f rom the shop than to dwell within the odd silent anticipatory gloom of the street. It was from within less a state than a suspension of a state. Briefly, there was not even a flake of snow. The cold, though, was curt and decisive.
Upstairs behind the curtained lunette window, some instinct curled awake from within one animal’s slumber and the stupor of her mistress.
In the basement, Mrs Ghosh was pretending not to want to show Ian-Aziz to Clara. He had come through from the living room at the back when he heard his grandmother reaching down one of those cold bottles made of glass. He had seen his father sometimes look carefully around the whole shop, as though it could hide bad men, when it came to those bottles at the back. Something clearly lived in them and needed an eye kept upon it. And he knew that he must shield his grandmother when, as it now seemed to be the case, his father was away out, not around for some reason.
Thus it was that, while two grown sons stood in the dark and cold still of the year’s last night within the small cleared area made by salt and grit, and two women conferred over bright shapes with a child in the warm below the level of the street, something stirred below the stark oblivion of the mother behind the window at the top of the building, a pair of tired hands drew aside for the first time in days those weary curtains, and in one sharp glance knew that she looked out on a black world through terrible bared teeth that only she might possibly arrest in their cold snap.