Message from the heart

She pressed the button on the answering machine, knowing instinctively that the one message would be from Patrick, and wondering what he had to say for himself. As the machine whirred into action she sat on the bottom step of the stairs and listened.

ďUm, Lara, itís Patrick. I, er, I have to apologise. Iíve made a mess of things, I know that, and Iím sorry. Honestly. I know that isnít something you hear the Ďgreatí Patrick Spiller say very often, if at all, but itís the truth. Iím sorry, OK. Sorry.

When I thought of the idea it sounded so romantic, to get you to the jewellers under false pretences and offer you that diamond. I had it all worked out. You would say ĎAnd what would I do with a diamond?í and I would say that you could get it made into a piece of jewellery. Special and unique jewellery. You would say Ďlike a pendant or something?í I would make some brilliant joke about how I hoped you wouldnít want earrings; then suggest a ring.

ĎA diamond solitaire, for your third finger left hand perhaps. I think that would suit youÖí

ĎWhy Patrick, what are you saying?í you would tease me.

ĎIím saying that Iíd like you to be my wifeí then I would slip down onto one knee in the middle of the shop floor, and say ĎLara Stone, will you marry me?í

I could just imagine the look on your face.

Iíd run through the script so many times, like an actor rehearsing for a play, that I was sure itíd all go to plan. Iíd discussed the proposal with the jeweller, who thought it was, and I quote Ďa marvellous ideaí and offered to keep some champagne on ice for us. I had it all sorted. I became so involved in the idea that I didnít stop to think about what you really would say, or what would happen next.

What was it that Max said to me the other day? That I was arrogant, egotistical and lacked humility. Most people believe thatís all there is to me. Only you and one other woman have ever seriously seen me as more. Itís a good feeling to know that someone cares about me, and not just out of duty like my father or cousins, but itís a feeling Iím unfamiliar with.

I donít want you to pity me, Lara. Itís the truth. Ever since my mother died Iíve had trouble allowing people past my defences. Iím scared theyíll leave me. That one other woman I mentioned, her name was Holly, she saw me for more. She got under my skin, into my heart many years ago and has never quite left. I measure women against her. Rachel was nothing in comparison, but you, you made me feel the same way as she did. You let me open up, you seemed to understand.

I love the way you make me feel Lara. I love who I am with you. I feel freer, happier, and I feel loved. You love me, I know that.

I didnít want to lose that feeling. I didnít want to go to London, another failed relationship under my belt. I donít want to look back on my life and see how Iíve messed everything up. I messed up with Holly, itís a long story but it was my fault. I loved her and for a time she loved me, but I wrecked it.

When I got this job in London I thought only about myself, about how it would be a huge step in my career. My career is all Iíve had in my life for a long time now, ever since I was an SHO, itís the thing that drives me, keeps me sane.

After our excursion to the swimming pool I started to realise that my career wasnít the only thing I had anymore. I had you. And you didnít want to be uprooted from your job, your home. I donít blame you. But it occurred to me that if I went and you stayed, our relationship would die. It would die and whatís more it would be my fault. Again, I would have cocked it up.

I thought about staying. Holby City Hospital isnít the only hospital with an A&E department in the area. Sooner or later somewhere would need a consultant. I could give up on a promotion for a woman I love.

Lara, oh Lara, I wish I did love you. Then it would be so simple. I care about you, I think youíre absolutely gorgeous, and the sexÖ well, fantastic, but itís the way you make me feel about myself that I love. You remind me of my days with Holly.

I know what youíre thinking. That Iím a bastard, and a coward, and youíd like to string me up by the balls. And I also know that youíre wondering why I asked you to marry me.

The truth is I never expected you to say Ďyesí. I thought youíd turn me down. I thought youíd tell me not to presume that youíd rush down the aisle with me, just because I buy you a flashy gemstone. Then it wouldnít be my fault you see. I would come out of it as the injured party and I wouldnít have failed with you like I did with Holly.

So youíre right, I am a bastard and a coward. But if I had married you it wouldnít have worked, and youíd still be hating me. Itíd just take a little longer.

Iím sorry Lara. Really sorry. One day youíll meet someone who deserves you. Oh God, that sounds so clichéd! But you will.

Iíve decided to leave for London early, Iíve booked a hotel room until the flat I rented is ready. Thatís where Iím calling from. I donít suppose Iíll see you again, I donít suppose youíd want to see me again anyways. Good luck for the future Lara. Iíll miss you.Ē

The answer machine clicked off and suddenly Laraís hallway was bathed in an oppressive silence, broken only by the sound of her sobs. She twisted the diamond ring around on her finger. Sheíd only just got back from picking it up from the jewellers. Sheíd been furious when Patrick hadnít turned up and met her. She wondered what could possible be more important for a man on his day off. Now she knew.

She yanked the ring off, her finger nails scratching along her ring finger and drawing blood. She didnít feel it though, the pain in her heart was too much already.

She wanted to throw that beautiful piece of jewellery into the estuary. No, she wanted to force it down Patrickís throat, or up a different part of his anatomy altogether.

Taking several deep breaths, her anger subsided to be replaced by the desolate realisation that more than causing Patrick physical pain, what she really wanted, more than anything, was to make Patrick love her. But that was the one thing she couldnít do.

The End

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