Angel 46 (new ward)
Angel was moved by the nurses to a four-bed ward that smelled vaguely of disinfectant, pee and talcum powder. Her bed faced the double doors. She mingled with other young mothers in slippers and towelling robes and their babies. At first there was a bit of interest that she had Church, trailing along behind her, a prison escort in a dark uniform, but that soon faded. New-born babies cried for attention and that took up all of their day.
After lunch when the babies napped it was visiting time. She sat up with pillows behind her back and flicked through a discarded Cosmopolitan, and hoping that Church, who sat beside the wall and cabinet, partially hidden by the fall of the wraparound curtain, didn’t clock her reading stories about ‘Inside the Perfect Female Orgasm’. Just in case Angel flicked over to a competition to win the ultimate ski trip.
A parade of smiling faces lit up the word as they entered and trailed across to the corners of the room. A young guy with spiked reddish-purple hair held plastic flowers and dashed across to the bed beside the window. A pale, moon-faced mother, with Siouxie and the Banshee hair and blue lips, squealed when she saw him. He pulled the curtains over and created a cocoon and Angel could hear them giggling and the curtain rippled, just like it would in Cosmopolitan’s ‘Your Most Personal Sexual Experience’.
Church made a huffing noise as she stretched her back. She turned, poured herself a glass of water and yawned.
Through the partition window, Angel saw her mum in the corridor squinting over the guard’s shoulder and walking past the ward. At first glance it was difficult to tell if she was drunk, but it didn’t look like it and had made an effort and dressed formally in a suede jacket and white blouse. Trailing behind her in denim jackets with the collars up were Tony and Bruno.
Bruno spotted Angel immediately. He took a step towards her and stood in the doorway shouted at her mum, waving an arm and flapping a hand, ‘Karen, there she is there’.
They crowded around the end of the bed. Karen stood on tiptoes to look over at the cots and Bruno picked up the bedside-chart and glanced at her blood pressure and other vital statistics. Tony unbuttoned his jacket and folded it over his arm.
‘You shouldn’t be here,’ Church stood up, a stern look on her face. ‘You need to arrange a formal visit through Corton Vale and it needs to be approved. You just can’t turn up and expect to see a prisoner.’
‘Fuck off,’ said Karen. ‘Little Hitler, I’m here to see my daughter and her twins. When did you lot start locking up babies?’
‘Goin and raffle yerself,’ added Bruno.
Tony nipped around the other side of the curtains and gazed down at the twins asleep in their cot, like two commas; Adam with his little hand over Lisa’s mouth.
‘They’re gorgeous,’ a beamer of a smile on his face. ‘Just like their mum.’
Angel used her heels and elbows to sit up higher and get across. ‘Dae you want to hold wan of them?’
Church edged along the wall and stood beside Karen. She tapped Bruno on the elbow and he turned to look at her. ‘If you don’t leave immediately, I’ll need to phone the police.’
‘Ow,’ Bruno, cradled his elbow. ‘That’s assault. I think I’ll need to phone the police myself and get you charged with interfering with my body.’ Mothers and their visitors stared over at them, and the curtains around the bed near the window opened so they too could gawk. ‘I think you’ll find this is a hospital and not a prison, and you’ve no jurisdiction here.
Bruno eyeballed Church. ‘Lots of my good friends are high up in the legal profession, so I think you should think again, with your bully-boy tactics.’
‘I never touched you,’ Church shook her head. ‘You’re making the whole thing up.’
‘I think you did and I’ve got witnesses,’ Bruno turned to Angel’s mum. ‘Right Karen.’
‘Aye, I seen that,’ said Karen. ‘You’re no roughing up a prisoner noo. Oot of sight, oot of mind.’
Bruno twirled and his hand swept out. ‘I’m sure there’s more than one witness, we need here…And if you’re talking about making the whole thing up, I think you better do your hamework a bit better. I think you’ll find the only innocent party here is Angel. Wrongly convicted on spurious charges. Innocent as Nelson Mandela on Robin’s Island. And if she was a black woman there would be some kind of song, an anthem about her…Free…Free…Free… Angel…’
‘Right, that’s enough Bruno,’ Angel glanced at Church and spoke to her in a sympathetic tone. ‘No harm done is there? Do us all a favour, just gie’s some time together. I’m no going anywhere and you can stand right oot there and look through the window, straight at me.’
Angel waited until Church was perched outside, looking in, before she lifted Adam and handed him to Tony and their hands brushed as she coached him how to hold the baby.
It made her smile the way he was chuffed and staggered with responsibility, like a man on crutches being handed a cracked Ming vase.
Her mother scooped up Lisa and looked into the baby’s face. ‘Looks like you when you were that age,’ she kissed the baby’s forehead and dark eyes looked back at her. ‘And a good weight on her.’ She cuddled the baby and slapped its back. ‘How are they feeding?’
‘Well, she’s great,’ Angel pointed at Lisa and she rubbed her head and her tone changed, ‘But he’s been murder. No eat a thing. The nurses say I’ve just got to keep persevering.’
‘Och, boys are always like that, fussy buggers,’ she rubbed the baby’s shoulder and smiled. ‘Just gie him a bottle and I’ll feed him up. Have you thought whit you’re daeing yet? I could take them hame wae me?’
‘No mum, thanks for offering, they can stay wae me the noo.’ Angel sighed. ‘Maybe something will turn up.’
Tony passed Adam to Bruno to hold and cuddle.
‘Oh, Jesus H Christ,’ screeched Bruno, twisting and turning and planting a kiss on his wee nose. ‘He’s absolutely beautiful. He looks jist like me. If I grow any fatter I’ll be able to breastfeed him myself.’
A nurse stuck her head in the door. ‘Can you keep the noise down?’ But Bruno was already struck dumb, behind her was Pizza Face with a bouquet of roses in his hand. ‘That’s her in there,’ the nurse nodded in Angel’s direction.
‘Hi,’ Pizza Face glanced shyly at them, tight-lipped.
‘Are those for me?’ Bruno took the roses and dipped his shoulder and passed the baby to Pizza Face. ‘Here’s your son, Adam.’