Hunched over, barely visible in the dark room, standard lamp flickering in the opposite corner. She was wearing that saggy old stained dress which she virtually lived in.
‘I’m dying, I’m dying’ she declared breathily, eyes theatrically wide in what I assumed to be feigned terror. It was comical.
’What’s wrong with you?’ I asked flatly. We’d been there so often.
‘I told you, I’m dying. Call the doctor, quick!’
Doctors tend to resent being called out in the night. This one was furious, but I managed to persuade him over the phone, feeling a bit of a fake myself.
‘Where is she?’ he said sharply as I let him in.
I wondered why he was wearing a suit and thought perhaps we’d dragged him away from some fancy evening out. I caught a faint whiff of alcohol, which I found rather shocking for a doctor on call.
I sent him in to her and hid in the kitchen, embarrassed, knowing he was going to be really pissed off.
I pressed my ear against the door.
‘Do you think it would be all right if I had just a little drop of brandy?’ she was whimpering. I pictured the pleading tilt of the head and groaned.
‘I think that would be very unwise’ came the caustic reply.
He called out to me and I sheepishly went into the room.
‘Take this prescription to the all night chemist in Piccadilly Circus, straight away’.
The chemist was miles away and I was convinced he’d written out a placebo. He stomped out into the night, mouth set hard, eyes glinting in irritation.
‘Go, go now. Take the car keys’ she shrieked. Amazing how her voice could so instantly recover its volume.
She knew damned well I was over the limit. No doubt hoping I’d be breathalysed and lose my licence. It was the sort of thing she would have enjoyed.
You probably think I hated her but I didn’t. I still loved her but I just didn’t like her any more.
I found her dead in her bed the next morning. It was the first time I’d seen her smiling in years.