Stack Of One - Excerpt

At ten-thirty reinforcements arrive in the shape of a wheezing, pendulously-breasted woman whose hair has been so abused over the years with peroxide and perming solution that what little of it remains is wiry and grizzled; her head is as bristly as a balding Brillo. She is one of the casual staff, brought in to cover for the café’s supervisor, who is on holiday in Florida. She waddles amongst the tables with asthmatic effort collecting plates while Megan slips away for a break, gliding down the escalator to the ground floor. It feels, as it always does, like a slow immersion into a flowing river; the people are a constant current of movement in and through and away again; regular as waves they lap against the counters and gush down to the lavatories, eddying around the tables leaving deposits of litter before surging out and away. The flood of bodies is so tangible to her that she is almost tempted, as she descends, to hold her breath.