I don't know if she was Tutsi or Hutu. Tutsi, I would guess, with hindsight. I didn't even know much about the Rwandan war when she first appeared at St John's Church in Southall. St Johns was not my local church but my mother's and I was there in my time as a single parent - Church first, then back to mum's for a Sunday roast - something I wouldn't and couldn't have fixed for my children on income support.
Her English was very limited and she seemed lonely, somehow even in a crowd she seemed to be on the edge of the group, and I liked her. She was graceful. I think she was staying with one of the missionary families.
In broken English, using facial expressions and hand signals, we spoke of nothings; nice weather, England is so cold; he is funny. Nothings.
And then she told me she was married and didn't know where her husband was. She brushed over her concerns for parents, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins, but hung on to the dual fear and hope that came from being married to a man who was a Government Official when the troubles broke out.
That's what I thought they were, nasty political 'troubles'. I knew there were outbreaks of violence and a lot of people leaving the country, but not much more. Regarding her husband, she said, on the one hand he would be in more danger than others for the position he had held; on the other he had good friends high up, nonpartisan work colleagues who were sure to see him safe; tucked away somewhere. Her hope and my limited knowledge made that seem the most likely thing. With me she could talk about when she would find him, and meet a gaze that had faith in that.
Perhaps, without too much understanding of the British system, she saw in me a sister also fallen on hard times, a woman bringing up children without their father; no matter that mine had walked away of his own free will. I think she saw in me someone who recognised the little trials, the education of holding a good grace when uprooted, or imagined me living as my mother's guest, just as she was guest in her rescuers' home. Something, somehow that made her feel we had a link.
And then someone took the time to educate me on the real terror of the war. The machetes, the genocide, the burnings, the immediate and relentless massacre of government officials and their whole families; the total lawlessness and hopelessness.
The next time I went to that Church she saw me across the crowd - gave me a huge smile and a wave, and I still to this day feel so, so ashamed. I'd lost all my certainty and didn't know how to look her in the eye, couldn't even imagine shrugging shoulders at the weather, poking faces at the biscuits, the little things that she needed from me.
So I didn't. Nor did I go there again if I could help it, always fearful of having to face her open, unsuspecting, hopeful smile. I deserted her.
I'm so sorry.