She sits in the nest she’s made. In this public space, she sits on a County Council sofa, in front of her a low formica table top is invisible, her hand made cards cover its surface, scissors and glue beside. She’s into glow colours, I see, these days. Sparkling silver, gold, brash pink. She cuts these paper samples – probably wrapping paper in another life – into small pieces which she reassembles into a mosaic of some fantasy. Like we did as children.
‘I’ve made one for you. As you know, I don’t usually give away originals, but you are special.’ It is wrapped up in a gathered from somewhere cloth napkin with Christmas motif, an angel sticker loosly holding it together.’
‘You’re dead on time. That’s unusual. You must admit!’ she laughs. ‘But it wouldn’t matter. I’ve been here all day. It’s a quiet place. The Library. The books don’t disturb! Nice and warm. Do you want a cup of coffee? There’s a place over there. Sorry I cannot pay for it…’
A cup half full, cold, is beside her. Probably lasted since this morning I think. Most tables, I note, are occupied by a single person, reading newspapers, books, in their own space, this closing time of a winter day, rain outside. I wonder if they like her, have come here to enjoy the free warmth and light.
‘Open it. Do you like it? It’s an Angel in a forest of light. I thought you’d like it. It’s original. Usually I photocopy them before I give them away. You’re special. I’m sorry I couldn’t meet you earlier. You understand. How was the film? I heard it was violent. I don’t like violence. I can’t do 3’s now. Was he nice? I can’t meet with strangers. You understand….’
‘It was the right decision. Now I am here,’ I say, acknowledging. I’ve known her since I was 9. She was my prefect. I have a photograph of her then: thin, impish, short hair, sitting on the grass, in our red uniform, white ankle socks, Idler shoes, Cedar trees behind, in the expansive grounds of our expensive private school. The start of our lives.
Her face is ununchanged, still the short hair. I hadn’t seen her for a year. ‘Did I tell you, I had my brother living with me. These past 6 months. He just left his wife, after 25 years of marriage. It’s caused a huge problem with June. ‘I chucked my own son out,’ she says. But he is my brother. Anyhow she’s pleased as he’ll be moving on soon. He’s found a woman he loves.’
‘You’ll be missing him. It must be nice to have the company,’ I venture.
‘You have no idea. No idea. How lonely it is to live with some one. I’ve tried to talk to him. Yes, I’ve been honest. I said, come and talk to me sometimes. But he just goes up to his room. I hear him on his phone, laughing. I haven’t met his girl friend, but she sounds nice.’
‘But you only have one bedroom?’
‘Well you know how we are. Generous to a fault. Too generous for our own good. He’s got my room and I’m on the sofa. He needs it more than me. But June, she’s just so angry.’
‘Are you still seeing June?’ There was no way of avoiding this elephant in the room.
‘Yes, I know. All my friends are the same. But I can’t help loving her. She did the same this year – I spent christmas alone. Same for the last three years. She gets angry, throws me out, always just before Christmas. She knows how I dread this time. But I’ll always take her back. She is so damaged. She’s not angry with me but with life. She’s had such a tough life….
To avoid hearing about June’s tough life, I cut in.
‘I’m sure she’s a good person, with a difficult life, but is she good for you?’
‘What’s good for me? I love her. That’s good. To love someone. I can’t help loving her, despite of the pain she causes. This is my path. The path of resistance! It’s not been easy from the start – well you know, being a lesbian – but I found the woman I love. It’s not easy living so close to her and not seeing her. I have to be careful – with the restraining order and all. You know about that. After she reported me, I have to be careful. But I am patient. When she’s ready, she will call. Is that the time? Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself! There’s a service at St Andrews Sunday evenings, which I can just make before the last bus home.’
She packs up her cards. The formica now naked, the nest deconstructed. As she stands I see how much weight she’s put on, covered up with a long skirt and layers of jumpers, brightly coloured. Purple I think. A bright pink broach of a fake rose decorates her front, along with a glass heart pendent. She’s always like hearts. She is a wheeling old ladies shopping bag, albeit gold with stickers on it.
I pick up a small book on the table.
‘I left it for you. Just open it. Turn to any page. Now read. What does it say? … You see, its right, you need more music in your life.’
My life? I hadn’t thought of my life for this while.