It was his fortieth birthday, she told me, and he was clearly leading up to something. She was convinced he was going to propose. And then, over dinner, he’d said, I’ve been thinking. Yes? she’d said. I think we should get a dog, he’d answered. And that was ten years ago, she said, and I haven’t looked back. What kind? I asked. A chocolate lab, she said, grinning. He wanted a real dog’s name for him, you know, proper. So we called him Bruce.

It’s easier going in there. I feel no connection with it, with her, particularly. She is all smiles, all affability. A consummate professional. It is never busy in there, usually just one other woman under one of those old industrial-looking hair dryers, or having her roots done. She is always ready for me, even when I am early. I like her chat. I let it roll over me, around me. Its mostly about holidays, her late mother, her father, her family, her boyfriend, a builder who takes Bruce in the van with him. He loves it. I am happy to listen. I like it. It is easier than the one before. She gave off such troublesome sensations. This one is less complicated, I think. This weekend it is to be Aberdovey and the ‘bearded walk’ for them and Bruce, and for Easter it is Barmouth and an air B&B. She seemed a little put out when I said where I was going. Did she? Or am I imagining it? I can be too sensitive to these things. To like her is enough. A good woman, I think.

I must be off soon, a walk up the hill to work for an early paper review. I don’t anticipate it with pleasure but I try to reign that in. There is always something to relish. Isn’t there?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.