She worked nights in the General Hospital. He worked early shift in a bread factory. They met every morning when, exhausted and smelling of vanilla, he crawled under the duvet and crammed his head under the pillow to try and escape the noise of the kids’ school over the road.
She woke him in up in time for perfunctory sex, a cup of tea and a squint at the early evening news, before snatching up the car keys and returning to the late night perplexities of Intensive Care. When he woke up next, he had a solitary breakfast in front of the late movie and left her an early morning snack in the fridge. Usually a lettuce sandwich with a few hours to develop just the right amount of sogginess. He tried to keep the thumbprints to a minimum.
She told friends they had absolutely nothing in common except the unforgiving nature of their work schedules. He was a right wing, tabloid reading bigot who’d never left the country and saw no reason to. She was Ugandan, naturalised after years of dedication to the NHS and with an innate mission of care.
They were too tired to row. And had had no time at all to become over-familiar with each other. After five years, they knew less about each other than most couples find out on the first weekend away. They both liked it this way.
One morning he puffed his way under the duvet, smelling of vanilla and fresh toothpaste (she was very particular) and banged her head accidentally with his as he collapsed.
“Mind out,” she protested softly.
He looked closely at her, “Good God!” he cried, “You’re black!”
She dug him hard in the ribs and laughed till she coughed.