to the underworld

Chloe’s MS has left her with very little control of her legs, so I’m helping Jaime the nurse with the re-catheterisation.
‘I might spasm,’ says Chloe. ‘Sorry. I promise I’m not doing it deliberately.’
Whilst Jaime sorts through the box of supplies to make sure he has everything, I chat to Chloe to take her mind off things.
‘It’s such a lovely day today.’
‘They say it might rain later.’
‘Do they? Who?’
‘I don’t know. They.
‘What do they know?’
‘I suppose we should be used to it.’
Chloe’s bed faces two patio doors that open out onto a small courtyard garden thickly overhung with camellia and honeysuckle. A net of fairy lights have been strung from the house to an ornamental maple.
‘This is such a great room,’ I say, gowning and gloving up. ‘It’s lovely to have the doors open like this.’
She smiles.
‘When it’s not raining,’ she says.
Jaime sets up his stuff.
‘We just need to pull the quilt aside,’ he says. ‘Okay?’
I help manipulate Chloe’s legs to give him good access. Chloe grimaces and stares up at the ceiling as he deflates the balloon and withdraws the catheter.
‘There! All out!’
‘You’re doing really well,’ I tell her. She doesn’t answer, but turns her head to the side.
‘That’s an unusual picture,’ I say, following her gaze to a painting on the wall. A frightened woman is also staring off to the side, to a black tree or maybe a dancing shadow on the low rise of a hill. There are pomegranates falling onto her from above; she holds out her hand to catch one.
‘What’s she doing? Juggling?’ I say.
‘Just putting the anaesthetic gel in,’ says Jaime.
‘It’s Persephone,’ says Chloe. ‘Do you know the story?’
‘A little wider please, thank you,’ says Jaime.
‘I’m not sure…’
‘It’s one of the Greek myths. Persephone was the daughter of Zeus and Hera. Abducted by Hades and taken down to the underworld. They sent Hermes to rescue her, but because she ate a pomegranate seed she had to spend half the year back there.’
‘Almost done!’ says Jaime. ‘There we go. Draining nicely.’
‘Thank you,’ says Chloe.
We tidy her up, dispose of the waste and redundant equipment, replace the quilt and make sure that she has everything she needs to hand.
‘Did you paint it?’ I ask her.
‘Me? No! I got it at a car boot sale.’
‘It’s amazing what you can pick up if you look.’
‘Yes,’ she says, taking a sip of water from her beaker. ‘I don’t know. It just kinda spoke to me.’

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