By Kate Mahony
The girl sits upright but it’s clear she’s thinking about something far removed from the reading room with its polished floors, timbered tables and high ceilings. I am researching my chosen topic, hoping to gain a place on Mastermind. As part of my preparation, careful observation of others is the first discipline I require of myself.
She’s not even pretending to read, unlike the oldies who spread out a newspaper before sinking into unfitful snoozing. As someone who likes to keep abreast of his literary knowledge, I am reminded of the phrase, waiting for Godot.
Eventually, I hear her chair move. I return my reading material and take the stairs down to the ground floor. Outside, I blink as my eyes adjust to the sunlight. She’s at a wooden table in the courtyard area. I choose a neighbouring spot and fossick in my lunchbox causing two sparrows to descend quickly onto my table. I shoo them away. ‘Annoying creatures,’ I say, directing my comment towards the girl.
In a place like this, we are all strangers. People often warm to the sound of another human voice. I toss out a gentle question or two and learn that she has no place to stay.
Yet again, I explain my mother’s unique situation, struck down in her middle years by a mystery illness and needing company while I am conducting my business. A room provided for the right person.
I wait for her to ask some questions, but she just nods and says okay. She hoists her small backpack onto her back.
I lead the way, not bothering to check she’s following. When you step into your specialist area, everything is easy.