“Tea,” announces Sophie. She kicks the door shut behind her, right hand tucking hair behind an ear, then nudging the too-big pair of spectacles to get it settled more comfortably on her nose. With her other hand she fumbles, fingers jammed somewhere deep inside an inner pocket of her huge overcoat. Triumphantly, she produces a lump of brown paper.
July savours a dramatic pause before bristling at her. “What is that, Soph? Can it truly be tea? Because tea, as we know, comes in sachets which are usually rectangular in shape, if not – ”
“Shut up, J.” Curtis swats at him and misses, tries again and manages to cuff the side of his friend’s head. He’s tired and hungry and there’s too much of the general city smog in his lungs, not enough of that proper, nicotine-laced stuff. He’s got three days of stubble on his chin and dark thoughts chafing against the back of his mind. Tea might help. Might. He shifts his legs impatiently. “Get off me,” he mumbles. “Goin’ numb.”
July reluctantly complies.
Sophie heads for the kitchen counter, trying not to look as her housemates untangle themselves. It wasn’t much of a knot to begin with — just the usual lazy configuration of Curtis with his feet on the table and ass on the couch, July using the world (but mostly Curtis) as his footrest.
But Sophie treats her tendency to get jealous easily the same way she would a conspicuous birthmark. “Making tea!” She calls in the general direction of the spice rack. With her back turned, she is invincible, aloof. At least for now.
A wan afternoon light filters into the circular room, drowsily easing in through the gaps in the blinds. Very noir, thinks Curtis, as his memory feeds him flashes of vintage films from ages past. Black and white, black and white. Harsh shadows on angelic looking women with soft features, dark hair, and even darker intentions. He plunges his hand into the gap between cushions, in search of the remote. July helpfully moves about half an inch to his right, finally allowing Curtis the relief of feeling fabric-warmed plastic under his fingers.
With the press of a button, the gaps in the blinds widen, filled in with sky.
“This may well be my last night in this city,” Curtis begins. The deliberate stage voice dares the other two to take his narration seriously. “Amaranth the unwilting, Amaranth the darling of the free nations, is falling.” He holds the remote to his lips, murmuring at it, the perfect film noir detective and his trusty dictaphone. Then he frowns, aiming the remote at the blinds again.
“This story isn’t going to end well. I think we need the ominous lighting back.”