Mitzi meets us at the door. She’s been crying; two messy splodges of mascara where her eyes used to be.
‘He’s through there,’ she sniffs. ‘I told him not to come out.’
Gary is moaning in bed, his left arm crooked over his head, the other one bunching up the sheets to his side.
‘Just – one second,’ he says, before rolling over and throwing up in a bucket.
‘He discharged himself from hospital this morning,’ says Mitzi, tearing off some toilet roll and passing it to him. ‘He’s got a kidney infection. They said he wasn’t over the worst of it and now look.’
‘Why did you discharge yourself, Gary?’
He flops back on the pillow, exhausted.
‘It’s my birthday,’ he says.
‘Oh! Happy birthday, Gary!’
‘Yeah. Right. Thanks,’ he says, the words pattered out by the rigors of his fever.
‘The doctor said to come straight back in if his symptoms got out of control again, which they have,’ says Mitzi, squeezing his feet through the duvet.
‘It’s back to the hospital, then, Gary.’
‘I know,’ he says. ‘Fuck it.’
Whilst Rae takes a few obs, I follow Mitzi out of the room to help her get things ready. The kitchen is sectioned off with a baby gate; just beyond, a beautiful black and tan puppy yips and yaps and skitters across the laid out sheets of newspaper, crazy with the unalloyed joy of it all.
‘Sorry about the mascara eyes,’ says Mitzi, pausing at the gate to blow her nose. ‘It just all got too much. First Gary getting ill, the birthday and everything, and then the puppy.’
‘What’s wrong with the puppy?’
‘Nothing. I don’t know. I just forgot how much work they were.’
We both pause a moment and watch as the little dog throws itself around some more, leaping up, wagging its tail, trying to force its head between the bars, yip-yapping.
‘Just one night. That’s all I need,’ says Mitzi. She takes a breath, then slowly, wearily, reaches over and unlatches the gate.