Near to the woods where she lost her virginity, smoke rises from the lake and wraps around my ankles. She wants me to drink from the furry cup, but I’m tired, so I tell her my tongue is covered in ulcers I got from eating with unclean utensils. She doesn’t believe me, but we grab a coffee anyway and talk about work and stuff like that. Handing me a paper mache cast of some animal as a present, she expects me to know what it is, but I’ve no idea. Pretending to have something in my eye, she sulks because I don’t know. It’s a panda!! Oh, yeah, I knew that, but she’s not impressed. Folding her arms, she stares out the window as I try cracking a joke, but it doesn’t work. When they kick us out into the freezing night air a few hours later, we shiver on our way to the bus station. Grabbing her as she walks ahead, I pull her into the entrance of some closed fast food joint and place my lips on hers. For a second she resists, but when I squeeze her arms, she embraces me against her wishes, because as much as she wants to hate me, she knows I’m the only one who can get beneath her skin. It’s so fucking cold, so cold that the two of us are on the point of merging in the doorway that’s no doubt seen so many other lovers take refuge from the elements in the proceeding years. Peeling the gloves off her fingers, she slides her hands into my pockets and buries her head beneath my chin. Whose image did she first masturbate to? Whose tongue was the first to slide into her sex? I want to ask her, but my teeth are chattering from how cold it is. What did she think when she first saw her dad in the nude? And what was her reaction when she caught her brother sniffing a pair of her panties when he thought she was at ballet practise? Was she horrified or tickled? Deciding to stay around mine even though she claims to hate me, we order a Chinese and then take a bath together. Wrapped in three layers of clothing beneath a duvet and my grandmother’s antique rug, we fall asleep watching the news as the witches in the woods outside plunge their fingers into the swamp where she fell into as a child. Perhaps it’s voodoo or just stupid superstition. Whatever. Cradling each other in silence, the hours fall without us caring.

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