It’s almost late afternoon before Bernie and Serena decide to emerge from the bedroom and head downstairs to the kitchen in search of sustenance. Hours spent in bed thoroughly ‘making up’ and discussing possible plans for their future have created quite an appetite. Serena is about to place the first of two fresh ready meals she’d taken out of the fridge into the microwave, Bernie watching her every move attentively leant against the side of the kitchen counter when the doorbell chimes.
Wondering who it could possibly be, Serena abandons the task at hand and heads to answer the front door. As she walks the brief distance to the hall and approaches the door Serena is surprised to hear the sound of a key turning in the lock, opening the mechanism. Before Serena has a chance to comprehend what is happening, the handle moves and the door starts opening.
Serena’s brain freezes as it’s struck by the realisation that someone else has a key to her door even though she lives alone, and it refuses to process any further, all it will do is let her feel. The world around her feels as if it’s beginning to move in slow motion. A mixture of fear and panic spreads throughout her entire body. She wants desperately to call out for Bernie, or better still run as far as she can. No matter how much effort she puts in though, she simply cannot move or make a sound - it’s as if her feet are glued to the floor. As the gap between the door and the frame gets wider, inch by inch, Serena’s heart races faster, faster than she thinks is humanly possible. Her breathing quickens, her chest rising and falling rapidly until the culprit behind the door is revealed - Jason with Greta just visible behind.
Serena breathes a sigh of relief and rests her hand on her chest, feeling her heart is starting to slow. Of course, it could only have been Jason - he’s the only person with a spare key, other than Bernie and she’s been here with me since I gave it back to her.
“Auntie Serena, are you ok?” Jason asks, looking awfully worried. “You look terrible”
“Thank you, Jason. Yes, I’m fine. you just gave me a bit of a fright.” Serena replies as she moves back from the door to let Jason enter the house, Greta following behind. “Didn’t we agree that the spare key is for emergencies only?” She asks, changing the subject from how she looks as rapidly as she closes the front door.
“But, this is an emergency.” Jason insists, still rather anxious. “I have been very worried. Your mobile has been going to voicemail and you have not replied to any of the text messages I have sent. You told me that you weren’t feeling well and you promised to call me today and you haven’t.” He points out.
“Oh, Jason, love. I’m sorry I’ve worried you. I’m fine, honestly” Serena apologies sincerely, placing a comforting hand on Jason’s arm, seeing that he’s struggling. “My phone must’ve died. The last time I checked it the battery was low and I haven’t had the chance to put it on charge.”
“You should really charge your mobile so people can get in contact with you.” Jason states.
“Yes, you’re right. I’ll plug it in right now.” Serena rummages through her handbag, pulls out her phone, and leads the way to the kitchen, Jason and Greta following closely behind.
“Is your headache feeling any better?” Jason asks as they enter the room, before noticing Bernie, leaning against the counter idly flipping through a copy of The Lancet.
“Headache?” Bernie questions before Serena, busy connecting her phone to the charger has a chance to answer him. Bernie stands up straight, concern written on her face
“Auntie Bernie? What are you doing here?” Jason questions, looking confused but very happy to see her.” “Auntie Serena said you were called back to Nairobi last night.”
“Oh, there… there was a change of plan.” Bernie answers.
“Another one?” Jason notes.
“Well, yes. And, while we’re on the subject of changes in plan, there’s something we need to tell you both.” Serena adds as she gestures for everyone to go through into the living room.
Once everyone is sitting down and has made themselves comfy, Bernie next to Serena on the sofa and Jason in his favourite chair, Greta perched on its arm, Serena takes a deep breath and begins. I may as well tackle this head-on . “I’ve decided I’m leaving Holby and moving to Nairobi to be with Bernie.”
“But, I thought you had handed in your notice and were coming home because maintaining a long-distance relationship was too difficult, and so we can all be together, be a family,” Jason asks, confused. He’s looking towards Bernie who seems to be contemplating her answer with some difficulty. Serena realises and jumps in.
“That was the plan, but sometimes events and life change your plans .” Serena answers. She knows she’ll need to explain the reasons their brief break up to Bernie, give voice to her true feelings - but that’s for later when they are alone. The last thing she wants is to explain it all in front of Jason - she’s in no doubt he would have many questions. “But what won’t change is that no matter where any one of us are in the world, we’ll always be a family. Isn’t that right Bernie?”
“Absolutely.” Bernie agrees. “We’ve agreed to a year working in Nairobi, which isn’t that long. And I’m sure we’ll be back to visit.
“And, we can Skype as much as you like,” Serena adds.
Jason stays silent and takes a couple of minutes to process this information before replying “You should be together. For two intelligent people, it took you a long time to work that out. You really don’t move very fast, do you?.” Serena and Bernie share a slightly exasperated but fond look at each other. Jason smiles brightly before adding. “I’m ok, you’re ok, the world can go round.
“- the world can go round,” Serena says along with her Nephew, smiling, knowing this is his Jason giving his blessing. “Would you both like to stay for dinner?”
“We should be going to pick up Guinevere from my parents, now that we know you’re ok.” Greta answers.
“Of course. I’m sure we can arrange another evening before we leave.” Serena replies, as they say their goodbyes and see Jason and Greta to the door.
The next morning, Serena and Bernie head to AAU and make their way into the office.
Serena hangs up her belongings and Bernie makes herself comfortable on the sofa. From her vantage point on the sofa, Bernie is the first one to spot Hanssen passing the office window. He proceeds to knock politely on the open door, an official-looking envelope in his hand.
“Henrik.” Serena greets him with a smile. “What can I do for you?”
“It’s come to my attention that you’re planning on leaving us.”
“You’re as well informed as ever I see. Yes, it’s true... I was going to head upstairs and find you before the end of the day to hand in my resignation.” Serena explains.
“That won’t be necessary. I have drawn up a proposal for you both. It’s all detailed in the letter.” Henrik places the envelope he’s holding on the desk in front of Serena, Carefully placing it exactly parallel to the edge of the desk.
“I would like to offer you a one-year sabbatical effective immediately. Your position here will be here for you on your return. In addition, I would like to offer Ms Wolfe a permanent position as clinical lead of a new department effective from her return from Nairobi if she so wishes.” As Henrik explains Serena opens the letter and skims over the words, unable to quite comprehend what they are being offered. “The Board is currently discussing plans to expand the hospital’s trauma facilities. A key component of the plans is establishing a small scale trauma centre attached to the ED and increasing their trauma theatre capacity. I can think of no one more suited to head up this new unit than Ms Wolfe.”
“It is a rather tempting offer,” Serena replies somewhat taken aback. “We’re going to need to discuss it though, would you be able to give us some time?”
“Of course, but it would be appreciated if you could inform me of your decision before the end of the day.” Henrik answers.
“How did you learn about me leaving so fast?” Serena asks curiously.
“You have many friends here who want nothing more than for you to be happy, Ms Fanshawe is one of them She’s a most direct and persuasive woman,” Henrik answers before turning and leaving the room.
They don’t have much time to discuss Hanssen’s offer in detail before Serena is called away to an emergency in theatre. Bernie takes the opportunity to sneak off to the roof for a cigarette while she’s waiting for Serena to return. She’s got a lot to think through. She is under the impression Serena will accept the sabbatical - it’s not a bad thing and couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s almost too good to be true, and she’s fairly sure Hanssen had to pull significant numbers of strings to make it happen. Bernie is a little hesitant about accepting the job he’s offered her. It’s not that she doesn’t want to return to Holby with Serena, because she does. They’d always worked well together and she missed that more than she had thought she would. It’s that she's already had her fingers burned by the closure of the AAU trauma unit after all the hard work she put in making sure it ran like a well-oiled machine. There’s no doubt about it being an extremely attractive offer though. She’d have a secure job to fall into when she and Serena return, but there is still a little resentment buried deep down, a feeling that it might be just a little too good to last. As she takes the last drag of her cigarette her phone vibrates in her coat pocket. When she takes it out and sees a text from Serena she decides it’s her cue to head back down to AAU.
“There you are. I’ve been looking for you.” Serena says, happy to see her as Bernie enters the office and reclaims her space on the sofa by sprawling her long legs over it.
“Oh, I was, uh... “
“Having a cigarette?” Serena finishes her sentence for her, amused by her stuttering and awkwardness. Bernie is acting as if she’s a naughty child who’s been caught red-handed.
“Yep.” Bernie nods, breaking into a small, self-conscious smile.
“You do know that you don’t need to hide it. I do know that you smoke” Serena teases.
“I know… It’s a difficult habit to break, feeling you need to keep it secret.” Bernie admits.
“Quite.” Serena moves and sits in the spot next to Bernie on the sofa. “I’ve decided I want to accept the sabbatical.” She tells Bernie, changing the subject. “It couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. I think you should accept your end of the deal.”
“I’m not so sure.” Bernie voices her concern cautiously.
“The Trauma Unit?” Serena asks with genuine understanding. She’d see what the closure of the unit had done to Bernie.
“Yes.” Bernie nods “I know this is different but closing the Trauma Unit was a bitter pill to swallow. Still leaves a bitter taste”
“You’re right… this is different - I’ll be right here with you this time” Serena agrees. “Isn’t it reassuring to know we’d both have jobs waiting for us when we return?”
“It would very much be a relief,” Bernie replies. “I’m finished with chasing job opportunities, never knowing where I’ll end up next.”
“Very, but also rewarding.” Bernie smiles before becoming serious. “And, you aren’t having any last-minute doubts about leaving?”
“None. I’ve never been more certain.” Serena answers just as seriously. “I’m highly honoured to be spending your last overseas adventure with you.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Bernie beams.
“I’m also rather looking forward to bathing under the African sun.” Serena flirts.
Bernie is about to reply with an equally flirtatious quip when Fleur bounds into the office once she’s knocked briefly on the open door, and sits herself at Serena’s desk sporting her usual grin, wicked eyes sparkling.
“What are you both still doing here?” Fleur exclaims.
“Hanssen came by this morning and made us a rather appealing offer of a year-long sabbatical and job security for us both upon our return,” Serena replies. “We were just having a discussion.”
“What could there possibly be to discuss? It’s an amazing gesture! Why aren’t you grabbing it with both hands?”
“It is.” Bernie agrees. “We should go for it.” She turns to Serena and smiles.
“Excellent. I’ll send Henrik an email then look to book the next available flights for tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? Are you sure?” Bernie asks.
“Absolutely. There’s no time like the present.” Serena answers without any hesitation.
“I’m pleased that’s settled.” Fleur rises from Serena’s swivel chair and makes her way towards the door.
“Hang on a minute!” Serena calls after her as she reaches the doorway. “How do you know about the job offer?”
“Just call me your fairy gaymother,” Fleur says with a wicked grin. “If you’re looking for a lift to the airport, I’d be more than willing to offer my services.”
“We might just take you up on that.” Bernie smiles.
“Fleur, thank you for speaking with Henrik. Well, for the last couple of days actually.” Serena says just as Fleur is about to walk off.
“Don’t mention it. What are friends for. Besides, I thought you’d both be far too busy to think about anything practical.” Fleur replies, raising her eyebrows suggestively before leaving.
“You know, I’m starting to quite like Fleur.” Bernie laughs.
“I told you she’s harmless.”
Once they’ve booked flights for the next day the hours go by quicker than they’d expected. Before Bernie and Serena realise it, they’re loading their luggage into Fleur’s hot pink mini, with the help of Jason, who had insisted he and Guinevere absolutely have to wave their favourite Auntie’s off at the airport. It also gives him a perfect excuse for a bit of plane spotting with his daughter. As everyone bundles into the car, Serena hopes this journey to Holby International Airport runs more smoothly than the previous trip and is far less eventful.
Much to Serena’s relief they soon arrive at the designated drop-off area without a hiccup. She thanks Fleur, who takes the opportunity to enfold her in a tight hug then gets Guinevere out of her car seat before walking towards Bernie and Jason, who are waiting for her at the entrance, with her great-niece in her arms.
After the group enter the airport they make it as far as they possibly can go without Jason and Guinevere possessing tickets. Deciding there is plenty of time before Bernie and Serena need to check-in, they all head over to the public viewing window gallery. Jason takes his daughter from Serena’s arms before she sits on a seat nearby.
Serena feels a sense of tranquillity wash over her as she watches her family together. Jason points out different types of aeroplanes to Guinevere as she watches in awe - shortly followed by providing Bernie with all the interesting and pertinent facts and detail of each. Everything holding her back from being where he truly belongs, alongside Bernie, is finally resolved. She honestly feels her demons are finally at peace and she can breathe knowing Jason will survive just fine without her. He’s grown into a well rounded young man - she couldn’t be more proud.
“Sorry, Jason, we really should check in now,” Bernie says with a hint of sadness.
Jason glances at his own watch. “You should have checked in six minutes ago.”
Bernie smiles at the young man fondly before they head towards the row of seats where Serena is sitting.
“Is it that time already?” Serena asks, sorrowfully. Bernie nods with a small sympathetic smile.
The women organise their luggage and belongings before preparing to leave and start the check-in process. Serena stands closer to Jason, who is still holding Guinevere and places a kiss on the baby’s head and one on Jason’s cheek. The younger man grins.
“I’ll call you as soon as I can to let you know we’ve arrived safely.” Serena says, “Take care of yourself, and remember if you need me to, I’ll come straight back.”
“I’m ok, you’re ok - ” Jason smiles
“- the world can go round.” Serena smiles before moving away and walking back towards Bernie.
Bernie takes hold of Serena’s hand and they both wave to Jason before walking away, ready to embark on the adventure that awaits them.