"Just fill it in," he said, handing her a form. He was youngish to be a doctor, and seemed very bored. Esther took it over to a table and sat down. The room was full of other girls busily writing out the same forms. Some wrote diligently, frowning in concentration. Others treated it as a joke, while some sucked their pencils or chewed fingernails, gazing out of the large windows at the bright summer day.
Esther wrote her name and birth-date and scanned the questions, ticking boxes and occasionally writing a couple of words. The questions were odd, but then it was an experiment and perhaps she wasn't meant to understand it. There were also a few things she didn't know, about childhood diseases and immunizations. It didn't matter. She ticked no to the diseases listed and agreed she had had all her jabs; who was going to check anyway? A couple of hundred young women - who was going to bother verifying every fact they wrote?
She had to wait then. Very dull. She began to wish she'd brought along a book or a magazine. Even the inducement of fifty pounds hadn't convinced Mandy and Louise to come along with her. "Not for fifty pounds," Mandy had said. "Not for a hundred pounds! I'm not going to be poked and prodded about like a guinea pig. I'm going to the beach with James," she added. "Why don't you come with us?"
"Need the money," Esther joked. "Come on, it's only one day."
"I hate needles," Louise had said, and shuddered.
So Esther had come on her own and although there were a few girls she recognized from college, she knew none of them well enough to want to chat with them.
She was called into the small clinic eventually and her sleeve was rolled up by a matron in starched navy-blue. Her hands were very rough and red and she swabbed Esther's arm with the speed and ease of long practice. The needle flashed and Esther winced, but it was over in a second.
"Sign here please," another doctor said. He was balding, his head sunburned as red as the matron's hands. Esther signed her name and filled in the date; Esther Henderson. July 28th '85.
"Is that all?"
"We might do follow-ups," the doctor said. "This is for you, please read it. If you experience any of the side-effects listed there are numbers to contact below."
"The money?" Esther hated to ask. She hoped her voice didn't sound desperate.
"Pick it up from the front desk on your way out," the matron said and flashed her a smile.
Esther shoved the paper into the pocket of her jeans and went to collect her fifty pounds. There were still hours of sunlight; it was a beautiful day and she had money to spend.
I'll call Ted. Ask him if he wants to come to the park. I'm sure there's something he was going to ask me. Oh, this is so great! Esther Lomas - how nice that sounds. I'll go and get changed. That dress he said he liked. Is it in the wash? I'll have to have a search. If it's grubby I'll wear the blue one...
She pushed open the door, squinting as the sun hit her full in the face, but loving the warmth.