I heard nothing from Dr. Aquilus that day. Though it was sensible to assume that he was busy not doing anything in his posh, up-market house, I had no own opinions to assume, my own ferocity to make the image of the doctor in my head trying to avoid my acquaintance. It was enough to fight my own inner hatred, as if he was ready to dump me on my own.
I didn’t dwell. I knew it was pointless creating scenarios that wouldn’t cheer me. Instead, by mid-morning and the end of the return taxi-ride back to the exterior of the hotel, I had decided to break the odds I had with the hospital. Who needed them? Not me any longer, so I was determined to convince myself.
I spent the time that I now had desperately thinking of a way to locate my Bluey once more, to reunite myself with the bear I had loved most solemnly. It wasn’t as if I couldn’t live without the stuffed creature, but that bear had been a part of me- a part of who I could be- for so long that I wasn’t just able to forget.
I had lunch in the N1 district where the hotel resided; I still had no courage to retreat to the hollow interior of The Admiral, letting myself become accustomed to the tourist-streets around it, there I was amongst the flow of traffic, but that mattered little, despite how much I was used to the peripheral quiet of a hometown surrounded by fields. Even cows did not bellow as loudly as buses. In London’s most bursting hives, cafés and vendors outnumbered private estates or workplaces. But now this extra-elaborate lifestyle was becoming me.
Once I had grabbed a sandwich, I slid myself onto a computer, suitably tidy despite what qualms I might have had about an internet café. Luckily, this was one thing that London had enough of, and one identical aspect of life to the way I had lived before. It took a mere two minute of clicks to discover my route to Regent’s Street; via a chain of tenuous links made up of partitioned trains.
Trains seemed to exist to hassle me.
My hotel boasted proximity to the station, granted, and I was able to easily find my way through what had first seemed a mess of doors and gates and windows. I was already feeling triumphant when a Day Pass accepted me as still a child and cost less than twenty pounds. However, once I had discerned that I was indeed heading in the right direction, and once I had my ticket through everything safely clutched in my sticky palm, it was necessary for all my attention to be taken up trying to discover my way through the maze. The internet certainly hadn’t told me that the underground became mind-numbingly busy during the afternoons of the summer holiday. It wasn’t, in the end, the trains which really bothered me.
I almost retched at being so close to other people, strangers with warm bodies and odd odours reminiscent of aftershave and sweat. We swayed together as the train set off, mustiness washing over me in progressive waves. Within minutes, my head began to throb. It was as much as I could do not to stare longingly at those who had claimed the seats.
What was worse, however, was the pure lack of sights to be seen outside the travelling-shell. As I clung with all my might to the red-coated metal pole in front of me, the only thing stopping me from embracing the strangers’ ways, and with my body swinging violently from side to side, I stared into the black surface that wrapped the underground stations with darkness.
What was the point, I found myself thinking, of creating windows if there’s nothing to be seen from them?
The answer made itself known to me almost straight after I had prayed my question. Firstly, it was a way for those on the platform to see into the tube, and –mindfully, unlike myself- hold themselves back from entering a busy train. Secondly, and something that I was much more thankful for, the windows were for when we dipped into stations that might once have been ‘underground’ but no longer were. I sighed as the sky of cyan lit up the inside, and my eyes floated up to join the clouds, almost silver-lined in appearance. This was the London I had dreamt of. Because surely the capital of a country should reflect the countryside majesty throughout?
But I had no idea. That was why I had ended up here. Having knowledge just out of reach of my fingertips made me want to claw at my hair.
By the time the train had stopped, and I myself had strolled out of a new station, my frustration at the day had returned along with my neck-pains. Gritting my teeth, I ignored them both.
I’m coming to find you both, Bluey and Mother. The words were no longer prayers, simply facts that I hoped would calm my straying thoughts.
My limbs ached, despite their almost constant contact with a platform to be moved upon; it felt as if walking was all I had been doing. The blue refresh that I had glimpsed at those infrequent moments when the underground betrayed its name was just seeping under the horizon, its lasting reflection like teardrops. All that movement, too, had left me with a buzzing sensation in my head, as if those straying thoughts refused to connect themselves together to form coherence.
I walked on, following brief signs that pointed me in a vague direction, but still triggered what remained of my mental map. Darkness was my cape, a shield from novel weariness. Had I really been travelling across London for that long? Had I delayed at the café, when I had browsed News-sites? I should have seen that the various postcodes, though linked, would make my journey stretched, but I had never anticipated a combination of the worst obstacles.
In the end, my head was close to rolling itself onto my chest, had I not been so fascinated by the building that sprung out of the tarmac in front of me. If I hadn’t known London’s shopping district before, I was faced with it now, in bold tubular lights of yellow and tangy orange, gleaming as the sun set.
I entered this street, which was lined with obvious shops, warmth and chatter pouring from them, and I fixed my eyes on my destination. Muttering instructions under my breath, I strode forward, beginning to wrack my brain to know which shop, which area of the shops, to investigate first.
I had just begun to cross the street when my day spiralled out of plan.
“Miss Brooks!” a scream demanded, shortly before a body rammed into me, pushing me to the ground as dizziness struck. I was aware that I was not clearly aware of what had happened. The road around me spat up steamed asphalt as the screech of brake-pads and tyres spun into the distance. Then I noticed the somebody sitting on the ground beside me. Her arms tucked around her spindled legs, she had removed her uniform.
“What- what happened?” I asked, though I had a feeling that I already knew. It was another bad feeling.
“That car…almost hit you,” my companion replied as she got her own breath back, her eyes watching the motion of the buildings. “That was close, Miss Brooks, though I don’t believe it was entirely your fault.”
“Hmph, that would be a first,” I told the girl who I’d last seen threatening me in The Admiral.
Her whole manner was relaxed. A shrug flexed through her body.
“I’m sorry about that. I…well, it’s complicated.”
“So is my life, but you don’t see me snarling!” I snapped. “Sorry…bad day.”
Again, the woman shrugged. Her eyes continued to watch the road from where we had sat.
“Thank you,” I eventually added. “You might just have saved my life. I don’t even know you’re name!” Actions were becoming the ridiculous in lieu of my ideas.
“Clarissa,” Clarissa stuck out her hand, “Clarissa Clayton.”
“Yeah…” I said, taking her hand which was surprisingly light for such an aggressive person. And yet, here she was, the picture of policy. She didn’t even seem to mind waiting with me on the pavement, though I could tell that was perhaps because of what was running through her mind at the same time.
A different sort of frown crossed the woman’s face.
“Look, Miss Brooks, I don’t want to alarm you, but what I just witnessed was crazy.” She turned, staring into my eyes for the first time. “I think someone just tried to run you over…deliberately.”