Mike strolled into his office and the first thing that he noticed was a white enveloped letter sitting in pride of place in the centre of his desk. He picked it up. It was clear who it was from; the words 'Newcastle Healthcare Trust' were emblazoned across the top left hand corner in green ink. He could feel his hands begin to shake slightly as he ripped open the letter. He knew it was his nervousness causing the uncharacteristic trembling, but he still wasn't completely sure what he was nervous about. Was it that he hadn't been offered the job, or that he might be leaving the city that he still regarded as home and all his friends therein?
It had been a whole week since news had filtered through of Simon's death and yet Mike still hadn't heard a single thing from Kath. Nothing since the abruptly ended telephone call the morning after their illicit kiss. He had called her house, leaving one message with Danny who appeared to have moved back in with her, and several on the answering machine. Mike had tried to keep the tone of his messages light, if nothing else to stop any suspicions being raised, but inside he longed to just see her again, to know that she was OK. He contemplated going around to visit her but took the lack of response to his calls as a clear sign that she didn't want even to speak to him. Much as it hurt him, he felt he had to respect her wishes. Besides, he thought as he unfolded that crisp neat letter in his hands, if he saw her again, it might change his mind about leaving.
The letter was made up of six sheets of paper, giving various details and spelling out formalities, but Mike needed only to glance down at the first line on the first page to find what he wanted to know.
'Dear Mr Barratt, we are pleased to be able to offer you the post of General Surgical Consultant at St Mary's hospital, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.'
He perched on the edge of his desk to skim through the rest of the letter and was surprised to find himself feeling very little emotion at the news. The little buzz brought on by the sense of adventure that usually accompanied news of a new job was conspicuous by its absence. How could he get excited about a new job when all he could think about was everything, or more accurately everyone, who he was leaving behind?
Mike knew, as any sensible person would, that if he didn't want to go then it would be only logical not to. It was only his morals that compelled him to leave Holby. Charlie had called it 'running away' and ordinarily Mike might have agreed that it was better to stand and fight for what, or who, he wanted. Fight for who he wanted so desperately it ached to be denied her. A part of him was confident that they would be great together, and that that was what she wanted too. However, he couldn't be one hundred per cent sure that it was him she wanted, and he couldn't risk upsetting her further by forcing the issue. Moreover, it wasn't him who stood to lose the most if he was wrong, it was Kath. Seeing her day in and day out at work would make it very difficult for him not to push things that little bit further. He couldn't risk that.
He folded the letter back up, slipped it inside its envelope, and tucked it away in his inside breast pocket. The decision was made, and it was about time he told Anton Meyer.
Kath sat on the edge of her immaculately made double bed and stared blankly out of the window. From her position, all she could see were the aerials on her neighbour's roofs. They stood straight and proud like an army of wire soldiers, but she wasn't really looking at them, or the streaks of greyish clouds above them, she was thinking. She was thinking about Simon and about Mike, about the past and about the future.
The words of the priest in the hospital's chapel kept coming back to her. He had told her quite clearly that it was wrong to think about Mike when she was still with Simon, but of course now things had changed. Simon's death had opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for her; it gave her an independence that likes of which she had never before had. She kept coming back to the same thought; that now she was perfectly free to be with Mike. In some ways, it was a thought that scared her and yet she revelled in the warm feeling it gave her.
She knew that he had called a number of times over the last week but something told her that she would have to see him face to face before she could make any big plans for her new life. She had to be absolutely certain that what she felt for him was real, and likewise, what he felt for her. Kath hoped that Mike would stop by to see her; just about everyone else from the hospital had done so already. Mike hadn't even turned up to the funeral. Perhaps he wasn't serious about her after all.
She heard the familiar chiming of her door bell sound downstairs. She cocked her head to one side as she listened for who the unexpected caller might be. A second later she heard Danny answer the door and greet their visitor. She could feel her heartbeat quicken a touch at the anticipation that it could be Mike, but as she strained to discern the voice, she became sure that it wasn't. Kath slumped onto the bed downhearted.
"Come" Anton Meyer's authoritative voice cut through the thin wood of his office door. Mike opened it and stepped inside closing the door carefully behind him.
"What can I do for you this early in the morning Mr Barratt? Nothing amiss I hope?"
"Not 'amiss' exactly Anton…" he started, feeling for the very first time rather intimidated by Meyer's obvious strength and control, when he himself was in turmoil. Meyer directed him to a chair on the opposite side of his large desk.
"This wouldn't have anything to do with a letter from St Mary's, Newcastle that arrived on my desk this morning?"
"Ah…" Mike started as he watched Meyer retrieve the letter from his 'post in' tray, "I didn't realise that they would write to you so soon".
"Obviously" He skimmed through the letter once more, just to make sure he was absolutely clear on the facts.
Mike clasped his hands together over his knees, feeling for all the world like a little boy who'd been dragged up before the headmaster.
"I'm sorry Anton, I should have let you know what I was planning."
"Yes, Mr Barratt, you should have. I do not appreciate hearing that one of my senior staff plans to leave, second hand. I expected a touch more professional courtesy than that from you."
"It was a job I turned down a few weeks ago, I didn't know if they'd offer it to me again. I wanted to wait until I was certain one way or the other before coming to you about it. An error in judgement on my part, Anton, for which I apologise". Meyer paused a moment to scrutinise Mike's expression. There was something earnest, possibly even nervous about it. It was highly unlike his usual jolly and slightly irreverent behaviour. He wondered about the cause of the change, tracking it back in his mind to the earliest point he could recall: the first day of Sister Shaughnessy's special leave. Whilst Meyer never considered himself to be nosy about the private lives of the staff around him he did like to be kept informed. It was the only way he could run an efficient department.
"If you turned down the position before, do you mind explaining the sudden change of heart?" Mike had worked with Meyer for long enough to recognise the difference between a question and a politely phrased demand. Unfortunately, for all his brilliance as a surgeon. Anton Meyer was not the sort of person who it was easy to open up to, and Mike did not intend to explain himself.
"Personal reasons. Factors that have made it impossible for me to continue my work here. I will, of course, stay until you can find a suitable replacement."
"That's very decent of you." Meyer replied with what might have been a hint of sarcasm, Mike couldn't be sure.
"So you will be releasing me from my contract?"
"I am under no obligation to do so. However, I can think of a few surgeon's who would jump at the chance to take your place. That's if you're serious about leaving us?"
"In that case I shall be very sorry to lose you from this hospital. I know you'll be an asset to your new team." Mike new that Meyer never gave out praise undeservedly or in fact often deservedly and appreciated the comment.
"Thank you. Well, I'm due on my ward round about now, if you'll excuse me Anton." He stood up and Meyer politely followed suit.
"Certainly. Oh and Mr Barratt one more thing…?"
"I was wondering if you had heard anything from Sister Shaughnessy about when she might be returning to work?" Meyer caught the flicker of shock mixed in with something else on Mike's face at the mention of her name. It was enough to confirm that she was in some way a factor in Mike's sudden departure.
"It might be an idea if you chase her up sometime before you leave." Mike's brow creased almost imperceptibly as he tried to work out if Meyer's statement concealed some hidden message, but Meyer had already sat back down behind his desk and was seemingly absorbed in some paperwork.
Morning surgery went smoothly and soon Mike found himself sat in front of a steaming plate of lasagne in the staff canteen. Tash had asked him to go to lunch with her, but his mind was so absorbed with thoughts about Kath and his future that he wasn't very good company for her.
He prodded his food with his fork, mixing the meat in with the cheese until it was large indistinguishable blob of brown goo.
"I hope you pay more attention to your operations!" He heard her say.
"Hmmm?" Mike replied.
"Never mind. Are you all right Mike? You seem a bit…distracted today." He knew that she was right. He was enough of a professional to concentrate on his work, or maybe his patients just provided a good distraction, either way now he was on his 'off' time, Kath was back on his mind. He also knew that he had to tell his staff about his leaving eventually, and this was as good a time as any.
"I got accepted for a post in Newcastle this morning."
"You're leaving us?" Mike nodded glumly.
"As soon as Anton's found a replacement".
"Long story." Tash glanced down at her watch.
"We've got forty-five minutes until we're due back on the ward. Longer than that?" Mike sighed.
"Tash, please don't ask me. I've thought about it a lot, and talked it through with a friend."
"Kath?" Mike's eyes widened. How could Tash possibly know what was going on? Was it that obvious that he had feeling for Kath?
"It's nothing to do with Kath, it's my own decision!" He said defensively. Tash eyed him up and down baffled at first by his strange reaction. Then it hit her what he'd thought she'd meant.
"No Mike, I meant did you talk it through with Kath." she said slowly and deliberately.
"Oh…No, it was Charlie Fairhead actually."
"But this does have something to do with Kath? I'm right, aren't I Mike?" Her voice was barely above a whisper, she was all too aware of how quickly gossip can spread if you weren't careful. His shoulders sagged as he realised he'd given the game away.
"I just don't think it's a good idea for me to be around her at the moment."
"I don't understand. Why not?"
"Since Simon's death, things have changed. I can't explain."
"So you're just going to go. Before she's even back from compassionate leave? I didn't think that was your style Mike." he prodded his food a bit more, squishing it into his plate.
"I don't know what to say to her." He said eventually.
"Look I don't know just what's happened between you two, but you can't leave it like this. You have to go and talk to her."
"You're the third person who's told me that, you know."
"Then perhaps we're right." She raised an eyebrow pointedly and straightened up in her seat. It was a clear indication that she had said her piece. Mike remained hunched over his meal, deep in thought.
"I'll go to see her tonight," he said slowly. Tash allowed herself a discrete smile; men could be so useless sometimes.
Go to Part Eight