It felt strange being back in England; getting re-accustomed to the accent, the weather and everything else but it felt particularly odd being back in London. It had been years since Tina had lived with her parents in their terraced house in Victoria. It was a million miles away from Holby, let alone Alice Springs. She had forgotten just how noisy and dirty London could be and everything looked that little bit greyer by comparison.
Her mother couldn’t understand how anyone could not want to live in London; when Tina had first announced that she was moving to Holby her first reaction was to ask: ‘Why do you want to move out to the sticks?’ Tina had vehemently defended Holby at the time, although in reality she had only visited once and knew relatively little about the place. It was enough for her to know that it was a long way away from her parents and their ideas about how she should live her life. Her mother’s comments on Australia had been even less flattering, but Tina had loved it out there. At least until things had started to go wrong. And that was about her and Sean, not the country. Their arguments could have happened anywhere.
She had even started to miss the small flat that she and Sean had rented, and it was small. Not enough room to swing a mouse never mind cat, Sean had said at the time, but it didn’t matter to them. It was their first place as a couple and that was enough to make it a palace. When Tina finally realised she was pregnant, after months of feeling generally off colour and putting it down to heat exhaustion and the inherent stress of moving, they weren’t sure the flat would be big enough for three. But after Dawn’s birth Sean had only stuck around for a few weeks and so it hadn’t been a problem. She wondered absently if perhaps he’d moved back in now she was gone. She hadn’t been able to get out of the tenancy agreement and Sean had continued to pay rent on the place anyway. He knew that Tina couldn’t afford to, she hadn’t been in her job long enough for a paid maternity leave and both of their savings had been swallowed up fast by the plane tickets. She had been grateful for him doing that, although she would have preferred for him to stay with her and Dawn and accept her as his daughter.
She could remember back to that fateful day of Dawn’s birth so clearly it was like watching a movie. She and Sean had had a takeaway pizza in their tiny flat whilst they watched an old black and white film, Tina, fast approaching her due date, had felt tired around 11‘o’clock and they’d called it a night and gone to bed. As usual Sean had fallen straight to sleep, but no matter how hard she tried Tina couldn’t get comfortable. Then the twinges began. Softly at first, she could nearly ignore them, but as the night wore on they became stronger and more frequent.
Tina knew as much about childbirth as anyone could without having gone through it themselves but as the labour pains grew the sensible practical nurse gave way to the terrified young woman in her. She shook Sean awake and announced that the contractions were close enough to seriously think about getting her to hospital. He went from bleary-eyed to wide awake in a split second and bundled Tina and her overnight bag into their second hand Ford and drove to the hospital. Labour had proceeded without complications with Tina hot, sweaty and in chronic pain shouting abuse at Sean, and anyone else for that matter, and telling them to ‘get this bloody thing out of me’. Sean had tried to reassure her and help her with her breathing whilst still managing to stand around looking incredibly proud of himself. His first child was on her way. He was bringing a new life into the world, and he had never been happier.
It had never occurred to him that it wasn’t his child. He was her husband and he loved her, no other thought was entertained. Of course he knew from the size of the foetus in the first scan that the baby must have been conceived back in Holby but they had been sleeping together then so the child must be his. Tina had got so caught up in his enthusiasm that she didn’t dare mention that there was a equal chance the baby could be Max’s, she’d even managed to convince herself that Sean was definitely the father, she wanted it to be true so badly.
They’d decided that they wanted to know the sex of the baby at the scan and both were delighted to find out they were having a daughter. Not that they wouldn’t have been just as delighted to have a son, they were just happy the child was going to be healthy. The name choosing process had started as soon as they were out of the scanner room. They went through all the names they liked, all the names they could think of and all the names of people they knew who’d had enough of an influence on their lives to warrant naming their first born after them. Tina had wanted to call the baby Eve, but Sean had disagreed. Much as he’d had a fondness for their old Sister, especially by the time she’d left, he didn’t really want to be reminded of her every time he called for his little girl. But it had got him thinking and the next morning as they awoke to the most beautiful sunrise either of them could remember he’d suggested Dawn.
Tina had fallen for the name immediately; it symbolised so much. The start of their new life, a new era for them. Forgetting all about what had happened in Holby and beginning afresh. Dawn Maddox, she thought it sounded fantastic at the time. Now she couldn’t help but view the name with the same cynicism reserved for three legged dogs called ‘Lucky’. Their new era hadn’t lasted much beyond the birth.
In fact the first seeds of something being wrong had been sown right there in the delivery room. After Tina’s final, desperate push and a blood curdling yell the midwife had been pleased to announce that they were now the proud owners of a beautiful baby girl. She’d wiped the baby down, wrapped her in a blanket and passed her to her mother with the words that still echoed in Tina’s head every time she looked at Dawn:
"Here she is, baby Maddox. And doesn’t she look just like her mother!"
Dawn did look exactly like here mother, the spitting image of Tina as a newborn: fair skin, blue eyes and the finest blonde hair. Exactly like her mother, nothing like her father. It didn’t even occur to Tina at the time, she had been exhausted and just relieved that the birth had ended successfully but as Sean watched mother and baby hug he had started to wonder.
He tried to ignore it at first, and just be pleased that he was a daddy, but as each new person pointed out how much Dawn looked like Tina, and therefore by default how little she looked like Sean, he had become more and more exasperated. Tina had tried to point out that even if biologically he wasn’t the father, he was the only father Dawn would ever know and the only man that she her self loved. He heard the words but they just didn’t register.
The atmosphere had become stifling as the recriminations grew and much to Tina’s dismay Sean had decided to leave the flat so he could have some ‘space to think’. He’d moved out to go and stay with a friend of theirs. It was only supposed to be temporary, a chance for them to break the cycle of arguing, but it soon became clear that it was doing more than that. It was stopping them from communicating at all. And now Tina was on the other side of the world again what chance would they have?
Bored with sitting at home all day while her mother tended to the family business, Tina wrapped up baby Dawn and put her down in her pram. Dawn gurgled happily and Tina couldn’t resist standing over her daughter for the next few minutes making baby noises and pulling faces. Eventually she pulled on her own jacket and checking once more that she had everything that she would need left the house.
It was a surprisingly nice day. Warm but not too hot and a gentle breeze stopped the car exhaust fumes from building up too much. She didn’t have any particular plans for the day. Before Dawn was born not having plans meant a day spent shopping but she’d discovered that most stores weren’t exactly baby friendly and anyway she’d come to feel guilty about buying herself things when Dawn needed so much.
She crossed Victoria Street and headed up to St James’s Park. It would be nice to sit out in the sun and get a bit of fresh air. It appeared that many other people had had the same idea. The park was dotted with exhausted shoppers, office workers on lunch breaks and school children who may well be on their lunch breaks at that particular time but Tina doubted that they would bother to return to class for the afternoon’s lessons. A gang of schoolgirls overtook her as she wandered down the path to show Dawn the ducks on the pond. They were laughing and joking, maroon sweatshirts tied haphazardly around their waists, showing off the distinctive spotty blouses of the local comprehensive.
Tina looked down at her own little girl and tried to imagine her as a teenager, but it was all but impossible to do. How could anyone predict the future? Not so long ago Sean was a part of Dawn’s future and now it seemed like he just didn’t want to know. She hadn’t heard from him since she’d arrived back at Heathrow. She’d thought that he might have called, just to ask whether she arrived safely but there had been nothing.
Once or twice she’d contemplated calling him, but something always stopped her. There was no point in pushing him if he really didn’t want to know.
Tina had wondered briefly if Sean might have come to find her at the airport, tried to beg her to stay. Told her that there was still hope, that he’d acted like an idiot and was sorry, and more importantly that he wanted to be a part of Dawn’s life after all. She’d given him a chance, told him what flight she was catching. He could have come after her in the same way she’d come after him the previous year. She tried to tell herself that she was stupid to think that he would, but she was still disappointed when he didn’t show up.
All the times he’d told her that he loved her obviously didn’t mean a thing, and that hurt. It hurt mostly because he knew how much she loved him. He knew that if she’d wanted she could have stayed in Holby with Max. He knew that Max had asked her to do just that, asked her to marry him and that she’d turned him down. She’d told him straight out that however much she cared for him the only man she loved was Sean. Sean knew all that and yet was still jealous of a man who lived on the other side of the world, who had no power in their relationship.
Since she’d been back, Tina had found her self wandering up to the station and looking at the huge destination board for trains to Holby. She didn’t know precisely why she did it because she didn’t have the slightest urge to board one of those trains. It was just comforting in a strange way to know that the city was still there. She had no intention of travelling there and catching up with her old friends, even though she did feel a certain curiosity about what they were all up to. Besides, what would she say to Max if she saw him again? She didn’t want to get back together with him and felt sure that that was what he would suggest if he knew about Dawn. It also wouldn’t be fair to introduce him to his daughter if there was any chance of her returning to Australia and taking her away from him again, not after Frank.
In the distance she heard the familiarly garbled cry of the newspaper vendor and decided that reading a copy of the Evening Standard might be a nice way of passing an hour or so. She headed toward the small stand with the latest edition’s headlines written in thick black marker pen on the front. She glanced at the board and let her eyes wash over the headline. A second later what she had read sank in. She quickened her pace a little and reached the stand, unable or unwilling to believe the words so clearly spelled out in front of her:
Horror in Holby Hospital
Proclaimed the big black letters, she hurriedly bought a paper and scanned through the article trying to gather more information, but the details were sketchy. A senior doctor and an anaesthetist had died, a junior doctor was seriously ill and whatever it was that had happened, it had happened in the A&E department of Holby City Hospital.
Tina felt the paper slide through her fingers and scatter onto the ground.
Go to Part Three