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'Poor wee mite,' crooned Rose to Spring as she filled Lucy's coffee cup and nudged the honeypot closer. 'Spoon in the drawer, milk in the fridge. So, how's your boy?'

Lucy beamed and began talking at once, moving seamlessly from the brilliance of her eight year old son Lucian to the iniquitous behaviour of Paekakariki's five- member adolescent rat pack and to the latest possibilities for traffic controls in and out of the village. Rose stroked the kitten into somnolence.

'Any plans for the petrol station?' asked Rose when Lucy's flow faltered. 'There were a couple of blokes looking round there.'

Lucy sat straighter, taking small sips of her coffee to make it last. 'Oh? When? Were they suits?'

'No, not suits. Just ordinary blokes. One had a suitcase, if that counts.'

Lucy shook her head. 'Prob’ly waiting for the bus,' she decided. ' It picks people up there now if they book a Newman's one.'

'Is it cheaper?' asked Rose, the kitten now sleeping with its minute head pushed into the crook of her arm.

'Not sure, never taken it,' Lucy shrugged one shoulder. 'The train's not bad and it's more frequent than the bus.'

'Because if it was, it'd be so handy for Earl when he goes in to the chiropodist.'

Lucy felt faintly queasy at the thought of hearing again about Earl's bunions and hammer toes. She drained her cup and stood up. 'Give the bus company a ring,' she said, awarding Rose a genuine smile of friendship. 'Ta for the coffee. See you Friday!'

Outside, the sea filled her view under the now iris-blue sky. The sun lifted colours from the swaying cream-fretted waves: aquamarine, purple, jade green and, far out by Kapiti's island humps, indigo. Grinning involuntarily at this ravishing display, Lucy walked her bike down the hill, feasting her eyes on the view, which her home did not have. Her house was her own but her parsimonious income meant that she could only afford an elderly railway cottage, near the tracks and not sited to take advantage of the sun’s arc. 'Three fishing boats out,' she murmured. 'Who's in the third, I wonder?' She wished for a small second that she could drop in at Hattie's to see if Trev had gone out, then Lucian’s face, warm and dewy with sleep, rose behind her eyes. The older he got, the less he was really with her, with her as he had been when he was four, five, six, and she the love centre of his world. These waking minutes were the tenderest she had with him, he being eight years old and A Big Boy. Now the view was gone, she wanted to get home.

At the crossroads, the traffic was a steady stream. Three seconds, three seconds, her own mantra started to chant, reminding her that three seconds was all she needed to get safely across the road. She pulled her mobile from her jeans. It was quarter past seven. Standing astride her bike and keeping an eye to her right for breaks in the traffic, she rang Angelica to confirm the Dailey delivery, and to clock off. Lucian would be awake in about 15 minutes. Up past the road's right-hand curve which cuddled the railway station she spied a reasonable gap. A quick glance to her left showed the other side of the road still empty, and a brown-skinned man in cowboy boots strolling across the forecourt of the disused petrol station. She had only time to recognise her co-worker George Pirie, otherwise known as Clooney because of his remarkable good looks, before the gap was upon her. She plunged across the lethal flow.

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