Once upon an antique swing, I thought I saw much to envy. She sat there swinging, surrounded by beautiful artefacts, looking out at a perfectly manicured garden. She was dressed in crisp cool yellow. When she crossed her legs I saw her feet were soft and clean. When she ran a hand through her hair I watched the gold flutter down her wrist.
Waiting for the others to arrive, we roamed through rooms whose walls hung with perfect art. Her daughter, who was young and beautiful, had a TV in her bedroom, and an attached bathroom to die for. Her husband's shoes had no dust on them when he came home at one o'clock.
They took me to lunch at an award-winning restaurant, in an air-conditioned car that had a burnished wood dashboard. Her husband called the maitre d' by his first name. I ordered the shrimp that I love but can't always afford. I wondered if they could hear me swallowing my Coca-Cola or if they had noticed my nail polish was chipped.
Something in their eyes made me feel awkward, like an unexpected visitor arriving at a bad time.
They took me home for tea, and showed me into another room. Victorian curios, plush rare chairs. Glass yellow tulips that I can still see in my mind. (Mine were pink nylon, with plastic stems). Even the window grilles were beautiful.
"Yellow is such a cheerful colour," she said, and offered me some Swiss chocolates.
What was it in her eyes, in all their eyes? I let the chocolate melt slowly in my mouth as my eyes devoured all that I envied so much. And when I saw her son, in a corner of the room, I could have gazed at him for hours, and wanted to touch his face.
It was just a black and white photograph framed with a garland of small red flowers, but I recognised him at once, for he was the most handsome young man I had ever seen.
I had seen him before, in the newspaper's obituary and memorials section: always on New Year's Day, always the same photograph. He had died with his friends in a car crash coming home from a New Year's Eve party some years earlier.
I gave away my nylon tulips eventually, to someone who wanted them more than I did. But I still remember those glass yellow tulips, and although I've forgotten her face, I still look for her son's in the newspaper on the first day of January.