I sit on the orange plastic chairs in A & E, still dressed up and feeling stupid. The pain has almost gone and I'm calm. I look at my face in my compact — eyeliner all smudged, lipstick gone, cheeks drained of colour. I think I look OK.

Do you think there's a chance we could get there for the second half? I ask the boy's father.

He looks at me strangely.

No, he says.

The consultant asks what happened and, when we tell him, he says nothing, but concern flicks across his face.

OK, let's have a look, he says.

He shines his light in and tells me my eardrum is perforated.

Not both ears? I say, confused, because I seemed to feel the blow in both.

He checks.

No, the other one's fine. When you receive a trauma in one ear, you can sometimes feel it in both. There's a little blood. No treatment required, but it will take about three months to heal completely and you must get it checked. And it's absolutely vital that you don't let it get wet during that time. No swimming. What about washing my hair? I say, more worried about that.

Put a cotton-wool plug in it — cotton wool and Vaseline — and be very careful. If you get water in it, you could get an infection and it won't heal.

We thank him.

Watching us as we get up to go, he hesitates.

You do know that this is assault? he says. You do know that? It's quite serious. You've been assaulted. Even though it was your son — what I mean is, you need to think about that.

We say something like yes, OK, we do. Something apologetic. I feel exactly as I did that early morning at home when the police came round. And we say goodbye.

It isn't until we get back out into the main waiting area, among the drunks and the people complaining and frowning and drinking water out of white plastic cups, that my whole body starts to shake.

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Excerpted from The Lost Child by Julie Myerson. Copyright ?? 2009 by Julie Myerson. Reprinted by permission of Bloomsbury USA. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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