‘I really don’t know what he wants with me. I think he thinks I’m gaga.’
Deidre loons at us through her glasses and taps the side of her head, missing with the last tap and almost falling out of her arm chair with the momentum of it. ‘But it’s all there,’ she says, righting herself. ‘I just wish I could find my glasses.’
Frank looks up from his clipboard.
‘You’re wearing them, Deidre,’ he says, then carries on writing.
Deidre makes a whooshing noise.
‘Not these glasses, silly,’ she says, taking them off, waving them around, then holding them at arms length and frowning. ‘My other glasses. The ones that help me see.’
‘As you have probably worked out, Deidre has been drinking this afternoon.’
‘I like a drop of whisky and I don’t care who knows it,’ she says, straightening up and scrunching her face into a dreadful mug of indignation. But just as suddenly she deflates onto her right arm which struggles to keep her propped up. ‘What on earth does he want with me?’
There is half a bottle of Teacher’s by the side of her chair, and the mahogany sideboard opposite is bright and clink-full of spirit glass. Deidre’s flat is an overheated, lace-edged box of disorder, just one neatly arranged bookshelf of hardback first editions standing like a last stockade of sobriety and reason.
‘I found her crashed out on the landing,’ says Frank, clicking his pen shut. ‘I woke her up and helped her walk into the flat. There doesn’t appear to be anything wrong, so would you mind if I push off now? I finish in quarter of an hour.’
Deidre reaches out to tug at his elbow.
‘I know you,’ she says, wagging her finger at him. ‘I’ve seen that handsome face before.’
Frank takes her hand.
‘Deidre. Take care of yourself. Don’t drink too much and don’t go worrying the residents by falling asleep in the hallway.’
She stares at him, focuses, then splutters into a laugh.
‘I love you when you’re cross,’ she says. ‘I absolutely love you, pet.’
Frank shakes her hand.
‘I love you too, Deidre. But I have to be going.’
Suddenly she wraps her other hand around his, and Frank struggles to pull away, caught like a careless diver in a giant clam.
‘What have you done with my glasses?’ she says.
‘These lovely people will help you with that,’ he says, and smiles across at Rae and me. ‘Won’t you?’
I sit down on the sofa and grab a teddy bear onto my lap.
‘I’ll find your glasses, Deidre,’ I make it say. It leaps off my lap and stomps off around the edge of the sofa.
‘Look at that silly bear,’ she laughs, throwing her hands up to clap them together, allowing Frank to go free. ‘He hasn’t got a clue. As if I’d have dropped them down there.’