The longest wait, in a chair on the landing of the stairwell. I have nothing to keep me occupied. The hospital is quiet, it is the middle of the afternoon.
My little sister is ill again. We are visiting her in a London hospital. We came by train and bus which was the best part of all of this. I liked the movement and the view. My mother and I sat on the top deck of the bus, at the front so we could see everything in the streets.
This time I am not allowed to see Helen; I am too young, or only one visitor is allowed, or she is too ill, I don't really know. I don't ask any questions. The ugly lady in blue with a white hat is really quite nasty to my mother and won't let me see my sister; I don't care. I pretend not to care anyway. I have been the centre of attention and now I have to be out of the way, while my mother visits. She takes the gift she had bought for me to bring and the signed get-well card. The card says, "Get Well Soon, but don't be a Pig" on the outside and "Because when he's cured, he's dead!" on the inside. There is a picture of a fat pink pig on the front. I have no idea what it means, except that my mother thinks it's funny. I am placed out of sight, outside the swing doors. Someone finds a chair.
The chair is big and hard. My feet don't touch the floor. I am good. I don't wander off. No-one comes by. When I move the chair and it scrapes the floor I can hear echoes from both up and down, it seems. The stairs are made of hard white marble veined with grey swirls. The walls are white. There are polished brass handrails on each side of the stairs with curly horns at the ends. The centre rail is continuous. If I lean over and look down it goes round and round and round.
The stairwell has high, bare windows; one for each floor, but the lower part of the window glass is frosted – there's no view, even when I stand on the chair. I rock the chair and it nearly tips. I sit down again.
There is a distant noise of footsteps and some people talking, and then it stops. Everything is so quiet. I am not used to silence. There is no sound even from the city traffic. There had been a big sign on the street as we walked from the bus stop, "Keep Quiet - Hospital." I am never quiet and that is obviously a bad thing around here.
Eventually my mother comes out and I hold her hand as we go down the stairs. It has been a very long time, and perhaps she is upset. I don't ask about my sister. I have my mother to myself again.