• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 11
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Zest and Artifice

‘I feel so old.’ She sits, both hands clasped around a swollen, cartilage-free-red knee.
‘Try this.’ I hold out a tube of paste.
‘It won’t work.’ She’s crying now. ‘But I’ll try anything.’ She squeezes a large dollop onto the leg and kneads roughly, leaving thumb prints in the puffy, enraged flesh. She glances up at the clock. ‘I’m going to be late again.’ Trouser leg pulled down, she struggles to her feet and raises her hand to her face.
‘Don’t…’ Before I can stop her, she has wiped away the tears.
Her eyes begin to run again.
‘You’re not supposed to get that paste near your eyes.’
We both laugh.
I pick up a couple of satsumas and we get into the car. She’s had no breakfast. She’s not looking after herself. I peel the hard skin from the orange and squint one eye as the zesty spray hits me. The freshness of the scent is out of place on a muddy, winter morning.  Inside, the pulp is soft, juicy. She opens her mouth and I feed her a segment.
She focuses on the headlights picking out dark hedgerows. One hand on the steering wheel, one hand on her now warm, glowing knee.
The crowd is waiting for her when we arrive. She steps out of the car, pulls on her great, orange coat and smiles. No one notices the redness under her eyes – paste and spent tears.
Her voice booms out and the crowd is washed in her generous confidence.