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We’re here. The walls are clean and white and bare. There is lots of noise, but everyone in the room is quiet: I mean you can hear the noise of the other ones in the other rooms. It makes me feel uneasy, how clean and nice and fresh and squeaky the whole place is. Dad, my dad who used to be strong and fit and muscly, sits next to me, staring at the wall again with that look that says my-son-is-missing–and-my-wife-is-in-the-Looney-bin. When Dan first went, I knew it was my fault but I thought we would find him and every thing would be okay. I should have looked. Because now he isn’t coming back. So really it’s my fault I put mum in here and dad into a trance. That feeling never leaves my mind; it’s always tapping the back of my head to remind me. But I can hear them, the crazy people, and one is making quite a racket in this quiet but noisy place:
“I Tell You Now Woman, That Biscuit Is Just Too Big. It Will Not Fit!”
“Now George, It’s just one bourbon.”
But Nurse You ARE NOT Hearing me! It Is FAR Too Big!”
“Well then George, maybe a hobnob might?”
“GOODNESS THEY WILL NOT FIT, YOU DAMN STUPID WOMAN!”
“Now, George, don’t be horrible. We have to try and make it fit, because really it will and you know it will.”
“Well, I Tell You Now, You Can Try All You Like, But It Will Not Fit. My Mouth Is Just Not Built to accommodate Such Large Biscuits.”
This is not right; my mother should not be here. We must have the wrong ward. Mum isn’t mental: these people are crazy lunatics. She is just missing her son.
“Good morning Cecilia.”
“Hello Nurse. I’m Feeling much better today.”
“Well that’s wonderful, Cecilia. Now I have visitor for you today.”
“Look, it’s your daughter Alexandra!”
“Ale-who? What a ridiculous name, I’d never have chosen that. Dear GOD Nurse, why on earth are you bringing such a hussy in here and claiming it’s my daughter? I would never have turned out something as vile and wretched as that poor specimen! “
“Look, nurse, I really haven’t got time, maybe I should come back another time?”
“Yes, perhaps you should, EH? Or, perhaps dear child, it would be better if you didn’t ever grace my presence AGAIN! I’d rather not be seen conversing with such…Riff raff!”
“Cecilia, please! Don’t be so rude about your daughter!”
“NURSE, SHE IS NOT MY DAUGHTER!”
“Look thanks nurse, but she obviously doesn’t recognise me. I’ll come back when she’s better. Tata, Mum.”
“Thank God for that. Really, Nurse, I do not know what is wrong with you. Perhaps it’s you that should be in this bed and not me! HAHAHAHAHAHAAA.”
While I’m starting to sort of enjoy myself listening to there stupid prattle, a man bounds up to us with a lopsided grin. He has a long white beard, all stickey-outey and crazy like. I think, at first, he is one of the crazy people, but he has a badge on his coat. He just stands, grinning and nodding slightly. Then he grabs my dad’s hand, and shakes him frantically: not shakes his hand but he pumps so hard the movement ripples up his arm; pumps so hard that dad’s bones rattle inside their bag of skin. I shrink back into the strange hard chair, hoping I’m not next in line.
“Mr. Skinner! How DELIGHTFUL to meet you! We have been ANTICIPATING your arrival for HOURS!”
“Er, yes fabulous, great, but, erm, who exactly, yes, er, are you?” dad asks his jumper.
Then the weird man laughs in a way I’ve never heard before: loud and round, warm and deep, and you can tell that he hasn’t had the trouble of loosing a brother or son, or knowing it’s your fault and that your parents know its your fault and so they blame you and will never look at you the same way again because you were meant to look after him and check he was on the bus but you didn’t so forever and ever and ever it will be your fault and you can’t be forgiven ever.
“Why I’m Dr. Gordon! HARDIHARHARHARNIHARHAR. Your wife has been put into my care; she’s wonderful, absolutely wonderful!” He pauses, looks down at me. “Why, this must be Ollie! How MARVELOUS to meet you! I’ve heard some very fond stories of you young man, very fond indeed! He stops.
“Now, I understand that today is a very difficult day for all of you, but really we have to try and continue in a normal as a way as possible. We have had some very good progress for Martha so far. Recently she hasn’t been sneaking to Paediatrics at night and is now eating better. Now if you will follow me, I’ll show you to her room.”
He takes us down a corridor. As we pass by open doors and windows, I can see people in beds, or sitting in those over stuffed chairs. One is scribbling furiously on his arm, another is on a dead phone line to the Belgian king, and the biscuit man still insists that it won’t fit. I’m surrounded by crazy mental people and it makes me feel uneasy. One day they were fine and understood everything and saw everything as it is and right and well and then the next they are crazy, mental lunatics and are being locked up and they don’t know why and I guess that makes them even crazier.
I can see Dan, running around the house, pretending to be superman, with his pants on over the trousers. This is such a random time to be reminding myself of Daniel’s silly antics that annoyed me so much, but now I treasure with all my heart.
Suddenly, I hear screaming and sobbing, so instinctively I start to run away, screaming is bad bad bad news but doctor pulls me the other way so I run faster and faster. I see my mother run out of a room and turn and point to me. She’s screaming and crying and sobbing, yelling things:
“That one, the one there, I…can’t…I can’t look…he killed Daniel, lost him…Daniel is never coming back because of him! He is not my son anymore….I….I…oh my god…why me? Why I doctor? Why him? He did nothing wrong, was just a little boy…” and then she breaks down, sobbing and crying again, and I realise that now I feel like crying and screaming: I have the feelings where your eyes water up and you get the funny tickly feeling in your nose and you feel strange in your tummy and your legs go a bit jelloid but nobody here cares, and I mustn’t, shouldn’t, can’t cry because now I have to be grown up, and dad is slowly fading away and loosing interest and mum is stuck in here and is going even crazier than before and she doesn’t care about me anymore because Dan has goon missing and is probably dead, yes I said it finally I can admit now that he is dead.
So now it is just me by myself, and nobody else is going to look after me except myself. I just stand next to dad, looking equally as awkward, neither of us looking a mum quivering on the floor and flailing around and the nurses and Dr. Gordon around her. My lip trembles, and now don’t care as it all comes out, all the pain I’ve holding in for ages I just let it all come out. Giant sobs and wails ripped through my body, I crumpled on the floor next to my mother, and she grabbed me, fiercely hugging me and we cried and wept together, knowing that Daniel was never going to come back, but it wasn’t my fault, and she whispered:
“I’m sorry my darling, so sorry, so sorry. I love you; it’s not your fault at all, not at all. I’m so sorry darling, so sorry.”
And I couldn’t’ speak but I knew it would be alright, knew we would get through this.
6 months later
It’s a windy day, cold, chilly. I’m wearing my big puffy coat and my blue gloves. Mum and dad are all wrapped up too. I run along the edge, and mum’s face tightens with worry. She won’t take any risks with my safety now after what happened, and although it is annoying I understand it means so much to her after Daniel’s disappearance. So I come away, and just watch the choppy, churning grey sea beneath and I know that Daniel is now at peace. We reach the edge: dad wraps his arm around me, drawing me in for a cuddle. I snuggle up inside his coat because it’s all warm and toasty in there. In my hand I have Dan’s old teddy Mr. Mojo. Mum has his superman pyjamas and dad has a piece of peanut butter toast, even though Dan liked it really hot and it’s now cold.
“Right, are we ready?” mum asks. She glances at me then smiles warmly. I know she is just trying to be happy but for her this is so hard. But the Doctor said we have to let go. I need to let go. I will always remember Dan, but I need to set him free.
“Right, okay. After three. One, two, and three….”dad counts down and we let go of our things of Dan’s, and they drop into the churning ocean. I know somehow he will find them and understand why we did it. I know he is at peace, and now so am I. we watch the superman pyjamas float on the surface, then drop below, and the same with Mr. Mojo. The toast sinks, and I can imagine Dan at the ocean bed catching all the things and treasuring them forever. I know he will. So we turn back, and walk down the path, the wind whistling in my ears and whipping through my hair, and I run, run carefree and wild, my cheeks pink and grinning because I know Dan is dead, dead and gone to heaven, and at peace with the rest of the world, and it makes me so very, very happy.