The cab driver opened the door for Holly and she stepped into her small flat for the first time in several days, holding her precious new-born daughter. The tiny baby looked so safe and secure, wrapped in a bundle of yellow and white blankets so that only her round pink face and a shock of dark brown hair was visible. The cabbie placed Holly's bag inside the door and smiled down at the sleeping infant.
"She's beautiful Miss." He said appreciatively. Holly beamed, feeling her heart swell with pride. Her little girl was not only beautiful but, Holly was certain, the best thing she'd ever done with her life. Admittedly the circumstances of her birth were less than perfect. She had always imagined that she would only have children when she could afford to both financially and in terms of her career, and when she had a loving husband to support her and the child.
Well, she thought as she fished in her handbag awkwardly trying to find her purse and not drop her baby at the same time, she had pretty much failed on all three accounts. Nevertheless she still couldn't help but be glad to have her unplanned little girl in her arms. Getting pregnant had been the last thing on her mind at the time; she'd been careful, but obviously not careful enough. Her first thought, as she'd sat on the edge of her bath staring at the two thin blue lines in her hand, was that it was all a horrible mistake, but over the next few days she'd started to wonder.
Maybe a baby wasn't a mistake. Maybe she'd got pregnant for a reason. Maybe to have someone to focus on, to love, and to be unconditionally loved by was just what she needed. She had already changed her name by deed poll, to stop people from finding her and as a symbol of a fresh start, a new life. Now she had a new life growing inside of her and for some reason, it just felt... right.
"There you are..." she handed the cabbie a ten pound note, "keep the change."
"You sure, Miss?" He said looking at the state of her unimpressive flat and down again at the new baby and remembering from his own experiences how expensive children could be.
"Of course! Thank you for helping with the bag." She smiled as positively as she could as she realised that the two pound forty-seven might have come in handy but being too proud to admit it.
"That's all right, my pleasure to help. Does the little one have a name yet?" Holly looked at her. She still hadn't come to a decision about that one. She was still known as 'Precious', 'Princess', 'Sweetheart', or plain 'Baby Milton'. Finding a name had proved harder than Holly had ever imagined and she started to understand why her own parents had plumped for the obvious choice of Holly for their Christmas baby. There were a few names she was toying with but, as yet, had not consciously come to a final decision.
So she was surprised to find herself answering resolutely: "Patricia. This is little baby Patricia."
"Nice name", he nodded, "I hope you two have a lovely life."
Holly kicked the door shut after him and made her way to the cramped living room for a rest on the sofa.
"Patricia, you like that precious? I do." It seemed to fit nicely with the dozing child to name her after the only person she'd ever loved anywhere near as much.
She missed him. More than she ever imagined she would, and it was constant battle with her self not to pick up the telephone and dial his familiar number. She was well aware of how cruel her actions would no doubt seem to everyone who she'd left behind but she hadn't felt there was another option. She needed a clean break, if only to prove to herself that she wasn't the frail, pitiful creature that she felt herself turning into.
She knew that it was only because Patrick cared about her that he insisted on looking after her. At first, Holly appreciated his comforting presence. Returning to her flat, knowing that Harvey had been in there, knowing that he'd spent so many days and nights standing just outside, watching her every move was too disturbing. As the weeks slowly ticked by though she realised that she was still under the constant gaze of someone. Although Patrick was only trying to help, there was something stifling about it. She couldn't move without him asking if she was OK. He barely let her out of his sight. What at first was exactly what she wanted and needed, soon turned into a new pressure.
She could never tell Patrick, after all the help he'd given her; she couldn't throw it back in his face. She tried gently to regain some independence but her own fears prevented her from returning to work. The only time Patrick felt comfortable to leave her alone was when she was visiting, or being visited by, a friend or colleague who he trusted. Holly felt herself increasingly looking forward to these respites in his care. A break from being treated as an invalid, someone incapable of coping with the simplest of tasks. She even realised that he was drugging her food when she refused to take the medicine that made her drowsy and feel even more vulnerable.
Leaving his protective clutches was a thought that ran round in her mind almost as often as thoughts of Tom Harvey did. Although when the time came that she couldn't cope any longer she shocked even herself by the force of her conviction. Weak, pathetic Holly Miles would disappear forever. She would be replaced by someone who could cope without anyone else, and who wasn't haunted by the memories.
Still gazing adoringly at her baby girl, Holly realised that little Patricia was symbolic of her new life. From now on, it would be just the two of them. She would make sure that her daughter would never go through what she had, would never feel so scared and so useless. She would be strong and independent. They would love, protect, and keep each other company. Holly really didn't need any one else now. Not even Patrick Spiller.
Friday lunchtime and Holly sank onto one of the hard plastic chairs that filled the staff canteen. She'd been on her feet for so long that even it's rigid shape was comfortable to her. As first weeks went, she'd certainly had worse; her first impressions of the department had been pretty much entirely right. The staff was efficient and friendly, the ward was well organised, and she managed to slip into her new routine very easily indeed. Even if running the place was exhausting.
She opened her packet of sandwiches and began salivating over the cardboard bread and plastic cheese. She took a huge unladylike bite, followed by a swig of lukewarm coffee to wash it down. She felt more revived already. It was only midway through her second mouthful that Holly saw Peter Bower enter the canteen.
For an awkward second, they just stared at each other. She was pretty sure that her was trying to decide whether to turn and run or not. She wondered fleetingly if that was the look that she had when she last saw him as a young child. Her last day in Holby she had been baby-sitting for him and his siblings. That, was what she had always considered the straw that broke the camel's back. When she realised just how many lives had been ruined because of her.
Holly couldn't really blame him if he did want to run away, in the last week she hadn't treated him very well. After the initial shock and panic at seeing him she had spent many an hour convincing herself that the chances of him recognising he were less than remote and that she had clearly over reacted. Unfortunately, it seemed that the damage had already been done. He was wary of her, always polite and professional though. He was a credit to his parents, she thought as she saw him work. Still, he kept his distance from her. Hard as it was to be greeted everyday by a bitter reminder of her days at Holby she felt she shouldn't let that interfere with the running of her department. At present an SHO and a consultant who couldn't work together were certainly doing that.
She decided that enough was enough. Maybe Holly Miles was the sort of person to let her personal problems interfere with work but Holly Milton was far more professional than that. She lifted her hand into the air and waved at the young doctor. For a fleeting moment his brow furrowed, then he made his way to the table and hovered a step away from it wondering if he'd been invited to sit down or merely beckoned over for a brief word.
"Dr Milton". He nodded his greeting.
"Peter, do you have time to sit down?"
"Um, yes doctor" and obediently he sat in the vacant seat opposite her.
"I feel that perhaps we got off on the wrong foot..." This was much harder than she had expected it to be.
Peter eyed her nervously, though from her point of view he was disturbingly inscrutable. The last couple of days had been a nightmare for him. He'd spent them constantly checking and rechecking every decision he'd made. He was proud of his work as a doctor; it was all he'd ever wanted to be, just like his late father. Up until Dr Milton's arrival in the hospital, he had been confident that he was well on his way up the ranks. Whatever else had happened in his life, whatever uncertainties there were he always knew where he was with his work. Now that was all turned upside down. For a man who'd always found it difficult to express his feelings to even his closest family he was driving himself mad with thoughts of failure.
"... And I fear that it's all been my fault, you see..." She tried out possible sentences in her head, none of them sounded right: You see, you're an uncomfortable reminder of a bad experience I had. You see, it was my fault your father died. You see, I'm frightened that your mother will find me, she must hate me...
"Dr Milton? Are you OK?"
"Sorry, yes I'm fine, it's just..." Her fresh attempt was rudely interrupted by a persistent bleeping emanating from her jacket pocket. She pulled her pager out and read it's tiny screen. "I'm sorry Peter, I have to go, we'll finish this later, yes?"
She was already out of chair by the time he responded that that was fine. As he watched her go, he couldn't help but wonder just what was going on with his strange new boss.
"What are you doing here?" Patrick asked gruffly as he opened the door to greet his unexpected visitor and finished buttoning the shirt of his dinner suit at the same time.
"That's what I like about you Patrick, always straight to the point." James returned. Patrick opened the door a little wider and invited his friend in.
"Just thought I'd stop by and make sure you haven't forgotten about tonight. I know you think this fund-raiser is a waste of your precious time but you should still turn up..."
"I said I will, didn't I? Where else would I be going looking like a bleedin' penguin?" They made their way into the sitting room and Patrick headed for his whiskey bottle to poor a drink. He had a feeling he was going to need it.
"I know you Patrick. I know all about you conveniently forgetting things that you don't want to do. I also know that you'd probably prefer to have a night out elsewhere, or a quiet night in, with your lady friend so I'm here to make sure you don't."
"Some friend you are!" He chuckled, then remembered just who his 'lady friend' was; "Anyway that's not going to happen, believe me".
"Why'd you say that? Don't you like her? Or did you just pick up some random woman somewhere just so you wouldn't have to go with my Kelly? You still haven't told me anything about her..." He joked. Patrick did his best not to let on how close James had actually got to the truth.
"Don't be ridiculous. It's just she's an acquaintance rather than a lover, she's only just got in contact with me again..." He hoped that would do it. After all, it was the truth, even if the only reason he had invited her was so he didn't have to go with Kelly. Still James didn't need to know that.
"I see." James said, looking like he didn't really see at all. "So... does she have a name?"
"Duffy". Patrick said, between sips of his drink. He held an empty glass toward James as an offer of a drink.
"No thanks, bit early for all that. Duffy, you say? Why does that sound familiar?" He searched through his memory, it certainly was an unusual name, but he was sure he'd heard it before.
Patrick shrugged, "It's just her nickname but that's how I was introduced to her back at Holby..."
"The widow!" James suddenly exclaimed.
"I beg your pardon?"
"That's where I know the name from! The woman who's husband died during the Holly incident. Who you had a thing with once Holly had disappeared". He said triumphantly. Memories of the day when he finally managed to wheedle out his new registrar the story of what had happened to make Patrick leave his job in Holby, and put him in such an odd mood, flooding back.
"Firstly I wish you wouldn't refer to what happened so flippantly as 'the Holly incident'."
"Sorry mate, I didn't mean to sound blasé." It was a heartfelt apology. It wasn't something that James had to live with everyday, whereas the look on Patrick's face showed all too clearly that it was something that still caused him an awful lot of pain.
"And secondly I did not have a 'thing' with Duffy, as you put it. She was just a colleague who I happened to talk to occasionally."
"If you say so..." He certainly always talked about her fondly. That was something that couldn't be said about most people he mentioned.
"I do. She's just a friend".
"Sure, but she's been upped from acquaintance to friend in the last thirty seconds... " Patrick tried to ignore this comment. "Anyway, when are you picking her up? If you keep drinking like that you won't be able to drive."
"She's meeting me there." He replied dismissively. It wasn't like it was a date and he had to impress her after all.
"Patrick! Don't you have any manners", Patrick raised an eyebrow, "where does she live?"
"Go pick her up, be a gentleman for goodness sakes. Well go on!" He tried to chivvy the reluctant Patrick out to his car. Patrick did as he was told, if only because the journey to Holby would afford him a break from James questions and insinuations about his relationship with Duffy.
"So what else have you got?" Trish asked, tossing aside the albums she'd already listened to. Andie scrabbled off her bed and pulled open a draw in her desk lifting out a few more and passing them to Trish.
"Most of my stuff is saved on my computer..."
"It must be so cool to have a friend abroad who can get you all this stuff!"
"Oh year! Louis is fantastic, here..." Andie said passing Trish a photograph of Louis and flopping back down beside her new friend.
"Shame." They both laughed.
It had been less than a week since the girls had met but already they had become firm friends. Apart from their taste in music, they also had in common an understanding of being the less-than-interested daughters of medical professionals. Moreover Trish hadn't any other friends in the city and Andie's friends had all gone away for the holidays so they both felt lonely enough to enjoy the company of someone new.
Andie was somewhat fascinated by Trish. Trish was around a full year younger than she was, though it didn't show, if anything her trendy clothes and fashionable haircut made her seem the older one. She also had a more street-wise attitude than the girl who had been brought up with the constant protective supervision of not only her mother but two older brothers as well. In some respects, Andie envied Trish. She envied her strong will, her assertive attitude, and the freedom that she seemed to have.
Trish was rather intrigued by Andie. Andie was older, but lacking in the pretensions and snotty attitudes of the older kids back home. She was genuine and friendly and Trish had never found herself getting along with someone so quickly before. She was pretty, had nice clothes and things but didn't seem to have the need to fit in with every new fashion fad. She was happy to be just Andie, and Trish envied her that. She also envied the fact that she had what appeared to be such a close relationship with her family. And she had brothers; Trish had always wanted an older brother!
"How'd you meet him?" Trish asked still studying the picture intently.
"Oh, long story. The potted version is that his Dad was a friend to my Mum and Dad years ago when they worked together at the hospital. Louis's Mum got a job in Canada and took him over there, and even though his parents got divorced his Dad moved out there too. He lost contact with Mum, but then last year Louis found us again and came to visit. We've been friends ever since." Andie rattled the story off absently. It was old news to her and she couldn't imagine that Trish would be very interested in it.
"You're so lucky..." She said in what could almost be described as a wistful tone.
"What? Oh..." she said as though she hadn't realised that she'd said it aloud, "I just mean that, well, you know this stuff, about your Mum and Dad and the people they worked with. My Mum doesn't tell me anything. I don't even know who my father is." She rolled over onto her back and stared up at the ceiling, her arms stretched up by her ears and her hands dangling over the side of the bed.
"You've got no idea at all?" Andie questioned.
"None. Mum never talks about him. Just says he was a nice enough man, who she didn't love, and who didn't want a baby. I don't even know what his name is."
"Tell me about it! Then she gets all weird when I ask her stuff... So where's your Dad?"
"He died before I was born."
"Before you were born?" She said incredulously.
"Yeah, a couple of weeks before. Some guy pushed him down some stairs at the hospital. Hang on..." She sprung off the bed and went to her desk, rooting around in a disorganised pile of paperwork. Trish sat up and waited for Andie to bring over the printout she was looking for.
"Mum got in contact with some old friend of hers, so I got, well, a little nosy and did some digging on him. I found this picture on the Internet. Mum totally freaked when she saw it. I mean, you think your Mum acts weird, you've never met mine! So I did some more checking..." As she spoke she handed the printout to Trish, who started scanning over the unfamiliar faces.
"Anyway, there's Mum and Dad, Louis's Dad, the guy Mum 'isn't dating honest' and there, he's the one who killed my father. Only a few months after this picture was taken."
"S**t!" Trish exclaimed, going as white as a ghost.
"I know, it's bad isn't it, he was friend of theirs and he killed my..."
"No!" she interrupted, "Well, yes, it's bad, but look, there... look!" She started jabbing her finger wildly at the woman in the teddy bear T-shirt shock and pure disbelief in her eyes.
"That's, that's my Mum. I'm sure of it. Younger and her hair's a bit different but it's definitely her. When was this taken?"
"Your Mum? That's Holly Miles she was an SHO. This was in, I don't know, late 2000? Are you sure that's your Mum?"
"Of course I'm sure! But I don't understand. Her name's Holly Milton, not Miles, it just doesn't make sense!" she rubbed hard at her temples trying to work out just what it meant. Andie's Mum used to work with her own Mum. She must have known her; she might know the answers to all the questions she had about her Mum, about her Dad.
Andie looked at the photo, then at Trish and then at the photo again. What Trish was saying didn't seem possible, but then she had no reason to lie. Maybe their parents had worked together, it was a big hospital, many staff, it wasn't that unlikely. Her mother had reacted badly to seeing that picture, to seeing Holly's face. Perhaps Trish's Mum could solve some of the mystery behind her Dad's death. The rest of her family wasn't helping; this was just the break she needed.
The girls sat in silence allowing the bizarre turn of events to sink into their subconscious.
It was a beautiful fresh evening, the sort that was perfect for going out and enjoying your self in, and Duffy had every intention of doing just that. She hummed a vague half-remembered tune to herself as she parked her car in her driveway.
A large blue paper clothes bag lay on the passenger seat, the black, slightly sparkly material of her new evening dress spilling out of it tantalisingly. She pulled the dress fully out of it's wrapper and stroked the soft fabric. The moment she'd seen it in the shop window she'd fallen for it. It was far too expensive of course, but then it wasn't as if she treated her self very often. It was beautiful, it was flattering, and even though she was certain Patrick only invited her because whoever he really wanted to go with had turned him down, she didn't see that as any reason not to enjoy the evening.
In fact, she'd been looking forward to it ever since Patrick's telephone call. Their dinner together had been nice, Patrick had been surprisingly good company and he seemed so much happier than when he was last in Holby. Maybe he'd finally put Holly behind him. She was glad if he had, he shouldn't live his life feeling guilty and miserable.
She folded the dress back into its bag and looked at her watch. It was getting late, she'd obviously spent longer in the salon getting her hair re tinted than she had thought. She was going to have to hurry if she didn't want Patrick thinking that she was standing him up.
Duffy resumed her humming as she locked the car and unlocked her front door. She could hear music coming from Andie's room as she stepped inside but nothing was going to ruin her mood. She closed the front door and slipped up the stairs into her own room. Then excitedly got changed into her new dress.
"Did you hear someone come in just then?" Trish asked, straining to as she turned the music down.
"I think so. It'll be Mum, she's got some big party thing on tonight."
"Will you introduce us?" She looked expectantly at the other girl. Trish had to meet her; she just had to.
Andie wasn't so sure. She didn't want to upset her mother, and she had a strong feeling that that was what would happen if Trish went barging in demanding information. Andie thought that the best course of action would be to go back over to Trish's place. Confront her mother, she'd done more of the secret hiding than Duffy had.
"I don't think that this is the best time Trish..."
"So when is? I've waited seventeen years to find out about my birth, Mum's past, who I am and where I came from!"
"Another day won't hurt then!" Andie tried. Trish shot her a withering stare.
"I'll do it without you then." In a flash, she was opening the door. Andie jumped up after her.
"OK, OK, just let me do the talking." Trish shrugged and the girls followed the sound of Duffy's humming to her bedroom. Andie knocked politely and then stood back and waited.
Duffy finished applying her mascara, stood up, and straightened her dress. Then she walked to her bedroom door and opened it, wondering half-heartedly why Andie would be knocking when usually she would barge straight in.
"Evening sweetheart. Oh you've got a friend round..." she waited to be introduced to this new girl.
"Mum, you look great! I love the hair... Oh and this is my friend Trish." She said, trying to make it sound as casual as possible.
"OK Andrea Bower, what are you after?" Duffy asked jokingly although she was touched by the compliment.
"Nothing!" She replied defensively. Trish elbowed her in the side and made her flinch. "Well, there was something..."
"I knew it! So go on the while I'm in a good mood." Andie groaned inwardly. It wasn't al that often that her mother was in such an obvious good mood and this was sure to ruin it. She tried to think of a good way to broach the subject of her father's death, if there was such a thing as a good way.
"We think you knew my Mum." Trish blurted out, fed up of Andie's pussyfooting around. She held up the printout she was still holding for Duffy to see. "That's her, there in the pale blue."
That damn photo again. She could hardly bear to look at it. Forcing her self to retain her composure, she glanced at where Trish was violently jabbing the paper. It was Holly. She looked back up at the teenager, at her brown eyes, large as saucers, then over to Andie and her anxious expression. Then back again to Trish.
"Your mother? Holly Miles is your mother?" The words came out slowly, hundreds of questions galloping through her mind.
"Her name," She stressed, "Is Holly Milton, but it's her. Dr Holly Milton, consultant paediatrician at St. Mary's hospital. Born Christmas day 1973, yeah?" Duffy staggered back into her bedroom and collapsed onto her dressing table chair.
Holly's back, her brain screamed, Holly's back and she's got a daughter, who's standing in the doorway of my room expecting me to give her some sort of explanation. She felt herself start to laugh. Not a joyful happy laugh but a mirthless, strangled, bewildered one.
"Mum?!" Andie rushed to her mother's side; "Look what you've done!" She shot angrily back at Trish.
"It's all right Andie, it's just", She focused on the bemused young woman, "Holly disappeared, vanished, I mean she left a note but no one ever saw her again. I thought... I thought she'd... the way the note was phrased... She's your mother?"
Anything that Trish might have been able to say in response was cut off by a persistent knocking at the front door. Andie pushed past Trish and ran down the stairs to answer the door, leaving the other two behind.
She yanked the door open, angry at the interruption. An old-ish looking man in a dinner suit was waiting on the other side of it, appearing to be a little uncomfortable. He took Andie in with a glance, noting both her resemblance to her mother and her decidedly troubled expression.
"Hello. Is your mother still here, or has she left already?" He asked in a muted Yorkshire accent. It took a minute for Andie to work out just what the hell he was talking about.
"You're Patrick Spiller!" She pointed an accusatory finger at him. The man from the picture.
"Guilty". He responded but she was already half way up the stairs, back to Duffy's room. He followed her into the house, pushing the door shut behind him and bounding up the stairs him self.
He arrived a split second after her, mildly out of breath and thoroughly confused. He saw Duffy all dressed up, but white as a sheet and Andie and another girl looking not that much better.
"Have I interrupted something?"
Go to Part Five