'Travel Flash' by Jeanette Sheppard


I twist around to see Mum slip away from the platform. Most times I catch her. Today I can’t – I’ve just turned my ankle over on the escalator, thanks to my new trainers. I don’t call out to her because people will try to stop her and she’ll cry. I hobble back through the archway and try to keep up with her white hair. She steps onto the escalator, chats to a man with purple hair and a fluorescent orange coat. These days she always goes for people who are brightly dressed whereas before she used to say people shouldn’t make an exhibition of themselves, Stephanie.

I squeeze through the people on the escalator - with plenty of excuse me’s - but Mum’s soon at the top. Someone says hi to the man with the purple hair and Mum moves off to talk to one of the attendants. She stares at his bald head as he bends and leans on his knees to hear what she’s saying. He looks all around, unsure whether she’s okay to be left alone. I wave my arm at him, point to my chest and point at Mum but the last guy on the escalator in front of me is swaying about to music on his ipod and wipes my vision. I lose sight of Mum and the attendant.

At the top of the escalator she’s nowhere to be seen - she can’t have gone through the barrier without a card. I hobble round in circles.

There she is. On the down-escalator. A woman with grey hair offers me her arm. I take it. We weave down through the lines of people, both of us with plenty of excuse me’s. Mum’s at least heading in the right direction. My ankle now feels like it’s swollen around my trainers. On the platform Mum’s on a bench next to a young woman with a guitar smothered in sunflower stickers. She asks her to play ‘Take me home again, Kathleen.’ The young woman nods. Mum sways from side to side and closes her eyes. The tube train rumbles near. Mum opens her eyes and scans the platform. She scowls as she sees me limp towards her on the arm of the woman with the grey hair. She says, ‘Come on, Stephanie, you’re always stopping to chat to people. We could have missed our train.’

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