Splintered Memory
Author:Natascha Holloway

Matt

He raced down the hospital corridor towards the ambulance bay, and he hoped that the three incoming casualties could be treated quickly. He wanted to get out of the hospital as soon as possible. Not only was he dead on his feet, but he was also supposed to be meeting Charlie at their favourite Chinese restaurant.

Matt knew that he was going to be late as it had already gone seven, but he was hoping that he could avoid being really late. He knew that Charlie wouldn’t mind or even comment on his lateness, she was after all used to it from him, but just recently they’d been arguing a lot and he wanted to put things right between them.

On top of this their last fight had been a couple of days ago, and he’d been paged by the hospital right in the middle of it. Since then he hadn’t been able to get away to make it up with her. He hadn’t even had the chance to speak to her on the phone, and he wondered how many missed calls and messages he’d have waiting on his mobile.

He also had the feeling that tonight was intended to be a celebration. Charlie had been working even longer hours than normal for her recently, and she’d been talking about the possibility of being promoted. He was so proud of her and he wanted them to have a good night, especially if they were celebrating a promotion for her.

He looked at his watch again, and he really hoped that he could be out of the hospital in an hour.


Charlie

She was in a rush to get home and she knew that she was driving too fast, but she hadn’t told Matt that she’d gone to Bath to see Claire and she was hoping to avoid having to tell him. She’d known that if she had or if she did it would only lead to another argument between them, and they’d been arguing enough about Claire recently she thought.

Charlie hoped that given that Matt had been called into work in the middle of their last argument – also about Claire, and hadn’t returned any of her calls since, this meant that he’d been stuck at the hospital for the past couple of days. If this was the case, then she knew that he wouldn’t have had the chance to notice that she’d been away. Yet as she thought this she felt awful. She hated keeping the truth from him, she’d always hated keeping the truth from him, but she was in an untenable situation. She was torn between her best friend and her husband.

Her friendship with Claire had always been a cause of dispute with Matt. The two of them just didn’t see eye to eye on anything, including her. They’d always bickered, but somehow she’d always been able to remain neutral. That had all changed though when Claire had started dating Nick. Somehow it seemed that their fledgling relationship had been the catalyst for all of her arguments with Matt, but it had only been recently that she’d realised just how much of a toll her friendship with Claire had and was having on her relationship with Matt.

She couldn’t remember a time when they’d ever argued the way that they had been recently, and she knew that she owed it to him to address this with Claire. Charlie knew that Matt was the most important person to her, and that if something had to give in her life it’d never be him. Yet at the same time she owed Claire more than just a call to tell her this.

There was also another issue. Charlie had never once broken a promise to Claire, and she’d promised her on her birthday to go with her when she went for her abortion. That had been today, and Charlie hadn’t felt right going back on her word. If she was honest she also hadn’t wanted to, despite knowing how angry Matt would be if he knew where she’d been today.

She pressed her foot down harder on the accelerator and glanced at the time again. She was running late, and she knew that if she wanted to avoid having another argument with Matt about Claire then she needed to hurry. She’d told him to meet her in town at eight as they were going to their favourite Chinese restaurant, and she knew that she needed to go home first.

She wanted to get back, unpack, shower and change. She wanted to look good tonight, because she knew that when she told Matt her news they’d be celebrating. She also knew that he was going to be shocked, but equally delighted when he heard what she had to tell him.

Charlie had initially booked the table hoping to be able to tell him that she’d been made a senior associate at work, but she’d found out a few days ago that she hadn’t been promoted. To her surprise though, she hadn’t felt downcast about this news. It just hadn’t seemed to matter quite as much to her as she’d thought it would, although she had wondered if her reaction might’ve had something to do with her having found out only hours earlier that she was pregnant.

She knew that Matt was going to be ecstatic when she told him. He’d wanted to start a family for a while now, but she knew that he hadn’t wanted to push her. He understood the demands of her career, just as she understood his, and he knew that she was devoted to making partner.

Charlie was still devoted to making partner one day, but now she didn’t feel that there was quite so much of a rush about it. She’d also started to wonder if she might like to change roles. She’d been at her current firm since she’d left uni, and of late she’d started to find the daily grind less and less enjoyable.

She’d thought that maybe she’d like to move away from a large firm and go in house with a company, or perhaps just move to a smaller firm. Yet after seeing everything that Claire had been going through recently, she’d realised just how much she wanted to have a family with Matt. She’d known that she hadn’t wanted to put it off anymore, especially not just for the sake of her career.

Charlie hated that she’d been lying to him about work, about Claire, and about being pregnant. She felt guilty that he didn’t know but Claire did. They’d never kept secrets from each other, but until she’d made the decision about her career for herself she hadn’t wanted to discuss it with him. She’d known that he’d worry that she was giving up something that she’d always wanted in order for them to have a family, and she hadn’t wanted his worries or guilt about her career to make her doubt her own decision. She also hadn’t wanted to raise his hopes about them having a baby, if she hadn’t been one hundred percent sure that she had wanted to start a family.

The very last thing she’d wanted to do was to tease him with the idea that they should try for a baby, only to change her mind. It wouldn’t have been fair on him. Unfortunately the problem was, when she’d finally made the decision to come off the pill they’d been arguing so much about Claire that she’d forgotten to tell him. So she knew that he didn’t even know that they’d been trying for a baby, which she felt sure was only going to add his surprise tonight.

She looked again at her watch anxiously and breathed a sigh of relief. It was a quarter to five, and she knew now that it was okay. She was just coming off the M5 and onto the Bristol Road. If she really stepped on it she could be home just before five, which would give her enough time to hide her bag before Matt got home.

She knew that she was making the assumption that he’d end his shift on time, which wasn’t all that likely, but she thought that it was better to be safe than sorry. She knew that if he beat her back home then she’d have to explain where she’d been, and then they’d argue and she’d never get the chance to tell him that she was pregnant.

Glancing into the rear view mirror, she didn’t see the car in the lane next to her suddenly swerve into hers. Charlie slammed on the brakes, but it was too late. She heard the sound of her car hitting the one in front a second before she felt the impact of it. Her face smashed against the steering wheel and everything went dark.


Emily

She’d been supposed to meet Charlie for a glass of wine, but when she arrived at Matt and Charlie’s the back door was wide open. She smiled as she walked straight in, just as everyone always did at Matt and Charlie’s, and she shut the door behind her. She’d long since gotten used to it being left open by Matt, and shut by Charlie when she’d lived with them.

She loved their house. Coming in from the backdoor you were immediately in their kitchen. It wasn’t big, but it was cosy. It also had just enough room for a small round table in the middle of it, which Matt used as a general dumping ground for his coat, keys, bag, and whatever else he had on him.

The kitchen led straight onto the living room, and as Emily headed on through she stopped dead in her tracks. Matt was stood on one side of the living room and Charlie was stood on the other, and it was clear that they were right in the middle of a very heated argument.

“Why is it too much for me to say that I’m sick of her putting all of her shit on you?” Matt yelled.

“She’s my best friend. I shouldn’t confide her secrets to you, but I do because you’re my husband and I don’t want to keep any secrets from you. But her shit is my shit,” Charlie retorted.

Matt sneered.

“Fuck you!” Charlie said angrily.

“So her being able to confide in you is more important than our relationship?” Matt asked.

“No, but you’re being ridiculous! You’re my husband,” Charlie said. “You’ll always come first, but I won’t apologise for taking my friends feelings into account. Yes Claire’s fucked up, and I’m not denying that. But,” she continued as Matt went to intercede; “she does love Nick in her own way, and you shouldn’t be so eager all the time to ruin what they have.”

“Me ruin it? You’re joking right? What if things were the other way around? What if I confided in you that Nick had been fooling around and had gotten some other girl pregnant? Are you telling me that you wouldn’t be straight on the phone to Claire?” Matt demanded.

Charlie looked at him and opened her mouth to retort, but then she closed it again. Emily watched as Charlie’s face faltered as she realised that she didn’t have a response, and she slowly sank down onto the sofa and put her head in her hands. Emily saw the anger in Matt’s face drain as he too watched Charlie, and she followed him with her eyes as he walked across the room to sit down next to her.

“I’m sorry,” Charlie said looking up into Matt’s face. “I hadn’t thought of it like that. I’d only seen things from Claire’s perspective. I’ll speak to her, and I won’t put you in the middle again I promise. But please, for now, for me, promise not to say anything to Nick,” she asked him softly as she put her hand delicately to his face and turned her body to face him.

“Charlie,” Matt said. Unfortunately his tone had already let him down by sounding defeated.

“Please,” Charlie said sweetly. To which Emily watched Charlie smile and flash her big brown eyes at Matt. She then kissed his chin, his cheeks, and finally his lips. A knot formed in Emily’s stomach, and she seemed paralysed to the spot but she was unable to look away.

“Pretty please,” Charlie said even more sweetly and continuing to give Matt little kisses.

Emily watched Matt succumb to Charlie, and she watched them kiss. She heard their whispered apologies to each other between their increasingly ragged breaths, but just as she was forcing herself to turn away Charlie suddenly stood up and stripped off her top. Emily saw that she was braless underneath, and she felt her face flush. She turned to leave, but in the same instant Charlie saw her stood in the doorway. She tried to look away feeling incredibly embarrassed, and Charlie tried to cover herself up with the top that was still in her hands as she said; “hi!”

“I thought we were having drinks? Sorry,” Emily said as she turned to leave.

“No, wait,” Charlie said. “Shit. Sorry we are supposed to be having drinks, don’t go.”

Matt, who had only looked over at Emily once his attention had been drawn to her by Charlie, stood up and looked at his wife with indignation. He had obviously been hoping that Charlie would let her go.

“No, honestly, it’s okay. You obviously have other engagements,” Emily said nodding in Matt’s direction and feeling incredibly embarrassed as she felt her face burn brightly.

“She does,” Matt said grinning at his wife and making Charlie also flush with embarrassment.

Emily felt the knot in her stomach tighten, and a stab of jealousy cut through her chest.

“Can you give us ten minutes? I’ll come and meet you in the pub,” Charlie said to Emily.

“Oi,” Matt said poking Charlie in her side; “couldn’t you have said twenty?”

Charlie laughed, as did Emily.

“I’ll wait in the pub,” Emily said to Charlie before dashing from the room still feeling massively embarrassed.

It was not the situation that had caused her embarrassment, but her jealousy. The jealousy that was still consuming her as she shut Matt and Charlie’s backdoor behind her and made her way to the pub.


Matt

“What have we got?” Matt asked the paramedics as the doors of the ambulance were opened, and he took the chart that the male paramedic handed to him. He then looked down at it and began reading it out loud; “female, unconscious, had to be intubated in the field...”

“Dr Grayson,” Emily said interrupting him.

He looked across at her. She was stood on the opposite side of the stretcher to him, and he could see that her face was full of concern. Yet it seemed to be full of concern for him and not the patient. He followed her eyes down to the female patient in front of them, and he saw that the unconscious female that had had to intubated in the field was Charlie.

Matt dropped the chart that he’d been holding to the floor, and he stared almost unseeingly at Charlie. He didn’t hear any more of what was being said around him, because suddenly the whole world had been silenced. Lying there right in front of him was his wife. She had a tube in her throat, and there was blood on her face.

“Charlie,” he said to her not letting the paramedics move the stretcher inside the hospital. He stroked her face lightly as though she was merely asleep, and like he did at home to wake her.

“Dr Grayson,” Emily said to him urgently and taking his arm and pulling him out of the way; “we need to get her inside.”

Everything in Matt’s had world stopped, and he didn’t understand. He’d been running late. He’d expected Charlie to be in town, either still at work or killing time before meeting him at the restaurant. Why had she been on the Bristol road? What was she doing in the car? Where had she been? Yet as the questions filled his mind, the answers instantly followed.

He knew where she’d been, and he felt a sudden rush of anger towards his wife. He couldn’t believe that after all of their arguments, after all of her promises, she’d still gone to Bath to hold Claire’s hand while she aborted what could possibly be his friend’s baby.

***

“How embarrassing,” Charlie said turning to face Matt after she’d heard Emily shut the back door to their house.

“She lived here. She’s bound to have heard us having sex. What are you embarrassed for?” He asked smiling and then leaning in to kiss her neck.

He ripped the top that she was holding in front of her out of her hands, and cast it onto the floor. He wrapped his arms around her waist, pulled her towards him, and pressed his body against hers as he leant forward to kiss her again.

“What do you mean she would’ve heard us?” Charlie asked pulling back from his kiss.

“We’ve got ten minutes till you’ve promised to go for a drink. Do you really want to spend them talking about whether or not Emily has ever heard us having sex, or would you rather that we actually go upstairs and have sex?” Matt asked grinning now, and again leaning in to kiss her.

“Upstairs, stat,” Charlie said with a huge grin spreading across her face.

Matt grabbed Charlie’s hand, and they headed towards the stairs together at full pace.

***

Matt scrolled through his phone for Claire’s number, but he was so angry that when he found it he could barely hit the call button.

“Hey Matt, if you’re calling for Charlie she left hours ago. Maybe she’s hit some bad traffic or something,” Claire said perfectly at ease.

“She’s not in traffic,” Matt said through gritted teeth. His temper was rising to the point where everything he was seeing seemed to be tinged with red. “She’s been in accident.”

“Oh my god, oh my god,” Claire said clearly panicking on the other end of the line.

“Shut up Claire. God’s not going to help,” Matt said cruelly.

“Is she going to be okay?” Claire asked.

Matt hung up. He didn’t have enough patience to try and console Claire. It was her fault that Charlie had been in an accident, and he didn’t even know why he’d bothered calling her.

He tried desperately to calm down, but he was just so angry. He leant against the wall outside the hospital and rested his head back, took some deep breaths, and tried unsuccessfully to clear his mind. He felt his phone vibrate, and he looked down at it and saw Claire’s name flashing up.

“What?” He asked venomously.

“Matt, Charlie’s pregnant. She was going to tell you tonight, but I thought you might need to know now,” Claire said. It sounded to Matt like she was crying, but he hung up without really caring or saying another word to her.

He felt in shock, but he knew that whichever one of his colleagues was treating Charlie would need to know. He ran back inside and towards where he knew she would’ve been taken for treatment.

“Matt you can’t go in there,” James said catching his upper arm as he went to carry on walking past him. “Matt, I’m serious. You’re no good to her in there. You can’t be her doctor.”

“Who is in there?” Matt demanded of James aggressively, wrenching his arm out of James’ grip.

“Oak’s in with her,” James responded.

Matt did a double take. Oak was one of the best doctor’s at the hospital. He was calm under pressure, and he seemed to be able to make the right call about each and every patient without doubt or hesitation. He was nicknamed Oak because he had years of experience and wisdom, and was always around for all of the doctors to go to, but he rarely treated patients anymore.

Oak believed that his experience was better used in guiding the talent of the future, but there were rumours that he drank and avoided patients. Matt though had dismissed these as nonsense. He’d often seen Oak watching over the carnage that the A&E regularly witnessed, and he’d always been able to jump in and lend a hand wherever and whenever it was needed.

Matt couldn’t decide whether it was a good thing or not though that Oak was in with Charlie. Did this mean that her condition was so bad that he’d had to step in? Or had he stepped in because everyone had known that it was Charlie? It was likely to be the first he knew. He didn’t even need to imagine what the rest of her chart had said. They’d already been warned that the female patient was likely to be DOA. He’d said as much to Emily.

“He needs to know she’s pregnant,” Matt said hearing his voice crack as he said it and trying desperately to forget the idea of Charlie having been dead on arrival.

James looked at him sympathetically, and then asked the obvious question that Matt cursed himself for never having asked Claire. “How far along is she?”

Matt looked at him blankly. “I don’t know. She hadn’t gotten around to telling me yet,” he said.

James turned and walked into the room where Charlie was being treated, and Matt could feel that he was shaking. He knew that he was in shock, and he knew that he was seconds from falling apart. He walked away from the room where Charlie’s life was potentially hanging in the balance, and he all but ran towards his office. He could feel the panic rising within him, and it was beginning to overpower him. He felt like his heart was about to be torn wide open.

Matt only just made it to his office before the tears came, but embarrassed by his reaction he punched the wall. As he felt the pain in his right hand burn, he began to cry in earnest. He slid down the wall, pulled his knees up to his chest, and put his head in his hands.

***

“That was amazing,” Matt said to Charlie. He was smiling, and feeling exhilarated as they walked out of the Red Sea and back up onto the beach where they’d left their towels and clothes.

They were each holding their snorkels and flippers in their hands, and as he looked across at Charlie he thought for what was probably the hundredth time that day just how lucky he was. She was beautiful, and she looked phenomenal in the black bikini that she had on. Added to this her skin was enhanced by a week’s worth of Egyptian sun, and her body was currently sparkling from the reflection of the water that was still desperately clinging to her bronzed skin.

Matt spied a young man eyeing her up, and he smiled to himself. He couldn’t believe the number of looks that she’d been getting while they’d been away. In fact at this rate he thought, he was going to have to keep her in their room for the remainder of the holiday. Although in addition to the looks that she’d been receiving from all the men at their resort, Matt had also seen a number of women looking at her jealously after catching their other halves looking in her direction.

“We should do it again before we go home,” she said pulling on her T-shirt and putting on her baseball cap before bending down to rummage through her bag. She then stood up, undid the lid of what she was holding, and gently applied some cream to Matt’s nose, cheeks, and forehead.

“Your face has caught the sun,” she said as she put the lid back on the sun cream before throwing it back into her bag and grabbing her short denim skirt.

He normally loved to see her in this skirt, but he was disappointed to see her put it on now as he had been enjoying the view of the bottom half of her body in just her bikini.

“Um huh,” he said. Yet he wasn’t worried about his face, and he wasn’t really listening to what she was saying. He was totally lost in thought about her body, and he was wishing that she’d stop putting her clothes back on. He was also wishing that they were back in their hotel room.

Charlie leaned in towards him, and put her mouth against his ear and whispered; “why are you looking at me as if you’re about to put a fiver in my skirt?”

He smiled guilty, and pulled her into a bear of a hug before kissing her neck. “It’d be at least a tenner Mrs Grayson,” he whispered back grinning and then kissing her.

He could taste the salt on her lips from the sea, and he was enjoying the familiar sensation of his wife’s kiss when her stomach suddenly rumbled loudly and they broke apart laughing.

“Hungry?” He asked.

“Starving,” she said grinning back at him.

“I’ve got an idea,” he said.

Charlie eyed him suspiciously.

“Room service,” he said with a wink making Charlie laugh.

Matt grabbed all of their stuff from the beach, and began to jog towards the road pulling Charlie along after him. Unfortunately by the time they got into the lift of their hotel to go up to their floor and room, Matt was feeling self-conscious about the way that Charlie kept looking at him.

“What?” He asked nervously as he caught her eyes once again.

“Nothing, “she said quickly. But when he looked at her dubiously, she smiled and said; “it’s just that I haven’t seen you look at me this way since our wedding night.”

The lift doors opened, and Matt grabbed Charlie’s hand and pulled her towards their room. Unfortunately once they neared it he couldn’t get the door open quickly enough, and once inside he couldn’t get Charlie or himself undressed fast enough. Charlie started laughing, and she only stopped when Matt lifted himself up from on top of her and she noticed that he looked serious.

“You’re laughing at me?” He asked looking hurt.

She nodded and rolled so that she forced Matt onto his back. “Yes,” she said smiling and then leaning forward to kiss him. But Matt turned his face away.

“Why?” He asked still looking hurt

Charlie held his chin in her hand so that he couldn’t turn his face away again, and she kissed him whilst keeping her eyes open and locked on his. “I’m not going anywhere,” she said. When he smiled, she kissed him again. Yet as he went to pull her into a deeper kiss she pulled away. She smiled at him seductively and kissed his cheeks, his jaw, and then his neck. He smiled again, and she slowly started to work her way down his body.

Matt closed his eyes, and he enjoyed the sensation of Charlie’s kiss and touch upon his skin which was sending shivers down his spine. He looked down at her, and she smiled straight back up at him. He smiled and inclined his head to show that he wanted her to come back towards his face and lips, and once her face was above his again he kissed her and gently rolled her so that she was on her back. He then lightly pressed his weight down upon her, and his hands began to explore her body.

“I love you,” he said. He then spread her legs a little wider with his own, and he smiled to himself as he heard Charlie’s familiar gasp as he slid inside her and they began to make love.

“I love you too,” she said her voice catching on each word as her pleasure intensified.

Matt felt Charlie dig her nails into the backs of his shoulders, and wrap her legs more tightly around him. He looked into her face, and when she smiled at him he lost himself in her. He closed his eyes as he felt the familiar sensation mount within him, and when he heard Charlie let out a familiar scream he couldn’t hold back any longer and he groaned into her.

Charlie kissed his neck, and he lifted his weight off her and rested his head by hers as he caught his breath. She kissed his neck again, and he kissed her cheek before rolling off her entirely.

That night as Charlie slept with her head resting on his chest, and her left hand on his stomach, he lay awake listening to her breathe and thinking once more how incredibly lucky he was.

***

“Matt,” Oak said in his gruff voice making Matt look up and feel suddenly sick to his stomach.

He saw that Oak was looking at him as though unsure of how to say what he’d come to tell him, and he’d never seen Oak like this before. He was afraid. He was in fact terrified, and he was sure that Oak was about to tell him the news that he was certain that he couldn’t handle hearing.

“Charlie’s been taken into surgery. She’s bleeding internally, obviously from a result of being pinned in the car. She’s fighting, but your baby it…”

“It won’t survive the operation,” Matt finished for Oak in a deadened tone.

“No,” Oak said. “She also has some bleeding in her brain, but they won’t know the full extent of that until they get her into surgery.”

“Okay,” Matt said dropping his head. “So we wait.”

“We wait,” Oak said.

Matt felt Oak put his hand on his shoulder, and he nodded in recognition of the gesture. He knew what needed to be done next. He knew that there were people that had to be told.

He looked up at Oak and said; “I need to call her parents, and mine.”


Claire

She was sat on her sofa holding her phone between her hands and against her chest. She hoped that Matt would call her with an update even if he was furious with her, and she hoped that Charlie was okay. She couldn’t be too badly hurt she told herself. Matt hadn’t sounded upset when they’d spoken she thought. No she said to herself reassuringly, he’d just sounded angry.

She looked at the screen on her phone and willed it to show Matt calling. She knew that Charlie would be okay, she had to be. There were too many people that depended on her for her not to be okay, and Claire knew that she was just one of them.

Charlie and Claire had been best friends since they were babies. Charlie’s mum and Claire’s mum had been best friends at school, and they had had the girls within two months of each other. From the moment that they were old enough to talk and know each other, they had been the best of friends and had shared everything.

Whilst Charlie had been the girl next door growing up; pretty, sporty, and popular. Claire had been the trouble maker; loud and abrasive, and very aware of her own sex appeal to all the boys at their school from a young age. Yet whenever Claire had done something wrong, which had been often, Charlie had always been the first person that she’d confided in. She’d just always known how to solve Claire’s dilemmas, although it had often entailed her taking a share of the blame for Claire’s actions.

Many people had tried to come between the two of them over the years; other girls that had wanted to be as popular as they were, or boys who’d tried to play them off against one another, but nothing had worked. The two of them had been and to this day remained above such things.

Charlie knew Claire better than anyone in the world, and in return Claire felt sure that she knew Charlie better than anyone else as well. Although she knew that Matt would likely disagree with this, but then she and Matt rarely saw eye to eye on anything.

Claire had tried to get along with Matt for Charlie’s sake, but he was uncompromising towards her and she’d long since given up trying with him. She was civil, but he knew as well as she did that this was for Charlie’s sake and not his. Recently though, the animosity between them had intensified and she blamed him for this. He hadn’t liked it when she’d started dating Nick, and he’d been fairly vocal about this, but his reaction had riled her and she’d made that apparent.

She knew that it was no secret that she’d been a commitment phobe, and had moved between relationships at speed, and whilst she knew that this wasn’t her most endearing quality it had still annoyed her that Matt hadn’t even been willing to give her the benefit of the doubt when she’d gotten together with Nick. He’d just seemed intent on splitting them up and on getting Nick to see the error of his ways.

Charlie had defended Claire whenever the subject had come up, but Claire knew from Charlie’s recent silences in conversation that her relationship with Nick was taking a toll on Charlie’s relationship with Matt. She felt guilty about this, and she knew that until her and Nick’s relationship had begun Matt and Charlie’s had seemed impenetrable.

What had made her feel more guilty, was that she knew that all of Charlie’s support and arguments with Matt about her and Nick hadn’t been worthwhile. She had after only recently having moved in with Nick, had a one night stand with a man that she’d met in London on work.

Typically though, when she’d confided in Charlie she’d been nothing but supportive. She hadn’t thrown any of her arguments with Matt in her face, and she had instead just listened to her concerns over her relationship with Nick. She’d let her unload her conscience over her one night stand, that had actually by the time she’d confided in Charlie turned into a full blown affair, and she’d been reassuring and kind and just how she always was.

As Claire sat there hoping that her phone would ring, she couldn’t help but think that she was partly to blame for the accident. She could have stopped Charlie coming to see her. She could have gone to the clinic with someone else she thought. She shouldn’t have made Charlie skip work to be with her. It wasn’t fair, and she knew that she’d been taking advantage of their friendship recently.

She knew that Charlie had been going over and above what was expected of her as a best friend with the regular trips to Bath to check that she was okay, but she hadn’t thought to tell her this or even to stop her. She’d leant on Charlie the same way that she always did in a crisis, and she’d once again – just as she always did, taken advantage of her best friend’s overly generous nature.

Her mind kept turning back and running through the conversation that she’d had with Charlie, in her and Matt’s bathroom, on the night of her thirtieth birthday. If only she hadn’t told her about her pregnancy Claire thought desperately.

***

“Charlie I need to talk to you,” Claire whispered urgently as she followed Charlie into her bathroom.

Charlie looked at her with concern etched in her face and asked; “what’s wrong?”

Claire burst into tears, and Charlie shut the bathroom door. She pulled Claire into a hug, and then gently put her hand against Claire’s face and said; “don’t cry, whatever it is we’ll fix it.”

Claire felt herself smile through her tears. This was typical Charlie she thought; calm, reassuring, and one hundred percent confident that any problem could be solved.

“I’m pregnant,” Claire said turning away from Charlie to put the lid on the toilet seat down so that she could sit on it.

“And obviously delighted,” Charlie said perching on the edge of the bath and smiling playfully.

Claire smiled back in spite of herself, but then said desperately; “I don’t know who the father is.”

Charlie didn’t say anything for a second, and kept a completely composed face, but then as only she could she said something that completely threw Claire’s panic stricken train of thought.

“This other guy, Adam right, is he super hot? Okay hot? Or not that hot, but fantastic in the sack so all else is forgiven?” Charlie asked smiling again.

Claire started to laugh, and she tore off some toilet tissue from the roll on the holder next to her and wiped under her eyes. “He’s a hottie for sure, but more Rich hot rather than Matt’s ridiculous level of hotness. He’s absolutely amazing in bed though,” Claire said smiling.

Charlie nodded approvingly and then asked; “and what does he do, aside from satisfy you sexually of course?”

Claire looked at Charlie and they smiled at each other.

“He’s an investment banker in London. I met him when I was there finalising a deal with work. He was one of the bankers involved with the leveraged finance part of the acquisition,” she said.

Charlie nodded again and asked; “and does he make you happy?”

Claire smiled and nodded, but then she said sadly; “really happy. I think I’m falling for him.”

“What’s the situation like with Nick?” Charlie asked.

“He’s perfect Charlie, but I’m just not sure I love him. Everything about him annoys me,” Claire said; “and I’m mean to him for no reason.”

“Claire. You only think he’s perfect, because you two being together works in our group. You’re the two of us that weren’t paired off. When you got together,” Charlie said reaching across for Claire’s hand and then holding it tightly in her own; “you made us this set of four couples who’d all grown up together. But if he doesn’t make you happy, then you know he’s not perfect for you and you shouldn’t stay with him. You need to break up, and get with this banker!”

“But I’ll lose all of my friends,” Claire said miserably starting to cry again.

Charlie squeezed Claire’s hand and said; “you won’t lose me. You’re stuck with me forever.”

Claire rolled her eyes, and Charlie turned her right hand over and held it out in front of her. She then turned her own left hand over and put it alongside Claire’s.

Both of their hands had small, no more than an inch or so in length, thin white lines on them. Scars that they wore as permanent reminders of a summer spent watching too many films about friendships that ended in tragedy, which had led them to make a pact that they would be friends forever no matter what happened as they got older.

Claire looked from the scars on their hands back to Charlie’s face and half smiled. “What am I going to do about the baby? I can’t keep it. Not when I don’t know who the father is,” she said as she looked almost desperately at Charlie as though hoping she’d tell her what to do.

“Look that doesn’t matter. You need to make the choice for you. Do you want a baby?” Charlie asked her, and Claire shook her head crying again.

“So you don’t want a baby, that’s your choice. We can fix this Claire. You and I,” Charlie said smiling; “we can always fix things.”

Claire smiled back at her.

“I’m here for you, always and forever. Anytime you need me I’ll drop everything to be in Bath in a flash, even if it’s just to hold your hand because you’re feeling sad. Or even if it’s just to give you a hug because your hormones are all over the place,” Charlie said smiling again.

“Will you come with me if I have an abortion?” Claire asked nervously.

Charlie put her palm together with Claire’s, and then she looked into her face and said; “anything you need, I’ll be there for you. You want me to come with you? Then consider it done.”

Claire was so overcome with gratitude that she flung herself at Charlie, but the force of her hug sent Charlie – and her with her, into the bath that Charlie had been perched on. The two of them burst out laughing, and they were still trying to get untangled when Matt walked in on them.

***

Claire wished that she could go back in time and not tell Charlie about her pregnancy. She could’ve dealt with the situation on her own she said to herself. There was no reason that she always had to be so dependent on Charlie she thought angrily to herself. If she hadn’t relied on her then Charlie wouldn’t have been in Bath. If she hadn’t been in Bath then the accident couldn’t have happened. If the accident hadn’t happened then Charlie wouldn’t be in the hospital right now she told herself.

She started to cry. It was all her fault, and what was making her feel worse was the thought of the impact that her actions had obviously been having on Matt and Charlie’s relationship.

Claire believed without a doubt that she knew Charlie better than anyone. Yet she got the distinct impression, thinking about things now, that Charlie hadn’t recently been all that honest with her. She also got the sense that she’d been keeping things from Matt, and she wondered whether he’d known that Charlie had been coming to see her as frequently as she had over the past few weeks. Or for that matter, if he’d known that she’d been away from Birmingham at all.

Charlie was the most honest person that she knew. It wasn’t like her to keep secrets, especially not from Matt. Claire knew, embarrassingly, that Charlie told him everything and vice versa. They just didn’t keep secrets from one another. So if Charlie had started to, then Claire could only assume that their relationship was in a bad way.

She wondered distractedly how much she was to blame for that, and if this had been the impetus behind Charlie’s seemingly sudden decision to want to start a family.


Matt

Mr and Mrs Young arrived, along with Matt’s parents, a couple of hours after he’d called them. He hugged his mum tightly, and then Charlie’s mum hugged him.

“She’s still in surgery,” he said to Charlie’s dad – Harry.

“How is she?” Harry asked him.

“Not great,” he said knowing that he shouldn’t downplay things and that he should tell them exactly what Oak had told him. Yet he didn’t want to worry them, and he knew that telling them that Charlie had been taken into surgery because she was bleeding internally would do just that.

Diane, Charlie’s mum, began to weep. Matt looked at her, and he saw through misted eyes that his mum was comforting her.

“How are you Matthew?” His father asked him.

He went to answer but found that he was unable to speak. So instead he just looked at his father and shook his head. His father gripped his shoulder, and his mum took his hand in hers.

“Matt,” James said from behind him. “Why don’t you and your family wait at your house? You’re minutes from the hospital, and Charlie could be in surgery for hours.”

Matt nodded and said to his and Charlie’s parents; “if you want to wait at the house that’s fine, and I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything, but I’m going to wait here for her. I want to be here for her when she comes round,” Matt said sounding braver and calmer than he felt.

“I’ll take the bags back and park the car, and I’m sure that your mother and Diane could do with a drink,” his dad said; “but I assume Harry’ll want to wait here with you, and I’ll head back in a little while to wait with you as well.”

Harry shook Matt’s dad’s hand and sat down. Matt hugged his mum again, and then Diane hugged him once more, and he knew that for him – and for Harry too, it was now just a matter of waiting.

He sat down on the uncomfortable plastic seats, and he leant forwards resting his forearms on his thighs by his knees. He glanced at Harry and saw fear in his face. Matt felt terrible. Harry had given him his daughter, and he’d promised to protect her and keep her safe on the day that they’d married. Now she was here, in the hospital that he worked in, fighting for her life.

***

After Charlie had broken up with Rich, Matt hadn’t known how to be around her. He’d seen her in just her underwear, and now every time he saw her that was the image that came straight into his head. Rich also wasn’t speaking to him, and life suddenly seemed pretty lonely.

With no best friend for company, and no Charlie to talk and laugh with, he’d started to spend all of his time cooped up in his room studying for his upcoming GCSE’s. He wanted to be a doctor, and he knew that he wouldn’t be able to do that unless he got excellent exam results.

He knew that medicine wasn’t an easy option, and the careers advisor at school had already told him that university places were difficult to get. He’d been warned that if he didn’t get good grades, then he wouldn’t get into a good university. If he didn’t go to a good university, then he wouldn’t get a good placement in which to do his residency.

As he began to despair about his future, he heard a knock on his bedroom door. Yet whilst he was thankful for the interruption into his thoughts about his doomed future, he did wonder why either one of his parents were disturbing him. They knew that it was only two days before his first two exams, and they knew they were the two most important subjects for any wannabe doctor. He had chemistry in the morning followed by biology in the afternoon.

“You have a visitor,” his mum said from outside his bedroom.

“I don’t care,” he said gruffly. “I’m studying. Tell whoever it is to come back in six weeks when all my exams are over,” he added testily. But he felt instantly guilty when he heard a familiar voice.

“That’s okay Mrs Grayson,” Charlie said; “I’ll just go.”

“Charlie,” Matt said grabbing his bedroom door and pulling it open. His mum didn’t stop to watch the exchange, but merely turned her back and walked away leaving them to it.

Charlie stood in his doorway looking sheepish, but after a few seconds she smiled and said; “hi.”

“Hi,” he said.

“How’s the revision going?” She asked.

He hadn’t answered, and all he’d been able to think about was kissing her. She was here. She’d come to see him, and that had to mean something he kept telling himself. So without any further thought he’d just grabbed her face and kissed her. Unfortunately he knew that he’d made a mess of their first kiss. He’d not only banged his nose against hers, but he’d also hit his teeth against hers. So he was stunned, but also relieved when she’d started to kiss him back.

For the next two years they’d been inseparable. They’d existed in a perpetual state of intimacy, and according to their friends they’d been painful to be around. Their parents had frowned on their relationship, Charlie’s more so than his – with Harry labelling him a distraction, and they’d each tried to blame the other parent’s child for the effect on theirs at school at a crucial time in their lives. Yet he and Charlie hadn’t cared, well he certainly hadn’t. He’d gotten everything that he’d ever wished for since the age of seven.

***

“Matt,” Oak said.

Matt stood up, instantly pulled out of his own thoughts, and he saw Harry get to his feet as well.

Oak and Harry shook hands, and Oak said matter of factly; “I’ve got news, but it’s not all good I’m afraid.”

Matt normally admired Oak’s straight talking approach, but right now he felt sick to his stomach again as he tried to anticipate what Oak was going to say next.

“The surgery went well. They had to remove Charlie’s spleen,” Oak said; “but there were no further complications, and the neurosurgeon managed to stop the bleed in her brain.”

“That’s good, that all sounds good,” Harry said sounding excited and relieved and looking from Oak to Matt and back to Oak again. He was clearly confused as to why this wasn’t all good news.

“She hasn’t regained consciousness has she?” Matt asked before slumping back down onto the hard plastic chairs before he got the answer, and then once again leaning forwards to rest his forearms on his thighs and putting his face back into his hands.

“No,” Oak said; “she hasn’t, and she’s still not breathing on her own either.”

“Oh god,” Harry said. He too sat back down.

Matt put his hand on Harry’s shoulder, and then he stood up again and said; “I want to see her.”

Oak nodded and Nurse Willis came into view. It was obvious that she’d already been asked to come and escort Matt to Charlie’s room.

“I’m so sorry Matthew,” she said.

“Call me Matt,” he said in a deadened voice as he forced a lacklustre smile onto his face. He’d been saying this same thing to her continually since his first day at the hospital.

***

Everyone had said that they were too young to have the level of intensity that was evident in their relationship, and the continual nay saying had made Matt nervous when he’d been getting ready to move to Birmingham to start university. Yet within the first couple of months he hadn’t known why he’d doubted himself, or why he’d doubted what he and Charlie had together.

Charlie had come to visit him every weekend without fail, and she’d become friends with all of his uni friends in no time. She’d even gotten to know the girls that had lived in the flat above him in his halls of residence, and when she’d come to visit him and he’d been studying for exams she’d gone out with them to give him some peace and quiet.

He’d known in that first year as their relationship had grown stronger, and had survived all the tests of distance, alcohol, teenage jealousy, and everything else, that he’d wanted to marry her. He just hadn’t been able to imagine his life without her in it.

In the summer break after his first year at uni, he’d gone to see Charlie’s father and he’d asked his permission to marry his daughter. Harry hadn’t been impressed, and whilst he had appreciated the traditional gesture he’d told Matt that his daughter was just too young.

When Matt had insisted, and had offered to accept any terms and conditions that Harry set, he’d caved in. He’d given his permission for Matt to marry his daughter, but he had had one condition. He’d told Matt that he had to wait until Charlie was twenty one before he asked her.

In the lead up to Charlie’s twenty first birthday, Matt had felt like he was sixteen again. He had been nervous and unsure of himself around her once more, and she’d had no idea why.

He’d also spent the three years leading up to her twenty first birthday saving up all the money that he’d earned from summer jobs to buy her an engagement ring. Although it had still only been with the help of his dad and Harry – who’d both made contributions to his savings, that he’d been able to afford to buy her a ring that he’d thought that she’d like.

Matt had planned a romantic night for her birthday, and he’d been getting increasingly nervous throughout the day. He’d checked on the ring a dozen times. He’d tried to kill time, and he’d even gotten his mum to iron three different shirts for him, but he’d still been unable to settle. So he’d finally decided to jump in the shower hoping that this would clear his head.

He’d turned the shower on, but no sooner had he got in than he heard a loud squeal from his bedroom. He grabbed a towel and dashed into his room, but he stopped dead in his doorway. Charlie was stood by his chest of drawers holding the ring box open in her hands. She was also surrounded by clean laundry, and he assumed that his mum must have given it to her to bring upstairs with her. He guessed that she’d dropped it though when she’d opened his drawers to put his things away for him, and had seen the ring box that he’d been hiding in his sock drawer.

She glanced at him apologetically, and he felt his heart sink thinking that she was going to say no, but then she ran towards him and his arms instinctively wrapped around her. Her lips found his, and he could feel the intensity in her kiss. Yet he slowly pulled back from it, and from her.

“Is that a yes?” He asked nervously.

“Yes,” she said smiling and kissing him again; “it’s definitely a yes.”

***

It had been six days since Charlie had come out of surgery, and Matt was sat at her bedside. He’d been by her side almost continuously since he’d been shown to her room, and he was still refusing to listen to any talk of her never regaining consciousness or what state she might be in if she did. He had refused to talk about options, and he had refused to go home without her.

Harry had tried to step in on a few occasions to make him see reason, and to ask what he should do as Charlie’s father, but Matt had finally lost his temper on day four. He had yelled that he had no understanding of the situation or the medicine, and that his opinion didn’t matter anyway. Legally speaking, as her husband he made her medical decisions whilst she couldn’t.

Harry had tried to talk to Oak about Matt’s behaviour, but Oak had said that whilst Matt was being unreasonable he was correct in saying that Charlie’s medical decisions were his to make.

Nurse Willis, on a request from Harry and from Matt’s parents, walked into Charlie’s room to speak to Matt about going home for a while. He was sat in the chair by Charlie’s bed, just as he had been for the past six days, and he was holding her hand and listening to his iPod. His legs were stretched out in front of him, with one ankle crossed over the other, and he was resting his feet on the frame of her bed.

When Matt noticed that Nurse Willis had come into the room, he pulled the earphones of his iPod out of his ears and looked at her expectantly. He had gotten used to people coming in and out of the room to ask him if he wanted food or coffee, or to see if he’d considered going home. Although he did wonder why they still bothered asking the later, he thought he’d made it clear by now that he’d go home when Charlie went home.

“You need to go home Matthew. This is no good for you,” she said; “and we both know that Charlie would be furious at you for behaving this way.”

Matt didn’t respond.

“You’ve been here for six days straight,” Nurse Willis continued. “I think you’ve proven now how much you love her, but this vigil isn't helping. Or is it? Take a look. I mean it Matthew, look at her. Look at Charlie, or look at her chart. Is she getting any better? You’re the doctor not me.”

“What do you want me to do Anne? Give up on her?” Matt asked, knowing that he’d just used Nurse Willis’ forename for the first time since he’d met her.

He sat up and pulled his feet down from off Charlie’s bed. He knew that he needed to prepare himself for yet another argument, but he also noticed that if Nurse Willis had minded that he’d used her first name then she wasn’t letting it distract her from her task. He saw that she was looking at him with concern, and like she was about to continue to berate him.

“No, not give up,” she said; “just take a bit of time for yourself.”

“If I go home, will everyone give me a break? If I go home and rest for an hour, will everyone stop pestering me to leave this room?” Matt asked.

Nurse Willis looked at him sympathetically, and Harry came into the room and said; “if you go home, I’ll not move from her side until you get back.”

“I’ll stay too,” Nurse Willis added.

Matt nodded. An hour he thought, he could do an hour. Not that it looked like he had much choice. After six days of arguing he was too tired to fight both Harry and Nurse Willis.

He got up and kissed Charlie lightly on the forehead, and then he put his earphones back in before walking out of the room. Once outside though he stood still. He felt lost, and he knew that he had nowhere to go. He couldn’t go home. He couldn’t face being anywhere near their home right now, not without Charlie.

He squinted into the sunlight and decided to go for a walk, but as the cold wind whipped at his face he felt the familiar sting of tears in his eyes. Six days ago he’d been about to be made the happiest man alive. He had a wife that he adored, and she’d been about to tell him that he was going to become a father for the first time. Now there was no baby, and his wife might never again regain consciousness.

Matt knew the medicine behind Charlie’s condition. She hadn’t regained consciousness since the accident, and she’d remained completely reliant on a ventilator to breathe. Medically speaking, he knew that for every hour that she remained in this condition her odds deteriorated. For every hour that she remained in this condition, she was slipping away and he was losing her.

***

Stood next to Rich Matt’s palms felt sweaty. Charlie was going to be walking into the church and down the aisle in front of him at any minute. Yet whilst he knew that this was everything that he’d wanted since he was a child, for some reason with the moment finally upon him he was overcome with nerves that had his stomach in knots.

“Want to make a dash for it?” Rich asked him sensing his nerves and smiling.

“No. Why would you say that?” Matt asked tersely.

Rich rolled his eyes and Matt felt guilty. He knew he was being hard work today, but he could do without stupid comments like that. As he was about to apologising to Rich though, he saw the doors open at the back of the church and he saw Charlie arm in arm with Harry.

Charlie looked more beautiful than Matt had ever seen her look before, and she seemed to be radiating happiness. He heard Rich let out a low wolf whistle, and in that instant Matt’s nerves dissipated. He smiled at Charlie and met her eyes head on as she walked towards him.

Her dress, which he hadn’t been able to hear any of the details of in the lead up to today, was stunning. It wasn’t big and fluffy, but it was instead sexy and sleek and suited Charlie perfectly. As she got closer to him, he noticed how the shape of the dress accentuated her slim figure. How the shade of white contrasted starkly with her brown eyes and dark hair, which was in loose ringlets round her shoulders. She looked dazzling, and for the entire service all he could think about was ripping the dress off her.

He knew that there must either have been a glint in his eyes, or Charlie just knew him too well and had deliberately chosen a dress that would have this kind of effect on him. He thought this as when the vicar announced that he could kiss the bride, Charlie whispered in his ear; “you can tear my dress any which way you like later.” He smiled as she winked, and then like always smiled her seductively sweet smile at him that he’d been bowled over by years before.

Their wedding night was spectacular, which in truth he’d neither expected nor anticipated. He knew every part of Charlie’s body. He knew where to touch her. He knew which sounds meant what, and he knew how and when to drive her crazy. She in turn knew him just as well, if not better. Yet whether it was the wedding dress, the wedding, or just the fact that she was now legally his, he was reckless that night and abandoned all previous caution that he’d had with her.

Charlie seemed to immediately recognise his lowered inhibitions, and she was hungry to discover his wilder side. Their sex was rough, desperate, and as though it was the last time that they would ever have to be with one another. Charlie cried out louder and more frequently than ever before, and he too experienced new highs of sexual pleasure.

When they were both spent they dozed in each other’s arms, but afterwards – and for the remainder of the night, they chatted as only two best friends who knew everything about the other could. As dawn crept up on them though, Charlie became hungry for him again and he wasn’t difficult to entice.

When they returned from their honeymoon, Charlie told him that she wanted them to move out of their grotty little flat that they’d rented since her second year at university. She was eager to find them a perfect marital home, and even though she knew that they only had a very small budget it wasn’t able to dampen her excitement.

Matt felt guilty that he didn’t have much money to put towards a deposit, but Charlie didn’t care. Harry had already agreed to pay whatever deposit they needed.

He hated the thought of having to take Harry’s money, but he knew that there was no point in being proud about it. Charlie was Harry’s only child, and she was also his pride and joy. He’d known that Harry wouldn’t have taken kindly to him refusing his help, or in him keeping his daughter in a horrible student flat until he’d earned enough money to be able to buy them somewhere that she deserved.

Charlie went to see lots of flats and houses, but she couldn’t find anywhere that she thought was right for them. Matt smiled at her refusal to be downcast about this, and he told her that they’d find somewhere eventually. She laughed in response to this, and when he looked at her she said; “we’ll find somewhere?” He smiled back at her guiltily, knowing that he hadn’t been helping.

Matt was happy where they were if he was honest, and their flat was conveniently close to the hospital which suited him. He was also worried that for Charlie to find somewhere within their budget they’d have to move further away from the hospital. Yet she surprised him a couple of weeks later. He was just leaving the hospital as the sun was rising, and he saw Charlie walking towards him.

“Bad night,” she said seeing his expression.

He nodded, and smiled at the fact that she’d been able to tell this from his face alone. She kissed him and drew him into a hug, and he couldn’t help smiling again at the fact that just her being near him was making him feel better about what had been a truly awful night. He’d lost two patients, and he was feeling despondent and exhausted.

“I have something to show you,” she said.

Matt normally loved her surprises, but he was incredibly tired and he wanted to go home to bed. As he began to say this to her though, she flashed her big brown eyes at him and he smiled. She smiled in return knowing that she’d won, and she took his hand in hers and led him away from the hospital. After a short walk, in which he stifled yawn after yawn, she stopped them both in front of a small house and looked at him expectantly.

“What?” He asked a little grumpily, at a loss to fathom out why they were stood where they were when he’d much rather be in bed asleep.

“Welcome home,” she said as a smile formed across her beautiful face.

Matt didn’t say anything, and he instead just stood there staring at her.

“Well?” She finally asked after a couple of minutes of silence.

“It’s so close to the hospital,” he said to her.

“I hadn’t noticed. Oh but that’s handy isn’t it,” Charlie said before laughing lightly.

Matt laughed too, and then he kissed her.

Charlie pulled back from his kiss though and said; “plus everyone will be able to remember our new address really easily.”

“Why?” Matt asked looking at Charlie curiously as a smile was once again spreading across her beautiful face.

***

“She’s fighting intubation,” Emily told Matt as he hurtled full pelt towards Charlie’s room.

Matt had just been about to return to the hospital when Emily had called his mobile. She’d called him from one of the hospital phones though, and recognising the number he had initially been too afraid to answer the call.

What if it was bad news he’d thought? What if they’d been ringing to tell him that her condition had deteriorated, or worse that she’d succumbed to her injuries? This is what he’d known that they’d say, just as he had said to other people’s families and friends in the past when he’d been the one delivering bad news.

“With no change in her vitals before it happened?” He demanded as they raced along the corridor.

“We don’t know,” Emily said.

“Why don’t we know?” He demanded again.

“The only person in the room with her when it happened was Harry,” Emily answered; “and he wouldn’t have known what to look out for.”

Matt felt his temper rising. He knew that he shouldn’t have left the hospital, and he thought that Nurse Willis better not be around for her sake. She’d said that she’d stay with Harry and Charlie, and clearly she hadn’t.

“She’s breathing on her own?” He asked Oak.

“Yes,” Oak replied; “all of her vitals are stabilising.”

He stepped past Oak and moved toward the bed. He saw that the ventilator had gone, and that Charlie was breathing on her own again. He reached for her chart, and Emily handed it to him.

“There’s no reason why she shouldn’t regain consciousness,” he said to Oak turning to face him.

“Matt. As in all these situations as you well know, all we know is what we know right now. Her brain went without oxygen for some time. We shouldn’t get our hopes up and assume a full recovery,” Oak said rationally.

Matt nodded, but whilst he knew that what Oak had just said to him was right. Charlie was breathing without a ventilator, and that was huge! Her vitals were stable and everything looked good, and that was huge! She was going to be okay, he just knew it. She had to be okay.

He sat down next to Charlie on the bed and stroked her face. He kissed her lightly on the lips, and then he gently lifted up her hand and placed it in his own. He closed his eyes, and willed her to wake up and come back to him.

“Your breathing,” he told her silently; “but now you have to wake up. I need you to wake up.”



Emily

She’d found the past week immensely difficult. She’d grown used to seeing Matt and Charlie together, and the jealously that she’d felt initially had decreased as she’d hoped that it would. Yet in the past week seeing Matt’s devotion to Charlie had re-awoken her desire for him.

Emily was now more jealous of Charlie than she had ever been before, and whilst she obviously didn’t want to trade places with her. She desperately wanted there to be a man in her life that was as devoted to her as Matt was to Charlie, and she knew that she wanted Matt to be that man in her life. She wanted him to love her the way that he so obviously loved Charlie, and she wanted him to stroke her face and hold her hand while she slept.

She had also struggled with the fact that she had become the unofficial designated go to person for Matt and Charlie’s friends. She had found it difficult to know what to say, or how to reveal the full extent of Charlie’s injuries to them.

Emily had always found it difficult to communicate bad news to the friends and families of a patient, but trying to tell people that she knew about someone that she knew had just been so much worse. Although she couldn’t imagine how much worse it had been for Matt, even though he’d been the one to teach her how to deliver bad news.

It had been Matt that had taught her that you had to keep it simple and short. She’d learnt from him that it was often kinder on the families if they didn’t know the full extent of everything that was happening. They just needed to know if their loved ones would be okay. Yes or no. Were they dead or alive? Yes or no. They didn’t want to know the medicine, and he’d known that a lot of the time they were better off not knowing.

Emily had wondered if he’d wished that he hadn’t been a doctor the moment that he’d seen Charlie on the stretcher in front of him. Had he wished that he hadn’t known what she and the other doctors had known? Had he tried not to think about the full extent of Charlie’s injuries and the severity of her condition? Had he not read her chart, or monitored her vitals as he’d sat by her side? Had he stopped himself from trying to determine her chances of survival?

She felt desperately sorry for him, but she didn’t know how to help him and so she was keeping her distance. She knew though that Oak thought that Matt was being overly hopeful and optimistic, but she felt sure that he was doing this as a coping mechanism. She felt sure that he was trying to close off the medical part of his brain and just be a good husband to Charlie, and she honestly wasn’t sure that she could blame him for that.

Emily wanted to hug him and tell him that she was there for him. She wanted to hold his hand and comfort him, but she knew that these were actions that would only make her feel better and not him. She knew that the only thing that would make him feel better was Charlie waking up and telling him that she was going to be alright. Yet that didn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon, if at all.



Matt

He sat watching Charlie, but he could feel his eyelids getting heavier with sleep. He wondered how much longer he could stay awake, but as his eyelids drooped again Charlie opened her eyes. He jumped up and hit the call button.

“Yes doctor?” A nurse asked coming into the room quickly.

“Call Oak,” he said. To which the nurse was gone.

“You’re awake,” he said softly to Charlie.

She looked directly at him.

That was a good sign he thought. She was clearly able to react to the sound of his voice. Matt felt himself smile, and Charlie half smiled back at him. He smiled even wider. She had reacted to his reaction. That was another excellent sign. Her brain was functioning.

“I need you to say something for me,” he said. Please he urged silently, willing her with all of his heart to be able to say something. “Can you say something, anything,” he said.

“Where am I?” She asked incredibly throatily.

Thank god Matt thought, relief overwhelming him. “You’re in hospital. You were in a car accident,” he said stroking her face; “but your okay. So there’s no need to worry, okay?”

Charlie looked pale, but she nodded her head. “Are you my doctor?” She asked, and Matt laughed. Even after everything that she’d been through, she was joking with him straight off the bat. The sound of his laughter woke Harry, and he got up and came straight over to the bed.

“She’s awake?” He asked Matt. “You’re awake,” he said to Charlie.

Charlie nodded, but Matt noticed that something in her face was off. Her expression seemed confused. His laughter died away, and he felt something inside his stomach sink. There was something very wrong with how Charlie was looking at Harry and at him.

“Do you know your name?” He asked praying that he was reading too much into the expression in her face, and that she would laugh at him and think that he was being ridiculous.

“Of course she knows her name,” Harry said. “Why would you ask her that?”

Matt didn’t look at Harry though, and neither did he reply. His eyes instead remained locked on Charlie’s.

“Do you remember your name?” He asked her.

She shook her head slightly. The question had brought to her attention the fact that she didn’t know the answer to what was a very obvious question. She started to look tearful and suddenly scared, and Matt looked from her to Harry who looked dumbfounded.

“Do you remember my name?” Matt asked whilst willing himself not to cry too as he looked into his wife’s face, which he could see was filling with anguish.

She shook her head again, and Matt could see that there were tears now in her eyes.

“That’s alright,” Matt said sounding far more reassuring than he felt. “Do you know who this is?” He asked pointing to Harry, but he knew instantly that he’d over done it.

Charlie shook her head for a third time, and Matt watched helplessly as the tears that she’d been trying to contain began to silently run down her cheeks.



Emily

She’d been stood with Oak when the nurse had come to find him, and she’d followed him as he’d headed straight for Charlie’s room. Yet as they turned into the corridor that Charlie’s room was on, they both saw Matt pushing Harry out into the corridor.

“What’s wrong with her?” Harry demanded.

“Stop yelling,” Matt said firmly; “you’re terrifying her.”

“This doesn’t sound good,” Oak said to Emily.

Matt turned to Oak as he walked towards him, and he said stoically; “she might have amnesia, it’s probably from the head trauma.”

Oak nodded and walked into the room, and Emily followed him in.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” Charlie said in a small voice.

Oak smiled reassuringly and said; “well I’m more concerned with you right now. So I just want to ask you a couple of questions, okay?”

Charlie nodded, but she still looked worried as she asked Oak; “what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I remember my name?”

Oak looked at her calmly and said; “we’re going to run some tests, but it seems that you may be suffering from amnesia. It’s more than likely that it’s just temporary, so don’t worry. This can happen following a head trauma, which you experienced in your accident. Isn’t that right Dr Grayson?” He asked Matt, who he’d seen just walk back into the room.

“Yes, that’s exactly right. You have nothing to worry about Charlie,” he said with a small smile. Unfortunately Emily couldn’t help but think that his smile looked somewhat more of a grimace.

“Charlie? Is that my name?” Charlie asked innocently, and Emily saw Matt’s forced smile falter. “So you are my doctor?” She asked, and she smiled her warm friendly smile at him.

Matt left the room at almost a run, and Emily excused herself and followed after him. When she finally caught up with him he was outside. He had his arms stretched out in front of him with his palms pressed flat against the wall of the hospital, and he was kicking at it with his right foot.

“Matt,” Emily said.

He turned to look at her, and she saw that there were tears streaming down his face. The site made her heart lurch, and she had to fight every impulse in her body not to throw her arms around him.

“She doesn’t know me,” he just about said through his tears.

“You’re forgetting something important you know,” she said forcing herself to smile at him.

Matt looked at her confusedly.

“She’s conscious! Yesterday the medical opinion was that she had a slim chance of ever regaining consciousness again. It was likely that you’d have to decide whether or not to take her off the ventilator, but today she’s awake! So she doesn’t remember you? You heard Oak. It’s probably just temporary,” she said positively; “caused by the stress of the accident.”

Matt stared at her for a whole minute without speaking. Then as he regained his composure, a smile came back to his face. He moved towards Emily, and she stood still transfixed by him. Yet when he was face to face with her he leant towards her and kissed her on the lips. He picked her up and swung her in a full circle, and she laughed as he set her back down on the ground.

“You’re right,” he said. “You’re absolutely right. I’m over reacting. It’ll just be temporary. She’ll remember in a day or two once her haze clears. Then things will all go back to normal.”

He walked away and Emily watched him go, feeling as though her heart was on fire. She knew that she had lied to him, but then there hadn’t been anything else that she could say to help him in that moment. She worried though that he might blame her when the realisation hit him that Charlie might not be okay.

She cursed herself for thinking about how this would affect her relationship with him. She should have been thinking about Charlie – her friend, and how all this was going to affect her.

It was with this thought though, that she realised that up until this point she hadn’t once thought about Charlie. Charlie, the woman who hadn’t only housed her but had invited her into hers and Matt’s lives. Her only friend, whose life she knew had been turned upside by an accident. Matt’s wife, who had just woken up to find that she had no memory of her life.

Emily felt deeply guilty, and she knew that the best thing that she could do now for both Matt and Charlie was to stay away from them. They needed each other, and they needed Charlie’s memory to come back. They did not however need her.