The door slammed shut when Claire went outside to bring in the last of her shopping bags. Her keys were on the kitchen counter along with her phone, so she was forced to climb over a high garden gate to get round the back. As she jumped down, one foot landed in a pile of bin bags. When she put the other foot out to save herself, it disappeared down the drain that had lost its cover a week ago.
‘I can’t believe it. I’ve already had one fracture this year,’ she says, toking on the entonox, her foot up on some cushions. ‘I broke my nose at Christmas. It was right over to the side and I had to have an operation to straighten it. It’ll never be as good as it was, but at least it’s pointing in the right direction. You’re not going to cut my boots off, are you? I bought them to cheer myself up after the nose. Just let me have a bit more gas and I’ll work it off slowly.’
‘How did you break your nose, Claire?’
She leans her head back, her voice lowered an octave by the gas.
‘Cheerleading.’ she says. ‘We were stunting – you know? When you get thrown up in the air and do tricks? Well this girl, she was spinning round and round, and she caught me in the face with her elbow.’
She lifts her head again.
‘Oh God! We’ve got the area championships coming up.’
She reaches forward, and then slowly – agonisingly – starts to ease the boot off.