“He was the first in bed that night, and he pretended to be sleeping when Rosa came upstairs into the attic room. But he was watching her, she knew. Only one eye was shut. He watched her at the mirror combing out her hair. He watched her rubbing aloe cream into her face and throat. She went to urinate and clean her teeth, and every sound she made was shared by him. He hardly breathed when she switched out the lamp, took off her clothes by moonlight and hung them, with her underwear on top, across the wooden footboard of the bed. The bedroom smelled of mackerel, she thought. He’d turned his back to her. He was a cashew wrapped around himself. She said good night. She patted him on his shoulder. She did not know how long he lay awake, because the sea air made her tired and she was soon asleep. She did not wake to breakfast on a tray. This was day three. ‘You’d try the patience of a saint,’ he said when she was still in bed at ten o’clock. She found this judgment pleasing in some way.”
—Jim Crace, from “The Devil’s Ladder”
Photography credit Yusef Sevincli.