The cancer centre is all locked up, the reception area beyond the glass dimly, economically lit. There’s no buzzer; when we knock nothing happens, no-one comes. The rain is just starting in now after threatening all evening. We shelter as best we can in the overhang. I call Control to check whether we’re in the right place. They eventually get back to say that someone is coming to let us in.
‘Sorry about that,’ says a nurse as the door opens. ‘We don’t normally run this late. Mr Rogers has just got another ten minutes to go. Is that okay?’
She shows us to the threshold of a deep and empty waiting room, and hits a switch. The overhead lights blink on, nearest first, then off in two lines into the distance.
‘Make yourselves at home,’ she says.
The chairs around the perimeter of the room are high-backed, generously padded, pastel mauve, pink and yellow. On the low, white tables in the centre of the room are tidy stacks of magazines: House & Home; Elle; Cosmopolitan; Red; Gardener’s World.
Amazing before & afters.
Your Spring must-haves.
How normal is your sex life?
Boost your energy in a week.
Public enemy no.1.
And today’s paper, folded to the crossword, half-done. A small bookshelf on wheels with a stack of thrillers, a slotted pot for contributions. Nicely organised notice boards, bright adverts for contact groups, names and numbers, a fundraising spread with people running through ribbons with their arms in the air, smiling in a huddle round a giant cheque.
Rae gets herself a cup of water from the cooler and stands there, sipping it, looking around.
Outside, the rain rattles coldly against the black glass.
‘Here we are!’ says the nurse, pushing Mr Rogers in a wheelchair.
He waves an emaciated hand in the air and smiles broadly as they come to a stop.‘Thank you so much for waiting,’ he says. ‘Sorry to keep you.’