Georgina is sitting on the floor where she fell, her oedematous legs splayed out in front of her, rolling in folds at the ankle and knee, punished by cellulitis, venous insufficiency, heart failure, age. One of the residential nurses, a woman in her twenties, as dark and slim as Georgina is pale and plump, squats down next to her with an arm round her shoulders. She adjusts the blanket round Georgina’s shoulders and points to us as we come in through the door.
‘Here they are,’ she says. ‘The cavalry.’
Georgina hasn’t hurt herself, but the likelihood is she’s septic, which was probably a factor in the fall.
‘I’m afraid it’s a trip up the hospital,’ I tell her.
‘Oh for God’s sake! What’s the point? Just let me die,’ she says. ‘I’m ninety-seven. I’ve had my time. Let me go.’
‘Hey! Come on, Georgie!’ says the nurse, giving her a hug. ‘You’ll be back in no time. Don’t worry about it. These guys’ll take care of you.’
‘I wish they would take care of me.’
But by the time we’ve got the trolley into the room and sorted things out, she’s cheered up a bit. She jokes with us about this and that, trades affectionate squeezes with the nurse, and generally seems to be building herself up for the trip. We make her snug with blankets and are just getting ready to go when she sighs.
‘I really miss my mother,’ she says. ‘And she’s been gone seventy years.’
She folds her arms on top of the blankets, thinks a moment, and then looks at me.
‘She’d have known what to do,’ she says.