"It seems," he says, "the rain coming every day."
He says 'sims'. The girls do not stifle their laughter, but burst with a kind mirth in their corner of the kitchen. Their mother turns her face from him and he knows the stare that silences them: the same grimace her own mother would have given to her. He remembers his Aunt's fierceness, her vicious tongue. "They're doing no harm," he says in Sinhala, but his cousin shakes his excuses off, her ponytail-tremor the only movement in the dark Edwardian kitchen, the rain the only distant sound. He cannot even hear the girls breathing.
He says 'sims'. The girls do not stifle their laughter, but burst with a kind mirth in their corner of the kitchen
"It seems like it rains every day," Shamini corrects him, now. He glances quickly at the girls, and they are waiting for him to repeat the words. They are taller and fatter than girls he is used to in Sri Lanka. The older one has ribbons in her hair, the younger, a fringe, which covers one eye. The skin of their cheeks is taut, as if it is stretched over gourds. He chooses the smaller one, her one eye, and he repeats to her "It seems like it rains every day."
She smiles encouragingly. She must be eight? Her hand comes up and she pushes the hair from her eyes. She looks at him and he winks at her. Both girls laugh again. Their mother makes a swipe at the air in front of them and they stumble up and clear plates and the Pyrex butter dish, the pots of jam and the golden syrup tin.
They are like puppies, he thinks, watching their bottoms wobble. They are like week old dogs.
Soon, he limps out into the grim, London day. He goes to the train station, and following the instructions Shamini has written, he buys a ticket from the machine. He presses the button for New Cross Gate, then waits on the wrong side of the station, boards the wrong train and goes most of the way to Croydon. He shows his directions to an African on the train.
The African shakes his head. There are no other people he can ask, only white fellows. The African points to the door and to the other train. The door is about to close. He jumps off. He gets on to the other train as its doors slide to, and he stands by them, looking out to the train he just left. The African is at the doors. He smiles, shakes his head from side to side.