Sara barely recognises her old home.
Or rather, she recognises only crumbs amid the feast: the curve of the dockside railway tracks; how the old bonded warehouses cut grey squares from a blue sky. But the place has donned its Sunday best, been buffed until it shimmers and dominating her harbour are whippy ice cream vans scrawled with cartoon cats, dimly glowing restaurants and a cinema that shows moving pictures in languages she doesn’t recognise.
Frederick rests a hand in the small of her back. ‘How do you find it?’
She gazes across the water, towards the steam cranes, leggy silhouettes that perform their jerky, pointless ballet to entertain visitors.
‘Where’s the dirt?’ she says. Where is the smog and puff of steam engines, the crush and bawl of dockers unloading bales of tobacco and cinnamom logs, rolling higgledy barrels of sherry? The thrilling promise of more. ‘I hate it.’
It’s the people she dislikes the most: the locals rapt in their music players, always looking down; the tourists stumbling blindly, pointing their image makers at nothing, recording but never seeing. Where are her sailors with their tales of willing women and vengeful oceans, their songs, their brawls, the stink of brine and sweat and pipe smoke?
‘The water,’ she says, staring into the churning brown slick below. ‘It’s the only thing that hasn’t changed.’
‘And us,’ he says, grasping her hand.
And she knows she’ll leave and never return.