But it was me, inside my own body, badly burnt body, scarred-for-life face, who was given the George Medal. It was me, on that stage in the county hall, next to the Mayor, whom I had never met and have never seen since. I was in my fancy-dress mummy’s outfit (the day before Halloween, as it happens). It was a floaty affair, with my painkillers. Dream-like, you could say. Strangely enough, my previous life seemed then, and even now, more dream-like. Jogging along the canal every morning. Bringing Lana tea in bed with various faces painted on her toast in jam. Phoning up my father with the sole purpose of mocking him, every time Liverpool lost. Driving in early every day for work to avoid traffic on the M25, and rewarding my efforts with a peaceful, skinny, hazel-nut cappuccino at the service station, and a twenty-minute slice of a novel. Escalators being a conveyor belt of strangers, all indifferent to the sight of my previous face. Every aspect, all like a dream.
I wasn’t sure if I really deserved the medal, if somebody else did the deed. A feat of unfathomable sacrifice, apparently. Well, those were the Mayor’s words. But since someone else wasn’t turning up, I accepted it. That is the usual etiquette in this scenario.
Lost in my thoughts, I barely register William leap up from the table, utter profanities and belligerently walk over to the elderly couple. I only hear snippets of his tirade; the bits he yells extra loud: “Don’t you know it’s very rude to stare?” and also “That man is a hero!” I am drawn to the elderly man’s dormant gawking look. It seems familiar, somehow.