Samantha wasn’t a sharer. She was not a bad person by any stretch of the imagination – but what was hers was hers. If she purchased a portion of French fries and you asked for one, she would apologise and say no – and she wouldn’t feel bad about it. You’d watch her continue to eat the hot, salty strips of potato one by one (for her grace outweighed her greed), and if you were weak or hungry or heaven forbid both, you might ask her,
“Just one, Samantha, please.”
And then if she liked you – if she thought that in that moment you’re friendship was worth something more than the two pound coin in her purse whose back stylishly celebrated 200 years slavery free – she’d buy you your very own portion.
And yet here she was not caring. Lying on only nine inches of her bed, conscious of her chest moving as she breathed in fear of disturbing the green-haired woman next to her. The woman’s body faced the wall and Samantha was pleased because it meant that she could stare at her freely. She’d never really had the motive or the opportunity before. Her green silk blouse didn’t actually look like silk up close; it was probably a fabric mix that was less expensive. She was never one for wastage. The only skin of her Samantha could see was the woman’s hand, which was curled around her shoulder. She was holding herself. She was the best holder in the world.
How would Samantha’s life have been different if it wasn’t for those hands? They were under her chin when she sulked, on her forehead when she was ill, clasping her own when she was nervous, on her knee when they really should have been on the gearstick. In her immobility, the woman’s hands had swollen with fat and her skin (softened with Nivea each night) was flecked with the brown of old age. Among all these signs of delicate deterioration were five florescent green fingernails painted to perfection with an over-the-top gloss that shone even in the lacking light. She always told Samantha that even if she didn’t want her nails to be green, she was trapped in it. Painting them the same colour for forty years meant even when stripped of the polish, they were never stripped of the polish.
Samantha had never seen her sleep before, which was really rather strange considering how often it had been the other way around. Because sleeping is vulnerability – isn’t it? And that made Samantha feel a little uneasy.
‘I love you, Samantha,’ she would sing as Samantha’s tired eyes gave in, ‘and my love will never die.’
Samantha couldn’t think of any songs whose lyrics had a Cecily.
The icy air blew in through the window above Samantha’s bed. She might have been imagining things, but just for a second, the woman’s hand squeezed tighter around her shoulder. Samantha got out of bed and tiptoed over to her radiator which held her green bath towel. It was soft and warm and she couldn’t have imagined anything more comforting in that moment. She draped it over the sleeping woman before resuming her nine inches.
‘I love you, Samantha,’ she heard.