A quick break. Just nip out the back for a quick cigarette. No, no. He is waiting in the hallway, looking for staff. Go to him, to the man who did not come in time, The Next of Kin, who now is next himself.
“I’ve come to pick up Christine’s things. If you could give me a hand to the car, that would be great,” he said.
“Of course,” she said, unlocking the side door, being wary of any hopeful escapees. They took the boxes quickly. There were not many. They put them into the boot.
She tried to make small talk. “Have you come far?” “Oh no, just from Surrey. Not too far.”
“Well I hope the journey back is ok. Would you like a cup of tea before you go?” He rearranged something in the boot. “No, no thank you. I must be off.”
She searched for something to say. “I haven’t worked here for long. Did Christine live here for long?” What a terrible question she thought, but she did not have the correct words and he did not come and he is only from Surrey. He said vaguely, “I think about two years.” It was three, she knew it was three, but she nodded; one nod of the head, accessory to his ignorance. He shut the boot of the car, the three boxes and the television packed neatly inside.
He turned to her. “Yes, about two years. I wonder what the statistics are on how long people survive in these places?” She shook her head, uncertain. She wondered how he could ask of statistics when all that was left of his mother was in the boot of his car?
Christine had asked for him in those long dreadful nights but he did not come for her, for his mother; the statistic.
He thanked her for her help and he drove away. She locked the side door and went into the empty room, Christine’s room. He had left the little picture of the cat that she had cut out and stuck on the door but he had taken the television. Perhaps he cracked and it had all spilled out on the way home. Perhaps he found God waiting for him in a layby down the road; after all, he needed a new parent as all that was left of his own was packed neatly into three boxes in the boot of his car.