If you ever find yourself staring at the first initial of your name, protruding from the concrete ground to the Heavens, magnified in glass-work to larger than it should ever have seemed, you'd have some inkling of the amazement and wonder that had also bloomed in my heart when I had planted my eyes in that direction. As things go, however, it was a sight most unusual. At that moment, I was just happy that something had come into obvious fruition. There would still be the small matter of having to find the truth inside. I had been born in secret here, and it wasn't going to be easy to find out that which happened.
Once again, I ventured my thoughts to trying to discover who my mother was. Had she thought this personal treasure hunt up by herself? She must have had some genius to be able to have sorted my name, slotting the letters, pieces together, and binding them to the world with sunlight. My real mother would have to have been the complete opposite of the one who had taken me in.
The doors were automatic, sliding inwards as I neared them. Here, my past was about to become my future, no abyss, but still as frightening. Swimming in my own giddiness, I pulled my weighted into the building.
The inside of the 'L'-shaped building, that London District hospital in the middle of tarmac nowhere, was close to the story-book medical centre I had seen before, complete with that repugnant smell of ethanol about the place, ‘clean’. The doctors and nurses marched passed me, oblivious to my presence, the sleeves of their white and blue garments rolled up to above their elbows.
I, frankly, had nowhere to begin, except to start by being frank with myself.
You are not going to get anywhere just by gawking, Maria, I reprimanded myself.
Clearing my throat, which suddenly felt as though it had been coated with a layer of dry gunk, I stepped forward into the moving world; the occupants gave me one look, before marching on, pointedly ignoring my plain existence again.
“Excuse me,” I said, tiptoeing to the navy-robed secretary behind what I had discerned to be the front-desk and patient ‘check-in’, “can you point me in the direction of the maternity ward, please?”
The secretary raised a tight eyebrow, but pointed the hand that was not glued to the computer-mouse over my shoulder. There, a corridor began to drift away, stopped short by the floor map that rose to meet the ceiling.
However, I did not move yet.
“Umm…thank you. Can you tell me if the head of the department is currently up there?” I bet I sounded like a complete stranger. “That is to say,” I added quickly, “does she have an office or a number I can contact? The website wasn’t particularly precise.”
That remark induced both of the secretary’s eyebrows to soar, though to nowhere near the scraped back and plaited hair. Although one hand dropped down, the other moved nowhere, except with the mouse. Here eyes flicked to the monitor; one swish of the mouse later, and she had confirmed the information she had clicked over. Turning back to me, the secretary announced:
“Dr. Aquilus has an office up on floor three, yes, but he is currently not taking unappointed visitors.”
It was my turn to show the height of my eyebrows. The heard of maternity was a man? Maybe I was still living with traditionalist blinkers, but this seemed to be a novel idea of the hospital.
“So, okay, how can I book an appointment? Does the good Dr do evening and weekends, or does he only work daylight hours?” (I’d heard many people use those terms before, and now seemed as good a time as any to widen my vocabulary, especially if it got me where I wanted to be.)
“So many questions!” the secretary exclaimed. “How about going up to ask him yourself. It’s…rather an unusual procedure, but if you pop in briefly… I’ll ring him to announce that you’re heading up. Name?”
“Lil- Maria Brooks,” I stammered. I didn’t want to give the game away before I knew of my advantage.
“Very good,” the secretary responded, without another glance. She had typed the name into her computer, and with her free hand she now began to usher me away. “If you’ll please move along…I have other patients who are waiting. Have a good day.”
I thanked the secretary, despite my belief that she had been unusually rude, and hurried over to where the floor-board stood. When I glanced back at the desk, the secretary was already busy tapping at the keys of her computer-system, talking away into the phone clamped between a shoulder and an ear.
I glanced back at the floor-plan. At first, it seemed more than a mess. Soon, however, I had spotted the maternity wards: there, indeed on the third floor, tucked into the east and west wings; those birthing mothers and their recovering babies sure took up a grand lot of the hospitals space. It was a wonder that the staff could actually fit in everything that they needed to, what with the shape of the hospital being what it was.