Harford saw them waiting on the platform: three women, young, dark and already overweight, particularly the one in the middle –the one with the little girl in a pushchair. They were smoking, despite the child’s presence, long, expensive-looking cigarettes with gold tips, and the loud excited sounds of their conversation came from a language he could not identify but supposed might be Gujarati or Bengali. Busy with their cigarettes and talk, they ignored him as he struggled past with his luggage towards the small shelter that seemed more suited to a country bus stop than this railway station in one of the larger Medway towns. The day, however, was hot and Harford wanted shade for the pink skin that showed now beneath his thinning thatch of hair.
Under shelter, Harford thought of the little girl, hatless in the hot sunshine, the extravagantly unsuitable dress she had on, as tasteless in its way as the tight, tarty clothes the women wore. His passing eye had seen how tired the child was, as it had seen the mockery of mascara, blusher and lipstick on her face, all smudged where little fists had rubbed. He imagined the child, her thirst, her hunger, her tried patience. He wished he had something for her, some water or juice. He looked at his watch. There was time for him to renegotiate the platform, the damp passageway beneath the tracks to the little shop where he might buy the something he did not have. He stood up, determined, and then determination melted away from him, as it usually did, the wings of this particular better angel bitten and gnawed at by his customary what ifs and supposings until it could not fly.