Rae is sitting on the arm of the sofa, one hand pinching Irene’s nose just above the nostrils.
‘A couple more minutes then we’ll see if it’s stopped,’ she says.
‘Righto,’ says Irene. She obviously wants to chat despite her predicament, the wad of tissue she’s pressing underneath her nose, and the claggy effect of the blood and saliva in her mouth.
‘I’m in your hands,’ she says.
‘Hand,’ says Rae.
There’s not much else to do but wait. I’ve taken some obs, written out the paperwork, cleared away the small mountain of bloody tissues that Irene had piled up on the coffee table in the hours before she phoned. The Warfarin she’s taking is a factor. She was only up the hospital a week ago with the same thing. They didn’t cauterize then, but warned her it might need doing if it happened again.
‘It’s such a bloody nuisance,’ says Irene, then grunts and gestures with her free hand to the tissues on the coffee table. ‘As you can see.’
‘This is a lovely house,’ says Rae, swapping hands to give herself a break, turning to face the window, motes of dust floating in and out of the bright lines of sunshine. ‘How long’ve you lived here?’
‘Oh, I should think about sixty year,’ says Irene, breathing through her mouth, her teeth outlined in red. ‘Just after we got married.’
‘I was born in this street. Well – the house at the end.’
‘It’s not there now, course. We got bombed out in the war. I don’t remember all that much about it. I was in bed at the time. Everyone else was killed. Mum, my sister Joan, the neighbours either side. I went to bed one night and woke up in hospital. I was there for months, but they fixed me up. I was all right in the end.’
‘Oh my god! What about your Dad?’
‘Dad? Oh - he died just after the first war. I never really knew him.’
‘What happened when you came out of hospital?’
Irene shrugs, glancing up at Rae through her blue-gloved fingers.
‘I got a job in a laundry,’ she says.
‘That’s terrible,’ says Rae, shaking her head. ‘Not the laundry job. I mean the rest of it. Now then – shall we see how we’re doing.’
She releases her grip and kneels down in front of Irene, who tentatively lowers the tissue.
Unfortunately, the clot that had formed in Irene’s nose has bonded with the tissue. It extends in a bloody string then flops out into her hands, followed by a steady stream of drips that I staunch with some gauze.
‘I’m afraid it’s the hospital,’ says Rae, tying on a nose bolster.‘I thought so,’ says Irene. ‘Look at me. What a two and eight!’