‘At first it was slow. I noticed, in those moments when we shared the daily cryptic, her mouth would droop, she would stop speaking mid-sentence for a few seconds.’ I shuffle in my seat. ‘Over time the illness quickened,’ like a black fog rolling under a door, or a mind filling with ants.
They sit opposite me. He needs a shave. She folds her hands together and rests them on her lap. Small, neat hands.
‘Can you talk about that morning?’ Her voice has softened as though she is counselling me.
‘I ran her a bath. The carer was coming. I put bubble bath in.’ Blue, frothy, the smell of a breeze through cotton. ‘We were married fifty-four years ago, at a rather lovely old church in Over Hulton. The day was icy and a couple of people slipped on the flat gravestones. We tried not to laugh.’
There is a ringing sound, maybe from the overhead lighting, or maybe only I can hear it. I can smell body odour and cold coffee.
‘She was such a beauty when she was younger. And all through her life. But these last few years…’ Something catches in my throat. ‘Some philosophers argue that to be considered a person someone should have self-awareness; be aware of their past, be capable of making plans for the future, be able to decide for themselves what they want to do.’
‘What do you think, Mr Jeffries?’ She places her hands on the table. I feel she wants to reach out and take my hands in hers. Small hands like my wife’s.
‘I carried her to the bathroom. She looked at me as though we were on our honeymoon. It was peaceful. She didn’t struggle.’
I sit back in my chair. My solicitor touches me gently on the shoulder.