An eye peers through the door's crack, much lower than it should be.
"Who are you?"
"I'm Trina... Geoffrey's daughter. Your granddaughter?"
Her hand fumbles at the chain and the door opens wide. I step inside.
I move to hug her - gently, so gently, her bones are brittle now; fragile.
"Do come in. Can I get you a drink?" The motions of polite socialability a thin veneer over the huge uncertainty inside her.
"Do have a seat. This one in the sunshine is nice..."
I sit, and the main part of the day begins.
"Who were you again?"
"Your granddaughter. Your son's daughter."
Your only grandchild now. You won't remember otherwise, so I shalln't remind you"
"Oh yes. I remember. You've put on a lot of weight, haven't you? Where is Geoffrey? He's a lovely boy, isn't he?"
"He didn't come with me"
We're estranged. We don't speak anymore. He doesn't answer my mail
"Oh... Is he still alive?
"Yes, he lives in Brighton with Lesley... You remember Lesley, Geoffrey's wife?"
"I... I remember the name... Did I ever meet her?"
"Yes... You go to their house every Sunday. Geoffrey picks you up and brings you home."
"He's such a lovely boy"
A cat with fur like a summer cloud dabs at her swollen knee, and the first clear emotion since I arrived shines in her face. She pats her lap, and her friend leaps lightly up. Her knotted hands move gracefully as she strokes her darling into a comfortable shape on her thighs.
"My puss is the only true friend I have now... Oh goodness, I talk too much about me. Tell me about yourself. How old are you now?"
I tell her I'm thirty, and she gasps amazedly. "And what do you do?"
"I stay at home, wash clothes, cook meals, make the place nice for my children"
"You have children?"
Yes, Alexander is nine and Jennifer is six. They are both at school at the moment"
"And are you married?"
"I was. He met someone younger."
"Oh that's dreadful."
"Oh, it was for the best really"
and he didn't leave me for my best friend, like your husband.
"and do you have children?"
and now it's beginning
"Yes, Jennifer is five, and Alex is nine. They go to school. That's where they are now."
"Oh... I didn't know any of this... Are you married?"
"I was, yes. But he left me for a younger women"
"Aren't men despicable sometimes?"
I nod sagely, and tell her anecdotes which she told me years ago, of her childhood and youth.
She laughs loudly... and falsely... and says "I've never heard such a funny story in all my life... How old am I again?"
I tell her she's ninety and she reels back... "That can't be right... Ninety? Are you sure?"
I tell her I am, and tell her how pretty the fig tree is looking.
"And do you have any children?"
Over and over and over.......
She's hungry. I go to the kitchen and look in her fridge. There are four separate Meals on Wheels meals in there. Untouched. A packet of milk, for her cat. And nothing else.
I take the food and make it hot, then bring it to her on a pretty plate, silver cutlery, a serviette...
She eats slowly, politely.
"Why am I eating here all alone? Don't I have a husband? I thought I was married..."
"You used to have a husband, yes. It was a long time ago"
Don't make me tell you about how he moved in next door, taking the best friend of fifty years away from you
"...Is he dead now?"
I sigh with relief. I can tell the truth without hurting her
"Yes, he's dead now."
"I'll have to chase down a new one then, won't I?"
I smile and ask her why she's want to go to all the trouble of looking after a man, and we laugh together...
It's time for me to leave.
"It was lovely to see you again.... I hope you come back soon...
... What did you say your name was?"