It felt like an eternity before that pale green curtain was pulled back again and Duffy entered the cubicle. I could tell immediately that there was something wrong. I can’t say I had any real idea how she’d react but I was hoping that her expression would show her to be pleased I was awake, as it was, she hovered awkwardly at the end of the trolley and stared at me as though I had two heads.
“You feeling better then?” she asked.
“Much” I replied trying to understand why she’d suddenly gone cold on me, especially after what had happened between us at her flat.
“Good” she jammed her thumbs between her dress and her belt and continued to stare. It soon became clear that she wasn’t intending to say anything more, so I gave in and asked her what the matter was.
“You collapse twice in a matter of hours and you ask what the matter with me is!?” She squeaked in reply.
“Oh? Is that all you can say? I’ve been worried sick Charlie!! I’ve spoken to Ewart and that other doctor…there’s weird stuff going on in your head and the best you can come up with is ‘oh’”
“I’m sorry for worrying you Duffy”
“I just want to know what’s going on” she spoke more softly this time, entreating me to explain.
“You said you spoke to the docs. You know as much as I do” That wasn’t entirely true through. I knew that I belonged to the future, I knew that my brain problem was either the cause or the symptom of my time-travelling and that the MI scan result was some sort of echo of the future. I couldn’t tell her that though. Unfortunately she saw straight through my half-truth.
“There’s something that you’re not letting on, I can tell”
“Using your psychic powers?” I tried to make light of the situation but it backfired. I could see it hurt her.
“I have never claimed to be psychic, and I don’t have to be to tell you’re hiding summat” I felt suitably put in my place.
“Sorry. But honestly I can’t tell you anything more.”
“Can’t or won’t?” Before I could answer the curtain swished unexpectedly back to reveal Baz.
Duffy waited a beat for me to answer, but I was too distracted.
“Fine!" She said quietly. Too quietly for my liking, if truth be told. In the sort of tone of voice that suggested it was anything but ‘fine’. Then she turned on her heels and walked away.
Baz gave the chart at the end of the trolley a cursory glance and then fixed me with a stare.
“Lover’s tiff?” She said in a decidedly mocking tone. A tone I wasn’t in the mood for. I had long suspected that if Duffy and I ever became more than friends we’d probably end up ruining our friendship. I just hadn’t expected it to happen quite so fast and I didn’t need Baz rubbing it in.
“Don’t.” I said with narrowed eyes, she looked a little taken aback and I realised that I probably sounded a bit too familiar for such an early point in our relationship.
“So are you two together or not? Only I’d like to know where I stand”
Decision time. Should I try to get things back on track with Baz? At least I knew how things would work out if I did. A part of me thought that that might be the more sensible option, but the long since suppressed adventurer in me was fast resurfacing. And it didn’t feel right to hurt Duffy and dismiss our morning together.
“Duffy and I are together, sorry.” She remained expressionless, and I’ll admit it hurt. I don’t know why but I half assumed that she’d beg me to change my mind. But then, I reminded myself, this isn’t Baz my wife; this is Baz the woman who may one day have been my girlfriend.
“No skin off my nose, Charlie. Though I don’t particularly appreciate being stood up like that. I had you down as a bit more of a gentleman.”
“It wasn’t intentional Baz, I got distracted.”
“I’ll bet!” She said with what appeared to be a smirk.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It’s all around the hospital that Ponting and Mute found you in a state of undress in Duffy’s bed. Rumours already have her as some sort of femme fatale. Can’t see it personally but I have to admit that she doesn’t waste much time, does she?” Definitely a smirk, and a raised eyebrow to match.
It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear but I knew that, about the gossiping at least she was right. It takes approximately six minutes and forty three seconds for a juicy bit of gossip to spread through the building, another ten minutes to reach the furthest parts of the hospital and half and hour to reach St. Thomas’s. It had been a number of hours since I had been brought in; I could expect half of Avon to know by now.
I started to think about Duffy again. She’s the one who’s had to put up with the worst of it. Me being her boss and several years older I don’t suppose made it any easier either. No wonder she was in a bad mood with me; she was being gossiped about by her friends, and lied to by me. That was it, I couldn’t stay sat in that bed wasting my time and making things tough for Duffy. I pulled back the blanket and hopped out of bed. Baz stepped into my path.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Um…” I couldn’t think of an excuse fast enough and Baz’s stare was intimidating me.
“Get back into bed Charlie, you aren’t in any fit state to go wandering around.” I did as I was told and pulled the flimsy hospital blanket back over me.
“Ecstatic.” She replied deadpan, “Now if I can trust you to stay here, I’ve got patients to see.” I nodded dutifully and she left the cubicle apparently convinced I could be trusted.
I waited for the clickity-clack sound of her heels to recede before trying my second escape. My clothes had been folded neatly and put in a carrier bag under the trolley and I slipped back into them, grateful to be rid of the open-backed gown someone had kindly provided me with. I didn’t even need to sneak out, Just as I was about to leave the cubicle I heard Ewart call out that the team were needed in CRASH, so it was easy to make my way out of the department unnoticed.
Once out side of course I had to decide what to do next and that wasn’t so easy. My car was still down at Duffy’s place, which would make getting back to my house hard work. It was getting late, it was getting cold and it was starting to rain. I hovered for a bit just outside the entrance trying to look inconspicuous.
The doors opened and out strolled Ponting and Mute. Another ghost, I wish there was someway of warning them about what would happen to her. For all the fun and excitement of this time-travelling business it certainly had it’s downside, there’re so many warnings I wanted to give out.
I turned away from them and tried to blend into the wall. I needn’t have bothered though; they were far to wrapped up in their own little world to be concerned about me. They hopped into the old ambulance and drove off. The rain was coming down heavier now. Clattering against the Perspex awning that sheltered the ambulance bay, and for the time being me too. I pulled my collar up and breathed on my hands to warm them.
“I’m not surprised you’re cold, hanging about out here.” I turned to see Duffy standing there, hugging a navy blue woollen cardigan around her. “D’you really think no one’d noticed you going AWOL?”
“Just wanted some fresh air.” I said feebly.
“Inside, now.” She said in her best authoritative voice. It sounded very odd, not at all like the perfected controlled version she used as Sister. Resignedly I took a step to the door. Images of the rest of spending the rest of my life as a guinea pig as they prodded and probed me to find out what was going on, flitting through my mind.
Duffy was still looking decidedly unimpressed with me. I thought I should attempt to clear the air a bit. “Are we OK?”
“What d’you mean?”
“Earlier you sounded a bit…”
“Hacked off? Well that’s ‘cause I don’t like people keeping stuff from me, and you’ve been acting odd ever since we came off shift last night. You ain’t talking like you, you ain’t acting like you, something’s happened, something’s changed, why won’t you tell me what?” She said, clearly getting more emotional and higher pitched as she spoke.
I wanted to explain to her, I wanted to tell her everything but I couldn’t, could I? I mean, she wouldn’t understand, would she? Her eyes were pleading with me. I owed her an explanation. A gust of wind whipped up and went right through my jacket chilling me to the bone and I could visibly see Duffy shiver, her cardigan giving little protection against the elements. She seemed so vulnerable, but if the last fifteen or so years have taught me anything it’s that she’d a good deal stronger than me when it comes down to it. Maybe she could handle the truth...
“I’m from the future.” I said. Duffy looked confused and more than a little suspicious.
“Here, now, this is my past. I’m from the year 2000. I collapsed and woke up here. I don’t really understand it myself but…”
“Do you really think I’m that much of an idiot Charlie, that you can go telling me rubbish like that!”
“But it’s the truth!” I pleaded, though I wouldn’t have believed it if I’d been her.
“You think I don’t know what people say about me? That I’m a bit dippy and too gullible. I’m used to people playing tricks on me but that’s not even funny!”
“I’m not trying to be funny, it’s the truth, Duffy listen…” I took a step closer to her, she shot me a truly dirty look and started towards the door again. I cut her off.
“Get out of my way Charlie, I don’t want to hear anything you’ve got to say!”
“Duffy, I know it sounds ridiculous, but just let me explain, please.” She was darting from side to side trying to get around me, but I was doing a good job of not giving any ground. She gave an exasperated sigh, turned and headed in the opposite direction, away from the hospital and out into the rain.
“Duffy! Come back, you’ll get soaked!” I cried.
She stopped and turned back to face me. The rain was already soaking into her uniform, and plastering her fringe to her face, but she didn’t even seem to notice.
“Leave me alone!” She shouted back. She ran across the grass and into the car park, the rain coming down in thick sheets, even as I was chasing her I was losing sight of her and not one of us saw the big grey supply van heading for her until it was too late.
There was a screech of brakes and then the sickening thud as her limp body hit the tarmac.
Go to Part Five