Going Home

By Rachel Turner

The worst thing about being in hospital is that I can't have Tiger with me. Tiger is my cat. I wanted a kitten but Mummy said there were lots of grown-up cats who didn't have homes so we went to the rescue centre to look there. I'm glad we did because as soon as I saw Tiger I knew he was my cat. He was sitting in the corner of his cage when I saw him, licking his paws and ignoring everyone, but when he saw me he walked over and said hello and I knew he was my cat. He's got black and ginger stripes and a long black tail. He's the most beautiful cat in the world.

I thought we'd take him home with us so I cried when we couldn't. The people at the centre had to make sure our house is good enough for Tiger, Mummy told me. I was worried about that. Alison, my best friend, lives in a house in a street with all her brothers and sisters and with neighbours all around. There are lots of people to look after their cat. At home there's just me and Mummy and Daddy and sometimes Maria who does the washing and looks after me if Daddy's out and Mummy's working. We've a really big house. Nobody lives near us and I was scared that the rescue centre people would say Tiger could get lost or that he'd be lonely, but in the end they said it was a very nice house and Tiger would be happy there.

He's lived with us almost a year and I worry that he misses me, now he can't see me every day and sleep on my feet at night. I know he'll have someone to play with, because Daddy is an artist so he's home a lot, but Tiger might think I don't love him any more. I'd hate him to think that. Mummy isn't home as much as Daddy because she goes out to work in a bank. I thought she was one of the ladies who stand at the counter and give people money until Daddy explained that she's the one who tells all the others what to do. She has to go to other banks to tell them what to do too, so sometimes she's away a lot. It sounds very boring. I'd rather give people money all day because they'd always be pleased to see me.

Daddy's pictures are weird and most of the time I don't know what they are. When I asked if he couldn't paint proper pictures he laughed and two days later he gave me the most wonderful painting of Tiger, better than the photo in my bedroom and the one on the fridge. It's on the wall in my hospital room so it's the first thing I see when I wake up. When I was still feeling poorly it always made me feel better. All the nurses say Tiger is very handsome and Daddy must be very clever to be able to paint a picture like that.

The nurses are great, especially Nurse Sandra who sits with me when Mummy or Daddy aren't here and asks me all about Tiger while she looks at the machines and fills up bags and things and empties the one that has my wee in it. She has a blue-and-white uniform and smells of soap and is the prettiest person I've ever seen – even more than Mummy, though I'd never tell her that. She could be a film star. Mummy is blonde and has blue eyes, just like me. Nurse Sandra's are green and she has masses and masses of carroty hair. She has to wear it rolled up but one day, just for me, she took it down to show me how long it is. She must have to brush it forever every night. If I wasn't going to be a vet I'd be a nurse, even if they do have to clear up other people's wee.

When I first saw the doctor I was scared because he looked so fierce. He has a big bushy beard and I thought he'd been in an accident because his head was bandaged but Nurse Sandra told me it's a turban and he wears it all the time because of his religion. He's a sheikh, she said. I thought they lived in the desert but Nurse Sandra said his family are from India. He doesn't sound Indian. He sounds like the man who does all the travel programmes on television that Daddy likes. Dr Sing is his name. Isn't that brilliant? It suits him because he's got twinkly eyes and a big smile, when you can see through his beard, and although I've never heard him sing he sometimes hums when he reads the letters the nurses leave him about me.

The only other person I see a lot is Billy. He's a little old man with a bald head who wears a green coat, smells of mints and calls me a hen. I don't know why. He says he's from Glezgy. That's in Scotland, but he sounds much more foreign that Dr Sing. Sometimes I don't know what he's saying. He pushes me around in a chair or on a trolley when I have to have my insides photographed and carries the metal hat-stand with the plastic bags on it. That's my go juice, he says. It comes down a tube into my arm to make me feel better.

I was at school when I first got poorly. I'd felt strange all morning, all floaty and not quite there, but I didn't say anything because Mrs Tucker would have thought I was making excuses. We do music and movement on Thursday afternoons. I've never been any good at it and Mrs Tucker knows I don't like it so if I'd said anything she wouldn't have believed me so I kept quiet, even when the ceiling was spinning. I was supposed to be doing forward rolls with Alison and Monica and Sabina but when the music started I just stood there. Mrs Tucker got that impatient look on her face and walked up to me and I was sick all down her dress.

Some of the girls giggled, and I expected Mrs Tucker to go mad, but she was really nice. She made Yvonne get me a chair and sent Fatima to tell Miss Fawcett what had happened. Then she put her arm round me and told me everything would be all right. I wanted to say sorry about her dress but she said it didn't matter and I should sit down and breathe slowly. I tried, but when I sat down I got even more dizzy and was sick again and fell off the chair.

When I woke up, I was in bed but everything was wrong. The walls weren't the right colour and my curtains had changed from the little rosebuds Mummy helped my pick at the big shop in town to some green stripy ones. The bed didn't smell of primroses, the shelves with my books and games had gone and there was no photo of Tiger on the table next to my bed. When I moved, my head hurt. I started to cry and called for Mummy and she was there straight away but that was even more scary because she looked so awful. Her hair was messy and she was really pale. She whispered to me and stroked my cheek but I couldn't tell what she said. Daddy was there too with Mister Bear, the panda I've had ever since I was little, but I fell asleep before he could give him to me.

Nurse Sandra was with me when I woke up again. I didn't know she was Nurse Sandra then, because I'd never seen her before, but I had Mister Bear with me and I could tell she was a nice lady so I wasn't frightened, even though my head still hurt and there were things sticking in my arm. She told me I was in hospital. It was night and Mummy and Daddy were asleep in the room next door. They were both very tired because they'd spent a long time sitting by my bed, waiting for me to wake up, so I said they should stay asleep. Nurse Sandra smiled and said I was a very brave girl. I didn't feel brave. I wanted to be home in my own bed, to cuddle Tiger and watch Doctor Who DVDs to be nice scared, not the real scared I felt then.

At first I was woozy a lot. I think I remember lots of people looking at me, and Billy taking me to different rooms, but I might have been dreaming. Sometimes I slept all day. Other days I couldn't sleep at all until Dr Sing had looked at the big machine next to my bed that tells him what my head and my insides are doing. He showed it to me, so I wouldn't be scared of it, but it just looked boring. Mummy's computer is much better, and it's pink, even if it does have such a silly name. It's called an Eye Pad. Daddy says it sounds like something a pirate wears. He can be silly too. She brought one to the hospital for me so I could watch the videos Daddy took of Tiger so I could see what he was doing and that he was all right. I do miss Tiger.

None of the girls have been allowed to see me. Not even Alison. I've got lots of cards, though, and heaps of flowers. When any of them fade Mummy brings fresh ones so the flowers always look happy. My favourites are the roses she brought to remind me of my curtains. The first ones were red, then when they faded there were some yellow ones, then some pink ones. My class sent carnations, which was nice, and lots of chocolate that I wasn't allowed to eat because I could only have special food. I can have whatever I want now. Nurse Sandra says it's because I'm such a brave girl and I'm doing so well. Billy sometimes gives me mints, then winks and tells me not to tell the others or they'll all want some. He's a funny man.

At school I'm in the choir. Some of the girls laugh at us but I think it's great. Mrs Beattie is our conductor and Mr Peel plays the piano and we practise two nights a week in the school hall. Mr Peel says it's the best place because all the wood on the walls stops echoes and makes us sound good because of the acoosticks. Last year at Christmas we did Joseph's Dreamcoat and this year we're doing Peter's Wolf and girls from the big school are to be the orchestra. When I got poorly we'd been learning We Plough The Fields And Scatter to sing at the Harvest Festival. Rachel thinks she's good enough for The X Factor but Alison was doing the solo. When I asked Mummy if I'd be back at school in time for the festival she said it had already happened. I'd been so poorly that I'd slept a long, long time.

At first I didn't know what she meant. How could anyone sleep as long as that? But she was right. Dr Sing said my body had been so poorly that they'd had to keep me asleep to help me get strong again. I'm glad they did, even if I missed the festival, because I feel a lot better now, even if I do still keep falling asleep. I was worried that I'd miss Peter's Wolf, and even more worried that I wouldn't be home in time for Christmas, because I know Dr Sing and Nurse Sandra wouldn't let me go home until I was properly well, but yesterday I heard him whisper to her that it will all be over soon. Nurse Sandra must like me a lot because she looked really sad that I'd be going home. I'll ask Mummy to get her a nice present.

Mummy and Daddy are strange too. They act all cheerful and talk about what we'll do when I'm home and where we'll go on holiday but they don't really look happy. This morning, when I told Daddy he was the best daddy in the world he didn't say anything. He just got up and went out. Mummy said he had an important phone call to make but I think I must have upset him somehow.

He's back now, holding hands with Mummy and watching me while she strokes my cheek. I like that. I'll say sorry to him later.

But now I'm really tired so I'll cuddle up with Mister Bear and go to sleep. I'll dream about Tiger, and the fun we'll have when I'm back home, and maybe when I wake up I'll be there.

The End

March 2012

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