The phone went silent. Had she gone? Had she put the phone down? I hadn’t heard the click and there was no droning sound. Silence. I let it lie. Waited. She was crying. Not a boo hoo kind of crying but an almost indiscernible weeping. Poor love. She is scared. So scared. It has been too long and the threat of more invasive exploration is too much for her. I wonder at her age. I’ve never asked her. She can’t be more than late fifties, maybe early sixties, but this has beaten her down. She clings to the natural medicine, to the gentle therapy it offers, knowing that it will not cure it, just keep her steady. I just want to be able to keep going, she says. She and Bonnie have been for a walk, just a quick one, it’s too wet. She asks about the storm on Monday. I wasn’t here I tell her. The sun went red, she said. The runner beans have gone. Mustn’t complain, we’ve had most of them. It was so strange. So warm, but the wind. The farmer next door had some plastic sheets, heavy ones, they flew like paper. She asks about my holiday. I want to talk about her, offer solace. All I can do is encourage rest. She wants to be normal, to have her energy back. Bless her. I want to make it all right for her but I can’t. We talked about going away for a few days for half term, she says, but I’m not up to it. Perhaps in the New Year, when it’s lighter. Perhaps we’ll go then. Take care of yourself. It was nice to hear your voice. Speak next Friday. Thank you. Thank you.

The clock was turning when I went upstairs to make breakfast. Just turning, round and round. Not fast and not slow, an insistent kind of turning. Then it stopped. Just stopped at twelve. It’s a radio controlled clock. I thought it needed a new battery so I changed it. Nothing happened. The hands remained still. Then ten minutes later it started turning again. This time it found the right time and rested, still ticking. It’s happened once before. It unsettles me. There is something electric in the air. I am agitated, weepy, unable to focus on anything. I long for a proper job at such times, something to hold me in place. Tramlines. I’ve busied myself. I’ve done the ironing (first load), two washes, hovered, mopped the floors, dusted his bedroom, made breakfast, washed up, sorted out the post from my accountant, called her, walked, been to work and now I am writing. And it is only 10.23 am. And yet, I still feel rock bottom worthless. We niggle at each other. We always do when I feel like this. We’re not listening properly. He wants me to stop being irrational, to stop fretting and I want him to make me feel better, to steady me. I fixate on the tiny, irritating things and criticise. Ugh. Is it the onset of Brian, Storm Brian that is responsible? Get a grip or just let it all go. Is it part of it, this ugliness? It’s fear, I think, fear of not being good enough, of making the wrong choices, of not earning enough, of not being good. Enough.

We finished the film last night. It was a beautiful thing to watch. The ending was rushed, though, and not clear. But the landscape of New Zealand was stunning, as was the photography and the constrained, gentleness of the performances. A true dilemma. Sometimes there is only one thing to do. Help me to put her first, she said. A Solomon-esque dilemma. I know something of it. But I am one-step removed these days.

I’ve thought of her almost constantly since I returned. We are not alike but there is a pull. I sent her some healing. Thoughts. I imagined her wrists were mine, and her neck too. It helped. I sent healing. Did your wrists and neck feel warm? I asked in a message the next day. Yes, she said, so much so I had to apply ice. She is open to all things like me and told of a phone call that her then husband took in Mum’s old house, a few days after her death. We’d had visitors, the children of her second husband. They were looking over his possessions. The land line went. Hello, her ex had said. It was a woman’s voice, he had said, a rasping voice. Get them out, it had said, get them out. He was freaked by it. Went white. I think I’ve just been speaking to your mother, he’d said. The day before, the neighbours, a steady, rational couple, had seen here, her head poking through the gate.

Who knows? For me it was the sparrows, as I’ve said. Who knows? She is not there now, not now. Though when I am there I dream of her almost nightly. Would she make it alright now? Did she ever? Am I still grieving?

To work. Write. Just write. Write it out.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.