Lost at Victoria Station
He climbed up the steps, very carefully, one at a time. He could just reach the shiny handrail and he used this to keep himself steady on the big steps. As his feet in his new shoes lifted him upwards the enormous roof of the station came into view and spread itself all around him, as far as he could see.
“You’ll be all right,” his mother had said, only a few minutes ago. “Just follow the men into the toilet.” He paused and he felt his mother pat his head. ”Go on, down you go dear. You’re a big boy now, and I’ll be just here when you come out.”
At the top of the steps there was no sign of her. He looked up at the people around him. Every one of them was in a great hurry and none of them looked his way. There were so many of them rushing past that it was difficult to see whether his mother had simply moved to one side, out of the way of these busy people.
In front of him, as he came up from the toilets, there was a sort of office, rather like his grandad’s old garden shed. Somehow he managed to dodge past these busy grown-ups towards this shed, but then there was a powerful nudge in his back and he struggled not to fall over. A man in a suit was glaring at him. The man said nothing then turned and hurried away.
Perhaps he should go back to the exact spot where his mother had left him so he set off again, trying to dodge between these busy people.
Something flapped across his face. The boy looked round and saw a woman who pulled her long coat back around her legs and was then swept away by the stream of these big people. The boy felt his face begin to crumble and his eyes squeezed themselves, ready for the tears.
Back at the top of the steps he looked around again. Perhaps Mummy would be here now; perhaps she had gone to look for him. But she was not here. Again he looked around and then someone was shouting at him. There was a rumbling noise and the sounds of people rushing past and of their voices were lost as a long string of trolleys almost forced him back onto the top of the steps.
The shiny handrail was there again for him to hold onto and he felt a little safer. A man paused above him. “Are you going up or down, young man?” The boy said nothing and the man swung an enormous briefcase to one side and stepped around him. The boy took a couple of steps back up towards the spot where Mummy had left him and looked around again.
Someone coughed behind him. A man had just come up the steps. He was not dressed like the other men in their suits but was wearing one of those funny jackets without sleeves, like the one that Grandad liked to wear out in his garden.
“Not lost are we, young man?”
The boy nodded his head. “Mummy said I was to wait here.”
The man was nodding his head too. “I think I know what’s happened here.” The boy felt his hand taken by the man’s hand, big, with hairy knuckles, just like Grandad’s. “Come on, let’s have a look round the corner.”
It was much easier now to move between all the other people. He held on tightly as the man found a way round to the other side of the shed.
The first thing the boy saw as they drew away from the steps where Mummy had left him was another set of steps leading downwards. A woman was standing there, looking down the steps, peering anxiously from side to side. It was Mummy.
She turned and he let go of the man’s hand as his mother hugged him. Then she stood up and turned to the man. Before she could speak he was explaining.
“Lots of people don’t realise there’s a second way in and out of the gents. This young man was obviously waiting for someone, and here you are.”
What was it that the mother failed to understand when she sent her son down into the men’s toilet?
Who was the little boy reminded of by the man who helped him?