Kath rolled over, as she awoke from her dream. It had started as such a lovely dream, in it she’d been with Mike, and they’d been having a fantastic time. They'd been sharing a picnic, lying on the grass by a beautiful crystal clear lake, the sun beating down on them. Everything had been perfect, they'd moved closer to each other, and he'd opened his mouth to speak to tell her that he loved…someone else. The woman from outside the car park. Kath wouldn't have gone so far as to say it had turned her dream into a nightmare but it had done enough to upset her serenity.
A pang of guilt swept through her, she shouldn’t be dreaming of other men anyway, she was married, in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of God. She was glad that Simon wasn’t lying beside her, she didn’t think she’d be able to face him after such a dream.
She peered over at her alarm clock; it hadn’t gone off yet. She still had another twenty minutes until she ought to be up and about. She snuggled back down into her bed and closed her eyes, instinctively trying to rearrange the ending of her dream to a happier one. After all, it was only a dream and the occasional fantasy wasn’t going to hurt anyone.
Mike’s alarm went off, it’s piercing ring shattering the relative tranquillity of the room. His head hurt and he had an awful taste in his mouth, as though he’d been eating sawdust soaked in meths. He sat up and rubbed his eyes; silently promising him self that next time he was invited to the pub he would turn it down.
It wasn’t that he hadn’t enjoyed the night, far from it. It had been great fun, but he’d forgotten just how much booze Charlie could pack away. And Max wasn’t far behind. It would have looked bad if he couldn’t keep up with them.
He gingerly rose out of bed and headed for the bathroom, hoping that he’d feel a lot better once he was under the shower. It was just as well that he wasn’t due in theatre until the afternoon. He groaned; it was going to be a long day. Then he remembered his invitation to dinner and started to perk up. He enjoyed spending time with Kath; they seemed in many ways to be on the same wavelength and they'd hit it off immediately. He'd missed sharing that sort of closeness with a member of the opposite sex ever since things went sour between him and Rachel Longworth. Not that his relationship with Kath was the same as his relationship with Rachel. No, Kath was just a friend, she'd never be anything more because she wasn't the sort of woman to have an affair or leave her husband. And Mike, in certain respects at least, wouldn't want her to; he didn't want to be responsible for destroying her marriage. Yet, he couldn't stop thinking about her, the sound of her voice, her smile, the way her eyes lit up when she laughed. Being her friend would have to be enough, and the coming dinner was set to be a highly enjoyable evening.
He finished washing and returned to his bedroom to pick out which shirt he should wear. Bright yellow: She'd said she liked that one.
By the time Mike arrived at work Kath had been busy there for hours. He made his way over to her, a jovial expression on his face. She looked up, saw him, and swiftly looked away again. Focusing more intently than she needed to on the patient information board in front of her.
She didn't know what she should say to him, he looked so happy that it was a fair bet that that his night with his mystery woman had gone, shall we say, very well indeed. That was the last thing she wanted to think about. How he'd stood her up (and hadn't even been honest about it) and gone out for a fantastic time while she sat at home with lousy Saturday night TV and a plate of leftovers.
Kath was still sore about that. If he had this date planned already why didn't he just tell her, why did he have to lie like that and make her feel so humiliated? If nothing else they were supposed to be friends and friends don’t lie to one another. She heard his footsteps coming closer and knew that there would be no way of avoiding him.
"Morning!" He greeted her brightly.
"Morning." She replied, considerably less enthusiastically.
"You still missing Simon?" He asked her quietly, so the other staff milling about wouldn’t hear. She looked up at him, how could she tell him that Simon had barely crossed her mind and it was him that was causing her emotions to be in turmoil. Eventually she answered.
"Yes" she lied.
"Well he’ll be back soon…" Mike noticed that it didn’t seem to cheer her up as much as he’d hoped it would. There was a pause in the conversation.
"So did you enjoy your boy’s night out?" Kath asked, trying to sound casual but unable to stop her self from shooting out an accusatory stare. Mike wasn’t sure if he noticed it and a frown passed momentarily across his face.
"Ah yes. It was a good night. Won’t be doing it again in a hurry though!" He rubbed his forehead over dramatically as he spoke.
"Really?" she shot him another look, and this time Mike definitely noticed it. He pondered why she should be so odd about him having a drink with his friends and decided that she must simply be upset that he went out and had fun while she was missing her husband. He thought it prudent to change the subject.
"So are we still on for tonight?"
"Can’t. Sorry something’s come up" She said avoiding eye contact. Kath had no intention of spending the evening with someone who had deliberately lied to her. Even if that someone was Mike.
"Sorry" she said again and made a gesture as if somebody was calling her from across the ward and she’d have to go and investigate. Mike stood bemused where she’d left him.
It wasn’t like Kath to be so short with him and he sincerely hoped that he hadn’t in some way offended her. He watched from a distance as Kath busied herself in the department and didn’t hear Anton Meyer’s soft footsteps approach him.
"Mr Barratt. May I have a word with you?" He said in that controlled voice of his that never let on his true feelings. Mike turned to face Meyer but his eyes were still following Kath’s movements.
"Of course Anton." He replied.
"Perhaps in your office where I trust you will be a little less distracted?" He said following Mike’s line of sight and spying Sister Shaughnessy’s figure in the distance. Meyer paused for a second before striding purposefully to his colleague’s office and somewhat reluctantly Mike followed him.
"Honestly, Oscar, I don’t know! Why can’t they come down and take the patients off of us, eh? That’s what I want to know!" Chloe exclaimed in her Welsh lilt. Oscar the porter shrugged, and Chloe shook her head at herself.
It wasn’t like she didn’t have enough things she should be doing back in A&E. They were still clearing the backlog of Saturday nights patients and she had all the senior staff on her back. She could think of a million things that would be more profitable than carting patients halfway round the hospital. Still, she thought as she pondered her predicament a little more closely; at least it was a change in scenery and got her away from the department. Max, Charlie and Duffy had all come in slightly worse for wear that morning and Patrick was being his usual charming self. Maybe she should be grateful to be sent on her little excursion, she only wished that Oscar were a bit more talkative!
Their destination of Kellar Ward in sight, Chloe picked up her pace a little. Last time she’d had cause to visit the fourth floor she’d received a harsh admonishment from Mr Meyer warning her about the perils of "dithering in hospital corridors". She hated to admit it but he scared her, and she was at a loss to understand how the nurses in the vicinity of Darwin Ward put up with him.
Chloe saw Kath come out to meet them. She liked Kath; she had a warm motherly quality about her and was generally good-natured even when the two departments clashed over protocol. The same could not be said for neighbouring Sister Julie "the witch" Fitzjohn. Chloe remembered when Sam Colloby had nicknamed her that; he’d just returned from taking a patient up to the ward with Charlie and had started to moan at the way some of the ward staff treated the A&E staff. When Charlie had pointedly failed to deliver the ‘respect your colleagues’ speech the name had stuck.
As Kath drew closer, Chloe could see that she did not look to be in very friendly mood. Great, she thought, another miserable senior staff member. She reeled off the patient’s details and handed over the paperwork. Kath thanked her and Chloe was about to walk of when her natural exuberance, not to mention nosiness kicked in.
"Are you OK?" She asked. Kath nodded wearily, it seemed as if she couldn’t go five minutes without someone asking her that. She and Oscar started to manoeuvre the trolley towards its final position. As she moved off Sandy came up the corridor; Chloe tapped her on the arm as she came past, whispering conspiratorially:
"She’s not hung over as well, is she?" Sandy followed the direction Chloe was staring in and said in a voice far too loud for such a sensitive conversation:
"Kath! Hungover! You’ve got to be joking." Chloe rolled her eyes. And people say that I don’t know the meaning of subtle…
On hearing her name being mentioned, Kath’s ears pricked up, but she stopped herself from looking over at the two nurses and simply continued to listen.
"Anyway, as well as who?" Sandy continued.
"Some of the senior staff went out drinking last night, right, and it’s not fair ‘cause they told us lot not to get drunk last night, anyway I heard Duffy say that your Mr Barratt went, just wondered if your Sister did too…" Chloe finished in nearly hushed tones.
"Don’t think so," Sandy shrugged as a patient appeared from round the corner asking for her help. Having lost her gossiping partner Chloe turned around and headed out of the ward.
Kath had slowed to almost a complete stop, under the pretence of reading through the paper work Chloe had brought up from casualty and had let Oscar carry on ahead. She took in this new information slowly. It all made sense. Or at least mostly did. If Duffy had been allowed on this lad’s night then it must have been her who she saw with Mike. It all fitted, the hair, the build, why didn’t she see it sooner? Mike hadn’t been lying; he’d just missed out one tiny fact that to him must have seemed inconsequential.
She felt the relief rise up inside her, bringing a small but definite smile to her face. However, it didn’t last long; all too soon she remembered the way she’d acted with him earlier in the day. She’d called off their dinner plans, and for what? Out of some insane jealousy, she could have kicked herself. Realising her position in the corridor was drawing a lot of attention from staff and patients alike, she started on her way back into the ward.
She saw Mike, already in his scrubs and talking to Tash in admin. She decided she had to speak to him, apologise for her behaviour. She walked toward them.
"Mike can I have a word?" She asked. Tash looked from her to Mike and back again, this was obviously going to be one of those ‘words’ she wasn’t going to be invited to listen to.
"I’ll see you in theatre Mike" She said as she moved off. Mike looked expectantly at Kath, trying to divine her thoughts, trying to work out if he was about to be let in on what he’d done wrong.
"Well Kath, what can I do for you?" She took a deep breath and glanced down at the floor.
"I’m sorry. About the way I was with you earlier…"
"That’s all right," he said softly not wishing to start a row; "I would like to know what it was about though".
Kath grimaced, there was no good way of explaining the misunderstanding, and Mike would probably be horrified to think that she was having impure thoughts about him. Yet, as she looked into those soulful eyes of his that were reaching out to her for an explanation she knew she wouldn’t be able to fob him off with any old story.
"How about I tell you over dinner," she asked hopefully, adding swiftly: "if you haven’t already made plans that is?"
"No," he said, "I haven’t. And I’d love to." He smiled at her and automatically she smiled back, and for a brief moment, which felt like an eternity to the two of them, they just sat looking at each other.
"Right, I’ve got a tumour to remove!" He announced briskly, trying to shake himself out of…out of whatever that was.
"Good luck!" she called after him as he strode off. He turned around and showed her a broad grin.
"Luck has got nothing to do with it!" Kath watched him disappear through the double doors on his way to theatre and allowed herself a second to enjoy the warm tingly feeling that she was suddenly and unaccountably experiencing.
Go to Part Three