Above the entrance to the short-stay carpark opposite the departures lounge at Edinburgh airport there’s an illuminated orange billboard, thirty feet high and twenty feet wide.
It features an upturned bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label, giving the uneasy sense that someone walking underneath might at any moment be drenched by gallons of whisky. It’s this thought that distracts Maisie, late on a dark October night, causing her to walk hard into one of the metal poles supporting the door canopy.
Confused by the collision, Maisie isn’t sure where she is. Rubbing at the rapidly growing egg on her forehead she wanders into the terminal building. The coffee shops are closed but the bar, of course, is still open. Maisie’s not sure what she drinks, but Johnnie Walker Black Label is on her mind so she orders a large tumbler, without ice, and sits down to collect her scattered thoughts. She opens her suitcase first; nothing but brightly-coloured unwashed clothing. Smelly. Must do something about that. Then she empties the contents of her small handbag onto the table. A passport. The face is unfamiliar, but Maisie can’t picture any familiar faces right now. So I have a name, Maisie Miller. Born in 1959. What year is it now? How old does that make me? There’s an India visa stamp on the passport. Am I leaving or arriving? A credit card, same name, two tiny wooden statuettes of Ganesh, a key ring bearing two door keys and a blue papier-mâché elephant, four packs of incense sticks, one sandalwood, one patchouli and two jasmine, and a business card from the Good Times Hotel, New Delhi. There’s a crumpled mess of paperwork stuffed in the bottom of the bag but, in her confused state, with a thundering headache, Maisie can’t be bothered to examine it.
She picks up the Good Times card and turns it over in her hands. Well, it’s the only address I have, and I can’t stay here. The Ryanair desk is closed. They probably don’t fly to Delhi anyway. Maisie makes her way to the British Airways desk.
Somewhere outside Edinburgh, Maisie’s son drums frustratedly on the steering wheel. Her flight will have landed by now. She’ll be anxious. She’s probably having a panic attack in the carpark.
He watches the blue lights flashing ahead in the darkness, and Maisie waits while the smart lady behind the desk checks flight number BA1447 for last-minute cancellations.