We stopped for coffee and discussed our purchases: shoes, dresses, tops, frilly knickers.
‘Perfect,’ we told each other, sipping our lattes.
‘You’ll look terrific in it,’ we said.
We had been saying these things for decades. Sometimes they were even true.
Traffic whizzed round Marble Arch, with its towering sculpture of the horse’s head, chopped off at the neck.
“This was the site of Tyburn gallows,” she said.
“I believe so,” I said.
“The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Persecuted by your church.”
“I don’t have a church,” I reminded her. “And yours hasn’t been averse to doing a bit of persecuting over the years.”
“True.” She sipped her latte. “I suppose belonging to the wrong faith was seen as treason.”
“Treason? I thought it was theological. All about transubstantiation.” I unwrapped my flapjack. “Take, eat, this is my body.” I broke the flapjack.
She said, “It doesn’t work with flapjack.”
“Who says?” I took a mouthful. “Do this in remembrance of me.”
“If I die before you. Make a commemorative shopping trip. Have coffee and something to eat and think of me. Promise?”
“Why should you die before me?”
“Why shouldn’t I? It doesn’t have to be flapjack. It can be a cheese croissant. A fudge brownie. A multiseed energy bar.”
She looked as if she might reach across the table and take my hand if we were the sort of friends who did that sort of thing.
“It’s only a scan,” I said, looking out of the window. The sun was shining on the horse’s head. The horse had a beatific expression, as if it were swallowing water, even though it had no throat.