In Another Life
"Yeah well, it seemed a good idea at the time!" Charlie laughed as he finished recounting his story. Sitting at one of the tables in the cafeteria, Mike joined in. It had been a long time since the two men had had a chance to catch up with each other, too long in fact.
The A&E department had been relatively empty so Charlie had felt that he could take a full and proper lunch break rather than just gobbling down some sandwiches at his desk. When he’d reached the cafeteria and seen Mike sat alone, reading the write up of last nights rugby out of a severely battered copy of the Holby Gazette it seemed a good opportunity to catch up on a bit of gossip. Although so far they’d both done their best to avoid the subject of Baz and concentrated on the lighter aspects of medical life.
The chuckles subsided and Mike attacked another forkful of his shepherd’s pie.
"We really should do this more often Charlie. I miss you lot down there!"
"Aww Mike, and we miss you too," Charlie responded in a cutesy voice.
"You know what I mean." He said dryly.
"Yeah I know. Look, if you do miss us why not come out for a drink with us tonight?"
"If you’re having some big casualty ‘do’ I don’t want to intrude…"
"Nonsense. Besides it isn’t. A casualty ‘do’ that is. One of our nurses, Chloe… do you know her?"
"Pretty, little, Welsh?"
"That’s the one, well she’s got tickets to some big club opening tonight…"
"Doesn’t sound like your sort of thing Charlie" Mike interjected, trying and failing to imagine Charlie on the dance floor of a nightclub.
"No it isn’t. Which is why I wasn’t invited. Not cool enough apparently. So Max, Josh and I are going down the Rose and Crown for a couple of pints. Leave the young ones to it!"
"That sounds more like it. They have one of those big screen TV’s with Sky Sports don’t they." Charlie shrugged.
"Probably. So shall I count you in?" Mike nodded. It sounded like it could be a laugh and it wasn’t like he had anything better to do.
"Great. Meet you…entrance to the car park at eight?"
"Yeah I should be done by then. Eight it is."
Kath flopped into one of the chairs at the admin stand on Kellar ward. It was clear from her expression that she wasn’t having the best of days.
"Everything all right Kath?" Jasmine came up to the desk and lent over it, peering at her colleagues frazzled expression.
"Fine." She replied. Jasmine was decidedly unconvinced, and rather intrigued about what could put the usually chirpy Kath in such a bad mood.
"Are you sure..?"
"It’s nothing really," Jas looked at her expectantly and Kath could see she was going to have to elaborate, "Simon left for some conference thing at the crack of dawn this morning. Only sprung it on me a couple of days ago but he said he wanted me to go with him. I told him I couldn’t take time off at such short notice, which has had in a mood for the last few days. Then this morning he had a go at me about having to arrange everything around my job. It was made even worse by the fact that I’d only just woken up. Oh I don’t know. It just hasn’t been a very good day so far!"
Jas gave Kath a sympathetic smile and Kath did her best to smile back.
"So how long is he away for?"
"Tonight and tomorrow night. Should be back sometime on Monday evening."
"So he’s gone all weekend? Gives you a chance to have a bit of fun though doesn’t it?"
"I don’t know how much fun I’ll have stuck in the house by myself all weekend. I don’t even have Danny there to keep me company anymore" Much as she liked the fact that Danny had finally struck on his own she couldn’t help but feel a pang of loss now that her youngest had flown the nest.
"You want to find yourself a new man, Kath. One who won’t swan off and leave you!" Jas exclaimed, before realising she was late for a consultation with Tash and really ought to get moving.
Jasmine’s words echoed around Kath’s head as she sat at her desk. She’d been married to Simon for more than twenty five years and most of that he was the only man she’d ever been interested in. With the exception of Sean Connery of course but he hardly counted. Lately though all the cracks in their relationship seemed to widening. Maybe it was because all the children had grown up and left home and she and Simon were forced to spend time with just each other for company. That hadn’t been the case since they were first married and she’d be stupid to think that they hadn’t both changed a lot since then. She’d heard about marriages falling apart under such circumstances before. Empty Nest Syndrome it was called, and she wondered if perhaps that was what was happening to them, because the more she thought about it the more she enjoyed spending time away from the house at work. And away from Simon; with Mike. He never seemed to take her for granted and always actually seemed interested in her opinions.
As if able to tell that she was thinking about him, the shadow of Mike’s imposing figure suddenly loomed over the desk. Kath could feel herself start to blush.
"Lab results for Mr Parker back yet?"
"Not yet, I’ll let you know when they arrive"
"Good, good, are you all right Kath?"
"Yes!" she exclaimed wondering just how miserable she must look for two people to have asked the same question in the space of a few minutes.
"Sorry. You just don’t look too happy, I was wondering if there was anything I could do to help?" Kath cursed herself for snapping at him. He didn’t deserve that; it wasn’t his fault that Simon was being a pain. And she couldn’t imagine Simon even noticing that there was something wrong, let alone trying to help.
"No I’m the one who should be sorry Mike."
"Is there anything I can do to cheer you up? I could try juggling these patient files…" His eyes lit up as he picked up three bulging files and stood in a juggling stance, weighing the files up in his hands. Kath snatched them back off him, a broad smile spreading across her face.
"Don’t you dare! It’s taken me all morning to get them in order!" She laughed.
"That’s a girl! I knew I could cheer you up!" Kath looked into his eyes and felt herself falling deep into them. She tried her hardest to snap her self out it and her smile faded.
"Kath if there’s something on your mind. I hope you know you can talk to me…" Mike’s tone had gone serious.
"Anytime, yeah?" She suddenly had an idea. Even though she knew in the back of her mind it was wrong, she found herself saying the words before her brain had a chance to stop her.
"Are you busy tonight, only Simon’s away and I’ll be bored on my own. If you want you could come over and I’ll cook. I bet it’s been a while since you had a decent home cooked meal" And it wasn’t as if she was offering more than that, she told herself adamantly. Just a bit of companionship while her husband was away.
"That’d be great." Mike answered, and Kath could feel her self blush again like a schoolgirl. She just hoped that Mike hadn’t noticed.
"OK, well I’ll drive you to mine straight after work. Or you could follow in your car it that’s easier. Which it probably is actually." Kath bit down on her lip to stop herself from talking. It’s what she always seemed to do when she was nervous.
"Oh actually Kath I can’t. Not tonight anyway. What about tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow?" Her face fell and she tried to tell herself that it was only dinner with a friend and it didn’t matter whether it was today, tomorrow or next week.
"I’m sorry I forgot I’ve got a bit of a lad’s night out with the guys from A&E planned. I already said I was going with them. I can’t really back out now." Kath wondered if she saw a similarly downcast expression on his face. But it was unlikely, wasn’t it?
"Nevermind, it was just an idea. Tomorrow is probably better anyway, gives me time to get the place straightened out and get some shopping in." She tried her hardest to sound casual and not let on her bitter disappointment.
"Tomorrow, fantastic, I’ll put it in my diary!" Mike said as he left to see a patient. Kath went back to her own work. Tomorrow is better than nothing; she said inwardly, not that it matters anyway.
Eight ‘o’ clock arrived and the shift came to an end. Mike picked up his jacket from his office and made his way out of the department, saying goodbye to each of the staff on the way. By the time he’d reached the lifts he’d said goodnight to virtually everyone, everyone except Kath that is. He saw Danny coming down the corridor.
"Has your mother gone home yet?" He asked.
"Dunno. I think I saw her leave. Did you want to see her?"
"No, no, I just wanted to say ‘bye," the lift door pinged open and Mike stepped inside, " ‘night Danny." He called out, and Danny waved back.
As the lift doors closed he wondered why Kath hadn’t popped by his office and said goodbye like she usually did. He hoped that she wasn’t upset about him not being able to go for dinner with her. He shook his head at himself, why would she get upset about that? It was only dinner and if she really did miss Simon being there she always had Danny. There was no reason why she’d want to spend time with him specifically outside of work. More’s the pity.
He made his way out of the building and toward the car park’s entrance where he could see four figures standing around talking animatedly with each other. As he approached he greeted them enthusiastically.
"Good evening all!"
"‘Evening Mike" they responded slightly out of sync with each other.
"What’s she doing here? I thought this was a lad’s night!" He asked nodding his head towards Duffy playfully.
"You lot can’t go out without me!" She said indignantly, "You’d have no fun!" Her eyes widened as she grinned.
"She just invited her self along. We don’t want her here!" Charlie answered and got a punch on his arm from Duffy for his trouble.
"Well you lot might not but Mike’s got better manners than that. Haven’t you Mike?" She said sidling over to him and threading her arm through his own.
"Better manners than that rabble? Of course I have!" he laughed, dismissing the other three with a wave of his hand.
"See. Mike’s a proper gentleman." She turned to look up at Mike, "I think we should go and leave this lot" she smiled and she and Mike walked off; Charlie, Max and Josh following a few steps behind, carrying on their earlier conversation.
Kath buckled up her seat belt and started her car. A thoroughly depressing day was turning into a thoroughly depressing night. She knew that she was on her way back to her empty house and couldn’t help but wish that Mike hadn’t already had plans. Not that she could blame him for wanting to spend time with his friends. She could understand how a big lad’s night out would be more fun for him. And still there was always tomorrow night…
She drove to the exit of the car park and waited for a break in the traffic to let her out. As she watched her surroundings she noticed a figure moving off down the other side of the road. It was the fairly unmistakable figure of Mike Barratt, and he wasn’t alone. In fact he didn’t look much like he was heading for a lad’s night, as attached to his arm was a woman. Kath couldn’t see her very clearly from her position but it was definitely a woman. She stared somewhat horrified at the scene before her. Mike had lied to her. She couldn’t work out exactly what that meant; her head was still reeling from the shock. She knew she had no right to be upset that he had a girlfriend, after all she was married, and it wasn’t as if she even fancied him but for some reason she felt tears start to well up inside her. Maybe Mike wasn’t everything she thought he was…
Go to Part Two