I have never run so fast in my life. The second I realised what was going on, I sprinted towards Duffy and the van, desperate to help. I skidded to a stop a matter of feet from her limp body, and all the years of trauma training I have suddenly vanished from my grasp. I froze. I panicked. I'm not sure that has ever happened to me before.
She lay helplessly amid a large puddle. Her uniform clung to her broken body; her pale face glistened through the rainwater in an unearthly manner. One leg lay crookedly, clearly broken and a deep red pool of blood was amassing from the back of her head, before being diluted by the continuing rain.
It took all the strength I had to put my emotions to one side, and I bent over her to check for a pulse by pressing gently onto her neck. I kept my fingers on her artery longer than was strictly necessary just to make sure that she was still alive. Her pulse was weak but it was definitely there. I wiped the tears that had collected in my eyes away with a quick swipe then gently took hold of her head. It was important to keep it still in case of spinal injuries.
In the dim grey light, I barely noticed it when a shadow appeared over my shoulder. The first real attention I paid to it was when I heard a man's croaky voice.
"I didn't see her, I swear, she just ran out in front of me… I didn't have a chance…" He muttered. I turned slightly to face him, the irrational urge to hit him for hurting my Duffy coursing through my veins.
"Don't just stand there, get help!" I screamed. I swear he was about to ask where from when he suddenly realised he was just outside the hospital. He turned and half ran, half tripped his way towards the casualty department.
I've never felt quite so useless before. The cold rain ran down my back, a stark contrast to the warm tears running down my face, and I had nothing to do but replay the events over and over again in my head. I've been assured that the target time for a paramedic crew to reach an emergency is eight minutes. It seemed to take so long for help to arrive from just across the forecourt that I pity anyone forced to wait those eight minutes while their loved one is slowly dying in front of them.
Most of what happened next is just a blur to me. Eventually Ewart, Baz and Megan arrived at the scene with some assorted equipment and a trolley. They asked me a few questions that the nurse in me answered while the man in me continued to panic and hovered around them as they worked. They took her back into the department, with me running along beside them. I was cold, wet and exhausted but there was enough adrenaline running through my veins to power an army, and only one thought in my head: She can't die, not now, I love her.
We collectively crashed through the double doors into resus. I'd forgotten just how small and under equipped we once were. All the new technology that the team take for granted in the year 2000 was way out of the reach of a small hospital like Holby General. It made me sick. She deserved the best. Ewart, Baz and Megan were still buzzing around her and I realised that she did have the best, or at least the best that 1986 had to offer.
Megan looked up from where she was fixing a drip into Duffy's arm and saw me lurking just inside the doorway, a puddle of murky rainwater collecting at my feet.
"Charlie why don't you wait outside?" She asked gently but firmly enough for me to realise it was a request rather than a question.
"No, I want to stay here… I have to" I replied from my stupor. In honesty what I really wanted to do was help. I know I'm a good nurse, the best nurse in the department, I should have been helping, but the fear of losing control and getting in their way was too much for me. I didn't want to put her life in further danger.
Then it struck me; I already had.
Duffy would never have been run over if I weren't there. If I hadn't argued with her. I know how events originally played out. Duffy never got hit by a van, it wasn't supposed to happen that way. It was all my fault. I didn't think that the pain could get any worse, but when I realised that she might die because of me, it became crippling. I backed clumsily out of the door, unable to watch the proceedings any further.
With no office to call my own, I hid in the staff room, and wished that the lock on the door could keep the strange twisted version of reality out forever. A day into this so called second chance and what had I achieved? I'd slept with Duffy, and I'd nearly killed her. That wasn't a fair exchange. To awaken my feelings for her then take her away from me. All the wonderful pleasure from the first couldn't take away the pain from the second. If she died because of my tampering with the timeline, I could never forgive myself.
I pressed my self into the corner of the room, hugging my knees tightly to my chest. I closed my eyes and sheltered my head from the strip lighting, hoping that when I came to open them again everything would be back to normal. My life might not have been great but at least I hadn't killed anyone. Any unhappiness that I faced I would gladly endure a thousand times over to keep her alive, safe, preferably happy too. I opened my eyes; it wasn't back to normal.
I heard someone trying the handle on the door, when they were unable to open it they knocked sharply on the wood.
"Charlie? Charlie, are you in there? Can you open the door?" Reluctantly I did as the voice asked. When I opened the door, Baz was standing behind it.
"Are you OK?" She asked softly. I nodded unconvincingly. She stretched out her hand and rubbed my upper arm, an awkward sort of concern etched on her face.
"How is she?"
"Stable. It was touch and go for a while, she's lucky it happened here…" she bit down on her lip, "sorry, I didn't mean… just that, well, we could get to her fast." She looked at me apologetically.
"I know what you mean Baz." However badly it was phrased. I looked into her eyes as she stood there in front of me. Eyes that I had spent a lot of time gazing into in the past. Trying in vain to understand what was going on behind them, and for the first time I realised that I felt nothing when I looked into them. No spark, no electricity. Oh, it had been there once, I'm sure of that. When I was younger and wanted different things from life perhaps.
At that moment though, there was only one person I was thinking about: "Can I see her?"
"She's going to go up to theatre any minute, but, I suppose if you're quick…" She led me across the reception area and back into resus, the way I've led goodness knows how many friends and relatives in.
Duffy lay motionless on the trolley, hooked up to all the various machines. It's strange, but although they're machines that I deal with everyday, they've never looked quite so intimidating before. I brushed her still damp fringe from her eyes, noticing the contrast between how she looked unconscious and how she'd looked not so long ago when she was asleep beside me.
"Wake up…please Duffy. For once in your life do what I ask of you…"
I could hear voices behind me, though not what they were saying. I was too busy thinking of all the years that she was supposed to have ahead of her. All the years that I might have robbed her of, all the things that would happen to her. For a disturbing moment, I thought about the bad things she would have to endure. The rape, the health scares, boyfriends and her husband messing her about. All the times she'd come to me in floods of tears and I hadn't been able to do anything to help.
"If anyone deserves a second chance," I whispered ruefully, glancing up to the heavens, "it's her, not me".
"Charlie, we're ready for her upstairs". I heard Ewart say as he came up behind me.
"Hang on one second" I said holding up one finger to him but not turning around. Instead I leant over her and kissed her tenderly on the lips.
"I love you" I whispered, "Forgive me for causing this".
As I straightened myself up I felt that stabbing pain in my head again, accompanied by a dizziness that knocked me off my feet. I collapsed to the floor, knocking over a stray drip-stand as I went. The sound of it clanging as it hit the floor echoed louder and louder in my head. I closed my eyes against the pain and gritted my teeth. The pain shot into my chest and my left arm. Paralysed in agony I could hear the noises around me fade away into nothing.
I tried to struggle against it, to sit up, to call out but I couldn't. I couldn't do anything. And if I couldn't do anything, I realised in a fleeting moment of complete clarity, then I couldn't hurt anyone else.
I stopped fighting and let the pain overtake me.
Go to Part Six