Chapter 1: MISSUS BUSBY-MOUNT
“It’s Patsy!” Trixie yelled and waved at her roommate, her body continuously bobbing up and down on the carousel horse.
“Patsy!” Barbara waved as well, her new husband sending his greetings beside her.
“Nurse Mount!” Phyllis Crane bid her welcome from a pink decorated chair.
“Hello everybody,” Patsy laughed and waved at all of her friends, the carousel continuing to spin and show more faces.
“Welcome back!” Sister Julienne said from another decorated chair on the carousel.
“We are complete!” Sister Monica Joan chimed in beside her.
“It’s good to see you, Nurse Mount!” Sister Winifred waved from a black stallion.
“Oh my, this is quite the welcome!” Patsy smiled at Delia, “It’s like a Rolodex of greetings.”
Delia laughed and watched their friends greet Patsy as they rotated around an axis.
“Hop on!” Trixie called out.
“I’m afraid I’m already quite seasick,” Patsy yelled back.
“See you inside for tea, then?” Trixie replied.
“You shall!” Patsy smiled and looked at Delia.
“Come on...” Delia tilted her head towards the big wooden door, “I’ll put the kettle on.”
“That would be lovely,” Patsy sighed gratefully and followed her girlfriend into Nonnatus House.
As soon as the door was closed and the two of them were alone in the hallway, Delia dropped Patsy’s suitcase by the stairs and looked into her eyes. Her expression crisp.
“It feels so much like home,” Patsy said, before her girlfriend could voice her obvious anger. “It even smells like home. It’s as if I never left.”
“You couldn’t write a single letter?”
“I was worried sick, Pats!”
“I was by my father’s side every waking moment, Delia.”
Delia dimmed the hint of anger she still had in the pit of her stomach.
“It was rude of me to keep you in the dark,” Patsy admitted, “And I understand if you’re frustrated with me.”
“I’m just glad you’re back...” Delia simmered.
“I read all your letters while my father slept,” Patsy promised. “It was hard to write-”
“I know...” Delia shook her head to tell her lover she didn’t have to excuse her behaviour, “I’m sorry. I’m being selfish.”
“Come here,” Patsy wrapped her arms around her lover and pressed a kiss on her forehead. “You’re not selfish. I remember what it’s like to be worried sick and not having the slightest idea how you were. It’s not a nice feeling and I’ll forgive you if you want to knock my teeth in.”
“I love you… you fool.”
They held each other for a moment until they heard chatter and footsteps running up the front steps. They quickly broke out of their embrace and stepped out of the way as the door burst open. Patsy was immediately engulfed in hugs and kisses from the Nonnatus nuns and nurses. There were many “I’m sorry for your loss” and “my condolences” but there were also “we’re happy to have you back” and “tell us more about Hong Kong!”
Delia stood back and let their friends have her girlfriend. She still had a lot to tell Patsy, lots she couldn’t mention in her letters in case they were read by wandering eyes, but it would have to wait. For now, the women of Nonnatus House sat around the kitchen table drinking late night tea and welcoming back their sister. Trixie, Nurse Crane, Valerie Dyer, and the nuns all gathered. Only recently wed Barbara was absent as she went home with her new husband.
Patsy felt strange to be the center of attention. She shared as much about Hong Kong as she felt comfortable: the food, the weather, the culture, the sights. Not that she had much time to experience it all, but she shared what she had learned.
“And how are you managing?” Trixie asked, placing her hand on the one Patsy had on the table. “How are you coping?” she corrected.
“I miss him,” Patsy admitted. “It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get a chance to truly know each other until the end… but he made me promise him that I wouldn’t feel guilty for being so committed to my job here in Poplar. He told me he was proud of me.” She shared more than she intended, more than she was used to. She felt vulnerable, showing weakness, yet opening up to her friends took so much strength.
Even Delia was surprised to see Patsy shed a tear. Patsy was otherwise an expert at bottling-up her emotions and then spilling them out behind closed doors.
“We’re all proud of you,” Sister Julienne reassured. She felt inclined to stand from her seat and give Patsy a hug and a handkerchief.
“Thank you,” Patsy smiled through her tears. “So what have I missed?” she asked in a lighter tone.
The nuns explained the departure of Sister Ursula. The hire of Nurse Dyer. The various new cases around Poplar and, of course, some of the latest gossip. When the clock struck nine, the nuns went to bed, but the midwives stayed up just a little longer to catch-up with their beloved friend.
“I’m sorry, I’ve taken your bed since you’ve been gone,” Valerie mentioned.
“I’m glad you did,” Patsy smiled. “From what I’ve heard, they really needed the extra pair of hands in my absence.”
Valerie gave her new friend a small smile.
“I’ll take Barbara’s bed, seeing as she’ll be rooming with Tom from now on,” Patsy joked lightly. She was still sorry to have missed Barbara and Tom’s wedding.
“I don’t mind taking Barbara’s bed,” Valerie offered.
“Don’t be silly,” Patsy reassured, “You’re already settled in.”
“But it was your bed first,” Valerie insisted.
“I agree,” Trixie sided with Valerie. “Your hooks are still on the walls, Patsy, it’s already altered to your liking.” She glanced at Nurse Crane and then at Delia. “Patsy should take her old bed back… and I’ll take Barbara’s.”
“What?” Patsy didn’t quite catch onto Trixie’s intentions. “But you love that room!” she protested.
“I do…” Trixie breathed out, “But I love you and Delia more. So I’ll move out so Delia can move in.”
“Trixie…” Delia breathed out. She was surprised yet ever so grateful for the kind gesture.
“I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Trixie held up her hand in protest. “It was heartbreaking enough to see you two apart for four months, I won’t stand to see it again.”
Patsy looked at Delia like a deer in the headlights.
“I…” Delia sighed and gave her lover a small smile. “Pats, a lot of things have happened that I haven’t been able to write in my letters.”
Patsy’s cheeks were turning red and she seemed to have forgotten how to breathe. It dawned on her that everyone at the table knew what kind of woman she was. It made her feel extremely conscious.
“Nurse Crane figured us out before you left, and she’s been keeping me busy with poetry,” Delia gave the older woman a grateful smile. “Valerie’s a long story—I’ll tell you about that later—but she’s been going to Gateways club with me on the rare occasion that we both have the night off. And Trixie…” Delia paused and looked at the bright blonde woman, “I assumed you’ve known for quite some time.” She looked at Patsy and said, “Trixie has been telling me stories about you when we have a moment alone. It’s made your absence a bit more bearable.”
“I’ve collected quite a lot of Patsy Mount stories after sharing a room with you for two years,” Trixie smiled.
“Do the nuns know?” Patsy asked, still unable to wrap her head around the situation.
“As far as I’m aware, none of them suspect a thing...” Delia replied, “or if they do, they have yet to protest.”
“But those of us who do know continue to love you,” Trixie said with a smile. “So please don’t worry and just take my bed so you and Delia can be together.”
“I don’t know what to say to that,” Patsy admitted. She still had a sour feeling in her gut. Even if every soul in the kitchen seemed full of support and love, years of self-loathing and hiding her true self had convinced her to believe her friends would never fully accept her.
“Say: ‘thank you, Trixie, for giving me your bed and for keeping my heartbroken girlfriend company while she sat in the dark thinking the worst’,” Trixie teased.
Patsy felt her cheeks turn redder. “I wasn’t prepared to come home to… being out of the closet,” she said shyly.
“No offense…” Trixie smirked, “But you weren’t very good at being in the closet to begin with.”
Patsy couldn’t help but laugh.
“Patsy, you can hardly hide love this true,” Phyllis Crane added, causing Patsy and Delia to look at each other with soft eyes.
“We haven’t been able to get to know each other that well yet,” Valerie added, “But I’ve heard a lot about you from Delia and it really would break my heart to see you apart again.”
Patsy gave her friends a small, shy, smile. “Well, thank you… all of you. Especially for helping Delia cope. I’ll forever be in debt to you all.”
After a game of musical chairs with the beds, Trixie roomed with Nurse Crane and Valerie took Delia’s single room for herself. Their furniture remained untouched but they thought to move the rest of their belongings in the morning, when the nuns weren’t sleeping.
“This is surreal,” Patsy said as she and Delia were alone in their own room.
Delia smiled and lifted the covers of her new bed, Trixie’s old bed.
“Aren’t you going to sleep with me?” Patsy wondered.
“Of course, you fool…” Delia ruffled the sheets in her hands, “But we have to make it seem like I slept in this bed, just in case.”
“Good idea,” Patsy flattened the pillow and tilted it so it wasn’t perfectly centered at the head of the bed. It would look suspicious if Delia’s bed was always perfectly made, especially since she was notorious for making her bed later in the day, or not at all. Delia’s mother made her bed for her when she didn’t as a child and the habit stuck through to her adulthood.
“There,” Delia walked away when the sheets were misaligned to her liking.
“I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed sleeping by your side,” Patsy said as she got into her bed, Delia following suit and naturally accepting her position as little spoon.
“I’ve missed your cold hands, believe it or not,” Delia took Patsy’s hands into her own and gave them a soft kiss.
“I’ve missed your warm ones,” Patsy nuzzled her nose into Delia’s hair and soaked in her lover’s familiar scent.
They lay in comfortable silence, happy and warm, as the world stilled around them. For a moment, everything else ceased to exist.
“I still can’t believe you’re here,” Delia said in awe. “I’ve spent so many nights worrying about you.”
“I’m sorry,” Patsy apologized for the hundredth time. “I’m never leaving you like that again,” she promised.
“You better not,” Delia warned, though her tone slightly playful. “My heart can't bear that amount of torment again.”
Patsy tightened her hold around her girlfriend and held onto her, as close as she could, physically holding Delia in the safety of her arms.
“I’m not going to slip away,” Delia chuckled when Patsy’s leg wrapped around her hip, trapping her in a tangle of limbs.
“I can’t be too sure,” Patsy smiled and closed her eyes as she gave her girlfriend a squeeze.
“I’m gonna burst!” Delia laughed when Patsy’s limbs began to press, a little uncomfortably, into her body. She playfully fought against her girlfriend’s hold, as if trying to escape a boa constrictor.
“Unfortunate,” Patsy laughed, tightening her hold.
“Pats!” Delia broke one arm free from Patsy’s embrace and used it to tickle Patsy’s side, causing her arms and leg to open up like a claw crane. They both laughed and felt relieved that their joy had returned, and their lives seemed to be back to normal.
“I love you,” Patsy breathed out.
“I love you too,” Delia smiled.
“I’m so happy right now.”
“I’ve missed you so much.”
Patsy, still the big spoon, brushed Delia’s hair aside and planted a lingering kiss on her neck.
Delia gasped quietly and muffled a moan between her lips when Patsy’s hot tongue traced a circle around her pulse point.
“Pats…” she breathed out, “W-what are you doing?”
“What do you think I’m doing?” Patsy husked.
“I thought you were tired.”
Patsy’s mouth returned to Delia’s neck, and soon Delia felt a hand, or rather, a finger, trace the top hem of her pyjama top. She took hold of Patsy’s wrist and guided her hand down her shirt to cup her breast, where she wanted her.
Patsy hummed in satisfaction and toyed with Delia’s nipple as she sucked on her pulse point.
“Oh, Pats,” Delia tilted her head back and opened her mouth in a silent cry. Patsy, who had always been gentle, gave her nipple a firm tug, and the sensation gave Delia a shot of pleasure and pain, and hot arousal.
“Christ,” Delia parted her thighs and brought a hand between them to feel the heat in her pyjamas.
“What?” Patsy paused when she noticed the shift in movement below Delia’s waist.
“I’m going to have to change my pyjamas.”
“Later,” Patsy brushed off her girlfriend’s words and continued to kiss her neck as her fingers tweaked Delia’s nipple.
“Ow--oh,” Delia winced then moaned. She could not believe how her body was experiencing stings of pain and ripples of pleasure at the same time.
“Do you want me to stop?” Patsy whispered.
“Not at all,” Delia hummed in satisfaction and grinded her bottom into Patsy’s front.
Patsy grasped the garter of Delia’s pyjamas and asked, “May I?”
Delia nodded her head and lifted her hip to help Patsy remove her underwear and pyjamas. Patsy tossed them off on the carpet somewhere and returned to spoon her girlfriend.
“Take yours off too,” Delia ordered. She didn’t want to feel Patsy’s pyjamas against her skin.
Patsy kicked her bottoms off and tangled their legs together.
Delia pressed her rear into Patsy’s patch of hairs, and naturally parted her thighs when Patsy’s hand cupped her mound, as if silently pleading for entry.
Delia turned her upper body to give her lover a kiss, and she moaned into Patsy’s mouth when fingers dipped into her folds.
“Oh…” Patsy breathed out, mesmerized, “You’re…”
“I told you,” Delia couldn’t help but laugh, but her smile faded and a crease of concentration formed on her forehead when Patsy’s fingers began to rub her. Her hips bucked, her abs twitched, and she brought a hand behind her head to tangle fingers in Patsy’s red hair.
“Hold me again,” Delia muttered her request.
Patsy snaked her free hand under Delia’s neck and around her torso to cup one of her breasts. She held her, as best she could, while her other hand worked its magic on Delia’s sex. Her fingers were persistent, but she took her time stroking and circling Delia’s bundle of nerves. She touched Delia hard enough to make her feel good, but light enough to keep her teetering on the edge. Patsy took her time and touched her lover like she had all the time in the world.
“Hmm,” Delia hummed in satisfaction, her thighs beginning to quake. Her fingers released Patsy’s hair and naturally grasped Patsy’s ass instead.
“Deels,” Patsy groaned as nails dug into her skin. She didn’t mind it though, not one bit. She found pleasure in the sting of pain.
“Swap me,” Delia muttered.
Patsy smiled and gladly lowered her hand to enter Delia with two fingers. Delia’s free hand took over rubbing herself, and her other hand tightened its grip on Patsy’s ass.
“Patsy…” she moaned, “Christ, Pats-“
Patsy kept a steady pace, pumping in and out of her lover despite the tightening grip Delia had around her fingers, making it harder to move. The hand on her ass went limp, and Patsy gasped when she felt the hot arousal slipping past her fingers and likely onto her bed.
Delia fell back on her lover and sighed in relief, her chest still rising and falling as she caught her breath. She opened her eyes and realized she was still wearing her pyjama top. They both were.
“Are you alright?” Patsy broke the long silence with a whisper.
“I’m more than alright,” Delia answered with a light laugh, “Is your forearm alright?”
“It will be,” Patsy chuckled. She withdrew her hand from between Delia’s thighs and gave it a good stretch.
“You didn’t stop, not even once.”
“I wanted you to feel good.”
“Mission accomplished,” Delia sighed and then laughed. She turned to face her lover and then kissed her. “Your turn,” she whispered.
“Actually…” Patsy winced, “I really am tired.”
“What?” Delia whined.
“I just wanted to show you that I still love you and I miss you-”
“But I miss you too,” Delia frowned. She so desperately wanted to touch her lover.
“Show me tomorrow night,” Patsy smiled and reached for a paper handkerchief Valerie had left on the side table. She wiped Delia’s arousal from her fingers and then lifted the covers they had kicked to the bottom of the bed. She pulled it up to their shoulders to keep them warm and tangled their legs, their pyjamas still on the carpet to be retrieved later.
They slowly took notice of their surroundings as they spooned, and glanced at each other when they recognized the soft tune playing beyond the wall.
“Was that always playing?” Delia asked, “From Trixie and Nurse Crane’s room.”
Patsy glanced at Delia’s clock. “It’s nearly midnight…” she furrowed her brows.
“You don’t think…” Delia narrowed her eyes.
“You don’t think they played music to drown out our noises, do you?”
“Phyllis and I just felt like listening to our man, James Daren,” Trixie’s voice announced, “Don’t let us interrupt whatever it is you two may or may not be doing that’s making the bed creek.”
Patsy blushed harder than she had ever blushed in her life. Delia laughed.
“We’re going to sleep now!” Delia called back.
The music came to a halt and both rooms simmered into silence.
“I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life,” Patsy admitted softly so their neighbours couldn’t hear.
“But it was very courteous of them,” Delia laughed again.
“I still can’t believe they figured us out.”
“They make a living assessing people, Pats, it was only a matter of time.”
“The plus side is... we don’t have to hide anymore, not unless the nuns are around, anyways.”
“That’s true,” Delia smiled, taking Patsy’s hand into her own.
“The downside is... we’ll never hear the end of this.”
Over the next couple of days, Nonnatus House naturally swiveled back to its old routine. Despite the nurses knowing about their relationship, things were not much different from before Patsy left. They still watched television at a distance, they still ate supper with few hand grazes under the table, and they still had cocktail parties in their bedroom with all of their friends.
Monday was home visits, Tuesday was clinic, and on Tuesday night Patsy and Delia decided to get away from the girls and go on a date. They had haddock chips, this time they ate it at the restaurant instead of in the chapel, and afterwards they took their cake to-go as they went for a walk to their secret bench. Under the moonlight, much like they had many times before, they sat in the dark where no one could see their love.
“We used to sit here and hide from our friends,” Patsy said softly.
“Isn’t that what we’re doing now?” Delia smirked.
“No, we’re taking a break from them,” Patsy corrected with a smile. “I’m quite relieved we don’t have to hide us from them anymore, at least from the nurses. It’s been easier on my nerves.”
“It’s been easier on your orgasms.”
“You know what I mean.”
“No. I don’t.”
“You know…” Delia shrugged her shoulder, shyly, almost too embarrassed to say. “You’ve been finishing a little... harder.”
“Really?” Patsy asked curiously, “You can tell?”
“Compared to what I remember,” Delia pursed her lips to hide the smile her mouth wanted to form.
“That could be true…” Patsy smiled and wrapped an arm around Delia’s shoulders, “Or you’ve gotten better with all the practice you got after four months of playing with yourself.”
Delia gasped and playfully nudged her lover’s side.
Patsy laughed and gave her girlfriend a kiss on the forehead.
“I’ve missed this... our bench, the two of us sitting under the moonlight.”
“Me too,” Patsy smiled.
They sat in comfortable silence.
“So what stories did Trixie tell you about me?”
Delia smiled and gave Patsy’s hand a pat. “Just all the times she suspected that you weren’t into men: ranting about how Tom was lacking a lot of things, not being bothered by gentlemen’s attention, the way you bit her bait.”
“When she brewed up the hypothesis that you, you know, preferred women, she began to run experiments. She began to ask you what you thought of female celebrities during casual conversation, and she said you would always reply in awe and admiration.”
“Many women admire celebrities,” Patsy defended.
“Right...” Delia agreed, “but you never had much to say about the men. In fact, she said it seemed like none of them were ever handsome enough for you.”
“Not a total giveaway, but I can see how that can make one think that I don’t prefer men,” Patsy smirked.
“One thing Trixie did mention was the times she tried to strut half-naked and you never, not once, flickered your eyes her way.”
“I love her like a sister,” Patsy scrunched her nose in disgust.
“Well,” Delia smiled, “She figured you only had eyes for one woman and it didn’t take much for her to suspect it was me.”
“I see,” Patsy said with furrowed brows.
“And ‘card games’?” Delia laughed, “Really, Patsy? The most I’ve played is Cribbage with my nana.”
“I know,” Patsy blushed and rolled her eyes, “I panicked when she asked me what I kept doing in your room so late.”
“She asked me, one night, if I could teach her a card game to play with Alexandra.” Delia laughed as she told Patsy the story.
“Mind if I sit with you?” Trixie asked, her hand already pulling the chair from under the kitchen table.
“Of course not, do you want a cuppa?” Delia kept her eyes on her textbook.
“Oh no,” Trixie shook her head and placed a packet of cards on the table. “I was hoping, on your next study break, that you could teach me a few card games.”
“Card games?” Delia finally looked up from her revisions.
“You and Patsy play cards every other evening. You must know one or two I can play with a six-year-old.”
“Oh yeah, sure,” Delia felt her heart begin to race. Her mind began to tick and she thought she could make up a card game. On the spot.
“Something easy,” Trixie reminded.
“Right…” Delia took the cards out of the little box and began to shuffle them, hoping it would buy her some time. “This game is called…” she saw the little cardboard box the cards came in, “Box!” she improvised, “It’s called Box. You start by cutting the deck into two… like this….” she cut the deck and placed half in front of Trixie.
“Ou, and then what?” Trixie watched attentively, taking a drag from her cigarette.
“Then you, uh, cut the cards in half again…” Delia thought she was doing pretty well.
“Uh-huh,” Trixie mirrored Delia and cut her deck in half.
“And… uh… you… pick four cards from each deck and place them face-down on the table in the shape of a square, two cards on each side.”
“Okay,” Trixie smiled and copied Delia.
“Then you…” Delia looked at the square of cards in front of her, “You pick the deck that’s on your dominant hand’s side, and you place the top card face-down in the center of the box.”
Trixie followed suit. “Now what?”
“We…” Delia glanced around the room for inspiration, “Find a box in the room we’re sitting in, and count how many items are inside of it. For example, the matchbox beside the tea candles.”
“I see where this is going,” Trixie smiled and stood up to retrieve the matchbox from the top of the fridge.
“Right, easy peasy,” Delia smiled, “Count how many matches are in the box.”
Trixie opened the matchbox and said, “twenty.”
“Okay!” Delia huffed, “On the count of three, we flip the card in the middle of our box and whoever has the card closest to twenty wins! Ready-set-go!”
Both women flipped their cards at the same time. Trixie flipped a queen and Delia flipped an ace.
“What does this mean?” Trixie winced.
“You win!” Delia forced a smile. “Because a queen always wins!”
“Right, but what if I flipped a ten, what would that mean for you?”
“Uh... it would mean that I would lose because ace would be equivalent to one.”
“Then wouldn’t it make sense that a jack would be equivalent to eleven and a queen would be a twelve, a king, thirteen?”
“You know what, that is a better way to play this game, you’re a good gamemaker, Trixie!”
“Wait, what was the point of the eight cards making a box?”
“Um,” Delia winced. Stumped.
“This isn’t a real game, is it?”
“No,” Delia gulped.
“Do you know any real games?”
“Not really,” Delia shyly shook her head.
“How could that be? You and Patsy play cards practically every evening.”
“We don’t actually play cards,” Delia lowered her head. But before she could come up with an excuse, Trixie had figure them out.
“Oh,” Trixie dropped her jaw, slightly, the pieces coming together in her head. “You must be the one.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Delia shrugged.
“She has no interest in gentlemen, and it seems like you’re the only person in all of Poplar she prefers the company of every waking moment.”
Delia remained silent, her eyes on the table, too fearful to look up.
“Delia…” Trixie placed a hand on top of the one Delia had on the small deck of cards, “I’ve grown to love Patsy like a sister… and I’ll love you like a sister-in-law.”
Delia felt a small smile tug at the corner of her lips.
“That is, as long as you don’t break her heart.”
Patsy threw her head back in laughter, the nape of her neck resting against the backrest of the cold wooden bench.
“I tried,” Delia whined, “It’s your fault for telling her we played cards, I don’t even like playing cards! I think they’re boring.”
“BOX?” Patsy shook her head, laughter still rolling out of her belly.
“We should play it some time,” Delia stuck her nose up, “I think it would be fun to play.”
“Oh, Deels…” Patsy smiled and gave her lover’s cheek a quick pinch.
“Well, that’s how she figured it out. She was right, you really are terrible at being in the closet.”
“I guess so,” Patsy smirked. “What about Valerie Dyer? How did she find out?”
“That was a little more personal, I think…” Delia recalled.
One evening, she and Valerie Dyer were alone in the TV room, opting to read their books instead of a program they found no interest in. The clock on the mantle was the only sound coming from the room, other than the occasional deep breath and page turn. They both quite liked the silence. It was comfortable, just sitting in a room with someone, even if they had yet to really get to know each other.
Valerie finished her book first and she placed it on her lap as she recovered from the roller coaster of emotions it had just put her through.
Delia noticed her colleague’s state and took a break from her reading.
“Good read?” she asked.
“Bittersweet,” Valerie sighed. “Makes you wonder if you’ll ever find love, and what type of luck you’ll get in staying together.”
Delia went quiet and put her book down on the side table, face-down so she wouldn’t lose her page. She decided to take a break and talk to Valerie instead.
“I’m going to pour a cup, would you like one?”
“Sure, if it wouldn’t be too much to ask.”
“Of course not,” Delia stood from her chair, but the corner of her book snagged the pocket of her cardigan, and it came tumbling onto the floor. “Oh, Christ!” she jumped, startled.
Valerie chuckled and picked up the book by her feet, pausing when she saw the picture of Patsy Mount tucked into one of the pages.
“Thanks,” Delia quickly took the book and stormed into the kitchen. She knew Valerie had seen the photo and she ran in fear.
“Delia…” Valerie ran after her.
“Lots of girls have pictures of their friends,” Delia defended in a panic. She found herself hovering over the kitchen sink, feeling sick to her stomach.
“Don’t pop an aneurism,” Valerie joked, trying to lighten the mood, but Delia continued to look mortified. “I love women too,” she ousted herself in hopes that Delia would stop hyperventilating.
Delia looked at her colleague and felt her respiration rate slowly return to normal.
“Are you...” Delia didn’t know exactly how or what to ask. She wanted to know if Valerie was like her.
“I like cake,” Valerie explained, “but I also like pie. I haven’t made up my mind yet if I like one more than the other, and I don’t think I have to.”
“That’s fair,” Delia agreed.
“Only the lord knows who I’ll end up with,” Valerie shrugged.
“Right,” Delia sighed, somewhat relieved.
“So, Patsy Mount…” Valerie placed a hand on Delia’s arm and guided her to the kitchen table to have a seat. “You tell me more about you two and I’ll make the tea and get a slice of cake… now that I know we both like cake.”
Delia smiled and felt a warm feeling in her gut. She had never had a friend she could talk to about Patsy, let alone another queer friend.
“Three lady-lovers?” Patsy’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, “At Nonnatus House?”
“It appears so.”
“Saint Raymond must be rolling in the grave. Three midwives at his convent, who love making love to women?”
Delia couldn’t help but chuckle at Patsy’s comment.
“Well, that explains why she kept accompanying you to Gateways Club.”
“She’s quite the ladies’ woman,” Delia revealed with a smirk.
They talked some more, like they always did, mostly about how the week had been so far and what news they’d heard on the streets. They ate their cakes, in the dark, and they enjoyed being alone and out of earshot. And slowly, in the midst of their privacy, Patsy decided to open up about the darker times she had in Hong Kong—which, up until that time, she had only shared the lighter side of the trip with Delia and their friends.
“I suppose you’re wondering what other things happened in Hong Kong…”
“I can wait until you’re ready to talk about it,” Delia promised.
“I’m ready,” Patsy nodded her head.
Delia gave her lover a grateful smile and held her hands in hers.
“I’m all ears.”
Patsy took a shaky breath and started by telling Delia that she barely recognized her father when she first saw him, with the illness taking a toll on his body and after so many years apart.
“Take your time,” Delia soothed, rubbing circles on Patsy’s back when Patsy found it too difficult to continue.
“His eyes looked like mine, but the rest of him...” Patsy shook her head, “like a complete stranger.”
Delia frowned and felt her heart ache with her partner.
“Anyways, the first thing he told me was that I looked like my mother... and I just sat down and cried. I cried because I miss her and my sister, but also because I felt guilty for shutting him out of my life all these years.” Patsy rested her head on Delia’s shoulder, letting her comfort her.
“I’m sure he treasured the little time you had together.”
“He did,” Patsy sobbed, “He really did.”
“Tell me more about him.”
Patsy gazed up at the moon and smiled up at the heavens at her father. “He loved music. Debussy. Clair De Lune played on his phonograph constantly, as if he was waiting for the music to take him up to my mother and sister. It was about halfway through the piece when he took his last breath and I kept it playing until the end.”
“Oh Pats…” Delia felt the weight of her heart grow heavier in her chest.
“He asked me so many questions,” Patsy laughed through her tears. “He wanted to know so much about me. He asked what my favourite colour was, and what food I enjoyed, and if I enjoyed eating fruit gums with crisps.”
“Do you?” Delia asked with furrowed brows.
“I do,” Patsy smiled, “So did he. My mother teased him for it, but it’s something we have in common.”
“That’s funny,” Delia mirrored her lover’s smile.
“A few weeks from my arrival he asked if I had a gentleman friend...” Patsy recalled the night.
“No, Papa, I don’t,” Patsy blushed.
“Who writes you all of the letters you read at night?”
“Papa,” Patsy gasped, “You were supposed to be sleeping.”
“I was,” Mr. Mount smirked, “But I open an eye to check on you every now and then.”
Patsy gave her father a grateful smile.
“So who writes you the novels?”
“A colleague,” Patsy tried to brush off the question.
“What’s her name?”
“She has a lot to say.”
“She sends me updates.”
“Have any of the other girls written?”
“They must be busy.”
“Right. They’re busy.”
“Well, I’m glad Miss Busby finds the time for you.”
Patsy smiled and glanced at the table in her father’s room where she stored Delia’s letters and read them while he slept. She missed Delia so much.
“Does she make you happy?” he asked softly.
“What?” Patsy didn’t think she heard him right.
“Miss Busby… does she make you happy?”
“Papa…” Patsy felt her voice get stuck in her throat.
“I’ve seen you smile when you read her letters. Only love can make you smile through the rough like that.”
“You really should have been sleeping, Papa.”
“You still haven’t answered my question,” he persisted.
Patsy took a deep breath and looked at her father. Her own blood. A man who raised her until the war tore them apart. He was dying, they had lost so much time and been through so much. She felt no point in hiding who she was from him anymore.
“She makes me very happy, Papa. Very much so.”
“I always knew you were too good for men.” He smiled, placing a hand on his daughter’s, “Tell me more about her, sweetheart.”
“I told him everything,” Patsy told Delia. “He said it was a shame he never got to meet you, and I think he really meant it. He made me write a letter to you that night. I started writing... I got as far as ‘Dearest Delia,’ but his health took a sharp turn and he died a few hours later. I never got to finish it, and I was on the first ship back to London after his funeral.”
“He--he knows about us?” Delia said in awe, her voice cracking.
“He does,” Patsy smiled. “And he made me promise him something.”
“What did he say?”
“He told me that if you make me as happy as I say you do... I should never let you go.”
Delia gave her lover a small smile, one of sadness but also happiness that bloomed inside of her. She felt grateful to have had Mr. Mount’s blessing.
On Wednesday evening the Nonnatus nurses gathered in Patsy and Delia’s room for Grasshoppers, cream sodas, and a tin of chocolates while Alma Cogan played on the record. Valerie, Trixie, and Phyllis gravitated towards Delia’s bed and took a seat while Patsy and Delia sat on Patsy’s bed. Nobody seemed to take notice of their calculated division. The nurses had a subconscious hunch that it was the bed most unused. It felt less intrusive to sit on Delia’s bed.
“What are you wearing to the Cubs’ New Year’s tea?” Trixie asked.
“My uniform, of course,” Patsy answered.
“It’s high tea,” Trixie protested.
“I suppose she’s right,” Delia agreed with their friend. “If you’re teaching the boys about etiquette, you should look the part.”
“Alright,” Patsy rolled her eyes.
“Can I take a look?” Trixie tipped her cigarette towards Patsy’s dresser, now knowing to ask before touching Patsy’s belongings.
Patsy nodded and they all watched the fashionista put an outfit together. She went with an emerald dress, red heels, and a silk scarf.
“Yes to the dress, but I’ll have to pass on the scarf,” Patsy admitted.
“I agree...” Phyllis interjected, “The scarf is a tad too summer for a cold winter’s day.”
“Perhaps a necklace instead?” Valerie suggested.
Trixie wobbled her head from side to side, somewhat agreeing, somewhat offended that her first do was not a total hit. She opened the jewelry box on the dresser and scanned the items before taking note of a gold ring, strung along a chain.
“Oh dear, this needs polishing. Desperately. May I?”
“You’ll have to ask Delia,” Patsy admitted.
Delia saw her necklace and placed her hand on her chest, realising she forgot to put it on that morning. “It’s fine the way it is.”
“I’ve never seen you wear it. Was it your grandmother’s?”
“I wear it under my blouse,” Delia admitted. “It’s not my grandmother’s…” she looked at Patsy.
“Oh,” Trixie glanced between the two women, “Is it a promise ring?”
“It’s…” Patsy gave Delia a small smile, “it’s a bit more than a promise ring.”
“You two are engaged?” Valerie gasped quietly. “You didn’t tell me that,” she lightly scolded Delia.
“Well…” Delia shrugged, “it’s not like we can get married.”
The women went silent. Alma Cogan sang Tennessee Waltz on the record.
“You could,” Valerie said softly, after some time. “I know women who’ve wed, not legally, but-”
“We’re happy the way we are now,” Delia forced a smile. “Plus, we don’t have many friends, and my parents would never… so we couldn’t have much of a ceremony anyways.”
“You have us,” Phyllis Crane argued. “I think I speak for everyone here when I say we would be more than happy to attend, if you decide to have a ceremony.”
Patsy and Delia locked eyes. Patsy arched a curious eyebrow.
“Who would officiate?” Delia asked, “What church would allow it? Where would we have the reception? How would we explain to the nuns why we’ve all gone missing?”
“Details,” Trixie kissed her teeth and waved her hand in the air to dismiss the fuss. “Just give it a thought and we’ll figure it out.”
Patsy and Delia, though intrigued, agreed they would need to think about it some more.
On Friday night, Patsy and Delia had the evening off. They drifted to The Silver Buckle for cheap coffee and cake. Patsy’s suggestion.
“Don’t you want to try the new coffee bar on Cotton Street?” Delia sputtered her last protest as they took their seat. “I mentioned they make coconut cakes, right?”
“You’ve mentioned it once or twice,” Patsy agreed.
Delia rolled her eyes, playfully angry, although slightly annoyed that her girlfriend was lacking her sense of adventure that evening. They ordered their coffee and cakes, and soon they were digging into the mediocre confection.
“I like their carrot cake,” Patsy hummed in satisfaction.
“It’s alright,” Delia shrugged. She really would much rather be trying the new place on Cotton Street.
“Do you remember that Halloween night we came here?”
Delia paused in thought, only for a moment. Of course she remembered. She could feel the gold ring against her skin, under her blouse. “Ah,” she caught onto her girlfriend’s nostalgia. “The Halloween you brought me here. We sat at that table...” she nodded towards the table for two.
“Right,” Patsy recalled the events that followed.
The day after Delia revealed that she wanted to get married, Patsy bought the ring from a thrift store. She had hoped to buy a new ring, but her weekly wages kept her options limited. She wished she could give Delia more, she always did, but Patsy lived within her means. And when she found the ring she admired most, she knew it would fit Delia because it fit her too. They had always marvelled at how their hands were the same size
After the lantern parade, after Patsy promised Delia they wouldn’t live as they were, she suggested they go to The Silver Buckle for a snack. She said she felt peckish and nothing in the Nonnatus House cupboard would suffice.
Delia sat at the table while Patsy ordered two slices of cake; one carrot, one chocolate. But instead of having the worker deliver it to their table, she asked if she could bring it, since it would only take half a minute to put on plates. And she did. When she got the tray, she turned away from the counter and swiftly placed the the ring she had spent all night cleaning and polishing in the center of Delia’s cake. It made the ring sticky and she silently cursed to herself. The plan looked better in her head. Less sticky. She knew Delia loved cake, and her, and that’s what she was going for. Even if Delia told the chap who offered to buy them cake that they didn’t like it.
Despite the stickiness, she went along with her plan and delivered the cake to her lover.
“Special delivery,” she said as she sat down and placed the cake and coffee in front of them.
It took Delia a minute to notice the shiny metal in her dessert.
“Pats…” she breathed out.
“I meant what I said,” Patsy vowed, quiet enough so only Delia could hear her. “We won’t live as we were. I want you in my life more than anything, Delia Busby. I don’t want you to marry a man… because I want you to marry me. Even if it’s just the two of us who know it.”
Delia smiled and gazed into her lover’s eyes, so full of hope and promise.
“I could just kiss you right now,” she whispered.
“Me too,” Patsy smiled.
Delia took the ring and placed it on her ring finger, not caring about the sticky sugar that lightly coated the inside. “It fits perfectly…” she admired, “I wish I could wear it all the time.”
“I wish you could too,” Patsy sighed. “But I have a chain for it, so you can wear it around your neck.”
“That will have to do,” Delia smiled and looked up at her lover. “I didn’t pressure you into doing this, did I?”
“No,” Patsy shook her head. “I just needed you to remind me that you deserve more than a part-time lover. I mean it, Deels, I want to share my life with you.”
“Good,” Delia picked up her fork and stole a bite of Patsy’s carrot cake. “Because I want to share my life with you too.”
Patsy gasped and stole a bite of Delia’s chocolate cake. They were off to a good start, sharing their life already.
“Just thought we’d take a walk down memory lane,” Patsy said with a small smile.
Delia returned the smile and continued to eat her cake. Patsy ate hers. They went quiet.
“Deels…” Patsy said after some time.
“Hm?” Delia kept eating.
Delia looked up from her cake when she heard the seriousness in her lover’s tone.
“How would you like to be Missus Busby-Mount?”
Delia gulped, “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“I’m saying…” Patsy took a deep breath and smiled, “I gave you that ring over a year ago. It’s time we took the next step and had the wedding.”
Delia felt a spring of happiness and a pinch of hurt in her heart. It palpitated from the confusion of emotions. A ceremony with five women and no priest to officiate was hardly a wedding. She wanted a chapel full of people, and a lace train, and fresh flower petals scattered by flower girls. She wanted to stand before all of her family and friends and profess her love for the person she wanted to share the rest of her life with.
But, she reminded herself that this fantasy was too much to ask, for a woman like her. She could see how much Patsy wanted to have this simple ceremony, so she compromised. She was marrying Patsy and that’s all that should matter, after all.
“I’d love that,” Delia smiled.
Patsy blushed and placed her hand on the one Delia had on the table. The gesture took both of them by surprise, especially since Patsy didn’t flinch or felt the need to correct her impulse.
“It wouldn’t be as extravagant as your dream wedding,” Patsy said softly and sadly. “But we’ll have fresh flowers, and I’ll make sure you wear a dress with a train–-lace–-and it will be special because we’ll make it.”
“You’re right,” Delia lifted her chin up with pride, “It will be special because it will be you, and me, in front of the people who matter the most to us.”
“And we’ll dance after,” Patsy promised, “A waltz or a foxtrot, for real… not just in our heads.”
“I never thought I’d hear you plan our wedding,” Delia replied, her heart happy to hear Patsy talk about their wedding.
“I never thought we could wed,” Patsy admitted. “But I learned a lot about life in Hong Kong, and most importantly, I learned it’s too short not to celebrate love.”
Chapter 2: SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING NEW
In the early hours before dawn, Delia carefully slipped out of Patsy’s arms and crept off the bed. She stood to her full height and quietly made her way into the bottom drawer of her dresser. Patsy continued to sleep, and Delia opened the compartment as quietly as she could. Retrieving an old coffee tin from under her socks and stockings, she placed it on her lap before opening it. The metal lid scraping against its metal base made a harsh noise but Patsy didn’t stir. Opening the container, Delia retrieved the cloth sack she kept her money in. Inside was also a little notebook that tracked its contents. She took a glance and huffed when she saw the number. Her mother was right, she really could use living with her Auntie Blod and saving all of the rent money she paid the convent. But she had some money saved-up and she figured, with a couple more months of saving, she could afford a wedding dress and the item she so wanted to buy.
Later that day, during her lunch break at The London, she ran to the jewelry shop and bought Patsy a new ring. A simple one. Impure gold, but the right fit to be a wedding band.
In the evening, Patsy, Delia, and Valerie Dyer occupied the television room. Valerie quietly read yet another book, and Patsy and Delia played cards. There was a silent agreement that talking would be kept to a minimum as the three women unwinded after a long workday.
“Are you playing box?” Trixie gasped when she walked into the room and saw the cards on the table, “Can I play?”
“Certainly,” Patsy laughed and pat the seat beside her.
“Is that what you two are playing?” Valerie glanced up from her book. Another love story, Delia was sure. “I thought it quite odd watching you play it. I’ve never seen or heard of it before.”
“That’s because Delia made it up, clever girl she is.” Trixie complemented with a wink.
Delia smirked and flipped the card in the middle of her box. A nine of hearts.
“What was the target number?” Trixie asked, arranging some cards to make her own box.
“There were seven cookies in the tin,” Patsy answered, scowling down at the three of spades she flipped.
“Five,” Valerie corrected, “I just ate two.”
“I win!” Patsy laughed.
“No,” Delia held up her index finger, “There were seven before we flipped so we go with seven. I win.”
Trixie ignored the banter and flipped a card with her dominant hand, a seven of clubs. “What do I win?” she asked with a cheeky smile.
“We didn’t bet,” Patsy admitted, “So I suppose bragging rights.”
“Well, yay!” Trixie clapped her hands.
Valerie sat up and glanced at all the cards on the table. “What’s the point of all the other cards around the square?” she asked.
“Just ‘cause,” Delia shrugged and laughed along.
Nurse Crane joined the women after her shift and they all began to play the silly game. When they ran out of boxes in the living room, they would send someone into the clinical room to pick out a box of supplies and count its contents. They had a hoot of a laugh with Delia’s made-up card game.
“We should place a bet,” Valerie suggested after a few rounds.
“I sure hope we’re not gambling in the convent,” Sister Julienne said, standing at the doorway.
“I’m sorry sister,” Valerie lowered her head, “I’ve forgotten where I were.”
“Nothing a bit of penance can’t forgive,” Sister Julienne gave the young nurse a forgiving smile. “I do have an announcement to make…” she said more seriously, standing with a sense of urgency. “I received a letter from The Motherhouse this morning. Mother Superior, Sister Marguerite, passed in her sleep this Monday.” The nurses gasped in surprise. “The Motherhouse has decided to call the sisters to meet in prayer during this difficult time. Sister Winifred, Mary Cynthia, Monica Joan, and myself will need to leave Saturday afternoon for the funeral service and we’ll stay there until Sunday night for a full day of prayer and mourning. I know it is inconvenient and it may strain the roster, should some of our mothers deliver early, but-”
“We’ll manage,” Nurse Crane reassured, “Please send our condolences. This is such a shock and a hard way to start the new year.”
Later that night, the nurses gathered in Patsy and Delia’s room. Initially, to chit-chat, and then, to conspire.
“The nuns will be gone Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday,” Valerie interjected a conversation about The Beatles. “Don’t you think this would be the perfect opportunity to have the wedding in the chapel on Sunday morning?”
“The Chapel?” Delia asked. She had hoped for the church, or at least the community center. Then she remembered she wouldn’t have that many people attending.
“A lesbian wedding? In the Nonnatus chapel?” Patsy arched her eyebrow, “Gosh, I guess eating fish and chips won’t be the worst thing we’ve done in there.”
“Please tell me ‘fish and chips’ isn’t code for your lady bits...”
“God, no, Trixie!” Patsy gasped, “We ate supper in there one night when you and Tom were arguing about sherry or champagne in the kitchen.”
“You heard that?”
“Sure did, ‘till he stormed off.”
“I thought we were alone.”
“Do you want the chapel or not?” Valerie interrupted the back and forth between the two women. “I hate to say this, but Sister Marguerite’s passing is a bit of a blessing, if you ask me. It takes the nuns away for the day and I can’t think of another time this will happen again.”
Patsy glanced between Delia and Valerie. “I suppose you’re right. We won’t get another opportunity to have Nonnatus to ourselves. Not for a long time, anyways. I suppose it’s now or never.”
“That’s only four days away, Pats.” Delia reminded. “I thought we’d have at least a few months to save our wages and buy flowers… and dresses.”
“I would happily pitch in, should you run short on funds,” Nurse Crane offered.
“Me too,” Valerie promised.
“Count me in, as well,” Trixie said.
“Oh no,” Patsy shook her head, “We can’t take your money.”
“But Valerie is right,” Phyllis pushed on, “There won’t be another opportunity like this for a long time, we would have to seize the moment.”
Delia released a soft sigh.
“What’s worrying you, my love?” Patsy placed her hand on the one Delia had on the bed.
“I just thought we’d have more time to plan, that’s all,” Delia shook her head to clear her mind of her worries. “Four days is not nearly enough time to order a dress from the catalogue, let alone alter a second-hand one.”
“That settles it, then,” Patsy agreed. “We’ll have to wait until the next opportunity to wed.”
“You would do that for me, Pats?” Delia gazed up at her lover, “It could be a few months, or even years, until another opportunity rises.”
“Then I’ll wait,” Patsy promised. “This is our wedding, Delia. I want it to be as special as it can be, and you’re right, we can’t make that happen in a rush.”
Valerie, Phyllis, and Trixie half-heartedly agreed. Their thinkers began thinking and they began to plot a way to help bring this wedding forward sooner rather than later.
On Thursday evening, Delia waited for Patsy to come home from another late shift. Sitting at the kitchen table, she toyed with the ring dangling around her neck and read through the bridal catalogues Barbara Hereward had left in her care. She glanced over the dresses and veils, and particularly the sets that had long trains. A few selections were stamped with a red box, indicating they were on sale, but it made very little difference. Delia did the math in her head and realized she would either have to save a year’s wages or sell her grandmother’s jewelry to afford a full set from the catalogue. So she accepted that she would have to settle for something less, or even borrowed. She was marrying Patsy and that’s what was supposed to be important, after all.
“Oh, you would make a lovely bride,” a warm voice complimented.
Delia jumped, slightly, thinking she was alone in the kitchen. Her eyes darted towards the voice and saw Sister Winifred.
“I’m sorry, Sister, I didn’t hear you come in.”
“I apologize, Nurse Busby, I didn’t mean to scare you,” she giggled softly. “I was just going to get a glass of water… have you chosen to do your night reading in here?” she wondered, noticing that Delia was seated at the table without a snack or beverage. Although, there were two cups and the kettle waiting on the kitchen counter. “Or are you waiting for someone?” she corrected.
“Nurse Mount should be home within the hour,” Delia answered, checking the clock again to make sure. If she put the kettle on at half-past, she could make tea and let it simmer to the perfect temperature by the time Patsy got home. She had done it so many times, she had the timing memorized.
“That’s very kind of you to wait for her,” Sister Winifred smiled. She went into the cupboard for a glass and filled it with cold tap water. “I didn’t know you had a gentleman friend,” she confessed before taking a long gulp to quench her thirst.
“I don’t,” Delia blushed, “I’m just looking…” she closed the catalogue and released a quiet sigh. Patsy had told her how Sister Winifred reacted to when Mr. Amos was arrested for ‘gross indecency with a man’ so she knew to be extra careful around the nun.
“Well, I’m sure he’ll come along one day and you’ll wear the most beautiful dress.”
“Thank you, Sister,” Delia smiled.
“Good evening, Sister Winifred,” Patsy greeted when she saw her lover in the nun’s company.
“Good evening and, I’m afraid, good night… to both of you,” the nun sighed in exhaustion and gave the two women a small smile before taking her glass of water back to her sleeping quarters.
“Good night,” Patsy and Delia greeted in unison.
“You’re early!” Delia told her lover when the nun was out of earshot, “I haven’t even got the kettle on.”
“Labour was quick...” Patsy admitted, though there was a sad tone to her voice, “too quick.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Pats…” Delia began to stand up to comfort her lover but Patsy stopped her.
“Stay there, I’ll come join you in a minute,” Patsy washed her hands and put the kettle on before taking the seat adjacent to her lover. “Is that your reading for tonight?” she motioned at the catalogue.
“I’m only looking,” Delia admitted softly.
“Anything you fancy?”
“No,” Delia shook her head in denial.
“Not a single one?” Patsy asked in surprise.
Delia shrugged her shoulders and made a face, one of slight annoyance but mostly humble disappointment. She hoped Patsy would drop the topic. Except, Patsy took the catalogue from beneath her elbow and began to flip through the pages.
“Not even this one?” Patsy asked.
Delia almost laughed at how well her lover knew her. Patsy’s finger was on the very dress she wanted until she saw the price listed.
“You want it,” Patsy said with a small, knowing, smirk.
“Just a little,” Delia blushed and lowered her eyes onto the table, “but it’s too expensive.”
“Delia…” Patsy took a deep breath, “You know my father left me some money when he passed, I would gladly pay for all of the expenses, if you would just let me-”
“It’s our wedding, Patsy, I’m not going to let you carry that burden.”
Patsy gave her lover a sad smile. Delia always wanted what was fair.
“Well, would you at least let me buy your dress?” Patsy wondered.
“How are we going to explain it to the nuns when it comes delivered in a casket-sized box?”
“I don’t know, we’ll think of something.”
Delia avoided her lover’s eyes and picked at the edge of the tablecloth. “Patsy, I have to confess something to you…” she said softly.
“What is it?” Patsy asked, slightly worried.
“I’m…” Delia gulped nervously, “I’m having some doubts about this wedding.”
“You’re not having cold feet, are you?”
“No,” Delia shook her head, “I want to marry you, that’s for sure. I’m just… having a little trouble settling for so much less than what I believe we deserve--and I know, it’s not about flowers, or dresses, or a large gathering of family and friends--I know it’s supposed to be about me and you. But…” she sighed in defeat, “I feel that we deserve more than quietly saying our vows in the chapel in front of three of our best friends.”
Patsy sighed and placed her hand on Delia’s lap under the kitchen table.
“Maybe I’m just being shallow,” Delia frowned. “I should be grateful we’re at least having a ceremony.”
“I don’t think you’re being shallow at all,” Patsy promised. “I think you deserve a church-full of all of your family and half of Pembrokeshire, and I think you deserve that dress in the catalogue, and the most beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers.”
Delia pictured Patsy’s description in her head and gave her a loving smile.
“I think we deserve so much more than what we’ve had to settle for, all these years,” Patsy sighed. “But… it’s either we settle for these little pleasures, or we don’t get to experience them at all.”
“You’re right,” Delia agreed.
“Delia Busby…” Patsy leaned in to take hold of her lover’s hands, “I promise you that when the day comes that we can have a legitimate wedding, when the day comes that we can live openly as who we are, I will give you that and so much more.”
“Are those your vows?” Delia smiled, giving her lover’s hands a grateful squeeze.
“Some of them,” Patsy smiled.
Delia took a deep breath and gazed into her lover’s eyes. “I really did get lucky with you, Patience Mount.”
Trixie, Valerie, and Phyllis gathered that night like the three musketeers. Trixie took care of the vicar, Nurse Crane took care of the fresh flowers Delia was so keen on having, and Valerie took on the most important job of all. As an experienced seamstress, she made herself responsible for dressing the bride and bride. Phyllis and Trixie stayed up with her into the late hours of the night, working away at their craft.
It was early morning Friday that the midwives decided they were ready to break the news. Gathering all of their handmade materials, they briefly knocked at Patsy and Delia’s door before bursting through them.
“Rise and shine, you two!” Trixie stormed in.
“What the-” Patsy sat up in surprise, still half asleep.
“What’s going on?” Delia rubbed the sleep from her eyes.
The two women were on Patsy’s bed, but none of the midwives bat an eyelid. Valerie did close the door behind her, to make sure none of the nuns saw Patsy and Delia’s sleeping arrangement.
“You two are getting married. This Sunday morning.”
“What?” Delia furrowed her brows.
“I called in a friend for a favour,” Phyllis explained. “He will have fresh white flowers and two bride’s bouquets delivered by Saturday night, no questions asked.”
“I called in a friend too,” Trixie continued, “I’ve found you a vicar who can officiate, and has officiated this type of wedding before.”
“And I’ve made your dresses…” Valerie lifted the garment bag in her arms, “Well, Trixie and Phyllis helped a lot too, bless them, it was much faster to make with six hands. They just need to be altered to your measurements and liking. I’ve even made one look very close to the dress I saw you eyeing in the catalogue, Delia... when we were looking at dresses for Barbara. Lace train included.”
“What?” Delia repeated. Her brain still hadn’t grasped what was happening.
“You... two... are... getting... married... on... Sunday,” Trixie said slowly so the two sleepy women could comprehend.
“Why do we have to wake up so early, then?” Patsy sleepily fell back against her pillow.
“Because you two have to help us prepare!” Trixie laughed and drew open the curtains, “Chop chop! You two have wedding attire to be fitted for!”
“Careful,” Valerie warned, “this dress is held together by pins.”
Delia stepped into the dress and helped her friend bring it up to her shoulders.
“How did you know my measurements?” she wondered, the unfinished dress fitting her quite well.
“It’s not perfect, but I’ve become really good at eyeballing...” Valerie did-up the fastens on the back of the dress and pinched the sides where she had overestimated Delia’s width. “See, I’ll need to fix this.”
“My behind isn’t as big as you thought it was,” Delia laughed.
“No, but I’ was spot-on with your bust,” Valerie smirked as she inspected the dress.
“Of course you’re good at eyeballing those,” Delia teased with a chuckle.
Valerie laughed along and placed the lace veil on Delia’s beehive. She smiled at her through the mirror.
“Would you be my maid of honour?” Delia asked.
“Me?” Valerie smiled and raise her eyebrows in surprise.
“I know we haven’t been friends very long, but you stepped up when Patsy left and I really needed someone… and you continue to be there for me and I’m really grateful to have you in my life.”
“I would love to be your maid of honour,” Valerie smiled. “And I know you would have done the same for me, if I had been in your shoes; us girls who like girls gotta stick together.”
Delia smiled up at her dear friend.
“So what do you think?” Valerie adjusted the veil so it flowed perfectly from Delia’s head.
“Patsy’s going to be shocked when she sees this.”
“She just might cry.”
“I might cry!” Delia teared up, “It’s perfect, Valerie.”
“I’m glad you like it.”
“I love it. This is so much more…” Delia truly admired the dress. Not only was it very similar to the dress she wanted from the catalogue, it was made by a very good friend. It’s sentimental value was priceless.
Delia did a careful twirl, then suddenly noticed the time on her clock.
“Shoot, it’s quarter past!”
“Gosh, you’re right.” Valerie removed the veil from Delia’s head and helped her get out of the dress and into her nurse’s uniform.
“Will you make it on time?” Valerie asked.
“I will if I walk really fast.”
“I only have a couple of home visits today, would you like to take my bike? I don’t mind walking.”
“No,” Delia replied harsher than she intended, “No, thank you. I’ll see you later. Thanks again for the dress!” she bid her farewell and ran down the stairs and off to her shift at The London.
Valerie sighed and carefully folded Delia’s dress before placing Patsy’s dress on the bed. When Delia’s dress was put away and out of sight, she called in Patsy to be fitted for her dress.
“How did Delia like hers?” Patsy wondered as she carefully stepped into her dress, already pre-warned about it being held together by pins.
“She says she likes it…” Valerie trailed off.
“But?” Patsy wondered.
“She seemed a little upset with me before she left for work.”
“She might have been worried about being late,” Valerie shook her head to brush off her worry. “I offered my bike-”
“What?” Valerie widened her eyes.
Patsy regained her composure. “Delia was in a biking accident, a couple of years ago. It was bad. She knocked her head and, for a while, she couldn’t remember a thing. She couldn’t remember who I was… I thought I’d lost her.”
“Oh Patsy… I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.”
“You did nothing wrong,” Patsy reassured. “Your heart was in the right place, I know Delia wouldn’t hold that against you.”
“I must have brought back some awful memories,” Valerie frowned. “She looked like she had seen a ghost.”
“I’m sure she’s alright…” Patsy looked at herself in the mirror and changed the subject, “This is beautiful, Valerie, thank you.”
“How does it fit?”
“It fits well.”
“Is there anything I should alter?” Valerie asked. Patsy had a smile on her face, but Valerie was not convinced the dress was the one.
“No, Valerie, it’s perfect.”
Valerie sighed. “This isn’t your wedding dress, Patsy.”
“This isn’t the dress you’re meant to get married in. It’s not right.”
“Of course it is!” Patsy reassured, “It fits me so well!”
Valerie shook her head and bit her thumb between her teeth as she paused in thought.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it,” Patsy reassured.
“No, the dress is fine. It’s you that I need to fix.”
“What?” Patsy furrowed her brows.
“I’ll be right back. Don’t move.” Valerie ran out of Patsy’s room and presumably into her bedroom. She was gone for almost five minutes before returning with black garments in her arms. “Try this…” she ordered.
Patsy slipped out of her dress and carefully laid it on the bed before picking up the clothing Valerie had brought.
“I wore this when I was the ‘best man’ at a friend’s wedding,” Valerie explained as she helped Patsy get dressed. “A friend of Dorothy’s… you’ll get a laugh out of this, their names were Dawn and Don.”
“Don and Don?” Patsy smirked.
“Donna and Dawn,” Valerie chuckled and helped her friend get dressed in her clothes.
Patsy’s face brightened as she pulled up the trousers, fastened the suspenders, and let Valerie help her put the black jacket over her shoulders.
“Do you know how to tie a necktie?” Valerie asked, lifting the black silk accessory in her hand.
“No,” Patsy shook her head. She had never worn one, or even helped a gentleman in her life with one.
“It’s really easy…” Valerie stepped in front of her friend and wrapped the silk around her collar.
Patsy watched attentively as Valerie showed her how to knot the perfect four-in-hand.
“There,” Valerie smiled. “All you need is a boutonnière!”
“This is…” Patsy was speechless.
Valerie was so excited to see the genuine look of pride on Patsy’s face, she grasped Patsy by the head and kissed her forehead.
“It looks better on you than it does on me!” she complimented.
“Thank you, Valerie,” Patsy teared up.
“No, Valerie, I could never-”
“My gift to you.”
“You’ve given me and Delia plenty.”
“And you two deserve so much more.”
“Thank you,” Patsy smiled and gazed at her reflection in the mirror.
“You look so good,” Valerie rested her chin on Patsy’s shoulder and looked at their reflection.
“Can I confess something?” Patsy asked.
Valerie looked at her friend curiously.
“Delia has dreamed of her wedding since she was a little girl. When I was a little girl I could never picture myself getting married, and I certainly didn’t picture myself in a fluffy white dress… but as it turned out, I was picturing it all wrong. I’m not meant to marry a man and wear a fluffy white dress. I’m meant to marry Delia and wear this suit.”
“You two are so lucky you’ve found each other,” Valerie sighed in awe.
“You’ll find someone someday.” Patsy reassured.
“I hope so,” Valerie smiled.
“You will… and when you do, we’ll come with bells and whistles on.”
Later that morning, Delia came home from work early. The midwives seemed to have gone out to do some home visits, but Patsy was left sitting by the phone, as she was the first midwife on-call.
“Pats…” Delia greeted softly.
“Delia! You’re home really early.”
“I was sent home.”
“I was running to work and tripped on the cobblestone. My forearms broke my fall…” she exposed her arms from under her cape, and sure enough there were white bandages wrapped around them.
“Delia...” Patsy stood up and inspected her lover.
“I told the charge nurse I was fit to work, but she didn’t want me working with open sores on my arms.”
“She made the right call, Delia.” Patsy sighed and stepped in to give her girlfriend a kiss on the forehead. “Does this have anything to do with Valerie offering her bike this morning?”
“I kept thinking ‘don’t get hit by a car, don’t get hit by a car’ and I kept looking all around me... I forgot to look down at where I was going. One protruding stone did the trick and I didn’t want to hit my head again so I put my arms out in front of me.”
“Oh, Delia…” Patsy frowned.
“I was so scared, Pats, I thought I was going to hit my head again and I would forget who you are and… that we are going to get married in two days.”
Patsy very carefully wrapped her arms around her wounded fiancée and comforted her.
“Now I’m going to have bandages at our wedding,” Delia sighed. Her heartache hurt more than the stinging pain in her forearms.
“You’ll still look lovely...” Patsy soothed.
“I wanted everything to go perfectly-”
“It still will,” Patsy promised.
“I’m going to look strange in my wedding dress.”
“Delia...” Patsy lowered her head to meet Delia’s eyes, “you know I could never think you look anything but perfect. Besides, your bandages are white so they already match your wedding dress.”
Delia gave her fiancée an unimpressed look, at first, but she softened and appreciated Patsy’s attempt at making her smile.
“What are you going to do for the rest of the day?” Patsy wondered.
“Prepare for Sunday, I suppose. Do you know what else has to get done?”
“No idea. Trixie, Valerie, and Phyllis have been as secretive as this wedding.”
“Delia!” Valerie gasped as she walked closer and saw the bandages on Delia’s arms, “What happened?”
“I got distracted on my walk to work and I tripped,” Delia shrugged.
“Because of me? Because I brought back those awful memories?”
“No,” Delia shook her head, “I was just so excited about Sunday, I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
“Really?” Valerie huffed.
“Really,” Delia gave her friend a smile, not wanting to worry her. “But I’m sorry, these bandages are going to make your dress look awful.”
“I can work with that,” Valerie reassured, “How do you feel about adding lace sleeves to the dress?”
The phone suddenly rang and soon Patsy was on her bike to an expecting mother’s house, leaving Valerie and Delia at Nonnatus to make alterations to Delia’s wedding dress.
When Patsy returned from the home delivery later that night, she was greeted by Trixie walking down the stairs with a big box in her arms.
“Let me help!” Patsy dropped her work bag by the door and ran up to help her friend.
“It’s light, I promise!” Trixie said as Patsy took the box from her.
“Oh, it is!” Patsy chuckled.
“I told you,” Trixie smirked, “It’s only ribbons.”
“What are they for?” Patsy asked.
“The chapel, of course,” Trixie said softly as they walked towards the holy chamber. “The nuns are leaving tomorrow morning so they won’t be in there for their afternoon prayers. I thought I could get a head start at dolling it up.”
“You were going to fix it up on your own?”
“Mhmm,” Trixie nodded, casually.
“Let me give you a hand-”
“No, silly, you can’t decorate; you’re the bride!”
“Well, I’m the bride so I can do as I wish and you can’t stop me,” Patsy stuck her nose up and smirked.
When they got to the chapel, Trixie began to decorate the chairs with wide streams of white ribbons, which added a more festive touch to the otherwise dark wood.
“I can’t thank you all enough for making this happen,” Patsy said as she tied another bow on the back of another chair.
“It’s about time it happened! How long were you planning on being engaged to Delia?” Trixie asked, a hand on her hip.
Patsy blushed. “I thought we would get married eventually… somehow, somewhere. I just couldn’t picture how it would happen.”
“I hope that’s changed.”
“It has… I can see us getting married now, right here in front of all of you.”
Trixie smiled and returned to tying bows on the chairs.
“Trixie, would you be my maid of honour?”
Trixie paused, dropped the ribbon in her hand, then ran over to give her sister a hug.
“Is that a yes?” Patsy laughed.
“YES!” Trixie chuckled and swayed Patsy from side to side. “Yes, Patsy! You’re the sister I’ve always wanted! Of course I’ll be your maid of honour! It would be an honour!”
On Saturday morning, as the nuns gathered their things and prepared for their departure to the motherhouse, Peter Pickle, a retired florist and Phyllis Crane’s old friend, delivered six vases of white flowers and two bride’s bouquets to the back door of Nonnatus House. The girls both cursed him for making the delivery a tad too early, but they were ever so grateful for his service. The flowers were perfect.
Phyllis, Patsy, Delia, Trixie, and Valerie made a human chain, passing the vases one at a time from the back door to the broom closet, where they decided to hide them before any of the nuns could take notice. Their eyes constantly scanned for wandering nuns.
“What lovely flowers…”
The midwives felt their blood turn ice cold.
“Sister Julienne!” Valerie greeted. It was the second time she got caught doing something she wasn’t supposed to, just in the past week.
“Where are they from?” the head sister asked.
“A kind donation from a Mister Pickle,” Phyllis explained. She didn’t lie but she didn’t tell the full truth either.
“Well, they certainly don’t belong in the broom closet...” Sister Julienne took one of the vases and smiled. “Perhaps the chapel?” she walked towards the holy chamber, opened the big wooden door, and placed the vase on the floor in front of the altar.
The midwives did the same. Phyllis, who was last to come into the chapel, had hid the bride’s bouquets in the broom closet. Hopefully, unnoticed.
“It looks like the chapel is ready for a little wedding ceremony…” Sister Julienne took notice of the white ribbons that paired with the white flowers.
The midwives avoided the head nun’s eyes. All of them feeling guilty.
“It’s too bad I won’t be here to see the happy couple...” she added sadly, “or at least, see them in their dresses.”
Patsy and Delia perked up with fear and locked eyes with the knowing Sister.
“I do hope…” Sister Julienne continued, “that the participants of this ceremony know the obligation they will have to maintaining the values of marriage, values of unity and devotion—and though the law does not allow it—they proceed to treat the vows they say in front of The Lord as a true promise.”
“Sister Julienne…” Patsy took a shaky breath.
“You didn’t think for a minute that I believed Nurse Dyer and Nurse Franklin asked for a room change because Nurse Franklin snores, did you?” the Sister smiled.
Patsy and Delia blushed.
The head sister reached out her hands and took one of Patsy’s and one of Delia’s.
“Speaking words in church, that were not part of prayer, was strictly forbidden until the 1900s. Today many members of the community take the opportunity to socialize at church. The rules are constantly changing, and I believe that one day soon that the prohibition of this love will lift from our world. So while I cannot publically advocate for you two right now, I don’t condemn you—I wish both of you nothing but love and happiness.”
Delia ignored the trickle of tears that slipped past her cheeks and gave the head sister a thankful embrace. She didn’t think Sister Julienne’s blessing would mean as much to her as it did. To her, it felt as close to one of her parents giving their blessing.
Sister Julienne gave Patsy and Delia a kiss on the forehead, and then gave the other nurses hugs before bidding her goodbye. Sister Julienne always had a big heart and a levelled mind.
At suppertime, the women ate quietly. Empty chairs where the nuns usually sat placed gaps around the table, and it felt strange eating without all the chatter. It appeared that the women were exhausted; partly because, when they weren’t nursing, they were getting ready for the wedding, but also because they had all been so excited for the big day they had hardly slept a wink.
“Trixie…” Patsy spoke softly, “may I ask who this vicar is?”
Trixie gave the woman a smile. “You know exactly who he is.”
“Tom Hereward?” Patsy raised her eyebrows in surprise. She didn’t know very many vicars.
“He told me, when we were dating, that he had performed a wedding of this nature… before. A few years ago. He mentioned it when we were talking about the queers. You know, Tom is very open-minded and we both agree that we can’t tell people who to love.”
“Well then...” Patsy breathed out, “maybe he is my type after all...” she said, looking right at Trixie.
“You’re trouble,” Trixie laughed, recalling the night Patsy told her Tom wasn’t her type. At all. “So, Barbara and Tom are coming to your wedding,” she confirmed. “I’m sorry, I would never out anybody, but she would have found out soon or later, and I figured she might as well be at the ceremony since she’s our friend. Plus, if she didn’t take the news well, I know Tom would have talked some sense into her.”
“Did she take the news well?” Patsy wondered.
“Oh, Patsy,” Trixie began to giggle, “She said, ‘well, no wonder Patsy and Delia never chime in when we squeal about Rock Hudson!’”
The women chuckled.
“I appreciate you asking Tom to officiate...” Delia said softly.
Patsy thought there was going to be a ‘but’ and waited.
“But…” Trixie encouraged Delia to continue.
“I’ve been thinking…” Delia glanced at Patsy, and then Nurse Crane, “I was wondering if you would officiate, Nurse Crane.”
“Lass…” Phyllis breathed out.
“You know us better than Tom,” Delia said softly. “You’ve been there for us through… so much. You took care of Patsy when I was at the hospital, and you did the same for me when Patsy was in Hong Kong.”
“You would have done the same for me, if I were in your situation,” Phyllis said, ever so humble.
“I think it would be special, if you officiated,” Delia nodded, “If that’s alright with you, Pats?”
“Of course,” Patsy smiled at the older nurse.
“I would be honoured,” Phyllis smiled.
“I hope Tom doesn’t take offence,” Delia blushed.
“He won’t,” Trixie smiled, knowingly, “I think he would be happy to give Phyllis the reigns to officiate.”
“That would be great,” Delia smiled at her dear friend, Phyllis.
The night before the wedding, Patsy and Delia prepared their things. Patsy hung up her suit in Valerie’s room and Delia hung up her dress in Trixie and Phyllis's room. Neither of the brides had yet to see the other in their wedding attire.
The women had already arranged the flowers in the chapel, and confections for the small reception. Everything was ready for the big day and Nonnatus house fell quiet and still as the women slept. Patsy and Delia had to try very hard to dim their excitement and get some rest before their big day.
A white dress, a lace veil, and a pair of comfortable white ballet flats occupied the bed at Seaside Manor Retirement Home. The new year had brought new joys and with it was the 2014 bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Great Britain.
Gray hair, soft lines, and the same dimpled smile reflected off the white mirror that hung in the bedroom. Delia Busby lifted one leg, and then the other, allowing her nurse to dress her in the old white dress. It had been altered, to fit her new body shape, but it still radiated the same magic it did fifty-one years ago.
A soft knock came from her door and she heard a familiar voice call her name.
“Are you almost ready in there?” Patsy asked.
“Almost!” Delia smiled and looked at herself in the mirror. Her nurse grinned and helped her put the veil on her old and grey beehive.
“Are you almost ready in there?” Patsy asked.
“Almost!” Delia smiled and looked at herself in the mirror. Valerie Dyer grinned and pinned the veil on her hair.
“You look perfect,” Valerie said, tears pooling in her eyes.
“You’ve seen me wear it before,” Delia chuckled at the emotional wreck Valerie was in. She too was starting to feel overwhelmed with emotions.
“I know, but this is it,” Valerie smiled.
Delia readied herself and nodded, “This is it.”
As instructed by Trixie, Delia hid around one corner of the chapel entrance while Patsy hid around the other. Barbara played the record of the wedding march she and Tom played at their wedding, and Patsy walked down the aisle first. Trixie walked behind her as her very excited maid of honour.
Patsy smiled at her friends and blushed when she saw their reactions. They all looked at her with love and support, and a hint of awe, likely due to her dashing suit.
“Delia!” Trixie forcefully whispered when she and Patsy were at the altar.
Delia stepped into the doorframe and glanced up from her shoes. She locked eyes with Patsy and smiled when she saw how pretty yet handsome Patsy looked in her suit. Her heart stopped and she couldn’t believe how lucky she was to marry the woman before her.
Patsy had a similar reaction. She started to tear-up. Training school, Male Surgical, midwifery, the cycling accident, Hong Kong. They had already made it through so much together and Patsy was grateful it all lead up to that beautiful moment: seeing Delia in a wedding dress, at their wedding.
“Ready?” Valerie asked over Delia’s shoulder.
Delia nodded her head and took a step towards her lover. She walked past empty pews but she no longer mourned the lack of her parents, or friends, or relatives at her wedding. Everyone who mattered was right in the chapel with them.
“Hello,” Patsy greeted, blushing, when Delia stopped in front of her.
“Hi,” Delia smiled.
“You look beautiful,” Patsy said softly.
Delia’s smile grew bigger. “You look handsome.”
Patsy and Delia stood in front of Phyllis and Trixie and Valerie stood behind and off to the side of the bride they were supporting.
“Good morning everyone,” Phyllis said, first nervously, but then with ease when she found comfort in the familiarity of those around her. “Today is a very special day, for all of us… because today we celebrate the union of two women who chose to love, and continue to love, even when the world tells them not to. I believe rebellion that spreads love instead of hate is a fight worth putting up. So to quote Shakespeare:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no WOman ever loved.”
Patsy and Delia smiled at each other.
“May I have the rings please?”
Trixie and Valerie cradled a ring in the palm of their hands. Trixie held up Patsy’s mother’s ring, and Valerie held up the ring Delia had gotten.
“Patsy, would you say your vows first?”
Patsy took the ring from Trixie and held it between her fingers.
“Delia…” she smiled at the woman who had stolen her heart. “I’m afraid I’ve left out parts of the whole story, when I told you about my father. He didn’t just give his blessing… he gave me my mother’s ring to give to you. So with this ring, I vow to…” she suddenly forgot what she wanted to say. She had spent the last evening going over her vows, and suddenly her mind was blank. “I’m sorry…” glanced around at their friends, her hand shaking and her tongue going dry, “I know what I’ve wanted to say for days now, but I should have written them down.”
“Take your time,” Phyllis encouraged with a warm smile. “You have plenty of time, dear.”
Patsy nodded her head and took a deep breath. She swallowed the lump in her throat and locked eyes with her fiancée, who was looking back with soft eyes.
Delia took her cue and took Patsy’s shaky hands into her own. She gave them a firm squeeze and calmed her nerves, knowing Patsy well enough to know she was nervous about being the center of attention and showing affection.
“Delia…” Patsy gave her love a thankful look, “I had a reputation of being the stone cold colleague before I met you. My past had hardened me like bedrock… but you were the first person to break down the hard walls I’ve spent years putting up. I’ve always gotten along with my patients but I was never good at making friends… if you weren’t so bloody insistent on being my friend in nursing school…” she chuckled along with their friends, “I would have spent the rest of my years angry and alone… and I never would have know what it’s like to be in love.” Patsy lifted the ring in her hand and inspected it. “I know your dream wedding is a lot bigger than this. With this ring I promise that when the day comes that we can legally wed, when the day comes that we can live openly as we are, I will give you that… and so much more. I pledge to be by your side through the joys and sorrows of life, and to be your loyal comrade in adventure and strife. But until we can be married by law, would you do me the honour of being married in our hearts?”
“I ask that, Lass,” Phyllis informed with a small smile.
“Oh,” Patsy blushed.
“Do you, Delia Busby, take Patience Mount to be your wife?” Phyllis asked.
“I do,” Delia nodded repeatedly, tears now streaming down her cheeks.
Trixie sobbed and dabbed the sides of her eyes with a handkerchief, making sure her mascara did not smudge.
“Delia, would you say your vows?” Phyllis guided.
Delia took the ring from Valerie’s palm and held it between her forefinger and thumb.
“Patience… with this ring I vow to love you with a heart that is patient and understanding. I vow to keep fighting for us, that no amount of time or distance, or dispute, can hold us apart again. And most of all, I promise to fall in love with you over and over again, should life throw us more curveballs.”
Patsy chuckled through the tears that streamed down her cheeks. It was hard to believe that a few years ago, Delia could not remember who she was. But she she found her way back to her and they fell in love again and again.
“Do you, Patience Mount, take Delia to be your wife?” Phyllis sniffed back her tears.
“I do,” Patsy smiled.
Phyllis smiled at the two women and glanced around the room. “Does anyone object to the union of these two women?” she asked. Barbara and Tom shook their head in denial. “Then… by the power vested in me by Tom Hereward, I now pronounce you wife and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
Patsy lightly bounced on her toes with excitement. She lifted the veil and leaned in to kiss her wife. Delia was already shaking with excitement, but she melted into her wife’s arms when they kissed. For the first time in front of all of their friends.
Tom, Barbara, Valerie and Trixie began to clap and Patsy and Delia broke out of their kiss. They laughed and held each other’s hand for the first time as wives.
They gathered in the living room afterwards for tea and refreshments. Barbara had made a spread of tea sandwiches, salad, and meat pastries, and later Valerie revealed the small three-tiered cake she had secretly baked and iced in white icing.
“Because we both like cake,” Valerie told Delia with a smirk.
“Looks yummy!” Delia smiled, recalling the day she and Valerie grew closer.
“You deserve one that’s triple in size,” Valerie blushed.
“It’s perfect,” Delia reassured.
“Well, cut it…” Phyllis readied her camera.
Patsy and Delia took the knife and cut a small slice of cake. Phyllis took the picture.
They all sat around and ate their cake, chatting and laughing as they recalled the funny memories they had as a couple.
“What about your first dance?” Trixie asked when the chatter died down.
Delia smiled and took her lover’s hand. She spun Patsy around and held her in her arms as they swayed to the melody of Put Your Head On My Shoulder. And Delia did just that, placing her head on Patsy’s shoulder and holding her in her arms. There was nowhere else in the world she would rather be, and nothing else in the world could make her as happy.
“You think we’ll ever find love like that?” Trixie quietly asked Valerie, admiring Patsy and Delia.
“I hope so,” Valerie sighed, in awe.
“Shall we?” Trixie offered a hand.
“We might as well,” Valerie smiled and took Trixie’s hand into her own. She naturally placed her hands on Trixie’s hips, and Trixie placed a hand on her friend’s shoulder.
“You’ve held a lady before...” Trixie commented on how Valerie knew exactly where to put her hands.
“Once or twice,” Valerie smiled.
“Come on then, Phyllis…” Barbara opened her arms, “looks like you’re stuck with me.”
“Oh, might as well,” Phyllis accepted the invitation to dance.
The ladies twirled around Patsy and Delia, and switched partners whenever they felt suited. Valerie with Barbara and Phyllis with Trixie, while Tom was in charge of the music. That day, Nonnatus House was filled with love and music.
Delia stood at the back of the Wadhurst Castle hall in the same white wedding dress she wore fifty-one years ago. She glanced up from her white shoes and smiled when she saw Patsy Busby-Mount standing at the altar, and Trixie standing beside her. Patsy looked just as dashing in her black suit and tie.
“Ready?” Valerie asked, like she did many years ago.
Delia nodded and took a step towards the love of her life.
“Welcome,” Elisabeth Busby-Mount stood in front of the two brides. “We gather here today to celebrate the union of two women who are very special to me. Patsy and Delia, my mothers, have been married for fifty-one years, and today, after years of love, patience, and determination, their marriage will be recognized by the law.”
Patsy and Delia renewed their vows, and after they exchanged words of love and understanding, they had their first kiss as a legally wed couple.
The banquet hall full of people erupted in applause. In the crowd, their chosen family cheered. Valerie’s wife, Lucille Anderson-Dyer, their grown-up children, Monica and Evangelina. Trixie Dockrell’s husband, Christopher Dockrell, and their two children, Alexandra and Benjamin. Barbara and Tom Hereward, and their three children, Beatrix, Julienne, and Fred. Patsy and Delia’s younger son, Peter Busby-Mount was in the crowd as well, among all of the friends they had made over the past fifty-one years. Patsy stayed true to the vows she said at their first wedding: if the day came that they could have a legitimate wedding, if the day came that they could live openly as who they are, she would give Delia that—and so much more.
After their secret wedding ceremony in January of 1963, Patsy and Delia stayed at Nonnatus House for two more years. Once Delia completed her midwifery course, they moved to Brighton to start the next chapter of their life together at an ocean-side property Patsy’s father had owned. That same year, Phyllis Crane retired and Patsy and Delia made the journey back to Poplar to join the Nonnatus women in an extravagant retirement party. All of Poplar, and all of the children Nurse Crane had delivered during her years of service, attended. During Patsy and Delia’s visit, they learned of Valerie’s engagement to a new midwife named Lucille Anderson. A year later, Patsy and Delia returned to Poplar for another secret wedding.
In 1967, Patsy and Delia felt it was the right time to start a family. With a donation from a dear friend, Patsy conceived their daughter, Elisabeth Busby-Mount, named after Patsy’s sister. A year later, Delia conceived their son, Peter Busby-Mount, named after Patsy’s father. Though, both children were legally registered under the Mount surname. Patsy never used her inheritance on material luxuries, and instead used it to protect her family from the world they lived in. Patsy hired a very expensive lawyer who found loopholes and continuously defend their rights. This lawyer ensured she and Delia had parental rights over their children; that Delia and the kids would be her beneficiaries, in the event of her sudden death; and on multiple occasions, the lawyer had had to save Patsy and Delia from losing their jobs over speculations of their relationship. Patsy also used her money to hire a prestige tutor so that Elizabeth and Peter could be home-schooled. This gave the Busby-Mount children a superior education and it protected them from the stigma of being, by law, illegitimate children. Elisabeth would later grow up to be an epidemiology professor, and Peter, an architect.
In 1969, the Stonewall Riots erupted in New York City and the news reached the United Kingdom. Patsy and Delia and their children watched history unfold from behind their television screens, hoping and rooting for a better day for families like theirs. This was the start of the gay rights movement. A year later, the Gay Front Liberation (GLF), a British gay activist group, formed in London. Delia joined first, and after convincing Patsy, who had always been hesitant about being associated with the gay community, the two of them became part of the hundreds and then thousands of committed members.They participated in rallies for law reforms and education programs that strived to reduce the stigma and prejudice against the gay community. Eventually, after four decades, their collective work lead to the 2005 legal acknowledgment of same-sex unions, and then the 2014 legalization of same-sex marriage in the UK.
Patsy and Delia were together for sixty years, married for fifty-one, and married legally for four. At the end of their time on earth, they both knew that the long strenuous fight for their right to exist, their right to be a family, and their right to be together was worth it. Not once did they feel like giving up, or lost hope that they would always be unrecognized by the law. They stayed true to their vow to love each other and tackle the world together, vows they gave each other years and years ago at their Secret Wedding.