What Scout had thought about never having an appetite again was a complete and utter lie. After a week of being home, she’d become a human vacuum for junk food with a particular love for Phish Food. Add Ben and Jerry to the short list of me who Scout could always rely on in her life.
She was digging into the tub with a spoon when Jim walked into the kitchen and looked at her. He kept doing this. Looking at her as if he wanted to say something but never quite getting there.
There was an extra layer of pathetic added to Scout’s life by the fact that Jim had more of a social life than she did. He went out to play cricket. He took a senior’s dance class. He volunteered at a charity shop. Scout thought being at home meant that she would be curled up with him watching Bargain Hunt but no, Jim had plans and they weren’t changing.
“Don’t you think you should try and eat a proper meal, Scout?” Jim carefully pried the tub from his daughter’s hands and put the lid on it before putting it back in the freezer.
Scout sighed, “I guess.”
“And don’t you have a physiotherapy appointment today?”
Jim gave her a look. For fifteen years, it had just been the two of them and Scout was the organised one. So the fact that she wasn’t even sure what day of the week it was, was not a great sign.
“Yes. Why don’t you go and get ready and I’ll take you down?”
“Sure,” she agreed. “Thanks, Dad.”
“I told you to stop thanking me.”
Scout pushed herself up off the chair and hobbled over to the sink while sucking the spoon clean. She dropped it into the bowl with a clatter and left to get herself ready.
Her knee was getting there. It was no longer swollen and red but it was still painful and stiff to move. It was the start of her recover and there was a long road ahead. Physiotherapy was meant to help by giving her exercises to do so she could regain a full range of movement. Scout kept reminding herself that it didn’t mean she could dance straight after the appointment.
Jim dropped her off at the hospital fifteen minutes early, so Scout stood outside and stared up at the building. Singleton Hospital was where she’d been born. It was where she’d had her arm checked out when she fell out of a tree and where she’d had her tonsils taken out. It was an old hospital that had lost funding, resulting in the closure of it’s A&E department.
She shook the thought of London out of her head. She wasn’t in London anymore. She was here. It would do her no good to keep thinking of the life she once had when she was far away from it now.
Taking a deep breath, Scout centred herself before walking into the hospital. The smell of disinfectant almost instantly filled her nose and she remembered why she wasn’t fond of hospitals. Following the signs, Scout found the physiotherapy department and took a seat in the corridor.
Before long a petite woman stuck her head out of the door. “Scout Daniels?” She looked up from the clipboard in her hand and Scout stood up and walked towards her. “Hi!” The woman gave her a bright smile and held open the door so Scout could walk through. She noticed the woman was dressed in a light blue NHS polo shirt that was embroidered with the logo and ‘physiotherapist’, teamed with black short and trainers.
“So, I see from your notes that you had surgery recently,” the physio said.
The room they were in reminded Scout of a school gym. There were a few people already there and working with professionals. Some were lying on the flood while others were attempting to walk across the room. Scout wasn’t sure what she was expecting, perhaps something a little more private, but this felt overwhelming.
She jumped when the physio placed a hand on her arm. “How about we chat in my office first?”
Scout nodded and let the woman led her to the other side of the room where there were three offices. She opened the door to one a let Scout it. She took a seat at one side of the desk which held a desktop computer and a lot of messy files.
“Organised chaos,” the woman laughed and gave the desk a quick tidy before sitting down. “Well, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Ava, by the way.”
“Am I alright to call you that?”
“Great! I know these appointments can be a little overwhelming when you first start but our goal is to get you back up and running. Has work been accommodating?”
“I’m not working at the moment.”
“Oh. Well, I’m sure you’ll be back at it soon. What is it you do?”
Scout looked at her for a few seconds. This woman, Ava, was all bright and bubbly, the way Scout used to be. Somewhere along the way, Scout had lost that person and she felt like a shell.
“I’m a dancer.”
Ava nodded. “And you hope to dance again once you’ve recovered?”
“The doctors say I should be able to.”
“No, Scout. I’m asking, is that what you want?”
“Yes. It’s my entire life.”
“Then you do everything I tell you and you’ll have a good shot at dancing again.”
Her determination was infectious and Scout found herself nodding. Ava asked a few more question before they walked out into the gym. She took Scout’s crutches from her and got her to sit on the floor to work through some exercises. The swelling might have calmed down but it was easy to see it was still there.
“So, if you aren’t dancing at the moment, what are you doing?” Ava asked.
“Eating a lot of Ben and Jerry’s and watching so much daytime TV that my brain has leaked out of my ears,” Scout admitted.
Ava let out a laugh that echoed in the space. “Well, if you’re looking for something to do, I know there’s a bookshop that’s hiring.”
“Waterstone’s have jobs going?”
“No. There’s a little independent bookshop in the Mumbles.”
The Mumbles was just outside the main town in Swansea. It was an old village where the demographic was one of two: old people or rich people. There was probably a venn diagram where those bubbles overlapped.
“It’s called A Page A Day.”
“Is it new?” Scout asked. “I’ve never heard of it.” In Swansea, nothing ever changed and it that was true of Swansea then it was definitely true of the Mumbles.
“Yes,” Ava told her. “It opened a few years ago. If nothing else, you should swing by to check it out.”
“Yeah, I think I will.” It had piqued her interest. A new shop in town was worth checking out.
Ava sent Scout on her way, reminding her to keep doing the exercises at home and that she would see Scout in two weeks’ time.
“How did it go?” Jim asked her.
“Good. My physio is really nice. Um, Dad,” Scout started. “Can I be a pain and ask you to drop me in the Mumbles? You don’t have to wait. I’ll take a bus home.”
Jim didn’t even try to hide his shock before he nodded and changed lanes so he could drop Scout at her destination.
Scout took her time walking along the seafront with her crutches. She would always say that leaving Swansea had been the best decision she’d ever made but there were small things she missed and this was one of them. London was busy and you had to travel out to get to the beach. This was right on her doorstep.
Eventually she took a turn into the village and found the shop Ava had spoken about. A Page A Day. The large front window showed a display of books dotted around and Scout pushed open the door to the sound of a tickling bell.
“Hello!” She was greeted by an overly enthusiastic man. He was tall and thin with a head of white hair and thick rimmed glasses.
“What can I help you with today?”
“Just wanted to have a look around.”
He left her to it. The shop was deceptively large and Scout took her time browsing the shelves. She found herself in the kid’s section looking at Harry Potter with a ghost of a smile on her face. She’d read those books to death when she was a kid, wishing with everything that she could go to Hogwarts.
“A new type of classic.” The man was standing close by, shelving some books from a trolley. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, miss but have you just moved to town?”
Scout laughed. They might have been a city but everyone knew everyone here. “No, sir. I just moved back. Scout Daniels.” She held a hand out to him.
“Oh! You’re Jim’s daughter. Your father and I play cricket together. Nice to meet you. I’m Christopher James. We moved into the city a few years ago.”
That would explain why Scout didn’t recognise him. Chris let go of her hand and Scout remembered what Ava had told her. It would be nice to be able to pay her Dad something for having her back at home and she needed to get out of the house before she completely lost her mind.
“Less of that. Mr James would be my father,” he laughed.
“Chris. I heard you might have a job going here.”
“You heard correctly.”
“I… how would I go about applying for the position?”
“By talking to me.” He held his arms out wide and Scout shook her head with a smile. “Have you worked in a shop before?”
“It’s been a few years but yes. I worked throughout my degree.”
“I like the sound of that.”
“It was mainly clothes thought,” Scout clarified. “I’ve never worked in a bookshop.”
“It’s not too different,” he told her with a wink. Chris had one of those slightly out there personalities but Scout liked that. He asked her a few more questions before he grinned. “Looks like you got yourself a job!”
“Between you and me, we haven’t had many applications and you seem like a capable girl from what I’ve heard from your father.”
Good old Jim. Scout should have known he wouldn’t let her name die in this place. She might have left but the spirit of her stuck around.
Chris told her to bring all the required documents with her tomorrow and they would sort out a schedule for shifts. As she left the shop, Scout’s chest felt a little lighter than it had in weeks. This might not have been her plan but it was a good placeholder. She was trying to make herself useful and she was going to get better and then she’d be on the first train out of the city.
As she walked towards the bus stop she made herself a small promise. “One year, Scout. One year and you are out of here.”