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Next year, love

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Next year, love.

Last year, Serena Campbell didn’t get to celebrate Valentine’s. Of course, she had one, would have one this year and hopefully would for many more years to come – she had found her one and only, true Valentine but sadly this year she wouldn’t get to see her. Last year was bad. No, scratch that – it was horrendous. But last Valentine’s day, she finally gave in to Bernie, accepted her support and the evening finished with the two curling around one another, drifting off to sleep in the early hours of the next day.

She saw couples. Of all age and gender. She saw them on the wards – the elderly ones offering each other a hand of support or the newly weds who gave each other a kiss on the cheek before a routine procedure. It was sweet, in some cases but made her miss Bernie even more. She felt sorry for the lonely people this Valentine’s, knows what it feels like, has experienced several years surrounded by ridiculous heart shaped gifts in the supermarkets where all she could think about was how over the top of this commercialism was. Bernie was much more romantic than her ex-partners. Edward was okay for the first few years, bought her jewellery and expensive bottles of wine on some occasions but then it just got boring, the same thing year in year out. Robbie was more of a ‘pub’ kind of a guy who thought he could win a woman’s heart after buying her a glass of red followed by a game of darts. None of them came close to her Bernie. She had made her the ‘Serena Campbell’ survival kit after her suspension, treated her like a Queen upon her return from Kiev (minus all the cheesy parts that she usually got), gave her a wonderful Christmas present on the day where it was only them in the house and during their travels in the Summer, always wade on her hand and foot. It wasn’t just what she got bought for her but the way Bernie made her feel: strong, beautiful, herself. If she was honest she never really saw the point of Valentine’s, just couldn’t help but think she never really spent a ‘proper’ one with Bernie.

She wasn’t the only one feeling alone this year. Essie was struggling similarly to Roxanna. Ollie was still processing him and Zosia. Jac and Fletch were still dancing around their feelings similarly to Dom and Lofty. Come to think of it Holby lacked a lot of romance at the minute. But they were all going to be strong, get past the day and drown themselves in a vat of Shiraz during the Valentine’s party.
‘So, Mrs Phillips, from your results I can see that your scan if clear. I would like to keep you in to observe you for a little while longer but if everything is fine, I’m sure you will be home by this evening.’ Serena spoke to her patient. A newly wed woman, 29 and twenty weeks pregnant who had a minor fall this morning.
‘Thank you, Ms. Campbell. See I told you I was fine. We both are.’ Mrs. Phillips spoke to her husband, a young worrier, sat beside her, as she placed a hand over her stomach.
‘Better safe than sorry though, Mrs. Phillips’ Serena inputted ‘at least you can enjoy your evening, worry free.’
‘Yes. We could probably even make it to the restaurant tonight,’ her husband smiled at her, covering her hand with his own. ‘or a quiet night in – either one’ He was a sweet man, Serena thought, she remembers Edward like that – it didn’t last long.
‘As long as you don’t go over exerting yourself, I’m sure you’ll be fine, Mrs. Phillips’ Serena said, ticking off her chart.
‘We’ll decide in a bit. And you Ms. Campbell are you doing anything for Valentine’s night?’ Mrs. Phillips questioned – Serena still looking over her notes.
‘Not tonight I’m afraid. Just a drink with the rest of the staff tonight and an early night. Nothing too special.’
‘Shame. Is your partner not into it all?’ Mrs. Phillip spoke, pushing for an answer.
‘My partner’s away… Kenya. So, it’s just a quiet one this year.’ Serena spoke, her voice containing a hint of sadness.
‘Well I hope he makes up for it when he’s back’ Mrs. Phillips replied, smiling back at Serena.
‘I hope she does too’ Serena spoke, turning around and swiftly leaving.

Serena had promised Fletch and Dom she would come for one drink. And one drink only. Jason would be back home soon from his date with his girlfriend and she needed to be home, awaiting Bernie’s call.
‘Just one, Fletcher. I am not getting drunk’ Serena said, wiggling a finger in Fletch’s face as he bought her over a Shiraz.
‘Okay, boss, whatever. We all know it’ll end in more.’ He said smugly.
Serena watched people come and go, she spent the evening with Essie remembering Raf and past Valentine’s day. Laughing and crying. She knew it must be hard for Essie, seeing all the love around her when she had hardly spent time with her husband. She missed Bernie awfully yet she couldn’t dare imagine what Essie must feel. It was a different type of grief to what she felt but it was so fresh for her. It was true. She had drunk more than one glass. She wasn’t drunk but was just a little freer. She drank with AAU and Fletch – an arm wrapped around his shoulder when he glanced over at Jac in the corner and leave.
‘She likes you too, you know. Trust me.’ Serena spoke in his ear. He laughed in reply before pulling Serena towards the dancefloor. The music was relatively slow and everyone around her was dancing with friends. She loved Fletch and the Fletchlings to pieces but couldn’t help but want to be in Bernie’s arms when a particular slow song came on. She remembered one night in France with Bernie. She had dug out her old record player after Elinor had died and started to listen to her old collection. She remembers dancing with Bernie one night, under the stars – the record player, playing out of the kitchen as she and Bernie danced on the outside porch. It overlooked the vineyard, the beautiful French landscape. A jet, black sky peppered with millions of stars. Bernie had been rather spontaneous, pulled her by the wrists from where she was sat on a deckchair and they both swayed to the slow music. That night Bernie told Serena she would never let her go and that despite where they were in the world, they would be together.

It finally hit her. The music change reminded her of their song. Around her were happy couples, ones that were together whilst her partner was thousands of miles away. Fletch saw the glistening tears in her eyes as they began to fall. He pulled her to the side and wrapped his arms around her, like her own teddy bear.
‘I’m sorry,’ She said ‘I’m spoiling your evening.’
‘Don’t be so silly, Campbell. It’s a tough year for all of us, I know.’ He spoke into her ear.
‘I just miss her so much. We’ve never really done the whole Valentine’s thing and when we can, I’m stuck here,’ she said calming down slightly.
‘I’m sure she’d want to be here and you’ll be back with her before you know it.’ He said pulling back from the embrace, giving her the trademark Fletch smile.
‘I know,’ she laughed.

After deciding she should probably get home, Fletch put her in a taxi and sent her on her way. Jason was already in bed the the time she got home and the house seemed even lonelier. She walked though to the kitchen and got herself and glass of water and painkiller. The alcohol was wearing off and she dreaded a hangover in the morning. She suddenly noticed a package on the table from the corner of her eye. She left relatively early this morning, Jason had a day off so must’ve accepted the delivery. It was addressed to her and underneath the postal address appeared a large scruffy note: From B X. With a glint of curiosity, she opened it. The box was large. She dug around in search of its contents.

First of all, there was a small rectangular box, she opened it up, discovering a bracelet. It was from a market she and Bernie had traipsed around on their first adventure around Nairobi. It was adorned with traditional beads and Bernie saw her pang of want as they passed. Next was a gift wrapped in bubble wrap. She opened it finding a photo frame, a picture of her and Bernie. Before they left the France together, their friends Jean and Marie took a photo of the two of them in front of the vineyard, a sad moment but also the opening of their new chapter together. At the bottom encased in a protective material was a large square package. Serena carefully unwrapped it, finding the record she and Bernie both danced to, on that starry night. It was adorned with a post-it note reading We’ll dance to this again, next time I am back, B X. With this she finally shed a tear. Not a big, ugly one like with Fletch, but one of happiness. The package also included a bottle of Serena’s favourite wine, some chocolates and more photos which had the date and what they were doing inscribed on the back of them. She was worried what this long-distance relationship would do to them but after this she knew she shouldn’t have doubted for a single second.
There was a letter attached:
Dear Serena,
I know this situation isn’t ideal but I just wanted to tell you how proud of you I am. You are brave, smart, wonderful, beautiful, funny and I love you so, so much. I miss you everyday and I know we haven’t celebrated a proper Valentine’s Day together yet but I’m sure next year will be our year. Together. So, I decided that I would put together a ‘Serena Campbell survival box’ in the meantime. I hope you enjoy it. I love you.
Happy Valentines, love
Your,
Bernie XXXX
PS: Hurry up… I’m looking forward to next Skype session

Serena couldn’t love her anymore. Her sweet and romantic Bernie. She made her way upstairs. Changed and got into bed. She opened her laptop and Skype to be met by a blonde trauma surgeon, smiling smugly straight at her. Gosh she missed that smile.
‘You do realise I haven’t got you a present. You ridiculously, beautiful fool…’