Celia lies awake; death had not yet come. It lingers nearby; she can smell it, taste it, feel it now and again touch. The pillows support the head. She can sense the softness of them. Is that a quality? Philosophical question possibly once. Plato and his crowd. She’s past that; death’s near, no time to philosophise. She moves a little in the bed, the legs feel numb; the back has a dull ache. So much time spent in bed making love as a young woman. Carlos, where’s he now? Madrid last time, that bar and all that money spent on that hotel. What a night that was. Well and truly shafted there. The memory makes her feel slightly elated. The feel of it just memory. The thought of her near death depresses to a degree. All that life spent, all those moments, all that sex and booze and cigarettes and dancing, yes the dance. She lingers over the word dance. Conjures up her dancing with Carlos, the tango, the samba and the fine clothes and dresses and earrings and makeup. She feels the temptation to cry. The eyes water. Crying does no good, Mother use to say. Crying a woman’s line of defence, Father said. Him and his words. She remembers him at the dinner table tucking in greedily to the beef and lifting his fork of undercooked beef to his mouth. She was certain blood had been on his lips like some vampire. Now she wants to stay awake, keep death at the door waiting. Sleep will only encourage death more. She moves a leg, feels the sheet, senses the need to urinate. Where were the nurses? Seldom around. Barely saw one. A pain shoots along her thigh. She bites her lip. Pushes her thighs together. Urinate posh word for piss. Wants to. She breathes in deeply. Sucks in air greedily. Death where is your sting? She mutters the words. Read them somewhere. Sting is there all right. Pain in the butt. Nurse, she whispers, where are you? The words like feeble butterflies take to the wing, but flutter to the ground weakly. Tony will come and pay visit and bring flowers and fruit and will sit there dutifully as a son does. She feels the need to pee more. Ask Tony when he comes if it isn’t too late by then. Wet bed, damp skin, sores. Smells. Such a long way to fall from such a height. She looks around the room. Private ward. Money can but some things but not eternal life. The walls are bare except for the painting opposite, which is of flowers. She wishes she could smell them, dull smells. Piss most probably. Who’s there? Nurse? No one. She sighs, sniffs the air, scratches her thigh. Carlos made love to her in so many different ways. Ingenious in that way he was. Try this, he’d say. And she did. Often. She closes her eyes. Tries to imagine Carlos beside her in the bed of death. Wants to feel his hands over her flesh. Touching, feeling, smoothing his palm over her stomach, along her thigh, walking his fingers between her legs. She laughs weakly. Nurse, she calls, nurse. She opens her eyes and stares. No one has come. Carlos where’s he now? He’d not fancy her now as she is. Cancer eating her up. Death smells on flesh. Tony will come all dressed up in his best suit and his tie and shiny shoes and concerned look and sit, wait, and gaze at his watch ticking away time. Her daughter Bella sits at her bedside. Phantom of her anyway, died two years ago, slit wrists in a cold bath. Bella will sit there and say nothing just stare glumly as the dead do. Celia moves her head and stares out of the window. The sunlight seems promising, at least for some. It reminds her of her first morning after her first shafting by Pedro. He was her first man, first lover. The sunlight beamed down onto their bed and touched her skin that morning. A kind of blessing she thought then. Nurse, I need to pee, she calls, the words faltering, the echo barely touching the walls. Be too late soon. Cannot hold on much longer. Pedro licked her thighs like a dog a bone. She feels an ache in her back. Death seems near. Waiting in the wings like an enthusiastic actor. The sky is a bright blue. She wants to get out of bed and dance for the last time. She tries to move her legs to the side but they feel stiff. One more time. She moves them, forces them to the edge, but pain bites back and she lies still. Bella sits and watches as phantoms do. Says nothing. Celia senses death nearby. The breath is on her shoulder. The chill, the numbing sensation. Nurse? she utters feebly. No one comes. No more dancing, no more shafting with Carlos, no tango, no samba, no kissing, no loving. Bella walks towards the door holding out a hand beckoning. Celia closes her eyes, senses death come, touchy, feely and like the flowers Tony brought last, dies.