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A woman stands on her balcony wrapped in a powder blue bathrobe sipping hot, sweet milky tea from her favorite mug. She looks over the rim at the city, shivering under a flat, grey sky. Goose bumps rise on her arm. Her dark brown hair tangles in the wind, streaming across her face and into her mouth. With a gentle, thoughtless motion she removes it, maintaining her thousand mile gaze into the middle distance. Only half conscious of what she is thinking about, not yet fully awake. Sleepy dust rests in the corner of her eye. She blinks and focuses on the cool, blue skyline for a moment before retreating back into her flat. Back to the warmth and comfort of leafy plants, bright cushions and the company of Radio 4. She frowns, appraising her home and bites her lip. The cat licks it’s paws. She scratches its head soothing it with breathy, whispered kisses.

Her eyes close for a moment, sleep oozing seductively over her with a warm heaviness that beckons back to bed. She would like to give in, wants to lay down and sleep a while longer. The toaster springs with a metallic zing, popping up,  making her jump and scan the room wondering what the noise was. She moves into the kitchen and with her head held wearily to one side she hums as she scrapes butter across her toast. She takes a bite, looking out of the window past the bills, notes and lists that hang from a cork board. Multicoloured pins hold instructions and reminders that are interspersed with photos of friends, an old birthday card and a laser jet print out of a ‘lol cat’. She turns the flowering plant that sits pretty and proudly on the windowsill, well watered and attended to. Another, less cared for plant sits in the corner of the living room. It’s leaves turning brown, covered in dust. A victim of its location.

She places her toast on a plate, two bright lines cheerfully circle it’s rim, one yellow and the other blue and sets it down on the living room coffee table. The iron is warming, a blouse awaits its hot press. Her bathroom mirror reflects dark circles under her eyes and the spots and blemishes that trouble her face. She reaches for her make up bag and commences her morning routine of cleansing. Her languid movements are well rehearsed. Little thought is required. Absent minded and unhurried she unscrews a lid, squirts and applies cold cream to her face. Foundation softens lines giving a smoother, less flawed appearance. To rush the process is implausible, it take as long as it takes. She pulls her eyelid taught and runs the pencil across it drawing a line before wiggling it between each lash to make them look thicker. The pencil clicks against he bathroom tiles with a light double tap as the places it down. She picks up an angled brush with which she gently teases and smudges the line, enlarging her eyes, resisting the urge to blink. She purses then opens her mouth into an ‘O’ shape running flesh tone lipstick around her lips before smacking them together and kissing off the excess onto a tissue raised to her mouth. She checks her watch, lets out a little gasp and curse before giving her face a final appraisal and hurrying back to the living room.

* * * * *

The old man sips his tea his eyes fixed on yesterdays racing results. His wrinkled hand shakes a little as his finger runs down the horses names. Grey hair and rough patches cover his arm like scrub land. Narrowing his eyes he pushes his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose. Another slurp of tea. He releases a long held breath as he leans back into his dusty old arm chair and looks out of the window towards the street. The radio is on, it is old and badly tuned. The voices that babble news and opinion in the background are mildly distorted with crackle and hiss. He listens for a moment, looking out and up at the cold blue sky. He pulls at his ear lobe absent mindedly and rubs the grey, sandpaper stubble of his chin. He raises one buttock off the seat of the chair and lets go of a rumbling fart before picking the paper back up again and continuing his search for today’s winner.

* * * * *

He gives in to the inevitability of leaving the warmth of his slumber. Throwing off the sheets he forces his body up and out of bed. A chill nips at his toes. The lines of sleep still mark his face. He stretches and scratches his balls as he plods with heavy eyelids towards the bathroom. The light flickers and he catches a glimpse of a pasty faced soul with panda eyes looking mournfully back at him. The light catches and the bathroom is illuminated. Stark white tiles reflect the glare back and he squints with a wince. It takes a few moments to adjust after which the light seems to become softer, more yellow than white. He flicks through an old copy of New Scientist whilst sitting on the toilet and tries to get a bit more understanding of the article he has already read several of times.

He brushes his teeth whilst standing on one leg. He remembers reading somewhere that it is meant to tone your abs or train the mind, or was that using the other hand to brush your teeth? He would have to look it up later. A tiny spot is erupting on the side of his nose. He pulls the skin tight around it and squeezes forcing it to pop and squirt a little off white projectile of, what is that stuff? He would probably not look that up later. There are two red nail marks left on his nose from where he squeezed his spot. He needs to cut them. No time this morning, perhaps he would do it this evening, if he remembered.

He puts on the light blue shirt that he ironed the night before, pulls on his jeans and checks himself in the mirror. He straightens up, sucks in his stomach and puffs out his chest pivoting this way then that. He smiles satisfied with what he sees and makes sure not to let everything drop, sag and droop before he has moved from the mirror.

Porridge for breakfast. Oats are good fuel for the day and apparently they make you happy or was that ‘getting your oats’? He finishes his tea and leaves the cup on the side. He forgets to leave his porridge bowl to soak something that he will regret later when he is chiselling dried oats from its sides. Oats would not be making him happy then.

He grabs bag, book and keys and heads for the door pausing briefly to stoop down and pick up the post. He gives it a cursory glance before tossing it onto the telephone table unopened. Windowed envelopes rarely bring good news.

The morning has become crisp and light having turned from its early grey start. His breath is visible in the air that nips his nose. Sunlight is caught in the dew hanging from branches of trees, sparkling fresh and new. He slips into his car. The smell of leather and pine welcoming him into a comfortably familiar environment. He turns on the heating and radio. Mirror, signal, manoeuvre and he is off into the world, safe in his little bubble and ready for the day ahead.

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