Funnily enough, she said as she carefully placed each of my oranges in the bag packing area, it was my birthday a few weeks ago and I got a cross stitch kit. We’d gone to the supermarket later than usual. You’re late, she’d said. Yes, I’d had to go into work early. We don’t usually see her these days, not since they changed everyone’s shift. I like it when she is free and we can chose her aisle. I like to be around her. We are of a similar age, I like her carefulness, the rather flat, forced way she replies to our questions about her health and her laugh. A horsey, neighing kind of laugh. She’d surprised me when I’d interviewed her. Of course, she had, I had a two-dimensional view. I wanted to be surprised. Sewing keeps us connected. I’d asked if she was knitting. Yes, she said, I am. A cable-fronted jacket. Then she told me about the cross stitch kit. She’s bought a frame for it. From EBay, she said, though I’d thought she didn’t have computer. Who bought the kit for you? I asked. She said a name. I must’ve looked blank. You know, she said, the one I was seeing before. The one with the disapproving grown-up daughter, I asked. Yes. I’ve moved in with him. Oh, I said, taken aback, so you’ve left you’re flat. Yes, she said. I’ve left the caravan.

I didn’t know she lived in a caravan. So many people from Brum come here for holidays and stay. Caravan parks abound. They are cheap, easy but must be so cold in the winter. I think of his parents. Not him but the he from years ago. Travelling to the South West to see them in Weston Super Mare, that then sad seaside town. He was virtually monosyllabic and she chattered on, always wary of me. I wasn’t of their kind, she knew it, and was ever suspicious. And her beloved son. He was hers not mine. I have a photograph of us all. She is sitting next to me and leaning away from me, as far as she can.

Let me know how you get on with the kit, I say. Oh, I’m not starting it yet. What does he do while you sew? I ask. Oh, he’s outside, she said. He’s a landscape gardener, he’s always outside.

I wanted her to encourage me but she didn’t. She is an odd woman. I can’t find my way with her. I’m to check my blood pressure for the next three days and report back. Then, if it’s still steady I can try to come off them. I just want to be clean, inside, I said to him, trying to explain. Lots of people have to take medication, he says. Look at me. I know, it just I work so hard at trying to remain healthy. What is it? What am I trying to prove? I just want to see, to see if I can do without them. But my anxiety, this stress isn’t a good sign. It erodes me. And my pace quickens. We’ll see. Perhaps this course will help. Though the expected euphoria is missing. Not like that that I got yesterday. A pot of tea, that was all I had and I was spinning. For hours.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.