"These old photographs could go", she says. "Who would ever want to look at them again? There's only me now and I have no further interest in them. There won't be room for them in the retirement home".
She rummages around in the shoebox on the table in front of her and picks a photo at random. Peering at the faded print with her short-sighted eyes, she says to her carer: "Pass me my glasses, there's a dear. I might as well have a quick look through, although nothing much will come of it. It's all so long ago".
The picture is clearer now, she recognises faces. "Why, that's me and Ted and ........
She stops. A sudden flush of shame, hot and unpleasant, rises up in her. She feels her stomach turning over and a wave of nausea hits her.Who'd have thought that after all these years she'd suddenly feel guilty.
She stares at the picture. A window into the past opens up and, for the first time in sixty years, she allows herself to come face to face with the way she was.
She and Ted and . . . . yes, Shirley, that was her name . . . .
Best friends they were, the three of them; together as children and together as teenagers, all adventures, all secrets shared; others called them "The Three Musketeers"; there was no separating them.
How young they were, how innocent, a world of boundless possibilities awaiting them, the road ahead straight and even. When they were small they had sworn to be friends eternally; whatever happened, they would remain true to each other.
And then Ted and Shirley fell in love.
Suddenly, they were not three but two plus one; still friends, still close, still spending time together; like here, in the photo. She continued to stare at it, her hand shaking a little. She remembered clearly now, they were all off to the lake for a day's swimming and picnicking; happy and carefree, Ted and Shirley sitting in the back seat, probably holding hands, while she sat next to the driver, her dad, alone, in the front.
The shock of the realisation that her world was collapsing, that she was no longer part of an inseparable unit, hit her hard. She could see it in the eyes looking out at her from the photo; could also see the beginnings of the scheming girl she was about to become. Suddenly, she hated Shirley. She did not, and never could, hate Ted, for she too loved him.
She put the photo down.
It hadn't been hard to separate Ted and Shirley; she flirted and promised, she flattered and beguiled, until Ted had lost his head one summer's evening and kissed her.
No, it hadn't been hard at all.
Her eyes clouded over. Her marriage to Ted had been happy and contented for the most part, neither better nor worse than most marriages. She had no regrets.
"Get rid of the box", she said to the carer, as she slid the photograph back in between the others.