The post tumbled through her front door and onto the mat inside. Maggie heard the clatter of the letterbox flap and left the kitchen to investigate. Before she’d even picked the letters up she could see that they were all windowed envelopes.
Probably bills she thought, she never seemed to get real letters anymore. No one from Broadway General ever wrote to her, and she hadn’t found a permanent job since she’d been in London, so had made no new friends. A lot of her family had lost contact since they’d found out the full details of her affair, she’d been brought up a Catholic and although she didn’t follow the teachings herself most of her relatives did, and they weren’t impressed by her behaviour. She’d broken one too many of their rules.
She ripped open each envelope in turn and glanced at the contents absently. As she had thought, nothing of particular interest. She returned to the kitchen and the mug of coffee she had left on the work surface. Taking a sip of the now cold liquid her mind wandered onto thoughts of happier times. The rare occasions she’d managed to spend the whole night with Andrew, when Adrian had been away on business, or like their first time together, at a hotel, miles away from their lives, and families in Holby.
That first night together, some three years previously, still hung in her memory, refusing to be forgotten. In the past year since she’d left Holby she had found refuge from the real world in it, reliving the night over and over again and daydreaming about how it never should have ended. She and Andrew had been flirting with each other for a few months previously, though never venturing further than flirting. Andrew had been invited to a party, a networking opportunity among other doctors. He had confided in Maggie that he did want to go, but wasn’t sure if it was worth the effort…
"But you’ll have your wife to talk to, free booze and food all night, and aren’t these things usually in swish hotels? Could be a nice night out for the two of you" Maggie said as she tried to wrangle her thick curls into a ponytail in the staff room mirror, one morning before their shift started.
"Duffy’s working. It’s a new job, she doesn’t feel like she can ask for time off just yet." Andrew responded. He brushed past her to get to the sink.
"She got a permanent job? Or is she still doing agency stuff?"
"Oh, agency work. She wants to get a permanent position, but so far hasn’t found anything suitable. I think she’s hoping to go back to her old job at Holby General, actually. I’ve told her there’s not much chance of that!" He filled the kettle and turned it on.
"You could always go to this thing on your own" she suggested.
"It’s no fun on your own" Andrew looked around for some mugs and noticed several on the table where he had been sitting earlier.
"I’m not doing anything that night…." She spoke just as he moved to get past her again. They faced each other and Maggie looked deep in to his eyes. She’d said it as a joke, but as he stood there in front of her, so close she could feel his warm breath on her face, looking deep into each other’s eye’s, she felt a kind of electricity between them, and she was sure he felt it too.
She’d ended up going to the party with him, no one else from the hospital had been invited, so they could relax and enjoy themselves. By the end of the evening they were kissing, and as the dying strains of the last waltz played out they slipped off to Andrew’s hotel room together.
Both of them knew that it was wrong, but neither was strong enough to pull away. She had never felt guilty about that night, or any that followed. She found herself falling for Andrew, feeling things for him that she’d never felt for Adrian. Adrian was a nice guy, sweet and caring, and Maggie cared for him too, but Andrew made her come alive. How she longed to feel that way again!
Maggie was surprised at how easy it all was. A quick phone call to Adrian near the end of the shift:
"Darling, there’s been a huge RTA over in West Holby, we’re going to be here for hours yet…"
Adrian had never suspected a thing; he trusted his wife and assumed that she loved him like he loved her. And he wouldn’t have found out about it either, if he hadn’t found her appointment card, the appointment card from the abortion clinic where she’d terminated Andrew’s baby. Adrian knew immediately that the child couldn’t be his, he’d been told that he was infertile several years earlier when they’d only recently married and were trying to start a family.
The stupid thing was, he had told her when he’d calmed down a little, that if she’d confessed, and stopped seeing this other man, he could have forgiven her, raised the baby as his own. Maybe as a proper family they could have found a new happiness, but the magnitude of her deception was too much for him to forgive, and he’d walked out on her just weeks after they’d moved to London for his job. So she had nothing, no husband, no lover, no child.
"How was the big weekend?" Rachel asked Andrew as he came through the double doors into reception. She was leaning over the desk from behind it, surveying the reception area. It was predominantly empty.
"Quiet shift, huh?" Andrew responded.
"Yeah, as yet. You didn’t answer my question." She raised an eyebrow, silently questioning him about what went wrong.
"It started great. Then I told her about going to work with her and she’s been sulking ever since." Andrew looked fed-up and chewed on his bottom lip, trying to work out what had gone wrong. It had all been perfect. They’d dropped the kids off at Duffy’s mother’s place, and had a very pleasant drive to the resort. Their room was positively luxurious; French windows leading out onto a balcony, they were on the second floor and the view out across the sea was magnificent, a king-size four poster bed, en suite bathroom, all tastefully and elegantly decorated. A bottled of champagne sat chilled and ready for drinking on the dresser, next to an impressive bunch of flowers. Duffy had been thrilled, said it was the sort of place she’d always dreamed of being swept off to. And he himself was thrilled, partly because his wife’s enthusiasm was infectious but mostly because things were finally stating to feel right between them.
He had told her his news as they lay in bed that Sunday morning. It was coming up to ten ‘o’clock and they both knew that once they were up, they’d have to pack, and in no time the holiday would be over. She had snuggled up to him, under the thick, warm quilt and thanked him for arranging such a lovely trip. He saw his opportunity. He’d said it was his pleasure, he loved spending time with her and as a matter of fact soon they’d be spending much more time together…
At first she didn’t seem to react at all, then she pulled away from him and asked if it was for definite. She didn’t make a big fuss, but he’d been with her long enough to recognise when she was sulking.
"She said I should have asked her before accepting, said it was inconsiderate to make a decision like that without consulting her. I told her it was only temporary, but she just kept saying that we’ve never worked and lived together before, and I haven’t thought it through." He sighed. "I just don’t see the problem!"
"Well, she might have a point…" Andrew looked at her, she’d been on his side before.
"Women! I’ll never understand you lot." He shook his head and strode off to the sanctuary of his office.
It was mid- afternoon by now, and as had become the norm for her; Maggie was still at home watching television. She went out of her flat only when it was necessary, for groceries or when the agency called with some work for her. The first anniversary of her leaving Holby would be upon her any day, the day when she’d said her final goodbye to Andrew.
She hadn’t wanted to leave, but Adrian’s employers demanded that he was to be relocated to their Kensington office, and as his wife she had to follow, didn’t she?
She wasn’t fond of the idea of leaving her work, but the real wrench was leaving her lover, she’d hoped that he’d beg her to stay. Ask her to leave Adrian and he in turn would leave his wife. They’d set up home together, be happy together. But he’d never even suggested it. Instead he’d said he was sorry she was going but that maybe it was for the best. He wanted to try and patch things up with Duffy. Things had started to feel better between them since she’d returned to Holby, and she was up for promotion to Sister. Being back at her old department but watching someone else do her old job had been harder on Duffy than she would ever admit. Her being back in her rightful position might ease her stress, and some of the tension between them. Besides he added, he didn’t want to leave his children, they were innocent in all this, and he’d already lost out on precious time with Peter.
She wondered what he was doing now, was he at work, at home with his wife and kids, had he found a new lover? She didn’t like that last thought; she didn’t want to be replaced in his affections. She contemplated ringing him. He didn’t know that she was single, he also didn’t know exactly why. She hadn’t known she was pregnant when she’d left. Or else she’d have told him, hoping that it would have caused him to see the situation a bit differently. When she did find out, she didn’t know how he would react, after all they had already said goodbye and she wasn’t sure she could handle it if he rejected her and the baby. And time had been running out for her to make a decision. So she’d coped with it alone, and it wasn’t an easy thing to do by any means. She’d got rid of the baby so that she could at least keep Adrian, and in the process inevitably caused their break-up.
Maggie started to dial his mobile number on her phone. She still knew it off by heart even though it had been so long since she’d used it. It was switched off, that meant he was probably at the hospital. She knew the department’s number too, but if she rang it someone might recognise her voice, how would she explain calling him, she hung up instead. What she wanted to say to him had to be said in person not over the phone.
The calm before the storm, thought Andrew as he sat at his desk catching up on some paper work. Tomorrow would be bonfire night, casualty departments up and down the country would be snowed under by burns victims, the result of revelries gone wrong, but for the time being it was relatively quiet.
There was a knock on the door, it opened before Andrew had a chance to say ‘come in’. Rachel appeared in the doorway.
"Busy?" she asked.
"Nothing that can’t wait, sit down" he directed her to the chair on the opposite side of his desk. She moved gracefully toward it and sat down.
"I just wanted to go through a few statistics with you, while it’s quiet out there" she poked her thumb off to her left, in the general direction of the department proper.
"Right, where shall we start?" he looked down at the hefty brown folder she’d brought in with her, deeply unenthusiastic.
"Never mind that for a minute, are you alright?" she looked at him in concern. Andrew and Rachel often had run-ins over departmental procedure but deep down they had come to be good friends. Mostly because Rachel did her best not to be judgmental about anyone, and had ended up being a shoulder for Andrew, if not to cry on over Maggie, then to rely on. She was a good listener, and sometimes he needed that. This was one of those times.
"I’m OK." He didn’t sound convincing.
"Really?" She wasn’t convinced.
"It’s just quiet days like this I start to think too much"
"About what?" she questioned gently.
"I don’t know, life, work, the world in general." She looked over at him and gave him a little smile, trying to encourage him to elaborate. He gave in.
"It’s been a year since I ended things with Maggie. Almost exactly, it was the day before Duffy’s birthday that she left and that’s next week." He pointed to his desk calendar, the 11th November was underlined three times in red ink, and scribbled next to it were the word’s ‘D’s 40th, get present!!!’.
"Anyway," he continued, "I thought that with her well and truly out of the way Duffy and I would get back to how things used to be. Nothing to distract us." He glanced sheepishly down at the desk.
"Distract me" he corrected, "But, I don’t know, it’s like very little has changed. Sometimes she still feels distant, and even when things are good, it never seems to last long. Take this weekend for instance. I try to be romantic and it falls flat. For a while there I thought she might be having an affair too…." He trailed off and his eyes came to rest on the photo on the desk. He’d taken it himself, on holiday on a Spanish beach. It was a few years out of date, Peter and Jake had visibly grown since then, as young boys are prone to do, but Duffy had barely changed in all the years he’d known her. He still thought she was beautiful. It had been one of their best holidays, he didn’t recall a single cross word exchanged between the four of them, although he had to admit that was fairly unlikely to be true. Still, nothing went seriously wrong and they’d all enjoyed themselves.
Maybe it’s just Holby, he mused, maybe this place is cursed!
"Do you honestly think she would?"
"Would what?" Andrew snapped out of his reminiscences.
"Have an affair?" her brow furrowed, as she stared at him intently.
"Well, no. I don’t think so….. no . Of course she wouldn’t." The more he thought about it the less likely it seemed.
Thinking about the reaction he got from Duffy when she knew about Maggie he was certain that she’d never have an affair herself. Surely, she was the sort of person who wouldn’t ever slip off the moral high ground.
After his first night with Maggie he had felt incredibly guilty about what he had done, so much so that he found that he couldn’t even look his wife in the eyes. He swore to himself that it was just a one night stand, he was presented with an opportunity that he was too weak to resist. Temptation is a very powerful force. Then one night only a few days after the party, he decided to come clean to Duffy, to get it out in the open. He was pretty certain that she loved him enough to forgive him this one indiscretion. Or at least he prayed she would, he still loved her and didn’t want to have to lie to her.
So he sat her down, once the boys had gone to bed, and confessed. It had been a party, he’d got drunk, a pretty young woman had come on to him and he would never ever do it again. Of course it wasn’t quite the truth, but it was enough to let her know what happened and to ease his conscience. She got angry, then she got upset, and things were awkward between them for several weeks. She’d even made a point of going to Charlie’s wedding on her own, and he was sure that she stayed out all night just to get back at him. But after that Duffy seemed somehow reassured that she could trust him again, and the situation began, slowly, to revert to the way it had been. He breathed a sigh of relief, his intention had never been to lose her. It was an unfortunate side-effect of her forgiveness that Andrew got complacent and let himself be pulled back in by Maggie, who seemed to take more of an interest in him than Duffy had lately. But still, that was all in the past.
"Duffy is the most honest, decent person I know. She wouldn’t cheat on me" he reaffirmed.
"Like you’re an honest, decent person…." She knew that she’d overstepped the mark. She mouthed ‘sorry’ at him and let her gaze settle on a crack in the lino floor.
"Yeah well, I trust her" he was fairly surprised to realise that he meant it, "Besides, I’d have noticed something, wouldn’t I? A change in her behaviour, or something, she’s not that good a liar." He laughed, the very thought of Duffy having an affair was quite ridiculous to him.
"You might not have noticed if you were too wrapped up in you and Maggie"
"Look, I might not have been the best husband, but that doesn’t mean I ignore my wife. I even noticed how nervous going for promotion made her, even though she’d done the job before. And I made the effort to phone her and ask how the interview went, even though that was right at the time when Maggie was trying to convince me to leave Duffy! I pay her enough attention to know that she’s not seeing someone behind my back" he was starting to sound stressed, Rachel thought it was a good time to change the subject.
"Of course, I’m sure you are absolutely right. Now let’s get on with this work, eh?"
* Duffy followed Max into his office.
"All I'm saying is that I don't see how you can blame me" He moved round behind his desk, she shut the door after them.
"I'm not. Blame is the wrong word"
"Well, that's what it sounds like. You wouldn't expect me to turn down a doctor of Andrew's qualifications, would you?" She moved toward him.
"I'm not talking about his qualifications Max. I'm talking about the fact that you knew Andrew was coming here, you agreed to it, and you didn't see fit to tell me!"
"Well, call me old fashioned, but I would have thought it was your husbands job to tell you about his plans. Not mine. I'd hate to interfere."
Angrily she turned away from him, back towards the door.
"Don't be so patronising, Max" she spat.
"I’m not. I just don’t see why you’re so upset." And he honestly didn’t.
"Well, it’s going to be a little awkward, don’t you think?" she looked at him meaningfully.
"What, ‘cause of…" he flicked his finger between the two of them, then shook his head.
"Nah, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. He’s not going to find out about it" he shrugged off her concern.
Being in the office where it had all started brought back vivid memories for her. She could almost feel his touch, the warmth of his breath on her skin, the nervous anticipation of what she knew would happen between them. And for a fleeting second she was hurt that he could be so dismissive of their relationship. Just like she was hurt that he’d moved his affections on to Tina so quickly after they’d split up. Still, in some respects he was right, it had been nearly a year ago that it had all happened, and since then she’d been getting on much better with Andrew. There really was no reason for Andrew to even suspect that they’d slept together so long after the fact. Max was hardly likely to drop himself in it and Charlie was the only other person who knew. She trusted him to keep their secret.
"It’s not just that, it’s the whole situation" she didn’t like the idea of Andrew and Max conspiring behind her back.
"Are you saying you’re going to have trouble working with the both of us? What do you want me to do about it? Fall on my sword?"
"Of course not" she tried to sound reasonable, and moved a little closer to him "but you could have run it by me. All I’m asking for is a bit of consideration" she spoke softly, not wanting to start an argument. He replied in kind.
"I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be inconsiderate."
"No… OK, No… I know you didn’t. It’ll be fine. I expect." She didn’t sound at all convinced. She headed back to the office door to leave. Just before she exited she turned back "We’ll just have to behave like grown-ups" she went out into the corridor and the door fell shut behind her.
"I’ve got no problem with that." he said although she was well out of earshot, and he directed his attention back to the files on his desk.
"Right I’ll be there straight away!" Maggie put the phone down and sighed. The agency had called her and she was needed at a local hospital’s A&E that night.
No more time for feeling sorry for yourself, work to do! She thought as she went into her bedroom to fetch her uniform. The lilac dress hung, neatly pressed, on the back of the door. She took it off its hanger and folded it carefully into her bag. Moving across the room to her dressing table she picked up a pale pink lipstick, and flicked the cover off with her thumb, but as she brought it to her mouth she caught sight of herself in the mirror and what she saw stopped her in her tracks.
She had always considered herself to be pretty, and had often been complimented on her looks. She was thirty-four now, but people used to say that she could pass for five years younger. They used to say that. As she gazed at herself in the mirror she found it hard to believe that she was only thirty-four. Her curls fell almost limply down her face and her skin had lost its youthful rosy glow and instead seemed pasty. Dark rings had begun to form under her eyes. If Maggie had been looking at a patient she would have suggested a few good nights of sleep, possibly even some counselling, but she wasn’t a patient and wouldn’t take her own advice.
The last several months had been hard on her, she had tried to convince herself that, given time, things would get better, but they certainly didn’t seem to be. Living had turned to simply existing. Everyday she was alone, so she felt miserable that she didn’t go out and socialise, but as she never went out, she wasn’t making friends, and so felt more and more alone. It was a bitterly difficult cycle, she recognised that, but didn’t know how to break it. It felt like her life stopped, or at the very least declined once she’d left Holby…
She sat down on the dresser’s small stool and stared at her reflection, daring it to put the finishing touches to the plan that was forming in her mind. If things were better in Holby, then why not go back. Adrian wasn’t keeping her in London any longer, nothing was.
Maybe I could pick things up with Andrew again, maybe… maybe he feels the same, he might be missing me, wanting me back, just too afraid to call. Maybe now he is ready to leave his wife, now he’s seen what life is like without me…We could be together, live together, it would be as good as before, better even, just the two of us…together at last!!
She found herself grinning, her eyes wide with excitement, with a renewed spirit she applied her lipstick, and looked around for something to blot it on. There were no tissues in the small cardboard box on the dresser’s surface, so she pulled open a draw, and rummaged among the contents for some unneeded paper to use. Her hand slipped to the back of the draw, where it was too dark for her to see. She felt her fingers run over something about the size of a pound coin, but hollowed out. She new before she’d brought her hand back out exactly what it was. She played with the ring in her fingers; it felt smooth and cold against her skin. It appeared to be just a simple gold band, but around the inside there was an inscription:
A & M Forever
For a second she allowed herself to believe that the ‘A’ stood for Andrew, not Adrian, but her daydream was cut short by a sudden, horrible thought. Surely it was impossible, wasn’t it:
What if he did patch things up with her? What if Andrew wants his wife, more than he wants me? What if he’s tried to forget me?
She didn’t want to think about it, but the thought refused to go away.
He can’t be with her, it wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be fair. He loves me. He must love me, like I love him. I’ll just have to convince him. Or…
Her mind was racing, frantically trying to solve a problem that hadn’t even arisen. Her grip on the ring tightened, her knuckles going white, she was staring into those wild blue-green eyes of her reflection.
Or… I’ll have to get rid of her.
An early firework exploding outside her window broke her from her trance, and she remembered that she had to go to work. She stood up and her grip on the wedding ring loosened, it slipped between her fingers and dropped, clanging as it hit the dresser’s top. She grabbed her bag and left the flat, leaving her ring a mangled, forgotten piece of metal.
Go to Part Three
* This scene was originally shown in the episode 'States of shock' written by Susan Boyd. I claim no rights to it whatsoever.
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