After the club closes, floor sticky with vodka and staff too jaded to care, we step outside and wait while Anouk lights up another Lucky Strike. She sucks it hard, skinny smooth cheeks turning concave with the effort, one leg effortlessly propped against the wall behind her, ankle turned to perfection. She makes a big show of not noticing the guys who walk past trying to catch her eye.
Out in the night, a few streets away, an ambulance starts to wail. It’s not even a notable addition to the quiet hum of the city – it’s something that should’ve been there all along. I roll my eyes and glance at Anouk, but she’s looking straight ahead, eyes on an antiques shop, fingers stiff around her cigarette. Furniture hunkers down in the dark window like a sleeping herd.
The baked air from the day still lingers between the close-set buildings, which lean down and share secrets above our heads. Even with bare legs and arms, and even at 4am, it’s still just warm enough to drape ourselves artistically over their feet in a way that says we don’t care and we want you to know it. Anouk does this best, but I give it a shot and am rewarded with an approving stare from a man in a beige jacket as he smooches past. He smirks, and I curl into a half smile. One dimple is all, so keep walking.
In the window of the brocanterie over the road, Anouk is a nymph – a silvered study of pretend womanhood, exhaling sensuous curls of smoke that last three, four, five, six seconds.
I meet my eyes. Shining and artfully smudged in the forgiving window that nevertheless won’t transform me as it does Anouk. We have an agreement, the window, the streetlights and I. Look once, be fooled. Don’t look twice.
Beneath my feet, the gritty sand that lives between the small cobbles of the city, even though we’re far from the sea. In front, just a tired girl and a junk shop.