Benedict stands and looks over the balcony of the flat. The baker is delivering bread from his horse drawn cart, his hat tilted to the back of his head, his money bag over his shoulder. Benedict's father owes the baker £50, or so he heard the other day, when his old man moaned about the baker wanting some back of what he was owed. Over the way kids are at play, skipping or with hula hoops or wooden box homemade go-carts. He looks down into the Square, the man with the boxer dog is taking it for a stroll; across on the opposite balcony, a man smokes, dressed just in his vest, bald head, smoke rising. Benedict looks down at Lydia's flat. Her father swayed home drunk last night, singing some Scottish songs at the top of his voice, his arms outspread above his head. Benedict had seen him, heard him, Lydia's mother at the door of the flat, arms folded, unimpressed, hairnet, cigarette between lips. The door is shut now, the loud voices and shouts silenced. Lydia's big sister crept home at some God knows what hour in the morning, tarted up, beehive hairdo, skirt just covering her backside, black stockings, hair dyed blonde. Lydia's brother, Hemmy, crosses the Square, sneaky and oily in a stroll. Benedict had punched him once for tossing fireworks at him and his sister, ran after him until he caught him, and thump thump and down he went. Lydia will be out later, he supposes. Thin girl, light brown long hair, lanky, her thin features and arms and legs. They'd been to the local railway station to watch the steam trains, went to Waterloo railway station, too. Sitting there on a seat, smelling the steam and acrid smoke, and that steam train smell. The powerful sounds, the feel of power, the smell of power. They sat occupied by the big black train waiting to depart, steam oozing, the loud whistle, the passengers looking from windows. And Lydia had said, I'd like to go to Scotland; like it is shown on the big coloured posters or to the seaside with yellow sands and blue sea; and he had said, yes we will, we'll go together, you and I, a bag of sandwiches, bottles of pop. She liked that. Moved closer to him, her arm against his. The train pulled out, steam hissing, the smell getting stronger, his lungs enlarging with it, she stood up, hands in prayer mode, her eyes focused. They waved to the train and unknown passengers. Benedict's mother has gone shopping with his sister and younger brother. His old man is at work, making things of metal in some factory by the Thames; he'd been there once, one Saturday morning, his old man showing him around, doing things, overtime. The door of Lydia's flat opens and Lydia appears. She looks around the Square. She is clothed in a red and black checked dress, greyish ankle socks, black plimsolls. Her hair is unbrushed, hangs in strands. She looks up and he waves and she waves back. She smiles. He smiles back. She stands there in the open air. She points to her mouth with a finger. He wonders what she means. He opens up his hands in a gesture of: What do you mean? Hemmy punched my mouth, she says. She rubs her lip. Come up, Benedict says. She looks back at her door, then pulls it shut and walks across the Square and up the stairs. He waits and listens. The baker unloads more bread, the horse stands idle with a nosebag, feeding. She runs onto the balcony and stands beside him, out of breath. He sees a seep of red on her lower lip, her teeth have blood on them. He takes out his handkerchief and wipes her lip gently, she shivers, eyes watery, her tongue pushed into the opposite side of her cheek. Why did he punch you? Benedict asks. She moves her lips to answer. Because I'm ugly he said, she answered, blood seeping still, his handkerchief getting redder. I'll smack his mouth, Benedict says, he'll have to put his toothbrush up his arse to clean his teeth, he adds, making her giggle, then cringe, then shiver. She looks into his eyes. He sees his reflection there. They seem green, the eyes, the black center. She takes hold of his arm of the hand wiping her lip, grips it. Heard your dad singing last night, he says. She looks downwards. He sings well, Benedict adds, just wrong time and place. They rowed for hours afterwards, she says.Then my sister came home in the early hours and that meant another row, Dad saying he'd tan her backside, calling her a whore, Mum butting in defending her and shouting at her. Sounds exciting, Benedict says. Frightening, she says, pulling away from his handkerchief, hand and fingers. I share a bedroom with her. She stank of booze. She was in a foul mood, throwing her clothes about the room, swearing, standing there in the nude, her boobies like small babies. He laughs at that. She frowns. Not funny, she says, she scared me. Sorry, he says, just the way you came out with it. Her lip still seeps blood. She licks it with her tongue. He wipes it with his handkerchief again. She screws up her eyes. Then she snored all night, Lydia says. Did your dad tan her backside? he asks, standing back, seeing if the blood has stopped. No, he just says that, makes him feel he's still in control of things, but he isn't anymore, Mum is, Mum is the power now, Lydia says. Has he ever hit you? Benedict asks. No, he hasn't, Mum has and does. He's a big noisy, cuddly bear. All mouth, Mum says. Well, with us he is. He knocked two Paddies out the other month at the Duke of Wellington, she says, unimpressed, but smiling, despite her lip. I can't go up West with you, Lydia says. Why not? Benedict asks. He notices the bleeding has ceased. Mum gave me some lecture about may and can and possibility and permissibility or something or other, but I can't go, she say, folding her arms, standing stiff. He pulls a face. I'll have a word with her, Benedict says, explain the purpose of our adventure. No, no, Lydia says. She says she'll tan my backside if I keep on about it. No pain, no gain, he says. Think of it: the West End of London. She breathes in heavily, looks at him, at his combed back quiff, the hazel eyes, the smiling lips. She can only say no, he says. No, best not, not after last night's episodes. Another time, when she's in a better mood, Lydia adds. Benedict sighs. He likes her thin hands, the way they have gripped his own in sign of desperation, the thin fingers, the pinkie nails. OK, he says, another time. What about Bedlam Park? We can go swimming? She hesitates, looks over the balcony, her hair needing a good brush, her eyes full of wonder and fear and anxiety. I could ask, she says. Just a question. She needn't pay for the locker, Benedict says, I've money for that. Lydia looks at him, her brain in gear, her lips open, words there. I'll see what she says, Lydia says, and off she goes down the stairs, two at a time; he can hear her feet on concrete steps. He watches her go to the door of her flat and disappear inside. Negotiations, words exchanged, maybe. He looks at the door. The man with the boxer dog returns to the Square with a newspaper under an arm, the dog pulling, the man's arm out stretched. The door to Lydia's flat opens and she comes out and gives him the thumps up sign. She smiles and goes back inside. No pain, some gain, no slapped backside. He smiles. Up West will have to wait. He and she,another time, another date.

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