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South Africa

Chapter Text

“Darling, are you sure this is something you want to do?”

“Ever since I left the order, I’ve always felt as if I was still needed at Nonnatus House,” she runs her fingers through his thick hair, the moonlight streaming in through the curtains of their bedroom their only source of light.

“You’ve been a nurse and midwife for them ever since coming back to Poplar.”

“I know,” she sighs, she lightly bites the side of her cheek, “but I have an opportunity here to serve the world as my community rather than one little section of London.” She buries herself against his chest, his warmth wrapping itself around her body. “Their mission hospital is falling apart. They need all the help they can get.”

Tipping her chin up with the tip of his finger, he smiles down at his wife, “Then I guess that is that.”

She pops onto her knees, excitement flowing through her veins, “Really?”

“I’m going to miss you like crazy,” he captures her cheeks, “you better come back with a souvenir, a genuine one straight from South Africa.”

She melts back into his arms, “I only wish I can take you with me.” For one second, her wretched mind tells her to shut up.

He doesn’t seem to notice. “I won’t be able to take off the time from work, not with our new account from Charlie Chester Casino.”

“No, I guess not,” she kisses his jaw, lavishing him with the attention he was seeking when they had gotten home from the Christmas dinner.

“I want you back as soon as your work is complete.” His fingers dig under her blouse, the need to be skin to skin sizzling between their bodies. “I will buy you a plane ticket.”

“That is rather… hmmmm… rather extravagant,” her sigh slithers out from the back of her throat, his palms now finding her breasts.

“Nothing but the best for my darling wife.”

She moves her leg so that she is now straddling across his hips, “I love you, Jack.”

He captures her hips as she buries her lips along his neck, “I love you, my darling Shelagh.”

 


 

“So,” she sucks in the nicotine, the embers from her cigarette nearly reaching the filter, “I assume that you are going to South Africa?”

He glances up from the article he had been reading to see his wife leaning against the door jamb, her robe tightly tied at the waist. “They are in need of a doctor.”

“But you don’t believe in God.”

He rolls his eyes, “I don’t need to believe in God in order to help people.”

She gives him a scornful grin, the one that makes his blood boil, “How righteous of you.”

He takes a deep breath, “I don’t want to fight with you, not on Christmas.”

She simply shrugs her shoulders, “Fair enough, though Boxing Day will be fair game.” She takes a few steps in and kills the cigarette in the ashtray on his bedside table. “How long will you be gone for?”

“A few weeks,” he has to work extra hard at not rolling his eyes to kingdom come. “You will need to behave yourself when I am gone. It would be rather hard to explain a child if I were gone during its conception.” They had not made love to each other in well over a year when Angela was born and he can count on one hand the amount of times they had made love since then. Usually with the help of a scorching amount of alcohol and a reliable sheath for good measure.

“Well with this new pill coming out, that should make things a little bit more easier.”

Her words cut deep, but with this being the normal state of their relationship, he has learned how to keep such pain from mirroring on his face. “Just as long as you keep your men outside of Poplar.”

“Don’t I always?” She leans down and kisses his forehead, “Good night, Patrick.”

He glances up at his wife, “Good night, Marianne.”

“Don’t forget that tomorrow is fair game,” she sashays out of his room towards her own.

“I look forward to it,” he murmurs under his breath as he glances back at his magazine.

 


 

“Greeting, Doctor Turner,” Shelagh looks up from her notes at the receptions desk. “How was your Christmas?”

“Wonderful,” his smile is forced, but she doesn’t comment on it, she never has. “Especially with the exciting news that we received. Will you be joining our small caravan?”

“I had talked it over with Jack when we got home from Christmas dinner and he’s going to buy me a plane ticket there and back.”

“Splendid!” His smile reaches his eyes, a brightness she had not seen for a long while. “Seeing as how I will also be purchasing a plane ticket to and from South Africa, we can spend some time organizing the surgery center and the medicines we will need to take with us.”

“The nurses and nuns will be leaving on New Years Day by boat, so that should give us a fortnight to have everything ready.” She is already pulling a fresh piece of paper out, “I shall ready a list of things we need to do before we leave.”

“Very well, Nurse Caplin,” he picks up the stack of mail, “I will review over you list and will endeavor to accomplish all that is listed.”

Chapter Text

The “Doctor Turner!” He glances up from his notes to see Nurse Caplin at the door with a package, “The last of the sugar cubes have come in. I believe this is the last of the medicines we were charged with bringing.”

“Fantastic,” he stands up and reaches out for the package, adding it to their trunk of medicine and aides to help with the struggling clinic. “Are you packed for the trip tomorrow?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” she gives him a nervous smile. “This is my first time on an airplane.”

“This is my second time, my first being after the war had ended and they wanted all of us to be home.” He stuffs his hands in his pockets, the need to reach out to her tingling along the tips of his fingers. “I imagine that this will be a step up from the cargo plane I had to ride in.”

She takes a deep breath, her smile brightening once again. “Now Jack and I will be picking you up at six o’clock tomorrow morning so that we can be at the airport by seven.” Her brow furrows, “Are you sure you don’t want Mrs. Turner to see you off?”

And make it easy on her to see her chap-of-the-week? “No, thank you. We will be saying our goodbyes tonight.” Mainly in the form of screaming voices and snide remarks used to cut the deepest. 

“Very well,” her smile falters, no doubt seeing him grimace. “If you do not mind, I wanted to leave early to spend time with Jack. He had just called to tell me that he is leaving early as well.”

“Of course, of course,” he steps to the side to allow her enough room to get by. “I shall see you at six o’clock on the dot.”

“Have a good evening, Doctor Turner,” she gives him one last smile before turning away.

“You as well, Nurse Caplin,” he watches her as she walks out of the reception area, his eyes always attracted to the lovely sway of her hips.

 


 

Shelagh stares at the clock, its tick in tune with the pounding of her heart. She had come home early, taken a bath and dressed in her best dress only to sit for the remainder of the night. Anger thumps against her neck at their ruined evening, this particular string of reoccurring nights running as far as the eye can see.

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me and undivided heart

The slam of the car door pulls her from her prayers.

that I may fear your name.

The numerous scrapes of the key against the lock tells her of his drunkenness, the smell of perfume that wafts in after him tells her of where he was. “Why didn’t you call to tell me,” is the first thing she asks when she sees him hobble in. I bet it has everything to do with Larry the Lobby man.

“I ran into Larry in the lobby in a slight panic.”

Shelagh sighs, “How predictable.”

“Shelagh, we had to lock in these clients.”

“That’s where the booze and the half naked women come in at, darling.” She stands from the immaculate sofa, the beads from her dress glowing in the dim light. “You didn’t need to be there for that.”

“No,” he hangs his head.

“Was she there?” She fortifies her nerves with her hands on her hips. “Margret? Was she there?”

“She was not,” he falls down onto the sofa. “That was a long time ago, Shelagh.”

“Did you see her tonight?” Pure hatred venomously coats her tongue.

He dramatically rolls his eyes and sighs, “I see her everyday.”

She bites down onto her cheek, the sting of it reminding her to keep her tongue in check. “Did you see her tonight?”

“No, darling.” She can tell that he is lying by the smudge of ‘Cherries in the Snow’ lipstick color on his collar. Margret’s calling card. “You said that you would move past it.” He lifts his brow. “I have.”

Again, she swallows the cheeky comment she would prefer to say that would wipe his condescending grin off his face. “Well you make that task rather difficult when you come in twice a week wreaking of alcohol and perfume.” Silence resumes, her anger clashing against the tick of the clock.

“You look rather nice in your dress.”

No! No, no, no, no, no! “I do, but I’m off to bed.” She gives him a pointed look, silently begging that he will keep his hands off of her. “We both have an early morning.”

“Oh no, my darling Shelagh,” he springs up from the sofa and lifts her up from under her knees, “you know how much I love your strict Sister Bernadette voice.”

She tries to push herself out from his arms, “Not while you’re drunk.”

“You’ll be gone for weeks in South Africa and we have not made love since Christmas,” his arms are steel as they hold her tight to his chest. “I will have my way with you tonight and before we leave tomorrow morning.” He swings her through the door of their bedroom and lays her on their bed.

As he clumsily begins to trail her neck with his lips, she resides herself to that small happy place in her mind, one that she was forced to find after infidelities had struck too many raw nerves. But you also brought this upon yourself, she sighs.

While her husband is having his blasted way with her, she stares at the little grooves in the ceiling, her eyes never blinking, never daring to show the silent hell raging inside her.

 


 

“Here you go,” Patrick holds out a bag for Marianne.

“Shouldn’t I be gifting you with a bon voyage present?” She gleefully takes the bag and opens it.

“My bon voyage and returning home present all in one.” He watches as she dumps out the rubbers and diaphragms. “Protection from not falling in the family way.”

“For me?” She bats her eyelashes as places everything back into the bag. “How thoughtful.” She reaches for her cigarette, “I would have gotten you the same however your knack for burying yourself in the cunt of your work has no barriers small enough to pack in your bag.”

He rolls his eyes, yet says nothing in return as he turns to leave. He had promised Angela a nighttime reading of her favorite book and he wanted to make sure to take Timothy out for some fried bread.

“The kids are going to miss you.”

He stops and leans against the door jamb, “I will miss them most of all.”

“Are you still taking Tim out?”

“Yes. He’s finishing his homework right now in his room. I’m going to read Angela one of her books.”

She is quiet as a mouse when she gets out of her bed, wrapping her arms around his waist. “After you get back, we can spend some time together.” Her fingers play with his belt.

“If you still want to when I get back,” he sighs as he captures her arms. A long time ago, they used to be this loving, in fact, they couldn’t keep their hands off of each other without going mad with desire. During times like these, he misses it, craves it when he is alone at night in his own bed. But you also brought this upon yourself, he sighs.

“I’ll sneak in when the kids are asleep,” she kisses his shoulder before unraveling her arms from his body. “Besides, there are a few things we need to talk about.”

Divorce again, I presume, preferably from the new solicitor she’s been shagging. “We will talk when I get back.” And before she has a chance to quip back, he escapes up the stairs, two at a time to his daughter’s room.

 


 

“This is rather luxurious,” Shelagh looks around at the accommodations on the airplane.

“I have to remember that this is your first time on a airplane,” Patrick grins, Shelagh’s wonderment contagious, the feel of his life in London already miles away.

“I’ve never had to ride on airplane before,” she glances out of the window as their plane starts to move along the tarmac.

He extinguishes his cigarette in the small ashtray in his armrest, “You had mentioned it before.” Hearing the engines starting to rev up, he grips the armrests.

“I am quite – oh goodness gracious!” Her hand darts out and grabs his wrist, squeezing him tight as they lift higher into the air. “I wasn’t expecting that.”

“Yes well,” his cheeks growing red as the heat from her palm blazes through the layers of clothing, “it’s not my favorite part either.” Once the plane levels itself out, her grip relaxes.

He finds his mood sours when she pulls her hand away completely. “I’m sorry, Doctor Turner for my reaction. I hope I didn’t offend—”

“No, no, nonsense.” Again, his fingers are begging to reach out to touch her skin, however, he folds them in his lap. “Don’t be sorry for your reaction.” She glances over to him, her shy smile punching him in the gut. “I’ll leave my arm here on the armrest. If there is any turbulence, then you can squeeze it as hard as you would like.”

“Thank you, Doctor Turner, for your kindness.”

“No need for formality, please call me Patrick.”

Her smile brightens, the sun fading behind her beauty, “As long as you call me Shelagh.”

“There,” he gathers all the courage he can muster and pats her hand on the shared armrest, “we’ve made a start.” To the happy beat of his heart, she doesn’t pull away from him or make a disgusting face. Though propriety must live on, he pulls his pack of cigarettes from inside his breast pocket.

“Thank you, Patrick,” she gives him one more smile before resuming her gaze outside of the window.

Rolling his muscles into the back of his chair, he tries to get himself comfortable for the rest of the ride to South Africa.

Chapter Text

“So, you’re not going to believe this,” Shelagh turns to the voice behind her, “the ship carrying everyone had to stop off in Casablanca for an unexpected crew change. They are not expected here until two days from now.”

“Oh no! I hope all is well.” She glances around the busy port, numerous people weaving in and out, the prospect of their final destination making their feet quicken. “What shall we do?”

“We can either make the trip out to Hope Clinic ourselves or we can wait here in Port Elizabeth. I asked the gentlemen the name of a hotel and he told me that there are quite a few within a few kilometers of here that are geared more towards English tourists.”

She bites down on her bottom lip, worry knotting her stomach ten folds over. “If we go out to Hope Clinic then we will not have all the supplies needed, however, I have no money to buy a few nights in a hotel.”

“Despite our choice on the matter,” he captures her shoulder with his palm, “you will be provided for.”

She keeps her eyes trained on the blend of rushing people, trying her best to ignore the fluttering butterfly wings in her belly. “I don’t know.” She curses how breathless she sounds. “What do you think?” She looks back into his hazel eyes and instantly regrets it. Their lips are so close that she can feel his short breaths on her cheek, his pulse beating as wildly as hers.

“I say we stay for a few days,” his hand falls back down to his side, his body taking a blessed step back. “Come along,” turning to their luggage cart, he pushes it towards the exit.

Having no choice but to follow him, she mentally curses herself for the slip-up as she stares at his retreating backside.

 


 

“You know,” Patrick glances around the dinky room, “for a little shack on the side of the street, this food has been the best food I have had in a long while.” After settling in their separate rooms and making sure the trunk of medicine was still in one piece, they had decided to get dinner.

“I promise not to tell Mrs. Turner that.” Shelagh had said it in jest, he knew she meant for it to be a joke, however, it had the opposite affect on Patrick.

Just the thought of his wife wrapped in the arms of a faceless man has him furrowing his brow, a silent prayer that she will use the protection he provided her. The idea of her being pregnant when he comes back from his trip is a rather daunting weight pressing down on his shoulders. But none of that matters now, not with the papers signed and dotted.

“I’m sorry,” her quiet whisper brings him out of his rumination.

He shakes his head, “Why?”

“You obviously miss your wife and children.”

“I miss Timothy and Angela with all of my heart. Leaving them, especially for this long, is the hardest part of this trip.” His last night before leaving, Angela had drawn him a picture. She had told him that it was ‘dada and Ella’. During their free time before dinner, he had went out and bought a frame for it. Timothy, understanding why he had to leave, had made him promise to write postcards and to bring a cool animal skull back. “I’m sure you miss Jack.”

“Yes,” she gives him a sad smile.

“Did you enjoy your dinner together?”

Her lips thin into a depressing, white line, “He actually had to work late.”

“Oh,” anger sears through his veins at her downcast eyes, yet he flushes it away, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, no need to ruin our nice dinner now.” She takes a deep, steady breath. “I was able to call Jack. He will wire the money down here and I will be able to pay you back for buying my room.”

“There was no need,” he lays a few bills on the table when their plates have been taken away before standing up. “The hotel has many visiting doctors staying there, so I was able to acquire a better deal.”

As he pulls out her chair and she stands, she glances over her shoulder, “No matter, you will be compensated.”

For some reason, his eyes focus on her lips, dusty pink and plump from all of her worrying, parted every-so-slightly to take in oxygen. For a flash of a second he wonders how they would taste on his own lips. But I shouldn’t, I promise myself that I – the tip of her tongue dips out to wet her perfectly beautiful lips. Squeezing his eyes shut, he shakes his head, trying with all his might to calm his excited body, “A chap I met in the shop told me that there is this pub on the water that has spectacular views of the sunset in the harbor.”

She rights her sweater and steps aside to allow him to open the door for her. “It sounds splendid, but afterwards, I would like to return back to the hotel.”

“Of course,” he gives her a playful smile as he ushers her out.

 


 

“Patrick, may I ask you a question?” Shelagh plays with the stem of her wine glass, her third of the night and its contents being the liquid courage needed to ask what has been weighing heavily on her mind.

“I think you just did,” his smile is easy going, brighter than the smiles she is used to seeing stretched along his cheeks.

“When we were at dinner, you had mentioned that you missed your children, but not your wife,” she had said it so quickly, she was afraid that he was going to ask her to repeat it. Yet, his eyes grow dark, stormy, just like they had been when she had mentioned his wife by name earlier. Losing her courage, she shakes her head, “I’m sorry. It’s none of my busin—”

“I don’t miss the fights.” He gulps down the rest of his drink, his glass slamming down onto the table, “They have turned quite vicious after Angela was born.”

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked,” she bites down on her bottom lip, worried that she has overstepped her boundaries with him.

“Don’t be.” He holds up his empty glass towards the bartender, signaling for another refill. “No one has been brave enough to ask, however, that doesn’t stop the gossip.”

She had noticed how Marianne never comes to community events with him anymore. And how their newest one had taken none of his features. She had always kept these observations to herself, chastising herself for even having such thoughts, yet, with the pain searing through his eyes at the moment, she can’t help but think of them again. “Gossip can be rather cruel.”

“You had a good dose of it when you had left the order.”

She finishes her wine, the dry sweetness loosening her tongue. “Yes, well being called a harlot and a whore was rather cruel.”

“Not to mention how Angela looks nothing like me.” The bartender sets another round of drinks on their table.

Her heart breaks for him. Being called names is one thing, but for people to imply that his wife had forsaken their marital vows is gut wrenching. “That is horrid. You should—”

“The gossip is true.” His eyes widen in shock at his own confession. He pushes his full glass away from his reach. “I’m sorry, I should not put any of this on you.” He stands and turns away from her to pay their bill.

She stares at his back, the revelation of his words settling heavily on her muscles, numbing them from moving. When he returns, his smile is weary, his heart sitting open and vulnerable on his sleeve. “Have you thought about divorce?” She abruptly stands from her chair, her fingers covering her blasted mouth, “Goodness! I’m so sorry.” She notices some people looking at them with curiosity. Walking out onto the sidewalk, she leads the trek back towards their hotel. “I should not even pry into such matters.” She twirls around and nearly bumps into him. “Please forgive me. I shouldn’t have had so much wine.”

“Shelagh.” He grabs her shoulders. “Stop! You don’t need to beat yourself up over your curiosity. I said something rather shocking to hear and it’s natural to ask questions.”

For the third time that day, she finds herself so close to him, his lips within easy reach. “Please,” she has to small step back, “don’t make an excuse for my appalling behavior and equally abhorrent question.”

“It’s not an excuse. I just…,” he sighs, his expressive eyes ticking back and forth, “I can’t talk about this to other people, so when I find someone open to the conversation, it flows out with no will to stop.”

She captures his forearms, his warm palms pressing into her shoulders, “I’m sorry that has happened to you. To be on the receiving end of such news is…,” the image of Jack’s secretary comes to her mind, choking her with memories of late nights and perfume-soaked clothes, “it is devastating.”

His brow furrows, comprehension of her words and expression coming to light on his face. She’s not ready to divulge in such information, the need to keep it locked away still claws against her throat.

She gently pats his arm, “Come along.” When she lets go, his hands fall back down to his sides. Resuming their walk together, she mentally chides herself on losing her self-restraint. In London, it had been easy for her to push images of him away, his wife and children being all the reasons she needed. Even during the lowest point in her marriage, her thoughts never had strayed to him. Yet, they had always been there, hiding amongst scriptures and patient files, ever since he had commented on how pretty my new glasses were all those years ago.

“Many times,” his pained voice pulls her from her own musings, “we had thought about getting a divorce, both of us had even gone so far as to hire a solicitor. However, in the end, we had come to the agreement that it wouldn’t be right for the children.”

Even when one child is not biologically his? She pinches the side of her leg for thinking such horrid thoughts that are none of her business.

“I know, it doesn’t make sense when Angela is not even mine, but, since the day she was born and I held her in my arms for the first time, I have loved her as if she is my own.” He runs his fingers through his hair, “I would appreciate your confidence on the matter.”

“You don’t even need to ask.” They walk into the lobby of their hotel, towards the lifts. Just as they see their respective rooms, Shelagh turns towards Patrick and captures his hand. “If you ever need to talk about it, I will always lend a listening ear.”

“Thank you. That means so much.”

She squeezes his fingers and gives him an encouraging smile. She is about to slip her hand away when his thumb sweeps along the edge of her palm. All at once, her heart bursts into an erratic beat against her throat while her stomach flutters.

It has been a long time since she had felt that same feeling; the last time being in a tiny kitchen at the old community center with the same man in front of her wanting to examine her scraped hand. Although he had gone no further than to look at her injury, she had assumed, through the same look he is giving her at this very moment, that he had wanted to do more. A fool’s thought.

Slipping her hand from his, her stomach gives another tug when his fingers trace the bumps and curves of her own fingers in a last-ditch attempt to stay connected. “Good night, Patrick.” Her voice sounds raspy, breathless, under the heaviness of those three words.

“Good night, Shelagh.” He gives her a small smile before turning towards the direction of his own room.

 


 

“Good morning, Patrick,” the lilt of her voice somehow soothes the thumping of his headache.

He slowly turns to her, the brightness of the African sun throwing him off of his equilibrium, the need to clear his stomach pressing against his throat. “Good morning, Shelagh.” He swallows down the bile that threatens to come up when he hears her giggling.

“From the looks of it, it’s been more of a rough morning for you,” she opens her handbag and produces a pair of sunglasses. “Here, to help ease your troubles.”

“That is very kind, but I—”

“Will graciously accept them as an apology for my ridiculous behavior last night.” The memory of their time at the bar creeps along his skull; her questions, his confession, the way her skin felt so soft in his palm, the pout of her pink lips. “I bought them in the gift shop and the sign specifically states that there will be no refunds or exchanges.”

Timidly, he takes them and puts them on, the dim light helping to take the edge off from the pounding in his head. “There is no need to feel guilty,” he pulls out the seat next to him before reaching for his glass of Alka-Seltzer water, “you asked a question and I simply answered it.”

“I was rude and I hope you can forgive me.”

He sighs, their words going around and around making him dizzy. “I will forgive you if you forgive me for being so blunt.”

She looks as if she is going to fight him, yet at the last minute, she caves in, “Very well. You are forgiven.”

He smirks, her fighting spirit is what he finds most endearing. “You are forgiven as well.” Taking a sip of his water, he catches his reflection in the mirror. Other than his pale, pasty skin, he quite likes the glasses. “These are rather fashionable,” he turns to smile at her.

“Yes, well, you do look rather dashing,” she blushes as his laughter bubbles out from his chest.

“Now that is something I have not been called in years.” He finishes his water, his stomach finally starting to settle. “My plan for today is to acquire any more supplies or medicines as possible as well as to check the status of the ship with the rest of our caravan on.”

She slips off of the chair, the colors of her dress catching the sun, brightening her features. “Lead the way then.”

Shoving his hands back into his pockets, they both walk out onto the street together.  

Chapter Text

“This place is absolutely beautiful! Did you see all of the…the…,” Patrick walks into the makeshift lab where he sees Shelagh huffing under her breath. “What’s wrong?”

“Out there is beautiful,” she exaggerates, pointing out to the mountains lining their view, “not so much in here, I can assure you!” His brow dips, yet that seems to anger her more. “There are no records whatsoever and their medical instruments are so antiquated that I haven’t seen them since my training as a nurse almost fifteen years ago.”

“They don’t have a lot, let alone enough money to buy the newest equipment.”

“I get that,” she sighs, catching herself on the counter with her palms, “but surely a few pieces of paper and a pencil doesn’t cost as much. No records kept can be the death of someone.”

“Not while I’m here.” Both Patrick and Shelagh turn towards Dr. Myra who crosses her arms protectively along her chest. “I know every person brought here. I know every child born here or in the village. Records are useless when each case is given special attention.”

“And while I’m sure this hospital is running at peak efficiency, you are not invincible. What were to happen if there was an emergency while you were away or if, god-forbid, you became ill?” Shelagh frowns at Dr. Myra’s stubbornness. “Records can mean a great deal especially if something is missed.”

“While I appreciate your concern Nurse Caplin, out here is a different pace of life.” Dr. Myra allows her arms to fall to her sides, her stubbornness melting into understanding, “There is no such thing as bureaucracy red tape or a National Health Service. There are men and women and children who are provided simple care when none would be provided otherwise.”

“I understand, Dr. Myra, but if I can find a way to provide updated record keeping without any added stress on your part, would you consider it?”

Patrick turns to Dr. Myra, who thoughtfully considers the proposal, “I will do my best to implement it as well as my successor.”

Patrick looks back to Shelagh and is pleased to see her bright smile, “I will find a way, Doctor.”

“I look forward to your ideas, Nurse Caplin,” and with a simple nod to both people, Dr. Myra slips out of the room.

Once they are alone, Patrick leans in and grins, “Bravo, Shelagh.”

Her eyes sparkle, “I’m not celebrating yet, I still have to find an efficient way for them to keep records.”

He captures her shoulder and gives her a light squeeze, “I have complete faith in you.” Their eyes are magnetic, the air between them lightens from the mugginess that had blanketed them since picking up the rest of their group. His thumb caresses the edge of her shoulder, beckoning her, begging her for permission to taste her lips. Just as he leans in, her sapphire eyes soften, her lips break apart just slightly–

“Nurse Caplin.”

Jumping apart from each other as if struck by lightening, Patrick goes back to his inspection of the room while Shelagh turns to the voice. “Yes, Sister Julienne?”

“Your room is ready. You will be bunking next to Dr. Myra’s room.”

“Yes, Sister,” giving Patrick one last smile under the guise of searching for her bag, she leaves the lab without another word.

Feeling Sister Julienne’s impenetrable stare, he informs her, “I will unload the trunk of supplies.”

“Doctor,” she calls out, taking three steps for her to catch up to him. “Please remember that we as medical professionals should honor all standard work protocols.” She presses her lips into a thin, white line. “This is not a vacation away from your life in Poplar.”

He glares at her superior attitude, “You know the truth, Sister Julienne. I dare say, you know more than you would ever let on.” He feels a slight twinge of guilt when he sees her pale under the hot sun, but he doesn’t let up, not when both of their reputations are on the line. “And if you quote scripture to me, I have no problem quoting it right back. I can give you my word that my friendship with Nurse Caplin is just that. Excuse me,” and without a glance back, he walks out of the room.

Stomping to the stack of trunks lining the side of the road, he lifts the first one up and takes it straight to the general ward, his anger at the Sister’s presumptions igniting his strength. He did enjoy their time spent together in Port Elizabeth, yet, he had not dared to go further than placing his hand on the small of her back to help her through the door.

And while he finds himself wishing for more of her touch, to hear the sound of her laughter, he does not get his hopes up too high. Being a former woman of God, he finds it hard to believe that she would ever do something as scandalous as to kiss another man, much less having an extramarital affair.

Not to mention, the gossip would be far more spiteful than when she had decided to leave Nonnatus House and to marry Jack if anyone were to ever find out.

Setting the trunk down, he flicks the lock open to see bandages, wraps, and syringes needed in this area of the hospital. Leaving it to be sorted through by one of the nurses, he goes back out to the stack.

As he picks up the next trunk, he remembers the first time he had learned of Marianne’s affairs. When he had confronted her about it, she had simply explained that while he remained married to his work, she will continue to find comfort from the arms of other men. She had said it so plainly as if I should have stupidly known it from the beginning.

Maybe I should have…

He opens the lid to a smaller case to find all of the medicines needed to help with the Polio vaccinations and takes it to the laboratory/ medical office. I should have paid more attention to her, applied for a comfortable job with better hours, but, even then, I was unsure if she would be willing to change her ways with me.

The next night, when she had brazenly come home smelling of wine and sex, he moved his things into his own bedroom, her position made quite clear. Instead, he had made a silent promise to himself to care for the community around them to help bury the guilt of allowing his marriage to fail.

For years after, he had become immune to their hellacious fights and hurtful digs in the privacy of their home, never allowing anyone to witness their cruel words, their only exception being when Sisters Julienne and Evangelina had helped to give birth to Angela.

“Wow, Doc,” Fred gives him an impressed grin at the sight of most of the cases taken to their respective areas. “I can help you with the bigger ones.” He points to the biggest one he had not recognized, “This one belonging to Nurse Franklin.”

By the time both he and Fred had moved all of the remaining luggage, Patrick disappears to his own quarters. Ridding himself of his wrinkled jacket and soaked waist coat, he settles down onto his bed. I could have had my own affairs, finding a random woman to warm my bed, but I never wanted it.

Accept once, when I wanted her…

Divesting himself of his saturated shirt and vest, he pulls out a fresh clean one and slips it on. I couldn’t, not when she was Sister Bernadette, not when she had been diagnosed with tuberculosis, and certainly not when she had married Jack so soon after she had returned from her convalescence.

She deserves better. He washes away the sweat with the help of a wash cloth and a basin of clean water. She deserves a life devoid of the gossip that can cripple one’s soul. He stares into the small mirror. I need to make sure to never give away what I truly feel about her, even if it seems as if she wants the same thing.

With his new prerogative sitting squarely on his shoulders, Patrick walks out of his quarters to the main ward of the hospital. He sees her tending to a patient, her pretty dress replaced by her uniform. The smile she gives to the suffering patient takes his soul to new heights.

And while he would love nothing more than to bury himself within her arms, he knows that he needs to heed Sister Julienne’s advice and to steer clear of any temptations. I will just have to do what I have been doing since that early morning we shared a cigarette — I will continue to admire her privately from afar.

 


 

“It is not right,” Shelagh doesn’t need to look back at the voice behind her to know who it is, “and you know it.”

“We have done nothing wrong,” she stares at the simple cross before her, reminding her of the same cross that used to reside in her cell when she was a nun. She finds it ironic now that she still looks to the same cross, her mind on the same man, her thoughts still swirling around him, yet, they are over three years apart.

“That’s not what it looked like when I walked in,” Sister Julienne sits in the chair next to her.

“I am telling you, we are just friends.” Shelagh clasps her hands together in prayer, knowing full well that she did not sound as convincing as she should have been.

“You know what you have to do.”

A sly chuckle slithers out from between her lips, “I would have never thought to see the day that you would give me advice on how to successfully divorce my husband.”

“It was you who came to me first when Jack’s infidelities had become too much for you to bare.” Sister Julienne lies her palm over Shelagh’s clasped hands, “Please, heed my advice now before things become too complicated.”

Too late, she glances back up to the cross. “It will not be a problem, since we are nothing more than friends.”

“Then make sure that it stays that way.” Her words are gentle, begging for her to keep a level head.

The sun finally begins to settle down past the horizon, however, the heat does not abate in the tiny church. Knowing what her next step needs to be, Shelagh murmurs, “Yes, Sister.”

“Will you join us for evening prayers?”

“No thank you,” she stands, her friend’s hand falling back to its rightful owner, “I will take my leave.”

 


 

Timidly, Shelagh knocks on the door before glancing back down the dark road way, still unsure of prying eyes that could lurk in the unknown shadows. She had practiced what to say to Patrick – Doctor Turner, her mind exasperates – after leaving the church.

Hello. I like being your friend and nothing more. She steels herself as she hears his footfalls behind the door. There, nothing more, nothing less, straight to the point and leave.

“Shelagh?” He widens the door. “Are you okay? Has something happened?”

She slowly shakes her head, “No, I, uhhh,” she becomes lost at the small patch of skin exposed from the top three buttons undone. Focus, Shelagh! “I wanted to come to apologize for what happened this afternoon.”

His brow pinches, the soft light from the lamp above her flickering along his handsome features, “How do you mean?”

She snaps her mouth closed. She didn’t account for him to ask questions, or to even talk for that matter. “With… with Sister Julienne…,” guilt stems from her throat down to her stomach at the way she had conducted herself with her closest friend. “She, uhhh, well, she thinks…,” she swallows hard.

“She thinks that we are carrying on a torrid love affair,” he plainly finishes for her.

“Something like that,” Shelagh stares at the wooden floorboards, the confidence she had when she knocked on his door suddenly leaving her on one fell swoop. “I… I feel as if… as if every time we look at each other… its as if you want to kiss me.” Her voice is barely above a whisper, her words not the same as the ones she had recited over and over in her room before coming to him.

“That would not be proper,” his voice sounds constricted, as if great claws are choking him. “Would it?”

She sharply glances back up to him, his eyes begging her to tell him what she truly desires to tell him. NO! You are here to tell him that I value him more as a friend and that is all.

Just as she takes in a small breath, he reaches out with brazen fingers and pieces back a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. Her lungs cease to function, her heart slowing to an erratic beat against her chest as the back of his fingers lightly caress the edge of her jaw. The crookedness of his smile draws her close, closer than she has ever been before. 

—BANG!—

She abruptly pulls away, the spell she had been under now broken and lying in tattered pieces at their feet. “No, it wouldn’t,” she forces out, her eyes staring back at the dusty ground. “I value our friendship; however, I don’t see us becoming anymore than that.” There. Biting down on her bottom lip, she takes a deep breath to steel what nerves she has left.

And just as she is about to turn away, he softly calls to her, “I would believe you if you said that while looking at me.”

No. “I have to be leaving now. Goodnight, Doctor Turner.” She hurries off to her quarters, never stopping until she feels the thick wood of her door pressing against her back.

What the hell were you thinking, you old fool!

Her body slides down until her bottom hits the floor, the sand making her skin itch.

Someone could have seen. She looks towards the sky, her arms protectively wrapping around her body. He could have seen what I have worked so hard to keep from him.

She had always admired him, ever since they worked together on their first case, she had always found him to be smart, thoughtful, and kind. One day, out of the blue, she had felt the weight of her admiration slip into something more intimate, something that was not appropriate for a woman of the cloth.

She would find him giving her small touches or nice compliments, and while she would revel in them, she knew that he was a married man and a devoted father. I could never have him no matter how hard I prayed.

While she was convalescing from her TB treatment in a smaller hospital in London, she had met Jack when he had come to check on his aunt. What started out as small talk quickly blossomed into love. By the time she had returned to Nonnatus House as a nurse, they were happily married, thoughts of Doctor Turner neatly tucked away to never be exposed again.

Jack and I started out beautifully. It was only a few months later when she learned her fate to remain barren for the rest of her life did everything change. While she took to her work to ease the vulnerable sting of loneliness, he had taken pleasure in the form of a blonde secretary at his firm.

Every time she would confront him, he would promise to never do it again. Yet, a few weeks later, she would see the tall tell signs of his infidelities, the pain from each careless slice pulling her apart until the one night she decided to push back. I was an idiot, hellbent on revenge rather than thinking about the ramifications of such actions.

Everyday since that night, she has been doing her best to make up from her one slip. That includes pushing Patrick away, far away so that he be saved from the scrutiny. Standing up from the floor, she quickly strips down to her bare skin. She stares at herself in the long mirror, the small light from the candle in the corner of the room flickering in time with her heart. I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but he feels the same as me.

Her skin puckers despite the heavy heat. Her steady heart begins to gallop at the phantom touch of his fingers.

No! She turns away from the mirror, fishing out her nightgown from her suitcase. I need to finish what I started before this trip. Allowing the touch of his lips will only bring Patrick’s good name and reputation down this dark hole, making it worse for both of us.

She slips under the thin covers and stares at the shadows playing on the wall. He is my friend and that is all.

Chapter Text

“Bloody hell!” Patrick falls against a wall behind the hospital, the light from the moon shining brightly as he flicks the dirt off of his jacket. He rewards himself with the glory of one cigarette after laboriously helping to push the truck back to the hospital.

He strikes the lighter, his entire attention mesmerized by the ember of burning tobacco beginning its slow trek down the white paper. He lazily blows out the smoke, the perfect way her sharp remark rolled off her tongue to that police officer replaying in his mind. It doesn’t take much after for him to focus more on her physical attributes; the slide of her glasses down her nose or the purse of her lips as they pushed the truck along the bumpy road. 

He shakes his head as he sighs, those gorgeous lips.

He pulls another deep drag, smoke instantly filling his lungs, hoping that the acidic taste will help erase the image of her from his mind before slowly blowing it out. Yet, when he closes his eyes, she is there again with her endless sea of blue sparkly eyes and her rose-colored lips.

All day, I have wanted nothing more than to taste those bloody lips.

Ever since her visit the previous night with her quiet words and shy eyes, he has thought of nothing else but her. And even though he knows that he should heed her words and to offer just his friendship, he finds himself wanting her even more.  

After hours of thinking about every little move they had made, he is unsure if she truly believes in the words she had said to him. There was a desire, a spark of fire, that had ignited in her sapphire eyes when he had reached out to her with just the tips of his fingers. When she had left, he could have sworn on a stack of Bibles that she also wanted something more than just friendship.

That small touch of doubt had filled him with such longing that it has been painful to keep his hands respectfully by his sides.

But I mustn’t think of these things! He pulls out another cigarette from his nearly empty pack and lights it with the flick of his lighter. You know that it’s wrong. She is married for goodness sakes! Keeping their relationship proper, the way Sister Julienne had reminded him a day earlier, is what he needs to strive for. To smear her good work, her reputation, could be detrimental once they return back to their community.

Yet, despite all the reasons to leave their relationship as it has been for the past thirteen years, he cannot for the life of him get the image of her lips out of his mind.

Wine-stained, perfectly sculpted, entirely too kissable lips.

They follow him wherever he goes, no matter if the bright sun shines in his eyes or if he closes them during rest. But it’s not just that…

The gentle sway of her hips as she walks from one patient to the next.

The dip of her brow as her mind actively works to figure out the next puzzle.

The way her eyes light to match the clear skies whenever she smiles.

But, most of all, he wants nothing more than to taste those beautiful lips of hers.

“Care to share one with me?” He looks up to find the same woman weighing heavily on his thoughts standing in front of him with her arms tightly crossed against her chest.

Oh, Lord, help me… Her pretty dress shows off her delightful curves as her lips purse in silent anger. Okay, he carefully thinks, don’t mention anything about the truck. “You have a bit of mud on your cheek.” By the way her lips disappear into a firm, thin line, he guesses that that was not the right thing to say. Not trusting his jumbled words, he pulls a new cigarette from his pack and gives it to her.

His libido springs into full attention when she places the slender fag between those lips he has been daydreaming about. Quickly pulling out his lighter, he clumsily lights the tip. Using her elegant fingers, she pulls the cigarette from those lips and expels the smoke with the graceful tilt of her chin.

Leaning back against the wall in a small shadow he had found behind the hospital on his way to his quarters, he allows himself to stare at her, memorizing any and all grooves and curves she shows to the world.

“We shouldn’t be doing this.”

Her sarcastic tone encourages him to quip back, “It’s not the first cigarette we have shared.”

Even in the pale moonlight, he can see her losing a bit of the rouge that had colored her cheeks from their exertions of pushing the truck up the road. “I’m not talking about the cigarette.”

“I know,” he sighs, “but I can’t stop thinking about you.” He takes a long drag, allowing the smoke to burn within his lungs, once again hoping the bitter taste will wash his defiant tongue.

“We are both married to different people.”

Those seven words, inconsequential when they are by themselves out of context, pierces the small balloon of hope slowly but surely building within his chest. Glancing up towards the inky black sky glittering with millions of stars, he figures that his words will no longer be able to hurt his already tarnished reputation. “The night before our flight, I signed the first set of paperwork to begin divorce proceedings.”

It’s her turn to take a long drag, the ember slowly burning down the cigarette until she lets go and blows out the smoke. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m not,” he blurts out. He takes one more drag before stubbing it out against the brick.

“I will be divorcing Jack as soon as we get back.”

That same balloon he thought had died out, fills at an exponential rate, over-inflating to the point of bursting. “I know it’s not right, but I want to kiss you, touch you until you are just as breathless as the way you make me feel.”  

“I never knew you to be a poet,” she smirks as she puts out her own cigarette.

He knows that she is trying to avoid the blunt truth; he had noticed it even when she was a nun, yet then, her quick remarks were always whispered under her breath. Marriage has made her bold. “You want the same.”

“To be a poet? Never, I don’t have neither the patience nor the iambic—”

His hand sweeps along the curve of her neck, his body pressing her into the safety of the shadow. “Tell me you don’t want this.” His thumb draws along her bottom lip, the air between them heavier than the dry South African air. “Tell me that you would rather remain friends and I will leave you and never bring this up for as long as we live.”

He can almost feel her eyelashes fluttering, “We shouldn’t do this.” Her words are breathless, but, alas, empty when she twists her fingers into the lapels of his dirty jacket, keeping him rooted with no chance to escape.

“We shouldn’t,” he whispers under his breath, “but I have lived most of my married life in a loveless marriage, choosing to think of other’s welfare instead of my own. Right now, I want you, unequivocally and desperately.”

She pulls him closer, his body now melding into her, the touch of her labored breath tickling his bottom lip. “Then kiss me.”

He crashes his lips onto hers, instantly reveling in the sweet taste of her mouth.

Yet, just as quickly as their lips touch, she pulls away, the back of her head hitting the brick, her eyes squeezed shut. “That was lovely,” she sighs.

He leans in and kisses the edge of her jaw, the taste of her skin now a craving that has yet to be thought of, let alone quenched.

“We shouldn’t be doing this,” her fingers run through the hair at the base of his neck, tilting her chin to the side to allow him better access.

“Then stop me,” he kisses the corner of her mouth, the softness of her body pressing into his.

“Because I don’t want you to stop.” She grabs his hair and pulls his head back before crashing her lips onto his. There is a desperation with this kiss; teeth clinking, tongues twisting, moans encouraging the other to give more and more until both are repleted.

Someone one coughing on the other side of the building drives them apart, both as breathless as he had wanted them to be. Twirling on his heels, his back settles against the wall next to her. Pulling out the last cigarette from his pack, he lights it and takes a ragged drag to help calm his desire to invite her to his bed for the evening.

He passes the cigarette to her, where she gladly accepts it with trembling fingers. He knows that she’s going to say that what they did was an accident, an indiscretion that should never happen again. “We can’t take it further than this.” The surprised hitch in his breathing causes her to glance at him, the slow blaze from the burning tip the only source of light for him to see her earnest eyes.

“Really?”

She nods as she gives him back the cigarette to finish, “This wall and it’s shadow will be the only witness to our indiscretion.”

“For now,” he smothers the cigarette against the wall, “yes.”

She stares at his lips, her body visibly teetering between keeping up with proprietary and wanting to taste sin one more time. This time, however, propriety wins. “Goodnight, Doctor Turner.”

He shoves his hands down deep inside his pockets to keep from reaching out to stop her. “Goodnight, Nurse Caplin.”

Chapter Text

“Are you okay?”

Her question pulls him from his own memories and thoughts. “Those boys…,” he grips the steering wheel, “they are so young and I took their only hope away.”

“At least the older one has been vaccinated.”

Her words pierce his heart, that feeling of utter helplessness clenches around his throat. “What consolation could that bring? Abel’s brother will never gain back the full use of his legs.”

He glances over to her, her brow pinched in worry. “What can I do to help you?”

Peeking over his shoulder, he sees that the other nurses and nuns are occupied with the breathtaking scene around them. Letting go of the steering wheel, he captures her own hand in her lap and squeezes it. “This helps.”

She too looks back through the window before squeezing his hand back. “Consider it done.”

Staring back out onto the open road, they only have a few miles left until they reach the clinic. We have five minutes, max. But for him, it’s enough to pull him from the dark hole he was sinking into.

 


 

“I’ve got to be honest,” Trixie’s voice rings out from the open window as Shelagh passes by. “I’ve not seen Doctor Turner look so happy in a long time. I say, with those sunglasses, he looks like a rougher version of Cary Grant.” Shelagh grins at the younger nurse’s assessment, especially since she had bought the sunglasses to begin with.

“I’ve only seen him this happy when he’s around his kids,” Barbara agrees. For a moment, the air seeping out from their one room hut is far heavier than the night air of the savanna, the nocturnal creatures marking the seconds as they pass by. “He never smiles like that around Mrs. Turner.”

Shelagh holds her breath, already knowing what the blonde nurse will say, she had been at Nonnatus House longer than the other nurses, save for herself. “She’s a dreadful woman,” Trixie’s voice quivers with anger.

“I’m not sure I’m comfortable gossiping about the Doctor and his family,” Phyllis admonishes.

“It’s not gossiping if it’s an actual fact confirmed through observation,” Trixie quips back. Shelagh is completely rooted to her spot just outside of their window, the same position she had taken when she had overheard the young nurse replay the story when she wore her habit. “Jenny, Cynthia, and I went to this nightclub a few years back and there she was, Doctor Turner’s wife, looking rather cozy with her arms around another man.”

“No,” Barbara exclaims, “but Doctor Turner is such a nice man.”

“Which brings me to my earlier statement; today is the first time I have seen him this happy in a long while.” Shelagh cowers further in the shadow as Trixie shuffles around. “I think they are getting a divorce. I saw Mrs. Turner coming out of a solicitors office when I was on my way back from Harrods.”

“How dreadful, especially with two younger children.” Silence once again sizzles in the muggy night, until Barbara quietly adds, “The youngest one, little Angela…”

“Barbara,” Phyllis warns.

“Well… she doesn’t…,” the youngest nurse stumbles, “she doesn’t seem to… to have inherited any of his traits.”

“No, she didn’t,” Trixie sighs.

“One does not have to be biologically theirs in order to be a loving parent,” Phyllis sternly says.

“No, I guess one does not, but, my goodness, he adores her so,” Barbara wistfully murmurs. “He is always bringing her to clinic or to the surgery and she is just too sweet.”

“Yes, she is,” the static of Trixie’s record player comes to life. “After everything that has happened to him, I hope he keeps this happiness that he has found out here.”

“With nothing but desperation and heartbreak around every corner out here,” Phyllis carefully murmurs, “it should be a far easier task back in London.”

After a few seconds of oppressive silence stemming from their day abroad – among other things – Sam Cooke comes through the speaker, his need to twist the night away giving Shelagh ample cover to continue on her journey back to their shadowy rendezvous.

Is he happier? He smiles more, yes, but he has always given me a kind smile, especially when it was needed.

As the road begins to part, she can't help but feel the elusive notion of happiness, that she has been seeking since the moment she walked out of St. Anne’s as Shelagh rather than Sister Bernadette, weighing heavily on her shoulders. Since learning of Jack’s indiscretions, she has felt as if she is drowning in sorrow, the level of water reaching the top of her nose, relief barely unobtainable.

Then she kissed Patrick and, for the first time in a long time, she was able to take a blessed breath.

However, that breath is tainted with shame.

Last night, when she opted to share a cigarette with him, she still had adrenaline running through her veins, a residual anger that simmered under her skin, begging her for some sort of physical distraction.

She wanted him to be her distraction.

After, when the dust from their distraction had finally settled and she was nestled back into the safety of her room, guilt swarmed her body in large tidal waves. Yes, she had wanted him, but all for the wrong reasons. She had been down this road once before and, while it was rather satisfying at the time, she had promised herself that she would never do it again.

But he’s different, her mind silently laments. He is not some man random man I had met in a pub, he is a man I have wanted the moment I realized that my certain path as Sister Bernadette was no longer certain. She bites down on her bottom lip as she looks around for any witnesses to her own discretion. He does make me happy, but is it enough to warrant an affair?

In the dead of the night, when sleep had proven to be elusive after their shared kiss, she had promised herself that she would let whatever that was sizzling between them die out. Ethically, she knows that it’s the right thing to do, but her heart cannot and will not give up on him, not when he wants her just as much as she wants him.

She stops just before turning the last corner and looks up towards the starry night sky, silently begging God to give her a sign as to what she is expected to do.

And just like all the other times she had risen her chin towards the heavens in silent prayer, no one answers back for her. I, and I alone, will have to make this decision, just as long as I am able to live with the consequences.

“I didn’t think you would come,” is how he greets her when she walks up to him.

“I didn’t think I would either,” she truthfully quips back, her body shivering under the rush of sinful desire. For a small fraction of a second as she stands next to him, she wonders if all these promises she has been making to herself to stay away from him is the one thing driving her forward.

“What changed your mind?” He smothers his cigarette against the wall.

“I don’t know,” she answers after a few moments. “I do know that I have all these reasons to not give into this temptation, yet, at this particular moment, I don’t care about a single one of them.” He pulls out another cigarette for her, but she declines it. She is already indulging herself far more than she ever expected to on this trip, she feels as if adding a cigarette habit would be overkill.

He lights the cigarette for himself. “Have you seen Doctor Myra?”

“Right after I went to check on Sister Winifred in the general ward.”

“How is she fairing?”

“The same, stubborn and scared.”

“Doctors do make the worst patients,” a small laugh escapes his lips.

“Sister Julienne is with her now.”

“Despite Doctor Myra’s illness, today was a good day.” He is stalling with idle talk, gallantly giving her a chance to bow out. “Don’t you think?”

“It was a good day, but I won’t change my mind.” She leans forward, her free palm catching his chest, her fingers curling around the lapel of his wrinkled jacket. “I have made promise after promise with myself to let this feeling growing between us to die out, knowing that both of our lives will be much simpler than if we were to give into this desire.”

He covers her hand with his warm palm, pressing her along his chest rather than pushing her away. “I have been at the same war with myself.” He captures her cheek with the comfort of his thumb brushing the sand away. “I don’t want you to get in trouble, but I have wanted this precise moment since the morning after the Carter twins were born.”

She lifts her chin, those lips she had dreamed about oh-so-close, his eyes sparkling under the hazy moon. “I have wanted you since the summer fête not too long after that.”

He pulls her left hand up from his chest and kisses the faint line of her scar. “I find that I am unable to resist you.”

Slipping that same hand along the curve of his neck, she tugs him close and crashes her lips onto his. He tastes of sand, and cigarettes, and antiseptic and it drives her to deepen their kiss, her body snuggling against his in the anonymity of their shared shadow. She can’t get enough of him, of his touch, of his kiss.

She parts her lips, his tongue instantly taking advantage, giving all control to him. He does not disappoint; his large hands sweeping down her body, his fingers playing with the tie of her apron, the feel of his erection pressing against her belly.

She moans into his mouth, her mind spinning at dizzying rate. She could kiss him until the end of time and that wouldn’t be enough.

She doesn’t know how long they remain in their embrace, a few seconds or possibly even a few hours, when he gently pulls out from the sanctity of her blessed kiss. Her heart skips a beat when she sees his swollen lips slip into a coy grin, the heel of his hands still pressing deliciously into the top of her ass. “I must leave if I am to read up on liver disease before tomorrow.”

She kisses the tip of his chin before taking a step back, the cool air of the night rushing between their heated bodies. The coiled pains rooted deep within her belly dissipate, the memory of his kiss allowing all of the anxiety she had felt earlier to slither off of her shoulders. While shame still bitterly coats her tongue, she finds that their kissing has made it bearable to be around him without the overwhelming need to make a thousand unfulfilled promises to herself. If I'm going to do this, then there is no looking back. “Would it be possible to run into you again the same time tomorrow night?”

The lines adorning his sweet face makes her stomach flutter. “I look forward to it.”

“Me too,” she steps further to the side, the hand slipping from her waist causing goosebumps to erupt along her exposed skin. “Have a good evening, Doctor Turner.”

“Oh, it’ll be the worse night ever, but regardless, I appreciate the sentiment.” He kisses the heel of her hand before turning towards his quarters. “Good night, Nurse Caplin.”

 


 

“I have brought some fresh water for you,” Shelagh steps into Doctor Myra’s room with a pitcher of water and a book, the morning sun already making the temperatures race higher.

“I won’t let him examine me,” is the way she greets the younger nurse.

Shelagh pours the water into a glass and sets the book on her nightstand, “All he wants to do is to confirm your diagnosis.”

“He thinks I’m an idiot.”

“He thinks no such thing and you know it.” Shelagh settles into the chair next to the bed. “You are the life and soul of Hope Clinic. Without you, it doesn’t stand a chance to staying open. Preserving your life is his top priority.”

With shaky hands, Doctor Myra takes a sip of water. “How did the mobile clinic go yesterday?”

Although she expected more of a fight, Shelagh rolls along with the change of subject. “As well as can be expected. Since you are unable to keep watch of the clinic here, we have decided to stretch out our Mother and Baby clinic as well as the polio vaccinations over the next few weeks.”

“I had heard about the phantom pregnancy case,” she takes another sip. “These women, they go mad with a desire to bare a child. Believe it or not, there are more phantom pregnancy cases than you think.”

“I remember, there was a time when my husband and I wanted a child so badly. Every little change, I clung to it as if it was a sign that I was carrying a child.” Those were dark times for not only her but for her marriage to Jack. After the experimental surgery Doctor Turner had helped to get her into, and the consequence diagnosis, she fell into a deep depression. Using her work as a nurse to help fill that void in her womb, it wasn’t until much later when she noticed the smell of someone else’s perfume did she understand how far she had been pushing him.

“Were you able to conceive?”

“No, I was not.” Shelagh pours more water into the glass.

“Do you trust Doctor Turner?”

“With my life,” is her automatic response. “I have known him going on thirteen years.” She presses her lips into a fine, white line. “If saving Hope Clinic means saving you, then Doctor Turner will not rest until both are done.”

“And you don’t think I have liver cancer?”

“I think…,” she bites down on her bottom lip, “I think that having liver disease is much different and far more treatable than liver cancer.”

“Then I will allow him to examine me,” Doctor Myra concedes, “but not before you tell me which book you brought with you?” Just as Shelagh opens her mouth, the older doctor strictly murmurs, “And, I swear, if you say the Bible, I’m going to chuck you out of here.”

“I’m in luck,” Shelagh holds up the small, leather bound book, “‘Little Women’.”

Doctor Myra melts into her bed with a small smile, “I haven’t read that book since I was a wee one myself. Coming from a family with four older brothers, I had often dreamed of having my own sisters.”

“I had two older brothers myself. Long after they died in the war, I eventually found my sisters when I joined the Order.”

“Mother Felicity, at times, felt like the older sister I never had; strong-willed, smart as a whip, and had no problem putting me into my place.” She snuggles further down into her mattress, “If you could, Nurse Caplin, read the first chapter before sending for Doctor Turner.”

Chapter Text

“You are looking rather ravishing,” Patrick murmurs, watching the others play a rousing game of racquetball on the beach.

“You haven’t taken your nose out of that book since we got here,” she mutters back, cleaning up the mess around them.

“It doesn’t mean I haven’t been looking,” he flips to the next page, “blue is a gorgeous color on you.”

“That’s what Trixie said.”

“I am simply repeating the sentiment,” a round of laughter pulling him from the paragraph he has had to reread at least fifty times. Of course, he ignores the others, stealing himself a chance to drink in her sun-kissed skin and her alluring bathing suit. “Do you not enjoy racquetball?”

“And have you slip from your convincing cover as a book enthusiast to watch me frolic and run on the beach in nothing but a bathing suit?” When everyone has their attention out onto the waves, she peers over her shoulder and bats her eyelashes, “I don’t think so.”

He takes a deep breath to steel his nerves and to calm his raging libido. “Later tonight, I am going to ravage those damn lips of yours.”

“My, my, are you hiding a romance novel under that cover, Doctor Turner?” He steels another glance, her cheeks bright red, her skin buzzing with excitement.

“Please tell me you are going to wear that bathing suit to our rendezvous?”

“And make it too easy for you,” she sighs breathlessly, “never.”

When they had met last night, their hidden shadow becoming larger with the shallow moon hiding behind a thick cloud. He had her propped against the wall, her body open for him to explore with his questing palms and curious fingers. The moment his thumb swept across the peaks of her breast she had attacked his mouth just to quiet her moan.

Abruptly standing and shaking the sand off of his pants, he walks over to the group still admiring the ocean, “I’m going to go off to that little shop to get us all some ice cream cones.” Smiling at the rousing chorus of cheers, he adds, “I’m going to take Nurse Caplin with me to help carry them back.”

Walking back, he holds out his hand and helps her up, “Come along. We are going to get ice cream cones for everybody.”

Gathering her cover-up from the chair, she slips it on and follows after him. “You’re up to something.”

“Am I?” Just as they pass by the truck, he makes sure that the coast is clear before pulling her behind it. Crashing his lips onto her before she has a chance to talk him out of it, he captures her cheeks when he feels her melt into his chest, her arms wrapping around his waist.

Seconds or hours tick on, their hearts pounding in unison marking their passage of time.

“Patwrick,” she moans against his cheek, her lips nipping along his jaw, “we shouldn’t be doing this.”

Electricity sparks between them, the tips of his fingers not-so-innocently ghosting over her nipple. “I beg of you,” goosebumps erupt all over his skin as her fingernails scrape along the small of his back. He pulls the hem of her cover down, “just one more minute,” he murmurs against the curve of her salty skin.

Gaining the courage as she thrusts her chest into his palms, his fingers mold along her breasts, pinching and squeezing as his lips captures her groan.

“B-a-a-a-a-a-a!”

Instantly pulling apart, both look to the herd of goats passing by.

Patrick looks back to her, her disheveled appearance nearly driving him mad with desire. “I would say that I’m sorry, because it’s the gentlemanly thing to do, but I’m not.”

She looks to him, a frown marring her pretty features. “What if someone had seen us?”

“I know,” he takes another step back, his hands fisting inside his pockets. “I couldn’t wait until tonight.”

“Come along,” she cracks a shy smile. “let’s go get those ice cream cones before they start to wonder where we had gone off to.”

 


 

“Good evening, Nurse Caplin,” Shelagh glances up to Patrick just as he steps up to her under the light of the entrance of the general ward.

“Good evening, Doctor,” she notices the abundance of men sitting against the wall. “Oh dear, we have no more beds to give out.”

“They are traveling up north and had stopped here for the night. Sister Winifred had already given them a bowl of soup and some bread.” He stuffs his hands deep within his pockets. “There are more around the back.”

She looks over his shoulder to see a line of men wrapping around the building, most likely delving into their rendezvous spot. “I can see that,” she mutters as she looks back at him. “Sister Julienne is with Doctor Mayra.” They are unable to use the shadows behind their shared hut.

“Tom is entertaining Nurse Gilbert while Fred has the foreman and a few workers over for a poker game.” So, they are unable to go on his side of the road. He sounds defeated, his head now hanging low.

However, she is not ready to give in, not yet, not when they had teased each other with that forbidden kiss on the other side of the truck earlier in the day. Her skin is on fire, her belly coiled with anticipation at just the thought of his lips on her body. “Thank you, Doctor,” it takes everything she has to step away from him, “would you mind walking me back to my quarters?”

Even in the dimming light of the moon hiding behind the thin clouds, she can see his features brighten, “Of course, Nurse Caplin.” He holds out his arm and she gladly takes it by wrapping her palm in the crook of his elbow.

She bites down on her bottom lip, her steps never hesitating as they reach closer to their destination. She should be trembling in fear at the possibility of being caught or twisted in a bundle of anxiety at inviting him elsewhere to continue their tryst, however, she feels nothing but euphoria at the thought of their skin pressed together, lips taking the bounty of their love. “We will need to be extremely quiet,” she murmurs under her breath, cognizant of the open windows they are passing by.

His step falters, but only for a moment to walk in line with her, their footsteps scraping along the ground as if it is one person rather than two.

Once they turn the corner, she notices that a candle is lit within the window of Doctor Myra’s bedroom. “Sister Julienne will leave once Doctor Myra falls asleep.” She glances around the desolate dirt road before tugging him in the opposite direction of her room.

They, once again, file together in single footsteps until they reach the tiny church and slip around to the back. “Will Sister Julienne or any of the other sisters use the church?”

She leans against the wall, the moon finally making its way out from behind the wisp of the clouds. “With Sisters Edith and Gertrude falling ill themselves, they will most likely stay in the general ward.”

He magically pulls a cigarette from his pocket and lights it, the flicker of light showing off the lines of his handsome face. “I’m sorry for earlier.”

She takes his offered cigarette and steals a puff. “We could have been caught.”

“I know.”

Silence sizzles between them, the cigarette being passed between the both of them until it reaches the filter and he kills it against the wall. When there is nothing left between them, she takes her chance by pressing him against the wall and submitting to those lips she has been dreaming of since their encounter at the beach.

His arms wrap around her waist, the heel of his hands pulling her body closer to his. “Mmph,” she tilts her head to the side as he nips and kisses his way along her cheek, “I want to see,” he gently drags her hair to the side, “you in that bathing suit.”

She aches to touch his skin, to feel the warmth of his heart beating. She starts at the top and works her way down, slowly revealing his vest, but never daring to go further than the buttons that stop just above his trousers. Running her palms along the soft cotton, her thumbs sweep across the divot of exposed skin above his collarbones, her quest to taste his lips put on a momentary hold.

She had never gone this far with him, but she finds that she can’t get enough and instantly wishes for more of his skin to explore. Leaning in, her tongue trails from the base of his neck, along his Adams apple, to the edge of his chin. “Bloody hell,” his fingers dig into the top flesh of her ass.

“You taste of the sun and the sand,” she glances up through her eyelashes to find his lustful eyes staring back at her.

Within a blink of an eye, he twirls her around to where he now has her pinned to the wall. With this abrupt change, she is able to see the effect she has had on him; his shirt wide open, his breath raggedly pulling from his chest, blood pumping wildly along his neck. Just like what she had done to him, he starts from her top button and works his way down, this time instead christening her newly exposed skin with the touch of his lips.

The cool, night air kisses his heated skin as he opens the top part of her dress, never going further than the belt clinched around her waist. Her chin tilts up towards the sky as the back of her head hits the wall, the feel of his calloused fingers driving her mad with desire; first drawing along her collarbones and daring to travel further down her sternum.

“May I?” His voice is ragged, breathless as if gives her the opportunity to push him away.

Unable to speak the words he desires to hear, she pulls his hand from its resting place on her waist and presses it against her breast, the warmth from his palm instantly causing her to moan – which he captures quickly by crashing his lips onto hers.

He melts against her body, his dominate mouth seeking every breathless moan as his fingers brush the thin fabric aside, his thumb circling along her eager peak.

“Bloody hell, mate!” Fred’s gruff voice reverberates through the still air, pushing both Shelagh and Patrick away from each other. “I’d love to know how you won five hands in a row.”

Both hold their breaths as the men walk past the front of the church. “Through the will of God, my friend.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not really sure if God is a blackjack type of fella.” The African man laughs at Fred’s joke, their tumbling voices growing quieter as they put distance between themselves and the two people standing behind the church.

When the night air once again buzzes with nocturnal sounds, Shelagh looks to see that Patrick is staring at her exposed chest, his lips swollen with longing as he tries to control his breathing. Her skin erupts in goosebumps as his thumb, which had never left the curve of her breast, strokes her nipple back to its sharp peak.

Waves of heat and desire crest and crash against the pit of her belly, he bites down hard on her bottom lips to keep her moans from reaching innocent ears.

Just as his thumb finds a mesmerizing rhythm, he discovers her other breast, leaning in and allowing the tip of his tongue to explore the taste of her body. “Oh, Patrick,” her hand wraps around the back of his neck, nails running through his scruffy hair as she tries to keep her voice to a whisper. Knowing what she wants and knowing that she needs it right now, she reaches out for the clasp of his belt. “I want you.”

He lifts himself to his full height, his mouth once again taking control of her lips as his fingers pinch her nipples in unison. Blissfully getting lost in the strength of his kiss, she is able to unbuckle his belt, the button to his pants her next obstacle. “Shelagh,” he half moans, half grumbles against her lips, “we mustn’t.”

“Isn’t that my line,” his hips jerk as she runs her palm along the line of heat pressing against his zipper.

As his hands leave the sanctity of her breasts to capture her cheeks, she feels her senses being doused in cold water. “I want nothing more than to make love to you,” he presses the conviction of his words into her belly, “however, I do not want it to be something quick against the wall of the church.” He kisses the corner of her mouth. “You deserve a bed with crisp, white linens and enough time to explore our bodies without the fear of anyone finding us.”

He is right, of course, but she desperately wants to feel his body inside her, to take her away from all that awaits them when they return to London.

He kisses the tip of her nose before leaning back to right her bra and to button her dress. She allows him to take care of her, she is cross about his words, but she would spend their remaining time with a loving touch rather than arguing over a moot point. When she is presentable, she takes care of him by fixing his shirt and combing her fingers through his hair. “We will find that bed, won’t we?”

Her uncertainty is reflected in his eyes. “I think we will, it will just take us longer to find it.”

She grimaces at the thought of all that awaits her for the divorce; the work, the time, the energy, not to mention all of the gossip that comes on its curtails; however, as she looks onto Patrick, the lines of his smile reaching his glittering eyes, her anxiety lessens. He’s worth it. “Okay.”

His own apprehension visibly lifts off of her shoulders. “Okay.”

Chapter Text

Shelagh steps into the dimly lit clinic, the sight of Patrick peering into the microscope causing her heart to pitter-patter against the pit of her belly. “Hello,” she calls out to him gently, not wanting to startle him.

“Hello.” He glances up and rubs the heel of his hands into his tired eye sockets. “What time is it?” He checks his watch and jumps out of his chair. “Oh no! I missed our time.”

“We both missed our time,” she smiles as she walks up to him. “I was reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’ to Doctor Myra when I finally realized that it had become dark.”

He lets out a frustrated groan, irritation dipping along his brow. “Is she still not better?”

“She doesn’t let on, but I can still see her wincing in pain.” She runs her palm along his back as his shoulders sigh in defeat. “She is resting now.”

“It doesn’t make sense! The draining seemed to have helped, but the medicine should have made her better.” He looks up from his palms, “Instead, she’s getting worse.”

“Is there anything new or different you could try?”

He shakes his head, “I’ve already stuck my neck out with the draining of fluid. I’m not sure what else she is willing to agree to.”

“You will find something, Patrick, I know you will, but don’t you dare let her stubbornness keep you from finding what is needed for her to get better.”

“Doctors do make the worse patients,” his brows dip in guilt.

She caresses his cheek with the pad of her thumb, “Let’s just hope that Doctor Myra’s body is equally as stubborn just long enough for you to work something out.”

“To add to our problems, dysentery is spreading at an alarming rate.” He captures her waist with his large hands and nuzzles his cheek in her palm. “Without a fresh water supply and Doctor Myra, Hope Clinic will not be open for much longer.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” she twirls a strand of his floppy hair around her finger. “We’ll figure something out.”

“A miracle is much needed at this time,” he pulls her closer in between his knees, his lips easily finding the small stretch of skin that has become sensitive to his touch. “I’m sorry we missed our rendezvous. Will we be able to make it up?”

“Ahem.”

Knowing that small, unobtrusive voice anywhere, Shelagh keeps her arms around Patrick even though he tries to pull away. “I know what you will say Sister Julienne.” Although her former sister had tried with all her might to make her see reason to this growing sin blooming between her and Patrick, Shelagh had done a very good job at ignoring it.  

“And, yet, you don’t heed my advice.” The hurt in her voice claws at Shelagh’s heart.

“Our affair has gone no further than what you see right now.” Patrick leans back, pulling her arms out from around his neck.

“And will it remain that way? Even the others can see your passions building for each other. What if something were to happen?”

“I don’t think you needn’t worry about any unplanned surprises,” Shelagh angrily murmurs through the stale air, “God made sure of that.”

“Shelagh,” Sister Julienne takes a step further into the room, “you are still married. Doctor Turner is still married. And although, both spouses have been rather selfish in regard to love and companionship, you know as well as I do that two wrongs will never make any situation right.”

“And when I divorce Jack?”

“He has already stopped you twice from proceeding.”

The small intake of air from the man next to her reminds Shelagh that they need to have an honest talk with each other in regard to their respective spouse. Preferably before they make their way back to London. However, knowing that, it doesn’t stop her from saying, “I have proof now of his infidelities.”

“And what should happen if he acquired proof of your infidelities?”

“What kind of proof would he have in the middle of nowhere?”

“If his solicitor should call Doctor Turner or I up to the stand in a court of law, you expect us to lie under oath?”

Sorrow falls heavily onto her shoulders, the truth of Sister Julienne’s words caving into her chest. “It’s not fair.” She crosses her arms tightly along her chest, her words as petulant as a child not getting their way.

“You both have been so unhappy for the longest time,” Sister Julienne runs her fingers through Shelagh’s hair, “despite the winding roads ahead of you, I pray that you will find that happiness again.”

“And if the happiness is found with both of us,” Patrick speaks up, “will we still have your prayers, your blessings?”

“Despite what you may think right now, you both have always had my blessings and you will always be in my prayers.” Her brow dips, “However, heed my warnings, conduct yourselves in the proper manner and you will spare those innocent ones from a lifetime of pain.” With one final nod to both, Sister Julienne murmurs, “Have a good evening.”

Silence rolls its calamitous waves between them; so many words that have been unspoken about Jack and Marianne, their own shared desires brimming to the top, nearly overflowing, catastrophe a hairs breath away if they are caught. And, yet, with all that weighing heavily on their shoulders, she feels a sense of calm when he reaches out, his palm resting on her arm.

“There are so many things that we have to talk about.”

She bites down on her bottom lip. “I know.”

“I still want to touch you, to kiss you.”

“We’ve been rather reckless,” she glances over her shoulder as she mumbles under her breath, “especially the night before behind the church.”

“I don’t know how I had lived my life before the knowledge of your touch.” He gently squeezes her arm before letting go. “I don’t know how I will be able to live without it.”

“We will have to figure something out.” She glances at his downcast features, her heart tugging and pulling every which way. “In my mind, I am kissing you right now, lovingly and gently.”

“In my mind, I am kissing you back, my arms wrapping around your waist.”

She takes a deep breath, “I have duty in the general ward. Good night, Doctor Turner.”

“Good night, Nurse Caplin.”

 


 

Shelagh timidly walks into the church and steps up to the alter, her hands clasped together in prayer. She looks to the simple cross that lays upon the barren wall, the verse she always turns to in her desperate hour of need slipping from her lips in silence.

She had barely slept a wink during the night, her mind keeping busy with thoughts of both Jack and Patrick twirling about; guilt, shame, anxiety, uncertainty all playing a cruel game of Ring-Around-the-Rosie in the pit of her belly.

With just a few hours before sunrise, she had climbed out of bed and resolved to write everything down, mostly in list form, including; conversations to have with Patrick, things she needs to do when she gets back into London after she tells Jack of the divorce, not to mention the list her solicitor had given her before the papers can be filed with the courts.

While she thrives on marking off an item one-by-one, by the time the sun had risen, her blessed checklist had seemed endless and, for a moment, unobtainable.

“Good morning, Shelagh,” a small, comforting voice call out from behind her.

“Good morning, Sister Julienne.”

Sister Julienne steps next to her, both eyes looking up towards the cross. “I trust your evening was satisfactory.”

Shelagh’s chin drops, her eyes focused on the ground, the merry-go-round of emotions starting to spin at an alarming rate. “I have not slept with him if that is what you are implying.”

“You had said the same last night and I believe you.” Shelagh can hear the older woman swallow hard. “I meant to ask if you had parted on good terms.”

“Everything is in limbo.” Shelagh glances over to Sister Julienne. “There is so much to say, yet, all I want to do is to be held by him. It’s wrong, I know, we both know, but he calms me the same way psalms would when I were a younger woman.”

Sister Julienne wraps her arm around Shelagh’s shoulder, “It must feel like swift relief from all that has kicked you down.”

“Do you think that is why we are attracted to each other?”

“I think…,” she takes a deep breath, “I think you show each other the potential of what a loving relationship feels like.”

“I did love Jack in the beginning.” Shelagh vividly remembers his romantic gestures with the bouquets of flowers and simple dates, the first time he had confessed his love for her, the first time they had made love on their honeymoon. “That was never a façade.”

“He loved Marianne in the beginning as well, just as strongly as she loved him. Love is never the issue when it comes to marriage.” Sister Julienne embraces her in her arms. “It’s the fact that people underestimate the length of forever. Time and circumstances can change a person to either love their spouse stronger or to encourage them to give up.”

Tears spring to her eyes, the root of her anxiety clawing at her throat. “I… I don’t want to fail Patrick… the way I have failed Jack.”

“There was no failure, my dear.”

“How do you know?”

Sister Julienne leans back, conviction written upon her gentle eyes. “Because you recognized your mistakes and were willing to fix them. That is how we learn to live from one day to the next, tragedy after tragedy, celebration after celebration.”

She’s right, of course she is right, yet, it doesn’t make it any easier.

“In all the years I have known you, Shelagh, you were never one to take the easier path, but the ones that made you into a stronger person.” Sister Julienne threads back a strand of her loose hair. “Now, go see to Doctor Myra. Sister Winifred has breakfast set up in the kitchen.”

Shelagh squeezes her eldest friend before letting go. “Yes, Sister and… and thank you.”

“I am here for you at any time that you need me,” she smiles before turning back to the cross, her worn hands clasped together for her morning prayers.

 


 

“How is she?” Shelagh glances up as Patrick walks into the waiting room.

He sighs as he falls into the chair next to her, careful to keep his hands away from her, “We made it just in time. They are prepping her for surgery right now.” He scrubs his hands through his hair. “The Doctor had said that if we had waited one more day, she would have been dead.”

“Are they going to give her the Metronidazole?”

“The doctor on call even suggested it after reviewing over my notes.”

Shelagh clasps her hands together, “I just hope that we had made it in time and that the ride to here was not a calamitous one.”

Leaving her in silence to recite her prayers, he leans against his clenched fist, exhaustion finally taking root in his limbs. Since that morning she had come running into the lab, he has been a frayed ball of nerves and prayers of his own.

With very little sleep from the night before, especially after Shelagh and Sister Julienne’s heated words, he never imagined making the three-hour journey across the savanna in a dilapidated old truck and a dying woman rocking around in the back. Thank god I had Shelagh with me.

“Excuse me, Doctor Turner?” Both look up to the nurse standing before them. “Doctor Fitzsimmonds was just taken into the theater.”

“Thank you, Nurse. We will need to make our way back to Hope Clinic.” Shelagh and Patrick stand and move towards the door.

“That would not be advisable, Doctor Turner. You will not be able to make it back in time before sundown. Those roads are dangerous enough as it is.” The young woman blushes. “There are rooms that we will be able to provide both you and Nurse Caplin for the night. It will be at the hotel across the street, but they have proven adequate when other doctors had visited.”

“Thank you, Nurse. We shall acquire food before settling in for the evening.”

She nods. “Very well, sir, I shall provide your names at the front desk.” With one more smile, the young woman turns and walks out of the waiting room.

“Come along, Doctor Turner,” Shelagh slips her hand into the crook of Patrick’s elbow, “I had spotted a dinner not too far away.”

Chapter Text

—Knock, Knock—

Shelagh looks up from her small vanity, the reflection of the door connecting both her and Patrick’s room causing her heart to flutter against her chest. Standing, she opens it to see Patrick leaning against the edge, exhaustion visibly settling heavily on his shoulders.

Yet, he instantly brightens at the sight of her, making her blush as she tightens the sash of her robe. “Doctor Myra was taken out of theater,” he murmurs as he straightens up, “she is slated to make a full recovery.”

“Oh, that is wonderful news, Patrick.” Shelagh steps to the side and invites him in. The nerves in her stomach pitch and crest, the thought of being alone with him without any of the interruptions they are prone to have becoming a reality at the decisive snap of the door closing.

“She will need to stay in hospital for the week, but she will be able to come back to Hope Clinic soon.” He shoves his hands into the pocket of his trousers as he stands awkwardly in front of her bed. “Someone will need to stay behind to help her with the hospital, preferable one with surgical experience.”

“I would nominate either Nurse Franklin or Nurse Crane, both are capable at keeping Doctor Myra rested while running the hospital at peak efficiency.” She settles down on the edge of the bed, patting the space next to her.

“I would have nominated you for the job,” he smiles kindly before sitting next to her.

“No, there are far too many things that require my attention back in London.” The divorce high on that list, along with finding a new job and flat as a close second and third. She looks to him to find him nervously rubbing the tips of his thumb and middle finger together, a quirk she had noticed a long time ago that he used to cope in intricate situations.

“Yes,” he awkwardly mutters as he gives her a wisp of a smile. As the silence between them drudges on, he claps his hands on his knees before standing up from the bed, “Well, I should be—”

“His affairs started after my infertility diagnosis.” Since the moment they parted ways after dinner, she had no idea how to start this vulnerably, honest conversation, yet, as the words rip from her mouth, she realizes now that there was no delicate way to begin. We are having this talk and that is all that matters. “I wouldn’t allow him to touch me. I felt…,” she takes a shuddering breath, “I felt empty, ugly, not worth the oxygen I had been breathing in.” She shyly glances up to him, his features open to their impending talk, not an ounce of pity to be seen.

He settles back down onto the edge of the bed. “Her affairs started not too long after Timothy turned five.” He leans his elbows onto his knees. “Keeping long hours, she had grown tired of waiting for me to show her affection.”

“I should have let him in, allowed him to comfort me.”

“I should have paid more attention to her, showered her with the love we had for each other when we were first married.” He rubs his two fingers together, refusing to meet her eyes, yet, she can feel the same churning of shameful emotions beating between them as if it were a real, live entity.

“It sounds as if neither of us are completely innocent in the destruction of our marriages.”

“No, it isn’t.” He straightens his back and runs his fingers through his shabby hair. “It takes two to create a lasting marriage.”

“It also takes two to destroy it,” Shelagh finishes, being far too hard on herself, but she knows it is with good reason. She glances over to him, “Did you have any affairs?”

He shakes his head, “Only with my work in Poplar. You?”

Shame bitterly coats her tongue. “Once.” She could have lied, but, in the end, she would have propelled their relationship under the false hope that she is a righteous woman, despite her being a former woman of God.

“Who was he?” His gentle voice pushes her chin up. “The man you had an affair with?”

She tilts her head to the side, staring at a small painting across the room, frightened as to what she would find being reflected in his hazel eyes. “I don’t even know his name. I went to bar as far from Poplar as possible, allowed him to buy me a few drinks, flirted with him, and, in the end… I… I…,” tears rush forth, trailing down her cheeks, her own throat not wanting to divulge her past sins. But I must. “In the end, I opened my legs to him.”

Silence drowns between them, the tick of the clock next to her bed ringing loudly in her ears as she angrily wipes the last of her tears.

“And you have proof of his infidelities?”

“Photographs.” She rolls her eyes and mumbles under her breath, “Apparently, he is quite the exhibitionist at his secretary’s flat.”

“Does he know that you have them?”

“No, but I have them in the last place he will ever find them. I gave the originals to my solicitor, however, I made sure to make many copies.” She bites down on her bottom lip and dares to steal a small peak at him.

To her relief, he looks as if he is pondering one of the great mysteries of the world. “If he has had numerous affairs himself, then why does he stop you with proceeding with a divorce?”

“A divorce is just as detrimental to his career as it is to my reputation in Poplar, even though all the men he works with have affairs with their own secretaries.” At his inquiring brow, she adds, “The wives’ group is teeming with gossip.”

“Does he have proof of your affair?”

She shakes her head, “He knows of it, but there is no proof. He lords it over me,” she rolls her eyes, “even was able to scare off my last solicitor with the old ‘she has a mind of her own’ routine.”

“No!”

“I have obviously let him go and hired the husband of a former patient.” Her tense muscles relax. “With both photographic proof of his affair as well as medical proof of my inability to bare children, my solicitor thinks that we have a solid case.”

“Marianne is having an affair with her solicitor.” He tips his chin towards her, his brow dipped in indifference. “I had told you previously that the night before we left for South Africa, she had given me the papers to begin our divorce proceedings. With a promise to keep everything quiet, she is at least gracious enough to not fight me on the full custodianship of the children.”

Her mouth hangs open in disbelief. “Including Angela?”

He gives her a smile, weak and filled with a love that he would gladly die for. “I love that little girl and she knows it.” He shakes his head and rolls his eyes. “The children would only dampen her new social lifestyle.”

“My goodness,” she rubs the heel of her hands against her eye sockets, “what sordid lives we live, Patrick.”

“I still want to kiss you.” She perks up to see him grinning like a boy in a candy store.

“You still want to be with me?” Her heart jumps straight into her throat. “Even after my confession with the affair?”

“Just because I didn’t take my clothes off doesn’t mean I’m not guilty of my own version of an extramarital affair.” He reaches out and lays his hand upon her own. “The four of us; you, me, Jack, and Marianne; we are all guilty of allowing our marriages to fall apart.” He affectionately squeezes her fingers. “Both Marianne and I are ready to move on and, as wretched as it makes me feel that I have failed our family, it is for the best.”

“Jack is going to fight this tooth and nail.” Her stomach ties itself into knots. “He was successful at stopping the proceedings twice, his lawyer finding some ridiculous loophole the first go around.”

He cradles her cheek with his other hand, his thumb lazily drawing along her bottom lip. “I will love you from the shadows if I need to, but I will love you.”

The weight she has been carrying on her shoulders recedes, just enough to be able to breech the top of the water that she had been drowning under. “I will pray that we will not need the use of those shadows for a long time.”

He gives her a quick kiss on the lips, “I should be leaving,” he stands from the bed, “there are a few stops to—”

“No.” She grabs his arm and pulls him back onto the bed, not willing to let him go just yet. “Please stay with me.”

“But what about what Sister Julienne had said?”

Her heart hammers against her sternum, her legs like jello as she stands in front of him, barring herself in a way that makes her feel vulnerable. “Just for a little bit.”

He takes his eyes along her body, the air between them now teeming with anticipation. “Come here,” he quietly concedes, holding out his hand for her to take. She shuffles in between his knees, his arms slipping around her waist. “I won’t make love to you,” he leans back and looks up to her with the gentlest of eyes, “not yet.”

She runs her fingers through his unruly hair, “No, not yet.” She takes his mouth, the gritty taste of sand and exhaustion scuffing against her thirsty lips. Her body nuzzles against his open chest, the feel of his fingers digging into her covered flesh driving her wild.

“Bloody hell,” he breathlessly mutters with devilishly swollen lips as she takes one step back.

She unties her sash, her robe falling to the ground to reveal her body clothed in a white, cotton slip. “There are other things we can do.”

“My God, don’t I know it,” he pulls her back into his embrace, the palms of his hands running along the back of her bare thighs. “I want you, desperately, but if I start, I fear that I will not stop.”

She will not stop him either, instead encouraging him without any thought to the consequences beyond the four walls of this secluded hotel room. “I know,” she sighs, lifting his face to kiss his forehead.

“You are a brave woman,” he murmurs as she steps away from him. He bends down and snatches up her robe, standing from the bed to wrap it around her shoulders.

She is unable to look at him, embarrassment beginning to sting her cheeks. “More like a mess.”

He lifts her chin with the crook of his finger, “You are brave, you always were and will always be.” His thumb runs along her bottom lip, “We will have our night, my darling.”

“Promise me.” She knows he will keep his word, yet, selfishly, she wants to stay in his arms for as long as possible.

He peppers her with kisses, “I promise… with my entire soul… that I will love you… and will wait… impatiently… for the day… that you allow me… to make love to you.” He gives her one more heart-stopping kiss before letting her go completely. “Good night, my darling.”

“Good night,” she holds onto his hand until he reaches the door, their fingers the last to touch before he opens it.

 


 

“We are so glad to see you both back,” Shelagh finishes checking the pulse of one of the patients before turning to Sister Julienne, her broad smile ever as dazzling as her kind eyes.

“We are glad to be back,” she says, giving her patient a gentle smile before walking over to her former sister. “I heard that you had a busy night.”

“More like nerve-wrecking, however, Nurse Franklin did an exceptional job.”

“With Doctor Myra’s recovery, Doctor Turner thinks that we will need to leave one nurse here to help with deliveries and patients until she is well.”

They walk out of the general ward together, the warm sunshine touching their cheeks. “And you think Nurse Franklin should be the one to stay behind?”

“She is certainly competent enough with the surgical side of the clinic and willful enough to take on Doctor Myra’s stubbornness.” Shelagh glances out into the courtyard, easily finding Patrick next to the truck with both Abel and his brother on the back, his smile handsome to say the least.

“I trust everything went well in Port Elizabeth.”

Shelagh knows that Sister Julienne is not talking about Doctor Myra. “We talked about the things that needed to be said.”

“And after that?”

“We went our separate ways.” Shelagh leans against the wall with her shoulder, crossing her arms along her chest. “We will wait until the time is right.”

“It’s not what either of you want,” Sister Julienne murmurs between them.

“No, but it is the right thing to do.” She shyly glances over to the older woman, “May I still count on you for support?”

“Always,” she passionately responds before Shelagh can finish her question, “always, my dear Shelagh.”

Chapter Text

“Is there anything I can get for you, sir?”

Patrick looks up to the young girl and shakes his head. He has already had too many cups of coffee to bounce right into the stratosphere if he had a good running start. When the waitress leaves to help the other customers, he glances around the old inn.

Through his conversation with the old couple who runs the inn, this used to be the main house of the farm yet was left abandoned after the first war when the last surviving heir had died in the Somme in 1918. For years it laid in ruin, until Hilter’s Luftwaffe began its assault on London. The couple, who lived down the road, decided to fix it up and to use it as house for all of the displaced children. After the war, the proprietors allowed the old couple to buy it and they turned it into an inn.

Checking his watch for the millionth time, he then looks out of the window for any sign of Shelagh. Just as they had seen the skyline of London from their small window on the airplane, she had told him that they should give each other six months without any contact. She had told him that it would give them just enough time to finish what they had started before their time in South Africa.

So, for six long months, longer than the bloody Nile, he has yet to see or to even talk to her. Instead, he had focused all of his energy on the divorce, which was far more amicable than he had imagined, the children, and the practice.

Upon his return back to Poplar, Marianne had moved most of her personal possessions out of the house, although, to give her credit, she had done it privately. By the time he had settled back into the routine he had kept before leaving for South Africa, they had talked to Timothy about the divorce. Barring the brunt of his parent’s hostilities with each other, he was not surprised by the news, nor was he happy about it either.

After all of the paperwork was signed and finalized, both he and Marianne went back to their home for the last time. She had cooked dinner for the family while he helped Timothy with his homework. When the children went down for bed, she left.

After that night, he had made a promise to repair any of the pain either Tim or Angela had gone through, mainly by taking them on outings to the park or to cricket games. Every other weekend, though, he drives the kids uptown so that they can spend time with their mum. It has been difficult at times, especially when Tim uses his sarcasm to cope with his anger, yet, they have been able to work through it.

Usually, his work in Poplar gave him the solace he craved, now with the threat of the maternity home closing, he has found solace within the walls of his family home.

It’s only late at night or during a difficult day that he craves her voice, the touch of her lips, the healing of her hands. Shelagh has been on his mind since the moment they had parted six months prior, and she has stayed rooted there through life’s ups and downs. Just recently, after a number of failed nights of cooking, did Tim ask him if he’s going to begin dating.

He had wanted to tell him of Shelagh, yet, he held back. He had made a promise to his boy to never lie to him, however, he couldn’t bare the thought of Tim’s hopes being dashed away if she decided not to show up.

He has made several inquiries, privately through Sister Julienne, however, it seems as if Shelagh had already thought of that. She had resigned her work at Nonnatus House and, instead, found work elsewhere. According to Sister Julienne, herself, she has only seen Shelagh a handful of times herself where they used their time to pray together.

I have to believe that she will come, he glances at his watch again, even if she is three hours late.

Just before they disembarked from the airplane, she had told him to pick the time and place to meet and that she would be there. Two months before their rendezvous, he had made reservations for this small inn in the country, one that they had taken tea together when she was still Sister Bernadette and she was going to receive treatment at St. Anne’s for tuberculosis. He had given the information to Sister Julienne with the strict instructions to pass it to Shelagh when her divorce became final.

Now, with most guests either retiring to their rooms or venturing outside, Patrick sits all by himself not stubbornly wanting to give in to defeat. She could have called to say that she was running late. She could have written back to tell me that she was no longer interested. She could have done anything else, but this.

Abruptly standing from his chair, he throws a few bills onto the table and makes his way out of the inn. It isn’t until he is in his car does he truly think about what he wants to do. With no address or telephone number, he has no way of contacting her. She did tell you that if neither of us come, then that was to be our answer. He bangs his fist onto the steering wheel. Hell, I don’t even know if she is divorced or not.

Staring the engine, he drives off, letting nothing dictate his path except his own whim.

He had high hopes for the day, hell, for the rest of my life. Never, even in the cruelest of dreams, would he have imagined her standing him up. What they had in South Africa was precious, beautiful, yet, forbidden. He had never considered her as something as trivial as a tryst, not when they had opened their hearts to each other. Yes, they didn’t have the same inhibitions as they do now, but –

“Bloody hell,” he taps the breaks as heavy fog rolls across the road. This is not his first time in the country, nor his first time driving through fog, yet the heaviness causes concern for him, especially with the dark clouds that have been threatening with rain all day long. With nowhere for him to make a turn back to the inn, he eases his foot off of the break and continues down the barren road, big raindrops splashing down onto his windscreen becoming heavier and heavier the further he drives.

It isn’t until he nearly makes it to the main road does he see someone in distress. With the thunderstorm in full effect, he pulls up behind him.

Yet, just as the wipers push the prismatic puddles of water away, does he realize that it is a woman in need of help. And, when she turns to look at him, his heart nearly bursts into a million stars.

 


 

“Oh, bloody hell!” Shelagh tries to rearrange the magazine she had brought for the bus ride in a way to help keep her from getting wet. Fat chance, she rolls her eyes.

This day, which had started out so beautifully, quickly drizzled into clouds as dark as the ones over her when she realized that the bus she was supposed to take never showed up. When she had called the bus station, they had told her, that the bus is non-commissioned and had sent a replacement two hours prior.

If things weren’t frustrating enough, the only other bus that could take her even remotely close to her destination had stopped halfway into it’s trek, citing the muddy roads as the reason it needed to turn around. At least he was nice enough to stop at a taxi station, yet, with most of the patrons wanting to visit family at the sanatorium, she allowed them to go first, which left with no more options other than to walk.

Now, with mud splashed onto her new dress, her stockings completely wet, and her hair looking like a wet dog sitting on top of her head; she figures that she’ll be lucky if he is still there. She tried to call both his home and his surgery before leaving Poplar, yet, she had received the same answer; that the doctor will be out for the remainder of the weekend. She had even called the inn; however, she was surprised when the kind woman had told her that no one by the name of Patrick or Turner had made reservations.

So, with a swift prayer, she continues to trudge her way to him. I shall be the luckiest woman if there is a ‘him’ still there.

She had thought that the six months she had given him would be plenty of time for her to acquire her divorce and to do so without getting him involved, yet, the-powers-that-be had other obstacles planned for her. Her solicitor had done everything in his power to speed up the process, yet, surprisingly, it was the judge who held up the finalization, of course on Jack’s behalf.

Shelagh kicks a small pebble out of her way at the image of Jack's smug smile. The judge had sentenced them to go to marriage counseling for three months, which, to her annoyance, he would come into the office reeking of women's perfume. He had easily told the counselor that he had just taken on new clients from the beauty industry to help start their new perfume ad. Shelagh knew better, especially when she had seen the lipstick stain on his collar when she was forced to go home with him. She felt at her lowest during those three months, trapped in a marriage in which Jack wanted nothing more than to prove his prowess. She had told the counselor of his obvious affair, yet he had always brushed it off as her coming up with imaginative stories to simply explain the perfume from his job.

When they had reported back to the judge, the counselors report had been glowing that they could work out their marriage, despite the evidence she had submitted to his continued adultery. Ready to give up on life itself, she was surprised when her solicitor had told her that he was able to find a witness to help with their case.

Before she could ask, in walked Margret, his former secretary who was also seven months pregnant. With her inability to bare children herself, the judge had no choice but to grant their divorce, in which he hoped that Jack would do the ‘right thing’ by that ‘poor, unfortunate girl’.

Ready to place that whole debacle behind her and with the help of Sister Julienne, she had taken on a summer posting teaching a few nursing classes at the Royal Hospital. It was all strange, yet completely satisfying. She had met new people and made new friends and felt genuinely wanted under her new job; however, it was the envelope Patrick had given to Sister Julienne to give to her that helped her to realize that their distance apart was about to come to a close.  

With her days dwindling down closer to zero, she had made sure to refresh both her look and her wardrobe, namely a few intimate pieces she had gathered the courage to purchase.

And now with the image of her cuddling within Patrick’s embrace becoming a distant hope, she begins to wonder if God is punishing her. Stopping and looking up towards the sky, she silently asks, is this where I need to be? Did I make the right choices to help lead me down the right path? God answers with a crack of lighting crawling along the dark clouds and the sudden downpour of heavy rain.

I’m already soaked to the bone; I don’t need to add a broken ankle to the list. Residing in the fact that he has most likely already left, she slowly makes her way down the country lane towards the main road. Hopefully there, I will be able to flag down a

Hearing a car coming up behind her, she thanks the merciful Lord before turning to the person who will hopefully give her a lift to the inn. Yet, when she turns around, she nearly falls to her knees at the sight of the familiar green MG.

“Shelagh!” He climbs out of the car and races to her. “Where have you been?”

She reaches up and cradles his cheek within her palm, “I have been looking for you.”

“When I didn’t see you, I thought—”

She immediately closes the distance between them, the softness of his lips igniting a fire within the pit of her belly, warming her from the cool rain that continues to pour. With him there with her, the promise they had made to each other six months ago becoming a reality, she now gladly invites time to slow down. 

Leaning back, he kisses her forehead, “I have a room for us.”

She kisses the edge of his jaw, “I know.”

He shrugs off his coat and wraps it around her, “We have so much to talk about.”

Cuddling into his warm coat, she wraps the lapels closer to her body. “I just want you tonight. Tomorrow we can talk.”

Picking up her suitcase, he captures her waist and walks her to the car. Once they are out of the rain, he drives the rest of the way to the main road, which takes them to the inn. “Why did it take so long?”

“The bus never came and the only bus that was able to come out this way only made half of its journey because of the previous storm the night before.” She cuddles against his side. “With no cabs, I decided to walk the rest of the journey.” Glancing out of the window at the rows and rows of identical hillsides, she huffs under her breath, “I must have gotten lost because we are going in the opposite direction I thought I was supposed to go.”

He pulls in to the inn and parks the car. “I’m glad I was able to find you when I did.”

She looks up and captures his cheek, “I’m glad we were able to find each other.” He leans down, his lips crashing onto hers, allowing herself to submit to him instantly. Her fingers curl along the buttons of his shirt, her thumb nail toying with pulling it through the hole.

Yet, just as she was about to make her move to connect the tips of her fingers to his skin, he pulls back and kisses the tip of her nose. “Let’s get you inside and out of these cold, wet clothes.”

“Patrick,” she holds on tight to him to keep him from leaving the car, “I tried to call the inn to tell you of the delay, however, she had said that there was no one registered under your name.”

A smile blooms across his face, the lines of his smile making her swoon. “I had put our reservation under Mr. and Mrs. M. Marnay from the film ‘Love Affair’. I remember seeing the film when I was a young man with my beau at the time. Our six months apart reminded me of the film.”

“You know the film has been remade,” she coyly smiles back.

“Who needs a remake, darling, when we are living proof of the actual story.” He kisses her forehead. “Are you ready?”

“I have been ready for this evening for the past two months.” She nervously swallows hard. “You?”

“Five months.” He slips out of the car and runs to the other side, opening the door for her and grabbing her suitcase. Once they are inside, they walk up to the desk. “Good evening, Mrs. McKay. The bus was not able to bring her all the way here, however, that meant that she had to spend some time out in the weather. Would it be possible for you to send up a kettle of tea and a few warm blankets?”

“Oh, you poor dear,” the older lady soothes. “I will do one better. We are to serve corn beef stew tonight. Why don’t I send up a few bowls of that as well?”

Patrick flashes her a bright smile, “Thank you, Mrs. McKay.”

“No problem dears,” she scurries out from behind the desk towards the kitchen.

Patrick, in return pulls her upstairs to the back-corner room. “We are the only ones back here and we have our own private bathroom.”

“This is rather extravagant.”

“It is, but you are worth it,” he wraps his arms around her.

“I know I wasn’t able to say this in South Africa, but I do love you Patrick Turner,” her arms circle around his waist, “so very much.”

His palm caresses her cheek, the tip of his thumb drawing along her bottom lip, “I am very much in love with you, Shelagh.”

Chapter Text

The bright lights of the merry-go-round dances along the dark streets and buildings, the sounds of laughter filling the chilly air as snow begins its first fall. Shelagh traces her steps around the spinning contraption, smiling and waving when she sees both Timothy and Angela sharing a seat on a horse.

“They have become so close,” a warm voice whispers next to her.

Turning to Patrick, her smile instantly brightens. They had both gone to Tom and Barbara’s wedding, yet, they had chosen to go separately for the sake of propriety. In private, they have remained lovers, waiting until the evenings every other weekend to go on a date or to make love in her flat. It was only just recently that he had brought her to his home to spend time with the children.

“He is very protective of her,” she murmurs back. Angela had taken to her very quickly, however, Timothy played the skeptic for both of them.

He glances around them to see that they can speak freely, “I think he is coming around to the idea of us. He seemed happy that you were coming to the wedding.”

The merry-go-round slows to a halt, guests choosing to either get on or to step off, including both Tim and Angela, who immediately runs up to them. “Hello, Ms. Shelagh,” Tim smiles as Angela reach up to be held by her daddy.

“Hello, Angela," she tickles the sweet girl before turning to her brother. "Hello, Timothy. You looked as if you were enjoying yourself.”

“We did,” he nervously looks between both adults before settling on his father. “Did you—”

“No,” Patrick hastily replies, switching Angela from one side to the other.

She can feel her brow dipping in concern as both Turner men glare at each other. “Is everything—”

“What are you waiting for, dad?”

“The perfect time, son. Mrs. Shelagh just arrived.”

“Yes, I helped to… to take down the… are you sure you’re okay? You both seem rather cross at each other.”

Angela looks at her from her cozy perch in her father’s arms and asks, “You marry dada?”

The two adults and the one teen share surprised looks between each other, Patrick and Tim’s awkward conversation now beginning to make sense in her mind.

Shelagh looks to Patrick, yet its Tim who finally breaks the silence. “Please marry my dad. He’s completely helpless in the kitchen, however, after seeing you two making goo-goo eyes at each other, I've come to realized that he’s helplessly in love with you.” He gathers a giggling Angela from his father’s arms and coos, “Let’s go get some juice and biscuits.”

Leaving them within the loud silence of the boisterous crown around them, Patrick pulls her in towards the privacy of a dark shadow and takes out a small box from his breast pocket. “There was a better way I was going to ask you, but both Angela and Timothy beat me to the punch.”

“Oh, Patrick,” tears rush to the corner of her her eyes.

“We can wait, if you would like, but I have never been more certain.”

She caresses his cheek, “I am completely certain.”

“Really?” His whole face lights up when she nods. Pulling the ring from the velvet box, he slides it on her finger, “I love you, Shelagh.”

She blushes when he leans to kiss her knuckles, “I love you, Patrick Turner.”