The first visitor was a cousin, my mother’s brother’s daughter. She had brown curly hair and lived in the north. Our first meeting was clumsy, I was frightened so was she and she wore a scarf so it was difficult to recognise her among all those commuters.
Never again did I meet anyone between 8-10am or 4-7pm.
I only found her because she looked so lost. She had been to 3 shops that sold coffee before I found her in the middle of Waterloo looking left, right, left…so close to tears, I nearly cried.
She looked past me even though I was whispering her name.
The last time I had seen her she was a child waving goodbye to me, holding her mother’s hand.
I tried to imagine how it had been for her to say goodbye to her own mother but couldn’t.
When she recognised me a smile touched her lips, shone in her eyes, then she collapsed into my arms sobbing and crying out in our language “I want to go home. Please? Send me home!”
After she had calmed down a bit we went out onto Waterloo Bridge where I gave the address of our refugee centre and £100 then I put her on the bus and sat her opposite the driver who I asked to guide her when she arrived at the address. I left £5 in his tray and I know he helped her. She is in the north of England now, working in a hotel.
Her brother arrived the next day at noon. He was much easier to spot. His eye had been lost when he was 14. Some shrapnel was stuck in his eye and when his mother tried to remove it, his eye came too.
He recognised me immediately. We had worked together for a couple of years and (according to him) apart from the grey I had not changed much in the six years I had been gone.
He told me of his journey, the lorry to Italy, how he was spat on there, how the ticket people had ignored his pleas for help…