She perches by the door. Her myopic owl-eyes peer from behind thumb-thick glasses, and miss nothing: not one finger fumbling its turn, the others scrabbling to cover its mistake without missing a beat, without tipping the coin, the fifty pence piece she has balanced on my hand. The notes tinkle, obedient in line, ordered to the end of the scale.
I look round with a flourish. My fingers and I, we have got away with it this time.
She misses nothing. Her eyes don’t blink. She saw the fumble. And for a moment, I fear she will flap across the room, talons outstretched to rip off my smile.
But she doesn’t move. She draws breath with a hiss. “Again” she snaps.
I turn back to the lined-up keys, back to my fingers. I begin again. My hands tremble.
She lets fly a screech as the fifty pence falls.