Lucy plucks at her nightie and grimaces.
‘It’s bothering me now, this pain,’ she says. ‘I woke up with it.’
‘Are you all right, Loo?’ says her identical twin sister Margery, leaning forward in the chair opposite. ‘Should I fetch the doctor?’
‘We’re taking Loo to the hospital,’ Frank tells her. ‘They’ve got doctors there.’
‘I’ll be fine, Moo,’ Lucy says. ‘Don’t fret.’
Ninety-five the pair, the only difference between them is their dress. Lucy is still in her nightie, a long and rigid thing that could well be made out of greaseproof paper. She has a handful of curlers carefully rolled up in her hair and kept in place by a hairnet, and a pair of clumping slippers like scooped white tin loaves on her feet. Margery has dressed herself already, though, even though it’s barely five in the morning, the sky a luminous aquamarine and the sea slopping gently over the shore just a zimmer’s throw from the kitchen window. Her red cardigan matches her lipstick, which she has put on as carefully as she can, most of the way across.
Standing here in their flat is like standing on the set of Poirot, every detail meticulously observed, from the Bakelite switches, the silvered mirror hung by a chain, to the mahogany standard lamp, the gramophone and the ceramic dancing girls wafting about on the mantelpiece.
‘Moo will have to come,’ says Lucy. ‘She can’t stay here on her own.’
‘No. That’s fine. Just so long as you realise that you may be in for some time and she’ll have to make her own way back.’
‘Well she obviously can’t do that. I shall have to bring her. How long did you say I’ll be in?’
‘Hard to say. Quite long. And then they might decide to keep you in.’
‘Keep me in? Why ever would they keep me in?’
‘I’m not saying they will. I’m saying they might.’
‘Well if I’m to be kept in, Moo will, too.’
‘In a bed, of course.’
‘It doesn’t work like that.’
‘Why not? It’s a hospital, isn’t it? They have beds.’
‘If I can have a bed, so can she.’
‘Maybe hospitals used to do that, Lucy, but they don’t any more. They don’t have the room.’
‘You are taking me to the big hospital? In town?’
‘Then they’ll have room. Moo can’t stay here on her own. Someone has to make sure she takes her medicine. She’s not well, you know.’
Whilst we talk we make steady but irresistible movements towards going. I put the carry chair together. We shepherd Lucy into it.
‘I need to take Moo’s medicine with me. It’s in a big green plastic bag in the second bedroom. Could you fetch it, please? And my address book. I shall need to make some calls once I’m there. You’ll find it on the hall table. And there’s a small blue bag of toiletries in the bathroom.’
‘Let’s get you on the ambulance, Lucy. We’ll come back for all this stuff in a minute.’
‘So long as you don’t forget.’
Margery stares vacantly as we click the strap around Lucy’s arms.
‘Where are you going?’ she says.
‘To the hospital.’
‘And you’re coming, too,’ says Frank.
‘Oh. Good. Just a minute,’ she says, making a tiny movement forwards, but then immediately stopping, and forgetting what she was about to do, settling back down in the chair.
A few moments later I’m climbing back into the ambulance after having fetched the bag of medicines, the address book, the bag of toiletries. Lucy is sitting on the trolley, with Margery holding her hand from the nearest seat.
‘Here you are,’ I say, handing her the bag.
‘That’s the wrong bag. And did you get the address book?’
‘Yes. Look. Here.’
Lucy takes it, flicks through, sighs heavily and tosses it back.
‘And that’s the wrong address book,’ she says. ‘It’s out of date.’
‘It was the only one on the phone table,’ I say pathetically.
But I flip it open, and it strikes me that not one of the spidery numbers written there has an area code.