Practical romanticism

“Billygean,” MindReader says. I’m ogling the Diptyque candles my mum got me. I keep sliding open the box and smelling them. “Another present?” he says.

“Ooh, yes please.” DoctorSister’s cat, Pippin, sidles over to us and MindReader throws me a pointed look. She’s like a different species to Benny: silent and slow and unassuming, and this morning MindReader pointed her food bowls out to me: a handful of biscuits and half a Whiskas pouch were just left in her bowls, for later. Can you imagine? MindReader said to me.

“So least exciting to most…” MindReader says, hanging me a soft packet. 

It’s a pair of gloves you can use on a touch-screen phone. They look like wool but my iPhone responds to them. 

“So your hands don’t get cold,” MindReader says. Next is two completely transparent stack-able drawers. “For your make-up,” MindReader says. I smile at him, remembering many mornings over the past year spent scrablling around in old make-up bags while muttering that my mascara’s gone missing again. 

“Now for the main events,” MindReader says. I already know two of them: the first is a Kindle, because I have finally joined the 21st Century, and the second’s smell gave itself away: a bag of Lush, one of which I have happily already received from Mum.

“I’ll open the Kindle,” I say, and MindReader hands me a box. I coo over it for ages, marveling at how much it looks like a book and being too freaked out by the availability of every book ever immediately to be able to actually download any.

“Will you turn the browser off?” I say. It’s a problem, my addiction to social media, and it prevents me enjoying things unless I am strict; the same reason I leave my phone downstairs at night and turn it off while at work also leads to MindReader setting a parental control password so I can only use the Kindle to download books and read them.

He shakes his head. “Crazy.”

“If that has Facebook on it,” I say, “I’ll do that in bed instead of read.”

“I know.” MindReader shifts on the sofa next to me and Pippin jumps off. “Look – you can put your book on it.” 

“Can I?” 

“So you can read it like a reader, not on your laptop.”

I touch my hand to my heart and MindReader smiles. I open the lush next, the cardboard bag he wrapped the bath products in unfurling and releasing patchouli and rose and vanilla. I spend ages unwrapping each package and reading the descriptions. He sits back against the sofa, his arm around my shoulders, and sniffs obediently when I present him with things to smell.

“The final main present,” MindReader says. “You ready?”

“I’m ready.”

It’s a huge cylinder-shaped present, and it crackles as I open it. I see an enormous Zara bag as i pull the paper off. “Oh holy hell,” I say. I love Zara.

I pull something soft and dark and big out of the bag and realise it’s a coat. “MindReader!” I say immediately. “You have spent too much money on me.”

“Ah, I know, but your current coat…” his voice trails off. It’s true that my red coat I got in Barcelona has started shedding buttons.

“Now I have two new coats,” I say, unable to believe my luck. I need not explain it to you, internet; you understand my love affair with coats more than most.

“Look,” MindReader says, handing me a sleeve. It feels so soft – softer than the fur behind Benny’s ears – and it rebounds slightly as I squeeze it. “It’s got duck down in.”

“A duck feather coat?”


“Oh my god. It’ll be like wearing a duvet at the train station. An actual duvet.” I stand up and try it on. It falls neatly to my mid-thighs, looking like a fancy work coat I could wear to a meeting, but feeling like a duvet.

“You’re always cold at the train station,” MindReader says, kissing me square on the lips. “So I thought I’d help.”


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