The Long Wait (prompt "arrive")

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Ealing Broadway smells much like it looks. A little oily, a little sweaty, a lot like stale beer and piss. The 83's coming down from Southall retain the smell of curry, the ones heading back up hospital way still smell of bigos. Overwhelmingly – of London. Ealing Broadway is a good place if you're looking for second-rate coffee or a 2-for-£99 permanent suit sale. It's not a good place to contemplate you have six months left to live.

There's a newly open Poundland. The Polish Church looks pretty – from a distance. They've opened a fourth Starbucks.

None of those places are good to contemplate you have six months left to live, and Dorota Zamorska nee Wójcik watches the cars go by, resolutely focusing on their plates rather than the emptiness in her head. It was a welcome quiet after the white noise which filled it quite completely at the consultant's words. Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Who would have thought.

She turns her phone in her hands, repeating the shopping list instead of making the call. Bread, milk, butter, gherkins. Ania said it was routine, for them to call you in. They had to make sure you knew, check the biopsy healed well, show you the results of the CT, she said. All routine. It wasn't.

The polski sklep in Ealing Broadway is smaller than the one just outside, towards West, and it's always cramped. It doesn't stock the gherkins Krysiu liked. The E11 should be there soon. Dorota looks at the countdown on the bus stop. 3 more minutes. Bread, milk, butter, gherkins.

Her hair is up in a tight bun, as usual, to keep it out of the way when she is cleaning, or cooking, or making sandwiches. The last two are always separate, in her mind. She can't quite justify putting a slice of cheese and ham between some bread and calling it cooking. She lets it down now, pulling out the bobby pins one by one and placing them carefully in a zip-pocket of her bag. The tightness was making her head hurt. The curls immediately spring into her face and she curses them, pushing them away with an impatient hand. The irony isn't lost on her. Chemo starts Monday.

2 minutes. Bread, butter, milk, gherkins. She keeps to her mantra, checking the timer every few seconds as if it would make the minutes go by faster. If anything, it does the opposite. Karolcia will take it the hardest. She's the youngest of the three, and she wasn't told in advance. She didn't know of the tests, and the biopsy, and the scans. She might be angry. Dorota takes a deep breath in, regretting it immediately. She can almost taste the remnants of last night's partying left on the pavements.

The bus doesn't come when the countdown finishes. It never does. What's the point of them? You waited and waited, and then three came all at once. She still has shopping to do. Dinner to prepare. Krysiu would be back from work at 6, and it was pushing 5. She flips her phone over again. It vibrates in her hand. Are you out yet? Ania asks in a text. All routine. The bus finally comes when she's staring at the empty response box. Her Oyster card is in the same pocket of her wallet it is always in. Third from the top, followed by a Barclays visa. Her Polish bank card is tucked safely behind it. There is no money on it now, but when payday comes she'll put it there, as always. The second copy is back home. She doesn't trust those new contactless cards. 

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