowhere in particular and standing with nowhere to go.
When I drove past the next afternoon, the shoe was gone.
I waited in the car and tapped my fingernails on the dashboard. The wipers clicked on at intervals, scooping the steady fall of rain off the glass. I was parked on the side of a narrow street, next to the kerb behind a big yellow skip and in front of a white BT van. Rows of terraced houses ran along the main street running perpendicular to mine and from my spot I could see the grubby backs of the houses, all cracked windows and chunks of kitchen or bathroom sticking out into the long, thin gardens. The end house on my right, next to the junction where my road met the busier one, had a car-sized gate half way down its garden wall, painted black with spiky white letters saying ‘NO PARKING’. A silver estate was parked in front of it.
The mirror of that house, the end of the row on my side of the road, was having some work done to add in a garage of their own at the end of the garden. In the rear-view mirror I watched a man walk up the path behind my car. He was Asian and looked around fifty though he could have been ten years older or younger, and he wore a woman’s coat with thin sleeves and the zip done up to his neck so the cut of the jacket pinched him in at the waist. As he made his way along the path he fell into the wall and nearly right through the newly made hole that was going to be the entrance to the garage. He looked first confused and then mildly angry at the change in the local geography. After staring into the gap for several minutes, he reconciled himself with the building work and tossed a small, empty bottle of vodka into the skip. He disappeared behind the skip and out of sight.
I spotted Tom coming back down the path, a full head and shoulders above everyone and everything else, and I pulled the handle to unlock the doors with a mechanical whirr. He climbed in and made sure his seat was pushed all the way back as I slid the car into gear and pulled out in to the traffic on the main road.