Like rather a lot of cities I had once or twice been to, London was big and noisy. It was filled with too many people, in my opinion, and both the ground and the sky seemed to be filthy. There was no way to compare the countryside to this. Taxis whizzed past as if they had places to go in an instant, the motorcyclists travelled even closer to the pavement. Several horns pushed me away from their drivers’ vehicles. Here I was nobody. It suited me nicely that nobody would be staring or questioning me. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure that the smog and dust could really be a part of the ‘new’ me. It would, for the time being, suffice.
The Admiral Hotel was not far from the train station. I ventured in with curiosity, observing its grandiose façade of gold-leaf and white-mottled marble, and, having signed in to the room I had booked online whilst at home with Meygan, I whipped out my mobile phone and dialled her.
“Yup? Mari- Lily?”
I smiled to myself. At least Meygan was making an effort.
“I’m here, in London. What do I do now?”
“Are you in the hotel this minute?”
“Yeah, I’m just heading up to my room now. It’s on the second floor, and this hotel has signs that will lead me there pretty quickly... London’s a huge place, Meg, how am I supposed to find one single person whose name begins with ‘L’? Maybe my adopted mother is right.”
“No, don’t say that!” Meygan snapped at me through the handset, referring, I believed, to both my use of the word adopted and my personal negativity. “I believe in your success, you know.”
“You’ll just have to hope that your bet is not let down, then.” I smiled to myself as I fiddled with the buttons of the lift I had wandered into. I was alone, and soon the circled ‘2’ was alight. “Cheers. But where do I start? My birth-name is all about my linear passage through the world, I guess.”
“So, we are agreeing to start from your beginning? Your birth?”
“I don’t know. Do you think…?”
“Well, are there any hospitals that begin with ‘L’ around the Admiral? You could start small and later expand the search.”
“I guess I’m pretty much in the middle of London. When I drop my stuff off, I’ll double-check the map.”
I continued to ponder this as I headed down the corridor, keeping my eyes on the door-numbers. The red wallpaper was beginning to numb my mind.
“I reckon there are at least half a dozen hospitals that are called ‘London’ in a short radius though. What should I do?”
The line seemed to go dead. I wandered past a window, inspecting the green stretch the hotel called their garden as I waited.
The sound of a throat clearing told me that she was still there. Indeed, my own throat felt dry.
“It’s a start,” Meygan responded. “You could probably ring up to ask for a tour. Then you could check them out and bring up the situation or your DOB-”
“Deeoh bee?” I asked, marching past one of the doors at the end of the corridor before I had to back-track, realising that its number matched the number carved into my key exactly.
“Date of Birth. Keep up, Mar- Lily.”
“I guess Lily isn’t as smart as old Maria was…” I muttered. “Give me a sec. I need to unlock my room.”
Tilting my head to one side to hold the mobile against my ear, I dropped the handle of my suitcase, using both my hands to follow-through the tricky process of inserting and turning the key. Even the door stuck as I wedged my shoulder against it to open. When I had brought in my possessions, I locked the door, and flumped down on the bed, taking my phone in my hands again.
“Okay!” I continued brightly.
Meygan was all optimism again.
“You are smart! And you’re sassy and brave enough to go out on your own to find your ‘past life’. That takes some guts, sure.”
“I’m not without help,” I told her through my giggles. “You, brainbox, are a great help right now. I’d also like you to keep an eye on the television and computer networks, since I’ll be out of range; tell me if there’s any news you think might affect me, and…would you do a bit of geographical searching for me? Could you…?”
“I’ll try.” I could hear Meygan biting a nail as she spoke, a clear sign of her nervousness in agreeing. “Okay. You know your own DOB, and, with a bit of wheedling, I’m sure you’d be allowed to look at the hospital’s records from that time. Lily Highclere has to pop up somewhere.”
“How long will that take?” I questioned, raising my eyebrows. “I don’t have my entire life long…”
“It won’t take that long, trust me. It only needs a bit of trying and for you to know what you are doing,” Meygan insisted.
I rolled my eyes.
“Thanks. I’m glad you’ve been a help to me, Meg.”
“It’s my pleasure. Goodbye and good luck!”
“I’ll see you.”
As I put the phone door, I smiled to myself. She was my tower in spirit, even if it was not possible for her to physically meet me, to be here when I was alone in this tower of painted concrete.