Angel 62 (night troubles)
Angel dropped off into sleep, like she’d fallen off the side of the Erskine Bridge. Exhausted, she heard what she thought was a cat mewing, but it was still dark outside, which meant it was still early. She’d grown adept at fathoming the time, without looking at the illuminated hands of the Westclock, time hovering on the shelf above the cot, by listening for the hum of traffic, or the clanking noises that sometimes came from the prison, from the footfall of other prisoners, other mothers, shuffling along the corridor to the kitchen or the flushing of the toilet in the bathroom, usually both. When she woke up and stretched, she knew it was after seven and couldn’t quite believe the twins had slept the whole night through without waking her once.
A good night’s sleep was a dull kind of ecstasy, but her body was singing when she rolled over to get up. She padded across, trying to stay silent. Thoughts of all the thinks she’d need to get out of the shops that day – nappies, milk, brillo, Jaffas, cheese – running as a background noise through her head Adam gurgled in the crib, his tongue stuck out of his mouth. His arm was waving and hand splayed across Liza’s face. He started gurning and crying when he saw her gazing down at him, at them, and smiling broadly. He stretched his arms out to be lifted.
‘Who’s my big boy then?’ Angel chuntered in baby language. A knitted rabbit with a patch on one eye was wedged between the twins.
‘And how’s my big girl?’ The words were out of her mouth and her smile shortened to a scowl and some part of her knew.
Some part of her understood, she tore Adam from the crib and puts him down, wriggling on his back on the carpet. His shrieking expected, stepped over and left out in the cold. Her shrieking was unexpected.
The room was full of people when the ambulance finally arrived. The paramedics listened with head cocked to what they were being told by Church,. The senior prison officer took charge, ushered the others out and shut the door, quietly, behind them. But the thickset ambulance man was already moving towards Angel, making decisions.
Angel had Adam balanced on one hip. He’d cried and shrieked, tugged and pulled and hit at her face with increasing determination. She took the blows without stirring. Lisa, unmoving, was clutched on her other hip.
The ambulance man grunted as he crouched down in front of her line of vision. Dandruff speckled the dark collar of his jacket. His specs had silver frames and his eyes were crinkly and a honey-brown colour and Angel thought he looked kind.
‘You need to let us work on your little girl,’ he whispered.
A slight indentation of Angel’s head showed that she’d heard him. He reached out and pulled Adam away from her. Her son, so long straining to be away from her, butted his head and grasped at air, trying to get back to his mum.
The other paramedic, a younger woman with short, boyish hair, held out her hands to take Adam, but Church stepped in and took Adam in her arms.
‘Can we examine your daughter now?’asked the ambulance man.
Angel’s eyes flickered and filled with tears. She dipped her shoulder, ‘Help her, save her, she’ll be good. She’ll be good. God help her. Please help her. Pleasehelpherpleasehelpherpleasehelpher. Please God.’
He grasped the back of Lisa's head and held her cold, floppy body in a soft cotton, white, baby-grow. He felt for a heartbeat, for a pulse. Shook his head. Had brought a defibrillator pack with them and his colleague was passing it to him.
The room was filled with Adam’s howls.
‘Perhaps she’d like to take your son, next door for a minute,’ the ambulance man turned and addressed Church. He had the pack charged and in his right hand, ready to apply it to Lisa’s chest.
Angel shook her head.
He didn’t waste time arguing.
‘Clear,’ he said.
And Lisa’s body buckled and jumped. Again and again and again and again.
Angel thought of the times she’d tossed Lisa into the air and caught her before she fell. The shock of the unexpected and the delight on her face. It never failed to excite her. She’d been clamouring for more until Angel’s arms ached. Then Adam would demand the same treat. She smiled at the thought of it.
The ambulance crew had radioed ahead and a team was ready to meet them with a trolley. Adam was balanced on Angel’s knee in the ambulance and he liked the shrieking horn and the flashing lights and the way they shunted back and forwards. Church was in the front with the driver. The ambulance man gripped Angel’s arm as he helped her out of the back of the ambulance.
‘It’s not your fault,’ he said. And there were tears in his eye, which he shook away and smiled at his colleagues who’d knuckled in.
Angel smiled brightly at him. She wanted to thank him and tell him that, of course, it wasn’t her fault. That Lisa was going to be OK now they were in hospital. And everything would be fine. But he was already turning away. She clutched at Adam as they follow Lisa in the trolley into the same hospital were she had her babies, and down a corridor towards the antenatal department. Lisa knew that was a good sign. Through clusters of double doors and on and on and on.
Then they took Lisa away to fix her. Church sat with Angel and Adam in a room that had curtains and cushioned seats, painted in bright colours, with one wall sunshine yellow. Lisa could smell the hint of fag smoke. Somebody doing something naughty and she wanted to laugh. She let Adam down and let him work some of his energy off crawling around the room, but always looking back at her, with his cheeky face, to check she was still there. Angel perched on the end of the chair and clapped her hands.
‘Who’s my good boy, then?’ she cooed at him and her eyes drifted to the chart above his head, outlining the growth rates of a normal infant.