Pigeons were toying with the dust in the centre of the square. Vernon looked up from the bench and caught his reflection in an empty window. Presumably there had been some sort of mistake. He had grown from an awkward stump-footed boy into a heaving Adonis who could moisten knickers at fifty paces. His future self must have been billeted to some other lesser sod (he might have pitied them were he not permanently engulfed in a cloud of pussy). Instead, with his creamy blue eyes, razzle-dazzle teeth and perilously unbuttoned shirt, Vernon was somehow beyond sleaze. He should have been a relic of the 1970s and yet he carried it off with such obviousness it was almost charming.
These days, he barely had to try. Everyone yielded eventually. Everyone except Clarissa. She worked in accounts and smoked Rothmans like a pro. He’d taken her to the opera and watered his eyes at the first interval. ‘Italian,’ he said, ‘always makes me weep.’
Back at her apartment they’d sat in the sitting room listening to Dido (his choice) and drank champagne while she drew on a cigarette. He’d drained his glass in seconds.
‘Shall we take things upstairs?’
‘The sofa’s right for now,’ she said.
‘For chatting, Vernon.’
She started to talk about work. Whilst she was outlining her plans for management restructuring he traced his tongue along her neck and left a trail of warm drool. That usually drove them wild. She put out her fag in his drink and showed him to the door.
Now it was half twelve and the drunks were beginning to circle like wolves. He sat alone, listening to the traffic rush by. An ache grew in his brain and blossomed there like a ball of solid light. His charm could not be denied. He got up and wandered over to the clutch of pigeons, squatted down beside them.
‘Hey girls,’ he said, licking his teeth, ’how we doing tonight?’