"Max!" squealed Amanda as he pulled her toward him.
"What? Aren’t I allowed to show my affection for the woman I love?" He put on his best dejected puppy dog face and she couldn’t help but smile.
"I just feel awkward knowing that Charlie could walk in on us any second…" He reluctantly loosened his grip on her and she sank away from him.
"I did try Amanda, but he’s got nowhere else to go. I can’t throw him out on the street!"
"I know… it just makes things a bit," she searched for the right word, "weird."
It wasn’t exactly what she meant but it was the closest to the sentiment. She liked Charlie, he was a nice enough guy, but she liked him more when he wasn’t under her and Max’s feet. Not to mention that Max acted differently around him. When she was alone with Max he was so thoughtful and considerate, when Charlie was there too he seemed to feel the need to act, well, more ‘bloke-y’. They would just sit in front of the TV drinking beer all night.
"Sorry," he said, "things will be sorted soon. Then you’ll have me all to yourself." He leant forward and kissed her at the exact moment Charlie decided to walk in. And swiftly walk out again.
"I’m going to the bathroom," Amanda said pointedly, striding out of the room and nearly colliding with Charlie, who was dithering in the hallway trying to work out what to do next. With Amanda out of the way he decided it was safe to go through into the kitchen.
"Didn’t mean to interrupt," he said, looking so apologetic that any anger Max might have felt quickly dissipated.
"S’all right. I’m sorry if Amanda and I make you feel uncomfortable. I can’t seen to win."
"I will find somewhere soon you know. I found this place yesterday. It’s a rental, but I can get a short-term tenancy until I can find somewhere more suitable. At least then I won’t be paying out a small fortune in storage."
"I don’t want you to feel like you’re not wanted Charlie. I said you can stay here and you can."
"Thanks but I think we’ll all be happier when I’m out of here" Inwardly Max agreed.
"Well I should be getting off." Charlie said as he pulled on his jacket and searched for his car keys.
"I could come in again for a couple of hours…"
"Max, for God’s sake stay here and get some rest. Covering for three doctors is not healthy. Let the locums take care of the place for a while. We’ll cope without you!" Max slumped into the chair and Charlie left him to his thoughts, knowing that had the situation been reversed he wouldn’t have wanted to stay home either.
From the safety of her car Tina gazed up at the house. It was over a year since she’d last been there but it felt like only yesterday. On the passenger seat next to her lay yesterdays crumpled newspaper. She’d read that article through so many times that she could recite whole passages off by heart. She’d watched every news bulletin she could find in an effort to glean more information and scoured every newspaper, but there seemed to be very little detail coming through in any of them. The press office of the hospital was keeping tight-lipped. All they would say was that the public weren’t in any danger, the situation was completely under control and their thoughts were with the families of the dead men and the injured woman. That didn’t help her though, it didn’t help her try to find out if Max was one of those dead men.
Movement at the front of the house stirred her from her thoughts. A man appeared through the front door, but it wasn’t Max. She stared a little more intently at the familiar figure.
"Charlie?" The thoughts that had been buzzing around her head buzzed a bit louder. If Charlie was in Max’s house then maybe, maybe… She didn’t want to believe it. Why would Charlie be there if not to look after the place now Max was dead?
She felt a terrible sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Why did things always have to go wrong? Only six months ago her life had been everything that she wanted it to be. She and Sean were happy in Australia; she was expecting his child, her life was perfect. Then bit by bit it fell apart, almost as if she was cursed. Now she was back in England, trying to start a new life but it seemed the curse was still following her.
She watched Charlie get into his car and part of her wanted to run over to him and find out the truth, find out exactly what had happened and hear his reassuring words comfort her. But part of her dreaded knowing the truth. She didn’t think she could handle it if he was dead. It would mean one too many things had gone wrong.
The engine of Charlie’s car made several strained stuttering noises before dying completely. Tina watched as he got back out and locked it up. She didn’t need to be a lip reader to tell what he was saying to it.
Charlie stood back from the car and scratched the back of his head. He would be late if he didn’t get a move on and the department was in enough of a mess already without him adding to it. He turned back to the house with the intention of asking to borrow Max’s car. At least Max would have time to get public transport in. He made it to the doorstep before he changed his mind. The last thing he wanted to do was interrupt them again, and Max was very precious about his car anyway. Stepping back onto the pavement he gazed down the long road in each direction trying to decide which was the quickest route to the bus stop. Then something, or rather someone, caught his eye. A pretty young blonde sat behind the wheel of a smart blue BMW. He could tell that she could tell he’d seen her; she sunk a little lower in the driver’s seat. He made his way over to her car.
"Tina? Tina Seabrook, is that you?" She wound down the window and lent ever so slightly toward it. The way he was smiling at her made it impossible not to smile back. It looked like he hadn’t had anything to cheer him up in a while.
"Hello Charlie" She replied.
"What are you doing here? I thought you and Sean were in Australia. Alice Springs wasn’t it, we got your postcard."
"I came back about a week ago, it’s a long story," she hoped Charlie wouldn’t press her on it, " I saw the newspaper… I just wondered what had happened." She couldn’t bring herself to ask him directly about Max.
"Ah yes." The enthusiastic grin disappeared and his face faded into a far more solemn expression, "Dreadful business" he said, realising immediately that that didn’t really cover the full horror of it.
"What…?" she trailed off and Charlie continued.
"One of the staff, an anaesthetist called Tom Harvey had been stalking Holly for a while. He came to the hospital, I think he intended to…" it was his turn to trail off. It took a second for him to compose himself enough to carry on, "anyway, he kidnapped her and pumped her full of anaesthetic. Patrick saved her, though she’s still in a bad way, Tom fell to his death off the fire escape."
Tina listened open mouthed, poor Holly, what a terrible thing to happen to her. But that only explained two of the three people mentioned in the paper.
"The paper said two men died, a senior doctor…" she stared up at the house, a terrified expression playing on her face. Charlie caught on.
"It wasn’t Max, Tina, he’s fine. It was Andrew." Tina didn’t recognise the name, not that she was listening particularly anymore, she’d found out what she’d come to find out. Max was alive and well, that was enough.
"Oh good!" She exclaimed with a sigh of relief. Charlie looked at her horrified; there was absolutely nothing ‘good’ about the situation at all. She saw him staring at her and realised how it must have sounded.
"Oh Charlie, I didn’t mean…Were you close, you and this Andrew?" His expression softened.
"He was Duffy’s husband, he’d come to work with us a few months ago." He said quietly, he found it hard to talk about Andrew’s death with out having to re-live the awful moment he’d had to break the news to Duffy. The cry she’d let out still haunted him.
"Oh God! But she’s all right, yeah?"
"Coping. Just." Charlie hovered by the side of the car in silence and Tina didn’t know what to say. The relief of hearing Max was OK was somewhat tarnished now. She felt she should tell Charlie to pass on her condolences to Duffy but at the same time she wasn’t sure she wanted anyone else to know she was in Holby, in England even. She still didn’t know what she would say to Max if she came face to face with him. After what felt like an eternity of awkward silence Tina spoke.
"I heard you having trouble with your car, can I give you a lift somewhere?"
"I was on my way to work. Do you know where that is?" He asked allowing a bit of a smile to come back to his face.
"Get in then" Charlie slid into the passenger seat and Tina started the car.
"Nice set of wheels, this" He commented.
"It’s my Mum’s. I’m just borrowing it while I’m here."
"So you’re not back here permanently? Pity. I could do with a good nurse like you at the moment" He looked at her hopefully. She smiled; it was nice to feel wanted.
"No I don’t think so."
"As I said, pity. So how’s Sean? Did I hear right that you two got married?"
"We did yeah. He’s all right, just on the other side of the world," Charlie thought he detected bitterness in her voice but she continued too quickly for him to say anything, "anyway how are Baz and Louis?"
"All right. Just on the other side of the world!" He said rather more cheerfully than he felt.
"Wrong other side," he tried to demonstrate on an invisible globe in front of him, "Canada. She’s got a job there. We’re getting divorced."
"Not your fault" The uncomfortable silence crept back in. Charlie tried to break it before it suffocated them.
"How long are you in Holby for? I’m sure there are loads of people who’d love to see you again" She could tell that was a loaded question, after all she had been sitting outside Max’s house.
"I’m going back as soon as I’ve dropped you off." She said decisively.
"Surely you want to do a bit of catching up first?" She slowed down and stopped at the traffic lights.
"Not really. Besides I’ve got to get back, I’ve left…" She bit her lip. She didn’t want to mention Dawn. If she mentioned Dawn it wouldn’t take long for Charlie to ask how old she was, and then it would take even less time for him to work out the significance of her being outside Max’s house but not wanting to talk to him.
"Left what?" Tina contemplated everything that she could say in response. Nothing sounded plausible. She gave in.
"My daughter, Dawn. I’ve left her with Mum in London."
"Oh. I didn’t know. Congratulations Tina. You and Sean must be over the moon." She felt the façade of normality slip away from her and a solitary tear rolled down her cheek. She hoped that Charlie wouldn’t notice, but of course he did.
The lights changed and Tina pulled off, but her eyesight had become blurred and she had to pull over.
"I’m sorry Charlie" she sobbed.
"What on earth for?"
"You’re going to be late now"
Charlie laughed gently. "There has to be some advantage to being the boss!" He thought that caused her to smile, but if it did it only lasted a split second. "Tina, what’s the matter my love?"
She looked up at his concerned expression and knew that if she didn’t talk to someone she’d go mad thinking about it. She took a deep breath and started to recount her story.
It took a while to get through the whole terrible story but Charlie was a good listener and let her explain everything in her own time. When she was finished and he’d given her a tissue and a hug, she leant back in her seat and asked the million-dollar question:
"So what do I do now?" Charlie sorely wished he could answer.
"I don’t know. Are you sure that it’s over with you and Sean?"
"He’s been so distant. He won’t see Dawn, he didn’t even seem all that upset that we were leaving the country!"
"It’ll be hard bringing up a baby on your own" She nodded, she was well aware of that fact.
"You think I should tell Max, don’t you?"
"If you’re sure Dawn is his, don’t you think he has a right to know. I mean, if I had a kid out there somewhere I’d want the opportunity to get to know them" he said as he thought about his relationship with Louis.
"I don’t want to end up as a couple just because we have a child…"
"Tina, I don’t know whether this is good news for you or not, but Max is seeing someone, he’s asked her to move in. It seems pretty serious" Tina didn’t know whether to be glad or not. She didn’t want him for herself, and was happy that he was happy but it still hurt that his life was going so well when hers…
"Are you going to tell him? I think he’d want to know the truth. And Dawn deserves a father, doesn’t she?"
"I don’t know. I need more time to think."
"Calculating the risks, eh?" He commented thinking back to the last conversation they’d had before Tina had left. Then she’d said that in the past she’d only ever taken calculated risks and it was about time she did something that scared her just because it felt right. It was strange but she still didn’t regret that decision.
"Charlie, don’t tell anyone I was here. Not yet, anyway"
"I won’t. Promise" Tina started the engine again and drove Charlie the rest of the way to the hospital.
Sean stood in the departure lounge. There was still half an hour before the flight and plenty of empty seats but every time he sat down he got agitated and had to stand up again. He began pacing the floor, the other waiting passengers watching him quizzically. It was the waiting he hated. Time inside airport terminals seemed to run at a different pace to regular time, almost like hospitals in that respect, but at least he knew what was going on in a hospital environment.
He passed by a young woman who’d been watching his movements avidly. She called out to him.
"You nervous about flying?" She asked. It took a second before he realised she was talking to him, he was so lost in his thoughts.
"Me? No. I’m nervous about what will happen when we land"
"Landings are very safe these days. Flying is the safest way to travel" she announced.
"That’s not what I mean."
"What do you mean, then?"
"Oh trust me you don’t want to know. I’ve been an idiot and I have to get back to England to tell my wife that. To tell her that I still love her and… and that I love our daughter."
Go to Part Four