The Summer Triangle
Gaby timed her breakfast boiled egg to the aeroplanes flying overhead – one minute, two minutes, three minutes. It was always exactly right, an ochre yolk and a slippery white, free-range level 6 – she wouldn’t buy anything less. She switched on the news out of habit. “The headlines for this Monday morning at seven thirty – the singer songwriter Audrey Moss has given birth to twins without intervention, T.V. presenter Saul Benedict has bought a ruined pile in Berkshire, and model Saffron Willows has pledged a substantial donation to The Priory in her will. The outlook for the weather – temperatures up to 32C are expected by midday”.
‘But it’s only May!’ thought Gaby, putting an extra bottle of water in her sack.
Outside, in the street, the moving pavement to the station was already packed. The parallel inside walking pavement, for obesity sufferers levels 2-7, was also packed. She prized a gap in the outside lane, despite the groans of perspiring commuters. At the tube station the crowd was backed up to two sets of traffic lights, waiting to get through security. Gaby would be lucky to make it to work by ten thirty.
When she finally got into a carriage Gaby phrased her manager to let her know what time she hoped to arrive at the Book-Library in Battersea. She was enjoying her library training – she’d done three months at the Computer-Library and three months at the Information-Library. It was much quieter at the Book-Library, but she did like the feel of books – their distinctive covers, the texture of the paper, the accumulation of pages. There may not be as many opportunities for promotion in the Book-Library sector but she thought that this was where her interest lay. If she could find a niche in a brown-brick university or a film adaptation company she reckoned she’d be happy enough.
Her face was squashed against the back of a tall man in a blue striped kirtle. He was one of the few people in the carriage who didn’t have wires going into his ears. Gaby apologized for her proximity. She could just see the new Geyser Building out of the window; it towered twice the height of Canary Wharf. When the train stopped at London Bridge Gaby pushed her way out of the carriage as graciously as he could. On the platform she saw a young man sitting on a bench, hunched over with his head in his hands. Something about the shape of him made Gaby stop in her tracks. She’d seen that posture many times before. She knew him from school. It was Ned Chillet. She went up to him.
“Ned. Ned. Are you alright?” He looked up and seemed relieved to see a familiar face. “Do you recognize me?” asked Gaby.
“Gaby Taylor. We were in the same ‘personal finance’ group in our last year at St Jude’s.”
“You graduated with twelve straight A’s and a distinction in data.”
“ Right,” Gaby said, baffled by his memory. “What’s up?”
“It’s my first day at my new job. The journey is very very difficult. I’ve done it with my mother three times but this is the first time on my own. There were so many people, all standing close together. I couldn’t breathe.” His voice was quite flat, as usual, and he was talking quickly.
“Where do you have to go?”
“Vauxhall. MI5. Blue and white building.”
“What’s the job?” Gaby asked out of curiosity.
“I am a Back-up Delivery Technician. I am responsible for configuring devices with backup software, resolving all backup issues, disaster recovery data replication, resolving scheduling issue, ensuring best use is made of available resources …”
“I get the picture,” interrupted Gaby. “Do you know where you need to go?”
“Yes. I can continue now.”
Gaby remembered not to be surprised at his abruptness.
“Well, good to see you, Ned.”
“Good to see you.”
“Do you still live in Sydenham?”
“Yes, I do.”
“With your mother.”
“With my mother.”
“Look here’s my phrase number. Get in touch if you want to. Or I’ll contact you.”
“Thank you. Goodbye.”
Ned hurried towards the exit steeling himself for the ticket barrier.
Gaby liked Ned but he was hard to get to know. At school the students in their year tried to talk to him but soon lost patience. Gaby was glad he’d landed a job. She wondered how he’d got on at Rutland University where he’s gone to study systematic biology. She meant to contact him that week but she had essays and reports to write, and her garden needed watering every evening. She knew she shouldn’t be trying to grow lilies and delphiniums, and she kept them well-hidden at the back of her plot, but she couldn’t resist the scent of the ‘regale’ trumpets, or the intense gentian blue of the ‘Michelle Obama’ spires.
A month later, on her way home from work, Gaby saw Ned sitting in a carriage at London Bridge waiting for the train to leave. She went to sit opposite him.
“I’ve been thinking about you,” said Gaby.
“How does that feel?”
“I wondered how you were? How the job is going?”
“It’s going alright. But I want to do more skilful work.”
“I want to infiltrate terrorist networks on the net.”
“Bit of a hacker are you?”
“I’m a big hacker, not a bit of one.”
“I see,” said Gaby, humouring him. “What else do you get up to?” Gaby noticed that Ned’s hair had grown quite long. It nestled in loose curls on his collar.
“I have a new hobby.”
“ I can show you if you like. Come to my house at nine o’clock on Sunday.”
“In the morning?”
“No. In the evening.”
“Isn’t that a bit late?”
“Right. Fine. Thanks. Now you ask me what I’ve been doing.”
Sunday was a little cooler but temperatures were still reaching 28C in the middle of the day. Gaby got through her chores and her paperwork and set off in the evening to walk to Ned’s house. Had Ned had any girlfriends Gaby wondered? Was he interested in girls at all? It was hard to know where Ned’s intellect finished and his emotions began. She knew where he lived but she’d never been there before. The street was easy enough to find. He lived in a typical 2030’s house with lark’s tongue chamfers and stained glass skylights.
Ned opened the door to Gaby. He rarely smiled but he seemed pleased to see her.
“Would you like a drink of something?” Gaby wondered if he’d been practising his social skills.
“I’ve brought this bottle of skourie. Do you like skourie?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never had it.”
“You add distilled water. It tastes of moon fruit.”
“The kitchen is through here.”
She followed Ned into a large white square room with a series of white doors recessed into white walls. Behind one door was a stack of glasses, behind another a water cooler. They took their drinks into the chute and rose to the top of the house. There was still a little light in the sky. The flatness of South London rose into the Weald.
“In here,” said Ned entering the last room in the west extension. The roof had a section which opened up to the sky. A telescope was angled at the stars.
“I want to show you an asterism.”
“What’s an asterism?”
“It’s a pattern of stars which isn’t officially a constellation. But tomorrow it becomes official. The Summer Triangle – a new constellation.” Gaby was intrigued.
“This is what you are looking for.” Ned showed Gaby a chart with a near perfect right angle triangle joining up three stars. “It’s the first feature visible in the darkening sky so you should be able to pick it out.” He pointed to the stars individually. “Deneb, Vega, Altair.”
Gaby positioned herself at the telescope and let her eye settle on the darkness.
“Look for Vega – it’s the brightest of the three – bluish. Can you see it?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Vega will be our ‘North Star’ in about 12,000 years. It’s only 25 light years away.”
“Can you see Deneb, the dimmest?”
“Just about. Yes, yes I can.”
“3,230 light years away.”
“And that must be Altair.” Gaby kept looking until she could believe that she was a part of this cosmos. When she stepped back from the telescope she stumbled and grabbed Ned’s arm to steady herself. They looked into each other’s eyes. Ned kissed her on the cheek. Gaby kissed Ned on the mouth. They held each other.
“Can you hear my heart beating?” asked Gaby.
“Do you know there are more stars than heartbeats in the whole of human existence?”
“No, I didn’t know that,” said Ned.