Andrew and Duffy silently watched Maggie drive off. Andrew had his arm wound round his wifeís waist, holding her more tightly than he realised. She didnít mind though. She snuggled up closer to him and rested her head on his chest; it was comforting to feel it rise and fall as he breathed. As Maggieís taillights disappeared into the distance he let out a ragged sigh involuntarily. Duffy gazed up at his face and found that he was wearing a troubled expression.
"Are you sure youíre all right?" she asked.
Andrew looked down at her and kissed her gently on the cheek. She was staring wide-eyed at him, with just the hint of a frown as she asked him her question. He had always considered her to have a very open face, she was the sort of person who found it hard to hide her emotions and extremely difficult to tell a straight-out lie. Duffy herself considered it to be something of a curse, after all, there are times when a little privacy is more than welcome and to have people prying into your affairs is disconcerting to say the least. Andrew had his own reasons for disliking that particular feature of her personality. It made it incredibly difficult to lie to her. It made him feel guilty that he was responsible for all the secrets between them. It was guilt that, admittedly, he did a good job of living with but was always there, nagging away at him. At that moment though he felt even worse. Maggie had been out of his life for a year and in that time Andrew had been completely faithful to Duffy, and yet sheíd still come back to haunt him, threatening to ruin his happiness. Of course he blamed Maggie for her unexpected arrival and subsequent behaviour but he was also all too aware that it takes two to start an affair. The guilt flooded through him as he stood holding the woman he loved but came so close to losing. Duffy was still staring at him, trying to divine his thoughts, and for a split second he nearly gave in to her pleading look and told her the truth. But what good would that do? Still, he thought, feeling her pressed up against him, from now on no more lying.
Whatís done is done and should be forgotten, but no more outright lies.
"Itís just been one of those days, you know, difficult" he responded. She took hold of his hand and led him back to the front of the pub. As they walked she noticed the sticking plaster on his finger.
"Hey, you been in the wars?"
"Itís nothing" he shrugged.
"Well I can see itís not serious, I am a nurse you know." she said with a hint of sarcasm "How did it happen?"
"Broke my coffee mug. Thatís all"
"Well that was a silly thing to do!" she said with little sympathy, "Anyway, itís my birthday and thereís a party in there, what do you say we go in for a while?" she nodded her head toward the doorway. They could still hear the sound of people enjoying themselves inside. Duffy looked at Andrew expectantly.
He didnít particularly want to go in, he wasnít in the mood for polite small talk with people heíd never met before. He just wanted to spend some time with his wife.
"Is this your stuff on the ground?" he tried to avoid the question whilst he thought of a suitable excuse for not joining the party. She nodded. He bent down and started to gather her belongings up. He came across the gift bag and pulled out the stress ball, giving her a quizzical look.
"Charlie" she said by way of explanation.
"Changed a lot since I last saw him!" Duffy rolled her eyes at him, but couldnít stifle her laugh.
"So are we going in?"
"Iíd rather not darling, Iím just not up to a riotous party right now" as if to back him up the pub erupted with noise behind him. Duffy looked decidedly upset and even a little bit annoyed by his response.
"You always cry off staff events, Iím sure people think that youíre just a figment of my imagination! And before you say that you arenít staff, you will be next week. Donít you want to meet my friends?"
"Of course I do," he tried to placate her, "but Iíd much prefer to have you all to myself, Iíve made plans for us. At Albertoís no less. But if youíd rather stay in some grotty pub, playing hostess to a bunch of drunken medics..." Duffy watched as he stood up with all her bits and pieces in his arms. He certainly knew how to surprise her.
"Albertoís! How did you manage to get us in there? Itís supposed to be the best restaurant around, where all the stars go. Andrew Iíve got nothing to wear!" she fretted, but still looked positively delighted, and Andrew was delighted at being the cause of it.
"Fine by me, but you might catch a cold..." She pushed him playfully.
"Careful, I might drop some of this stuff!"
"Why didnít you tell me earlier?" she said taking her handbag off him.
"Then it wouldnít..."
"... Be a surprise. I know." She interrupted him; "Iíve always wanted to go there. See what itís like being a celebrity" she beamed at him.
"I know, thatís why I organised it especially for you"
"So you didnít just happen to, I donít know, treat the head chef or something?" she joked.
"Of course not! You donít think Iíd leave your birthday present to chance do you?"
"Only kidding Andrew, I know you can be thoughtful when you want" he wasnít sure if that was a compliment.
She took his hand again and he guided her to where heíd parked the car. Seeing the vehicle in front of her made her think of Maggie again.
"I do hope that Maggie will be all right," she said sincerely.
"What?" Andrew prepared to put up his guard again.
"That woman who nearly crashed, Maggie, I hope sheíll be OK. She seemed in a right state"
"Iím sure sheíll be fine"
"Maybe we should have done more to help Andrew. Taken her inside to calm down a bit, found out what was wrong. Iím not sure she was in a fit state to drive..."
Andrew put the folders he was still carrying on the roof of the car and stood directly in front of Duffy.
"She wasnít hurt?"
"I donít think so, but..."
"Sssshh" he said gently, resting his finger on her lips, "And she seemed to calm down a lot. So what more could we do? Weíre not at work now. We canít sort out everyoneís problems. Iím sure sheíll be perfectly fine"
"I hope youíre right. I just couldnít bear the thought of her turning up at work tomorrow, blaming me for her being hurt somehow" Andrew agreed wholeheartedly with that sentiment. He put his arms around her and pulled her close. She let out a sigh.
"I donít think weíll ever see Maggie again. And by tomorrow all this will be forgotten" He moved to kiss her full on the lips, praying that he was telling the truth.
Maggie drove somewhat erratically through the dark streets of Holby. The tears that hung in her eyes threatening to fall distorted her vision, and her head was too full of thoughts of Andrew and Duffy to concentrate properly on the road ahead of her. She kept seeing them in her mind holding each other, and she was just an outsider, watching but unable to participate in the show of emotion.
She had been so determined that she would win Andrew away from his wife it had never occurred to her that she was being selfish. She had never considered herself to be a selfish person, what with all she did to help others, and the sudden realisation that she had nearly ruined not only Duffyís life but also Andrewís and their childrenís was a shock to her. She wished she had never come back to Holby, that sheíd left the past where it belonged, in the past.
Maggie made her way back onto the main road; the rush hour traffic was building up and forcing her to slow down. She wanted to escape, to leave Holby and all the associated memories behind but she was only able to move a few feet at a time. She struck out at the steering wheel, slamming the palms of her hands against it until they started to sting. The tears sheíd tried so hard to control broke loose and flooded down her face.
"Itís not fair!" she cried out to no one in particular, "why should I be the one left alone?"
The stream of cars in front of her lurched forwards another few feet. Maggie didnít even notice. She tried to wipe away her tears with the back of her hand but they were coming too fast it to make much difference. A car behind her honked itís horn impatiently, the intrusion of the outside world startled her and it took her a second to work out what the sound the horn was for.
The man in the car behind rolled down his window and shouted at Maggie:
"Oi, come on love. Some of us have homes to go to!"
Maggie thought about her own home, that small, impersonal flat back in London. She didnít want to return there but had nowhere else to go. That morning she had been so full of hope that the loneliness would end and now she knew that it wouldnít, that the great emptiness she felt inside wasnít going to be filled. She knew sheíd done the right thing by leaving Andrew and Duffy to carry on with their lives in peace, but what about her? How was she supposed to carry on? What was she supposed to do now?
The sound of the horn crashed through her thoughts again; almost mechanically she turned the wheel and mounted the wide pavement in front of a parade of shops. The impatient driver behind her over took her and continued on his way. Maggie wished that she could do the same.
She let her head fall onto her hands, she couldnít decide what to do next but she knew that she couldnít just sit there forever. Slowly she straightened and let her head be propped up by the headrest. She glanced down at the palms of her hands, and noticed they were still red raw from the impact with the steering wheel. It was a painful reminder of her violence and loss of control. It frightened her, what she had nearly been capable of. She opened the door straight out into the road, without paying attention to the oncoming traffic, and got out of her car, slamming the door behind her. Then she ran.
She ran as fast and as hard as she could away from the car and, Maggie hoped in vain, away from her problems. Her feet pounded the pavement, the cold November air ripped through her clothes, but she couldnít feel it. She didnít look behind her, and paid little attention to what was in front, she wasnít running to anywhere and she could never truly escape what she was running from.
The events leading up to that moment played constantly through her mind and, try as she might, she couldnít block them out:
Her happiness at being a part of Andrewís life, the feeling of being desired, wanted, needed and her own desire, want and need for him. The excitement of their illicit meetings. The fun theyíd had. Her sorrow at having to leave him. Her misery at being alone. Her desperation to feel wanted again. His rejection of her. Her isolation now.
She couldnít draw much comfort from her knowledge that at least he was happy. Surely she deserved to be happy too?
Along the streets she ran, as though her life depended on it, her lungs filling with the icy air, making it difficult to breathe. Her feet began to ache as they repeatedly struck the paving slabs but she was past caring. She had to keep going.
A stabbing pain developed in her side and she found it harder and harder to continue. She slowed to an uneasy stagger and finally came to a stop. She rested against a lamppost, her head swimming and her body aching. The dizziness took over her, she couldnít move, she could barely stand. The noise of the street sounded miles away, and as she looked around her the world faded into blackness. Then she collapsed, exhausted.
Maggie awoke; the bright strip lighting above her blinding her as she tentatively opened her eyes. After a second of adjustment she realised where she was: the A&E department of her old hospital. She sat up on the trolley, swung her legs over the side and hopped down from it. She still felt a little unsteady on her feet as she drew back the cubicle curtain. The customary squeak it let out alerted Rachel that her patient was up and about again.
"Maggie you should really be resting, sweetheart" she said soothingly.
"What happened?" Maggie was a little disorientated and swayed as she spoke. Rachel put an arm out to steady her and led her back into the cubicle.
"You were found collapsed just outside the hospital grounds about twenty minutes ago. There doesnít seem to be anything physically wrong with you. You just fainted I think. Do you remember what happened?"
It all flooded back.
"No, I just felt dizzy." Rachel didnít want to pry, but she was worried about Maggie. It was quite obvious that she had been crying.
"Phil will be in to take a look at you in a minute, OK?"
Maggie nodded slowly, and lay back down on the trolley. Rachel rubbed her arm affectionately and gave her an encouraging smile before leaving the cubicle. She nearly collided with Phil on her way out.
"Now whereís my patient? Ah there she is!" he said with a grin. Maggie managed a small smile at seeing his friendly face.
"You look after her" Rachel told him as she continued on her way.
"I will" he called after her and then turned back to Maggie.
"What have you been up to then?" he asked trying to keep the tone light, "you look like youíve been having a bad day" Maggie gave a wry smile before the tears overflowed again and she let out a loud sob. Phil was shocked by her outburst but also rather concerned.
"Iím sorry, was it something I said?"
"No" she said between sobs, "Ití s just that itís been the worst day!"
"Why? Whatís wrong Maggie?" his voice was soft and so quiet that only she could hear him. He looked at her, his big brown eyes full of sympathy.
"IÖI canít tell youÖ you wouldnít understandÖyouíd think I was a monster" she wailed.
"I could never think that of you, whatever happens," he said sincerely. She wanted to believe him but her conscience kept telling her that she didnít deserve any kindness. He gently put his arm around her, she didnít complain. He was still looking at her, his face full of concern.
"I canít PhilÖ " She said in a much calmer tone.
"You can. I want you to." He responded. She thought about it again. She needed to talk to someone and Phil seemed genuine enough. She took a deep breath and started her story from the beginning. Phil listened attentively. Heíd had no idea what had been going on between her and Andrew. She was still crying as she finished her tale but the tears were tears of relief more than anything else. Phil tried to take in the information. After a short time he spoke:
"Maggie, thatísÖitís terrible. What youíve been through, it must have been so hard. I canít believe Andrew would use you like that." He shook his head in disbelief.
"He didnít use me, not like you think. We had fun. I suppose I just felt more for him than he did for me. I should have let it go when I left Holby. I should never have come back"
"Maybe you had to. I mean, maybe you needed to find a sort of closure. Tie up loose ends so to speak."
She thought about it, her life had seemed to be on hold recently. Philís theory made sense.
"I just donít know what to do now. I donít know anything anymore" she looked at him pleadingly, he wasnít certain that he knew what she should do either but he wanted to help her.
"Well Iím going to suggest that you say here overnight, until weíre all sure that you wonít have anymore fainting fits."
"I donít need to stay in over night, Phil"
"Well you canít drive back to London in your state, can you?" she shook her head silently.
"I could find a hotel or something," When sheíd left London she hadnít been thinking that far ahead.
"Iíve got a spare room, if you like. Itís nothing fancy and youíd have to share it with my table football setÖ" He noticed her grin, as she imagined this big strong doctor hunched over a little table football game.
"And whatís so funny about table football? Iíll have you know that it is a highly skilful game. It requires great concentration, and an in-depth knowledge of tactics and strategy." He responded in mock annoyance.
She laughed, her first proper laugh in so long she couldnít remember. It felt good, bubbling up inside her, filling, if only for a second, some of her emptiness.
"Now thatís more like the Maggie I know!" She smiled; she certainly did feel more like her old self. She knew that sheíd probably never fully get over the events of that night, but for some reason they seemed more and more distant, as though theyíd happened to someone else. Perhaps one day she would even be able to look back on her relationship with Andrew and just see the good times.
Jenny stuck her head round the curtain, interrupting the moment.
"Sorry for the intrusion, but Phil youíre needed in cubicle 5." She didnít look the least bit sorry as far as Maggie could tell.
"Will you be all right while I deal with this?" he asked her. Maggie nodded, and Phil left the women alone.
Jenny jumped up onto the trolley and sat next to Maggie.
"You left in a bit of a hurry earlier." Maggie didnít respond. "Somewhere important to go? Or someone important to see?"
"Neither." Maggie really didnít want to go into the details of the situation all over again with anyone, but particularly not with Jenny.
"Andrew left in a hurry not long after you in fact. Quite a coincidence donít you think?" Jenny fished for information. It was clear to her that the two events were connected and that Maggieís undignified arrival back at the hospital was in some way also related. Not knowing exactly what Andrew had done to Maggie was decidedly frustrating to her.
"Yeah a coincidence." Maggie was determined not to give anything away. Things were bad enough without her personal business being spread halfway round Holby.
Jenny fidgeted impatiently with the hem of her tunic. She decided to try a different tactic.
"You and Phil seemed to be getting on rather well when I came in just now" she tried.
"I suppose we were"
"Does this mean your going to stick around in Holby?"
"I donít know" and she really didnít.
"Phil is single at the moment, you know" Jenny informed her.
"Iím not really looking for a boyfriend right now" The thought had crossed her mind, but she didnít feel ready for a full relationship just yet.
"Oh, still getting over someone are you?" Maggie had enough of Jenny and all her snide insinuations.
"Will you leave me alone!" she snapped.
"Temper! I just wondered if you were coping OK with your split from Adrian thatís all. Just interested because Iím a friend." Jenny got up off the bed as though she was the one hard done by.
Phil pulled aside the curtain.
"I heard you shout, Whatís going on?"
"Nothing" said Jenny.
"Jenny wanted to know all about my love-life." She summoned all her strength to keep her emotions in check. Phil walked over to her and stood with his hand resting lightly on Maggieís shoulder. A clear sign of whose side he was on. His support was greatly appreciated.
"Thatís not exactly it Maggie, you make me sound nosy or something!" Jenny tried to defend herself.
"Why donít you just admit that youíre dying to find out what happened to me tonight?"
"Not Ďdyingí, just interested" Jenny responded quietly, almost apologetically.
"Well, what goes on in my life, Philís life, or anyone elseísÖ" they all knew precisely who she was referring to "Öis nothing to do with you. And Iím sure everyone in the hospital would be grateful if you spent more time concentrating on your work and less time gossiping about other people!" Jenny stood stunned for a second. But only a second.
"So you donít think I should ask Andrew about his night when he comes in tomorrow?" Jenny didnít hang around for a reply. She could see that she wasnít about to get one. Maggie and Phil looked at her in disbelief as she left the cubicle.
"Well it was a nice try Mags, but I guess some people just never learn!" They both let out a small laugh of astonishment.
After a moment the laughter died down and Maggie and Phil were left standing quietly together. He still had his hand on her shoulder, a silent support.
"PhilÖ"she said almost in a whisper.
"For being here for me, for being a true friend. I really need that right now"
"Iíd be your friend even if you didnít need me. Thatís how it works, Maggie." He put his arms around her and gave her a warm hug.
"Youíre going to be all right you know," he said softly in her ear. As she stood knowing that at least she had one friend to rely on, she started to think that he was right.