Angel 35 (scan)
Angel had hoped her mum might have been at the baby scan. She’d written and told her and then she’d phoned to remind her. But Karen hadn’t turned up.
Disappointed, but not surprised. Angel had been bundled into a black Hackney cab, escorted by two guards, Church and a male colleague. To be fair Angel didn’t mind Ewen and he seemed equally embarrassed about having to attend an Ultrasound, but hid it better than her when they were handcuffed together.
‘That you,’ he tested the steel bracelet, rolling it around her thin wrist before they marked her on the whiteboard as being outside Corton Vale. ‘Not too tight?’
Angel nodded her head. ‘A bit,’ she admitted.
‘Too bad,’ he said, smiling. ‘Better safe than so-oory’ drawing the last word out.
He was in his late thirties, stocky built, with ginger hair and watery grey-blue eyes. He was laconic, but when he did speak there was a slight Gaelic lilt.
Most girls loved a day out, even if it was only to go to court. And he did take the handcuffs off in the cab and took the flip-down seat to give her a bit of space beside Church. They did pass the kelpies, the thirty-foot high, horse-head structure on the way to the hospital, but it was mainly motorway, grey sky and empty fields. Angel was also bursting for a pee.
The nurse had said she’d need to drink about a pint of water or the scan wouldn’t work as well, but there was no way of measuring it. And because everything in the prison took ten times as long as normal life Angel had crossed her legs, counted to tens of thousands and bent over double whispered—sideways—to Church, ‘I need to go to the toilet or I’ll pee the seat of the cab’.
The cab driver was listening and instead of stopping in some layby had put the foot down and raced along the dual carriageway on the outside lane. The cab freewheeled into the front of the hospital and put on the hazard lights were flashing when Angel got out as if she was about to give birth.
Ewan reached for the cuffs when they stood outside the cab. ‘Sorry, but I’ll need to cuff you.’
‘I’ll need to pee on your shoes then,’ replied Angel, tippy-toeing and darting past him towards the sliding doors of the hospital entrance.
Church, for an older woman, moved quite quickly in behind her. Angel’s head waved like a flag, looking one way and another for the directions to a toilet. When she barged through the toilet door, a woman was fixing her hair in front of the mirror and she looked around in alarm, but Angel paid her no mind. She banged through the toilet door and had her knickers down at her ankles as if they were on greased castors and was squatting and sitting and peeing. The sense of relief was a source of joy.
Church was waiting for her when she came out of the cubicle. ‘Don’t dae that again…’ she was fuming and might have said more, but two women waltzed through the door and caught her midsentence. She immediately shut up and nodded her head that Angel was to follow her outside into the corridor.
Ewen was waiting with his cuffs ready, the bracelet unhooked and ready to pin to her wrist.
‘You don’t need to do that,’ said Angel. ‘I’m in a hospital and there’s two of yous. And I’m pregnant. It’s no as if I’m going anywhere.’
‘You’re absolutely right.’ Ewan grabbed her wrist and shackled himself to her. ‘Better safe than so-oory.’
Church led the way, proving she didn’t know where she was going to as they went up and down lifts and along passageways before ending up back on the first floor. A young doctor in a white coat was passing.
Church button-holed her. ‘Excuse me, can you tell us, where the Ultrasound Department is?’
The doctor smiled, looking keenly at Angel shackled to the larger man, before turning to address Church. ‘You’ve just passed it, your second on your left.’
Angel was late for her appointment. Church went away to try and get something sorted with the receptionist. Ewan plonked himself down in the waiting room, dragging her to a seat in the corridor beside a table with magazines. With his uncuffed hand he picked up a well-worn copy of The People’s Friend and started leafing through twee stories. Angel stared back at a couple who were holding hands and whispering to each other as they looked over at her.
Angel half-turned and held out a hand. ‘Gie me one of those stupid magazines,’
Ewen sucked his lips together, looking at her. After a prolonged silence. ‘You can read?’
Angela guffawed. ‘Course I can read. I’ve been reading since I’ve been about I was three.’
‘Don’t mean to be cheeky. But you ken a lot of the girls cannae read and most of them didnae want to read.’
‘I bet I can read better than you.’
He shook his head, dotted it with a smile and handed her an even more dated copy of The People’s Friend.
Angel read it from cover to cover and then a magazine with pictures of yachts and blue skies and tanned models with less clothes than there were words. She had grown used to sniggering couples gawping at her and had closed her eyes, her head against the wall, almost asleep in the muggy heat, when her wrist jerked.
‘If you can just come through this way,’ a nurse with a clipboard smiled down at her.
Angel squinted sideways, Ewen had a guilty look on his face, as if he too had fallen asleep, The People’s Friend had slipped from his grasp and way lying on the corridor floor. Church was standing further up the corridor.
The nurse waited. There was an awkward moment when Ewen went to stand up and Angel stood up and both became twisted in the wrong steps as if dancing to a different tune. They soon righted themselves, but that hunched awkwardness continued until he walked her over the door of the treatment room.
Another nurse with curly hair and glasses was inside smiling and standing beside the chair with blue disposable gloves on. She came across and introduced herself as ‘Myrtle’ as Ewen took the cuffs off.
Myrtle shut the door over and the guards outside. ‘Come over this way,’ she put a hand on Angel’s back and guided her towards the chair, a protective wrap of paper over it.
‘Jump up and we’ll get you comfortable.’
She pushed a button and Angel’s feet rose into the air and the chair tilted at the back and Angela was looking at the ceiling.
‘If you don’t mind pulling up your top and your trousers down a bit so I can see your belly.’
Myrte angled the screen around so she could see better and reached for the lubricant. ‘I’m going to put a little gel on your tummy.’
Angel flinched, it felt cold at first.
‘How far gone are you? Myrtle reached for the transducer wand, squinting at the screen.
‘I don’t know, about twenty weeks, maybe more?’
‘And have you drunk plenty of water.’
‘Yes,’ Angel nodded her head emphatically.
‘That’s OK.’ But Myrtle wasn’t really listening. She was concentrating on the images onscreen. ‘I’m just checking a few things,’ she explained. ‘Heartbeat, how the baby’s spine and other organs are developing, the way it’s lying in the womb.’
‘Is everything alright,’ Angel twisted to look at the screen, because Myrtle had stopped moving the wand and was smiling and looking at the screen.
‘Congratulations. Twins,’ said Myrtle. ‘They seem healthy enough. I’d say about twenty-three weeks. They’re growing fine.’
‘Boys or girls?’ asked Angela.
‘I wouldn’t want to tell you and look foolish if I’m wrong,’ said Myrtle diplomatically.