Ellen is sitting on a chair just outside the en suite bathroom, leaning over to the right. She has pain in her left hip from where she slipped over an hour ago, landing heavily on her bottom.
‘Osteoporosis,’ she says. ‘ I just know I’ve done something.’
Her daughter-in-law Stephanie is waiting by the bedroom door hugging an armful of coats.
‘We’re getting to be regulars,’ she says. ‘We had another nice crew out last week. For Ellen’s diabetes.’
Even though she’s thirty years younger, Stephanie looks more tired than Ellen.
‘I’ve phoned Richard,’ she says, waving her mobile in the air then dropping it into her bag. ‘He says he’ll meet us up there.’
‘I came down this way for work twenty years ago and never went back,’ says Stephanie. ‘Funny – the places you end up. Left one long-distance relationship, then a few weeks after I got here, went straight into another. Mind you, we’ve been together ever since. Two grown up boys. Lovely house. And now Ellen’s moved in.’
Ellen smiles at her from the trolley, then winces a little as she adjusts her position.
‘Okay?’ says Stephanie. ‘All right?’ She reaches over and pats her on the arm. ‘Almost there.’
She settles back in her chair again, and rearranges the coats on her lap.
‘The boys have all grown up now,’ she says. ‘They’ve gone their own way, done their own thing. Mark’s training to be an engineer. John’s travelling a bit before his law degree. So they’ve both turned out all right. I suppose I could’ve gone to university but it just never really happened, if you know what I mean? Maybe I should’ve done something? Then who knows where I might’ve ended up? Some far flung place. I might’ve met someone else. Had a whole other life.’
She stops, like someone who’d been rummaging through a box of photos and unexpectedly caught themselves on something sharp. In an effort to cover it, she leans forward again and touches Ellen on the hand.
‘But you know what Richard’s like,’ she says.
Ellen nods.‘Almost there,’ says Stephanie again. And settles back with the coats.