Laura doesn’t even need her nails doing. After yesterday’s encounter with the furious Chinese man, she took a bus into Morden and had them filed and polished by a young lady with a stud in her temple and the words ‘anti-fascist’ tattooed above her top lip.
And yet here she is, back at Susan’s Nail Bar. She sits on the same patch of grass as yesterday and eats a banana as she watches for any signs of life along the parade of shops. On the far left is Abra Kebabra, which she wouldn’t expect to be open at 9.30am on a Wednesday morning, yet there it is, meat turning on the skewer, European dance music leaking out of a tinny speaker. No customers though, obviously.
The bridal shop is closed, although there is a woman in the window tending to one of the dresses, unhappy with how the train is displayed. Laura watches her adjust it for more than 20 minutes before returning inside the shop with the dress exactly as it was before.
In the middle, Susan’s Nail Bar, open for business and as empty as ever. To its right, the defunct Blockbuster, a growing pile of mail gathering dust by the front door. A sun-faded poster for the Johnny Depp version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is peeling away from inside the window.
On the far right of the parade is a curious shop that seems to be divided in two. On the left is what looks to be a traditional butchers while on the right is a bakery. Laura’s professional instincts leave her pondering the Health and Safety aspect of such a setup until she notices its name – MeatLoaf – at which point she remembers how Amir proposed, on his knees singing ‘I Would Do Anything For Love’ at Karaoke Box in the city.
They’d gone to his favourite Turkish restaurant after she said yes and celebrated the next day with an open-air screening of her favourite film on Clapham Common.
Gene Wilder was so much better, she thinks, and as she does so, the world seems to collapse in on itself and Laura can no longer hear the traffic streaming past her. She lets the banana fall from her mouth and tries to stand and run, but her legs give way and she collapses back to the turf.
Up on all fours, she tells herself to breathe as she stares at the grass, flattened from where she’s been sitting. ’Calm down,’ she says. Except it isn’t her talking. She finds herself in shadow and a pair of brilliant white adidas trainers appears in front of her. ‘You have to calm down,’ says the voice. ‘Then come with me.’