Andrew pushed closed his office door, and slumped back against it, trying to figure out what to do next. The best idea would be to run after Maggie, try to placate her in some way, but he got the impression that the only way to do that would be to give in to her and the whole point was that he didn't want to do that.
Maybe she won't go through with it, she'll just give up and go back to London he pondered, he desperately wanted to believe that.
His eyes drifted to the broken photo frame on the floor. He moved over to it and bent to pick it up. The shards of glass had imbedded themselves in the carpet, making it shimmer. Andrew squatted on his haunches and picked up the larger fragments, dropping them into the waste paper bin next to his desk. He'd have to leave the rest for the cleaners. He sat back at his desk and held the remains of the photo in front of him. Only one piece of glass was still left, trapped under the frame, distorting the picture beneath eerily. If he hadn't been so preoccupied he would have thought just to undo the frame and let the glass fall out, but instead he tried to pull it out. At first it didn't budge, then suddenly it loosened and shot into the side of his finger. He pulled away from it sharply, and instinctively stuck his bleeding finger in his mouth to soothe it. It wasn't badly injured, it wouldn't need stitches, but it certainly needed a plaster. He swore to himself, got up and left the office.
Back in her car Maggie took a few deep breaths. Andrew hadn't followed her out, he obviously didn't believe she'd go though with telling his wife. She'd show him.
Why should they be happy when I'm not? She wondered cruelly.
The adrenaline was still pumping through her veins from her dramatic departure. She had to go now while she still felt strong enough to cope with a confrontation. She started the engine and headed for Holby City Hospital. It had been a long time since Maggie had driven through Holby, and even longer since she'd had any reason to go to the East Side of the city. Since then the council had seen fit to install a complex one-way system and it wasn't long before Maggie was lost. She turned down one road after another in an effort to get back on track, but none of them seemed familiar and her frustration at being faced with yet another obstacle grew.
Andrew looked along the shelf in the store cupboard for a suitable bandage. It wasn’t something that he’d ever spent a lot of time doing before, fetching supplies was a nurse’s job.
"Problem Andrew?" asked Jenny, coming up behind him. He couldn’t help but jump.
"You shouldn’t creep up behind people like that" he admonished her.
"I didn’t mean to frighten you" she giggled.
"I wasn’t frightened, it was just a shock."
"Like seeing Maggie again must have been…" she teased. Andrew ignored her, located a box of plasters, took one out and tried awkwardly to wrap it around his finger. Jenny tutted under her breath at the mess he was making of such a simple job. She reached forward and took the plaster off him, applying it neatly to the wound. He winced.
"Thanks" he said somewhat begrudgingly.
"It’s what I’m here for. How did it happen?" she raised an eyebrow and waited expectantly for details.
"Broken glass, no big deal."
"Nothing to do with Maggie then?"
"No. Why would you think that?" he replied a bit too quickly.
"Well she left in quite a hurry. I wondered if you two had had a falling out."
"What, we have a disagreement and people start smashing things? Unlikely Jenny, don’t you think?" Andrew said with a half-hearted laugh.
"I suppose. But she did look in a bit of a mood when she left though, you know, as if she meant business. She got in her car and roared off."
"Really? Which way did she head?" It didn’t sound like she’d calmed down and headed back to London.
"Left out of the gates I think, Why? Where d’you think she’s going?" Andrew didn’t bother replying, he was already halfway down the corridor. ‘Left’ meant she was probably going to Holby City Hospital. He still didn’t know what he was going to do, but he knew he’d have to do it fast.
Jenny stared after him, contemplating whether she could get away with following him. She decided she probably couldn’t, but dearly wished she could be a fly on the wall when he caught up with Maggie.
Andrew burst into reception, and made his way towards the door to the outside world.
"Where d’you think you’re going?" Rachel called after him as he exited the building. He stopped, and turned to face her.
"I’ve got … some business to attend to." He knew his shift wasn’t quite over, but this was more important than the last twenty minutes of his stint.
"This wouldn’t have anything to do with Maggie being here earlier, would it?" she knew perfectly well it was.
"Of course not. As I said before that’s all in the past." She looked at him incredulously.
"If you say so, but you’re not off duty yet, and we’re backed up in there!"
"I’ve spent the last hour at my desk, and no one missed me." He turned and continued to his car. Rachel broke into a trot to keep up with him.
"That’s not the point and you know it Andrew." She had her ‘I’m disappointed with you’ face on. Andrew knew she was right but he had to find Maggie, or Duffy, and keep them away from each other.
"You aren’t my boss Rachel, I can do what I like" He opened the car door and got in.
"Maybe I’d be a bit more sympathetic if you just told me the truth." Andrew doubted that. It seemed to him that the truth only ever caused more harm than good. But he felt guilty about leaving her in the lurch.
"I think… I think that Maggie’s, well… I think she might be going to see Duffy" he waited for her response.
"Oh." she paused a second, "I see. Then I suppose you ought to go and sort things out. If you can. You’ll be of no use here if your mind’s elsewhere." She stepped back from the door, partly for the reason she gave, and partly because she didn’t want to be held responsible in any way for someone else’s marriage break up.
Andrew nodded thank you and pulled out of the hospital car park, following Maggie’s trail.
Not far out of the gates he glanced down at the clock, glowing in the darkness. 5:38 it flashed quietly. Andrew thought about it for a second, he was certain that Duffy’s shift finished at five, which meant she’d probably already be at home, waiting for him to pick her up for her birthday meal. He looked for a suitable spot to do a U-turn, but couldn’t see anything. As he continued he started to think of another option. What if it had been a busy shift and she still hadn’t got away? Then Maggie might well find her. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his mobile phone. At the next set of traffic lights he found the number for his wife’s department and pressed the button to dial. It rung for a second and them a woman’s voice answered:
"Hello, Holby A&E department, how can I help?"
"Um, could you tell me if Lisa Duffin is still on duty there? It’s her husband."
"I’m sorry but Sister Duffin has already left for her birthday party"
"Some of the last shift organised it. They’re at ‘The Clarence’ I believe."
"Right, thanks." He responded absently. He pressed the ‘end call’ button and tossed the phone onto the passenger seat, it bounced and fell in the footwell just as Andrew realised he should have asked the receptionist not to give that information to anyone else.
Still, he knew a few short cuts. Even if Maggie found out about the party he might still be able to beat her there, and find Duffy.
Maggie stormed along the mint green corridor and out of Holby City’s casualty department. One more setback, one more thing making her more determined. The receptionist had told her that Duffy was at a pub down the road celebrating her birthday at a surprise party.
I’ll give her a surprise! She thought, as she went through the automatic doors and collided head on with a tall, balding, middle-aged paramedic.
"Careful!" he exclaimed. He noticed the expression of frustration she was wearing.
"Are you alright, love?" She didn’t reply, just pushed past him and carried on her way. He shook his head and turned to his partner.
"That’s how accidents happen, you know" he said with an air of resignation, as he watched Maggie get back into her car and speed off the hospital forecourt.
Duffy broke away from her embrace with Charlie somewhat reluctantly. She had no idea what Andrew had planned for her that night but she was enjoying her impromptu birthday party, and could see that Charlie and the others had gone to a lot of trouble organising it for her. She hoped that no one thought that she didn’t appreciate it.
She left Charlie holding Louis in the middle of the pubs function room, picked up her coat and belongings and headed for the door. As she reached the exit she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned around and saw Dan stood behind her.
"You’re not going already?" he asked.
"Andrew’s taking me out to celebrate, I’ve got to get home and get changed and…" she looked at her watch, "…if I don’t get home soon he’ll start to wonder where I am!"
"Well, if you’ve got to go. Have a nice evening, Duffy"
"I’ll try" she laughed "And thanks for the party."
"Wasn’t just me" he stepped to one side so she could see the rest of the room. Seeing all her friends there made her feel even worse about going.
"Thank you everyone!" she shouted and waved goodbye. The assembly waved back and cheered raucously.
She turned and walked out of the pub into the cold November air. The chill sent a shiver through her and she decided to put her coat on before going any further.
Maggie pulled up at the traffic lights that were directly opposite ‘The Clarence’. It was a cross roads of sorts, a road ran left to right across the front of her, but the ‘straight on’ direction was actually several feet to the left. As Maggie waited for the traffic lights to change she saw a woman step out on to the street. She recognised her immediately from the picture that Andrew insisted on keeping on his desk. If the lights didn’t change soon then she’d leave, and Maggie would have missed the perfect opportunity to confront her.
Change, she willed them, Change!
Duffy struggled to put her jacket on and keep hold of her handbag, a handful of cards, the budget file she had expected to talk to Dan about and the small purple gift bag that Charlie had given her. It was no easy task.
The amber traffic light flicked on, Maggie got ready to drive away, her foot tensing, waiting to push down on the accelerator. She desperately wanted Duffy out of Andrew’s life, and every second the lights were against her there was a chance that Duffy would walk off, and the agonising situation would be dragged out longer. Once she spoke to her, Maggie decided, it would be so easy, easy to get rid of her. And that was the only thought in her mind. The streets were empty in all directions, she noticed, no other cars, no other pedestrians and, the terrible thought came to her as she sat watching Duffy, no witnesses.
Duffy was still standing on the wide pavement directly in front of the pub, trying to do up her coat, completely oblivious to Maggie.
Meanwhile, Andrew drove up the road towards the pub, he could see in the distance a figure that looked like Duffy, but the lights ahead of him were changing from green to amber, and he began to slow down.
Duffy felt the file slip from under her arm and tried to grab at it, dropping the gift bag in the process. Charlie’s present to her, the bright yellow stress ball, dropped to the ground and she saw it start to roll along the pavement away from her.
Maggie’s traffic light suddenly turned green. Without contemplating the repercussions of her actions she put her foot down hard on the accelerator and the car shot forward towards Duffy’s position. She closed her eyes and braced herself for impact.
As he approached the traffic lights, Andrew watched in horror as he recognised Maggie’s red car speeding towards his wife.
Duffy darted across the pavement to pick up the escaped birthday present, as Maggie’s car closed in on her.
From Maggie’s point of view the journey across the road took an age. She opened her eyes and saw that Duffy was no longer in front of her, instead there was only the brick wall of the pub. Survival instinct took over and she pulled hard on the steering wheel throwing her entire body weight to her left.
Duffy heard the screeching of brakes and looked up to see the car veer off, bouncing over the corner of the pavement and shooting into the street to the side of the pub. Coming to rest just inches from a street lamp.
Maggie slumped across the wheel, unable to believe how close she’d come to killing another human being. All her life she’d tried her best to help people, from the time she’d earned her first aid badge at Brownies, right through to her training and working as a nurse, and yet there she was, so close to taking a life. And for what? She could feel herself trembling uncontrollably, nausea sweeping through her body.
Duffy dropped her belongings onto the pavement, ran over to the car and pulled the driver’s door open. Maggie didn’t move; she didn’t dare look up.
"Hello, are you OK?" Duffy asked with genuine concern. Surely no one would have driven that erratically without a good reason. There must be something seriously wrong with this woman. Maggie still didn’t look up, but she couldn’t help but let out a groan.
"My name is Duffy, I’m a nurse. Can you tell me your name?" Duffy rested her hand gently on Maggie’s back as she spoke. Maggie knew that she wouldn’t be left alone until she’d convinced Duffy that she was OK. Slowly she lifted her head and sat back in her seat. She looked up at Duffy and for the first time the two women’s eye’s met.
"Maggie," she mumbled "my name is Maggie".
"OK Maggie are you hurt?" Maggie could see that Duffy was worried about her. It showed in her anxious expression and the tone of her voice.
"Um, no I…" Maggie took a second to mentally check herself over. She was still shaking but unharmed.
"You’re not in any pain?"
"No I’m fine" Maggie swivelled in her seat and put both feet on the tarmac, Duffy stepped back a little and Maggie stood up straight.
"See I’m all right, I’m OK" she said. Duffy wasn’t sure whether she should believe her or not. For a second they just stood and looked at each other. Maggie pushed her hair out of her eyes and glanced down at the floor, a wave of guilt swept through her.
This woman is trying to help me, after I just tried to run her over. If she knew why, if she knew who I was…her feelings over took her and she started to cry, the tears rolled down her cheeks and blurred her vision. Her whole body shook violently with each sob.
"I’m sorry, I’m so sorry" she cried in distress. Duffy wasn’t sure how to react; she moved forward and put an arm around Maggie in an effort to comfort her.
"It’s OK, no harm done" Duffy said reassuringly.
"But I nearly killed you!" she wailed.
"Nah, you were miles away, anyway it was an accident…" Maggie’s sobs grew louder. Duffy being nice to her made it all so much more painful.
"No… I…I…I lost control. I’m so sorry." Unable of thinking of a better way to console her, Duffy pulled Maggie closer to her. She felt sorry for the poor woman.
Neither of them noticed Andrew coming up behind them. He’d witnessed the whole event from his position at the traffic lights. He just stood watching his wife comfort his ex-mistress as though they were the best of friends. He didn’t know what to do. Maggie obviously hadn’t said anything so far, but when she saw him there what would she do? He hovered indecisive as to whether he should let them know he was there or leave before either one noticed.
He didn’t have time to make up his mind. Maggie and Duffy broke away from each other, Maggie much calmer now. She dried her eyes on her sleeve, looked up and saw Andrew stood watching them.
Maggie felt the burning sensation in the back of her eyes that signalled more tears, but she sniffed them back. She didn’t say a word, daring Andrew to speak first.
Duffy noticed Maggie had become distracted and turned to see what she was staring at. She was shocked to see her husband stood there.
"Andrew, what on earth are you doing here?" she moved over to him, and he wrapped his arms around her, as if to protect her from whatever harm Maggie might do. Duffy hugged him back. It felt good to have him hold her, reassuring, safe.
"I came to pick you up" he tried to sound nonchalant, but he could feel Maggie’s eyes boring into him.
"How did you know where I was? Andrew… are you all right?" Duffy could see the unease on his face, and he seemed to be staring strangely at Maggie.
"Me, yeah, of course. Are you all right?" he took his eyes off Maggie and looked anxiously at his wife.
"Fine" she smiled, appreciating his concern. Andrew still seemed distracted by Maggie. Duffy thought she should introduce them.
"This is Maggie, she’s had a bit of an accident, Maggie this is my husband Andrew" she introduced them, trying to play down the situation.
Andrew stood dumbstruck. They’re on first name terms?
Maggie looked at the couple in front of her. They were holding each other tightly, as though they didn’t want to be without each other. For a second the jealously surged back. She still wanted to be holding Andrew the way Duffy was, but this time it was different. This time she realised that she wanted more than to just have Andrew to her self. She wanted him to reciprocate. And she knew as she watched them that that would never happen.
She’d never seen them together before. In all the years that she’d known Andrew she’d never seen how he acted with his wife. He really was happy being with her, and if she loved him she couldn’t ruin his happiness. Another tear slipped down her cheek, a silent tear of grief.
She took a deep breath, desperately trying to keep control of her emotions. She knew she’d have to play along.
"Pleased to meet you." She held out her hand for him to shake.
"L-L-Likewise" he said nervously, taking her hand. She shook it gently, knowing that it was probably the last time that she would ever feel his touch. He pulled away from her quickly, praying that Duffy wouldn’t pick up on the fact that this wasn’t their first encounter.
"Andrew’s a doctor. Would you like him to check you over?"
"No!" they responded simultaneously.
"I really have to go, I’m sorry for… everything" Maggie said meaningfully to Duffy.
"It’s OK" Duffy smiled unaware of the true nature of the apology, and let her get back into her car.
Before she shut the door, Maggie turned and spoke to Andrew, the words nearly choking her as she said them:
"It was nice to meet you. And your wife. You seem like a lovely couple." She didn’t wait for a response; instead she shut the door and started the engine.
Go to Part Five