I smiled, said "Hi" and then got up from my seat to sit in the one next to her.
She was trembling. There was no hiding the fact and I could clearly see her hands shaking as she continued to thumb a crumpled tissue.
It was one of those times when words failed me.
"You know," she said, biting back the tears, "right now... all I really need is a hug from a friend and you were the first person I could think of."
And... so we hugged, rather awkwardly as I remember. But, we hugged, she cried her heart out and I basically looked around my studio, still trying to figure out what had reduced her to tears.
We lived in a small village close to Oxford, the type of village where everyone seems to know your business, the type that had the more-than-the-average quota of curtain-twitchers. I can assure you now, there were at least five, or six, women with wagging tongues who had noted her arrival. Such are the happenings in a small village. Curtain twitchers and tongue wagglers.
But then, we did have quite a few "celebrities" who also lived here. One was a former game show hostess. She had one of those longer-than-average nose's as I recall, one that she would look down if she ever encountered one of the locals.
We also had our fair share of talented artists, one who I recall worked on the rendering for the film "The Snowman."
Steven, the husband of the woman who was using my shoulder as a pillow, worked as an independent director for several television companies. That's how we got to know one another since I was the creator of a great many well-known television adverts. Steve would often send his wife, Mary, up to my studio to use my colour photocopier. That's how we met. It was a friendship brokered over many late night meals, lots of wine and plenty of laughter.
Their two small boys went to the same school as my daughter. It was a close community, especially when waiting at the school gates for your child to emerge, along with a mass of other boisterous, noisy, children. They were such a joy to see, knowing that they would soon be spread far and wide and, most deafeningly, out of earshot.
As for Mary? It seemed as if she had used my shoulder for an eternity before she eventually got around to telling me about her morning and why she had made a bee-line direct to my studio door.
The doctor, her consultant, had told her that the tests they had conducted showed that she had a large, malignant, breast tumour and that the cancer had spread to all the major organs of her body, and that there was little anyone could do. He predicted that she had less than a week. She was 34.
When she finally left the confines of my studio, it was as if she was already shackled to a headstone. I wanted to do more but she refused my offer to drive her the short distance to her home. I wanted to say more, to give her the courage... to maybe...
The truth is that there was little that I could say, or do, to improve on her day. I had been the friend with a hug and that was all she needed, for now.
When I saw Steve one week later... it was already over. She had died peacefully in her sleep and now... now it was left to him to bring up his two small boys alone.
I never did tell him that Mary had confided in me, before him. Maybe it is best that some things remain a secret.
Now, two decades later, women are bombarded with adverts that promote breast cancer awareness, encouraging women to check for lumps and, if you find one, tell your doctor.
Breast cancer is devastating and ignorance can be a killer.
I would like to end by revealing that this is a true story, one that I had to write, without embellishments, one that had a telling on me, one that will now hopefully let me sleep peacefully at night.