Letters In A Box

The sun was high over Frankfurt by the time Holly finished her so-called nightshift. She was supposed to have left the hospital at nine in the morning but as per usual a case had arisen that she didn't feel happy simply handing over to the day registrar. Besides it wasn't as though she had anything worth going home to, not without Patrick there.

Johannes was a beautiful little boy, barely five but already wise to the ways of the world. Or more accurately, the ways of his world. He'd been brought in to the Frankfurt Children's Hospital at a quarter past midnight having trouble breathing. His mother had been clearly distraught and unusually wary of Holly and her team, but his father had been downright hostile. It didn't take Holly long to discover the reason, both for Johannes breathing trouble and his parents' weird behaviour; Johannes had a broken rib which was pushing against, although thankfully not puncturing, his left lung. Careful examination of his x-rays showed a number of past fractures in the small boy's skeleton although his records stated he'd only been to the hospital once before.

Holly could feel her blood boil as she stood, holding a worryingly docile Johannes' hand as she tried to uncover the whole truth from his family. He knew better than to make a fuss, it was his coping mechanism. Johannes sat still and quiet throughout the entire argument between the adults that raged on above his little dark haired head. It took a few minutes for Holly even to notice the stream of tears flowing down his cheek. His sobs weren't accompanied by the usual howls and sniffs other crying children of his age normally exhibited. Johannes was used to people not noticing him, so he had given up trying to get noticed.

Later, after informing her superior, she confronted the parents in the department's interview room. Her ability to speak German was by no means up to native standards but she could speak enough, and understand a whole lot more, but she didn't need to be an expert linguist to understand the angry protestations and recriminations her remarks elicited. Soon her superior in the department, a specialist and a social worker were all in on the act, babbling to each other in ever more incomprehensible and frenzied tones.

After a while Holly had been forced to give up having her say, reassured by Frau Rosen, the social worker, that the young doctor's point had been understood by all parties. Holly didn't like this particularly and it was at times like this, when her usually formidable powers of communication evaded her, that she wished she was back in England. Back in Holby. But it never seemed to be a feeling that lasted very long; England was full of far too many bad memories. Perhaps she couldn't avoid the country forever, but she had no desire to give up her new Germanic lifestyle, besides which some things were so much a part of human nature that a small language barrier didn't stop her from understanding.

The next several hours, as the summer sun rose above the city and morning turned into lunchtime, Holly played quietly with her new found friend, proud of hearing him laugh for the first time just minutes before the social worker finally took him away to stay with a foster family.

It was an odd feeling, but as she climbed the short set of steps up to her front door, she didn't quiet know whether to be happy or sad at the outcome of it all. It reminded her a different time, back in Holby when she'd watched a family torn up after befriending the teenage daughter and promising that it would never happen. She'd been so unsure of herself that time, and as the memory played through in her head she remembered how nice it felt to have Patrick there with her, confirming she'd acted in the best way - but moreover, holding her, comforting her...

Realising that she was still stood, frozen, key poised in hand on her doorstep, she shook herself from her reverie and entered her flat. She'd had every intention of making her new home far tidier and better organised than her flats in Holby had been but somehow she'd never really got around to it. Patrick wouldn't approve. For a man he was amazingly neat, but that was no doubt because his homes were always merely a place to collapse after a long day, or somewhere to take a girl home to before a long night.

She didn't like that thought one bit. Him living in England provided far too many opportunities for such heart hurting possibilities; thinking about them didn't help anyone. She kicked off her shoes, revealing a pair of rainbow striped socks that young Johannes had been delighted by, and padded into the bedroom to it's large bay window, drawing the heavy velvet curtains and blocking out the sunlight. She yawned, and stretched, sloughing her work clothes and sliding under the covers of her cosy double bed. Even as she did so she was acutely aware of how empty it was, her slim frame took up so little space. She wriggled a little, manoeuvring herself into the middle of the crisp pink sheet and lying on her back, her arms and legs spread out in a star shape. It didn't feel right though somehow, and soon she was back over on the left-hand side of the bed. The right hand side was always Patrick's.

She sighed. Even though she was exhausted after hers days work, now that Patrick had invaded her thoughts she couldn't just switch off and go to sleep. Holly rolled over, and slid her hand under the bed, pulling out an old shoebox and flipping the lid off it in one swift, practised movement. Inside, a writing pad, pale blue with a tasteful floral border, and an ancient chewed biro lay on top of a vast collection of letters. All scribed in Holly's distinctively curly handwriting, all unsent.

Pulling the badly disfigured pen lid off the nib, and recapping the other end of it, she tapped the biro against her teeth for a full ten seconds before starting to write.

       Dearest Patrick,
Another day at the office! I know I did the right thing but even so I feel terrible. That little boy today needs a loving family and I have a terrible feeling that putting him in care won't give him that.

She sighed. Without even thinking she always started her letter to him as though he'd been around her all day and would know exactly which boy she meant, it was a habit she couldn't quite break.

Tucking a loose strand of her long brown hair behind her ear she started writing once more.

I miss you, Patrick. I miss knowing that you're there to run decisions by, even if we do always disagree! I don't have anyone here I can really talk to (and it's not just the language barrier). You always seem to understand me, you can see right through me, and however annoying it can be, I feel lost without you.

Holly read back her last paragraph; it was starting to sound soppy and she realised that she was having to sniff more and more often as she thought about the letter - and about Patrick.

"Just as well," she said absently to the letter, reminding herself that Patrick wouldn't be reading it, just like he wouldn't be reading the rest of the stash she hid so diligently under her bed.

Today has seemed so long without you, the week has lasted forever. I never thought I would miss you so much. I wish you were here Patrick. I wish you were here during my working day so I could talk to you, and now, as I go to bed, I wish you were here so much more...

             All my love, my Angel,
                         Holly xxx

She kissed the bottom of the letter, and folded it neatly across the middle before adding it to the shoebox and replacing the lid.

It always made her feel better to write to Patrick. Well, for the next few minutes it would make her feel subdued, weepy even, but just to vent her feelings about the day, and always ultimately, her feelings about him lifted a weight from her.

She rolled on to her back, inhaled through her nose until she could feel the oxygen fill every part of her lungs, and released her breath through her mouth. Calmer now, her thoughts collected, she wriggled under her duvet and switched off the lamp. She was ready to sleep now, and dream of Saturday when Patrick would visit her again and they could enjoy the weekend in the German sun, unburdened by the traumas of the week - they were all locked in the box.

The End

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