Serena found that she had a headache building behind her eyes after they had finished supper, and so she had begged off from heading to the bar in their hotel and went up to her room instead, taking a quick shower before changing into pyjamas and settling into bed. She was surprised to find Charlotte joining her twenty minutes later, a bottle of water and an apple in her hand, which she gave to Serena before plopping down at the end of the bed. "You didn't have to come babysit me, Charlie. I know that you'd like to enjoy being in a new country, rather than holed up in a room with me."
"Eh, Cameron was drowning his sorrows in beer, and I was getting a little tired of watching him get blotto. And this will give us a little time to talk, unless you just want to go to sleep?"
There was an openness in Charlotte's face that Serena knew she had to take advantage of, since she didn't really know Bernie's daughter all that well. "I think that I would enjoy talking with you for a little while. But be warned that I might fall asleep on you, since I have the tendency to do that when I have a headache."
"That's why I brought you the water. I know that when I start to have a headache, water helps ease it away. And the apple is supposed to help with that, too, according to the concierge." Charlotte gave her a shy smile as she pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her chin there. "You loved Mum."
"I love your mother. I made so many mistakes towards the end of our relationship that I truly regret, and I hope that when we find her, I'm able to start making up for those choices I stupidly made. I wish that I could go back in time, that I could see the point where the train was starting to derail and get off it before I became a part of the trainwreck, but I don't think that that's possible."
"I do understand that sentiment, yes. But the choices we make are what shape who we are."
"Harry Potter?" Charlotte nodded almost guiltily. "I loved reading those books to Elinor when she was young. It was the one thing that truly bonded us before she grew up and made a life for herself."
"What was she like? Mum only told us a little about her, because she wanted to let us know that you had faced such sorrow in such a short span of time, and so she didn't want us to judge you harshly. I don't think that I could judge you, at all, because you were kinder than Dad ever was to Mum, even if you did make a rather large mistake. After all, Mum cheated on Dad with Alex, so I think that she would have treated you kindly, had you the opportunity to truly sit down and talk about things before she just left. I get it, though, it probably felt like she was coming full circle in her life – from being the cheater to being the aggrieved spouse."
"You're awfully smart for you age," Serena murmured as she cracked open the bottle of water and took a long swig. There was something comforting about the way the water slipped down her throat, as if she truly needed that brief distraction to help keep her mind more focused on the conversation at hand. "Did you inherit that from your mother?"
"Probably, since Dad can be a bit thick at times, even if he is, technically, a doctor." Serena giggled as she began to eat the apple, her hunger returning with a vengeance as she devoured the fruit. "So, how is Cam getting along, really? There are times when I can see Dad in him, more than Mum, and it worries me, since Dad has a dark side that unnerves me at times. I saw how Cam started to get really antsy while you were speaking with the Captain, and that is something that I would have expected to see from Dad."
"I think that your brother is under a tremendous amount of strain because he has to live up to his mother's reputation as a doctor, along with trying to carve his own career path out at Holby. Her death, or rather, apparent death, has also driven him closer to the edge of not okay, which is why I'm keeping an eye out for him. I owe it to Bernie to take care of her children, though that's kind of hard to do with you, since you're in London, and we're in Holby City."
"My job is there, and I didn't want to uproot my life to be closer to Mum and Dad. Had I known how little time I would have with my mother, I think that I would have made different choices, but we can't ever go back in time."
"That is very true," she replied as she finished off the apple, tossing it handily into the trash can before wiping her hands on her trousers to remove the remaining traces of apple juice. "There are a few things that I might change about my life if I could go back in time, though I think that the first thing that comes to mind might surprise you."
"Let me guess, you wouldn't change sleeping with Leah?"
"Oh, I would, in a heartbeat, that just wouldn't be the first thing that I changed. Before I met your mum, just after I had started at the hospital, my mother's dementia started to go downhill faster than I ever expected. I had other members of staff assuming that I was abusing her, since I was so insistent that I should be the only one to take care of her, when in reality, she was the one hurting me. It was her disease, it wasn't her, but I wanted nothing more than to protect her, so I did everything alone. If it was just me taking care of her, I didn't have to worry about her being labelled a problem patient. But if I had it to do all over again, I'd ask for more help, more quickly. Because I do think that I failed her by spreading myself so thin."
"But you loved her, and wanted to do the right thing by her. There's no shame in that."
"I suppose not, no. She's buried in the Peace Garden, you know."
"What?" Charlotte asked as she made her way up the bed so that she could sit next to Serena, dropping her head on her shoulder as she reached out for her hand. "There has to be a story behind that!"
She giggled and nodded, taking another sip of water before setting the bottle on the nightstand. "It involved me and a colleague getting absolutely blotto in my office as I reminisced about her life. He suggested, that since I spent so much time at the hospital, I should keep a piece of her there. So, while we were still three sheets to the wind, we went out to the Peace Garden, and I dug a hole for her urn while Raf kept an eye out for security. I honestly don't think that what we did was exactly legal, but it felt right at the time."
"I can see you doing that, based on everything that Mum ever told me about you. You'll have to show me the spot when we're in Holby next."
"I think that I can arrange that," she replied, squeezing Charlotte's hand warmly as they began to talk about other, happy, memories of their families, which Serena found was exactly the right thing that she needed in that moment, to help take her mind off the rather disappointing meeting that they had had earlier that day.