The paperwork on Max’s desk had mounted to laughable levels by the time he arrived at work the next morning, not that he had been much in the mood to laugh. He’d been asked to give the latest press statement by the CEO the once over before it was released, but he couldn’t concentrate on it. Of course, it didn’t matter much, he thought with a wry smile, the press were already coming to their own conclusions about what had happened during the Tom Harvey incident, and the Trust’s damage limitation procedures were now verging on the desperate. He wondered absently for just how much longer the CEO would have a job. Usually he would have enjoyed some irreverent speculation on the subject but he had far too much on his mind already.
He had spent the evening alone in his flat, drinking his way down a bottle of Vodka and generally feeling miserable. He wanted desperately to talk to Tina, to find out whether her daughter was his daughter too. It hadn’t occurred to him until after both Charlie and Amanda had walked out the he had no way of contacting her. All he knew was that she was in England again, in London if Charlie was to be believed; but London was a big city and searching for her would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
He had lain awake most of that night, trying to make sense of events. It wasn’t easy, especially with his thoughts jumbled by alcohol, but one thing remained completely clear to him. If he was the father of Tina’s daughter he was damn well going to be a part of her life, one way or another.
Giving up with the pathetic press statement he stormed out of his office and down the stairs in to the main department, determined to find the one person who might know how to contact Tina.
“Jack, where’s Chloe?”
“Cubicles, I think” Jack answered, barely looking up from his computer terminal which was his subtle way of making it look like he was busy, even if he wasn’t.
Max didn’t bother to indulge in pleasantries, and completely ignoring all the other staff, strode through to the cubicle area, checked the patient board to see who Chloe was dealing with and yanked back the curtain of the relevant one.
“Something the matter Max?” Chloe asked, frowning at his stressed and over-tired expression.
“Can I have a word”. It wasn’t a question, and he indicated for her to leave the cubicle. The patient, a young woman with a bloody head wound, looked back and forth between the doctor and the nurse, worried.
Chloe gave her patient her best reassuring smile. “I won’t be a minute, just keep that dressing pressed to the wound – that’s it, like that”. She exited the cubicle and took a few steps away from the curtain, her hands on her hips, waiting to hear the reason she’d been unceremoniously called from her work.
“I need to contact Tina” was all he said. Chloe stared at him as though he was completely insane.
“I know she’s back in England, and that she’s visited Holby. Don’t tell me she hasn’t been in touch with you”.
“She’s back!” Chloe squealed, a million questions racing through her mind. She was about to start asking them, when the rest of Max’s statement and the look of impatience on his face registered. “Max, I had no idea Tina was back.”
“You obviously haven’t been talking to Charlie” Max muttered under his breath. “You don’t know how to contact her then?”
“Nah, I haven’t got a clue. So how long’s she been back then?”
Max ignored her. “You don’t know of any friends she might be staying with in London do you?”
“London? No, I don’t think so?”
Max appeared to grunt in frustration, and lost eye contact with Chloe as he tried to think his way out of the problem.
“No one at all?”
“Well, she lived there before moving to Holby, she could have loads of friends there. I think her Mum and Dad live down there too”.
Max’s eyes snapped back up to meet Chloe’s. Parents, of course, why didn’t he think of that sooner. He turned on his heel, ready to go back to his office to call directory enquiries.
“Hey, Max!” Chloe ran up beside him, trying to get his attention like a little terrier running after it’s master. He paused. “What’s all this about? Why’s Tina back, and why are you so desperate to see her all of a sudden?”
“Ask Charlie” he snarled, resuming his mission, and leaving Chloe standing bewildered in the middle of admin., annoyed that for once she wasn’t the first with the gossip.
Tina lay back, into Sean’s waiting arms, as they sat watching morning TV. Dawn was sleeping contentedly in her mother’s arms, and together they were the epitome of tranquility. Tina hadn’t felt quite so happy and secure in a long time, but was already getting nicely used to it. She snuggled into Sean’s embrace, in much the way Dawn was snuggled into hers.
“I’m happy,” she said softly, tilting her head back to try to gauge Sean’s expression. He was smiling.
“Yes. And, I think Dawny is too”. He leant forward a little so he could plant a kiss in Tina’s hair; something that she’d missed him doing more than she thought was possible.
“You do think that we’ll make it work this time, don’t you?”
“Why wouldn’t we?”
“Oh I don’t know. I just think sometimes that we’re rather doomed”.
“Doomed!” Sean laughed; Tina elbowed him in the ribs. “You don’t honesty think that do you?”
Tina sighed, and hugged Dawn closer to her chest. At that precise moment it was very easy to believe that they could live out the fairytale happy ever after that she wanted so much. The problem was that as she gazed at the tiny sleeping form in her arms, she couldn’t help but feel a nagging doubt that soon enough it would fall apart again.
She carefully extricated herself from her husband’s embrace, and turned so that she could look at him face on.
“No…” she said slowly.
Sean looked at her with unconcealed alarm. “You don’t sound very sure”.
“I just…” she stopped herself. “Doesn’t matter”.
“Tina! You can’t say things like that. What is it? Come on, tell me”. His eyes were imploring to her, but she started to wish she’d never said anything.
“I just wonder if we’ve actually sorted anything out Sean. You say you’ve accepted Dawn –which is fantastic – but the underlying issues are still there. Aren’t they”.
He frowned at her, clearly not understanding. “Are they? I thought you were happy, you just said…”
“And I am, Sean, honestly, but what if when Dawn grows up she asks if you are her real father, what if she wants to find Max. How will you react then?”
“I’m going to bring her up, I’ll be her father. I might be anyway.”
“Don’t you want to know? For sure I mean?”
Tina waited patiently as Sean thought about it. She used to be perfectly happy in her belief that just because Dawn didn’t bear much of a resemblance to Sean, it didn’t mean they weren’t related. Even when they were separated she was still desperately hoping that Sean would accept both her and Dawn back into his life, no strings attached. Now it seemed like he’d done exactly that, she found herself looking at all the things that could possible go wrong and jeopardize their future happiness. The question of Dawn’s parentage was like a big black cloud on the horizon, threatening to drown them all.
“Tina,” Sean started quietly, his expression earnest, “I’m your husband, I was there all through your pregnancy, and Dawn’s birth, and I’m here now. I will be her father. I don’t need some DNA test to tell me that.”
“Final answer?” She smiled tentatively. If he meant that, and by now she thought she could tell when he was lying, then perhaps everything would be all right.
“Absolutely. Now, how about we take the little one, and go out for a slap up lunch to celebrate?”
“Great!” she grinned. “I’ll get my coat”.
Charlie stood up in the middle of the reception area, staring towards the window to Max’s office, slightly out of sync with the rest of the world. The nurse had more on his mind than he’d had at almost any given time in the past, and he felt exhausted. He had postulated to himself at one point that the only reason he hadn’t shut down altogether and sunk to the bottom of his bottle of Scotch was that all the problems were, realistically, other peoples. His lack of accommodation was as nothing compared to what Duffy, Holly and now Max were going through.
He sighed heavily and moved off, bumping straight into Josh as he did so.
“You know you promised not to get under my feet” Josh joked half-heartedly. Charlie performed an appropriate grimace in response. “Everything OK, Charlie?”
“Not very much is OK at all actually”. He glanced distractedly up towards Max’s office again. Josh picked up on it.
“You still worried about this argument you had? Everyone’s on edge at the moment, I’m sure nothing was meant”.
“Maybe” Charlie conceded, feeling guilty for his part in it. “Anyway, you spoken to Colette yet?”
“No. I think she’s avoiding me. Probably for the best though, I have no idea what to say to her when I do see her”.
“Just tell her what you told me last night. That you still feel the same about her, that Natalie and the circumstances around her birth shouldn’t affect you’re relationship now”.
“Easy to say it Charlie, but will she believe me? Besides, I don’t know if it’s true anyway. Colette is trying to adjust to being a mother; it’s not going to be easy on her. It’s bound to put a strain on us. Who’d be a parent, eh?” he said forlornly.
Charlie gave a sympathetic smile. It was all he could think to do, and getting things so wrong with Max and Tina had temporarily put him off advice giving. “Give it some time Josh, I’m sure things will work out”.
“I hope you’re right” he replied, as his radio crackled into life and ordered him off on his next shout. He turned with a oh-well-I’d-better-go nod of his head, leaving Charlie once again standing alone in the middle of reception.
He peered back up to the blind-covered window of Max’s office, “I hope I’m right too,” he muttered.
Mary fumbled to get her door key in the lock. She could hear the phone ringing in the hallway, and judging by the fact she heard no movement from within to answer it, assumed that Tina and Sean had gone out somewhere.
Eventually she pushed the door open and, abandoning her shopping bags, she grabbed it just in time. “Mary Seabrook speaking” she trilled down the line.
“Um, hello, this is Max Gallagher, I’m a friend of your daughters. Tina. We used to, er, work together. In Holby”.
“Oh, right, well Mr. Gallagher, I’m afraid Tina doesn’t appear to be in at the moment. Can I take a message for her?” She plucked a biro from the pot kept by the telephone and held it poised over the message pad.
“Well, er, the thing is I’m going to be in London later, I thought I might drop in…”
“Ooh, a surprise, my Tina always used to love surprises!”
“Really? Well, the thing is I don’t actually have your address”.
“Oh that’s no problem at all dear. Have you got a pen handy?”
The moment the shift had ended Max had practically sprinted to his car and roared off towards the motorway junction that would lead him eventually to London, and to Tina.
He’d been driving for several hours, music blasting from his stereo, although he was too caught up with what he’d say to Tina, and what the baby would look like to hear any of it. It was starting to get dark, and the tiny water droplets that had splattered across the windshield for the last half-hour had given way to a heavy downpour. The windscreen wipers only just clearing his view before it became blurred again. Still, he continued to press his foot down on the accelerator pedal, desperate to see Tina once more.
By the time he saw the warning glow of the car in front’s brake lights it was too late. He slammed down hard on the brake, and forced his entire bodyweight against the wheel, causing him to swerve wildly across the road. He could see the indistinct outlines of several over cars coming closer and closer still, but there was nothing more that he could do.
Time seemed to slow, and the sound of the other car’s horns became a dull roar in his head. He braced himself for the impending impact, and suddenly everything went black.
Go to Part Seven