“Do you ever think about the future?” Owen asks her, his expression unreadable and his voice quiet.


She looks up at him for a moment. “Of course I do. I need to get my hair cut this weekend, I need to get some more nappies for Jack…”


He laughs and shakes his head. “That’s not what I mean, Diane.”


“Oh?” She knows that she’s avoiding the question. Because of course she thinks about the future, she wouldn’t be human if she never thought about it. She leans back in her chair,  shifting the baby to her other arm, and waits for Owen to elaborate.


“Further on in the future… five, ten years away, say? Do you ever think about that time?” he presses.


She sees no alternative than to reply. “Yeah. I guess.”


And she does. She knows that this, too, isn’t the future he means. She doesn’t think about the “us” future, the future of her relationship with Owen. Well, not the long term future. Because it’s just not going to happen. Why would it happen? Neither of them are exactly good at relationships, are they? There’s Owen, two failed marriages, professional adulterer, only in it because of Jack. And then there’s herself, Diane, in what is probably her first serious relationship in five years, which she only pursued because her ex-boyfriend, the person she respects most in the world, told her to. It’s not exactly a recipe for harmony, she tells herself. Not at all.


So, what will happen is, after a little while, they’ll split. She doesn’t know how far down the line it will be… maybe they’ll say their “I love yous”, they might move in together, maybe he’ll tell her that he wants to spend the rest of his life with her, maybe he’ll even propose. Maybe she’ll even say yes. She doubts they’ll get married though. That would just be too much hassle to break off. And under no circumstances will she let him adopt Jack. He has mentioned it, once or twice. But Jack’s her responsibility. Not Owen’s. And that would make it even messier when they split. She wants no problems with custody of Jack. She just doesn’t want to put the poor baby through that; he’s been through enough already.


And that’s why she hopes that this relationship will end soon. He’ll cheat on her, and she’ll find him in bed with someone… Tricia? Lisa? Chrissie. Of course. Who else? And she’ll be devastated, of course she will. But she will get over it, because she always does. She’ll throw herself into her work, and her friends, and the most important person in her life: Jack.


She probably won’t tell Ric and Zubin at first about what Owen’s done to her. She won’t want to admit that she’s failed at yet another relationship, and, blaming herself, she won’t want them to have a go at him. Of course, when they do find out, which they obviously will, they’ll be furious on her behalf. Zubin will tell her that she shouldn’t even have wasted her time on him, and Ric might not say much but he’ll be there for her with open arms if she needs someone.


It might throw her routine off for a little while; maybe she’ll be late for a work for a few days, used to Owen helping out with Jack. So she’ll have to tell Connie eventually, who’ll look sympathetic at first, and tell her that men are scum – maybe speaking slightly louder than necessary so that Chrissie can hear her – and then tell her that nothing, but nothing, gives her the right to be late for work. But that’ll be okay, because Donna will be on hand to complain to.


But eventually she’ll get into a new routine, a new way of life, a life without Owen. And she’ll be okay. Maybe she’ll fall in love again, get married even. If he’s the right one, then she won’t mind. If she falls for someone who will never hurt her, never let her be upset. Maybe she’ll move away, buy a new house with her new husband, and they’ll move into the suburbs, away from Holby, somewhere with good schools for Jack, and any other kids they might have. And so she’ll move and she’ll never see Owen again.


Or maybe she’ll see him once more. She’ll run into him at the supermarket, or the bank, or somewhere like that. Some time when she’s not prepared for seeing him, when she least expects it. Probably when she’s trying to wrestle Jack’s pushchair down a flight of stairs, that’s the most awkward time that she can think of. But she’ll smile when she sees him, and try to be as dignified as she can.


She’ll ask him how he’s been, and she’ll ask how Chrissie is – because of course he’ll have ended up with Chrissie. And he’ll ask her how she is, how Jack is, how Ric is – because it’s equally obvious that she’ll end up with Ric. And he’ll tell her that Chrissie’s just had another baby, and she’ll tell him that she’s made consultant, and then they’ll both congratulate one another. Maybe they’ll exchange phone numbers, and say that they must meet up one of these days, catch up on all the news. And she’ll put the piece of paper with his phone number on it in her handbag, and she’ll know perfectly well that she’ll never call him, and he’ll never call her.


And that’s how it will go.


He’s not satisfied with her answer. “Am I in it?” he asks, eagerly, as if he already knows the answer.


She hesitates for a moment before replying. She doesn’t want to hurt him, to disappoint him. “Yeah,” she says eventually. “You’re in it.”