"I donít think I can do this Patrick" Holly said softly as she clung on to his arm for support.
"Iíll take you home if you like, Iím sure no one would mind if you werenít here" He replied in an equally soft voice. He hadnít thought it was a very good idea her coming anyway, sheíd barely left the house since that terrible night when Tom had come back, and his own loathing of funerals was enough to make him wish that he wasnít there either.
Holly looked across the graveyard to where the congregation was amassing. It was hard to distinguish each of her friends from the others, they appeared as one black clad entity, the solemn hum of voices drifting on the breeze.
One figure did stand out from the rest, though. Duffy stood alone, separated from the growing throng as if she was in a different world from them. Her long black coat was pulled tight around her, her hands clasped a single red rose and she was hugging her pregnant stomach, as though she was afraid that if she let go it might fall off. Every now and again one of her sonís would wander up to her and she would look down, force a smile and stroke their hair, before sending them back to her mother.
Knowing that she would have to talk to her eventually, Holly took a few steps forward, Patrick still by her side.
Memories of that night flooded back to her, her fear, and then her relief when she opened her eyes and saw Patrick. It had felt so good to be holding him again; she had felt truly safe for the first time in months. She remembered going back into the department to get checked over, everyone had been so quiet, distracted almost. She remembered feeling glad that they didnít want her to relay all the details of her ordeal. She remembered when Patrick had finally told her what had happened to Tom.
The feeling that the news conjured up inside of her was indescribable; a mix of relief, sadness, anger, and even joy but through it all was the realisation that she had been the cause of a manís death. She had let out a howl from somewhere deep inside her and her tears didnít stop flowing for many hours. Patrick had stayed with her, watching her pain and distress and wishing that he could take it away from her. After seeing how much Tomís death affected her he couldnít bring himself to tell her about Andrew. Another man dead, this time an innocent man, with a family to leave behind. Heíd tried to convince her that none of what had happened was her fault, the Tom was deranged, a psycho, a lunatic, and Holly had nodded slowly but he knew that she would never shake off the feeling of guilt no matter how unnecessary it was.
When she had heard about his funeral she knew that she had to go, she had to talk to Duffy, had to tell her how very sorry she was that Andrew had got mixed up in her mess. Patrick had tried to dissuade her but he could see in her eyes that it was something she had to do. So now he was by her side as he had been for the past week, her rock, her strength.
They reached the back of the crowd just as the service began. Patrick scanned the faces in the crowd; Chloe hung on to Barney, occasionally wiping another tear from her eyes. Anna, Jack, Mel, Dan and Fin stood quietly staring at the vicar, lost in their thoughts. Josh had Coletteís hand clasped tightly as he relived his own painful memories. Max and Amanda stood with their arms around each other, her watching him as he watched Duffy. Peter and Jake had a hand each of their grandmotherís. Charlie stood a few steps away from Duffy and Patrick recognised the same impotent expression that he himself had, knowing that they could do nothing to make the situation any better but wishing more than they had ever wished for anything that they could.
Holly didnít see the other faces; she didnít hear the constant drone of the vicar. She stood transfixed on Duffy, the woman whose life she had ruined. Duffy stared into the deep hole in front of her. Its emptiness would be filed within the next few minutes; her own would remain with her forever.
The service came to an end and the large wooden casket was lowered into its final resting-place. Duffy dropped her rose and the gapping grave swallowed it whole. She looked up for the first time as around her the congregation followed suit by dropping handfuls of soil, each delivering a small thud that deafened her.
For a split second her eyes locked on Holly, but Holly looked away. Patrick felt Holly tense up beside him and asked if she was all right.
"I really canít do this, take me home" she said her eyes pleading with him and without hesitation he agreed and they started to move off.
Charlie moved toward Duffy, she heard him say something to her in his soft reassuring voice but she was too busy watching Holly and Patrick leave to hear what it was.
"Charlie, Iím sorry, excuse me" she said not taking her eyes off Holly. She moved off as fast as she could manage and reached Holly as Patrick was unlocking his car.
"Thank you for coming" Holly turned and saw Duffy standing behind her, she didnít know what to say so just nodded awkwardly.
"The wake is going to be at my house, I hope youíll both be able to come." Holly stood bewildered, why on earth would Duffy want her of all people there? Patrick cleared his throat.
"Thank you for the invitation but I think itís time we went home," he opened the car door, "er...you have our condolences, Duffy" he added uncomfortably.
Duffy looked at Holly, who had gone a distressing shade of grey.
"Are you all right Holly?" she asked. That was enough for Hollyís tears to overflow, and they ran in warm streams down her face.
This is the day that you are burying your husband, who wouldnít have died if it wasnít for me, and youíre asking if Iím OK? She thought to herself, as more tears flooded down her saturated cheeks.
"Iím sorry Duffy Iím so sorry, this is all my fault, Iím sorry" she sobbed. Patrick started his way round the car to comfort her but Duffy got there first. Holly felt herself sink into Duffyís embrace; still crying, still apologising.
"It isnít your fault" Duffy said assertively, beginning to cry herself. Holly pulled away and looked up at her.
"No, Holly. You mustnít blame yourself. It was an accident; Andrew was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It isnít your fault" Holly wished that she could believe her. She sounded so sureÖ
"You donít blame me?" she whispered the words, her voice quivering, feeling like a little girl seeking approval.
Duffy stood silently for a second trying hard to compose herself, thinking about her response.
"Honestly?" Holly nodded fearing the worst. Duffy really did blame her for Andrewís death, for her losing her husband, for her children losing their father, for her unborn baby never knowing itís Dad.
"Iíve blamed just about everyone since it happened. Tom, you, Spencer and Patrick for not finding him sooner, Max and the otherís for not being able to save him, Charlie for being the unfortunate sod who had to tell me. I blame myself for sending him out of the hospital to begin with and I blame him for having the audacity to bloody well die on me and leave me alone. Over the last week I have been so angry with everyone, anyone, but it doesnít help. It doesnít make me feel better and it doesnít bring him back. Holly, donít blame yourself, none of what happened was your fault. Carry on with your life, Holly, donít dwell on what happened." Even through her tears Duffy showed a strength that Holly marvelled at.
"I donít know how to carry onÖ" she replied.
"Well, what do you want Holly?"
"I want to go. I want to get away from everything thatís happened. I want to leave Holby." She said it before her brain had had a chance to register, but as the words passed her lips she knew them to be true.
"Then Iíll miss you" Duffy tried hard to smile and Holly tried the same.
Duffy glanced across from Holly to where Patrick stood just behind her. He was clearly in shock after hearing Hollyís revelation. He had assumed that things would continue as they were, with him helping her rebuild her life in Holby. Duffy could see the pain in his face at the thought of losing her so soon after getting her back.
"The one thing," Duffy started, motheringly brushing Hollyís hair back behind her ears, "that Iíve got to cling on to is that at least Andrew and I had some fantastic times together, I loved him, and I knew that he loved me. Youíd be amazed at the difference that makes, to say those words and to hear them being said back. I was lucky enough to find a man that I loved. If youíre ever that lucky, make sure you tell him and give him a chance to tell you" She looked pointedly over at Patrick, and gave Holly one last hug before walking off to where her mother was waiting with her kids.
Holly stood letting Duffyís words sink in, and then she turned around to find Patrick staring at her.
"You want to go now?" he asked. She wasnít sure if he was referring to the graveyard or Holby but either way the answer was yes. They both got into his car.
"Patrick," she said gazing deep into his big brown eyes, "when I go, Iíll miss you."
"Iíll miss you too, Hol." He replied and turned the key in the ignition.
"Patrick," she said again, her voice barely audible above the purring of the engine, "I love you."
"I love you too, Hol." He replied and slowly drove off.