Dad has eventually said he’ll take me to see Mum. I can’t wait. I’m even getting the afternoon off school. I haven’t seen her in two months and twelve days. Or even talked to her on the phone. He makes me have a bath and put on my best clothes but not the suit I wore to Uncle Tommy’s wedding. I comb my hair in a side parting the way she likes it but it falls right down in front of my eyes. She used to say I had Beatles hair. That made her laugh, and sometimes she would sing ‘Love me, love me do.’ I wonder if she’ll laugh today. He told me last night that Mum was better and on the ward again so I could go see her. I asked where was she if she wasn’t on the ward but he doesn’t answer me. People are good at not answering me.
I’m allowed to sit in the front seat again but we are driving really slow. Out into the country. I know where we are. We’re near the hills but I’ve never been this way before. No even for a picnic. Dad’s quiet, just says that I have to behave myself or we won’t go back. He’s giving me a row before we even get there.
The hospital is like a mansion or a haunted house and even has turrets like a real castle. Dad parks the car and we walk a bit to where we go in, where the security guard is waiting. He’s a happy man and says good morning to us. I smile back but dad doesn’t say anything to him. He just takes my hand and we go across another car park to the entrance. Even though it’s winter the sun’s shining but it doesn’t really warm me up, I’m still cold. Now we’re close the hospital looks much bigger. It’s humungous. There must be a lot of sick people in there.
It’s freezing in the reception but I have to wait here while they take dad in to see her first. I sit on my hands to make them warm but they feel really cold against the plastic chair, they won’t warm up. The nurses sit in a wee office smoking. One of them sticks her head out and smiles at me but it’s a fake smile. I can tell. I bet she smiles like that to everyone because she thinks she’s being nice. It’s really quiet and I feel a bit scared. It smells a bit like the swimming baths.
Dad takes ages but when he comes back he waves me through and I have to go past a giant man who has the keys on a chain and locks the door behind me. He has an anchor tattoo like Granddad’s. “We can only stay a few minutes. She’s not feeling great.” Dad tells me. We go down a long corridor to a big sitting-room. There’s quite a few other patients here but I don’t see anybody with electrodes in their heads. Just old people in dressing gowns sitting around watching the telly or watching the walls. I wonder if they watch Swap Shop on Saturdays.
Mum’s sitting on her bed in her nightgown. She’s just washed her hair because it’s still a bit wet and its stuck to the side of her face but she hasn’t put her curlers in. She always puts curlers in after it’s washed. There’s a lady in the other bed but she has the sheets pulled up over her head so I can’t see her. At first I’m glad to see Mum but when she looks up at me she doesn’t even see me. She doesn’t laugh at my Beatles hair, she hasn’t even noticed. Dad shoves me so I go and give her a kiss and a cuddle. She smiles when I kiss her but it’s like that nurse’s smile and it disappears really quick. She’s sitting with her hands pressed between her legs.
“Hiya Mum.” She tries to smile again but it’s like her mouth isn’t working. “You all right? You getting better?” But she doesn’t answer me.
“Peter’s in the school football team.” Dad tells her. Its not true anyway I’m rubbish at football but I don’t say anything. I just smile at her. When I look at Dad he’s making eyes at me, so I sit down beside her and hold her hand.
“Did you hurt yourself Mum?” I look at her wrists. They’re all bandaged up. She looks at our hands together but still doesn’t talk to me. “Did you have an operation?” Then Mum starts to cry and it frightens me a bit. “Are you OK Mum? Is your operation sore?” She’s crying because I can see the tears but it’s more like moaning and it’s getting louder.
“Maybe we should get going son,” Dad says and Mum moans a bit more and my hand starts to hurt because she’s squeezing all my fingers together.
“Mum!” I start to complain but Dad comes over and takes her hand so she lets go of mine. I can only see a bit of her face because she doesn’t lift her head up. There’s a tear or snot hanging off of her nose. The lady in the other bed under the sheet moves but I still can’t see her.
“Come on Peter. Give yer mum a kiss and let’s go.” I go to kiss her but she’s rocking too much now so I can’t really kiss her on the cheek.
“Cheerio Mum.” I feel a bit like crying now although I don’t know why, she’s just making me really sad. “Bye Mum.” I say again. Then Dad takes me by the arm. The lady in the next bed pulls her sheets down to see what the noise is about because the moaning is getting really loud. When we leave the nurse nearly pushes me over as she runs into the room. She’s not smiling now.