The work day started off as any other day for Serena and Jason. The ride to work was an endless stream of trivia about “The World's Strongest Man” and reminders that it was Fish and Chips night. Serena had to reassure Jason that not only did she remember, but that it was hard to forget given they have it the same night every week without fail.
“Well Auntie Serena, I didn't want you to forget, today is an important day after all.” Jason said with a smirk on his face. Serena scoffed.
“Jason, as wonderful as Fish and Chips are, they’re hardly cause for so many reminders.” They were pulling into the car park as Jason tried to explain what he had meant by “important”.
“No Auntie Serena, I mean Ber-” He began.
“Alright Jason, no more about it. We’re here. Let's go before the line at Pulses is too bloody long...Again.” She had already been out of the car and headed for the entrance before she finished that sentence, Jason soon behind.
“You know, the line wouldn't be so long if we got here earlier, Auntie Serena.We’ve been late almost every day this month.” He was very smug about it.
“Yes, Jason. Thank you for that little bit of knowledge.” They made their way in line as Serena took off her coat and draped it across her arm. Jason took the time to study her face very carefully.
“Every morning it’s like this now.” Serena quickly got frustrated at the length of the line, she noticed Jason staring at her but didn't want to ask why, figured she would find out soon enough.
“You’re wearing an awful lot of makeup.” There it is, Serena thought to herself.
Some of it is congealed in your frown lines.” Jason said with no hesitation.
Immediately the feeling of self-consciousness washed over her as her hand lifted to her forehead to smooth out the excess concealer.
“Bless you for that.”
“Is that a new blouse?” Jason was normally excellent at spotting something new in Serena’s wardrobe, but this time it took him a bit longer.
“Oh, yes, you noticed at last. Do you like it? It was horribly expensive.” Serena was very proud of it. Her smile widened just thinking about how good she felt in it.
“It’s actually just horrible.” Jason said matter of factly. Immediately Serena’s mood changed, again.
“Well thank you for the vote of confidence.” She knew the questions and comments were going to last as long as the line to the counter. No end in sight.
“So why have you got a new blouse anyway?”
“Well people do tend to replace their clothes from time to time, Jason.” Serena was a bit on the defensive now. She only wanted her caffeine and to get to the confines of her office. Finally, they made it to the front of the line.
“Uh, could I have a latte with an extra shot and an orange juice for my delightful nephew, please?” She took a deep breath to calm herself. The heavy feeling in her chest finally going away. “I bought this for Bernie. Think she’ll like it?” Jason held up a “welcome back” card. The heavy feeling made it’s return to Serena’s chest. “Oh, I’d forgotten she was coming back today. About time too.” They both knew she hadn’t really forgotten.
“It’s written on the calendar on our fridge.”
“Yes, well, I never bother to look at that silly thing.” She lied right through her teeth.
“That’s stupid. Why even have it then?”
Serena turned her head to look at Jason and turned it back towards the counter just as fast. She had no answer for that one.
Bernie’s morning was a bit less usual for her. She had spent the early hours of her morning boarding a plane and flying for nearly four hours straight. The only thing, or person, on her mind was Serena.
She made it to the hotel she was staying at until the couple she had rented her flat out to left, only a week left on their temporary lease anyway. She immediately dropped her luggage on the bed, checked herself in the mirror, and went back down to the lobby to ask where the nearest shop was. She needed a gift for Serena and only one thing came to mind at that moment.
Bernie had finally made it to Holby City Hospital with a bottle of wine in hand for Serena.
“Shiraz without a doubt would still be Serena's favourite.” Bernie thought to herself while wrapping the bottle up in the back of the taxi with some gold foil and a silver ribbon.
“Sorry, just two minutes.” She said to the driver while trying to rip a piece of tape off its roll with her teeth.
Entering back into Holby almost felt like coming back home after being gone for a long period of time, familiar and warm but at the same time foreign and cold. The steps Bernie took to get to AAU were like muscle memory, not much had changed and for that she was grateful.
The first familiar face Bernie sees, or shall we say, sees her is Jason. “Oh, hello Bernie. I bought this for you. It's a welcome back card.” Of course he would be carrying it around with him, he no doubt had this day marked on his calendar as she did. Bernie accepted the card. It made her smile.
“Thank you Jason. That's lovely.”
“You probably won't get one from Guy Self though, Auntie Serena told me he doesnt work here anymore”
Even the mention of Serena's name made Bernie's nerves flare up, instantly feeling the colour rise to her cheeks.
Bernie's eyes were scanning the room for her. Wishing for the slightest chance of catching a glimpse of Serena before she sees her.
“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” she thought to herself. Her thoughts are cut off by Jason once again.
“Mind you, Auntie Serena didn't buy you a present either, and she still works here.”
Bernie's attention turned back to Jason, mouth agape. Dumbfounded. Didn't know what she could possibly say to that.
“She didn't even remember you were coming in.” Bernie felt those words tug at her heart strings a bit.
“Probably busy.” Trying to convince herself.
“Buying horrible blouses.” Jason answered back.
She didn't exactly expect Serena to wait for her or even remember the day she was coming back, for that matter. For weeks Serena tried to call, text, and email her but Bernie couldn't bring herself to respond, it hurt too much, not being there with her. She knew she brought it upon herself though. Can't even bring herself to think of what it will be like when she does finally see Serena.
But she doesn't have a chance to even try before she hears the voice she's longed to hear, imagined hearing the whole time she was away. Serena's voice coming from behind her.
A single word sent shivers down Bernie’s spine and made her skin rise with goosebumps. A reminder that she never stopped caring for Serena, and up until this moment, she never truly knew just how much she needed her.
Bernie turned around and for the first time in months their eyes met. Serena’s were soft and shined with a mixture of joy and shyness. Bernie’s eyes almost seemed distant and frightened. Serena couldn’t look away, but with Fletch coming up beside her it drew Bernie's gaze away.
“Welcome back to the madhouse.” His cheeky smile lighting up, almost breaking the tension.
“Thanks Fletch” Bernie returned the smile.
“It's alright Auntie Serena, I already told Bernie you've completely forgotten her.”
Bernie's smile faded. The gift she had bought hidden behind her back, feeling ridiculous for even getting one. Serena's head hung and shook as she tried to speak but words failed her. Bernie dropped the bottle in the bin behind her before Serena could notice, not wanting to make the situation even more awkward, if that was even possible.
They all stood in silence for what felt like eternity, neither of them looking up at each other long enough to really mean anything. Fletch finally caught the hint and left before it became a mess, already feeling like he overstayed his welcome.
“Well..I'll catch you later Bernie.” Fletch said before leaving.
Bernie clears her throat before responding, suddenly feeling as if she's going to choke on her words.
“Yup. It was good to see you, Fletch.”
Serena and Bernie’s eyes met again, this time both filled with silent apologies to one another, although Serena really had nothing to apologize for, it was all Bernie's doing.
Serena took a couple of steps closer, not to close, but close enough to smell Bernie. Patchouli with hints of citrus. Serena would light incense at home that smelled similar just to feel close to her. Jason never understood and would often make comments about the smell being overwhelming.
“Well I better get back to work.” Jason said leaving the two women alone for the first time. Suddenly the air got colder between them.
Bernie’s mouth opened and closed a few times, trying to find the right words to say, if there even were any. Instead she spun on her right heel and took off toward the loo, leaving Serena behind once again, except this time she was bound to see her again given they would be working on AAU together.
Until then, Bernie took her time. She took a moment to look at herself in the mirror and gave herself a pep talk. Praying nobody was in any of the stalls. “Come on Wolfe. Get yourself together. Four tours in the British Armed Forces getting shot at and bombed.” She splashed her face with cold water to knock her back into shape. Bernie took a deep breath, flattened her shirt, and straightened herself up. You can do this. She reminded herself before stepping back into the hall and headed toward her old locker. Believe it or not she missed her NHS issued scrubs. They were more form fitting and softer than the ones she had in Kiev.
Serena had taken the time to step into the on-call room to calm herself down, unsuccessfully. "How could Jason tell her I'd forgotten about her? What should I say to her? Oh God! This will be the death of me." All these thoughts were running through Serena's mind as she paced the floor. Eventually stopping and falling back onto the bed, her hands splayed across her face rubbing her temples. "Oh it’s going to be a long day."