Time to Go
Josh sat at the back of the open ambulance, his legs dangling over the side, his boots scuffing at ground absently. He’d known, from the moment he’d woken up, that it wasn’t going to be the best of days. Today was the day when Penny was finally going to leave and he knew even before she’d gone that he was going to miss her terribly.
Nothing could have prepared him for the actual events that were playing out around him though.
He’d just spoken to Dan, who appeared to be wandering around the hospital forecourt in something of a daze. He’d told him that Tom had come back, kidnapped Holly, tried to kill her and then when he’d been confronted had either jumped or fallen off the fire escape. Josh wasn’t sure which; Dan had been a bit vague about it. Holly was apparently OK though, physically at least, and she had Patrick looking after her now. Josh had always suspected that there was a lot more to their relationship than they let on, and the way Dan explained it, he had left them to it rather than hang around like a third wheel. Josh couldn’t be certain whether he should mourn Tom’s death or not, it was clear now what a dangerous man he was, but before that he had seemed perfectly ordinary, nice even. He would have contemplated it further but he had too many other things on his mind.
Mainly Colette. He really liked Colette, more than liked; though he found it hard to admit it. And he hoped that she felt the same. Their relationship had had several false starts already and he had begun to wonder if perhaps she didn’t feel the same as him after all. Had he been taking it all too seriously when she was just after a quick fling? She always seemed to be rushing off somewhere, to run an errand for her mother, to see her sister, and whilst it wasn’t in his nature to demand attention, or throw a tantrum if he wasn’t receiving any, it hurt him. It seemed stupid to just put up with that if he really didn’t have any future with Colette. So he’d decided to be brave, to ask her straight out, Penny had been trying to get him to do that for ages, but after Colette cancelled yet another date there was no way he could put it off any longer. He could feel his heart swell and a wonderful warm feeling rush through his body when she’d said she was as serious as he was. It was like a dream. Actually it was better than a dream because it was real.
Then Natalie had walked in. Colette had a daughter. He knew that realistically there was no way he could know everything about Colette so soon after meeting her, but for her to not mention her own child, that constituted a secret. It was a deliberate deception that undermined their relationship. Moreover, Natalie had taken what appeared to be an instant dislike to Josh, and Josh knew that if the situation was reversed and a child of his disliked his girlfriend, the girlfriend would have to go. So that was that, the end of something that could have been so wonderful, and another reason to wish the day wasn’t happening.
He looked across at the entrance to A & E and sighed a deep sigh. Only another half an hour of the shift, not much time to go before Penny’s leaving party and he’d have to say goodbye to yet another person he cared about. As if knowing that he was thinking about her Penny appeared through the double doors of the department and made her way over to where he was sitting. She looked depressed, he noted, maybe her enthusiasm for leaving was waning.
"You all right?" he asked as she sat down heavily beside him.
"Yeah", she said hesitantly, "it’s just when it’s someone you know who dies it’s much harder to just get on with it." Josh nodded.
"I didn’t realise that you’d be so upset about Tom though, I mean, after how he’s treated Holly…"
"Tom? I mean Andrew" she looked at Josh and realised that he nobody had told him what had happened. She saw the bewilderment turn to concern.
"Andrew’s dead? Andrew Bower? Duffy’s Andrew?"
"He was found at the bottom of those steps over there, he never regained consciousness, I’m sorry Josh, I thought you knew…"
Josh rested his head in his hands; the day that couldn’t get any worse, just got worse.
"Has someone called Duffy, we could go and pick her up, I’m sure I could clear it with control…" he jumped up and made his way round the side on the ambulance. Poor Duffy. No one deserves something as awful as that and her with a baby on the way. Penny sprinted up beside him and put her hand gently on his arm.
"She’s here already"
"Maybe I should go and speak to her" Josh thought back to his own experience of bereavement, perhaps he could help.
"Charlie’s with her. Josh, I don’t think there’s anything anyone can really do." He thought about it, she was right. He slumped back against the ambulance, pressing his head against the cold metal.
"I think we should go back to base, the shift’s practically over and we can’t do anything just hanging around here." Penny said, Josh nodded almost imperceptibly and before long they were on the road.
Penny pushed a cup on steaming brown liquid that purported to be coffee toward Josh and then sat down opposite him. As she had got ready for the shift that morning she had been in two minds about how she wanted the day to go. On one hand she was excited about her new life with her father and half-brother Luke and had just wanted to get the day over with as quickly as possible, but she had also felt a small but unmistakable desire for something exciting to happen. Secretly she wanted to leave Holby the hero and for everyone to remember ‘the day that Penny Hutchens left’.
Well, she thought as she took a slurp of her drink, they’d all certainly remember today.
She looked across at Josh, who was creating a little whirlpool in his coffee with one of those plastic stirrers that never quite did the job properly. She was going to miss him more than anyone else in Holby. It was strange though, when they first became partners they’d go out of their way not to talk to each other about anything personal. Now she couldn’t imagine not talking to him. He’d become her closest friend and confidante.
Penny looked down at the watch that had been Josh’s leaving present to her. She had arranged for Luke to meet her at half past nine, he was going to come to her leaving party, he’d seemed really keen to meet her friends, probably wanted all the embarrassing stories off them.
"Luke’ll be here any minute." She said casually, her voice echoed through the empty canteen, shattering the silence. Josh looked up from his vortex.
"Better go get changed into your party frock then"
"I have a feeling my party isn’t going to happen." For a split second Josh was going to question why but then he remembered, no one from A &E would want to come, and half the paramedics were on duty.
"It’s a shame that all this has to interfere with your leaving ‘do’. You deserve a proper send off."
"I don’t mind" she shrugged, "At the moment I just want to get into a long hot bath and get out of here!"
"But you haven’t had a chance to say goodbye to everyone, maybe you could stay around for a couple of weeks until some of the fuss has died down, and then try again?"
Penny smiled; it was nice to know that he didn’t want her to leave but she had made up her mind. She needed to get to know her family, and also about her own past. She couldn’t do that if she stayed in Holby so there really was no choice.
"I’ve been saying goodbye to people all day, all week in fact."
"I’m getting to say goodbye to you properly" and you matter the most to me, she added silently.
Penny thought she detected Josh blushing. They sat silently again for a minute, each thinking how it wouldn’t be the same without the other by their side. Eventually Josh spoke.
"It never rains but it pours!"
"It’s what my Mum used to say. It’s never just one thing that goes wrong, it’s everything, all at once."
"It’s not that bad really, is it?"
"Andrew, Tom, Holly almost died, you’re going and Colette…" he stopped himself, not really wanting to go into it any further.
"What about Colette? Have you two fallen out?"
"Not exactly." He didn’t want to spread gossip about a colleague, but seeing as Penny was going it probably wouldn’t hurt…
"She’s got a daughter you know, teenager. She never mentioned her before"
"Is that a problem?"
"Not in itself, no. I have nothing against her having a kid. It’s not like I expect her to be a virgin; it’s just that she didn’t tell me. She knew all about my family, she could have said something then. What if it’s not just a daughter, what if she has a whole family tucked away somewhere and I’ve just been her ‘bit on the side’?" Josh was getting carried away and Penny knew she’d have to step in before he drove himself mad thinking about it.
"It’s just a daughter. She had her adopted out years ago. Today was the first time she met her"
Josh stared at Penny; she could see the thoughts ticking around in his head. His brow furrowed and his eyes narrowed.
"You knew? And you didn’t think to tell me? You know how hard this has been for me, you’re supposed to be my friend" he spoke quietly, as though he couldn’t believe what was happening,
"I only just found out myself, Josh, I don’t want us to fight over this. I’m leaving soon, I don’t want you to be angry with me." Josh found it difficult to stay angry with anyone for long, and he had no intention of rowing with Penny.
"I’m not angry with you. I just don’t understand" Penny saw the sadness creep into Josh’s expression, and it hurt her to see him like that. She got up from her seat and slid into the seat next to Josh, putting an arm around his shoulder. He turned to her, surprised by the show of affection.
"I think she really likes you Josh. You aren’t going to let her daughter get in the way are you?"
"I don’t know. She doesn’t like me"
"No. She said she did. I mean her daughter. She interrupted us and told me to go away and mind my own business. Or something like that. Then Colette ran off after her"
"It must be hard on Colette. She lost her daughter once, she doesn’t want to lose her again, but I think she still wants you too. I know a little about what it must be like for her remember. It’s going to be hard for all of you, but she needs your support right now"
Josh let Penny’s words sink in. He didn’t want to lose her if it wasn’t necessary, but he needed to talk things through with her.
"I know. You’re right. What am I going to do when you’ve gone, eh?" He smiled and tried to keep the tone light, but his voice cracked just enough to belie his true feelings. She squeezed him a bit tighter to her and he put his arm around her.
"I’m going to miss you too" she leant over and gave him a light kiss. This time she definitely did see him blush.
Penny glanced down at her shiny new watch. It was twenty five past nine.
"I should go check I haven’t left anything behind. I know what you lot are like, if I do I’ll never see it again." Reluctantly she pulled away from him and left the room. Josh watched her go with a heavy heart, he really didn’t want to have to say goodbye to her.
He gulped down the last of his cold coffee and left the room himself. He made his way to the front of the ambulance station and leant on the outside wall. The fresh air went someway to clearing his head. Penny was absolutely right, as usual. She was one of only a very few people who really understood him. He would talk to Colette first thing in the morning, explain that, daughter or not, he still wanted to be with her more than anything else. He strolled off down the path lost in his thoughts.
A car pulled up in the drive and Josh watched as the driver got out. He was shocked to see that it was Colette. She made her way slowly over to him.
Penny picked up the box that contained what was left from her locker once all the rubbish was thrown away, and made her way back to the canteen. Seeing that Josh had gone she assumed that Luke must have arrived and Josh had gone out to talk to him. She continued out of the building.
Parked right out side the door was Luke’s car. Penny opened the door and looked inside.
"Hiya! You all ready to party!" Luke said enthusiastically.
"Not exactly, there’s been a change of plans, I’ll explain later."
"Oh," Luke replied slightly concerned, "well are you getting in then?"
"You haven’t seen Josh have you, my partner, you met when you first visited me, remember?" Luke shrugged, but looked around in case he could see him.
"Is that him, over there?" Luke pointed to figure in the distance. Penny straightened and looked over the roof of the car. It was Josh, and he was holding and kissing Colette. Penny felt herself smile, he’d be all right, after all. She slipped into the passenger seat and fastened her seat belt.
"Don’t you want to go over and say goodbye to him?" Luke asked, puzzled by her behaviour.
"We’ve already said everything I think, so …no. I think I’ll leave them to it."
"Well if you’re sure…" he started the engine, but paused for a second before moving off to give Penny a chance to change her mind.
"I think my work here is done!" she said, tears stinging at her eyes even as she smiled. Luke slowly pulled away, and Penny took one last look around her.
"Now it’s time to go."