“I still cook meals for them” she says. “Every day. Like the gravy ad. I put the radio on, and make something different every day – pies, sausages, pasta, chicken, chips. I put it all out on plates, then scrape it away again. I don’t want anyone to know, in case they think I’m crazy. You don’t think I’m crazy, do you?”
Suddenly I can see their small hands, plump and smeared with ketchup, reaching for the food, play-fighting. The tousled heads with that chalkdust and plimsoll aroma of school. It’s as if a hole opens up between us, into which we are both wordlessly falling. And now I sound like the crazy one because out of nowhere and who knows why.
“What about you? Do you eat with them, or have something later?” I say.
A terrible silence. I expect her to rail at me, demand to know if I am mocking her and the unbearable absence she describes. Instead, soft tears fall, tracing a glistening estuary across her freckled face. Twisting her strong hands.
“I’m scared to stop. How will I know when it’s OK to stop?”