Her name is Emily. She is dressed in gold and blue, and she has a certain sedate solidity, her nature both enduring and dependable. She works hard, does Emily, endlessly cruising up and down the river, transporting people from point to point, a haven from the rain, a place from which to view a quieter, gentler world. The water laps at her, and she passes with serenity, deft and delicate in the bow. Hers is a place apart, of stories and tales and sunshine smiles. ***
The man in grey feels grey. He feels tired and worn; beneath that weary exterior anger lies, a slow hatred of 46 years of this and 46 years of that, of failure and disappointment and un-pursued dreams. In the bag beside him sits a pistol, antique and unreliable. The only thing stopping him from using it is this daily journey on the water, this moment of quiet release. He knows this, understands it too well and so he spends a part of each day on the relative calm of the water.
*** She sits, half twisted to face outwards over the side of the boat. She is oblivious to the wind, to the sun, the passage of time. She came aboard this morning, handed the girl £40 and asked that she be allowed to travel backwards and forwards all day. She sees not the people, the sights, the flow of river life, the minutiae of the docks. She is occupied with other things, deeper queries, the all-too brief mortality that besets her. Beneath her breast a darkness spreads, a demon lurks and kills her slowly, and she does not know what to do. She does not know what to say.
*** Their fingers entwine and twist, grasped in affection and love, their hips touch with a hint of lust and longing. He rests his head on her shoulder, eyes closed, feeling the heat of her, the hum of the boat. He cannot think he has ever been happier. He thinks not of all the paths trod, the decisions taken, the mistakes made. For him these are fleeting and inconsequential. He opens his eyes and stares at the sky, the wind lifting strands of her hair about him and he smiles. Whatever happens, whatever has passed, he knows that today has been a good day, and that is all that matters.
*** For her the day is one of endless wandering, of camping in cafes and sitting on benches, of watching the world go by. Hers is a solitary existence, and no matter the form of her meandering she remains caged by it. She looks down at the deck of the boat momentarily, taking in the details of its every construction. In them are a host of truths, but that she could decipher them and better understand the conundrum of this lack of freedom. Here, there is only the boat, the water, and the vast space up towards the sky. A swan flies overhead, sharp against the endless blue and her eyes track it until it can no longer be seen.
*** The man looks down at his daughter, curled up on his coat on the bench beside him, her head resting against his thigh. She sleeps soundly, exhausted by a day of excitement, of science and mirrors and giant movies. She is oblivious to the engine, the voices of those around, the rocking of the boat. He looks down at her, the back of his index finger softly brushing her hair, and thinks of all the things she will one day do. He wonders if she will one day sit here, full of the possibilities of life, enjoying the water as he has done, if she will take the time for moments like this. He hopes so.
*** She shivers slightly, the wind colder than she expected, colder than she is dressed for. Today was day one, and the bubble of its success after the fear of the morning has led her to forgo the walk home. So she sits nervously, camped in the centre of the deck, wondering what possessed her to do this thing. Afraid of the water, the motion of the boat, she cannot wait for the journey to end, and silently, creatively, vows never to ride this boat again. The wind blows and she huddles into herself, head bowed.
*** His thoughts are anything but idle. He doesn't catch the ferry often, but when he does he likes to sit back, taking in the sun or the rain, watching those around him with a keen and ill-disguised interest. His mind jumps from one thing to another, a maelstrom of energetic musings, of fantasies and postulations. He scratches his arm, wondering about the man in grey, the nervous girl, and the fey woman sitting opposite him. He makes up stories about them, contrives tales and happenstances, and at journey's end, writes them down with a meticulous care.