Mrs Khachaturian keeps the chain on the door and peers through the crack.
‘Leave me alone!’ she screams. ‘Just go away, will you? Why can’t I be left in peace?’
‘That’s fine, Mrs Khachaturian. I’m so sorry to disturb you. It’s just – people are worried and I’ve come round to see you’re okay.’
‘What people? I don’t know any people.’
‘I think the referral was made by your GP.’
‘What GP? I don’t know him. And I don’t know you.’
She slams the door.
Just as I’m wondering what to do next and start picking up my bags, the front door of the neighbour’s house opens and three small girls tumble out, closely followed by a young woman clutching a handful of bags and things.
‘Hi!’ I say.
‘Have you come to see Ivana?’ she says, taking the keys out of her mouth and glancing over my shoulder to keep an eye on the girls, who are busy skipping and jumping over imaginary hurdles. ‘Just wait there a second, Poppy! Don’t run on ahead, darling!’ she shouts, and then to me: ‘Sorry! We’re off to a dinosaur party. Are you from the hospital?’
‘Yep. Do you know much about Ivana?’
She pulls her door to, locks it, and then pushes her hair out of her eyes.
‘Poor Ivana,’ she says. ‘Mia! Honey! You’re scaring the cat! – Yes, I’ve been going in, phew! The last few years, really, trying to keep things going. But she’s been acting so strangely the last few weeks, turning everybody away. Not eating. Not taking her meds. I’ve picked her up from the hospital a few times when she’s gone in after a fall, but it’s always the same story. She discharges herself before they’ve had a chance to sort things out at home – Lauren! I don’t think the cat wants your T-Rex, sweetie! – but it’s got to the stage where I don’t know what to do anymore. Anything you could do would be great…’
‘They sent me round to check her over and get some bloods, but she wouldn’t even let me in.’
The woman shrugs and shakes her head.
Suddenly there’s a violent rattle of a chain, the door behind me opens and Ivana steps half way out, a weird and wild figure in a tattered nightshirt, her hair bound-up in a dirty silk scarf.
‘What is all this noise?’ she screams.
Poppy and Mia stop still, mid-skip.
Lauren’s the closest. She stares up at Ivana, her mouth falling open, and she drops the T-Rex to the pavement where it lands with a plasticky clatter.