The Truth Hurts
The district hospital spread out in front of her as she pulled into the car park. It was a bright sunny day but there was enough of a breeze to make it bearable. Tina got out of her car and slammed the door shut. She had called Sean and asked to meet him to talk but he’d told her he was too busy working and so couldn’t. He’d said she’d have to find him on a break if she wanted to talk. She wasn’t pleased. Ever since they broke up it was like he was going out of his way to be difficult. He actively avoided her and Tina couldn’t imagine that being easy. Since they were still new in town they didn’t have a huge network of friends; everyone who was Sean’s friend was Tina’s too. They frequented the same places, but she hadn’t seen him in weeks. He was definitely avoiding her.
She looked at the hospital. It was odd but there was something about hospitals that transcended which city or even which country you were in. They all looked the same. They had the same curious mix of welcoming and foreboding. It was only little things that were different, the uniforms of the nurses, the shape of the ambulances, and the accents of course. When she’d last spoken to her mother she had mentioned that Tina had begun to pick up a slight Australian accent. Personally Tina couldn’t hear it, and the locals frequently commented on how British she sounded.
She locked the car and made her way across the warm tarmac so the entrance. Memories flooded back. Her interview at that very A&E department; meeting a nurse who was so much like Eve that she had had to do a double take. The day Sean came home and told her that he’d landed a job up on one of the wards and he’d be working two storeys above her all day. And the last time she’d been there. The beginning of the end as she’d come to call it. She tried to brush the thoughts out of her mind; she’d never be able to say what she wanted to if she allowed herself to get sentimental.
Avoiding the casualty department, she made her way to the second floor. She didn’t need to follow the signs, even though it had been a while since she’d last wandered the corridors. She took a deep breath of the hospital air. That was another thing that didn’t change no matter where you are in the world. She remembered telling Charlie that she would miss it when she left. Well, she really would miss it this time. A few of the staff recognised her as she continued on her journey, but no one said anything. Sean would have told them his side of the story. How he unwittingly married a scarlet woman. She knew that within these walls she was the bad guy.
She approached the administration desk. The woman behind it plastered on a perfunctory smile and was about to ask how she could help when she recognised Tina. The smile faded.
"Is Sean around, Kym?" Tina watched Kym shift uncomfortably.
"Dr Maddox is busy with his patients, Mrs Maddox."
"Well, could you tell him I’m here, and I really need to talk to him"
For a second Tina thought that Kym might ignore her request but begrudgingly she got up and went off to find Sean. Tina stepped away from the desk and found herself a seat. She crossed her legs and clasped her hands together over her knee. She might as well try to get comfortable, she had a feeling that even if Sean wasn’t busy he was going to make her wait.
Sean made his way into the staff room and helped himself to a cold can of Coke from the machine. He was hot and exhausted and the shift was only just half way through. He leant back in his chair, rested the can on his forehead and closed his eyes. A vision of Tina floated before him and for a second he enjoyed watching it. She was so beautiful, that long blonde hair, those crystal blue eyes. He opened his own eyes and berated himself for thinking about her. It was over. He didn’t love her. Not after what she’d done. Taking a sip of his drink he pushed his hand through his thick black hair. It was getting long again. Tina had told him she preferred it short, which was good enough reason to leave it alone.
The door swung open and revealed Kym. She smiled apologetically at interrupting his break.
"Sean, your wife’s here. She’s waiting out in reception."
"Tell here I’m busy"
"I don’t think she’s going anywhere. She says she really needs to talk to you" Sean wanted to tell Kym to get rid of Tina and make sure he didn’t have to see her lying face again, but it wasn’t fair to drag Kym into their argument. He took a deep breath to try to compose himself.
"Tell her I’ll be out in a bit" She nodded and turned to leave. Sean went back to his drink, then stopped a thought suddenly crossing his mind.
"Hang on. Is Dawn with her?" Kym turned back and shook her head.
"I don’t think she’s all that likely to parade her around. Not in here anyway." She left and Sean was alone with his thoughts.
Almost instinctively on hearing him self talk about Tina and Dawn he pulled out his wallet. Inside, among the credit cards and the dollar bills were two photos. They were his two favourite photos until a few months ago. The first was picture of him self and Tina on their wedding day. She was stunning in a long, ivory dress and sun hat and they were standing in front of the registry office. It had been the happiest day of his life when she’d finally said ‘I do’ to him. The other picture was much harder to distinguish. It was black and white and fuzzy and even he’d had trouble at first seeing who it was a portrait of. Now he could see her immediately.
He folded the pictures and put them back into his wallet. He knew he should get up and see Tina, but never knew what to say to her these days. He took another sip of his Coke; maybe he’d be a little more prepared in five minutes time.
As Tina sat listening to Kym’s polished apology she found herself twisting her wedding band around and around. She hadn’t even realised she was doing it at first, not until Kym glanced down quizzically at it. She was probably wondering why Tina was still wearing it, after everything. Tina took it off and played with it in her fingers, wondering much the same. Her speech over, Kym returned to behind her desk and Tina jammed the ring back onto her finger. It didn’t feel right without it there.
She picked up a magazine from the pile on the table in front of her, and flicked through it absently. There was nothing of particular interest in it, the usual rubbish about what lipstick goes with which hat and a questionnaire on whether you’re a shopaholic.
Her mind drifted off to when she and Chloe would spend whole evenings working their way through such silly questionnaires; are you a true friend? Are you a good lover? A chick flick and copious amounts of wine had made those evenings fly by. They were fun. Until Chloe proved that she wasn’t a ‘true friend’ by finding out whether Sean was a ‘good lover’ for herself. But that was all in the past and Tina had done her best to put it behind her. She had made up with Chloe when she realised that Chloe had suffered more as a result of their fling. And Tina understood even better now. And Sean, eventually he’d said all the right things and she’d fallen for him all over again. She’d forgiven him for sleeping with Chloe, for lying and cheating and they’d agreed to put all the events in Holby behind them and start a new life here in Australia.
If she could forgive him and cope with all that then surely he could cope with this new situation? It wasn’t her fault and he knew all about what happened back in Holby.
She looked at her watch and played with her ring again. Where was he? What she had to say wouldn’t take long but she had to say it to his face. She had to know she was doing the right thing, that there wasn’t anything left between them to save.
"Tina." He said curtly, standing over her. She stood up so she could see his face more clearly.
"Sean, I’m sorry to interrupt your work…."
"I’ve got a lot of patients waiting to see me, I hope this won’t take long." Her attempt at civility was cut off.
"I got a call from Mum last night. Dad died." She said it matter-of-factly. She had gradually got used to idea over the last few years, ever since the news of his cancer had been sprung on her at Charlie and Baz’s wedding some three years ago. She hadn’t been very close to her parents for a while before that and although things got a little easier once they stopped pestering her to give up nursing they had started to get distant when Tina ‘selfishly’ left Holby and emigrated to the other side to the world. News that her Dad had finally lost his battle had been a shock but it had prompted so many questions about her own future that the tears had been over surprisingly quickly.
"Sorry Tina. Must be hard for you to hear that when your so far from them." He softened a little, and Tina allowed her self to believe that he was once more the man she’d fallen in love with.
"That’s the thing. I want to go home for the funeral, stay with Mum for a while"
"Actually I might stay for longer than a while. She’s always wanted me to take over the business once Dad died. I think it might be best for all concerned…"
"To what?" She couldn’t make out exactly what was going through his mind. The tone of his voice suggested he already knew what the answer to that question was, but wanted it spelt out. Did that mean he didn’t want her to go?
"If I return home for good. Go back to Mum in London, at least for the time being. She’s been desperate to meet Dawn. And it’s not like there’s much keeping me here anymore. Is there?"
Sean gazed into her eyes, trying in vain to read her thoughts. Was that an olive branch? Did she want him to beg her to stay, to give their marriage a chance? He wasn’t sure it he could do that. If he’d be able to look at her in the same way, if he’d be able to carry on playing happy families knowing what he knew. He needed time to think.
"I’ve booked a flight for tonight. Twenty past eleven to be precise. I suppose I’m leaving Australia in the manner in which I arrived!" She tried to joke, but the situation was too tense for it to work.
"Tonight?" He didn’t have time; he’d have to decide.
"Yeah. We’ll keep in touch. If you want…"
"I’ll even be able to look up a few old friends"
That was it. She shouldn’t have said that. She knew it as soon as the words had left her mouth. She stared down at the floor and spent much longer than was necessary brushing a few loose strands of hair from her eyes.
"Oh I get it!" He exploded, "This isn’t about your father’s funeral at all! It’s just a convenient excuse for you to go running back to Holby! Back to him!" Tina glanced around them awkwardly. Kym and a few other people had all stopped what they were doing and were staring open mouthed at them.
"Sean," she said quietly, trying to placate him, "I’m going back to London, to my family. I have no intention of going to Holby. Or of seeing Max."
He didn’t look at all convinced. So much for the olive branch, she’d already made up her mind. Not that he was all that surprised. After all, it was only natural for Tina to want to introduce Max to his daughter.
Go to Part Two