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Following a very successful morning, Bernie and Dom decide to grab a bite to eat before an afternoon full of attending more presentations. As the pair wait for their food to arrive Bernie stretches her arm above her head, aiming to relieve her aching back, then leans back in her chair wearily. A morning spent sitting in the most uncomfortable chair she had ever come across hadn’t done wonders for her recently healed injury. She consoles herself with the thought that there is only one more day of the conference left, then she can get back to where she belongs - alongside Serena.

“Has old age finally caught up with you?” Dom teases, cheekily, amused by her stretching demonstration. 

 

“Something like that,” Bernie answers, her words laced with amusement.

Before Dom can tease his friend further, Bernie's phone begins to ring. She beams a huge smile when she sees Serena’s new mobile phone number on the screen. 

 

“Hello, you.” she coos down the phone as she answers.

 

“Bernie, it’s Lofty. I’m sure how to tell you, but Serena is missing.” 

 

“Wh… what do you mean missing?” Bernie sits suddenly upright, looking very serious. 

 

“Serena’s not at the house. I came to check on her during my lunch break and she isn’t anywhere to be found.” He explains. 

 

“Oh,” A rapid wave of nausea rises from the pit of her stomach filling her with a warm, burning sensation. That her deepest fears are becoming a reality is the only thought her brain can hold onto for a heartbreaking moment - before rational thought returns to the forefront of her mind. “Check the portrait,” she says urgently to Lofty. “You’ll find it laying on top of the chest of drawers in the guest bedroom.”

 

Bernie waits, a mix of nerves and apprehension, while Lofty rushes upstairs in search of the painting. It seems an age before his slightly breathless voice comes back on the line.

 

“It looks empty Bernie. Serena isn’t inside,” he reveals the bad news calmly.  

 

“I’m coming home. Can you wait at the house? Just in case Serena turns up? Either in person or in the portrait?” 

 

“Of course.” Lofty replies gently and too full of sympathy for Bernie’s liking. 

 

If Serena really has been drawn back into the portrait does that mean she doesn’t return my love?” Bernie questions in her mind. It isn’t something she wants to contemplate at all. “Surely after everything we’ve been through that cannot be true.” She tries to rationalise her thoughts.

 

Bernie’s mind is such a whirlwind of thoughts and full of unanswered questions that she doesn’t notice she’s been sitting in her chair for several minutes in stunned silence. Dom has taken her phone and has been talking quietly to Lofty, being brought up to speed on the current situation for the last few minutes. 

 

“-I’ll text you once we’re on the train home,” Dom says his goodbyes before ending the call when he realises that Bernie is almost back with him again.

 

“-Bernie?” Dom calls trying to attract the woman’s attention. 

 

“Hm, Sorry?” Bernie replies pulled fully back to reality. 

 

“I was saying that we should start arranging the journey home. Could you book some train tickets while I update the hospital? I’m sure I can come up with something along the lines of a family emergency.” Dom knows he’s going to have to take charge of the situation. He’s seen the panic in his friend’s eyes. 

 

“But we still have our presentation this afternoon. We can’t both leave. The hospital is relying on at least one of us.” 

 

“This is more important, Bernie. You’re very much mistaken if you think I’m allowing you to travel back to Holby alone given what’s going on. You just buy the tickets online and leave everything work related to me.” Dom reasons. “And… lunch is about to arrive so we might as well eat before doing anything else.”

 

Bernie agrees Dom is right. She’s not sure how much of an appetite she’s has left though



Lunch eaten, or moved around her plate in Bernie’s case, the pair decide to head back to their hotel rooms. Bernie needs to arrange the train tickets and pack her case while Dom is left to get them out of staying for the remainder of the conference. 



While Bernie is packing the last of her things, Dom knocks on her hotel room door. 

 

“Come in,” Bernie calls as she’s closing the zip on her suitcase. 

 

“It’s all sorted,” Dom announces as he opens the door and enters the room. “I’ve spoken to Hanssen and explained that you’ve had a family emergency. He’s agreed you shouldn’t travel alone and is arranging for the presentation to be pushed back until tomorrow afternoon and is sending Mr Levy as our replacement. I’ve sent him a copy of the presentation. Have you managed to sort the tickets?”

 

“Yes,” Bernie answers tapping her fingers restlessly on the side of her phone. She can’t stay still and is itching to get home as fast as humanly possible. 

 

“It’s difficult, I know but try to stay calm. I’m sure we'll be able to figure out a way to get Serena out of the portrait.” Dom tries to reassure his friend that all will be okay even if the worst has happened.  

 

“Serena might not have been drawn back into the painting. For all I know she’s changed her mind about us and gone and left me.” 

 

“Impossible. Serena wouldn’t just leave you. She is as besotted with you as you are with her.” Dom gives Bernie a small smile. 

 

“I hope that’s true.” Bernie smiles a little. 

 

“I know it is.” Dom pauses before continuing. “I’m all packed, so let's get going shall we?”

 


 

The taxi they got to the station leaves them at the entrance half an hour before their train is due to depart. They decide to wait in the cafe nearest to the platform they need.  Bernie is sitting at a vacant table while  Dom is queuing for coffee when her phone rings. 

 

“Hello?” Bernie answers. 

 

“It’s Lofty, Serena definitely isn’t in the portrait. I’ve just found a letter in the kitchen. It’s from her ”

 

“What does it say?” Bernie asks, dreading the answer.

 

“You want me to open it.”

 

“Yes. I need to know what’s happened to her. Open it.” For a moment the only sounds Bernie can hear are the ripping and rustling of paper and the loud beating of her heart then Lofty speaks. 

 

“It says she can’t stay here anymore.There’s nothing about where she’s gone or why she’s left.” “Lofty explains. “I don’t understand what could’ve changed. Serena seemed perfectly fine when I left for my shift this morning. She was looking forward to hearing from you later.“

 

“I can’t quite get my head around this either.” Bernie is rather more worried than before. She doesn’t have any idea where Serena could possibly have gone. It’s not like she knows anyone else in Holby, has anywhere she can go - or any money for a hotel. Serena’s safety may be at risk and it’s Bernie’s primary concern. 

 

“I would’ve tried calling her but she left her phone alongside the note.” Lofty explains putting paid to Bernie’s next move. 

 

Bernie doesn’t know how to respond. A single tear runs down her cheeks as she passes the phone to Dom, who has just arrived at the table and placed two takeaway coffee cups down.

 

Dom listens as Lofty updates him on the latest developments. He can hear how concerned Lofty is. The man has become closer to Serena in the last few days and now thinks of her as a very good friend. Dom, who is also fond of her, is finding it difficult to keep his emotions in check while seeing Bernie in such evident turmoil. After a few more minutes he ends the call and tries his best to comfort his friend.

 

“There isn’t much longer to wait. The train will be departing in a few minutes.” It isn’t much  consolation to Bernie.

 


 

Bernie strides at full speed through Holby train station in the direction of the car park. Dom follows closely behind, breathing heavily, He isn’t used to this amount of exercise, isn’t built for speed. When they arrive at Bernie’s car she unlocks it and gets straight in. She waits just long enough for Dom to sit in the passenger seat and belt up before firing the engine and throwing the car into reverse. The tires screech backwards momentarily then stretches forwards and speeds off towards the exit ramps. Again, the tires scream as she flings the vehicle around the tight corners until they pull onto the main road. Poor Dom holds on for dear life. 



When Bernie and Dom screech to a halt in Bernie’s driveway. Bernie all but jumps for the abandoned rather than parking the car. She rushes inside and finds Lofty sitting on the sofa in the living room. 

 

“I’m so glad you’re both back safe.” Lofty says as he gets to his feet and rushes to hug Dom. 

 

“Is this Serena’s note? Bernie asks, not bothering with the niceties of hello as she gestures to a piece of paper placed next to Serena’s mobile on the coffee table and sits down in the armchair. 

 

“Yes.” Lofty replies as he and Dom sit together on the sofa. 

 

Bernie leans forward, takes hold of the note, and reads it. As she scans the handwritten words she notices the ink has been smudged by what seem to be tear stains. Bernie looks questioningly over to Dom and Lofty. 

 

“The stains were already there when I read it.” Lofty confirms. 

 

She was obviously rather upset when she wrote this, Bernie thinks. “Where are you, Serena? Why have you left?” Bernie asks herself aloud as she flops back against the sofa. 

 

The room is suddenly quiet as the trio ponder their next move. They could, of course, report Serena as a missing person, but she’s an adult who can make her own decisions. It wouldn’t be much use. Even if the police find Serena no one could force her to go home if doesn’t want to. Besides, how exactly could you explain a several hundred year old missing woman to the police? There’s no evidence that she even exists, no passport or driving license. No police officer is going to take this seriously.

 

Bernie tries to come at it from a different angle. She tries to figure out what could’ve possibly upset Serena enough to cause her to leave and where she could possibly have gone. Then it comes to her. Serena had seemed pretty friendly with Ms Fanshawe from the antique store when she’d taken her into the city to visit. She’d thought at the time that there might be more to the women’s fast friendship than Serena had told her. She has nothing to lose by finding out.

 

Wanting to act promptly, Bernie reaches into her pocket and pulls out her car keys. 

 

“Where are you going?” Dom asks concerned. 

 

“I’m going to look for Serena. I can’t sit here and do nothing anymore. I thought the antique store would be a good place to start.” Bernie answers, already itching to leave. 

 

“Would you like us to come with you?” Lofty offers. 

 

“I’d rather you both stay here in case Serena comes back,” Bernie replies. “I’ll be ok,” she tells them as she disappears out to the living room en route to the front door.

 


 

“Hello, Ms Wolfe. It’s a pleasure to see you again. I was just about to close the store.” Fleur greets Bernie with a wide smile as she enters the shop, genuinely pleased to see the blonde. “Is everything okay?” she asks, seeing the odd expression on  Bernie’s face



“Not really. I’m not doing too well. Actually, I’m here about Serena. She’s left. She just up and vanished. All she left me was a note that doesn’t tell me anything. I’m worried about her and I was hoping you might have seen or heard from her.” 

 

“I’m afraid I haven’t. Do you know why she’s left?”  

 

“I don’t, no. It’s clear from the note that someone or something upset her, but I have no idea what. She isn't back inside the portrait. That much I do know.”

 

“I might be able to help but if I tell you what I think, you can’t ask me any question about what I know, how I know it, or what it means. You need to trust me and take what I’m about to say at face value.” Fleur says seriously. 

 

“Okay, go ahead.” Bernie agrees. She’s happy to agree to almost anything if it means she can find Serena.

 

“Whenever Serena was upset she’d find somewhere quiet to go and think. In fact, she had a favourite place she’d go to if she could.  Now, I’m not sure if it’s still standing but I suspect she may have gone home.” 

 

“Home? Where was her home? She’s never mentioned where she lived. I never thought about her having a home before the portrait really. Where was it?” Bernie asks. In spite of all the worry about Serena, he can’t help but wonder how Fleur seems to know Serena so well. 

 

“I’m not sure what exactly Serena has told you about herself, but in her own time, she was a noblewoman. Her mother was a Countess and her father, who died whilst she was a young child, was a Knight of the Garter. They owned The Astwood Estate in the Berkshire Downs and lived in the grand manor.”

 

“And, this is where you think she could’ve gone?”

 

“I’m quite sure. It’s the most logical explanation.” Fleur replies. “But again, I don’t have any idea of what state the place is in today or even if it’s still standing.” She jots down the information Bernie needs on a spare piece of paper and hands it to her.

“Thank you. You’ve been a great help.” Bernie thanks Fleur as she takes the paper and starts to leave. 

 

“I hope Serena is found safe and well,” Fleur calls after her as Bernie heads through the door. 



Bernie sits in her parked car just down the road while she confirms everything Fleur told her online. There indeed was a Countess Mckinnie who lived at the manor Fleur had mentioned. And her daughter lived with her  - Lady Serena. Lady Serena had mysteriously disappeared in the fifteenth century and shortly afterwards her closest friend and ladies maid had disappeared too. She turns her attention to what of the estate still exists in the present day. She is directed to a website for ‘Astwood Manor Hotel and Spa Resort’, where a stay starts at one hundred and seventy-five pounds per night. Bernie just knows this is where Serena has gone.

 

 

 

“I have more than an idea where Serena is,” Bernie announces as soon as Dom answers the call. “She’s gone to find the house she lived in the past.”

“How can you be so sure?” Dom asks sceptically. 

 

“I can’t be absolutely sure but it seems the most likely place to look.” 

 

“Where is this house? Do you want Lofty and I to come with you?” 

 

“It’s in Berkshire. Thank you for the offer but I think this is something I need to do alone. I need to make sure Serena is okay and I don’t want her to feel overwhelmed.” Bernie pauses. “But as soon as I know anything I’ll call and update you.”

 


 

A little more than an hour later, Bernie is driving down long and narrow country lanes on her way to Astwood Manor. It’s been an exceptionally long, tiring and stressful day but her desperation to find Serena keeps her going. In order to keep herself awake and alert enough to carry on driving she opens a window to let some much needed cool fresh air circulate inside the car and turns up the volume of the radio. As Bernie concentrates on the road in front of her she sees, at last, a glimpse of the manor in the distance through the mist created by the rain. She hopes, after all this, that Serena is there to be found. 

 

Bernie swerves hard into the middle of the road to avoid a figure that has suddenly appeared on the road in front of her, As she whizzes past the pedestrian she catches a glimpse of their face and screeches to a halt She recognises that person. Bernie jumps out of the 

car to see Serena’s rain and tear-stained face staring sadly back at her. 

 

She moves closer to Serena, who is rooted to the spot. She doesn’t speak as she looks Bernie directly in the eyes. Bernie notices Serena’s eyes are no longer filled with love, there’s only sadness. The rain hits the trees and bounces off the leaves making a loud tapping sound, but all Serena can hear is her own heartbeat. 

 

“Serena sweetheart, are you okay?” Bernie goes to touch her but Serena flinches. 

 

“Please leave me alone.” Serena walks right past the blonde and continues following the road.

 

“Serena! Serena, wait!” Bernie rushes after her and grabs the woman by the arm gently and pulls her around to face her. “I really don’t understand what has happened. Why did you leave? I thought you loved me, Serena.”

 

“I do love you,  Bernie, but I think I should be the one to say, ‘I thought you loved me.”

 

“Of course I love you. What makes you think I don’t?  Please tell me what’s happened.” Bernie asks, confused.

 

I heard the voicemail you left on Marcus’ phone. The one where you asked him whether he was going to the conference with you.” Serena snatches her arm back and starts walking away again.

 

“Serena, stop, please wait!” Bernie jogs after Serena, blocking her path when she catches up with her so she can’t continue walking away.

 

“I don’t deny that I left him a voicemail but I most certainly did not under any circumstances ask him to come to Northumberland.” Bernie moves closer and takes one of Serena’s hands into her own. “I initially called him to ask if and when he was going to sign the divorce papers but he didn’t answer, nor did he call me back. Whatever you heard has been taken in the wrong context. I promise.” 

 

“Is that right? Marcus seems to think very differently. He said I’m not the first affair you’ve had. He said that when you’re finished with me you’ll go running back to your family. I didn’t want to stay and ultimately end up broken-hearted.” 

 

“Serena, you have to believe me, you mean everything to me. I love you. I did have an affair with another woman while I was serving in RAMC but this, us, what we have isn’t the same. It isn’t an affair of any kind. My marriage was over long before you appeared. Marcus just won’t accept it.” Bernie says sincerely, trying to convince Serena that she's being truthful. “How… When did Marcus say all this to you?”

 

“He came to the house this morning.” 

 

Bernie knows exactly what game Marcus is playing. If he wasn’t the father of her children she’d be ready to throttle him right about now for near ruining her first real chance of happiness and upsetting the woman she loves. She’s not entirely certain that, given the way she’s feeling, being the father of her children won’t save him from being throttled. 

 

“Everything Marcus said is a lie. It’s all lies. I would never leave you for him.” 

 

Serena believes Bernie. She can see the truth written over her face. How could she not when it’s so obvious. Stood here in the middle of the road, soaked by the rain and freezing cold she regrets her hasty decision that morning, regrets running away instead of waiting for Bernie to come home and discussing Marcus’ visit. She'd been scared though. Scared she was going to lose Bernie. Afraid of having her heart broken.  

 

“ - right now I hate Marcus.” Bernie continues, wanting to get everything out while Serena is still listening.” On a good day, I only care about him and what he thinks and does because he’s the father of my children. I’m not in love with him. I never really have been. Nor or will I ever be. You’re the only one I want you, Serena. I love you and only you.” 

 

“Bernie… I…” Serena knows she’s made a mistake believing Marcus, but she feels as if it’s too late to fix it. She took his word over Bernie’s and never gave her a chance to explain. To top it all she’s accused Bernie of being untrustworthy.  Bernie deserves to be with someone who trusts her wholeheartedly. “ - I love you too, but it’s too late to fix this.” Bernie looks crushed as she watches Serena walk around and away from her.



After a beat, Bernie follows Serena, wanting, needing,  an explanation - not willing to leave their relationship unfixed, not able to give up on it in the current state it’s in. 

 

“Why is it too late?” Bernie asks when she finally catches up with the brunette and falls into step alongside her. 

 

“Our being together shouldn’t be so difficult. You deserve better.”

 

“What is that supposed to mean?” Bernie asks herself more than Serena. “Come on, at least let’s get out of the rain and talk in the car before we both develop hypothermia.” 

 

Serena agrees to Bernie’s suggestion with a nod. She realises that she owes her an explanation at the very least. 



Serena slides into the passenger's seat and Bernie takes the driver's seat. There’s an air of awkward silence between them in the car before Bernie breaks the ice. 

 

“What did you mean by ‘You deserve better’?” Bernie asks suddenly.

 

“You deserve to be with someone who trusts you entirely. I’ve already doubted your loyalty. I love you more than you’ll ever know, but do you really think it’s fair for you to be with somebody who doesn’t trust you enough to stay and give you a chance to explain? You need trust in a relationship and I think I showed today that I believed your ex over you. After that, we’re always going to be wondering if we can trust each other.”

“But you trusted me before Marcus came to the house, didn’t you?” 

 

“Of course I did. I trusted you with my life.” Serena answers without hesitation. 

 

“And now?”

 

“If I’m honest, I’m not quite sure at the moment,” Serena replies truthfully. 

 

“Correct me if I’m wrong but I think deep down you do trust me but what Marcus said induced doubt. It’s completely understandable and only human. Especially when we both know you’re entirely dependent on me.” 

 

“You’re right,” Serena confirms. 

 

“We have something special and we shouldn’t let that slip away just because my bitter ex-husband is intent on keeping us apart. I understand why you wanted to run - I would probably have done the same thing. Please don’t feel so guilty for making one tiny mistake that you throw us away.” 

 

“Hardly a tiny mistake, it was of fairly epic proportions. All I could think about was what he’d said and how I’d end up losing you. I can’t tell you  how sorry I am that I was taken in by what he told me.” Serena begins to cry softly, tears rolling down her cheeks. 

 

Bernie leans over the centre console and draws Serena into her arms. Holding her tightly she tells her. “All relationships have their ups and downs and we all make mistakes. I’d do anything for you Serena, anything. I’ve already forgiven you. I hope that when I make a mistake, which I’m sure I will, you’ll forgive me too,” 

 

“You’re right. I’m sorry I got it so wrong. I don’t want to lose you and I’ll do anything to make this up to you.” 

 

“There’s no need, just having you back is more than enough. All forgotten and in the past? Just talk to me next time - if there’s a next time.”

 

Serena nods and wipes the tears from her eyes. She feels a weight lifting from her shoulders. Bernie moves strands of wet hair from Serena’s face and kisses her tenderly. 

 

“I love you.” Serena rests her head against Bernie’s. 

 

“I love you too, Campbell.” Bernie smiles. “Now, how do you fancy taking a look around seeing as we’re already here?” Bernie points towards the big house in the distance. 

 

“I’d like to see the place again, but I wonder who lives there now?” 

 

“It’s a hotel. I’m going to book us a room; we need a nice hot shower and some food.” 

 

“A hotel? Really?” Serena smiles knowing times have moved on and things are different no it won’t do any good getting upset about the place no longer being her home. She has a new home now, with Bernie.