Splintered Memory
Author:Natascha Holloway

Part Two – Six months later

Matt

He rolled over and turned on the lamp beside his bed. He rubbed his eyes, picked up his pager, and simultaneously looked at the clock.

4.03am.

Matt sat up, shook his head, and swung his legs out of bed. He let his arms rest at his sides for just a second before forcing himself to stand up and walk over to the window seat. There lay a pair of jeans and a jumper, which he threw on at the same time as working his feet into a pair of old and much worn trainers. It had long since become a habit to leave clothes out in preparation for middle of the night pages. This was the life of a doctor.

He headed back towards the bed to turn the lamp off, but as he did he saw Charlie stir. He froze. He didn’t want to wake her. There was no reason to cause her any further and unnecessary confusion.

Matt had been careful ever since she’d come home from the hospital, not to disturb her when he had to go out in the middle of the night. She needed peace and rest, and if he was honest at this time of the morning he had neither the inclination nor the required level of patience to deal with her confusion.

She settled again and let out a little half sigh half snore, which made Matt’s heart ache. He turned off the bedside light and left the room and then the house quickly. He didn’t even bother to make his usual flask of coffee. He would pick something up at the hospital.

As he walked his well trodden route to work, his mind was a mine field of emotion. The past six months had been the worst of his life, and the day to day realities of living with a wife that remembered nothing of their life together was taking its toll. His optimism that her memory would return had long since evaporated, and he felt more and more hard done by with each passing day.

Charlie’s parents had been no help at all after Charlie had regained consciousness. Diane had even refused to visit her. She’d said that she was unable to face a daughter that couldn’t recognise her own mother, and Harry whilst more stoic about the situation at first had also avoided spending time with Charlie. He’d either spent all of his time in the waiting room, or outside of Oak’s office.

Matt’s parents had also not handled the situation well, but Matt’s patience with them had quickly worn thin. He’d found it strange at how his tolerance for his own parents had been so much lower than with Charlie’s. He’d also been shocked at how despite having always tried to be kind and patient as a doctor when dealing with patient’s families, he had within days of Charlie waking up found himself telling his parents to go home.

He hadn’t regretted telling them to leave, but the guilt about the way in which he’d said it to them had plagued him for days. Yet he had been starting to feel increasingly irritated and short tempered with everyone, and his mood hadn’t been helped by the stream of friends and loved ones that had all showed up to show their support and love for him and Charlie.

Six months on and his mood still hadn’t improved. He was irritable with everyone, and his temper remained highly volatile at all times.

He was tired of telling everyone the same thing, and finding himself reassuring them and trying to minimise their concerns. No one ever bothered to ask how he was doing, or how he was coping with the situation? In fact no one seemed to think about him at all. All the sympathy was for Charlie, and this annoyed him above everything else. He knew it was wrong, and he hated himself for feeling like this.

Charlie was coping with the situation well, or as well as anyone could be expected to. Matt had known that she’d been scared initially, and that she’d been nervous when she’d been re-introduced to people from their lives, but as the days had passed her nerves had seemed to lessen and he’d watched her set about making copious notes and memory cards. He’d known that her hope had been that she could capture enough information to re-learn who she was, or at least who she had been.

Matt at first had encouraged this behaviour, hoping that something that he, or Claire, or Rich, or one of the others said to her or told her would lead to the “Eureka” moment. The point in which the lights would come back on, and Charlie would once again know who she was. Sadly though it had transpired that nothing had acted as the trigger for Charlie’s memory, and he’d eventually started to find it nothing more than annoying that she’d say things to him that she’d learned hoping that he’d react positively to them.

For him, each time that she’d done this it had acted as a very painful and unnecessary reminder that she didn’t have the vaguest memory of their lives together. She had no idea who he was, or who she was, and he’d had to accept that his Charlie was either still lying dormant somewhere or had gone for good.

“Morning Dr Grayson,” Nurse Willis said pulling Matt from out of his thoughts.

“What’s the emergency?” He asked feeling the renewed sense of control that he always felt when he was in the hospital. Here he was the one with the answers, and the ability to control the situation. Whilst he was at work and busy, he didn’t have time to dwell on Charlie and the declining domestic situation that surrounded him at home.


Charlie

When she heard the back door close, she rolled over and turned the lamp next to her side of the bed on. She hadn’t wanted Matt to know that she was awake. Her feigning sleep was the only time that she didn’t have to feel the tumultuous feelings of guilt that she felt in his presence.

Charlie got out of bed and headed downstairs. She turned the light on in the kitchen, and flicked the switch on the kettle. She leant back against the sideboard, and she stared almost unseeingly at the back door that she knew Matt would have walked out of moments ago. She felt tired to her very core, drained both emotionally and mentally.

Since having been released from the hospital nearly six months ago, Charlie had worked tirelessly and endlessly to try and get her memory back. She had done everything and anything to find a cure for the retrograde amnesia that she was, according to her doctors suffering from.

She’d been to hypnotists, acupuncturists, Chinese herbalists, therapists, psychologists, counsellors, but nothing had worked. She had talked to Matt, and to her parents, to try and understand what she had been like. She had visited people that had been her friends and work colleagues, but nothing had had the slightest effect on her.

When she had first come home from hospital Matt had been polite, if not a little distant with her, but over time he had become quieter and quieter and this had made Charlie feel awkward. She didn’t feel at home in their house, and she instead felt far more like a guest. A guest that had long outstayed their welcome, but had never formally been asked to leave.

She spent her days in the house alone trying to find things to do. She couldn’t go back to work as she couldn’t remember what it was that she’d done before her accident, and she couldn’t spend time with the people that had visited her in hospital because they all had jobs and were at work.

So to pass the time she’d started to do little projects around the house. She’d first attacked the photos. There had been hundreds upon hundreds of loose photos in drawers and in boxes. She’d gone out and bought ten large photo albums, and then she’d begun putting them in an order that seemed to make sense to her.

She’d tried to do it by an event, or by clubbing a series of photos together where she and Matt had looked in and around a certain age bracket. Holiday photos she’d stored separately, as they’d been more easily identifiable by the backgrounds and the clothes that they’d had on.

When she’d finished with the photos she’d taken to sorting out all the books in the house. She’d tidied Matt’s medical books into subject order in the spare room, and then she’d done the same thing with what she’d assumed had been her law books and she’d put them in the loft. Next she’d begun to re-read books that she’d thought were mostly likely to have been hers, hoping that she could get a sense of what kind of person she’d been by understanding her previous likes and dislikes.

These activities had helped her feel like she was regaining some control, and they’d given her a sense of purpose. Unfortunately though, there were a number of other things in her life that were completely outside of her control.

Charlie didn’t know any of her or Matt’s routines. She hadn’t known the types of hours that he worked, or that he would often leave the house in the middle of the night to respond to a page from the hospital. She didn’t know what he liked to eat, or even what she liked to eat. She didn’t know if she cooked for him, or if he liked to cook. She didn’t know where anything in the house was kept, or even what she was supposed to do when he came home from work.

The kettle boiled, and Charlie’s attention returned to the immediate job at hand. She turned round, and poured the boiling water into a large mug and dropped a tea bag into it. Yet as she stood there playing idly with the tea bag, she wondered how long she was supposed to leave it in the cup for? The familiar feeling of irritation returned. How could she not remember the most basic of things she thought?

When she did finally remove the tea bag, the tea was nearly black. When she went to sip it, it was cold. She poured the tea down the sink and sat down wearily at the table. She wasn’t sure she even liked tea, but given that Matt kept making her cups of it when he was at home she could only assume that she’d used to and therefore still did.


Matt

The first night that Charlie had come home from the hospital, had without doubt been one of the most miserable in his entire life. He’d known that he ought to have been ecstatic that his wife – whom he knew had nearly died, was in good health and had been released from the hospital, but as he’d helped her pack up her things he hadn’t felt the slightest trace of happiness. He hadn’t been bringing Charlie home, he’d been bringing home a stranger that merely looked and sounded like her.

Matt knew that there wasn’t a definite prognosis for Charlie’s amnesia, which Oak had diagnosed as retrograde amnesia. In fact Matt knew that when it came to amnesia there were no definitive’s at all. Charlie could regain her memory tomorrow, or she may never regain it again. Yet whilst he had tried to steal himself for the worst possible scenario, what he hadn’t done was prepare himself for the simple task of being with Charlie on a day to day basis.

Every time he saw her, or was close to her, he had to fight every instinct in his body. They’d been together for so long that every movement he made towards her was habitual, but he’d soon learnt that he had to watch every movement that he made around her. If he got too close, she moved away. She didn’t know how to react to him, and she didn’t know how to be near him.

It was evident that he made her nervous and self-conscious, and this in turn made Matt feel embarrassed and increasingly uncomfortable. She had forgotten him entirely. She didn’t know his gestures. She wouldn’t have known his kisses, and she couldn’t remember the little winks that he’d used to give her when he’d known that she’d been feeling nervous or self-conscious.

She didn’t know what his glances meant, or the knowing nods that they’d always exchanged when they’d been communicating silently. Now whenever he came near her she looked at him warily, unsure of whether or not she could trust him. She looked at him like he was a stranger.

The day after Charlie had regained consciousness, Oak had explained that the tests that he’d run had been inconclusive. He simply hadn’t known if the amnesia that Charlie was suffering from was only temporary. Charlie had been understandably upset by the news, but when Matt had reached for her hand she’d moved it away from him. Matt had looked up at Oak, yet when he’d seen the sympathy in his mentor’s eyes he’d experienced a rush of anger and resentment.

How had he let himself be convinced that everything would be alright he’d asked himself? Why had he allowed himself to hope he’d thought dejectedly?

Charlie had been keen to do anything that might assist with her recovery, and at Oak’s suggestion that she should return home she’d asked Matt if it’d be okay. He’d known that he couldn’t say no, but he had wondered how he was going to cope with the situation.

He’d realised that he’d need to make adjustments and treat her differently. He’d known that he’d need to think of her more as a guest than as his wife, but again against his better judgment he’d found himself hoping that there could be light at the end of the tunnel. He’d found himself hoping that just maybe, when she was around all of her own things again she’d remember. There was a chance that it’d all come back to her, and that their lives could return to normal.

He knew though, that in just the short amount of time that it had taken them to walk from the hospital to their home that things were far from normal. Charlie asked him question after question about their lives together, and Matt found himself responding in a voice that didn’t sound like his own. He felt disconnected and unfeeling, and he even noticed that he’d begun to speak about their past together as though he was telling a well rehearsed story about two other people’s lives.

When they arrived at the house he used the back door just like he always did. He threw his keys onto the small round table in the kitchen just like he always did. Yet when he turned back around like he never did, he saw Charlie stood in the doorway looking nervous. She was holding her small bag from the hospital in front of her and she looked shy and timid.

“You can come in,” Matt said smiling encouragingly at her.

Charlie took a small and almost tentative step inside and asked; “where should I put my bag?”

“Here, I’ll take it,” he said holding out his hand for the bag. “I’ll show you where the spare room is if you like. If you want to unpack your things,” he added stupidly knowing that all of her stuff was already here and that there was hardly anything in the small bag that he was now holding.

“Do I normally sleep in the spare room?” She asked quizzically.

Matt didn’t answer immediately, feeling somewhat taken aback by her question.

“Well, no,” he said pausing; “but I assumed that you probably wouldn’t want to sleep in our room, given that,” but at that moment a thought occurred to Matt and he realised that he was being an idiot. She was probably just curious as to whether it was normal that, as his wife, she would sleep in the spare room of the house that they lived in together.

“No, you don’t. You normally sleep in our room with me,” he said. “Look you should take our room, and that way you can try and familiarise yourself with your surroundings again. I’ll take the spare room, okay?” He asked.

Charlie looked at him unblinkingly, and then she let her head drop and mumbled nervously; “that’s not exactly what I meant.”

Matt looked at her not understanding what she was trying to get at, and he watched her take a deep breath to compose herself. It was the same action that she’d always done before the accident, and it usually came right before she was about to say something that was making her feel uncomfortable.

“I just assumed that we shared the bedroom, and obviously the bed,” Charlie said uneasily. “And Oak said I should do everything like I did before my accident,” she added quickly at the end.

Matt stared at her feeling both a little stunned and a little stupid. He wasn’t handling this well at all. How was this situation so difficult, and why was he feeling so awkward around her he thought? Also why was the idea of sharing a bed with her so terrifying he asked himself? He’d been sharing a bed with Charlie on and off for fifteen years! Yet as he looked at the shy woman in front of him, he was all too aware that she wasn’t the same person that he’d shared a bed with all those times before.

“Okay,” he said his voice coming out in a slightly higher pitch than normal. “I’ll show you to our bedroom then.”

He walked out of the kitchen and started to walk up the stairs that led directly off their living room. He could feel Charlie’s eyes on him, but he didn’t turn around to see if she was following.

When he reached their bedroom he walked over to their bed to put her bag down, and he knew instinctively that she was behind him. He turned to look at her, and he answered the question that he assumed was most likely to be on her mind. “You usually sleep that side,” he said pointing to the right hand side of the bed that was the side furthest from the window.

She nodded, her eyes taking in both the room and him.

“Do you mind if I look around the rest of the house?” She asked.

“Of course not,” he said.

He watched as she turned and walked out of the room, but he couldn’t bear to follow her. He didn’t want to watch her take in their surroundings as if it was all brand new, because it wasn’t. He sat instead on their bed and slumped forward, and put his head in his hands.

That night Matt hardly slept. He stayed on the farthest side of the bed from her, and allowed himself the smallest amount of room possible. He was terrified that if he accidently encroached on Charlie’s side he would scare her to death. He was also afraid that if he got too comfortable he would fall asleep. He knew that if that happened, then there was a very good chance that he would roll over and pull her close to him in the night the same way that he had always used to.

He watched the light gradually creep in through their window, and he felt the last trace of hope fade away as a sense of disillusionment settled deep within him. He was trapped inside a nightmare that he couldn’t wake up from. He was living with a woman that resembled Charlie in every way, but in his heart he knew that she wasn’t the Charlie that he loved and had married.





Charlie

One of the only good things that came from her weekly visits to her psychiatrist was that she got to talk about all of the things that were bothering her. She knew that she was a burden on Matt, and as disconcerting as she found this she didn’t know how to talk to him about it. Instead she found herself withholding more and more of herself from him, which in turn led to her feeling more of a sense of relief from being able to talk to Maria.

Maria was an elderly woman with a sweet face and kind eyes, and Charlie had found something incredibly reassuring about her from the moment that they’d met. She was unsure if this was to do with Maria’s demeanour, or her grey eyes which seemed to hold a kind of wisdom and life experience that she herself didn’t have. She guessed that Maria was in her mid to late sixties from the soft wrinkles that lined her face, and the grey that had replaced most of her once jet black hair.

Charlie had been terrified when she’d first come to see Maria that she was going to end up alone. She’d confided to Maria that her greatest worry was that her friends, who’d all been kind and supportive since her accident, would eventually grow tired of her and begin to look at her the way that her husband did.

Maria had never sought to reassure Charlie during any of their sessions, but instead she’d listened to her concerns and let Charlie talk until she had nothing left to say. When Charlie had poured the contents of her heart out, Maria had addressed one problem at a time.

She’d first focused on Charlie’s concerns about her friends, and on her feelings of being overly dependent and burdensome on them. She’d given Charlie tips on how to navigate conversations away from herself, and she’d taught her how to reconnect with the people in her life.

From Maria’s tips, Charlie learned that it was quite easy to reform her friendships without having to constantly discuss the state of her mental health. She’d simply, rather than keep trying to reintegrate herself with her friends based on who she had been in the past, set out to make friends with them all over again. She’d taken an interest in their lives. She’d found out about them, their work, and what they’d been up to.

It had actually been rather easy, and enjoyable, and she’d realised that she could spend entire evenings talking and laughing with her friends without ever once having to talk about herself.

The renewal of these friendships had helped her, and little by little and day by day she’d become to feel less like she didn’t belong. The fears too that she’d had about not being able to take back control over her life were dissipating, and she’d started to feel like her confidence was growing.

This new found confidence had led her to start discussing with Maria what she could do with her life in terms of a career. She knew that she couldn’t return to the law firm where she’d worked before her accident, as she couldn’t remember anything about what she did or what she had learned at university, so she had started to seriously consider going back to school.

Maria encouraged Charlie to take a proactive approach to her life. She’d taught her not to dwell on a past that she couldn’t remember, and she’d explained to Charlie that sometimes the pursuit of trying to regain memories was actually counterproductive and could hinder rather than help the mind’s healing process.

Charlie knew that she’d been obsessing over a past that she couldn’t remember, and she’d hoped that by planning for a future that was within her control she could help her mind heal. Yet the greatest difficulty in her life and a recurring theme in all of her sessions with Maria was Matt. She knew that whilst she’d begun to accept her life in the present, and had begun planning for a possible future where her memories might never return, Matt was less accepting of this. In fact it seemed to Charlie that he was less accepting of her altogether.

She’d started to feel a growing sense that her presence in his life was becoming a burden on him. His previous patience and kindness that he’d shown in the initial few weeks of her moving home, had recently seemed to have been replaced by resentment and animosity. She’d heard the tone of his voice becoming harsher with her, and she’d felt his intolerance towards her grow.

Charlie saw how he got annoyed with her when she asked him questions that she knew that she ought to know the answers to, but she hadn’t intentionally forgotten whether or not he took sugar in his drinks or for that matter if she did. She’d seen him slowly morphing from a man watching his wife with love and sympathy, to a man that was looking at a total stranger and wondering how he’d ended up with her in his life.

She wanted desperately to do something about the situation. She wanted to improve it as she’d been able to do with her friends, but their relationship just seemed so much more complex. Any questions that she asked him about his life involved her. She couldn’t retract herself from a conversation with him. She couldn’t casually talk about what things were bothering him, because she knew what was bothering him. She was!

Charlie knew that they needed to bond and to get to know each other again, but when she tried to talk to him about her sessions with Maria and her plans for the future she saw the hurt in his face and eyes. It grieved her to know that whilst she was finding some acceptance of what had happened, he was struggling with the fact that she was moving on and he was unable to.

She knew that her presence in his life was taking a toll on him, and that the future he saw was far less optimistic than the one that she’d started to envisage was. She’d begged Maria to come down off the fence in their sessions and tell her how to fix things with him, and what to do to make him happy again, but as always Maria remained impartial and was careful not to make suggestions. She instead tried to encourage Charlie to try to work the situation out for herself.

Charlie had contemplated leaving Matt. If she left she felt sure that she would be doing them both a favour. She’d get to start over and he’d get to have a life again, but every time that she made the decision to leave there was something that stopped her when she began to pack.

There was something about him that she found strangely familiar, but when she’d tried to focus on what it was it had nearly drove her crazy. How could she leave him when he and this familiarity she felt might be the key to her memory? Yet as Matt’s demeanour had become more sombre, and his mood had deteriorated, the feeling of familiarity she felt had begun to dissipate.

They had become paralysed in a domestic hell and she felt trapped, but she was too afraid to move forward and unable to remember their past in order for them to go back.





Matt

His relationship with his parents and friends had taken a rapid decline in the past few months. He had an increasing sense of apathy towards everything and everyone, and the only thing that did get him through each day was work.

Rich had met him at the hospital to take him for a pint, but he’d only been able to stomach one before having to leave. Rich’s endless platitudes about Charlie had gotten on every nerve in his body. He’d gone on and on about how good things were between him and Bex. How great their wedding plans were coming along, and generally about how great his life was. As if this hadn’t been bad enough, and completely insensitive Matt had thought, he’d then started talking enthusiastically about Charlie’s recovery.

“What recovery?” Matt had demanded.

“Ah come on man, it’s like having the old Charlie back. She’s chilled out, she’s funny, and she laughs at all the same things that she used to. She’s like her old self again. You can just sit and chat with her for hours. You must know what I mean?” He’d asked.

“No, I don’t know what you mean,” Matt had said angrily.

How was it that Rich, and all their other friends, had found a way to reconnect with Charlie he’d asked himself? He’d tried but he hadn’t been able to. Was it because they were all willing to take her on face value, re-form new friendships with her based on the fact that she still had all the same qualities as the old Charlie he’d thought.

If that was the case though, then why hadn’t he been able to? He was after all her husband. Wasn’t he supposed to love her more than everyone else? Yet despite knowing that he was, he knew that he just couldn’t see past the amnesia. He had no time for this new Charlie, no matter how nice, funny, or chilled out she was. He wanted the old Charlie back. He wanted his Charlie back. He wanted his wife back.

Rich hadn’t responded, but had taken to drinking his pint at a renewed speed.

Matt had slammed his empty glass down on the table and had walked out. He’d known that had he stayed any longer it was likely that he would’ve done something that he’d have regretted, like punching his best friend in the face, but outside he hadn’t known what to do. All he had known was that he hadn’t wanted to go home.

He knew that Charlie would be sat on the sofa reading whatever book she’d decided to re-visit this week waiting for him to get in, and he knew that she was probably hoping to talk to him about her latest session with Maria and her hopes for the future.

He was aware that he was being totally out of order, but being around Charlie was getting more and more painful with each passing day. She’d grown comfortable in his presence and in their home. She would smile at him with genuine sincerity whenever he came home, and she’d sit and chat merrily with him about her day and ask him questions about his.

There had even been times when he’d been so completely taken in by this Charlie, when he had become a little too comfortable with the her, that he had found himself wanting to be near her again. Yet each time that he’d given in to this new Charlie, and he’d tried to connect with her or he’d tried to touch her face or even just her hand, her reaction had always been the same.

She would panic and apologise profusely. She would jump up or move away, and she’d offer to make him a drink before she’d start apologising again. Matt always ended up feeling like shit, and his mood would spiral even lower, knowing that he’d allowed himself to be deluded into thinking that there was still a chance that their lives could ever return to normal.

He was feeling increasingly lonely as it became clear that he and Charlie weren’t getting any closer, and he was starting to worry that his own recollection and memories of their past together were also beginning to fade. He felt isolated from his friends and family, and most days he woke feeling desperately low. Today had been no exception, and the pint with Rich had done little to raise his spirits.

He wasn’t ready to go home, but he also couldn’t go back inside to drink with Rich. He pulled his scarf up around his neck and hugged his coat to him as he walked up the road to another pub. He wasn’t on call tonight, so he thought that he might as well lose himself in alcohol. This would at least afford him a few hours where he could forget the miserable state of his life.





Charlie

After three further sessions with Maria, in which Charlie had all but begged her for some advice. Maria finally caved in and spoke her mind about Charlie’s domestic situation with Matt.

“You’re living in no man’s land,” she said. “You’ve taken steps to regain control of your life. You’ve reformed your friendships and you’re looking to enrol in college, but with Matt you insist on treading carefully. You’re being cautious, and you’re unwilling to test the ground on which you stand. You’ve said time and time again that you feel reassured by his presence, and that you trust him. Yet when he makes steps to move your relationship forward, when he tries to bond with you on a physical level and potentially re-ignite the connection that you once shared, you reject him.”

“Yes,” Charlie said nodding. “It just feels...” Yet she didn’t know what she thought it felt like.

She’d often wanted to kiss Matt when he’d leant in towards her. There was no denying that he was incredibly attractive – gorgeous even, and she knew that she was attracted to him, but when it came to the crunch. When his face had come towards hers, she’d panicked and every time she’d shied away.

“I think you’re scared,” Maria said; “and possibly, quite rightly. This is a man that’s known you intimately many times, and you have no memory of any one of those occasions. For you, it’ll be a new experience. It’s natural that you’re nervous, and I know that you’ll also be worried about how he’ll find the experience. But I think that you need to take this next step,” Maria said. “Then, and only then will you know if you can ever re-build any meaningful future with him.”

Charlie looked at Maria, and feeling the rising panic creep up from her stomach she asked; “but what if I can’t remember how?”

“Let him show you how. Let him guide you,” Maria said.

Charlie felt petrified and she could see that her hands were visibly shaking.

“Look Charlie,” Maria said. “You’re going to be scared, and truth be told so is he, but this is something that you should do. I’m not saying that as soon as he comes in the door you need to attack him.”

Charlie laughed.

“Maybe just talk to him about this. Talk to him about how you’re feeling, and about how he’s feeling. Maybe ask him about some of the times that you’ve been together in your past. Get comfortable and familiar with him about the subject. You were together a long time before your accident,” Maria said; “and I’m sure he won’t mind reminiscing with you.”

Charlie nodded, but she knew that she wouldn’t be able to ask Matt about other times that they’d had sex. Just the thought of being this blunt about the subject sent shivers down her spine, and not in a good way. It wasn’t that she was a prude. She just didn’t have any confidence, and she honestly couldn’t imagine trying to find the right words to broach this subject with him.

She needed to do something else, something more impulsive than just a conversation. Matt had tried to kiss her a few times before, maybe if she was just patient he’d try again.

Charlie walked home after her session with Maria, and she contemplated calling one of her girlfriends. Wasn’t this the kind of conversation that she could have with one of them she wondered. The problem was though, was that she wasn’t sure if it was. Also even if she was sure she thought she didn’t know which one of them she could call. She really did hate not being able to remember.

She tried hard to think back to all the notes that she’d made after her accident. She thought she remembered writing something down about her closest girlfriend being Claire. Yet this struck her as odd now that she’d come to think about it, as out of all of her friends Claire was the one that she’d seen the least. In fact she hadn’t seen or spoken to her since she’d left the hospital.

Charlie took out her phone and scrolled through the pre-programmed numbers and lingered on Claire’s name. Claire had been to see Charlie a couple of times in the hospital, and both times she’d seemed bubbly and chatty, but since then Charlie hadn’t heard from her. Perhaps she’d been mistaken and they weren’t such good friends after all she thought.

She returned her phone to her bag smiling and thinking about how embarrassing it would’ve been to have called this Claire, and tried to have this kind of a conversation with her, only to discover that they weren’t really friends at all but more casual acquaintances.

Charlie’s thoughts returned to Matt and she decided that she would just play the waiting game. The next time that he showed any sign that he might touch her, or kiss her, she wouldn’t hold back. He really was incredibly good looking she thought, and then smiling to herself she imagined what it’d be like to kiss him and to see him naked.





Matt

He had a raging hangover, and knew instantly that he only had himself to blame. He put his hands over his eyes to shield some of the light that was pouring into the room, but as he did he noticed that there was nothing about this room that looked familiar to him. He slowly sat up and looked down at the pink duvet that was covering the bottom half of his body.

Where the hell am I he thought?

Matt heard the sound of a shower being turned on, and the noise of morning radio. He leant over the edge of the bed and saw his clothes heaped in a pile on the floor, and he saw that his watch was lying just to the right of them. He picked it up and saw that it was 10.15am.

He leapt out of bed panicking about how late he was for work, and also fighting the urge to vomit. Sudden movement was obviously going to be a problem for him throughout the rest of the day he thought. Yet as he stood there taking some deeps breaths to try and keep the nauseous feelings at bay, he was slightly bewildered as to why he was completely naked. He never slept naked.

Not wanting to give it any further thought for fear of what he might remember if he did, he hastily threw on his clothes and headed out of the bedroom. It was clear that he was not here alone, and it was pretty obvious from the state that he’d woken up and found himself in that he’d not spent the night alone. Again, he didn’t want to think about it. He was late, and he needed to get to the hospital.

The front door was locked and needed a key to open it, but as he turned round to see if he could see where the key was he had a vivid flash back. He felt his stomach plunge, and he felt like his entire body had just plummeted twenty feet.

He looked around, and he suddenly recognised the flat. He’d helped decorate this flat, but as he stood stock still staring at the walls in front of him he heard a familiar voice from behind him.

“Morning,” Emily said. “I know you were pretty drunk last night, but you do know that we’ve both got the day off right?”

“Emily,” he breathed turning to look at her.

She was stood in the doorway of the bedroom with only a towel wrapped around her. Her long blonde hair was wet and hanging round her shoulders, and she was looking at him teasingly and he noticed that her blue eyes were shimmering.

“What the hell am I doing here?” He asked desperately.

“Thanks,” she said in a mock hurt kind of a voice.

He shook his head disbelievingly. “We didn’t… did we?” He asked nodding towards the bedroom. Yet he already knew the answer from the vivid flashback that he’d just had, but he was praying to god that she’d be able to correct him.

Emily’s face suddenly changed from a flirty teasing demeanour, and was instantly replaced with her own version of a look of disbelief.

“You don’t remember?” She asked sounding betrayed and hurt in equal measure.

“Oh my god,” Matt said.

“Oh my god,” Emily said walking into the living room and perching on the arm of the only comfy chair in the room.

“What were you thinking?” He demanded. “Couldn’t you see I was completely paralytic?”

“No,” she said defensively. “You seemed fine. You were a little drunk obviously, but not paralytic by any means.”

“Huh,” he said.

“Fuck you,” she retorted. But then to his horror she started to cry.

He didn’t move. He just stood there staring at her and hoping that she would stop crying.

She sniffled and said; “I was in the pub with James. A few of us had gone for a drink at the end of our shift. You came in later and joined us but you weren’t drunk, or at least you didn’t seem it.”

Matt had absolutely no memory of seeing either Emily or James in the pub, but how many pubs had he been in by that stage he wondered.

“I was getting ready to leave at about eleven, and you said you’d walk me home. I told you I was fine,” Emily said; “but you said Charlie would kill you if you didn’t.”

Matt felt like his body had just plummeted twenty feet again at the mention of Charlie’s name.

“We didn’t talk that much on the way home. It was cold, and we both had our chins tucked into our scarves and coats. When we got back I asked if you wanted to come in for a coffee or something, and you said,” but Emily didn’t get to say what he’d said because he said it instead.

“Just for coffee though,” Matt said quietly. It was all coming back to him now. It was all coming back in a dreadful torrent of remorse and regret.

Emily nodded, but she wasn’t looking at him.

Matt now remembered coming up to her flat, and how that conversation had ended. He also recalled being the one to initiate everything that had happened between them, and he started to feel increasingly sick.

“I think I’d better go,” he said.

“Wait!” Emily said standing up, her eyes now firmly upon his face. “If you remember coming in, and what you said, then you must remember,” but she stopped talking as her face flashed bright red with embarrassment.

Matt’s own face flushed too as he understood what she was alluding to. He remembered her telling him that she was a virgin.

He couldn’t believe it. When he’d walked into this room minutes earlier to leave, he’d honestly thought that he’d been drunkenly taken advantage of. He now knew though, that he’d been the one doing the taking advantage last night.

A few awkward moments of silence passed, but then knowing that all he wanted to do was to go home he said; “I’m really sorry.”

He turned back towards the door, and Emily appeared by his side with the key. She unlocked it for him and let him out, but as he left he heard her begin to sob loudly. He considered knocking on the door so that he could console her, or at least apologise, but as he hovered at her front door all he could think about was Charlie.

Matt walked away from the door quickly, and all but ran down the stairs and onto the street, his head banging the whole time. The only thing slowing him was the mounting feeling that he might be sick at any minute, but as he walked home as quickly as he could flashbacks from the night before hit him in waves of pure shame. Flash after flash of drunken sex with someone other than his wife.

Another tidal wave of guilt hit him and he closed his eyes firmly, physically flinching at the memories that were pouring into his brain. What have I done he asked himself?

He reached the back door to his and Charlie’s house, and he paused for just a moment before entering. He needed a minute to try and gain some semblance of composure, and he was hoping that if he was lucky there was a chance that Charlie would be out. He took a deep breath and then pushed the door open and entered the kitchen, but as he shut it quietly behind him he could hear the sound of laughter from the living room. Not out he thought.

“So who loves who the most then guys?” He heard Rich say from the living room.

“It’s obvious isn’t it? I’ve always been the one who was head over heels,” he heard himself say.

“Yeah whatever, I’ve been under his spell since the moment he put a plaster on my knee,” he heard Charlie say in response.

He knew what Charlie was watching without even needing to go into the living room to see for himself. She must’ve found the recording of their wedding day that Rich and Claire had filmed.

Matt felt like he was being hit with instant karma for being a cheating rat. He’d come home to find his beautiful wife, who’d been through more in the last few months than anyone should ever have to endure, watching what had been the happiest day of his life.

He found himself drawn to where he knew she was, and as he walked into the living room he saw her sat on the floor with her legs crossed in front of her. She was sat less than a foot from the television, and she was smiling at the screen. He guessed that she’d obviously heard him come in though, because she turned round and smiled at him. Yet as she did, he felt his stomach plunge again as the guilt from the previous night reared up inside of him once more.

“God weren’t we young,” Charlie said smiling.

He felt another stab of guilt, but he forced himself to return her smile and he said; “yeah we were, but it just seemed right.” Although he nearly choked on his guilt as he said it.

She looked back to the television where she was on screen laughing her loud and contagious laugh, but Matt couldn’t bear to watch a second longer and he said; “I’m going to take a shower, long night you know.”

“’k,” she said smiling and turning back to look up at him. But then she just as quickly turned her attention back to the television. “Do you want me to make you something to eat?” She asked him, although this time her eyes remained on the screen.

“No I’m fine thanks, you just...” but he didn’t finish saying what she should just do. Instead he hit the stairs at a run taking them three at a time.

When he reached the top he darted into the bathroom and shut the door firmly behind him. He rested his hands on the sink and forced himself to look at his reflection in the mirror, but as did he was unsurprised to see that he was crying. He hated himself for what he’d done, and he couldn’t bear to look at himself for a second longer. He turned away and put the shower on.

Matt stood underneath the forceful surge of water and closed his eyes, wishing as he did that his mind would stop replaying the events of the night before. He was so distracted by his thoughts, guilt, and conscience, that he didn’t hear the gentle knock on the door a few minutes later.





Charlie

She’d been thinking about what Maria had said to her nonstop for the better part of three days. Yet the truth of the matter was, was that Charlie had known – long before Maria had said it, that she was the obstacle in the way of any possible chance she had of re-building a relationship with Matt. He’d made attempts to get close to her, but she’d always been the one to pull away. She was the one that was letting her fear get in the way of them taking a step forward. She was the one keeping them trapped in a place where neither of them knew where they really stood.

Charlie trusted Maria implicitly. She knew that her life was in a much better place now thanks to Maria’s help than it would ever have been without it, and so she felt confident that if Maria thought that she was ready to take that next step with Matt then she was. She owed it to him to at least try and make their home life easier, and she knew that this meant either rekindling their relationship or walking away from him forever. She couldn’t stay and keep him in this unhappy limbo, it simply wasn’t fair.

She knew that if she couldn’t give him a proper relationship, which encompassed every aspect of marital life, then she owed it to him to walk away as she had previously contemplated doing. She knew that it wasn’t right to keep him on tenterhooks, and she felt sure that he deserved much more than this from her.

These thoughts occupied Charlie’s mind while Matt was at work, and she wondered how she could engineer a situation in which he might again be tempted to reach out to her. Yet as she sat in the living room racking her brain for inspiration, her eyes were drawn to their wedding photo which took pride of place over their fire place.

That was it she said to herself. She knew that there was a wedding video, because she’d come across it when she’d been doing one of her tidy ups. Maybe, just maybe, if Matt came home to find her watching their wedding video it would rekindle some of his memories from that day. She hoped that it might give him that nudge to reach out to her, and this time she knew that she wouldn’t pull away.

With a plan formed in her mind she began to feel nervous and excited. She spent a long time in the shower, and even longer in front of her knicker drawer trying to decide what she should wear. She didn’t want Matt to think that she’d been planning this, but she also wanted to wear something nice for him. In the end she reached for an all black number, which she decided was a happy medium between sexy and regular everyday underwear.

Charlie sat in their bedroom blow drying her hair, and she could feel the butterflies in her stomach. She was excited about him coming home, and she knew that this was going to make things between them better. It wasn’t a cure, but maybe it was the fresh start that they needed.

She waited all evening for Matt, but finally at nearly two in the morning she gave up on any hope of him coming home and went to bed. She assumed that he must have gotten caught up in an emergency at the hospital, and that even if he did come home now he was unlikely to be feeling romantic or spontaneous.

Charlie woke up a little after eight, and she was disappointed to find that Matt still wasn’t home. She got up and went downstairs, but there was no sign that he’d been back during the night at all. So she assumed that he must have slept at the hospital.

She drank her tea, ate some cereal at the table, and then decided to go upstairs and get dressed. She had been thinking about going into town to do some shopping, but she decided not to because she wanted to wait for Matt to come home. He’d obviously been working all through the night, and she was worried about him. Yet as she’d thought this it shocked her, but then it made her smile. I obviously really do care about him she said to herself. Sod it she thought, she didn’t want to wait to watch the wedding video. She wanted to watch it now.

Charlie turned it on, and she saw that her face was the first to appear on screen. She was stood there in jeans and a flannel shirt, and her hair was tied up in what looked like rags. She was talking rapidly, and laughing with whomever was filming her. The picture then jumped, and Matt was on screen throwing something at the camera. Whatever he had thrown had obviously hit the person it had been intended for, and whoever was filming him, because Charlie heard someone say; “ouch!”

“Any second thoughts yet mate? Cus if you don’t fancy waiting for your girl at the bottom of the aisle, I’m happy to stand in for you!” She heard the same voice say, and she recognised that it was Rich’s voice.

“Not a chance mate. I’ve waited years to get Charlie down the aisle,” the Matt on screen said. This made Charlie’s stomach do a little flip. He really was incredibly attractive she thought.

The picture flicked back to her, and she was being buttoned into her wedding dress. She was also stood in front of a large mirror. She smiled. On screen she looked so excited. The dress was beautiful, if not a little sexy she thought. It definitely wasn’t traditional, and her hair which had been untied from the rags was now hanging down round her shoulders in loose ringlets and looked pretty.

The picture jumped to a church, and Matt was stood at the bottom of the aisle. Charlie appreciated just how handsome he looked in his morning suit, and she saw that his face was eager with anticipation. The camera in a wobbly fashion, obviously not filmed by a professional she thought, panned round to see her enter. She was smiling, and she looked happy and excited, but then the camera swung unsteadily back round to Matt who was also smiling.

Charlie laughed at the same time as the onscreen version of herself laughed, when Matt nervously fluffed some of his vows as his nerves had visibly gotten the better of him, and she watched as her and Matt walked up the aisle hand in hand and smiling at each other. The picture then jumped once more and they were dancing, and it was all very romantic to Charlie as she watched the younger versions of herself and Matt. They seemed so in love, and she wondered how she could have forgotten all of this.

The music stopped, and Charlie watched as she and Matt walked over to the person holding the camera. They were hand in hand and laughing and they were both clearly enjoying their day.

“So who loves who the most then guys?” Charlie heard Rich ask from behind the camera, but she looked away from the television. She’d just heard the back door open and close, so she guessed that Matt was home.

“It’s obvious isn’t it? I’ve always been the one who was head over heels,” the Matt on screen said.

“Yeah whatever, I’ve been under his spell since the moment he put a plaster on my knee,” she heard herself say. She turned round and saw Matt standing behind her, and she smiled up at him. She thought that he looked incredibly tired.

“God weren’t we young,” she said to him smiling.

He returned her smile and said; “yeah we were, but it just seemed right.”

She looked back at the television where she was on screen laughing.

“I’m going to take a shower, long night you know,” he said seeming a little distracted.

“’k,” Charlie said smiling at him. Although this time he didn’t return her smile, and she noticed how dark the bags under his eyes looked. He looked more tired than she could remember ever seeing him look before, and she looked back at the television not wanting him to think that she was staring at him. “Do you want me to make you something to eat?” She asked but without turning back around to look at him.

“No I’m fine thanks, you just...” Yet he didn’t finish saying what she should just do, and when she turned round she saw him motoring up the stairs.

Charlie turned the television off and got up. She was going to make him a sandwich. She didn’t care what he’d said, he looked completely done in. She went into the kitchen and put the grill on and took some bacon out of the fridge. She’d seen him cook this for himself before when he’d come in from an all night stint at the hospital, so this seemed like the best thing to make now.

As the bacon cooked below the heat of the grill, Charlie took some bread out of the cupboard and put it on a plate. She took the ketchup out of another cupboard and spread it onto both slices. She hadn’t known to do this instinctively, but she’d watched and tried to re-learn Matt’s habits and this was again something that she’d seen him do.

Charlie put the bacon on the bread and cut the sandwich in half, but when she got to the top of the stairs she could hear that the shower was still running. She tapped on the door, but Matt didn’t respond and she guessed that he probably hadn’t heard her. She decided to put the sandwich in the bedroom for him, thinking that he could eat it and then go straight to sleep.

In the bedroom she heard the shower stop, but as she turned to go back downstairs Matt walked into the room. He’d been rubbing his face with the towel and so nothing had been covering his nakedness. She guessed that he’d assumed that she was still downstairs, but she felt her face redden as she looked at his body.

He quickly wrapped the towel around his waist, and then he looked at her apologetically and said; “I’m sorry. I thought you were downstairs.”

Charlie smiled feeling embarrassed and said; “I was, but I made you a bacon sandwich and I thought I’d bring it up to you as you looked knackered.”

“Thanks, for the sandwich,” he said awkwardly.

She smiled again, but she also noticed once more how tired he looked and she decided that she should just leave him to get some sleep. Yet as she went to walk out of the room, he walked forward towards the bed. They stopped in front of each other, and she noticed that he looked a little uneasy.

Charlie looked into his face, and she knew that this was the moment that she needed to seize. She put her hands on his wet shoulders, rose up on to her tip toes and kissed him. He didn’t seem to react to her kiss though, and she started to worry that he was going to push her away. But despite her rising panic, she stayed firm and she kept her lips pressed to his.

After what felt like an eternity she finally felt his lips push back against hers, and she felt his arms around her waist. She felt his kiss intensify, and she was surprised by her reaction to this. She parted her lips and allowed him to slide his tongue into her mouth, and as she felt his tongue begin to caress hers she pressed her body to his and held his face in her hands.

She could feel him hardening against her, and as he slowly pushed her back towards the bed and then gently down onto it she knew that she wanted him.

Charlie closed her eyes, and she took a deep breath as his hands moved up underneath her top and began to caress her nipples. She could feel her pulse racing through her and her breath catching, but as she wanted more from him she suddenly felt his weight lift off her and she opened her eyes.

“Am I doing something wrong?” She asked feeling incredibly insecure.

Matt shook his head his eyes closed, but in the next second he opened his eyes and got off the bed and turned away from her.

“No,” he said quietly; “but I am.”

Charlie knew that the situation could go one of two ways. She could get up and walk away embarrassed by what she’d done, but if she did that she knew that it would effectively end any hope that she’d had that she could still have a future with the man in front of her. Or, she could find the courage to show him that this was truly what she wanted.

She stood up and walked over to him. She’d made her decision. She put her hands on the tops of his arms, and she turned him round to face her.

“I want to,” she said with a level of conviction in her voice that surprised even herself. She then undid the towel that he’d re-wrapped around his waist, and she cast it to the floor.





Matt

He’d fought the temptation that Charlie had put his way, but as he stood re-wrapping his towel around his waist he only prayed that Charlie wouldn’t be hurt. He knew that he needed to turn and face her, and explain why he couldn’t make love to her. Yet as he tried to find the courage to do that, he felt her hands on his arms turning him to look at her.

“I want to,” she said looking fierily into his eyes. She then confidently undid his towel and threw it onto the floor.

Matt looked at his wife’s face, and he succumbed to the eagerness that she was showing him. He knew that he shouldn’t. He knew that he was probably taking advantage, both of her trying to prove something to him and as a way of relieving some of his guilt for how he’d treated her, but as he pushed her gently back onto the bed he knew that he’d missed this feeling. He’d missed more than he’d been willing to admit to anyone, the simple act of making love to his wife.

His hands hungrily and greedily moved all over her body. He wrenched with desperation to get her clothes off, and when he had her completely naked he stopped and took in the sight of her. She was beautiful. She wrapped her legs around his waist, and it was all so familiar to him. He knew that this was her sign to tell him that she was ready for him.

He slid inside of her and felt her back arch upwards. He searched for her lips with his own, and felt her legs fasten tighter around him as he continued to move inside of her. He could feel the all too familiar sensation of her nails being dug into the backs of his shoulders, and he heard her breath catch more than once. He saw her faint half smile, and he smiled as she let out a small scream of pleasure.

He’d missed this. He’d missed her body, and he’d missed being able to make her cry out this way. He’d missed her faint half smile and what that meant, and he’d missed being able to look out for it. He’d missed feeling her legs wrapped around him, and he’d missed feeling her nails being dug into the backs of his shoulders.

Charlie kissed him and he caressed her tongue with his. Yet when she pulled back from him and he heard her breath catch again, he was no longer able to control himself and he gave way to the inevitable.

Matt rolled off Charlie and lay on his back breathing deeply with his eyes closed, but as he lay there – his heart rate returning to normal, he felt Charlie rest her head upon his chest.

“If I’d known it was going to be like that,” she said; “I might have let you kiss me a while ago.”

He smiled in spite of himself.

“Was it always that good?” Charlie asked him with a note of curiosity in her voice, and he could feel the light touch of her finger tips moving slowly around his belly button.

“Yes,” he said feeling suddenly choked with emotion. Then out of nowhere tears began running down his face.

He pushed Charlie off him, and he walked out of their room and into the bathroom where he grabbed his discarded clothes. Once downstairs, he put his clothes on and left the house. He didn’t know where he was going, but he just knew that he had to get away from the house and away from Charlie.

How had things in his life gone this wrong he thought? His perfect marriage had been wrecked by an accident, and everything had fallen apart. Yet now just as it seemed that his wife had had a kind of break through, and had found a way to trust him, what had he done? He’d cheated on her with a colleague. To add insult to injury that colleague was his wife’s friend, and someone he knew had been harbouring a crush on him since she’d started at the hospital.

On top of everything, he’d drunkenly and recklessly taken Emily’s virginity in a night that he knew he’d regret forever.





Emily

She could see the terrible toll that the situation was having on Matt, and in truth she felt guilty for not having been to visit Charlie. The problem was though, that Emily wasn’t sure she’d know what to say if she did visit.

Emily – unlike Charlie’s other friends, had only know Charlie for a short time before the accident, and she wasn’t sure she knew how to reform a friendship with her. In fact she wasn’t entirely sure she still knew how to form friendships at all. She was also very aware that Charlie had been the one to form theirs.

Aside from the friendships issues though, were her constant feelings of guilt. Emily knew deep down that there was that there was a part of her – a part that she didn’t like to acknowledge existed, that didn’t actually want to Charlie to recover. She was in love with Matt and she occasionally thought, but then chided herself immediately afterwards for thinking it, that if Charlie never recovered then maybe she had a chance to be with him.

The relationship between Matt and Charlie was clearly disintegrating, and this was apparent to more people than just Emily. She’d overheard a concerned Nurse Willis discussing the situation with Oak, and both of them had been worried about how Matt would deal with the blow when he finally accepted that Charlie’s memory may never return.

Matt’s sorry situation did have certain advantages for Emily though, much to her delight and later shame when the guilt set in. She noticed for example that he was arguing more and more with his inner sanctum of friends, and that he was barely on speaking terms with either his or Charlie’s parents. He was isolating himself from everyone that had been a part of his and Charlie’s lives, and Emily was fast becoming his only shoulder to cry on.

On the fourth straight day that she’d found him staring up at the ceiling, from flat on his back on the couch in the doctor’s lounge, she asked him; “penny for them?”

“Not sure they’re worth that much actually,” he said.

“Aaah come on, it can’t be that bad,” she said walking over to him. She then sat down next to him, and put her hands confidently and assuredly on top of his and gave them a little squeeze. Yet he merely looked at her.

“Things still not good at home,” she said tilting her head slightly to one side concernedly.

“Nope,” he said; “things are crap at home.”

“Wanna talk about it?” Emily asked.

“Nope, do you know what I want to do? Go out and get hammered, and have a conversation that doesn’t involve me updating people on the medical status of my wife’s memory. Or for that matter, trying to reassure people that we’re still hopeful and that things between us are fine. When did our private relationship become public entertainment?” He asked bitterly.

“No one thinks its entertainment,” Emily answered. “People just care about the two of you is all.”

“Whatever,” he said sounding like a petulant child which made Emily smile.

“My shifts over in twenty minutes,” she said; “I’ll come and watch you get hammered if you like.”

“Drinking is not a spectator sport,” he replied. “Come on Doctor Peters, think of me as a patient and the only treatment that’ll save me is alcohol.”

“Er yeah,” she said sarcastically; “because alcohol’s always the cure.”

“Precisely,” he answered nodding and raising his eyebrows with a glint in his eyes.

Emily felt the familiar feeling of her heart skipping a beat when he smiled that amazing smile of his at her, but unfortunately she’d been paged to deal with an incoming emergency five minutes before the end of her shift. When she’d gone back to the lounge afterwards, Matt had gone.

That night, she’d been relieved that Matt had left because she’d felt awful for some of the things that she’d been thinking. Charlie had been her friend. What kind of person tries to take advantage of their friend’s husband, especially when that friend is ill she’d asked herself?

She’d gotten drunk that night as she’d sat alone in her flat, and she’d known exactly what kind of person took advantage of that type of situation. She did.

***

Emily had, after her drunken realisation about the kind of person that she’d become, cut back on the hours that she was spending at the hospital unnecessarily. She’d known that she’d been staying around after her shifts were over to lend a hand just so that she could spend some extra time with Matt, and she knew that that had to stop. She’d also tried to avoid having as much contact with him as was possible. She obviously couldn’t be trusted in his presence, and so she thought that the best thing that she could do for him was to stay away from him.

She’d just finished a fourteen hour shift, and she’d been on her way home for the night when she’d been collared into going for a drink with James and a couple of nurses.

“I’m not staying long though okay? I’m knackered,” she’d said.

An hour later though, she was sat in the pub drinking her second glass of wine and feeling much more relaxed. She’d finished her first glass quickly wanting to leave, but as she’d been about to go Matt had come in and had joined them all.

Emily noticed that for the first time in a long time Matt appeared to be in a good mood. He looked like he was enjoying himself, and he was laughing and joking and doing shots with the nurses. She went and sat by him when Shannon, one of the nurses in the group, got up to go to the ladies.

“You seem happy,” she said as he dispatched another shot.

“You don’t,” he replied smiling cheekily at her and passing her a shot to drink.

She smiled and drank it, and then immediately pulled a face which made him laugh.

“Shut up,” she said childishly. But this only made him laugh again.

She was about to elbow him in the ribs to make him stop laughing at her, when she saw Shannon shooting her evil looks. She’d come back to the table, and was obviously waiting for her to move out of what had been her seat. Emily glanced at Matt and then moved. She’d already noticed that Shannon had returned to the table with shots for just her and Matt.

Emily hadn’t felt particularly comfortable watching Shannon letch all over Matt and so she’d decided to leave, but as she was putting her coat on she saw Matt stop talking to Shannon and come over to her. She smiled at him, and he offered to walk her home.

“It’s really not necessary Matt, I’ll be fine. I only live five minutes away,” she said.

“No I should walk you home. Charlie wouldn’t be impressed if she found out that I hadn’t. Plus I’ve had enough,” he said; “anymore shots and I’ll be explaining to Charlie why I’m hurling in the bathroom.”

She laughed and agreed to let him walk her home, but as they walked towards her flat she could see him looking at her from out of the corner of her eyes and it was making her feel nervous.

The walk to her flat was uncomfortable, and it was spent mostly in silence. Emily didn’t really know what to say to him, and he didn’t seem eager to strike up a conversation either.

“We’re here,” Emily said gratefully as she pointed to her front door. “Do you want to come in, for a coffee or something?” Yet she instantly regretted asking him that.

Matt smiled at her and she blushed. “Just for coffee though?” He asked before winking at her, and Emily felt her cheeks getting hotter as she unlocked the door to her building.

They began to walk up the stairs to her flat, and as they did Matt put his hand on her hip. Her heart skipped a beat, but she told herself to think nothing of it. When they stopped again so that she could unlock her front door she felt him press his body up against hers, but again she told herself to think nothing of it. She took a couple of steps inside and she felt him grab her. He pushed her back against the door, and she heard it close with a snap. His face was now just inches from hers, and she could feel his breath on her face.

He smiled at her, and then very suddenly he kissed her and Emily felt exhilarated. This was something that she’d fantasised about from the moment that she’d met him. She remembered shaking his hand and feeling embarrassed that she’d blushed, taken aback by how good looking he was. She’d hoped that he hadn’t sensed her attraction to him straightaway, and she’d gone out of her way to avoid eye contact with him over the next few weeks.

Whilst she’d lived with him and Charlie, she’d tried to avoid seeing him when he was coming out of the shower or just coming in from a run. She’d always been terrified that her facial expression would make a mockery of her attempts to conceal her feelings for him, and she’d been convinced that she’d have to leave their house through the embarrassment at how she would have stared at him.

At this thought Emily’s mind lingered on Charlie, and she pulled away from Matt and she tried to push him away from her. She knew that he’d regret this in the morning, and that she wouldn’t. As she pushed him back though, he leant forwards and overpowered her arms to kiss her again. Yet this time when he kissed her, he wrapped his arms around her waist and held her to him.

Again she tried to push him away, but he looked her squarely in the face and she was lost in his hazel eyes. She tried desperately to maintain her composure, but when he smiled at her she felt her heart pound against her chest as though trying to escape. He moved forward towards her once more, but this time he did so incredibly slowly and she felt like she’d been frozen to the spot by his eyes. She felt like she wasn’t breathing as she watched his face draw near, and it was impossible not to take in the full extent of his devastatingly handsome features.

She knew that the battle with her conscience was over. He had defeated her. She felt guilty that she hadn’t put up much of a resistance, but she had put up some and that would have to make her feel better for the betrayal that she knew that she was about to do to Charlie.

Matt kissed her and pulled her towards him again, and this time she didn’t try to stop him. Instead, she lightly touched his face and then ran her fingers through his hair.

As the heat between them intensified, Emily felt herself being pulled over towards her sofa. Matt sat down and pulled her forwards so that she was sat astride him, and Emily felt nervous. If this carried on then there was only one way for it to play out, and as much as she wanted him – had fantasised about him, she was riddled with anxiety. She was a virgin, and there was no way that she was going to be able to hide this from him. She knew that she was going to have to tell him.

He stood them both up, and as he began peeling off her clothes she whispered the awful truth into his ear. “This will be my first time.”

He misunderstood her though, and he smiled and replied huskily; “yeah I know. Mine too.”

Emily held his face in her hands and said softly; “I don’t just mean with you.”

He looked momentarily taken aback, but then he smiled at her reassuringly and continued kissing her neck and undressing her. When she was completely naked he sat back down on the sofa, his shirt open and his trousers undone.

Emily wished that he’d also gotten undressed, and she had a very faint feeling of vulnerability by the imbalance of the situation. She was completely naked and he was still fully clothed. Yet as he lowered her down onto him, she felt both the exhilaration of the moment and also the slight pain and discomfort that she knew was normal to experience the first time.

She was pleased that Matt didn’t seem disappointed with her, and when they moved from the sofa to the bedroom she was able to explore him further. This time he completely undressed, dumping his clothes at the side of her bed and making her feel much more relaxed with him. He also took complete control, and she was happy to let him. She was happy to succumb to his experience, and she was astounded by the pleasures that until this moment she’d only been able to fantasise about.

When he was spent and fell asleep, Emily lay on her side watching him. She stroked his cheek, and kissed him lightly on the lips from time to time. She knew that this would be a night that she would never forget, and she only hoped that he wouldn’t have any regrets once the sun came up.





Charlie

She’d waited for Matt to come back into the bedroom, but when she’d heard the front door slam she’d gotten up and put her dressing gown on. She felt confused, and she didn’t know what she’d done to make him react the way he had. She walked into the bathroom, put the plug in the bath, and then turned the taps on.

Charlie sat on the edge of the bath and watched it slowly fill, but when it was still half empty she took off her robe and sank into the water leaving the taps running. She hoped that the hot water would take away all of her problems, but she wasn’t optimistic. As the water continued to rise, she leant forward and turned the taps off. She pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them tightly, but as she sat there – naked and alone, her emotions overcame her and she rested her head on her knees and began to sob.

When Charlie finally felt ready to lift herself out of the bath, the water in it’d gone cold. She felt that her sadness had dissipated a little, but it had instead been replaced by embarrassment and anger.

She was embarrassed because she knew that she’d have to face Matt when he came home, and they’d have to address what had caused him to react the way that he had towards her. Yet as the image of him getting up and leaving her on the bed shot through her mind again, she felt mortified and she shook her head to try and chase the memory away. Had she really been that bad she panicked? She’d thought that the sex had been good, but perhaps she’d been a disappointment for him she worried.

Charlie left the bathroom and walked into the bedroom, but as she did she knew that she was feeling increasingly angry. She was angry with Matt, but equally she was angry with Maria and with herself.

She’d given her husband what she felt sure that he’d wanted for months, but this is how he’d reacted she asked herself? She’d taken a chance, and it had ended badly. Now she only wished that she hadn’t bothered, but she knew that she needed and was looking for someone other than herself to blame. She just wasn’t sure who that person should be. Maria had encouraged her to do this she thought, but then Matt had been the one who’d made her feel like she did now.

Charlie picked up her pyjamas, and the book that she was reading which was on her bedside table, and she went into the spare room. She shut the door behind her and sat down on the bed. She knew that she didn’t want to go on feeling this way. Her actions had been intended to solve their problems, not make them worse.

She had nested all of her hopes in this plan working. Yet not only had it failed, it had also dashed any hopes that she’d had that it might help restore her memory. She was tired, and she was unsure of how much more of this she could or should be expected to take. She couldn’t go on living and sleeping next to a stranger, trying to live a life that she didn’t recognise or know, and she began to feel angry again. She hated that this was what she was letting her life be. She hated that she felt alone, and increasingly lonely. She hated her life.

Charlie had seen everyone watching her, looking for signs that she was getting better. Matt continually searched her eyes and face for a connection that he’d obviously once felt with her, but the watching, the waiting, the continual anticipation of all those around her was just too much. She’d reached breaking point, and even the faint feeling of familiarity that she got from Matt no longer seemed like a valid reason for her to stay. Enough was finally enough.

She lay on the bed knowing what she needed to do. She had to give up trying to remember who she was, or who she’d once been. She had to stop trying to be the Charlie that everyone remembered her being. Her memory had been wiped clean, and she needed to accept that and start afresh. She needed to let herself be the Charlie she was now.





Matt

He was sat with his back resting against the wall wishing that his shift was over. He found being in the hospital tedious, and his patience with those that were looking to him for comfort, guidance, and reassurance, short. When he wasn’t at work he wished he was, and when he was at work he wished he wasn’t. Time had begun to move in ways that had no meaning to him anymore, and little by little he was wishing away every second of every day.

Work had always been a safe haven for Matt. He’d taken comfort in the chaos of life as an A&E doctor. The challenge of the unpredictable crisis had always made his heart beat quicker with adrenaline, and he thrived on the back to back emergencies that often kept him working fifteen or sixteen hours straight. Yet as he sat waiting for the final few minutes of his twelve hour shift to lapse, he contemplated walking away from the hospital and medicine for good.

Since Charlie had left him, he hadn’t been the same person. He knew it, and he also knew that it was plainly obvious for all those around him to see. His life had fallen into disarray, but he’d already gone well past the point of caring.

Matt felt his pager vibrate against his side and he contemplated tossing it to one side, but as the thought passed – just as it always did, he reached inside his coat pocket and took out two small bottles of tablets. He took a handful of each and tossed them into his mouth as he got up and strode through the doors towards the A&E.

He’d been self medicating now for over a month, and he wasn’t sure that he even knew what he was taking anymore. He’d certainly lost track of the quantities, but then he didn’t really care.

Matt knew that he was on a downhill trend. Yet what he also knew was that there was a part of him, although he was unsure how big a part of him it was, that was looking to self destruct. Self destruction aside though, the tablets did actually help. They knocked him out when he needed to sleep, and they kept him awake when he had to work. Most importantly, they kept him distracted to such an extent that his mind was unable to be torn apart with images of Charlie.

He reached the ambulance bay and took the chart from the paramedic. He noticed Emily stood on the other side of the patient, and he saw her trying to gage his reaction to her. He knew that he’d treated her abominably over the past few weeks, and he knew that she understood the cause behind the shake in his hand that had been visible when he’d reached for the chart from the paramedic. He was also aware that there was a red glean in his eyes that he couldn’t hide, and he knew that no one was fooled into believing that it was the result of too much coffee or too little sleep.

Embarrassed by his body’s failure to hide his addictions, he looked away and tried to focus on the job in hand. For now at least he could lose himself, if only temporarily, in the carnage and destruction of someone else’s life and wellbeing.

***

After leaving the house he hadn’t known where to go. He’d left his wife on their marital bed, in the home that they’d shared for nearly ten years, naked and alone. He’d been unable to bear her vulnerability, and her complete and utter dependence upon him in that moment.

For the six months up until this point he’d hoped that Charlie would trust him again. He’d hoped that they could find some way through the darkness and back into each other’s arms. He’d prayed to god for the strength to keep fighting for his wife, to remember their past strongly enough for them both, and to forgive her for forgetting him.

He’d known for months that he’d become to resent her, and he hated himself for that. Yet whilst she was trying to find a way to accept what had happened, find solace in their friends, and make plans for a future without her memories. He’d just had to stand by and watch. He couldn’t participate, because whilst she was contentedly accepting that everything that they’d shared in the past was gone. He was in mourning for their past, and he couldn’t accept that same conclusion.

He knew that she wanted a future, but it was a future that he felt certain that she didn’t see him in. So as she’d made her plans with Maria. He was left to try and deal with the gaping chasm of heartache and loss, and what felt increasingly like betrayal. This Charlie had stolen his wife’s body and life, and he hated her for it. He missed his Charlie, and he wanted her back desperately.

He knew that this Charlie was making the effort, but he didn’t care. Whilst she sat and made mindless chit chat with him, he just sat there and felt increasingly angry. He listened to the tone of her voice, and watched her face and eyes, but all the time he was cursing god for making him believe that he’d been lucky to have his wife survive her accident. This woman – this Charlie, was not the person that he’d fallen in love with and had shared the better part of his life with.

The day that Charlie had been rushed into the A&E had been the worst of his life, and he knew that his initial optimism had been part of his own denial. He’d had to believe that she’d be okay, if only to protect his sanity. Anytime that he’d even contemplated that she might not make it, that the news from surgery might not be good, he’d been physically sick.

For days he’d just sat by her bed, holding her hand and begging her not to leave him. For the sake of his wellbeing and sanity, he’d made himself believe that she’d survive and that she’d make a full recovery. She would come back to him. He’d known that there hadn’t been a contingency plan for a life without her in it, and the thought of a future without her had tore his heart to shreds.

When she’d woken up he’d felt overcome with relief, and even in the days that had followed he’d been able to hang on to hope. Yet as the months past, he found himself missing Charlie so much that at times he had stood in the shower and wept. Snatched from his life without any notice or warning had been his wife, his best friend, and the person that he’d shared the past fifteen years of his life with. In Charlie’s place, he’d been handed a perfect imitation. It was cruel, and he resented it. He resented her actually. He resented this new Charlie.

He missed the tenderness of Charlie’s kisses, and the way that she’d hold his hand or sit on his lap without any reason. He missed the way that she’d nestle up against him when they were watching a film, or play with his hair when he was reading something that she thought was dull. He missed how she’d deliberately wonder into the kitchen wearing something alluringly sexy and revealing when he was cooking dinner for them, and then drag him off to bed.

Matt missed the glances that they’d traded, and the jokes that only they’d understood. He missed being able to touch her freely, and hold her close. He missed all of the simple things that they’d shared, which he’d never once thought to appreciate before, like the impromptu hugs and the unexpected kisses good morning or goodnight.

He missed the scent of her skin and the softness of her neck against his lips. He missed the way that she could make him laugh, and equally the way that she could make him mad. He missed their fights and squabbles, and the making up afterwards. He missed her tenderness and presence in his life, but what he missed most of all was having that one person in his life that knew everything about him.

Charlie had shared all of his memories, his hopes and his fears, for fifteen years. He missed having that one person that knew exactly how he was feeling and what to do to make him feel better, and he missed the fact that Charlie had always known these things without him ever having to tell her.

In the months since the accident, even though he hadn’t technically been alone – as Charlie had still been in his life, the isolation and desperation had at times been more than he could bear. He hated god, and Charlie, for making him endure this.

He had been walking nowhere to begin with, but as he lifted up his head to try and shake himself from his emotional turmoil that he was feeling he recognised instantly where his feet had carried him. He was outside Rich and Bex’s house.

It seemed that just as when he’d been a kid and his feet had always found their way to Rich’s parents house, as an adult he’d maintained the same ability and he could still always find his way to Rich’s when he needed to.

Rich was shocked to find him at his door as he opened it, and he asked; “don’t you normally work Saturdays?”

“I need to come in,” Matt replied.

“If this is about last night,” he said as he opened the door wider for Matt to come in; “then yeah maybe I could’ve been more sensitive about the whole Charlie thing.”

“Is Bex home?” Matt asked walking straight down the hallway and into the kitchen.

“No, she’s out shopping,” Rich answered. Walking into the kitchen and standing on the opposite side of the breakfast counter from where Matt was stood, and eyeing his best friend with scrutiny.

“I’ve fucked up,” Matt said not looking directly at Rich.

Rich didn’t respond, but he continued to scrutinise his best friends face.

“I slept with Emily,” Matt said still not looking at Rich.

Rich again didn’t respond, and Matt found his temper rising at his best friends seeming indifference to what he was telling him. He looked up at Rich and said; “I slept with someone else, someone other than Charlie. Aren’t you shocked, angry, disappointed even? Aren’t you going to say something?” He asked angrily.

Rich still looked indifferent as he said; “you’re not going to want to hear what I’ve got to say.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Matt retorted angrily shocked at Rich’s reaction to his confession. “I can take it. Call me a twat, a fool, a shit husband. I can take it, and it’s what I deserve.”

“I don’t think you’re any of those things,” Rich said.

Matt felt like he’d just been hit in the face with a cricket bat.

“How long has it been since you last had sex?” Rich asked, and then catching Matt’s eyes started to laugh. “Okay, I’ll re-phrase that as clearly that came out wrong. Obviously it wasn’t that long ago, but what I meant was that you and Charlie haven’t been you and Charlie since before her accident. You may have been living together, but you haven’t been living together as man and wife. And all I mean is that a man can only go so long you know?”

“But its Charlie,” Matt said imploringly; “it’s me and Charlie.”

“But it isn’t though is it? She’s not your Charlie,” Rich said; “and you two haven’t been you and Charlie since she came home.”

“You’ve changed your tune,” Matt said suspiciously.

“Oh come on man. I’m getting married and my fiancée and your missus are friends. I don’t think Charlie’s the same as she was before, but the girls want to believe that she is. I think Bex is scared to death that if this ever happened to her, that I wouldn’t be able to take it. I think she’s terrified that I’d leave her. She needs to believe that you and Charlie can make it,” Rich said almost ashamedly.

“Would you leave her?” Matt asked.

It took a couple of seconds for Rich to reply, but when he did he looked deeply ashamed. “Yeah,” he said; “yeah, I think I would.”

Matt looked into Rich’s face, and he felt shocked.

Rich looked back at him and said; “I don’t know how you’ve coped. I feel for Charlie and everything of course I do, but I just don’t recognise her or know her anymore.”

Matt couldn’t believe where this was coming from, and he couldn’t take his eyes off Rich’s.

“I’ve known her for as long as you have, and I’ve shared certain things with her in the past you know? But seeing her like this, unable to remember nicknames and jokes from our past! It’s just too hard, it’s too damn depressing. And seeing you with her is just fucking awful. The way you look at her. It’s no wonder Bex is messed up over it,” he said.

“What do you mean how I look at her?” Matt asked feeling a little choked up.

Rich shook his head with a half laugh half sign and said; “you’re either looking at her like she’s just broken your heart and your begging her to realise and fix it, or you’re just staring at her unseeingly. Smiling to be polite, or nodding at things that she’s saying to you, but you’re clearly wishing you’re somewhere – hell I don’t know, anywhere else at all.”

Matt didn’t say anything. He was genuinely a little amazed that Rich had been so perceptive of his interaction with Charlie.

“Look, if you want me to tell you that you’re a twat or something? Then fine, you’re a twat. You’ve cheated on my first and your only love,” Rich said with a quick flick upwards of his eyebrows.

They both knew that it normally riled Matt when Rich referred to Charlie as his first love. Yet Matt couldn’t even be bothered to roll his eyes at Rich for the comment today, instead he just sat down heavily on the stool which was beside him and put his head in his arms.

“I also slept with Charlie,” he said into the counter unable to bring himself to look back up at Rich.

“At the same time,” Rich said sounding shocked but equally impressed.

Matt laughed as he looked up and saw Rich’s face. He just couldn’t help himself, but as he did he felt the more familiar feeling of guilt return.

“No,” he said. “Emily last night and Charlie this morning, but both of them were accidents and huge mistakes,” he said despairingly as he put his head back in his arms.

“Not bad mistakes though?” Rich asked trying to make light of the situation, but Matt didn’t answer and there was silence between them for a whole minute.

“Okay let’s hear it,” Rich said; “although it’s not that I’m all that surprised. Emily’s legs have been open to you for ages, but go on why did you sleep with her? You haven’t shown an interest before now, and she’s been on the scene for a while?”

“You’d pissed me off, and I was drunk. Oh I don’t know,” he said; “if I’m honest, she was just sort of there.”

He saw Rich look at him sceptically, but he said; “and Charlie?”

Matt looked at Rich guilty and said embarrassedly; “she caught me unawares this morning. I was tired and I’d just gotten out of the shower. I tried to resist her but…”

“It’s Charlie,” Rich finished for him. “Was it good?”

“Always is,” Matt said with a smile.

“I remember,” Rich said. To which Matt did his best not to scowl at him.

“And Emily,” Rich said.

Matt flushed scarlet.

“Filthy?” Rich asked reacting to Matt’s embarrassment.

“It was her first time,” Matt said looking imploringly at his best friend for words of wisdom.

“So shit then?” Rich asked neither sympathetically nor wisely.

“No, just…”Matt began to say, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to go on.

“Just?” Rich asked not letting him off the hook.

“It was good,” Matt said sounding like he wished that wasn’t the answer.

“Are you going to tell Charlie?” Rich asked; “or just keep seeing Emily on the sly?”

“Neither,” Matt said sounding shocked. “What kind of husband would I be if I admitted to my wife – who has amnesia, that I’ve done this to her? I’m the one person that she’s been reliant upon since she’s woken up, and she’s trusted me without any reason to. How can I possibly tell her that I’ve cheated on her? And how can I keep seeing Emily? I work with her and I’m married to Charlie!”

“Want a beer?” Rich asked.

He was about to say that it was too early when he thought better of it and said; “yeah, why not.”

Matt stayed at Rich’s drinking beer until Bex came home and started yelling at Rich, at which point he made a hasty retreat and headed home. As he walked back he took out his phone, and he saw that he had two missed calls and two messages. The missed calls were from Charlie, and the texts were from Emily. She wanted to see him, but he hit delete to both messages. He couldn’t worry about her now. He needed to think about what he was going to say to Charlie when he got in.

He reached the front door, but as he was about to put his key into the lock he paused. He didn’t know why, but he suddenly felt momentarily scared to go inside. A feeling of uncertainty had overwhelmed him, and for some reason his mind had gone back to a very old memory. He was back in Charlie’s bedroom in Cheddar. He was sat on her window ledge, and he could remember thinking that even in that hideous blue dress that she had on he could love her forever.

He shook the memory from his head and opened the door. He walked straight through the living room into the kitchen, where he threw his keys onto the table, and he headed over to the fridge.

For no reason in particular he glanced across at the blackboard by the back door. He didn’t know why he glanced across at it, as it hadn’t been written on in months. Leaving messages on this had been something that he’d done with the old Charlie, and he wasn’t even sure that he’d told the new Charlie what they’d used the blackboard for. Yet as he thought this, he saw Charlie’s familiar scrawl on it.

I couldn’t fit everything on the board, so it’s in the letter by the kettle.

Matt turned and looked at the envelope that was resting against their kettle, and he walked over to it and picked it up.

He wasn’t sure what to expect as he opened it, but he knew that it wasn’t going to be good and he knew that he only had himself to blame. He’d walked out on her after they’d had sex, and then he’d ignored her calls. He was guessing that she was too embarrassed to face him, and the letter was going to say that she was spending the night elsewhere. He wondered if she’d gone to stay with Rach and Ben, and he wondered if he should give Ben a call.

Matt,

I can’t stay and be somebody that I’m not anymore, so I’m going to live with my parent’s for a while.

I wanted you to know that I really did try to remember. I tried for me, but I also tried for you because I wanted to be the same person that you’d lost.

You deserve the chance to move on with your life, and I’m sorry that I haven’t let you before now. I shouldn’t have compelled you to play the dutiful husband. It was perhaps cruel of me, and it hasn’t helped either of us.

I’m sorry that I did that, and I’m sorry that I can’t remember.

Charlotte.

Matt felt like his heart had just been brutally ripped from his chest, and that all the oxygen had been drained from his lungs. He’d honestly believed that he hadn’t wanted this Charlie. He’d thought that she was a second rate, lacklustre, impersonator, and that his life would be better off without her. Yet as he was stood faced with the prospect of never seeing Charlie again, he felt as though the walls were closing in on him. He was now totally alone, but what was worse was that he knew that he’d brought it on himself.

He looked at the letter again, and he noticed that she’d signed off Charlotte. Charlie really was gone he thought, she’d never have signed off a note or letter to him that way, but as the feeling of loss began to consume him he felt the need to take control of the situation. Unsure of how to do this, or even what was required in order to do this, he decided as a stop gap that he’d drink.

Matt walked over to the freezer and took out a bottle of vodka. He poured himself a large glass and dispatched it in one. It had little effect so he followed it with a few more, and when the effects of the vodka finally began to take hold he took out his phone and dialled the first number to mind.

“Hi,” Emily said.

***

Matt had taken advantage of Emily’s feelings for him, but he didn’t care. When he was with her, in fact when he was with any woman in a sexual way, he was able to block out thoughts of Charlie and momentarily suppress the hurt that he felt all of the time.

He didn’t like the man that he’d become, but he also didn’t know what to do about it. He knew that those around him were either too concerned or too disgusted with his current behaviour to confront him about it, and he was grateful for that. He knew that it was common knowledge that he’d been sleeping Emily, but then it was also no secret that he’d slept with half of the female staff at the hospital in the months following his abandonment by Charlie.

He’d known at school and at uni that girls had found him attractive, and he’d never had to make any effort to get their attention, but he’d only had eyes for Charlie. So he’d never realised that as a doctor – a good looking doctor, he was able to get pretty much any woman that he wanted.

The endless one night stands were satisfying enough. He could remain cold and unfeeling, and he could simply walk away from the women the next morning without any feelings of guilt or remorse, but Emily complicated things and he was unsure why he continued to see her on a personal basis.

Whilst sex was a useful release, he still had to find ways to pass the days and the endless hours when he was at the hospital. Home wasn’t as bad. He either always had company, or in the event that he was alone he ensured that he had enough valium or nitrazepam to knock him out.

At the hospital though, when he wasn’t caught up in back to back emergencies that kept his mind busy he had time. It was then when thoughts of his old life with Charlie would torment him. It was then when the pain of losing her tore his heart and soul apart, and then when it all felt like more than he could stand to bear.

To try and manage his pain, and in an attempt to help stabilise his moods, he’d begun to use a range of drugs. To counter the valium and nitrazepam that he was taking to sleep, and to keep his soul destroying guilt and depression under control, he was using a variety of amphetamines. In fact he was using anything and everything he could get his hands on at the hospital without being caught. He’d also taken to stealing Emily’s prescription pad to get more drugs. He knew that if he used his own it would draw attention to his growing addiction, and Emily never seemed to notice him using hers.

Matt knew that he’d gotten into a vicious cycle, but he just couldn’t stop himself. He knew that he’d become completely dependent on drugs to either stay awake or go to sleep, and he knew that he now needed them to get through the days and the nights. The larger concern, could he find it in himself to care, was that he was becoming increasingly reckless with the doses that he was taking.

He knew the risks of what he was doing, and he was also more than aware of the blatant disregard that he was showing for his own life. Yet he didn’t care. Without Charlie around, life no longer seemed worth living.