I pulled my jacket closer around my body as I watched the taxi-cab driver eye me up. He was a relatively young-looking man, but not my type, especially because of the way he looked at me as I slid into the back of his vehicle.
“London District Hospital, Central London, WC1...” I stammered. It was colder in the taxi, the air-conditioning on high.
He gave me a raised-eyebrow grin, but nodded and turned on the cab’s metre, beginning to pull away.
“You got the money?”
“Of course!” I snapped, unzipping my rucksack and flashing a couple of the notes in his direction.
My heart hammered on as we made our journey. It didn’t help that I couldn’t trust the cab driver enough to sit still, my hand flying to the door whenever he pulled through another strange district. But I was thirteen. I considered myself stronger. And I didn’t break, eventually fixing my stare on the moving point in the distance, listening to the dark rhythms that echoed through the vehicle. The black-silver clock ticked its hands; the driver drummed his fingers on the wheel, his eyes flicking to the rear-view mirror; the metre clicked onwards for every pound for every mile. The cab smells eventually reached me, too: burnt umber lights and animal scents.
Scenery whizzed by. Despite my ‘fixed point’ strategy, the images were giving me a headache; that was not helped by the growing stuffiness and the potholed streets of London. Thankfully, I reached the Hospital at postcode WC1 in a swifter time than I had anticipated, coming into the soft morning sun by the side of a busy junction. First, as I felt the cab slow, and I unfixed my eyes from the distance horizon-scene, I glanced at the uneven motorway, spirally away to meet the sky; my next glance was held by the rows- or columns- of cars on my opposite side waiting for their drivers to take them home.
It was that rainbow of cars that displayed the path to my pot of gold.
“Twenty pounds,” the cabbie told me.
I rifled through my stash of notes and pulled out what was required, shooting half a glare in his direction as I handed the money over. Maybe this conservation of cash was going to be harder than I thought.
He nodded to me, and the doors popped unlocked. I hadn’t realised the extent of my entrapment there. White-cold fear bloomed in my heart, terror at what would have happened if I hadn't indeed had the money.
“Come back soon,” he leered, with a half-wink in my direction.
I jumped out, not daring to look back. Instead, my head snapped to the extraordinary building I had locked eyes with before. I watched it, as if I expected it to run at my joy. It didn’t, and I was able to begin to pace towards it, weaving a new path through the car-park, breathing deeply as I did so. A grin spread across my face.
The hospital was shaped like a giant letter ‘L’.