It was close to an hour later when Phil Bellamy finally stepped outside the front door of the old Police house and out into the cold winter evening – the bitter wind swept up in icy swirls, nipping at ankles, knowing at toes, and lifting fragments of grit and sand, which stung as they grazed bare flesh. Nick's future it seemed was still an uncertain one, and the volatile state of the wet Yorkshire weather seemed to reflect the grief in all of their hearts. There had been a time, only a few weeks before, when they'd thought they might have so easily lost him – he'd been so weak and seemed so close to death's door, as though he's given up the fight – that it now seemed nothing short of miraculous to have spent time with him, sitting up in his own bed, but for just how long Phil now wondered sadly? Nobody seemed to have any answers about Nick's prospects long term, not even the doctors at the hospital had seemed to be able to answer their ever growing list of questions, advising them all instead to just take things one day at a time, and although he's managed to maintain a façade of calm on the outside, as much for his own sake as for Nick and Kate's, deep inside the thought of his best friend's suffering was breaking his heart.
Nick was his best friend, and despite the fact that he'd spent many happy years in Aidensfield before Nick and Kate had first moved to the sleepy Yorkshire village, he couldn't now imagine his life without him, or imagine a time when the young police officer was no longer a part of their community. Nothing about any of this seemed at all fair to Phil, and he swiped a few stray tears away angrily, and pulled his collar up to shield his neck from the large, and wet droplets of freezing cold rain which pelted him as they dripped from the swollen grey storm clouds above – tugging his work issue greatcoat even more tightly around his slightly shivering torso as he set off in the direction of the bus stop, and home.
As he walked he thrust his cold and pale fingers into his pockets to try and restore some of the circulation, and warm his aching bones, and as he did so his palm closed around a jagged piece of crumpled up paper, torn from a notebook – he frowned, stopping at the side of the well-trodden dirt track he'd been walking as he squeezed his palm even tighter around the small piece of hastily folded paper – knuckles turning white beneath the course material of his coat pocket.
His heart immediately skipped a beat as he withdrew it from his pocket, and he immediately made out the by now familiar, and slightly messy scrawl of Nick's careless handwriting – in one corner of the folded sheet of paper Phil could see that the note had been addressed to him, and had come from his friend's police issue notebook, and with the tears still glistening in his eyes – although the increasingly heavy rain now masked their salty trail down his slightly flushed flesh somewhat as they spilled out onto his naturally pale cheeks – and with trepidation in his aching heart he began to read:
Dear Phil, (the note read),
I know that this is probably going to be hard for you, as it has been hard for us all to have to deal with, and I don't wish to cause anyone anymore upset and pain than they are currently having to deal with by asking them to talk about something which I know they cannot yet accept, but I have come to the conclusion that the time has now come to discuss what will happen in the case of what might very well prove to be the inevitable, and it would be a great weight off my mind to know that everything will be alright in the event of the worst case scenario. We must now face the facts – this disease is a killer – I have already had once very close call – and I need to know that Kate will be alright, and that baby Sarah will be well taken care of if anything should happen to me and I am no longer able to be around to take care of them. I want you to keep an eye on them for me, and make sure that they are going to be alright together. I need you to promise me that you will do this for me Phil. I have tried to speak with Kate regarding the matter of my affairs, but I can tell that she finds the whole subject just far too distressing, she's not ready to face the matter yet, and so I have resolved not to broach the subject with her any further. To be honest I think that being a doctor makes it all the more difficult for her to have to deal with the situation, she understands the disease, and knows the long term prognoses, and so cannot lie to herself and deceive herself that everything is going to be alright, because there are no guarantees. But all you need to know is that I have already set everything in order whilst I was still in the hospital. There is nothing left for any of you to worry about – but I especially don't want Kate concerned, she has enough on her plate at the moment.
There is just one other thing though Phil – I wanted to thank you for everything you've done for both me and Kate over the years, and for being the very best of friends I could have ever wished for. As you know moving here wasn't exactly one of the easiest of transitions for me and Kate when we first arrived, but even then you were nothing less than supportive, and I just wanted to let you know that I will miss you very much – but I haven't given up yet. I am still going to fight this disease with every last ounce of strength I have left in this broken body, and although I cannot promise to beat it I will certainly do my best. I don't want to die, I know that I still have everything left to live for, but there comes a time when you have to think about the practicalities because the ones you leave behind are far too precious to ignore, I hope this letter addresses those. I just want to say thank you again for being my friend, for keeping me company for all these long weeks when all I have seemed able to do is rest and when I might so easily have otherwise gone out of my mind with boredom, and I want to say that I know you'll see Kate and Sarah alright. I trust you.
Stay strong for me Phil. Whatever happens I know you can get through it, I certainly don't know what I would have done without you these past few weeks, and all I can do is thank you again for that.
It was only a short note, scribbled in haste and Phil could tell then thrust carelessly into the depths of his pocket whilst he wasn't looking, but the ever growing lump in his throat was making it difficult to swallow and also more difficult to breathe, and by the time he finished re-reading the letter he was already standing outside his own front door. He'd walked for several miles without even noticing he'd done so, and was by now soaked through, skin numb, and shivering, but he barely seemed to notice. He now had more pressing, and depressing, issues to concern himself with, such as what to do if his best friend really didn't make it – a thought which any of them could hardly even bare to entertain. His heart was heavy after reading the note from Nick, and with a heavy sigh he fumbled for his house keys in his other pocket before slowly unlocking his front door and stepping over the threshold without even bothering to wipe his boots on the mat, before closing the door behind him. He needed some time to think, and to come to terms with what he had just read, and he could only do that alone.