The complete journey from Australia to England was going to take a whole day and Sean felt that it was time wasted. He rested back into the uncomfortable aeroplane seat; they had only taken off a few hours ago but already Sean was bored, he’d bought a book at the airport, a mystery thriller, but he couldn’t concentrate on it. He knew that he’d read the same paragraph at least three times already but his mind would drift off to thoughts of Tina and he would quickly lose his place. He closed the book and placed it on the tray table in front of him, drumming his fingers lightly on the cover.
The man next to him, a bulky, middle aged gentleman who had spent the duration of the flight working his way through a book of logic puzzles, cast Sean a dirty look. Sean stopped drumming and started to gaze absently around the compartment. All the other passengers were either busily entertaining themselves or sleeping. At the front of the compartment was a pretty young stewardess.
Petite and thin as was the norm for such people, she had auburn hair scraped back into a bun and a bright red rimmed smile. A year or so ago she would have been enough to keep his attention occupied for the entire flight, especially when she bent down to talk the passengers or retrieve something from the lowest shelf of her trolley, but today Sean just wasn’t interested. She wasn’t as beautiful as Tina was. He let out an involuntary sigh.
"Are you all right young man?" His neighbour asked in such a way that Sean doubted there was any interest, let alone sympathy in the question. Sean nodded and began his drumming once more.
"Would you please stop doing that!" Sean looked up. He hadn’t realised that he’d been doing anything. He withdrew his hand and clasped it tightly with the other one.
"Sorry." Sean offered. The man grunted an acceptance.
"Yes, well it is rather annoying and I am trying to concentrate." He held up his puzzle book and pointed the cover in Sean’s direction.
"I’m hopeless at those things!" Sean responded. The man snorted.
"They require intelligence and patience. Qualities that I found severely lacking in the youth of today." Sean tried to resist the urge to start an argument with the man on the subject.
"Does your silence mean that you agree?" The man smiled at Sean, almost as though he was trying to provoke a fight.
"No actually I don’t." He replied biting his lip to stop him from saying more.
"May I enquire as to what you do for a living?" He eyed Sean up and down. He had a somewhat scruffy appearance having spent eighteen hours at the airport waiting for a standby seat on a flight. He hadn’t shaved and his hair was hanging dishevelled around his face.
Some sort of surfer/beach bum type he thought.
"I’m a doctor." Sean replied rather smugly. The man raised an eyebrow.
"Wonders will never cease!"
"Dr Sean Maddox" Sean held out his hand. The man took it and shook it a bit more firmly than Sean had expected.
"Harold Martinson, solicitor." He responded.
"So are you coming or going?" Sean asked. He had tried to divine by his accent whether he was a Brit returning home or an Australian going away, but it seemed to be a mixture of the two.
"Going. But I am originally from England. Maidstone was where I was born. My family emigrated when I was twelve. Still have relatives there, hence this trip. You?"
"I’ve been living in Alice for just over a year now, but well, circumstances have changed." He left it that, but Harold, having been interrupted from his puzzles needed a new challenge to occupy his mind. He felt that there was an interesting story behind this young doctor’s return home and was determined to find out what it was.
"It’s a long and complicated story" Sean tried to dismiss it with a wave of his hand.
"Good, my favourite type! Unless you have something better to do." Sean let out a half-hearted laugh; there wasn’t even any paint to watch dry!
"OK. Well, it all started when I took a job in a casualty department in Holby…"
Duffy negotiated a train-set, a pile of washing, two footballs and an action figure with no head and made it to her front door. Stretching over her pregnant stomach she unlocked it and opened the door wide. Behind it stood Charlie.
"Hope you don’t mind my popping by like this…" He said apologetically as a cowboy, complete with Stetson, sheriff badge and green fluorescent water pistol caught his eye.
"Of course not Charlie, come in. Excuse the mess I haven’t had a lot of time to tidy up since…well…it’s not as bad as it looks. Honest." She forced a smile as she showed Charlie into the living room and cleared a space for him to sit in.
The cowboy ran through the room shooting the (thankfully) empty water pistol at Charlie before jumping on to the sofa and bouncing up and down. Duffy watched her son wearily. He’d been acting up ever since Andrew’s death. Charlie could see her summoning the will to tell him off.
"Jakey, what have I told you about jumping on the furniture!"
"Not to" he answered as he jumped off it and ran out of the room.
"Jake Bower you get back in here right now!" She called after him but there was no sound of the boy returning. Duffy held her head in her hands. She looked terrible, thought Charlie, thoroughly exhausted.
"I’m sorry, I’ve come at a bad time…" He started to rise from his chair.
"All the time is a bad time. I’m sorry you have to see my son acting like a hooligan. Please stay." She looked at him more hopefully than she consciously meant to. He sat back down.
"So where’s Peter?"
"He’s upstairs. He seems to want to be alone. I go up and check on him every hour or so but… I don’t know what to say to him" She could feel her self start to cry again and grabbed at a tissue from a nearly empty box on the table.
Charlie looked awkwardly down at the pattern on the carpet. He hated seeing her crying, it was very nearly enough to start him crying as well. When he next looked up she appeared to have composed herself and the forced smile was back.
"So how are things at work?" She asked trying her best to sound both casual and interested at the same time.
"Hectic, but we’ll cope" He wasn’t entirely sure that was the truth, but Duffy didn’t need to know about the departments troubles at a time like this.
"Good. Any gossip I should know about? Have Josh and Colette got their acts together yet?"
"I don’t know. I think so. I’ll give him the third degree tomorrow and report back!" For a second Charlie thought the smile had become real.
The only real gossip of the hospital was still the Tom fiasco and he doubted that it would die down anytime soon. The department had been over run by press and even the real patients spent most of their time trying to get the gory details off the staff.
Charlie tried to think of what else he could say to Duffy. It had become so difficult to talk to her recently when usually they could launch into a conversation about anything.
"You’ll never guess who I saw this morning" He finally ventured. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to tell Duffy, she could be trusted to keep a secret and besides she wasn’t in regular contact with the other staff.
"Elvis Presley? Lord Lucan? Um…Shergar?" she laughed but there was something unnervingly hollow about it.
"Tina Seabrook, well, Maddox these days."
"Tina. Here in Holby?"
"Yeah, that’s what I thought, but she turned up at the house."
"But what she’s doing here? I thought she and Sean were living the life of Riley out in the Aussie sun"
"Well, it seems that they’ve split up. She’s had a baby you see and Sean doesn’t believe she’s his. I have to say that there isn’t much resemblance, she showed me a photograph."
"So she’s back because she thinks it’s Max’s" Duffy wasn’t sure how to take that news, it conjured up too many memories. Memories of how she’d cheated on her husband. Memories of how much time she and Andrew wasted, if only she had known…
"Partly. But… I know I don’t have to tell you, but keep it to yourself, eh?"
"What do you take me for Charlie!"
"Sorry, it’s just it’s a sensitive issue and I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone."
"OK Charlie, I promise. My lips are sealed."
"That’s quite a mess you’ve got yourself into there, young man" Harold pointed out as Sean finished the epic tale of Sean ‘n’ Tina.
"Tell me about it!" He replied dryly.
"But, if you don’t mind me asking, if you were so determined not to get involved with this other man’s child, what has changed your mind?"
"A patient at the hospital. I’ve been doing some work in the renal unit. A few days ago a young girl came in for a kidney transplant. She was very sick, had been on dialysis for months. Her mother and stepfather brought her in. It was her stepfather who was donating the kidney. Kelly, the girl, she had been ill most of her life. Her real dad had buggered off years ago, but her mum had met Steve and he’d stuck with them. He loved them both so much and was so eager to help make Kelly better.
"They went off to the operating theatre. Kidney transplants are relatively routine these days and everyone expected the best. Just after the surgeons had removed Steve’s kidney he started having an adverse reaction to the anaesthetic. They tried to stabilise him but it was no good." Sean swallowed, trying to push away the lump in his throat, he still had trouble walking the fine line between uncaring and caring too much.
"I see." Harold said.
"Do you? She wasn’t his child but he gave his life to save hers. He loved her regardless of her parentage. He loved her mother. And I love Tina. I’ve been so selfish, cutting her out of my life like that. I have to make it up to her. I have to show her that I will take Dawn on and love her as if she was my daughter."
"Well I hope it works out for you three."
"So do I. Tina is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I can’t lose her now. I just hope I haven’t screwed things up too much already."
The telephone’s persistent ringing woke Duffy from her nap. She had been having enough trouble sleeping when she was just coping with her body resembling a hot air balloon, but now every time she closed her eye’s she saw Andrew and she only slept when she was too exhausted to stay awake. She pulled her self off the sofa and got to the phone a second too late. Jake had got there first.
"What?" he screamed down it. Duffy tried her best to wrestle the handset off him.
"It’s for you," He said, releasing his grip and nearly causing his mother to topple over. Before she had a chance to reprimand him he was off again. She rubbed her forehead as she brought the phone to her ear.
"What? I mean, Lisa Duffin speaking."
"Duffy, it’s only me, Max. I’m just calling because I know I said I’d stop by today, but I just haven’t had a chance. Sorry."
"That’s all right Max." She said, having forgotten all about his promise to visit anyway.
"How are you?"
"Fine. Well just about. How are you?" There was something in the tone of her voice that made Max feel like she wasn’t expecting him to be ‘fine’.
"Uh…I’m fine too"
"Shouldn’t I be?"
"Well, I suppose… I just thought it might come as a bit of a shock, that’s all"
"What’s come as a bit of a shock?"
"This whole Tina thing." There was a stunned silence on the other end if the phone.
"Max? Are you still there?"
"Yeah, yeah, I’m here. What Tina thing?" Duffy was confused. She clearly remembered Charlie saying that Tina had gone around to their place that morning.
"Tina showing up with your baby. Charlie said that…"
"Charlie said that she came to see you this morning. Didn’t she?"
"I think I need to have a word with our Mr Fairhead. I’ll speak to you soon Duffy." And with that he hung up on her.
Duffy made her way back to the comfort of the sofa, an uneasy feeling creeping over her. Max didn’t know about Tina.
Oh hell, she thought as she rested her head in her hands again, I think I’ve just put my foot in it…
Go to Part Five