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Songs of the Blue Stone Mountain

Chapter Text


 

It was a rather active morning that Saturday in the well to do London neighborhood of Spitalfields. The sun finally peeked through the clouds for what seemed like the first time that year and thawed the last of the winter's snow. Many residents emerged from their homes to feel the warmth of the sun on their skin. Children were running through the streets playing, filling the alleys with laughter and heavy footsteps clamoring against the cobblestone streets as they chased footballs, skipped rope, and played hopscotch. The older residents were perfectly content to enjoy the weather in less active ways, many choosing to go for a stroll and smell the flowers that we're already blooming.

This, unfortunately all went unappreciated to one Patience Mount who was in severe danger of missing her train, the woman looking out at the world through the back of a taxi window while she anxiously chewed on her nails.

Patsy felt delicate fingers on her wrist push her hand away from her mouth, and she looked over to see her dear friend, the ever so beautifully blonde haired blue eyed Trixie Franklin, shaking her head and tutting disapprovingly.

'None of that now,’ she scolded, 'you'll ruin the varnish. Such a lovely color on you, too.’

Patsy had recruited Trixie to accompany her to the station, thinking of no one better to see her off than her longest and dearest friend of nearly a decade. This turned out to be a ghastly mistake as the chatty woman had only belabored her departure, insisting on throwing her a going away party until all hours of the morning and then staying in for brunch and making an absolute fuss that she was even leaving for the entire season in the first place!

But it was too late. Everything was booked and the money was spent and above all, Patsy was actually looking forward to going to where she was going. Springtime in the quiet countryside was exactly what she needed after all she had been through the past few months.

Patsy let out a sigh of relief as the cab came to a screeching halt in front of the station, and she practically jumped out before the driver could even put the car in park.

She hitched her purse over her shoulder and situated her floppy hat firm on her head, rounding the cab and impatiently banging on the boot so the driver would pop it open, and when he did she reached in and grabbed her own luggage while Trixie paid the man.

Patsy handed Trixie a smaller suitcase with her clothing and makeup while she pulled out a second, particularly large and heavy suitcase from the boot before closing the thing shut, using all her might and effort to heave the larger suitcase off the ground and carry it up the steps and into the station as the taxi they came in speed off.  

Trixie sighed despondently as she walked quickly alongside Patsy. The heels worn by the two women clacked noisily under their feet, the acoustics of the vast train station only amplifying the echo of their footsteps as they made a beeline for the ticket counter.

'Are you sure you need to leave so soon?’ Trixie pleaded, ignoring the look she was getting from her redheaded companion, ‘You've only just returned from Hong Kong and I feel like I've barely been able to spend any time with you at all since you've been back.’

Patsy approached the counter and placed the cumbersome suitcase down at her feet, shuffling through her pocketbook as she addressed the gentleman at the ticket counter.

‘Picking up for Patience Mount to Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, please. First class.’

'Pats…’ Trixie pleaded with a sad sigh.

'Trixie,’ Patsy turned to her friend with a stern tone to her voice, fluffing out her dress around her knees. It had become little disheveled by their jaunt from the cab, 'you very well know that my father's dying wish was for me to review and publish his memoirs,’ she sighed a little disappointedly, ‘While it isn't the most exciting thing, it's something to do while I'm having a bit of lag of creativity in my own work’.

Patsy was a writer by trade, having made her living writing a series of fictional novels for adults called Spitfires of Spitalfields. It was a dramatic reflection of her own experiences as a lesbian socialite in London, her characters loosely based on her past loves and relationships, with the names and appearances changed of course. Her novels were well reviewed but chalked up to nothing more than trashy beach reads in her mind, and she was disappointed in herself for being almost 30 years of age and not achieving the literary fame of Austen or Bronte or Wolf.

As of late, something recently had been calling to her to try her hand at writing something else, for another audience, another genre possibly, but she couldn't quite put her finger on what that might be. It was all very well and good as the motivation nor the inspiration to write anything had come to her for several months. She had been busy traveling to Hong Kong and seeing her father out of this world, her last blood relation gone forever. While the thought of being the last Mount left alive weighed heavily in her heart, she didn't let it get in the way of her moving on and living her life. She had vowed to pour her heart and soul into seeing out his last wish and she was determined to get it done by the end of this summer.

'Not to worry Pats,’ Trixie said sympathetically, 'you're always so clever with your stories. I'm sure lightning will strike!’

Patsy merely grunted disapprovingly.

'I still don't understand why you have to go off to Pembrokeshire,’ Trixie complained.

'Why ever not?’ Patsy asked as she handed over some money to pay for her ticket, 'this inn was recommended to me by Barbara you know. She gave it a grand review!’

'Oh,’ Trixie bristled, ‘Silly Barbara,’ she said under her breath before she looked to Patsy once more, 'Why not just stay in London, Pats? Or go where other artists go? Paris? New York?’

'Oh, you only want me to go to one of those cities so you have an excuse to come and visit,’ Patsy chided, giving her friend a playful side eye.

'So?’ Trixie exclaimed, 'Wouldn't it be marvelous to spend the spring and summer in New York?’ Trixie sighed dreamily, ‘living in an open studio somewhere trendy like Soho, drinking coffee all day, writing, discussing art and politics and literature with other artists and  and listening to poetry and music all night…,’ she trailed off wistfully.

'As wonderful as that sounds Trixie, if that were the case then I would never get any work done! Too tempting to goof off,’ she huffed, tapping her fingers on the counter impatiently while the man took his sweet time getting her change and putting the necessary stamps on her ticket.  

Trixie grunted and shuffled one of Patsy's bags she was holding from one hand to the other, 'Why Wales? There's nothing out there!’

‘Precisely!’ Patsy exclaimed.ed with a knowing smile, 'I don't want any distractions. Besides, all this traveling will give me time to think anyway.’

'You just spent six whole weeks on a boat back from Hong Kong! That wasn't enough time to think?’

Patsy grumbled, 'Trixie, you should very well know by now that the creative mind is a fickle thing.’

'I'll say.’

'Besides, I was rather distracted as I was in mourning,’ Patsy raised an eyebrow to her friend and watched as Trixie's mouth clamped shut, an apologetic look crossing her features.

Their conversation was interrupted by the shrill cry of the train whistle blowing steam high into the air, the booming voice of a guard shouting 'All aboard!’ carrying through the station.

‘Oh dear,’ Patsy said as she turned back to the counter.

'You better get a move on, miss,’ the gentleman behind the counter said as he handed over Patsy's ticket, 'that's the last one out to where you're going today.’

'Yes, I've gathered,’ Patsy replied smartly as she snatched her ticket away from him. She was in such a rush that she began to run out to the platform leaving all her things and Trixie behind.

'Hey, you numpty!’

‘Oh!’ Patsy halted in her tracks, her skirt fluttering around her knees. She turned around to see Trixie struggling to pick up her rather large and bulky suitcase.

'Good grief, Pat's!’ Trixie groaned through clenched teeth, 'what on Earth do you have in there? Lead?’

Patsy laughed, 'My typewriter of course, silly!’

Patsy huffed slightly as she heaved the heavy suitcase up off the ground and trotted as quickly as she could out to the platform where the train was slowly starting to roll forward. Trixie was hot on her heels flowing close behind with Patsy's other, much lighter suitcase.

Patsy heaved her typewriter onto the step of one of the doorways, a coach hand appearing to take it to the back carriage for her.

She turned back to Trixie, pausing momentarily to give her a kiss on both cheeks.

'So long, darling,’ she said giving the blondes arm a reassuring squeeze.

'You better write to me, Patience Mount,’ Trixie said sternly as she pulled away, and Patsy smiled.

'Of course! It's what I do!’

Patsy turned and trotted slightly along with the rolling train as it was picking up speed. She grasped onto the railing and stepped up, turning back to Trixie who was close behind. Patsy reached for her as Trixie handed her the rest of her things.

'Send Barbara my love!’ Patsy called out to her hanging out the door of the carriage and waiving.

'I will… Oh! Pats! What should I say to Missy?’ Trixie asked, shouting over the sound of the gears clacking noisily as the train picked up speed.

'Oh, is that woman still calling on me?’ Patsy rolled her eyes as her mind flashed back momentarily to the brief two week fling she had with a particularly attractive woman she ran into at The Gateways but realized they were much too I'll suited for anything more than a good romp in the sheets every so often.

She reached up to place her hand on her floppy hat to keep it from flying away, 'I ended things with her ages ago!’

'She doesn't think so!’ Trixie exclaimed.

‘Well make something up!’ she shouted, unable to keep the smile from appearing on her face as her skirt flitted around her knees and her hair tickled her cheeks from the wind.

'Like what!’ Trixie asked, coming to a halt as she finally reached the end of the platform.

Patsy shrugged, ‘Tell her I've launched myself out of a rocket to the Moon, never to return!’

'You can't just run away from your problems, you know!’ Trixie exclaimed exasperated at the antics of her friend, placing her hands on her hips.

‘Sure I can! Look at me go!’ Patsy shouted and grinned as Trixie grew smaller and smaller, happy to see she finally managed to get the blonde to crack a smile.

She blew her friend a kiss and watched as Trixie pulled out a lace handkerchief and waved it in return, the blaring of the trains whistle billowing through the station once more, ceasing any further conversation.

Patsy smiled as she finally tucked into her carriage, thinking that for once she was looking forward to spending a quiet spring and summer gone and away from the nuances of life among the other upper class socialites of London, finally being able to focus solely for once on her writing and not worry about who was throwing what party and what to wear and how to speak and to whom. Rubbing elbows with the right people was all well and good when you needed something but after the winter she had had, Patsy was exhausted and just wanted to be away from it all.

Yes, a nice quiet season in the country was what she needed. No worries. No distractions.

More importantly no girls like Missy calling after her either.

Patsy shook her head, musing to herself that she narrowly avoided a disaster with that one.

She sighed and leaned back in her seat, her eyes growing heavy as the buildings of the city turned to the charming brick row homes of the outskirts and then to the hills and trees of the country. The rocking of the carriage and rhythmic thrum of the wheels on the track churning along began to lure Patsy to sleep.

Before she let herself drift off, she grazed a finger along a gold chain that hung around her neck. She pulled out the ring that hung from it, immediately missing the weight against her chest. It was a new sensation for Patsy as she typically never wore something so precious for such a long period of time, but she couldn't bring herself to take it off. It was a simple golden band, and one of the few items in her father's possession that she took back from Hong Kong with her when he passed, as this was her mother's wedding ring. It was the one piece of evidence she had of her parents love for one another, other than her very existence, of course.

When she found the ring, Patsy remembered the disappointment she felt when she tried it on, as it was much too small for her long fingers. Her mother had been a smaller women, though Patsy had a hard time imagining it since she died when Patsy was merely a child, so the woman always seemed so much taller in Patsy's mind.

Patsy let the ring dangle in front of her, the gold catching the sunlight beautifully and brightly reflecting it as it swayed in front of her in time with the carriage rocking. She brought the ring to her mouth and kissed it, tucking it back under her collar and pressing it gently against her heart.

Deep down she knew it was just a bit of metal, but Patsy pressed it against her heart anyway, thinking that this was really all she had. The mere thought of her mother having once worn this, carried it around with her for so many years, a symbol of her father's love for her when, to her knowledge, when he couldn't convey it otherwise, it all made Patsy feel like she was close to the woman for the first time since she last saw her alive almost 20 years ago.

Patsy sighed and closed her eyes, feeling calm and a little less alone, and finally drifted off to sleep.


 

Chapter Text

Patsy found herself standing outside the train station along a dirt road surrounded by ancient stone fences and trees and other shrubs. The train she had just departed took off once more, billowing smoke high in the air and chugged along, the sound fading off into the distance as it headed to its next destination. The sound of birds tittering and bugs chirping filled the air in no time at all. With her luggage at her feet, Patsy removed her floppy hat and fanned it in front of her, the setting sun abnormally hot against her skin. She looked down the road in one direction, and then the other, expecting a car like she had coordinated with the inn, but she saw no one and heard nothing, other than the aforementioned sounds of nature and sheep baaing in some nearby field.

She looked at her wristwatch and realized she was a little early than she had predicted. Perhaps the car hadn't come by yet?

Patsy took the opportunity to sit down on her luggage and have herself a cigarette, thinking someone would be by soon.

Well, three cigarettes and a half hour later, Patsy was beginning to wonder if she had been forgotten about. The sun was dangerously close to disappearing behind the hills and she was afraid she would need to start walking.

She was about to rise from her seat and at least attempt to call the inn from the station when a rickety old pickup with a load of dry goods puttered around the corner. Patsy didn't think much of it as she watched it go by but sat up straight when it suddenly came to a halt, the brakes screeching shrilly. Patsy watched rather bemused as the truck began to back up and stopped in front of her.

An elderly gentleman wearing a flat cap appeared out the window, leaning heavily on his elbow. Patsy nearly fell off her suitcase when a friendly looking yet misplaced pink pig appeared beside him in the window.

''scuse me, Miss. Are you waiting for someone?’ the man asked.

Patsy shrugged, forcing a smile, 'Well I thought I was, but it seems I've been forgotten.’

‘Well I can give you a lift so long as you don't mind sittin’ in the back,’ he took a moment to smile endearingly at the pig next to him and pat her on the head, 'Princess here has a hard time giving up her spot next to me unless it's for the missus, you see.’

'Ah,’ Patsy said, raising her eyebrows. She was not quite expecting to be second fiddle to a pig, but then again she would take a ride in the back of this man's truck over walking at this point

'You headed into town?’ the gentleman asked as he exited his truck, 'I've just come from there but don't mind turning back. It's not too far.’

Patsy stood and situated her hat back on her head and fluffed her skirt, 'I'm actually headed to the Blue Stone Mountain Inn, are you familiar?’

‘Blue Stone, ah, of course, Miss, that'll be the Busby’s place,’ the man nodded, rocking on his heels and scratching the stubble on his cheek, ‘Nice family and all. Usually last on my delivery route actually, but I can stop there first for ya.’

The man walked to the back of his truck and opened the bed, and walked back over to Patsy, reaching for her luggage.

‘Oh, sir that won't be be necessary,’ Patsy tried to warn him, reaching for her luggage, but she was too late.

'It's no bother miss I'm happy to-,’ he stopped suddenly and winced, the very distinct sound of a spine clicking could be heard from the man's lower back.

He cleared his throat, 'On second thought I'll just…’ he slowly stood up straight as Patsy looked on apologetically.

The two nodded in understanding without saying another word as he walked back to the cabin of his pickup.

Patsy heaved and grunted slightly as she hoisted her typewriter up onto the bed of the truck, taking a moment to tuck a loose strand of hair up under her hat before she piled on the rest of her things.

The gentleman pulled a blanket from his cabin and rounded the truck, opening the back and folding the blanket before patting it and smiling to Patsy. She promptly turned around and hopped up, settling in and placing a secure hand on her things.

'All set?’ he asked.

'I’m very comfortable thank you, sir,’ Patsy nodded politely.

'Sir? Oh, beg your pardon miss, I've forgotten me manners,’ he raised his cap slightly and with a friendly smile held out his hand, 'Fred Buckle, humble town grocer at your service.’

'Patience Mount, aspiring writer,’ Patsy smiled back and shook his hand, ‘Pleasure to make your acquaintance.’

'Likewise,’ Fred nodded and gave a resounding clap, 'Alright, to the Blue Stone then, off we go,’ he said as he rounded his truck and sat in the cabin.

Patsy needed to hold onto her hat as the truck jumped into gear, dirt from the road billowing around them slightly as they started to drive off. Once they were off to a steady rhythm, she was able to compose herself and enjoy the ride. She took a moment to look around to see she was sitting with things like large bags of flour and sugar, boxes of beans and sauces and jams and other such things. The looked over her other shoulder and saw Princess hanging out the passenger window, the pig happily sniffing the air with her shout as if she were a puppy. Patsy smiled at the sight before she turned and faced forward, or, backward rather, watching as she train station disappeared as they rounded the corner.

For quite some time, all she heard was the sound of the truck chugging along and all she saw were the trees and fields, thinking it all looked so beautiful and peaceful. They passed the odd farm or two, stone walls lining the road to keep in the cows and sheep that lazily grazed. Many of the homes they passed were humble cottages or stone dwellings with thatched roofs and flower gardens that Patsy found quite charming.

The building they pulled up to was no different. The small rocks underneath the tires crinkled under the weight of the truck as Fred came to a stop. Patsy looked up to see a stand alone home made of greystone, pops of color appearing from the pots of hanging flowers and green vines that could be seen crawling up the walls.

Fred exited his truck and came around the back to offer his hand and help Patsy down. Once she was safely on the ground again, she collected her luggage and set them at her feet, shaking Fred's hand once again and giving her thanks before he boarded his truck once more and drove it around to the back of the building to offload his delivery.

When she was alone, Patsy gave a resounding sigh and turned back towards the inn, the blue and white hand painted sign over the door proudly proclaiming this to be the Blue Stone Mountain Inn. The door was already open, so she removed her floppy hat and stepped inside. 

Immediately to her left was the reception counter, showcasing a telephone, a wall of keys, and a large book of reservations opened to the middle with neat handwritten notes. There was a long hallway in front of her with an open door leading to the back garden, the staircase to her left, and another room to her right that she could only presume was the dining room or lounge.

Patsy smiled as she took in her surroundings. White wallpaper with pink lines and flowers decorated this front room, along with many portraits, all framed with gold of what Patsy presumed to be family members, along with the classic painting or two that really tied the room together.

The house smelled of fresh air, tea, and of spices cooking from the kitchen.  

'Marvelous,’ Patsy mused with a smile, feeling rather giddy as this was precisely the type of place she had imagined spending her spring and summer.

She looked back over to the reception desk and a small, silver bell caught her attention. She tapped the bell and waited, taking a moment to surreptitiously straighten a framed painting that was hanging on the wall beside her.

Footsteps descending the staircase caught her attention and she smiled as a portly middle aged woman appeared, wrapped in a white shawl to keep of the chill, looking rather surprised to see her.

'Oh, hello Miss,’ the woman said as she scurried behind the reception desk.

'Good evening!’ Patsy said happily, 'Patience Mount checking in.’

'Mount…’ the woman looked confused for a moment.

'You were expecting me, yes?’ Patsy asked, her expression turning to one of concern. For all she knew this was the correct place, but as she had never visited the Welsh countryside before, she really had no idea.

'Oh yes of course, Miss Mount! Yes,’ the woman extended her hand to Patsy who took  it, 'I'm Enid Busby, and of course we were expecting you,’ she fussed with the notebook on the desk, that paper crinkling noisily as she flipped through the pages, ‘My apologies, I just thought I instructed my son to get you all squared away once he picked you up from the station…’

Now Patsy was confused, 'Your son? Surely your son isn't Fred Buckle the grocer.’

Mrs. Busby’s head snapped up and the color drained from her face, 'Mr. Buckle?’

‘Oh, yes, he was very kind and gave me a lift as he was headed here anyway. ‘

'Is that so?’ her eyes narrowed slightly and she cleared her throat, forcing a smile, 'Please do excuse me for one moment would you?’

Patsy watched as Mrs. Busby grabbed that morning's newspaper and rolled it up, strutting across the hall through the small dining room. Patsy took a step forward and peered into the room only to see Mrs. Busby disappear behind a white swinging door to what she could only assume was the kitchen.

She was able to spend only one second taking in the scenery of the quaint room, the walls decorated with hand painted plates with gold trim, red carpet, polished wooden furniture and white tablecloths and doilies everywhere. All the tables were pristinly set with matching China and silverware with a small fire set on the hearth to tie it all together.

Patsy gushed over how absolutely charming everything here was, but her moment was interrupted when she heard the sound of a rolled up newspaper swatting against skin, some whisper shouting and the voice of a man grumbling.

Patsy quickly returned to her spot at the front desk when she saw Mrs. Busby reappear through the swinging door and she waited patiently for her to return, a smile on her face as she pretended to be oblivious as to what had just happened.

Mrs. Busby returned to her perch behind the little table and smiled up at Patsy, ‘I'm so sorry for the inconvenience Miss Mount. My son seems to have forgotten that I specifically asked him to retrieve you from the station.’

'Its no matter,’ Patsy said cheerily with a shrug, 'I’m here now.’

'Indeed,’ Mrs. Busby looked sternly over Patsy's shoulder, 'Michael, her bags. Now,’ she said, her tone leaving now room for argument.

Patsy turned around to see a man looking to be in his 20’s in the doorway. He was stocky, black hair slicked back wearing a simple black vest and trousers, built like a rugby player, and she could only assume she was Mrs. Busby’s son. She stifled a giggle as she was able to read a bit of that mornings headline smeared across the lads forehead.

Mrs. Busby cleared her throat as Patsy watched, for once, someone pick up her typewriter with no issue, 'I'm sure you want nothing more than to relax after such a long journey.’

'It would be nice to kick these heels off,’ Patsy remarked, watching as Michael took all her things through the long hallway, making sure to noisily bang her bags against the walls, in spite of his mother it seemed.

Patsy caught the tail end of an eye roll from Mrs. Busby at her sons antics before he disappeared out the back door to the garden.  

'Oh, will I not be staying in the house?’ Patsy asked, a little confused.

'Uh, not the main house, no, but you'll be staying in the best room we have,’ Mrs. Busby fiddled with some paperwork, 'there's a small bungalow just past the garden with an en suite. Just added too!’ Mrs. Busby said with a smile, ‘You'll be the first guest to use it.' 

'Marvelous!’ Patsy said, feeling quite happy and hoping her cheery mood would alleviate Mrs. Busby of the stress Patsy could clearly feel her experiencing right now.

‘Very quiet and private, just as you requested,’ Mrs. Busby placed the key on the counter, 'Now, usually we have supper for the guests here in the dining room every evening at six o’clock, but this evening I'll be bringing your dinner out to you for your troubles. Any special requests for my husband Edwin?’ she caught herself and cleared her throat, 'Erm, I mean the chef?’ she smiled.

'I’m rather ravished and will eat just about anything at this point,’ Patsy admitted shyly, ‘Whatever is his favorite thing to make I'll have, and a strong cup of tea.’

'As you wish, dear,’ Mrs. Busby started and stopped suddenly as a clamoring and the sound of several glasses breaking could be heard coming from the kitchen, followed by some colorful Welsh swearing that Patsy couldn't understand whatsoever.

'Oh for-,’ Mrs. Busby shuffled out from behind the desk and turned to Patsy as she walked backwards through the dining room once more 'just one more moment dear, very sorry!’ she said before disappearing behind the swinging door to the kitchen.  

Patsy sighed, looking back to the desk and seeing the key to her bungalow there. She shrugged and figured she would show herself to her room.

She walked down the hall through the doorway and out onto the garden, pausing a moment to look around. The garden was large, a dirt path cutting through the middle and leading from the main house to the bungalow on the other side. The path had several rows of wooden boxes on either side, each filled with soil and small wooden signs saying things like 'squash’ 'spinach’ ‘celery’ ‘ carrots’ and 'tomatoes’, little green sprouts already appearing in most of them. Patsy turned her attention to the structure that she would call home for the next several months, thinking it looked like a miniature of the main house. It was charming, made with the same gray stone and a black roof, two windows in the front with red shutters and a red door to match. There was a simple porch lined with potted plants and a cozy looking wicker chair and table. Colorful tulips were planted along the house, bringing a pop of color, and Patsy also noted the beginning of green vines crawling up along the side of the stone, giving the whole dwelling a rustic feel. The fireflies dancing along in the twilight seemed to give the place a rather magical touch.

Patsy saw the door was left ajar and she could see a bit of her luggage sitting just inside. Without reservation, she pushed the door wide open and was promptly met with a pair of legs hanging from the ceiling.

'Oh!’ she exclaimed, rather surprised at the unusual sight.

'Mam! Is that you?!’ the legs said, wiggling and kicking slightly, 'Micky came in and took the ladder right out front of under me saying Da needed it and he buggered off before I could even get down,’ the voice lowered, Patsy only making out a bit of grumbling and what she could only imagine was this person calling Micky a few choice words in their native Welsh.

The voice Patsy was hearing was rather muffled, as the side that was speaking was halfway into the attic. Patsy stepped back, noting the black galoshes and tan trousers held up by red braces. Their legs weren't terribly long, and Patsy assumed this must be another one of Enid's sons, possibly a younger one.  

'I'm not your mother’ Patsy said, placing her hands on her hips, 'and if you don't mind my asking, young man, what on Earth are are you doing up there?’ she asked, genuinely curious.

'Oh…’ the boy said, voice laden with a sinking realization that they were indeed not speaking with their Mam , 'Oh dear. I see you've arrived Miss Mount.’

'Indeed I have,’ Patsy said, her patience wearing rather thin as she had a long day and simply wanted to have a bath and lay down already.

There was a nervous laughter from inside the attic, 'Heh, erm, so sorry about this miss,’ Patsy heard this person say, their legs kicking slightly, ‘I had planned to have been all done in here before you arrived, but my brother, er, well…,’ the boy cleared his throat, 'well, never mind all that. I'll be out of here in a jiffy if I could trouble you for a chair or something I could use to get down…,’

Patsy figured she ought to try and at least help the lad so she could get on with relaxing for the evening. She could see the pristine bear claw tub in the en suite that was calling her name.

She looked around, thinking the wicker rocking chair just outside was too big to get through the door, and the only other seat in the room was a small stool by the writing desk, Patsy thinking it not tall enough for the lad to reach with his legs to step down.

Patsy sighed, thinking that she couldn’t leave the poor lad hanging precariously from the ceiling any longer, ‘I don't really see anything I could use so, um, I'll just help you down, alright?’ she said, ‘Hang on.’

'Oh, no miss, you don't-,’ the boy cut himself off and gasped when Patsy walked around to the front of him and wrapped her arms around his hips. She was mildly surprised, the boy being lighter than she suspected even with their rather plump breasts resting delightfully against the top of her head.

Wait a minute, Patsy thought.

Breasts?!

Patsy squeezed tighter.

Hips?! A supple bum?!

This was no lad!

Patsy whipped her head up, needing to see this person's face.

She was met, very much to her surprise, with a small metal cage containing a very agitated red squirrel that bared it's little claws and fangs at her.

Patsy was sure some ungodly scream left her mouth as her eyes almost popped out of their sockets from widening to the size of saucers. She was so shocked that she completely let go of the person she was supposed to be helping, instead only managing to simply break their fall as the two women came clamoring down on the floor in a mess of groans and limbs.

The cage the woman had been holding fell to the floor along with them, rolling out the open door and into the garden.

The woman scrambled to her feet and after the cage, leaving a thoroughly disheveled Patsy behind on the floor, the redhead rising to rest on her elbows to watch the woman kick the now empty cage, and in a fit she whipped off her flat cap and threw it to the ground.

‘Bastard!’ she cursed, looking around for the rodent, 'that's the second time that ruddy poofy-tailed rat has made me lose my hat today, damn it!’ she swore again as she kicked her cap.

Patsy watched rather mesmerized to see that this woman looked just like the young man she had met inside, only her long hair was pulled back into a neat bun with soft wisps of black hair falling around her ears and neck. She placed one hand on her hip and the other tucked her hair back behind a small ear, Patsy noting the subtle flex of a strong bicep that looked as if this woman could haul a tree trunk out of the earth without the help of a tractor.

The woman huffed and looked back at Patsy, and Patsy gulped.

'Oh, oh dear,’ the woman's anger evaporated on an instant and she scooped up her cap, situating it on her head firmly to hide her bun as she rushed back over to Patsy, 'Miss Mount, gosh, I'm so terribly sorry,’ she said, reaching out for Patsy.

Patsy couldn’t help but want to take a closer look at this woman now that she knew she actually was a woman. She had makeshift sewn on patches on her thermal top and trousers, a sign of a hard worker, Patsy thought. She watched as the woman pushed up her cap with her thumb, possibly unknowingly exposing to her the faint scar that trailed down her forehead and eyebrow, a little line of skin showing where no hair grew because of it. The woman looked down at Patsy remorsefully with such piercing blue eyes that took Patsy’s breath away that she almost forgot she was supposed to be rather peeved at the woman.

‘You could have told me about the squirrel,’ Patsy gripped as the woman grasped her hands and effortlessly hoisted her to her feet.

'I do apologize, really I do,’ the woman said kindly, 'I just didn't want to startle you.’

'Well that plan completely bloody backfired, didn’t it?’ Patsy said as she pushed back her hair and straightened her skirt, 'was startled by other things, anyway,’ she mumbled, eyeing a rather inviting looking pair of breasts made rather apparent through the woman's tight thermal top, unbuttoned almost to where she would be exposing cleavage.

'What was that?’ she blinked.

Patsy quickly looked away, feeling herself grow red in the face, 'Never you mind,’ she quipped.

The woman cleared her throat and took a step back, looking just as flustered as Patsy felt.

'Again, so sorry,’ she looked around for a moment, ‘can I help you get settled in?’ she suggested kindly, reaching for the large suitcase. Patsy was about to warn her that that was the heavy one, but instead she marveled as the woman picked up her typewriter effortlessly and laid it on the bed.

'I think I can manage from here thanks,’ Patsy sighed. The adrenaline seemed to have drained from her body from all the excitement with the squirrel and she was feeling rather tired all of a sudden.

'Ah, yes, of course,’ the woman said with a nervous smile and moved to exit the bungalow.

She turned around, smiling kindly once again and Patsy raised an eyebrow, finding the woman's dimples quite endearing.

'Um, my name is Delia, by the way, Delia Busby,’ she tipped her cap politely like a gentleman would, 'I'm usually around doing the odd thing or another here and there that needs to be done so, well, if something needs fixing you can call on me, alright?’

'Noted,’ Patsy said, rather short.

Delia’s smile turned to a tight line and she gave a curt nod before she turned, picking up a little metal box with a handle Patsy could only assume was a tool box, before she closed the door behind her.

When she was finally alone with the peace and quiet, Patsy sighed and collapsed on the bed. She actually smiled, thinking after the day she just had, she was thankful that at least the bed seemed cozy and soft.

Her stomach growled and she remembered that Mrs. Busby had said she would be bringing her supper and tea.

The thought had Patsy sitting up, thinking she could at the very least throw some cold water on her face and maybe change into her dressing gown before she arrived.

She rose from the bed and looked around her little en suite, another room she found to be absolutely charming. Tile flooring with fluffy little rugs around the sink and bath. Floral patterned wallpaper with little white and pink flannels rolled up on the sink, matching very well with the golden trim around the tub. She sighed and looked so very longingly at the tub, but then remembered what she came in there to do.

Patsy turned the handle on the sink and watched as the faucet promptly fell to the side, clamoring noisily in the porcelain bowl.

It happened almost in slow motion, the water now free from the constraints of the faucet, rising to such a height that Patsy had to crane her neck to see how far it rose above her head. She would have thought the stream of clear water created the most beautiful arch as it crested above her, if the end of it hadn't landed squarely on her face, blurring her vision and sending water right up her nose and down her throat.

‘Blaugh!’ Patsy sputtered as the water pummeled her face. She scrambled to turn the handle and shut the water off, thankful that was the end of that. She caught her breath as water dripped from her face, and she made a noise that reminded her much of Curly from the three stooges and she took both hands and wiped the water clean from her face with both hands.

She slicked back her hair and patted her face and with a dry flannel, snatching up the fallen faucet from off the sink and promptly walking back to the front of her room while muttering to herself, wondering what else could possibly go wrong this evening.

She threw open the door and spotted the Busby girl across the garden, leaning against the side of the main house and casually rolling a loose cigarette.

'Oh, Miss Busby,’ Patsy said in an eerily sing-song voice.

Delia stopped what she was doing and looked a site with her eyes wide and tongue poking out slightly as she was just about to lick the wrap.

Patsy leaned against the frame of the door, one hand perched on her hip while the other held up the faucet that popped off the sink.

Delia quickly sealed her cigarette shut and pocketed it, picking up her toolbox and trotting over to Patsy, stopping in her tracks and standing up straight like a soldier called to attention.

'Did you, pray tell,’ Patsy said, as she eyed the faucet between her thumb and forefinger, ‘happen to have a hand in constructing this new en suite?’

Delia fidgeted with her hat nervously, licking her lips as she nodded, 'The first big project I did myself, yes.’

'Mmhmm,’ Patsy hummed, handing the faucet back to Delia, ‘Please be sure to fasten this correctly this time, hmm?’

Delia cleared her throat with a nervous laugh, 'Yes, Miss Mount.’

'And do check the others while you're in there please,’ Patsy said as she stepped aside to allow Delia through, thinking she didn’t need more water thrown into her face and ruining her hair and makeup.  

'Of course Miss Mount,’ Delia said, and she tucked under her hat and entered the bungalow without another word.

As Delia worked in the en suite, Patsy sighed and figured she could start unpacking while she was deprived of her bath for the time being.

She closed the front door and walked over to the other side of the room, opening the window to let some fresh air through. She went back to her large suitcase on the bed and opened it, removing her typewriter and heaved it over to the small writing desk, thankful that that was that last time she would need to move the thing for the next several months.

She went back to her suitcase and retrieved a leather folder, the thing bound shut with a golden buckle. These were her father's papers, his memoirs, all neatly filed and tucked away.

As Delia tinkered away in the en suite, Patsy became very focused on this folder.

She held it in her hand and grazed over the soft, smooth leather with her other, unbuckling the strap and opening to the first page. It merely stated her fathers title, his name, and the date of his birth and death, the exact date left blank to be filled in by her, she reckoned. She had been waiting until she had gotten here to really dig into these pages, not able to bare reading them on the trip back from Hong Kong as the thought of him passing was still too fresh. Now though, she thought that once she settled in she would finally have the time to read over the documents and make her fathers parting desire to her a reality.

Patsy began to idly flip through the papers, working to be extra careful as her father had mentioned that he had put in the effort to at least order them chronologically for her before he became much too ill to work. She appreciated the effort as she scanned the first page, her heart swelling affectionately when she saw the names of herself, her mother, and her late sister mentioned in the forward.

Patsy went to place the folder on the desk next to her typewriter, but as she turned, she noticed a figure appearing where a figure not ought to be.

Her eyes widened as she realized there was a wild animal sticking its head through her window.

Her scream was so shrill that her throat gave out half way. Patsy found herself walking backwards away from the thing, the back of her knees hitting the bed and she fell to the ground flat on her back, her legs up in the hair as her father's memoirs fluttered and fell around her all higgelty piggelty.

‘Miss Mount!’ Delia shouted as she ran back into the room, appearing upside down when she entered Patsy’s line of vision from her spot on the floor.

‘What on earth is that… thing !?’ she shouted. Her heart was beating frantically in her chest and feeling her face turn beet red, Patsy scrambled to sit up and push her skirt down around her knees, peering over the bed slightly to see just what it was in her window, and she saw a fluffy brown pony with a unkempt blonde mane, it’s large, sleepy black eyes looking right back at her.

Delia followed her gaze and tisked, ‘Oh, Alison!’ she said as she rushed over to the window, ‘I’m so sorry she gave you a fright Miss Mount, she’s completely harmless, just curious...’ she trailed off as she placed her hands on the pony’s face and gently pushed, saying softly, ‘Oh, come on you silly, Cer i grafu ,’ she pleaded in Welsh through clenched teeth as she pushed. 

Patsy remained safely on the other side of the bed, but her heart sank in her chest as she looked at the mess of papers around her.

Her father's papers had scattered all over the place.

Pony in the window completely forgotten, Patsy picked up one piece of paper, and then another, turning them over in her hands and realizing with a heavy heart that her father had put everything in order but had not numbered the pages.

Suppose he didn’t foresee something like this happening, Patsy thought. His own daughter startled by a pony in the window and throwing all his hard work everywhere.

Patsy sighed thinking that she would be spending the summer painstakingly reading through each and every page, not only to edit but to piece everything back together and in order. She began to mope, feeling so tired and drained that she just sat there on the floor looking at the mess, figuring it was best to leave everything as was less any more disasters happened.

‘So sorry Miss Mount,’ Delia said again as she strided back through the room, ‘I’ll go outside to see if I can-,’

Delia wasn't off suddenly  when she swung open the front door and stepped forward walking g right into Mrs. Busby who happened to be carrying a tray of Patsy's supper and hot tea, the contents spilling all over the two women and clamoring noisily to the hardwood floor.

Typically Patsy would have taken the moment to marvel at the two women who exploded into a series of Welsh swearing, arms flailing, as she sat there on the bedroom floor, but with a dexterity she hadn’t thought possible, she managed to dive across the floor on her stomach and snatch up her fathers papers that had landed by the door, saving them from any food, tea, or anything else that could have soiled them. If she couldn’t keep them in order, she was going to keep them dry, by George!

The two women carried on with their shouting, completely unaware of Patsy on the floor. Delia eventually made her way past her mother while Mrs. Busby took the opportunity to wack her repeatedly on the rear end with the tray as she passed.

Mrs. Busby fell into a series of apologies to Patsy as she kneeled down to scoop up what was left of her supper from the floor. She hastily collected the plates, flustered, apologizing profusely for her children, etcetera. Patsy didn’t really hear much of it as she watched out of the corner of her eye as Alison the pony backed away, replaced by Delia's hands as she closed the window.

Patsy rose from her spot on the floor at the same time as Mrs. Busby, the woman saying she would return momentarily to come and scrub up this mess properly.

Patsy tried to assure her that that wouldn't be necessary as all the wanted now was to be left alone, supper be damned, but Mrs. Busby insisted.

The woman turned to leave before Patsy could argue, leaving the front door wide open.

Patsy gave a tired sigh, looking back a the aftermath of all the chaos that occurred, chastising herself for her own clumsiness and making more work for herself.

She shook her head, thinking that she would worry about it later after she had some time to rest.

Patsy walked over to the door to close it, but more shouting caught her attention and Patsy looked over towards the main house to see Mrs. Busby and Delia in a bit of a wrestling match, Delia trying unsuccessfully to push her mother away while the older woman pulled her braces down and tugged at her thermal top, managing to lift it up over her poor daughters head, presumably to take it away to be washed.

More swearing ensued as Delia waived her mother off dismissively. Her cap fell off her head and her hair unfurled from its bun, the sight of the woman standing there in her vest and trousers with her hair down nearly made Patsy eyes pop out of her head. She seemed to have forgotten how to breathe as she watched Delia bend down once more to pick up her cap, rake her fingers through her hair and turn towards Fred, the kind grocer having unloaded his delivery and about to be off on his way. Delia didn't seem to mind at all that she wasn't wearing a proper top or that her arms were exposed or her hair down around her shoulders. Patsy certainly didn't mind one bit, that was for sure.

Patsy watched as Delia closed the bed of Fred's truck and slapped the back of it twice before he puttered off, her eyes unable to pull away from those strong arms as they seemed to flex without her even really trying.

‘Wow,’ Patsy finally breathed, blinking and thinking to herself how bloody gay she was.

She was only broken from her spell of the smaller woman flexing when Delia walked to another small building attached to the house that Patsy had failed to notice before. She disappeared through the door under a little sign that said ‘bar’ and Patsy felt her spirits lift immensely. Patsy thought to herself that she could very much use a drink right about then. She suddenly craved something alcoholic to calm her nerves at least, and the bottle of Merlot she had tucked away in her luggage just wasn't going to cut it for her that evening.

With a sigh, she finally shut the door and stood absolutely still for a moment to take in the peace and quiet, ignoring that there was still a hole in the ceiling, a toolbox and a broken faucet in her en suite, a mess of food and tea on the floor, and several papers scattered on and around the bed.

Patsy forced a smile and took a nice, big breath in, and then out again.

‘No matter,’ she said, ‘I'm going to freshen up, and then I'm going to have a drink,’ she finished positively, pointing a determined finger in the air.

She looked over to her left and saw that Alison the pony was still looking at her through the window, and Patsy strode over to her with a smile and promptly drew the curtains.


 

Chapter Text

Patsy emerged a little later from the bungalow feeling more relaxed, having removed most of her makeup, her hair pulled back into a ponytail, and changed out of her dress into a simple blue blouse and black trousers.

She left her room in the abhorrent state that it was in, figuring she would worry about it later once she had a drink.

Patsy entered the little bar and saw that it was dark, the walls lined with wood paneling with the odd portrait hanging here and there to spruce up the place. Wood flooring and wooden tables and chairs. Wood wood wood, save for the brick fireplace that had a little orange emblem simmering to keep the place warm. She wondered how many trees were sacrificed when building this attachment.

A rhythmic thumping caught Patsy’s attention, and her gaze turned toward the other side of the room where she saw two figures. One standing behind the bar, the newspaper they were reading splayed out across the front of them completely hiding their features, and a very familiar looking brunette who was sitting at the bar, clutching a freshly downed pint glass with one hand while lightly banging her head against the bar. Patsy couldn't help but empathize with the poor woman as she felt like she wanted to be sitting there doing the same thing.

Patsy saw a puff of smoke rise above the newspaper, supposedly coming from the person behind the black and white print. She breathed in deep the scent of loose tobacco smoked from a pipe and sighed at the pleasant scent.

The person with the newspaper must have noticed her presence as Patsy heard them give a sigh and puff on their pipe.

‘You're early,’ the voice said, apparently female, ‘’s not even closing time yet. Haven't heard the whistle. What'd you skip out early or something?’

‘Closing time? Whistle?’ Patsy raised her eyebrow and placed her hands on her hips, ‘I have absolutely no idea what you're going on about.’

Delia rose straight up in her seat with a gasp, recognizing Patsy’s RP in an instant. She moved so quickly to get away from there that the stool she was sitting on clamored to the floor and she nearly tripped over herself, flailing her arms out wildly to keep her balance as she ducked behind the bar and into the kitchens.

‘Blimey,’ the woman behind the bar said having watched all this happen, folding her newspaper and setting it down, ‘that girls fast as a rabbit isn't she?’

Patsy sighed, a little perplexed at how she found someone so odd so bloody damn attractive.

‘She's something alright’ she said.

The woman behind the bar regarded Patsy for a moment with a hint of a smirk while she sucked on her pipe.

‘Is that a London accent I hear?’ she asked.

Patsy listened to the woman closely and observed her. She was tall, thin with cropped brown hair and a strong jawline. Patsy thought she looked rather attractive, no where near having the effect on her as Delia did though, and by the sound of it she was from somewhere on the east end.

‘Indeed it is,’ she smiled and sauntered over to the bar to take a seat ‘I hail from Chelsea. Yourself?’

‘Uptown girl, huh?’ the woman nodded approvingly as she took out a match, ‘I'm from the east end myself. Poplar,’ she paused a moment to light her match and relight the tobacco in her pipe, puffing on it until clouds of the sweet smelling smoke billowed around her head, ‘Sorry about earlier,’ she said, taking another puff of her pipe, ‘I thought you was one of the lads from the stone quarry. They usually come in around this time and pack the place.’

‘Ah,’ Patsy said, pulling out a pack of cigarettes, patting her pockets for her lighter while her cigarette dangled from her mouth.

‘Not to worry love, I've got it for ya,’ the woman said as she struck a match.

She lit Patsy's cigarette and Patsy nodded in thanks.

'So what brings someone like you all the way out here, hmm?’ the woman asked.

'Could ask the same for you,’ Patsy smirked, ‘I’ve come for the spring and summer to work on a personal project.’

'My, that's quite a bit of time,’ the woman mused.

'Well time is all I have at the moment,’ Patsy said as she took a drag, 'figured I'd come out to the country where there's peace and quiet,’ she shook her head, thinking to herself that with all the chaos that transpired in the hour that she had been there, she probably would have been better off staying in the city.   

'Project, hmm?’ the woman said as she picked up Delia's empty glass and began to clean it, 'what kind of project then?’

'Oh, well, I think I fancy myself a writer,’ Patsy admitted, ‘I've one project I'm working on for my late father and another I'm hoping will just come to me. You know, something that will help me make my mark in the world of literature instead of the rubbish I dish out to keep the lights on in my flat.  

'Writer, ay,’ the woman smiled, 'wouldn’t have pegged you as an artist.’

Patsy furrowed her brow, ‘Why ever not?’

The woman waived her pipe at Patsy, regarding her appearance, ‘Well you don’t look like one for starts. Too bubbly and colorful. Thought you had to wear all black and be a broody alcoholic to be a true artist.’

‘Bunch of frauds, that lot is,’ Patsy rolled her eyes, ‘in their turtlenecks, snapping their fingers and thinking repeating one word over and over again is poetry. Feh,’ she said dismissively as she smoked her cigarette, ‘I’m sure the pony at my window can produce better after eating a barrel of apples than that lot… not that I expect this place to be the cultural mecca and hub that London is.’

‘Oh, you’d be surprised out here,’ the woman mused as she busied herself with cleaning something, ‘You know, tonight there's going to be-,’ she stopped suddenly and slowly turned to look at Patsy.

Patsy blew out a line of smoke and tilted her head, looking back at the woman just as inquisitively.

'What'd you say your name was again?’ the woman asked sounding rather mystified.

'I didn't,’ Patsy said as she blew out a line of smoke. She sat up in her chair and proclaimed, 'Patsy Mount.’

The woman behind the bar looked at her skeptically, eyeing the redhead up and down.

‘Patsy Mount. As in Patience Mount the writer?’ she asked.

'That is what I said, yes?’

The woman smirked and pulled the flannel off her shoulder and slapped it against the bar,  'Aw, you're telling porkies, mate, come on,’ the woman leaned against the bar on her elbow.

'I'm doing what now?’ Patsy asked, not quite understanding her cockney.

'You're lying,’ she elaborated, ‘You're really Patience Mount? Author of the Spitalfields Spitfire series?’

Patsy felt a nervous tingle crawl up her spine as she broke out into a shy grin, 'Oh no, please don't tell me you've read that rubbish!’

'Oh, of course I've read it! And I have to admit I'm a great admirer of your work.’

'Didn't think anyone outside of London even knew of it!’ Patsy admitted shyly, taking a drag of her cigarette.

'Well I'm from London, aren't I? Of course I know about it! Every lesbian in the UK's probably read it, I reckon.’

'That still doesn't mean it's any good,’ Patsy gripped, 'queer women are so starved for content that they'll pick up just about anything.’

'Oh stop it with that nonsense. It's a great series. Besides, not true about all lesbians mind,’ she sighed with an air of disappointment, ‘Been trying to get Delia to read it for ages now but she's not having it.’

'Delia?’ Patsy asked, suddenly enthralled.

'Oh, yeah. Woman's as gay as a maypole but she tells me she's just not into it,’ she said, ‘Isn't interested in reading about the lives of the upper crust flitting from one relationship to another,’ she paused for a moment to look at Patsy reassuringly, 'oh, but don't take me wrong miss, I absolutely love the stories. Can't get enough of them. Great escapism, seeing as I'm stuck here for the time being and all that.  

'Well why doesn’t she like it?’ Patsy asked, feeling rather nervous to hear the answer.

'Who? Delia?’

Patsy nodded, hoping she wasn’t being too obvious. She cleared her throat slightly and shrugged, trying to look at least a little disinterested, 'I'm curious to know what everyone thinks of my work, good and bad. Constructive criticism makes my work better, I think,’ she added.

‘Oh, you know,’ the woman looked up in thought, ‘she’s more down to earth and the like. Would rather read some fluff romance than a bunch of posh biddies in the city she can’t relate to getting on with one another.’  

Patsy hummed as she took a drag of her cigarette and listened.

‘She likes the happy ending. Falling in love and marriage and all that rubbish. Not for me personally, but I think that was just how she was raised, you know?’ she shrugged as she wiped a glass clean with her flannel, ‘Her folks are like that. All I’ve ever seen them do is bicker but I’ve caught them in their moments. Seem like a happy couple,’ she sighed, 'I reckon Delia wants that for herself too, a wife and a house full of kids. I tell her pickings wouldn't be so slim if she moved back to the city but she's not interested. She was rather slighted, ya see, out in the pubs and all that.'

'How so?’ Patsy asked, finding it hard to believe anyone would want to turn down the advances of someone she thought was quite adorable.

'Just had a bit of bad luck with some of the more stuck up girls, telling her she didn't fit in. Looked too much like a boy for their liking. Delia's a stubborn one though, refuses to change cause that's just how she is, she's comfortable dressing the way she does. I think she's letting up a little on it, though. Started growing her hair out so people would stop mistaking her for a boy.’

Patsy grumbled, feeling a pang of guilt hit the pit of her stomach remembering how she had referred to Delia as 'young man’ when she first saw her.

‘Anyway, she's got strong convictions, that one. Would rather be alone than be with the wrong person. Any girl would be lucky to have her but she's picky, which is a right shame. She's setting herself up to be alone a long time, what with pickings being rather slim for girls like us out here in the country, you know?’

‘Are you…,’ Patsy stopped herself, wondering if she wanted to know the answer. She rephrased her question, ‘So, how do you know all this? How do you know Delia?’

‘Oh, we’ve been mates for ages. Met at nursing school in London and became fast friends,’ the woman smiled, finishing off the last of her pipe and tapping the tobacco out into a rubbish bin.  

‘You’re nurses?’ Patsy asked, rather surprised, yet relieved to learn the two were not together romantically.

‘Ah. well, used to be, I suppose,’ she shrugged, ‘See, I uh… well my license was revoked.’

Patsy’s eyes widened, 'Oh dear!’

'Not because I'm a bad nurse, mind!’ the woman insisted, 'just have a bit of a temper I suppose. Was taking care of a bedridden gentleman once who had extendable arms it seemed. Every time I walked past him he was able to reach out and pinch my arse. By the tenth time, I grabbed him before he could lay a hand on me and…’

'What?’ Patsy asked captivated, 'what did you do?’

‘Might of broke his thumb,’ she winced.

Patsy gasped, ‘You didn't!’

‘Don't know what came over me, just grabbed the thing and twisted it back. The old man's bones were so brittle, a gust of wind could have ended him at that point.’

'Wow,’ Patsy said, enthralled.

‘So naturally, I was in a bit of trouble after that. Thankfully he didn't press charges, but I was barred from nursing and out of a job, and then Delia had her incident…’

‘Incident?’ Patsy asked, wondering if she was referring to the scar on Delia’s forehead.

The woman shrugged, ‘Eh, sorry, that’s not really my story to tell, but I mean, I’m sure she’ll tell ya if you asked…’ the woman stopped for a moment and shook her head, ‘Oh, where are me manners,’ she extended her hand, 'names Valerie Dyer, but you can call me Val, everyone does.’  

'Pleasure,’ Patsy said as she shook her hand.

‘Anyway,’ Val sighed, ‘Delia was unable to work for a time and her Mam was worried about her afterwards, so she came and collected her. Delia knew I needed a job too, so I tagged along, and here I am, pulling pints here in Pembrokeshire. Delia’s family has always had this place. Been building onto it for years now trying to make it a good place to have a holiday, the lake and golf courses being close by and all that. It’s a nice enough place for a holiday, but I’ve been saving my wages with plans on getting out of here someday.’

‘Getting out?’ Patsy asked.

‘Well sure!’ Val said, ‘I mean, it’s a beautiful place to be but there’s fuck all to do here! Oh, er…’ she cleared her throat with a blush, ‘pardon my language.’

Patsy gave a shrug with a smirk, signaling she didn’t care.

Valerie took this as a sign to continue, ‘Haven’t ever left the country, have I? I have dreams too, you know. Been saving to go someplace like America or Brazil, Australia or China. Life is short, you know? I want to go out and explore before I settle down… ‘ she spoke softly, ‘if I ever do.’

Patsy smiled as took a drag of her cigarette.

‘Now, can I get you anything to drink before the place is full of smelly men? Not my cup of tea mind, but I open up a button or two on my blouse here and the tips just come rolling in.’

'I believe it,’ Patsy nodded, nodding appreciatively to Valerie's chest.

'These threepenny bits are good for something at least,’ Val said as she whipped the flannel over her shoulder again, ‘So, all anyone around here orders is beer or whiskey straight,’ Val sighed, 'but we have this full bar here,’ she gestured behind her, ‘and I'm sure a sophisticated woman like you will ask me to make her something a bit more complicated so I can show off my bar tending skills.’

Patsy let out a little laugh, 'Oh, well I don't know about that. Feel like a sophisticated woman wouldn't have fallen over as many times as I did today,’ she sighed and looked back to Val, 'Is a gimlet too simple for you? I'm really craving some gin right about now.’  

'Not at all. Finally gives me an excuse to use these babies,’ she grinned as she pulled out a metal set of mixer cups and slammed them down on the table.

Patsy leaned back in her chair and smoked the last of her cigarette as Valerie hummed to herself happily, performing a bit of entertaining acrobatics with her cups, doing things like tossing them, flipping them up and around her head and catching them behind her back. She scooped up a cup full of ice, added the gin and mixer and shook them together around her head, whistling a tune. She slammed the the cups down and reached behind her for a cocktail glass, Patsy watching the glassware anxiously as Val spun it around on her index finger before placing it down on the bar. She strained the cocktail into the glass and slid it in front of Patsy, taking a moment to garnish the drink with a lime before she wiggled her fingers, saying ‘Ta-da!’

'My, that was quite impressive,’ Patsy mused.

'Would you believe me if I told you I have a lot of time to fill out here? I mean a lot ,’ Val emphasized.

'So you're basically here all day practicing?’

'Yes, and Mrs. Busby absolutely does not need to know how many cocktail glasses I've broken working to perfect that move,’ Valerie looked around suspiciously and Patsy giggled at her antics.

Both women turned their head towards the entrance of the pub at the sound of men clamoring and carrying on, growing louder and louder.

‘Oh no, you got me chatting and I didn’t even hear the whistle go off,’ Valerie said.

She quickly grabbed another glass and poured what was left over from her mixing cups and handed it to Patsy.

‘You take another serving, yeah, god knows you won’t be able to make it back to the bar when they all get here,’ she nodded to the other side of the room, ‘go and grab that seat by the window. It’s the best seat in the house.’

‘For what?’ Patsy asked, but she was shooed off before Val could answer.

The door to the bar burst open and a gaggle of scruffy looking men walked through, tired and dusty with ragged clothing and 5 o’clock shadows. They looked like they should be exhausted at the end of the days work, but with it being Saturday night and having the next day off, they seemed to be in jovial spirits.

Patsy grabbed her seat across the room and was amazed at how full the place became of boisterous men, chatting and laughing and carrying on. The place filled with smoke and other noise, men shouting over each other to greet one another or call out their order at the pub. Patsy opened the window next to her to get a bit of fresh air, even though she had already started another cigarette herself.

Valerie appeared suddenly through the crowd with a smile, carrying a tray and a fresh drink.

‘Fresh from the kitchen for ya. Mrs. Busby also says your drinks are on the house tonight for the evening you’ve had,’ she laughed as she placed a steaming how bowl of something that had Patsy’s mouth watering in front of her, ‘I reckon they must have cocked something up pretty bad to offer that!’

When Valerie wedged her way through the crowd and back to the bar, Patsy dug into her meal enthusiastically, barely even recognizing that it was a delicious beef stew with mash and buttered bread. It was the hearty meal she absolutely needed after her long day, and she didn’t care how unladylike she looked in that moment, not thinking anyone in the pub would care anyway.  

Patsy was so engrossed in her meal that she barely saw three cloaked figures walking through the grounds, seemingly hobbling along before they entered the pub. Though, upon closer inspection as the came into the light, they weren’t cloaks at all. They were habits.

‘Oh, now the party can really get started,’ one man boasted from nearby as the three sisters walked in. The rather round, bulldoged one eyed him with a smirk.

‘You still owe me recompense from the game of darts you lost to me last week,’ she said, placing her hands on her hips, the gentleman she was addressing tucked his chin to his chest shyly while his friends chided him. The other sister in her group rolled her eyes and guided the oldest of the three to a table that was cleared for them at once.

Patsy watched on curiously as it seems these women commanded a lot of respect from the locals.

‘I require sustenance,’ the older one gripped, squinting her eyes as other one pulled out a chair for her by the fire.

‘Yes, yes, Sister Monica Joan,’ she said as she pulled out a chair for the nearly blind woman near the fireplace.

‘I think a slice of cake will do.’  

‘You will need to have something more nutritious first,’ the other woman scolded before she took her seat.

‘I hope it’s chocolate cake.’

The other woman sighed and rolled her eyes, waiving to Val at the bar, who waved back. It seemed they were regulars here and Val knew the drill.

Patsy continued on with her supper as she observed two new men enter the pub, one of them being the chap that was supposed to pick her up from the station but forgot, Michael, if she remembered correctly. He was with another lad that looked just like him. Brothers? They stopped by the bar for a drink and then walked to the middle of the room, Patsy noticing now they carried with them instruments. A banjo and a fiddle.

The two stopped and settled in at a table, the one with the banjo taking a seat while Michael situated his fiddle on his chin and began tuning it.

‘Oi, where’s the other one?’ a drunk man called out.

‘She’ll be by,’ the one with the banjo said as he plucked his string to tune the instrument.  

‘Oh come on now, we want to hear it,’ he griped.

‘Stop your bellyaching,’ another man cried out before he leaned over and swatted at his friend, ‘Dylan, why don’t you tell the lads what you told me earlier, huh?’

The man stood from his seat and removed his cap, looking as if he were going to pontificate as the others around him hushed and gave him their attention.

‘Me wife asked if I was having an affair with a woman from Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllatysiliogogogoch,’

Patsy stopped mid chew at the ridiculously long town name.

‘I said to her: How can you say such a thing?’ the man finished, looking serious.

The pub broke out in uproarious laughter and the man sat down in his seat again, and it was then that Patsy realized he was telling a joke.

Another man raised his glass and shouted to draw everyone's attention to him.

‘I’ve got one,’ he said and cleared his throat, ‘Three friends married women from different parts of the world. The first married a Greek girl and told her that she was to do the dishes and cleaning. It took a couple of days, but on the third day he came home to see a clean house.

The second man married a Spanish girl and gave her the same orders, to do all the cleaning and cooking. The first day he didn’t see any results but by the third his house was clean and dinner was on the table.

The third man married a Welsh girl. He ordered her to keep the house clean, dishes washed, the clothing ironed, and dinner ready for 6pm.

For the first two days he didn’t see anything, but by the third day, some of the swelling had gone down and he could see a little out of his left eye.’

The man made a face as if he had the same injuries he described as the crowd broke out into uproarious laughter once more, Patsy even chuckling a little herself at the punchline.

She leaned back in her chair and pushed her empty bowl away from her, it practically scraped clean as she had been famished. She lit another cigarette and sipped her drink as another figure caught her attention.

‘Oh there she is!’ a man called out.

‘Here she comes,’ another laughed and most of the men around them broke out into cheers.

Patsy watched Delia emerge from the kitchens, hastily tucking in her green and black checkered top into her bluejeans. Delia grinned at the crowd and waved them off as they carried on and laughed around her. She looked rather cute, Patsy thought, having just changed from her day outfit to something a little more casual and festive. The sleeves rolled up to her elbow gave her a rather appealing look at those strong forearms as she situated her mandolin in front of her. Delia only had eyes for her brothers though and they huddled close and spoke quietly to themselves.

‘Play it!’

‘Come on you lot, play the song!’

‘Sing it Delia!’

The rowdy crowd called out more demands that went ignored by the trio as they prepared themselves, finally breaking away with the lad with the banjo counting off, the three siblings playing at once and the crowd breaking into cheers and hollars.

It was a rather cheery tune, Patsy thought, one that had Delia smiling at least as she and her brothers watched each other and played. After a few lines, she began to sing.

 

My heart is a blue stone mountain

My head an overflowing fountain

My heart is a blue stone mountain

But I never knew, I never knew, I never knew, never knew, I never knew, I never knew…

 

Patsy observed the men in the room clapping along, many stomping their feet or their hands against the table. She looked over and even saw the three sisters, the older one now happily situated with a piece of cake and a glass of milk, while the other two sipped brandy from small glasses. The women were swaying along and tapping their fingers against the table in time with the tune. Patsy thought the three women looked rather adorable.

 

When I woke up this morning

And I saw a new dawn in

Ooh I woke up this morning

But I never knew, I never knew, I never knew, never, never, I never knew, I never knew...

 

Delia closed her eyes and tilted her head back as she let out a series of ‘Ooh’s as she stomped her foot in time with the music.

Patsy was absolutely mesmerized watching her. Was this really the same woman she had met only a little over an hour ago? The same woman who seemed so odd and awkward? Was she really leading a song, standing up in front of a group of people and driving up the energy in the room with her musical talent and voice? And goodness, what a voice, Patsy thought. The girl could sing!

The three siblings played on as Delia started another verse. The men around her were cheering, someone sticking their fingers in their mouth to give a loud whistle in support of the three playing as others began to dance around them. Patsy had never seen a more enthusiastic group of people, not in a long time. She started to feel like she wanted to get up and dance herself.

Delia sang the chorus one last time, and the three siblings looked at one another to watch for cues to change their tempo and play the song out. When the song came to an end there was applause and cheers from the men and Valerie made her way through the crowd to bring Delia a beer and give her a supportive pat on the shoulder. Patsy watched rather impressed as Delia gulped it down and turned back to her brothers to play another tune.

Patsy finished off her drinks and the gin was having her feel quite giddy as she had herself yet another cigarette as the trio started up another song. It was just as energetic as the first with Delia singing. Some of the men joined in, and others continued to clap and laugh or just carry on among themselves. The whole pub was filled with a joyous energy that Patsy had forgotten all about the stressful day she had had or the mess that awaited her in her room.

A few more songs were played, Patsy enjoying the folksy tunes immensely, before they three stopped to take a break. They all parted in separate directions to talk with folks or head to the bar for a pint.

All Patsy wanted to do was talk to Delia and tell her what an amazing singer she was, how she seemed full of life and talent.

Patsy rose from her seat, swaying slightly from the booze, thinking Valerie certainly knew how to make a strong drink. She at the very least had the cognitive ability to duck when a dart flew by, just barely grazing the skin of her nose as it plunked against the board beside her.

‘Oi, big red.’

Patsy looked over to see the more cheeky of the sisters glaring at her playfully with a group of gentlemen standing by.

‘You mind getting out of the way so you don’t lose an eye?’ she said, waving her hand dismissively, 'You make a better door than a window.’

Patsy gave a tight smile, mumbling an apology to the sister and scooted out of the way through the crowd.

She looked around and couldn’t seem to find the green and black checkered shirt that Delia had come in wearing. She couldn’t find the woman at all. The brothers were close by, drinking their pints while carrying on with a few of the other men. Valerie looked rather busy behind the bar pulling pints.

More smoke billowing from the crowd made it hazy in the small bar. The men around her continued to carry on as they drank, filling the pub once again with shouting and laughter and the clinking of glasses as they toasted to the end of another days hard work.   

Patsy sighed, with a heavy heart thinking that she didn’t have the energy to stick around much longer. She felt a wave of exhaustion flow through her, and all she wanted to do then was go to bed after having such a long day traveling. A little bit of dread filled the pit of her stomach as she remembered the mess in her room that still needed to be taken care of before she tucked in for the night. She decided then that praising Delia for her musical talents would need to wait until tomorrow.

She pushed her way through the noisy crowd and left the pub, enjoying the instantaneous quiet as the door shut behind her, the cool temperature of the night hitting her skin as she moved to walk through the gardens and back to her bungalow.

But before she could get very far, a figure caught her eye. It was Delia, standing in the shadows behind the door to the pub having a fag.

Patsy turned to face her and Delia’s expression turned to one of panic, the smaller woman quickly putting out her cigarette and waiving the smoke away.

‘Oh, uh, hello Miss Mount,’ she said rather nervously, ‘I didn't realize you were in there. Is there something you need?’

Patsy felt extremely happy to see her, walking right up to her with a smile on her face and ignoring that the woman seemed stiff with nerves as she approached.

‘Delia, I was hoping I would have a  chance to talk to you.’

‘You were?’ Delia looked rather surprised to hear this.

Patsy nodded, a pang of guilt hitting her slightly as she recalled their earlier encounter.

'Yes. I just wanted to tell you that I’m so very sorry I was short with you earlier,’ she started, and Delia’s expression seemed to soften, ‘I’ve just had a long day of traveling and was pretty tired…’ Patsy trailed off, truly feeling quite bad about her behavior.

'That's alright Miss Mount,’ Delia cut in, waving her hands in front of her, ‘I know you've come here to relax. It was my fault your room wasn't properly ready before you arrived. I'm so sorry.’

Patsy held her hand up to politely silence her 'Delia… it's all no matter. I was still rather rude and I apologize,’ Patsy took a breath and continued, 'besides, I'm going to be here for quite some time and I don't want us to get off on the wrong foot now. I would very much like it if we could become friends,’ she finished with a hopeful smile.

'Oh,’ Delia said, looking a little more cheery and rocking on her heels slightly, 'well thank you Miss Mount, I think I would like that very much.’

A little voice in the back of Patsy's head insisted that she would happily be more than friends but she ignored it. She didn't want to seem too forward. She didn't want to seem desperate, because she certainly was not desperate. No, not at all, she tried to convince herself, not even after a six month dry spell from being away in Hong Kong and mourning her fathers death. No, the lack of love and sex and another woman's touch wasn't just catching up to her now in this moment having her think inappropriate things about a woman she just met two hours ago. She was just merely interested in getting to know Delia in a platonic way. She could think that Delia was platonically handsome, with a beautiful singing voice and dimples she could fall into, and strong hands that she would watch turn a wrench for hours.

Patsy blinked out of her thoughts and subtly wiped the drool from the corner of her mouth.

‘Delia, I have to tell you, you have such a beautiful voice, and you and your brothers play so wonderfully together,’ she gushed, butterflies swarming in her tummy as she saw Delia was grinning at her compliments, ‘it was such a pleasure to hear you play and sing this evening. The music you make is absolutely gorgeous.’

‘Oh, Miss Mount, you don’t… It’s nothing special,’ Delia remarked, looking down shyly. Even in the dim light Patsy could make out the blush that feathered across her cheeks and she found her just so terribly cute.

‘Nonsense, Delia,’ Patsy said, finding the woman's dimples rather endearing, ‘You absolutely light up the room when you sing! It’s amazing!’ Patsy couldn’t help herself and she gave a grin that matched Delia's. She felt so happy that she was making Delia smile like this.

There was an energy, an aura around Delia as she smiled and shyly waived off Patsy's compliments; the woman practically glowing and Patsy felt herself drawn to the woman, as if some force was pulling her in, closer. She wanted to scoop her up and hold her, she found her so terribly cute.

Both woman were caught off guard when the door to the pub burst open, swinging all the way on its hinges and hitting Patsy square in the back. She propelled forward and pinned Delia against the wall, the smaller woman having the dexterity to wrap her arms around Patsy so she wouldn’t fall.

Well, Patsy thought, seems someone out there heard her desires and brought them to fruition, though she wished it hadn't happened to abruptly.

Patsy stood completely still, her arms flat against the wall on either side of Delia’s head, forcing the woman to tuck her face into the crook of her neck. She didn’t dare move, or breathe. The only part of her that she couldn’t control was her heartbeat, which pounded frantically as the two woman stood still as statues listening for whomever opened the door to go away.

‘Sister Evangelina! Be careful!’ a woman cried out, ‘Almost knocked the door right off the hinges…’

‘’Scuse me, Sister Julienne,’ the larger of the nuns said gruffly, ‘you know how enthusiastic I get after a successful game of darts,’ she finished rather smug. She reached back and swung the door shut behind them, and Patsy could feel Delia clutch her fists even tighter on her top, pulling her in so she was pressed flush against her. Patsy had to resist swallowing the lump that formed in her throat.  

‘It was rather riveting to watch!’ the oldest of them exclaimed, giving a gummy smile.

‘Shut that bloke right up, didn’t I?’ Evangelina stated proudly, ‘thought he could outdo me, but I showed him.’

Patsy noted that the three women leaving the pub didn’t seem to notice her and Delia in their rather tight embrace behind them. She chanced letting out a breath of air and breathing again slowly, only her senses were filled with the delightful scent of tobacco, earth, and lavender, a combination that was uniquely Delia’s.

Patsy blamed what happened next on the combination of her hormones, the booze she had earlier, the desire to be close to Delia, and the adrenaline that was coursing through her at the excitement of hiding from the nuns, the thrill of being caught in that moment wrapped up in Delia’s arms reminded her of her school days and she was suddenly feeling particularly daring. Patsy tuned out the sounds of the women behind her bickering and tilted her head down ever so slightly, the tip of her nose just ghosting over the shell of Delia's ear as she breathed, slowly out, then slowly in. She felt the woman against her shiver in response and Patsy felt her knees go weak at her reaction.

‘I do wish you would stop playing for money,’ Julienne chided as she interlocked her elbow with Sister Monica Joan.

‘Ah, you know I never take it. Most I’ll ever accept is a spot of brandy from the boys,’ Evangelina said, miming throwing a dart into the night, ‘makes my aim much better, doesn’t it?’

Patsy heard Julienne sigh, and she could just imagine the woman rolling her eyes.

The three women continued to titter as they walked off into the night, their voices fading away and replaced with the muffled noises of the men carrying on back in the pub.

Patsy felt Delia slowly loosen her grip on her and she backed away, feeling rather nervous herself. She got a good look at Delia's face and the woman seemed rather petrified.

‘Phew,’ Patsy said with a smile, ‘that was a close one!’ she grinned, hoping her attempt at humor would help alleviate Delia’s nerves.

Before Delia could respond, Patsy heard a loud bang! and before she could assess just what the heck that noise was, she was grasped by the arm and swept into Delia's arms. The brunette quickly reached out to place her hand on the door to keep it from colliding with them a second time.

Patsy had been spun around so fast it took her mind a moment to catch up. She felt light as a feather in Delia's strong arms, and she blinked her eyes open to see the brunette looking very protective.

‘This probably isn't the best place to stand,’ Delia mumbled.

Ok, Patsy thought, maybe she was just growing annoyed.

'I've gathered,’ Patsy replied.

'Oh, there you are Deels,’ Michael said as he peered around the door, nodding his head back to the pub. He seemingly did not acknowledge nor care that Patsy was in his sister's arms at the moment, ‘Come on now, we've got to get back on.’

Michael disappeared back into the pub and Delia helped Patsy back to her full height a safe distance away from the door.

She cleared her throat nervously, 'Erm, sorry about that.’

Patsy was still rather in a daze. She blinked and tucked a loose strand behind her ear, 'Oh, um, it's quite alright,’ she smiled back at the brunette as she felt herself compose, 'I daresay you've saved me from a concussion.’

Delia gave another shy smile and opened the door again, holding it open for Patsy.

‘Are you coming in?’ she asked.

'Ah, no, I think I've had all the action I can take for one evening,’ Patsy replied, apologetically holding up her hands with a smile, ‘I'm completely knackered anyway and will happily listen to you play from the coziness of that big bed in there.’

Delia smiled, 'As you like,’ she nodded politely, 'good night Miss Mount.’

'Good night…’ Patsy trailed off as she watched Delia disappear back into the pub, the door clicking softly behind her.   

Patsy sighed and closed her eyes, shaking her head as she turned back towards her bungalow. What on Earth was it about that Busby girl that had her so flustered?

Delia's musical voice carried through to outside the pub that had Patsy smiling again.

Oh, right.

She needed to call Trixie in the morning. She needed to talk to someone about this peculiar woman.

When Patsy opened her door, she flicked on the switch beside her and was pleasantly surprised to find her room in a much more different state than she had left it.

For one, the door to the attic was closed up. No more hole in the ceiling. The mess on the floor had been wiped clean and the wood flooring shined back at her. All her papers had been collected and were sitting neat and tidy in their folder on her desk next to her typewriter, a small stone holding down the stack so they wouldn’t blow away.

Patsy closed the door behind her and went to the en suite to see that had also been cleaned. No more toolbox or water all over the floor. She crossed her fingers and slowly turned the handle on the faucet and it worked perfectly.  

The redhead breathed a sigh of relief as she finally kicked off her shoes and went about her nightly routine, brushing her teeth and hair, removing all her make up and changing into a comfortable nightgown.

She finally fell into bed and cozied up under the blankets, closing her eyes and allowing for the sweet sounds of Delia's voice and music carrying into her room from the pub to lure her to into a deep sleep.

Chapter Text

Patsy stirred from her deep slumber to the sound of bells chiming somewhere off in the distance outside. They were close and loud enough to wake her, that was for sure.

She took a deep breath, as best as she could with her head in the pillows, and raised her head. Patsy groaned and cracked an eye open, rolling over onto her back and taking a blurry look around. Small room. Typewriter in the corner. En suite. Doilies.

Oh, right. She was at the inn.

She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and stretched, giving out a loud groan before reaching over to the bedside table to clumsily feel around for her wristwatch. She brought the thing close to her face and squinted one eye at it, reading that it was 8 in the morning.

What on earth were these bells? Why were they ringing so damn early? Was it going to be like this every morning?

Patsy rose from her bed and approached the window by her desk, opening it and sticking her head out slightly to look in the direction of the bells.

There was a church over the hill, and like any other church it was built from stone, the towers rising high and headstones poking out catty corner around the gardens of the property. This must be where those nuns came from the night before. The vicar looked to be a youngish man, probably her age, Patsy thought, as he stood outside the front doors greeting people as they walked in.

Patsy shook her head, marveling at how people could get up so early for church. She never cared for it herself, having had to attend on a nearly daily basis at her Catholic boarding school growing up as a child. She figured she had had enough church for one's lifetime. Besides. She had things to do. Like writing.

Yes, writing. She would certainly sit down and do some of that sometime today, but first there was a little matter of getting her day started. And maybe breakfast. And dressed, she needed to get dressed. Then she could write, for sure.

But first, tea.

Patsy walked to the door and placed her hand on the knob, then stopped suddenly.

What if Delia was out there? Certainly she couldn’t be seen wearing her pyjamas and no makeup. Her hair and teeth weren’t even brushed. What was she thinking!?

Delia. Patsy’s thoughts turned to the night before, her mind working fervently to recall every detail of their encounter outside the pub after she had seen and heard her play her music. She felt her face grow hot remembering their encounter outside the pub, how she felt about being in her arms and close to the woman. Patsy couldn’t remember the last time she had such a reaction to someone like that. She said to herself she would call Trixie to talk about it.

Trixie!

Patsy looked around and saw a simple rotary telephone sitting on her bedside table. She walked over and sat back down on her bed, picking the phone off the receiver and began to dial Trixies number.

As she dialed, Patsy was becoming increasingly impatient as the dial clicked clicked clicked in its slow rotation. She gave an aggravated sigh.

Why did Trixie have to have so many nines in her number?!

The line finally rang on the other end and Patsy stood, picking up the phone and pacing back and forth along the bed, being mindful not to get tangled up in the wire.

‘Beatrix Franklin speaking?’ came her tired but polite voice.

‘Trix, it’s me.’

‘Pats! Wow, that was fast! I didn’t plan to hear from you for at least a week!... whats wrong?’ Trixie asked, her voice suddenly serious.

‘Trixie, nothing is wrong, everything is confoundingly wonderful,’ Patsy replied.

‘Then what are you calling me for so soon?’

Trixie paused and Patsy could hear Trixie on the other line light up a cigarette.

‘I just… had the most peculiar day yesterday is all and I need to tell you about it.’

‘Ooh,’ Trixie said in a way that Patsy knew she was gearing up to hear a bit of juicy gossip, ‘tell me what happened!’

Patsy went on to relay her journey from the day before, her ride in the truck with the pig, the woman hanging from her ceiling, the squirrel, the mess of food and papers, and the whole debacle with the bathroom sink.

‘Oh my good giddy aunt, I would leave,’ Trixie said on the other line, rather shocked.

‘Really?’

‘Absolutely!’ she exclaimed, ‘I would have run far, far away from that place as soon as I saw a woman hanging from a ceiling. She dropped a ferocious squirrel on you, Patsy! It could have scratched your eyes out! What is the matter with you, why are you still there!?’

‘Well you see,’ Patsy cringed slightly predicting Trixies reaction, but before she could continue she heard a noise.

Patsy turned and gave a start, gasping and swearing to herself at the sight of Alison the pony suddenly appearing in her window again.

‘What’s the matter?’ Trixie asked.

Patsy shook her head, glaring at the thing, ‘Nothing, there’s just this… this pony that likes to poke it’s head through my window.’

‘A what ?’

‘A pony, Trixie,’ she said, waiving the phone at it, ‘You know. A small horse!’

‘A small horse has its head through your window?!’

‘Yes. It’s name is Alison and has taken a liking to me for some reason or another...’

Patsy stopped for a moment, looking past Alison out onto the grounds where she caught sight of a familiar brunette walking along, wearing a white undershirt with a pair of blue dungarees that had multicoulored patches not unlike the trousers she wore the day before. She was followed by two adorably fluffy dogs that bounded happily around her. Little puffs of smoke rose above her head as she sucked on a pipe. She had a satchel over her shoulder and carried something small under her arm as she walked down a dirt path, disappearing through the trees as the puppies followed after her.

Alison hiffed and shook her head, her unkempt mane falling over her eyes and bringing Patsy back to her room.

‘Pats?’

‘Trixie, do you remember when I said I came here so I wouldn’t be distracted?’

‘Hmm.’

Patsy pulled the phone away from her ear so she could speak directly into the mouthpiece.

‘Well I’m terribly, terribly distracted!’

‘What’s her name?’ Trixie said knowingly. Patsy could almost imagine the woman blithely looking at her nails as if she expected this to happen.

‘Delia,’ Patsy sighed wistfully.

‘Ooh, pretty name,’ Trixie remarked.

‘This is her family's place, the inn. She works here. She’s Welsh… and she was the woman hanging from the ceiling yesterday!’

‘Good grief,’ Trixie gripped, and Patsy could just imagine her rolling her eyes.

‘She’s the handyman, er, woman. She built the en suite in my room. She’s a musician, too! She can sing, and she’s so cute and strong and handsome. Trix, I can’t… I don’t know what’s come over me.’

‘Wait,’ Trixie said, ‘The handyman? Handsome? Patsy, is she butch?!’

‘Yes!’ Patsy cried out.

‘What! Patsy! She sounds so unlike who you typically go for!’

‘I know! That’s why I’m so confused! I don’t know what it is? I’m panicking here, Trixie. I’m gay and I’m panicking!’ Patsy cried into the phone, practically hyperventilating.

‘Alright, calm down you goof. Don't want to have a fit now. I'm just so surprised you're making  such a fuss about her. Butch, Patsy? Really?’

'Hey now, there's nothing wrong with that!’ Patsy cried defensively, ‘Besides, she's not like a boy at all… I mean, alright she looks a little like a boy but it's so charming! She has a beautiful smile and gorgeous body. She’s strong, too. I feel so safe in her arms Trix,’ Patsy sighed again at the thought of being held by her the night before.

'Wait how…? Patsy has this woman held you?’

'I fell and she caught me,’ Patsy elaborated.

'Oh boy, this sounds like it's heading in the direction of one of your novels,’ Trixie tisked.

‘Oh,’ Patsy bristled, 'it's nothing like that.’

'How so?’

'Well for one she’s nothing like any of the characters I've created. Doesn't seem to be like anyone I've ever met in real life before, come to think. She's sweet, for one.’

'I'm sweet,’ Trixie retorted.

‘Yes Trixie, and so is Barbara. That's why you two are my best friends,’ she said with a smile.

'She says hello by the way, and she's sorry she couldn't come with us to see you off at the station.’

'Oh, that's no bother,’ Patsy said as she moved to lay down on her bed.

She landed on the soft duvet with a light thump and sighed, turning her head to look over at Alison who silently watched on.

'Trix, I've got it bad,’ Patsy continued, ‘I think I like her, but she’s terrified of me.’

‘Well you are rather stunning,’ Trixie replied.

‘Oh, well I don't know about that,’ Patsy pursed her lips, thinking of the state she was currently in with her hair a mess, no makeup and in a rumpled pair of pyjamas.

‘Pats, listen to me,’ Trixie said, ‘you're gorgeous and wealthy. She might just be intimidated by you?’

‘What? Why? I’m harmless!’

‘Are you?’

Patsy gasped, offended, ‘And just what do you mean by that!’

‘You can be rather impulsive,’ Trixie remarked, trailing off.

Patsy narrowed her eyes, ‘I have absolutely no idea what you mean by that-,’

Trixie cut her off, ‘...and also rather aggressive.’  

Patsy gasped, ‘Says who!’ her voice grew dark and demanding, ‘Tell me their names, Trixie!’

Trixie ignored her, ‘You’re aggressive in the sense that you just pounce on whomever you like,’

Patsy pouted, cutting in, ‘I do not.’

‘and you get away with it most the time because you’re so damn pretty,’ Trixie finished.

‘I don’t… people do actually like me, Trix! I do not pounce… and even if I do, no one has complained… have they?’

Trixie laughed, ‘No, Pats, I've heard no gossip against the pouncing, merely the being left and forgotten like a toy you grown bored with.’

Patsy sighed, frustrated, 'Trix, you know my life has been a mess since… well forever! Especially recently. I haven't been around to have a serious relationship with anyone.’

'Patsy you went to Oxford for three years and have been in London the entire time until your father grew ill! You can't use your traveling the last six months as an excuse for flitting about from girl to girl the last ten years!’

Patsy blustered, 'Well fine! I'm picky, but I don't treat people like toys that I never pick up again once I have my way with them! I'm just… I mean, what's the point in staying with someone if we're not compatible in every way possible , hmm?’ Patsy chided, ‘Seems rather like a waste of everyone's time.’  

'Patsy it's alright to admit you're having a bit of fun,’ Trixie sighed.

'We all can't be lucky like you to have found true love at uni,’ Patsy grumped, referring to her and Barbara’s very long term and committed relationship.

'Alright, alright,’ Trixie said to pacify her friend.

Patsy could hear her give a heavy sigh over the phone.

'So tell me your plans. How are you going to try and woo this Delia?’

Patsy scoffed, ‘Throw myself at her, naturally.’

‘And what else?’ Trixie continued, seeming nonplussed at Patsy’s silly response.

‘Well I think I brought that dress that pushes my tits out.’

‘Pats…’

‘What? I look amazing in that dress, damn it. And it has pockets!’ she insisted.

‘No, really though, your tits are all well and good but you need to get her to like you as a person first.’

‘Oh…’ Patsy trailed off sadly.

‘And then you can let her objectify you,’ Trixie finished.

‘Oh!’ Patsy said, feeling rather cheery about that.

'So, really though… what's the plan?’ Trixie asked, ‘Do you know anything about this woman at all?’

Patsy took a moment to sigh and look up at the ceiling in thought from her spot on the bed.

‘Well… I was talking to her friend last night, um, a woman named Valerie who works here as the bartender. She’s another queer woman who has known Delia for ages. Says Delia doesn’t like my stories because she prefers love and romance to the vapid nonsense I throw out there.’

‘Well why don’t you try that then?’ Trixie said simply.

‘Try what?’

‘Court her, silly!’ Trixie exclaimed, ‘you have the whole summer to get to know one another. You have the time. Take things slowly for once in your life, goodness knows you could use a partner to ground you.’

‘I could?’

‘Yes,’ Trixie sighed, ‘it’s fantastic. Babs and I have been together six years already and it’s always so wonderful to have someone to come home to. Someone who thinks about you when you’re away and takes care of you when you’re sick or upset. You can’t have all that when you spend your life moving along from one woman to another.’

‘Yes but what if that’s how I want to live my life?’ Patsy remarked, 'It's fun!’

‘Is it?’ Trixie challenged.

Patsy opened her mouth to reply and stopped herself. Was it? Certainly it was fun, dating and meeting new people and all that, but she was going to be 30 in a year and she was growing tired of the life she had been living. The drinking and parties all the time were growing trite and she increasingly wanted what Trixie had. Something long term. Something solid. Something permanent. Something she had never had in her entire life, to have someone there she could count on to be with her through thick and thin. Trixie and Barbara had certainly been there over the years to fill that void as friends, but deep down Patsy knew she wanted to be with someone whom she could love romantically. Someone who she could enjoy a book with snuggled up on the sofa on a rainy day. Someone she could take care of when they’re feeling blue or sick. Someone she could be sweet to for no reason.

She had absolutely no idea if Delia was that person, but there was never any harm in attempting to find out. Who knows, at the very least Patsy could have a fun summer fling out of the whole experience.

‘Oh,’ Patsy replied, finally relenting, ‘I suppose not,’ she pouted slightly, ‘how does one even court , anyway? What do I do?’

‘You’ve never actually pursued anyone in your life, have you,’ Trixie asked.  

‘Yes I have. I pounce, remember?’

'That’s not-!’

Patsy could hear Trixie pull the phone away from her mouth to give a choice swears under her breath.

‘Maybe she doesn't want to be pounced on,’ Trixie finished when she brought the phone back to her head.

'What do you mean?! Who doesn't like a good pouncing every once in awhile? That's absurd,’ Patsy retorted indignantly.

‘Patsy, really now,’ Trixie pleaded, and Patsy could almost see her rolling her eyes, ‘if she’s like any other butch I’ve met then she’s going to want to be the one who makes the first move. You’re going to have to be much more subtle than you want to be. More demure. Not this aggressive pouncy business or whatever it is you do.’

‘Again, not aggressive!’ Patsy shouted, ‘I’m proactive! Besides, you know how lesbians are. If we all just sat around waiting for the other to make the first move, no one would ever get anywhere !’

‘Well you’ve only met her yesterday, Patsy. Just... spend some time with her. Talk to her. Let her get to know you so she’s not so bloody terrified of you, for a start.’

'Then pounce?’ Patsy asked hopefully.

'Try and read her, would you?’ Trixie sighed, ‘Body language and all that. You pounce at the wrong time and you're in for an awkward summer.’

Patsy sighed, 'Oh, I suppose you're right.’

‘I know I’m right…,’ Trixie trailed off for a moment and Patsy waited for her to continue, ‘and I highly suggest the green summer dress with the white cardigan.’

‘Ooh, I do love that cardigan.’

‘Quite… and the dress doesn’t show off your tits too much.’

‘Just enough though, right?’

‘Right. Good luck, darling!’

The two said their goodbyes and Patsy jumped out of bed, glad to have some semblance of a plan. She begrudgingly pushed Alison back out of the window and closed it behind her, drawing the curtains shut before she headed to her en suite to get ready.


Patsy walked along the path she had seen Delia take earlier, wearing the outfit Trixie had suggested. She came to a bit of a clearing between the trees, and saw on her left another little bungalow that was next to  two rather large pens, one for pigs and the other for chickens with a goat or two lazing about. The animals were grazing or laying out and resting in the sun, and Patsy also noticed the dogs Delia had been walking with earlier were curled up on the front stoop of the bungalow. Patsy caught the sight of the other of Delia’s brothers in the window of the small dwelling, simply wearing a vest and trousers and shaving his face, looking as if he was just waking up.

Delia did not appear to be here, so Patsy kept walking. She soon emerged from the trees and was happy to find the brunette sitting on the grass and casually smoking her pipe as she flipped through the pages of a book. What caught Patsy’s attention, however, was the massive stone structure Delia happened to be leaning against.

There were two large stone slabs standing upright with another large slab laying against them at a right angle from the ground, acting as a roof over the other two.

‘Goodness me, what on earth is that?’ Patsy mused.

‘Oh!’ Delia looked up surprised and began to scramble to rise from her spot.

‘No, no!’ Patsy said, holding her hands out, ‘It’s alright Delia, you don’t need to get up. I don’t need anything, just… going for a stroll.’

Delia stopped her motions and relaxed a little, placing her book to the side while Patsy turned her gaze back to the structure.

‘Do you know what this is?’ she asked.

Delia looked over her shoulder and up at the stones, puffing on her pipe before responding.

‘Megalithic era portal tomb,’ she said simply.

Patsy blinked, ‘It’s a mega what now?’ she asked as she began to slowly walk around the structure.

Delia rose from her spot and puffed on her pipe some more, looking back at Patsy as she circled the structure and looked it up and down curiously.

‘It’s an ancient burial sight, Miss Mount,’ Delia elaborated.

‘Really?’ Patsy said with wonder, her eyes wide.

‘Sure,’ Delia said, waving her pipe at the structure, ‘I imagine the neolithic farmers used it for the burial of important members of the community or as a gathering spot of sorts.’

‘Neolithic?’ Patsy paused, raising an eyebrow.

‘That’s right,’ Delia nodded, squinting her eye slightly as she looked up in thought, ‘Probably about six thousand years ago or so.’

‘How… did it get here?’ Patsy marveled, ‘Surely they didn’t haul it from some far away place like they did with Stonehenge?’

‘Well, I can’t wrap my head around how they actually got these stones to stand as they are,’ Delia said as she scratched her head, ‘but I do know this type of rock is the blue stone they mine down at the quarry. ‘

‘Oh,’ Patsy made a face as everything suddenly clicked in her head, ‘This is blue stone. We’re surrounded by it, aren’t we,’ she wiggled her finger in the air as Delia gave a cute smile back at her, ‘Blue Stone Inn and all that. Explains why the lads were so happy about that song you sang last night.’

Delia winked, ‘Good on you for catching on.’

‘Nothing gets past me, Delia… usually,’ she said with a smirk, turning her attention back to the structure.

She took a step back and just marveled at it.

‘So you just… have an ancient… massive… megalithic stone structure,’ Patsy’s hands flailed slightly in front of her as she worked this out, ‘what I’m assuming is an important piece of human history… just sitting here on your property?’

‘Structures like this are all over the UK and Ireland, Miss Mount,’ Delia shrugged and puffed on her pipe, and Patsy was completely flabbergasted at how indifferent Delia seemed to be about it, ‘Though I do suppose someday we’ll have someone come out and excavate it, but we figure if they did bury people here we ought to just leave ‘em be.’

Patsy sighed, ‘Fair enough.’

She looked out and saw that Delia had been facing a crystal blue lake when she approached, a small rowboat was tied to the shore and it bobbed slightly from the gentle waves. On the other side of the lake, Patsy could see the church over the hills with more buildings and cottages. Little white fluffy sheep dotted the green hills and a warm breeze tickled the skin on Patsy’s arms. Her breath caught in her throat at the beauty of it all.

‘This is such a beautiful place, Delia,’ she smiled, turning back to the brunette, ‘I can see why you came to this spot to read.’

‘I do find it quite peaceful here, yes,’ she replied shyly, shifting from one foot to another, ‘Um… would you like to join me? I brought myself a spot of breakfast that I haven’t touched yet. Be happy to share it with you.’

Patsy’s heart fluttered frantically at the invitation and she smiled, ‘Delia I would be delighted.’

The two sat down in the grass and Patsy fluffed her skirt out around her as Delia put down her pipe and reached into her satchel, pulling out a white handkerchief, which she unraveled to reveal a scone. She broke it in two and handed half of it to Patsy, the redhead noting with delight that it was still soft and warm from the oven.

‘I have some jam if you like,’ Delia said, reaching into her bag again, ‘and some tea.’

‘Yes to both, please,’ Patsy smiled as she brought the scone to her nose and took a deep breath in, 'my this smells delicious,’ she said.

'Da just made it fresh this morning,’ Delia replied, 'the jam is home made, too, but it's from last summer.’

The two situated their scone with however much jam they wanted, and Delia pulled out a thermos of tea from her satchel.

‘So I take it you’re not a church goer, either?’ Patsy asked as she nodded in the direction of the stone church across the lake. The bells were ringing and echoing throughout the hills again once more, noting the change in the hour. People were slowly starting to filter out, children running around and laughing.

‘Not particularly,’ Delia shrugged, looking in the direction patsy was looking, ‘I prefer to see the beauty of god's work outside those four walls. Yourself?’

‘I’m similar, I suppose,’ Patsy sighed, looking out onto the gorgeous scenery, ‘though, I don’t need to believe in fairies to see the beauty of the garden, so to speak.’

‘Ohh,’ Delia tutted playfully, ‘Don’t ever let Sister Monica Joan ever catch you saying something like that. She’ll not hear a nary word against the fairies.’

Patsy raised an eyebrow, ‘Which one is she?’

‘The oldest one. Half blind,’ Delia pointed to her eye, ‘wonderful woman and can quote Keats for days, though otherwise a bit… how should I say… not all there? Very kind woman though. My brothers loves her. They had her as a teacher when they were coming up through school.’

‘Are they all teachers?’ Patsy asked, ‘The nuns?’

Delia nodded, ‘That’s right Miss Mount.’

‘Ah,’ Patsy said with a nod, now understanding why the three women seemed to be held in such high regard by the men in the pub. They were probably their teachers, if not teachers to their own children now.

‘I had Sister Evangelina, the more bulldoggish one,’ Delia shrugged indifferently.

‘Great dart player!’ Patsy remarked .

‘She’s a wild one, for sure,’ Delia smiled, ‘remember once she threatened to throw a girl out the window by her pigtails for her backtalk.’

‘Goodness!’

‘She didn’t, but the imagery still plays in my mind to this day!’ Delia said with a laugh, ‘How horrible that would be!’

‘I can only imagine!’ Patsy grinned.

Delia smiled kindly as she moved to pour some tea from her thermos into a little cup.

'Delia, I saw one of your brothers on the way over here,’ Patsy remarked casually, ‘He looked as if he lived in that little bungalow by the pigs and chickens?’

'Oh, yes, they both do,’ Delia explained as she handed Patsy her tea and moved to pour her own cup, ‘Mam kicked them out of the house a year or so ago to make room for guests, you see. We all built that little place together out there as they tend to the livestock anyway. We figured it was a good spot so they can keep an eye on them.’

'They don't mind living in such close quarters with one another?’ Patsy asked.

'Oh, they don't mind at all, the boys. They're twins. Always been together. They get rather depressed when they're apart for too long.’

'I see, and have you also been kicked out?’ Patsy asked, blowing on her tea before she took a sip.

Delia gave a bit of a smile and Patsy was happy she seemed to be more relaxed around her, ‘No, Miss Mount. I stay on the main house with my parents. Mam likes to keep me close by as I… well, she wants me near so she can look after me,’ Delia remarked and sighed a little despondently.

Patsy's eyes darted to the scar on Delia's eyebrow but she looked away before Delia could notice.

‘So are you settling in alright Miss Mount?’ Delia asked conversationally, Patsy thinking she sounded as if she was rather eager to change the subject.  

‘I am, thank you,’ she replied as she took a bite of her scone and had to control the inappropriate moan of pleasure she wanted to let out for tasting something so delicious, ‘Slept like a baby after the day I had yesterday,’ she said instead.

Delia winced slightly, ‘Sorry, Miss Mount, I do still feel so terribly awful about your arrival.’

‘Oh,’ Patsy waived her off, ‘I was talking more about being tired from traveling on the train than anything, and besides, I thought my arrival here was rather entertaining,’ she smiled, and leaned forward slightly, ‘It’s not everyday a beautiful woman falls out of the ceiling and into my arms like that.’

Delia hiccuped into her tea and turned red.

Patsy thought her reaction was rather endearing but leaned back, remembering not to pounce. She decided it would be better to compliment Delia on something other than her appearance.

‘And my gosh Delia, the music you played last night was just delightful,’ Patsy gushed.

‘Oh, Miss Mount, it’s nothing special, really,’ Delia insisted shyly, ‘Lots of pubs have live music.’

‘Yes but do they sound as good as you and your brothers?’ Patsy watched as Delia shrugged shyly and continued, ‘You have such a lovely voice, Delia, and you play so well. Have you and your brothers… sorry, what are their names?’

‘Oh, um, Michael and Nicholas. We sometimes call them Micholas when they’re together,’ she said with a small smile.

‘Cute,’ Patsy remarked, ‘have you three been playing together very long?’

‘All our lives, I think, since we were old enough to pick ‘em up,’ Delia looked up in thought as she broke off a bit of her scone, ‘The instruments have been passed down in our family. My gran thought it was appropriate I play the mandolin, see, since it’s the smallest, and, well… so am I.’

‘Well she certainly made a good choice there.’

‘Do you play any instruments Miss Mount?’ Delia asked, taking a bite of her scone.

Patsy opened her mouth to reply, but a familiar hiffing noise of one Alison the pony caught her attention, the pony seemingly having followed her and was now snuffling her hair and nuzzling the side of her head.

‘For the love of…’ Patsy looked to Delia, ‘have you been sitting there this whole time watching her come up behind me and didn’t say anything?’

Delia tucked her bottom lip into her mouth to hide her smile, looking incredibly guilty. Patsy didn’t have it within her to hold one iota of anger or resentment at such a cute face.

Patsy shook her head as she batted Alison away from her by the nose.

‘Well at the very least can you tell me why on earth this beast seems to be so infatuated with me?’

Delia finally let herself smile, ‘Miss Mount, if I had to guess, she probably thinks your hair looks like a giant apple.’

‘An apple?’ Patsy asked, ‘Oh well that’s just splendid, my hair looking like one giant piece of fruit. That was completely the look I was going for today,’ she gripped, but her mood lifted when she noticed Delia smiling endearingly at her.  

She gently pushed the snuffling pony away from her again, ‘Shoo! Sit! Go lay down!’ she commanded as if it were a dog, subtly happy that Delia was giggling at her antics.

‘I don’t think that’ll work on her, Miss Mount,’ Delia said, rising to her feet and walking to Alison.

She placed her hand on the pony's neck and guided her away, making a clicking noise with her mouth. Delia led her to an apple tree and picked up an apple that had fallen to the ground, bringing it to Alison's mouth and holding it there until the pony ate. Delia let her be once Alison seemed to realize there were apples all over the place, and the Welsh woman made her way back to Patsy and say beside her, picking up her tea.

‘Sorry about that,’ she said, ‘she’s an old girl and probably can’t see very well.’

Delia took a sip of her tea before looking back to Patsy.

‘Sorry, what were we talking about?’  

Patsy blinked, needing a moment to remember where their conversation had left off.

‘Ah, instruments,’ Patsy shrugged, tapping her finger to her chin in thought, ‘I was made to take piano lessons and played the violin a little in school. Found it quite dull, actually. Wasn’t allowed to listen to or play rock and roll at school, so naturally, I now have a rather large collection of records back at my flat in London,’ she smiled, ‘I assure you, Delia, between the two of us you are the one with all the musical talent and I am so very blessed and pleased you and your brothers choose to play together and share that talent with the rest of us.’

‘Oh, Miss Mount,’ Delia gave a kind smile, ‘I think everyone can play if they love it enough. It sounds like you do. Maybe just haven’t found the right instrument?’

‘Delia, I assure you I’m much better at enjoying music when I’m not the one having to create it,’ Patsy said reassuringly.

Delia smiled, ‘You really like music quite a bit then?’

'Oh, absolutely. I listen to just about everything I can get my hands on. And I did so enjoy your performance last night, you know. If you and your brothers ever made a record I would buy ten copies,’ she grinned.

Delia laughed shyly, her cheeks turning red, 'Miss Mount you wouldn't have to do a thing like that.’

'Of course I would! Would play them so often the needle would scrape the record bare. I’d need so many copies just to always have a backup on hand, wouldn’t I?’

Patsy’s heart fluttered as she watched Delia turn more red, her dimples appearing as she shyly held her hand in her face, peering back at Patsy through two fingers. Patsy decided right then that Delia was possibly the cutest woman she had ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on.

‘Besides, us artists need to support each other!’ Patsy finished, pounding a firm fist into the palm of her other hand.

Delia's smile widened and she sat up straight in her seat looking rather excited.

'Oh, speaking of which,’ she reached behind her and proudly displayed the faded paperback, 'I've just been reading one of your books-,’

Patsy gasped in horror as she saw the title of a book that she knew to be particularly raunchy and terrible as it was one of her earlier works.

Without thinking, Patsy snatched the book out of Delia's hand and flung it so hard away from them she felt the joint in her wrist snap. It flew through the air like a frisbee for several agonizing seconds before landing somewhere out in the lake with a prominent plunk, and promptly sank beneath the surface.

The two women remained completely still and silent for several moments, Patsy clearing her throat awkwardly as a few choice words Trixie used to describe her came to mind… what were they? Impulsive ? Aggressive ? This, Patsy felt with a sinking realization, was probably what she meant.

Patsy's mind went back to the conversation she had with Valerie the night before about Delia being slighted by the likes of the very women Patsy wrote about in her books. She didn't want Delia to associate her with one of those women, even if she had been one. She didn't want to be like that now, not anymore.

Patsy looked over to Delia, who remained wide eyed and frozen in place, too terrified to make a move.

Patsy fluffed out her skirt over her knees again to have something to do with her hands and gave a tight smile.

'It's a rubbish book anyway,’ she said quietly, ‘They all are. No need to waste your time with all that now.’

‘...That was Valerie's copy,’ Delia quietly eked out, still staring out onto the lake.

‘I’ll send her a brand new one,’ Patsy said, her tone light and airy and desperate to move on, ‘with an autograph.’

Delia finally blinked back to her senses and turned to look at Patsy, giving a rather nervous smile.

Oh good going Patsy, she thought, you're scaring her.

‘I don't write that series anymore, Delia,’ Patsy said calmly, 'I'm going to start something new. Something completely different… soon as I think up something,’ she smiled hopefully, ‘I'm sure lightning will strike! And when it does you'll be the first to read it, alright?’

'Oh, um, sure Miss Mount I would like that very much.’

'Splendid,’ Patsy breathed a sigh of relief as Delia seemed to relax a little.

Her good mood was hindered slightly when a familiar hiffing noise sounded in her ear and the hot breath of one pony smelling her hair once more tickled her ear and neck.

‘Oh, for Pete’s sake,’ she said as she pushed the pony away once more, ‘Delia I’m beginning to think I ought to go back to being a blonde.’

Delia merely laughed, standing and collecting her thermos and placing it back on her satchel.

She extended her hand to help Patsy rise, and lifted the redhead to her feet easily.

‘What do you think, Delia,’ Patsy prodded, fluffing her hair slightly, ‘should I go blonde or do you prefer the red?’

‘My preference should be of no concern, Miss Mount,’ she smiled kindly, ‘I think what’s important is that you wear your hair however makes you happiest.’

Patsy blinked, rather appreciating her answer. She watched silently as Delia walked past her towards the apple tree and she bent down, collecting several apples into her satchel.

‘Is that what you do?’ Patsy asked, thinking she had some idea of the answer.

Alison bunted her head against Patsy’s arm and she begrudgingly pet the creature as she waited for an answer.

‘It’s complicated,’ Delia said quietly, rising to her feet and giving a tight smile, ‘the apples here ought to keep Alison busy while she’s grazing by your room. You should keep them nearby and toss them so she has something to chase after and won’t bother you.’

Patsy was flummoxed slightly at the rather sudden change of subject, looking down at the apples in Delia’s hand and satchel. She noted that this was the second time during their conversation that she changed the subject, steering the conversation away from herself. Why didn’t she want to open up to her?

Maybe she’s just shy?

Or guarded.

Patsy pushed those thoughts aside and smiled back at Delia

‘I think that’s a very clever idea, Delia. Let me help,’ she said, and removed her cardigan and bent down to collect some apples herself, but a hand on her arm stopped her.

‘Oh, Miss Mount, it’s alright,’ Delia said, almost pleadingly, ‘I’m able to hold plenty of apples in my bag. No need to go and ruin your lovely cashmere now.’

‘Oh, Delia,’ Patsy shrugged with a smile, ‘I don’t mind at all. It’s just a cardigan.’

‘Yes, but it’s a nice cardigan…’ Delia trailed off quietly.

Patsy stopped herself from collecting any apples as she realized she was about to go ahead and make a mess of this nice garment in front of a woman who was standing before her in tattered dungarees, patched up all over from being worn and worked in for several years, probably.

‘You’re right,’ Patsy smiled back up at Delia before she rose again to her feet, ‘I think you’ve collected enough to keep Alison busy for a bit. Perhaps I’ll come back tomorrow and collect some myself with a basket.’

Patsy placed her cardigan around her shoulders, and the two women began walking side by side down the path towards the Inn.

Delia smiled kindly, moving to pack her pipe once more with fresh loose tobacco, ‘I believe I have a basket you can borrow if you like.’

‘That’s very kind of you, thank you,’ Patsy said softly.

The two continued on down the path, Delia puffing away on her pipe while Patsy chatted happily until they reached the main house.

Patsy resolved that she needed to get started on her work and Delia mentioned there were a few things around the house to take care of that day. They parted amicably and spent the rest of their day working on their tasks, Patsy finally finding it within her to settle in and at least try to sort through her fathers papers. The best way she could figure to put them in order without them being ruined was to pin them to the wall in the order she believed them to be in. She fed apples to Alison through her bedroom window throughout the day while she did this, and she was about halfway through his memoirs before hunger overcame her and she left her room again to enjoy some supper in the dining room for the first time since she arrived.

Although, while pleasant, she was the only person in there save for a married couple who was passing through. She was halfway through her meal when she decided she had enough of their bickering, the man looking to be the most henpecked husband she had ever seen, and she promptly picked up her supper and moved to the pub where she could at the very least smoke.

She was delighted that Valerie was there, and she sat at the bar and ate while she chatted idly with the Londoner, discussing life back in the city that she missed and quite enjoying the rave reviews she was receiving for her Spitalfields Spitfire books, as much as she didn’t want to think about that bloody series, she was glad it had made someone out there happy.

When she finished her supper and made Valerie happy by ordering a few rather complicated cocktails for her to put together, Patsy went back to her room. She was rather surprised to find a new appliance resting on the chest at the foot of the bed.

It was a small record player with speakers attached, a small stack of 45’s sat nearby.

Patsy softly closed the door behind her and moved to sit in front of the player, taking one record off the stack, and then another, reading over the labels.

It was folk music. Classical. Rock and Roll. Blues.

It seemed Delia had a rather eclectic collection, albeit small.

After the incident earlier with her cardigan, Patsy wondered if this small collection of things was part, if not all, of what Delia had to herself. Her possessions. If they were, surely she must be putting a lot of faith in Patsy to treat them well, to take care of them.

Regardless, Patsy was quite touched at the gesture, missing her records herself. Not that she didn’t enjoy the quiet, but she found life to be so much more pleasant with music in it.

It seemed Delia shared the same sentiment, and the thought made Patsy smile and think of her.

Patsy took a record out of its sheet and placed it on the player, laying the needle down and closed her eyes as a tune by Bob Dylan filled the room. As satisfying and catchy as it was, she thought to herself that she would always much rather prefer to hear the voice of the sweet Welsh woman she couldn’t seem to stop thinking about. 


 

Chapter Text

The day after Delia had left her record player for Patsy to enjoy, the redhead decided to try and listen to the music while writing, though she wasn't very much in the mood for the latter as the weather was so warm and sunny that day, so she opted to listen to the records through the open window while she sat on the little porch out front of her bungalow.

That's how Patsy wanted Delia to find her that midday, the redhead looking pristine in her hair and makeup and summer dress sitting with as perfect posture as she could in her rocking chair, smoking a cigarette with her legs crossed and wearing the sunglasses Trixie said made her look like a redheaded Jackie Kennedy. It took a lot of work for her to look so casual, but her efforts were soon paid off. From her seat on the little porch, Patsy could see Delia exit the main house and spot her sitting there. She was elated when she saw Delia smile and start to walk in her direction.

Patsy worked to contain her nerves and tried not to let on how excited she was to see Delia growing near as she made her way through the garden towards her.

'Morning Miss Mount,’ Delia said as she approached, shifting her bag around her shoulder. She puffed on her pipe while her other hand found its way into her pocket, ‘The records are to your liking, I hope?’’

'Delia,’ Patsy sighed wistfully, ‘it is simply divine,’ she said, not moving an inch. She was working very hard to look this elegant and nonchalant while smoking her cigarette, ‘lt pains me to think that I almost went a whole 24 hours without hearing any music! I think I may just sit out here all day and play your records.’

Delia smiled shyly as she puffed on her pipe, 'Pleased to hear Miss Mount. I'm glad you like them.’

'It's absolutely wonderful, Delia. Thank you.’

Delia nodded, Patsy thinking she looked quite endearing as she shyly rocked from one foot to another.

‘So, um, how are you getting on with your writing?’ Delia asked.

'Oh, Delia,’ Patsy said, 'when it comes to writing it's not a matter of how I'm getting on, it's that I'm getting on at all. But quite frankly it's going about as usual.’

'And how's that?’

'Terrible!’ she exclaimed, Delia raising her eyebrows in response, ‘Simply terrible, Delia, never become a writer!’

'Why’s that?’

'Because, my dear girl, to be a writer is to let it consume you. When I'm not physically writing I'm thinking about writing. I could be doing anything else but really I'm always writing.’

Patsy took a drag of her cigarette as Delia looked at her curiously.

'Always?’

'Always! Doing my hair? No. Writing. Gardening? Writing. Shopping? Writing. Having a drink with the girls? I'm never really there with them, I'm writing!’

'Are you writing right now?’ Delia asked.

'Especially right now Delia,’ Patsy said as she peered over her sunglasses to look at the girl, ‘Sitting here staring off into space is where I get my best ideas you know.’

Patsy watched as Delia smiled, the woman striking a match to relight the tobacco in her pipe.

'Sounds a lot like what I do when I write a song,’ she remarked after a few puffs.  

'I'm sure the process is very similar,’ Patsy finished as she took a drag of her cigarette.

'Well I was going to invite you to come along on a walk with me and have a spot of lunch,’ Delia said as she puffed on her pipe, ‘but I'd hate to interrupt your writing process.’

Patsy jumped up immediately with a skip I her step, 'Did you also know I'm fabulous at multitasking?’

'Are you sure you aren't confusing that with procrastination?’ Delia teased as the two began to talk towards the path that led to the lake.

Patsy made a face that feigned offense as she pulled on one of Delia's braces straps and snapped it, Delia giggling in response.

The two women walked to the spot by the lake they had occupied the day before, and before either of them realized, a few hours had passed with them talking and carrying on before Mrs. Busby's cry for Delia to attend some matter or other right this instant carried through the trees from the main house. The two women walked back and went about their day.

The following day, Patsy dressed up and Delia appeared again to invite Patsy for a walk with some lunch. Same as the day after that. A whole week went by where the two had fallen into this type of schedule. Every day Delia would come around and collect Patsy, who would be waiting for her and, weather permitting, they would go for a stroll and chat, sitting in the same spot and enjoying the likes of tea and cucumber sandwiches and fresh baked biscuits.

One afternoon Delia was feeling a little blue, so Patsy picked up some apples from under the tree and began to juggle, claiming to have picked up this useless skill when she had little else to occupy her time during her six week boat trip back from Hong Kong. Patsy attempted to teach Delia how to juggle to get her mind off of whatever was troubling her, but soon abandoned the idea when Delia took one too many apples to the head. Instead, they sat in the grass and Patsy made Delia laugh by performing magic tricks, pretending to eat a flower and then pulling it out from behind Delia's ear.

Sometimes Valerie would join them and chat about her life back in Poplar, how she wanted to travel. She would sometimes bring up how much she loved Patsy's books but naturally the redhead would quickly change the subject to avoid talking about it in front of Delia.

When it was chilly or raining, they took their lunch in the empty pub. Delia would run to her room and grab her mandolin and she would delight Patsy in singing a tune or two while Patsy playfully danced with Valerie, Michael and Nicholas joining sometimes, laughing and carrying on with a huge smile on her face, even though she was a little sad it wasn't Delia she was dancing with. Her mood would be lifted when Delia offered to teach Patsy a few chords on her mandolin, and Patsy focused hard to learn how to play a little tune, the redheads heart thumping wonderfully in her chest whenever Delia would reach over and touch her, placing her fingers over the strings just right.

More time passed. March turned to April. Flowers were in full bloom now, and all the animals around the inn, it seemed, were giving birth to their next of kin. Patsy was no longer woken every morning by the church bells nearby, but the sounds of chicks peeping, piglets oinking, and little lambs bleating, everyone hungry for their mothers to feed them well before sunrise.

While she would begrudgingly wake from all animal noises, she came to find that it was actually quite pleasant to sit on her rocking chair in front of her bungalow before the sun rose with a cup of hot tea, looking out onto the gardens. Sometimes she would catch the sight of a deer and her fawn delicately walking through the cabbage patch through the mist of the new day. It was quite a beautiful sight up until one of the dogs would dart out of nowhere barking like mad and chased them off. Patsy would be annoyed with the pup before she realized it was just doing its job protecting their food, the thing looking quite satisfied with itself as it strutted back into it's shed.

Before she went back into her own dwelling, a light flickering through a window of the second story of the main house caught her attention. Patsy wasn't quite sure as she hadn't ever been up there, but she imagined it to be Delia's room. The thought of Delia being awake and getting ready for her day comforted Patsy. She would be able to see Delia eventually and the thought made her happy.

It was Saturday and Patsy figured she could spend a little bit of time working on her project at the very least since she had nothing else to do for now.

She liked having the window open as the breeze and sound of nature helped her focus.

Patsy had fallen into the habit of reading over her father's papers and marking her notes with one hand, and holding an apple out for Alison with the other as the pony was sure to poke her head through. It had gotten to the point where Patsy didn't even realize she was doing it until she reached into her basket and felt no more apples. Only then would she look up from her work and realize the time.

That day it was nearly lunchtime and she was still sitting in her dressing gown, apparently having skipped breakfast and only now realizing it as her stomach roared and stabbed at her painfully with hunger.

She looked at her wristwatch and realized that it was nearly noon and Delia hadn't come by to collect her for lunch. Patsy felt a little hurt by it but reckoned that the woman was probably just busy or lost track of time like she had.

'No matter,’ Patsy said as she moved to get dressed for the day. She was too hungry to really bemoan the absence of Delia, so she pulled her hair back and threw on a summer dress, not bothering with makeup as she just couldn’t be bothered in the moment.

Patsy grabbed her basket and decided to go to the lake and collect more apples for Alison, and as she closed her door, she spotted a familiar figure emerging from the trees, puffing away at her pipe with her hand in her pocket. Patsy knew Delia to work some rather first jobs,and but she noticed the woman was covered in a lot more dirt than usual.

‘Goodness Delia,’ Patsy exclaimed, getting her attention, ‘what on earth did you get into? You look like you fell in the pigpen.’

‘Oh, hello Miss Mount,’ Delia said with a grin, her teeth looking extra white against the dirt covering her face, ‘I daresay I quite literally fell down a rabbit hole.’

Delia stopped by the entrance to the house and tapped her pipe against the wall to knock out the old tobacco as Patsy approached.  

‘Whatever for?’ she asked.

'Well, I-,’ Delia cut herself off as she looked over at Patsy, taking in her appearance.

Patsy noticed this and gasped, bringing a hand to hide her face, 'Oh, gosh, I didn't put on anything this morning. Didn't think I would run into anyone, honestly. I probably look horrid.’

Delia merely laughed, 'Given my current state of dress Miss Mount, I am in no position to judge someone for their appearance, especially not someone as elegant as you.’

Patsy slowly brought her hand away from her face, noting the warm look Delia was giving her.

'In fact I was just going to comment how much more relaxed you looked.’

'Really?’ Patsy said as she removed her hand completely.

'Of course Miss Mount, and… well, I apologize for staring, but I didn't know you had freckles.’

Patsy could feel herself blush, but waived her off, 'Comes with being so fair skinned I suppose. All this time in the sunshine has really made them pop.’

'Well I find them quite charming on you, very pretty,’ Delia said, 'you shouldn't feel you need to cover them up. I…,’ Delia stopped herself and shook her head slightly, 'forgive me, Miss Mount. How you choose to present yourself is none of my business.’

'Oh, that's alright,’ Patsy remarked with a smile, feeling like she was glowing.

Delia thought she looked pretty! Hallelujah!

'You know Delia, I take great joy in knowing that this small change made it so that you couldn't  help yourself and just had to tell me how pretty I looked.’

Patsy grinned at Delia's obvious state of bashfulness, feeling rather giddy that she was finally able to entice some sort of compliment out of her.

'I'm not of the habit of commenting on another person's appearance Miss mount,’ Delia said.

'Why not!’

'It's not polite,’ Delia insisted kindly.

'Only when it's unwarranted,’ Patsy replied, pointing a finger into the air, 'and as far as you and I are concerned, Delia, your comments on my appearance are very much warranted.’

Delia gave a defeated sigh as Patsy clasped her hands in front of her and twirled her skirt about her knees.

'I just want you to tell me I'm pretty,’ she said, knowing she was grinning like a fool but it was making Delia blush through the dirt that was covering her face.

Delia finally relented, 'You look very pretty today, Miss Mount.’

'Oh don't sound so miserable, Delia,’ Patsy teased, through feeling rather happy and grinning at Delia's words, ‘You should know by now I'm vain and want lots of attention.’

'Oh? I hadn't noticed,’ Delia said with a grin, and Patsy gasped and was about to reach over and pinch her for being so cheeky, when she heard a strange sound coming from Delia’s body somewhere. She looked to the woman's breast pocket in her dungarees and gasped in surprise when she saw the head of a fuzzy black, blue eyed kitten pop out.

‘Gracious!’

‘Isn’t she just?’ Delia said as she affectionately scratched the kitten between the eyes, ‘Forgot I was even carrying her around, the little thing was so quiet. Must have been so cold back on that hole,’ Delia remarked as she tenderly stroked the thing behind the ears, ‘Was down by the chicken coop earlier repairing the fence when I heard this little one making a racket. Seemed to have wondered into that rabbit hole and couldn’t find her way out.’

‘So you went in and got her?’ Patsy asked, willing herself to speak coherently as she was so overcome by the image of Delia standing there with a kitten in her pocket. The woman looked so adorable Patsy could barely stand it.

‘That’s right, Miss Mount. Was just about to take her in and feed her,’ Delia said as she pulled the kitten out and gently held her in front of her, ‘I’ve no idea where the mother is, but she looks big enough to be on her own now anyway,’ Delia looked over to Patsy with a smile, ‘Would you like to hold her?’

Patsy could only smile and nod at such an offer.

Apple basket left and forgotten on the back porch, the two women and kitten entered the house and Patsy followed Delia through the empty house to the kitchens.

While Patsy noted with high regard the state in which Mrs. Busby kept the common areas of the house, such as the dining room and lounge, the kitchens, it seemed, were Mr. Busby’s domain.

The kitchen displayed the work space of someone who held their craft near and dear  to their heart, even if it was a bit disorganized and messy to Patsy's eyes. Open shelves held an assortment of all sorts of plates and bowls, all different shapes and sizes and colors, looking as if they had been collected from thrift shops and garden sales over the years. Wooden counter tops lightly dusted with flour from preparing that mornings bread sat about waist high. Against the wall was a doorless cupboard for dry goods and teas, large bags of things sitting on the shelves and Patsy imagined that’s where the bulk of Fred's deliveries must go. Baskets hung from hooks holding things like eggs and salami, tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Several things hung from the ceiling dangerously low to where Patsy needed to duck as she stepped in further into the room, things like pots and pans, linked sausages, and bundles of herbs tied together to dry out. There was a decent sized stove and next to it a large ice box with a stainless steel handle.  

Patsy’s attention turned to Delia as she turned on the tap in the bucket sink and soaped up her hands and forearms, removing a good bit of dirt but completely ignoring her face. Patsy needed to blink and focus on holding the wiggly kitten in her hands so Delia wouldn't notice her staring.

‘Alright, let’s see,’ Delia mused to herself as she toweled off, ‘we might have a bit of cream left over from this morning,’ she threw the flannel over her shoulder and looked through the ice box, pulling out a small glass bottle with a few ounces of cream still left.

She placed the cream by the stove as she moved to fill a pot with water to heat it up. She smiled back up at Patsy as she placed the bottle into the pot.

‘Warming up a bottle just like for a baby,’ she mused.

‘She can certainly cry like one,’ Patsy said as she handed over the noisy kitten to Delia.

Patsy couldn’t help the smile on her face as she watched Delia interact with the tiny creature.

‘Aw, what’s the matter, little bean,’ Delia cooed affectionately, ‘are you hungry?’

The kitten mewled as Delia scratched behind it’s ears, and Patsy’s heart melted at the sight.

‘You really like looking after animals, don’t you?’

Delia smiled shyly, not able to meet Patsy’s eye, ‘I feel as though taking care of these little ones is as close as I’ll ever get to being a mum.’

Patsy felt a twinge of sadness as Delia’s face seemed to soften at the comment, but she pushed through a smile.

‘Well,’ Patsy started, taking a deep breath and hastily yanking the flannel from off Delia’s shoulder, ‘I feel as though cleaning up after you is as close as I’ll get to being a wife,’ she grinned, firmly grabbing Delia’s chin and holding her steady as she wiped the dirt off her face.

‘H-hey,’ Delia said through her laughter, playfully batting at Patsy as she attempted to relinquish her grip on her.

‘Really now,’ Patsy playfully chided, attempting to lighten the mood, ‘what kind of rabbits have a hole big enough for you to just dive right in to, hmm?’ she said as she continued scrubbing, ‘gracious you’re a mess!’

‘The kind that’ll destroy our garden, is like,’ Delia said with a blush as Patsy finally let go, ‘think I’ll need to have Bob go in and ferret them out.’

‘Bob?’

‘The terrier. The little brown one. It’s what he’s bred to do,’ Delia elaborated.

Delia noticed the water was bubbling in the pot so she swirled the cream in its bottle to warm it up a bit.

‘Hand me a bowl, please?’ she asked, and Patsy reached up to grab one for her.

She placed the bowl down on the counter and Delia poured a bit of the cream into it, a light blush on her cheeks. Patsy would have thought it was from embarrassment from having her face scrubbed so thoroughly if it weren’t for the hint of a smile playing on her lips.

Delia placed the kitten down on the counter, taking her pinkie and dipping it into the bowl and bringing it to the kittens mouth, letting it sniff and lick her finger before she gently guided it to the bowl. It only took a moment for the kitten to start drinking the warm cream heartily.

‘Missed a spot,’ Patsy said to herself, her tongue poking out of the corner of her mouth as she wiped a rather large bit of dirt from behind Delia’s ear.

She hadn't really missed anything, only wanting an excuse to touch Delia again.

The brunette hunched her shoulders and laughed, playfully pulling away from Patsy once more.

‘You really can’t stand to see me dirty, can you?’ Delia laughed.

‘I can’t help it, Delia, you’re just too pretty to be covered up in all that dirt!’

Delia was blushing profusely now, and Patsy merely giggled, loving the reaction she could get out of Delia from her shameless flirting.  

‘Doesn’t surprise me one bit Miss Mount,’ Delia said, ‘you’re always looking so clean and tidy. Makes me wonder if you’ve ever broken a sweat at all.’

Patsy gasped dramatically, faking indignation, ‘Delia, how dare you. What,’ she said as she placed her hands on her hips raising an eyebrow at Delia’s smirk, ‘you don’t think I know how to do things?’ she wiggled her head a bit, ‘you don’t think I can get my hands dirty, hmm? Do something useful?’

Delia bit her lip to suppress a laugh and Patsy tutted.

‘I’ll show you!’ Patsy exclaimed, feeling her competitive streak come to life, ‘In fact, I’ll feed  you, how about that? Lunch is on me today, Delia!’

'Oh, Miss Mount, I was only kidding, you really don't-,’ Delia began to plead before she was cut off.

'No no! You asked for it Delia!’ Patsy insisted, turning on her heel.

She looked around the small kitchen and stated to brainstorm things she could whip together that would impress Delia. She spotted flour and eggs and thought something simple would suffice so long as she was able to make it from scratch.

Patsy continued to playfully grumble as she filled a pot with water and flicked on a burner on the stove top, placing the pot over the heat to boil.

‘Think I can’t get my hands dirty, hmm? I’ll show you,’ she mumbled as she piled a bit of flour and salt onto the counter top and made a deep well. She looked back at Delia while cracking several eggs with one hand into the well. She looked back at Delia smartly with one eyebrow raised as she worked her hands into the picture, creating a soft dough.

She mocked anger as she kneaded the dough, giving it a firm punch or two while she grumbled that she could very well make some pasta damn it. Delia covered her mouth to suppress giggles as Patsy flattened the dough with a rolling pin.

Patsy folded the dough several times on itself and then used a knife to cut thin strips, about the width of her pinkie finger.

She sprinkled more flour and fluffed the pasta, the strands unfurling and making a heap on the counter top.

Patsy turned around and gave a triumphant clap, the flour on her hands rising into the air in a thick white puff as she situated her hands on her hips, standing proud.

‘Delia you’re about to have the most delicious lunch you’ve ever had, by George.’

‘Um… Miss Mount,’

‘Still think I’m incapable of breaking a sweat, hmm?’

‘No, but-,’

‘Think I’d shy away from getting my hands dirty?’

‘Miss Mount….’

Patsy sighed, ‘Yes, Delia, what is it?’

‘Your Pasta is on fire.’

Patsy narrowed her eyes at Delia, and swiftly turned on her heel where she found the pasta she had just made up in flames from the burner on the stove.

‘Ah!’

Patsy looked around frantically to find anything to put out the fire with. She grasped the pot of boiling water but the handles were hot, and she swore and immediately let go, the water spilling everywhere as the pot clamored to the floor noisily.

More clamoring ensued as Patsy flailed around awkwardly, reaching up above her head, her hands knocking into just about every pot and pan hanging from the ceiling until she finally found a decently sized lid and grabbed it. Without any hesitation, she slammed the lid over the fire and held it there, leaning over to press her whole weight onto the lid, hoping to snuff out the flame.

The pots and pans above them still gently swayed above their heads, filling the kitchen with a soothing chime that did nothing to alleviate the stress in the room at the moment.

Patsy pursed her lips and blew a strand of hair out of her eye as she reached over and turned the burner off. She looked back at Delia, the woman had jumped up on the counter to avoid any boiling water from touching. She was clutching the black kitten to her chest, staring back at Patsy with wide eyes, eyebrows raised, looking much too nervous to move an inch.

Patsy slowly lifted the lid and was relieved to see that had put out the flame, but was a little distraught to see that her pasta was ruined.

‘Are you alright, Miss Mount?’ Delia asked quietly.

Patsy stood up straight and put on a smile, taking a deep breath as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

‘Sandwiches…,’ Patsy said, a bit out of breath, ‘I can do sandwiches.’

Patsy grabbed a tomato from one of the baskets hanging from the ceiling, and picked up the knife she had been using to cut the pasta with.

‘Delia do be a dear and grab some br-’

The knife came down and out in the fields, birds flew off in packs from their perches in nearby trees, startled by the shrill cry of an Englishwoman who had just sliced through her thumb.


‘Just keep it elevated like this, Miss Mount,’ Delia said softly from beside Patsy.

The two women stood side by side, Delia holding Patsy’s thumb over the sink wrapped in a flannel as she kept it elevated over her head. Patsy was bent over, her head in the crook of her elbow resting on the counter top, feeling a mix of shame and embarrassment for failing at such a simple task.

‘I’m so thankful you’re a nurse Delia,’ she mumbled.

‘Oh,’ Delia sighed, ‘I’m not a nurse anymore, Miss Mount. That time’s long past.’

‘But you still have the knowledge, don’t you?’ Patsy said, looking up at Delia, ‘You just jumped right into action knew what to do, didn’t you? You stayed completely calm. Cool as a cucumber while I stood here screaming like a banshee.’

Patsy sighed again as she dramatically dropped her head back into her elbow with a thunk .

'I wouldn't say you were screaming like a banshee. Swearing like a sailor, more like,’ Delia said in an attempt to lighten Patsy's mood.

The redhead merely grumbled.

‘I don’t know anything, Delia. I’m completely useless,’ she moaned miserably.

‘Don’t say that Miss Mount. You’re not useless.’

‘Well I haven’t got any skills, have I?’ Patsy cried, ‘Never learned a trade or anything. It’s a wonder I’ve managed to keep myself alive all this time. How am I supposed to look after someone else someday? Can’t even make a bloody sandwich.’

There was a moment of silence as Patsy sighed despondently into her elbow, barely noticing how still Delia seemed.

'Is this why you don't think you'll ever be a wife?’ Delia asked quietly, 'You don't think you're of any use in a household?’

'Well, the cleaning bit I've got down pat I think,’ Patsy admitted with a sigh, 'but as you saw, I’m not good for much else, Delia. Being around you and your family is making me realize I'm of no use!’ she exclaimed, ‘I can't cook, I don't sew or make clothing, I know nothing about living on a farm or taking care of animals. I don't make or repair anything! Jesus, Delia, I don't think I've ever even held a hammer my life!’

Patsy was on the verge of tears, almost hyperventilating. Was this what a mid life crisis felt like? What had she been doing with her life all this time? Fifteen years of schooling and grooming to look pretty and discuss politics and philosophy and literature intelligently, to what, attract a husband? She certainly didn't want  of those! And what good was all that education worth out here where she was surrounded by people who worked with their hands, used their skills to produce something or their strength to move mountains or compassion to heal people.

‘Oh, Delia,’ Patsy said, ‘I so wish I had learned a craft in which I produced something useful. Something practical.’

‘Miss Mount, you have a craft. One that is just as important to the world as shoemakers and welders,’ Delia said, her tone soft and comforting, ‘the world needs artists. It needs poets and writers like yourself to give us our humanity, and to make the world fun. To make life worth living.’

‘Still…’ Patsy groaned, thinking of only the rubbish she had managed to produce.

'Miss Mount,’ Delia said softly, placing a comforting hand on Patsy's arm, 'all these things you mentioned are skills that can be learned if you apply yourself and put in the effort, like all things. If you truly want to learn how to do something, you can, and I’m certain anyone around here would take the time to teach you if you asked.’

Delia gently peeled away the flannel to look at Patsy’s cut.

'Besides, cooking and cleaning don't make anyone a good wife,’ she said with a reassuring smile, 'my Mam and Da, for example. Da cooks and helps with the livestock and Mam is the one who runs a business. If they cared what other people thought and switched roles, then we'd be bankrupt and out on the streets, half starved to death as Mam can barely boil an egg!’

Patsy gave a half-hearted smile as Delia moved to look through a drawer, shuffling through the odd something or other before she pulled out a plaster.

‘What matters is just… the love you bring into a marriage,’ she continued as she opened the plaster and wrapped it around Patsy's thumb, ‘and together you and your spouse will figure out how to make it work, play to your strengths. How to provide for one another and your children.’

Patsy rose to her full height as she looked down at her hand in Delia's, the simple task of her wrapping her cut in a plaster so delicately and gently made Patsy feel particularly special and cared for.

'Do you feel better, Miss Mount?’ Delia's soft voice cut through Patsy's thoughts.

Patsy didn't know what came over her. Her heart felt like it was swelling with affection for the brunette and she couldn't help herself. What she did next came to her so effortlessly and naturally that she didn’t think to hesitate.

‘Yes, I feel much better Delia,’ she said, leaning down to kiss her on the cheek, 'thank you.’

The kiss was very chaste by Patsy's standards, only lingering for a moment and it was over in just a second, but as Patsy pulled away she saw a look of utmost terror on Delia's face, her shoulders hunched slightly and she was frozen in place, almost as if she had no idea what to do.

Patsy's heart sank.

Perhaps Delia wasn't ready for a kiss. Or rather, maybe she didn't like Patsy like that at all.

These last few weeks Patsy had been very aware of her own behavior, having heeded the advice of her friend Trixie to not pounce. She made the effort to get to know Delia first and let Delia get to know her, and to read Delia's body language, especially. Patsy wondered if in this moment she had been misreading the Welsh woman this whole time, what she thought was just her being shy was really her trying to keep her distance, unable to tell Patsy that she wasn’t interested. That she didn’t like her in the way Patsy liked her.

The thought made Patsy feel sick to her stomach all of a sudden.

Patsy opened her mouth to apologize, anything to fix this situation, this awkward moment, but before she could get a word out, there was a loud clamoring that made the both of them jump.

'What the blazes happened in here?’

The two women quickly turned to see Mr. Busby standing at the entrance to the kitchen as he stumbled over the pot that had fallen to the floor earlier, his mustache bristling slightly as he looked about the chaotic scene before him in his kitchen.

'Ah, sorry Da,’ Delia said, and at once the two women took a rather large step away from one another, 'had a bit of an accident…’

'Cariad ,’ Mr. Busby chided warningly, 'you better not let your Mam catch you in here in your dirty clo-’ he cut himself off, looking above his head wide eyes and  mouth agape as he spotted the black kitten crawling up a line of garlic hanging from the ceiling, ‘What the- oh Delia ,’ he scolded as Delia scrambled to reach for the kitten, ‘you know better than to bring animals in the house. Your Mam will lose her bloody temper if she sees this…’

'Sorry, Da, I just found her and she was hungry…’

'None of that now,’ he said sternly, 'you two get on out of here so I can start preparing supper,’ he stepped out of the way of the door and waved them off, 'Go on now.’

In an attempt to help and alleviate any frustration or anger, Patsy reached down and picked up the large pot that had called to the floor and placed it back on the stove.

'So sorry for the mess Mr. Busby…’

'That's all very well and good, Miss Mount, but I'll take care of it. You’ve no business being in the kitchen anyway, being a guest and all. Off with ya,’ he nodded towards the door and Patsy left, thinking it best to go. She hurried out of there quickly behind Delia.

The two women rushed out of the house and we're in the back garden once more. Patsy was relieved when Delia turned to address her, but relief turned to anxiety when she noticed Delia refused to make eye contact with her.  

‘I’m sorry about that Miss Mount. I should see if I can find this little ones mother,’ Delia said quickly, gesturing to the kitten in her hands.

‘Oh,’ Patsy attempted to respond but Delia had already turned and was out of earshot within seconds, hurrying back toward the chicken coop down the path.

Feeling quite disheartened and a little flummoxed at what just happened, Patsy thought it best to not run after her. If her little peck on the cheek had this much of an impact on the woman than Patsy reasoned that she just ought to leave it be.

With a heavy heart, her appetite lost, she went back to her bungalow and stayed there the rest of the afternoon.


The phone on the bedside table ringing shrilly jolted Patsy awake. Her heart beat frantically in her chest from being startled, but she calmed down once she realized it was just the phone.

After the whole debacle with Delia and the kitten in the kitchen, Patsy and fallen face down on her bed and hadn't moved in the last several hours, it seemed, falling to sleep with her head buried in her pillows, recounting her words and motions from that chaotic scene where she failed miserably at making the simplest thing to eat and nearly chopped off her thumb.

In her post nap fogginess she wondered who exactly would be calling her, no one really knowing she was here at the inn other than Trixie.

Patsy took a deep breath and sat up on her elbows, raking her fingers through her messy hair as she clumsily reached for the phone.

'He-’ she croaked out before clearing her throat, 'Hello?’

'Sorry to disturb you Miss Mount,’ came Mrs. Busby's pleasant yet professional voice, 'There is a Barbara Gilbert on the line for you. Will you accept the call?’

Patsy raised an eyebrow. Barbara? What was Barbara doing calling her?

'Yes, of course,’ she said.

'Hold please.’

There was an audible click and a beat of silence. Patsy used the brief moment to roll over onto her back.

‘Hello?’ came a voice that did not sound like Barbara.

'Barbara?’ Patsy asked, confused.

'No, it's Trixie,’ came the urgent voice on the other end of the line.  

'Trixie?!’ Patsy exclaimed, ‘What the bloody… Why did you lie and say you were Barbara?’

'Well you haven't rang in so long I thought you were dead. Or worse,’ her voice dropped several octaves, ‘avoiding me.’

‘Or for-,’ Patsy rolled her eyes before responding, ‘I have been busy you know. I’ve actually been working.’

‘On Delia?’ Trixie asked, and Patsy could hear the woman grinning on the other line.

Patsy flustered, ‘Trix, that’s neither here nor there at the moment,’ she said, her heart sinking as she brought her arm over her eyes, recalling their moment in the kitchen.

‘I suppose that’s not going so well, hmm?’ she mused, ‘You sound tired. You alright?’

‘Oh, you know,’ Patsy said with a stretch, ‘it’s springtime and a young man's fancy and all that?’

‘What?’

‘The animals are fornicating and having babies, Trix,’ Patsy yawned, sitting up, ‘They’re everywhere and bloody noisy. Been waking up at four o’clock these days. It’s maddening.’

‘Really?’

‘Really. They won’t shut the bloody fuck up,’ she grumbled.  

‘You sound grumpy about that. Feel like you’re missing out?’ she asked teasingly.

'Yes Trixie,’ Patsy seethed, ‘The birds and the bees. And the cows and the pigs and the sheep and god knows what other creatures are out there,’ Patsy sighed, moving to get out of bed but only succeeding to sit on the floor and lean up against the bed, ‘Everything is fucking a whole lot more than I am right now and it's not fair.’

‘Oh, Pats…’ Trixie sighed.

'Even the flowers and trees are reproducing,’ Patsy grumbled.

‘Oh, will you just tell me what’s going on already? What happened with Delia?’ Trixie pleaded.

Patsy took a deep breath through her nose.

‘Nothing. Nothing happened with Delia.’

‘Why ever not?’

‘Probably because I’ve ruined everything.’

‘Why? What happened? You didn’t pounce, did you?’

‘Trix… I…’

‘You pounced, didn’t you?’

‘I didn’t!’ Patsy exclaimed, ‘I mean… I feel like what I did could have been seen as just… something small. Affectionate!’

‘Pats, just tell me - hey!’

Patsy listened as there seemed to be a struggle on the other end of the line, two women fighting over the phone and Trixie swearing, her voice growing faint.

‘Pats,’ a deep breath of air followed, ‘how are you, sweetie?’

‘Barbara,’ Patsy sighed affectionately, ‘I’m an absolute wreck.’

‘So no better than usual, hmm?’ Barbara said, and Patsy could tell she was smiling on the other end.

I was talking to her, you know ,’ Patsy could hear Trixies faint voice say from somewhere in the room.

‘Trix, what have I said about using the phone in the bath, hmm?’ Barbara chided, ‘You’ll get yourself killed!’

‘Ooh,’ Patsy could hear Trixie bristle as water sloshed around her.

‘Babs, how are you? I haven’t talked to you in ages,’ Patsy said.  

‘Oh, I’m alright,’ Barbara said, ‘Same old. Keeping up with the hospital charity and all that.’

‘Wonderful to hear,’ Patsy managed a smile.

‘You’re getting on with your project, I assume?’ she asked, ‘Your father's memoirs, I mean, not this Delia person Trixie has told me about.’

‘Oh god,’ Patsy groaned.

‘Pats, it’s alright,’ Barbara said cheerily, ‘I’m kind of happy if you’ve found someone you want to go steady with.’

‘Oh, no, not you too, Barbara,’ Patsy sighed.

‘Why, what's the matter?’

‘Well, I… wait, what do you know?’ Patsy asked curiously.

‘Well, I know you want to jump her bones,’ Barbara said, much to Patsy’s consternation, ‘and she works at the inn? And she’s butch ? What exactly does that mean, Patsy? Is it a look or...?’ Barbara asked innocently.

‘Babs... ,’ Patsy sighed, ‘I honestly don’t know, and at this point I’m inclined to think it’s however she bloody well wants to define herself… I’m just… I’m attracted to her, alright? I know she’s not like anyone else I’ve ever been with, but there’s just something about her. I can’t help it! At first it was her her body. She’s got a farm girl’s body, you know? She makes the tractor look like an accessory, she’s got muscles so big,’ she mused.

‘Really?’ Barbara said, rather mystified.

‘God, Babs, I’ve never wanted to sink my teeth into someone so bad,’ Patsy whispered, wondering if it was her state of tiredness that was having her speak so nonchalantly. She knew that Barbara was a little more reserved, but Patsy was so enamored with Delia that she didn’t care what she said or what her friends thought.

‘Goodness… well I think I know what that's like,’ Barbara said, and Patsy could hear Tixie giggle through the phone.  

‘She works in the sun and smells like the earth, you know?’ Patsy sighed wistfully to her friend, ‘Her skin is so tan and so beautiful, Babs, you have no idea. And she’s so sweet and kind, I just,’ Patsy sighed again, ‘I’m just so completely smitten. I couldn’t help it when I gave her a kiss earlier.’

‘You gave her a kiss?!’ Barbara exclaimed.

She gave her a kiss ?!’ Patsy heard Trixie cry over the sounds of water sloshing over a porcelain tub, ‘Patsy,’ Trixie said, the receiver having been forced to her mouth, ‘you kissed her?!’

‘Calm down you two,’ Patsy sighed, ‘it was just a kiss on the cheek and… and I don't think she liked it.’

‘Oh, Patsy,’ Trixie chided, ‘what did I tell you about pouncing!?’

‘Oh, Trix, I know!’ Patsy seethed, ‘and I didn’t… not really. I was good. I only gave her a kiss on the cheek for being so sweet to me, but she basically tucked her tail between her legs and ran away,’ she sighed, ‘if that isn't a sign she’s not interested, I don't know what is.’

‘Oh, sweetie,’ Trixie said sadly.

‘Trix, I just… I’m so smitten with her. It… well, I don't think I’ve ever been rejected before! It’s terrible!’

‘Pats,’ Patsy could hear Barbara take the phone away from Trixie again, ‘It’ll be alright.’

‘She’s… I don’t know how to describe it,’ Patsy pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her free arm around them, ‘I think of her first thing when I wake up in the morning, and if a day goes by where I don't see her… well, I’m absolutely devastated.’

Patsy wiped her nose with her sleeve.

‘Trix, I don’t know if I can handle being rejected like this…’

‘Oh, Pats, but you must,’ Trixie pleaded,‘if she doesn’t like you like that… well, I mean, put yourself in her shoes. You wouldn't want some woman hanging around you that you didn't like, would you?’

Patsy’s mind momentarily flashed to Missy, and she grimaced, wondering if she were clinging that badly.

‘Or worse!’ Trixie exclaimed, ‘pretend it was a man doing the things you were doing to her!’

‘Ugh! Trixie!’ Patsy cried, ‘That's terrible! I’m not that bad! ...I merely kissed her on the cheek and… and told her to tell me I’m pretty…’

‘Pats,’ Trixie tisked.

'Oh god,’ Patsy cried, hugging her knees, ‘Trix, I mean… I can’t help it. I can't help my feelings! I just want to reach out and hold her,’ Patsy cried, ‘I want to kiss her and tell her she’s beautiful and kind and just the most wonderful person,’ Patsy sighed, feeling like she would break down into tears, ‘but she doesn’t want me… I can’t... ,’ Patsy hiccuped, tucking her head into her elbows, ‘Trixie, she has me wrapped around her finger. I’d do anything for her… even if it meant staying away... if that’s what she wanted.’

‘Oi, Delia!’

Patsy’s eyebrows furrowed as she heard the voice of one of the boys call out through her window.

‘Come on now, we’ve got to get on.’

The next sound Patsy heard was that of something clamoring to the front stoop of her room, and heavy footsteps retreating from her door.

Patsy’s mouth clamped shut, her eyes wide as her head whipped around to the front of her room.

The sound of those footsteps faded until she could hear the sound of the pub door slam shut from across the garden.

Patsy swallowed a lump in her throat as she stared at the door, ignoring Trixies pleading voice on the other end of the line to announce she was still there.

Had Delia been listening in?

‘Hang on a second, Trix,’ Patsy said sternly.

Patsy left the receiver on the floor as she stood and walked to the door, her heart racing as she slowly reached for the knob and turned.

She slowly opened the door to find no one there, only her basket that she had long forgotten before she and Delia entered the kitchen earlier that afternoon.

The door creaked as she slowly opened it wider, her eyes taking in the sight of her basket laying there on the stoop, full of apples and other things.

Patsy squinted and saw bread and cheese, slices of meat and little bowls of things like olives and pickles and a glass bottle full of water.

Had… had Delia brought her food?

‘Pats ?’ Patsy could hear the faint voice of Trixie on the line, ‘Pats? Are you there?... Patsy ?’

Trixie's voice seemed to fade as Patsy could only think of what Delia might have heard her say.

Patsy grabbed the basket and closed the door behind her, her hand coming to cover her mouth in shock as she replayed the last few things she said out loud in her head.

Had Delia really just heard all that? And if so what was she thinking? Would Patsy need to hide herself from the woman for the rest of the summer or grin and bear it. She had no idea and the thought of possibly losing Delia as a friend absolutely terrified her.

‘Patsy ?’ Patsy could hear Trixie cry frantically from the phone, her voice small and soft.

‘Are you there?... Patsy ?’

Chapter Text

Patsy lay in bed staring at the ceiling that Sunday morning, completely motionless and ignoring the urge to get up and use the loo until she had a plan. Until she figured out exactly what she was going to do.

After she had realized that the object of her affections had overheard her talking so cavalierly about said affections over the phone to her friends Trixie and Barbara, well, Patsy had the pleasure of experiencing Delia running away from her. Again. She had done it twice within the day. If that wasn’t a hint that she didn’t feel the same, then Patsy didn’t know what was.  

‘No, no,’ she said to herself, rolling over onto her side and worrying over the ring she wore on a chain around her neck. She held it between her two fingers and pressed the cool metal of the ring against her lips, finding the sensation soothing in moments like these.

She faced her window and even given the dim lighting from the sun barely appearing over the hills, she could make out the figure of Alison the pony waiting for her daily dose of apples. Patsy merely narrowed her eyes and ignored her.

She sighed.

‘She’s too shy to confront you…,’

Patsy rolled over onto her back again and groaned.

Her heart felt heavy in the pit of her stomach. Has she been misreading this these past few weeks? Why had it never occurred to her that Delia might not like her back?

Patsy sat up in bed and looked around, spotting Delia’s record player on the chest at the foot of the bed. The basket she had brought sat close by, a little lighter than how she left it as Patsy had helped herself to some bread and cheese after not having eaten all day and much too nervous to leave her room the night before.

Leaving her little things like this. Playing music together. The walks they shared every day. The conversations. The laughter.

Patsy chewed at her fingernail, her mind racing through all the moments they had shared together.   

In any other instance she would think that she was getting some very mixed signals from someone like Delia, but as it was, there was that silly little dynamic of Patsy being a guest in their home. Wouldn’t that mean that Delia was essentially required to be nice to her? Had she been faking it all this time? Simply humoring her because she had paid to be here?

‘This is terrible,’ Patsy mused to herself as she finally swung her feet over the side of the bed, ‘I’ll just… I’ll go and apologize.’

She reasoned this was the best course of action, seeing as she still had several months left to stay at their little inn and she didn’t want to make the entire summer an awkward experience for the both of them.

‘Then again,’ she admitted to herself with a heavy sigh, ‘if she wanted me to, I would leave…’

Patsy shook her head and steadied her thoughts, resolving to at the very least get dressed and look somewhat presentable before she went to find Delia and try to fix… well, try to fix whatever it was going on between them. Friendship… business arrangement. Whatever it was, Patsy didn’t think she would be able to live with herself without at least trying to make things right between the two of them.

The church bells rang in the distance signaling the changing of the hour, and Patsy rose from the bed to get ready.


Dressed down, the way Patsy knew Delia liked, in a simple jumper, trousers and white trainers, Patsy closed the door to her room and looked out onto the gardens, immediately spotting a figure through the morning mist walking from the main house towards the path through the forest.

‘Val?’

Valerie was lighting a cigarette as she walked on by, seemingly not noticing Patsy at all.

Patsy watched as the woman disappeared through the trees, wondering just where she was going. Perhaps she was just going for a stroll? Everyone else would be attending church and the only people who could possibly be out there would be Delia’s brothers Mike and Nick and they were bound to still be sleeping.

She could be going off to find Delia, someone Patsy knew would likely be having her breakfast out by the lake. She had known this since her first Sunday here at the inn when she stumbled upon the brunette doing just that. The two had shared most their meals together since then and Patsy’s heart sunk in her chest again thinking that those might have to stop.

Patsy shook her head and decided to stealthy follow Valerie, hoping that the woman would eventually lead her to Delia.

She traveled down the path, trying to be as quiet as possible to remain unseen and unheard, not quite knowing herself why she didn’t wish for her presence to be known, but she kept as quiet as possible anyway.

Patsy silently observed as Valerie walked along, whistling to herself as she puffed away on her cigarette, kicking at rocks and other things as she walked. Patsy was happy that her presence seemed to go completely unnoticed thus far.  

Valerie turned a corner past the boys bungalow near the chicken coop and Patsy followed along, almost startled by what she saw.

There Delia stood, dressed in a plain white top and jeans, her back turned to Patsy as she raised an axe over her head and swiftly brought it down.

Patsy thought for a moment she would hear the shrill cry of a poor chicken losing its head, but she was rather relieved to see that the woman was only splitting a small log in two.

Nonetheless, the action had Patsy strangling a surprised shout, and in her haste to stay quiet, she tripped over her own feet and fell into a rather thick shrubbery, falling with an oomph! on her back, legs in the air, and making quite the racket, to her dismay.

‘What was that?’ Delia asked.

Hand over her mouth to will herself to stay completely still and silent, Patsy cracked open one eye to see that Delia had indeed heard her but she was looking up to the trees, while Valerie was looking directly at her, her eyebrow raised and looking at her queerly.

Patsy gave a pleading look, pressing a firm index finger over her lips to signal for Valerie to not give her away.

The Eastender merely rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to Delia.

'Red haired fox, I reckon,’ she said with a sly smile, and Patsy bristled at her choice of words, 'think it skittered off into the shrubs over there,’ she finished, nodding her head in the opposite direction of where Patsy lay.

Patsy wanted to strangle Valerie for being such an ass but was relieved when Delia merely shrugged and turned back to her wood block, taking a moment to pull a handkerchief out of the back pocket of her trousers and wipe the sweat off her brow before she tucked it away.

'Good thing I fixed the fence yesterday,’ she mused, referring to the chicken coop.

Patsy watched as Valerie casually nodded with a hum and continued to smoke. Delia fixed her flat cap more snug on her head and bent down to pick up another piece of wood to split.

Delia took a firm stance and raised the axe over her head again, bringing it down with such force that the wood on the block split seamlessly in two, both pieces falling to the ground on either side of her. Patsy was a little distracted admiring the flex of her arms and back as she moved.

Patsy audibly gulped, trying to swallow her desire for the woman as she watched her bend down to pick up the wood and casually toss it into a wheelbarrow nearby. The sight of her shapely bum in her trousers and the flex of her arms as she tossed the wood had Patsy pleading to herself to get a hold over her hormones.

She nearly had to pinch her arm to remind herself that she was there to try and not desire Delia at all, that she was strictly there to apologize for her behavior the day before and to try and be platonic friends with her.

Try being the key word there and thus far she was not off to a great start.

Delia repeated the same motions and another log was split in two. Valerie watched on nonplussed as she took a drag of her cigarette.

'Is a cold snap coming though?’ Valerie asked, exhaling a line of smoke around her head.

Delia raised an eyebrow at her.

'No,’ she said rather short before she placed another log onto the block. The axe came down again and swiftly chopped it in two.

'Well seeing as winter is months away and there's no cold weather coming anytime soon, I can only assume you're chopping wood for the only other reason you ever chop wood,’

'Val,’ Delia said warningly.

'and that's because you're sexually frustrated,’ Valerie finished, flicking her cigarette with her thumb to ask it.

Patsy's eyes widened as Delia seemed to respond through gritted teeth.

'Valerie,’ Delia pleaded, 'I’m chopping wood because wood needs to be chopped, alright?!’

Delia hastily placed another log on the block and brought the axe down, the wood splintering off and flying in multiple directions. Patsy had to bite her lip from bursting out in laughter as Valerie comedically ducked out of the way.

'Alright, steady on,’ Valerie said as she stepped out of the way from danger, 'just couldn't help but notice you seemed a little wound up after last night.’

'I’m fine,’ Delia said through clenched teeth as she set up another log.

'Did something happen with Patsy?’ Valerie asked casually.

'No, nothing happened. Why would you think that?’ Delia said quickly, bringing the axe down and splitting the log once more.

'Uh, gee, I don't know,’ Valerie said condescendingly, bringing a finger to her chin in fake contemplation, ‘I feel like the two of you have been acting pretty peculiar since last night,’ she said, giving a side eye to Patsy who was currently laying practically upside down in the bushes, the redhead merely narrowing her eyes warningly and scowling in response.

'Why?’ Delia asked quickly, ‘Did you talk to her? Did she say something?’

'Well she didn't make an appearance in the pub at all last night, and for all I know since she's been here she hasn't missed a performance by you and the boys yet,’ Valerie replied.

Delia merely grunted.

'And anyway, why would Patsy say something if there's nothing going on, hmm?’ Valerie hummed, smugly taking another long drag of her cigarette.

'Oh, shut it,’ Delia bristled before she brought another log to the block and sliced it in half. She bent down and chucked the pieces into the wheelbarrow as Valerie leaned against a tree and continued smoking.

'You finally tell her you fancy her?’ she asked.

Patsy held her breath, her eyes wide.

'What are you talking about?’ Delia asked.

'Oh, come off it. You've been done in ever since she arrived,’ Valerie chided, exhaling a line of smoke above her head.

'Have not,’ Delia said stubbornly.

'Yes you have!’ Valerie stated, eyebrows rising, ‘First I thought you were a nervous wreck and tripping all over yourself because you were a fan of her books, but it just turn out you like her something awful!’

‘I do not!’ Delia insisted, although not very convincingly.

‘What’s worse is that it's so painfully obvious to everyone but you that she fancies you too,’ Valerie quipped.

Delia looked sternly at Valerie for a moment and Valerie held her challenging stare, eyebrow raised and eyes wide, sucking on her cigarette and silently daring for Delia to deny it all again.

The brunette finally relented, her shoulders slumping as she sighed and brought the axe down to stick straight out of the chopping block.

'No, I'd say it's pretty obvious to me too,’ she said softly, placing her hands on her hips.

'Oh, you finally take a hint?’

'Take it… more like I was bludgeoned over the head with it,’ she mumbled.

Valerie scoffed, apparently taken back by this information.

'So something did happen then?’

'Might of…’ Delia shuffled from one foot to the other nervously, bringing her hand to fidget with her hat nervously.

'Will you just tell me already?’

'I…,’ Delia started, removing her cap and scratching the back of her head, ‘yesterday. She had a bit of an accident in the kitchen. I patched her up and she… she kissed me on the cheek,’

‘That's a start,’ Valerie interjected, ‘what happened after?’

‘If you let me get it out…,’ Delia sighed through her nose, annoyed at the interruption as she situated her cap back on her head.

‘Well?’ Valerie asked impatiently, moving to chuck her cigarette and pull out a new one from her pocket.

'I… it took me by surprise, is all. Da came in and interrupted thankfully; had no idea what to say or do in the moment, did I? Made a fool of myself by making up some excuse about that damn cat and ran off.’

'Well are you sure,’ Valerie shrugged, taking a puff of her new cigarette, 'I don't know, maybe she just kissed you on the cheek because she felt like it? Blimey mate, you did something nice for her and she kissed you on the cheek, it's a completely normal thing to do. It's not like she proposed or something.’

‘That's what I thought too after I had a chance to think about it,’ Delia said, ‘Figured she was just being nice after I bandaged her cut, but then…’

'But then?’ Valerie asked, leaning forward and wide eyes.

Patsy too was listening in, absolutely captivated from her spot in the bushes.

‘Later I… well I think… I think I made her feel bad for kissing me because she didn't leave her room the rest of the day,’ Delia sighed and reached up to scratch the back of her head, ‘I brought her some supper and I think she was talking to a friend on the phone when I walked up. She said… well, she said in so many words… that she fancied me.’

Patsy could feel herself blush recalling the 'so many words’ she used to describe how she felt about the woman.

'Well go on then, Deels!’ Valerie urged, ‘What's holding you back, hmm? She's a proper looker that one, seems like she'd be terribly sweet on you too.’

'Val!’ Delia chastised, turning pink in the face, ‘I can't!

'Why? And don't give me that whole 'She's a guest’ spiel,’ Valerie pointed a finger warningly, ‘You used that excuse with that one Irish bird that was passing through and you let a good thing go to waste. I’m not going to stand by and watch you go through all that again.’

Patsy couldn’t help the twinge of jealousy that pierced through her chest at the mere mention of another woman Delia may have had affections for. She quickly shook it off, pleading with herself to steady on.

'Valerie, just no. It can't happen,’ Delia insisted, her tone stern yet soft.

'Why the bloody hell not?!’

Delia sighed, exasperated, ‘Val really…’

‘No, I want to know why!’ Valerie insisted, ignoring Delia’s state of anxiety over this whole conversation.

‘Because she's posh, that's why!’ Delia shouted, gesturing to her state of dress, ‘Look at me, Val! Everything I own is rubbish. I'm rubbish,’ she said sadly, ‘I've got no money, no property, no title... It's pointless. I've nothing to offer her, and…’

Patsy watched as Delia pulled her handkerchief from her pocket again and wipe her face, and she couldn't tell if she was wiping away sweat or tears.

‘... and she's just going to go back to her glamorous life back in London come the end of the summer and forget all about her time here,’ she said, ‘She’ll forget all about me…’ Delia said softer, shyly rubbing the back of her neck, ‘She can do so much better than me too,’ she added feebly.

'Ah, Delia come on now,’ Valerie said, letting up on her earlier harsh tone, ‘You really think she's that shallow? After all the time you've spent with her?’ she took a puff of her cigarette and blew it out, ‘Figured you would have known her better than that by now.’

Delia merely sighed as she tucked her handkerchief back into her pocket

‘It's your own self who's holding you back it seems,’ Valerie continued, ‘Really, why would she come all the way out here to work if she could have stayed back in London? Or Paris or wherever else people go to write or make art’ she said, waving her arms about, ‘she doesn’t seem to care about all that. She's not like those women she writes about in her series you know,’ Valerie said, 'least I don't think so. Doesn't seem like the type, anyway...’

Valerie raised an eyebrow and gave a knowing look to Patsy, the redhead silently shaking her head in response, hoping Delia wouldn’t look over and see her laying there.

'I wouldn't know. Haven't read any of her books other than the first few chapters of the one you loaned me,’ Delia replied.

'Why not?’ Valerie asked, ‘Figured you'd want to gobble up anything she wrote.’

'Because she asked me not to, that's why,’ Delia replied softly.

Patsy was quite taken back, rather touched by Delia respecting her wishes to not read her old, rubbish books.

'Don't see what that's any reason for you to not give me my book back,’ Valerie grumbled.

'I told you, I lost it, alright?’ Delia said, obviously lying to cover for Patsy, ‘I'll buy you a new one soon as I have some money.’

‘Oh,’ Valerie bristled, ‘I don’t see why you and your brothers don’t take some of my tip money. The crowd you three bring in alone would buy a whole book store by now.’

‘No, Val, those tips are yours,’ Delia insisted, ‘you save it and get the hell out of here when you can.’

Valerie rolled her eyes, sighing despondently as if this was a fight she knew she couldn't win, 'Delia, look,’ she said getting back on topic, ‘you're only going to make yourself miserable by denying yourself this. Who cares if it only lasts a summer?’

'I don't want something that only lasts the summer,’ Delia said firmly, pulling the axe out of the stump again.

'Of for the love of,’ Valerie smacked her hand against her forehead, ‘When is another beautiful posh redhead that fancies you ever going to come through this town ever again? Hmm?’ she asked, ‘You better jump on it or I will!’

‘Oh, will you now?’ Delia raised an eyebrow and stood firm raising the axe in her hand slightly.

'Alright, only joking,’ Valerie said quickly, taking a few steps away from Delia, 'sheesh Delia if only you had a glare like that when you were...,’ she trailed off, seemingly stopping herself before she said something by mistake.

'Wouldn't have stopped 'em and you know it,’ Delia said, looking angry.

Patsy was confused by this little comment but she couldn't help but think this was in reference to the incident Valerie mentioned her first day here, the details neither she nor Delia had yet to disclose to her.

Delia tossed the axe into the wheelbarrow on top of her mound of chopped wood.

'Look, please don't say anything to her, alright?’ Delia pleaded, looking to Valerie.

‘Promise,’ Valerie said, raising her right hand like a proud scout while crossing the fingers of her left hand behind her back, ‘Are you going to buck up and talk to her then?’ she asked.

Delia merely narrowed her eyes and glared.

'Seriously Delia,’ Valerie continued, ‘You fancy her and she fancies you. Don't deny yourself this little bit of happiness and fun, even if it is temporary.’

'Val, I don't want temporary,’ Delia implored, ‘She's going to leave at the end of the summer and that's that. May as well save myself the heartbreak and not start anything to begin with.’

'You'll at least talk to her yeah? Can't be avoiding her the rest of the season,’ Valerie insisted.

Delia gave a frustrated sigh, 'Yes, alright? Look… I’ve got to go into town today anyway. I'll go and see her round lunchtime and invite her along, yeah?’

Delia picked up the wheelbarrow and began rolling it back down the path and towards the main  house. She paused for a moment and looked back at Valerie.

'You coming in for breakfast?’ she asked.

'I'll be along,’ Valerie nodded, ‘Need to see Micky about a thing.’

Valerie grinned and Delia gave her an odd look, Patsy rolling her eyes from her spot in the bushes, thinking Valerie was a terrible liar.

Delia merely shrugged and continued on down the path, and Patsy watched her go, waiting until she was well out of earshot before she even dared to exhale.

Her breath of air turned into a shout as a pair of hands abruptly grasped her jumper and hoisted her out of the bushes. She was upright and on her feet so fast her head was spinning.

'Heard everything you came out here for, then?’ Valerie asked removing her hands from Patsy’s jumper only to pull the cigarette from her lips and blow out a line of smoke around her and Patsy's head.

‘I'm sorry what?’ Patsy asked, blinking, still a little kerfuffled from being pulled upright so quickly.

'That's why you followed me out here hmm?’ Valerie asked, ‘See if I could get Delia to talk?’

Patsy sighed, 'Look, I didn't mean for this to happen,’ she insisted.

'What, hide in the bushes? Good thing because you’re a terrible spy since I spotted you straight away.’

‘Oh, hush. I certainly did not intend to spend a good portion of my morning in the bushes,' Patsy said as she tilted her head and rubbed her shoulder, hoping to alleviate the crick in her neck from having to lay in such an awkward position for so long, ‘I don't make it a habit to eavesdrop on others, I promise. I actually came out here to find Delia but you beat me to it.’

'You were looking for Delia?’ Valerie asked, seemingly not surprised at all by this revelation.

‘Yes,’ Patsy insisted, plucking a leaf from her hair and flicking it away, ‘I was going to apologize to her because I thought I upset her yesterday… and, well, I did but not for the reasons I thought I did.’

'Really?’ Valerie asked, genuinely intrigued.  

'Yes,’ Patsy sighed looking back to here Delia walked off to make sure the brunette was out of sight, ‘Thought she didn't like me at all and that I had come on too strong with my little peck on the cheek,’ she reached up to scratch the back of her head nervously, ‘though it seems she's smitten with me, too?’ she asked, still a little unsure.

‘Oh, yes,’ Valerie replied, throwing her cigarette to the ground and stomping it out, ‘she likes you very much from what I can tell.’

Patsy sighed once more, fluffing out the leaves and dirt from her jumper and standing up straight to show she was serious.

‘Look, you didn't have to pretend I wasn't there and make her say all those things. Though I appreciate you did. Your little chat cleared up some things I was uncertain about, that's for sure,’ she gave a reassuring smile, 'feel like I know how I can move forward.’

Valerie shrugged, 'Figured I'd help you out seeing as I can't take my friend pining over you any longer.’

'Well you heard her,’ Patsy said with a heavy heart, ‘She seems to have convinced herself that it’d only be something temporary in her life, and …,’

‘And you wouldn’t be?’

‘Well that's the thing,’ Patsy said, uncertain, ‘I don’t know. I don't know what comes next for me when I'm done here. My future after this summer is completely uncharted…’

Patsy knew she really liked Delia. She was absolutely attracted to her, that was for sure, but what about how she truly felt for the woman deep down in her heart?

In the time she had known Delia, she felt she only wanted to spend more time with her. Delia was the first thing she thought of when she woke in the morning and the last thing on her mind before she fell asleep at night. She was so happy when she spent time with Delia and unhappy when she was without her.

But was this love? Wasn't this just infatuation? She knew deep down that she had felt this before with other women and yet somehow it wasn’t the same with Delia. Somehow Patsy, as of yet, hadn’t grown tired of the Welsh woman like the other women she had been with.

Then again, Delia was unlike any woman she had ever met.

Yet, Patsy didn’t know if she could love her. She had never been in love before, not with a romantic partner, certainly. She had no idea if she were capable of the act, and even if she was, there was no guarantee that Delia would love her back. She had no idea if they were meant to be, and she wouldn't know. Especially if Delia refused to give her a chance.

'So there's a chance then, yeah?’ Valerie asked with hope in her eyes, 'That you might stay?’

'Val, that's the whole point’ Patsy sighed exasperated, ‘She wants something stable and I can't give that to her, and it doesn't sound like she's willing to take that risk…,’ she trailed off sadly, looking down and moving some dirt around with her toe, 'I feel like it would take an act of God at this point for her to give me a chance otherwise.’

'Oh, don't be so dramatic,’ Valerie said, waving her off, ‘she’ll come around eventually even if I need to give her a good swift kick in the arse to get there.’

Patsy couldn't help but give a laugh, 'You really want to see us together?’

'Course I do,’ she said with a sigh, 'she's my best mate. She's done so much helping me get my life back on track after I lost my license that I'd do anything for her, you know? I just want to see her happy after everything she's been through the last few years.’

'Does it…,’ Patsy started softly, looking around, ‘does it have anything to do with…’ she trailed off and pointed to her eyebrow, mimicking where Delia's scar was on her own forehead.

Valerie sighed, 'Might be part of it, yeah.’

'I take it you're not going to tell me what happened?’ Patsy deadpanned and Valerie gave a stern nod.

‘Not mine to tell. Besides, I feel like you've been given enough unsolicited information about our Delia this morning.’

‘I suppose that's fair…,’ Patsy said looking off into the distance, still taking in everything Delia had said. She reasoned that she would need to be more careful with her. She decided right then and there that however she and Delia moved forward if at all, she would let Delia set the pace.

Though, Patsy just couldn't bring herself to promise to stop the shameless flirting.

'I'm not like that you know,’ Patsy insisted, Valerie looking at her and waiting for her to continue.

Patsy's hand instinctively reached up to cradle the ring around her neck.

‘I don't care about money or status,’ she sighed, the image of her mother and sister, though faded with time, flashed to the front of her mind, ‘everything I have in this world… I'd give it all up for the people I love in a heartbeat.’

She looked up to Valerie when she felt the woman place a comforting hand on her arm.

'I'm not the one you should be saying this to,’ Valerie said, ‘but Pat's, if it means anything, I believe you.’

Patsy smiled as Valerie gave her arm a friendly squeeze and stepped back.

‘You know,’ Valerie said slyly, ‘when you first showed up I thought you was going to be like one of them girls you wrote about in your books,’

Patsy froze her eyes widening,

‘You know, the pompous, wishy washy types who flit from girl to girl breaking hearts and the like.’

‘Aha, yep,’ Patsy laughed awkwardly, ‘completely fictional and not based on real life whatsoever, I assure you,’ she lied terribly.  

‘Well they do say write what you know,’ Valerie eyed her skeptically.

Patsy felt hot under her jumper suddenly, and she nervously hooked a finger under her collar to let out some of the heat.

‘Pats, relax,’ Valerie said, ‘I’m only teasing. Besides, I know you wouldn’t go and break Delia’s heart on purpose now, ‘cause if ya did, I’d kill ya!’ she finished with a grin and slapped Patsy on the back.

Patsy forced a laugh but wasn’t entirely convinced Valerie was only joking.

'Ah well,’ Valerie said as she scratched the back of her head, ‘best be getting on with the day I suppose. And hey, I think you might have a date today.’

'A date?’ Patsy asked, her eyes wide.

'Well, sort of,’ Valerie shrugged with a smile, ‘Delia will be taking you into town, if I remember correctly. You play your cards right you might get an iced lolly out of it,’ she said with a suggestive wiggle of her eyebrows.

'Oh! I forgot about that!’ Patsy exclaimed, her emotions going from scared to happy in an instant.

Valerie smiled at how excited Patsy was, reaching up to pluck another leaf from her hair.

'You might want to go and tidy up. Not that Delia is a stickler for how ya dress but I don't think you want to have any evidence on you that you were hiding in the bushes.’

'Ah, thanks Val!’ Patsy said as she began to run off, plucking at loose twigs that were still stuck to her jumper.

She ran the rest of the way back along the path and to the main house, making sure Delia was nowhere in sight as she snuck back to her room to get ready, excited at the thought of spending the day with Delia.

Chapter Text

Patsy quickly swung the door to her bungalow open only after Delia gave half a knock, slightly startling the smaller woman.

'Oh!’ Delia said at Patsy’s abrupt appearance, nervously clearing her throat, 'Uh, h-hello, Miss Mount.’

Patsy chastised herself for seeming too eager but forced a smile anyway.

'Hello, Delia,’ she said, taking a step back and working to relax her posture slightly.

'You look nice,’ Delia said, a smile gracing her features as she gave Patsy's appearance a once over.

Patsy was not regretting the yellow sleeveless summer dress she chose to wear, given the look Delia was throwing her way just then. She rested her hand on the door frame, showing off the freckles on her shoulders that Delia had said she thought were so cute the other day.

'Thank you Delia. You look rather darling yourself,’ Patsy said, thinking the woman did look very dashing in her button down shirt and black trousers with braces to match. It was probably the nicest outfit she had seen Delia wear in the several weeks she had been there. She had her sleeves rolled up to the elbow and she was wearing the same flat cap she always did, but it really seemed to tie her whole outfit together.

'Are you going out?’ Delia asked, looking a little concerned.

Patsy faltered slightly, remembering that she wasn't supposed to know that Delia was going to invite her into town that afternoon.

She quickly recovered and gave as natural of a smile as she could.

'Hadn't planned on it, but you know,’ she mused, ‘sometimes a girl just likes to get gussied up for no reason.’

'Oh, I see…’ Delia said, looking over her shoulder and giving a side eye towards the small pub attached to the house.

Patsy followed her gaze and saw Valerie leaning out one of the windows, smoking a cigarette. She spotted the two of them looking at her and she merely grinned and wiggled her fingers at them.

Delia turned back around, looking a little annoyed at her friends antics, and Patsy played dumb.

'Um, Miss Mount,’ Delia started, forcing a more pleasant look on her face, ‘I was wondering if you would like to accompany me into town this afternoon?’ she asked, removing her cap.

Patsy couldn't help but smile back at her endearingly, thinking she looked rather cute as she fidgeted with her flat cap in her hands.  

‘I'll be needing to go into the hardware shop for a few things, but if you like I can take you to the record shop,’ Delia finished, looking back at Patsy hopefully, ‘there’s also a book shop and a place to stop for a cuppa.’  

‘Delia that all sounds absolutely splendid,’ Patsy beamed.

‘Oh,’ Delia seemed to breathe a sigh of relief, ‘well, very good then,’ she said as she situated her cap back onto her head, ‘shall we go now?’

‘Yes, just,’ Patsy was humming with excitement and she couldn't handle it, ‘just need to grab something. Be ready in a tick!’

She shut the door as quickly as she opened it, pausing only for a beat before she turned around and screwed her eyes shut, her mouth opening in a silent cry.

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!

She mouthed the words silently and punched the air as she hopped on her two feet excitedly.

They were going on a date!

Patsy stopped her motions and reminded herself to breathe.

Alright, not really a date-date, but they both looked so cute and they were going out !

While she would never force Delia into anything she didn't want, she knew she needed to play it cool, make it so that Delia could see she was worth taking a chance for, a chance that they could try to date like a proper couple, to be together and be happy.

‘Best behaviour, Mount. No pouncing,’ she said quietly to herself, remembering everything she had overheard while hiding in the bushes that morning.

Patsy grabbed her clutch and opened the door.

‘Got it!’ she said, and exited her room, joining a rather nervous looking Delia on the porch.

Delia extended her hand, indicating for Patsy to step forward, ‘Shall we?’

The two walked through the gardens and into the main house, Patsy noting that Valerie was not so subtly watching them the whole time, practically hanging out the window and giving them a thumbs up as they walked past.

Patsy was about to play dumb and ask Delia why Valerie was being so peculiar today, but when she turned to look at the woman, she saw Delia looking much more nervous than usual. She decided to change her course of action.

‘Will we be walking into town?’ Patsy asked, hoping a bit of conversation would help alleviate some of Delia’s nerves.  

‘Erm, no, Miss Mount. I’ve got the Vespa parked out front just here,’ Delia said, motioning towards the front door by the reception desk.

‘Vespa?’ Patsy asked.

She stepped through the door out to the front of the main house and indeed saw a Vespa, painted blue with a white stripe down the middle and chrome fixtures. There was a basket situated on the back with a satchel carrying something that Patsy could not make out, but she didn't really care in the moment.

‘Got this from Fred sometime last fall,’ Delia said, looking up at Patsy to gauge her reaction at their method of transport that day, ‘Said he and his daughters didn't use it anymore and that I could have it if I fixed it up, and I did,’ Delia said rather proud, ‘I haven’t had a chance to take her out so far this year and I thought the weather was good for a little bit of a ride, erm, so long as you don’t mind riding sidesaddle, of course.’

‘Mind?’ Patsy asked, looking over the beautiful blue scooter.

The thought of riding into town with her arms wrapped around Delia made Patsy overwhelmingly excited again, and she needed to work very hard not to grin like an absolute fool.

If she recalled correctly from her journey from the train station to the inn, the ride into town would take ten minutes. She would get ten blissful minutes with her arms wrapped around Delia! Oh my god! Patsy exclaimed to herself, they would ride back together, too! That doubled her time! She would spend at least 20 minutes with her arms wrapped around Delia today! She thought to herself that she would need to make the most of it.

‘Oh, Delia, I don’t mind at all,’ she said happily, not able to contain twirling her skirt around her knees just a little.

‘Splendid,’ Delia smiled, moving to remove her cap and tucked it into her pocket. She walked over to the satchel and pulled out a helmet and strapped it on.

A feeling of dread came over Patsy as Delia pulled out another helmet.

‘Oh, I don't need that,’ Patsy said, waving her off, ‘I trust you know how to drive this thing Delia.’

‘Miss Mount, I must insist,’ Delia said delicately, holding out the offending fixture.

Patsy pouted slightly, ‘I really don’t fancy messing up my hair.’

Delia gave a kind smile that made Patsy’s heart melt a little.

‘Miss Mount, you can always fix your hair. Risking something like a brain injury from a knock on the head is something you don't want to do. Believe me.’

Patsy blinked. The pleading look in Delia's eye led her to believe that Delia had some personal experience with that, but she chose not to ask.

‘Besides,’ Delia said with a smirk, ‘you look as if you’ve used enough lacquer to keep it wavering from anything short of the apocalypse.’

Patsy gave a look of fake indignation as and snatched the helmet from Delia’s hand while the woman giggled.

Delia sat down and turned on the engine, the scooter roaring so loud the two were unable to exchange any more words. Patsy sat side saddle behind her and begrudgingly placed the helmet on her head, not quite minding it one bit when Delia turned around in her seat to make sure it was clipped correctly and fit snug.  

Delia faced the front again, and Patsy tentatively placed her hands on her hips. She was absolutely over the moon when Delia made the simple move to grasp both her hands and wrap her arms around her waist more snug before her own hands found the handlebars and they took off.

Patsy rested her chin on Delia’s shoulder and took in the feeling of holding Delia close to her. Her body was so warm, her tummy soft. Her hair smelled like the earth and it was accented with the breeze that ran over her naked arms and whipped her skirt around her knees. Patsy barely noticed the beautiful countryside they passed, the trees and rolling hills and ancient stone walls that flew by as they rode along. They passed a field where children were playing football, and a couple who were enjoying a Sunday ride on horseback, to whom Delia beeped her horn and waived.

When they reached town, Patsy didn't want to let go, but she begrudgingly did when Delia pulled up along the side of the road and lowered the kickstand, killing the engine.

Delia hopped off and helped Patsy remove her helmet.

‘See?’ she said, reaching over and tucking a loose strand of hair back into Patsy’s little beehive, ‘nary a hair out of place, just as I thought.’

Delia’s finger gently grazed her ear and suddenly that part of Patsy’s body was on fire, a shiver running down her back as her nerve endings became alive and awake just from the simple touch.

Patsy gave what she was told her signature lopsided smirk and let out a breath of air.

Did Delia have any idea the effect she had on her?

She collected herself as Delia put the helmets in the back crate and was rather delighted when Delia extended her hand to help Patsy hop off the scooter.

She would take any excuse to touch the woman, and gladly took her hand.

‘The book shop is just here, Miss Mount,’ Delia said, nodding her head over her shoulder slightly, ‘if you’d like to pop in while I run to the hardware shop. I’ll only be a few minutes.’

‘Oh, certainly Delia,’ Patsy said kindly. She was a little sad to leave Delia's side but when it came to it, sue would much rather peruse the aisles of a bookshop than one of a hardware shop.

Delia smiled and opened the door to the shop for Patsy, a bell softly chiming to announce their arrival.

‘I’ll be right back, Miss Mount,’ she said with a tip of her hat as Patsy stepped in, and gently closed the door behind her.

While Patsy still felt a little sad Delia had walked off, her senses were suddenly overwhelmed with the smell of books and tea, and her attention turned to the shop she had stepped into.

A quiet fell over the her as the heavy wooden door shut, blocking out the noises of the street outside. Little specks of dust floated about in the afternoon sunbeams that flitted through the windows, making the little shop feel warm and cozy.

Patsy looked around wide eyed, suddenly feeling rather claustrophobic as her eyes followed the towers of books hovering over her head towards the ceiling. Her eyes panned down the long room to see that the walls were lined with several towers of books, none seeming to be in any sort of order, which rather irked Patsy as she was one to keep things neat and tidy. The shelves were just as untidy and unorganized, books laying catty corner and stacked all higgelty piggelty.

Her annoyance was abated when she spotted a white cat with ginger spots idly watching her from its perch in the window, and she reached over to give it a pat on the head.

A shuffling in the corner caught her attention and Patsy looked over to see what looked like a pile of books rustling slightly by the back of the shop.

‘Hello?’ she called out tentatively.

Patsy walked further in, her shoes clacking noisily along the wooden floor as it groaned under her weight. She ducked and twisted her body as she walked through the stacks of books, willing herself not to knock anything over, though she thought any mess she made would probably go unnoticed.

She heard more shuffling as she drew closer towards the back of the shop, a few books falling onto the floor as someone looked as if they were emerging from a deep slumber.

A woman rose from the pile of books, stretching. Her mouth open wide in a yawn while her two hands reached for the ceiling. Her curly black hair was sticking out in all directions, and she looked rather cozy in her oversized fuzzy white cardigan.

‘Oh, hello,’ the woman said, her hand reaching up to push her thick framed glasses back up her nose.

Patsy looked at the books around her and mused that the woman looked as if she were nesting in the pile, a large pillow and blankets were pushed aside near a pair of fuzzy slippers.

'Sorry about that,’ she said with a shy smile, ‘I get particularly sleepy after lunchtime.’

'I can only imagine,’ Patsy smiled finding this woman terribly disarming and rather endearing. Even her Jamaican accent was refreshing to her ears and made her want to know more about the woman.

She looked down at the pile and read the title of the book on top of the stack.

'Kierkegaard?’

‘Hmm?’ the woman asked, ‘Oh, yes, I do enjoy a bit of philosophy with my afternoon tea.’

She sighed and picked up the book.

'I appreciate his appreciation for authenticity, you know. To be yourself despite outside pressures or obligations.’

'I think I know a woman like that,’ Patsy mused, thinking of Delia, ‘though the man is a bit too existential for my tastes.’

'That so?’

'Oh, I suppose,’ Patsy sighed, ‘I personally tend to waffle back and forth between existential and nihilist depending on my mood.’

'I think that's what many people do, quite honestly,’ the woman said as she fussed with her glasses again, 'though I prefer to see the good in life. After all, how can you look out onto the beauty of the Earth and all its creatures and think it's all pointless?’

Patsy smiled, 'I quite agree. Especially these days,’ she said, her thoughts drifting back to Delia once more.

Patsy blinked out of her thoughts, willing herself to try and think of other things, but was finding it rather difficult.  

The woman merely smiled kindly up at Patsy before she looked as if a thought occurred to her.

‘Ah, sorry were you looking for something?’

'Well, I suppose I've come to find a book for a friend,’ she said looking around, ‘though by the looks of it I daresay it's not the type of literature a small shop like this would carry.’

'Oh, you'd be surprised,’ the woman said, ‘this shop might be small but we carry a eclectic sort,’ she pointed a firm finger in the air, ‘people come in and request all sorts of things so I try to keep a wide variety.’

‘You don’t say?’

A phone ringing from somewhere underneath a stack of papers made both of the women jump slightly.

The woman looked around and pushed a pile of papers to the floor to reveal a rather ancient looking rotary phone. She slowly picked up the receiver and brought it to her ear.

'Hello?’ she asked as if she had never used a telephone before.

Patsy overheard a little squabbling voice on the other line.

'Ah, yes Ms. Crane, your book of Spanish poetry just arrived in the post yesterday… yes I have it…’ the woman pushed away more papers and picked up a small paperback book, 'sitting right here in front of me on my desk… Uh huh, yes. See you later this evening. Goodbye.’

The woman put the phone back down and pushed her glasses up her nose again.

'Sorry about that. Ms. Crane is learning Spanish, which I’m sure by now she has told the entire community,’ Patsy watched as the woman closed her eyes, looking as if she were suppressing an eye roll, ‘When she takes on an endeavor the woman really commits to it.’

‘I see,’ Patsy said politely.

'Do you know her?’

'Can't say that I do. I'm just a weary traveler passing through and don’t really know many people, come to think,’ Patsy looked up in thought, ‘I'll be around for the summer at least.’

'Ah, plenty of time to meet the locals,’ she smiled 'when I arrived I was rather nervous as I knew no one at all, but everyone is so friendly. I daresay just about everyone in this town has passed through here at least once.’

'Really?’

'Oh yes, I try to make it a point to at least learn everyone's name. Think a welcoming environment makes them come back. Makes more avid readers out of them, I hope. Besides, why wouldn't you want to come to a place where people know your name?’

‘Fair point,’ Patsy nodded.

'Speaking of which, what's yours?’ the woman asked.

'Patsy Mount,’ she said, smiling as she extended her hand.

'Lucille Anderson,’ she said, grasping Patsy’s hand and giving a shake.

'Pleasure.’

'Now,’ Lucille said looking around, 'you were looking for something, yes? For your friend’

'Ah, yes,’ Patsy started a bit shy, not wanting to go into the details of what she was looking for, ‘if you could point me in the direction of your fiction? I'm afraid to admit a friend of mines book became a casualty in a rather heated moment of panic and I've come to replace it.’

'Do you remember what the book was called?’

Patsy sighed, 'Spitalfield Spitfires? That's the name of the series anyway. The title of that particular book, ehm,’ Patsy blushed and cleared her throat, not quite wanting to say the raunchy The Honey Pot out loud, ‘well, I forget, but I think I would remember it if I saw it,’ she lied.

'Gay fiction,’ Lucille said, deadpan.

Patsy looked taken aback, surprised she had even heard of the series, ‘Oh… I… I suppose it is.’

‘Yes, but it is in the gay fiction section over here,’ Lucille said, rounding the desk and walking through a few towers of books towards the back of the shop.

Patsy followed carefully and watched on as Lucille approached a shelf packed with books, several paperbacks that looked worn with the pages frayed were stacked on top one another, the spines of very few books actually facing out and on display for customers to read. Patsy was rather surprised that a small town shop like this would even have a section dedicated entirely to gay fiction, but there it was.

‘I’ve read just about every book I sell here, Patsy,’ she said, ‘and I must say the Spitalfield Spitfire series is quite a treat.’

Patsy raised an eyebrow, rather shocked, ‘Really?’

‘Oh yes, I quite enjoy a little fluff from time to time to help balance out all the heavy things.’

‘Like Kierkegaard?’

‘Precisely,’ she smiled.

Patsy watched as Lucille scratched her head and shuffled more books around, picking up several books and cradling them in her arms.

‘Well, I suppose these can’t be so terrible if an esteemed reader such as yourself has deemed them worthy to sell in your shop,’ Patsy quipped.

‘Now why would you think that?’

‘Oh, no reason,’ Patsy lied with a smile.

‘Now, which were you looking for again? Let’s see what we have here…’

Lucille picked up one book from her pile and read the title.

‘Bosom Buddies?’

‘Um,’ Patsy’s narrowed as Lucille began to go through the stack and read the titles out loud.  

‘Tongue in Cheek?’

‘No…’

‘Licker-License?’

‘Nuh-uh,’

‘Klon-dykes of the Yukon? That has follow on called Fur Traders.’

‘Yes, I’m very much aware,’ Patsy was hiding her face behind her hand now, wondering just where she came up with these titles. She must have been out her tree when she thought them up.

‘The Honey Pot?’

‘Yes!’ Patsy exclaimed rather abruptly, so very thankful that she didn't need to hear any more of a recap of her terrible and silly series, ‘yes, that’s the one. I’ll take that.’

‘Very well,’ Lucille said, placing the books back down in a stack and grabbing the desired paperback.

She walked back through the stacks of books and rounded her desk, pushing a large button on the register causing the drawer to pop open with a ding.

‘So you've really read everything in here?’ Patsy said, looking around at the what seemed like hundreds of books as she pulled some coins out of her clutch.

‘Oh yes,’ Lucille said, taking her money, ‘I like to know what I’m selling, don’t I? Helps to be able to recommend books to customers, too. Besides, I enjoy learning. I like knowing things. Makes me feel useful when people need advice or guidance.’

‘Must be nice!’ Patsy smiled, ‘I feel so bloody clueless most of the time, suppose I could do with a bit more reading myself.’

Lucille scooted the Kierkegaard towards her, ‘Well you know, you could always brush up on your philosophy,’ she said with a sly smile.

Patsy held up her hand, ‘I’ll have to pass for now. I have an important project I’m working on this summer and I have enough distractions as it is.’

‘Very well,’ Lucille said, chucking the coins into the register.

Lucille looked down at the book in her hand before she moved to hand it over to Patsy, pausing for a moment.

‘The Honey Pot by Patsy Mount,’ she said, examining the book, ‘Oh!’

Patsy inwardly cringed, thinking her cover had been blown.

‘Well, look at that!’ Lucille smiled, handing the book over ‘You have the same name as the author!’

‘What a lucky coincidence!’ Patsy smiled, taking the small paperback in her hands.

The two women said their goodbyes and Patsy left the shop, being extra careful not to bump into anything on the way out, but still taking a moment to give the cat in the window a parting pat on the head.

When she was on the street again, she spotted Delia by the Vespa placing a paper bag into the basket and a spool of rather thick rope.

‘Goodness me, what do you plan to do with that?’ Patsy asked as she approached.

Delia looked up at her and smiled, ‘Oh, just planning on using it to put together a little something I thought would be nice.’

‘Aren’t you going to tell me?’ Patsy asked, raising her eyebrows with a smirk.  

‘No,’ Delia shrugged with a sly smile.  

Patsy playfully rolled her eyes, ‘Oh, very well. Hey, look what I found!’

She held up her book and Delia smiled when she read the title.

‘Now Valerie can have her book back and you’re off the hook for losing it,’ she joked.

Delia raised an eyebrow, ‘Did Val tell you that’s what happened?’

‘Erm,’ Patsy stumbled, remembering that she wasn't supposed to have overhear her and Valerie’s conversation earlier, ‘Oh, um, yes. She said you lost it when I very well know you could have tattled on me for chucking it into the lake,’ she smiled, ‘thought it was only fair that I be the one to replace it.’  

She placed the book into the basket and looped her arm through Delia's, the smaller woman flustering slightly at the sudden contact.

‘Now where can a girl get a soda pop around here?’ she asked, guiding the two of them to walk along the street and hopefully distracting Delia enough to where she wouldn’t suspect anything.

The two women carried on, walking arm in arm down the street. Patsy was absolutely glowing, feeling rather happy and proud to be on the arm of someone she thought to be so sweet and handsome. She noticed that Delia couldn’t stop smiling as they walked on and chatted, a slight blush on her cheeks as her dimples came through.

They nearly passed a fish and chips shop before Patsy insisted they stop for a snack, to which Delia happily obliged. They sat side by side on the pavement and shared a basket of the fried indulgence, Patsy carrying on animatedly about Lucille and the bookstore and how fascinating she found it all. Delia replied in kind by sharing her own stories of the other shop owners in town, going on about their interesting stories, but Patsy was most particularly fascinated hearing the story behind  Fred the grocery she his pig, Princess.

'Most pigs around here are affectionately named Easter Supper or Christmas Roast,’ Delia explained, popping a chip into her mouth, 'but Fred made the mistake of actually naming his pig. When the time came to send her off to the butcher, he just couldn't do it. Said it just didn't feel right,’ she shrugged, 'and now that pig lives up to her name.’

Patsy laughed and licked the salt off her fingers, feeling particularly giddy when she caught Delia staring with a blush.

The two cleaned up and continued walking along with their arms linked, and Patsy was happy to feel that Delia was becoming more relaxed with her touches as the afternoon wore on.

They continued chatting, sharing jokes and window shopping, looking at things like dresses and toys and confectioneries. The two would pop into a shop when they wanted to try on things like hats and sunglasses, and Patsy would admire a pretty necklace or earrings while Delia looked at wrist watches.

Patsy was having so much fun that she didn't realize how late in the day it had gotten until she noticed some of the shops around her were closing their doors and flipping the signs in the window from open to closed.

'Oh, I suppose we should be heading back soon…’ she said sadly.

‘Not yet,’ Delia said with a smile, ‘there's one more shop I've been meaning to take you to. It'll be our last stop before we head back for supper.’

Delia looked up at Patsy with a smile and offered her arm to take.

Patsy was thrilled that Delia was offering her arm at last, and she grasped her arm without hesitation, allowing Delia to lead her to a shop across the street from where they left the Vespa earlier.

Delia reached over and opened the door, allowing for Patsy to walk through, and the woman finally found herself in the record shop Delia had mentioned earlier that afternoon.

Patsy looked around excitedly at the rows and rows of records, organized alphabetically in neat bins and looking very much unlike the book shop. Framed black and white photos of musicians and singers adorned the walls, and the shop was filled with the sounds of a blues record playing from the front of the room where a man stood behind a counter, idly smoking a cigarette and reading a newspaper.

Delia closed the door behind her and the two women joined the other handful of customers perusing the aisles of records and browsing the collections.

After a few minutes of this, a door by the back of the shop caught Patsy's attention, and she couldn't help but walk up and look through the little window in the door, almost shocked by what she saw.

The little room was actually a recording studio, all set with a microphone and a sound board and other expensive and professional looking recording equipment.

'Delia, come here and look at this,’ Patsy said waving her over.

When Delia approached, she needed to stand on her toes to see through the little window in the door.

'Oh, I know Miss Mount.’

'You know ?’ Patsy asked rather surprised 'You knew there was a recording studio here?’

‘Of course I did. Not many record shops this side of Swansea have a recording booth like this.’

'Well,’ Patsy sputtered, 'why haven't you and your brothers come in to record something?’

'Ah, well, we talked about it a few times,’ Delia said rather bashfully, ‘We just haven't seemed to have been able to scrounge up the money.’

'Really?’ Patsy asked, wondering how much it could possibly cost.

Delia sighed, rubbing the back of her neck shyly as her voice lowered to a whisper, 'Last time I checked it was still 100£ for an hour session.’

Patsy's jaw almost hit the floor.

‘100£!’ she whisper shouted.

Delia nodded and shrugged.

‘That’s outrageous!’

Patsy was a shocked at such a high price, wondering just what went into the production of a record where it needed to be so high.

She looked to Delia who shyly stood there with her hands in her pockets, giving a sad smile as if to say it was pointless. Patsy could very well just pull her checkbook out of her pocketbook and write her a check right then and there, but it was the principle of the matter, damn it She didn't want to hurt Delia's pride as she knew she worked hard for the money she earned. This was her talent, after all. Her and her brothers. She wanted the money going into them producing a record to come from them.

But that certainly didn't mean Patsy couldn't help them, even a little.

Patsy leaned in close to Delia so the clerk didn’t overhear.

'Delia, how much money have you got in your pocket?’

'Um,’ Delia pulled some coins out of her pockets and counted them in the palm of her hand, 'Got about 10£ left after the hardware shop.’

'May I have it?’

Delia placed the coins in the palm of Patsy's hand, and the redhead strode over to the front counter with her shoulders back and her head held high. She didn't even care that the gentleman behind the counter didn't bother to look up at her from his paper.

'Sir, I'd like to reserve the recording studio for one hour this time next Sunday for 10£,’ she said firmly.

The man merely chuckled as he noisily flipped a page of his paper.

'You can reserve the studio when you come back with 90£ more.’

'I will not,’ she said stubbornly, ‘I will reserve it right now with the 10£ here,’ she said, slapping the coins noisily down on the counter.

The man sighed, finally looking up at her with tired eyes with his cigarette dangling from his mouth, 'Miss, to reserve the studio for an hour is 100£, no less. Once you have the rest you can reserve the room, but until  then you can bugger off,’ he waved his hand flippantly, ‘I'm trying to run a business here…’

'Well from what I've observed you're doing a terrible job at it,’ Patsy challenged, ‘What on Earth constitutes such a high price for one hour of time in that little recording studio, hmm?’

The man shrugged with a scoff, 'Look, it's the same price here as it is in Cardiff or London.’

'Sir, I don't know if you've noticed but this is not the big city. Median income here is 100£ a week, at most, and it's astonishing anyone would ever pay that price to come in for one hour to record a 45.’

Patsy's nostrils flared in frustration as this man didn't seem to want to budge. She whipped around and pointed a finger to Delia, who was standing there clearly bemused at the entire exchange.

'Do you know this woman?’ Patsy asked the man.

He looked over to Delia and gave a casual nod.

'Alright Delia?’

'Alright Paul,’ she nodded back.

'I assume you've seen Delia here play at her family pub, yes?’ Patsy asked.

'Oh, sure,’ he said, giving the stubble on this chin a scratch, ‘I’ll pop in from time to time on Friday nights and see her and her brothers play. Quite good, I think.’

'Then why on Earth would you charge such an outrageous fee and price out talented musicians such as Delia and her brothers from coming in and making a simple record, hmm? Granted I've only had the pleasure of seeing Delia and her brothers perform, but I'm sure this area is riddled with talent that would put Pembrokeshire on the map for the best folk music in the UK!’

She huffed as the man merely shrugged indifferently.

‘You are in the business to make money, aren't you?’ she asked.

The man merely blinked at her.

'Sir, I asked you a question,’ she said sternly.

'Oh, uh, yes Ma'am,’ he stuttered.

'Well, if I know anything about making money it's that you have to spend it to make it, and to do that you need to invest!

Patsy hastily grabbed a fistful of Delia's shirt and pulled her to the forefront.

'Sir, this talented woman right here is an investment!’

She released Delia from her grasp and the smaller woman stumbled slightly to the side, looking rather kerfuffled.

‘I daresay I've seen just about every man who works at the quarry come in and listen to them play live every week,’ she said, resting her arm on the counter and leaning heavily on her elbow, ‘can you imagine how fast their records would fly off the shelves if they were sold here? Hmm?’

The man raised an eyebrow as she started to catch on to what she was saying.

‘How many others have you turned away because they couldn't pay? How much money have you lost out on from keeping your recording fees so astronomically high?’

The man merely scratched his head, his eyebrows wiggling slightly as he tried to quickly work out the math in his head.

‘You're missing out on a great business opportunity, here,’ Patsy said, leaning back and feeling confident that she could convince the man to take their 10£.

‘Tell you what,’ she pushed the coins on the counter towards him, 'you take this 10£ now and let us make a reservation to come in and record for an hour this time next week. We will give this shop exclusive rights to sell the first thirty copies of the record here at the shop.’

‘30?’ he said, as if this were an absurdly high number.

'You sell them at 3£ a piece you'll have your 100£ in no time. After which Delia and her brothers will take 75% of the royalties.’

‘75?!’

'Split fairly between four people, I think,’ Patsy turned to Delia to verify and the woman merely gave a nod shrugged.

Paul sighed disparagingly as if all he wanted now was for Patsy to go away.

'And if the first 30 don't sell?’ he asked.

'Then I'll come in and pay the balance myself.’

Paul scowled but Patsy held firm, sensing he was wearing down. She resisted the urge to smile.

'Fine,’ Paul said, his tone short as he stubbed out his cigarette and pulled a sheet of paper from under the counter that Patsy saw was a pre-made recording contract.

Both he and Patsy huddled over the piece of paper, Patsy reading it over and humming along to the things she agreed to sign off on. She took a pen from a cup sitting on the counter and scratched out the things she didn't like, making notes on the things she agreed with.

Patsy was so engrossed in signing off and initialing here and there on the contract that she didn't even notice another man approach them, standing beside Delia until he jokingly croaked out the following statement.

'Boy or girl?’ the man asked, looking Delia up and down.

Patsy hardly noticed the man, merely listening in as Delia replied.

'What?’ Delia asked.

'Is you a boy or girl?’ the man asked louder, his voice coming out in a croak.

That certainly caught Patsy's attention. She signed off on the last of the contract and pushed it towards Paul, looking over at this man who looked so old and decrepit Patsy was amazed he was able to stand unassisted. He had more scraggly strands of hair on his bald head than teeth in his mouth and his coke bottle glasses made his eyes look rather puny.

'I'm a woman,’ Delia said, her voice a mixture of seething anger and bemusement that someone even had the audacity to ask her such a thing.

The man practically threw his head back in jovial laughter, giving a gummy smile.

'Woman!’ he said, 'if you'se a woman where's your tits then, eh?’

He enforced this question by reaching up to touch Delia's breast, and while Patsy gasped in horror, Delia merely batted his hand away.

'Oi, bugger off ya old twpsyn ,’ she said, giving him a gentle shove while the man merely cackled with laughter, tottering off as his laughter turned to what sounded like whooping cough.

Patsy was almost rendered speechless at what she just witnessed, however Delia merely rolled her eyes at what seemed to her to be a minor annoyance.

'Delia are you alright?’ Patsy asked, her voice laden with concern.

‘I’m fine,’ she said rather short, ‘it's fine, Miss Mount,’ she turned her attention to Paul  abruptly, 'Do I need to sign anywhere, Paul?’

In the corner of her eye, Patsy watched as Paul pointed to a spot on the paper and Delia picked up the pen and signed it. She looked as if she were trying very hard not to show any emotion and not to notice Patsy staring at her.

Patsy looked away and swallowed her growing rage.

Before she knew it, the two of them had a copy of the contract and left the shop in a somber silence, Delia very much seeming like she wanted to move past the incident but Patsy feeling the overwhelming urge to talk about it. She couldn't help but reach out to Delia as they crossed the road, grasping her arm to get her to stop and look at her.

'Delia, are you sure you're alright?’ she asked, 'what that man did was absolutely horrid.’

Patsy turned around and saw the man in question exit the record shop. She became so angry at the sight of him, thinking of his hand reaching up to touch another woman inappropriately like that. It was outrageous to think that anyone would ever think it appropriate to just reach out and touch a stranger like that at all!

'Why don't you piss off you bloody… you…’ Patsy's fists were shaking at her sides as her brain searched through every insult she knew, but she couldn't bring herself to swear at an old man, so she blurted out the best worst thing she knew.

'You troglodyte !’

The man merely cupped his ear with his hand and said, ‘Eh?’

'Miss Mount,’ Delia pleaded, gently grasping her arm and pulling her out from the middle of the road.

Patsy's anger abided as she was pulled along towards where Delia had left the Vespa earlier.

'Miss Mount really, it's alright,’ Delia said, putting on a brave smile, ‘it wasn't the first time someone mistook me for a man. Certainly won't be the last. Just all part of dressing the way I do is all.’

‘But Delia, he had no right to touch you like he did!’ Patsy said, her anger growing hot in her chest again.

'Please, Miss Mount,’ Delia said pleadingly, ‘if any other bloke tried that on me… or any other woman for that matter… I would wallop him, but he's just an old man who can barely hear or see. I've never seen that man and I don't know him. I'll probably never run into him again.’

Patsy sighed and still looked concerned.

‘There's no need to make a fuss,’ Delia said, 'I'm fine, really.’

Delia was smiling but Patsy could still see the pain behind her eyes. She opened her mouth to say something but stopped herself, figuring she ought to listen to Delia and just drop the matter.

‘Let's just get back home and have some supper, yeah?’ Delia said, forcing a smile as she held up a copy of the contract she signed, 'I can't wait to tell my brothers the good news! They'll be absolutely thrilled, I'm sure.’

Patsy watched as Delia mounted the scooter and put on her helmet. She slowly situated herself sidesaddle behind Delia, the smaller woman turning around to make sure Patsy's own helmet was snapped right and on nice and snug.

'You're really something, Miss Mount, you know that?’ Delia said with a kind smile.

Patsy raised an eyebrow at Delia looking back at her.

'Talking the price down like that with Paul. Bloody genius, is what it was. You're really quite the business woman, Miss Mount.’

Patsy gave a lopsided smile, which Delia returned, though the woman's eyes still had a sadness to them, as if she were trying very hard to not let the incident with that awful gentleman ruin their entire afternoon.

Delia turned back around and turned on the engine, rendering the two from speaking any further.

Wanting to comfort Delia and unsure as to how, Patsy did the only thing she could do in that moment. Heart pounding in her chest, she wrapped her arms tight around Delia's body, resting her chin on the smaller woman's shoulder. If she couldn’t comfort the woman with words, she could at the very least try to convey how she felt by wrapping her up in her arms nice and tight.

As best as she could wearing that bulky helmet, Patsy tucked her face into the crook of Delia's neck. Her heart beat frantically in her chest, her senses overwhelmed with the feeling of her warmth, the smell of her hair and her skin, her grip on her tightening in hopes that Delia would sense the love and compassion she was feeling for her right now.

For a brief moment, Patsy felt Delia rest her hand on her wrist, a silent gesture of understanding.

Patsy felt like she wanted to cry and protect Delia at the same time.

All too soon, Delia removed her hand and placed it on the handlebars, and they took off back towards the inn.


Chapter Text

‘I think we got it,’ Paul said as he shut off the recording equipment.

Beside him, Patsy smiled and gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to the Busby siblings, the three of them packed in the small recording booth that seemed no bigger than a phone box with all their instruments. They had just done a play-through of their fan favorite ‘Blue Stone Mountain’ after much debate over what they were going to record first.

It had come quite a shock to Michael and Nicholas when Delia relayed the news that they were going to be recording their first ever record and it was all thanks to Patsy. The redhead insisted she merely used her skills to barter like a Moroccan rug trader and it was really their money and talent that reserved them the studio that afternoon. Nonetheless, both boys gave her their thanks accompanied by a handshake so enthusiastic it rattled her teeth. The two had been overly polite to Patsy over the course of the week and on more than one occasion did they stumble over themselves to help her with this or that. She didn’t complain too much about the boys sneaking her extra cakes after dinner or insisting her drinks at the pub were on the house so long as their Mam didn’t find out.

Paul sucked down the last of his cigarette and hit a button that allowed for him to speak to the three in the recording booth.

‘Alright you lot, put your things down and come and have a listen,’ he said as he stubbed out his cigarette.

The three piled out of the sound booth one by one, making the incredibly small studio even more packed with Patsy and Paul being in there. Patsy found herself pressed up against Delia rather close and snug and she had no complaints about that.

‘We sound alright, Paulie?’ Nicholas asked.

‘We’re about to find out if you give me a second,’ Paul said as he fiddled with a machine behind him that had two records.

Paul placed the needle on one of the records and the sounds of a fiddle, banjo, and mandolin filled the room.

Patsy couldn’t help but smile watching the reactions of thee three siblings hearing their music played back to them for the first time.

‘Oi, we sound alright!’ Michael exclaimed, grinning as he looked to his brother.

Delia gasped and clasped her hands over her mouth, her eyes wide with shock.

‘Is that what my voice sounds like?!’

The boys laughed and Patsy wrapped her arms around Delia’s shoulders, pulling the shy woman into her for a hug.

‘I’ve never heard my voice before! It’s so strange!’

‘Delia, you sound marvelous!’ Patsy exclaimed, giving the woman a squeeze as she shyly tucked her head into Patsy’s shoulder.

Patsy was so happy. She was happy to have helped make a dream of theirs come true. Being surrounded by the jubilation from Michael and Nicholas laughing and carrying on as they listened to themselves played back only made her smile more. Holding Delia in her arms only made her feel more giddy. Patsy watched as Delia peered through her fingers, a grin growing over her own features as she grew used to how she sounded on a recording like this not seem so shocking. She looked up at Patsy, a blush feathering across her cheeks as she rested her hand on Patsy’s arm. Patsy could see in her eyes a look of gratitude, of genuine thankfulness that she was trying to silently convey with her eyes, through her touch.

All it made Patsy want to do was lean down and kiss her nose.

She pressed her forehead against Delia’s instead, saying quietly, ‘I’m proud of you.’

Delia closed her eyes and broke out into a grin.

Their moment came to an end when the music stopped, Paul having lit another cigarette and placing the record into a paper sleeve.

‘This one’s for you lot to take home with you,’ he said, handing the 45 to Michael, ‘and this one’s for me,’ he continued, taking another record off the player.

‘What’ll you do with that one?’ asked Nicholas.

‘Need to send it off to make more copies, don’t I? Need something to sell here in the shop to make a profit off you lot,’ he said, giving an annoyed side eye to Patsy which she plainly ignored.

The group of them walked out of the small room carrying their instruments and headed out onto the street. The spring sun was sitting low in the sky casting a hazy glow around the little town. With it being Sunday evening, the shops around them were closing and people were finishing up their shopping to get home in time for supper. The street was growing more quiet by the moment and Patsy actually felt herself growing tired after all the excitement of the afternoon.

The bell on the door to the record shop chimed as it closed behind them. Michael looked down at the record in his hands and held it like it was something precious and delicate.

‘Can’t believe we’ve finally done it,’ he looked over to Delia and then his twin brother, ‘think this calls for a celebratory drink at the pub next door.’

‘Think that’s a splendid idea, Micky,’ Nicholas turned to look at Delia, ‘what say you, then, Delia? Miss Mount? Will you join us for a pint?’

Michael slapped Nicholas on the shoulder, ‘Birds don’t drink pints, you numpty.’

‘Yes we do,’ Delia said with an eye roll, ‘and we can have a drink at home. For free.’

Patsy couldn’t help but smirk at the siblings bickering.  

‘Think Delia has a point,’ Patsy added, deciding to back Delia up, ‘looks as though the town is shutting down for the evening as it is. Might be better off just heading back to the inn and having a drink there.’

Nicholas turned to his brother, plainly ignoring the two women, ‘Why don’t you and I just go then, eh? Maybe we can try and see if they’ll let us play this in the jukebox.’

Delia waived her brothers off, ‘Give me your things then and I’ll make sure they get home safely. Mam will kick ya till you’re dead if these things get banged up.’

The boys handed over their instruments and ran to the pub with a kick in their step, leaving Patsy and Delia to drive back to the inn in the pickup truck they had all came in.

The sky above them rumbled and grew dark as they drove back, and Patsy rolled down the window a crack, breathing in the smell of the spring rain and feeling the cool breeze against her face as Delia drove. The two shared a comfortable silence as they puttered along the winding, narrow road.

Patsy so wanted to reach over and take Delia’s hand in hers, but she stopped herself. She second guessed her actions, which was something she was not used to doing and she was finding that she didn’t like this doubting sensation one bit. She was used to following her gut and going through on her impulses if they felt right, and while here in this moment doing something as innocent as holding Delia’s hand felt like the most natural thing to do, she stopped herself. She gave some excuse to herself like not wanting to pounce as Trixie had so clearly put it.

Not wanting to push Delia into doing anything she wasn’t ready for, even though the both of them knew quite clearly that they fancied the other, was why she held back.

It was also why Patsy needed to bite back a gasp of surprise when she felt Delia each over and grasp her hand.

Patsy looked down at Delia’s hand holding hers, and her gaze turned towards Delia, her eyes darting to her before turning back towards the road. She wore a blush on her cheeks as she smiled and squeezed Patsy’s hand.

‘Just wanted to say thank you again for today, Miss Mount,’ Delia said, her smile so genuine her dimples were showing.

‘Oh, Delia,’ Patsy started, ramping up and about to tell her she didn’t need to thank her again.

‘It’s truly been a dream of ours for some time to make a record, and you helped make it come true.’

Patsy gave a defeated sigh and decided to just stop trying to refuse their thanks.

‘I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat for you, Delia,’ she said, and truly meant it.

Patsy placed her other hand over Delia’s and was delighted when Delia gave her an affectionate squeeze. She held her hand in her lap, their fingers intertwining with her thumb gently brushing over her knuckles as they continued to drive along. Delia made no moves to take her hand away which had Patsy feeling immensely happy.

She spent the rest of the ride back to the inn gazing out the window, watching the beautiful green hills roll by, her heart and mind in a state of bliss, wondering in all her years if simply holding someone's hand had ever made her feel like this before.


It was well after suppertime that evening when Patsy found herself sitting on the porch of her little bungalow, enjoying a cigarette as she listened to the rain fall around her. It as heavier now, and the sounds of the water falling lured her into a relaxed state as she rocked in her chair and had a quiet moment to herself sitting there and winding down from the excitement of the day before she went and got ready for bed.

I figure leaving the house and opening an umbrella caught her attention, and upon further observation she came to realize it was Valerie, walking through the gardens and towards her.

‘To what do I owe the pleasure of your company this lovely evening?’ Patsy asked, a subtle jab at the poor weather that was currently pouring down on them.

Valerie stopped short of the porch, a small smile gracing her features.

‘No customers in the pub and no lodgers in the house...  so I figured I’d pop by and see if you’d be interested in joining us in the lounge for a bit of family time.’

‘Us?’ Patsy asked, raising an inquiring eyebrow.

‘’Sure,’ Valerie shrugged, ‘Enid and Edwin are in there now. Delia, too. Enid wanted to extend an invitation to you to come into the main house for a bit. Maybe have a cuppa or a glass of wine before we all tuck in for the night.’

‘Really?’

‘Of course,’ Valerie looked over her shoulder, ‘And Patsy, mate, to be honest with ya, it’ll be in your best interest to get pally with Enid if you intend to get on with Delia.’

‘That so?’ Patsy said with a smirk, flicking the ash from her cigarette into the tray on the table next to her.

Valerie gave a nod with an affirmative hum, ‘Enid can be a real mama bear with her only daughter, but if you turn on the charm and butter her up it’ll make getting with Delia all the more easy. Hell, she might push the two of you together.’

‘You mean like how you’re trying to do right now?’ Patsy asked with a smirk.

‘Hey, can you blame a woman for wanting to see her friend happy?’

Patsy sighed, ‘Val, as good as your intentions are I’d much rather prefer a relationship to develop as naturally as possible between Delia and myself, if one develops at all. I feel like too much interference would scare her away. Especially that of her mother!’ she added pointedly.

Valerie waived her off, ‘Oh, come off it. If anything Delia needs a gentle push in the right direction, and her Mam would be the one to do it. If it was left up to me I would have already given her a good swift kick in the arse.’

‘Delia does not need a good swift kick anywhere,’ Patsy said firmly, rising to her feet and placing her hands on her hips, ‘I’ll have you know that just this afternoon she was the one to reach over and hold my hand. Unprompted, thank you very much.’

Valerie’s mouth gaped and she blinked, exaggerating her reaction to this revelation and managed to get a laugh out of Patsy.

‘Well blimey,’ she said as the two began to walk together under the umbrella and through the gardens, ‘suppose with a grand romantic gesture like that you’ll be walking down the aisle soon.’ she teased earning herself a swat on her arm from Patsy.

‘Quiet, you,’ Patsy said, glad it was dark out so Valerie couldn’t see her blush.

‘She held your hand,’ Valerie repeated with a laugh, ‘didn’t think anything less than being thrown down and ravished would suffice with you, given all the raunchy things you write about.’

‘Ooh,’ Patsy chastised, ‘just because I write about the raunchy things doesn’t mean I don’t want to be romanced, too, you know.’

Valerie merely gave her a playful wink as they approached the door, and she closed her umbrella before leading Patsy inside towards a room she had never been in before, and quite frankly didn't know it existed.

It was small, a lounge like Valerie had said with a small sofa, a recliner, and a coffee table. The walls had built in bookshelves that were packed with books, photo albums, and the odd board game or to. Where there wasn’t shelving, there was wood paneling, and in the corner on an end table was an RCA radio. This looked like a proper room for a family to come together and have downtime in.

‘Ah, Miss Mount,’ Enid smiled from her spot on the sofa, looking up from her cross-stitch to greet Patsy, ‘so happy to see you could join us. Please do come in and make yourself at home.’

Patsy’s eyes darted to Delia who was sitting on the floor in front of the table, looking as if she were in mid shuffle with a deck of playing cards. She smiled up at Patsy and the woman felt her heart thump happily in her chest at the sight of her before she felt a shove from Valerie. She looked over to see the fellow Londoner nodding her head in the direction of Mrs. Busby.

Patsy cleared her throat and turned on her charm and grace, 'Thank you so much, Mrs. Busby,’ Patsy said with a smile.

She entered the room and sat down on the sofa next to her, her posture straight and hands in her lap, ‘It was very kind of you to invite me to join you this evening.’

‘Of course dear. You’re such a wonderful guest; didn’t feel right to leave you all to your lonesome on an evening like this. Besides, I know you’ve become good friends with the kids, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind having you here.’

Patsy swore she caught Delia rolling her eyes as being referred to one of the kids , but she focused her attention on Mrs. Busby.

‘Delia and her brothers have been an absolute pleasure, Mrs. Busby. You and Mr. Busby have also made me feel so welcome here, and I’m truly grateful to you for it.’

‘Oh,’ Enid waved her off, looking bashful, ‘it’s nothing dear, we’re happy to have you.’

Valerie caught Patsy’s eye, and she watched as the woman gave an approving smile and a little wiggle of her eyebrow. A good sign, Patsy thought.

Her eyes caught movement in the recliner next to them, and to her surprise where was a portly little… Dachshund? Licking it's paw. She could tell it was some kind of mutt, cross-eyed and unable to keep its tongue in its mouth, it had a face only a mother could love.

‘Oh!’ Patsy said, ‘and who is this then? I thought dogs weren’t allowed in the main house,’ she asked cheerily.

Enid smiled, her eyes filled with mirth, ‘This is my baby girl Butters.'

Both Valerie and Delia could be heard suppressing a laugh from their spot by the table, and Patsy raised an inquiring eyebrow.

Enid gave a sigh, 'They laugh every time I say her name but they won't tell me why,’ she smiled and turned to Patsy, ‘She’s not an outside dog, not anymore. Keeps herself clean and my lap warm.’

‘Tea’s ready!’ Edwin called out as he backed into the room, carrying a tray with a pot of hot water and several cups and saucers.  

He placed the tray on the table in front of Delia and Valerie and caught sight of Patsy, his expression suggesting that he had been caught off guard.

‘Oh, hello Miss Mount,’ Edwin said, taking a moment to subtly tuck in his shirt at the sight of her, to which Patsy caught Enid rolling her eyes at his actions. It occurred to Patsy just how similar Enid and Delia's mannerisms were.

‘Didn’t know you would be join-’

He cut himself off at the sight of the dog in the recliner.

‘What is Butters doing in my chair?’ he asked, looking to Enid.

‘She’s keeping the seat warm for you, dear,’ Enid said plainly as she returned to her cross-stitch.

He placed his hands on his hips, his mustache bristling slightly as he tried to take a firm tone with the small creature.

'Butters, down .’

He pointed his finger towards the floor and the dog did not budge.

'Butters!’ he exclaimed, snapping his finger and pointing to the floor again, to no avail.

He reached out to simply pick up the dog, but the small thing then bared its teeth and growled at him.

‘Oh for-,’ Edwin scoffed, and Patsy bit her lip to contain a giggle.

'Butters, come to mummy, dear,’ Enid said sweetly, making kissy noises and patting her lap.

Butters finally relented, taking her time to rise from her spot and hoping down from the chair, her little legs making her whole body wiggle as she took the few paces over to Enid and hopped up in her lap.

'There, that's a good girl,’ Enid cooed as the small dog settled in and burrowed itself on her lap.

Edwin took his rightful place in his chair and settled in as Delia rose from her spot and handed Patsy a cup of tea and saucer.

'Oh, thank you Delia. May I have two sugars please?’

'It's there,’ she said softly, 'two spoonfuls, just how you like it.’

Patsy blinked, racking her mind for a time when she told Delia how she took her tea and not ever recalling having ever done so. She didn't recall telling anyone else in the room, for that matter. It occurred to her in that moment that Delia must have put in the effort to learn this little fact through observation, and if she were honest with herself she was rather touched that Delia went through the trouble.

A warm sensation started in her heart and spread though her chest at the thought. She smiled warmly at Delia, those crystal blue eyes looking back at her and making her feel as though she would melt into a puddle right then and there.

She managed to simply say ‘Oh,’ as Delia returned her warm smile and turned back to the tray.

'Do make me one too cariad,’ Enid said from beside Patsy, ‘I can't seem to get up from my spot anymore.’

Patsy blinked her mind out of the clouds and remembered she needed to make nice with Mrs. Busby.

'So how long has Butters been in the family?’ Patsy asked, looking endearingly at the small dog that was now quietly dozing off in Enid's lap. She ignored the tittering from the peanut gallery, Valerie shuffling cards on the floor as Delia prepared a cuppa for her mother.

'Oh, a few years now,’ Enid started, looking up in thought, ‘Got her not too long after Delia left for London. At the time the boys were in the Navy and Edwin and I found ourselves empty-nesters!’

'Hmm?’ Edwin looked up from his book and grunted at the sound of his name.

'Nothing dear, just telling the story of how we got Butters here.’

Edwin grunted again and returned to his book.

'Anyway,’ Enid continued, ‘you know how it is here out in the country. Dogs are running around loose everywhere and Butters here was no different. Went for a walk one day and saw the thing taking shelter under a pile of rubbish, old planks of wood and tyres, if I recall. Typically I wouldn't bother with such animals, let nature take its course. Not that I'm heartless, mind, it just how it has to be out here sometimes. You understand.’

Patsy hummed sympathetically.

'There was something about those big brown eyes and that face made me come back and get her, though. She was riddled with fleas and rotten teeth, too, poor girl,’ she tisked and gave the dog a pat on the head, 'but we brought her home and cleaned her up. She’s been right as rain ever since.’

She paused as Delia handed her her tea and blew on it before taking a sip.

'Good on you for taking her in Mam,’ Delia said, ‘Would have never forgiven you if I found out you just left a dog on the side of the road to die.’

'Yes, cariad, I know how you feel the strays,’ Enid looked to Patsy with an amused glint in her eye, 'the girl would adopt every stray she came across if she were able. God only knows how many pups and kittens she brought home as a child.’

‘And toads, and rabbits…’ Edwin added without looking up from his book.

Patsy smiled warmly, thinking of the kitten Delia had found and fed a few weeks prior. It came as no surprise to her to hear she took care of animals as a child. As a woman she was a natural caregiver, the now invisible cut on Patsy’s thumb healing marvelously and a testament to her skills as a nurse.

‘Anyway,’ Enid continued, ‘as I said before, the house was empty at the time with all the kids being grown and away from home, and I suppose I just felt the need to take care of something and seeing as there's no grand babies in the foreseeable future-’

'Mam,’ Delia chided as she took her spot back on the floor next to Valerie.

'Well am I wrong ?’ Enid said, ‘Lord knows your brothers have no prospects. Can't ever see them being apart long enough to take on a sweetheart even,’ she leaned in to Patsy, 'they get depressed if they're separated for too long, bless them, but it puts a hindrance on any romantic relationships, you see.’

'I could see that being a problem, yes,’ Patsy nodded as she sipped her tea.

'Quite,’ Enid said turning towards her daughter, 'and of course Delia here, what with your accident leaving you unable to take care of yourself, no surprise you’ve never brought home a sweetheart either.’

'Mam!’ Delia exclaimed again, a fierce blush spreading across her face as she stared wide eyed back at her mother.

Enid tutted, blatantly ignoring her daughter's heightened state of embarrassment, ‘You were left in such a state after it happened, weren't you? Waking up in the middle of the night not even knowing your own name,’ she turned back towards Patsy, 'I told her London wasn't safe. No place for a girl like her.’

Patsy wasn't sure what to make of a comment like that. If London wasn't a place for a girl like Delia then what kind of girl did that make her and Valerie?

‘It was only like that in the beginning,’ Delia seethed, looking as if she desperately wanted her Mam to change the subject, ‘I’m better now.’

‘You’ll never be completely yourself again, Delia,’ Enid said stubbornly, ‘Can’t imagine anyone having the patience to put up with your fits after you took such a ghastly knock on the head.’

Enid shuttered and closed her eyes as if the thought of Delia being injured was too much to bare.

Patsy's eyes quickly darted towards Delia to gauge her reaction, and the woman looked despondent and helpless and seemed to be sinking into herself. It seemed Delia was caught between wanting to stand up to her mother and not having the gumption to, simply because she was her mother, after all.

The proud, confident woman she had been with earlier that afternoon seemed to be shrinking right before her eyes from her mother's nagging, and it made Patsy angry.

A protective roar swelled in Patsy’s chest and bubbled up in her throat. She was finding that she couldn’t bare to hear anyone say anything ill towards Delia, not even her own mother. She moved to respond before she could stop herself.

‘Put up with?’ Patsy repeated, blinking innocently as she sipped her tea.

'Oh,’ Enid waved her hand dismissively, ‘she had a bout of amnesia after her accident, the after effects which have had her falling ill with migraines from time to time and her short term memory has suffered. It would be challenging for anyone to care for her when she has a fit, no less deal with the emotional turmoil that's bound to happen when she forgets a birthday or anniversary, much less her own name. Something like that would put a strain on any relationship, don’t you think?’

‘Mrs. Busby,’ Patsy started as she noisily scraped her teacup against the saucer, ‘I do not agree. Not in the slightest. Now, I don’t know the details of what happened, but in the time I’ve been here, your daughter has been nothing but a delight. I certainly haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary with her memory or personality from any sort of trauma she may have suffered in the past. On the contrary, I daresay with her musical proclivity and keen knack for problem solving and fixing things around the property, she has only demonstrated that she has overcome any maladies that may have been the result of her injury. If anything her hobbies and her work have only made her mind more sharp.’

She sipped her tea again not at all noticing that all eyes in the room were focused on her.

'I wouldn't have guessed that Delia had ever been in an accident or had an issue with her memory until you mentioned,’ she paused briefly to place her cup back down on the saucer, 'And this business with birthdays and anniversaries; after a while they all sort of blend together, don't you think? It’s not the end of the world if one goes by without a thought. What's more important is the love that makes a family. And I've seen Delia take care of others. She's taken care of me when I was hurt. She’s taken care of abandoned animals with a tenderness that would make even those with the frostiest of hearts melt. Who is to say that she wouldn’t be able to extend that tenderness to a sweetheart someday, hmm? If only there was someone out there worthy enough.’

'Couldn't have said it better myself,’ Edwin said, looking as if he was swelling with pride for his daughter, ‘I believe Delia's as every bit as good as you say, Miss Mount.’

Patsy blinked, thinking that she could blame the hot blush that was suddenly spreading across her face on the sudden rise in temperature in the room.

'That's very kind of you to say such things about our daughter, Miss Mount,’ Enid said carefully, ‘I’m so glad you seem to be keen on her, actually. I’m surprised.’

‘Surprised?’ Patsy asked, sitting up a bit more in her seat.

‘Oh, well, I just figured,’ she stammered, speaking slow, seemingly trying to choose her words carefully, ‘a woman as beautiful and graceful as yourself would prefer someone more… sophisticated. Someone more like the women who live in London, perhaps?’

‘Delia is every bit as sophisticated as the women who live in London, Mrs. Busby,’ Patsy retorted, working hard to keep her tone neutral.

‘Yes, well, Delia is not like the women in London,’ Enid stated as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Patsy also did not know what Mrs. Busby meant by this comment either, only managing to understand that she seemed to have a prejudice against Londoners for one reason or another, and that Delia was unlike them because, why? Her appearance? Because she was raised in the country? Did she think her daughter too simple? Inelegant because she wasn't feminine? Whatever the reason, Patsy had had enough of Enid's backhanded insults towards her daughter and her hometown.  

‘Oh, I’m quite aware,’ Patsy replied, ‘I don't think she's like any of the women back in London at all,’ she stated matter of factly as she raised her cup, 'I think she's better.’

Patsy smiled and sipped the last of her tea.

She looked over to Delia and Valerie sitting on the floor, Valerie with a huge grin on her face while Delia merely stared back at her, the tips of her ears a deep shade of red.

Patsy and Delia held their gaze for only a moment, though it felt like an eternity to Patsy. Having just had this conversation with her Mam, she felt like she had a much better understanding of Delia, why the woman seemed so shy, so lacking in confidence when she ought not to be. She didn’t know what to make if Delia’s reaction to the conversation she just witnessed, but she hoped that she could convey what she was thinking just then.

I see you, Delia. I’m in your corner. I’ll fight for you.

Delia gave her a hint of a smile before a loud banging came from the doorway to the small room.

All heads whipped to the door to see Michael and Nicholas, the two tripping over themselves to get into the room first. They scrambled in and nearly fell to the floor on top of Delia and Valerie. A multitude of shouting ensued, and Butters began to bark frantically, only adding to the chaos.

‘Oi, watch it!’ Valerie said as she saved the teapot from being knocked over.

‘What on earth?!’ Enid gasped.

‘What’s the meaning of you lot clamoring on like this, eh?’ Edwin said, rising to his feet.

Nicolas leapt over Michael and almost fell on top of Patsy, the redhead only saved when she felt a strong hand pull on her leg and she slipped off the sofa and onto the floor, narrowly missing being hit head on by a burly Busby torso. She suddenly found herself on the floor with Delia holding her in her arms as she looked on rather annoyed at her brothers antics.

‘Shut that dog up and listen!’ Michael exclaimed while Nicholas laid sprawled out on the sofa, his arms reaching out and fiddling with the knobs on the radio.

Everyone halted and he room was filled with a sense of anticipation as a crackling noise emanated from the small radio. Stations flitted in and out of range until finally he found what he was looking for. He turned the volume all the way up and a familiar song could be heard blasting through the speakers.

‘How…’ Patsy stuttered, looking to Delia with wide eyes.

‘No way…’ the brunette whispered.

‘What are we listening to?’ Enid asked.

‘Mam, that’s us !’ Michael said, ‘That’s our song! That’s Delia singing right now on the radio!’

All eyes turned to the radio and they listened.

 

My heart is a blue stone mountain

My head an overflowing fountain

My heart is a blue stone mountain

But I never knew, I never knew, I never knew, never knew, I never knew, I never knew

 

‘Delia!’ Valerie leapt over the table, engulfing her best friend and Patsy in her arms, no one caring that the tray and the teacups clamored to the carpeted floor, their playing cards scattered about.

Enid cupped her face and screamed. Butters paced down and up the length of the sofa and barked incessantly. Edwin fell back in his chair, his eyes wide and a slow smile spreading across his face and both Nicholas and Michael walked over with huge grins on their faces to shake his hand and pat him on the shoulder.

‘My babies are on the radio!’ Enid exclaimed, walking over to give her two sons an embarrassingly loud kiss on the cheek.

‘Oh bloody hell, mate! You did it! I can’t believe you did it!’ Valerie exclaimed as she released her hold on the two other women sitting on the floor, all three of them overcome with laughter as the excitement of the moment permeated throughout the room.

‘Micholas!’ Delia exclaimed, her twin brothers turning on their heel and looking to her, ‘Where is our copy of the record? How did we get on the radio?!’

The two took a deep breath and excitedly blathered on while Enid and Edwin danced together to the music behind them.

‘We ran into Fred Buckle down the pub,’

‘Friendly guy,’

‘Lucky for us he likes our music,’

‘Knows everyone in town too.’

‘Said he loved our song after we played it for everyone in the pub.’

‘Had to beg the keeper to let us do it but we’re glad we did.’

The heads of the three women on the floor were pinging back and forth between the two as if they were watching a match in Wimbledon.

‘Fred said he knew the DJ at WERQ.’

‘Yeah they have a special show on Sunday nights for folk music,’

‘He insisted we all run over to the station to see if we could make the cut,’

‘So he takes us there and we play our song for the guy.’

‘He liked it, too!’

‘Said he would play it sometime tonight but he didn’t know when,’

‘So Fred gives us a lift home and wouldn’t you know as soon as we pull up they start playing it.’

‘Which is why we had to run in here so we didn’t miss it!’

‘But our record!’ Delia exclaimed, ‘that was our one copy!’

‘Oh, Deels,’ Michael waived her off, ‘we can get another once Paulie get his copies back.’

‘Yeah, Deels, we’re on the bloody radio!’ Nicholas exclaimed, ‘they’ll be putting our song on rotation and everything! Hundreds of people will be hearing our song now!’

‘Maybe thousands!’ Michael added before the song ended and the DJ’s docile tones came through the speakers.

That was a new one from a local band, Blue Stone Mountain by The Blue Stone Busbys,

Blue Stone Busbys ?!’ Delia exclaimed, looking at her brothers horrified, ‘that was the name you came up with?!’

‘Well yeah, it’s kind of our theme Deels,’ Nicholas said.

‘We told him we were a ‘rock’ band.’

Delia groaned while Michael nearly hyperventilated at his own dumb joke.

‘If you liked what you heard, you can catch live performances from them every Friday and Saturday night at the Blue Stone Mountain Inn in Little Milford, Pembrokeshire .’

‘Ahh!’ Enid screamed again, ‘Oh my god they’ve even put in a plug for the inn!’

‘We certainly didn’t tell him to do that!’ Michael said.

‘Well I’m so very glad he did it anyway!’ Enid said clasping her hands together, and Patsy could practically see the pound sterlings twinkle in her eyes at the prospect of her children's music bringing fans to the pub and the inn.

‘Um, Miss Mount,’ Patsy heard a quiet voice in her ear.

She turned to look at Delia, her face only inches away and all those feelings she had before the boys burst through the room came rushing back. She managed a small smile as she felt a heat rise to the tips of her ears.

‘I just wanted to say thank you for… earlier. All those nice things you said. No one has ever... ‘ Delia trailed off, her eyes lowering to gaze at Patsy’s lips, and instinctively, despite Valerie being right next to them and surrounded by her family, Patsy found herself leaning forward. She didn’t care at all about the others. If Delia was going to kiss her at this very moment she absolutely wasn't going to stop her.

Instead, much to her dismay, Delia stayed where she was, her hand reaching up to tuck a loose strand of hair behind Patsy’s ear as she whispered so soft Patsy could barely hear, ‘You really are an angel.’

‘Oh, Delia, come here girl,’ Edwin said, and Patsy and Delia untangled themselves at once and scrambled to their feet, hoping no one noticed their rather intimate moment.

Edwin pulled Delia in for a hug, gushing at how proud he was of her, Enid joining in saying she sounded wonderful over the radio.

Patsy smiled at the heartwarming moment, although a little disheartened that their moment was interrupted. She had hope in her heart though that they would soon have another.

She was distracted when she caught sight of Butters, the dog wagging her little tail and pacing from one end of the sofa to the other, looking happy to be part of all the excitement. It reminded Patsy of something. There was a joke about her name and she wanted to be in on it.

‘Val,’ Patsy said pulling her friend close, ‘what’s so funny about the dog being named Butters?’

Valerie let out a laugh and put a friendly arm over Patsy’s shoulder.

‘Pats, mate, look at this dog.’

Patsy did as instructed as Valerie gestured to Butters who hopped about and let out a little bark, her eyes comically crossed as her tongue dangled out of the side of her mouth.

‘Isn’t this the ugliest fucking dog that you’ve ever seen?’

Patsy gave a sympathetic smile and nodded.

‘That’s what I thought when I first saw her, too, and I told Delia just as much when her Mam was out of earshot. You know what she said to me?

‘Who, Delia?’

‘Yeah,’ Valerie said, bringing a hand to her mouth to hide her own growing grin, ‘she said, If that dog were any more inbred, she’d be butter.’

Patsy clamped a hand over her mouth to hide grin.

‘So we just started calling her Butters and the name stuck. She used to be called Pickles.’

'Given the context I’d agree that Butters is more suitable,’ Patsy said as she reached down and gave the dog a pat on the head, feeling a little guilty for making fun of the sweet little thing.

A loud Pop! emanated through the room followed by the sounds of carbonated liquid spilling, and everyone turned to see Michael with a bottle of champagne, holding a flannel around it to catch the fizz.

‘Thought a toast would be appropriate to mark the occasion. Don’t worry, Mam, it’s the cheap stuff,’ he said to Enid's disapproving stare.

Tea cups were collected from the floor and filled with champagne, everyone in the room giving a loud chorus of cheers! as they drank.

Cups were refilled and more laughter and chattering filled the room,so much excitement buzzing around them that they hardly noticed several figures appear at the doorway to the room. It wasn’t until the tallest of them raised his hand and rapped his knuckles against the frame of the door.

Patsy turned and looked with everyone else to see a man, a teenage boy, and a woman holding a toddler. They all appeared weary from traveling all day. Their shoulders were spotted with rain and the woman looked as if she were about to fall apart, her hair coming undone and her cat eye glasses sitting crooked on her nose.

‘Sorry to disrupt the jubilation,’ the man said, removing his hat and unintentionally spilling rain water onto the floor, ‘but we’ve come to check in, if you have a room available.’

Enid gasped in horror, ‘Oh my dears, I’m so sorry no one was there to greet you at the door,’ she fretted, walking over to them in an instant, turning back to the men in her family and gave out marching orders, ‘Michael, Nicholas, take their bags to number five. Edwin, go and make a fresh pot of tea and some stew. Delia and Valerie, go… well go and find some useful employment!’

She turned back to the family in the doorway with a hospitable smile.

‘Can  have your name, dears?’

The woman hitched the toddler up over her hip and managed a kind smile.

‘We’re the Turners.’

Chapter Text

Patsy sighed from her spot on the floor, surrounded by her fathers memoirs that she still hadn’t seemed to put in order.

She placed the stack she was reading through back down on the ground, placing a stone over it to keep any of it from blowing away in the breeze from the open window. She grabbed her purse from the bedside table, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it up.

She blew the smoke out the window, surprised to see that Alison had yet to make an appearance, but then again it was rather warm and hazy that May afternoon, and she wondered briefly if the pony had wondered to the lake for a drink or some apples. Regardless, Patsy was happy to have her window all to herself.

The papers were scattered around her in piles, still looking rather higgelty piggelty but she had made progress and put them in some sort of order as she spent her days slowly sifted through and proofread what seemed to be a dictionary sized novella of her father's life.

It wasn't that she didn’t love her father, but his style of writing was rather droll and he tended to go on and on about his business achievements and the political connections he had made over the years. While those connections sometimes benefited Patsy over the course of her life, reading about them certainly couldn’t keep her engaged for very long.

She looked out the window at the sound of a surprised gasp ad caught sight of Mr. Turner out in the garden.

‘Ha ha!’ he exclaimed with a wide smile, placing his hands on his knees and leaning forward, ‘Shelagh, Tim! Would you come here and just look at this amazing caterpillar!’

Patsy raised a curious eyebrow at the man as his wife and son plainly ignored him, choosing to give their attention to Angela the toddler who was chasing a butterfly around the garden and looking quite adorable.

She watched as Delia exited the pub and made a face as if she immediately regretted her decision, stopping mid way through diving into the bushes to remain unseen. Unfortunately for her Mr. Turner spotted her and called to her.

‘Miss Busby, Miss Busby!’ he ran over to Delia and pulled her along by the arm to where he had seen the insect, ‘please tell me, do you know what kind of caterpillar this is?’

Patsy couldn’t help but laugh at how miserable Delia looked, the poor thing having been an unwilling companion in many of Mr. Turner's endeavors into finding out more about all the nature that surrounded him. His childlike curiosity for all things outside made everyone think him quite peculiar, but Patsy knew there was a reason behind it all.

She briefly recalled the day after they arrived, sitting down with Mrs. Turner on the porch in rocking chairs for a spot of afternoon tea while Mr. Turner and their son Tim took a stroll about the property.

‘Nervous breakdown,’ Shelagh said softly with her breathy Scottish accent, looking sympathetically into her cup of tea, ‘from the war,’ she added, her voice barely above a whisper.

Patsy gave a nod with a resounding hum as if to say she did not need to elaborate, and the woman didn’t.

‘Life back in London was so hectic for the two of us,’ Shelagh continued, ‘what with our careers and our family expanding. I was worried that the stress of city life while raising a family was only going to make things worse for his mental health, so,’ she shrugged, pushing her cateye glasses back up her nose, ‘I thought that moving out west to the countryside would help us slow down. Enjoy the quiet and the nature. Smell the flowers, so to speak.’

She took a moment to sip her tea, a small smile gracing her features, ‘We’ve made arrangements to start a small practice out here in town. We’re just staying here at the inn temporarily until the house is finished, no more than a fortnight from now.’

‘Well congratulations on your move, Mrs. Turner,’ Patsy said politely as she raised her teacup, ‘I know you’ll be very happy here.’

Both women looked over towards the gardens at the sound of Mr. Turner's jovial laughter as two squirrels chased each other around the trunk of a tree.

Patsy had to stifle a laugh as she watched Delia emerge from a hiding spot on the other side of the grounds, throwing her cap to the ground in anger as she kicked an empty cage nearly clear across the garden. It seemed Mr. Turner had thwarted her plans to trap the pests once and for all.

‘Oh, Miss. Busby, how good to see you!’ Mr. Turner said, plainly unaware of Delia’s sour mood, ‘I was just admiring all the wonderful creatures here! The trees and the birds and the animals are all so marvelous.’

Delia sighed and forced a smile in an attempt to be polite.

‘Is there anything I can do for you Mr. Turner?’

‘As a matter of fact, there is!’ he said, pulling something from the pocket of his tan cargo shorts, ‘Tim and I have just found the most fascinating flower! Can you tell us what kind it is?’

Delia struggled to remain interested, ‘Looks like a Bird Cherry, Mr. Turner. From a Mayday tree.’

‘Simply marvelous!’ he grinned, his eyes wide and full of mirth, ‘And how about this leaf?’

Delia continued to amaze Mr. Turner with her encyclopedic knowledge on the native Welsh trees and foliage that were scattered about the property as he pulled out artifact after artifact, much to his delight and her displeasure.

‘Mr. Turner certainly seems very excited to be here,’ Patsy said, turning her attention back to Shelagh.

Shelagh simply sighed, a silly smile on her face and she looked endearingly at her husband.

That afternoon was nearly a week ago, and now as Patsy smoked her cigarette, she could only sigh at Mr. Turner's wonder as the caterpillar crawled along his arm and chuckle as Delia miserably stood there telling him all the details of the insect.

Her eyes turned back to the stacks of paper in front of her, one stack in particular that she had pieced together and had been somewhat avoiding.

She wondered what Mr. Turner's experience in the war had been like. She wondered if it had been anything like hers.

Patsy cleared her throat and flicked the ash off her cigarette, not wanting her mind to wander down that road just now.

She picked up a few more papers and shuffled through them, then stopped, as a small slip of paper fell from between her stack.

Patsy picked it up and opened it, the handwritten note was frayed and the ink faded. She squinted in the afternoon light to read.

 

My Dearest Margaret,

A few days ago I thought I loved you; but since I last saw you I feel I love you a thousand times more. All the time I have known you, I adore you more each day. Everything in nature cannot compare. I beg you, let me see some of your faults: be less beautiful, less graceful, less kind, less good…

 

Patsy flipped the paper over and was disappointed there was nothing more.

Was she really holding in her hand a love letter from her father to her mother?

For the first time Patsy was seeing a shred of evidence that her father was not only capable of showing affection, but that he did at some point love her mother, and articulated it as elegantly as a poet.

For all of Patsy’s life she had never known her father to ever show any emotion other than that of indifference. Whisked away to a Catholic boarding school in London and left in the care of nannies, her relationship with her father dwindled to only letters while he remained in the orient rebuilding his business after the war.

Patsy scrambled for the pile of papers she wanted to avoid, her eye finally catching sight of a name she had gone too long without seeing through this mountain of paperwork.

Margaret Joan Mount, nee Carter.

Patsy scanned the page, smiling, as she had finally found some shred of information about her parents relationship that she had not known before.

‘They met on a blind date?’ Patsy mused out loud, her eyes frantically reading, taking in their story quickly and then again slowly.

They met in 1930 through friends and went ice skating, spent their courtship attending parties and gallery openings, watching films at the cinema, horseback riding and picnics under the stars. They were married in Shanghai in 1932 and Patsy came along in 1933, her sister Elizabeth following two years later in 1935. They moved to Singapore soon after and her fathers ship brokering allowed them a lavish life in the colony.  

Patsy blinked, struggling to remember life before the war. She was so young. She remembered having a nanny and a nursery. She remembered playing dolls with her sister, running around in their garden and sneaking ice lollies from the kitchen in the summers. They had a kitten named Thomas that they would hide in their mothers stockings. She remembered her father… playing with her and Elizabeth, scooping them up in his arms as he playfully tossed tossed them around, make them shriek with laughter.

Patsy gulped down a lump in her throat as she turned the page, the words delving into what she was hoping to avoid but could not stop herself from reading.

She remembered the day they came. The Japanese. It was 1943 and she was nine years old, almost ten. They were each allowed one small bag of belongings before they were bussed with other English and Australian families to Lunghua and separated, the men in one set of barracks while the women were sent to another.

She did not see her father again until she was 11 years old in 1945 when the war ended and the camp was liberated. She was alone, starved, shoeless, and her clothing in tatters, having traded away all her possessions for food, her mother and sister having died months prior from typhoid. She remembered not recognizing her father until he kneeled down in front of her and saw the whites of his eyes. She remembered him looking just as ragged and hollow as she felt, a shadow of the man he once was.

She read on.

 

When I had discovered that my darling Margaret and Elizabeth had perished, I felt as though the light had gone out of my life. If it were not for my Patience, I would not have had the strength to live on. From that day forward everything I did was for my daughter. I could not bare the thought of those atrocities ever happening again, her being taken from me. She was sent back to London where I knew she would be in good hands, safe, and receive the best education in the world. She was better off without me, for I could not bare the shame I felt from years thereafter, falling asleep crying every night because I was unable to protect my family before.’

 

Patsy wanted to ball up the paper and burn it all.

‘You fool!’ she said, clenching her teeth and suppressing a sob, ‘you absolute fool!’

She threw the papers down, rising from her spot on the floor and began to pace the room, taking deep breaths to calm herself. She saw no reason to be angry at the dead but she couldn’t help but fume at the man who denied his remaining daughter the only thing a little girl would ever want from their father; their love and affection.

‘Bloody idiot,’ she said as she harshly wiped away a tear, ‘all I wanted was you, you bloody, stubborn fool. I wouldn’t have cared if I had seen you cry. I wouldn’t have cared if we were poor. If you’re out there listening, all I wanted was you!’

Patsy took several deep breaths as she paced, calming herself down.

She decided she had had enough of reading over her father's work for the day, and so very badly wanted a drink.

She didn't feel like going to the pub, though. She didn't feel particularly like talking to anyone or being social.

Patsy remembered she had a bottle of wine tucked away in her luggage somewhere, and she fished it out of her bag and popped the cork.

She stopped herself from taking a sip though, not entirely keen on drinking alone even though she didn't want to be with others.

Truly, right now she wanted to be with Delia.

The woman had a knack for distracting her and making her cheery just for merely existing. Perhaps Delia would want to share some of this wine with her?

She checked her appearance in the mirror as she slipped on some shoes, making sure her face was not red or her eyes puffy before she slipped out into the twilight and headed towards the lake, thankful that no one seemed to be around to see her.

Patsy was instantly calmed by the cool air of the evening hitting the hot skin of her cheeks. The lighting was low now that the sun had set, leaving behind an orange and red sky.

She walked along the path she had taken many times now and emerged from the trees. She looked around, the lake a pristine, untouched mirror for the sky with the idyllic backdrop of the rolling hills behind it, church bells ringing in the sound of the hour echoing through them.

Patsy looked around and saw no sign of Delia, so with a heavy sigh she made her way to the ancient, monolithic stone structure that had become their lunch spot and sat down on the ground, leaning against the rock and facing the lake, taking a swig of her wine.

She was feeling a bit forlorn sitting out there all by her lonesome, not wanting to get too lost in her thoughts, so she focused on admiring the scenery and not on what had made her so upset in the first place.

A clattering nearby caught her attention, and Patsy turned her head just in time to see a plank of wood attached to two lengths of rope unfurl from the branch of an oak tree.

Upon further inspection Patsy saw a pair of feet dangling from that branch, straddling it.

Patsy raised an inquiring eyebrow as she rose to her feet and walked towards the dangling pair of legs.

'Delia, is that you?’

The leaves above her rustled as Delia parted a the branches, revealing herself from a thick patch of leaves.

'Oh, hello Miss Mount. Didn’t hear you come by. I’m surprised you saw me through all these leaves.’

‘Your feet gave you away, I’m afraid,’ Patsy smiled, happy that Delia was here, ‘You've certainly found a good hiding spot from a certain someone,’ she said slyly.

‘A few certain someones to be quite honest with you,’ Delia replied with a smirk.

‘Oh dear, I hope i’m not included in that roster.’

‘I could never imagine wanting to get away from you, Miss Mount,’ Delia sighed, ‘Oh, no, just the usual Mam and the most recent addition of Mr. Turner, bless him, he’s a kind man but so very, very peculiar.’

Patsy smiled and looked at the object in front of her hanging from the branch.

'And what's this you have here?’ she asked.

‘It's a swing, Miss Mount,’ Delia replied, placing her hands on her hips as she inspected the thing, ‘Thought it would be a nice addition to our spot here.’

Patsy smiled at the term 'our spot’.

‘Is this the rope you bought in town the afternoon we rode in together?’ she asked.

'Indeed it is. With everything that's been going on recently, I plum forgot about it until this afternoon. Finally found the time to put this together.’

'Found the time, hmm? To hide in the trees just as it's getting dark,’ she teased.

'Shh,’ Delia smiled, 'why don't you have a seat and test it? Make sure it's not crooked.’

Patsy placed her wine at her feet, grasping the rope to hold the swing steady as she sat down. The rope groaned slightly from her weight but otherwise it was perfect.

'Well?’ Delia asked from above her, ‘Do I need to hitch it up a bit or anything?’

Patsy pushed off and gave herself a swing, feeling the breeze against her naked arms and legs, her hair tickling her cheeks and neck. She couldn't help but laugh, already feeling immensely better.

'Marvelous, Delia. Well done!’

Patsy eventually came to a halt and looked up at Delia, the woman looking back at her, her arms crossed over her chest as she gave an endearing smile.

'I can see that branch is strong enough to hold the two of us,’ Patsy said patting the empty space next to her, 'why don't you come down and sit by me?’

Delia did not hesitate to whip her leg over the branch, using a stealth that impressed Patsy to dismount from the tree and land gracefully on her two feet. She grasped the other side of the swing and sat down, settling in on the other side of Patsy, facing the opposite way towards the path.

'So I can keep a lookout,’ Delia said, and Patsy smiled as she didn't mind at all Delia’s body pressed up against hers so close.

'Wine?’ she offered, picking up the bottle and offering it to Delia.

'What's the occasion?’ Delia asked as she took the bottle and gave it a sniff.

Patsy sighed, looking back out onto the lake, 'Oh, I was feeling a bit blue. Felt like drinking but I didn't want to do it alone.’

‘You could have just gone to the pub,’ Delia suggested.  

'No I couldn't,’ Patsy smiled, leaning over and touching her shoulder to Delia’s, ‘You weren't there.’

Delia gave a bashful smile, and Patsy was sure she was blushing in the dim light of the setting sun.

Delia took a swig of the wine and passed the bottle back, Patsy mirroring her movements.

'So what have you been up to all day? Feel like I’ve barely seen you since you since the Turners arrived.

Delia gave a laugh, then a groan as took the bottle back from Patsy.

‘In all honesty, I’ve been feeling a little blue myself today, Miss Mount,’ she admitted.

‘Is it because Mr. Turner has been a bit of a nuisance?’ Patsy asked, ‘Because I understand they won’t be staying here too much longer.’

‘No, not so much him as it is my Mam again. She’s been needling at me all day to take it easy and rest. Say’s I’ll have another fit if I don’t, even though it’s been months. I’ve got too much energy, though. Feel bloody useless unless I’m working on something,’ she sighed and handed the wine back to Patsy, ‘I used to be able to satiate that urge with nursing, you know, a career like that always keeping you moving, always keeping you busy. I’m trying not to let her get to me but I just can’t help it. It’s been terribly difficult adjusting to being home when I returned from London, her always hovering and telling me what to do. I miss living on my own and being independent. I miss…,’ Delia trailed off, clearing her throat, ‘I’m sorry Miss Mount, you probably didn’t come out here to hear me complain.’

‘Oh, Delia, I don’t mind at all,’ Patsy smiled, taking a swig of wine, 'I don't know what it's like to have an overbearing mother, but I can see that your mum loves you very much, even if she has rather unconventional ways of showing it.’

Delia shyly picked at a loose thread on her trousers.

‘I just hate how she still thinks of me as a little kid instead of the 25 year old that I am. That I can’t take care of myself or be out on my own.’

‘Yes, well, that I imagine all mothers have a hard time with,’ Patsy mused as she took another sip of wine, ‘though I wouldn’t go so far as to say your mum isn’t a special case, still babying you when you know enough to basically build a house with your own two hands, I’m sure.’

Delia gave a bit of a laugh, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t say I know how to do all that.’  

‘Oh, come off it, Delia, of course you could.’

‘Not entirely. I’d probably be shit at picking out the curtains.’

The two shared a laugh while they continued to pass the bottle of wine back and forth, their feet on the ground rocking them slowly.

Delia looked away uncertain, as if she didn’t know if it were appropriate to ask what she wanted to, but she went ahead anyway, ‘Did you… I mean, what’s your relationship like with your Mam? If you don’t mind my asking. Do you get on alright with her?’

Patsy gave a shug and a nod, ‘I did… when she was alive.’

Delia’s expression turned to one of remorse immediately, ‘Oh, gosh, I’m sorry Miss Mount. I shouldn’t of… I didn’t mean…’

‘Delia, it’s alright, you didn’t know,’ Patsy said with a smile, hopefully conveying to her that she didn’t mind in the slightest, ‘Actually, I was just thinking about her this evening… her name came up while I was reviewing my father's memoirs. She died when I was young. Typhoid,’ she elaborated, ‘My younger sister died of it too around the same time. I was 11, I think. It was hard to keep track of the time in those camps. The days just seemed to blend together.’

'Those… camps?’ Delia asked softly.

Patsy looked over to see Delia staring back at her, terrified.

Patsy didn’t know why she was speaking so candidly all of a sudden about that terrible time in her life. She looked down at the bottle of wine in her hand and reasoned that maybe the alcohol had loosened her tongue. Or perhaps it was the calm night, surrounded by nature and no one other than Delia to talk to. The woman made her feel so calm and relaxed. She trusted Delia. She felt she could talk to her about anything, including this.

'Yes Delia. Those camps. From the war. Particularly a civilian one in Singapore my family was sent to.’

Patsy heard Delia swallow a lump in her throat, 'My God, Miss Mount,’ she said, her voice trembling, ‘I-I'm so sorry. I've only ever heard s-stories of those camps, I…’

Patsy often ran into this reaction when telling others of her experience of the camps. While it was never easy, she learned a long time ago that being vulnerable meant being open to the wounds of life, but that also meant she was free to be open to the bounty and beauty of it, too.

Knowing this, she placed a calming hand over Delia’s knee and pressed on.

'Delia I won't lie to you. The experience was hell on Earth. I lost my mother and my sister and I came out of it half starved and malnourished, covered in lice and sores…’ she took another swig of wine before handing the bottle back to Delia, ‘So if you're wondering why I'm a stickler for cleanliness, that's why… and it's not something I would ever wish on anyone, especially not a child like I was.’

Patsy took a deep breath and looked up towards the stars that were just beginning to twinkle in the nights sky.

'I know I lost my mum and my sister,’ she started softly, ‘and god knows I'd give up all that I have in the world to bring them back, but...I can't. I simply can’t. And I can't very well spend the rest of my life blaming myself for something that was completely out of my control.’

Patsy looked back over to Delia and gave a smile, albeit a sad one.

‘I knew she died when I was young, If I knew anything about my mother it's that she would have wanted me to live my life to the fullest. Every day that I wake up, it’s a good day because I’m healthy and alive and I’m doing something with my life that I love.’

Delia did not seem persuaded that Patsy had a zest for life after coming out of such a terrible experience. She stared back at Patsy with watery eyes.

‘You came here after your father passed away,’ she said softly as if just remembering the detail, ‘so it's just you by yourself, Miss Mount? No family at all?’

Patsy looked away and gave a sigh, ‘Delia… I may be alone but I'm not lonely. Besides, a family can be so much more than blood. My parents and my sister can never be replaced but that doesn't mean I don’t have a family. My friends are so near and dear to me they may as well be sisters, and I could always… you know,’ she shrugged, feeling very shy all of a sudden, ‘create a family of my own…’

Patsy’s heart thumped in her chest painfully when she felt Delia take her hand in her own, holding it in her lap. She looked over to Delia who was looking right back at her.

'I promise I won't tell anyone, Miss Mount, about what you’ve told me this evening. And if… if you're ever feeling blue and need to talk about it… I mean… I don't know what to do but...‘

'Delia, it’s alright,’ Patsy said softly, resting her head on Delia's shoulder, ‘and you're doing exactly what you're supposed to do right now.’

'But I don't know what to say…’ Delia replied helplessly.

'Delia,’ Patsy said in a soothing voice, ‘you don't have to say anything. All that matters to me is you're here…’

Delia sighed and rested her head on Patsy's.

The two shared a moment where the only noise was the crickets chirping around them as Delia’s thumb grazed over Patsy’s knuckles. Patsy took the moment to feel the warmth of her against her cheek, taking in a deep breath of Delia’s scent.

'Still. It must be terribly hard for you to go through your father things, only to be reminded of that awful time,’ Delia whispered.

‘Oh, it's not all terrible,’ Patsy said, sitting up to look  at Delia, ‘I'm actually finding out things about my parents that I never knew before,’ she said with a smile, 'I found a love letter, you know, from my father to my mother. Made me see that there had been love and tenderness between them. I was too young to see it at the time, but even though they’re gone, the thought of them being in love makes me happy.’

Patsy remembered the ring she wore around her neck. She reached into her blouse and pulled it out, showing it off to Delia.

‘In fact, my father even held onto my mother's wedding ring after all this time. Managed to stash it away in a safe that was never found and collected it when we got out. It’s really the only remaining thing I have of my mother, save for a few photographs.’

Patsy unclipped the necklace and removed the ring, holding it up with her ring finger, the gold band only managing to come down to her second knuckle.

‘Shame it doesn't fit, really, as I’d rather wear it on my finger. My mum must have been a smaller woman than I as an adult.’

‘It’s certainly a beautiful ring, Miss Mount,’ Delia said softly.

‘Yes, it is…’ Patsy said slowly, trailing off.

She suddenly had a theory she wanted to test out.

She gently grasped Delia’s left hand, both women looking on as Patsy slipped the gold band on her ring finger with no resistance.

They stared at it on Delia’s hand, and unbeknownst to the other both women wondered if this was a sign of sorts.

‘Perfect fit,’ Patsy said, her heart feeling light in her chest.

Not only did it fit but it looked amazing on Delia, the simple gold band suiting her

‘Perhaps you should wear it,’ Patsy added.

‘It’s… a beautiful ring Miss Mount,’ Delia repeated, slipping the ring off. She picked up the gold chain from Patsy’s other hand and threaded it through, ‘but it’s yours. A precious keepsake from your mother.’

Patsy draped her hair over her shoulder and looked down as Delia clasped the necklace behind her neck, very much noticing her soft fingers lingering on the back of her neck before she moved away.

‘Though, Miss Mount, if you ever find you need to part with it for one reason or another, I’ll keep it nice and safe for you.’

Patsy looked back over to her with a smile, ‘Thank you Delia, that’s very sweet of you.’

Delia looked back to her with a kind smile, Patsy relieved to find that Delia was not as upset as she had been a few moments before.

'What was your mother like?’ Delia asked.

Patsy looked out to the lake and thought for a moment before she responded.  

'Strong and fearless, yet so very kind. She was the most loving and beautiful woman in the world.’

Delia gave a bit of a laugh, 'To be honest Miss Mount, you must be the spitting image of the woman because that's exactly how I would describe you.’

Patsy looked at her and felt her cheeks grow hot for the second time that evening, though now it was for a completely different reason.

She felt bashful suddenly, and tucked her head into Delia's shoulder, Delia giggling as she shyly nuzzled her head against her.

Delia rested a comforting hand on the back of her arm and gasped.

'Oh, Miss Mount, you’re freezing!’ she exclaimed as she grasped Patsy by both arms and rubbed, trying to warm her, 'I'm sorry I don't have anything to throw around your shoulders, it was so warm earlier that I didn’t wear my jacket.’

Patsy bit her lip, thankful she was sitting on that swing because she knew she would have felt weak in the knees from Delia’s chivalrous behavior.

'That's quite alright Delia. We've run out of wine anyway and I think I'm ready to call it a night.’

‘Me too,’ Delia said, rising to her feet and holding her hand out to help Patsy stand.

Patsy placed her hand in hers and stood, and looked back at her rather surprised when she did not let her go.

Instead, Patsy watched as Delia turned red in the face and interlocked her fingers with Patsy, and began to lead her back down the path towards the main house.

‘So in the future, I suppose I’ll have to look to the trees if I’m unable to find you here on the ground?’ Patsy asked, to which Delia gave a hearty laugh.

The two chatted animatedly about this or that as they made their way back to the main house, their hands keeping a firm hold on the other, neither wanting to let go even as they made their way through the trees once more and approached the house.

Hey headed towards Patsy’s little bungalow, Patsy thinking Delia had every intention of walking her to the door and giving her a kiss goodnight.

She hoped she intended to give her a kiss goodnight!

But alas, that fantasy poofed out of Patsy’s head the moment the two of them heard Mr. Turners jovial laughter as he chased lightning bugs around the garden and captured them in a jar to amuse his daughter.

‘Oh, bugger,’ Delia said, letting go off Patsy's hand and working to stay hidden in the dark, ‘I can’t let him see me or he’ll trap me again.’

Patsy gave a frustrated sigh through her nose, feeling rather miffed that her romantic evening had come to an abrupt halt before they even got to the best part. She did feel sorry for Delia who would need to be seen anyway just so she could get through the door.

‘Would you like for me to distract him so you can get into the house?’

Delia shook her head, ‘Couldn’t ask you t do that Miss Mount. God knows once you start chatting him up he’ll never let you go. I’ll just take the other way.’

Delia began to walk towards the side of the house and Patsy followed.

‘Will you be going through the front?’

‘Can’t,’ Delia said simply, ‘Mam locks up the door this late in the evening when we’re not expecting guests.’

Patsy gasped, surprised to see Delia feel her way through a thicket of leaves and vines that had crawled up the wall of the house, and with an agility to make any gymnast jealous, hoisted herself up and climbed the length of the wall.

‘Gracious, Delia!’ Patsy whispered, ‘are you half lizard!’

Delia looked back, biting her lip and holding in a laugh, ‘No, Miss Mount. Under all these vines are several pieces of an old wooden pallet nailed together to make a ladder. A holdover from my unruly youth when I snuck out for bonfire nights with the boys and our friends from school.’

She paused a moment to push open her bedroom window.

‘Luckily for me Mam never found out and it’s still here and well hidden, so long as you promise not to tattle on me.’

‘I’d never,’ Patsy said coyly.

‘Good,’ Delia simply said, her hands perched on her windowsill as she looked back down at Patsy.

The two shared a warm smile, Patsy clasping her hands behind her back, wishing she were still holding Delia’s hand in hers.

‘I meant it, when I said you can come and talk to me,’ Delia said softly, ‘and now you know how to find me if I’m not up in the trees.’

Patsy couldn’t contain her grin.‘Thank you, Delia. From the bottom of my heart.’

‘Of course Miss Mount. Good night.’

‘Good night.’

With a parting smile, Patsy watched as Delia climbed through her bedroom window. Only when she shut it behind her did Patsy turn and make her way back to her room, thinking how lucky she was to have someone like Delia in her life.

Chapter Text

Patsy was a little beside herself, pacing back and forth below the window to Delia’s bedroom. She had found out about the secret way into her bedroom that was unbeknownst to her mother just the night before. The brunette had been mysteriously MIA all day after they had had a rather intimate conversation about Patsy's past, which rather troubled Patsy.

Patsy wanted to think the woman was just out and about working, too busy to meet her for lunch like she usually did and go on their walk. Patsy resumed her own work, but with it being Friday night and Delia still not making an appearance at the pub to perform with her brothers who carried on without her, well, that’s when she became really worried. She had hoped that her admission of her terrible experience in the camps in Singapore during the war, and her way of dealing with that experience, hadn't somehow scared Delia off.

She had wanted to ask Valerie if she knew the whereabouts of her friend, but the bartender was absolutely slammed. Since the release of the record two weeks ago, and with their song on rotation at the local radio station, the locals had been pouring in to hear them perform, and to Mrs. Busby’s delight, spending copious amounts of money at the pub and at the inn.

The woman herself was back behind the bar this evening washing pint glasses behind Valerie who was doling out the beers like they were going out of style.

'Had one of her fits this morning, I'm afraid,’ Enid said as she hastily dunked dirty pint glasses two by two into a disinfecting solution in the sink and placed them on a mat to dry.

That was one thing Patsy liked about everyone in this family, especially Mrs. Busby, everyone's willingness to roll up their sleeves and jump in and help when it was needed.

‘Told her she'd been working too hard what with keeping up around the house and playing her music, like.’ Enid continued as she straightened out her back and looked to Patsy, giving a look of warning.

'You best be leaving her to rest now. With business picking up around here I need her to be well and I know how distracting you are to her.’

Patsy blinked innocently as Enid turned to Valerie, who was busy changing out the keg underneath the bar.

‘You alright for now, love? I’ll go back in the kitchens and bring out any food that's ready, but otherwise I’ll be out front manning the phone.’

‘I got it from here Mrs. Busby, thank you!’ Valerie said, wiping a bit of sweat from her brow.

Patsy watched as Valerie got back to it, working her charm on a rather dashing blonde haired, blue eyed gentleman sitting at the bar while Mrs. Busby disappeared to the kitchens, leaving Patsy a little unfulfilled as she sat in the noisy, smokey pub.

Patsy began to rack her mind, wondering if she should heed Mrs. Busby's warning or throw it to the wind and go and see Delia anyway.

With Mrs. Busby out front, she was bound to spot Patsy if she tried to sneak up the stairs, and she absolutely did not want to get on the bad side of the mother of the woman she fancied.

Reasoning there was no other option, she now found herself outside and pacing beneath Delia's window, her mind waffling back and forth as to whether or not to climb the hidden ladder.

To bother Delia or not to bother Delia.

What if she truly was ill, and would be miffed if she came up there without invitation?

Despite this thought, Patsy fretted slightly, wringing her hands and not being able to bare the thought of Delia being sick or in pain.

She didn't think she would be able to sleep that night without making sure if Delia was safe and sound in her own bed.

Patsy chewed on her thumbnail and gazed back up at the dark window.

What harm could just taking a little peek through the window be? Just to see if she was alright?

Patsy looked around to make sure she was alone, only hearing the crickets and the enthusiastic shouts and hollers of the men and women in the pub, cheering and carrying on as they drank and listened to the twins play.

She parted the thick vines that crawled up the wall, finding the wooden slats that made up the old homemade ladder and placed her foot on the first one, her shoe already precariously dangling from her heel as she wedged it between the first slat.

Up she went, one slat at a time cursing under her breath with each step. She wasn't prepared for the slats to be uneven, causing her to stub her tow more than once. She wasn't prepared for there to be a thicket of thorns she grabbed a fistful of as she hoisted herself up.

Bloody booby trapped this thing was!

Patsy pursed her lips and blew away a strand of hair that had fallen in her eyes from the effort. She was afraid she was actually going to break a sweat from this and she certainly did not want Delia to be able to smell her from here if it came to it!

Patsy hissed and whipped her hand away when her finger was stuck with a rather particularly large splinter.

'Bloody fucking-,’

'What was that, child?’

'Ahh!’ Patsy shouted, glad she was wearing blue jeans that evening as her legs flail about before she regained her footing. No matter who was down there she certainly did not want them getting a view of anything indecent.

She stumbled and grabbed onto the slats with both hands, losing a shoe in the process and several leaves fluttered around her. Her pulse was pointing much too hard in her ears to even notice all the foliage settling into her hair and on her blouse. Patsy blinked her eyes open and hoped the darkness of the night left her appearance hidden at least from the amused glances of the tittering persons below her.

She looked down and saw three women wearing habits. They stood so closely to one another they all looked like some giant black blob with three white heads, just standing there in the garden watching her.

‘Seems she's making like the Hebrews when they climbed the tower of Babel,’ the older one with thick coke bottle glasses mused.

'Oh, she's babbling alright,’ the other one said, who Patsy remembered was the dart player. Evangelina. The portly woman placed her hands on her hips as she tilted her head, giving Patsy a rather queer look.

Patsy shook her head, her hair falling around her shoulders in loose tendrils as several leaves and twigs fluttered around her.

'Are you stuck, child?’ the middle one asked, looking concerned.

Patsy was glad that one seemed to have a bit of compassion for her predicament, but she was still rather embarrassed for having been caught climbing up to another woman’s room. By nuns, no less. Then again, she reasoned, better them than Mrs. Busby.

‘I’m quite alright,’ Patsy said through gritted teeth, though forced a smile, ‘Thank you, sister!’

To Patsy’s dismay, the next noise she heard was the sound of a window opening. She looked up to see Delia slowly stick her head through, her long hair falling over her shoulders as she squinted to see Patsy in the darkness.

‘Miss Mount? Is that you?’ Delia asked quietly.

Patsy looked back at her with wide eyes, not having expected to have been caught sneaking up to her room like this. She gaped her mouth open and shut like a fish, not prepared to actually talk with Delia this evening, but now that this moment was upon her she was at loss for words.

‘Oh!’ the coke bottle glasses one said, ‘are we witnessing the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet?’

‘I think there would have to be an actual balcony for that, don’t you?’ Sister Evangelina said.

‘I daresay it does seem similar,’ remarked Sister Julienne.

‘Let me help you,’ Delia said, extending her hand to Patsy.

Patsy reached for her and her heart jumped in her throat as Delia clasped onto her hand and hoisted her up as if she were no heavier than a package of flour.

She had seen Delia’s muscles. She had watched her work, and she had even been held by the woman, but this was the first instance that Patsy had really felt Delia’s strength, and while it shocked her for only a second, it made her heart flutter.

‘Snacks, where are my snacks?’ Sister Monica Joan said, her attention turning towards the raised vegetable beds around her.

‘You’re not at the theater you silly… Hey!’

Sister Monica Joan turned to look back at Evangelina as she shoved two fistfuls of fresh spinach into her mouth she had picked from the garden. Her eyes were wide, made to look even bigger through her thick glasses as she chewed. She looked very much like a turtle from the Galapagos who had just bitten into an enormous head of lettuce.

‘Spit that out this instant, that’s not your spinach!’

'Its delicious though,’ the woman mumbled as she chewed, 'practically melts in your mouth.’

‘Sister Evangelina,’ Sister Julienne chided, ‘please do not shout!’

'I just love fresh spinach,’ Monica Joan continued.

'You shush, too!’ Julienne retorted.

‘Everyone shush!,’ Monica Joan said as she gulped down her bite, ‘I want to be able to hear… Oh.’

The three women looked up just in time to see a pair of feet with only one shoe slip through the window.

As the three women fussed and moved on through the gardens back towards their lodging near the church, Patsy found herself with her arms wrapped around Delia’s shoulders, Delia’s arms wrapped around her as she pulled her in through the window as gracefully as she could.

Though, Patsy’s next movements had all the grace of a newborn giraffe because as soon as Delia let go, Patsy’s remaining shoe snagged on to the windowsill and she fell right to the floor, bringing Delia right down with her.

The two landed on the hardwood with a series of loud thumps as their knees and elbows and other limbs collided with the floor and one another, leaving both women wincing and groaning in pain.

‘Sorry,’ Patsy groaned out through clenched teeth as she rolled over onto her back, her leg still high in the air as her shoe was still snagged on something.

Patsy was able to pop her foot out of the shoe and just leave it there dangling outside the window, not particularly caring of it’s fate.

The two women managed to sit up and finally look at one another properly.

Patsy felt herself gulp down a swell of arousal as Delia was revealing the most skin she had ever seen on the woman. She sat there looking back at Patsy wearing only a t-shirt and boxer shorts, pulled so tight around her strong thighs that they left very little to the imagination. Even her bare feet looked ever so enticing and Patsy had to resist the urge to reach out and touch her.

'That thing is a bloody death trap,’ she said instead, to which Delia giggled.

Patsy focused on Delia’s face, and the woman looked tired, but her features graced an affectionate smirk.

‘Miss Mount,’ she said, reaching up and plucking a twig from Patsy’s red locks, ‘to what do I owe the pleasure of your presence this evening?’

‘Delia,’ Patsy started, feeling rather shy all of a sudden, ‘I’m so sorry to have bothered you. I never intended to make such a racket… or to be caught trying to climb up to your window by anyone, especially by that roaming pack of nuns.’

‘Miss Mount,’ Delia began softly, soothing Patsy's nerves, ‘you could never bother me.’

‘I really just wanted to look in and see that you were alright,’ Patsy fretted, playing with her hands in her lap, ‘to be quite honest, I was worried about you and…’

She trailed off, bringing her nail to her mouth again.

Patsy looked up as she felt Delia place a gentle hand on her wrist, pulling her finger away from her mouth. She wondered if it was to get her to keep talking or to stop her from partaking in her bad habit.

‘And?’

‘And I… I haven’t seen you all day and I just...’

Patsy ran her hand through her hair and combed out more offending twigs and leaves with her fingers. She huffed as she flicked them aside.

‘You just…?’ Delia egged on, her smile growing into a small grin.

The woman was much too adorable to lie to.

‘And I just miss you when I don’t see you, Delia,’ Patsy said, looking at her hands and then up at Delia to gauge her reaction.

‘You missed me?’

Patsy shyly nodded.

‘It never occurred to me until this evening how sad I get when I don’t at least see you. Come to think, I don’t think a day has gone by since I’ve been here where I haven’t seen you at least once.’

‘Ten whole weeks,’ Delia said.

Patsy looked up at her and caught Delia blushing, blinking slightly as if even she couldn’t believe that the words had left her mouth.

Delia then looked as if she were in pain, bringing a hand to her head and rubbing her temple.

‘Oh, gosh, I’m sorry!’ Patsy quietly exclaimed as she reached out for Delia, ‘the whole reason you’re in here is because you’re not well, isn't it?’

‘Just a headache,’ Delia said as Patsy rose and helped her to her feet, ‘...one that’s lasted all damn day,’ she added dryly.

‘Delia, I’m so sorry, I really didn’t mean to come in and bother you,’ Patsy said as she sat Delia back down on her bed, ‘I’ll leave you now to get some rest, alright?’

Patsy was about to brace herself to make her exit out the way she came in, but stopped as she felt a hand gently grasp her wrist.

She looked back at Delia surprised.

‘Miss Mount, I don’t want you to go,’ Delia said softly.

‘You don’t?’ she asked as Delia let go.

‘No,’ she said softly, ‘I could use some company. I’ve been alone all day save for Mam coming in with a bit of food and tea from time to time.’

Delia scooted to the far side of the bed and patted the empty space next to her.

‘You’re welcome to come and sit so long as you don’t mind I lay back down,’ she remarked, settling in comfortably and stretching out.

‘Of course not,’ Patsy said, noticing a flannel by a basin full of water sitting by the bed. She moved to dip the flannel in the water and wring it out, thinking a cool compress on Delia’s forehead would sooth her ache. She sat on the bed facing Delia and placed the flannel over her eyes.

‘Thank you,’ Delia sighed, sounding a bit relieved, ‘I took that off earlier when I tried to eat a bit of toast and forgot it was there.’

The two sat in a comfortable silence for several moments. Patsy listened to Delia’s breathing slow as she began to relax more into the bed, and she took that moment to look around Delia’s bedroom.

It was a simple room, really. Small. They were situated on a twin bed with an iron frame that was pushed against the wall. A nightstand with a lamp that was turned off, the only light in the room filtering in from the moonlight. There was a small writing desk on the other side of the room scattered with papers and notebooks, a chest of drawers with her mandolin perched on top, a small bookshelf that held a multitude of records, and a vacant space where Patsy imagined her record player sat until she gave it to Patsy to use. There was some framed pieces of cross stitch decorating the walls, Patsy imagined created by Mrs. Busby. Old family photos of her and her brothers enjoying a swim or playing out in the snow we're pinned to a board. Patsy saw a few posters from movies Delia liked, artists and musicians, too, and one of the London skyline.  

Patsy looked back at Delia and instinctively reached out to brush her fringe out of her eyes.

‘How are you feeling? Are you in a lot of pain?’ she asked.

Delia shook her head.

‘Knowing you’re close makes me feel better,’ Delia said softly.

Patsy grasped Delia’s hand in hers without thinking, and it felt like the most natural thing in the world.

‘So you’ve had a migraine all day, is that it?’ she asked.

‘Seems like,’ Delia mumbled tiredly, ‘Thinking it must have been the red wine we had last night.’

‘Oh no,’ Patsy tisked, ‘so this is my fault.’

‘Of course it’s not Miss Mount. You had no way of knowing. I didn’t know either, that red wine would put me out like this,’ she remarked, taking another deep breath to relax herself.

‘Do you get migraines like this often?’ Patsy asked.

‘Not as regularly as I had been. I’m still figuring out what triggers them. Certain foods, certain drinks. I unfortunately have to go through this every time to figure out what does it, but afterwards I know what to avoid.’

Delia sighed, and Patsy listened silently as she held her hand.

‘This one was definitely a piece of cake compared to what it was like in the beginning. Back then I'd go blind from seeing spots. Bright flashes of light like I was a celebrity, but no one was taking my photograph,’ she smiled feebly, ‘I was in such pain I wasn't able to keep anything down. Would spend days just lying here thinking I would give anything to be functional again. Thankfully all I needed to give it was time, but that didn't do me any good when I would have rather been doing my job as a nurse.’

Delia removed the flannel from her eyes so she could look up at Patsy.

'I won't lie to you, Miss Mount, being home has its advantages. I love having my family close and the fresh air can't be beaten, but I do miss nursing. I do miss London, but I can't see myself going back.’

'Because of the accident?’ Patsy asked, her hold on Delia’s hand growing more firm.

‘No, for other reasons mostly. I never felt like I fit in with city life, to be honest. Those tall buildings and everyone walking around always so posh and glamorous. Felt like a fish out of water sometimes, but I will admit the women were very nice to admire.’

She smiled and Patsy let out a little giggle at that, thinking very much the same thing, though she couldn’t think of a time she had admired someone as much as she admired Delia.

‘As far as my accident,’ Delia continued, ‘well, I was merely at the wrong place at the wrong time. I had my hair short then, if you can imagine. Had it cut nice and short just a few days prior, though the hairdresser made it look too girly. Wore my cap like I always do to make me look more like myself. I always knew I looked like a boy, and that I don't mind. Just really unlucky that day, looking as I did.’

'The way you looked?’ Patsy asked, and Delia nodded.

'I had dressed up nice like so I could go to the bank. My best waistcoat and trousers and shoes. Thought I looked really sharp and was going to open an account as I'd finally saved the money for a down payment on my very own flat. Was looking forward to getting out of those stuffy nurses dorms. So as I'm walking up the steps, another bloke dashes out the door and runs right by me. Before I know it I turn back around and see two coppers coming after me, so they grab me and give me one swift knock to the head with the truncheon.’

'Oh God,’ Patsy let out a small gasp and covered her mouth with her hand.

'All went dark after that, they hit me so hard. Nearly cracked my skull. Said they thought I was the man running out of the bank.’

‘Stupid,’ Patsy said, ‘if they had only taken a moment to really look at you they would have known you weren’t him. That you weren’t even a man,’ Patsy seethed.

Delia shrugged, ‘It all happened so fast, I honestly would have thought the same thing if I had been in their shoes.’

Patsy harrumphed, not at all pleased, but she decided to press on.

‘This man… was he a robber?’

Delia nodded, ‘Went in with his gran and decided to run off with her safety deposit box, from what I understand. Only found out the details of the incident when my Mam and I went to court over the matter.’

‘You went to court?’

Delia gave an affirming hum.

'Mam was furious, of course. Not only because I had been beaten but also just having to come to London and work out the legalities of it all. The bank ended up giving us a small settlement to put it all past us, but she thinks they shortchanged us, given my time out of work and losing my memory for a time. I'm just happy it's all over with, really.’

‘So what’s been done with the money? The settlement?’ Patsy asked.

Delia sighed, ‘Mam locked it up night and tight for me in a trust while I was recovering here. Says I can have it when I get married or when I turn 30, whichever comes first,’ she looked up at the ceiling, looking sad, ‘wish she’d let me have it now, though. Give anything to buy a house of my own. Maybe start a business. Don’t like being the age I am and still living with my folks,’ she turned to Patsy and forced a smile, ‘in any event, it’s not much but it’ll be a nice little nest egg when I do get ahold of it.’

Patsy sighed, eyeing the scar on Delia’s head that she would have to live with forever. Something she would see each time she looked in the mirror, a constant reminder of what happened that day. It wasn’t fair.

'So you really did have amnesia?’ she asked.

'Just for a few days. I was pretty much back to normal once they released me from hospital, save for this scar and the occasional migraine, though Mam didn’t think I was fit to work a job as demanding as nursing anymore. She insisted I come back with her and Da so I could recover at home. Thought being in a familiar environment would help and all.’

Delia gave a sad sigh, and Patsy felt like she understood the woman a lot better than she had when she crawled through her window.

That knock on the head not only took away her sense of independence, but her sense of her identity as well.

It was no wonder Delia seemed so lacking in confidence. She didn’t have the space here to be on her own, to prove her self worth though work, or even feel comfortable presenting herself in the way she wanted to most.

Patsy shifted to move and lay down next to Delia, who had rolled over onto her belly, sighing tiredly. Patsy grasped her hand again and the two looked at each other.

'Delia, is that why you've let your hair grow out? Because you don't want to be mistaken for a man again?’

Delia nodded, 'Sounds silly, doesn't it? A bit sexist, I suppose. Thinking something like growing out my hair could act as a layer of protection against a case of mistaken identity again. A stranger wouldn’t beat a woman out of the blue like that’

'It's not silly,’ Patsy said, ‘seems perfectly reasonable to me.’

‘It was why I started working out, too,’ Delia smiled, ‘would you believe I was smaller than I already am?’

‘No,’ Patsy said with a hint of disbelief.

‘Oh, yes, I was a skinny little thing. Not so small that a gust of wind would knock me over, mind, but I was a bit of a waif. Hardly any muscle.’

‘What changed?’

‘Well, when Mam had me give up nursing and we finally moved back here for good with Valerie, I felt so helpless. When I got my memory back, I kept replaying the moment over and over again in my mind. I know it happened out of the blue, but I wondered for a bit, what if I had the strength to hold those coppers off? At the very least give myself a fighting chance, you know? That I wouldn't have gone down so easily.’

Delia sighed and continued, ‘That was about the time my brothers returned from the navy. They were always stocky, but they returned looking a bit more buff than I had remembered them being. Said they had nothing else to do on that boat other than clean and work out. I asked them to teach me what they learned in the military, the kinds of exercises they learned in boot camp and the like. So they showed me some techniques, and, well, being in hospital and then coming back here, not working… I grew so restless and just needed to do something . It was hard at first, but I made myself do it every day, and eventually it got easier. It was my only hobby for awhile. Made me feel like I had a shred of power over something in my life.’

Patsy nodded in understanding.

Delia gave a pointed look to Patsy, ‘Mam didn’t like it.’

‘I’m shocked,’ she winked.

‘Said I shouldn’t overexert myself or stress my body, less I make my condition worse. Mostly she didn’t think it made me look feminine to have muscles,’ Delia raised her arm, ‘but I don’t know, I think I look pretty good.’

Patsy raised her eyebrows as Delia flexed her arm, curling her wrist and making a tennis ball shaped muscle protrude where her bicep was.

‘It’s alright,’ she mumbled, trying to ignore how dry her throat was suddenly.

Delia chuckled and situated herself back down on the bed, curling an arm under her pillow as she sighed and looked up at Patsy with those big blue eyes.

‘Sorry, I feel like I’ve been talking your ear off all night,’ she said bashfully.

‘Oh, Delia, that’s quite alright,’ Patsy waved her off, ‘I honestly don’t think there is anything else in the world I would rather be doing right now.’

‘Even though you caught me in my pyjamas?’ she grinned, and Patsy had a hunch that Delia was rather enjoying making her so flustered.

‘Especially. An added bonus to my evening, I think,’ she replied, ‘makes losing my trainers all the worth while.’

Delia merely smiled shyly, grasping Patsy by the hand.

‘Thank you for coming to visit me this evening, Miss Mount.’

Delia brought the back of Patsy’s hand to her mouth and kissed it.

Patsy blushed, not caring that she was smiling like a fool as she felt herself sink even more into Delia’s pillow, watching the woman take a deep breath and close her eyes.

A few moments of silence passed where Patsy merely looked at Delia.

A swell of emotions built up in her chest and felt as if they were going to burst out. She had the overwhelming urge to reach out and touch Delia, so she tentatively brushed her fringe out of her eyes, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. Her fingers ached to feather over her eyebrow, down her cheek, over her lips.

But she pulled away.

Patsy felt protective of the woman lying beside her. In her mind, she recalled the story Delia had just told her, wishing she and known Delia while she was in London. Wishing she could protect her then. She vowed to settle for the now and the future, doing everything in her power to keep Delia safe and happy. She was attracted to Delia, that was for sure, but Patsy realized something. Something that had been happening slowly, then hit her all at once.

Delia was someone she wanted in her life. Permanently, if the fates would allow

She wanted to tell Delia that she thought she might be in love with her.

But she held her tongue.

Instead, she asked, ‘How is your headache?’

‘Nearly gone,’ Delia said softly, sounding as if she were about to drift off to sleep.

‘Good,’ Patsy whispered.

She reached over and rested her hand on Delia’s back, slowly grazing her fingers over the length of her back, down and up again.

Delia sighed, nearly purring.

‘Feels good,’ she mumbled.

Patsy smiled, thinking Delia looked rather childlike and adorable is such a state of tiredness, her eyes closed and lips parted ever so slightly, pressed against her pillow.

She scratched her back for several moments, long after Delia’s breathing had grown heavy and the woman was sound asleep.

Patsy could hardly bare to leave her, but she didn't want to think of the reaction Delia, or worse, Mrs. Busby, would have if she were found having spent the night here in Delia’s childhood bedroom.

As quietly as she could, fighting against the creaking bed and floor beneath her feet, she gently placed a blanket over Delia and tucked her in snug before opening the window and leaving the way she came in, though much more quietly this time.


Patsy spotted Delia pulling weeds from the flower bed in front of the house as she pulled up on a bicycle she had borrowed from Nicholas.

Delia looked up at the sound of the old but reliable chain clinking as Patsy rolled to a stop.

‘Morning Delia,’ Patsy said with a grin, truly happy to see her.

‘Good morning Miss Mount,’ Delia said, her grin matching Patsy's as she rose to her full height and turned towards her, ‘I see you’re out bright and early enjoying the weather.’

‘I am, thank you,’ Patsy replied, pausing slightly and licking her lips as she regarded Delia in her usual garb of trousers held up with braces and her thermal shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbow, ‘and how are you? Feeling better I imagine?’

‘Oh, yes Miss Mount,’ Delia said rather bashfully, removing her gardening gloves and sticking them in her back pocket, ‘I’m feeling much better, and I daresay I have you to thank for that.’

‘Nonsense,’ Patsy replied, ‘I’m glad you’re feeling like yourself again.’

Delia smiled, blushing slightly, ‘So what have you been up to this morning?’

‘I’ve just returned from town. Needed to pick up a few things,’ Patsy said as she dismounted the bike and walked it closer to Delia.

‘Anything interesting?’ Delia asked, removing her cap and wiping her brow with a handkerchief she pulled from her back pocket.

‘Well, actually…,’ Patsy reached for the wicker bag that was draped over her shoulder and shifted through some things, pulling out a magazine.

She gulped nervously as Delia looked on with curiosity.

‘Delia, I… I went into town today because I wanted to get some supplies.’

‘Oh?’ Delia asked, still eyeing the magazine, ‘what kind of supplies?’

‘Oh, you know,’ Patsy said as she willed herself to not tremble, hoping she wasn’t being too presumptuous in her suggesting what she was about to offer, ‘I picked up a nice set of clippers, some scissors, hair product…’

Not knowing how to finish, she thrusted the magazine out to Delia.

‘This men's style magazine, for instance!’ she caught herself shouting too excitedly, and cleared her throat, speaking in a more normal voice, ‘I thought… well, I just thought that, if you wanted to look through it….’ she trailed off as Delia slowly took the magazine from her, ‘maybe pick out a style you liked, I could… well you know, when you’re ready, I thought I could…’

Delia blinked at the magazine she was holding and looked back up at her in utmost disbelief.

‘You want to cut my hair?’ she asked.

Patsy could’t read her expression and she had no idea if the woman was offended or thrilled.

‘Um, well, yes. But only if you want to!’ she added quickly, ‘I don’t want you to think I dislike it as it is now, it’s just, after last night, what you told me… it seemed like you would prefer to have short hair and I just wanted to… you know, support you if you were ready to… to... cut it again.’

Delia merely blinked.

‘Delia, I just want you to feel more like yourself…’ Patsy trailed off, watching as a slow smile spread across the brunettes face

‘You want to cut my hair.’ Delia said again, only this time it was a statement. A fact.

Patsy shyly nodded.

She didn’t expect it to happen so soon, Delia accepting and saying she was ready right then and there. Patsy grinned, feeling thrilled.

The two walked together to Patsy’s bungalow, and she rested the bicycle against the wall of her lodging before they went in together.

Patsy grabbed the chair she had spent several hours sitting in, writing, and placed it in the bathroom in front of the mirror.

Delia sat down as Patsy draped an old bed sheet over her and tied it snug around her neck, fluffing out her long locks and using her own hairbrush to smooth them out.

‘Did you see anything in the magazine you liked?’ Patsy asked, looking over Delia’s shoulder at the page she had opened, ‘Perhaps something like what Elvis has?’

'Can you honestly see me with a pompadour?’ Delia laughed.  

'I I think you'd look cute with one!’

'Maybe something not so glamorous. I like to wear my cap so I'm not too keen on using too much product,’ Delia admitted.

'Alright, something more natural. Maybe Robert Redford?’ she asked, pointing to his  photograph, 'Ooh, how about James Dean?’

Delia looked at her through the mirror and smirked, her cheek indenting to show off a cute dimple that made Patsy weak in the knees no matter how many times she saw it.

‘I trust you, Miss Mount,’ she said, tossing the magazine to the floor, ‘you do what you think is best.’

‘Oh, Delia, you shouldn’t give me such liberties,’ she teased as she played with Delia’s hair, raking her fingers through the thick locks.

Patsy hummed, tucking Delia’s hair behind her hands and imagining how it would look cut just below her ears. Or around them?

She racked her brain, painting a picture in her head of how she wanted Delia’s hair to look before she began cutting.

‘You’re alright with going very short?’

Delia smiled and nodded.

‘I’ll go an inch at a time, just in case,’ Patsy said as she walked in front of Delia, picking up the scissors and getting to work.

Time passed, the only sounds were the snip snip of her new shears and thick strands of hair falling to her feet bit by bit. She walked around Delia several times, checking in with her to make sure she wanted to go shorter, and the woman said yes every time.

When Patsy was almost done, she walked in front of Delia, blocking her view of herself in the mirror, very well intending not to let her see herself until she was finished.

More time passed where the only sounds were the snip snip if the scissors as Patsy measured her hair evenly with the comb and cut away any uneven strands. Finally, she stepped back and took one last look at Delia before she moved around to the back of her, allowing Delia to see herself in the mirror.

Her hair was now tapered off at the neck, the length of her fringe shortened to about an inch above her eyebrows. Thick tendrils of hair resting on the side of her head acted as sideburns, and her ears poking out just slightly, giving her a rather cute, yet boyish charm.

Delia blinked, looking rather stunned.

‘Well, go on,’ Patsy encouraged, brushing a few loose strands off her neck, ‘run your fingers through it and see how it feels.’

Delia gave a bit of a hesitant smile as sue exhaled, doing as Patsy asked and reached a shaky hand out from under the bed cloth to touch her hair. She grasped the back of her neck and ran the palm of her hand over the short strands, reaching around to clasp her fringe and the hair on the top of her head between her fingers.

Delia gulped, and Patsy grew worried.

‘Is it alright?’ Patsy asked, fretting ‘I haven’t cut off too much, have I?’

Delia sniffed, ‘It’s perfect,’ she said, taking a deep breath, ‘I … I love it.’

Patsy watched in the mirror as Delia’s eyes screwed shut, her mouth forming a tight line as fat tears rolled down her cheeks.

‘It’s perfect Miss Mount, it’s…’ she clasped her hand over her mouth as she stifled a sob.

Patsy placed her shears on the sink and wrapped her arms around Delia from behind, tucking her head into her shoulder as the woman softly cried.

‘I love it Miss Mount,’ Delia said again, more tears rolling down her cheeks as Patsy merely held her tight, fighting off the urge to cry herself.


 

Chapter Text

Patsy was in a relaxed state as she rested her cheek on the back of her hand and dangled her arm over the side of the tiny row boat, her fingers skimming along the cool water as Delia rowed and moved them along towards the middle of the lake.

It was her idea, actually, spotting Delia yet again trapped in a corner by the ever curious Mr. Turner and needing an out. She made up some lie about needing a light bulb changed in her bedroom, but then suggested they sneak off to their spot by the portal tomb. With the weather being so humid that morning, Patsy thought a little row in the boat would relieve them of the heat and of any unwanted company.

So here she lay on her side in the small boat, humming quietly to herself as she let the water run through her fingers.

She had to admit to herself that she should have thought to do something like this earlier, for watching Delia move her body was starting to become one of her favorite pastimes, and she wondered how she could have gone so long without watching the woman row a boat.

Plus, she was able to admire Delia’s new haircut from here. Patsy directed her gaze subtly to the woman across from her, thinking she looked rather dashing in her simple attire of white T-shirt and blue jeans with the cuffs rolled mid-calf.

Patsy herself was feeling dashing in her sleeveless blouse and shorts, loving the feel of the warm sun on her arms and legs. Like Delia she left her shoes on the shore and quite fancied the idea of dipping her toes in the water later.

‘I think that'll do,’ Delia mused to herself as she rested the oars in their holders.  

'You can come and sit with me if you like,’ Patsy suggested slyly, ‘The water feels absolutely divine.’

'Probably not a good idea, Miss Mount,’ Delia smiled, ‘Wouldn't want to much weight on one side if the boat now.’

Patsy sighed, thinking the ever practical Delia had a point but she was sad she was reasoned out of a chance to snuggle up in close quarters with Delia with little chance of being interrupted.

'I’ll come and sit down here with you so long as you don't mind my feet,’ Delia suggested.

‘I don't mind at all so long as you don't mind mine,’ Patsy replied.

'Of course not,’ Delia said, sliding down from her seat to the bottom of the boat, leaning her back against the bench while she stretched out.

'Would you like a cigarette Miss Mount? I have my papers in my pocket.’

'Yes I would, thank you,’ Patsy smiled.

Patsy shifted as well so that her feet were crossed at the ankles by Delia's hips. She raised her arms above her and linked her fingers behind her head.

‘I'm so happy you're feeling better Delia,’ Patsy said as she closed her eyes, 'I wouldn't want to imagine missing out on a day like this without you.’

'Believe you me, I'm happy you be out here with you than cooped up inside,’ Delia replied as she placed a pinch of tobacco onto a piece of paper.

'If you were cooped up inside I would come and be cooped up with you.’

Delia smiled as she licked the wrap to her cigarette.

'You'd probably get sick of me.’

'Can't imagine I'd ever feel that way about you Miss Mount. Besides, I'm sure we would find ways of entertaining ourselves.’

Delia placed the cigarette in her mouth and lit the match.

‘Entertain ourselves, hmm?’ Patsy mused, 'However could you mean?’

Delia coughed and a puff of smoke escaped from her nose and mouth, and Patsy couldn't help but smirk at her flustered state.

Delia cleared her throat and handed Patsy her cigarette.

'I don't know really,’ Delia said, Patsy raising an eyebrow and not believing her one bit, 'thought perhaps some rainy day you could teach me a few of those magic tricks.’

'Mmm,’ Patsy hummed inhaling a drag of smoke, 'Magic tricks? Whatever do you mean?’

With a flick of her hand, Patsy made it appear as though she swallowed her cigarette and placed her hands behind her head again.

Delia began to laugh as she pulled out her pipe, ‘That's what I mean you cheeky-,’

'I've no idea what you're talking about,’ Patsy played dumb as she allowed a thick cloud of smoke to roll out through her nostrils.

'Think the fire breathing dragon look suits you,’ Delia remarked as she lit her pipe and puffed.

Patsy merely wiggled her eyebrows as more smoke slowly billowed out of her nostrils.

‘Miss Mount did you actually swallow your cigarette?’ Delia asked, looking thoroughly amused, 'go on, how did you do it? Let me see under your tongue!’

'Oh Delia don't be silly,’ Patsy looked away and made her cigarette reappear in her hand, taking a drag, 'Swallow a cigarette. Who would do such a thing.’

'I honestly wouldn't put it past you, Miss Mount,’ Delia quipped as she puffed on her pipe.

'And why do you say that?’

'No reason other than you have certainly surprised me more than once.’

'That's right I have,’ Patsy said, 'you've got to stay on your toes with me, Busby. Never know what I might do next,’ she wiggled her eyebrows as she took another sultry drag of her cigarette.

'Speaking of toes,’ Delia said as she held her pipe between her teeth and grabbed one of Patsy's feet, placing it on her lap, 'I couldn't help but notice the varnish on your nails.’

‘Daisy yellow? Do you not like it?’

'On the contrary yellow is my favorite color.,’ Delia spoke out of the corner of her mouth while she puffed on her pipe.

Puffs of smoke blew up into the air around her head and disappeared as she examined Patsy’s foot.

Patsy was a little shy as she knew her feet were probably dirty, but given how Delia did not seem to care she willed herself to relax at her touch. The woman had begun to squeeze her feet in all the right places, making Patsy want to fall back and let out an inappropriate moan.

'Delia if you keep doing that I'm going to fall in love with you.’

'I take no umbrage with that.’

Patsy smiled, knowing very well that she was already quite in love with the woman, and she had a hunch Delia felt the same way, though now in the moment did not seem like the right time to act on anything. She was quite content to continue her shameless flirting.

'You're free to borrow some if you like. I would happily paint your toenails for you,’ Patsy offered, taking one last drag of her cigarette before tossing the last of it overboard.

Delia merely smiled, 'I appreciate the offer Miss Mount, though I'm afraid the varnish would he wasted on me. I'm not very gentle on my feet and I'm afraid the varnish would he chipped away in no time.’

‘Nonsense, Delia, I think we could make good work of these little piggies.’

Patsy grabbed her foot and Delia yanked it away, gasping so hard she choked on her smoke.

'Oh, sorry,’ Patsy said half amused as Delia coughed and waved away the smoke around her head, 'didn't realize you were so ticklish.’

'Yes,’ Delia said with tears in her eyes, tapping the used tobacco out of her pipe over the side of the boat, ‘my feet are rather particular, unfortunately. Something my brothers found out about me long ago.’

‘Oh, dear. I imagine you were held upside down by the ankles and tickled.’

'Tortured more like.’

'Then I shan't tease you then,’ she said mischievously, 'much.’

Patsy ran her finger up the length of the bottom of Delia's foot. Again, Delia gasped.

'Hey!’ she laughed, ‘you'd do well to leave my feet be, Miss Mount, less you want to risk a kick in the teeth!’

'I’d do well ?’ Patsy gasped in fake outrage, ‘you dare tell me what to do? You're not my employer! I don't work in this boat!’

She dove for Delia's foot again to give it one last tickle, but the Welsh woman surprised her by grabbing her by the wrists.

Both women were on their knees and giggling profusely, there was a bit of a struggle between the two of the boat, the small craft rocking violently back and forth.

'You're going to make us fall!’ Patsy shouted through her grin.

'Yeah and it'll be all your bloody fault!’ Delia replied, not at all relenting her grip on the woman.

‘How will it be my fault?!’

The boat rocked more side to side, sloshing water around them and creating violent ripples of water that nearly reached the shore.

‘You started this whole thing by tickling me!’ Delia exclaimed.

‘You started it by touching my feet!’

There was a peculiar noise just then, something like wood clacking against wood and then a ‘plunk plunk’, the sound of something falling into the water.

Both Patsy and Delia halted their motions, looking into each others eyes with surprise.

'What was that?’ Patsy asked.

The two waited for the boat to still, the water calming around them as they listened.

Delia let go of Patsy and and looked behind her, groaning as she saw both their oars floating in the water and drifting away.

Cachu hwch ,’ she swore, grasping to the side of the boat and looking despondently at the oars. She reached out for one of them but soon found it to be helpless.

‘Oh dear, suppose that’s what we get for roughhousing,’ Patsy sighed, sitting back down on her bum and grasping onto the side of the boat.

‘It’s alright Miss Mount, I’ll get them,’ Delia said as she bent over as far as she could and paddled with one arm towards an oar.

Patsy felt terrible for having a hand in them even being in this predicament now. She sat up on her knees again and went to mimic Delia’s motions to help propel them faster though the water.

‘Here, let me help,’ she said, leaning over the side and placing her arm into the water.

Delia gasped suddenly and looked back at her ‘No! Miss Mount!’

Too late did Patsy realize that their combined weight on one side of the boat had them tipping to the point of no return. Patsy looked up to see the other side of the boat was so high above their heads that it was blocking out the sun, and her heart sank, realizing she was about to ruin her hair.

Both women let out a shout as they met her destiny with the lake, falling awkwardly into the water with their limbs spread. Patsy tried to avoid the initial shock of the cold against her skin, and made sure to dive beneath the water to avoid the capsizing boat hitting her anywhere. She swam under the water a few yards away, making sure to rise only when she knew she was a safe distance from any chaos. She raked her fingers through her hair and rubbed the water out of her eyes, looking around for any sign of Delia.

She treaded water as she eventually watched a familiar looking flat cap rise to the surface, but still no Delia.

Patsy scanned the water and prepared herself to dive in after Delia if she needed to, until she saw a pair of legs kicking about under the water. Her eyes followed the figure and saw that they led to just under the capsized boat.

She swam over to the hat and grabbed it, diving under the water once more to duck her head under the boat.

When she reemerged, she found Delia looking back at her rather bashfully.

‘Are you alright?’ she asked, the sound of her voice and the water sloshing around them echoing in the small concave surface around them.

Delia nodded shyly.

‘Yes, I’m sorry, are you alright?’ Delia asked, looking very remorseful.

‘Oh, I’m fine,’ Patsy said, ‘here, I grabbed this for you.’

‘Thank you,’ Delia said, sighing as she pulled her cap under the water and looked as if she was situating it in her pocket, ‘I feel dreadfully awful that this happened Miss Mount.’

‘Oh, that’s alright Delia,’ Patsy said with a smile, working to convey that she was truly not upset.

‘I didn’t mean it when I said this would be your fault, I’m sorry.’

‘Hey, Delia, really, it’s alright,’ Patsy said, dipping her head to meet her eyes.

When Delia looked back at her she smiled.

‘Thought it was a rather nice day to go for a swim anyway,’ she winked.

Patsy cupped her hand in a way that caused water to shot from the palm of her hand and just past Delia’s ear, and Patsy was relieved to finally have the woman smiling again.

‘Hey!’ Delia said, and splashed a bit of water at her. Patsy mocked offense.

‘Don’t make me dive down there to tickle that foot again!’

The two laughed as they continued to lightly splash water at one another, Delia eventually grasping onto Patsy’s wrists to get her to stop. Patsy soon calmed herself, both of their giggles dying down until they were simply smiling dreamily at one another.

Patsy realized that they were alone, in private, with very little chance of being interrupted, being under a boat out in the middle of the lake and all. She wondered if now would be as good a time as any to try and tell her how she felt.

‘Delia,’ Patsy started softly as Delia released her hold on her wrists.

‘Yes Miss Mount?’

Patsy tentatively placed her hands on Delia’s shoulders.

‘You know I like you very much,’ she said softly, growing rather excited when she felt Delia place her hands on her hips.

‘Yes, Miss Mount, I like you too,’ Delia replied, and Patsy watched as she blushed, her eyelids growing heavy as she gazed at her lips.

‘Well,’ she said, her fingers entangling themselves in the hair on the back of her head, ‘what are we going to do about that.’

Patsy bit back a smile, feeling excited as she was on the precipice of having her dreams come true. She lowered her eyelids to match Delia's as her face drew near. She could feel her breath on her lips as Delia's grip on her hips grew tight.

‘Miss Mount, I… I’m sorry.’

Well that certainly wasn't what she was expecting.

Patsy pulled away, blinking. Anxiety clenched painfully at her heart as she looked back at Delia’s remorseful expression.

‘Delia, what’s the matter?’ she asked quietly, ‘If we like each other, then why....’

‘You’re leaving at the end of the summer…’ she replied, trailing off and looking sad.

Patsy’s heart sank, wondering if Delia didn’t see a point in being more than friends if she was going to take off back to London. In the moment Patsy didn't even know if she could bare going back and leaving Delia, let alone returning to London without even writing her own bloody book like she had planned. Though now it seemed it didn’t matter. Delia was saying ‘no’.

Patsy had no time to process this further as the boat was lifted around them. The sunlight blinded both her and Delia, the dramatic change so sudden and bright that they both hissed and shut their eyes. Patsy felt Delia push her away as she blinked her eyes open, wondering what on earth was happening.

‘Here they are!’

‘Are they drowning?

‘What did Miss Crane say to do?’

‘Give them the floatie!’

Patsy looked around and saw that she was surrounded by a bunch of adolescent boys.

‘Who the hell are you lot?!’ she exclaimed.

Several of the boys gasped.

‘She swore!’

‘Never heard a lady swear before!’

‘We’re saving you, that’s what!’

‘Oh, right!’

Both Patsy and Delia looked at one another helplessly as several pairs of arms wrapped around them and began to drag them to the shore by the church.

‘We don’t need to be saved!’ Delia tried to shout, to no avail.

Patsy tried not to let whomever had their arm around her throat choke her as they paddled to shore. She could make out a few of the boys pushing the boat and collecting the oars.

Over the sounds of their chaotic shouting and splashing, Patsy heard the shill screech of a whistle being blown.

‘Alight, that'll do lads!’ came a Yorkshire lit, ‘bring them to shore like I taught you and make sure they’re nice and safe.’

More hands gripped at her as she was practically carried to shore and away from the water, placed somewhere on the grass. When she was finally released Patsy blinked and saw that her blouse was pushed up, revealing her torso.

She looked up to see several pairs of adolescent boys in swim trunks looking back down at her exposed skin. Patsy hastily sat up and covered herself.

‘So can I give that one CPR now?’ a skinny boy with big ears and thick rimmed glasses asked the leader hopefully.

‘I beg your pardon!?’ Patsy asked the boy incredulously.

‘Well I want to earn my badge,’ he shrugged pushing his glasses up his nose, giving a creepy smile, ‘plus, I love redheads.’

‘Oi,’ Delia said warningly, glaring daggers at the boy.

‘Carl, if you want to earn your CPR badge, you can practice on Sister Evangelina like we discussed,’ the woman said.

The boy moped as the others around him giggled.

Patsy directed her gaze to the voice and finally got a good look at this woman with the whistle. She looked as if she could be a military officer, standing up straight, her hair perfectly coiffed and donning what looked to be the adult version of a cub scout uniform.

‘Nice to see you again Phyllis,’ Delia said, shaking some water from her hair.

‘Likewise, Miss Busby,’ Phyllis nodded politely in Delia's direction.

‘Good travels?’

Phyllis placed a hand over her heart and sighed wistfully.

‘Sí, visitar el campo de España fue una experiencia que siempre apreciaré en mi corazón.’

Patsy blinked, not understanding a word of that but thinking it sounded very much like poetry.

‘Now then!’ Phyllis said, dawning a smile and turning to look towards the boys around her, ‘I think today everyone has earned their water rescue badge!’

Around her, Patsy heard the boys give a quiet jubilation, some patting the other on the back

‘Not Tim!’ Carl, the lecherous one with the glasses said while he shoved the Turner boy to the forefront. Tim looked thoroughly embarrassed, gangly and pale in his swim trunks, the only ones that were a different color than the rest of the boys.

‘Yeah, he never even got in the water!’ cried another boy.

‘Settle down now, Tim will have his chance!’ Phyllis said, giving a kind smile to Tim, ‘we’ll get you all sorted with your uniform in the coming days once your family has settled.’

‘I did not consent to participate in this,’ Patsy griped,crossing her arms over her chest and glaring spitefully at the woman.

‘Those who are in distress or drowning usually do not consent to participate either, Miss. It’s better for the boys to learn how to do this so they can jump into action if they are ever to come across someone actually drowning in real life!’ she said with a fist clenched firmly in the air.

‘Rightio!’

Patsy whipped around to see another woman appear out of nowhere, and she marveled at how she could have not seen this woman before as she was enormous!

‘Benny, Jake, get these two a towel! It’s about time we all popped back into the church and had ourselves a bit of refreshments, yeah?’

A boy of about five or six was clinging to the larger womans legs.

‘Mummy, I want a pickle.’

‘Of course Freddie, there’s plenty of pickles back in the church, yeah?’

‘Alright you lot! Off to it!’ Phyllis said before she blew her whistle again.

Patsy felt a fluffy towel fall around her shoulders as the boys lined up single file behind the large woman with glasses. They marched off and she noticed that Tim was the only one to stay behind.

‘Alright Tim?’ she heard Delia ask behind her.

Tim nodded, shyly crossing his arms over his chest, ‘Yeah, mum and dad signed me up for the scouts thinking it would help me make some friends my own age… it’s just I… I can’t,’ he nodded toward the water, ‘you know.’

‘Never learned how to swim?’ Delia finished for him, and Tim nodded.

‘Doesn’t help matters, yeah. Carl certainly seems to think it’s hilarious and tried pushing me in once or twice.’

‘What a prick,’ Patsy spat.

‘What’s that?’ Tim asked, looking thoroughly intrigued.

A bolt of panic shot though Patsy.

‘Is that a swear word?’ Tim asked excitedly.

‘No!’ Patsy shouted, ‘though you should never say it! And especially don’t tell anyone you heard it from me!’

‘Fall in line, Tim!’ Phyllis said, blowing her whistle again and waiving over to him, ‘And you ladies better follow suit! Looks like there's a storm on the horizon about to roll through.’

Patsy followed Phyllis’ gaze to see thick, billowing dark grey clouds rolling in their direction. It seemed the humidity in the air was about to bring on a summer rain.

‘Please let me help you, Miss Mount.’

Patsy looked back to see Delia standing over her, slightly bowing, offering her hand to help her stand.

Patsy’s brows furrowed, her mind suddenly recalling what she and Delia had been discussing prior to all this chaos happening.

Without a word, Patsy pushed herself off the ground and began to walk towards the church, wrapping her towel around her like a cape and she gave Delia no regard whatsoever.


The building attached to the church looked as if it served many purposes. Wood flooring, cinder block walls, a small stage on one side, and several folding tables and stackable chairs pushed to one side. Patsy reasoned this was perhaps a meeting place or auditorium, someplace where people met after church for tea or had their support groups and book clubs and christenings.

Currently the walls echoed with the sounds of dozens of rowdy children, most shouting and running around, chasing one another. There were groups of girls who were skipping rope and playing pattycake. Some of the boys had found sticks and were mock sword fighting until Phyllis yanked them away so no one would lose a eye.

Sister Julienne was happily sitting in the corner playing the guitar while Sister Monica Joan sang to a group of the younger children, all sitting around them in a semicircle with little cups of milk and apple slices and singing some song about an ant who had high hopes.  

Patsy stood by the open door, still wearing her towel over her shoulders as Sister Evangelina handed her a fresh cigarette.

‘Can’t tell you how much I appreciate this,’ Patsy said as she put the cigarette to her mouth and allowed for Evangelina to light it.

‘Think nothing of it,’ Evangelina said, ‘God knows I’ll be craving one of these in another ten minutes with all these little angels running around amuck in here,’ she finished with a roll of her eyes.

‘Hopefully the storm won’t last for too long,’ Patsy said politely, referring to the downpour that had started just as she and Delia walked in.

Patsy turned her attention to the rain outside, thinking she would rather be back in her room instead of stuck in close quarters with Delia right now. Patsy looked behind her and couldn’t help but smile slightly at the sight of the woman. She had managed to find some hand puppets and was crouched low to the ground, entertaining some of the younger girls who had been crying because they were afraid of the thunder.

Patsy smoked her cigarette and wondered if she had been rude in not taking Delia’s hand when she offered.

She shook her head, ridding herself of that thought, thinking her feelings were still freshly hurt from being rejected, and she shouldn't feel bad for being cold to Delia. She was also angry with the woman for acting as she had been these past few weeks. Their recent late night heart to heart talks, the hand holding and touching, the flirting. Why had Delia allowed it if she knew she wouldn't want it to go any further than them being friends?

Patsy should have realized something was amiss when, even after all this time, Delia still did not call her by her first name. She flicked the ash off her cigarette and wondered if Delia referring to her as Miss Mount was just her way of keeping some sort or barrier between them. Some reminder to herself that she wasn’t to let down the very last of her guard around Patsy because she was only going to be here for a short period of time.

That’s what made Patsy angry, though. She dragged hard on her cigarette and thought to herself that if Delia would just take a chance on her, if she would just allow for Patsy to show her how much she loved her and wanted her, then she would make the effort to change her plans, to make herself a long term fixture in Delia’s life.

Delia needed to give her that chance first, and it seemed like she was much too afraid of getting hurt to take that step.

What would have to happen for Delia to call her by her name?

‘An act of God,’ Patsy mumbled out loud to herself.

‘Yeah, and he’s a real prick!’

Both Patsy and Evangelina turned to see Tim laughing amongst some of the other boys his age, all of whom were now back in their play clothes. He was grinning like a fool, knowing he had learned something new and naughty to share with his counterparts.

‘Timmy Turner!’ Evangelina yelled, causing the young boy to freeze, turning white as a sheet while the other boys scattered, ‘Where on earth did you learn such foul language!’

‘Uh…’ Tim’s eyes darted to Patsy and she shook her head, pleading silently for him not to rat on her.

Tim gulped and looked back at Evangelina.

‘My fairy godparents?’ he shrugged.

‘Oh for-,’ Evangelina rolled her eyes, ‘well wherever you heard it, keep it there, eh? You Londoners coming in here and corrupting the rest of the children,’ she muttered under her breath, and Patsy gave her a subtle side eye at the jibe.

Patsy finished her cigarette and walked back inside, discarding her towel and watching as more chaos unfurled as the larger woman, who she came to learn was named Chummy, was knocking things over left and right as she tried to demonstrate to the kids how to properly hula hoop. All three nuns and Phyllis were by her side in an instant, fussing and pleading with her to stop and she looked as if she were about to cry. Poor woman was clumsy as a bull in a China shop but seemed to genuinely want to have fun with the kids and have a good time. Patsy thought she ought to step in and try to entertain some of the kids, but she was feeling rather blue.

‘Can I play with your hair?’

Patsy looked down to see a young girl of about eight.

‘Of course, so long as you don’t mind it’s still a little wet from my dip in the lake.’

The girl grinned, showing off many gaps from where her baby teeth had filled out and looking quite like an adorable jack-o-lantern. She grabbed Patsy’s hand and Patsy’s heart filled with a feeling of dread as she led her to the group of girls that were sitting around Delia, the woman putting on an elaborate puppet show for the lot.

The girl directed Patsy to sit amongst them with her legs crossed, and she rested her chin on her fist as she felt the young girl and another friend of hers begin to run their fingers through her hair and start the beginnings of a braid.

Delia seemed to pay them no mind as she spoke in silly voices between the two puppets on her hands. It looked to be a man and a woman sword fighting and exchanging insults.

‘You fight like a dairy farmer!’ Delia said in a low voice, moving her right hand and bobbing the puppet up and down.

‘How appropriate! You look like a cow!’ The puppet on her left hand replied in a squeaky voice, which had the girls giggling.

‘How rude! I’ve spoken with apes more polite than you!’

‘Oh, nice to know you’ve attended your family reunion!’

The sword fighting continued as the girls laughed again, and even Patsy was amused, thinking Delia was being rather adorable.

I'm not going to take your insolence sitting down!’

‘Your hemorrhoids acting up again, ey?’ Patsy chimed in.

Delia blinked, surprised, looking as if she had not realized Patsy had been there observing her.

All the girls in the group turned to look at Patsy curiously, as if she were some foreign species that they didn't know what to make of.

‘What’s emroys?’ one of the girls asked.

Delia stifled a laugh and explained like a true nursing professional, ‘They’re like pimples you get on your bum, only bigger and they really hurt.’

A chorus of girls going ‘ewww!’ was shared by the group as Patsy chuckled.

‘Miss Mount, would you like to...?’ Delia trailed off, holding out one of the puppets.

‘You’ll have to come to me, I’m indisposed at the moment,’ she said, referring to the girls who were fussing with her hair.

Delia sat next to her as the girls circled around, joined by some of the younger boys who were looking on curiously.

‘What are we fighting about?’ Patsy asked blithely, trying not to sound as if she were asking the question ironically.

‘It is a battle of wits between Mr. Numpty Knight and Mrs. Fluffernutter here to see who can come up with the more creative insult,’ Delia replied.

‘Well that shouldn’t be too hard going up against you, sir,’ Patsy said, talking through the puppet as she stuck it’s tiny sword out.

‘How dare you!,’ Delia replied as she raised the sword on her puppet as high as it could go, ‘I’ll have you know I once owned a dog who was smarter than you!’

‘He must have taught you everything you know!’ Mrs. Fluffernutter replied.

The kids around them laughed as they clinked their tiny swords together and made dramatic grunts as if they were really fighting.

‘You put up a good fight but nobody's ever drawn blood from me and nobody ever will!’ Mr. Numpty Knight said.

‘You run that fast? Ugh, cowards like you make me want to vomit!’

‘You make me think somebody already did!’

More sword fighting resumed as the children around them continued to giggle and stand on their toes to see the women play fighting.

‘I’m no coward you see! I’ll have you know I got this scar on my face during a mighty struggle!’ Mr. Numpty Knight cried out.

Patsy couldn’t help but smirk, liking that Delia seemed to have enough of a sense of humor to poke fun at her scar, even if she was shy about telling the story of how it happened. Patsy came up with the perfect response to ward off any questions from the children about it.

‘Hmm, yes, and I hope you’ve learned by now to stop picking your nose!’

That seemed to get the biggest laugh from the group, and Patsy grinned as Mr. Numpty Knight took a bow in conceded defeat.

‘You have outwitted me, oh wonderful Mrs. Fluffernutter,’ Mr. Numpty Knight said, ‘you truly are the wittiest woman of them all.’

There was a round of applause and some cheering from the kids as Patsy bowed Mrs. Fluffernutter over and over again as if she had just finished a performance.

‘You two are so wonderful together!’

Patsy and Delia looked up to see Sister Monica Joan standing over the children, clasping her hands together and looking thoroughly amused.

‘I’d happily see a repeat performance sometime,’ she added encouragingly.

‘Or something new!’ one of the girls said.

‘Maybe you could be on a tv show!’

‘Have a real sword fight!’ one of the boys added excitedly.

‘Oi, Miss Delia!’ one of the older boys shouted from his spot by the window, ‘I think your pony is wandering around outside.’

‘Alison?’ Delia asked, rising to her feet and handing the puppet to one of the kids.

Patsy did the same and followed, thanking the girls for braiding her hair before she approached the window and did indeed see Alison the pony wandering around just outside.

‘Oh, that bloody nuisance,’ Delia grumbled, ‘must have gotten out of the pen again.’

‘There’s a shed around the corner you can put her in to give her shelter until the storm passes,’ Sister Julienne offered.

‘I’ll go and get her,’ Patsy said, ‘She thinks my head is a giant apple anyway. She won’t put up a fuss about following me into the shed, I reckon.’

‘Miss Mount, are you sure?’ Delia asked, ‘It’s pouring rain.’

‘Yes, I can see that Delia,’ Patsy said rather short, remembering she was upset with the woman She turned around and made her way to the door, ‘and as I’m already soaked through my clothing it’ll hardly matter, won’t it?’

There wasn’t another word shared between the two as Patsy stepped out into the rain, the mud thick and wet under her feet and she grimaced as she felt it squish between her toes as she continued to walk. The heavy drops of rain made it hard to see, so Patsy held her hand over her eyes as she called out to the pony.

‘Alison!’ she shouted, trying to remember the noises Delia made with her mouth to get her to come. She tried to imitate a clicking noise, but the rain was so loud that attempt proved to be useless. .

Alison made no motions to move as Patsy continued to call to her, nearly shouting herself hoarse.

With a roll of her eyes, Patsy conceded and simply marched over to the pony, looking for something on the ground to try and coax her with. She spotted an apple tree close by and ran over to it to collect an apple or two to lure Alison to the shed.

Suddenly, there was a blinding flash of light and a loud crack, followed by an enormous boom that felt hot, and shook Patsy to her core. The noise rendered her deaf, and for a moment she thought a bomb had gone off. Slowly, she opened her eyes as they readjusted to the light, and she realized the tree she was standing beside had just been struck by lightning.

Another crack had her opening her eyes wide, craning her neck to look directly above her. A rather large branch had broken apart from the trunk of the tree and was falling right where she was standing.

Patsy was frozen. She couldn’t move, couldn’t run. Her body acted instinctively, and she raised her arms over her head as the branch came down.

The last thing she saw was the dark before her body hit the ground.

Chapter Text

Patsy coughed, feeling as if the wind had been knocked out of her. She groaned, rolling over slowly as her whole body felt sore, in pain. She gathered she must have fallen flat on her back when that branch fell off the tree.

She blinked her eyes open, but everything was blurry. Patsy coughed again and sat up, reaching behind her to rub the back of her head. Her hair was sophisticatedly plaited and tucked nice and tight just above her neck. She wondered just what kind of talented work those girls had done to her.

Patsy rubbed her eyes and blinked, adjusting to the light as everything seemed overwhelmingly bright for some reason. Her hands came down and rested on the grass around her. She noticed, oddly enough, that the grass was dry.

Hadn’t it been raining?

The familiar sound of a crackling fire caught her ear, and Patsy looked over to see a pile of rocks that had smoke billowing from the center. She had to blink again when she spotted a small stone structure with a thatched roof just past the fire. Long sticks and branches had been situated to make a fence to hold in livestock that was pecking around in its enclosure. Herbs here bundled and hanging upside down from a rope that lined the roof and wrapped around the small dwelling.

Where was she?

Patsy looked around some more. There was no other structure. No other people. Just the trees and the sounds of nature around her. She didn’t recognize any of this from the Busby property.

She wondered for a moment if this was one of those museum parks. The ones she went to as a teenager with her history professors to study the neolithic and bronze aged people of early Britannia.

She looked down at her attire and saw she wore a simple green woolen tunic that was held together by a leather belt, brown trousers that fit tight around her ankle, and she was barefooted.

Hadn’t she been wearing shorts and a blouse? Did someone change her clothing and move her?

What kind of sick, twisted joke was this? And if it was a joke, who on earth would do such a thing?

A stick snapping caught her ear and Patsy whipped around just in time to see someone lurch at her.

She screamed as the person grasped her shoulders. The wind was knocked out of her once more as she was slammed to the ground.

She opened her eyes to see none other than Valerie. The woman was straddling her, pinning her to the ground with a stone dagger pointed at her throat.

‘Valerie!’ Patsy gasped, her eyes wide and hoping the woman would recognize her despite her odd costume.

‘Who are you and how do you know my name?!’ Valerie said through clenched teeth, her grip tightening on Patsy's tunic, and Patsy could feel the blade of the dagger press further into her throat.

‘We’re friends!’ she shouted.

‘I’ve never seen you before in my life!’

‘I swear! You know me! You and Delia!’ Patsy was nearly shrieking, panicking.

‘Delia?’ Valerie asked, and Patsy felt the pressure of the blade on her throat recede, ‘How do you know Delia?’

‘I’m friends with her, too!’ Patsy said quickly, breathing a sigh of relief.

‘How do I know you’re not lying?’ Valerie asked, her eyes narrowing.

‘She’s… dark brown hair! Blue eyes! She’s strong! A beautiful artist! A musician! She sings with her brothers and... ‘

Valerie let up on her grip, glaring at Patsy for several seconds. A few more moments passed, and Valerie dismounted from Patsy.

Both women kept eye contact as Valerie backed away, looking at Patsy skeptically and holding her dagger out in front of her.

Patsy clutched her throat and sat up, her heart pounding in her chest as she caught her breath.

‘Val… it’s me. Patsy,’ she said, ‘Don’t you recognize me? I’m… I’m the writer. From Chelsea...’

Valerie remained stone faced, observing her.

To Patsy’s relief, Valerie sat on her bum and crossed her legs, tucking her dagger into a satchel hitched around her thigh.

‘Where… where are we?” Patsy asked, looking around before her eyes landed on Valerie once more. She realized Valerie was wearing a similar outfit, only her tunic was white, ‘what are we wearing? What is this place?’

‘This is my home,’ Valerie said, now eyeing Patsy curiously, ‘and the garments I wear are those of a healer.’

‘Your home?’ Patsy eyed the hut behind Valerie, ‘A healer? Is that because you were a nurse?’ she repeated, looking down at her own clothing, ‘well that does green mean? What have they made me?’ she asked, giving a nervous laugh.

‘Made you?’ Valerie asked.

‘Whomever is playing this elaborate prank on us that you seem to be in on,’ Patsy elaborated with a tone of displeasure.

‘Prank? Valerie blinked and tucked her hands into her sleeves.

‘You know, a joke? Someone is playing a trick on me,’ Patsy said.

She was half expecting for Valerie to burst out laughing, chiding her, saying they got her good.

But Patsy’s heart sank in her chest as Valerie only narrowed her eyes and looked like she was growing angry.

‘You accuse me of being a trickster?’ Valerie asked.

‘No! I… I just want to know what’s going on! Where am I? What am I doing here?’

‘You do not know?’

‘I don’t know anything!’ Patsy said, flailing her hands out and growing frustrated, ‘I’m knocked on the bloody head one moment and the next I wake up in a completely different place wearing different clothing and you! A friend of mine who I’ve seen nearly bloody every day for weeks now doesn’t even know who I am and is trying to kill me!’

‘Who knocked you on the head?’ Valerie asked, seemingly ignoring the rest of her outburst.

‘A tree,’ Patsy seethed through clenched teeth, growing extremely annoyed.

‘What had you done to anger it?’

Patsy scoffed at the question, ‘I… Look, a lightning bolt hit the tree and a branch fell and knocked me down… I think,’ she trailed off, trying to remember. She didn’t feel like the branch hit her on the head, but then again, why did everything go black?

‘Ah,’ Valerie said, reaching for a clay pot filled with water, ‘it seems the fates have brought you here.’

‘Come again?’

Valerie ignored her and used two sticks to grasp a few hot rocks, plunking them in the clay pot and bringing the water to a boil. She scooped some water into another clay cup and reached into a satchel that was placed around her hip, sprinkling what looked to be dried herbs into the cup.

‘Drink this. It will help with the ache in your head,’ she said.

‘But I don’t have a headache…’ Patsy trailed off, unsure as she looked into the contents of her cup.

‘Wait.’

Patsy looked around, wondering if someone was going to sneak up behind her and knock her on the head, ‘What? Why? What’s happening?’

‘It makes sense now,’ Valerie said as she placed her hands back in her sleeves and watched Patsy like something was about to happen, ‘I’ve only heard rumors of this during my studies back East, but it seems the legends out here in the West are true.’

‘Oh, grand, care to elaborate for me?’ Patsy winced, feeling a white hot sensation in her head all of a sudden. For a moment she thought she was on the precipice of a rather painful migraine. She squeezed her eyes shut and took a sip of whatever it was that Valerie had given her, and almost instantly she began to feel the pain in her head soothe.

‘You are from a different time.,’ Valerie said calmly.

‘That is becoming more and more clear,’ she quipped again, taking another sip as a throbbing pain seemed to be moving from her temples to the front of her head.

‘You are a guardian.’

‘A what?’ Patsy was finding it increasingly hard to hear her over the sound of her pulse pounding in her ears.

‘A guardian. A protector,’ Valerie said, sounding rather mystified as she continued to observe Patsy, ‘The fates seemed to have had a purpose for you here. Perhaps it is to help me.’

‘What makes you say that?’ Patsy asked, downing the last of her cup and feeling the pain turn to a dull ache, ‘A protector? Like a policeman or a soldier? I don’t know the first thing.’

‘It is not something you learn. It is something you are. It has been within you, judging by how quickly your antlers have grown.’

Patsy’s eyes nearly burst out of her head.

‘My what?!’

Patsy quickly placed a hand to her forehead and indeed feeling something hard protruding from her scalp.

The cup she was holding fell to the ground and rolled away from her as she got to her hands and knees and quickly crawled over to the pot of water by Valerie. She looked back at herself, with nothing out of the ordinary except for the two, white antlers, each with their own little horn, protruding out of either side of her head. Her reflection made her scream.

Panicking, Patsy crawled backwards away from her reflection, knocking the jug of water over in the process. She had broken out into a cold sweat, hyperventilating as her heartbeat raced and her pulse pounded in her ears.

‘N-no,’ she stuttered, reaching up and feeling her antlers again, ‘what is this? What is…. This can’t be real, this can't!’

Patsy stopped her motions as she felt two fingers on her forehead suddenly.

Valerie was hovering over her, looking her right in the eye and whispering some incantation in a language that Patsy did not understand. All the knew was that she was suddenly paralyzed, and wave after wave of relief was coursing through her veins, sending a calming sensation that started in the back of her head and slowly traveled down her neck, over her shoulders and across her back.

She felt so calm that her body went limp, and she would have fallen again if Valerie hadn’t cradled her head in her arms and guided her to lay on the ground.

‘Are you calm?’ she asked softly, studying Patsy’s face.

‘Y-yes,’ Patsy gulped, ‘I believe so.’

‘Do not worry, they will grow.’

‘Grand,’ Patsy said sarcastically.

‘Yes, they will be.’

Valerie disappeared from Patsy’s line of vision and she was left staring at the sky, which changing from a beautiful blue to a purple hue as she sun began to set behind the hills.

‘You say you know Delia?’ Valerie asked indifferently.

Patsy found it within herself to slowly sit up and face her, and she watched as Valerie seemed to be sharpening her stone dagger on another rock.

‘Yes… in my time, anyway,’ Patsy said as she sat cross legged and reached a hand up to tentatively touch her new apparatus. She tapped one of her antlers with her finger, and while she was able to feel it reverberate to its base, it didn’t hurt.

‘Delia has been missing for several days,’ Valerie said, ‘It is news I have just heard this afternoon from the village.’

‘Delia is missing?’ Patsy asked.

‘She is not likely to have run off on her own,’ Valerie continued, looking rather serious, ‘so I believe she has been taken.’

Pats gave a snort, ‘I’d like to see the bloke who would try.’

Valerie stopped her motions and looked at her incredulously, and Patsy sobered up and cleared her throat.

‘Ahem, you were saying?’

Valerie narrowed her eyes at Patsy, but eventually resumed sharpening her dagger.

‘I returned home from the village with the intent to prepare to search for her throughout the night, and I find you here, Patsy, Scribe of Chelsea, guardian of another time,’ she looked back at Patsy, ‘claiming to not only know me, but know Delia as well. I can only assume you have been sent here to aid me in my search.’

Valerie raised the dagger to her face and blew away the dust, bringing it to eye level and examining it.

‘I find this circumstance very fortunate as there is something I need from Delia, and time is of the essence…’ she trailed off, twirling the dagger between her thumb and forefinger.

‘What do you need?’ Patsy asked curiously.

Valerie tucked her dagger back in it’s place in the holder strapped to her thigh.

‘That is none of your concern,’ she said simply.

Patsy blinked, stunned as she watched Valerie rise from her spot in an instant and ducked under the thatched curtain that acted as a door to her dwelling. She returned soon after dressed in a hooded cloak and staff, walking briskly to the forest.

‘Come,’ she called out, not looking back, ‘we mustn't waste any more time.’

Patsy jumped up from her spot, following Valerie more because she didn’t want to be left alone in this strange place rather than search for Delia.

‘Where are we going?’ she asked as she trotted quickly behind Valerie.

‘Delia was last known to be seen on her family's land. We shall start there.’

Patsy soon fell in step with the woman in front of her, and she saw that Valerie had armed herself with several weapons, all stones that had been chipped away into sharp daggers and attached to a wooden handle by a leather twine.

‘Val, you think you could loan me one of those daggers you’ve got there, just in case I need it?’ Patsy asked.

‘Why would you?’ Valerie replied, not breaking her stride, ‘You have two daggers attached to your head.’

Patsy gulped, looking around at the trees for anything that could be watching, and praying she wouldn’t have to use her head for such a violent thing.


After about fifteen minutes of walking through thick trees and brush, Valerie emerged through a clearing with a very annoyed Patsy in tow, the woman shaking her head and swatting at the various leaves, spiderwebs, and other such things that had caught onto her new antlers. She swore under her breath what a burden these blasted things were.

When she composed herself, Patsy trotted behind Valerie who had stopped in front of another thatched roof hut.

‘Who goes there? What do you want?’ came a voice from inside.

‘Enid, it is Valerie,’ Valerie called to her loud and clear, lowering her hood.

‘The healer?’ Enid asked, sounding as if her defenses were lowering.

‘Aye.’

The straw curtain that was used as a door was pulled aside slightly to peek out at the two women. Patsy couldn’t help but look back at her curiously.

Enid narrowed her eyes spitefully, ‘and who is this stranger you bring with you?’

‘I am accompanied by a guardian, Patsy, who claims to know Delia and I in another time. I believe she was sent here to help us find your daughter. Have you heard any news of her whereabouts?’

‘Guardian?’ Enid scoffed, pulling the curtain back and stepping forward, revealing herself to have rather large, mature antlers. She looked absolutely tenacious and terrifying despite her otherwise small stature.

Patsy took a few nervous steps back and tried not to fall back on her bum at the sight of her.

‘You are no guardian. Your horns are that of a fawn,’ she snarled at Patsy.

Patsy may have been placed in a completely different world, but she knew she was nearly thirty years of age and didn't take kindly to being referred to as a child… or fawn, rather, in such a demeaning way. She was amazed that even here Delia's Mam was able to get a rise out of her.

Valerie shook her head and turned to Patsy.

‘This was a mistake on my part,’ Valerie whispered, ‘I should have had you wait back at mine. She never takes kindly to those from beyond the borders of Pembrokeshire.’

She turned back to Enid and continued.

'Enid please. We are merely here to help,’ Valerie said, her voice stern, 'can you tell us what happened? When did you last see Delia?’

Enid huffed, crossing  her arms while she continued to eye Patsy suspiciously.

Patsy was growing angry at Enid's mistrustful glare, and her head started to throb again. She felt a familiar white heat start to pulse from her temples to the front of her head. She blinked the pain away only to notice Enid staring back at her antlers. Patsy wondered if they had grown like Valerie said they would, but she resisted the urge to reach up and touch them.

She didn’t feel so intimidated anymore, and felt herself stand taller for some reason, glaring right back at Enid just as spitefully.

'You know Delia is a close friend of mine, Enid,’ Valerie said softly, seemingly not noticing the stare-down happening between the two women, or just choosing to ignore it, ‘and from what Patsy tells me, Delia is a friend of hers too in her world. The Gods have granted Patsy entrance to our world, and I believe her purpose is to aid in our search for your daughter.'

Enid huffed again but did not budge, looking back at Patsy rather murderously.

‘Please,’ Valerie implored, ‘tell us; what do you know?’

‘Don't bloody well need your help, or hers,’ Enid spat, ‘I've had Edwin and the boys out looking for her once we realized she'd gone. Only reason I'm here is in case she comes back. Besides, they know her scent better than some stranger from another time,’ she finished, eyeing Patsy down and up and seething with mistrust.

A surge of defensiveness swelled within Patsy. Who was this bitch to think she didn't care about the whereabouts of Delia? It didn't matter to her what world she was in, she knew she loved Delia and knew she wanted to keep her safe.

'Enid, please,’ Valerie pleaded once more.

I am Delia's guardian !’ Enid bellowed so loud the birds in the trees fluttered away. Her hands balled into fists at her side and she was practically shaking with anger, 'Delia is my daughter! We will be the ones to find her! Not this stranger! And certainly not you, healer!’

Patsy clenched her teeth and cracked her neck, growing very impatient. Her thoughts raced and her anxiety grew.

They were wasting time! Delia was missing! Delia was in danger! Delia needed help! Enid was standing in the way of her and Valerie looking for her!

‘Some guardian you are!’ Patsy shot back, her forehead feeling so hot she wondered if she were on the precipice of a fever, ‘wouldn't be surprised if Delia ran off to get away from the likes of you!’

Patsy was overcome with a sense of rage that she had never quite felt before. She felt impatient, yet protective, wanting to fight for Delia even if it meant going up against her own mother.

Without thinking, Patsy grit her teeth and charged at Enid. The woman seemed to have been expecting this, and she braced her body for impact. Patsy brought her head down and hit her with such force that the dirt under Enid's feet rose into small mounds around her heels, and an enormous clack ! rang out through the trees as their antlers collided.

Both women back away, snarling. Enid charged after Patsy and they both leaned forward, bashing their heads together once more.

Patsy moved to pull away but found her and Enid's antlers were tangled.

Enid laughed, seemingly having experience on her side and situated herself so that her antlers were hooked hard onto Patsy's, and she grasped onto Patsy's tunic with clenched fists.

Patsy let out a surprised shout as Enid seemed to swing her around so fast that her feet left the ground. Valerie jumped out of the way to avoid being kicked in the side.

When her feet hit the ground again, Patsy tried to disentangle herself from Enid and failed, snorting in frustration as Enid cackled. She had had enough of the woman's condescending behavior and wanted to put her in her place.

She surprised not only Enid, but herself, as she grabbed a fistful of Enid's tunic with one hand and reached between her legs with the other. She lifted the woman clear off the ground with a shout, hoisting her over her head and throwing her right back down to the ground on the flat of her back.

Dust and dirt billowed around them from where Enid landed, both women breathing laboriously as they wore their aggression out.

'Enough,’ Valerie said, kneeling beside the two and untangling their antlers, 'the sun grows low in the sky. We must move on.’

Patsy backed away, working to calm herself and her breathing. Valerie was right, if they were to look for Delia it would be better if they were able to see.

Both Patsy and Valerie halted their movements as Enid merely laughed from her spot on the ground. They stared at her curiously

'You have some nerve going up against the mother of the woman you love.’

Patsy's heart jumped in her throat, and she felt her face grow hot.

'I didn't say I love her,’ she said quickly.

'You didn't have to.’

Enid finally stood and dusted herself off, eyeing Patsy as if she were seeing her in a new light.

‘Haven't been tossed around like that since my honeymoon,’ she mumbled to herself as she strode past the two, 'Follow me,’ she said louder, disappearing back onto her hut.

Patsy and Valerie looked at one another before they followed suit. Patsy made sure to place her hand over the top of her antlers so she didn't embarrass herself by getting it caught on the thatched curtain.

'Since you two are so eager to go out and look for my daughter, I may as well feed you before you go,’ Enid said, sitting cross legged on the floor.

Patsy looked around the small dwelling and it was as she remembered from her history classes. It was dark inside. Piles of hay acted as beds on the dirt floor. There was a small hearth in the center of the room with a small fire, a clay pot sitting directly on top. The hut was filled with the unmistakable sound of boiling water and smelled of herbs. Despite its lack of decor, it was cozy, and felt like a home.

'Thank you, Enid,’ Valerie said, sitting across from her.

Patsy followed her lead as she didn't know what else to do.

She cleared her throat nervously, 'Yes, thank you.’

Enid paid no mind to Patsy's change in demeanor and picked up a clay bowl, scooping it into the pot and filling it with stew. She handed the bowl to Valerie and then repeated the motions with another, handing it to Patsy.

'There was a man,’ Enid began.

'A human?’ Valerie asked.

'Hard to tell,’ Enid sighed, ‘He certainly smelled like one, but he carried with him a belt of gadgets I had never seen before. Boasted that he was some kind of explorer for the enlightenment of his species. An inventor, whatever that is. Thought maybe he was some kind of wizard.’

Patsy didn't know whether to chime in with her human knowledge and give her theories on the man, so she kept quiet and sniffed her stew. It looked a mix of root vegetables and broth with herbs. She took a sip and found it so delicious and struggled not to gulped it all down on one go.

'How do you know this? Did you talk to him?’ Valerie asked.

‘No, but he and another villager were treading across my land. Naturally I smelled them right away so I went to see just what they wanted.’

'Was Delia with you?’ Patsy asked.

Enid sighed sadly, 'No. She had run off earlier that morning after we had an argument.’

'An argument?’ Valerie asked.

Enid waived her off like it was nothing to make a fuss about, ‘Told her she should become a guardian like me. She was having none of it, only interested in running around with the nymphs down near the portal. I said she was behaving as poorly as a Bwca.’

Patsy looked over to Valerie to elaborate.

'Knocker,’ Valerie said, and Patsy nodded.

'Must have hurt her feelings because for all I know, she disappeared right then and there in front of me as she does when she's upset.’

Enid tutted as she paused to make herself a bowl of stew.

'She can disappear?’ Patsy leaned over and asked Valerie.

Valerie nodded, ‘I’ve seen her do it when she's upset. Has only happened in front of her mum before. Seems she's able to make herself so small she seems to just vanish.’

Patsy sighed, thinking that even across time Delia's mother still had a knack at diminishing her confidence. Except in this case, instead of making her feel small, she literally became small.

'Well it seems it wasn't small enough!’ Enid interjected, 'the man tromping through my gardens seems to think he's caught himself a genuine fairy! A fairy! Can you imagine my daughter a fairy?! Hmmph!’

She grunted angrily as she gulped down her stew, wiping her mouth with her sleeve before she continued.

'At first I didn't believe he could have gotten hold of my Delia. If she was invisible to my eye then surely she was invisible to his! I followed him for some time and managed to knick something off his belt. Some sort of gadget he boasted about creating. Said it made small things big, but I bloody well haven’t figured out how,’ she rustled behind her through a pile of leaves that looked rather like a nest.

She held above her head between her thumb and forefinger what looked to Patsy like a lens.

'I've no idea what this is,’ Enid said, giving it a sniff and taking an experimental bite of it with her teeth, ‘It's hard as stone yet clear as water, but it is not cold like ice. If you hold it to your eye it affects your vision. I don't know what kind of wizard he is but he's a poor one of he created something as useless as this.’

She handed the lens to Valerie who held it up and examined it.

‘Perhaps there is an incantation one must say to make it work?’

Enid shrugged while Valerie held it up to her eye and looked through it.

'I do not understand the point of this. How does it make one see when it makes me go practically blind when I look through it.’

'That's because you're not using it correctly,’ Patsy said, holding her hand out.

Valerie placed the lens in her hand and Patsy held it up in front of her.

'This is called glass. It's made from melted sand,’ she said.

'Sand?’ Enid said in disbelief, 'you mean like from the shores?’

'The very same,’ Patsy continued, ‘this bit is manipulated in a way that makes small things appear bigger so they can be observed. You just have to hold it correctly. Look.’

She placed her finger under the lens and magnified her finger print for the other women to see. The two women gasped.

'Fascinating!’ Valerie exclaimed.

Patsy blinked, recalling one man in particular back in her time who seemed to love trapping Delia to satisfy his own curiosities.

'If he is as inquisitive as you say, I have a hunch this man was looking through the leaves using this lens to observe the smaller things not visible to the naked eye. He must have managed to catch a glimpse of Delia. If my hunch is correct, he’s captured her against her will. Did you happen to see what this man looked like?’ she asked, looking to Enid.

'An absolute fool,’ Enid grumped.

Close enough, Patsy thought.

She turned to Valerie, 'I think I know who took Delia but I have no idea how to find him.’

Just then the curtain was pulled back and the curious glances of three men appeared.

‘Enid, is everything alright?’ the older one with a full grey beard asked.

'What's going on?’ a younger one said looking defensively at Patsy, as if she were the more threatening of the intruder.

'Mam, you're entertaining a stranger?’ the other one asked.

'She has proved herself worthy,’ Enid said simply, bringing her bowl of stew to her lips and taking a dainty sip.

'Valerie,’ the older one walked into the hut and looked at the healer, 'what brings you here? Do you have news of our Delia?’

All there men entered the small hut as Valerie rose, reaching out to greet the man Patsy could only assume was Delia's father, Edwin. Unlike the other two, he did not have antlers coming out of his head at all. He looked like himself, a regular old human.

'I am afraid not, Edwin,’ Valerie said sadly, 'but Patsy and I come to you to aid in your search. Tell me, how can we help? What news do you bring?’

'Sadly not much,’ one of the boys said. Even in this time, Patsy had trouble telling them apart.

'We've followed the scent of the man as far as we could. It led to town, and got all muddled up with everyone else's,,’ the other one huffed.

All three men and Valerie sat down around them and Enid prepared a bowl of stew for each. The boys heartily ate while Edwin looked troubled.

Patsy was surprised that the twins did not seem to show that same sort of aggression towards her as Enid did initially, as she was a stranger in their home. She wondered if because Enid approved, so did they, but that didn't explain why Edwin had no horns and was currently in what looked like a meditative state with his eyes closed. Patsy couldn't help but notice a calming aura emanate from him and fill the little hut. She noticed, too, that Valerie remained silent until Edwin looked up at the two of them and smiled kindly.

'I propose you let Patsy and I have a crack  at it,’ Valerie said softly, ‘let yourselves rest for the night while we go and search for her.’

'And why should we do that?’

'Yeah, who are you anyway?’

'She is a friend who cares very much for Delia and that is all you need to know!’ Enid said as she smacked her son on the shoulder.  

'Yes,’ Edwin nodded and took a deep breath, 'and they have an advantage that we do not have, my sons.’

'What's that?’ one of the boys asked.

'They are female.’

Both Patsy and Valerie looked at one another confused.

'There is one creature I know of who may aid you on your search,’ he elaborated, 'she is truly wise and some say all knowing, but she will only allow herself to be seen by women, as she is very distrustful of men.’

'Well good luck to you on that,’ Enid scoffed, ‘don't know of anyone who's ever seen the creature, woman, man, or beast. You'd best not be counting on meeting her. Here,’

Enid leaned over and rustled through some leaves again, pulling out a woolen cloth that looked very much like a cap.

‘You’ll be better off taking this with you so you have her scent on you,’ she finished.

She handed the cap to Patsy who reached out and grasped it gently in her hands, feeling the coarse material between her fingers before she brought it to her nose and took a deep breath.

What amazed her more so than her sense of smell seemingly having been ridiculously heightened since she arrived on this world, was that Delia even smelled the same here. Her scent was earthy, it was natural and wonderful and it made all the happy moments they shared together come to the forefront of her mind and it made her want to cry.

She missed her. She missed Delia and was overwhelmed by the love she felt for the woman and her desire to see her and make sure she was safe.

'I'll find her,’ Patsy said, trying not to let her voice crack, 'I don't know how, but I'll find her.’

'We best get a move on then,’ Valerie said, standing and helping Patsy rise to her feet.

They said their farewells and left the hut, taking a few paces towards the trees before Patsy placed a hand on Valerie's shoulder.

‘Valerie, why didn't Edwin have antlers like the rest of his family?’

'He is not a guardian,’ Valerie stated simply, ‘He is an empath.’

‘An… empath?’

'Yes. He is able to control the emotional state of another individual,’ Valerie turned to look at Patsy fully, ‘Did you not notice when he arrived he relieved the tension in the room simply by concentrating?’

Patsy blinked, thinking back to that moment. She recalled Enid and the boys having antlers like her, being guardians. Enid had mentioned that she was pressuring Delia to choose.

‘Is… Delia and empath, too?’

Valerie leaned on her staff and sighed, 'Delia is at a crossroads in her life and it has not yet come to fruition what she will become.’

'How do you mean? She can choose?’

'Aye,’ Valerie nodded, 'in families such as theirs, the offspring are able to make a choice. For others, their destiny is so ingrained within their bones that they have little choice in the matter,’ she sighed sadly, but did not belabor her emotions, ‘so what say you, which direction shall we go?’

'You're asking me?’ Patsy asked with surprise, ‘I've no idea where to go. Besides, aren't we supposed to try and find this all knowing woman?’

Valerie gave a hint of a smile, 'If this is the woman I am thinking of, she will only appear to us if she wishes to be seen by us. We are better off trying to pick up on Delia's scent.’

Patsy huffed, looking around. She grew curious at how well she was able to see out here in the night. She looked up wondering if the moon was out, but she only saw stars.

'This is strange,’ she mused.

'What is it?’ Valerie asked, her voice laden with concern.

'Do you see the moon?’

Valerie looked up and around her, 'I do not. All I are are the stars and planets.’

'Why…?’ Patsy blinked, looking out into the forest and marveling at how well she was able to see through the trees when she knew she shouldn't, 'I know it is night but it doesn't seem dark to me.’

‘You are a guardian. You are part stag,’ Valerie said simply, 'Your sense of smell and sight is heightened than that of a normal human.’

Valerie nodded to the cap in Patsy's hand.

'Go on. Close your eyes and follow your instincts.’

Patsy wondered if she would even be able to follow such basic advice, but she did as she was told and brought Delia's cap to her nose once more, taking a deep breath.

She walked around, sniffing the air and trying hard to separate and categorize the smells around her. There were scents of birds and flowers and trees and grass, the scent of Valerie and of Delia's family inside the hut we're strong around her. She wondered of she would he able to pick up Delia's scent at all.

Just as she was thinking it, a faint trail of what was distinctly Delia caught her nose, and she opened her eyes and honed her gaze in one direction, looking through the trees.

'I think she was taken this way,’ Patsy said softly.

'Well?’ Valerie asked, picking up her staff and holding it firm in her grasp, 'lead the way.’

Patsy smirked and took off in a run, and Valerie followed close behind, her cloak whipping about as they disappeared through the forest.


Some time later as Patsy and Valerie had run so far and deep into the woods that even Patsy had trouble seeing. She slowed her run to a walk as a deep, uncomfortable feeling emanated from the top of her scalp to the tips of her continuously growing antlers. It felt so bad that it overcame her desire to continue her search for Delia. Instead, she let out an agonizing groan.

‘Lord in heaven, are they growing again ?’ she grumbled to herself through clenched teeth.

She reached up and touched her antlers, and instead feeling a hard bone like she expected, her fingers grazed soft velvet. The feeling repulsed her.

‘Ugh, what on earth is this!?’

Patsy clenched her teeth and raked her nails along her antlers, feeling the overwhelming, almost instinctual need, to rid herself of this substance that was growing on them.

‘Don’t you dare toss that to the ground,’ Valerie said sternly from behind Patsy.

Patsy turned around to see the woman walking up to her and reaching for something in her satchel. She was perspiring from running and her cheeks were tinged the slightest shade of pink, but she did not seem out of breath in the slightest.

‘Why? What are you doing?’ Patsy asked.

Valerie pulled out one of her stone blades and a small leather pouch.

‘Hold still. This velvet is very versatile,’ she said as she began to scrape the tips of Patsy’s antlers. Patsy found the sensation rather soothing as Valerie quietly continued, ‘it can be used to increase strength and endurance, and make the sick well again.’

Patsy ground her teeth. While Valerie scraping seemed to relieve her slightly, it just wasn't enough. She needed to scratch the itch in more drastic ways.

‘Val,’ she pleased through clenched teeth, ‘I can’t… I need…’

‘Go on, I’ve got more than enough now,’ Valerie said, closing her pouch and tucking it against her hip.

Patsy ducked her head away, not quite sure she knew what she was doing, but she bent low enough to scrape one of her antlers against an enormous, misshapen trunk that looked as if it had fallen over during a storm, the roots towering above her.

The sensation seemed to relieve her discomfort, and before she knew it, Patsy was scraping both her antlers so hard into the trunk the sap had started to drip from the cuts.

‘Valerie, I’m sorry, I have no idea why I need to do this right now,’ she said as she continued, feeling better as she continued to scratch this rather peculiar itch.

Valerie seemed indifferent, choosing to rest on another fallen tree nearby.

‘You are possibly approaching your rut.’

‘My what?’ Patsy asked strained, her teeth clenched and eyes closed as she continued to rub this uncomfortable growth off her antlers.

‘Rut. You are approaching the time when you wish to mate.’

Patsy shot straight up, the discomfort in her antlers forgotten as she felt her heart race and a hot blush creep up in her cheeks.

‘Mate?! Like an animal?!’

‘We are approaching the season for it, yes,’ Valerie shrugged indifferently.

Patsy was overcome with a series of emotions, none of which made her comfortable in the slightest.

‘I do not… I mean… not like that! It's Not as if I… have a certain season like an actual stag…’

Patsy’s blathering was interrupted when the a low rumbling caught her ear. She seemed to hear it before Valerie. She looked up and around her eyes wide as she tried to see if anything was approaching.

‘What is it?’ Valerie asked, looking to Patsy seriously.

‘I d on’t know,’ Patsy said uncertainly as she ru mbling grew louder, ‘Earthquake?’

The ground began to shake. Birds flew away, small creatures scattered, and loose branches and leaves fell from the trees and around the two women. Both Patsy and Valerie flailed their arms out to keep their balance. They grasped onto one another as the ground began to rise and break beneath their feet.

‘What’s happening?!’ Patsy asked, panicked while Valerie remained stoic and calm.

A loud, low groan was heard as the trunk that Patsy had been rubbing against had seemed to slowly rise right off the ground.

Valerie grasped Patsy by her tunic and threw her behind a rather large boulder, from where the two of them could observe from relative safety just what was happening around them.

Patsy looked up to see that not only was it not a tree trunk, it was an actual woman. A giant woman! Who gave what sounded like a loud yawn while reaching her hands through the tops off the trees and towards the sky, all the earth beneath her shifting as she woke. Fresh soil rolled down this creatures body as more sticks and leaves fell around them.  

The bark that made up the tree seemed to morph to brown skin, the branches and leaves on the other end turned too thick, fluffy curls of black hair that stuck out every which way in a wild manner, filled with leaves and flowers.

The woman was completely naked and exposed, and Patsy marveled at the sight in admiration.

‘Mmm,’ the woman groaned, her voice was so deep Patsy could feel the vibrations in her chest, 'why do you wake me so violently, hmm?’ she asked tiredly, 'You could have simply asked.’

Patsy and Valerie looked at one another confused from their hiding spot.

The woman hugged her knee, and both Patsy and Valerie could see a cut, glistening with fresh blood.

Patsy heart sank in her stomach nervously as sue realized that was the very spot in which she had been rubbing her antlers.

‘Patsy this is her,’ Valerie whispered urgently, ‘the woman Edwin was talking about!’

‘Really!?’

‘Yes! Now go out there and apologize!’

‘What!? No! What if she eats me!’ Patsy asked horrified.

‘She will not eat you! We need to ask her how to find this man who took Delia, now go!’

Valerie grasped Patsy’s tunic and shoved her to the forefront, and Patsy scrambled with her arms flailing as she found her balance.

Patsy stood still, slightly crouched and ready to run if this enormous tree creature woman tried to crush her.

‘Um… He-hello,’ she stuttered, ‘Sorry about that, uh, cutting you with my antlers. Only had them a few hours, and still getting used to them and all. Thought you were just a tree. Apologies for the misunderstanding! Oh god please don’t eat me ,’ she squeaked the last part as the woman moved her limbs, slowly brushing back her hair and blinking a large brown eye at her.

Valerie emerged from her hiding spot and stood next to her.

‘You humble us with your presence, spirit,’ Valerie said calmly, and politely lowered her head in a deep bow.

She cracked and eye open to see Patsy blatantly gaping at the enormous woman.

'Bow, you fool !’ Valerie whispered out of the side of her mouth.

Patsy continued to stare dumbfounded.

Valerie used her staff to wack Patsy across her stomach. Patsy let out an 'oof!’ and bent forward in pain.

‘I am Valerie, healer of the East,’ she said as she gracefully rose, 'and my companion here is Patsy, scribe of Chelsea,’

The woman looked at Patsy curiously, her eyes narrowing as she seemed to look her down and up again.

‘Ahem, pleasure,’ Patsy said nervously.

‘I am Lucille,’ the spirit said and politely nodded her head, ‘and I need no introductions from you, child,’ she said softly to Valerie, who seemed to blush, 'you have tread across this land for many years.’

'My sincerest apologies,’ Valerie said at once, bowing her head once more, 'I never intended to offend. Please forgive me.’

The spirit merely smiled kindly.

‘Rise child, there is no need to ask forgiveness. You are a pure soul, wondering this Earth and doing good for the people of this land. I have admired you from afar for some time.’

Valerie gulped, her face turning scarlet.

The woman reached her hands up high in the trees again, arching her back and letting out a long yawn that made the ground shake again.

Patsy and Valerie watched as the woman began to slowly shrink in size right before their eyes.

Once she was an average height, she smacked her lips tiredly and shook her hair out of her face. She reclined back into a bed of leaves and grass that looked wonderfully comfortable as she looked back at Patsy curiously with heavy eyes.

'You are a stranger to this time, but not to these lands,’ the woman said, looking Patsy down and up again.

Patsy was amazed that she seemed to know this just by looking at her, but Patsy reminded herself that the woman was all knowing, after all.

'Tell me, how was your journey?’

Patsy looked away blushing as she was not entirely comfortable being observed like this, and the woman was still very much unashamedly naked.

'Brief,’ Patsy quipped.

Valerie slowly approached the spirit and knelt beside her.

‘We are so very sorry for disturbing you and causing you pain, spirit,’ she said quietly, ‘Please allow for me to tend to your wound.’

The woman looked down at her knee and sighed.

‘I forget how being in this form has it’s disadvantages,’ she sighed as she leaned back in her bed of leaves, lazily twirling a strand of hair around her finger.

‘I have just the thing to heal a cut like this,’ Valerie said as she dug through her satchel and pulled out a small leather bag. She dipped her finger in and spread a sort of balm over the cut. With a whispered incantation and a gentle blow of air to dry the balm, the cut seemed to fuse together almost in an instant.

‘My, you are quite the gifted healer,’ the spirit said, reaching out to lightly stroke Valerie's face with her finger.

Valerie gulped as the spirit pulled away, ‘Th-thank you.’

The spirit turned her attention to Patsy and waved her hand, beckoning to her.

‘Come and sit,’ she said, ‘let me get a good look at you.’

Patsy did as instructed and sat next to Valerie, the woman looking rather enamored at this spirit. She placed her hands on her knees and waited patiently as the spirit observed her.

‘Hmm,’ she hummed, ‘It is fitting that you are a scribe, for I am an avid reader.’

Patsy chuckled nervously, ‘Oh, I don’t think I’d ever written anything good enough for someone as, um, learned as yourself.’

‘You will,’ she winked.

The spirit turned her gaze towards the canopy of trees above them, and with a simple wave of her hand, the trees parted and revealed the nights sky, sparkling magnificently from the stars.

‘Hmm,’ the spirit mused, narrowing her eyes at the sky, ‘the stars tell me you are looking for someone.’

Patsy and Valerie look at one another with hope.

‘Someone who was taken from you,’ the spirit said quietly, looking to Valerie, ‘a dear friend,’ she looked to Patsy ‘and a love.’

‘I believe I know the man who did it,’ Patsy interjected quickly, feeling rather shy that her feelings seemed to be so transparent in this world, ‘and we had come here because we followed Delia’s scent, but I’ve lost it…’ she said sadly, looking ashamed.

The spirit reached forward and hooked her finger under Patsy’s chin to lift her gaze.

‘Do not be so sad child,’ she said softly, ‘for you are on the right path.’

‘Have they passed through here?’ Valerie asked hopefully.

The spirit sat back in her bed of grass and smiled, looking to the sky. She raised a finger above her head, and Patsy and Valerie looked in the direction of where she was pointing. There seemed to be one large glimmering star amongst the rest that Patsy’s spotted right away.

'Jupiter is bright in the sky tonight,’ the spirit said, ‘Follow him and he shall lead you to whom you seek.’

A moment passed as the three quietly gazed at the stars as a gentle breeze passed through . Little wisps of hair tickled the back of Patsy's neck as she watched the leaves and the branches sway in the wind. For a moment Patsy wondered if she had ever seen a sky this beautiful, untouched by human light. She found the sight so breathtaking that her heart hitched in her throat and tears pricked behind her eyes.

More fantastically, the familiar scent of the very woman they were looking for filled her senses once more. She breathed deeply, taking in her scent before she composed herself and stood at once.

‘I’ve got her scent!’ she said excitedly, ‘I’ve found it again!’

‘Let us continue,’ Valerie said, rising and turning to the spirit once more, ‘thank you for your help, spirit. We are forever in your debt,’ she finished, clutching a fist to her heart as she bowed deeply to show her respect.

‘It is I who is in debt to you, healer,’ she said, rolling lazily on her side and stretching like a cat, ‘tell me, what do you wish to know before you go?’

Valerie hesitated, and Patsy wondered what kind of question a person like Valerie, as she was here in this time, would ask. She imagine a myriad of questions racing through her mind, given the chance to have just one answered by a spirit who was all knowing. If Patsy were in her shoes, she would take her time to think it over, too.

Though, after several moments, Valerie remained silent.

The spirit rose from her spot and brushed her wild hair aside. She walked towards Valerie, new brilliantly green grass and vines and flowers growing under her feet with each step. She stood toe to toe with Valerie and reached up, grasping Valerie by the back of the head and gently pulling her down.

Patsy was transfixed watching the rather intimate scene as they touched foreheads and closed their eyes. The spirit placed her hand over Valerie’s heart, a soft glowing light emanating from underneath. A wreath of vines and flowers slowly appeared above Valerie, and manifested itself as a crown that gently rested itself on top of her head.

Slowly, the spirit let go and backed away, laying back down and stretching out, her limbs growing, her toes turning back into roots that pushed aside soil and dug into the ground, her skin becoming bark and her hair turning back into branches and leaves.

Valerie took a deep breath,breaking Patsy of her gaze on the tree that now stood before them.

‘We must carry on,’ she said softly, gently removing the crown wreath and holding it in her hands, observing it.

Patsy walked over to her friend and placed a hand on her shoulder. She gave a smile when Valerie looked to her, but did not speak, she listened instead.

‘I… carry a difficult burden. I asked if I should ever be relieved of it, and she told me if it is to happen, it will.’

‘That seems… vague,’ Patsy replied.  

‘The spirits know much but they can not predict the future,’ Valerie said, giving a sad smile.

She pulled back her cloak and hooked the crown of flowers onto her belt before looking to Patsy with a newfound vigor.

‘Shall we?’ she asked.

Patsy brought her mind back to Delia at once, lifting her eyes t the sky to spot Jupiter, pointing her nose in the direction of the scent once more.

‘This way,’ she said, and took off running, thinking it very fitting that the the planet that was to become Roman god of lightning was leading the way for her.


The scent led them to a clearing, and like hunters stalking prey, Patsy and Valerie crouched low behind the trees and boulders as they observed what looked to be two men sitting around a fire and drinking from enormous clay mugs. One of the men was old and portly, but with a kind face and a gregarious laugh. The other man was tall and thin with black hair.

Patsy recognized them at once as Fred and Patrick.

Delia’s scent was strong, however, and Patsy knew she was close by.

Her eyes scanned the area, and Patsy saw a large wooden cart with blankets thrown over the contents, and a mule napping soundly close by.

‘What say you, guardian,’ Valerie whispered, ‘is she here?’

Patsy saw out of the corner of her eye Valerie pull back her cloak and place a hand on her dagger, looking as if she were preparing herself to use it.

‘Do not worry, I know these men. They are harmless,’ Patsy said.

‘You are mistaken, no man is harmless,’ Valerie seethed, narrowing her eyes at the two spitefully.  

‘So what will you do once we are back east, eh?’ Fred asked, nudging Patrick, ‘Imagine you’ll have a few lovely nights in with the missus,’ he said suggestively.

The men laughed uproariously and Patsy rolled her eyes from her hiding spot.

‘I’ll collect on my riches, won’t I?’ Patrick said, taking a sip of his drink, ‘After I examine her first, of course. Can you believe it? A genuine fairy!’

‘Remarkable,’ Fred agreed, ‘Is it true their blood can really make you immortal?’

‘Suppose I’ll have to wait and see! I’ve half a mind to keep her for myself and not turn her over to the elders. She would be a fascinating addition to my butterfly and moth collection!’

‘I’m going to slit their throats,’ Valerie seethed next to Patsy, pulling out the sharpened dagger from the strap around her thigh.

As offended as Patsy was by the men carrying on with their plans to dissect Delia, she was still on the side of letting them live.

She pulled Valerie close to her and whispered.

‘Delia’s scent is very strong. I know she is here,’ she said, looking from the men to the cart that was close by, ‘if you could lure the men away to give me a chance to look through their things, I’m sure I can find her.’

‘What if they are carrying her on their person?’ Valerie asked.

Patsy blinked. Valerie had a point.

‘Perhaps we could wait until they are asleep?’ she suggested.

Valerie shook her head, ‘They look as if they will carry on for hours. I do not fancy sitting here waiting that long, and I imagine Delia is tired of waiting as well.’

Patsy’s gaze lowered to the satchel Valerie had strapped to her belt.

‘Do you have anything in that bag that would knock them out? Make them fall asleep?’ she asked.

‘I do, but they would need to drink it,’ Valerie replied rather glum.

The two women looked at the men carrying on and drinking, and from they was they were behaving, Patsy imagined it was something other than water.

Valerie sighed through her nose, seeming as if she were contemplating something.

‘Alright, I’ll try to join them and distract them, spike their drink perhaps. You try and stay hidden when you look through that cart,’ she warned, ‘they catch sight of you and your antlers and they will know something is wrong.’

Patsy nodded in understanding, but a sinking feeling settled into the pit of her stomach.

‘What if we need to run?’ she asked, ‘What if we get separated?’

Valerie looked around, thinking.

‘We ought not go back the way we came, in case they chase us. It would be too convenient for them to find my home or Delia’s and destroy it. Possibly hurt her family. I do not want to take that risk.’

‘What do you suggest?’

‘There is a stone portal not too far from where I found you. It is said to be a safe haven, a protection to those who would need it from outside evils. We shall convene there.’

Patsy’s mind flashed to the stone structure that she had grown very familiar with, as it was the spot she and Delia would convene to share tea and food and conversation. Patsy wondered if this was the very same stone structure that Valerie was talking about.

Valerie ripped off a bit of her tunic and handed it to Patsy.

‘So you have my scent.’

Valerie looked as if she were about to take off, when Patsy grasped her wrist.

‘Valerie, I don’t know if this is a gesture you’re familiar with, but if I stick my thumb up like this, it means I have her,’ Patsy said, giving a thumbs up, ‘if I stick it down like this, it means she's not in the cart.’

‘Good idea,’ Valerie nodded, ‘I will wait for your signal. If she is not with you then I will spike their drinks… or slit their throats, whichever I find more convenient.’

Without another word, Valerie raised her hood and spirited away, the only sound being the rustling of the leaves as she ran.

Patsy looked back at the men and watched closely, remaining still and silent, waiting for them to be comfortably distracted before she made her move.

When Valerie made herself known, the men rose at once, brandishing spears and other stone weapons and pointing them at her. Valerie remained calm and simply lowered her hood, revealing herself with a smile.

‘Still ever so charming,’ Patsy mumbled to herself with a shake of her head, thinking of Valerie using her wiles to make tips at the pub.

Patsy overheard Valerie state that she meant no harm to the two, that she was a lonely traveler and looking to rest her feet by a warm fire, and that she would exchange stories of her travels for their company.

‘Never had a woman appear out of the blue wanting to spend any time with me before,’ Fred remarked with a chuckle.

The men lowered their guard, beckoning for her to sit with them by the fire. They poured her a hearty helping of whatever it was in their jug and carried on drinking and laughing. Valerie took an inquisitive sniff before having a sip.

The two men began to chat excitedly, Patrick naturally wanting to pick her brain for all she had seen and knew, and Fred wanting to try and charm her with his jokes.

She eventually had the two completely enchanted in some harrowing tale that contained dirty joked that had the three of them laughing heartily and slapping their knee.

Patsy took this opportunity to finally sneak over to the cart, being careful to stay in the dark and keeping as quiet as possible. She was thankful that this form, whatever it was, left her seeing more clear in the dark, for she was able to avoid more than a few fallen branches from snapping under her feet.

She approached the cart and slowly unhitched the rope that held down the blankets. She lifted them and peeking inside.

The cart was lined with supplies. More blankets and jugs of things that Patsy reckoned were materials to help them carry on with their journey back east or wherever they said they were headed. She saw woven baskets filled to the brim with things that Patrick had no doubt collected like leaves and feathers from native creatures.

Patsy sniffed the contents of the cart and listened for any sign of life, and heard nothing.

Delia's scent was so very strong though.

It was almost as if the woman was right under her nose.

Patsy looked down and saw a woven box, the twigs interlocked so tight that Patsy was sure the thing was waterproof.

The box had a large stone resting on the top of it.

Patsy knocked it over at once and ripped the box open.

When she peered inside, she saw a tiny figure, no larger than the palm of her hand laying on the bottom. It was wearing a small, blue tunic, held together with a belt around their waist, their legs and feet naked and exposed. It’s hair was long and wild, sprawled out around them. They had their head tucked into their elbow, and it looked to Patsy as if the creature had fallen asleep after exhausting itself from trying to escape… or from crying.

‘Delia?’ Patsy breathed, her heart beating painfully in her chest as tears threatened to spill out over her eyes and down her cheeks. Her chest swelled with hope as the tiny thing looked up at her and she saw a familiar, beautiful face and crystal blue eyes look right back at her.

‘Patsy?’

Chapter Text

‘Who's there?!’

Patsy gasped and looked up, seeing Patrick and Fred rising from their spot by the fire as they looked over in her direction by the cart.

The men crouched and brandished their weapons, their eyes squinting as they struggled to see into the dark.

'Show yourself,’ Patrick said warningly, pointing his spear in Patsy's direction but appearing to not be able to see her as she crouched low.

Patsy gulped, remaining as still as possible and not daring to breathe, hoping Valerie would do or say something to diffuse the situation, to give Patsy a chance to take Delia and sneak off back into the forest with her.

'Patsy run!’ Valerie shouted.

Well so much for that.

The two men whirled around to face Valerie, shock apparent on their features.

'Thieves!’ Fred shouted, 'they're thieves Patrick!’

'Thief?’ Valerie spat, ‘you are the thieves! We are simply taking back what's ours!’

‘We'll have you hanged for that, you ruddy bitch!’ Fred snarled, holding his spear high in the air over his head and looking as if he were about to hurl it at Valerie.

'Like hell you will,’ Valerie said, throwing open her cloak, and quickly brandishing a dagger. She held the pointed end between her fingers and tossed it, the dagger whirling through the air so quickly it was barely seen.

'Ahh!’ Fred screamed in agony as he was hit square in the chest by one of Valerie's sharp stone daggers. He fell to his knees as Patrick rounded on Valerie, giving a feral cry as he ran at her, thrusting his spear in her direction, which she gracefully ducked.

Patsy was struck dumb not knowing what to do. She was torn between running and helping her friend, but she had no idea how. Valerie said the antlers on her head could be used as a weapon but Patsy didn't want to actually hurt anyone, let alone kill them!

'Patsy, go! Go!’ Valerie shouted, flinging another dagger. It flew through the air and cut Patrick clear across the thigh. He growled in pain but still managed to charge at her as if he hadn't been hit.

'Patsy,’ a small voice cried.

Patsy looked down to see a tiny Delia reaching out to her.

She scooped Delia into her hands, cradling her her small form as gently as she could.

‘I don't want to leave Valerie,’ she whispered.

Delia smiled encouragingly up at Patsy.

'Valerie will be alright. She is strong, and smart.’

Patsy looked over once more and caught Valerie kicking hot ash from the fire, rendering Patrick momentarily blind. He howled in pain while the woman jumped backwards, bracing herself to throw another dagger.  

She gasped when she heard a noise, feeling quite terrified as her gaze landed on Fred standing before her with a dagger sticking out of his chest, blood running down his front and staining his shirt.

'Give it back,’ Fred growled, looking exactly as if he had risen from the dead, 'give it back! We plan on making a lot of money with that fairy when we get back east. That's ours!’

He raised his hand to strike Patsy, the woman too petrified with fear to move as she watched him raise his closed fist in the air and bring it back down again over her head.

Patsy braced for the impact but it never came.

She opened her eyes to see Fred's fist suspended in the air as he clutched his teeth, groaning in pain. He forced air through his nostrils, his face turning a deep shade of red as if he were using all of his strength against something, though Patsy couldn't tell what.

The man grimaced as he gave a strangled shout, his body writhing as if he were pulling against something. His arm seemed to be stuck in the air and Patsy was astonished when she figured out why.

Delia, wonderful, shocking Delia herself was holding Fred's fist high in the air, her small hands grasping at his wrist and holding him steady. Fred pulled again and again for her to release him but it was in vain. She may have been small but her grip was strong.

Patsy's eyes bulged out of her head, the light catching onto something fluttering behind Delia. It took a moments thought but as she stared it dawned on Patsy that Delia was hovering.

'You have wings?!’ she exclaimed.

Delia gave a small grunt, using all her strength to hoist Fred backwards and he stumbled back, his arms flailing about before he finally fell to the ground.

Patsy blinked and Delia was gone.

She whipped her head around, looking at her feet, on the ground. Did she fall? Did Fred snatch her? Patsy's heart sank, thinking she had lost her again. Where did she go??

‘Patsy!’

Patsy heard the voice above her, but when she looked up there was nothing there.

‘I’m on top of your head!’ Delia said, stomping her tiny bare foot against her forehead.

‘Hey!’

‘Come on, lets go!’ Delia shouted.

Patsy could feel a weight on her antler and she figured that Delia had wrapped herself tight around it, preparing herself to hold on.

Not wanting to take another chance that either Fred or Patrick might come after them, Patsy turned on her heel and scarpered through the trees as quickly as she could.

She had no idea where she was going, all she knew was that she needed to get away. Needed to get the two of them to safety.

Patsy darted through the threes, only able to hear the skin of her bare feet hitting the ground and the wind rushing by her ears. She batted away at the leaves and ducked under branches, leaping over fallen trunks and rocks, hoping against hope that Delia had a really good grip on her antler because she would be rather devastated if she lost her again.

Patsy ran and ran, not daring to stop or look back. Only when every muscle in her body burned unbearably and she was breathing hard enough that she felt she couldn't take in enough air did she take the chance to slow down.

She came to a stop when she heard the sounds of trickling water. It was a soothing noise. She turned towards it and headed towards the sound eventually coming to the crest of a hill and seeing a creek with a healthy stream of water flowing along through the trees and boulders.

Patsy didn't realize how thirsty she was until she saw the sight of it.

She walked over and knelt at the bank of the creek, cupping her hand in the water and bending forward as she sipped from her hand.

The water was cool and tasted more pure than anything she had ever tasted before in her life.

She went to take another handful, but before she could reach the water Delia fell into her hand.

'Oh!’ she said, sitting back on her heels, 'goodness Delia you were so quiet I forgot you were up there!’

Delia sat up, looking rather sad and it made Patsy worried. The woman appeared smaller than she had been just a moment ago.

'What is it? What's the matter?’ Patsy asked, her heart breaking at the sight of Delia looking so forlorn.

'You forgot about me?’ Delia asked shyly.

'Oh dear,’ Patsy said, it finally clicking in her mind why Delia seemed to fluctuate in size.

Her confidence was shot.

Patsy sat back on the soft grass and crossed her legs, cradling Delia as gently as she could as she brought her closer to eye level.

'Only for a moment, Delia,’ she said softly, ‘I must say, I bet you're an excellent hunter with how quiet you are. Could catch a rabbit in no time. You're quick like one, too.’

She was rewarded with a shy smile, the wings on her back fluttering slightly.

The sight of this reminded Patsy that she had some questions.

'You have wings,’ she stated, ‘I didn’t know you had wings.’

Delia nodded, 'They were bound,’ she said sadly.

‘Did they do it?’ Patsy asked, 'The men, after they captured you?’

Delia shook her head and Patsy's heart sank in her chest. She herself was on the verge of tears when she realized who it could have been.

'Your Mam?’ she whispered.

Delia looked ashamed, but gave a curt nod.

'Oh, Delia, you poor thing. How could she do such a thing…’ she tisked, wishing she could do something to comfort the woman but she was still much too small for her to do anything but just cradle her in her hand.

'She does it sometimes when I misbehave,’ Delia said shyly, playing with a strand of her hair, ‘or if she thinks I'm being too reckless. Says it's because she loves me and doesn't want to see me hurt,’

Delia nervously rubbed her arm before she continued.

‘They come off eventually, the bindings. But the man found me before then, when they were still bound. I was amazed he even saw me but I remember he had an enormous eye. Thought he was a cyclops.’

An image of Patrick with his monocle over his eye came to Patsy's mind. If the man had not have tried to kidnap Delia and then kill her for trying to take her back, she would have been rather impressed with him for figuring out the glassmaking technology in this time.

‘I couldn't get away, and he just scooped me up,’ Delia finished.

'Did you try to get away afterwards? When you were in the basket?’ Patsy asked, thinking if Delia had the strength to ward off a big burly man like Fred, surely she had the strength to break out of a wicker basket.

'I... I guess I thought… I was scared at first. I couldn't fly. I couldn't get away. I suppose I just thought it was inevitable that I would be captured,’ Delia admitted shyly, looking down at her pointed feet.

Patsy's sighed, afraid to think that Delia had been so distraught after her fight with her Mam that she didn’t even try to escape. She looked like she still didn’t think herself worth saving, and Patsy couldn’t have her thinking that.

'Well, that's no matter now,’ she said, trying to sound cheery, ‘You're safe and sound and I'm going to get you back to your family.’

Patsy focused on Delia’s reaction. The news of going back to her family did not appear to change Delia's expression in the slightest.

'We could stay here awhile, too,’ she added, smiling slightly as Delia tucked her hair behind her ear, revealing those pretty blue eyes.

Patsy gently lowered Delia on a few stones by the creek, and she looked around, wishing she had something to offer the woman to eat. She spotted a honeysuckle plant and rose Friday m her spit, walking over to it. She plucked a few buds, bringing them back over to Delia who was watching her curiously.

‘Sorry I don't have something more substantial,’ Patsy said apologetically as she knelt down and plucked the thread through the flower, revealing a drop of honey.

She handed the thread to Delia who grasped it with both hands.

‘Thank you,’ she said, giving a shy smile up at Patsy before she gulped down the dew drop of honey.

Patsy felt satisfied watching Delia eat, hoping that filling her tummy with sweet things would perk her up a bit.

She plucked out a thread of honey and placed it on her tongue, tasting a bit of sweetness and thinking back fondly to the summers she spent with her sister picking these same little flowers from their stem and tasting them just like this.

Patsy had no idea if any of this was real or not, but she was happy to be spending these moments with Delia.

The smaller woman fluttered slightly, rising in the air high enough to land back into the palm of Patsy’s hand. She helped herself to another honeysuckle and Patsy watched on endearingly as she got her fill.

‘I could have placed these down next to you, you know,’ Patsy said.

‘I like it here,’ Delia said simply, looking rather petulant as she stared up at Patsy and gulped down another drop of honey.

Patsy felt a little light in the heart that Delia seemed to have a strong preference for being close to her. She rested her chin on her knee and just watched the woman drink from flower after flower as she held her in the palm of her hand.  

‘They didn't let you eat or drink at all did they,’ Patsy seethed, growing angry at the thought of Delia suffering so much.

Delia shook her head with a reassuring smile, ‘It is of little matter now. You are here with me, Patsy.’

Patsy blinked, realizing Delia was calling by her first name. She had never told Delia her first name, not here in this world anyway.

'Delia, how did you know that?’ she asked, ‘How did you know my name?’

'How do you mean?’ Delia asked, using the back of her hand to wipe her mouth.

'No one else knows me here. But you do.’

Delia looked rather bashful, ‘I could... sense you were coming…’

'Sense? Like a feeling?’

Delia nodded, a slight tinge of pink appearing on her cheeks, ‘I heard your name before I was… before I was captured. It was but a whisper through the trees, but I could hear it. I wondered when you would arrive, under what circumstance. There was a feeling deep in my chest, here,’ she said, placing her clenched fist over her heart, ‘I felt as if there was a tether around my heart, pulling me to you. I wanted to go out and look for you, but Mam…’

Patsy looked down at her concerned.

‘She… well, that’s what our fight was about, before it happened. I knew I was to go out in search of someone, but didn’t know who. I was growing restless just waiting. Mam said it was too dangerous for me to go off on my own, so we had a fight, and,’ Delia sighed, ‘Oh, I suppose she was right. I shouldn't have… I should have just stayed home. I don’t know why I bother doing anything, I just end up hurt and making things worse for everyone else by worrying them sick.’

‘No, none of that now,’ Patsy said sternly, ‘I won’t hear you say another bad thing about yourself, because none of it’s true, Delia. None of this is your fault. Those men had no business going around and scoping up tiny women to satisfy their own curiosities and whatnot.’

Delia looked up shyly at Patsy through her hair, but Patsy reckoned she was finally getting to the woman.

‘I’m extremely proud of you right now, you know that?’ Patsy said.

‘Why?’ Delia asked, surprise evident in her tone.

‘I’m proud because there was something out there calling to you and… and even though you didn't know what it was, you still had the courage to go out and seek it. Whenever anyone goes out like that there is always a chance of failure, but you went ahead and did it anyway, and I mean… it may not have all gone to plan, but we’ve made it here together in the end, you and I.’

Patsy was delighted to see Delia grasp her ankles, sitting up straight and giving her wings a bit of a flutter as she smiled.

‘You really saved me from getting quite a beating back there you know!’ Patsy exclaimed.

‘I did?’ Delia asked, looking astounded, ‘No, Patsy, you would have… I mean you’re perfectly capable of taking care of yourself,’ she finished, eyeing the antlers on top of Patsy’s head.

‘Nonsense. I’ve only just arrived here this evening and these things are only a few hours old. You think I know how to use them?’ she asked with a smile.

As soon as the words left her mouth she recalled the adrenaline filled, snarling fight she had with Delia’s Mam, Enid, their antlers tangling with one another as they tossed the other around.

‘Well, use them for self defense anyway,’ Patsy added feebly with a blush.

‘But you are a guardian and I am… not,’ Delia said shyly.

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ Patsy mused, ‘I think you have a bit of guardian in there, too,’ she took her pinkie finger on her other hand and nudged Delia, enticing a smile from the smaller woman.

‘And why do you say that?’ she asked.

Patsy couldn’t help but notice that Delia had become slightly heavier in the palm of her hand, her cheeks an endearing shade of red. Patsy wondered if she was growing. Perhaps showering her with compliments would make her feel normal again. Giving Delia compliments was one of Patsy’s favorite things to do after all.

‘Because you protected me back there, didn’t you?’ she started, thinking it was the absolute truth, ‘You leapt right out of my hand and stopped that man from bashing me on the head. You did what you do best, Delia. You kept your cool. You kept your head on your shoulders during a stressful situation and made sure we got out of there unscathed!’

Delia clutched her head between her hands, ‘Where else would my head be but on my shoulders?’

‘It’s just an expression,’ Patsy rolled her eyes, ‘regardless, you are a strong woman, Delia. So what if you don’t have antlers. I know for certain it’s in your nature to care for others and protect the most vulnerable among us.’

Patsy marveled slightly as Delia seemed to grow right before her eyes. She had suddenly become the size of a football and Patsy needed to use both hands to hold her up.

‘It doesn’t matter to me if you’re a guardian or not,’ Patsy said, ‘I’m always going to want someone like you by my side. No matter what size you are, I’m always just going to see you as you, Delia. My own personal guardian.’

There was a noise that sounded like a pop, and Delia was in the air, just hovering over Patsy, her body and limbs having grown to their normal size again.

Patsy was able to gape at the sight of the woman above her for only a split second before she came crashing back down on top of her in a fit of laughter, wrapping her arms around Patsy as they rolled on the grass. Patsy broke out into a happy laughter, too, feeling wonderful that her Delia had grown, she was feeling like herself again and her happiness was contagious.

‘I’m so happy I found you,’ Patsy whispered.

‘I’m so happy you found me,’ Delia replied.

The two held onto one another tight, not wanting to let go, Patsy especially not wanting to let go thinking this was the first time she had ever really held Delia in her arms. She loved the way she fit. She loved the feeling of Delia’s weight on her, Delia scooping her up in her arms so tight right back. It felt wonderful. Patsy noticed she smelled wonderful too.

Patsy felt a tickle on her neck and realized Delia was nuzzling her nose against her skin,

‘You smell good,’ Delia breathed.

‘So do you,’ Patsy said, closing her eyes and rolling Delia over to lay on her back. She tucked her head into her neck and breathed in deeply.

Why did she smell so wonderful? Patsy wondered if she was wearing perfume, but then realized she had been stuck in a cage for the last several days. Surely she hadn’t bathed. Come to think, Patsy wondered just what she smelled like having been running around the forest for a good part of the night. Regardless, she was drawn to Delia’s scent now that she was big, in a way that was different than before. Delia’s scent pulled her in, made her desire grow for the woman in a way she hadn’t ever felt before.

It was as if a spell had been cast over her. Patsy had never felt so wonderful and full of love. She was finally holding Delia in her arms and feeling so incredibly happy. She wanted to love and protect this woman forever.

As the two continued to blissfully roll around on the soft grass by the creek, giggling and getting lost in themselves, Patsy felt something swell within her. An animalistic, intrinsic desire to stake a claim in Delia, make her her own, and let Delia claim her for her own. Patsy wouldn’t have another so long as she lived. She didn’t want to.

She wanted to make a family with this woman.

That was certainly never a thought she had before. The small bit that was currently Patsy's rational mind knew that she couldn’t very well make babies with Delia as it was biologically impossible, but in this instance she couldn’t help herself. The drive to try was strong, almost overpowering. She needed to try, damn it. She needed to try.

Patsy recalled something about her going into a rut. A mating season, something Valerie mentioned.

Valerie.

Patsy’s eyes widened.

‘Valerie!’

Delia pulled away and looked up at Patsy curiously, seeming confused as to why there was an interruption to their snuggling.

‘We… we need to find Valerie!’ Patsy gulped, finding it incredibly painful and difficult to pull away from Delia’s embrace, like she was going against everything her mind and body wanted for the sake of getting back to the task of getting Delia safely back to her friends and family.

‘We do?’ Delia said, blinking out of what looked to be a lustful haze and coming back down to reality.

‘Yes… she said…,’ Patsy took a deep breath and shook her head before she continued, ‘she said she needed your help with something. That time was of the essence,’ Patsy took several deep breaths to try and get ahold of herself, as she wanted nothing more to continue and kiss the sad pout on Delia’s lips away, but they were on a mission and she needed to see it through.

‘Oh,’ Delia said, pulling away.

‘No, don’t,’ Patsy closed her eyes and gulped down her desire, ‘I don’t want to stop either, but we should get back first. We should at least find Valerie and see if she’s made it out safely…’

She opened her eyes again and was relieved to see Delia was still her normal size, and Patsy wanted to keep her that way.

‘I need your help Delia,’ she said, her tone serious, ‘You know these lands much better than I do. I need you to lead the way.’

Delia looked up with a spark in her eye. Patsy reckoned the feeling of being not only wanted, but needed because her skills were useful was keeping her confidence high.

‘Do you know where we are?’ Patsy asked, ‘Valerie said we were to meet at the stone portal. Do you know how to get there?’

Delia for the first time seemed to look around and take in their surroundings.

‘I think so,’ she said, completely removing herself from Patsy’s embrace and resting her palm flat on the ground.

Patsy watched as Delia closed her eyes. Her hand grazing the earth around her, making a small circle with her index finger and leaving it there, as if taking the pulse of the ground.

‘I have never been here before,’ Delia finally said, looking up to the trees.

She rose from her crouched position and leapt gracefully up the trunk of a tall oak, grasping onto a branch and hauling herself up with ease.

Patsy blinked, watching as Delia leapt from branch to branch, higher and higher until she was sure she could see above the leaves. Like a sailor grasping onto the top of a ships flagpole, Delia leaned into the wind and closed her eyes; listening.

After several moments of silence, Delia gracefully hopped down and landed beside Patsy, reaching out to help the woman to her feet.

'I believe I know the way,’ Delia said with a smile.

‘Splendid,’ Patsy said, squeezing Delia's hand before letting go, 'Actually, I believe I still have something of Valerie's that has her scent on it if we need the help… oh.’

Patsy's hand brushed over Delia's cap, the one which carried Delia's scent that she used to track her down

'Delia, I have this if you want it,’ Patsy said, holding the garment out for her, ‘I know how much you like wearing your cap.’

Delia smiled and put the cap on her head, looking especially cute as her ears stuck out just slightly between the long thick tendrils of her hair.

She thanked Patsy and turned to lead the way to Valerie, when Patsy noticed something.

‘Where did your wings go?’ she asked curiously.

‘They only appear when I’m small,’ Delia explained, reaching down to help Patsy climb over a particularly harrowing ledge, ‘I’m much too heavy at this size to fly.’

Patsy shrugged with a roll of her eyes, ‘Oh, but of course.’

The two trudged along through the woods, both feeling particularly lighthearted and happy to simply be together.


The two women walked for some time, Patsy rather enjoying the stroll through the forest, taking the time to look around and admire her surroundings for once instead of running through them. They eventually found a path that Delia recognized.

‘Not too long now,’ she said confidently, Patsy noticed her glowing slightly, ‘if Valerie said she would meet us at the portal then she will be waiting for us at the end of this path.’  

‘That’s fabulous!’

‘Shh!’ Delia turned suddenly, placing her finger over her mouth, ‘we must be careful to stay quiet and not wake the banshees.’

Patsy clasped her hand over her mouth and whispered, ‘Banshees? Aren’t they noisy ghosts?’

‘They are the ones who herald the death of another soul, bringing the news far and wide to the people of the village,’ Delia elaborated quietly, looking to the trees suspiciously, ‘There’s a burial mound just beyond the trees there. A very sacred sight that the banshees look after. We do not want to disrupt the-’

‘Disturb is right!’ came a voice, sounding fairly annoyed.

Patsy and Delia gasped and looked up and around them, seeing nothing but the trees.

‘How rude, assuming us banshees!’

‘Yeah, you don’t want to hear the sound of the banshee who roams these parts,’ quipped one, ‘it’ll be the last thing you ever hear.’

‘I might just go and call her, the nerve of these mortals just walking by, hmmph.’  

‘Well there is a path here,’ said another.  

‘Quiet! Doesn’t mean anyone can just waltz through,’ the one quipped, ‘Where is Chummy? I thought we sent out that oaf to look after the parameters!’

Patsy and Delia whirled around at the sound of three voices speaking around them, looking to the trees to see if any person were near, but they saw nothing.

‘You can’t expect her to do your job for you, you insufferable-,’

You can’t expect her to do your job for you,’ the voice repeated mockingly, ‘Bah, to you, I say! That woman ought to do as she is told!’

‘Chummy left to go and look for her son Freddie, you git!’

‘I’ve had just about enough of your petulance!’ the one cried, ignoring the other.

‘Hmmpf’, the one said, sounding defeated, ‘I bet they didn’t even bring us a gift.’

To Patsy’s surprise, Delia scoffed.

‘We didn’t come to pay any respects,’ Delia said.

‘Well that’s certainly obvious by now, you ungrateful little -,’

‘Here we are century after century looking after your loved ones and you don't even bring a gift as you pass by!’

‘We are merely passing though if you would just leave us-,’ Delia tried to explain.

‘How dare you even think of trying to cut through our lands without so much as a gift.’

Your lands!’ Delia repeated indignantly. ‘These are the lands of my ancestors, thank you very much!’

‘What kind of gift?’ Patsy asked to the trees, interjecting herself into the conversation.

Delia looked over to Patsy confused, raising a curious eyebrow.  

A moment of silence passed where the only noise was the chirping of the crickets around them, and a gentle breeze passing though. Patsy wondered if she had lost her audience.

‘Money?’ Patsy asked with a shrug.

There was a collective scoffing through the trees as if it were the most absurd suggestion anyone had ever heard.

‘What use are coins to a spirit, hmm?’ said the one.  

‘Not useful at all, I think,’ said the other.

‘What else do you have to offer?’

Patsy patted her pockets, and swiftly realized that she had no pockets. She looked to Delia for some help but the woman merely shrugged.

Patsy took a moment to look at her surroundings, wondering if they could make something the spirits would like.. Surely they could offer them something to pacify them and be on their way?

She thought back to when Valerie approached Fred and Patrick around the fire. She told them she had stories to share of her travels. Perhaps they could share a story with the spirits, or something similar?

Patsy looked to Delia as an epiphany hit her. Delia looked right back at her, rather mystified.

‘How about a song?’ she suggested.

‘A song?’ One of the spirits rang out.

‘Oh! A song!’ one voice seemed to swoon, ‘I do love a good song!’

‘Yes, guardian, I think that would suffice… If it's any good.’

There was a hint of a smile on Delia’s face that looked as if she were proud of Patsy for being so clever.

‘If we sing a song will you let us pass though?’ Patsy asked.

‘We make no promises, guardian,’ one said stubbornly.

‘Yes, let us hear you sing first, it must be worthy of such respectful spirits as us.’

‘Don’t go including yourself in that you old biddy.’

There was suddenly a gust of wind that whirled around both Patsy and Delia, carrying with it flowers and leaves that swirled around the front of them in the path, and before she knew it, three figures had manifested themselves in front of them.

They looked to be one enormous being shrouded in a black cloak and revealing three white heads.

Patsy blinked and realized it was the three nuns, Evangelina, Julienne, and Monica Joan, the latter looking positively delighted they were about to sing while the other two looked upon them with distrust.

‘Well? Get on with it!’ Evangelina's floating head said.

‘Yes, please do,’ Julienne added.

‘What’s the rush? We’ve got all the time in the world, haven’t we?’ Monica Joan quipped.

‘Yes, well, be that as it may, I’m not a fan of wasting a moment of it,’ Julienne said, turning her nose up in the air as Evangelina rolled her eyes.

Patsy turned to Delia, being reminded that unlike the three spirits here, the two of them did not have time to waste.

‘Well, Delia, do you know any songs?’

‘Me?’ Delia asked, her ears turning red, ‘This was your idea!’

‘But you can sing!’ Patsy implored, ‘and play instruments! I can’t do either of those things!’

‘Well I haven’t got my instruments now, have I?’ Delia said, placing her hands on her hips, ‘Wasn’t really an afterthought when I was being kidnapped, was it.’

Patsy fretted, not only because Delia now seemed upset with her for being put on  the spot like this, but she was now unsure of what to do. It only made her nerves worse to see the three woman hovering over them with their pale faces and wide eyes looking at them expectantly. Patsy wondered if they should just make a run for it but feared that would not make it away alive. She knew she could run fast in this world, but she had not tested her ability to outrun a spirit and she didn’t want to take that chance just yet.

Patsy took a deep breath and stood up straight.

‘Alright!’ she said, giving a resounding clap of her hands.

The sound reverberated through her body, and Patsy looked down at her clasped hands.

A memory flashed through Patsy’s mind of where she had been just before she woke up in this world, surrounded by children who were running around and playing. More specifically, she recalled several little girls sitting together and playing some rendition of patty cake, clapping their hands together and singing some song they had made up.

‘Delia, we don’t need instruments,’ Patsy said, ‘we can just clap our hands like this.’

‘Well? Go on child, we’re waiting!’

‘Yes, what is taking so long?’

‘Oh be quiet, will you!’ Delia shouted, and to Patsy’s surprise the three spirits clamped their mouths shut, ‘Go on, Patsy, show me how you mean.’

What on earth did she mean? Patsy thought. She could certainly keep a beat, but now she found herself needing to make up a song on the spot, it seemed. Singing was not quite her forte, but in the circumstance it did not seem like she had many options.

Patsy felt very nervous, not thinking she had the best voice, but when she looked at Delia, the woman looking right back at her with the utmost attention and love and confidence in her eyes, it made Patsy feel calm. She smiled and thought of the first song that always came to her head whenever she looked at Delia.

‘Clap like this,’ Patsy said softly.

Patsy began to clap at a cadence she had heard in a million doo-wop songs growing up and attending dances with the boys school coming up as a teenager, to the hops and clubs she went to as an undergraduate at Oxford and in the city of London.

Clap clap. Clap. Clap clap. Clap.

Delia began to clap her hands and Patsy continued right along with her, looking right at Delia as she shyly began to sing.

Baby I'm yours

And I'll be yours until the stars fall from the sky

Yours until the rivers all run dry

In other words, until I die

Patsy began to rock back and forth, Delia returning her smile as she mirrored her movements and together they swayed and clapped. Patsy was so enchanted by Delia’s smile that she damn well near forgot that she had three grumpy spirits looking back down on them.

Baby I'm yours

And I'll be yours until the sun no longer shines

Yours until the poets run out of rhyme

In other words, until the end of time

I'm gonna stay right here by your side

Do my best to keep you satisfied

Nothing in the world can drive me away

'Cause every day you'll hear me say

Baby I'm yours

As Patsy began to repeat the last verse, she was delighted to hear Delia join in with her own beautiful voice, and together they sang.

Till the stars fall from the sky

Baby I'm yours

Till the rivers all run dry

Baby I'm yours

Till the poets run out of rhyme

Patsy stopped her clapping and her rocking, keeping her eyes on Delia as the woman mirrored her actions.

The two were lost in one another, smiling and giggling, having forgotten they were clapping and singing in the middle of the forest.

‘I like that song,’ Delia said softly, reaching out and grasping Patsy’s hands in her own.

‘Me too,’ Patsy said, unable to help the shy smile that appeared on her face as she squeezed Delia’s hands, interlocking their fingers.

‘You call that a song?’ Evangelina asked incredulously.

The two women broke away at the abrupt interruption.

‘What do you mean?! It was wonderful!’ Monica Joan implored.

‘Oh posh, it was dreadful,’ Julienne said with an eyeroll and a wave of her hand, ‘A terrible gift if you ask me.’

‘Don’t listen to these old coots,’ Monica Joan insisted, ‘you two sound lovely together.’

‘It was rubbish!’ Evangelina said.

‘Again, again, again!’ Monica Joan chanted.

Patsy saw the other two open their mouths, about to shout their protest, no doubt, when the most absolute shrill cry emanated from somewhere close by.

Patsy and Delia brought their hands to their ears and clutched their heads to dilute the sound and the pain they felt from hearing such an ear splitting noise.

‘What is that?!’ Patsy shouted through gritted teeth.

The sound reminded her very much of Phyllis and her whistle, for some reason, the sound rounding up the scouts to line up all single file before they went into the church. In this instance though, instead of being just abrasive, it was maddening. Patsy felt as if her ears would start bleeding at any moment.

‘The banshee comes!’ Monica Joan shouted.

With her ears still covered, Patsy managed to crack open an eye to look around, and saw a woman who looked remarkably like Phyllis. She was wearing a gray shawl over her entire body, her hair white and disheveled and her face sunken and pale as she pointed to the sky and wailed.

Patsy remembered suddenly that the spirits said a banshee only comes when one is expected to die.

Her heart beat frantically, wondering what was to come, and looked to where the screaming Phyllis was pointing her finger towards the sky. She saw the canopy of trees above her, but there was nothing but the birds fluttering away. She did, however, begin  to feel the ground shake around her.

‘What’s happening!?’ Delia shouted over the chaos of it all.

The shaking grew more intense with each passing second, the pounding reverberating in Patsy’s body so fierce that she felt she would fall over at any second.

There was a great rustling through the trees where banshee Phyllis was pointing her bony finger, and Patsy looked over to see the trees violently parted one by one, looking as if they were being ripped up from their roots and thrown aside by something massive.

Freddie!’

A deep voice called out that only made the ground shake more.  

Freddie my baby!’ The voice wailed again.

The trees parted again revealing an enormous woman, a giant. Patsy finally got a good look at the woman as she grew closer and closer, her large figure growing with every step she took.

‘Chummy,’ she breathed, tuning out the sound of Phyllis shrieking.

Chummy, of course, did not hear her, and in her haste to find Freddy, the giant woman ran right towards them.

Patsy watched, her mouth wide open and expression dumbfounded, as Chummys enormous foot was lifted and raised right above where she was standing.

Phyllis was shrieking, and Chummys giant foot was coming closer and closer to where Patsy was standing. It clicked with her all to late that she was about to be squished under this woman giant foot, and possibly be killed.

Patsy was stunned, too scared to move as she braced herself to actually die right then and there and for a brief moment hoped it would be painless, until she felt a searing pain in her side and she was knocked off her feet.

She closed her eyes as strong arms embraced her, holding her tight as they took the brunt of impact as they landed together on the ground.

Patsy opened her eyes to see Delia had wrapped herself around her, throwing them out of the way of Chummys oncoming foot before it crushed the both of them to death.

Phyllis thankfully stopped her screeching and the two of them watched as Chummy ran past, approaching the three women who had made them sing and enveloping them in her large arms, shouting her sons name.

All three women let out a surprised shout as they were lifted clear off the ground.

‘No you fool!’

‘Put us down!’

‘We are not your son!’

Patsy felt a fist grab the front of her tunic and pull her clear off the ground.

‘Patsy, run!’ Delia shouted, thrusting her forward.

There was no way in hell Patsy was going to be separated from Delia in a moment like this.

She grasped Delia's hand and pulled her to her feet, pulling her along as they ran underneath the dangling black robes of the three spirits, the three women screaming in shock as they were hovering in one large mass above the ground.

‘Put us down you clumsy oaf!’ one of them cried.

Freddie!’ Chummy cried out, sounding as if she were about to start shedding tears over her missing son.

‘Freddie isn't here!’ another shouted, their voice strained as if they were being squeezed too tight.

Their voices faded more and more as Patsy and Delia ran together, their hands grasped jg onto one another for dear life as they sprinted through the trees and leaped over overgrown tree roots and stones that lay in their path. The forest grew more thick and dark and quiet as they ran, the sounds of the chaos behind them receding to nothing and all Patsy could hear after some time was the sounds of their feet hitting the ground and her breathing heavily in her own ears.

The two ran and ran, neither daring to stop or let go of one another as they approached another clearing. Only then did Delia slow down, Patsy following her lead as they came to a stop and took in their surroundings.

All was calm and quiet as they stepped forward. Fireflies danced around them and crickets chirped. There was a mist surrounding them, a foggy haze that emanated from the tall grass. It was wet and cool around Patsy’s feet as they trudged forward, Patsy following Delia’s lead as she led her to a structure she couldn't quite make out.

Patsy looked up and around, noticing that the sky was a deep shade of purple.

Was the sun rising?

There was a noise. The sound of someone crying.

‘Valerie?’

Patsy looked from Delia to a figure moving just beyond the haze.

Her eyes focused on a familiar sight; three enormous boulders, two of them standing upright while the other rested on the two acting as a cover. There was a figure dressed in white kneeling between them, shaking as if they were crying, heaving with sobs.

‘Valerie,’ Patsy breathed.

The two looked on, Delia clenching more firm onto Patsy’s hand before letting go as they watched Valerie's shoulders shake with another sob at the foot of the stone portal tomb.

Patsy couldn't see her face for it was tucked into her arms, and she worried if Valerie had been hurt from the scuffle with Fred and Patrick.

Delia ran over to her friend, Patsy following close behind and standing over them as Delia kneeled beside Valerie, placing a gentle hand on her back.

‘We’re here Valerie,’ Delia said calmly, ‘We’re safe.’

‘I know,’ Valerie said, letting out a shaky breath as she sniffed into her arms again, ‘I am so grateful that you all have made it out alive,’ she said, looking up to Patsy and reaching out or her.

Patsy knelt down beside her and grasped her hand in both of hers.

‘Then what is the matter?’ Delia asked softly, ‘what troubles you so? Are you hurt?’

‘No,’ Valerie shook her head, ‘I am not wounded on the outside.’

Delia cradled her friend in her arms and pressed her forehead against hers. Patsy could only sit there and look on at the intimate act as she held Valerie's hand in hers.

‘What is the matter, my most darling friend,’ Delia asked, running her fingers through Valerie’s short hair, ‘Please, tell me what ails you? Let me help you.’

‘Delia I cant…’ Valerie choked out, gritting her teeth. She looked as if she were in a lot of pain, struggling with something inside of her, ‘I’ve brought shame upon my ancestors.’

‘No,’ Delia whispered, holding her close, ‘No you haven't, you’ve done nothing wrong.’

‘They’ll never forgive me,’ she hiccuped, ‘They’ve chosen a path for me I just can’t... ‘ Valerie broke away again, and Patsy watched as hot tears streamed down her face, the woman sobbing in agony.

Patsy watched on helplessly, feeling as though she wanted to cry herself, She couldn't bare seeing her friend in so much turmoil.

‘I can’t accept it, Delia,’ Valerie finally said, ‘I just can’t. I’m not meant to be what they want me to be, I…’

‘Valerie, no,’ Delia said, holding her friend tight in her arms, ‘whatever it is, I want to help.’

‘No, I couldn’t…’, Valerie trailed off again, sobbing.

‘Valerie, please,’ Delia pleaded, looking the woman in the eye, ‘you’re my best friend in the whole world. I love you. You’ve saved my life. Let me help you, please.’

Patsy only then noticed she was leaning forward, feeling an overwhelming innate desire to leap forward, reach out and comfort her friend in the way Delia was comforting her.

‘Me too,’ she said, leaning forward and wrapping her hands around Valerie and Delia, all three of them coming together for a tight embrace, 'Valerie whatever it is, I will help. Delia will not bare this alone, nor will you.’

‘No, please,’ Valerie begged, sobbing once more through clenched teeth as hot tears streamed down her face, ‘I can’t burden you with this, it’s too much…’

‘Valerie, please,’ Delia begged, ‘I can’t stand to see you so vexed,’ she said sounding as if she were holding back teats of her own.

‘Delia and I will take it on, whatever it is. We’ll do it,’ Patsy said, hugging Valerie and Delia tight in her grasp.

‘Yes, Valerie, we’ll take it on together.’

Valerie still continued to sob, her head hanging low as fat tears fell from her eyes and rolled off her chin.

‘Please, Valerie,’ Patsy pleaded.

‘We love you,’ Delia said.

Valerie looked up to the sky as the sun crested over the horizon, making the stars fade and the sky turn from a deep shade of purple to blue in an instant.

Valerie took several deep breaths, calming herself. She placed both her hands over Patsy and Delia’s arms as she sighed once more.

‘I love you too,’ she said softly.

Patsy suddenly felt a lightness in her arms before she felt another warm body crash into hers.

She opened her eyes to see Valerie had vanished, and she was holding Delia tight in her arms.

Delia was equally shocked as she looked back at Patsy, her eyes wide as the two held one another and looked up towards the sky.

Valerie's body had broken apart and turned into hundreds of butterflies, swarming around the two of them before fluttering simultaneously into the air, their wings beating frantically, pushing them higher and higher into the air, and they eventually flitted through the trees, disappearing from sight.

Patsy and Delia remained still and silent, the two of them looking perplexed as they watched the beautiful flurry of butterflies disappear into the distance.

‘What just happened?’ Patsy asked, finding it within herself to tear her gaze away from the sky and look to the woman she held in her arms.

Delia looked back at Patsy, her eyes shining with tears as she gulped down a lump in her throat.

‘I think…,’ Delia started, taking a deep breath, ‘ I think Valerie chose the path she needed to take to be happy.’

Delia blinked, her eyes heavy and unfocused as she thought through her next words carefully.

‘I believe… whatever was troubling her… whatever burden she was carrying has been lifted. She is happy now,’ Delia whispered, looking into Patsy’s eyes, ‘though she will never feel whole again.’

Delia suddenly looked pained, and  pressed her head into Patsy’s chest, her breathing suddenly short as she clenched her fists onto Patsy’s green tunic and held on tight.  

Patsy didn't know what to say, feeling overcome with a myriad of emotions that she didn’t quite understand. She felt a sadness that Valerie had gone, but overwhelmingly happy and whole, more at right with the world than she had ever felt in her entire life.

‘Delia, why do I feel like this?’ Patsy asked, her heart racing as hot tears streamed down her face, ‘what has Valerie done to us?’

‘She has placed her burden on us,’ Delia said simply, her voice muffled as her head was still buried in Patsy’s chest.

‘It feels anything but.’

‘I know,’ Delia said, finally lifting her head to gaze at Patsy.

Patsy had to blink, not quite believing what she was seeing as Delia looked back at her with two small bones poking through either side of her forehead.

‘Delia!’ Patsy exclaimed, taking her hand and cupping Delia's face, ‘You’ve grown antlers!’

‘I know,’ Delia said, breaking into a smile as fresh tears streamed down her face.

Patsy took her thumb and wiped them away, holding her face in her hands as if it were the most precious thing she had ever held.

‘You’ve become a guardian?’ Patsy asked, ‘Why?’

‘I... ,’ Delia paused, taking a moment to wrap her arms around Patsy and hold her tight, ‘I finally feel like I have something to protect. Something that’s mine.’

‘Me?’

‘Yes, and,’ Delia trailed of, placing her hand over Patsy’s heart.

Patsy looked down as she felt a comfortably warm heat emanate from Delia’s hand, and she saw a soft light begin to glow from under Delia’s hand, the strands of light growing brighter and brighter as they glowed through her fingers.

‘And… something else. Something that… the need to protect grows fiercely within me.’

Patsy placed her hand over Delia’s, ‘I feel it, too.’

The two women locked eyes, and Patsy noticed with a hitch of excitement in her breath that she was merely inches away from Delia's mouth, the soft lips looking so full and inviting and just dying to be kissed by her.

‘Delia, I love you,’ Patsy whispered.  

‘I love you too,’ Delia breathed, closing her eyes and the gap between them.

Patsy pressed her lips to Delia’s in a fervent need to be close to the woman in a way that was more intimate than she had ever experienced with another person. After so many life threatening instances over the course of the evening, Patsy felt expressing her feelings for the woman with a kiss as deep as this would convey all the love she had for her, and she had quite a bit of it which Delia seemed to return in full.

Unbeknownst to the two women sharing the most passionate kiss they had ever experienced, the portal tomb the were kneeling on had come alive, a soft glow resembling the aurora borealis began to wave between the three massive stones.

There was a force unlike any other that Patsy felt pulling her away from the woman she loved. It was something she had no control over, and while Delia was strong, she could not keep Patsy from sliding away towards the glowing, humming light that was nestled between the rocks of the portal.

Patsy looked to Delia panicked, the two sharing a look knowing that Patsy was being called to another world. The world from which she came.

‘Delia!’ Patsy called out frantically, reaching out for the smaller woman.

Delia looked painstaken, though not as distraught as Patsy felt.

‘You must go, Patsy, you are called!’

‘Delia, no! Not without you!’ Patsy shouted, her heart racing, only ever feeling as scared as she did once more in her entire life as a force outside of her control was pulling her away against her will from someone whom she loved dearly with all her heart. Her vision was blurred with tears as she reached out for Delia.

‘Have strength, cariad!’ Delia called out to her, her face stained with tears, looking as if it was taking every ounce of strength within her to remain steadfast, ‘I will always be with you! I love you!’

Patsy didn't want to leave her. She couldn't go back, not without Delia, but she found herself absolutely powerless against the pull of the portal, reaching out in vain for her love, only able to grasp at the air.

‘No!’ Patsy screamed, ‘No!’

In an instant, Patsy was surrounded by a warm light that dulled her senses. Delia disappeared and all became dark and silent as she was lulled into a deep state of unconsciousness.


Patsy was so tired. She struggled to open her eyes.

‘Patsy!’

Her name. Someone was calling her name.

‘Patsy,’ the voice said, urgent and pleading, ‘Patsy, open your eyes sweetheart.’

Patsy felt water on her face. Raindrops.

Hey eyelids felt so heavy.

Oh, god, why did she feel so tired.

‘Patsy, please, open your eyes, cariad. I know you can do it.’

Cariad?

Delia.

It was Delia’s voice.

Oh, Delia, the woman she loved. She would do anything for that woman.

Patsy found it within her to try, to slowly blink her eyes open.

Her sight was blurry for a moment, only able to make out the gray sky above her as water continued to fall around her. She looked over and saw a familiar looking apple tree with a large branch dangling from the trunk and leaning against the ground at an angle that had Patsy nestled under it. The base of the branch was charred black and steaming, as if it had been struck…

The moments before she had been whisked away to another world came back to her in an instant. The rain, the lightning, the branch falling. She hadn’t felt any pain. Had it hit her? Had she merely passed out?

‘Patsy?’

Her eyes focused on the face above her own. The sight of one Delia Busby came into focus, the woman’s clear blue eyes looking particularly bright in this instance as if she had been crying. Her hair was wet and matted against her forehead, which showed several creases of concern as she gazed down at Patsy with knitted eyebrows.  

‘Delia?’ Patsy breathed, feeling as if she were using her voice for the first time.

‘Yes, Patsy, it’s me,’ Delia gulped, seeming relieved, ‘sweetheart, you fainted. You’re alright, you just fainted…’

Delia shifted and for the first time Patsy realized Delia was holding her in her arms, cradling her. She reached up and brushed Patsy’s wet fringe from her eyes, her fingertips feeling warm and gently to Patsy.   

Patsy’s heart swelled with all the emotion she had left that other world with, right before she was taken from Delia. All the love she felt for the woman rushed back to her in that instant, the look of pure anguish on her face being the last thing she saw before she woke up here. It was all too much for Patsy to remain composed. .

Delia,’ Patsy said again, her voice cracking. Her vision blurred as tears crested over her eyelids, rolling down her face in hot streaks that dripped heavily from her chin and onto her neck.  

‘Patsy, I know you’re scared, sweetheart. It’s alright, come here,’ Delia said softly, taking Patsy’s arms and placing them over her shoulders, ‘Hold onto me now. I’ve got you.’

Patsy clutched onto her even tighter, continuing to sob unabashed into the crook of Delia’s neck as the woman hooked her arm under her knees and scooped her up, lifting her effortlessly from the wet ground.

‘I’m not going to let you go, you understand?’ Delia said in a tone that made Patsy wonder if it was a promise she intended to keep forever.

Delia shifted so that Patsy was nestled firmly in her arms, and Patsy continued to sob into Delia’s shoulder, making her already wet from the rain shirt more soaked with tears.

‘I’ve got you, darling,’ Delia said soothingly into Patsy’s ear, ‘I got you.’  

Patsy continued to hold onto her tight and cry and cry as Delia carried her back to the church, where, unbeknownst to her, a group of very worried nuns and children were huddled by the doors and windows and looking on curiously as they approached.


 

Chapter Text

Patsy lay in bed, staring at the white ceiling.

She lay unmoving, merely staring straight ahead as the morning light filtered in through the curtains. The room went from dark to a soft white glow as the sun came up.

Patsy had barely slept, falling to pieces the night before and having to be nearly dragged and put to bed by one of the boys. She couldn't tell which.

Patsy was exhausted, and all out of tears. So, she merely stared.

She couldn't believe her ill luck, either, thinking back on the events of the day.

Just one day. Amazing how so many things could happen in the span of 24 hours.

She had tossed and turned so much during the night she now lay quite entangled in her sheets and duvet, long ago giving up the struggle of getting comfortable and getting any rest whatsoever.

Naturally she replayed all the scenes from the day before.

Her time in the lake with Delia.

They had almost kissed then. She rejected her then.

She had kissed her in a dream. It felt so real. Everything about that dream felt so real.

Then… she called her by her name.

Delia had never called her by her name before.

What was it? What had changed?

Delia had seemed so distant the moments after they returned to the church. The sisters surrounded them at once to make sure she was alright. They led the two of them to a back room that could have been a teachers lounge, sparsely decorated with a table and chairs, a little kitchenette with a tea kettle and a sofa upon which Delia gently set her down.

Delia was shooed away as the older women fussed over Patsy, checking her pupils, making sure she had no odd lumps on her head, checking her arms and legs for any cuts and bruises.

Patsy didn’t have it within her to tell them to piss off, only able to glance over at Delia once the women around her parted for a moment to gather dry towels and to make her a cuppa to perk her up a bit.

Delia’s hair was slick and heavy from the rain. Her arms were crossed over her chest as she held her chin in her hand, her eyebrows furrowed as she gazed worriedly at Patsy.

The sisters were surrounding her again, urging her to sit up, to drink tea, to tell them things like the date and who was prime minister. Patsy assured them she was fine, just a bit tired from the adrenaline draining from her body. She managed one sip of tea as they continued to fuss and she had had enough of being out and around people for the day. She was growing angry and wanted nothing more than to get back to her bungalow and be alone.

She rose, thanking them for the tea and for their kindness, and without even a glance to Delia she turned on her heel and left.

Patsy ignored the curious stares of the children as she went, thankful that the rain had subsided, that the thunder had grown faint.

She walked barefoot in her wet clothes to the other side of the lake, merely to collect her shoes, thinking back on that dream she had the entire time. Her heart raced as she thought of that kiss. It was the most passionate she had ever experienced in her life and it wasn’t even real. It wasn't even with someone who loved her in real life for all she knew. The thought made her chest sting painfully and her lip quiver. She felt as if she were to cry again but she held it back.

The scenes from her dream replayed over and over again in her head, even as she reached the to her side for the lake and collected her shoes and walked back to her room. All the thoughts and feelings still felt so fresh, she wanted to try her best to hold onto them for some reason.

Once inside, she locked the door and closed the curtains. She tossed her shoes aside and stripped out of her wet clothing, leaving it in piled on the floor in a trail to the en suite where she ran herself a hot bath.

She submerged herself in the water once the tub was full, and felt herself relax. She sat in the quiet, barely registering the water dripping from the faucet or the sounds of the birds chirping outside.

She lit herself a cigarette.

Then another.

Then another. Merely spending the time smoking and staring at the ceiling in silence while the images of her dream played in her mind over and over again. She was working so hard to not let her memory change any details, how she felt in those moments.

Her fear when Valerie nearly attacked her, the adrenaline and protectiveness that coursed through her when fighting off Enid, the relief and love she felt when finding Delia and holding her tiny form in the palm of her hand, and again when she was able to finally hold her in her arms.

She wondered if the last part of her dream held any meaning. Her and Delia holding Valerie who vanished in a swarm of butterflies. That was the bit that confounded her the most. In real life Valerie seemed fine. A toughened city girl. An Army veteran. She was alright. Wasn’t she?

Patsy was about to light another cigarette when a knock on her door broke her of her thoughts.

She blinked and looked around.

There was another knock on the door, more abrupt and unwelcoming.

‘Erm, Patsy? Are you in there?’ came a voice.

Patsy put out her cigarette, not at all pleased that she was being pulled from her thoughts and her bath. But then again, the water had grown cold and the tips of her fingers and toes rather pruney.

‘Miss Mount?’ came the voice again, sounding rather nervous.

‘Yes, yes, I’m coming,’ Patsy called out, wrapping her dressing gown around her and pulling the tie around her waist nice and tight.

Patsy gloomily stomped her way to the door and swung it open, quite surprised the see the chest of a rather large woman. She was so tall that Patsy needed to crane her neck to see that it was none other than Chummy who had arrived at her door with a tray of tea.

‘So sorry to bother you, old thing,’ Chummy started, her hands shaking nervously, causing the teacups and saucers to rattle on the tray, ‘just thought I’d pop in, you know. See how you were getting on after your nasty spill.’

Patsy didn’t really have a chance to talk with Chummy before, what with having the children back at the church to manage. She was honestly rather surprised and touched to see the woman standing before her with what looked like to be a pot of tea for her.

‘Oh, well, thank you Chummy,’ Patsy said, taking a deep breath and forcing a smile, trying to live up to her name, ‘that’s very kind of you.’

‘I’ve went and had a chat with Valerie in the pub,’ Chummy started, throwing her head back slightly, ‘Told her the whole harrowing tale,’ she chuckled nervously, ‘she said I should bring you a shot or two of whiskey but I insisted on a cup of horlicks here. My personal favorite; really perks me right up when I’m feeling a bit peaky.’

Chummy hastily held out the tray for Patsy to take.

‘Oh, um, well I’ve never had horlicks before but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it,’ Patsy said politely as she took the tray in her hands.  

‘Don’t mention it, old thing,’ Chummy said, ‘Say, are you feeling alright? No headache I hope?’

‘Ah, oh, um, no,’ Patsy stuttered.

‘You’re just looking a bit pale is all.’

‘Ah well, I had a bit of a.. .dream while I was knocked out. Don't quite know what to make of it.’

‘A dream? Oh, when I have a dream that has me all confounded I take great pleasure in writing them down.

‘Write it down?’

‘Oh sure! Though, my dreams make absolutely no sense for the most part; quite fun in fact to bring out my dream book at parties to share with others about all the nonsensical things that go through my head. Gets quite the laugh!’ Chummy chuckled.

Patsy gave an awkward laugh, ‘Oh, I’m sure. Think I’ll try that.’

‘Well, I’ll leave you to it then. If not to get some rest, anyway. Have a good evening,’ Chummy gave a rather endearing smile as she waived.

Patsy placed the tea on the table beside her and waved her off, shutting the door as her mind raced with thoughts of what transpired while she had been passed out.

Write it all down? What a splendid idea. If anything it might help her stop thinking of that bloody dream, to process everything she wasn't thinking and feeling.

She poured herself a cup of tea from the pot Chummy brang and lit herself another cigarette, settling in at her desk. She put a fresh sheet of white paper into the typewriter, thinking that for the first time in a long time a blank sheet of paper didn’t bother her in the slightest. It didn't slow her down.

Patsy puffed away at her cigarette as she began to frantically type, the only sounds emanating from her small bungalow the sounds of the keys on her typewriter clacking away and the flicking of her lighter as she lit a fresh cigarette.


Several hours passed, though it only seemed like moments to Patsy as she was so focused on her writing. Her thoughts were racing a mile a minute and she could only type so fast. She knew she was making a myriad of spelling mistakes and typos but she didn't care. She couldn't care about that now, she needed to get it all out. This dream. This story. Her story.

Patsy pulled page after page from her typewriter after filling them with words and hastily stacked them in a tall pile next to her that had only grown as the night wore on. The ashtray nearby was stuffed with cigarette butts, the room filled with smoke that made everything hazy, and dark.

When Patsy found herself struggling to even see the words on the pages in front of her, she sat back in her chair, stubbing out her last cigarette

She rose from her chair and stretched, walking over to the window and opened the curtains.

Night had fallen.

She cracked open the window to air out the room, and was met with the sounds of music playing, and the loud clamoring and chatter of a crowd of people who had gathered at the pub.

Patsy finally checked her watch and realized that this was the time of night where Delia and her brothers would play.

While she didn’t very well enjoy the thought of possibly running into Delia at the pub, Patsy needed to get out of her stuffy room for a break, to stretch her legs and get some fresh air.

Patsy’s eye caught sight of the tray sitting on the table beside the door with the now empty kettle of water and used teacups. She reasoned at the very least she could leave her room for a few minutes to return the china and come back. The pub sounded so crowded anyway Delia would hardly notice she popped in.

Quickly striding to her dresser, Patsy grabbed a pair of clean trousers and top and threw it on in the en suite, quickly running a brush through her hair before pulling it back in a ponytail. She headed to the pub with the tray in hand, thanking a gentleman smoking a cigarette for opening the door for her as he gave a polite nod.

The pub was completely packed. Patsy had never seen it filled with so many people before, and not just men, but women too.

Patsy lifted the tray above her head and worked her way through the bodies until she was anchored against the bar. She slammed the tray down and caught the attention of Valerie who was pulling pints rapidly, the orders flowing in faster than she could pour them. Mrs. Busby was nowhere around to help her this evening. Despite this, Valerie seemed to take it all in stride.

‘Pats!’ Valerie cried out, a huge grin spreading across her face as she spotted Patsy, ‘You’re alive!’

Patsy’s attention turned to a shrill whistle from the crowd as the three siblings in the middle began to play another tune. Patsy was grateful that she could only hear Delia and not see her.

‘Valerie, what on earth is going on tonight?’ Patsy cried over the cheering and shouts for more beer.

‘This is all your doing, you know,’ Valerie quipped smart as she threw a flannel over her shoulder, ‘These three make one record and now the entire town has to try and fit into the pub on a Saturday night,’ Valerie whipped around as a bell chimed and a hot plate of something or other appeared through the swinging door to the back. Patsy saw Mrs. Busby’s arm for a brief moment before it disappeared again, and gathered she must have been helping Edwin in the kitchen.

Valerie took the plate and grimaced, looking as if she were turning green right before Patsy’s eyes.

‘Ugh, god in heaven,’ Valerie blanched at the plate of food in her hands, ‘I’ll tell you what Pats, this smells bloody awful.’

‘What is it?’ Patsy asked curiously.

‘Cod, I reckon,’ Valerie said as she examined the plate in her hands, ‘lord only knows how old it is though, smells of death,’ she held the plate away from her as she took a deep breath, looking as if she were fighting off a wave of nausea.

Valerie gladly passed it off to the hungry man at the bar, and brought the flannel to her face, covering her nose and mouth.

‘Don’t know if I’m coming down with something or what but I can’t stand the smell of that fish tonight,’ she said to Patsy as she passed off several beers to men eagerly awaiting a drink and taking their money.

Not sure of what to say, Patsy merely shrugged sympathetically.

The bell chimed again and another plate of steaming cod appeared behind Valerie, the woman taking it begrudgingly.

‘Ugh, blimey, that’s rancid,’ she moaned.

‘Oi now,’ a voice called from next to Patsy at the bar. She turned her head and saw Fred Buckle sitting there pointing his furled up cap at Valerie, ‘that cod was caught fresh this morning in Swansea. I won’t be having you bad mouthing my supply.’

‘If it’s so fresh then why’s it making my stomach toss around, eh?’ she griped, ‘Feel like I’m going to be losing my lunch holding this thing under my nose. Who ordered this anyway?’ she called to the crowd, and one man raised his hand.

She handed it over and turned to Patsy, ignoring the other men and women who had been waiting in line for a drink.

‘So how you been Pats? Heard you had a rather active day,’ she said with a smile.  

‘I’m alright, really,’ Patsy said with a shy smile, ‘Had a nasty spill but had plenty of rest to recover.’

‘I’d say so, you've been in your room all evening, Happy to see you out and about though. Can I get you anything? Can whip you up a cocktail in no time.’

‘Oi, lass, like two pints over here if you please!’ one man shouted, sounding rather short.

‘In a minute!’ Valerie snarled, looking back over to Patsy with a much more friendly demeanor, ‘what’ll you have?’

Patsy paused, feeling nervous all of a sudden. She shook her head and gave a shy smile.

‘Nothing for me this evening. I just wanted to return this china,’ she said, nodding to the tray in front of her.

‘Oh, yeah,’ Valerie smiled with a hint of recognition, ‘Chummy was her earlier and told me all about your nasty spill. I thought you could do with a shot of whiskey to calm your nerves but she insisted on that bloody horlicks…’ Valerie trailed off, pulling more pints for the men who were growing impatient at the bar.

Patsy took a moment to look over though the crowd and managed to catch sight of Delia, the woman closing her eyes and singing her heart out while her brothers played on.

The sight of hr made Patsy feel anxious, all the feeling she had for the woman hitting her in an instant and knowing that she was to deny them. It caused a great pain in her chest and she felt as though she wanted to cry.

Out of habit, Patsy brought a hand to her chest to feel for her mothers ring. The action usually left her feeling quite calm and comforted, but this time she felt an immense state of panic, for when she reached for her mothers ring, the heavy gold band was not there. Nor was the chain upon which it hung.

Patsy’s hand moved around her chest and neck. She pulled her blouse forward and looked down at her chest and saw nothing. She looked at her feet around her and again saw nothing.

She broke out into a cold sweat, feeling at a loss, incomplete without her mothers ring around her neck.

It was the one thing she had that belonged to her mother. The one thing left on this earth that tethered her to the woman. She couldn't have lost it, She couldn't have…

Patsy turned around and walked out of the pub, the noise of the crowd fading behind her.

She threw open the door to her bungalow, scanning the room only for a moment before she went on the warpath.

She opened each and every drawer at her desk, overturning papers and pens and other odd things onto the floor in hopes a golden ring would fall out. She did the same with her clothing, shaking each and every garment out and tossing them to the floor when they produced nothing. She threw her sheets to the ground, the pillows, the duvet, everything. Her room was an absolute wreck in a matter of minutes.

Her heart was beating so frantically. She couldn’t have lost her mothers ring, she just couldn't have.

She hurried to the bathroom and checked the bathtub, finding nothing. The sink? No.

In a fit of anguish, she screamed and in one long brush of her arms, pushed all her products from the counter top to the ground, some of the glass bottles breaking along the floor while others clamored noisily along the ceramic tile.

She burst from her room, the door slamming against the wall, and took off running through the garden, barefoot and half blind with tears.

Her feet beat hard against the ground. She slammed her feet down on sticks and rocks and whatever else may have been in her path but any hurt or discomfort was ignored. She raised her arms and pushed branches and brush out of her way as she made her way through the patch of woods that was between her and possibly finding her ring.

In her careless haste, her foot snagged on an upturned root, catching and holding her. Patsy tumbled and fell, her hands and knees breaking her fall as she hit the ground hard. She barely registered the pain. She didn’t notice the cuts bleeding on the palms of her hands or the gravel that stuck to her forearms.

Patsy’s whole body ached. She took several deep breaths as a sinking realization came over her.

Her mother's ring was lost.

‘No,’ Patsy gasped, her lip quivering as a fresh set of tears blurred her vision.

She grit her teeth, trying in vain to suppress a sob, but a strangled cry escaped from the back of her throat as she rose to her knees, her bloody palms pressing hard onto the ground.

‘No ,’ she sobbed, letting out a pitiful cry as she beat her fists against the ground, ‘Of all the things why…,’ she gasped, taking in all the air she could just so she could as she sobbed again, ‘why did it have o be… Oh, god,’ she cried, curling her body, bringing her head to her knees as she tried to imagine never seeing the ring again.

Patsy’s fists clenched at the grass in front of her, her voice strangled and raw, crying out into the night. Her eyes were squeezed tight. She saw only black, felt only the hot tears that streamed down her face and dripped heavily off her chin. She barely noticed the sounds of voices around her. Two men.

‘Miss Mount?’ came a voice.

‘Thought that was her,’ sad the other, ‘ran past us fast as a rabbit, didn't she?’

‘Miss Mount, what’s the matter?’

‘Is she unwell?’

‘Looks as if, don’t it?’

‘Miss Mount?’

There were two sets of hands on her gently grasping either arm while the other was placed comfortingly on her back.

The twins had found her, Nicholas and Michael. She let them pull her to her feet, but she was still in no state to be consoled.

‘Miss Mount are you hurt?’ Michael asked, his voice concerned as he looked her down and up again.

Patsy could only shake her head.

‘Why don’t we take you back to your room, Miss Mount?’ Nicholas asked, ‘Maybe make you a cuppa and put you to bed?’

All Patsy could do was cry helplessly and whimper as the two walked her back through the path and back towards the main house. They said quiet words of comfort to get her to stop crying but it was all in vain. There was no consoling her.

Finally they reached her room and entered the bungalow.

‘Blimey,’ Nicholas said, ‘looks as if a someone flipped this place upside down.’

‘I was-,’ Patsy croaked out finally, capturing the attention of both men, ‘I was looking for something I lost. The ring I wear around my neck.’

‘You’ve lost it?’ Michael said, giving a look to Nicholas.

Patsy merely nodded.

She found the strength only to walk the few paces from where they stood to her bed, where she promptly sat down.

‘I’m sorry, I’ll clean it up in the morning,’ she said softly, devoid of energy, ‘I didn't mean to bother the two of you.’

‘Not to worry, Miss Mount,’ Michael said, playing with the hem of his trousers as he seemed to not know what to do with his hands, ‘You get some rest now, alright? Won’t hear of you going back out tonight when you’re so distressed.’

Patsy nodded again as the two made their way out the door, and softly closed it behind them.

‘All this trouble for a ring?’ she heard one of them say.

‘Must be important,’ said the other.

Their voices faded as they walked away and Patsy felt sick to her stomach knowing her mothers ring was out there somewhere with a scarce chance of being found.

She wiped her tears away and found the energy to crawl into her bed, kicking off all the things she had thrown on top so she could find her pillow and cry into it.

Some time passed before she felt all out of tears, all out of energy, her voice hoarse from sobbing so hard.

It was when she was just about to drift off to sleep did she hear someone enter her room. She was too tired to care who it was, too tired and heartbroken to even open her eyes.

Patsy felt warmth envelop her. A blanket. Someone had laid a blanket over her and tucked her in.

There was more shuffling around. Another person?

Patsy couldn’t be bothered to open her eyes, raise her head, ad look around. She merely let them go about their business as they shuffled about, and she let the warmth comfort her.

Soon, she succumbed to sleep.

Chapter Text

In the wee hours of the morning at the Blue Stone Mountain Inn, when it was still dark and all were still asleep, the only noise that could be heard were that of the birds chirping in the trees and the rustling of the heavens as a gentle breeze pushed through. Drops of dew dripped from the long grass in the garden and off the fresh, plump red tomatoes that grew up the vines in the vegetable boxes. The early morning air was cool, despite it being June and the start of the summer.

At the sign of first light, a window on the side of the house slid open, and one Delia Busby appeared, left leg first, then arm, then head. She had attached to the belt loop of her dungarees a pair of goggles, ones that looked made for riding a motorbike. Soon, her whole body was out the window and she stealthy climbed down the makeshift ladder, her bare feet hardly touching the wooden slats. She leapt from about midway down to the ground below, crouching as she landed before she rose and immediately took off running into the forest where she disappeared between the trees.

She ran along the path, past her brothers room and the pig pens and chicken coop. She emerged on the other side of the trees and kept running, past the large, ancient stone portal and along the shore of the lake. She did not slow down or stop until she was on the other side by the church where the little rowboat had been left untouched since the group of boys pulled it from the water the day before along with her and Patsy.

Delia did not get in right away, her fingers deftly skimming the underside of the border, her eyes searching the hull, under the seats, looking. When it appeared that whatever she was looking for was not there, she pushed the small craft into the lake and jumped in, grabbing both oars and pushed herself to the middle of the lake.

For the next few hours, Delia’s eyes were downcast towards the water, looking on either side of her as she sun rose higher and higher into the sky. Soon there was enough light to where she could see through the clear water to the bottom of the lake.

There was a glimmer of something small and golden that had caught the sunlight, something that shone through the dirt and tall grass swaying gently under the water, and Delia looked at it for a long time, not quite believing her own eyes.

After she was sure that the glimmering thing at the bottom of the lake was the very thing she had been looking for, she situated the goggles she carried around her head, pulling the strap tight until there was a seal around her eyes. Without another moment's hesitation, the woman held her nose and fell backwards into the water with a splash.


Patsy lay with her eyes open, staring unblinking at the white ceiling now. Morning had finally come along with the daylight.

She knew she ought to rise and go out and look for her mothers ring, but the daunting task seemed absolutely pointless. Cover all this property? All this land, and no doubt the church, too? She didn’t fancy thinking she had lost it amongst the children, fairly certain that if she had, one of them would have picked it up and kept it for themselves.

Patsy took a deep breath and closed her eyes, wondering if she should bother staying here. If she should just clean up the mess she made the night before and head back to London, thinking that now there were too many sad memories here. Of loss and heartbreak. How was she to continue on with her work here? The thought of seeing Delia everyday now brought on a feeling of dread more than happiness and contentment. She used to take comfort in the thought of the woman being close to her, but now that she knew it was to be a one sided affection, Patsy couldn't bare the thought of seeing the woman every day, pining after someone who didn't want her. She thought it best to see into arrangements to head home. Sooner than later.

A knock on the door was what prompted Patsy to finally lift her head and look around for the first time since she opened her eyes.

What she saw confused her.

She sat up, looking around to see the mess she had created the night before was gone and her room was left in a state that would have left anyone none the wiser thinking it hadn’t been torn to pieces.

Her drawers were pushed in, her clothing folded and put away in the chest or the closet. Her en suite was swept clean and her desk was neat and tidy, whomever had come through had cleaned up after her and she was absolutely besotted with them, whoever they were.

There was another polite knock that had Patsy lifting the covers and making her way to the door.

She barely registered that she was still wearing the trousers and top from the night before, her feet were dirty and her palms and forearms still covered with scrapes and gravel. She imagined her hair was in a ghastly state, but none of this bothered Patsy in the slightest as she opened the door to find a rather nervous looking Delia Busby, the woman completely drenched from head to toe, water dripping from her hair and chin and clothing, making an enormous puddle on the front stoop of her bungalow. Delia was breathing heavily, her cheeks pink as if she had run here, and Patsy grew worried.

Her feelings must have been clearly written on her face for Delia spoke to them.

‘I didn’t mean to startle you Patsy, or wake you,’ Delia said politely, ‘but I didn't think you would have wanted to go a moment longer without having this in your possession.’

Delia raised her arm and revealed to hold between her forefinger and thumb the very ring that Patsy had lost.

Patsy looked at the small golden band that glistened in the sun. She was at loss for words, absolutely dumbfounded that Delia was standing before her in the state she was in, holding out her mothers ring.

She had a myriad of questions for Delia just then; why are you soaking wet? How did you know my mothers ring was missing? Where did you find it? How did you find it?

As Patsy seemed frozen in her place, Delia reached out and gently cradled her hand in her palm, placing the ring in Patsy's hand before she closed her fingers securely around the golden band.

‘If you’ll excuse me,’ Delia nodded curtly, breaking Patsy of her thoughts and unable to meet Patsy’s eye.

Without another word, Delia turned and ran barefoot across the garden and back into the house.

It wasn’t until Delia disappeared into the dark hallway that Patsy found her voice.

‘Delia?’ she croaked out, looking from the black hallway of the main house to the golden band she held in the palm of her hand.

It didn’t seem real, the ring in her hand. She had almost come to terms that she would never see it again, but there it was, heavy and shining in the palm of her hand. It took Patsy several moments to accept that she was indeed holding the real thing and that Delia had found it for her.

It happened slowly, but a feeling of absolute happiness and elation rose within her as it became clear to her senses that she would not be miserable for the rest of her life.

Well, not completely, as the thought of Delia running off just then crept back into her heart.

Patsy shook her head as she grasped onto the ring tightly.

Enough of that now, she thought to herself. Delia had found her ring. She had her ring back. She had the one thing that tethered her to her mother, and by extension to her family, back in her hands.

Patsy decided the ring was much too precious to carry on her person for now. It was smudged slightly, so Patsy decided to let it sit in the drawer of the bedside table until she was able to clean it and give it a proper ring box to keep it in.

She decided to change out of her dirty clothing into something clean and casual, and find Delia to at least thank her, even if it seemed the woman didn’t want to so much as look a her.

Patsy found a fresh blouse and a pair of blue jeans that she thought would suffice for the time being.

She needed to thank her for such a wonderful act, no matter how much it pained her to do so. With a heavy heart, Patsy closed the door behind her and shrugged off her old blouse.


It was around lunchtime when Patsy felt presentable enough to leave her bungalow to go in search of Delia. She had showered and cleaned her wounds and put on a fresh clothing, and set out through the gardens and towards the main house.

She had her hand on the doorknob when the deep sounds of someone snoring caught her attention.

Patsy looked around and could have sworn the snoring was coming from near the path through the trees, towards where the boys slept.

She took a few paces towards the noise and came to see a hammock strung between two trees, occupied by none other than Valerie Dyer.

Patsy walked over to her friend and smiled endearingly at the sight of the woman contently snoozing with one of Patsy’s books open and laying across her stomach.

‘Psst, hey,’ Patsy said softly as she took her hand and rubbed Valerie’s arm.  

The woman in the hammock stopped her snoring and blinked, raising her head slightly to look up and around and realize where she was.  

‘Oh, blimey, Pats, sorry I didn't know you were around,’ she said, closing her eyes and raising her arms in a big stretch over her head.

‘Sorry to wake you,’ Patsy started, ‘but I was wondering if you had seen Delia? Or know where she got off too? I’m afraid I didn't thank her properly for... ‘

‘For finding your ring?’ Valerie finished for her.

‘Yeah that’s right,’ Patsy said, looking at Valerie curiously, ‘how did you know?’

‘Oh, well splendid, she found it,’ Valerie remarked, stretching out again and giving a satisfied groan, ‘Word got round real quick once the twins got back from finding you running past their room and into the forest. I myself was looking through the pub once it was empty hoping no one had taken it.’

‘Oh, Val, you shouldn’t have,’ Patsy trailed off, feeling rather shy.

‘Enid and Edwin came through your room to tidy up last night after they had heard. Sounded as if you had gone through every nook and cranny.’

‘Well they didn't have to...’ Patsy’s head hung low thinking that the whole family had basically seen her in her worst state. She would need to go in and thank the two of them too for looking after her. Upon reflection it made sense that it would have been either of those two to come in, thinking that the action of calming an upset person, cleaning up after them and tucking them in was rather parental and caring.

‘Delia asked that I call the church to check in with the sisters about your ring if she wasn’t back by lunchtime. I thought it was because she reckoned one of them must have nicked it,’ Valerie looked pointedly at Patsy, ‘Sister Monica Joan has been known to be a little light fingered if you know what I mean.’

Patsy raised her eyebrows but said nothing.

‘Suppose I don’t have to do that now,’ Valerie remarked absentmindedly, ‘So she found it, eh? She say where it was?’

‘Erm, not exactly, though she did appear at my door earlier sopping wet.’

‘Sopping wet? Like she had been swimming?’ Valerie asked, quite shocked, ‘Was it in the lake?’

‘I can only assume,’ Patsy shrugged.  

‘Ah, god love her,’ Valerie said, linking her fingers behind her head as she got comfortable in the hammock, ‘diving all the way to the bottom of that lake to get some measly ring.’

Patsy’s heart stung at the comment but she held her tongue, knowing that Valerie had no idea the true meaning behind it and why it was so important to her.

‘Good on her though. That woman must really love you to go through the trouble. God knows I’d only do something like that for someone I’m head over heels for.’

Patsy sighed again, not wanting to be reminded that despite their feelings for one another Delia had made it clear it was not meant to be.

‘Where is Delia? Is she in?’ Patsy finally asked, looking around the gardens.

‘Donno,’ Valerie shrugged, closing her eyes, ‘thought I heard the motorbike take off a little while ago. Delia’s the only one who uses it so I reckon she had gone into town. She’ll be back in a bit.’

Patsy was not entirely pleased to hear this, and fidgeted with her fingers, shifting from one foot to the other and wondering what she was to do with herself while she waited for Delia to return. Her anxiety did not go unnoticed by Valerie.

‘Come on, Pats, don’t fret. She’ll be back in no time. Here,’ she said, patting the space next to her, ‘lay down and join me for a snooze, yeah? That’ll make the time go by.’

Patsy mulled over her suggestion, thinking having a lie down seemed rather nice at the moment, considering how awful she slept the night before. She felt more calm having her ring back, anyway. Perhaps having a nap while she waited for Delia to return would be best.

Valerie put her foot down on the ground to help anchor the hammock while Patsy sat down first, then situated herself so her head was resting against Valerie's shoulder.

‘Comfortable?’ Valerie asked once Patsy was all settled.  

Patsy nodded, feeling herself relax as the hammock swayed.

‘Did you have a terrible time sleeping last night, too?’ she asked, thinking this was the reason Valerie seemed so sleepy this morning.

‘Not at all, funny enough. Slept like a rock soon as the pub was empty,’ Valerie said slowly, and Patsy could tell the woman was drifting off again, ‘just feel really tired is all,’ she took a moment to yawn and smack her lips, adding softly, ‘must be the weather.’

Patsy hummed, and the two fell into a comfortable silence while the hammock swayed gently in the breeze.

Patsy felt her own breathing grow steady, and after a few moments turned her gaze up to the canopy of leaves above them and listened as the breeze made them flutter. Birds flew by and butterflies hovered in her line of sight. She thought it all seemed rather beautiful.

‘Your perfume smells nice,’ Valerie said softly.

Patsy smirked, knowing full well she wasn’t wearing any as she had destroyed the bottles in her fit the night before.

‘You must be smelling the flowers,’ she said, but it went unheard. Valerie had fallen back asleep.

Patsy leaned towards her friend and regarded the woman with curious eyes. She thought back on her dream, wondering if it meant anything at all. Valerie seemed so troubled by whatever burden she was carrying in her dream, but here in the real world she seemed like her old self, comfortable and unbothered by anything in particular.

No, Valerie was fine. She was safe here, and Patsy felt safe here, too.

She felt warm against Valerie's body and with the gentle summer sun pouring down on her. With Valerie's rhythmic, deep breathing next to her and the swaying of the hammock in the breeze, Patsy was soon lulled to sleep in her friends arms.


It was well after nightfall when Patsy heard the roar of the motorbike flitter through the air and the engine cut.

In Delia’s absence that day, Patsy made herself busy after her nap with Valerie with reading over all she had written the night before, proofreading and editing, adding things here and there and taking away others.

She now sat in her rocking chair outside her bungalow, smoking a cigarette, her heart racing now that she knew Delia was finally home and nearby. She sat up in her seat and put her cigarette out, waiting patiently for Delia to appear. Several moments passed where there was no motion or sound, and finally, Patsy saw in the corner of the house where Delia’s room was, a light. The yellow glow permeated through the curtains for only a minute before it went dark again, and Patsy sighed.

She had really wanted to see Delia. She wondered if the woman was avoiding her? But Patsy quickly tried to push that thought aside, reasoning that Delia had just been out all day. Even though she had no idea what she had been up to, she reasoned that Delia must be tired.

Patsy forced herself to think that anyway. She did take an odd comfort in the fact that she knew Delia was finally home and safe in her own room. The thought helped her fall asleep that night.

This continued on for several days.

Early each morning Patsy would hear Delia take off on the motorbike and she would not return until after nightfall, upon which she would head straight to her room. Patsy had witnessed this every evening that Delia had been out, the woman nervously smoking a cigarette usually while she waited. She asked around, thinking someone would know by now what Delia was getting up to in town, but she had been mum on the subject. Even Mrs. Busby didn’t know the whereabouts of her own child, which surprised Patsy, but she did notice there had been an uptick in business since her kids song had been released on the radio. Patsy reasoned that Enid had been quite busy managing the reservations and cleaning up after the guests to notice Delia was even gone these past few days.

It was Thursday evening now, and Patsy sat on the floor of her bedroom, leaning against the wall underneath her open window as she smoked another cigarette.

She had her mother's ring in her hands, moving it from finger to finger like a coin until she grew bored and let it sit snug on her pinkie where it stayed while she lit up yet another cigarette.

Patsy her been there chain smoking for the last hour or so as the sun set and enveloped her room in darkness, the only light coming from the end of her cigarette that glowed a bright orange whenever she inhaled.

Like every other night that week, Patsy waited until she heard the sound of Delia's motorbike before she felt she would be able to fall asleep. She had given up the notion that the woman was possibly avoiding her, as she came to find that no one had actually laid eyes on Delia since she performed Saturday evening in the pub. 

Patsy was just about to rise and get ready for bed, feeling calm that Delia was safely home, but the sound of footsteps halted her motions.

She remained still, her back against the wall with her cigarette perched between her two fingers as she merely stared at the door, the footsteps growing closer and closer until they ominously stopped, and everything was silent again.

Patsy expected a knock, but one never came.

Instead, her eyes darted to the floor as something thin and square was slid under the door.

The footsteps retreated quickly now, running, and Patsy dared not move until it was completely silent again.

She stubbed out her cigarette in the ashtray on her desk and crawled on her hands and knees to the door, picking up the object that had been slid under her door.

'A record?’ Patsy inquired out loud, flipping the thing in her hands several times only to find the sleeve completely blank.

She rose to her feet and flicked on the light, pulling the record out of the sleeve and finding absolutely nothing written on the record either, much to her chagrin.

Patsy placed it on the player, slowly laying the needle down. The vinyl cracked and hissed and the white noise was surprisingly loud as Patsy waited till hear just what the record revealed.

There was a click and the sound of a man's voice. Paul from the record shop.

'Alright Delia, whenever you're ready,’

There was the sound of a quick strum of an instrument, and Patsy recognized it immediately as Delia's mandolin.

The record hissed as it spun. Patsy listened silently as she waited for Delia voice to fill her room, and the few seconds that passed felt like an eternity before she heard the sound of Delia's beautiful voice.

I was just coastin'
Never really goin anywhere
Caught up in a web I was gettin kinda used to stayin' there
And out of the blue
I fell for you

Now you're lifting me up, instead of holding me down
Stealing my heart instead of stealing my crown
Untangled all the strings round my wings that were tied
I didn't know her and I didn't know me
Cloud nine was always out of reach
Now I remember what it feels like to fly
You give me butterflies

Patsy brought her hand to her mouth and felt herself want to crumble, the lyrics bringing forth the image from her dream of Delia, small and cradled in her hand with her wings bound.

Kiss full of color makes me wonder where you've always been
I was hiding in doubt till you brought me out of my chrysalis
And I came out new
All because of you

Now you're lifting me up instead of holding me down
Stealing my heart instead of stealing my crown
Untangled all the strings round my wings that were tied
I didn't know her and I didn't know me
Cloud nine was always out of reach
Now I remember what it feels like to fly
You give me butterflies, yeah
You give me butterflies

Delia gave a few more strums of her mandolin before the song officially ended.

'Ah that was a pretty one, Deels,’ Paul said before the sound of white noise officially cut out, leaving the sounds of a crackling and hissing record spinning on the player.

Patsy heart was beating frantically and she blinked back the tears that threatened to spill out.

Delia made this... for her?

With a shaky hand, Patsy reached over and lifted the needle on the player, bringing it back to the start of the record and listened again. Once more, Delia’s beautiful voice and talented strumming of her mandolin filled her room, and Patsy listened more closely to the lyrics.

And out of the blue
I fell for you

She almost laughed, she was so happy. There was no denying what that meant. She merely brushed away a tear that escaped from her eye and sniffed, feeling herself grin like a fool.

Untangled all the strings round my wings that were tied

You give me butterflies

Patsy let the record play through once more until there was silence, merely the hiss and crackling of the needle hitting the little bumps in the vinly.

She couldn’t believe it. This woman who was so quiet and reserved and frankly guarded with her feelings, finally letting Patsy in to see her.

Patsy had always seen her, but this was unlike anything Patsy had ever experienced before. Quite possibly unlike anything Delia had ever done before.

This must be how Delia does it, Patsy thought. This must be how she expresses her feelings. Patsy mused, thinking that she could have never in her life ever done the same so beautifully.

Patsy needed to speak to Delia at once. She needed to hear it from the woman, face to face, that she had really fallen for her. That she loved her. And if that were true, then Patsy wanted to be there to tell her the same.

She rose to her feet and burst out of her room, the door slamming against the wall with a loud bang . She ran through the gardens and right to the bottom of the ladder leading to Delia's room.

Patsy took a moment to look up and saw the room was dark, but the window was open, the thin blue curtains were fluttering slightly in the breeze.

Patsy gulped down her fear and ignored her nerves as she slowly began to climb the ladder, running on pure adrenaline and suspense now with her eyes locked on Delia’s bedroom window.

Her pulse pounded in her ears as she reached the top, both hands grasping at the ledge as she pulled herself up and peered into the dark room.

‘Delia?’ she called out tentatively, her eyes scanning.

She was met with quiet, everything in the room remaining unmoving and still. Silent.

Delia wasn’t there.

Patsy let out a defeated sigh, an intense sadness overwhelming her as she slowly climbed back down towards the ground. When she reached the bottom, she gave one last look at the open window before turning around and looking back towards her bungalow.

Patsy thought she was too worked up to go back to her room and sleep, feeling like a ball of anxiety had wedged itself deep in her chest.    

She fidgeted with her mothers ring on her pinkie, her mind flashing to several days ago when Delia had brought it to her after it had spent some time at the bottom of the lake. Before then it was kept in a box for several years hidden deep in her father's garden in Singapore, and before then worn by her mother as a token of love and commitment to her father and their marriage.   

My, what a story this ring had, Patsy thought to herself.

Unbeknownst to Patsy, who was lost in her thoughts, her feet carried her forward, towards the path and through the woods. She walked along thinking of this ring and of Delia and of the record she played in her room. Her anxiety was slowly fading and replaced by wonder and love.

Untangled all the strings round my wings that were tied

You give me butterflies

Patsy smiled as she thought back on the lyrics, though wondering just what Delia had meant by that. 

She came to the clearing through the trees and stopped in her tracks when she noticed a figure in front of her.

Sitting there on the rope swing and facing the lake was none other than Delia herself, her head bowed slightly in a silent prayer while her toes that barely touched the ground rocked her back and forth, the tethered rope groaning at her movements.

Patsy’s anxiety was back in full force. She felt her nerves course through her, making her jaw clench and her hands shake, but she found it within herself to press on and take a few paces towards Delia.

Delia must have sensed her, because the woman sat upright and looked over her shoulder, spotting Patsy and freezing, looking quite petrified. It seemed she was as nervous as Patsy felt, too.

Patsy took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak, hoping her voice didn't falter.

‘May I sit with you?’ she asked.

Delia blinked, seemingly swallowing her nerves before she nodded and made room for Patsy to sit down with her on the swing.

Patsy took the few paces towards Delia before turning around and sitting next to her, facing the other way while sitting shoulder to shoulder. The ropes holding the swing to the branch groaned slightly under her weight as the two of them found a rhythm and swayed back and forth. It was just like the night when she first put the swing up and they shared a bottle of wine together.

Patsy sorely wished she had some alcohol now to calm her nerves. She truly had no idea how much she missed Delia these past few days until she was sitting right here next to her, touching her, feeling the warmth of her skin pressed against hers. She wanted to tell her all these things, but instead, she shyly looked down at her hands, noticing her ring catching in the moonlight. It wouldn’t be with her now if it wasn’t for Delia.

‘I never thanked you for finding my ring,’ she said.

‘Oh, that’s alright,’ Delia said rather bashfully, ‘I know how important it is to you.’

‘You ran off before I had the chance,’ Patsy said softly, looking over to Delia.

Patsy finally got a good look at Delia. She noticed the womans dungarees were a little more worn than usual. There were new rips, new patches, new splashes of paint that hadn't been there before. She had a few plasters around her fingers and on her forearm. Patsy wondered if it had anything to do with where she had been these past few days.

‘I-I’m sorry,’ Delia said, playing with a thread at the tear in her knee and seeming unable to meet Patsy’s eyes.

This made Patsy irrationally emotional, needing for Delia to look at her. She needed to see her eyes, needed to look into her soul and see how she truly felt.

‘Delia, look at me,’ Patsy pleaded softly.

She was rewarded when Delia finally looked back at her with gorgeous blue eyes, watery with tears, her eyebrows fretted with nerves.

‘Where have you been?’ Patsy asked, feeling her throat burn as her eyes welled up with tears.

Delia took a deep breath before she responded.

‘I… I’ve been going into town the last couple of days,’ Delia said softly, ‘looking for the odd job here and there. Helping Fred stock shelves at his shop, Lucille organize her books. I even helped the Turners settle into their new home and built them a new shed in their garden, fresh coat of paint too.’

Patsy didn't understand, ‘Why though?’

‘I…,’ Delia swallowed a lump in her throat, ‘I needed the extra money.’

‘To record the song you left under my door?’ Patsy asked.

‘The… you listened to it?’ Delia asked, looking rather shocked.

Patsy couldn't help but smirk a little, ‘Deels, of course I listened to it. Was I not meant to?’

‘No, of course you were! It’s just… your room was dark, I thought… I don’t know, I suppose I thought you were asleep or in the pub. I wasn't expecting you to listen to it so soon.’

Patsy raised an eyebrow, looking on rather curiously and wondering why Delia was getting so upset, ‘What difference does it make when I listen to it?’

‘Oh,’ Delia said, rather flustered, ‘I don’t know, I suppose I thought I had until morning to know what I was going to say,’ she brought her hands to pluck at her trousers, ‘to change into a clean pair of clothing and have a bath at least,’ she sighed and looked up towards the sky, ‘this wasn’t exactly how I imagined this happening in my head.’

Patsy couldn’t help but smile, shrugging, ‘Life is funny like that.’

‘It wasn't very funny to me when you almost lost yours,’ Delia said, shaking her head, audibly gulping, ‘Patsy, I’ve been such a fool. Such a damn fool.’

Patsy smile fell from her face as she watched a tear roll down Delia’s cheek and drip off her chin.

‘Seeing you almost get struck by lightning the other day,’ she sniffed and harshly wiped away her tears, ‘made me think of how precious life is and how bloody stupid I’ve been, turning you away more than once, and for what? Because you’re leaving at the end of the summer?’

Delia shook her head again, looking ashamed of herself.

‘Patsy, I… I don’t care anymore. I… if you still feel the same way… if you still want to be with me, I won’t deny you. Not ever again. I don’t care if you have to leave anymore. I don't care if we only have a week together, a day, this moment. So long as we’ve at least had this moment and you know that… that I’ve fallen completely and hopelessly in love with you-,’

Delia was cut off when Patsy threw her arms around her, pulling her close and tucking her head into the crook of her shoulder. Delia wrapped her arms securely around Patsy and the two held one another tight.  

‘I love you, too,’ Patsy whispered into Delia’s ear, ‘Oh, Deels, I love you too. I love you so much,’ she sniffed, feeling hot tears stream down her cheeks.

It was a rather liberating feeling, telling someone she truly loved that she loved them. Patsy couldn’t quite think of a time when she had ever said the words out loud before. Not before her time in the camps, anyway. Delia was the first woman she really, truly loved, and she took solace in the fact that she was the first person she had said those words to.

‘You’re the absolute, most genuine person I have ever met, Delia,’ Patsy said, pulling away so she could look at her love, ‘you’ve been so sweet to me since the moment we met. You’re so wonderful and cute,’ the two smiled as Patsy wiped a tear from Delia’s cheek, ‘it’s really no surprise to me that I fell for you almost as soon as I met you.’

‘Think it was me who fell on you,’ Delia smiled, kissing the palm of Patsy’s hand as Patsy gave a laugh, remembering the moment they met with Delia’s legs hanging from the ceiling.

Delia took Patsy’s hand in both of hers and held it in her lap.

‘Patsy, I think you’re amazing,’ Delia said, ignoring Patsy’s curious eyebrow at her statement, ‘I feel like whatever has been holding me back from feeling like my true self has been chipped away by you these few weeks I’ve known you. It’s as if your love for me has helped me become the person I’m supposed to be. I feel... free. Like I can do anything.’

The lyric from the record Delia had made her appeared in her mind.

Untangled all the strings round my wings that were tied

‘Just like in your song...’ Patsy mused to herself, finally understanding what Delia had meant by that lyric.

‘Your song,’ Delia smiled, looking down at Patsy’s hand in her lap. Her thumb grazed over the gold band that was set snug on Patsy’s pinkie.

‘You know,’ Delia started, looking back up at Patsy. She reached up and wiped away a tear on Patsy’s cheek with her thumb, ‘I had that song floating around in my head for a bit, actually. Only after I found your ring did I decide to go in and record it simply because... Well, you almost dying the day before… I didn’t want to waste another moment.’

Patsy blinked.

‘Wait, so you weren’t working all week to pay for the recording session?’

‘I didn't need to,’ Delia smiled, ‘Paul had said the record my brothers and I made were bringing in more business to his shop. Told me I could do my next session on the house, and I took him up on that offer that morning.’  

Patsy raised an eyebrow feeling a little confused.

‘So the odd jobs you were working all week, it wasn't for the record?’

‘No,’ Delia said simply.

‘Then what did you need the spare money for?’

‘For this.’

Patsy watched as Delia reached into the breast pocket of her dungarees and pulled out a thin rectangular box.

She handed it to Patsy, who took the box and looked down at it, running her thumb over the leather case before popping it open to reveal a beautiful golden chain, very much like the one she had worn previously to carry her mothers ring around her neck and close to her heart.  

‘Oh, Delia,’ Patsy sighed, feeling on the verge of tears again.

Wordlessly, Delia gently took the chain from its box and held it between them. She nodded to the ring on Patsy’s finger, and Patsy raised her hand and removed the ring, placing it on one end of the chain. Once it was dangling from the middle, Patsy held her hair up as Delia reached around her to clasp the chain securely around her neck.

‘There,’ she said softly, ‘back where it belongs.’

They were sitting at such an angle and so close to one another that Patsy could feel Delia’s breath tickle the spot on her skin that was between her neck and shoulder.

Patsy couldn’t help but notice Delia’s fingers lingering on the back of her neck as she felt the tiny bumps on her skin rise under her warm touch. She let her hair down, feeling her heart pound in her chest, feeling the instinctual urge to lick her lips, and perhaps press them against another…

‘Delia, you didn’t need to…,’ Patsy started.

‘I wanted to.’

‘You shouldn't have…’  

‘But I did, Patsy,’ Delia said softly, ‘and I would do it a thousands time over for the woman I love.’

Patsy smiled, shyly tucking her head into the crook of Delia’s shoulder.

Her eyes closed, Patsy let her senses guide her. She was only encouraged by the feeling of Delia’s fingers trailing along her her neck and gently tracing the shell of her ear, the feeling only sending more shivers down her neck. The tip of Patsy’s nose came into contact with a soft cheek, and she breathed in deeply, taking in Delia’s scent. Patsy opened her eyes only for a moment to look back at Delia to make sure she wanted this too, and she was met with a gaze just as deep and full of desire as she felt, and Patsy held no more hesitation in closing the gap between them, finally pressing her lips to Delia's.

Their first kiss was chaste, tentative and new. They pulled away and pressed their lips to one another's again, more firm, mouths opening and exploring. Patsy moved to Delia’s nose and cheeks, giving her playful kisses on her eyelids, tasting the salt from her tears. Delia kissed her right back in kind, gently cupping her head in her hand while her lips traced along her jawline and along her eyebrow. Their mouths found one another once more as their hands wandered, gently caressing the exposed skin of an arm or resting on the others hip or thigh.

When they pulled away, the two pressed their foreheads together and swayed in the swing, their toes on the ground rocking them back and forth as they both let out a sigh of relief, sharing a shy, yet happy giggle. Their arms wrapped around the other, and the two of them rocked on that swing for quite some time simply holding the other, sitting in silence as the night wore on, the moon rising high in the sky and the breeze sending flower petals falling gently around them.



 

Chapter Text

The following days passed so slow yet all at once for Patsy.

The weather seemed to always be pleasant. The sun seemed to shine each day. Flowers seemed brighter and more fragrant. Nothing bothered her, not even the increasingly neglected stack of unfinished projects that adorned her writing desk. There was no way she was able to focus on any task that didn't have to do with Delia and making her smile.

Patsy and Delia had fallen into somewhat of their old routine, going for walks along the path and sharing a lunch at their spot by the lake. Though, there was the very much delightful addition of hand holding and kissing between shared bites of scone and jam and grapes and other snacks. The food they brought would eventually go ignored in favor of laying down in the grass in each others arms, kissing and entangling limbs, running their fingers through each others hair or along the soft skin of a strong arm.

It was moments like these where the advice of Patsy's dear friend Trixie Franklin came to mind, ‘ don’t pounce !’ as she would feel herself get worked up enough to do just that. Patsy didn’t know what Delia’s limits were, she didn't know how far the woman was willing to go, if she was even ready to more than kiss. Though, increasingly as they spent several moments together day after day, Patsy began to push her limits and sense Delia doing the same in kind with a soft touch here and there; along her collarbone and over the swell of her breast just visible from her top, an exciting moment that had Patsy’s heart racing. Hands would make their way down her body, Patsy finding herself hitching up her own skirt to feel Delia teasingly run her fingers over her naked thigh and play with the hem. Whether it was intentional or not, these little touches made all the nerve endings under Patsy’s skin come alive and more often than not when they separated she would need to fan herself to cool down.

The mornings tended to start as usual. The birds would be the first thing she would hear, their singing luring her out of her dreams and into the world of the present. She would blink her eyes open and see the same old thing, a white ceiling, softly glowing from the light of the morning sun filtering in through the window.

However, when she turned her head and looked around, the scenery was different. The window was behind her, for one. Posters of London and Paris adorned the walls. There was a desk across from her instead of against the wall next to her on her queen size bed. And speaking of the bed, this one seemed much smaller, though much more warm and cozy.

Patsy smiled, remembering where she was. She wiped the sleep out of her eyes and turned, her nose and mouth met with a mop of unruly black hair immediately, though she took pleasure in it being so close to her.

She wrapped her arms around Delia, snaking her right arm underneath Delia’s pillow while her left draped over her shoulders and pulled her in tight.

Patsy could hear the woman wake, sensing a smile on her face as she took a deep breath and gave herself a stretch.

‘You snuck in again I see,’ Delia said, taking a gentle hold of Patsy’s hand and kissing her wrist.

Patsy stifled a giggle, knowing full well that she had made good use of the makeshift ladder resting against the side of the house and leading up to Delia's window last night. And the night before. And every night before when after which the two of them confessed their love for one another on the rope swing by the lake.

‘You know I can’t resist you, darling,’ Patsy said, meaning it entirely.

Ever since they had kissed that first night, it was like a dam had been broken, all the love and affection that had been building up over the course of the spring came flooding to the forefront of Patsy's heart and mind and she couldn't help but reach out and touch Delia when she was nearby, kiss her, seek her out when she wasn't around.

Even now, she had the woman in her arms giggling as she kissed the back of her neck. She felt like she couldn’t keep her hands off her, her mouth off her.

‘How many times have you snuck into my room now, hmm?’

‘I’ve lost track.’

Delia rolled over in her arms, looking delightfully sleepy as she smiled tiredly, leaning down to endearingly nuzzle her head in the crook of Patsy’s neck and properly wrap her arms around her.

Patsy brought her hand to Delia’s face, tilting her head up so she could give her a proper kiss when Delia pulled away suddenly, covering her mouth with her hand.

‘I have morning breath,’ she said.

‘Don’t care,’ Patsy shrugged, closing her eyes, ‘Come here.’

Patsy in fact, did not care at all, thinking she could handle the worst of any morning breath from Delia just so long as the woman was pressed against her and kissing her like she was.

Their lips shyly met at first, both taking a deep breath of air as if to wake up their bodies along with their minds.

Over the last few days, kissing Delia had been a different sort of experience that Patsy had found rather delightful. Sure, she had kissed several women in her past, many of them not as fulfilling, many of them perfectly alright, but none of them seemed to feel quite like this. Quite like she would melt into their arms at just the touch of their soft lips pressed against hers, or their arms wrapped around her.

Patsy was so happy in this moment, onl y caring that Delia was kissing her, making her happy, making her smile. She let out a giggle as Delia kissed along her jawline, her neck, her collarbone and across her chest just above the lining of her lacy nightie. Patsy’s fingers entangled themselves in Delia’s short, coarse hair as the woman rolled on top of her, pressed herself against Patsy’s body, kissing along her neck as she placed a hard thigh between Patsy’s legs.

Whether Delia intended to or not, she suddenly had Patsy panting, digging her fingers into her scalp as she pushed her body against Delia’s. Their kisses grew more fervent, but slow, their moths opening and tongues reaching out and tasting, exploring. Patsy couldn't help but press herself more into Delia as Delia seemed to press down, the wright on top of her making her want to moan.  

This rather surprised Patsy. She certainly didn’t expect Delia to be some inexperienced, pure virgin, but how she was moving was certainly unexpected. Delia had seemed so polite and shy since the day they had met. Patsy wondered if building up her confidence made her more daring, more assertive. Whatever it was, she liked it.

Then again, Patsy recalled, there had been others who seemed similarly shy in the cafes and clubs that had surprised her in the bedroom. Lisa, for one. And Shannon. Those two were completely different women at completely different times in Patsy’s life but both seemed to have a quiet exterior and a rambunctious interior when it came to all matters of lovemaking, each experience of which left Patsy absolutely spent yet completely satisfied.

Patsy learned from those two to never question the quiet ones.

It was always the quiet ones.

Patsy gathered what was left of her wits about her and pushed herself up, rolling Delia over onto her back and pinning the women's hands down above her head as she straddled that strong thigh of hers.

‘You seem to know what you’re doing,’ she said softly with a sly grin.

Delia returned her smirk, her eyes lowering to Patsy’s chest to what Patsy was sure was a decent amount of cleavage she was showing off right about then. Whether it was on purpose or not she really didn't care at this point.

‘I just might,’ Delia said softly, hitching her leg up slightly and causing Patsy to clench her teeth to stifle a moan.

Was it possible to get a cramp in your jaw from clenching the muscle so tight? Patsy felt like she was going to find out this morning less she let herself go and just wake up the whole house with the sounds she wanted to let out right about now.

‘How,’ Patsy finally breathed, releasing Delia’s hands and wrapping her arms around Delia’s head, pushing pillows off the twin bed and onto the floor for better access, ‘how do you know? Who have you been with, hmm?’

Patsy asked these questions with a teasing tone, trying to portray that she full well didn't care who Delia had been with before, though she was curious to find out anything and everything she could about the woman's past, particularly her sexual past.

Delia merely smiled at the question.

‘Don’t you worry about who I’ve been with, I just know what I know.’

Patsy let out a breath as she felt Delia’s hands travel up her naked thighs and up her back, over her nightie, holding her firm as Patsy couldn't help but rock against that strong thigh.

‘But when…,’ Patsy choked out, working hard to concentrate, ‘how have you… you’ve done this before?’

‘With some bird,’ Delia admitted, ‘In the club one night in London,’ she breathed, her mouth tugging on an earlobe.

‘Gateways?’ Patsy sighed, closing her eyes.

‘Yeah. ‘

‘Like this?’

‘No, against the wall.’  

‘Delia!’

Patsy leaned back immediately and looked down at Delia, a surprised smirk on her face to meet Delia's confused gaze.

‘Against the wall in some dark seedy club?’ she asked, faking her shock as she had probably gotten up to just as bad if not worse in that godforsaken hole in the wall, the only excuse she could surmise was that it was the only lesbian pub in all of London. But still. Her sweet little Delia getting up to such naughty things? The thought was rather shocking.

A slow, toothy grin appeared across Delia’s features, and Patsy gasped slightly as she could feel the woman's hands firmly cup her bum.  

‘Are you complaining?’ she asked.

Patsy opened her mouth to respond, but no sound came out as Delia had used her hands to pull Patsy in, rocking her against the thigh that was between Patsy’s legs, and it practically made Patsy see stars behind her eyes when she closed them. Patsy gulped down a moan of wanton desire, knowing full well the only thing separating her most intimate area from the skin of Delia's thigh was the thin knickers between them that Patsy was sure was slick with her own need.

Patsy couldn’t speak, not having been touched like this in so long she merely wanted to let her body go and succumb to the pleasure. Though, there was a trickling seed of doubt in her mind and that was simply that she and Delia hadn't gone this far before. They had certainly kissed in the past few days. They had certainly touched. What they had not done was talk about sex. Patsy didn’t know if Delia had ever had sex before but by the looks of it the woman seemed to have some experience, a lot more than Patsy gave her credit for. But still, there was something in Patsy that needed to be sure they were doing the right thing.

‘Deels,’ she gasped out, ‘are you sure?’

Patsy needed to know Delia was OK with this. She wouldn't be able to stop herself if they continued and she needed to know now if Delia really wanted this.

‘Yes,’ Delia breathed, her grip tightening on Patsy’s bum as she rocked the woman against her thigh.

Oh ,’ Patsy breathed, hugging Delia’s head tight, pressing her body against hers as she rocked fervently, the strong thigh between her legs seeming to hit all her sensitive spots just right.

‘Yes, yes, always yes,’ Delia breathed, and it sounded like music to Patsy’ ears.

‘Oh, Delia ,’ Patsy sighed, feeling so, so close to that sweet release.

‘That’s it, baby, yes,’ Delia breathed in her ear, making Patsy shiver, ‘yes, please…’

Baby. Several woman in her past had called her baby, but not quite like this. Before it had been a passing phrase that she had been called when one wanted her attention but didn't know her name. In that scenario she hated being called ‘baby’, but now, here, in Delia’s room… Delia, the woman she loved and who loved her, being wrapped up in her arms and pleasing her so well with her body, her strong, gorgeous body that she just wanted to sink her teeth into…

It was all Patsy needed to bring herself to that edge and let herself go.

She bit back a moan, only managing a small whimper, her bottom lip quivering against Delia’s ear as she felt the muscles in her abdomen and thighs clench and pulse as she came, waves of pleasure tensing and releasing and washing over he whole body as she ground herself against Delia’s thigh. Delia kept a firm hold on her bum and rocked her back and forth, softly breathing in her ear, sighing.

‘Yes, Pats, oh, god, baby, yes,’ she whispered, seemingly choking back a moan of her own as she buried her head in Patsy’s neck and kissed her, sucking gently on the pulsepoint that was between her neck and shoulder.

In the back of Patsy’s mind, she knew they were in danger of being overheard. The walls were thin and Mr. and Mrs. Busby’s room was just next door, she herself having heard many times the squeaking of their bed springs as they rolled over and tossed and turned throughout the night. She knew she needed to keep her mouth shut, stay quiet so no one else would hear, but for all she knew there was no harm in letting out the deep breaths her body had been holding onto, releasing that tension from her body and putting her into a state of absolute pleasure.

‘Oh, Deels,’ Patsy said, clutching onto the woman’s thick, dark tendrils as the base of her scalp and making her look up at her, ‘that was…’ she took a breath and sighed, kissing her, ‘that was just…’

‘I know,’ Delia smiled, removing her hands from Patsy’s bum and wrapping her arms around her, holding her close as her legs relaxed.

Patsy was a puddle in Delia’s arms and it took no effort for the shorter woman to roll her over so that Patsy was on her back, completely pleased and spent from having such a lovely orgasm, though in her mind it just wasn't enough. She wanted to keep going. For as far as she was concerned, that had just been a bit of foreplay. A warm up. She was looking forward to much more that morning and she was adamant to see that Delia had some fun in it all too.

‘Oh, darling,’ Patsy sighed again as she peppered Delia’s smiling dimpled face with kisses, ‘I want to touch you like that too.’

‘You do?’ Delia asked, seeming rather shocked, a tone in which Patsy ignored.

‘Mmhmm,’ Patsy hummed as she kissed Delia on the mouth, her hand snaking between them and feeling for the elastic band of her boxers.

There was a moment where she could feel Delia freeze above her, the woman pulling away slightly, but Patsy had no time to register her motions or react to Delia’s.

There was a rather abrasive knock on the door that had the both of them gasping. Delia was so shocked that she fell right off the bed and landed on the floor with a loud thump.

‘Delia?’ Enid called, ‘everything alright? Breakfast is on!’

‘Yes Mam!’ Delia called out from her spot on the floor, ‘I’ll be down in a minute!’

Patsy scrambled to tug her nightie down from around her hips, hearing a loud rattling from the door. She looked over to see the door shaking, Enid seemingly trying to pry it open but was stopped by a lock on the door that hadn’t been there before.

‘Delia what’s wrong with your door?” Enid cried shrilly.

‘Nothing’s wrong with it Mam,’ Delia said, rising from her spot and quickly fishing out a fresh t-shirt from her chest of drawers, ‘just wanted some privacy is all!’

Seeing that Mrs. Busby was fuming safely behind the door, Patsy leapt from the bed and rushed to help Delia dress, opening the closet door that squeaked at the hinge and fishing out a pair of dungarees.

‘Delia what if you have an emergency? Another fit?!’ the door violently rattled more as if Enid was violently jiggling the doorknob, ‘I need to be able to come in and get you! Delia!’

‘I’ll be alright Mam!’ Delia cried out, h opping around as she quickly tugged on a fresh pair of socks.

Patsy threw the dungarees at Delia, who caught them with an ‘oomph!’ at they hit her square in the face. Patsy didn't have the time to feel bad, and took the opportunity to make a clean break, knowing that if Mrs. Busby was behind the door, she would certainly not catch her climbing out the window of her daughters room.

‘Delia Brynn Busby!’ Enid called through the door, ‘you open this door right this minute! Don’t make me get your brothers or so help me I’ll have them come and take the door right off the hinges!’  

Patsy climbed out the window just as Delia clipped her straps over her shoulder.

In perfect symmetry, Patsy’s head disappeared under the windowsill just as Delia unlocked the door and swung it open, revealing a rather empty room.

Enid stuck her head through the door and looked around suspiciously before the rest of her body made it through.

‘Is someone in here with you?’ Enid asked, her voice low.

‘No,’ Delia said as plainly as she could.

Outside the window, Patsy held onto the wooden slats of the homemade ladder and remained completely still, holding her breath and praying Enid didn’t have enough sense to peek outside.

‘Thought I heard footsteps,’ Enid said, and Patsy could hear the squeak of the closet door again. She must be checking to see if anyone was in there.

‘That was me scrambling to get dressed before you burst in here,’ Delia said, which wasn’t a complete lie, ‘did you actually need something other than to tell me that breakfast was ready?’

Enid gave a defeated sigh and Patsy could almost imagine the woman rolling her eyes as she placed her hands on her hips.

‘The hens escaped from the coop last night. Heard from Michael over tea this morning,’ Enid continued, carrying on indifferently, ‘said you did such a good job of the pigpen last time he’d let you tend to it.’

‘That brother of mine is just afraid of chipping a nail,’ Delia griped.

‘He had enough going on this morning rounding up the chickens before the sun rose. Now come on, lets not dally. Come and get a spot of tea before you get started, hmm?’

Patsy heard Enid walk across the room, the floorboards groaning and creaking under her feet.

‘Are you coming?’ Enid asked, as Delia had not moved.

‘Um, in a moment. I need to find my cap,’ Delia lied, knowing full well it was hanging on a hook behind the door like it always was.

Enid gave a skeptical humph and sulked down the hallway.

Patsy pulled herself up and peered over the windowsill just as Delia closed the door and clicked the sliding lock shut. She paused only to say ‘psst,’ to grab Delia’s attention.

Delia looked over to her and took the few paces needed to reach Patsy, the woman hooking her finger in a ‘come hither’ motion and smiling as Delia drew near.

‘I’m not done with you, Delia Brynn Busby.’

Delia huffed, but smiled down at Patsy who felt giddy at having discovered this new piece of information.

‘I’ll come and find you later,’ Delia whispered, giving Patsy a wink and a sweet kiss on the lips through the window before the two parted, Patsy making her way down the ladder as Delia gently slid her window shut behind her.

Chapter Text

Patsy found herself a little later that afternoon not having the attention span to work on her writings, the warm sun and gentle summer breeze much too alluring to be kept cooped up inside all day. She donned a light summer dress, one of her favorites as it was pink with short sleeves and pockets, and left her little room to go for a walk around the gardens. She spent some time to herself, quietly picking little white flowers that she pocketed, and walked back to where she had seen Valerie snoozing in the hammock a few days prior. The native Londoner wasn't there this time, so Patsy took the opportunity to settle in by herself, making herself comfortable while the hammock gently swayed and she could feel herself be lulled into a sleepy and relaxed state, though not entirely able to fall asleep.

She quietly hummed a tune to herself as she picked the flowers out of her pocket and began to tie them together, creating a daisy chain. Once she was done,she held up the rounded tie of flowers, their stems intricately woven together and Patsy had felt quite proud of how well it turned out, giving a bit of a satisfied smile.

‘Well don’t you look a picture.’

Patsy stopped her humming and craned her neck to see that Delia had approached, standing over her and smiling down. The sight of the woman made Patsy break out into a grin.

‘Hello, darling.’

‘I see you’re being quite productive,’ Delia replied, placing her hands on the hammock and gently rocking Patsy back and forth.

‘Every queen needs her crown,’ Patsy said, placing the daisy chain over her own head.

Delia gave a laugh, ‘If only I had some flower petals to sprinkle over you or grapes to feed you like the goddess you are.’

‘The kitchen isn't too far away,’ Patsy quipped, enjoying being doted on.

‘Sorry, I can’t be bothered to make the trip all the way over there,’ Delia said, ignoring Patsy’s pout, ‘though I do come bearing gifts.’

‘Oh?’ Patsy’s ears perked up at this.

Delia walked over to the side of the hammock with her hands in her pockets. Patsy looked at her curiously as she pulled out from her right pocket what looked to be a child's building block, though it was rounded at the edges.

‘What’s that?’ Patsy asked.

‘This,’ Delia said, holding the object up at eye level between her thumb and forefinger, ‘is a kaleidoscope.’

‘Is it?’

‘It looks just like the one I got for my sixth birthday too,’ Delia mused, ‘that is, until Nicholas snatched it from me and chucked it so far into the garden that it was never seen again.’

Delia tossed the thing lightly into the air and caught it again as if it were a cricket ball.

‘Thought this was a stubborn rock digging into my knee as I was pulling up the fence around the chicken coop earlier. I scooped it out of the ground and was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t a rock after all.’

Delia smiled down at Patsy and tossed the thing in her direction, Patsy catching it with both hands before eyeing it curiously.

‘Just gone and gave it a good wash, along with myself,’ she looked down at her dirt covered dungarees and shrugged, ‘well, most of myself, anyway.’

Patsy looked through the kaleidoscope in Delia’s direction. The woman on the other end multiplied by several times and looked rather mystical through all the colored beads.  

‘Are you just going to stand there all afternoon or are you going to climb in here and give your girl a cuddle?’

‘You don’t mind?’ Delia said, tugging at her dirt covered clothes.

‘Not in the slightest,’ Patsy replied honestly, wanting nothing more than for Delia to come and hold her in her arms.

Delia turned around and sat in the hammock, kicking off her boots before she snuggled in next to Patsy, the hammock swinging gently back and forth as she settled in. Patsy made sure Delia’s arm was wrapped snug around her shoulders while she made herself comfortable in the crook of her shoulder, the rocking of the hammock lulling them into a very relaxed state.

Delia sighed and closed her eyes as Patsy continued to contently look through the kaleidoscope and admire the pretty colors.

‘Your hair smells nice,’ Delia mumbled tiredly, sounding as if the heat of the afternoon sun was getting to her.

Patsy smiled and placed the little toy down somewhere between them where it was immediately forgotten. She used her free hand to graze gently up along the length of her torso, teasingly palming over her breasts and enticing a slight giggle from Delia who began to blush profusely but did not open her eyes. Patsy couldn’t help but grin before she leaned in, loving she was getting a reaction out of the woman. Patsy pressed her nose against Delia’s neck and took a deep breath.

‘You smell nice too,’ Patsy breathed, meaning it. The way the woman smelled after some manual labor drove Patsy wild for reasons she couldn't understand, only knowing that she found her perspiration rather alluring.

‘Ah,’ Delia said, sounding rather bashful, ‘I’m a mess. Can’t smell that good after putting up a fence all morning. Should have had a bath before I came out here.’

‘Nonsense, you smell good,’ Patsy learned just a little bit more forward and kissed her under her ear, the tip of her tongue reaching out to taste her. She tasted of the earth and of salt, and Patsy hummed happily, ‘you taste good, too.’

Delia backed away playfully, ‘Oh no, not there, didn’t think to scrub behind my ears when I washed up.’

Patsy grabbed a fistful of Delia’s dungarees and prevented the woman from moving any further, pulling her even closer so their bodies were flush against one another.

‘No, don’t move,’ Patsy whispered, feeling the bumps on Delia's neck suddenly rise against her lips, ‘I like it.’

Patsy closed her eyes and simply grazed her parted lips against Delia’s skin, feeling delightfully rewarded as she felt Delia’s breath hitch at her touches.

Delia swallowed a lump in her throat, squirming slightly at Patsy’s gentle and slow kisses.

‘Gosh,’ she finally choked out as Patsy continued to kiss her under her ear and along the sensitive skin of her neck, ‘no one has ever kissed me like this before.’

Patsy halted her motions but did not pull away, raising a curious eyebrow at her statement.

No one has kissed her like this before? On her neck?

This confused Patsy greatly after the morning they had together. Delia seemed like she had known what she was doing, like she had done these before with other women, hadn’t she? There were many more questions that raced through her mind, wanting to know just how she had been kissed and not kissed, but she kept them to herself for now.

‘Do you like it?’ she asked instead.

Delia nodded, taking another deep breath before she turned to Patsy and kissed her on the lips.

The two became a gently tangled mess of limbs as they kissed, giving slow, loving pecks as they intertwined their legs and wrapped themselves in each others arms. The gentle breeze rocking them back and forth and tickling Patsy’s bare legs sent a shiver up her spine, and Delia held her even closer, gently caressing her hand over her arm. They spent several moments wrapped up in one another, all else outside of their embrace ceasing to exist. Patsy brought her hand to cradle Delia’s head, tilting her chin gently with her thumb to kiss her along her neck. She was rather amused at how Delia would become momentarily paralyzed when she kissed her like this, and it was easily beginning to become her favorite thing to do, not only because Delia seems to rather enjoy it, but also because Delia’s heavy breathing in her ear was making her own breath hitch in her throat.

Patsy pulled away and just looked at Delia, getting a glimpse of the woman's swollen red lips and flushed cheeks. She really was acting like no one had kissed her like this before and the thought made her wonder if Delia had been telling the truth. The thought of that made her heart sink in her throat momentarily until Delia opened her eyes and looked at her.  

‘Alright?’ Delia whispered, taking her hand and gently running her fingers along her thigh, trailing up and up until she was playing at the hem of her dress.

Patsy nodded, closing her eyes and lazily kissing Delia on the lips.  

‘I like when you touch me there,’ Patsy whispered.

‘Oh yeah?’

‘Mmhmm,’ Patsy closed her eyes and nodded, taking a deep breath when she felt Delia move her hand just a little further up her thigh.

‘And here?’ she asked curiously, giving a bit of a smirk as her hand trailed up even further, her hand sinking between the two of them so she could gently run her fingers over Patsy’s inner thigh.

All the blood in Patsy’s body seemed to drain from her brain down between her legs. It took all her concentration for her to simply mutter out an ‘Uh-huh,’ and nod to Delia’s question.

Patsy watched as Delia lowered her eyes, tucking her bottom lip into her mouth as she daring ran a finger along the hem of patsy’s cotton knickers.

Patsy let out a gasp, her hips unintentionally arching into Delia’s hand, and she pulled away nervously.

‘Too much?’ Delia asked, concerned.

‘No,’ Patsy said, reaching down and holing Delia by the wrist, ‘I want more.’

‘More?’

‘Yes, please,’ she sighed, feeling Delia's hand back between her legs, where, quite frankly, it belonged.

Patsy could feel Delia’s breathing grow deep as her hand palmed between her thighs, and she tucked her head into the crook of Patsy’s shoulder and nuzzled her nose along her neck.

Delia’s fingers grazed along the thin cotton battier between her legs, enticing a gasp from Patsy.

‘Ok?’ Delia asked.

‘Yes,’ Patsy breathed.

More?’

‘Yes, Delia, yes, yes…’

Patsy curled her fingers around Delia’s thick hair, taking a firm hold on the woman's head and kissed her neck as she felt Delia almost expertly move her knickers aside and part her most intimate area with a firm finger.

‘Ah!’ she gasped, the touch so slow and teasing she could barely stand it, ‘Ohm Deels, please,’ she begged.

Delia pulled back slightly, kissing Patsy as she shifted, her body half way on top of Patsy’s as she began to stroke her from a better angle.

Patsy held on to Delia, her arms wrapped around the woman's strong shoulders as Delia kissed her and stroked her, and she could feel Delia’s two fingers become slick with her need as she slowly ran her two fingers down and up again, seemingly feeling all of her.

‘You like this?’ Delia asking, tough sounding as if she were sure of the answer.

‘Yes,’ Patsy breathed.

‘You want more?’

‘Not inside,’ Patsy said softly, opening her eyes just slightly to gauge Delia’s reaction. A small feeling of anxiety washed over her to see Delia's reaction, her experience from past lovers having been varied. Some did not care, others did not take this so well.

‘No?’ Delia asked, raising an eyebrow slightly.

‘No. I don’t like it,’ Patsy replied, hoping Delia wouldn't think negatively of her.

Patsy’s anxiety was quenched at once to see the woman above her simply give a gentle smile.

‘OK,’ Delia said, lowering herself to place her lips gently against Patsy’s cheek.

Patsy smiled and held onto her tight.

‘Just keep doing what you’re doing, please,’ Patsy quietly pleaded.

Delia continued to kiss her, leaning down and kissing her neck, her fingers continuing a steady rhythm. Patsy nearly bit down on the woman's shoulder as her fingers finally circled over her clit.

‘Like this?’ Delia whispered.

Patsy needed a moment to register her two worded question as the women's string hands were placing just the most perfect amount of pressure on her that she could barely think straight.

‘Yes,’ Patsy eventually gasped out, ‘Just like that.’

It was a combination of things that brought Patsy closer to that edge than any had brought her before. She was admittedly still worked up from that morning, feeling as though their foreplay was just that, and she had been ready and willing to do more if Enid hadn’t of come in. There was also the thrill of being caught while they fooled around outside, Patsy finding the thought of it rather exciting. She also had the woman she love pleasing her, kissing her, smelling so good like the earth and salt and fresh air. She was loving the feeling of Delia’s weight on top of her, her sweet kisses, her own breath in her ear panting with desire as she continued to drive Patsy crazy with her touches.

Delia kissed her just as she felt her whole body tense and release, over and over again, her loves soft, warm mouth stifling her moans as her fingers drew out an incredible amount of pleasure from her. She released her mouth and moved to her neck, Patsy holding on for dear life and gasping out the sounds of her orgasm in Delia’s ear as she removed her fingers and tenderly stroked her inner thigh.

Several moments passed where the two women caught their breath, Delia settling in beside Patsy now as she held her tight in her arms and kissed her temple.

‘I love how you sound when you come,’ Delia whispered.

Patsy felt like purring, all curled up in Delia’s arms, her fingers running through Delia's short locks before they cupped her face and kissed her. She hummed instead and tugged on a bottom lip with her teeth, enticing a smile from Delia.

Delia giggled as Patsy continued to pepper her face with kisses. Patsy’s hands moved from the woman's face, to her neck, to grasp onto the straps of her dungarees.

‘I want to hear you too,’ Patsy said, becoming a little annoyed that Delia’s dungarees were a rather burdensome obstacle in the way of her pleasing Delia like she had just pleased her.

‘It’s alright,’ Delia giggled shyly, placing her hand over Patsy’s, halting her motions.

‘What do you mean?’ Patsy asked, raising an eyebrow.

‘I’m alright, really,’ Delia said softly, gently removing the flowers from her head so she could run her fingers through her hair, ‘you don’t need to do anything for me.’

Patsy was rather befuddled by the comment. Of course she didn’t need to do anything to Delia, but damn it she wanted to!

‘But I want to, Delia,’ she said, running a thumb over the golden lock of her strap.

‘You do?’ Delia asked, sounding genuinely confused.

‘You don’t…,’ Patsy gulped, feeling nervous all of a sudden, ‘you don't want me to touch you?’  

‘Um.. I - it’s just…’ Delia stutterd as Patsy waited patiently for an answer.

There was a rather loud rumbling that caught their attention immediately, the sound of a motor running and the screeching of brakes.

‘’Hiya Edwin!’ Fred voice could be heard in the foreground of where Patsy and Delia lay, soon followed by the sound of a truck door slamming shut and the sound of Delia’s fathers cheery voice.

‘’Lo Fred! Be right with ya to help soon as I find that daughter of mine.’

‘No trouble if she’s not around. I know I’m early, but I wanted to get in my deliveries right quick as me own daughters are popping in for supper.’

Fred and Edwin continued to chatter as Delia gulped nervously and distanced herself slightly from Patsy.

‘I better go and help,’ she said feebly, handing Patsy her flowers before throwing her legs over the side of the hammock and gracefully getting to her two feet on the ground.

‘Delia,’ Patsy pleaded, still feeling her entire body thrum with the love and pleasure from the moment of passion they just experienced together. What was going on? Why was Delia being like this?

‘I promise I’ll come and find you tonight, after I play in the pub with my brothers?’ Delia asked hopefully.

Patsy was not at all reassured by this, but when a sharp whistle permeated through the air that Patsy had grown to know as Edwins way of calling his children to him sounded, she merely nodded and let Delia go without another word.

Patsy felt awful after Delia disappeared from her sight. A myriad of horrible things went through her mind in that moment. Why was Delia acting like this? Did she have regrets? Had Patsy been pressuring her? Was Delia even attracted to her?! She did love her, right? What was going on?

Patsy had worked herself up into a frenzy. Not letting another moment pass by, she snatched the small kaleidoscope into her hand as she got up from her spot in the hammock, and ran to her room thinking a call to Trixie was in order.


Chapter Text

Patsy puffed anxiously on a cigarette, the smoke billowing from her mouth and above her head like a chimney as she lifted the telephone from the bedside table to sit in her lap, lifting the receiver and hastily jabbing her finger into the rotary all tugging the circle all the way around several times, asking herself again, why oh why , Trixie had so many bloody nines in her number.

She tapped her foot impatiently as the circle clicked clicked clicked all the way back to the beginning and finally the sound of ringing could be heard.

‘Come on, come on,’ Patsy mumbled to herself, growing annoyed as the other line rang for a fourth time. She prayed her friend would be home as she needed to talk to someone about this.

‘Trixie Franklin speaking!’ came the happy voice of her friend.

‘Finally!’ Patsy tisked, exasperated.

‘Patsy!’ Trixie began cheerily over the phone.

‘Trix, I need to talk to you,’ Patsy stated, all business.

‘Well how about a hello first?’ Trixie replied, sounding like she was scolding a child.

‘Trix,’ Patsy pleaded.

‘Haven’t heard from you in weeks and now I don’t get so much as a ‘hello’?’  

Patsy took a deep breath through her nose and mumbled a terse, ‘Hello .’

‘Hi!’ Trixie said cheerily, and Patsy could hear the woman lightin up a cigarette on her end just as Pats stubbed hers out, ‘So how are things out in the countryside? What have you been up to?’

Patsy opened her mouth to respond, her mind being so focused on her current cunnumdrum that she had plum forgotten what she had been doing to occupy her time when she wasn't with Delia. What had she been up to?

Her eyes glanced over to her paper laden desk across from her and she suddenly remembered her accomplishment.

‘I wrote a book!’ she replied happily.

‘You did?’ Trixie asked, ‘an entire book?’

‘Is that so hard to believe?’

‘You mean in conjunction with the one you were working on for your father?’

‘That’s right,’ Patsy said, finding herself sitting up straight in her place, feeling proud of herself.

‘Ooh, exciting! What’s this one about?’ Trixie asked, and Patsy could hear the smile in her tone, ‘Another delightful beach read to look forward to? Something saucy and scandalous?’’

‘What? No it’s…’ Patsy trailed off, feeling rather shy about her change in genre, ‘well, it’s a fantasy.’

‘A what?’

‘Fantasy! You know, made up.’

‘You mean like Peter Pan or Mary Poppins?’

Patsy rolled her eyes, making a grunt that had an air of superiority about it.

‘No one is flying through windows and kidnapping English children in my novel. Think more rustic. Spirts. Magical portals,’ Patsy said with a wave of her hand, ‘Half human creatures and a protagonist who goes on some epic journey and all that. You know how they are.’

‘So… Lord of the Rings?’

‘Sort of,’ Patsy agreed with a nod, ‘but this will be better.’

‘How so?’

‘All the characters are women,’ Patsy shrugged, ‘But that’s not what I called to talk to you about!’

‘Does it have anything to do with Delia?’ Trixie asked.

‘Yes actually,’ Patsy replied, feeling her nerves grow jittery again.

‘How are you getting on with her then? Still pining?’ Trixie asked blithely, sounding as if she were checking her nails and not at all interested in hearing the details.

‘Actually made progress on that front.’

‘You have?’ Trixie’s interest seemed to perk up at the news.

‘We’ve confessed our love for one another,’ Patsy said matter of factly, deciding to get right to the point and to spare her friend the more romantic details until she were sitting face to face with her over a glass of something bubbly and alcoholic.

‘You did!’

‘We kissed,’ she continued.

Trixie gasped excitedly over the phone.

‘We’ve already had sex,’ Patsy couldn’t resist blurting out, enjoying the reaction she was getting from her friend.

Trixie gasped again.

‘Twice!’

‘Oh my god!’

‘Today!’

‘Patience Mount! You dark horse!’

Patsy smiled at her friends enthusiasm, feeling rather giddy she was able to finally tell someone about the newfound love in her life.

‘So how was it?’ Trixie asked.

‘How was what?’

‘The sex, darling,’ Trixie replied as if she were rolling her eyes, ‘tell me everything.’

Patsy giggled shyly, smiling wide as she absentmindedly reached up to twirl a lock of her red hair around her finger, ‘Well, I mean…’, she trailed off, thinking back on her wonderful morning and their little tryst in the hammock for some afternoon delight, but the thought of it all brought back the sinking feeling of anxiety that weighed heavily in her chest after she and Delia had parted, Delia’s reaction to everything launching this whole conversation in the first place.

Patsy shook her head, coming to her senses.

‘So about that,’ she started, feeling rather nervous, ‘Trix, I think I have a problem.’

‘With the sex?’

‘Well… yes?’

‘What’s the matter? Is she any good?’

Patsy picked up the phone and began to pace along the side of her bed as she continued on.

‘Trixie, she’s the most fantastic lover I’ve ever had.’

‘And the problem is…?’

Patsy gave a frustrated sigh, thinking she ought to start from the beginning.

‘Alright, so the first time we fooled around was this morning,’

‘Just this morning?’ Trixie remarked, sounding as if she were craning her neck to check the clock on the wall.

‘and her mum came knocking at her door before I had a chance to do anything,’

‘Her mum?! Patsy what are you a teenager?’

‘And then earlier in the hammock,’

‘You were outside?!’

‘Our lovemaking was a little more, um, involved ,’ Patsy rolled her eyes at her choice of words but did not want to get into too much detail less she be distracted again, ‘and I wanted to reciprocate, but she said I didn’t have to…’

‘Well I wouldn’t want to fornicate out in the wild either,’ Trixie quipped.  

‘Trixie! She won’t let me touch her!’ Patsy finally blurted out, feeling a little relieved to have finally said her concerns out loud.

‘She won’t?’ Trixie asked.

‘No!’

‘No?’

‘No! Whenever I ask she pushes me away and says I don’t have to.’

‘Oh no,’ Trixie said, her voice low and ominous.

‘What?! What’s the matter?’

‘You don't think…’ Trixie began, trailing off slightly.

‘What? What is it?’ Patsy asked, waiting with bated breath for Trixie to continue.  

‘She’s not one of those... stone butches is she?’

Patsy scoffed, rolling her eyes as she placed the base of the phone on her hip.

‘What on earth is that? Is that some reference to the name of the inn?’

‘No, you know,’ Trixie paused, seemingly trying to find the right words, ‘stone? She’s a stone butch possibly?’

‘I assure you she’s a real person Trixie, not some creature made of stone I made up.’

Patsy could hear Trixie smack her forehead on the other end of the line, seeming frustrated with her.

‘Patsy you mean to tell me in all your time flitting from one woman to the other you’ve never come across another woman who did not experience any pleasure from being touched?’

The thought of this thoroughly confounded Patsy, and she momentarily pulled the phone away from the receiver, staring back at it with knitted eyebrows before she brought it back to her ear and responded to her friend.  

‘Beg your pardon?’ she asked slowly.

Trixie sighed, ‘Pats, someone is called stone when they don’t like being touched while having sex. They get nothing out of it and would rather just… I don’t know, just please their partner?’

‘That’s a thing?!’ Patsy almost screamed into the receiver.

‘Apparently so!’

Patsy sputtered, finding the whole idea entirely ridiculous, ‘Who on earth… I mean, how …’

‘Some people are just like that,’ Trixie said, sounding as if she were shrugging and blowing out a line of smoke from her cigarette on the other end of the line.

Patsy paced back and forth frantically, almost certain she was making a tread in the hardwood floor as her mind raced, thinking back on everything Delia had said and done over the course of the day to make Trixies assumption correct.

‘Trixie, no, shes… she’s not like that! She likes when I do things to her!’

‘Like what?’

‘I don’t… well I haven’t really been given the chance to do much, have I?’

‘What, her mum almost barging in put you off?’

Patsy ignored her friends flippant comment, ‘She likes when I kiss her at least. She has a, um, you know, a positive reaction…’ Patsy trailed off, slightly blushing from the thought of Delia’s breathing growing heavy as she held her in her arms and kissed her neck earlier. That was certainly a good sign she liked being touched, right?

‘Well how do you know? Have you asked her?’

Patsy pulled the receiver away from her ear and practically shouted into the phone, ‘Well I bloody well didn’t know it was a thing until you just told me, did I!’

‘Alright, calm down. Is it really the end of the world if she is?’ Trixie asked, ‘If anything it’s just less work for you to do, I reckon.’

Patsy gasped, her mouth forming into a ‘o’ shape and her eyes narrowing as if Trixie had said something terribly offensive.

‘Trixie, I’ll have you know that I am no pillow princess!’

‘I didn’t say you were!’ Trixie exclaimed, ‘All I’m saying is that Delia being stone might be a possibility? And if she is you could just… you know, let it be?’

‘No,’ Patsy said stubbornly, closing her eyes and shaking her head, ‘no, she’s not… She’s just shy. Maybe she’s on her monthlies or something and just doesn’t want to tell me.’

‘Whatever you need to say to convince yourself,’ Trixie sighed.  

Patsy scoffed, ‘Some friend you are. I come to you for comfort and you’ve only managed to make things worse!’

‘Is this why you haven’t written in ages?’ Trixie quipped.

Patsy gave a frustrated grumble, ‘I have to go and have a think on all this. See if I can sort it all out,’

‘Not even a bloody postcard from you in weeks,’ Trixie tisked.

‘Send Barbara my love?’ Patsy replied, blatantly ignoring her friends comments.

‘I always do,’ Trixie said with a sigh, though Patsy could sense her smiling on the other end of the line, ‘Ciao, darling.’

Patsy hung up the phone without returning a salutation, feeling utterly annoyed and frustrated with her friend who did not seem at all sympathetic to her situation.

She placed the phone back on the bedside table and lit herself another cigarette, looking out her window towards the pub to see Delia and her brothers sitting together in a small circle while Delia smoked her pipe and all three of them tuned their instruments together, getting ready to perform that night.

Was Delia like how Trixie described? Stone? Someone who didn’t receive pleasure from being touched?

While not entirely convinced, Patsy cursed her friend for planting this seed of doubt in her head.

She very much wanted to walk up to Delia right then and there and demand answers.

Instead, she puffed on her cigarette and harshly drew the curtains and stewed on the thought of it for the next several hours.

 

Chapter Text

It was almost midnight when, finally, there was a tentative knock on Patsy’s door.

The woman had spent the time after her phone call with Trixie doing anything but something productive with her work. She opted to try and relieve her anxieties and her doubts over Delia’s seeming lack of wanting to be touched intimately by having a nice long soak in the bath. She washed her hair, shaved her legs, clipped her nails, plucked her eyebrows and flossed her teeth, anything really to help pass the time and keep her mind focused on various means of grooming and self care tactics to keep her calm and focused on something other than Delia.

She attempted to play records over the sounds of Delia's singing and playing, over the copious amount of men and women who were cheering and applauding her and her brothers after every song. It was of no use, as the speakers did not seem to emanate the tunes loud enough, and even so, all the records belonged to Delia, including the player!

Everything here reminded her of Delia!

She would have been relieved knowing who was on the other side of the door when there was finally a knock, wanting to get this all out in the open, but Patsy remembered her conversation with Trixie and she needed to get one thing settled about Delia once and for all. She really hoped what Trixie said wasn’t true and she couldn’t take another moment not knowing.

Patsy, dressed simply in a slip and dressing gown with her hair down, threw open the door after the third knock and saw a rather nervous looking Delia, the woman looking back at her with wide eyes, clutching a bottle of something alcoholic. She was also dressed simply in her pyjamas, a short sleeved, button down collared shirt and shorts with a pair of moccasins.

‘Sorry I took so long Patsy,’ she said shyly, swallowing down a lump of nerves, ‘may I come i-,’

Patsy didn’t let Delia finish her sentence. She reached through the door and grabbed a fistful of Delia’s shirt, pulling the women through the doorway so fiercely that both Delia’s shoes fell off and landed on the stoop outside, all but forgotten as Patsy slammed the door behind her and turned to face the now petrified, barefooted woman who looked like she was about to be scolded by an overbearing wife.

Patsy took a deep breath, her nostrils flaring, and placed her hands on her hips.

‘Delia,’ she said, ‘I’m rather upset with you.’

‘I can see that,’ Delia replied, finally blinking.

‘Twice today you’ve seduced me without letting me reciprocate,’ Patsy said, taking a step forward, 'and I want to know why.’

‘Erm, because we were interrupted?’ Delia replied, looking as if she were shrinking right in front of Patsy.

‘Is that all? There’s no other underlying reason why you wouldn’t want me to touch you?’ Patsy narrowed her eyes suspiciously, recalling her conversation with Trixie earlier about Delia possibly being a stone butch, someone who experiences no joy in being touched sexually.  

Delia stuttered nervously under Patsy’s scrutinizing gaze, ‘Um, well, I s-suppose we were outside and I hadn’t had a bath…’

Even though her anxiety was still high, Patsy deemed this a reasonable answer and felt herself calm down a bit, but still felt like she needed to be sure.

‘So you do like being touched by other women,’ she asked slowly, ‘the way you were touching me earlier?’

‘Um, that sounds like something I would enjoy very much, yes,’ Delia replied, still looking rather nervous as she tapped her fingers against the glass bottle of amber liquid.  

Patsy raised an eyebrow and looked at her love rather queerly. She crossed her arms over her chest and placed her chin in her hand, musing.

'You don't know if you would like it or not?’

'I mean, it's not that I haven't thought about it,’ Delia said, the tips of her ears turning a bright red as she played with the loose label on the bottle in her hands, 'I imagine it would feel rather nice…’ she trailed off with a mumble.

‘You imagine ?’ Patsy repeated, feeling rather confused.

Patsy furrowed her eyebrows and closed her eyes tight, her brain struggling to connect the dots.

'You know Delia,’ Patsy started in a tone much lighter than before, ‘I know we’ve never talked about our sexual pasts, and you’ve touched me in a way that lets me know I’m not your first lover, but when you say things like that it makes me think that no one has ever…’

She trailed off, watching Delia gulp down another lump in her throat and her face go from a pale white to scarlet in a matter of seconds.

‘...touched you before?’

Delia seemed to be avoiding eye contact with her, her eyes darting from side to side as she tried to stutter out an answer but failed to string together a coherent sentence.

Patsy’s heart sank in her chest, feeling her anger dissipate from within her immediately, realization dawning on her that she had hit the nail on the head.

It seemed so clear to her now, both times they had fooled around with Delia looking rather confused as to why Patsy had offered to reciprocate in the moment. It seemed no one had bothered before and perhaps Delia thought of it as the norm?

Delia couldn’t seem to bare the silent scrutiny.

She hastily pulled out the cork from the bottle she was holding with a loud pop and begin to take several chugs of whatever was inside.

‘Oh no you don't!’ Patsy exclaimed, lunging forward without thinking.

‘Aah!’ Delia cried as Patsy wrestled her to the bed, the springs squeaking noisily underneath them.

'Give it here Busby!’

'No!’

There was a scuffle as Delia held the bottle out stiffly in her arms, working hard to keep it from spilling and away from Patsy’s grasp, but the redheads long arms were no match for Delia’s short ones.

Patsy!’ Delia pleaded as she wiggled desperately underneath the woman.

‘No, Delia! We are having this conversation sober!’ Patsy nearly growled, holding Delias wrist away from her firmly so she wouldn’t bring the bottle to her lips again.

‘Oh Iesu Mawr ! Please don’t make me!’ Delia pleaded, closing her eyes and looking away, her face a bright shade of red, ‘It’s just so embarrassing.’

‘What?’ Patsy asked, looking back down at Delia with concern in her features and her voice, ‘Why?’

‘Patsy, please, I can’t…’ Delia pleaded, her eyes closed tight, seemingly not able to even bare looking at Patsy right then.

Patsy looked at her hard for several moments, reading her features. She reasoned that if she were going to get the woman to talk to her and explain herself, pinning her down on the bed and forcing it out of her was probably not the best way.

She gave a sigh after a few moments and sat up, disentangling herself from Delia, raking her fingers through her hair to get it out of her face, sitting up on her bed with a determined huff.

‘Delia,’ Patsy began sternly as she fixed her dressing gown, ‘I meant it when I said I love you.’

Patsy crossed her arms over her chest and looked down at Delia with a pout, the woman seemed to relax slightly at her words. Patsy uncrossed her arms and placed her hands in her lap, working to relax herself in kind.

‘Sweetheart, you can talk to me,’ Patsy continued, playing with her fingers slightly, ‘I mean, I won’t force you, I just… I don’t want you to think I wouldn’t listen to you if you need to… talk about anything.’

Patsy looked over at Delia as the woman worked to sit herself up and sit shoulder to shoulder with her.

'I just want to know everything about you, Delia. The good and the bad. Even if it's hard to talk about I won't… I don't know. I won't think less of you. I just want to understand you is all.’

Delia reached over and tentatively took Patsy's hand in hers. The two interlocked fingers as Patsy looked over to Delia.

'Alright,’ Delia said stubbornly, finally looking to Patsy with heavy eyes.

Patsy placed her other hand over top of Delia's and have her a reassuring smile. The woman seemed like she could finally continue as she let go of Patsy's hand.

‘Pats, I just…’ Delia sighed and grasped the bottle of booze with both hands in her lap and hung her head low, ‘I went through a phase of my life I really regret.’

‘Don’t we all?’ Patsy said with a half smile, but her little joke did not seem to cheer Delia up.

Instead, she took the bottle gently from Delia and took a sniff, determining for herself that it was whiskey.

‘Figured red wine would be no good since it put me out last time,’ Delia remarked.

‘Smart girl,’ Patsy quipped, relenting and taking a little sip of whiskey for herself before setting it aside.

‘Patsy, it’s just hard,’ Delia worried on her finger as she rose from her spot on the bed and began to pace back and forth along the hardwood like Patsy had done herself so many times.

‘Why?’

‘Because… because I’m just ashamed of the way I behaved back then, is all. I just…’ Delia placed her hands on her hips and looked to the floor, again not able to meet Patsy’s eye, ‘Listen, back then… well, I’d never so much as had a sweetheart here in Wales before. When I moved to London I thought I would have a better chance of meeting another woman like myself.’

‘What, gay?’

‘Well, yes!’ Delia said, exasperated, ‘I don’t know if you’ve noticed Pats, but we’re the only gays in the village!’

Patsy scoffed, giving a slight roll of her eyes, ‘Delia, you very well know that’s not true.’

‘Valerie doesn't count since I brought her here,’ Delia retorted.

Patsy opened her mouth to protest but then realized that in all the time she had been here she never recalled actually running into another queer person that she could actually read as queer, other than Valerie and Delia.

‘So,’ Delia continued, ‘I sort of took the time in London to explore a bit. I asked around and found out where the lesbians were on a Saturday night. It led me to Gateways.’

Patsy gave an understanding nod, knowing Gateways was the only hangout for women like them in all of London. Though she didn't particularly enjoy clubs and would rather attend a party with dancing at a friend's flat, she had been to the club once or twice at the behest of others and found the whole scene quite cliquish. She didn't need to extend her imagination far to know the types of snobbish women who frequented the club, possibly the types that Delia had run into.

‘I really don't know how to explain it Pats, I just… I was new, I was just… I was desperate, alright?’ she spat out, rubbing the back of her neck nervously as she continued to pace back and forth, ‘I was desperate and lonely. I… any woman that gave me any attention I wanted to make happy, you know?’

Patsy remained silent, feeling her heart sink in her chest as she began to catch on to where this might be heading.

‘Patsy, things are just so different here in Pembrokeshire,’ Delia continued, ‘My mam and dad fell in love young and are the only people they’ve ever kissed. My mates from school all married their sweethearts while I… I had no one. All I’ve ever wanted was the same kind of love, the same kind of romance. It was just… how I was raised to think love was and… and I never found it here because there is no one else like me here that I’ve known.’

Patsy sighed sadly, hating to think that Delia was ever in any pain.

‘So… so any time I found someone who said I was cute or wanted to dance with me I… I did my best to make them happy. To please them. I… I let them use me. I did anything they asked me to do it's just… none of them ever wanted to… to, you know,’ Delia rubbed the back of her neck shyly, 'do anything back.’

'Oh, Delia,’ Patsy sighed, trying her best to squelch the overwhelming feeling of anger and frustration she suddenly felt on behalf of Delia. The poor girl was so honest and genuine with her feelings and Patsy hated to think that those selfish women had been her only sexual experiences. Patsy felt the overwhelming urge to stop her, to interrupt her and show her that not all women are like that but she held her tongue and listened.

‘At the time I didn't care. I was just glad to feel needed for something. Anything. After the first time it happened I just thought it was a fluke or something. Like, maybe women in the city were just different and having a bit of fun… but like the naive country girl I  am… I thought that if I gave them what they wanted they would grow to like me. Then after a bit, it just… kept happening. Not… not a lot,’ Delia said quickly, looking over to Patsy nervously, ‘only happened about three or four times in the few years I was living there. Always thought this one would be like the last one, but…’

Delia trailed off slightly, finally stopping her pacing as she stick one hand in her pocket and used the other to lightly trace her finger over one of the keys on Patsy's typewriter.

'No one I met was ever really interested in seeing me more than twice,’ she continued softly, ‘I started to think I wasn't good enough. Maybe I was ugly or just a bad lover. All I know was that it made me feel terrible about myself, about how I looked and acted and for a while I thought I was never going to find love.’

Delia looked over at Patsy with a sad smile before she looked away again, her brows furrowing, looking as if she were recalling more unpleasant memories.

‘I… I don't feel that way anymore, about myself. After my accident I grew very depressed. Thought my life was over, you know. Couldn't find love. Couldn't make it by myself in the big city. It was a real heartache and I felt like an absolute failure. But, as you know, I eventually recovered. Exercising and making myself useful around the inn made me feel better about myself. I didn't feel lonely either, with Valerie being here and all,’ Delia gave a bit of a laugh as if recalling something amusing, 'She and I had quite a few late night heart to heart chats about me being unlucky in love. She was the one who finally snapped me out of it. She made me realize that it wasn't so much about me as those particular women being selfish, daft cunts.’

Patsy couldn't help but laugh, and recalled the conversation she and Valerie had on her first day here at the inn, about how Delia was a romantic. Perhaps Valerie telling her that was the woman's way of giving a warning, Valerie very well knowing all about Patsy and the content of her books.

'I can absolutely imagine Valerie saying something like that,’ Patsy replied.

'Certainly has a way with words, that one,’ Delia smiled.

She sighed again and finally sat back down on the bed next to Patsy, facing her.

'Pats, I don't hold any ill will against those women. I know that none of them set out to intentionally hurt me, it's just… it took me a little while to learn that I was the one who needed to change. I needed to grow up and grow a spine. It’s why I put my foot down with you at first,’ she said, looking up at Patsy apologetically, ‘Knew you liked me and I liked you too but I didn't think... I never imagined someone as beautiful as you would ever want to be with me, let alone fall in love with me. You were posh and from London and just so confident and I thought… I stupidly thought you would be like the others.’

Patsy took hold of Delia's hand and brought it to her mouth, gently kissing the back of her hand before she held it lovingly in her lap.

'Sweetheart, it's alright,’ she said softly.

'No it's not,’ Delia interjected, ‘I held a prejudice against you for no reason and it was awful of me to do so.’

'You needed to take the time to get to know me, Delia, I understand,’ Patsy said with a reassuring smile, 'and as frustrating as I often found it I'm glad you forced me to wait.’

'You are?’

'Yes,’ Patsy said with a resounding nod, ‘It gave me the chance to get to know you too, Delia. You're the first person I've been with where falling in love came first instead of how it usually goes where I rush into something and then it fizzles out in a matter of weeks.’

Patsy looked over at Delia pointedly.

‘See, I have regrets, too.’

Delia merely smiled and squeezed her hand back.

‘and… and well I have to admit I'm the happiest I've ever been,’ Patsy continued, ‘I was tempted to fall into old habits too by seducing you right from the moment I heard you sing for the first time.’

'Oh so you rubbing your nose against my ear wasn't just my imagination was it?’ Delia teased.

'I did that?’ Patsy gave a laugh, 'suppose that sounds like something I would do.’

‘I certainly remember it clear as day,’ Delia replied, smiling shyly, ‘you’ve had me a flustered mess from the very beginning, Pats.’  

Patsy couldn’t help the blush that she felt crawl along her cheeks.

‘Well in any case,’ Patsy continued, taking her other hand and reaching up to run her fingers through Delia’s hair, ‘you changed me Delia. I feel like you’ve made me grow up too.’

‘That so?’

Patsy nodded, ‘I love you. I want to take care of you and I want you to be happy.’

Delia leaned forward and kissed Patsy, her hand reaching up to cup Patsy’s face as they sweetly kissed.

‘I think that’s the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me,’ she smiled.

Patsy hummed happily as Delia moved to pepper her cheeks and eyelids with soft kisses, thinking that she looked forward to spending a lifetime with Delia telling her nothing but sweet things.

Though when Delia pulled away, Patsy grew concerned as she looked rather forlorn.

‘Darling, what’s the matter?’ she asked.

Delia sighed, pausing for a moment as if she were thinking of the right words to say.

‘Patsy I'm still going to have… challenges,’ she said, her eyes looking worriedly back at Patsy.

'Like what?’ Patsy asked curiously.

Delia took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

‘To be honest… I’m always going to be terrified to tell you how I truly feel, because I know that at any given moment you can get up and walk away and there is nothing I can do to stop you.’

‘Delia, I wouldn’t,’ Patsy said softly, looking to Delia and trying to meet her eyes. She needed to convey somehow that she was serious, that leaving Delia for any reason was unfathomable to her.

‘I know, Pats, but just… given everything that's happened to me, all my experiences… even though I know it's not true I just… I’ve grown to feel like the only way I can protect myself and keep you here is to ignore my own desires and only focus on yours.’

Pats took a moment to let what Delia was saying sink in. She looked at their intertwined hands in her lap, thinking that she needed to reassure Delia somehow, let her know that her wants and needs, her feelings and desires… Patsy wanted to know them all and respect them. She needed to try and gently coax it out of Delia what those might be first.

'And if my desires are to know what yours are?’ Patsy asked, bringing Delia's hands to her lips and placing a light kiss on the tops of her fingers.

A hot blush spread across Delia's face and reached the tips of her ears, and once again she gulped down a lump on her throat.

‘Oh Pats… I don’t…’

‘No, tell me,’ Patsy said, leaning in for a sweet kiss, ‘I want to know.’

Delia seemed to relax at her touch, placing her hand on Patsy’s thigh while Patsy gently cupped her face and kissed her again, slowly and tenderly. Patsy hummed happily as she continued to kiss Delia, pressing her lips softly against the corners of her mouth, her cheeks, moving along her jawline and under her ears. She felt Delia shiver in response to her touches and Patsy couldn’t help but feel a spark within her, feeling her body hum to life with her own desires that she wished to fulfil, but she promised herself right then that Delia would be her only focus that night.

Delia was the one to pull away, catching her breath as she placed a firm hand on Patsy’s knee. Patsy looked back at her attentively, waiting patiently for her to speak.

‘Pats, um,’ Delia bit her lip, seemingly working very hard to compose herself, ‘that’s just the thing. I don’t know what to tell you.’

Patsy raised an inquiring eyebrow as Delia continued.

‘It’s just… because I’ve never… no one’s never,’ Delia let out a breath of air, huffing in frustration, ‘I don’t know what I like, alright?!’

Delia crossed her arms over her chest, her face turning bright red again as she seemed completely embarrassed with this whole conversation.

‘Delia,’ Patsy started softly, gently taking her hands and uncrossing Delia’s arms, ‘no one goes into this knowing what they like.’

‘I know, I’m sorry. I’m just frustrated with myself,’ Delia nearly growled and got to her feet again, her hands on her hips as she began to pace, ‘I’m 25 for christ’s sake, I shouldn't be so clueless!’  

Patsy blew a strand of hair out of her eyes, growing frustrated herself. She needed to get Delia nice and relaxed and not feeling so self conscious so she could tend to her needs properly.

‘Delia,’ Patsy said with a tone of authority, grasping Delia’s attention at once.

She took the few paces needed to take a fistful of Delia by her top, and guided her back to her bed, where the shorter woman landed on her bum with an 'oof!’

‘Sit,’ Patsy commanded, and Delia blinked, looking quite too startled to disobey.

With an air of stubborn determination, Patsy rounded the bed and headed for the en suite.

'Um, Pat's?’ Delia asked meekly, 'what are you doing?’

Patsy whirled around, her hands on her hips as she looked Delia down and up again, thinking the woman looked rather cute sitting on her bed.

‘I’m going to slip into something more comfortable,’ she said rather matter of fact as Delia’s look went from worried to amused in a matter of seconds, as if she could tell Patsy was up to something.

Patsy closed the door to the en suite and found her purse, shuffling through the contents before she found what she was looking for and slipped it on.

She opened the door quickly, leaning against the frame seductively, her hand splayed out against the frame, one knee jutting out exposing even more of her naked thigh from between the opening in her dressing gown.

Patsy finally looked over at Delia, her hair whipping dramatically over her shoulder as she revealed to her love to simply be wearing a pair of groucho marx glasses.

‘How do I look?’ she asked seductively, trying hard to ignore the scratchy fake mustache tickling her upper lip.

Delia slapped her hand over her mouth to suppress a wild laugh, in which she failed miserably.

Patsy felt rather giddy for making Delia laugh, but pretended to be angry as she trotted back over to the bed, kneeling over Delia and pouting as best she could behind the fake nose and bristly dark mustache.

‘What, you don't like my outfit?’ she asked, trying to sound disappointed.

Delia managed to get a hold of her laughter, wiping a tear from her eye as she responded.

‘Pats!’ she exclaimed through her giggles, ‘you should take that silly thing off.’

Patsy sat back on her bum and looked shocked, ‘This thing? Silly?,’ she pouted, ‘I actually quite think this dressing gown. Think it looks rather smart on me, but if you insist.’

Delia continued to giggle as Patsy shrugged her dressing gown off her shoulders and tossed it away, the garment pooling to the floor and immediately forgotten. She took her place crawling over Delia wearing only her slip and her goofy glasses.

‘Patsy!’ Delia pleaded her face red from her laughter.

‘Come here and gimmie a kiss, sugar,’ Patsy puckered up and leaned forward.

‘Ah! No!’ Delia cried, still giggling as she craned her neck as far away from Patsy as she could.

‘Aw come on,’ Patsy playfully pleaded, getting to her knees and hovering over Delia.

‘Pats, no! It’s itchy!’ Delia laughed, using all her strength to hold Patsy above her, the woman merely inches away from her face.

Patsy couldn’t help but grin, finally relenting and sitting back on her bum again to remove the glasses with the fake nose and mustache.

‘Better?’ she asked, raising an eyebrow as she tossed the glasses to the floor.

‘Much,’ Delia breathed, wiping a tear from her eye as she calmed down from her giggles, ‘where on earth did you get that anyway, hmm?’

‘Might of nicked it from one of the scouts. Will you kiss me now?’ Patsy asked, leaning forward on her hands and knees once more and hovered over a smiling and pink cheeked Delia. She looked absolutely adorable and Patsy couldn’t contain her own smile.

Delia gave an enthusiastic nod.

‘Come here,’ she said softly, grasping Patsy’s face in her hands and pulling her down until their lips met.

The kisses were playful at first, the two women giving one another sweet pecks on the mouth and cheeks while they rolled around on Patsy’s bed. Their giggling soon turned to sighs as their kissing grew deeper, lingering against their lips a little longer each time they met. The two women were becoming a pile of entangles limbs, one pair of naked legs and bare feet brushing up against the other, strong thighs pushing legs apart, one fighting for dominance over the other as mouths opened and teeth nipped at exposed skin.

Patsy sighed, barely able to keep her eyes open as she was enjoying all this heavy petting much too much. She found herself on her back and under Delia, the woman having wrapped Patsy's legs around her hips as her strong hands firmly grasped her bum, pulling her impossibly closer. Delia hovered over her, her kisses growing more passionate by the moment as she opened her mouth. Patsy gasped when she felt Delia tug on her bottom lip, her tongue reaching out to taste her, her hands trailing up her body over her slip to securely wrap her arms tight around her body and hold her firm. For a woman as tall as herself, she thought that Delia was was the first woman to make her feel so safe and small wrapped in her embrace and she loved how it felt.

Patsy was almost lost to her senses, perfectly willing to let Delia carry on as the woman was getting her worked up, turning her on, making all the nerve endings under her skin come to life and feel so warm and wanting.

A hand wondering up her slip and tugging as her simple cotton knickers brought Patsy back down from the clouds. She realized that this was not how she intended for her evening to go, especially after all Delia had admitted to her. She looked down at her hands that clutched onto Delia’s top and decided that for once she would like to see what the woman had going on underneath all these clothes.

Delia let out a slight gasp Patsy grasped her hands and pulled them away from her body. She gripped Delia’s hips with her thighs and used all her strength to roll the two of them over, Delia now on her back with her head against the pillows, Patsy straddling her and teasingly rocking her body against hers.  

Delia looked back at Patsy through heavy eyes as she let Patsy rest her hands above her head on the pillows while Patsy pressed her body into her, kissing her again as her hands moved down Delia's arms and palmed over her breasts through her top.

Patsy pulled away, unable to keep herself from licking her lips in anticipation. Her hair spilled over her shoulder and she needed to take a sweeping arm to pull it back behind her neck, the motion seeming to have put Delia in a trance as the woman sighed, her chest rising and falling as she took a deep breath, composing herself.

‘You are so beautiful,’ Delia breathed.

‘I think you’re beautiful, too, darling,’ Patsy whispered as she leaned down for a sweet kiss, brushing Delia’s fringe out of her eyes, ‘so beautiful,’ she breathed as she kissed her again.

Delia trailed her hands along Patsy’s thighs in a way that had Patsy pulling away, suppressing a gasp. She gulped down a lump in her throat as she composed herself to continue.

‘I want to see your beautiful body, too,’ she said, her fingers finding the white buttons of Delia’s top and lightly tracing over them.

Patsy’s eyes and fingers were on this top. This soft, blue, cotton buttoned pyjama top that was impeding her view of Delia’s body.

‘I want to see you, darling,’ she said again, looking to Delia for permission.

Delia looked back at her through heavy eyes, giving a silent nod.

‘I’m just going to,’ Patsy started, her voice soft and her own fingers shaking slightly with anticipation, ‘unbutton this one here.’

She popped the button open to reveal more of Delia's beautiful skin, tan from having spent long hours working outside in the increasingly long summer days.

Patsy found herself drawn to this bit of skin, and without thinking, she leaned down and kissed Delia’s collarbone, down her chest, her hands working to open her shirt button by button and her mouth covering and kissing every inch of new skin that she had yet to explore.

Before she knew it, she had kissed her way down to Delia’s navel, the woman beneath her squirming slightly and her breathing becoming more labored.

Patsy leaned back again and took in the sight under her. Delia pink faced and looking back at her, her lips parted and hair a mess. Patsy took her hand and trailed her finger back up the exposed skin of Delia's torso, using her hand to slowly pull one half of her top top the side, exposing a pert breast and hard, pebbled nipple.

Patsy’s jaw clenched and she gulped down a bundle of nerves at the sight, surprised at how much her mouth began to water at the sight of just one breast. Then again, this was Delia.

She grazed her fing er along Delia’s chest, gently pushing aside the other half of her top, revealing another breast that mirrored the other.

Patsy marveled at how Delia’s skin tensed and bumped under her fingertips, her eyes wide and smile growing that she was able to get such a reaction out of the woman.

Without thinking, Patsy cupped one of Delia’s breasts in her hand, leaned down and captured a nipple into her mouth, her tongue swirling over the hard bud before she lightly tugged and let go with a light pop.

She gave a sigh of relief as she continued to kiss the delightfully soft skin of Delia’s breast, feeling very much as if she were finally having a taste of something that had been on her mid for ages, and she couldn't help but moan her pleasure against her skin.

Delia’s chest heaved with more labored breathing as Patsy replaced her mouth with her hand and kissed her way across Delia’s chest, mimicking her actions with her other breast.

Patsy’s mouth continued to explore Delia’s naked chest, the redhead wanting to take in the smell of her, how she tasted, how she felt against her lips and how she sounded in response to her touches. She wanted to do more, and she knew she could, but as Patsy kissed her way down to Delia’s navel once more, a slight trembling from the woman under her brought Patsy back to them being alone together in her room. She looked up to see Delia looking back at her nervously.

Patsy sat up, looking to Delia inquiringly.

‘S-sorry,’ Delia said, her shaking hands moving to take a firm grasp of Patsy’s hips to steady themselves, ‘n-no one has ever touched me like this before. I’m… I’m just so nervous.’

‘Why are you nervous, sweetheart?’ Patsy asked, placing a hand over Delia’s heart.  

‘I just… it’s… Pats I’m just worried you won’t… I mean,’ Delia took a deep breath to calm herself, ‘I’m just worried I’ll do something wrong. Like I won’t… I won’t be able to… you know.’

‘Deels,’ Patsy took Delia’s hands in hers and kissed the backs of her fingers, ‘I’m not focused on that right now.’

‘Y-you’re not?’

‘No, and you shouldn’t be either,’ Patsy kissed Delia’s hands one more time and placed them back on her thighs, giving the woman a reassuring smile, ‘I’m focused on adoring your beautiful body and making you feel good.’

Patsy leaned down again and kissed her slowly, her body pressing against Delia’s an she felt the woman seem to calm under her touches, her breathing slow.

‘I-I’m sorry,’ Delia said again, ‘I never… I didn’t expect any of this to happen.’

‘Do you not want to?’

‘No, I do!’ Delia said quickly, ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t help but think of all these bad things that I shouldn't be thinking. Like what if you take off my knickers and don’t like what you see?’ Delia closed her eyes and looked as if she regretted what she said immediately, ‘See? I’m being silly. Gosh, Pats, I’m sorry. I’m ruining this.’

Delia very much looked like she wanted to escape suddenly and be anywhere but here, but Patsy was having none of it.

‘Come here, darling,’ she said softly, dismounting from Delia and laying down beside her on the bed.

The two situated themselves so that Patsy was spooning Delia, Delia’s head in the crook of Patsy’s shoulder with Patsy’s arms wrapped tight around her shoulders.

Patsy raked her fingers through Delia’s short locks as she placed gentle kisses against her ear. She could feel Delia calm herself in her arms, her nervous jitters seeming to dissipate the more time that passed.

When Patsy felt Delia begin to return her touches, bringing her wrist to her mouth for a kiss while her hand lazily stroked her thigh, did Patsy finally find her words.

‘Deels, you’re not ruining anything,’ she said softly, pressing her lips against Delia’s ear, ‘I very much want to make love to you and am absolutely certain I will not run away at the sight of you with your knickers off.’

Delia let out a little laugh, Patsy continuing to stroke Delia’s hair as she felt the woman relax even more in her hold.

‘In fact, the thought of you with your knickers off I find quite enticing actually,’ Patsy added.

‘Likewise,’ Delia said, her hand continuing to graze along Patsy’s thigh.

‘Delia, if you’re nervous about me seeing you, I could just,’ Patsy sighed at the thought, and unconsciously the middle and index fingers of her right hand trailed down Delia’s thigh until they reached her pyjama shorts, the barrier bringing her back to the moment, ‘I could just touch you.’

‘Touch?’ Delia asked, barely above a whisper.

‘Mmhmm,’ Patsy hummed, palming Delia’s inner thigh and gently coaxing the woman to spread her legs.

She could feel Delia’s body tense in her arms at the motion, and she slowed her hand, her fingers circling gently over Delia’s skin as she whispered in her ear.

‘Just like earlier with you and me in the hammock,’ Patsy said, ‘do you remember how I felt on your fingers, hmm?’

‘Yes,’ Delia sighed.

‘Remember how hot I felt? How wet I was for you? I just want to know if you feel that way, too.’

‘Ahh,’ Delia breathed, pressing the back of her head against Patsy’s shoulders and raising her hips to meet Patsy’s hand. Patsy couldn't help but smile, taking this as a sign that Delia might be ready.

‘Just a little…’ Patsy trailed off, losing her train of thought as her fingers dipped under the elastic waistband of Delia’s knickers and shorts, caught off guard when she realized Delia was wiggling her hips, shifting to help her reach, to pull her shorts down just slightly to give Patsy better access.

A silent signal to keep going. The thought made Patsy’s heart skip a beat and she didn’t stop until her fingers found the soft, velvety folds of Delia’s most intimate area, becoming slick with her need.

Both women sighed, relief, anticipation, excitement, desire; all these emotions that had been built up over the last several moments were finally coming to a head, released all at once as Patsy gave a achingly long stroke down the length of Delia, wanting to take her in, mesmerize how she felt.

Patsy pressed her mouth against Delia's ear, her breath hot against her skin and Delia reacted in kind, gasping down breaths of air as she arched her hips into Patsy’s hand, eager for more contact.

Delia’s open shirt gave Patsy the most exciting view of the womans naked torso, her breasts rising and falling with her breathing, the muscles of her stomach contracting and tightening.

Patsy sighed, closing her eyes so she could concentrate. Her fingers explored Delia soft, wet folds as she kissed her ear and neck, taking in her scent and the feeling of her in her arms.

‘You like that, darling?’ Patsy asked, barely registering that she was still able to talk, her mind was so clouded with desire.

Delia could only manage to nod her head, her face contorted and looking concentrated with her brows furrowed and eyes screwed shut.

‘You feel like you like that,’ Patsy whispered, continuing her slow, teasing strokes, as she continued to nuzzle against Delia’s neck, her mouth pulling on her earlobe.

‘Yes, oh, Pats…’ Delia almost pleaded.

‘This is what I was thinking about earlier today,’ Patsy breathed, ‘when you were kissing me. When you had your fingers between my legs. Just like this.’

Delia’s bottom lip quivered, her own hands taking a firm grasp of the bed sheets around her as Patsy rolled her fingers gently over her clit, almost feathering over it, teasing it.

‘Aah!’ Delia cried out, whimpering, ‘god, Patsy, please,’ she pleaded.

‘You want more?’ Patsy asked, feeling rather devilish that she was enticing such a strong reaction out of her love.

‘Patsy,’ Delia whined, arching into Patsy’s body as she pushed her hips against her hand.

Patsy relented, almost feeling terrible for teasing Delia so, but she reasoned there would be plenty of time for that later.

Patsy raked her fingers through Delia’s hair, holding her head against her shoulder while her right hand trailed back up Delia’s stomach, palming over her ribs and her breasts, giving a tender squeeze and making the woman in her arms sigh at her touches.

‘Sorry, I just need to….’ Patsy trailed off as she brought her two fingers to her mouth, her eyes closing as she tasted Delia, and she was every bit as earthy and natural as she imagined.

The taste of Delia on her tongue was what made it so she couldn’t wait any longer. She couldn’t let Delia wait any longer, too.

She licked her lips, savoring Delias natural flavor as her hand made its way beneath Delia’s shorts once more and disappeared between her legs. Once again, Patsy's fingers were surrounded by a wet, velvety softness that felt warm and welcoming. She felt she was being led by instinct the way her fingers moved, each sigh and cry from Delia’s lips driving her to keep going, to please Delia, to make her come.

‘You have no idea how much I wanted to touch you like this,’ Patsy breathed into Delia’s ear, ‘how bad I wanted you, Delia. Fuck, you’re so beautiful.’

Patsy rambled on over the sounds of Delia’s heavy breathing, feeling the woman begin to tense in her arms. Delias whimpering and trembling lip made Patsy think that the woman was holding back, that she was too shy to let go. Patsy could only think of how beautiful Delia’s voice was when she sang, she wanted to hear how she sounded in the throws of passion, too.

‘So beautiful, god,’ Patsy breathed, ‘I wanna hear you pretty girl, please let me hear you,’ she pleaded, her mouth pressed once more to Delia’s ear.

‘Oh, Patsy,’ Delia sighed again, ‘Oh, Pats, you’re gonna make me...’

‘Do it, please Deels, I want you to,’ Patsy breathed.

Delia grasped onto Patsy’s thigh firmly, Patsy feeling her whole body tense as a strong hand clenched her thigh while the other grasped onto her bed sheets.

There was a whimper that turned to a cry, Patsy watching as Delia’s face contorted, her mouth opening to voice her pleasure. Patsy felt Delia lift her hips off the bed and come crashing down again, the woman rolling her hips and Patsy working hard to keep pace with her as she was finally thrown over that edge.

Patsy bit back her own wanton moan, feeling overcome with desire from listing to Delia cry out, feeling her in her arms, writhing in pleasure from her touch. She kissed Delia’s neck, tasting the salt of her sweat on her skin as the woman rocked her hips against her hand.

‘Oh, Deels, you sound so good,’ Patsy sighed as she situated herself on top of Delia, laying the whole length of her body on top of her as she kissed her.

Delia smiled against her kisses, unable to suppress a small giggle that escaped.

‘Did that feel good?’ Patsy asked.

‘That felt amazing, oh’ Delia whispered against her lips, ‘Pats, you’re amazing.’

Patsy couldn’t help but smile into their kisses as she felt Delia wrap her arms around her and hold her tight, their legs entangling once more.

Patsy sighed, enjoying the feeling of Delia pressed against her once more, enjoying her sweet kisses and the little whimpers that escaped her lips as she caught her breath.

She kissed Delia all over, along her cheek, playfully nipping at an earlobe as she kissed her way down her neck, closing her eyes, her tongue reaching out to lick the dip in her neck.

‘What are you…?’ Delia trailed off, watching her with heavy eyes.

‘I just want a little bit more.’

Patsy couldn’t help but moan between her kisses, feeling herself get even more worked up at the thought of what she wanted to do next; it took every ounce of concentration she had to continue.

‘More?’ Delia breathed, her head falling back against the pillows once more as Patsy opened her mouth once more to wrap her lips around a hard nipple.

‘Yes, darling, I need more of you,’ Patsy sighed again, her eyes closing while she let her hands and mouth see for her, ‘I need more of those sweet sounds, this gorgeous body.’

Patsy continued to kiss her way down Delia’s body, her mouth opening to allow for her tongue to taste her sweet skin, her teeth to nip at a jutting hip bone. Her fingers curled under the elastic waistband of her shorts and began to pull them down.

Delia bit her lip and placed a hand over her face, looking thoroughly embarrassed as to what was about to happen.

Patsy halted her motions then and looked up to see the woman was completely red underneath her hands, her blush spreading from her cheeks to the tips of her ears. Patsy realized that Delia must be feeling incredibly nervous, and wondered if anyone had ever seen her naked before in this setting. Given everything Delia had told her earlier, Patsy thought she might be the first one. She reasoned then and there that if she was to continue, she would need to try and help Delia feel more relaxed.

It was becoming much too uncomfortable to keep her own knickers on anyway.

‘Deels, look at me,’ Patsy said softly, moving to kneel beside her on the bed.

She gently grasped Delias wrists and removed her hands from her face, Delia looking almost too scared to look back at her.

‘Hey sexy,’ Patsy said with a smile, earning a shy smile from Delia, ‘I need you to help me with something.’

‘Oh?’ Delia asked, ‘With what?’

‘Oh, you know,’ Patsy said casually, holding her wrist in her hand and pretending to look forlorn, ‘after all that work I did, I just don’t think I have the strength t o take off my clothes all by myself.’

Delia looked away bashfully, hiding her smile behind her hand before she sat up in bed. She leaned back on one hand, the other tentatively reaching out and grazing a finger along the length of Patsy’s arm.

‘I think I can help with that.’

‘Oh, Delia, I wouldn’t want you to go through the trouble,’ Patsy waved her hand dismissively, though felt a little light in the heart when Delia flashed her a brilliant smile.

‘It’s no trouble at all, Pats,’ she said, her hand grazing lower along her hip, then her thigh, sliding slowly under the hem of Patsy’s slip.

‘Well, if you insist,’ she said, lifting herself slightly so that Delia could pull the hem of her slip out from under her bum. Patsy raised both arms as Delia lifted the garment over her head, the silky material tickling her skin along the way.

When Patsy opened her eyes, she saw Delia looking back at her almost naked form, her eyes heavy with desire as a small smile graced her features.

‘These, too,’ Patsy winked, leaning back on her elbows.

Delia licked her lips, almost hungrily as she peeled off Patsy’s simple cotton knickers, guiding them down her legs and letting Patsy kick them off.

Feeling unabashed in her naked state, Patsy sat back up and reached out for Delia’s top.

‘Darling, as cute as you are in these pyjamas, they’re absolutely rumpled from our fooling around. Here,’ she said, sliding Delia’s top off her shoulders, ‘we’ll just take this off and send it to the wash in the morning, hmm?’

Delia blushed and smiled, silently allowing for Patsy to take off her pyjama top.

Once the garment was tossed and forgotten on the floor, Delia leaned forward and scooped Patsy up in her arms, holding her tight and kissing her.

In Patsy’s lustful haze, she almost forgot she had something else on her mind before then, and it only occurred to her what it was when she felt Delia begin to guide her to lay down, her hands palming her hips and her mouth on her breasts, eagerly pulling at the sensitive skin there.

‘No no, not yet,’ Patsy gasped, sitting up and pushing Delia away, ‘I’m not done with you yet, remember?’

‘You’re not?’ Delia asked, allowing for Patsy to push her to lay on her back again.

Delia was so distracted by Patsy’s naked body that she did not protest at all as Patsy helped herself to pulling her shorts and knickers down at last.

‘Oh, not at all darling,’ Patsy hummed as she found herself back where she felt she belonged, on top of Delia and kissing her way down her gorgeous body with several less barriers this time.

‘I’ve only had a tiny taste of you,’ she said, settling between Delia’s and kissing her just under her belly, ‘and I need more.’

Patsy could hear Delia’s breathing hitch higher and higher as her mouth went lower and lower, her kisses deep and slow, building up that anticipation once more to get Delia ready. She didn’t want to pressure the woman to come, but damn it would be wonderful if she did, Patsy thought.

Patsy started slow, closing her eyes as her nose grazed along the length of her, her one hand grasping onto Delia’s hip while the other hitched her leg over her shoulder. She opened her mouth and gave one long, experimental lick, parting Delia.

‘Ah!’ Delia cried, her body feeling tense in Patsy’s hands.

‘Do you want to stop?’ Patsy asked, halting her motions.

‘No, no,’ Delia breathed, ‘no, Pats, keep going, I’ve just… never felt anything like that before.’

Patsy smiled, kissing her inner thigh before she took a deep breath of Delia’s natural scent and buried her head between Delia’s legs once more.

Patsy started slow at first, savoring the feeling of finally tasting another woman like this after it had been so long for Patsy. The motion of opening her mouth, reaching her tongue out to taste the most intimate part of another woman was the most natural and intrinsic thing to Patsy

Her lustful haze had her thinking things she normally wouldn’t think before. Especially about Delia. Delia Delia Delia, oh, how she loved Delia. She would live between this woman's legs if she could. She continued to lick, her tongue exploring, her mouth gently pulling onto those lips and tugging. She wanted to touch all of Delia and taste her. She felt like she needed to surround herself with Delia and she inadvertently pressed her face harder into her, her hands pulling her closer. Patsy found herself squirming, finding herself so turned on that she needed to force herself not to reach down between her own legs and pleasure herself. She needed to focus on Delia now.

She blinked herself back to the moment here in the bedroom when she heard Delia give a bit of a whine, and Patsy realized that she had barely heard from the woman at all through all this. This was her first time after all, and Patsy needed to know if she was enjoying herself.

‘Too hard? Too soft?’ Patsy asked, placing a sweet kiss on a spot that had Delia gasping, ‘talk to me darling, it’s alright.’

‘Um... ,’ Delia swallowed a lump in her throat, seeming much too shy to look at Patsy as she spoke, ‘I liked what you were doing, I just think I need a little more… um… a little…’

She trailed off, seemingly unable to think of the words but Patsy noticed she wiggled a few fingers, which had her raising her eyebrow curiously.

‘Delia, do you want me to use my fingers?’ Patsy asked, rather amused.

‘Um, um,’ Delia pressed her hands to her face again, thoroughly embarrassed once more, ‘I don’t know, Pats!’ she exclaimed, letting out a strangled groan, ‘I-I did it to some of the girls, and they seemed to like it. I’ve been curious to try but then you said you didn’t like it so I didn’t know if I should ask or-,’

‘Deels!’ Patsy exclaimed, halting her girlfriends rambling, ‘sweetheart, it’s alright. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean I don’t like doing it to others.’

‘Does it… does it hurt?’ Delia asked, removing her hands from her eyes and looking down at Patsy worriedly.

Patsy was taken back by the question for a moment but then remembered Delia had never experienced it before. It was a perfectly reasonable question that Patsy didn’t quite know how to answer.

‘I find it… uncomfortable,’ Patsy admitted, ‘but it might hurt. It also might not,’ she shrugged, ‘it might be something we need to try before we know for sure.’

Delia bit her lip, her head hitting the pillows once more as she let out a sigh.

Patsy licked the tips of her two fingers and stroked them where her mouth had been, enticing a gasp from Delia.

‘Why don’t we try,’ Patsy said slowly, using her fingers to massage her slick folds, ‘and if at any time you want to stop, you just say so, alright?’

‘A-alright,’ Delia replied.

Patsy removed her fingers only for a moment to cover her index finger in saliva, bringing it back to Delia and stroking her once more, not wanting to go too fast. She teased her opening, her eyes darting to Delia’s chest and waiting for her to take a deep breath before she pushed in. When she did, she was relieved that the sensation seemed to only entice a sigh from Delia.

Patsy sweetly kissed Delia’s inner thigh as she removed her finger and slowly pushed it back in again, loving how tight Delia felt, how hot and soft.

She removed her finger once more, bringing her index and middle finger to her mouth this time and coating them in saliva before pushing them slowly into Delia. She watched her face, gauging her reaction, and when Delia only continued to look almost euphoric, Patsy pulled out and pushed in again, moaning as she filled her and felt her warmth around her fingers.

Patsy repeated this several times, enjoying the sound of Delia moaning pleasantly as she gently bumped her thumb against her clit.

Unable to resist, Patsy replaced her thumb with her mouth and tasted her once more, rolling her tongue over her clit and making the woman tense and gasp. She took a firm grip of her hip with one hand while she continued to fuck her with the other, watching her, listening and looking for any cues that she might not be enjoying this but thus far Patsy seemed to be pleasing her, and the thought made Patsy pleased with herself.

A small shift with the position of her fingers had her feeling a rather rough patch within Delia, causing the woman to let out a delighted gasp. Patsy hit that spot again and again, curious to know what would happen if she just hooked onto it with her finger.

Oh my god ,’ Delia gasped, rambling ‘ Ohmygodohmygodohmygod .’

Patsy had no idea what she had hit but she made damn sure to keep going, not slowing down or changing her motions in the slightest. She barely felt Delia’s fingers curl in her hair, holding her tight against her as her tongue worked frantically, swirling firmly over her clit while she thrusted her fingers into her, over and over again, hearing Delia;s breathing hitch higher and higher until the woman seemed to be no longer capable of sound. Patsy felt Delia’s body tense under her, her hips rising slightly off the bed, and she was just about to look up to make sure that she was alright when a strangled cry finally escaped her parted lips, and suddenly Patsy felt Delia clench around her fingers so tight that she was unable to move them any longer.

Delia’s hips came crashing down on the bed once more, her cries filling the room as she rocked her hips against Patsy’s face and Patsy not wanting to let go at all, wanting to ride out Delia’s orgasm with her. She kissed her thighs and her hips and anywhere Delia allowed her to kiss that wasn’t overly sensitive with nerves, loving the way Delia felt in her arms, how she sounded, how she looked. Her cheeks were red and her lips parted as she took in deep breaths of air, her chest heaving up and down as she rested an arm o ver her eyes.

Patsy slowly removed her fingers and began to kiss her way back up Delia’s body, humming happily, feeling quite satisfied with herself for pleasing her love. Her mouth followed her hands, kissing along her taut stomach, her ribs and breasts. She smiled happily, giggling when she felt Delia wrap her legs around her hips, her hands on her head, bringing their lips together once more. Delia adorned her with kisses, holding onto Patsy tight as if she never wanted to let go.

‘I want to do that to you,’ Delia whispered, gently urging Patsy to lay on her back, ‘Please, teach me how to do that.’

Patsy was still catching her breath herself after having made Delia come for a second time, that she could hardly think straight or handle the sensory overload of having Delia’s mouth on her in that instant, kissing her chest, her breasts, her hands feeling like they were all over her. Patsy blinked herself back to the moment and looked down to see a very desire driven Delia sinking to the floor to sit on her knees on the side of the bed, her big blue eyes looking back up at Patsy expectancy.

‘Please, cariad,’ she asked again softly, her hands gently caressing Patsy’s thighs, parting them, ‘tell me what to do.’

How could she resist any longer when she had the woman she loved looking back up at her between her legs, so eager to please her?

Patsy grinned, unable to hold back her excitement any longer.

Finally, Patsy pounced.




Chapter Text

Patsy embraced the feeling of soft sheets against naked skin, feeling warm and cozy but subconsciously knowing that she wanted to keep sleeping. She had experienced the deepest, most satisfying sleep that she had had in a long time and she never wanted it to end. She reached over to the other side of the bed, expecting to feel another warm body, but rested her hand on empty space. She was so relaxed that realizing she was alone in bed wasn’t enough to pull her out of her slumber.

While she stretched like a cat in a sunbeam, the sound of a needle being placed lightly on a spinning record was what lured Patsy into the world of consciousness.

The soft tones of a piano filled the room, and the imagery that flowed into her head was one of fantasy and imagination. One of flowers and nature and butterflies. It had been the record she played over and over again while writing her novel.

‘Debussy?’ Patsy mumbled to no one in particular.

‘That it is,’ came a voice on the other side of the room.

Patsy took in a big breath of air and rubbed her eyes, working up the strength to sit up and take in her surroundings.

The mid morning sunlight filtered through the white curtains into the room, giving the space a warm glow. On the table by the door was a tray with a teapot and cups, steam rising from the spout.

Patsy turned her head and saw Delia casually sitting on her desk chair with her feet propped up on the bed. Dressed in a simple white T-shirt and jeans, she was holding a stack of papers in her hand and licked her thumb before turning a page. Patsy realized it was the rough draft of the novel she had frantically written the night she was almost struck by lightning.

Typically anyone reading her unfinished writing would leave her a bundle of nerves, but in this instance, seeing Delia so enthralled in her work that she didn't even seem to notice Patsy had risen, left Patsy feeling very excited to know what Delia thought of it.

‘Why are you out of bed?’ Patsy asked, raking her fingers through her hair to get it out of her face, 'and dressed?’

Delia looked over to her with a dimple inducing smirk, ‘To fetch my love some tea, of course. Which is getting frightfully cold, I’m afraid. Won’t you have some?’

Patsy's head hit the pillow as she smiled, taking a moment to admire Delia, her hair still a mess from their late night activities and having her looking particularly adorable.

‘Won’t you bring it to me?’ Patsy asked, reaching a hand out to her.  

Delia smiled and poured Patsy a cup of tea, rising from her seat and placing the cup on the bedside table.

As soon as the tea was safely set down, Patsy grasped Delia's wrist and pulled her onto the bed, the woman landing ungracefully with a thump.

The two fell into a fit of giggles, becoming a mess of entangled arms and legs. Patsy found herself wrapped up in her bed sheets and laying on top of Delia with their bare feet hanging off the side of the bed. She particularly enjoyed having the woman under her and found herself nuzzling her nose and lips against her neck, the sensation relaxing Delia as she arched her body onto Patsy's.

The two spent several quiet moments simply kissing and sharing tender touches. As Delia laid there quietly, Patsy found herself simply looking at her, her head propped up in her hand while the fingers if her other traced the outline be if an ear or a jawline. She admired Delia's long eyelashes and tan skin, her cute nose and full lips that sends to be permanently fixed into a relaxed smile.

‘Pats,’ Delia started.

‘Yes darling?’

‘I thought you were working on your fathers memoirs?’

‘I am.’

‘Then why did I just read halfway through a story about fairies and half humans with deer antlers?’

Patsy felt quite shy suddenly at the comment, wondering just what Delia actually thought of her story.

‘Oh, well, let’s just say I had a flash of inspiration,’ Patsy remarked, fiddling with the hem of Delia’s t-shirt, ‘spent a few sleepless nights and days just getting it all out and what you read is the end result.’

‘Is that part of the writing process you told me about? Long periods of sitting around thinking about writing with short bursts of actual, manic writing?’ Delia asked teasingly with a half smile.

‘I’d say that’s about the gist of it, yeah,’ Patsy replied, her fingers finding the soft skin of Delia’s tummy and making all circles, ‘so will you tell me what you’re thinking?’

‘About your writing?’

Patsy huffed, ‘Yes, Delia, you’re being very elusive about it.’

‘Sorry,’ Delia said, running her fingers through Patsy’s hair, ‘I suppose I didn’t want you thinking I just go picking up and reading any old thing. It caught my eye and when I realized it wasn’t a diary, I couldn’t help myself.’

‘And?’

‘And I really love it,’ Delia said, and Patsy responded with a brilliant smile, ‘I think it’s wonderful, cariad, so creative and captivating. As much as I don't want to leave your side I’ll be happy when you’re asleep again so I can sneak away and finish it.’

Patsy responded by giving a laugh and letting herself fall into Delia’s arms again, wrapping her own around the woman’s body and kissing her full on the lips.

‘My goodness Delia,’ Patsy exclaimed, ‘I’ve just realized you’re the first person to read it.’

‘Am I?’

‘Of course. I’m actually kind of happy it was you. Think it’s the first thing I’ve shared with only you,’ Patsy smiled as she tenderly tucked a strand of hair behind Delia’s ear, ‘The thought makes me happy.’

‘It makes me happy, too,’ Delia smiled, pulling Patsy down for another kiss.

The two began to kiss again, their giggles turning to sighs as hands wandered and mouths opened. Patsy playfully pulled on a bottom lip before moving to place several kisses on Delia’s cheek and ear. She moved down to her neck, enjoying the little giggles and sighs she was enticing from the woman as her hands found their way under her top, her fingers feeling soft, warm skin and waning just a little bit more.

Delia gasped when she felt the button on he trousers snap open, and Patsy gave a rather cheeky smile against her neck.

‘Again?’ she asked, sounding surprised.

'With a glowing review like that how could I not want to tear your clothes off?’

‘Is that all it takes?’ Delia grinned as Patsy gave her a light smack on the arm.

With a fresh vigor, Patsy pulled on Delia's top, forcing her to sit up so she could remove the garment.

'Perhaps,’ she said slowly, taking in the sight of a topless Delia, ‘and I also just want to see you, darling.’

Patsy was very pleased to see Delia was without a bra under her top. She had little time to admire her though as Delia pulled her bed sheets away and had her landing on her back with a shout. Delia nearly growled as her mouth and hands descended on Patsy’s body as she playfully kissed her, her mouth lightly pulling on the skin of her neck and making Patsy laugh and squirm under her. Delia held Patsy in her strong hands as she continued to kiss lower and lower, kissing along the valley between her breasts before opening her mouth and enthusiastically sucking on a nipple. The act had Patsy thinking of the night before and all the ways she taught Delia to please her with her mouth. She was looking forward to a repeat performance so much that her fingers found their way into Delia’s messy hair and squeezed, and she unconsciously began to guide her head down lower and lower until Delia’s mouth was placing kissed all over her tummy and hips.

‘Oi, Deels, you in there?’ came a new vice.

‘Ah!’ Patsy screamed, reflexively pushing Delia away with such force that the poor woman was knocked clear off the bed, landing on the hardwood with a loud thump.

Patsy quickly grasped the duvet to cover her chest and looked over to see a figure in the window.

‘Well I suppose that answers my question,’ Valerie mused, unashamedly poking her head through and looking around.

‘Valerie!’ Delia exclaimed from her spot on the floor, ‘bit busy here!’

‘How am I supposed to know that?’ Valerie replied incredulously, ‘Could have put a sock on the door so I know not to bother you.’

‘A sock on the door isn’t going to do us any bloody good when you come in through the window like that!’ Delia exclaimed.

‘I wouldn’t have to come through the window if you’d answered when I knocked!’

‘Knock louder!’

‘Valerie!’ Patsy exclaimed, tired of being in the middle of their shouting, ‘The door is unlocked, just… come in, will you?’

‘What?’ Delia asked, her voice lowering to a harsh whisper and looking perturbed, ‘ no, she can wait!’

‘Deels ,’ Patsy chided, also whispering as she looked down at Delia.

‘Pats ,’ Delia replied in the same tone, ‘ I don’t want her seeing me in this state!

If you’re so worried about being seen naked then just put on my dressing gown ,’ Patsy offered, her eyes darting to the garment that was hanging on the back of the en suite door.  

What?! I’m not putting on that thing .’

‘What’s wrong with my dressing gown?!’

‘It’s so frilly! And pink!’

‘Well you can just stay half naked then if you’re going to be so fussy about it!’

‘Shall I get naked too to fit in or...?’

Both Patsy and Delia’s head whipped around at Valerie who was standing at the end of the bed, looking around casually with her hands in her pockets, not as all affected by her friends state of undress.

‘Ah!’ Delia shouted at the sight of her and reached for Patsy’s duvet, almost pulling the thing clear off Patsy before she had the reflexes to grab hold of it.

There was a scuffling and more whisper shouts of ‘ give it here! ’ and ‘ scoot over!’ before Patsy and Delia were wrapped securely in the duvet, sitting side by side on Patsy’s bed and protecting their modesty.

‘This tea?’ Valerie asked, looking to the two of them and remaining completely unfazed at their behavior.

‘Help yourself,’ Delia tisked, still sounding annoyed at her friend.  

‘Thanks,’ Valerie said, pouring herself a cup of tea before she settled in to Patsy’s desk chair. She took a long sip as she took a moment to peruse Patsy's record collection.

Patsy could hear Delia huff next to her.

‘Valerie, what is it?’ Delia asked impatiently.

Patsy looked over to Delia and could have sworn steam was about to bellow from her nostrils.

‘Just wanted a chat,’ Valerie said, leaning back in Patsy's desk chair and sipping her tea.

‘A chat couldn’t have waited?’ Delia asked, her foot tapping impatiently on the bed.

Patsy looked from Delia to Valerie, studying her motions. From the way she was fiddling with the teacup in her hands, how the muscles in her jaw clenched, looking as if she were about to say something then stopping herself, well it wasn’t at all in Valerie's character to be so indirect and hesitant. Patsy wondered if something truly was the matter with the woman.

‘What on your mind, Val?’ Patsy asked, looking to her friend curiously.

‘Ah, you know,’ Valerie gave a halfhearted smile, ‘it’s Sunday. Everyone else is in church so I thought I’d pop by and have a visit.’

‘Just pop by,’ Delia seethed with a grunt, ‘couldn’t have waited ten more minutes.’

Patsy nudged Delia with her elbow.

‘Hush. Valerie, you’re always welcome to come in here,’ Patsy said with a kind smile, though the look on Valerie's face made her feel jittery with nerves, ‘Oh, gosh,’ she continued, unable to control herself, ‘now that I think of it this is the first time you’ve been in my room hasn’t it? Suppose I should have made that more clear, but then we always seem to chat at the bar over a drink which I think is rather fun anyway-,’

‘I’m pregnant,’ Valerie said suddenly, cutting off Patsy’s anxious blathering.

Both Patsy and Delia looked at their fiend, Patsy with her jaw slack, looking completely gobsmacked and Delia looking as if she hadn’t heard her friend properly.

‘What?’ Delia said simply.

‘I’m…’ Valerie started, her expression changing to one of nerves to anger in that moment as she hastily placed her teacup back on the tray, ‘Oh, you heard me say it the first time!’

Delia’s expression turned from confusion to anger in a matter of seconds, and Patsy could practically feel the heat radiate from the smaller woman's body.

‘Was it one of my brothers?’ Delia seethed, her breathing becoming more and more labored.

‘Delia, no,’ Valerie insisted.

‘Which one? Tell me who it is! I’ll kill ‘im.’

Delia had forgotten her state of undress and swiftly moved from her spot on the bed to the door, both Patsy and Valerie lunging after her and pulling her back from the door before she could bolt out of there.

‘Delia! Don’t be daft! It wasn’t one of them, I swear,’ Valerie pleaded.

‘Then what,’ Delia looked thoroughly confused, ‘just… how?’

‘What do you mean how!?’ Valerie bellowed, clenching her fists, her face turning red with a mixture of anger and embarrassment, ‘Got knocked up like everyone else does, didn’t I?’

‘But Valerie I thought you were… I thought...’ Delia trailed off, flailing her hands, not sure what to say.

‘What, a lesbian?!’ Valerie shouted.

‘Well, yes!’

‘Just because I had sex with a bloke doesn’t make me any less of a dyke!’

‘Does it?!’

‘You’re seriously arguing right now?’

Patsy clutched her duvet and looked back at the two women with wide eyes, silently watching the exchange, much too stunned to do or say anything.

‘I get lonely too, you know!’ Valerie said, thrusting her thumb into her chest, ‘I make mistakes! I.. I…’ Valerie’s bottom lip quivered as heavy tears crested over her eyes.

Delia seemed to calm herself at the sight of this, reaching out to Valerie to try and offer a comforting hand.

‘Val…’

Valerie slapped her hand away, and Delia too a step back, stunned.

‘Not all of us are lucky enough to have the love of our lives just waltz on through here,’ Valerie said, thrusting her hand in Patsy’s direction, ‘It’s been years for me, Delia, years ! I give into some charming bloke who gave me a decent amount of attention for one night ,’ she said, raising her finger, ‘and now I’ve got to deal with my fuckup for the rest of my life! I feel horrible enough as it is, Delia!’

Valerie whirled around the threw open the door. She turned back to Delia, seething.

‘I’m not going to stand there and let you judge me, Delia, I just won’t!’

Valerie stepped out and slammed the door behind her so hard the walls reverberated violently.

‘Valerie!’ Delia called out, moving to run after her.

‘Delia! Your clothes!’ Patsy shouted.

Both Patsy and Delia scrambled, Delia clumsily pulling her t-shirt over her head while Patsy hastily ran to her bureau, throwing on a summer dress.

Delia was already out the door, zipping up her trousers while Patsy was hopping on one foot, situating herself into a pair of fresh knickers.

‘Where did she go?’ Delia asked, looking around.  

Patsy raked her fingers through her hair and looked around, not seeing the woman in sight.

‘You check the house and I’ll look in the pub?’ Patsy offered.

Delia gave a nod and sprinted off, leaving Patsy to run the other way.

It was made apparent quite quickly to Patsy that Valerie was not in the pub. It was dark ,and chairs were still turned over upside down on the tables from cleaning the floors the night before. Even though she thought it was silly, Patsy checked behind the bar and even in the closets, wanting to leave no potential hiding space unchecked.

Patsy ran into Delia in the hallway as she descended the stairs.

‘Any luck?’

‘No, you?’

‘No.’

Delia raced past Patsy back out into the gardens, looking around frantically again. Her gaze rested on the trees for just a moment before she turned back to Patsy.

‘Come on,’ she said, reaching for Patsy’s hand, ‘this way.’

Holding hands, the two ran barefoot through the garden, reaching the path that led through the trees and not stopping until they reached the other side, passing the twins bungalow and the pig pens and chicken coop.

Patsy only slowed down when Delia did, catching her breath as she tried to ignore her pounding heart and the burning in her lungs from running. She wiped the sweat from her brow, and her heart leapt into her throat as she caught a rather familiar sight of a figure by the stone portal, very similar to her dream and how she had written about it in her story. Delia looked back at Patsy before letting go of her hand, and began to slowly walk towards Valerie. Patsy followed close behind.

‘Valerie?’ Delia asked tentatively, reaching a hand out and placing it on a stone.

Patsy did the same on the other side, finding Valerie sitting, curled up with her arms wrapped around her legs, her head tucked between her knees. Her shoulders shook as she tried to hide her crying.

‘Valerie, I’m sorry…’ Delia began, trailing off as she waited for Valerie’s reaction.

‘Why are you sorry?’ Valerie asked, sniffing, ‘You’re not the one who's sorry here.’

‘You know what I mean,’ Delia pleaded, ‘I regret what I said back there. I’m not judging you, I promise. The news just… took me by surprise is all.’

‘Yeah, well, me too,’ Valerie replied, harshly wiping a tear from her eye.

‘Was it,’ Delia paused, thinking through her words carefully, ‘was it just a one time thing?’

Valerie looked remorseful, but nodded.

‘Yeah, he was… from out of town. Not Welsh, that’s for sure. Remember thinking he was the cleanest looking bloke I’d ever seen come through that pub. Wasn’t dirty like the rest of the men who work down the quarry.’

Valerie sniffed and the other two remained silent, waiting for her to continue.

‘And… I don’t know, Delia. He just started chatting me up at the bar and one thing led to another, and now I… I…’

Unsure of what to say, the three women remained silent, Patsy and Delia waiting for Valerie to collect herself enough to speak, though when Valerie raised her head again to look at them, her face was red, her eyes desperate and scared.

‘Delia, I don’t know what to do,’ she choked out, suppressing a sob.

‘It’s alright,’ Delia said, to which Valerie harshly wiped a tear from her eye and shook her head.

‘No, Delia, it’s not,’ Valerie said, sniffing, ‘I don’t want this. I don’t want to be a mum, I don’t…’

Valerie’s face seemed to crack, her jaw clenching at fat tears rolled down her cheeks and dripped off her chin.

‘Valerie, come here,’ Patsy said, sitting next to her and wrapping her arms around her friend. She tucked Valerie's head into the crook of her shoulder and let Valerie cry, Valerie’s hands reaching out and grasping onto Patsy’s arm.

Patsy didn't have any answers in the moment, only knowing that Valerie was in distress and needed a comforting hand.

Like Valerie, Patsy didn’t know what to do either. As Valerie cried on her shoulder, she looked up at Delia whose expression only seemed to convey the very same thing.


Chapter Text

Patsy sat on the rope swing, gently rocking herself back and forth as she gazed out only the lake, the water having turned a dark black in the moonless night. She worried her hands in her lap, feeling a ball of anxiety sitting heavy in her stomach. Her heart was thumping in her chest, a nagging twinge of pain that left her feeling in a state of uncertainty, in a state of limbo. She did something earlier that day that she now was second guessing and she was dreading the consequences.

'Can't be any worse than how Valerie was feeling,’ Patsy mumbled to herself, thinking of her friend who had just that morning told her and Delia of her unexpected pregnancy.

She and Delia had remained there at the stone portal for some time with Valerie, holding the crying woman and trying to console her, insisting she would be a good mother despite her protests.

'Why don't we go back to the house and have a cuppa?’ Delia offered kindly, and after she had settled a bit, Valerie seemed to be receptive to the offer.

The three women walked back to the main house, Patsy with her arm around Valerie's waist while Valerie hung her head low, sad and ashamed. Patsy felt heartbroken for her friend and was saddened that she couldn't think of anything to help her other than to be there for her to cry on.

'Pats, will you please help me in the kitchen?’ Delia asked politely, though Patsy noticed a tone that let her know saying ‘no’ was not an option.  

The two walked into the kitchen and Patsy had to once again duck her head to keep from hitting the streams of dried herbs hanging in bundles from the ceiling.

Delia searched the cupboards, pushing plates and glasses out of the way noisily until she retrieved a white kettle with little red flowers painted on it.

Patsy watched as Delia filled it with water and placed it on the stove with a sigh, lighting a match to start the flame in the gas stovetop.

'I'm going to need your help today with Valerie,’ she started, digging through her pockets for a tin of tobacco and rolling papers.

'Mind making me one of those?’ Patsy asked, the sight of the tobacco striking a craving within her.

Delia smirked as she rolled the first one.

‘The twins and I have a lot of work to get started on today and for the rest of the week,’ Delia said, 'and I need for you to be with Valerie.’

‘Really?’ Patsy asked, raising an eyebrow, 'What work? What are you doing?’

Delia leaned down to light the first cigarette on the flame from the stove, puffing until smoke billowed from the small stick. She stood up straight again and handed it to Patsy.

'I don't know if you've noticed, but since we made our record, the pub has been bursting at the seams with people coming all over to listen to us play.’

Patsy shrugged as she took a drag, ‘What's so bad about that?’

'It's a fire hazard,’ Delia said plainly as she lit her own cigarette.

'Oh?’

'And mum was not happy when the fire brigade knocked on our door last night to issue us all a citation,’ Delia added as she puffed.

'Oh dear,’ Patsy remarked, knowing full well the kind of fuss Enid must have made to receive a fine.

'It's alright, nobody really knew. Never expected we'd be so popular,’ Delia placed her cigarette between her lips while she gathered a tray, stacking on it some old, chipped, mismatched teacups.

'So what, do you and your brother's need to take on extra work to pay it off?’ Patsy asked.

'No, no, nothing like that. Mam said she would take care of the fine, but we need more room in the pub.’

'You're going to make it bigger?’

'Need a more quick fix than that,’ Delia said, 'Mam is having us build an outdoor space. Something simple that won't take too long, mind. We want to try and lay down a deck with a railing, have a little stage where we could play outside when it's nice.’

'Oh, Delia that sounds rather splendid!’ Patsy remarked excitedly.

'Yes well, we were discussing it with Mam last night after we got the citation. We need to move and replant one of the garden beds to make space, which she isn't happy about but it needs to be done.’

'Sounds like you've got your work cut out for you.’

'Yes, which is why I need your help.’

'Howso?’ Patsy’s eyes darted around nervously, hoping Delia wasn’t going to ask her to actually help with building anything. God knows what happened the last time she so much as tried to cook something. She imagined what would happen if she tried to use a hammer, and it wasn’t pretty.

'Valerie,’ Delia said as the kettle began to scream, 'this… well, this is all rather out of the blue, isn't it.’

Patsy gave an affirming humm while she took another long drag of her cigarette.

'Even I'm still in shock,’ Delia sighed, ‘Trying to wrap my head around it, but I'm not the one who's pregnant here.’

'Well I want to do what I can but I haven't a clue,’ Patsy said honestly, feeling a little hopeless, 'I'm not a nurse like you two are. I don't know anything about pregnancy or babies.’

'Valerie doesn't need a nurse right now. She needs a friend,’ Delia said as she smoked the last of her cigarette and flicked the butt into the stovetop flame where it turned to ash, ‘She… she's scared and upset and probably just wants to take her mind off things.’

Patsy looked off in the distance, taking a last long drag of her cigarette as she considered Delia's words.

Delia picked up the tray of tea and looked at Patsy pleadingly.

'Pats, look, I'm taking the truck into town once the boys are back from church. Need to pick up lumber and materials and all that. I want you and Valerie to come with us and maybe you could, I don't know, spend the day on town? Maybe take her to the cinema? Really anything to help her be cheery again and take her mind off things.’

That all sounded very reasonable to Patsy, and she nodded, feeling her anxiety over the whole matter dissipate slightly.

Delia smiled and the two made their way back to the pub. Though upon opening the swinging door, they saw that no one was there.

Patsy quickly walked to the door that lead out to the gardens while Delia checked behind the bar.

She poked her head outside and found Valerie sitting on a little stool plucking the petals off a flower. Her heart sank in her chest when she realized that Valerie was sitting just beneath the kitchen window.

'I don't need a nanny you know,’ Valerie said, her voice low and gaze firm on the flower in her hands, 'I'm not going to do anything drastic like you think I might.’

Valerie plucked the last of the petals off the flower and used her thumb to flick the head of it off the stem.

'Even though I don't want to be a mum… I don't want a kid… I would never… you know.’

Patsy reached out to Valerie, falling to her knees and sitting on the ground next to her with her hands on her arm.

'Valerie, sweetie, I know. We would never think that,’ Patsy insisted, looking at Valerie pleadingly. She reckoned the woman had enough emotional turmoil going on inside of her at the moment that she didn't need her friends doubting her just then.

'Sorry Val,’ Delia said, standing shyly by the door to the pub, 'just hate seeing you upset is all.’

‘Well get used to it,’ Valerie said stubbornly, 'really gotten myself in it now, haven't I?’

She picked up a stone and chucked it angrily into one of the garden beds, causing a pair of birds to flutter off.

'Should have never come here,’ Valerie said gloomily, ‘Wouldn't be so lonely if I had just stayed in the city.’

Valerie looked spitefully at Delia for a moment that made Patsy's blood run cold, but just a second later, Valerie relaxed her gaze and looked away.

'Sorry,’ she said, crossing her arms over her chest, ‘Im not cross at you but I'm jealous of your incredible luck sometimes, Delia, having a posh bird like Patsy just show up out of the blue and fall in love with you.’

‘Luck?’ Delia said incredulously, pointing to her eyebrow, ‘Does this scar on my head look like luck to you?’

‘You have someone who loves you, Delia!’ Valerie yelled, ‘You have a family who loves you. A whole village! The entire country soon if you and your brothers keep going as you are with your music!’

Valerie paused to take a deep breath. Her nostrils flared in anger as her cheeks tinged a shade of pink.

‘And what ‘ave I got, hmm? No home of my own, no family out here. No girlfriend or lover. The one friend I’ve got has been too preoccupied for me to talk to… to talk me out of making the biggest mistake of my life!’  

Valerie's lip quivered as she choked down a sob, looking desperately at Delia who seemed rather stunned.

Patsy reached up just then and placed her hand on Valerie's cheek.

Valerie looked back down at her with an intense gaze, almost shaking.

‘Delia’s not the only friend you’ve got,’ Patsy said softly.

Valerie's anger seemed to vanish in an instant, and she looked away as a single tear rolled down her cheek and off her chin.

‘Sorry, Pats, I didn’t mean…’ Valerie trailed off and shook her head, unable to continue.

‘I know,’ Patsy said, her hand moving to Valerie's hand and giving a gentle squeeze. She felt deeply sympathetic of her friends woes, recalling a time in her life where she had been separated from her home and family and felt she didn’t have a friend in the world. She knew exactly what Valerie needed to hear in this moment.

‘Val, I love you. You’re truly one of the best friends I’ve ever had,’ Patsy said sincerely, ‘And I’m sure Delia feels the same as I.’

Patsy looked over her shoulder to see Delia blushing fiercely, silently nodding her head as she rubbed her arm awkwardly, looking as if she were unsure of what to do with herself.

‘I-I do,’ Delia stuttered, ‘I do love you Val.’

Valerie sniffed and harshly wiped a tear from her eye.

‘Sorry, I just… I love you too. I’m sorry, Pats, I didn’t… I mean, you’ve been a great friend to me too. I’m sorry I said what I said. Shouldn’t have lost my temper like that.’

‘Val, it’s alright,’ Patsy said, feeling slightly relieved, ‘I just want to make sure you know I’m here for you. If you ever need someone to talk you out of ever sleeping with a man again, I’m the one to come to, understand?’

Valerie gave a laugh and nodded, leaning back against the house and she let out a sigh.

‘I have to say though, I do sometimes think it would be nice if someone could just,’ she trailed off, taking in a deep breath, and letting it out again, ‘appear out of the blue and fall into my arms. Kind of how you did with Delia here, Pats.

Patsy looked up in thought, recalling the moment she met Delia; it had been the Welsh woman falling from the ceiling into her arms. Or, just plain falling on her rather.

Patsy whirled around to Delia, who looked back surprised at her abrupt motion.

'Should I tell her how it really happened?’ Patsy asked with a bit of cheek.

Delia slumped her shoulders.

'I’d rather you didn't,’ she pleaded, a fierce blush crawling up her neck and across her cheeks at the memory.

'Tell me what?’ Valerie asked.

'Falling into a woman's arms isn't all it's cracked up to be’ Delia quipped.

'Unless you're talking about almost cracking a skull,’ Patsy added with an eyeroll.

Valerie shook her head, choosing to drop whatever her friends were talking about and she looked back out onto the gardens with a deep sigh. The three women were silent for several moments while the church bells rang in the distance. Before long, Valerie was letting out a loud groan, and she covered her face with her hands and rested her elbows on her knees.

'I can't believe this. I can't believe my stupidly.’

‘Valerie,’ Patsy said warningly.

‘I had plans!’ Valerie exclaimed, ‘I was going to travel. I wanted to see if I could get back into nursing and join the army or something. I can't do that now! I can't do anything!’

Valerie's breathing accelerated and she clutched onto her chest, looking and sounding as if she were on the cusp of having a panic attack.

‘Oh, christ, my life is over!’ she exclaimed.

Delia finally rushed over to be by her friends side, and told Valerie to put her head between her knees.

Valerie did as instructed while Patsy and Delia both placed a comforting hand on Valerie, rubbing her back and working to calm the woman down.

'Valerie you know there will be nothing stopping you from doing any of those things if you have a baby,’ Delia said.

'Do you remember the bit where I said I didn't even want to be a mum?’ Valerie said into her knees and Delia rolled her eyes.

'Valerie, come now,’ Patsy interjected with a tone of authority before Delia could give a retort, 'No use in getting all worked up over something out of our hands. We're going to take all this in stride. One day at a time. Starting now.’

Valerie gave another deep sigh as she sat up, taking a few breaths as she wiped the tears from her eyes once more.

‘Atta girl,’ Patsy beamed, ‘Chin up and carry on.’

‘How very English of you,’ Delia teased.

Patsy chose to ignore her and rose to her feet, ‘Well now, I think I heard the church bells ringing, which leads me to believe it’s almost time to head into town for the day?’

She looked down at Valerie and Delia who merely blinked.

‘Well? Will you be joining us Valerie?’

Valerie looked uncertain and turned her gaze to Delia.

‘Do come,’ Delia said, ‘even if it’s just for a change of scenery. You might even have some fun.’

‘Oh,’ Valerie tisked, sounding as if she were relenting, ‘I suppose I wouldn’t mind an iced lolly or something sweet right about now.’

‘That's the spirit!’ Patsy said with an enthusiastic wave of her fist.

‘That reminds me Pats,’ Delia began with a half smile, her eyes suspiciously focused on Patsy’s chest, ‘if we are indeed going into town, may I suggest you put on a suitable brassier?’

Patsy looked down at her chest and noted that it was very obvious she was hardly wearing anything under her summer dress, the one she hastily threw on before she and Delia raced out of her room to go and look for Valerie who had run off in a state.

‘Quite.’

Patsy turned and ran back to her room to the sound of Delia and Valerie giggling at her, the two of them rising to their feet while Delia ushered Valerie back into the house to help her friend get ready herself for a day in town.

Chapter Text

Patsy and Valerie sat together in the cab of the truck with Delia driving, the two taller women feeling rather squished to one side so Delia could maneuver the stick shift. The twins were in the boot, limbs sprawled and waving to the neighbors they passed while having a fag.

Clutched in Patsy’s arms and held tight against her chest to keep from blowing away in the wind were two bundles of paper, one was her father's memoirs she had finally finished, and the other the novel she had written in a flurry some nights ago. Tied together with a simple string, Patsy decided that morning as she changed into more appropriate attire that she shouldn't dwell on the story and just send it off to London. She was nervous for her publisher to review her work, what with it being unlike anything she had written before, but if she were going to make a change with her writing then she needed to take the leap sometime.

‘Wish I was back there with them,’ Valerie griped as she squirmed uncomfortably, breaking Patsy of her thoughts.

'No way,’ Patsy said sternly, 'don't need to put you in any dangerous situations with the state you’re in.’

‘Yeah,’ Delia nodded, ‘I don’t care if they fall out the boot, but you I’d mind.’

'Can I at least have a fag?’ Valerie pleaded.

'Val, no!’ Delia shouted, 'you know it’s bad to to smoke when you’re… you know,’ she trailed off awkwardly, looking back to the road ahead of her.

'Aw come on Deels,’ Valerie whined, 'I've been crying all morning. The fags Patsy's got from the city are supposed to soothe your throat.’

‘That’s bullshit and you know it,’ Delia replied.

Valerie turned to give Patsy a hopeful look.

Patsy, unsure of what to do, darted her eyes from Valerie to Delia several times, Valerie looking hopeful and Delia looking stern.

‘Um, oh look at that! We’re here!’ Patsy shouted as they slowed to a stop in town, feeling rather relieved.

Delia parked right outside of the hardware shop and the boys climbed out immediately and headed inside.

The three women were not far behind, but before Patsy could walk off with Valerie, she felt Delia gently grab her arm.

‘Listen, we might finish up here before you and Val are ready to come back,’ Delia said while she began to fish around in her pocket, ‘so you call the inn when you're ready to come home and I’ll swing by and get you, yeah?’

Delia held out in her hand a few quid for Patsy to take.

‘Do you need money for the movies?’ Delia asked, and moved to dig around in her pockets once more, ‘I think I might have just enough…’

‘Deels,’ Patsy stopped her, unable to hide the grin on her face as she found the gesture of Delia wanting to take care of her and Valerie this way completely heartwarming and endearing, ‘I’ve got my own pocket money and more than enough to entertain Valerie for an afternoon. You go on in and take care of your brothers and I’ll look after Val.’

‘I’m standing right here you know,’ Valerie huffed, ‘don’t have to talk about me like I’m some kid.’

‘Alright then,’ Delia sighed and pocketed her money again, ‘you two run off and have fun.’

Delia turned to follow her brothers, but stopped at the sound of Patsy coughing rather abruptly.

'Excuse me,’ Patsy began sternly, placing her hands on her hips.

Delia turned on her heel and looked rather curiously at Patsy, who smirked.

'What's wrong?’ she asked.

'We’re officially sweethearts Delia,’ Patsy said matter of factly, ‘You are never again to part from me without a goodbye kiss.’

With a shy smile that broke out into a bashful grin, Delia stepped forward and lifted her cap.

'As you wish, darling,’ she said softly.

The two shared a sweet kiss that had Patsy's heart fluttering and her mind dashing back to all the inappropriate things they had gotten up to just the night before.

Patsy sighed wistfully as Delia pulled away with a smile and disappeared into the shop. She turned just in time to catch Valerie rolling her eyes.

‘Now then,’ she said cheerily, ‘what’ll it be Val?’

Patsy took her free arm and linked it with Valerie's, and began to walk down the road to the center of town.

‘Do you want to go to the cinema? I think they’re still playing Lawrence of Arabia!’

Valerie grumbled and Patsy huffed.

‘Oh, come now, I hear it’s a good one,’ she said encouragingly.

‘Donno Pats,’ Valerie sighed, ‘I’m not really in the mood for something like that. Don’t really fancy spending all afternoon in a dark theater with it being so nice out today and all.’

Patsy looked around and spotted the music shop where Delia and her brothers recorded their first record.

‘How about we go and listen to records?’ Patsy asked hopefully, ‘We can see if they’ve got anything new in from the states? You like Elvis, don’t you?’

Valerie sighed, hemming and hawing and seeming adamant on being contrary.

‘Iced lolly?’

‘No,’ Valerie groaned, ‘I mean, any other time yes, but they remind me too much of my gran. She would send me and my cousins off with a few bob to get a cone from the shop.’

Valerie unlinked her arm from Patsy’s and gave a frustrated sigh.

‘Sorry, Pats, but now all I’m thinking is how disappointed my gran is going to be. My mum. I know you’re trying to make me feel better but this isn’t going to go away,’ Valerie sighed and crossed her arms, looking away ashamed, ‘just wish there was someone I could talk to I suppose, but I’m too afraid to even say anything, you know?’

Patsy let out a deep breath feeling rather hopeless that she didn’t seem to have the information her friend needed.

Then she looked down at the books in her arms and realized she might know a place where she could get such an education.

‘Well, since there doesn’t seem to be any point in trying to take your mind off things, we may as well embrace it and learn all there is to know about it.’

‘How do you mean?’ Valerie asked just as Patsy grasped her hand and began to pull her down the road, ‘wait, where are we going?’

‘To the book shop!’ Patsy replied enthusiastically.

‘W-wait!’ Valerie exclaimed, dragging her feet, ‘I can’t go in there looking for books on… on babies ,’ she whispered as if she were saying something completely forbidden.

‘Whyever not?’

‘Because then someone might think I’m… you know,’ she lowered her voice and looked around to make sure the coast was clear, ‘ Expecting .’

Patsy pursed her lips and placed her hand on her hip.

‘Oh, don’t look at me like that,’ Valerie huffed, ‘I know very well I am but I sure as hell don’t need the whole bloody village making assumptions.’

‘Well fine,’ Patsy tisked, ‘I’ll go in by myself, but you can do something for me in the meantime.’

She handed her two bundles of papers over to Valerie who looked at it questioningly.

‘What are these anyway?’ Valerie asked.

‘Books,’ Patsy replied simply, ‘I wrote them.’

‘Did ya? Valerie asked with a smile, ‘Are they new Spitalfield Spitfire series?’

‘Unfortunately not as exciting as that, no,’ Patsy sighed, a little sad to see her friends smile fade at the news, ‘but I do need to send these off in the post. Be a dear and ship them off to the address on the front there?’

Patsy handed Valerie a few quid for postage and the woman carried the papers off, but not before Patsy caught her peeking at the first page of her fantasy novel.

‘Right,’ Patsy said, turning and focusing on the book shop, ‘babies.’

She entered the familiar shop, a heavy bell hanging from the door chiming in her ear. The sound of the street was muted when he door shut, and a quiet fell over Patsy. The scent of tea brewing and the warmth of the sunlight filtering in through the windows had patsy feeling very calm and at ease.

‘Hello?’ she called out to the seemingly empty shop, ‘Lucille?’

Only when Patsy took a few steps in did she remember the looming stacks of books over her that balanced precariously stacked on one another, hovering over her slightly under the weight of a particularly fat orange cat.

Patsy maneuvered herself to walk towards the register to see if Lucille was perhaps sleeping like she had been when they first met, but when she peered over the desk she saw the usual nest of blankets and pillows but no Lucille to be seen.

Patsy looked around wondering if Lucille had wandered off somewhere, but decided to see if the woman would make an appearance eventually. Patsy used her time to look around for the books she had come in for, something on babies and pregnancies. Anything really that would give her a modicum of information more than what she already knew about the subject. As someone who had never expected to have children herself, Patsy had never really bothered learning about the whole process. Though, now that she had a good friend about to go through it all, seemingly without a partner, well, it made Patsy all the more willing to be involved and learn all she could to help her friend.

‘Now if only I could bloody find…,’ Patsy grumbled as she perused the stacks of books and the shelves. She climbed ladders to read the spines of small print on high shelves, ducked low and pulled misplaced books out of dusty corners in search of something of relevance to what she was looking for. She finally found a few books that pertained to Valerie's current predicament called ‘Mummy Tummy’, and ‘Baby Bumps’.

Patsy scanned the row for more books and grabbed them all, thinking she could learn something or other about childbirth and pregnancy from at least one of these, if only to provide some comfort to Valerie as a friend learning these things to b supportive.

Patsy cried out one last feeble ‘Lucille?’ to the shop, and with no reply, decided that the woman was simply not available. Patsy left few shillings on the counter in exchange for the books and turned to take her leave.

Before Patsy could reach the door, she spotted the same cat she had encountered the last time she had been in the shop. Feeling an overwhelming need to be affectionate, Patsy balanced her books in one hand and reached out to scratch the chin of the book shop kitty with the other. Unfortunately, the cat took flight and dashed right by Patsy’s feet, causing her to stumble into one of the large stacks of books that hung wavering over her head, and in that moment Patsy tumbled to the floor with several sacks of books falling over top of her and tumbling all around her onto the floor, a heap of dust rising above her head in the commotion.

‘Gracious,’ Patsy coughed, fanning away the dust with her hand as she struggled to open her eyes and see the mess around her.

‘What on earth was that racket?’ came a voice that was unmistakably Lucille's.

‘Oh, Lucille, there you are,’ Patsy coughed again, rubbing the dust from her eyes, ‘I’m so sorry! Believe I’ve made a mess of things up here.’

‘Oh goodness!’ Lucille exclaimed as she rushed to Patsy’;s side, ‘Now dear, don't you worry. Are you hurt at all?’

‘No, thank you, think I took a bump on the head but it’s not the worst I’ve had. I… oh dear,’ Patsy’s eyes darted around her and realize the books she had paid for were scattered all around her mingled with all the other books.

‘What’s the matter? Looking for something?’ Lucille asked, her eye scanning the books on the floor.

‘Well, yes I,’ Patsy stopped herself just then, thinking that it might not be in her best interest to disclose the true nature of why she was even there in the first place.

‘Perhaps if you tell me the title I can help look?’ Lucille said helpfully, scanning the pile of books around them.

Patsy’s eyes darted around nervously, unable to find any of the books she came in for.

She decided to cut her losses and try to leave the shop without Lucille knowing what she had come in for.

‘Not to worry, it’s of no matter,’ Patsy said, hastily stacking the books around her into a tall pile, ‘let me at least help you clean up the mess I made.’

‘Oh, thank you, that’s very kind of you,’ Lucille said, but before she could truly finish her sentence, Patsy had stacked all the books around her high above her head and was back out the door with barely a goodbye.  

Patsy trotted down the road, her heart racing with adrenaline from the encounter and felt herself calm when she spotted Valerie emerging from the post office just then.

‘Alright, I put your papers in the post like you asked,’ Valerie said as she approached, her hands in her pockets, ‘did you find anything in the shop that would help us?’

‘Help? Um..’’ Patsy looked down at her hands and felt bad for coming back empty handed.

‘It’s alright, I didn’t expect-,’

‘Miss Mount!’ came Lucille's voice.

Both Patsy and Valerie turned to the woman who was running toward them, quickly approaching them with a stack of books in her arms.

‘Ms Mount! I think I’ve aHH!’

Lucille's toe caught on a snag in the walk, sending her and her books tumbling forward.

In the moment, Patsy froze, unsure of what to do but to stand there and watch.

Valerie on the other hand, instinctively leapt forward and moved to catch Lucille in her arms, saving the woman from an impending fate with kissing the asphalt.  

The books clamored around them all, landing sprawled open, their pages fluttering in the breeze.

Moment of stillness passed whee Patsy thought she was witnessing something ethereal, Valerie cradling Lucille just so in her arms while Lucille looked up into her eyes. It was the first time she had seen the bookshop owner out in the light of day and she had to admit Lucille's features were anything less than gorgeous.

Just as Valerie was admiring Lucille, the bookshop owner seemed similarly enchanted by Valerie.

‘Mercy,’ she breathed.

Valerie audibly gulped.

‘A-are you alright?’ she asked, moving the two of them to an upright position.

Lucille blinked a few times before nodding, realizing just then she was on the street and that there were several books scattered about

‘I’m so sorry,’ she said, ‘it isn’t like me to, well,’ Lucille gave an awkward smile and began to move to pick up the books, stacking them in her arms.

‘Here let me,’ Valerie started, moving to help Lucille pick up the last of her books.

The two seemed so off guard and awkward in their movements, that Patsy couldn’t help but find the two women quite endearing. She watched as Valerie helped Lucille collect the scattered books and gather them in her arms, both women rising to their feet at the same time and smiling bashfully at one another.

Patsy looked from one woman to the other, wondering if they had forgotten she was standing right there with them.

‘So…’ Patsy began, clearing her throat, ‘Valerie, this is Lucille. Lucille, Valerie.’

Valerie seemed to snap to just then.

‘Ah where are me manners? Val Dyer,’ Valerie said, extending her hand.

‘Lucille Anderson, how do you-,’ Lucille started, expending her own hand to meet Valerie's, which caused the books to spill out over her arms again. Valerie dove to catch them and handed the books back to Lucille as they awkwardly laughed. Patsy wondered if she were caught in a terrible romantic comedy.

Lucille beamed back at a similarly grinning Valerie once more as she stood and looked at the books in her hands, ‘Sorry, Ms. Mount, I believe these were the books you dropped.’

‘Erm, how did you know which books were mine?’ Patsy asked as Lucille held out the books for her to take.

‘The stack you knocked over was classical literature. The titles I found intermingled in the pile were certainly not that,’ Lucille said, taking one of the books and reading the title, ‘Baby Bumps, is it? Oh!’ Lucille looked up excitedly to Patsy, ‘Are you expecting?’

‘Who, me?’ Patsy waived her hand dismissively, ‘Oh, no, that’s Valerie.’

Patsy clamped her hand over her mouth with a loud ‘smack’ as Valerie whirled around and glared at her, tight lipped. Patsy noticed her face turning red from either anger or embarrassment. Possibly both. She needed to fix her gaffe now.

‘Erm, what I meant to say was,’ Patsy blathered not actually thinking about what she was saying, ‘is that the books are for me, but Valerie is the one expecting because she… she’s um, oh, blast, what is it called when someone has someone else's baby?’

‘Wha?’ Valerie asked, contorting her face into an expression of deep confusion.

‘Surrogacy?’ Lucille asked.

Patsy snapped her fingers and pointed to Lucille.

‘Yes, darling, that’s right! Surrogate!’ patsy hastily wrapped her arm around Valerie's shoulder and pulled the woman close, beaming at Lucille, ‘Val here is my surrogate! She’s having my baby!’

Patsy grinned proudly while Valerie hung her head in shame

‘Christ,’ Valerie mumbled under her breath.

‘Oh… I see,’ Lucille said slowly, looking between the two women, ‘and were you unable to have the baby yourself? Is that why?’

‘Me? Have a baby?’ Patsy asked incredulously, ‘And ruin my figure forever? Absolutely not,’ she laughed.

‘Well I think that’s absolutely wonderful,’ Lucille said, looking to Valerie who looked rather humiliated.

‘You do?’ Valerie asked.

‘Oh, yes,’ Lucille said, ‘something like that is such a selfless act, I think it speaks very highly of you.’

‘Oh, well, I don’t…’ Valerie trailed off bashfully, looking as if she had no idea how to handle such a compliment.

‘And it makes perfect sense now that I think you’re so beautiful. You’re absolutely glowing,’ Lucille grinned.

Valerie let out a noise that Patsy assumed was meant to be some kind of response.

‘So how far along are you?’ Lucille asked to an increasingly red faced Valerie, ‘How are you feeling? What do you think the baby will be, a boy or girl?’

Both Valerie and Patsy shared a nervous look to one another and tried in vain to awkwardly stutter out a series of answers.

Patsy knew they had no idea what they were talking about and reasoned she needed to get the two of them out of there before Lucille asked any more questions.

‘Ah, Lou if you don’t mind, Val and I have a lot to research and discuss about, um, you know,’ Patsy trailed off, slowly backing away,‘motherhood. Babies. Having babies.’

‘Ugh, don’t remind me of that part,’ Valerie quipped.

‘Oh, well, um, good luck,’ Lucille said feebly as Patsy grasped Valerie by the wrist and began to pull her along.

‘Yes, toodle-oo!’ Patsy cried out as she and Valerie ran of around the corner. They didn’t stop until they were well away from the book shop, the main road, and any onlookers.

Valerie had seemed to come to her senses just then, and rounded on Patsy looking rather angry.

‘Thanks a lot, Pats! Are you going to tell everyone we run into that I’m bloody knocked up!?’

‘It just slipped out, Val, I’m sorry!’ Patsy cried, clutching the books to her chest, ‘How was I supposed to explain the books anyway? She would have figured on her own.’

‘You could have just said you had some other friend who was expecting! Didn’t have to out me right there, did ya?’

‘Ooh,’ Patsy bristled, ‘well it’s of no matter now, cats out of the bag. And besides, she didn’t seem to think any less of you when she found out.’

‘Well what if she tells the whole village now, eh? Now everyone is going to know!’ Valerie gripped her head and growled in frustration, ‘Patsy! This is a disaster!’

‘It is not,’ Patsy said softly, feeling rather bad that she had made her friend feel this way, ‘she thinks you’re a surrogate. Doing a good deed for another woman who wants a family but can’t have one.’

‘But that’s the thing, Pats! This baby isn’t going to be yours at the end of all this, is it? You’re going to fuck off back to London at the end of the summer and I’ll be stuck raising some bastard,’

‘Val,’ Patsy pleaded, disliking that Valerie used the term.

‘Besides, you want kids just as much as I do, I bet, which is not at all , and even if you did you would be perfectly able to yourself, wouldn’t ya!’

Valerie huffed and crossed her arms, only just barely noticing that Patsy remained oddly silent after her little rant, looking down at her feet and clutching the books in her arms tighter against her chest.

‘Pats?’ Valerie said, her voice more calm, ‘you could have kids of your own, couldn’t ya?’

Patsy remained silent, looking down at the ground and merely shrugging.

‘Wait, did you,’ Valerie started, her eye scanning Patsy’s features, ‘Did you mean it just now when you said you … when you said you can’t have a family…?’

‘I-I don’t know,’ Patsy said softly.

Her initial reaction was to clam up and change the subject, because talking about this took her down a path she rarely wanted to travel, because it involved the camps. Though, given that she had shared some rather personal information about Valerie to Lucille, she thought she rather owed it to Valerie to share something personal about herself.

‘I… I truly don’t know. I suppose it’s because of the way I am that I reckoned I’d never have children the natural way. Even if I wasn’t, I… well, during the war, I was in my formative years, so to speak. I went a few years where I was severely, um, malnourished.’

Patsy gulped down her anxiety and tried to ignore the probing look Valerie was giving her, as if trying to look into her eyes and soul for the whole truth behind Patsy’s story.

‘And well, after the war, when I was supposed to be getting… well, you know, like the other girls, I simply didn't. And when I did they were very light, like I barely had them at all. I never thought children would be in my future anyway so I haven’t actually had anyone examine me, but I feel… well, I can just feel that not everything is working as it should and… well, even if I wanted children I don’t think I would be able to.’

Patsy had lived with this knowledge about herself for some time and had come to terms with it many years ago when she realized something was amiss, but standing here and saying it out loud to Valerie made her feel sad for herself. She rarely thought about having a family; she hardly ever even thought about being in love with someone and look where she was now with Delia. Things were beginning to change for Patsy that summer, and with someone like Delia in her life the thought of having a proper family with someone didn’t seem to be such a far fetched thing after all.

‘So, it’s not that I wouldn’t want to be a mum,’ Patsy continued, looking up to the sky in thought, ‘I suppose if a baby fell out of the sky and into my lap and I was bestowed by the universe to be it’s mum, I would be the best mum I could be,’ Patsy shrugged, looking to Valerie ‘it’s just that I never thought it possible and have never entertained the idea.’

Valerie gave a nod and sighed.

‘Pats, I’m sorry,’ Valerie said, reaching out to place a comforting hand on Patsy’s arm, ‘about… what you went through during the war.’

Patsy forced a smile and shook her head, ‘That’s quite alright, Val. Now,’ she cleared her throat and gestured to the books in her arms, ‘why don’t we sit under the shade of that tree over there and skim through these. You’re the one who is having a baby, after all. Let’s try and learn all we can, hmm?’

Valerie hesitated slightly, looking as if she wanted to ask Patsy more questions, but after a moment, she merely nodded. Together, the two of them walked to the tree and sat down in the shade, and opened the cover of the first book.


Now, that same evening, Patsy found herself sitting on the rope swing under the stars, wringing her hands in worry over what had transpired over the day. She was feeling anxious about blurting out that Valerie was the one who was pregnant. Why was she unable to keep her mouth shut? Hopefully Lucille wasn’t the type to gossip, but didn’t she boast about knowing everyone in the village when they had first met?

‘Well if that was the case then why didn’t she know who Val was?’ Patsy mused to herself.

Then again, up until now Valerie mostly worked evenings and slept most of the day. It would make complete sense that she would hardly venture into town with a schedule like that.

Patsy sighed, hanging her head so low her hair covered her face. She felt thoroughly embarrassed about everything that happened that afternoon and she had made sure to make herself scarce when they returned to the inn later that afternoon as to thwart off and prying questions about their afternoon from Delia.

‘There you are.’

Patsy swung her head around to see Delia standing at the edge of the path, her hands on her hips. Even in the dimness of the moonlight Patsy could see that Delia looked rather cross with her.

It seemed her plan at avoiding Delia had backfired.

Patsy looked forward again towards the lake, somewhat dreading the conversation they were about to have as she heard Delia approach.

Delia situated herself next to Patsy on the swing, facing the opposite direction. She gave a deep sigh as she removed her cap.

Patsy continued to look forward, her head bowed as she worried her hands in her lap. The two women sat in silence for several moments as they slowly rocked back and forth on the swing.

‘I know I’ve been busy today,’ Delia started quietly, ‘but I was a little sad that I didn’t see much of you when you returned from town with Valerie earlier.’

‘That so?’ Patsy replied, trying to bite back the nerves that felt like were going to jump out of her throat.

‘Well, I’ve just had a rather interesting conversation with Valerie, and I think I know why you kept out of sight.’

Delia sighed through her nose and Patsy bit her lip.

‘You told Miss Anderson that Valerie was a surrogate?’

Patsy twiddled her thumbs and replied quietly, ‘Might of.’

‘That she was having your baby?’

Patsy cleared her throat, ‘Well, seemed like a good idea at the time,’ she mumbled.

‘Good idea or not, Valerie is in a tender state, Pats. Suggesting something like that…’ Delia trailed off, Patsy knowing she was taking a pause to think of her words carefully.

With another heavy sigh, Delia raked her fingers through her hair continued.

‘You’ve planted a seed in her head, Pats,’ Delia said softly, ‘she told me that she’s now thinking of giving the baby up for adoption.’

‘Adoption,’ Patsy repeated softly, feeling a myriad of things in her heart over the word. She felt a little relieved that her friend seemed to be thinking of ways to move forward from her current predicament, but also sad to think that Valerie's child would be sent away to be raised by someone else. Them again, Patsy thought, Valerie has stated undoubtedly that she did not want to me a mum. Perhaps giving the baby up for adoption was going to be the best thing for the child.

‘Oh, well, I mean…,’ Patsy began, still feeling rather nervous, ‘I’m sure there are lots of families out there who would…’

‘She doesn’t want just any family to adopt it, Patsy,’ Delia said, cutting her off, ‘she wants it to be a family she knows.’

Patsy racked her brain for a moment, thinking of any families nearby who would even consider adopting Valerie’s baby.

‘The Turners?’

Delia laughed, ‘No, but I understand why you think that.’

‘Just had a baby didn’t they?’ Patsy remarked, ‘A little boy?’

‘They did, and now they’re fostering to adopt a little girl.’

‘Gosh! Feels like every time we turn around they’re adding another to their brood one way or another.’

‘That’s beside the point, Patsy,’ Delia sighed, growing impatient, ‘Pats, I have to ask, did you…, Delia paused again, searching for her words, ‘earlier when you were with Valerie, did you maybe say she was having your baby because… did you mean to imply that… you wanted to adopt it?’

Patsy merely blinked, unable to think of anything to say.

‘Because that’s what Valerie thinks.’

‘...Oh?’ Patsy managed to choke out, her mouth feeling very dry.

Patsy waited for Delia to continue, but a subtle crack of a joint made Patsy look over to Delia finally. The woman gave a tired groan as she cracked her neck and rubbed her shoulder with one hand. Patsy saw that the woman was covered in dirt and dust from moving garden beds and trimming lumber most of the afternoon and evening. She looked exhausted.

‘Delia, darling,’ Patsy said, turning to Delia and resting her hand on her cheek, turning Delias head to face her.

‘Pats, I’m sorry, I’m filthy,’ Delia said bashfully and turned her head away.

‘You know I don’t care about that,’ Patsy said stubbornly, taking her hand to Delia’s cheek and turning her to look at her again, ‘I love you no matter what.’

Patsy leaned down to give Delia a kiss, and when she pulled away, she saw that Delia was smiling despite looking as if she were on the verge of tears.

‘I’m rather happy to hear you say that, Pats,’ Delia sniffed, looking away again, ‘because Valerie asked me to think about adoption too.’

Patsy’s heart jumped in her throat.

‘She did?’

‘Yes and…,’ Delia began, looking away from Patsy once more, ‘I would do anything for Valerie but… raising a child… it’s not something I ever thought I would be able to do.’

‘Me neither,’ Patsy replied.

‘And it’s certainly not something I would want to do alone, Pats,’ Delia said, turning to look Patsy in the eye.

It was the most serious look Delia had ever given Patsy, and the woman could feel it pierce through her right into her heart. She knew how much Delia wanted to be a mum, and have a family like the one in which she was raised.

‘Delia….’

‘I’m sorry. It’s silly to consider, isn’t it,’ Delia looked away bashfully and plucked at a loose thread on the rope holding them from the tree, ‘Our love is still so new, who knows how we will feel nine months from now…’

‘That’s not what I was going to say,’ Patsy said.

Delia looked back over to her with an eyebrow raised, but remained silent.

‘Delia, do you want to adopt Valerie’s baby?’ Patsy asked, feeling her heart pound frantically in her chest. 

‘Do you?’ Delia asked.

Patsy looked forward towards the lake, her mind and heart racing. An image of an idyllic future flashed through her mind of her coming home to the sight of Delia and a bouncing little baby in her arms, their baby, and the thought made her insurmountably happy, so much that she felt tears prick at her eyes.

Like Delia though, she knew it would be something that she would not want to do alone, and the thought of raising a child without Delia by her side was not the future she wanted. If she were to consider something as life changing as this she would need to be sure that Delia was going to be there with her for it.

‘How about… on the count of three we say either yes or no,’ Patsy suggested.

‘Why?’

‘That way we can say what we truly want without being influenced by the answer of the other.’

Delia took a moment to think this over, but soon, she silently nodded her head in agreement.

Patsy took a deep breath herself and closed her eyes, feeling the anxiety build up in her all over again.

‘One,’ Patsy began.

‘Two,’ Delia said.

‘Three.’














Chapter Text

Patsy fidgeted in her seat, fluffing out her skirt as she sat up even more straight and crossed her ankles. She nervously eyed the clock on the wall next to the decorative plates that ticked louder than usual as she sat in the lounge area of the main house with Delia, Valerie, and Mr. Busby, who relaxed in his chair and looked completely content with the quiet.

It wasn't until Patsy was picking at her fingernails did Delia rest her own hand over hers and gave her a look which stilled Patsy and helped her to calm down.

The loving look in Delia’s eye made her think back to the moment they shared together nearly one week ago where they sat under the stars on the rope swing.

She remembered Delia laughing as she cried, not from sadness, but from relief.

‘Are we to have every important conversation sitting here under this tree?’ she asked once her tears subsided.

Patsy clasped her hand over her mouth, unable to speak as she fought back her own tears. She thought back on how she she and Delia had gotten to know one another under this tree, how she talked to Delia about her family and the deaths of her mum and sister. How the two of them sat here together when they confessed their love for one another and kissed for the first time.

And now here they sat together on that swing having agreed upon one of the most important decisions of their life.

They were going to adopt Valerie's baby.

‘I suppose so,’ she choked out with a sniff.

Several moments passed where the two did not talk, only holding one another in a tight embrace while one cried on the other's shoulder.

Patsy was beside herself, wondering if she had ever felt so certain about something ever in her life before.

‘You really mean it?’ she asked, pulling away to look at Delia, ‘you want to be a family?’

‘Oh, love, of course I do,’ Delia grinned, taking her hands and cupping Patsy’s face while she wiped away her tears with her thumbs, ‘I couldn’t imagine anything I would ever want more.’

Delia scooped Patsy up in her arms and held her tight, and patsy hugged her back, thinking that she could get used to feeling this loved and protected.

‘Dry your tears now, cariad,’ Delia said softly, giving Patsy a sweet kiss on her temple, ‘let’s go and tell Valerie the good news?’

Patsy pulled away and nodded, wiping away her tears as Delia stood and helped her stand.

They interlocked their hands and walked through the woods along the path towards the main house where they knew Valerie would be, finding her pacing nervously in the garden.

As she saw the two women approach, Valerie halted her motions and looked over to them with a worried expression.

‘Oh no, you two have had a row because of me, haven’t you?’

‘Val, no,’ Delia said.

‘But you both look as if you’ve been crying. I’m sorry,’ Valerie pleaded.

‘Valerie,’ Patsy said more stern, thinking the woman had the wrong idea.

‘It’s alright, I mean,’ Valerie looked down, her expression one of concern, ‘it was silly of me to think… I just, Pats when we talked earlier today and you said if a baby appeared to you out of the blue you would be the best mum you could be, it made me think that it was a possibility that you would… that you and Delia would…’

Patsy placed her hand on Valerie’s shoulder to stop her.

‘Val,’ Patsy started, looking to Valerie who stared back at her on the brink of her own tears, ‘our answer is yes.’

Valerie blinked, her jaw slightly slack.

‘Yes?’ she asked.

‘We want to adopt this child, Val,’ Delia said, ‘and raise them as our own.’

Valerie's watery eyes darted from Delia to Patsy.

‘Are you sure?’

‘I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life,’ Patsy said, looking to Delia who gave a confirming nod.

Valerie closed her eyes, her shoulders going slack as she let out a sigh of relief.

‘Oh, thank god,’ she breathed, lunging forward to capture both Delia and Patsy in a fierce hug.

The three women giggled and shed the last of their tears, much to their relief and joy, before pulling away once more.

‘You have no idea what a relief this is, I just,’ Valerie said, wiping a tear with a shaky finger, ‘I’m just so happy. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.’

‘It’s alright, Valerie,’ Patsy said.  

‘I’m happy it’s you two. Feel like you two were meant to be a family,’ Valerie said, smiling even as tears streamed down her cheeks.  

‘And here you are helping us with that,’ Patsy replied, reaching out to wipe away her tears.

Valerie grinned, giving a little laugh, ‘Yeah. I’m helping…’ she trailed off, looking as if she liked the thought of that.

‘Shall we tell others the news?’ Delia asked.

‘No,’ Valerie said firmly, shaking her head, ‘No, not yet. I just… I want you two to be sure. Maybe sleep on it and see if you still feel the same in the morning… or the next day.’

Delia placed her hands on her hips.

‘You’re not just telling us to wait because you’re afraid of what my Mam will say, are you?’

Valerie shrugged but looked guilty.

‘Well I’m fairly certain I’ll feel the same way in the morning and every morning thereafter,’ Patsy insisted, ‘but I’m fine with waiting until Valerie is comfortable.’

‘Let’s hope it’s not too long. Given how thin you are you’re likely to pop any day now,’ Delia joked, poking Valerie lightly in the tummy.

Valerie laughed and batted Delia’s hand away.

The three decided to leave it there for the time being, Valerie retiring to her own bedroom while Patsy and Delia walked to the bungalow. Patsy insisted she let Delia prepare a bath for her and treat her to a shoulder and foot rub after all the hard work she had done with her brothers earlier that day. Delia only relented when Patsy reminded her she only had so many chances being spoiled like this before they were to become too preoccupied caring for an infant.

The days that followed were full of activity, the three women working and carrying on as normal. Patsy bided her time by happily serving cool refreshments to Delia and her brothers as they worked long hours in the sun building the deck and making it look nice for guests. She would run into town every now again again to pick up the odd thing here or there they needed to complete the build on time. Valerie would often join Patsy on her little trps, insisting she could be used as a second pair of hands, but Patsy noticed that Valerie would always seem to make some excuse to walk by the book shop for one reason or another.

The week seemed to pass quickly, and before they knew it, the deck was finished and the three Busby siblings were standing on a little stage they had built, playing their instruments and singing while more and more people from town drove in to see them perform. Mrs. Busby was quite happy with the activity and ll the food and drink they were selling.

Soon it was Sunday again. The day had been rather quiet and calm, and more importantly, Valerie was ready .  

Now, next to her in the lounge as they waited for Mrs. Busby to arrive from whatever business she was wrapping up, Valerie gave Patsy a calm and reassuring smile, and it was all it took for Patsy to understand that they were doing the right thing.

Enid bustled into the room, opening the door so quickly that it slammed into the wall, causing the decorative plates to rattle and for Edwin to wake with a snort from his seat in this recliner.

Patsy, Delia, and Valerie all rose at once to their feet and the anxiety rose from within Patsy all over again at the sight of the impatient woman.

‘Alright,’ Enid said, all business as she was followed by Delia’s brothers, Michael and Nicholas, ‘what’s all this then? What have you called us in here for this evening, hmm?’

She placed her hands on her hips as the three women looked to one another anxiously. It seemed no one had any idea where to start.

‘Is someone sick?’ Michael asked.

‘Are you all going back to London?’ Nicholas interjected.

Enid gasped and looked to Delia, ‘I bloody well hope not! Delia your health!’

‘Mam!’ Delia yelled.

‘I won’t hear of it Delia, you’re not well! Besides, how could you up and leave your brothers like this with your music.’

‘I’m not going to London! Would you please stop making assumptions and listen?!’

‘Listen? To what? You haven’t said anything!’

‘If you would just,’ Delia started, but was cut off.

‘Have you heard them say anything?’ Enid asked, looking to Michael.

‘Mam,’ he said with a roll of his eyes.

‘I haven’t heard them say anything,’ Enid continued, stubbornly looking around the room for validation.  

‘Enid,’ Edwin began warningly.

‘Well what am I supposed to think when she hasn’t-,’

‘Valerie is pregnant,’ Patsy interjected loudly, causing all eyes to turn to her.

She reached out to grasp Delia’s hand in her own.

‘And Delia and I are in love,’ she said, taking a deep breath, gathering the courage to continue, ‘and we are going to adopt this child and raise them as our own.’

Delia squeezed Patsy’s hand as the whole family stared back in them in stunned silence.

‘That’s right,’ Delia aid softly, smiling, ‘We’re going to be a family.’

Patsy cleared her throat as the Busby’s continued to stare at them in shock.

‘So, congratulations,’ she said, looking from Edwin to Enid, and then the twins, ‘You’re going to be grandparents. And you’re going to be uncles.’

Everyone in the room continued to remain still as a statue, and Patsy felt the heat rise in her cheeks as the clock on the wall continued to tick loudly. Several seconds went by before Enid seemed to register everything that had been said.

‘So… you’re expecting?’ she asked, looking to Valerie.

‘Aye,’ Valerie said, shyly looking down, ‘but Patsy and Delia would make far better parents than I ever would. I don’t, and will never think of this baby as mine. It’s theirs.’

Delia placed a comforting hand on Valerie’s shoulder.

Enid looked to Delia and Patsy for a tense moment before she whirled around to face the twins, surprising everyone when she took her hand and swatted each of them on the shoulder.

‘What’s the matter with you two?!’ she exclaimed as the boys looked back at her with a twinge of annoyance.

The three women started perplexed at Enid's reaction.

‘Your younger sister off getting married and starting a family before you lot!’ she exclaimed, ‘Why can’t you get your act together and bring home a nice girl, hmm?’

‘Mam!’ the boys cried in unison.

‘Or boy, I’m not fussy.’

Valerie and Patsy shared a look as Delia smacked her forehead.

‘Edwin!’ Enid shrieked, flailing her hands, ‘Get up! This is a big deal!’

Edwin remained nonplussed and in his chair, seemingly not at all noticing his wifes hysterics.

‘I’m going to be a grandad, eh?’ he mused, looking off endearing into the distance as if he were daydreaming about having a baby in the house again.

‘Oh, you’re going to have a little one!’ Enid gushed, bringing her hands to her cheeks as she as she began to fret some more, ‘We’ll need to make room for the baby! We need to get the house ready, oh! Edwin, call the Turners and see if their youngest is finished with the crib!

‘I don’t think we need to worry about that yet Mrs. Busby,’ Patsy interjected.

Enid gasped, looking over to Patsy, ‘You’re right! We have a wedding to prepare for!’

‘Mam,’ Delia pleaded, ‘We can’t legally,-’

‘I’ll call my sisters!’ Enid raised a determined finger to the sky, ‘The church! See if that handsome young vicar will perform the ceremony! Flowers! Colors! Quick, what’s your colour scheme?!’

Delia looked frightened, ‘I don’t know what that means!’

‘Never you mind, I’ll take care of it! You’re going to be a mother after all, you’ll need your rest. Speaking of, Valerie, sit down sweetheart, no need to overexert yourself with all this excitement!’

Enid practically shoved Valerie onto the sofa and placed an ottoman under her feet.

‘Tea, darling? You look awfully haggard,’ Enid tutted, ‘No, no, no, can’t have you in such a state, with you carrying our grandbaby and all. Be back in a tic.’

Enid flitted out of the room, leaving everyone quite beside themselves, with the exception of Mr. Busby who was still sitting there in his chair with a goofy grin on his face and far off look in his eye.

Edwin cleared his throat after a moment and all eyes turned to him.

‘So,’ he said, ‘my little girl’s getting married, hmm? Well good on ya, Deels,’ he winked ‘snagged yourself quite a looker.’

Patsy beamed while Delia hid her face with her hand in embarrassment.


Patsy and Delia slammed the empty shot glass down at the wooden bar with a loud ‘clunk’ at the same time, both grimacing as Valerie sighed with relief next to them.

‘Well,’ she started, closing her eyes and raking her fingers through her short hair, ‘that went better than expected.’

‘Can’t believe it, honestly,’ Delia said as she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, ‘thought Mam wouldn’t have taken the news… quite like that.’

‘Well, from the sound of it, it looks as if we won’t even need to plan our own wedding, darling,’ Patsy grinned, finding amusement in Delia’s misery, ‘she’ll make all the decisions for us!’

Delia crossed her eyes to the ceiling and gave an aggravated sigh.

‘Val, I’m going to need another,’ she said, sliding the heavy glass back across the bar.

Just as Valerie topped off Delia with another shot of whiskey, there was a soft knock at the entrance to the pub.

All three women looked over to see Lucille, the bookshop keeper, standing there with a basket of something in her hands, the contents of which were hidden by a napkin but smelled heavenly to Patsy.

‘Hello,’ she said shyly, ‘I’m not interrupting anything, am I?’

As if blinking out of a daze, Valerie stammered out an answer.

‘O-oh, no, not at all Ms. Anderson!’ she said, nervously clamoring around to clean off what little rubbish there was on the bar, ‘Please, come in. I’ll make you a drink of whatever you like.’

Delia gave a look at Valerie for being so formal and weird.

‘How do, Lucille?’ Delia said as she rose from her seat, situating one for Lucille as she approached, ‘What brings you here on a Sunday evening?’

‘I was wondering if I had come to the right place, it being so quiet and all,’ Lucille began and she looked around the dark pub, ‘everyone in town has been talking about your music and how lively it is on a weekend. Though I suppose with it being Sunday...’

‘Much more quiet here, yes,’ Patsy smiled, noting how uncharacteristically nervous Lucille seemed as she clutched the basket in her lap, ‘and what have you got there? Smells delicious.’

‘Oh, I just thought, well,’ Lucille smiled bashfully, ‘I was in a nostalgic mood for home, really. Ever since last week when I ran into you and Ms. Dyer here and you told me of the news, it reminded me of back home with my own family.’

‘How do you mean?’ Delia asked.

‘Just that I’m the eldest of eight,’ Lucille continued, ‘my mother was always pregnant it seemed, and I was always the one to help out. She always craved chicken and potato curry and greens-stuffed patties, and I thought I would… I mean, I hope I’m not intruding.’

‘You made that for me?’ Valerie asked quietly, a half smile gracing her features.

‘Well yes, of course,’ Lucille said bashfully, ‘Just my own little way of saying congratulations and wanting to do something nice. There’s plenty for everyone.’

She lifted the handkerchief to reveal the food she had prepared and all three women looking into the basket in wonder.

‘That was very kind of you Miss Anderson,’ Valerie said, ‘smells absolutely divine.’

Patsy looked between Valerie and Lucille and mused at how smitten one was with the other. She wondered if she could encouragingly push the two together, but being in this dark, dank pub did nothing to enhance what she thought should be a more romantic ambiance.

‘I have an idea,’ Patsy said, clasping her hands together excitedly, ‘Lucille, you already have everything wrapped up so wonderfully, and it’s such a lovely evening out, why don’t we all walk down by the lake and have ourselves a little picnic?’

Before anyone could protest, Patsy was on her feet and ushering Valerie from out behind the bar.

‘Val, be a dear and walk Lucille over to the lake? Delia and I will grab a blanket and some drinks and will meet you there in a tic.’

Patsy nearly had to push Valerie out the door to get her to walk along with Lucille, but soon Valerie collected herself enough to take a deep breath and make conversation with Lucille.

‘So, you have seven brothers and sisters, hm?’ Valerie asked, sticking her hands in her pockets.

‘Oh, yes,’ Lucille beamed, ‘the house was always abuzz with activities. Kids running around, music playing, dancing, family popping in and out.’

‘Sounds exciting. You must really miss all that action,’ Valerie replied, nervously clasping her hands behind her back.

‘Not at all. Only reason I opened the shop was so that I could finally read all the books I wanted in some peace and quiet,’ to which Valerie laughed.

Patsy bit her lip and clasped her hands together excitedly as their voices trailed off in polite conversation.

‘You look like you’re playing at something you ought not to,’ Delia said as she peered her head around the door and watched the two women walk off.

Patsy ignored her as Delia turned around and crossed her arms, giving Patsy a smirk.

‘Really though, what are you up to?’

Patsy gave an exasperated sigh, ‘Deels, can’t you see they obviously like one another? The last few weeks Valerie has been bemoaning how lonely she has been, wishing for someone to come along and fall into her arms and,’

Patsy cut herself off, gasping. Her eyes grew wide as she clasped her hands over her mouth, remembering back to one week prior when Lucille tripped with an armful of books clattering everywhere while Valerie lunged forward to catch her.

‘Delia! She did it! It happened!’

‘Wha?’

Patsy grasped onto Delia’s top and pulled her close, bewildering the smaller woman.

‘Lucille fell into her arms! Literally fell into her arms, just like she had wanted! It’s serendipitous! It was meant to be, don’t you see! We have to get them together!’

Patsy let go with a snap of Delia’s brace, causing the woman to hiss in pain.

‘Alright, calm down, Emma ,’ Delia said warningly, referencing the Jane Austen character, ‘it’ll do them no good with you frantically trying to wiggle in on their business.’

Delia’s complaints went ignored as Patsy disappeared behind the back of the bar and helped herself to a bottle of white wine.

‘And what was the point of sending them down to the lake anyway?’ Delia asked, scratching her head.

‘Because it’s romantic, silly,’ Patsy replied, cooly strolling right past Delia

‘But it’ll be dark soon!’

‘So?’ she called over her shoulder. ‘You’re butch. Make a fire!’

Delia rolled her eyes before running back into the pub to grab a blanket and follow her love, who seemed too tenaciously set in her ways to be reckoned with this evening.

Delia caught up with Patsy who thankfully seemed to have cooled down with her excitement by the time they reached the other two sitting by the lake and idly chatting.

The rest of the evening was spent with the four of them sitting comfortably on the blanket, sharing the meal Lucille had made and chatting animatedly about this and that while they slowly sipped on the cool bottle of wine. When the conversation seemed to lull, Patsy made sure to ask Lucille questions about herself, gently coaxing information out of her when Valerie seemed to be too nervous to ask herself. By the looks of it, the more the night carried on the more Valerie seemed to be more smitten with Lucille.

Fireflies began to dance around them as the sun hung ever lower in the sky, and Patsy noticed Delia wiping sweat off her brow and Valerie actually fanning herself.

‘Are you hot?’ she asked the two of them.

‘Just a bit, love,’ Delia said, ‘not at worldly as you and Lucille I’m afraid. Not used to these spices.’

‘Oh dear,’ Lucille tutted, ‘sorry, I didn’t think…’

‘It was still very good!’ Valerie interjected, looking pointedly to Lucille.

Patsy looked to the lake and back to Delia.

‘Why not take a dip and cool yourself off?’

‘Go for a swim? Now?’ Delia asked.

‘Sure, why not?’ Patsy rose from her spot and walked to the water, dipping her her bare toes, ‘waters fine. Feel for yourself.’

With a mischievous grin, she kicked a bit of water over to Delia who laughed as she held her hand over her face.

‘Hey now,’ Delia said as she rose to her feet, ‘any more of that and you’re asking to be pushed in!’

‘And ruin my dress? Delia, I’d never forgive you!’

‘Then take it off!’

‘I will if you will,’ Patsy grinned as she backed away from an approaching Delia.

‘Take off your dress? Certainly!’ Delia reached out to Patsy who ran from her, nearly shrieking with laughter.

‘Oh lord,’ Valerie sighed and rolled her eyes.

Patsy let Delia chase her around a bit, but she was no match for the woman's athleticism and stamina, allowing for Delia to catch her pull her dress of forever her head while Patsy worked to strip her down to her skivvies.

The two jumped into the lake, laughing and splashing around while Lucille and Valerie looked on amused.

‘Sorry about my friends. Suppose they think they’re still kids,’ Valerie said nervously, scratching her cheek.

‘Seems kind of fun,’ Lucille replied with a smile.

‘It does?’ Valerie blinked, ‘Oh, well, I suppose-,’

‘Get in here already!’ Delia cried just before Patsy playfully dunked her back into the water.

With a shrug, Valerie and Lucille rose from their spots and began to strip, tossing their clothes aside as they ran to join their friends and play around in the water.

The four spent some time relaxing and splashing around, well until after the sun went down and the moon had risen high in the sky.

Delia had gotten out a bit sooner than the others to collect rocks and wood to make a small fire to warm them. Patsy was just about to join her when Valerie emerged from under the water next to her, frankly startling the woman.

‘Felt something hard under my feet and wondered what it was,’ she said, holding up a rectangular shape.

‘Looks like a book to me,’ Lucille said, swimming close to take a better look.

‘Wonder what it is,’ Valerie said, flipping it over in her hands, ‘too dark to read the title,’ she added, squinting hard at the cover.

Patsy meanwhile recognized the book in an instant as the one Delia had borrowed from Valerie and in a panic, chucked the thing clear into the lake. She swam away humming innocently to herself.

Soon, the four found themselves drying off around the fire, Valerie and Lucile looking quite adorable tucked in together under the blanket Delia had brought out with her from the house. She let Delia scoop her up into her arms and hold her, the woman's body heat enough to keep her warm along with the fire, and she was lured into a sleepy state as Delia ran her fingers through her hair and kissed her sweetly on her ear.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect day, so far as she was concerned.

 

That was of course until Delia walked her back to her room later that evening and she opened the door to find a telegram sitting on her desk, the label on the front reading ‘URGENT’.

Chapter Text


August  


 

Patsy worried on her fingernail nervously, the pitter patter of the summer rain landing on the shingles of the roof doing nothing to calm her nerves as she watched Delia read the telegram, the woman puffing thoughtfully on her pipe as she paced the porch of the bungalow. 

She could barely contain her curiousity as she watched Delia pause and flip the paper in her hands over to see if there was more written, humming contentedly to herself. 

‘Well?’ Patsy asked, unable to contain herself. She needed to know what Delia thought. 

Delia stopped her pacing and finally looked up at her with a raised eyebrow. She slowly smiled, albeit sadly, as she scratched at her temple with the mouthpiece of her pipe. 

‘Pats, I think it’s bloody brilliant,’ she finally replied. 

Patsy’s face fell, her mouth opening in shock. 

‘Really?’ 

‘Well, yes,’ Delia said, her smile growing, ‘they want to publish it. They want to publish your story! That’s what you wanted, right?’ 

‘But… but,’ Patsy gulped, her hands shaking with nerves, ‘they want me to come back to London.’ 

‘I know,’ Delia said. 

‘They want me to go around the country. A book tour,’ Patsy added. 

‘I know! It’s fantastic,’ Delia gushed, looking rather happy with all this news while Patsy felt miserable.  

‘Delia!’ Patsy gulped down a sob, ‘Why are you happy about that? That means I’ll have to leave!’ 

Patsy sniffed as she blinked back tears, feeling rather embarrassed about her reaction but also terribly upset that Delia seemed rather nonplussed at this news. 

‘Do you want me to leave? Is that it? Have you gone off me already?’ Patsy blurted out before she could stop herself, knowing she was being unreasonable but not able to help herself. 

‘Cariad, no,’ Delia started softly, taking a seat in the rocking chair next to Patsy, ‘darling, look at me.’ 

Delia placed the telegram down on the little table between them and reached over, taking Patsy’s hand in hers and bringing her fingers to her lips for a soft kiss. 

‘Pats, sweetheart, you’re the most beautiful and loving woman I have ever met. There’s no way I could ever go off you.’

Patsy watched as Delia opened her eyes, and Patsy’s heart melted a bit at her words. 

‘You’re the love of my life, the woman I’m going to have a family with,’ Delia continued. 

‘Then why,’ Patsy stuttered, feeling uncertainty and anger rise up in her again so much that she rose to her feet and walked to the ledge of the porch, ‘why do you want me to go so badly, Delia? 

‘No, Pats,’ Delia huffed, rising to her feet to stand by Patsy, ‘I would have thought you would have wanted to be published. I thought this was the whole point of you coming here?’ 

Patsy shrugged and looked away, feeling too sad to look Delia in the eye. 

‘Well yes, but things changed, Delia. I wasn’t… I never thought…’ 

Patsy trailed off thinking back on all that had transpired that summer, how she met and fell in love with Delia, how she had become friends with Valerie, how she and Delia were about to become a family with a new baby in this idyllic little Welsh village and even she couldn;t have written about something so perfect.. She found it truly remarkable that after a lifetime of heartbreak and hardships everything seemed to be falling into place for her, except this one little caveat. 

She crossed her arms and leaned against a pillar, looking out onto the gardens and the back of the Inn before she looked down at her bare feet. 

‘So you want me to go then?’ she pouted. 

‘Only because I don’t want you to miss out on such an opportunity, cariad,’ Delia softly pleaded. 

Patsy gave a frustrated sigh, ‘But I want to be here, Delia. For you, and for Valerie and the baby! I want to make a home with you!’ 

‘And you will. Sweetheart,’ Delia smiled and reached out to cup Patsy's face in her hand, ‘I promise you will. I’m not going anywhere and neither is Valerie.’ 

Patsy sighed as Delia wiped a tear from her cheek with her thumb. 

‘I would never be able to live with myself if I didn’t let you take this opportunity. To let you live up to your full potential.’

‘You’re not letting me, you’re making me,’ Patsy grumbled. 

‘The point still stands Pats. You’re a good writer and I want you to be able to share your creative mind with the world,’ Delia said, a small but sad smile gracing her features. 

‘Will you miss me?’ Patsy asked. 

Delia closed her eyes and gave a sigh, ‘The thought of being apart from you makes me want to die.’ 

Patsy couldn’t help but smile. 

‘Really?’ 

‘Yes, you fool,’ Delia grinned, ‘I love you with all my heart.’ 

Patsy felt a swell of emotion build up in her chest and manifest itself into more tears, this time of joy. 

‘And you’ll come back to me, right?’ Delia asked softly, taking her fingers and tucking a strand of hair behind Patsy’s ear. 

Patsy smirked and took Delia’s hand and kissed her palm, allowing for the smaller woman to wipe away her tears as she calmed herself. 

Patsy herself couldn't bare the thought of leaving Delia for so long. She wanted to show Delia that she loved her with all hear heart, too. 

She decided to leave a little piece of it with her. 

Wordlessly, Patsy unclipped the necklace from around her neck, the one that Delia had bought her as a gift when she had lost the original. She took the ring that hung from it and took Delia’s hand in hers. 

‘Pats,’ Delia began as she watched Patsy slip the ring on her finger. 

‘No, Delia,’ Patsy began, but was interrupted. 

‘But it’s your mothers,’ Delia protested in vain. 

‘That may be, but this is the most precious thing in the world to me, and I want the most precious person in my life to wear it.’ 

Just like before, the ring slipped on with ease on Delia’s ring finger. 

The two of them silently stared at it and Patsy couldn't help but wonder if it had meant to be there this whole time. 

‘You never answered my question.’

Patsy blinked from her thoughts and looked at Delia inquiringly. 

‘You’ll come back to me? Safe and sound and as every bit in love with me as you are now?’ 

With a smile, Patsy leaned forward and softly rested her head against Delias, closing her eyes and taking in the feeling of being close to her love. 

‘Yes darling, I promise.’ 

Delia cupped Patsy’s face in her hand as Patsy embraced her, and the space between them closed. Around them the rain continued to fall as they kissed, the telegram on the table between them forgotten.


October 


 

Delia paced near the front entrance of the Inn that cool Saturday afternoon, leaves of orange and brown fluttering around her as a cool wind breezed through the trees that lined the perimeter of their property. She filled her pipe with tobacco and struck a match, ignoring the hordes of cars and bicycles pulling up to the pub attached to the building. She could hear her brothers nearby tuning their instruments as they prepared for yet another evening of entertaining guests with live music, the rambunctious noise from the pub already reaching her ears from guests drinking and carrying on even in this early hour in the afternoon. 

Delia pulled a small silver pocket watch out from her trousers and checked the time, the little thing a keepsake from her nursing days when it was clipped to the breast pocket of that god awful uniform she was made to wear. She wished she had the wherewithal to burn that poofy sleeved atrocity when she had the chance. 

It was five minutes to five. She still had time. She had been waiting all week for this moment. Every minute that ticked by was excruciating but she reasoned she could wait five minutes more. 

Out of the corner of her eye she saw a lone figure riding a bicycle towards her and realized that it was none other than her dear friend Valerie. 

Valerie was the only one allowed at the moment to come and bother Delia, though seeing her friend doing something so extraneous as ride a bicycle in her delicate state actually bothered Delia a little too much. 

‘What are you doing riding around like that?’ Delia asked, waving her smokey pipe in the vicinity of her friend. 

Valerie rolled her eyes as she dismounted from her bicycle and began to walk it over to Delia. 

‘What do you mean? I can ride a bicycle if I want. Dr. Turner says the exercise is good for me and the baby.’ 

Delia grumbled as she puffed on her pipe and continued to pace with her hand in her pocket, ‘Well, just ask me to drive you into town next time.’

‘I suppose you don’t care to know how baby is doing, do you?’ 

Delia puffed away and remained silent, looking at Valerie expectantly. 

‘Fit as a fiddle,’ Valerie said proudly.

‘I expected no less,’ Delia interjected, though quite relieved to hear. 

‘Doc says he’s got a heartbeat like a galloping horse!’ Valerie continued, patting the little bump in her belly, ‘He’ll be a strong boy, this one.’ 

‘How do you know it’s a boy?’ Delia asked narrowing her eyes, going back to puffing on her pipe and pacing. 

‘Donno, really. Just feels like it'll be a boy,’ Valerie said mysteriously, ‘and even Lucille agrees! Says I’m carrying high. Sure sign of a boy, she reckons.’ 

‘Oh, what does she know, just because her mam’s had eight kids…’ 

‘Hey now, don’t you go talking about my sweetheart like that,’ Valerie replied pointedly. 

Delia couged at the term, feeling tears prick at her eyes from the stinging in her throat. 

‘Sweetheart?' she prodded gently once she caught her breath, 'When did this happen?’ 

‘Just this morning,’ Valerie said with a sly smile, resting her bicycle up against the side of the house so she could place her hands on her hips, ‘I popped into her shop since I was a bit early for my appointment with Dr. Turner. She made us a pot of tea and told me how much she liked me.’

Delia narrowed her eyes skeptically, ‘Well that doesn’t mean…,' 

‘So when I told her I liked her too, she kissed me,' Valerie finished with a grin. 

Delia looked on wide eyed and stunned, watching as Valerie grinned cheekily, her cheeks twinging just a shade of pink at the revelation. 

Delia had a slew of followup questions to Valerie's tale, but the phone ringing from the front desk had her dropping her pipe with a clatter and scurrying to answer so fast a slew of papers managed to fall from the desk to the floor in her haste. They went ignored as she brought the receiver to her ear. 

‘Blue Stone Mountain Inn!’ she said eagerly into the receiver, hoping it would be the only person in the world she ever wanted to be on the other end of the line. 

‘Delia, is that you?' a familiar voice cracked through the line. 

‘Patsy!’ Delia grinned, a wave of joy and relief washing over her, ‘Oh, hello darling.’ 

Delia looked up at the clock on the wall and saw that it was five o’clock in the afternoon, the time Patsy promised to call her each and every Saturday to check in on her and the woman hadn’t missed a day yet. 

'Yes, my love, it's me,' Patsy crackled over the receiver again, sounding far away, 'can you hear me alright?' 

‘Just fine, cariad,' Delia replied, ‘How are you? Where are you this week, Pats? How has the tour been?’ Delia asked eagerly. 

‘Birmingham, then dotting the villages between here and Sheffield the following two weeks,’ Patsy replied, and Delia could sense that she was smiling over the phone, ‘Delia, I feel fantastic and everyone has been absolutely splendid. My publisher thinks my novel could be a series! Very popular with the young folks so far. He thinks this could fall right up there with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.’ 

‘Mystery novels?’ Delia asked. 

‘No!... Well, yes, but fantasy!’ 

‘Ah.’ 

‘But darling I have the most wonderful news; seems there's a break in my schedule for the holidays.’

‘The holidays?’ Delia perked up at this, her heart fluttering with a sense of hope, ‘is there?’

‘I’ll be back in London for a reading on the 27th, but otherwise I have the whole time between christmas eve and new years day to myself.’ 

Delia gulped, too excited with nerves to speak. 

‘I know your mum would kill me if I took you away for christmas day, but I wondered... would you like to come to London the day after? Stay here with me and celebrate the new year together?’ 

‘To-together?’ Delia breathed. She felt weak in the knees at the prospect, not having expected the chance to see Patsy at all until her tour was finished. 

‘Deels?’ Patsy exclaimed over the phone, her voice coming through louder, ‘Delia, did you hear me?’

‘Y-yes!’ Delia shouted, standing so abruptly that the stool she was sitting on toppled over, ‘Oh, gosh Patsy, yes, I would love to!’ 

‘I was hoping you would say yes,' Patsy beamed. 

‘Oi, Deels,’ came a voice. 

Delia looked over and glared at her brother Nicholas, who was looking rather annoyed back at her. 

‘Come on now, we’ve got to get on,' he implored, tilting his head toward the direction of the pub. 

‘Oh, give me a minute, will ya! I only get so much time with Patsy here.’ 

‘Well Paulie’s just arrived. Don’t want to keep him waiting too long,’ Nicholas said as he disappeared through the dining room and toward the kitchens. 

Delia’s heart jumped in her throat. 

Paulie was the owner of the record shop. It was his recording studio in which Delia and her brothers recorded their first single that made them as popular as they were in the village and beyond now. It was with his help they managed to get on the radio and copies of their record sold in his shop. Since then, their popularity only grew as they sold more records and continued to play to a packed room every weekend. Nearly every Saturday Paulie would come by after closing up his shop for the day and give the Busby siblings their cut of the royalties from the record sales. Delia had been squirreling hers away for several weeks with one particular goal in mind. The shiny golden band on her finger was a constant reminder of it, too. 

‘Pats, I’m so sorry I need to go soon.’ 

‘That’s alright, Delia, I’m being whisked away to the next town. Quick, before I board the train, how is Valerie and baby?'

‘Oh, Val says she’s fine and the baby is too. She thinks it’s going to be a boy.’

Delia could hear Patsy exclaiming her disbelief of the sex of the baby on the other end but was distracted as Valerie was suddenly next to her, waiving to her to hand over the phone. 

‘Wait, Valerie wants to talk to you,’ Delia said.

She had barely gotten the sentence out of her mouth before Valerie yanked the receiver to her ear, shouting.

‘Lucille and I snogged!’ 

The sound of Patsy screaming on the other end of the line was so loud it drowned out the music and singing coming from the other room. 


December


 

'Patience Elizabeth Mount,' Trixie chided, 'if you keep nibbling on that bottom lip of yours, you'll chew it clear off.'

Patsy tore her eyes away from the train tracks and glared spitefully at her friend as they stood on the bustling platform. Other holiday travelers from near and far scurried among them with suitcases and presents, all wearing long coats and furs that were the trend that season. Trixie stood there looking no different in Patsy's eyes with her bold red coat and paisley scarf as she gracefully took a drag of the cigarette delicately perched between her two fingers. 

'I'm going to the ticket counter again,' Patsy started, turning to make her way back to the unsuspecting gentleman behind a glass wall doling out tickets to travelers. 

'Patsy no!' Trixie reached out and grasped her friend by the arm, halting her motions, 'You've asked twice already for that trains schedule and both times they said there was no delay!' 

Patsy sputtered impatiently and thrust her hand in the direction of the large clock in the middle of the platform, 'Well the clock says 3:05 and the train was supposed to be here at three o'clock sharp!'

Patsy ignored Trixie rolling her eyes and hastily pushed the sleeve of her green coat up her arm. She brought her wrist close to her face, narrowing her eyes at the dainty little watch wrapped around her wrist.

'My watch says 2:55,' Patsy said, her eyes darting back to the big clock on the platform, ‘what does your watch say?’ 

‘Patsy,’ Trixie started warningly, ‘it’ll be here soon.’ 

‘Just humour me, Trix,’ Patsy pleaded with her friend. 

Trixie sighed blithely and checked her watch, ‘2:55.’ 

‘What the-?!’ Patsy stuttered, ‘That clock is 10 minutes off!’ 

‘They probably do that to prevent people from being late,’ Trixie shrugged. 

‘They're intentionally lying about the time?! Well now I’m definitely going to have a chat with,-’

‘Patsy, look!’ Trixie cried. 

Patsy whirled around to see a train appear in the distance, the low rumbling at her feet growing stronger as it approached. She stared, her eyes transfixed as she grasped onto Trixie’s arm for leverage. 

‘Shes here,’ Patsy whispered, her mouth curling into an excited smile as the grasp on her friends arm tightened to the point where the blonde thought her arm would turn purple. 

‘Steady on, sweetie,’ Trixie pleaded gently, patting Patsy’s hand as the front of the train began to breeze past them, the breaks giving a hair curling squeal as the machine slowed to a stop. 

Patsy looked around frantically as the first of the passengers began to exit the cars. There was a mad rush of people mingling about, either to greet their loved ones disembarking from the train or waiting for the passengers to exit so they could hop on for the next stop. 

After a few tense moments of looking around, Patsy spotted a very familiar looking flat cap appear among the crowd and the smog from the train. 

‘Delia!’ she called hopefully. 

Her heart rang in her chest when Delia looked right at her and smiled, those dimples she missed so dearly appearing before her eyes. 

Without realizing it, Patsy’s feet were carrying her forward. Her focus was on getting to the woman she set her eyes on so much that she didn’t even acknowledge the people she was bumping into along the way. Before she knew it, Delia was in front of her. 

The two women did not even pause to give a salutation before Delia dropped her bag to her feet and the two women were wrapped in the others arms and kissing right there on the platform. 

From the moment their lips met, the people around them disappeared, all the sounds of the bustling station muted. All Patsy cared about was that Delia was with her again. She closed her eyes and let her senses take over. She felt her body melt into Delias, growing accustomed to her touch again, to her taste and warmth. Everything about Delia just then took her back in an instant to the wonderful summer they had spent together. 

Right now Patsy cared little of the time, or of the people around them, or that it was nearly freezing out. She only knew of one thing in that moment and that was that she could not. Stop. Kissing. Delia. 

‘Ahem.’

The noise behind her registered only enough to have her lips part from Delia’s so she could move to other areas of Delia that were exposed to the elements, such as her cheeks and eyebrows and ears, the sound of Delia giggling in response made her heart flutter. 

‘I’ve missed you so much cariad,’ Delia said softly in her ear, and the sound of her voice sent a shiver down Patsy’s spine. 

Patsy finally pulled away to gaze adoringly into Delia’s pretty blue eyes. 

‘Oh, my darling, I’ve missed you too,’ she said, giggling slightly to see that Delia was now covered in pink kiss marks all over her cheeks and neck from her lipstick. 

‘You look an absolute picture, Pats,’ Delia said, taking a step back to look Patsy down and up again. 

‘Delia you look…’ 

Patsy did a once over with Delia and saw that the woman was wearing what looked to be a coat that was too small and trousers that were oversized. Her hair had grown too and she did a pitiful job of hiding the fact under her flat cap. 

‘You need a haircut,’ she said, and Delia smiled bashfully. 

‘I know,’ she said with a sigh, ‘I meant to get a trim before I set off but my schedule’s been hectic with performances and preparing for this trip…’ 

‘That’s no matter, Delia,’ Patsy clasped Delias hands in hers with a mischievous smile, ‘I’ve got plans for you, you know.’ 

‘Oh?’ Delia inquired curiously. 

Patsy was about to open her mouth and prattle on excitedly about all the wonderful things she had planned for her and Delia that week before a voice interjected. 

‘Yoo-hoo!’ Trixie called from behind her, ‘still here you know, waiting ever so patiently to be introduced to your fiancee here.’ 

The two begrudgingly pulled away and Patsy could hear Delia clear her throat, shifting ever so slightly to adjust her brown coat and red scarf. 

‘My apologies,’ Delia began, reaching up to tip her cap before extending her hand, ‘You must be Miss Franklin. I’m Delia Busby.’ 

‘Charmed,’ Trixie replied, giving Delia a once over before flashing a brilliant smile, ‘and please do call me Trixie. I take it you had an uneventful trip?’ 

‘Very. Though I am excited to be back in London.’

‘Fabulous,’ Trixie smiled, ‘well I expect you’re eager to kick up your heels and spend time with your beloved, but my own sweetheart is back in our flat preparing a nice tea for the four of us. If you’re up for it, of course, Delia.’ 

‘That sounds wonderful,’ Delia said with a genuine smile, ‘I’m famished, actually.’ 

‘Well, don’t want to keep you waiting any longer than you need to,’ Trixie gave a smile to Patsy, ‘shall we?’ 

Trixie turned before anyone could answer and Delia swiftly reached down to hitch her rucksack over her shoulder again. 

‘Gosh, I forgot how posh Londoners were,’ Delia fretted just loud enough for Patsy to hear, ‘makes me wish I’d have thought to wear my Sunday best.’ 

Patsy smiled and grasped onto Delia’s arm, holding her flush against her side as they walked from the terminal and onto the London streets. 

‘Don’t you worry about that, darling, I’ve got it all taken care of.’ 

‘How do you mean?’ 

‘You’ll see,’ Patsy replied, unable to contain her excitement for what she had in store for Delia, ‘let’s just get you home to freshen up and have a bit of tea.’


After a delightful tea and visiting with Trixie and Barbara, Patsy had whisked Delia away back to her flat where they took advantage of being alone for once without the risk of friends or family members stumbling in on them. They shared a bath together while smoking cigarettes and drinking champagne, and once they were all warm and wrapped up in cozy dressing gowns, the two women finally enjoyed one another until they were exhausted into a sound sleep, wrapped in sheets and each other. 

The following morning Patsy and Delia took their time rising from bed, mostly choosing to stay wrapped up in one another as they kissed and smoked more cigarettes and enjoyed a bit of cinnamon sweets Delia had brought from home. 

The desire to eat something finally found them rising late in the morning, and while Patsy was sitting at her vanity, busy fussing with her makeup and potions, as Delia called them, the welsh woman found herself standing in her undergarments next to the bed, the contents of her rucksack splayed out for her to observe. 

She looked on at them in disappointment. 

'I really wish I had more than one good outfit to wear,' Delia sighed, looking pitifully at the one pair of trousers she had that didn't have a hole in the knee. 

Patsy walked over as she fastened a nice pair of earrings to her ear and placed her hands on Delias shoulders, forcing the smaller woman to face her. 

'darling I told you not to worry about any of that.'

'I know, but I can't help it,' Delia sighed, 'I would have borrowed my brothers waistcoat, but nothing I want to wear ever fits right because of, well,' Delia trailed off gesturing to her chest, 'you know.'

Patsy have a knowing smile, 'Oh I know, but I've told you I took care of all that.' 

Patsy picked up a white button down shirt from Delia's pile of clothes and held it against Delia to see how it looked. 

'How? Do you have a secret set of friends that aren't posh and won't care what I wear?' Delia asked stubbornly. 

'Now now, no one cares what you wear,' Patsy replied, helping Delia into the shirt. 

'Not true. I could see how Trixie was looking at me when I arrived yesterday. She thinks I'm some country bumpkin I bet.'

Patsy tutted as she helped Delia button up. 

'I just can't stand wearing dresses or other frilly womens clothing,' Delia continued as she pulled on the one pair of trousers she had without a hole in the knee, 'but all of the clothing I do want to wear never fits because of my shape. Only thing I'm ever happy in is dungarees but I can't go to any new year's party dressed in that can I - oof!'

Delia was suddenly covered in darkness when the navy blue corded jumper she packed hit her square in the face. When she could see again she could see Patsy eyeing her sternly with a little smirk, her hands on her hips. 

`darling I assure you that Trixie and Barbara do not think you're a bumpkin. They adore you just as I do.'

Delia harrumphed and tucked her shirt into her trousers, taking the jumper and pulling it on. 

Once she was situated, Patsy was in front of her and tugging at her collar, straightening it and brushing the dust off her shoulders. The actions made Delia feel very much taken care of and she suddenly felt guilty for feeling low on herself and making a fuss. 

‘Perhaps you’re right, cariad, I’m sorry,’ she said, taking Patsy’s hand in hers and kissing her palm, ‘me being here with you is what this trip is all about.’ 

‘Oh, Delia,’ Patsy bristled with a smile, ‘you’re perfectly entitled to wanting nice things. Besides, you're in London now, for goodness sake. You can't throw a cat without hitting a bougie clothier.'

'I came here to spend time with you, Patsy, not go shopping.'

'We can certainly do both, darling,' Patsy replied, running her fingers through Delia's hair. She twirled an overgrown lock of it around her index finger and sighed, ‘and possibly get you a haircut while we’re at it,’ she added. 

'Patsy I can't,' Delia said shyly. 

Delia suddenly found herself unable to meet Patsy’s eyes, not knowing how to tell her that the money she had been squirreling away from her shows and record sales had already been spent on something else. 

'You can and you will,' Patsy said with a wink, turning on her heel. Delia watched on as she disappeared into a walk-in closet. 

‘I will?’ Delia asked. 

There was a rustling coming from inside the large closet, and soon Patsy emerged looking smart in a stylish plaid blouse and dark trousers, her winter coat strewn over her arm.

‘A little birdie told me exactly what you wanted for Christmas, and I may have made some special arrangements for you.'

Delia blinked, barely registering that Patsy had walked out of the room and towards the entrance to her flat. 

'Wait a minute, what birdie? What arrangements?’ Delia called after her, running towards the door and snatching her coat before following Patsy out into the elements.


Patsy and Delia walked arm in arm through the crowded streets, turning down quiet neighborhoods and narrow alleyways, not at all minding the cold temperatures and grey skies that looked as if they were about to burst open with snow at any moment. They chatted idly and walked along for some time before Patsy stopped them in front of a cutely decorated victorian era tea house. 

‘Ta-da!’ Patsy said, her hands gesturing to the building with the frilly pink curtains adorning the window. 

Delia was thoroughly confused. 

‘Um, Pats, are we too have tea in a shop that looks suspiciously like my mothers dining room?’ 

Patsy tutted, ‘No, silly, read the sign for the business upstairs.’ 

Delia looked above Patsy’s head to see a sign that read Anne’s Custom Clothier. 

Before she knew it, Patsy had grasped her hand and pulled her into the tea shop, the bell on the door thinking musically as they made their way up a narrow set of stairs. Each footstep they took creaked loudly, and the atmosphere grew dark the more they ascended the steps, the walls turning from a frilly pink and white wallpaper to dark wood paneling, the heavy scent of pipe tobacco lingering in the air. 

Patsy opened another door and allowed for Delia to walk into what appeared to be a mens shop. Rows of flat caps adorned the wood paneled walls on golden hooks, lines of festively colored ties and bow ties hung all around, along with shiny lapels and cufflinks to go with the multitude of varieties of suits and suede shoes. 

A figure appeared out from behind the counter, a woman to Delia’s surprise, who was dressed rather dapper like in a full three piece pinstripe suit and a trim haircut. She looked tall and lean in her tailored suit, accentuated with shiny cufflinks and bold pink tie that matched more with the decor on the first floor. She looked every bit as Delia wish she looked. 

‘Patience Mount, right on time, as usual,’ the woman teased, checking her silver pocket watch and closing it with a snap, skillfully slipping it back into her waistcoat pocket.  

‘Oh, Anne, you know how I feel about being punctual,’ Patsy smiled as Anne made her way over. 

The two women exchanged salutations, a flurry of ‘Good to see you darling,’ and ‘It’s been ages,’ and ‘you look wonderful,’ while they shared a friendly hug and chaste kiss on the cheek. 

Chaste as it was, the encounter between the two women left Delia feeling quite like a third wheel. 

‘Anne, this is my fiancee Delia,’ Patsy began, ‘Delia, this is Anne, the proprietor of this shop.’ 

Any confidence that Delia had felt dwindle at the sight of Patsy and this Anne person being familiar with one another returned straight away when she heard Patsy address her as her fiancee for the first time. She felt herself stand a little taller as Anne extended her hand for a friendly shake. 

‘Pleasure,’ Delia managed as she gave Anne a hearty shake and removed her cap with her other hand. 

‘Likewise,’ Anne said, giving Delia an appreciative once over, before leaning in and nodding towards Patsy, ‘There’ll be a lot of women crying on your wedding day for having snagged this one.’ 

‘Oh come now,’ Patsy looked away and swatted playfully at Anne. 

‘Will you be one of them?’ Delia asked cheekily, unable to help give the woman a challenging glare. 

Anne leaned back with her hands on her hips and gave a hearty laugh, ‘Steady on, girl. I just know a lot of women who would rather be in your shoes right now. Besides, I’m already happily married.’ 

‘Tea, anyone?’ 

Everyone whirled around towards the door to see a lovely looking blonde woman in a frilly pink dress with a tray of tea. 

‘Speak of the devil,’ Anne said, gently pushing past Delia and Patsy to help her wife through the door. 

‘Thought I’d bring up a hot cuppa to warm you up, dear,’ the woman said softly. 

‘That was very kind of you, darling, thank you,’ Anne said as she took the tray and placed it on a counter nearby, ‘Ann, this is Patsy and her fiancee Delia. She’s the one who put in the special order,’ Anne said, too which Ann gave a knowing look to the two of them. 

Delia raised her eyebrow at Patsy who merely smiled. 

‘Oh how wonderful,’ Ann said, clasping her hands in front of her as Anne prepared two cups of tea, ‘congratulations on your engagement. Have you decided on a date? A venue?’

Delia coughed and fiddled with her cap in her hands nervously, ‘Erm, well we haven’t necessarily sorted out the details yet.’ 

‘That’ll all come in time, I’m sure,’ Anne said, handing Delia a steaming cup of tea, ‘now, off you pop with Ann here. Don’t want to get behind schedule,’ she added, looking at her pocket watch once more. 

‘What?’ Delia looked to Patsy nervously. 

‘Oh really Anne,’ Ann chided to her wife, ‘I’m sure our guests can take their time. We have no appointments after theirs.’ 

‘Who's to say they don’t need to be off somewhere?’ Anne countered, ‘Besides, I checked my thermometer this morning and all signs point to a blizzard in the coming hours. Don’t want to keep these ladies any longer than they need to be.’ 

‘Where is Ann taking me, exactly?’ Delia asked. 

‘Not to worry, she’ll have you back here in a jiff for your fitting,’ Anne said, giving a reassuring smile. 

‘Fitting? Patsy, whats-,’

‘Ta-ta,’ Patsy grinned teasingly, wiggling her fingers at Delia as she felt herself be gently guided behind the counter of the shop and into a back room. 

‘Alright, you and I need to talk numbers,’ was the last thing Delia heard Anne say to Patsy before the door shut behind her. 

When she turned around, it was revealed to her that the back room was a combined office and bookkeeping space, wood paneled walls and wooden floors keeping the area quite dark with the exception of a brightly lit vanity, the shelf adorned with literature of men's fashion and hairstyles, a multitude of combs and straight razors, cologne and clippers, along with a leather barber chair on a swivel. 

‘Patsy tells me you’re in need of a trim?’ Ann said, and patted the back of the chair. 

Delia stared on perplexed wondering to herself just what was this place, but the woman's friendly smile had her lowering her guard, and she stepped forward to take a seat. 


Delia emerged from the room nearly a half hour later, feeling quite better about her appearance now that she was donning a slicked back pompadour that was not unlike how Elvis would style it, and she was very much relieved to be in the company of Patsy again, as the soft spoken Ann kept her quote busy discussing more wedding business than she’d care to as the woman trimmed her air. 

Anne and Patsy were perched quite respectively on a pair of stools, deep in conversation about something or other about far off travels as they sipped their tea. 

‘Ah, there she is,’ Patsy said, rising to her feet and walking to Delia to admire her new hairstyle, ‘my goodness do you look dapper. Do you like it?’ 

‘Right on cue,’ Anne added, once again checking her pocket watch and clicking it shut with a definitive snap. 

‘Patsy, will you please tell me what this place is already?’ 

‘It’s a shop, of course,’ Patsy said. 

‘It’s just… odd.’ 

‘How so?’ 

‘Well, I’ve never been to a place that would give me a mens hairstyle before.’ 

‘Do you not like it?’ Ann asked quietly, the mousy woman looking as if she were about to cry. 

‘No, no! I love it, really!’ Delia implored, not wanting to hurt the woman's feelings, ‘I just… I’ve never met women like you before. Never been to a place like this before.’ 

‘Nor had I,’ Anne smiled knowingly, ‘that’s why I created this shop. For women like us you see.’ 

‘Like us?’ 

‘Yes of course,’ Anne replied, ‘I don’t know about you, but I’ve traveled all over and have yet found a place where butch women like us could get spiffy. You know, get the kind of haircut we wanted, shop for a mens cologne or cap or shoes without making some excuse it was for our husbands or brothers. More importantly be fitted for a suit that was meant to fit our bodies.’ 

‘Three suits, actually,’ Patsy added.

Delia watched stunned as Anne walked over to the other side of the room near a platform and a giant mirror, rolling out a metal rack on wheels from behind a curtain to reveal the specialty made three piece suits, all a different color. There was one brown tweed three piece suit, one black three piece suit, and one grey.

‘It that…’ Delia gulped, feeling tears prick in her eyes, ‘are those… for me?’ 

‘Of course they’re for you,’ Anne stated. 

Delia looked up at Patsy, still unsure. Patsy smiled back at her brilliantly. 

‘Is she surprised?’ Ann asked softly from her spot in the back. 

‘Surprised?’ Delia choked out, looking back at the fitted suits on the rack, ‘I’m completely gobsmacked.’ 

‘You’re not upset?’ Patsy asked with uncertainty. 

Delia shook her head, looking back up t Patsy earnestly with tears threatening to spill over her eyes. 

‘I love it,’ she said. 

‘Love it?’ Patsy said, suddenly bashful, ‘goodness, Delia, we don’t even know if they fit yet.’ 

‘I don’t care, Pats. This is the most wonderful thing anyone has ever done for me. I love it. I love you.’ 

Patsy gave a relieved chuckle and pulled Delia in for a hug, giving her a sweet kiss on the lips before pulling away and wiping a happy tear from her eye. 

'Happy Christmas, Delia.' 

The two embraced once more before pulling away, Delia giving a sniff and working to control her emotions. 

‘I hope you don’t mind, darling,’ Patsy started, ‘that I took the liberty of choosing colors for you. I thought we could start with the standards and then if you like how they fit you could choose another one for Anne here to make in whatever colour you’d like.’ 

‘Mind?’ Delia asked, still feeling too shocked to believe that the beautiful garments in front of her, that she had dreamed of owning for herself one day, were indeed, hers, ‘no I don’t mind at all, it’s just… how did you know?’ 

‘Little birdy, remember?’ 

‘Little birdy knew my measurements ?’ Delia asked with an air of disbelief. 

‘Little birdy may have snuck into your room to tell me the measurements of your fitted trousers and such, yes,’ Patsy grinned cheekily. 

Delia right then had a sneaking suspicion she finally knew where Valerie had disappeared to when she spent those long evenings performing with her brothers in the pub. 

Before Delia could retort with any followup questions, Anne gave a loud whistle. 

‘Come on then, chop chop, you’ve got an event to get to this evening, don't you?’ she asked, checking her pocket watch yet again, ‘come on behind here and try this one on for size.’ 

Anne handed Delia the tweed suit and pulled her behind the curtain. The woman showed no shame as she hastily threw off Delia’s old, ill fitting clothing and stripped her down to her undergarments. She quickly dressed her and threw back the curtain, turning Delia around to face the other two women in the room. 

‘Well, Delia, how about you hop on up here,’ Anne said, gesturing to the platform in front of the mirror, ‘give us a chance to get a good look at you.’ 

Anne began to circle around Delia noting to herself how the trousers fit and where they came down around her ankles. Her muttering and notetaking all went unnoticed by Delia who suddenly found herself in one of the nicest things she had ever had the good fortune to wear. 

She took time to take in her appearance just then, from her fresh haircut to the way the blazer squared her shoulders, making hold her head high and back straight. The waistcoat of the tweed suit seemed to fit just right, not constricting her or bunching up awkwardly where her body curved. The lean trousers even had her appearing taller than she really was. 

Anne came over just then and fussed over Delia with a blue and red striped tie and pocket square that, all said and done, tied the look together. 

Delia caught Patsy’s eye in the mirror, and saw the redhead gazing admiringly at her. 

‘What do you think?’ Delia asked, smiling shyly. 

‘Doesn’t matter what I think,’ Patsy lamented. 

‘Yes it does,’ Delia replied, ‘Please…’ 

Patsy walked over to Delia and turned to face her, giving her a look down and up again at her appearance. 

‘Well then,’ Patsy started with a sigh, taking Delia’s blazer and feeling the material between her forefinger and thumb, ‘I think you look so very handsome. Dapper. Quite like you were meant to wear this.’ 

Delia gave a shy chuckle, ‘To be honest, Pats, I’ve never felt more like myself than I do in this moment,’ Delia said softly, pushing her blazer back with one hand and sticking it in her pocket, taking a moment to admire herself in the mirror. 

‘Job well done, love,’ Ann said to her wife, who looked on proudly at her handiwork. 

‘So,’ Anne began with a firm clap of her hands, ‘about that fourth suit?’

‘Oh gosh, I don’t know,’ Delia began, ‘Do I really need one? I feel like these three would suffice for a lifetime.’ 

‘Now now,’ Patsy said slyly, ‘You can’t go on living you life letting me make all your decisions for you. I want you to pick out a suit to your own liking. Whatever you want.’ 

‘Patsy…’ Delia trailed off, only stopping when she saw that determined look in Patsy's eyes.

‘Deels, listen to me,’ she said softly, taking Delia’s hands in hers, ‘it’s important to me that you pick out something for yourself, because the suit you create is the one I’m going to want you to wear to our wedding.’ 

There was an audible, excited gasp from the back of the room and everyone turned to look at the shy, mousy Ann with her fists clutched to her mouth, waiting with bated breath for something to happen. 

‘Your wedding suit! Now that’s something!’ Anne interjected, pulling Delia from the platform. 

There was a flurry of activity, Patsy disappearing from her side to look at bow ties and shoes while Anne went behind the counter and pulled out an enormous book of cloth. In it she revealed several samples of everything she could have made, colours that were solid and striped and checkered and paisley. Delia was on the brink of finding this all so overwhelming, but soon, with the gentle guidance of Anne, she had successfully picked out a suit for herself that she knew she would love. Every aspect of it was chosen, down to the very last detail; a navy blue tweed three piece suit with a red and white lining inside, a subtle nod to her Welsh heritage. Patsy thought the colors were splendid and picked out a tie and pocket square to match. The rest of the time there was spent figuring out the little nuances that tied together an outfit. New caps of all sorts of earthly tones were placed upon her head until she and Patsy came to one they both liked, new shoes were of various blacks and browns and square toed and winged tipped were placed upon her feet. 

Before she knew it, suppertime was upon them and Patsy and Delia were hustled out the door and back into the cold carrying a multitude of shopping bags and shoe boxes, accompanied by a fresh hot tea and a bag of warm scones for the road. 

Ann and Anne waived them off before closing up shop for the evening, the hell on the door once again tinkling musically, leaving Delia to stand there in her new suit and cap and shoes, wondering if all that had just really happened. 

'Well that was… an experience,' Delia mumbled, blinking in disbelief. 

'Well I think you look absolutely dashing, my love…’ Patsy trailed off, her eyes looking down Delia’s figure and back up again slowly .

‘What?’ Delia asked softly, raising an inquiring eyebrow. 

Patsy sighed and shook her head with a smile, ‘I stand here perplexed.’ 

She turned to face Delia, standing very close as her hand reached up to gingerly take the lapel of Delia’s blazer between her thumb and forefinger and run them slowly along the tweed fabric. 

‘I think that you look so wonderful in that suit, but I also want to rip it off and devour you,’ she said quietly. 

Despite the freezing temperature, Delia felt herself perspire, knowing full well that the comment cause a hot blush to spread across her face to the tips of her ears. 

Patsy leaned forward and gave Delia the most teasing, yet smouldering kiss she had ever had, before pulling away smiling. She gave Delia a look that made Delia think she was rather enjoying getting her all flustered like this.  

‘I’m certain there'll be no shortage of women who would give anything to be on your arm.’ 

Delia blushed bashfully at the compliment, thinking that she did feel rather sharp and confident in her new clothes. She looked up at Patsy when she felt the woman's warm finger under her chin. 

'Are you happy, love?' she asked. 

Delia took a deep breath, finding herself unable to speak. She managed a shy smile and a vigorous nod. 

'Good. Alright then,' Patsy said, picking up the bag of scones and reaching in, 'let's head back to the flat so we can drop these off and I can get ready for my event this evening. Can't have you looking there all dapper while I look like a schlub. Ooh!' 

Delia's eyes widened at the sudden change of tone. 

'Perhaps I can quick pop into the Bourne & Hollingsworth to snag a pair of shoes I saw in the window earlier!' 

Delia had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach just then, and thought it was about time to broach a touchy subject. 

'Erm, Patsy, as grateful as I am about all this… I reckon, well, do you usually shop this much?'

'This?' Patsy asked, gesturing to the multitude of bags Delia was carrying, 'this is nothing darling. You should see what I've already bought for the baby.'

She broke off a bit of scone and and placed it in Delia's gaping mouth before skipping off happily in the direction of the shop. After a few moments, Delia blinked to her senses and trotted off after her, shopping bags bouncing noisily at her sides.