Later and later, often 6 or 7 before she arrived, with no more homework to do, no more biscuits to eat, no more nervous parents to observe as they waited to see the Head, and no more patient and concerned staff there to check he was still safe. After the lights came on in the draughty corridor, he knew that he would probably be the last person to leave.
Often, he drifted to sleep in the sighing drone of the floor polisher in the hall. It floated in the hands of Pearl, the cleaner, who always sang hymns softly with her eyes half shut as she worked. He could hear her broken phrases in the waves of drone that swayed away from him, those sways that left a space for 'dark vale I feel no' and 'my cup overflows', her voice like the liquid beam from a lighthouse, reaching across an empty night.
When his Mother arrived, at last, always a rustle and bustle of panting and brushing her hair back into place, her sentences were incomplete like the lines of Pearl's hymns, except they usually started awkwardly and with a capital letter. 'Sorry, sorry, so It's terrible of me, I know, but it's just that'