Our old next-door neighbour grasps my elbow and beams at me. My name is not Diane, she’s thinking of my mum, but I smile back anyway.
“I haven’t seen you for ages,” she says.
“Oh, you know,” I reply, not wanting to be having this conversation.
As I nod and shake and mmm at the right junctures I think back through the day. Back to the chatty dad at the school gate who called me Jo. Although Jo was once a part of me, and we look similar, I’m not her. We have been separate people ever since I gave birth.
I think back to the woman in the shop who misread my name on the collection form and called me Caroline. The man I used to work with, who I bumped into in Greggs at lunchtime, who called me Sue. I don’t even know anyone called Sue.
My own parents regularly call me Emma. She’s the tall one, I usually say. The one with auburn hair and a BMW and a loud voice. The one you’d already had for six years when I came along, the prototype daughter. The archetype.
“Anyway, Diane, I’d better not keep you,” the old woman says, patting my arm.
Catherine! I want to shout. My name is Catherine. Sometimes I want to get it on a T-shirt or tattooed on my forearm. Cathy will do, I’ll even settle for Kate if I’m in the right mood.
“Did I call you Diane?” she says, turning back and looking stricken.
My smile becomes more genuine.
“That’s okay, I—”
“I do know your name’s Emma,” she says, “it just came out wrong.”
She waves cheerily and leaves me invisible on the pavement.