Broken trampolines in overgrown gardens. Beer cans full of rainwater and dead insects in ashtrays. Bus journies that take us through towns we never knew existed and books stolen from libraries while drunk and greedy for mischief that now collect dust on the windowsill of her kitchen. The cinema is empty, as is the pub where our younger selves would sit for hours on end holding hands while playing perverse games of I-spy. The toilets still have the same graffiti scrawled on their walls, and the pavements outside still threaten to break my mother’s back if I dare to tread upon their cracks. Stairwells. Rooms full of mannequins. Photographs with no dates. Faces with no names. It’s raining, and as the cigarette drops from my fingers, she’s twenty minutes late. She’s always late, but it doesn’t bother me, not much, anyhow. My stomach hurts, so I go into M&S and grab a slice of pizza. Eating it while watching shoppers dart around searching for Christmas presents, she arrives wearing a dress adorned with the image of a tiger. On tiptoes, she kisses my lips, and when she wraps her arms around my waist she tells me the dream she had the previous night but I can’t concentrate because there’s a young girl looking at me who.. it doesn’t matter. So we walk with linked fingers and although we spend hours searching every clothes shop looking for something she can wear to her friend’s party, I’m not angry or annoyed, just lost in thought. She tries on so many dresses and asks for my opinion on each one, and although I try being helpful I’m not much use. I’m not sure what it is. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but with every passing day, I keep drifting further out of reach. Noticing the look on my face, she asks what’s wrong but I don’t know the answer. As it grows colder and a nation of crisp packets blow up and down the road she wipes her eyes and suggests we order a Chinese. Moving through streetlights and shadows as we clutch our cups of coffee heading back to mine, the buildings on either side of us watch with envious eyes. They call to me in strange ways while she sings the words of her favourite song knowing it will be a matter of minutes before we’re cocooned from the outside world and safe from harm. Slipping the key in the front door, she wriggles before me and gets in first. Hurrying up the stairs, she’s making sure she gets to choose which movie we watch while eating our food.