Luisa has lived in the UK ever since she married just after the war, but her Italian accent is as strong as ever. A frail, beautifully turned-out woman in her nineties, she is as perfectly maintained as her hair, the long, fragile strands of which lie expertly coiled and kept in place by a series of elegant metal grips.
Once the ECG is done and we establish that Luisa needs to go to hospital, she quietly gathers a bag of things together, turning down all offers of help. Finally she reappears in the doorway, wearing a smart black coat and sensible shoes. I offer to carry her bag but she graciously declines, electing instead to hold onto my arm as we head for the front door.
‘My bitches,’ she says.
‘My sweet little bitches.’
What can she mean? I'm as stunned as if she'd given me a kick in the shins. Is there something in her past medical history I've missed?
Luisa lets go of my arm, stretches a hand out to the fruit bowl and squeezes one of the peaches there.‘We must eat them today.’