Jenny is awoken by the rattle of the window pane. She slowly turns her head to see a nesting seagull on the concrete ledge outside, it’s wings extended in a gesture of defence.
A weak voice cries out in surprise from across the room, “Get it away! I hate birds, get it away!”
Jenny rolls get eyes and watches the gull closely. Its tiny eyes fix on her, shiny as black pearls, and she sees the vitality in them.
The gull on the ledge has more charm and more spark than most of her roommates.
The weak voice calls out again, “Get rid of it!”
Jenny tries to respond, to call the old woman an imbecile, to defend the gull, but her voice fails and all that comes out is a meagre croak.
A nurse shuffles into the long room, her plimpsoles squeaking on the shiny linoleum floor. She walks towards the shrieking woman, but stops halfway, transfixed by the bird at the window.
“Bloody birds,” the nurse mumbles as she bashes a fist against the glass, “I bet that crank in Ward Seven has been feeding them again.”
The affronted seagull raises its wings once more and momentarily hovers, but then thinks better of it and returns to consolidate its place on the concrete ledge beyond.
Jenny’s voice finally returns to her. “Leave it be,” she says to the nurse, “It’s roosting. It’s protecting its babies.”
The nurse smiles indulgently at Jenny as she continues to knock a fist against the window, “It’s a pest, Mrs Higson, and it needs to go.”
“She’s a mother doing what mothers do,” Jenny returns.
The nurse shrugs, “Fair point I suppose.”
And so the seagull was allowed to keep its nest on a concrete ledge outside a window of Linfield Royal Hospital.
Jenny named the gull Clarissa and, in the end, Clarissa spent longer at the hospital than Jenny did.
Nobody stays on Ward Twelve very long.