The needle was in my hand; it felt as though it had always been there.
The curtains were closed when I woke, but the sunlight filtered through the sheer material, throwing out floral shadows which mirrored the gaudy print and littered the carpet like badly-drawn stars. The arm of the settee pressed painfully into my lower back, and I realised I had once again slipped into unconsciousness without any regard for my lumbago. Sleep came easily to me now; the dull ache of my advancing years were abetted by an addiction which had claimed my time like a jealous lover, and caused my family a great deal of unexpressed shame.
My compulsion began innocently enough: a recreational habit, recommended by a woman I met at church. She had used it to alleviate her haemorrhoids, and though I was by no means similarly afflicted, I sought to improve the cognitive functions that seemed to be slipping from my grasp with the passage of time. A poor excuse, perhaps. But despite my initial anxiety – and whether as a result of placebo or genuine benefit – I soon felt the fog of confusion lift and my mind seemed sharper than I had ever known it. For the first time since Frank's death, I was enjoying myself.
The sense of belonging which I derived from this pastime was cold comfort to my children, who roundly condemned my new hobby. They thought I was neglecting my previous enjoyments in favour of something they regarded as sinister and unwholesome. I must admit, I did forget to arrange the church flowers several times, and I was unable to attend the early morning shifts at the charity shop after heavy periods of indulgence; nights were spent in a haze and I would often wake on the floor in the kitchen, or in the bath tub with no memory of my having decided to take a dip in the first place. I lost all interest in the garden.
I was upset by their lack of empathy. They didn't understand the loneliness I faced, rattling around the flat without Frank. I was at my lowest ebb - I realise that now - but at the time, I was so quick to anger. I lashed out (an action quite out of character) and informed them that if they couldn't accept my lifestyle, then they should consider themselves unwelcome at the retirement apartments. Soon, they stopped coming.
Left to my own devices, I graduated from the occasional extravagance to an almost constant state of immoderation. I was gilded by a sense of entitlement that came from my lifetime of sacrifice. My argument for excess was the unfulfilled martyrdom of the frustrated housewife.
The pain in my back was unbearable now, and I stirred, my legs swinging wildly into the coffee table and disturbing the detritus of last night's binge. Smiling wryly to myself, I tidied away the evidence, and wiped the surface with a wet cloth. I pulled back the curtains and wrenched open a window, hoping to dispel the mist that lay thickly about the small room.
I decided I would shower, then pop into town on the bus, to meet a friend who had promised me a quantity of something beautiful with which to pass a pleasant evening.
I stooped to pick a stray thread of wool from the carpet when I noticed a pink object moving slowly just beyond my field of vision. Hallucinations were uncommon, but my brain was still reeling from the night before, and in the short time in which the addiction had taken its hold, I had learnt that all things were possible. I plucked an ornamental ashtray from the sideboard and swung around as agilely as one can with two plastic hips.
Mr Tinkles meowed plaintively, his tired eyes looking up at me as he sank into a melancholy crouch. He stayed hunched low to the ground for a moment, before he decided that I posed no threat to his physical well being. Meowing again in that same sad manner, he began kicking ferociously as the pale pink knitted jumper that cling to his furry body. I knew what I had to do.
'Hello? Is that Knitter's Anonymous? Yes, it's Aida Crenshaw again. Yes. Yes, a jumper for my cat this time. No, I'll come straight over. Thank you.'