Having trawled up three flights of sleek metal steps, I entered into another winding corridor. Doors, doors, and more doors led off the emotionless expanse that stretched out in an onward-falling t-junction around me. As I walked, I occasionally heard the screams, cries of agony, but joyful pain nevertheless, of women in the midst of their labours. I dragged my still-heavy feet to the ahead, once more surrounded by cries. Some screams gave volume, whist others were so intense that they rebounded off the white walls around me.
Finally, I seemed to arrive at a different door. Not off-white, like the rest of them that barely protruded, but mahogany with a bronze name-plate centred, telling me, in bold letters, that beyond was ‘Dr. I. Aquilus, senior paediatrician’. I knocked with two rough taps and waited. It took almost a minute before the door swung inward.
Dr. Aquilus eyed me. He was a far taller man than any I had seen before, and he had to stoop to get through the door. His skin was tanned, warm-glowing in the light, an unusual complexion for someone who spent all their time with expectant women. However, I noticed that, as he ran his left hand through grey-speckled hair, hewasmarried. Light brown eyes surveyed me.
“Miss Brooks, who called at reception? You’d better come in. I’d like you to understand that I don’t normally accept patients this way, so you must be quick with your questions. I have to meet with a Mrs. Partidge in ten minutes.”
I nodded, and he opened the door a little wider to let me enter. Dr. Aquilus’ office was a jumble of order and chaos. Upon the walls were hung framed awards and exotic butterflies; papers trailed off the desk onto the camel-coloured sofa, but had otherwise been sorted into piles beside the pot-plants. The windows that over-looked the car-park showed clean light into the office. Dr. Aquilus gestured that I should sit down, so I eased onto the sofa, nervous for once.
“So, what can I do for you, Miss Brooks?” the Dr asked me, interlocking his fingers at their points as I would have expected an evil genius to.
“I- I’m looking for a file, actually,” I replied cautiously. I didn’t want to be pouring out my whole life-story to a stranger.
“A file?” The man folded himself back, a bemused, yet concerned look, becoming part of the patterns on his forehead. “I’m afraid we’re not at liberty to hand out our files. They are patient-centred and classified hospital property. If you are looking for something specific, it would be best to ask the person to whom the file belongs to.”
I fiddled with my collar and twirled a strand of my hair.
“That’s just the problem. I can’t!”
“I’m not able to. The reason I need the file is because I am looking for its owner.”
“It’s…an important family matter that I must resolve.”
The Dr looked at me sternly, leaning forward to hook his fingers together again.
“Is there a parent you can bring in to speak with me instead? You’re rather young.”
I was not going to bring in my fake mother. No way.
“It’s my mother whom I’m looking for,” I eventually answered. “I’m hoping the file about my birth will give me some clues as to who she was when she gave birth here. Surely you can let me see my own file?”
Dr. Aquilus sighed.
“I can’t even let you do that, either. I’m sorry, it’s hospital property, and you are certainly too young to ask for it. Bring a parent next time or wait until you are legally an adult.”
“That’s the way clauses go, Maria.”
With those words, he stood up in a sweep, shunting me out of his office, reaching for a white coat that had been hidden on the back of the door as he left. As if he was not in the habit of believing young girls, he guided me back to the t-junction, nodding to the stairs. As he turned the opposite direction, jogging slightly in his jeans, I called after him, trying one last thing:
“Doctor, did you work here thirteen years ago?”
I watched as the Dr stopped short. I could imagine the startled expression that was crossing his face. He seemed frozen in thought for a minute, before his answer came.
“Yes, yes I did.”