“Follow the yellow lines,” the woman said.
So that’s what Peter and I were trying to do. But we couldn’t find them anywhere.
Peter was two years older than me, maybe even three, plus he was taller. That meant he was in charge. I looked up at him trying to work out what to do. He nodded his head, but I could tell he was confused.
“Follow the yellow lines.”
The woman’s voice came through speakers and was everywhere in the building at once. Peter and I knew the message was just for us, because she said our names.
There were lots of adults around. At least 50, probably 100. Maybe even 200 - it was hard to tell, because new ones were coming and going all the time. Most of them were just walking by themselves, into tunnels or down escalators. They were dressed very smart.
When I thought of yellow lines I thought of the double yellow lines you see on roads. Two thick stripes. But I knew the ones we had to find might have looked different. They could have been like, I don’t know, strings of flat yellow spaghetti.
“What type of yellow lines do you think we have to find?” I said.
“I think they’re like arrows pointing to where we need to go,” said Peter.
“Oh OK,” I said. “Yellow arrows?”
Peter nodded. He pointed towards one of the tunnels. “Let’s look over there,” he said.
We didn’t get very far because you needed a ticket to go into the tunnel. So we just went back to where we were before.
Our bags were getting heavy so we sat down on a grey bench next to the ticket desk and watched the pigeons bob around for crumbs. I didn’t know you got pigeons in train stations.
Soon I guessed it was lunchtime because some adults were eating sandwiches they’d bought from the shops. The sandwiches were huge, and looked much tastier than the ones my mum had put in my bag this morning.
I wasn’t hungry. Neither was Peter.
We just wanted to find the yellow lines.
We spent the next two hours looking. In the shops, in the toilets, on the train platforms... by the time we were done I knew every speckle in the floor pattern by its name.
“Got any food?” said Peter.
We were sat down again.
“I’ve got a cheese sandwich,” I said.
I unzipped my bag and passed Peter half the sandwich. He took a bite and looked away without saying thank you.
Peter hadn’t been much help. He didn’t really talk too much, or even look at me. As we ate the sandwich I hoped I never got lost with him again.
“Shall we play I Spy?” I said.
“I Spy is for little boys,” said Peter, gulping down the rest of my sandwich. “Got any crisps?”
“No,” I said.
We sat in silence for a while, waiting for something to happen. Waiting for our scout group to come and find us. We’d spent nearly all day here by ourselves.
“I spy, with my little eye...” I said.
Peter rolled his eyes and shook his head. Then unzipped his bag and pulled out a bag of crisps.
“...something beginning with P.”
Peter opened the packet and threw a few crisps in his mouth.
“Pigeon,” he said, mouth full.
“No,” I said.
“Policeman,” he said.
“No,” I said.
“Is it a hard one?” said Peter.
“Not really,” I said.
Peter stared up at the ceiling then stood up and looked around the station. He threw his empty crisp packet to the floor, and the pigeons raced towards it.
“Parlment?” said Peter.
“What?” I said.
“Parlment. As in the Houses of Parlment?” he said. “You know the Houses of Parlment are here in London don’t you...?”
“Parliament?” I said, pronouncing it correctly.
“Yes, that’s what I meant,” he said.
“No, it’s not Parliament,” I said.
Peter said nothing for a while. I wondered whether he was still playing.
“Give up?” I said.
“OK, what is it?” he said.
“You sure you want to know?”
“OK,” I said. “Poster.”
“What?” he said.
I pointed at the poster. It was across the other side of the station. You could barely see it, but it was there.
“Oh, come on,” said Peter. “You can’t have that, it’s too far away!”
“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” I said, pointing at the poster. “Just look at it. Do you see what I see?”
Peter squinted, then slowly turned to look back at me.
“That yellow line?” said Peter. “Yeah!”
There was a yellow line on the floor underneath the wall the poster was hung on.
And then, perfectly timed, we heard the woman’s voice over the speakers again.
“Follow the yellow lines,” she said.
It looked like this could be our way out. I grabbed my bag and we dashed over. Peter was bigger, and ran faster. Soon he was miles in front of me.
I shouted for him to slow down, and he did. Because that’s how we got separated from the rest of the group this morning. We’d been put into pairs, so we could all stay together, and I’d been paired with Peter. I’d bent down to tie my shoelace in the middle of the busy street outside. They called it “rush hour”. Peter had stopped to wait for me. By the time I’d tied the lace everyone else had disappeared. Then we came in here.
Now we knew we needed to stick together.
“Follow the yellow lines,” the woman repeated over the speakers.
We stopped at the yellow line on the floor. There was just one line, and it wasn’t quite as thick as the double yellow lines I’d imagined. It reminded me of the lines on the basketball court at school.
We followed the line around the corner. It took us up a platform and then back down again. It went past the ticket desk, up some steps, and into a disabled lift.
I’d only been in a lift once before, at the shopping centre on Boxing Day. This one was older and smaller. Peter looked at me, his hands hovering over a button. He pressed the button. The lift shook as we went down a floor.
When the doors opened, I swear I’ve never seen so many people. There was more than 500, probably more than 1,000. The place was as busy as it was when we got lost this morning.
This time I made sure I grabbed hold of Peter. He grabbed hold of me. As we moved through the crowd, we could only just make out the yellow line on the floor. It took us to a booth where a security guard was sitting. And that’s where it ended.
“Can I help you?” the security guard said. He looked big and mean, but his voice was soft and quiet.
“We were following the yellow line. We’ve been here since this morning. We got lost from our scout group,” said Peter.
“Just a second,” the security guard said. He picked up the phone.
An hour later we were with the 20 other scouts and the group leaders in a McDonalds.
“We meant the subway lines, not the yellow lines on the floor,” said the scout leader.
He was treating us and all the scouts to a meal. And he was acting all nice for a change.
“Anyway, best not worry your mother about this. Just look up at the menu and tell me what you want. You can have anything, anything you want,” said the scout leader.
“Happy Meal?” he said, smiling for the first time ever.
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