She looked about twenty-five, the carer, brown-haired, attractive, sitting at a table with her companion for the afternoon. That’s how long a shift takes, four hours, enough time to get the older woman out of her room, into the car and drive into town, then park and find an outdoor table in one of the cafes, one that hopefully served Arabica coffee although her companion, she knew, would only drink tea being ninety-three and from the parched farmlands out west. Widowed now for twenty years. Children in the wind, grandchildren unknown. Friends and relatives outlived. Only the government knew where she lived.
Alone but for her carer. Four hours every weekend.
They never talked much, the old lady finding conversation too difficult to maintain so they mostly just sat and watched the passers-by. The carer having to remind her to finish her cup of tea before it got cold. Sometimes she didn’t touch it, just sat there. Stooped over the table, silent, her body almost bent double with age.
A bare-footed man carrying a small bunch of lilies walked up and stopped, looked down at the carer’s companion then lifted her frail old arm and placed the flowers in the crook of her elbow. Perhaps she didn’t notice, though the carer did and she looked up at the man with a smile that would gladden the hardest heart.
‘I knew her when she was a girl,’ he said, then walked away without looking back.