I sit and swing my legs. People are coughing and crying around me, and the general feeling in the room is a mix of gloom and desperate hope. No-one knows where to look or what to say. I feel cut off from everyone else, even though we're all here for the same reason –to wait. That's why it's called the waiting room.
James has been in the little room for a very long time now. I don't know what they're doing to him, and it scares me. It scares me that mummy won't talk to me – all she does is stare at the door – and it scares me that everything is so quiet, part from coughing and crying.
The doctor comes through the door and every head turns, including mine. I don't know what he's meant to be doing, but I do know he's important. Mummy looks up too. The look in her eyes makes me shiver.
The doctor is walking over to us. Mummy stands up, and I copy her. His face has the same look as mummy's eyes, and I shiver again.
"I'm terribly sorry, Mrs Edmondson," he says in a low voice. "We've lost him."
Lost him! That's not so bad; I brighten up immediately. James is always getting lost, and I'm always finding him. Before anyone can say anything, I scuttle off to look for him. The hospital isn't so big, and he can't have gone far. Out of the corner of my eye I see mummy crumple in a heap on the chair, and the doctor calling out to me, but I carry on – the sooner I find James, the sooner mummy will be happy again.
I hurry through corridors calling out James' name. People shove past me – some walking, and some in beds on wheels. One man's face is covered in blood. I stop in my tracks, staring in shock at him. I can't distinguish one feature from another, and for a moment I feel his stare on me. But then I realize this is impossible. As far as I can tell, this man has no eyes. I shake my head to wake myself up again and rush on to find James.
"James!" I yell. My shouts attract the attention of a lady all in blue. Her outfit is made of a crumply plastic material, and her hair is tied back messily. She comes over to me, kneeling down and gently placing her hand on my shoulder.
"Are you Poppy?"
I stare at her blankly for a few moments before nodding. Mummy had told me never to speak to strangers, but the lady all in blue seems kind, and I thought she could help me find James.
"Poppy, you need to come back to the waiting room."
"But I'm trying to find James."
"James is gone, Poppy."
"He can't have gone far – I'll find him."
"Poppy, you don't understand. James is – James has – James is in a better place."
"But he can't stay there! He has to come home, because he still has homework, and tonight is his washing up night, and –"
And then I realize.
I fall limp in the lady in blue's arms. She picks me up and carries me back to the waiting room, where mummy is sitting in silence with her head in her arms. I reach my arms out to hug her, but before she looks up, I snatch them back again. I'm filled with a rush of anger and sadness at them, and as the lady in blue sets me down on a chair, I huddle up into a ball.
The people around me are coughing and crying, not sure where to look or what to say. I scrunch my eyes up, bite my lips. I'm not waiting anymore. There's no-one to wait for.