The Waiting Room

All Rights Reserved ©

Platform Eight

I have an over whelming urge to sneeze. It brings me round from my thoughts. I notice Paul is leaning against the end of his desk looking away from us.

Timothy cleans under his nails whilst Maureen has her bag on her lap, rummaging through it.

White robed Paul is now stood at the front of his desk, by the lamp. Something seems odd about his posture. He has grown long hair from the left side of his head. Also drawn the robe tight around his back, I make out two arms wrapped behind him as he takes a step back. A woman is with him, the women in the picture from the magazine.

Diane Clarke.

I’m aware I’m the only one watching, staring. It seems out of respect Maud and Toy are making small talk. In fact it’s all Maud. Timothy is mumbling yes and no answers, a polite laugh and nod of the head. I don’t look at them I’m still facing the desk.

Paul now offers the women a seat and retreats behind his desk. A comfy looking chair you would find in lawyers practice with two solid arm rests awaits her.

I overhear Maud talking. I’m convinced she has mixed up our name and is calling Toy Paul.

“Paul, Paul.” I can hear a voice. “Can you hear me Paul?” I haven’t heard it before. It’s not Maureen, or Timothy.

White robed Paul is talking to his new guest. I shut it out. I’m interested in who this women is. Why I recognise her. I’m tempted to walk over, I feel angry and want to blame her for something but I can’t move. I can’t stand up. My feet begin to tickle. I wiggle them and it stops. Then my arm hurts. Someone is pinching my arm. “Ouch,” I say louder than intended.

Everyone looks at me. Timothy is startled Maureen smiles. Paul rises and walks over to us with the women walking behind, staring at the floor.

Diana Clarke.

She seems radiant, cheerful and strangely familiar. She looks at us all, stopping at me to study my face. Startled she looks at white robbed Paul.

“It’s alright,” he says comfortingly.

I’m confused.

I look from Diana to Paul, to Toy and Maud. They all seem to know.

“What?” I ask “Erm, Sorry.” I reach out my hand to introduce myself to Diana. “Paul. Who are you?” Trying to regain some manners and understand the situation.

“I’m sorry,” she takes my hand gingerly, “I drive that road every morning. There’s never anyone else around. I feel the whole world is asleep. I don’t even check my mirrors.”

I look at her a little confused.

Diana looks to Paul for encouragement. He nods. “Dennis is the young lad who lives opposite you but one. My partner takes him to work with him as an apprentice. I always wave as I pass him and the girls shout Daddy and wave although he isn’t their real father.” A small laugh, “You know how quiet that road is.” There is a plea in her voice for me to understand. I do. I nod. I know how quiet our road is that’s why I never look either but pull out. I don’t tell her this. She is smiling at me. I still don’t get the whole picture. I allow her to continue by sitting down.

She takes up her seat at the end of the table and takes one of the glasses of water that have appeared on the table. Paul stays stood up, hovering by my side, opposite where Diane now sits.

“The girls, they always want to push their faces against the glass and wave and blow kisses. They are never strapped in. They know the drill, wave goodbye then say hi to the belt buckle.” She pauses, a smile on her lips, “We were late. I was speeding,” she adds in a whisper, “my girls.”

“You drove into me?” I ask, after a pause quietly awakening her from her dream.

“I’m so sorry.” She repeats.

I interrupt. “Those two girls, this morning?”

Paul nods.

“They were my life. I was fine. I came out of it with a silly little scratch.” She shows me her right forearm and points to her forehead. “I came to the hospital. Your wife works there right? She wouldn’t see me at first, then she got news of my Marie-Anne and Rose. She came looking for me. We had coffee together whilst her mother looked after Thomas and Jessie. Thomas knew my girls they had played together at school.” She had the seated stance of a smoker, possibly recently quit. She is perched on the edge of the seat with her right hand holding an imaginary cigarette.

“How?” confused. “Why? You’re here with a scratch?” The right hand, the hand that holds the cigarette, now holds a syringe.

“I had to. I couldn’t go on. Not without them, not after seeing you in that coma.” She grins at me, then continues with a happy smile, changing the subject.

“They are all there you know, at the hospital.”

A pause again, the non-existent cigarette and a silent puff, “Susan, the kids, your mum and Susan’s mother and Helen, Susan’s old friend. They were planning to have lunch today. They had women things to talk about. She told me in the canteen.” She looks as though she shouldn’t have told me anything. I nod for more. “Susan helped me,” she says, swallowing as she continues. “She said you were in pain, demanded more morphine. She kept it all. It took me hours to build up the courage. I rang my parents, my brother. They all live in Australia I had no-one. John, my partner, wouldn’t see me, after the news of the girls he left. I couldn’t get hold of him. I gave Susan a letter to give to him.” She hadn’t taken her eyes off me as she told the story of what Susan had done.

Her last day on earth had been spent with my wife. “The girls had a dog, Betsy, I think Thomas knew her, they had met at a birthday party. I’d like Thomas to have her.”

I’m unaware that my five year old son has friends, who hangs out at parties with, I’m wondering if my two year old can use a computer? Has she got internet access at play school?

“Will you let Thomas have Betsy?” Diana asks.

“Yes, of course.” I reply without thinking.

She smiles a thank you, like a sudden relief has been lifted off her shoulders. Turning away she adds, “Susan’s coat is in the canteen.” I don’t understand.

Maureen is packing away her knitting. She holds up her finished work. A yellow steam train is stitched onto the front of a red jumper. Two smiling black sooted faces are at the door of the engine. She hands me the jumper with a laugh. I take it without saying anything. I’m not expected to speak.

Timothy reaches down for her basket of knitting balls and Kit Kats. He reaches out to shake my hand with his empty right. “If you get chance, call in on Clare for me.” He adds, “nice to have met you Paul.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know where she...”

“You’ll find her,” he interrupts me. With a wink he steps back. Maureen stands up: “Paul isn’t it? You know I am terrible with names. So nice to have met you, wish you could of met Arthur.”

“Thank him for the pie won’t you Maud,” I say, emotion in my voice.

“I will,” she says and gives my arm that same squeeze. She turns to follow her Toy.

I look at Diana. She is nervous with excited anticipation. “It’s been longer than school. This is the longest time I’ve been away from them.” She steps forward to hug me, “Thank Susan for me, don’t blame her,” she whispers. “Good luck with everything,” she says, smiling as we part.

“You too,” I reply rather more happily as I thought I should sound.

I’m left alone amongst the chairs and table, Paul is in his Black suit.

The train is already here: silent.

As I watch them walk away obediently behind Paul, Maureen, Timothy, Diana I see a light appear in the distance. The train doors opening. The figures become silhouettes in a bright warm light.

An aged man with a walking stick is helped from the carriage, he stumbles across the platform to meet Maureen, they embrace whilst behind them I see a couple, arm in arm accept Timothy into their arms the three of them hugging to form one black shape against the light.

I see Diana drop to her knees. A head appears on either side of hers. They are looking at me hugging their mother, smiling. I make out their faces, the only colour that shows from the light.

A whistle blows.

I look towards the engine, a man’s face covered in soot waves his cap along the platform.

Black suited Paul waves his cap back from the last carriage, the end of the platform. I look again to the driver who waves his hat at me, a boy appears, his head only just visible above the window. He waves too.

I wave back. A tear in my eye, sadness in my stomach, sick, and both my hands held high.

I wave. I shout. ‘Woo woo!’ I’m smiling now as the engines puffs to life. With one almighty chug of its wheels and bucket loads of smoke, it’s gone.

I’m left feeling very empty. Paul is back at his desk, white desk white robe green glow.

As I look round the chairs have gone, the magazine is gone and the white table has disappeared. I walk to the desk.

“Paul?” I ask gingerly, as if he may have forgotten about me. His arms are folded across his big book, above them I see three more names faded out. The dust had settled across the entire page.

He looks up and smiles. “It’s time young man,” pointing behind me.

I turn to look what he is pointing at, there opposite the desk, in the wall papered wall, the wall paper with leaves falling, white leaves falling to land on the white floor, is a door. Above it a good sign, written in black it reads ‘Gentlemen’.

Paul has his head back down when I turn back to him. Motionless. I think he is sleeping.

I walk the 23 paces to the wall. I reach out to the door, with my hand on the handle I look back at the desk. It’s gone. The lamp too is gone, but strangely the green glow remains, fading every so brightly and then nothing. Nothing but an expanse of white as far as the eye can see, so bright I have to shield my eyes.

I turn back to the door with my left forearm covering my eyes.

With my right hand I open the door as Susan wipes my brow.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.