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Roger looked up at the Salvation Army Citadel building dizzyingly framed by low scudding clouds. He hesitated before hammering on the double doors with the side of his fist. The noise hardly seemed to penetrate the cold layers of red paint.
His feet hurt. He'd walked for hours. He'd left under a low, black sky which was now an uncertain grey. He'd left Harry. And the house. And Julia.
There'd been a fight with Julia? Hard to remember.
Roger had cried for the first fifteen minutes of the two hour walk. Stumbling along grass verges, past uncaring traffic, hard pavements and unforgiving curbs.
Roger hammered again.
No answer. Where will I go if it's closed?
The door opened inwards. Movement to Roger's left grabbed his attention. A figure.
Nothing. Roger turned back to the door.
A woman stood and looked at him. Plump, white blouse, grey skirt, black stockings, grey eyes.
'Yes?' She'd opened one side of the double doors completely. Stood square and full on. God this was difficult.
The other Rogers, Roger's other minds, looked on as Roger A clutched his gut and folded under the pain, dripped tears and snot onto the sandstone steps. Roger B wished the silly sod had managed to stay on his feet. But it felt good to let go a bit. Wonder if she's wearing stockings.
Roger C recalled when his mum had phoned telling him of the death of his brother from testicular cancer. His legs had given way in the hallway of that flat he used to live in. The one in West Hampstead. What was the number?
Roger felt a hand under his arm. Heard words. Smelled buttered toast and Chanel Number 5. Julia used Chanel Number 5.
Roger A sobbed, did more breathing out than breathing in, struggled to his feet. God it hurt. Roger B wondered how many coats of paint were on the door. Felt hungry for toast. Roger C searched for more memories.
The woman was brusque. 'In here. Sit down. Are you going to be sick?'
Now in a bright corridor. Roger sat on a wooden bench. Took a deep breath. 'It's alright, I'm not drunk,' he said at last, 'I'm just tired and emotional.' Surprising himself, Roger smiled at the political euphemism.
'I'm Janice Deal,' she said, returning his smile. 'Just sit there for a moment.' Janice leaned forward, placed a hand on Roger's shoulder and held his gaze. 'I have to finish a phone call.' A gentle Geordie accent.
The weight of the hand on his shoulder and held eye contact caused a quick unease in Roger. Very serious phone call, he thought dismissing the intimacy. 'Thanks. Thank you. I'll be fine. Really.'
Janice walked quickly along the corridor, paused to glance back at Roger then turned into a room.
Roger rested the back of his head against the wall. Closed his eyes. Deep breaths.