Chapter 1: Chapter One
"Your final year of education will be an important one ladies. Before me, you have spent 6 years blossoming from girls into excellent young women. Year 13 will be one that you look back on for the rest of your lives, here at Nonnatus Academy I hope you will be making positive memories." Miss Julienne, the headmistress, spoke powerfully in front of 67 seventeen year old girls as if she had done it a million times. As far as any of her students could tell, she might have done. "But make no mistake, it will not be easy. I expect you all to buckle down this year to get the results you deserve. Now, onto a few formalities before I send you on to your first lesson..."
"Was that not the same speech we got when we started year 12?" Delia leaned across to her best friends of 6 years, Barbara and Trixie. Her voice was low, knowing she was in the eye shot of notoriously terrifying deputy head Miss Ursula.
"And year 11, and 10, and 9, and 8, and quite possibly 7." Trixie quipped, counting off the years on her fingers. All three girls pressed their hands over their mouths to suppress giggles. The laser beam glare of Miss Ursula forced them to swallow the humour.
Delia glanced around the hall, desperate to not make eye contact with the teacher. She wasn't sure how to feel about returning to this place for the final time. One side of her was thrilled at the prospect of moving on, particularly after the heartache and turbulence of the previous year. But still, her heart absolutely ached at the thought of leaving the friends and the home she had made at Nonnatus. Looking at the vast expanse of chipped mahogany and red paint made her feel like she was that petrified little 11 year old walking in here for the first time knowing nobody. She made a silent pact with herself to hold Miss Julienne's words true, Delia decided that she was going to make this year one to remember.
She was shaken out of her daydreaming by a sudden jolt of movement around her. "Are you coming to biology at any point today?"
Delia rolled her eyes and allowed her Barbara to pull her onto her feet. She was pleased to have biology first, it was her favourite lesson by far and the only one that she shared with Barbara and Trixie. Plus it had the added bonus of being taught by everybody's favourite teacher. But Delia knew she would have to face her again. One of the benefits of living in Pembrokeshire was its distance. Although she ached for her friends, she had excellent excuse for not going anywhere near those she preferred to avoid.
As soon as she entered the biology classroom, it was as if her mind had been read. Barbara had hurried to the back of the room to quickly catch up with her close friend Winnie and Winnie's cousin Mary-Cynthia whilst Trixie had placed herself at the left front row desk the three of them had occupied since year 9, leaving Delia stood quite alone after she had briefly stopped to tie her shoelace. A taller, perfectly groomed girl stepped directly in front of Delia, blocking her path.
"Delia. I'm sure you had a nice summer." The girl's words were perfectly nice, but they were laced with venom.
Delia's legs began to feel like the lime jelly Mrs Buckle would be sure to be serving for lunch that day. Her heart hammered and her throat went dry, searching fruitlessly for the correct word. She absolutely hated herself for falling to bits in front of simply another students.
Delia felt Trixie's palm gently touch her elbow. "Valerie."
"Beatrix." Val practically spat the words at the confident blonde.
The door shut loudly, an old building with old walls meant that doors slammed frequently without much intention. The familiar lyrical Scottish voice rang out from behind the desk, compelling all the students to take their seats.
"Hello, girls." Mrs Turner smiled at the students before her, most of them frequently wondered whether the woman knew she was known as the most lovely teacher in the school. "I hope you've all had a restful few weeks. You'll certainly be needing it as we'll be getting started right away. Open your textbooks to page 17 where you will see the title 'Anaerobic Respiration'."
23 textbooks thumped onto the desks, each girl getting their heads straight down to work.
* * *
5 hours later, including 2 hours of hockey practice for Delia, the girls were lingering outside the main dorm area. Each year they were reassigned blocks, a task that saw intense bickering between the highly efficient head of the year 12 and 13 dorms Miss Phyllis Crane and the charmingly scatterbrained groundskeeper Fred Buckle.
"Evergreen Floor B." Miss Crane barked in her authoritative Yorkshire tone. "I want Delia Busby, Beatrix Franklin, Barbara Gilbert, Mary-Cynthia Miller, Valerie Dyer, Winifred Miller and Camilla Fortescue-Cholmeley-Browne"
The 7 girls glanced briefly at each other, all seeming to notice that there were 8 rooms per dorm but choosing not to dwell on the matter. Each grabbed their luggage from the locker they had been placed in that morning and headed up towards the second floor of the nearest block on the left. On balance it could have been worse, she had her two best friends plus Chummy was the captain of the hockey team. She just had to hold some concern for Val, and the likelihood of Mary-Cynthia and Winnie to follow along in some of her nastiness.
As soon as Trixie and Barbara had thrown their bags into their assigned rooms, they quickly crossed the corridor and into Delia's. Trixie was seething, expressing everything that Delia didn't even want to think about.
"She cannot do this. She knows everything that happened last year. The amount of times she had to pull you into her office crying yet she puts you two doors down from her. We're going to see her." Delia tried to blurt out her protests but failed against the full force of angry Trixie. Leaving Barbara to go put her room together, Trixie pulled her friend down the corridor and to the top floor where Miss Crane's office was located.
The aging woman listened patiently to Trixie's rant, even as the heat of anger became accidentally more directed at her. "I know you're upset, Trixie. But the rooms are randomly assigned and I'm not allowed to change them, some codswallop about social education." Miss Crane switched her gaze across to Delia, who had been doing anything to disappear as Trixie's fury blazed. "You know where I am, lass. If you need anything."
Delia took her turn to start pulling Trixie away, mouthing a thank you and an apology to Miss Crane. A knock at the office door by an unfamiliar redhead caused them to both stop in their tracks.
"Oh girls, before you go. Will you show our new student Patience Mount to Evergreen B4?"
Trixie was still rambling about the injustice of it all as her and Delia walked back down the stairs, with the new student in tow. She definitely appreciated the concern of her closest friend but she also didn't really fancy her sharing all of her personal information with this new girl.
"So Patience, where have you moved from?" Delia wanted to make the girl feel comfortable in the new environment as much as she wanted to make Trixie shut up.
"Hong Kong." It may just have been her clipped Queen's English accent but Delia felt like she could detect a certain cool tone to the redhead's speech. "And most people call me Patsy, by the way."
Delia was a little surprised at her answer, most girls at the school thought that Wales was really quite exotic. "Hong Kong? That must have been so cool!"
"Hmm. I guess." Patsy elected not to elaborate on her answer, and Delia definitely knew what a brush off felt like.
Thankfully, by this point they were back on Floor B and able to simply direct the girl to her room to avoid any further awkwardness. She offered nothing further to Trixie and Delia than a courteous goodnight, disappearing behind the fire door marked B4.
"Right Delia, I've got a bottle of peach schnapps with both of our names on it if you're in the mood? We can get this year off to a good start?" Trixie had a gentle grip on Delia's wrist, voice a cajoling sing-song.
Delia hadn't even noticed how exhausted she was from her endless train journey that morning, a feeling worsened when she flicked her eyes down the corridor to the door of room B1 where Val had already affixed one of her canvases. She simply longed for her bed.
"Not tonight Trix, I'm so tired. There's always tomorrow though right?"
Trixie looked momentarily put out but quickly restored her expression to its signature smile.
"All the more for me then! Night, hun." Trixie waggled her fingers before lightly closing the door behind her.
Sinking down on the bed, Delia glanced towards her open suitcase where her mother had insisted she put her toiletries bag and favourite purple paisley pyjamas on top. She hastily discarded her stiff uniform in favour of soft cotton, finally feeling at home. After pulling her toothbrush and toothpaste out of the little bag she reasoned that it was definitely acceptable to brush her teeth at the washbasin opposite her bed and save a shower in the bathroom at the other end of the corridor for the morning. The plug crackled slightly as Delia pushed her phone charger into it but she didn't take time to worry about faulty wiring, instead melting into her pillow and letting a very long day drift away.
"Morning, Delia." Barbara's typically chipper tone was rarely quashed by being up at the crack of dawn. "I'm heading down to chapel with Mary-Cynthia and Winnie, if you want to come."
Barbara's father had been the vicar at the on-site chapel for the last 18 months, which meant Barbara had certainly been their a lot more than she had been before. It had drawn her much closer to Winnie and Mary-Cynthia who were both particularly devout in their faith, which appeared to have unintentionally driven a slight wedge between her and her two oldest friends, particularly Trixie.
Delia flipped her hair over her shoulder. "The only place I'm heading to with my hair in this state is the shower, but thanks. I'll see you at breakfast though." Winnie and Mary-Cynthia offered Delia a tight smile as they passed each other, Barbara chattering away for England.
As the steam filled the bathroom (Delia always had showers as hot as her skin could bear), she couldn't help grin at the thought of well and truly being back at Nonnatus. All summer she had longed to see her friends and for the familiarity of the walls around her. Technically Delia's home was back in Wales but Nonnatus was where she was at her most comfortable, the home of her heart. Sure, there was heartbreak here for her but on balance it was the best place she could imagine herself. Delia turned off the water and slipped back into her pyjamas, twisting a towel around her hair.
"Well Patsy, if there's anything you need whilst you're settling in I'm just in B1."
Delia felt as if she'd been kicked in the chest. Val and Patsy were standing together in the corridor when she left the bathroom. Of course, she told herself that nothing either of the girls did had anything to do with her but for some reason it just gave her such a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. She hurried past the pair and back to her room, knowing full well that she had hardly given herself enough time to finish getting ready and head down to breakfast.
* * *
"Mrs Buckle has seriously outdone herself with this rhubarb jam, honestly Delia it is divine."
When Delia seated herself at the table that had been 'theirs' since year 8, she felt herself looking Trixie up and down. Her eyeliner was typically impeccable so the dark marks underneath her eyes had to be from a lack of sleep, and she was certain that she could detect the faintest whiff of peaches coming from her side of the table. But Trixie did enjoy a fruity shower gel, and who didn't suffer from a lack of sleep on the first day back at school? Trixie was to all intents and purposes her usual self, so Delia decided not to raise any issue.
"Is Barbara still down at the chapel?" Delia asked the question innocently enough but saw her best friend fighting to conceal a scowl.
"No she's over there." Trixie pointedly looked two tables over to where Barbara was tucking into a bacon sandwich sitting beside Winnie and Mary-Cynthia. The bitterness in her tone was poorly disguised, much more hurt sounding than Delia had expected. It was an accepted fact that Barbara shared more of her time with her other friends but she was still very much a part of their trio in every way.
Delia placed her planner on the table, anything to change the subject. "I've got English literature first period, how about you?" She asked in hopes of lightening Trixie's mood a little.
"I probably have English language then, I think they've put those in at the same time this year."
Delia returned her attention to the scrambled eggs on her plate until she saw a familiar flash of orange enter the canteen, a mask of cool indifference failing to disguise a little bit of panic. Delia instinctively waved at the other girl without even thinking first. Patsy's face almost allowed for a smile in recognition before she turned and headed towards the table where Val was pouring way too much sugar into her porridge.
"Nice one, Busby." Trixie sniggered at her friend as Delia sheepishly clenched her fist and dropped her arm back to the table. "Come on, lets get out of here. We could always take the scenic route over to English?"
As they left, Delia could have sworn that Trixie turned her head back around to glance at Barbara, although she was probably just seeing if she had already headed over to lesson.
When she arrived, Chummy was already sitting at the desk that they had shared all of last year. With Trixie, Barbara and even Winnie opting for language over literature, without Chummy Delia probably would have hated the class even more.
"Morning, Delia." Chummy was never reserved in charm or friendliness, Delia honestly thought she had never seen the girl without an enormous smile painted across her face and a million things to say. "Are you settling back in alright? I certainly am! I've missed the food so much, Mater always says to me that you can never get food at home like in institutions. Have you heard we're starting King Lear today? It's probably going to be frightfully difficult."
Delia made sure she was nodding and laughing in all the right places, she hadn't realised how much she had missed her hockey teammate over summer. For the previous two or three years she had spent a few days staying with her in Surrey, each visit made her wonder why Chummy was at Nonnatus. Sure, it was a reasonably prestigious school but when she was in their home Delia felt as if she was among royalty and they could certainly afford a different school. But this summer she had decided not to go, practically punishing herself with isolation. Luckily, Chummy soon moved the conversation onto the upcoming hockey season, a topic that Delia was all too enthusiastic about.
The door to the room swung open again on the precise moment that the bell rang out loudly. Val and Mary Cynthia entered the room chattering loudly, with Patsy following closely behind. Maybe Delia just wanted to stop the new girl getting sucked into the circle of people she didn't particularly liked, but she had told herself that it wasn't even remotely her business. Or so she had told herself approximately 500 times since her shower.
"You can sit with us if you like Patsy. The middle seat is free." Val's tone was as sweet and simpering as always, but Delia felt her stomach twist slightly . Watching Patsy slightly reluctant in sitting down beside Val sent Delia's mind floating back to February...
Delia could practically feel Mary-Cynthia's eyes burning her skin as she went over to her usual seat between her and Val. She hadn't spoken to Val since Sunday but thought almost nothing of it, their paths just hadn't crossed.
"Hey, Val." Delia whispered as she took her seat. "How's everything?"
She expected that soft smile that was hers and hers only, different to the one that everyone else received from brunette. Instead she saw sadness flash momentarily across the other's girl's face that was immediately replaced with a frown.
"Delia what are you doing?" Val hissed.
"Maybe it would be best if you sat with Camilla today?" Mary-Cynthia seemed to be speaking kindly enough but Delia knew exactly what she was implying.
She wanted to ask why, beg for understanding, but Delia knew she had to cling to at least a little bit of her dignity. Picking up her textbook from the table she walked as casually as possibly over to the seat beside Chummy, not once glancing back at Val.
Ugh. She knew it was going to be a long lesson.
Perhaps this is time for the slight disclaimer that this is the first time I've ever written an AU and the first multiple chapter story I've written in about 4 years. Anyway, I hope y'all enjoyed! :)
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
"Hi guys! Sorry I missed you at breakfast, I had a big religious studies essay I had to plan with Winnie and Mary-Cynthia." Barbara seemed her usual self when she sat down next to Trixie in biology but Delia couldn't help feel that her explanation was somewhat disingenuous.
Trixie seemed to agree. "On the second day of school?"
"That's Mr Reynolds for you, he's a total ball breaker."
The blonde turned away from Barbara, but Delia was close enough to say the mildly hurt expression painted across her face. It was becoming increasingly clear to Delia that Barbara's repeated absences were taking some kind of toll on Trixie. Delia got it, Mary-Cynthia and Winnie had made no secret of the fact that they agreed with many of the things Val had said about her and Trixie and yet here was their best friend brushing them off for those two girls.
Just in time to cut Trixie off in her response, Mrs Turner finished doing the register and stood up behind her desk. "Okay girls, I thought we'd start the year off with something fun. I want you to take the notes we did in yesterday's lesson and the notes on aerobic respiration that you're going to do today and create a paired presentation."
Delia so wanted to roll her eyes, a feeling she thought that the other students would probably be relating to. Mrs Turner's concept of 'fun' seemed to be a little warped but she was so well meaning that nobody would have dared to openly express that.
"I've already organised you into pairs so we can get started as quickly as possible: Barbara and Trixie, Winifred and Camilla, Mary-Cynthia and Valerie, Delia and Patience." The bright faced teacher clapped her hands together, waiting for her pupils to rearrange themselves into their assigned groups.
Patsy wordlessly sat down at the empty seat to Delia's left. As far as Delia could assess, her conduct always seemed to seem self-assured yet somehow lost at the exact same time. Delia had hardly heard Patsy actually speak or even smile, but the redhead didn't seem to be particularly put out by it. She put her slight air of strangeness down to the upheaval of being at a new school on a completely different continent to her family.
"So, how do you want to do this?" Delia was almost asking rhetorically, she was sure that she would have to be the one to take the lead. "How about you take page 19 and 20, I'll take page 21 and 22? Then we can put everything together once we're done."
Patsy nodded and flicked her textbook open to the right page. "That sounds okay to me."
Both girls wordlessly got down to working, the tricky concepts laid out on the pages enough to keep them more than busy. Every now and again, Delia allowed her eyes to wander over to her partner, stealing a glance or two at the way that she ever so slightly poked her tongue out of her lips as she wrote, or the way her eyebrows furrowed when she came across a phrase that took more concentration than normal.
"Come on now, Trixie." Mrs Turner had approached the desk. Her tone was stern but she wasn't openly reprimanding Trixie "Stop doodling and start working."
Delia looked to her right to see Trixie's cheeks glow flame red. Trixie quite frequently appeared to not take schoolwork seriously, almost constantly distracted and very likely to be chatting away to the person sat next to her. It was something that Delia never understood, Trixie's parents spent ridiculous money on tuition fees yet it sometimes seemed to be getting thrown away. Maybe it was just because Delia had to maintain such high grades to cling on to her scholarship, but she almost resented Trixie sometimes for it.
The bell screamed out after what seemed like far less than two hours, making Delia almost jump from her seat. Patsy quickly stood up, shaking her hair as she got to her feet. Delia caught the vague scent of violets.
"I want these projects ready to present by period three on Friday, so I expect a them to be finished in your spare time."
Delia was almost intimidated to ask Patsy for a moment to finish the project." I have first period free tomorrow, if you want to meet in the library?"
The ghost of a smile crossed Patsy's lips. "Perfect."
"Careful Patsy. Best make sure you meet her somewhere she can't close the door behind her." Delia hadn't even noticed Val appear behind her until she was speaking.
Noticing Trixie open her mouth to respond, Delia hooked her arm around Trixie's and pulled her out of the classroom. She barely had a second to think about the confusion on Patsy's face, her mind preoccupied by the thought of Val and closed doors.
"Val. Val. Valerie!" After that awful, awful English lesson Delia was hurrying down the corridor after Val. She couldn't wrap her head around what was going on, surely it couldn't be what she thought.
"What do you want from me, Delia?" Val's voice was low and dangerous.
"An explanation." Delia pulled up her last shred of confidence. "You at least owe me that."
Val rolled her eyes and beckoned for Delia to follow her into the nearest bathroom.
"Why are you pretending?" Delia fought hard to keep the tremble out of her voice.
Delia could practically see Val making mental calculations. "Pretending what?" So she had made her decision.
"You can't pretend nothing happened between us." Delia's heart was pounding beneath her ivy green tie.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Delia. Don't speak to me." Val sighed deeply but didn't allow her mask to slip as she left the bathroom and closed the door behind her.
The blood was rushing in her ears and the room appeared to be spinning beyond control. Was she crazy? Did she really imagine everything? Delia knew her own heart and mind, right? Surely she hadn't made everything up that happened? Her head was aching with unanswerable questions. Whenever Delia thought back, she could never recall how she managed to get from that bathroom to throwing up in the bin next to Miss Crane's desk.
* * *
By that evening, Delia had managed to push the thought of Val out of her mind and was curled up on her bed with Trixie and Barbara. It had been her turn to provide alcohol tonight so they had cans of diet coke bought from the tuck shop in a mug with a splash of vodka, slightly more generous in Trixie and Delia's cups than Barbara's. Sneaking alcohol was such a part of Nonnatus culture that even the notorious lightweight Barbara was known to indulge a little.
"What do you think of Patsy?" Delia found the question hanging in the air before she was even quite aware it had left her mouth.
"I've not spoke to her yet but she seems nice enough, I guess. Just a little quiet. I haven't figured her out yet." Barbara was known for seeing the good side of anyone, Delia had always assumed that explained why she could ignore Mary-Cynthia and Winnie's association with Val.
Trixie was not quite so positively inclined. "I just think she's a bloody terrible judge of character if she thinks hanging around with Val is a good idea. And being quiet is one thing but she's just so...cold. She's in my politics class and we were talking about terrorism and she refused to even join in. Miss Harrison asked what she thought but she barely even acknowledged she was being spoken to." Barbara and Delia shared a knowing smile, everyone knew there was nothing Trixie couldn't stand as much as something she perceived as rudeness.
"What do you think of her, Delia. You're the only one of us who's actually spoken to her." Barbara tossed a green Starburst from the packet in her hand over to Delia, the wobbliness of her throw indicating her inability to hold her drink.
What did Delia think of her? She spent a little longer than she normally would unwrapping the sweet and popping it into her mouth to avoid talking. She agreed with Barbara's theory of reserving judgement until knowing her properly, but she could also see where Trixie was coming from. And then there was the smile that Delia knew she had received, not to mention how much she had enjoyed watching that soft red hair fall gently over the curve of her jaw as she leant over the textbook. Experience had taught Delia, however, that those kind of things were best to ignore.
"I don't know." Delia sighed, knowing that her answer was at least honest.
"Lights out, ladies. It's midnight, you know the school night rules." Miss Crane's firm voice came ringing down the hall, her self described 'firm but fair' approach meant that after three infractions girls were likely to find themselves scrubbing all three bathrooms in the block. No point getting strike number one on the second night of term. Trixie quickly flipped the light switch off and lay down on the pile of quilts and blankets she and Barbara had dragged in off of their own beds.
"Goodnight guys." Barbara whispered with the faintest slur in her words, draping an arm over Trixie's waist. Even in the dark Delia could just about make out a smile on Trixie's face. Delia swiftly drifted into sleep, the faint hum of the Nonnatus heating system had a tendency to knock her right out.
"Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck." A sudden burst of expletives dragged Delia from her slumber.
Barbara was standing in the corner of the room, picking up her watch and her phone from Delia's desk.
"What's wrong?" Delia's words were thick with sleep. She glanced at her phone, quarter past 3. Trixie was still softly snoring on the floor beside her.
The moonlight creeping through the crack in the curtains illuminated the watery shine of Barbara's eyes.
"Leave it Delia. Please."
She wanted to push it, figure out what was going on with Barbara. But Delia could here the plea for privacy in her shaking voice and didn't know how to do it without hurting Barbara further.
"See you tomorrow, Barbara."
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
Anyone who knew Delia in any way knew well that she was not a girl who skipped meals, especially at Nonnatus where Violet Buckle's cooking was the stuff of legends. So even she was surprised when she was sitting in the library fifteen minutes before the bell would ring for the beginning of period one without even touching a bite of breakfast. Delia couldn't work out quite why she was so nervous, all she was doing was working on the presentation with Patsy. But her feet with tapping against the leg of the chair and she was twirling her biro between her finger again and again as she waited for the redhead to join her.
"Sorry I'm late." Patsy didn't arrive until ten minutes after the bell. "I went to the wrong block."
Delia could have absolutely kicked herself, of course Patsy wouldn't have known where she was going. "I should have shown you." Patsy already didn't seem to particularly like Delia and she was really not doing much to help her case.
Patsy waved her hand, stopping Delia's apology in it tracks. "I went to ask Mrs Turner and she sent me in the right direction, with a few supplies."
Delia simultaneously noticed that Patsy had a roll of pink card tucked under her arm and a handful of a felt tips, and that it was the longest sentence she had heard Patsy say in the three days of knowing her. Patsy took the seat beside Delia and crossed her legs, revealing a snow white flash of ankle from her rolled up trousers. As they had done the previous day, the two girls silently established a working rhythm between them. They had returned to not talking but it was a much more comfortable silence. Delia felt herself doing everything she could do to avoid brushing against Patsy's hands as they worked on the same page. She really didn't want to contribute to the reputation she had developed, plus she was a little scared of what she might feel if their skin did touch.
"I really don't know how anyone is going to top this." Delia wasn't sure whether it had been ten minutes or an hour by the time their masterpiece was complete.
Patsy allowed herself a laugh. "You really do have a knack for drawing lungs, Miss Busby. A valuable skill indeed."
The clock that hung above the door indicated there was still another fifteen minutes left until Patsy would have to leave for her politics lesson. Delia wanted to take her opportunity to make friends with the new girl, she was intriguing.
"How are you settling in?" Delia was annoyed with herself for asking such a bland question.
Patsy took a moment to think before answering with a shrug. "Everyone here seems nice, a school is a school I guess. I think it'll take figuring out how you guys kill time around here on a weekend to decide whether I like it."
Miles away from the nearest city with only a tiny little village nearby, Delia could see how a girl from somewhere as exciting as Hong Kong would be concerned about finding things to do.
"Well on Saturday it's the first hockey game of the season and it's getting played here, so most people will be watching that." Delia was pretty sure that wouldn't be enough to convince Patsy that there was a thrilling weekend scene at Nonnatus.
"You play don't you?" Patsy had stopped fidgeting with the hair bobble on her wrist and completely turned her attention to Delia, who wasn't quite sure how Patsy knew that.
Delia nodded, trying to provoke herself into a little boldness. "You should come watch."
Both girls held eye contact a little longer than strictly necessary, electrifying the atmosphere between them. The other students around Delia seemed to melt away as Patsy displayed the first full, genuine smile that she had seen from her. "I think I will, Delia."
Delia's pulse was quickening, a familiar feeling that could only be associated with ugly endings. "So why did you move all the way from Hong Kong?" Delia blurted out the question. She was well aware it could be a sensitive subject but she was in such a hurry to return to comfortable territory that she failed to think.
Patsy's smile immediately fell away, looking wounded. "I've got to go to my lesson. I'll see you later." Before Delia even had chance to apologise the other girl had slung her backpack over her shoulder and left the library, leaving Delia sat alone with a lot more questions and a stupid drawing of some lungs.
Several hours later, Delia was not at all surprised when Patsy walked straight past her desk and towards Val and Mary-Cynthia without any kind of acknowledgement. She was even less surprised to see the smirk that appeared on Val's face. As much as it pained Delia to know that she had upset Patsy, she could almost see it as a blessing. Delia wasn't entirely naive, it was undeniable that Patsy was different. There was just something about her that made Delia want to find out more. But she also had to admit that those were feelings she didn't know how to face any more, they were far too dangerous.
The year that Delia was in year 12 her parents spent their Christmas with her Uncle Gavin in Australia. They had struggled to get flights that would bring Delia back to Nonnatus for the start of the new year, so she had elected to stay at the school for the winter break. Barbara was going with her father to visit her mother who was doing missionary work in Nigeria and Trixie was going to her grandmother's for her traditional Christmas with her extended family, so for the first time since year 7 Delia was going to be at Nonnatus without her best friends.
For the first week, Delia had occupied herself with wandering into the local village Little Angleton and relentlessly revising for the mock exams that she knew would take place in January. On Christmas Eve Miss Crane, who she had shared many a cup of tea with over the week as she lived full time on Nonnatus grounds in order to afford a summer of travel, informed Delia of a particular Nonnatus tradition. Fred and Violet Buckle lived nearby so would come back to the school on Christmas Day to cook a Christmas dinner for those students who ended up staying there.
The grinning girl who sat down at the table next to Delia was a girl she knew was called Valerie who had been in her biology and English literature classes all year but whom she didn't know particularly well as she had only moved to the school in September. Delia hadn't even realised that there was another girl from her year there, Val lived on another floor of Evergreen and had been spending most of her time in the library.
Delia picked up a cracker from the table in front of her, offering the other end to Val to pull. "Merry Christmas, Val."
For the week that followed, the pair grew inseparable. Sheltered Delia didn't have the words to describe what began to develop towards this girl. They would walk the perimeter of the school tightly wrapped in coats and scarves, chatting about anything and everything, and then warm up in the library reading the huge poetry books held in the referencing section. Delia knew it was different to the way that she felt when she spent time with Barbara and Trixie, but it wasn't until her friends returned in January that she understood. In the darkness of Trixie's room, the blonde's confession of the way that she had found herself feeling towards girls as well as boys was the catalyst of Delia putting together the pieces of the puzzle as to why she was so, so happy.
* * *
Throughout Wednesday and Thursday Delia kept mentally running through that exchange between her and Patsy, who still hadn't spoken to her. Delia had begun to accept that she had blown any chance of friendship with Patsy and just remained grateful that they had already got their presentation finished.
By the end of lessons on Thursday, Delia was tired of thinking about the incident. She picked up her laptop from her room and went next door to find Trixie. The internet connection at Nonnatus was horrendous but occasionally it was possible to pick up enough signal to watch a few episodes of their favourite shows.
"Trixie are you in there?" Delia knocked three times on the closed door. "There's a new episode of RuPaul's Drag Race up if you want to watch it?"
Trixie took a little longer than Delia anticipated but eventually came to open the door. Her eyes were rimmed with redness and Delia could tell she was making a deliberate effort to steady her breathing.
"What's wrong, Trix?"
Trixie shrugged, her feigned calmness not particularly convincing. "Fred's cutting the grass and I forgot to close my window. I've got to start some drama coursework, can we watch the episode tomorrow?"
Delia had walked past Fred cleaning the Bluebell dorm windows on her way back from the hockey field. "Do you know where Barbara is?"
Trixie didn't seem to even try and resist the scowl that came onto her face. "She's over at the chapel. But I wouldn't bother going to find her if I were you, she's in a foul mood."
"Are you sure you're alright?" Delia figured Trixie must have had a row with Barbara.
"I said I was, is that not enough? Can you leave me to do some work please?" Trixie practically slammed the door in Delia's face.
She didn't know what she was doing wrong, Delia just seemed to be putting her foot in it with everyone. Barbara was acting weird, Patsy hated her and now Trixie was furious. She left her laptop on her bed and headed up the stairs to Miss Crane's office, hoping that helping out the older woman with some filing over a milky brew would make her feel better.
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
Ahhh I've been gone so long! There's really no excuse other than that I think I wrote so much of it so quickly that I ran out of words, but it turns out I've found a couple more so here they are :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Miss Crane had firmly promised Delia that everything would look brighter after a good night's sleep. Delia had to be fair to her, she was as right about that as she always was about such things. Delia arrived first at breakfast the next morning, wanting to leave the decision up to Trixie as to whether or not they would sit together. As far as Delia was concerned, it was no longer worth being annoyed with Trixie. She deliberately focused her eyes on her bagel and scrambled eggs when she noticed Trixie enter the hall.
"Have you and Patsy finished your bio project?"
Delia wasn't altogether surprised when Trixie took her usual seat opposite her without acknowledging that anything had happened. They had been friends for so long that they rarely took the time to serious dwell over their quarrels. Both girls would hold their grudge for as long as they needed to before consigning it to the past, apologies usually only came up when one of them wasn't done with the issue after a couple of days. It just seemed more efficient to resume things as normal. It had worked out for them, they hadn't had a serious falling out since year 10.
"One exceptionally well drawn pair of lungs are ready to be presented." Delia was sure of that much, whether Patsy was ready to present alongside her could possibly be another issue. "How did you and Barbara get on?"
Trixie sank her spoon into her bowl of porridge, clattering metal against ceramic louder than strictly necessary.
"Alright, I guess. We got most of it done in lesson but I couldn't get her to work on it with me after that. Always off somewhere with Winnie and Mary-Cynthia. You know I'm rubbish at biology compared to her."
Trixie was never that concerned about what marks she got on a fairly unimportant project. Delia knew she was bothered by the fact Barbara was avoiding them more than ever. It was a weird dynamic that seemed impossible to address without sparking something worse. She tended to lean on the fierce blonde to speak up when things were wrong, but whenever Barbara made a reappearance it was as if Trixie had memory loss. Delia had expected her to lose her temper with Barbara at some point that week given how clearly pissed off she was but Trixie had yet to explode. In fact, whenever the three of them were together she acted as if everything was normal. Delia had been doing her best to shrug it off, maybe Trixie just knew why Barbara was being weird.
The forgiving spirit seemed to be contagious by the time Delia reached her fourth period biology lesson. Patsy was sat in the seat next to Delia's, and she smiled cautiously when she joined her.
"Look Delia, I know I've been rotten the last couple of days..."
Delia took her turn in cutting off Patsy's apology.
"It's my fault, I was being nosey. I would've been pissed off too."
Patsy hesitated a moment, her veneer of confidence cracking for just one second before falling back into place. Perfectly. "Are we good?"
* * *
"Should I even trust her?"
Sitting cross legged on Trixie's bed whilst Barbara was perched on the desk felt like things had almost returned to normal. For once, they weren't drinking anything stronger than tropical fruits squash. Barbara had insisted.
"She's too close to Val." Trixie voiced the concern that was sitting at the back of Delia's mind.
Barbara shrugged. "It's only coffee."
She was right. After their biology lesson, Mrs Turner had asked Delia and Patsy to wait behind. In keeping with her teaching philosophy of always remembering to praise the good, she had told her students that their project was excellent and that she would be passing such comments on to Miss Crane. By the time they were allowed to leave the rest of the class had long since disappeared. They walked over to the dining hall in another comfortable silence until Patsy asked Delia to celebrate their impressive expertise in lungs with a coffee in the village after the hockey match. Of course Delia had agreed, it was only coffee.
"Well we know that Val's a bitch." Trixie smirked. "But I suppose it's unlikely she's recruited minions to poison your coffee."
Delia didn't want to laugh but grinned despite herself. "Don't rule anything out around here Trix."
As much as she would've been happy hanging out in Trixie's room all night, Delia checked her watch with a groan. Coach Pembilton's lectures on the importance of sleep before a game echoed inner mind. Deep down Delia knew as she said her goodnights that she would hear Barbara leave the room before she'd even got to the shower.
* * *
Delia wasn't always sure if she loved hockey for being hockey or for being so intrinsically linked to Nonnatus. Back home all the schools played intensely competitive rugby tournaments but it had never particularly appealed to her. But every since year 7 when her PE teacher had told her she should speak to Coach Pembilton, it had become like breathing. Lined up beside 10 comrades Delia couldn't help notice the way the sky blue Nonnatus kit clashed with the neon yellow of the Eldridge team. It was practically a sign.
"Captains." Miss Pembilton blew a whistle. "Shake hands."
As Chummy stepped up to the girl at least a foot shorter than her, a barely noticeable pang of jealous shot through Delia's abdomen. It had actually been her who was suggested for captain of the senior team but she was way off her game by the end of last year and she'd missed a hell of a lot of practice time. It was probably only Chummy's pleading that kept her on the team. Another way for that girl to worm her way into her brain.
The first game after Christmas was always one of Delia's favourites. Everyone was on top form with the last term's training finished off with two weeks of rest. Competition was fierce, just the way she loved it.
Val had appeared behind Delia as she walked back towards Evergreen. Champion might be taking it a bit far but she could admit she'd played bloody well. And the way a pretty girl was stood looking at her made her feel like maybe she was a champion.
She had reached forward and grasped Delia's hand, the first cautious acknowledgment of what was awakening between them.
"Are you cold?" Dumb question, Val was shivering.
Delia wrapped her blue and maroon team scarf around her neck before they walked back to the dorms (hands separate). A couple of weeks after everything fell apart Delia found it folded on her pillow. Eventually she swapped it for one she found in the lost property box, it smelt like screwing up.
Her heart was pounding as she silently ran through the memory. Delia glanced into the crowd. Orange. Patsy was sat a couple of rows from the front, looking noticeably uncomfortable with her surroundings but she was there. Delia could feel her pulse starting to level out. The whistle blew again. Fuck Val, she didn't deserve headspace at that moment.
After six weeks of not practicing , and many more of her heart really not being in it, Delia had felt more than rusty when she picked up the stick on Monday. But now she tore up and down the pitch, wind whipping her fringe as she ran. She was back in her element. Clearly the girls from Eldridge were having similar epiphanies because Nonnatus were being utterly thrashed.
By the second half they had clawed their way back to two points behind, then Chummy and Delia had both managed to sneak in goals. But now there were seconds left and Delia had the ball. There was an Eldridge girl breathing down her neck, the only person in the pitch who rivalled Chummy for size. Delia could see Coach reaching for her whistle to end the game as she whacked the ball with everything she had. The other player crashed into her so suddenly that she didn't even see whether the shot went in or not. She knew the way that something hit her head (most likely a hockey stick) probably wasn't good but they were cheering, Nonnatus was cheering and she couldn't wipe the dopey smile off her face.
The girl who knocked her down pulled her to her feet apologising a million times over. Chummy wrapped an arm around Delia's shoulder, who was beginning to realise victory wasn't the only reason she felt dazed. First trip to medical of the season was practically a badge of honour.
"You've got a nasty bump there Miss Busby." Dr Turner clicked off the light he had been shining in her eyes. Delia had frequently heard him referred to as 'dreamy' but it just felt wrong to harbour a girly crush on the school doctor who looked at their biology teacher like she had personally painted the sun in the sky for him. "But I've seen worse from Miss Fortescue-Brown tripping over her own feet. No lasting damage done."
Dr Turner briefly gestured towards the door Chummy had just disappeared through before continuing. "I just want you to go back to your room and lie down for the afternoon. And text one of your friends to come and walk there with."
Before Delia even had chance to unlock her phone and text Trixie, Patsy appeared in the room.
"Camil-Chummy said you'd be in here." She sounded mildly panicked, but so did most people after their first encounter with the full force of Hurricane Chummy.
Delia suddenly remembered they'd had plans. "I'm sorry."
"Hardly your fault." Patsy shrugged, before seeming to remember she had something in her hand. "I promised you coffee."
A grey plastic cup was placed on the shelf near Delia, who recognised it as being from the vending machine outside the block. It looked vaguely like paint water and as far as she remembered it tasted pretty similar. But still, a pretty girl had just given her coffee. Delia felt like a champion.
I promised myself I'd be nice to Delia this chapter and somehow she ended up getting clobbered with a hockey stick. Maybe I'm just mean...
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
I have no excuse for how long this update has taken, except that uni is hard. I hope a slightly longer chapter might make up for it a little bit.
By the time Delia and Patsy was strolling back to Evergreen, most other students had either retired indoors or headed out into the village. They sipped their coffee in a silence that lingered between them comfortably, Patsy appeared to be a girl of few words and extremely low standards in coffee. Delia felt utterly invincible in a way that she couldn't work out was brought on by the big win, being with Patsy or most probably the beginnings of a concussion. It was a fairly long walk back to the dorms in the early September sunshine, but they reached the door to Delia's room much quicker than she expected.
"Do you want me to stay with you for a bit? You know, just in case you really do have a concussion.” Patsy bit her lip almost unnoticeably as she spoke, Delia dared to detect the slightest sound of hope in her voice.
Delia nodded a little too quickly and rubbed the back of her head, stomach lurching as she felt the lump that had formed on her skull. She really didn’t feel great. Plus getting to know Patsy a little better would certainly be a bonus in all this. Patsy rested her hand on Delia’s shoulder as she gently guided her through the door and pushed her towards her bed, an almost surprising caring side being revealed.
“Goodness you do look rather green.” The other girl glanced at the bed next to where Delia sat cross legged, before seemingly deciding better of it and pulling the chair away from the desk. Patsy handed Delia the bin that sat by her feet with a soft smirk. “So how long have you played for?”
Delia gratefully clutched the bin, hoping it wouldn’t be in use any time soon. “I started playing in year 7 so I guess this is my sixth year playing.”
“You’re really good, you know. I’d love to have a passion like that.”
“Surely there’s something you love like that, everyone has something.”
Patsy smiled a little wistfully, “I played piano when I was younger, it’s been such a long time since I played though. My mother insisted my sister and I have lessons.”
“You could always start playing again.”
“So much is different now.” Patsy sighed.
Delia kept her eyes locked on the redhead’s, wondering if she would reveal more.
“We can always reorganise that coffee?” Patsy seemed keen to change the subject.
“I’d like that a lot.”
The two girls were drawn out of their conversation by a knock, followed by Trixie and Barbara barreling into the room.
“Hell of a goal, Busby.”
“How’s your head though? That looked pretty nasty from where we were sat.”
Trust Trixie and Barbara to have opposite priorities, Delia smiled to herself. She had to admit to being slightly annoyed at the interruption but seeing her two best friends getting along after the week they’d had was more than enough to make up for it. Patsy shifted uncomfortably in her chair as the Trixie and Barbara plonked themselves down on either side of Delia.
“What did you think of the match, Patsy? Do they play hockey in Hong Kong?” Barbara as always seemed oblivious to the slight tension.
Patsy smiled, genuinely as far as Delia could tell, “I don’t know about all of Hong Kong, but my school never did. I don’t know why, it seems a marvelous sport.”
Trixie cut in with a mocking laugh, “Most marvelous indeed!”
Patsy’s smile dropped. “I’ll speak to you later Delia, I hope your head feels better.” She quickly left the room, Delia had noticed before that she was a little conscious of her accent.
“Come on Trix, I don’t understand why you don’t like Patsy. Honestly, she’s so nice.”
Trixie broke eye contact with Delia, mumbling a little as she spoke “I just don’t trust her yet. She reminds me of Val.” The guilt in her tone made Delia think that she hadn’t meant to bother Patsy as much as she had.
Delia swallowed hard. Trixie was someone who formed her opinion on someone as soon as they met, and, in her experience, her assumptions were usually correct. She was beginning to trust Patsy, almost to the point of admitting to herself that she might have a crush on the mysterious redhead. But what if Trixie was right? What if Patsy was like Val? Maybe it wasn’t worth it after all. She silently vowed to herself to push down any suggestion of more than platonic feelings. It wasn’t worth it.
September was quickly replaced by October in a cool breeze, leaving everyone wondering if the leaves had always been golden and they just hadn’t noticed. Little had changed, Patsy was still a slowly unravelling mystery, something was still bugging Trixie and it was beyond anyone to understand exactly what was going on with Barbara. Delia had settled into an almost comfortable routine of playing hockey, drinking tea with Miss Crane and avoiding Val, all whilst navigating the complexities of teenage friendship. A buzz of excitement was slowly but surely beginning to sweep through the school. By mid-October everyone was waiting for the announcement of the Halloween party taking place at the boys’ school, the first and some would say best social occasion of the school year.
“Alvin and the Chipmunks?”
“I don’t want to be a bloody rodent for my last Nonnatus Halloween thank you. How about the Three Musketeers?”
“Don’t be daft, we did that in year 8. Rock, paper, scissors?”
Trixie chucked a crisp across the table at her friend. “Delia that’s just crap.”
The two of them had been firing suggestions for costumes at each other constantly for days by the time they were sat during their morning break. Delia, Trixie and Barbara had been known for their trio costumes since their very first Halloween at Nonnatus and were determined to put together something memorable for their last one. Well, Trixie and Delia were pretty determined to pull out all the stops. Barbara had given a couple of halfhearted suggestions but didn’t seem to be as excited as her two friends.
“That’s lame. Ghostbusters?”
“I’m pretty sure that’s what Jenny and her friends are going as, not a chance.”
“Guys?” Barbara spoke just loudly enough to be heard. “You know my friend Tom? I promised him we’d do a costume together. We could do one altogether maybe?
Trixie shot a withering look to her left, voice cold and hard. “Don’t worry about us Barbara. It’s only our last year. Enjoy your costume.”
Both stood up from the table and left in opposite directions. Delia smiled slightly to herself as she left a few steps behind them, knowing that all three of them were going to be heading to the biology classroom and that both of her friends were walking in completely the wrong direction. She didn’t try to stop either of them, five minutes peace from the ongoing drama between the two of them was welcome to say the very least.
“Delia! Are you excited for the match this weekend? I can’t wait to give those Harewood girls a good thrashing, I haven’t been to Somerset in such a long time.”
Chummy tapped Delia on the shoulder from the desk behind almost as soon as she had taken her seat next to Patsy. Hockey was always at the front of the girl’s brain it seemed, and Delia never complained about the opportunity to indulge in talk about her sport. The two of them were chatting away so intensely they hardly noticed that the rest of the class had filed in, including Barbara and Trixie.
“Wow, Delia. Another match?” Val was stood in between Delia and Chummy. “Bet you can’t wait to get hot and sweaty with all those girls, make it into a contact sport if you know what I mean.”
A few of the girls that sat around them started to laugh, Delia kept her eyes locked forwards. She couldn’t string a sentence together when looking at Val, never mind a witty comeback. Pretending she didn’t care was all she could do. Although that was quite hard when her cheeks were burning, and her eyes were prickling.
“Val, you absolute- “Trixie began a what would probably have been a very cutting retort but was interrupted immediately by Patsy.
“That’s funny you know, Val. Because I definitely remember you telling me you tried out for hockey at your last school and didn’t make the team. Is that what motivated you?” Patsy’s voice was slightly high pitched, a combination of nerves and mock innocence.
More girls started laughing then. Val opened her mouth and closed it again, looking more like a goldfish than a popular girl commanding the attention of a classroom. When Mrs. Turner breezed into the room demanding silence, Val wordlessly returned to her seat.
Trixie turned to the girl by her side, the girl she didn’t trust to not hurt her best friend. “Patsy that was awesome! Did you see her face?”
“You didn’t have to do that Patsy.” Delia breathed, finding it difficult to speak properly for reasons she didn’t quite understand.
“I know I didn’t.”
Nothing more was said about it for the next two hours, Delia didn’t want to think about it any further. By the time the bell rang she had almost forgotten about it. Until they were walking down the corridor and Val gave Patsy a pointed glare, barging her shoulder into her.
Trixie caught Patsy’s arm and grinned at her. “Come sit with us for lunch.”
“Trixie your ponytails are an absolute disaster, let me fix them.” Delia started fiddling with the blonde’s hair.
Patsy rolled her eyes as she adjusted the red bow in her hair, “It’s abstract, darlings. Pass me the bottle?”
Trixie lightly tossed the bottle of rum to Patsy, who drank deeply from the bottle.
“You two do realise we have to appear sober to be allowed into this party, right?”
Patsy pushed the bottle towards Delia whilst Trixie laughed, “Dee, you are not cool enough to be Buttercup right now.”
Taking a swig from the bottle, Delia nudged her, “I didn’t know the Powerpuff girls were drunk the whole time, Trix. That’s my childhood ruined.”
By the time they arrived at the boys’ school, the three girls were more than a little tipsy. Not that it mattered, so was every student over the age of fifteen. They were all convinced the teachers were oblivious, but these teachers had been doing the same thing since their own days at Nonnatus. They were happy to turn a blind eye, in the name of tradition, just as long as all students were present and correct in their morning classes. As they walked in, the music was pounding, and the dancefloor was heaving with people. It took them a couple of minutes to pick out Barbara in the crowd, hanging onto the arm of a tall brunette boy who was not quite cool enough for his Danny Zuko costume to be convincing.
Trixie loudly scoffed at the sight of their costume, pulling her fellow Powerpuff girls to dance just slightly left of where Tom and Barbara were awkwardly stood. As she whirled around the floor, Delia almost felt as if things were normal again. As long as she concentrated hard on singing along to the music rather than the feeling that coursed through her veins whenever she accidentally touched Patsy, everything was okay. Until Trixie dropped Delia’s hand and disappeared out of the door with a barely audible “Fuck!”
Delia turned around to see Barbara’s arms wrapped tightly around Tom’s neck, kissing in a way that would have got them swiftly escorted out if a teacher had spotted them.
Patsy looked at Delia in confusion. “What’s wrong with her?”
“I’ll go find out.”
Patsy headed across the hall towards an extremely tall Smurf that turned out to be Chummy, leaving Delia to go and find Trixie. It didn’t take her long to spot a classroom door slightly ajar with light spilling out into the corridor.
The blonde girl was leaning against a table, looking like she’d had all the life knocked out of her.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Her voice was shaking like she was having a hard time getting the words out of her.
Delia shut the door behind and came to stand next to Trixie. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.” She reassured, pulling her friend into her arms.
As soon as they made physical contact Trixie’s composure snapped, sobbing into Delia’s neck. The feisty self-assured girl almost never showed her emotions like this, there was no go to procedure for her being this upset. She stroked Trixie’s hair as her mind raced through possibilities of what could be wrong with her and how everything could be made okay again.
“I like her, Dee. I really, really fucking like Barbara. What the hell am I supposed to do?”
Delia squeezed Trixie’s hand, searching for the right words. What the hell was she supposed to do?