As I pulled up round the corner from the late-night supermarket, they were standing across the road in a little car park. Both in their twenties with dark hair, her with a pixie haircut and a dark brown pencil skirt to the knee.
He was leaning in towards her and holding her gently in his arms with his hands on her shoulderblades. She was standing straight, with her hands clasped low behind her back.
The natural thing would have been for her to embrace him back, but she wasn't. She was exactly the right height to rest her chin on his shoulder, but she wasn't.
When I came out of the supermarket ten minutes later they were still standing in the car park in exactly the same positions they had been in before. I turned on the ignition and let out the handbrake and as I looked up to check the traffic I saw him back away from her, take a handkerchief out of his pocket, wipe his eyes and blow his nose. She wasn't saying anything.
Round the corner and down the street, the white wedding-cake Palais building on the foreshore was lit up with electric blue. On the beach and in the park you could have barely moved for grateful bodies, out in the cool change, eating ice-creams and chips. Norfolk Island pines and wheeling chip-scrounging seagulls were silhouetted against the sky. Kids in bathers begged to be allowed another funfair ride and bad little boys tried to climb over the barrier blocking off the storm-wrecked jetty. Shreds of pale pink in the sky showed where the sun had sunk into the sea; they looked like faint reflections of the red tail-lights lined up along the esplanade. It was just light enough to see, but not to read, the signs in the sand dunes that warn the unwary beachgoer of snakes.
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