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Crown Stoppy Backs

Chapter Text

Everything is understandable. You don't have to say anything too loud. (Lifted,The Lighthouse Family)

The heart-shaped ice cube balanced for a fraction of a second on the candy striped straw, then fell with a splash back into the half full tumbler.

"Bugger!” in an exasperated Scottish lilt was the response. "I wanted to show Valerie, the ice cube, I made them you know, for Pummy and Cheater.”

This resulted in a pause and wrinkle of the nose, she knew something wasn't quite right, but not quite sure what. She continued, "They are in the shape of a heart for the happy couple."

Valerie Dyer pursed her lips together trying to suppress a laugh and replied, "I know chick, you've shown me, several times. It was a lovely touch."

"I want to keep one as a souve.., a souvee, keepsake," she eventually managed triumphantly. "Paddy, Paddy how do I stop my frozen heart from melting? Can you help?” There came no reply.

The two women were alone in the bar, it was after closing time and the wedding guests had all gone back to the places they were from. The regular Crown barmaids were having a sneaky stoppy back to end a special day. Bernie had let her hair down, a wee bit further than anyone in Poplar-on-Tweaven had ever seen before.

Val could no longer prevent the wave of laughter engulfing her body, escaping from her lips. Bernie looked at her friend and couldn't quite decide if she was laughing at her or if she had actually made a joke. But she did know she needed to get off this wobbly bar stool, that seemed to be growing more unsteady by the minute. If only she could just remember which leg she usually put to the ground first. Bernie wasn't sure and decided on neither, obviously to jump off two feet together, would be much safer.

Valerie, aware of Bernie's intentions, reached out to her from behind the bar. "Wait until Paddy gets you a ladder chick,” half laughing, half serious.

"I can manage, I am a big girl.”

"Bernie you can't be much more than 5ft, you struggle when you're sober.”

"I beg your pardon, I am the Matriarch of Honour and am entitled to toast the cappy houple.”

"Toast them, I think you've deep fried them.”

The deeper voice behind her, had her startled. Before she had time to reply or fall, he had swept off her precarious perch and into his arms. There was a momentary struggle as Bernie tried to secure her legs around Paddy's hips, which Val deduced by the look on Paddy's face, hadn't been without consequence. The stoatin' Scot finally ceased wriggling and had both arms wrapped around Paddy's neck and her head buried in his shoulder.

"Will you manage,” smirked Val. "I will lock up."

"Take 20 from the till Val and get a cab, have you got Tweaven Taxi in your phone? Ask for Dolly, she will come and get you.”

"I need a taxi,” Bernie suddenly perked up.

"You already have your lift," chuckled Val, opening the door to the upstairs flat, so Paddy didn't have to unclasp his hands, that were now providing a seat for Bernie's bottom.

"Night Night God Bless, Val." Bernie suddenly lunged at Val almost toppling her and Paddy over and planted a sloppy kiss on Val's ear. She had missed her cheek as Paddy had steadied them. "Love you."

"Love you too Berns, sleep well sweetheart," smiled Val and squeezed Paddy's shoulder as the confusion of arms and legs made its way upstairs.

Paddy shouted for Tim to come open his bedroom door, but after two shouts remembered, Tim and Jack had headed out to Appleby Thornton a few hours back. Paddy tried to push down the handle with his elbow, this caused a woozy Bernie to lurch to her right and bang her head against the door. Paddy sucked in his cheeks determined not to laugh. He now wondered if he could put Bernie down.

She just sighed and giggled, "Oops a daisy." Nuzzling back into his neck.

Paddy's second attempt was more successful, maybe a little too successful, as he stumbled into the room when the door opened with conviction. He staggered to the bed and laid down his sleepy burden on his mattress. Bernie immediately curled up into a ball away from him, facing the window.

The sapphire fabric of her bridesmaid's dress ballooned around her and shimmered in the moonlight. She looked so peaceful, Paddy wondered whether to just wrap his half of the duvet round her and leave her there. Her shoes had fallen off on route and were now lying on different stairs. He looked at the rumpled silk, he knew Bernie adored her new frock. She very rarely got dressed up like Val and Trixie loved to. He only really saw her legs at work and in her carers uniform. Today had been different, she had looked radiant and confident in Chummy's made to measure creation. Paddy couldn't imagine that even Peter had felt the level of admiration and love that he had drowned in, when the two women walked towards them earlier that today.

Paddy carefully pushed back the honey blonde hair that had fallen across Bernie's face. He tenderly tried to remove the glasses, Bernie had replaced the itchy lenses with a while ago. She snuffled softly like a puppy and then gave a loud snotty sniff like an old Border Terrier. Paddy tried to wake her by stroking her cheek and gently calling her name, to no avail. He tentatively slid down the zip fastening at the back of her dress, just as far as he could. He knew if he dithered about much longer, she would be sound asleep. Paddy leaned over and whispered her name in her ear, nipping the lobe as he moved away. Bernie responded by lashing out and clocking Paddy in the face with the back of her hand.

Paddy consoled himself, at least she was awake. He adjusted his jaw and switched on the bedside light that brought an overemphasised "No" from Bernie. Rummaging in a drawer for a T-shirt, he explained to Bernie the necessity of protecting her pretty dress. When he turned around he spluttered, presented with a bolt upright Bernie with her arms raised above her head.

He tried to rid himself of a well archived mental image of toddler Tim in the same position. On sitting up, Bernie had trapped the skirt underneath her. Paddy crawled onto the bed next to Bernie. He managed to get his charge to lean towards him and freed the right side of the skirt. She had performed that manoeuvre so well, he was blessed with slightly too much confidence in her abilities. Resulting in nearly losing her to the bedroom floor, as she rather enthusiastically hitched the left cheek of her bum up and overbalanced. Paddy's heart stopped, but his limbs moved quickly to prevent her toppling over the edge. Bernie screamed and then dissolved into a fit of giggles in Paddy's arms.

The dress was finally removed. Under precise instructions from Bernie, it was ceremoniously placed on a hanger balanced on the front of the wardrobe. Paddy turned once more towards the bed and gave the same reaction as earlier. Bernie had meanwhile tried to pull the T-shirt over her head and had disappeared. The Mission statement was at the back and the washing tag stuck up at the front. She had one arm lost in a sleeve and was pulling at the stubborn pink garment with the other.

"Paddy I am stuck, it's got me. Paddy it's swallowing me whole," she cried out.

What followed was a lot of huffing, cursing and not following Paddy's instructions and then accusing him of pulling her hair and breaking her glasses. Between them they eventually managed to get her head and arms through the appropriate holes. The arms were through the opposing sleeves, but Paddy hadn't the energy to worry about it being on backwards, it was on. He shuffled her under the duvet, removed her specs and turned out the light.

Paddy had tried to keep up standards since Marianne had died, but it had been a long day. His suit trousers stayed where they dropped to his feet on the floor, followed by the waistcoat and shirt. He pulled back the covers and flopped onto his back and let out a deep breath, closed his eyes and then groaned. He thought Bernie would be out cold but she was wriggling about beside him, hidden by the quilt.

"Bernie, are you alright my love?"

He wondered if she felt sick and decided he best fetch a bucket. Before he could make a move, he felt the back of a hand, one he was becoming all to familiar with, bash his just recovered face one more time.

"There!" Shouted Bernie with such pride, head popping out of the duvet and onto the pillow. "Pull."

"Sorry"

"Pull!" Bernie repeated lifting and then flopping her arm back down on his head again. Paddy could just make out, Bernie was trying to retrieve with the other hand something from that sleeve of her T-shirt.

"Pull!" the order came again.

So he did as he was told and pulled, he was rewarded with a white lacy 34B bra.

"Good job done," Bernie praised him. Paddy went to say something but thought better of it, he just raised an eyebrow, as she turned away from him and snuggled under the duvet. "Night Night God Bless."

Paddy threw the underwear-come-party trick on top of his pile of discarded clothes. He looked at the snuffling lump beside him, sighed and closed his eyes.

It had been a long day, but a good day. The wedding had been beautiful and romantic, the Do had gone well in the Crown. Everyone had appeared to appreciate Vi's menu and they had all drank very well, even the one guest he least expected to. Paddy's thoughts became jumbled as images of the day danced around his mind; Peter and Camilla dancing, the relief when his Best Man's speech was well received, even by Bernie. He remembered another speech and memories of Marianne barefoot, dancing in the rain on a very different wedding day. Replaced by pictures of Bernie in her stylish blue dress moshing with Trixie and Val and then trying to do the Twist with Phyllis, Julia and the Two Loves. Eventually falling on her arse, not able to keep up with the professionals and unable to get up for giggling. Paddy's images began to merge; the church again, Bernie in blue walking down the aisle towards him, Bernie in white walking down the aisle towards him.

As he fell further into that non-tangible universe of sleep, he felt a hand on his face. Third time lucky a stray thought crossed his mind, but this wasn't a slap. It felt soft and tender and was followed by warm, wet lips on his, as Bernie seemed to somehow recover a sense of coordination. Paddy murmured and reached to capture her head to keep her close. By the time he had pushed his arm out of the constrictive covers, she had turned away again and was lost again under the togs.

Paddy now fully awake, smiled wryly.

From under the bedding a small Scottish voice could just be heard, "Love you."

Paddy's smile lost its hint of irony as he answered, "I love you too."

Chapter Text

I could leave but I won't go, it would be easier I know. (That's All, Genesis)

"You are being ridiculous," Bernie flicked her right ring finger against her thumb landing on Cynthia's leatherette steering wheel in an uneven rhythm.

"No, you are being over-nursie," Paddy argued and then began a bout of unsettling coughing for two consecutive minutes.

"Paddy you are poorly, why can you not just admit it," Bernie sighed.

"I am not poorly, I have a slight tickle, that's all," Paddy protested.

Bernie shook her head and used her icey blue eyes to their best advantage to cut through Paddy's bullshit. "Paddy we need to get out of the car and enter the health centre or we are going to be late and you know how I hate being late. You're appointment is in 5 minutes."

"I didn't make an appointment, let's not waste the NHS's time."

"I did and it is too late to cancel and also unwise. You would be classed as a 'did not attend' and do you know how many DNAs the NHS has to deal with each month?"

"Nope, but I know you are going to tell me, you are getting all Nicola Sturgeon on me again."

"Aw Paddy shut your coupon, you know nothing about politics or the NHS, but if you dinnae get out of this car in an instant pal, you will know what a Glasgow kiss is and I am no Weegie."

Paddy and Bernie walked towards the revolving doors of the health centre, an empty partition was just about to escape them, Bernie grabbed Paddy's hand and pulled him in. The whole mechanism halted and Paddy and Bernie were stuck like two pedestrians crossing on red. All the other compartment personnel glared at them as if they were responsible for the disruption to their intended journey. After a lot of intricate footwork and sashays to the left and the right, the revolving doors responded and Paddy and Bernie fell into the health centre.

Bernie led Paddy up to the check in tablet, "Right all you have to do is enter your surname and date of birth and they know you are here for your appointment."

"Where?" asked Paddy.

"On the touchscreen," She had asked Matron Crane for an hour to get a delusionally sick innkeeper to the doctors, but Bernie was just comprehending why a very wise Phyllis had granted her the morning off.

"Eh?"

"Just enter the details on the screen, like you do when you say goodnight to me Paddy on your phone." Bernie looked around the congested waiting room at the pale, sweaty and regurgitating and those she wanted to check for a pulse.

"Have you got one of those soggy things you keep in a packet?"

"What?"

"So I can wipe the screen, there must be a hundred thousand contagions on this thing."

Bernie baulked, "Just enter your details."

"Not without disinfectant," Paddy cried.

"Yes?" the tone that greeted him definitely suggested the word 'No!' would have been more appropriate.

Paddy looked at the face of the stern receptionist in front of him and lost the will to live slightly.

Bernie answered for him, "Patrick Turner to see Dr Enys."

"Why didn't you register your arrival on-screen"

Before Bernie could interject , "My girlfriend didn't have a wet wipe and I don't want to die."

"Take a seat sir."

Paddy had always thought the use of the term 'sir' was a sign of respect, now he was not so sure.

"Paddy you must really get over your fear of the doctors they are only here to help."

A man entered the room and walked before the hopeful, full of vigour, curly blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. A few patients were heard to mumble 'hello' or something, "Who is that twat?" snorted a rather too abundantly mucus troubled Paddy.

"That is your doctor?" explained a very uptight Bernie.

"But he is younger than Tim!" Paddy regurgitated.

An exasperated Bernie emitted in a sense of frustration, "Paddy it is just as well I..."

"You what?"

The digital screen lit up "Patrick Turner: Dr Enys, Room 22."

Bernie did not ask if Paddy wanted her to come in with him. Paddy didn't ask Bernie if she wanted to come in with him. It was just understood.

"Hello Dr Enys, sorry to trouble you" apologized Paddy.

"My God man, you don't look well."

Chapter Text

You may hear. Angels cheer, 'cause we're together. (Come Fly With Me, Frank Sinatra)

Bernie got down on her hands and knees and tried to see where the pointer was referencing on the dial.

"I think it's 15 kilos," she reported back.

"What's that in old money?" Paddy queried.

"Paddy you are still holding the case it won't be a true reading."

"Berns if I let go, it will go arse first and we will miss our flight spending all day in casualty, with me explaining how you received crush fractures from underneath your luggage."

Paddy removed Bernie's suitcase from the bathroom scales marvelling how someone who as practical and no frills as Bernie had packed so much for a week. Not for the first time he reminded himself how lucky he was to have fallen for her and not her pal Trixie, he would probably be in need of a new weighscale otherwise and a hefty excess luggage fee.

"Tell me again; phone charger?"

"Suitcase."

"Phone?"

"Hand luggage on flight mode."

"Toothpaste?"

"Suitcase"

"Water?"

"Dump before going through security."

"I will dehydrate."

"You can buy it again for 3 times the price on the other side"

"What a feckin' liberty, why is it so complicated?" Bernie whinged.

"It's not sweetheart, you're just panicking because you haven't done it before."

Bernie wrinkled her nose and set her steal blue eyes towards Paddy, "I am not panicking, I just like to know what I am doing and be organised."

"In control," grinned Paddy.

"Prepared," corrected Bernie

"Bet you were a Girl Guide," winked Paddy.

"Girls Brigade, you should remember," she smiled, "you once bought all the remaining Tombola tickets off me at the church fete. It was the year it tanked down and all the prizes got drenched. Everyone else had buggered off and me and Jane were left determined to sell them all."

Paddy was trying so hard not to laugh, "That's my bonnie lass."

"You felt sorry for us and bought the whole lot so we could pack up and get in the dry. We came into the Crown and you gave us some mulled wine, you told me it's wasn't alcoholic and I believed you. I got very giggly and my dad thought it was hysterical."

"You've always been a bad influence on me Bernadette."

"You even donated the prizes back."

"Well there is only so many bottles of Black Tower and bath salt sets you can handle."

Bernie sat on her suitcase and bit her bottom lip, "Do you think we are doing the right thing, Paddy?"

"Everyone deserves a holiday Bernie, you have been through so much this year and I haven't been away in years."

"I know but a week is a long time to be with someone 24/7." Paddy's eyes lit up at Bernie's final remark.

"What if we don't get on?" She continued, "what if you find me annoying?"

"I will throw you in the pool," he laughed.

"I am serious," she groaned.

"So am I, you can swim can't you?"

"That's just it, we know so little about each other."

Paddy interrupted her, "That's why we are going away together, to find out."

He took both her hands in his and pulled her up off the luggage. Over balancing slightly she swayed into him. Paddy encircled her in a bear hug. His lips vibrating against the top of her head.

"You know I love you and would never do anything to make you unhappy."

Bernie nodded her head against his chest. Paddy brought his hands up to support her cheeks and looked into her eyes

"Certain?"

"Certain," she repeated quietly.

"Once more with feeling," he asked cheekily.

"Completely certain!" Bernie responded this time adding conviction and volume to her Aberdeenshire lilt.

Chapter Text

Get up in the morning, look in the mirror, I'm worn as a toothbrush hanging in the stand. (She's Gone, Hall & Oates)

It took Paddy a few moments to remember where he was. His consciousness reached out for the familiar sounds of the boisterous gas central heating system, installed in the 18th century inn during the 70's. It always made its presence felt each morning. The sounds he was perceiving were less familiar, the vibration of waves soothingly caressing the shore. The birdsong held a different lilt to the Poplar blackbirds and spuggies. He could tell behind his closed eyes the morning light was teasing him to open his reluctant lids, unusual for unforgiving January.

The permeated odour of beer that soaked the Crown confused his olfactory system by its absence. Instead there was something else, a sweet mixture of coconut and vanilla, infused with Coca Cola and cheese and onion crisps with a hint of baccie and gin. That unmistakable scent of Bernie. Paddy pushed his face into the pillow still drowsy. That scent was everywhere, the pillow, the sheet that barely covered him, on his pyjamas, except he wasn't wearing any, it was just on him. It had fused with his own pheromones. Suddenly Paddy's eyes were wide open.

Fuck! Bernie. Paddy was sat up now and wide awake surrounded by the suggestive presence of Bernie, but not the actual physical presence of Bernie. The space next to him was pillowless, he spied the missing article on the tiled floor beside the bed.

A conversation made a withdrawal from his memory banks, something about why Bernie had no interest in the pillow. An old Scottish Nun, somewhere way back in Bernie's education history, had told her girls that the use of pillows led to round shoulders and a widow's stoop later in life. Sister Assumpta had made such an impression on the young Shelagh Bernadette that she had slept on her back without a pillow ever since; to prevent the terrible curse she had been forewarned of.

Paddy smiled remembering Bernie trying to smother him with the unwanted pillow, when he told her that her ingrained habit might come in useful. Suddenly the smile drained off his face. She had been giggling then, as she had sat on top of him, knees digging into his ribs. Then the sudden panic in her voice, when he had purposefully fell silent. She had suddenly whipped her soft weapon away from his face to check she hadn't gone to far. He had grinned at her and immediately flipped her over. Resulting in giggling, screaming and a few words from Bernie's very Northern upbringing curse vocabulary. But that was last night and this was this morning.

He wasn't sure what time. Bernie had told him his phone would adjust to local time automatically, he wasn't convinced. Val often said she automatically made sure that there were two obvious exits on her frequent blind dates. He was no more convinced of that, as to what the accurate time was.

The bathroom door was a jar in front of him. If his recollection of last night was correct, it still wouldn't mean Bernie would shower, use the other facilities or even put on her simple cosmetics with the door not being firmly shut. Paddy jumped out of bed, skidded on the tiles, more used to Tweaven Carpets and their pledge, "Your pile is our priority" under his feet of a morning. This manoeuvre was not in vain as his big toe hooked up with yesterday's boxers. What followed was a series of twists and turns that would have won him 40 points on Strictly Come Dancing. He was then able to inspect the hotel room's balcony without arousing attention, suspicion or anything else unwanted.

She wasn't there, the plastic patio furniture was perfectly in order. Bernie had been adamant it should be, after their night cap, late last night. She had insisted on wiping it all down with a wet wipe from the years supply she had brought with her. It had been transported within her Mary Poppins style suitcase, that still miraculously weighed a pound under the allowed limit. But he was unable to lift with one hand.

Bernie was gone. Of course she was. He had talked her into coming away with him, after the Christmas and New Year season. The most stressful in the service trade. Bernie was already giving her all for Crane Carers. He knew she had made herself purposely busy this year, to try and somehow distract herself from memories of the person she had spent the last 32 Christmas' with.

He had wanted to do something for her, take her somewhere sunny, beautiful and romantic. Obviously Tweavenside had all of this, but not in January. He had told her it didn't mean anything, there would be no pressure. It was just time for them to get away from the supportive, yet sometimes suffocating world of Poplar.

In Fuertenerozotie they could be just Paddy and Bernie. Not the tragic widower with a teenage son, who was turning out to be too clever and cute for his own good. Not the idealistic vicar's daughter who had once held the church in Poplar together and now worked as a barmaid.

He had wanted to see her with the sun reflected in her eyes, without caution, without fear and for a moment he had. But now she was gone. Thoughts filled his mind, at best she was at reception asking for a single room. At worst she was at the airport asking for a single ticket to Tweavenside (occasionally) International airport.

Paddy put his hands through his Bernie fragrant hair and cussed to stop him from crying. A weird muffled sound came from the apartment door, you wouldn't really call it a knock. The words that melted through the MDF were however unmistakable.

"Are you up? Yer lazy bugger, I brung us 2 cuppas. I can't get the handle. This All Inclusive, my arse. No bloody kettle in the room, how are yer supposed to make a brew of a morning?"

That wonderful mingle of North East England and North East Scotland that was Bernie bucked against the door. Paddy wasn't sure if she was using her knee or her head.

"I have some bourbons in my case, I know they are your favourite."

Paddy somehow remembered he had the power of speech, "You never said."

"Aye well didn't want you to have expectations, I couldn't fulfill."

Paddy opened the door to a bright eyed woman with prescription sun glasses perched on her head. She was dressed in shorts and loose T-shirt, he was sure was his only yesterday. The squinting lovely was precariously holding a polystyrene cup full of tea in each hand. Her hair slicked back in a scrunchy.

"Morning, my love," he said relieving her of one of the beverages.

"Paddy you are in still in your pants, you better get a shift on the bleedin’ Germans have already got all the best sunbeds."

Paddy grinned, "They can have them, I have all I want right here."

Chapter Text

Two rooms and a kitchen I'm sure would do. Give me not a lot of just a plot of land. (Thou Swell, Rodgers and Hart.)

“What time did she say to meet?” Paddy looked at his watch for longer than he had needed to, since learning to tell the time in nursery school.

Bernie just huffed, as she had told him umpteen times that morning already. Paddy started picking ivy off the cottage wall, “You really want to get shot of this, you know it ruins the brickwork.”

“I like it.”

Paddy dragged a stem off the wall, “I am just saying it’s more trouble than it’s worth, Berns.”

Bernie in horror responded, “Are we talking about the ivy?” She shook her head, “as I am only renting and don’t expect to spend the rest of my life here. Let’s just let the owner worry about the poison ivy, eh Paddy.”

“Right then. So what time did they say they were going to be here?”

Bernie was about to tell Paddy what he could do with the ivy, when a new cherry red Renault Megane Sport, hurtled towards them, pulling up sharpish on the 400 year old cobbles. Bernie read the personalised number plate Mel 069 and sniffed.

A tall raven haired slim woman in a smart black skirt suit, that Bernie decided was definitely High Street, collected a small black shoulder bag and a large worn clipboard from the passenger seat. The estate agent shimmied out of her car. Bernie noticed the hem of the skirt stopped just short of what she would consider fit for work. She also thought the off-white blouse, was just on the border of professional and revealing a bit too much of what God, had generously given the new arrival in abundance.

Her glamorous disembark was ruined somewhat when the heel of her right scarlet shoe, that Bernie decided were also High Street, jammed in the cobbles. Bernie readied herself for a greeting.

“Paddy! How nice to see you not behind a bar,” the newcomer startled Bernie.

“Hi Melody, you in this game now then?” Paddy responded, a discernible tremor in his voice.

“Oh for goodness sake, yes. I got sick of stinking of beer and encouraging varicose veins from standing all day. There is nothing remotely attractive about being a barmaid,” Melody laughed turning to Bernie, “and you are?”

Bernie was stood frozen to the spot wearing an expression only those born in Scotland have mastered. She was glad to be wearing jeans, but still couldn’t help taking a look at the back of her own legs.

The innkeeper intervened, “This is Bernie, she was hoping for a viewing,” he informed the estate agent.

“Oh, Miss Mannion,” Melody looked down at her clipboard, as if remembering a name for the 15 mile car journey, from the office in Appleby Thornton to the property in Poplar, would be a challenge for anyone.

Bernie continued glaring. Paddy who had been bored until about two minutes ago, found he had a role to play as keeper of the peace, “Melody used to work at the Teacups and also has given me a hand, now and again.”

Paddy soon realized he wasn’t going to win the Nobel Peace Prize anytime soon, when Bernie’s mouth fell open and the ex-barmaid winked at a flustered Paddy.

“So is it just for yourself, Miss Mannion?” Melody asked, “or are you giving up the love-of your-life Paddy, and leaving the Crown for something more...erm... maybe less challenging?” she added looking at Miss Mannion.

“Well we have had a good look at the front of the property Melody, shall we go in,” Paddy almost pleaded.

Melody unlocked the duck egg painted front door to Little Acorn Cottage and Paddy and Bernie followed her indoors. The latter having a quick glance at those long lengths of leg between the skirt hem and stilettos, for anything that remotely resembled the River Tweaven in flood.

“As you see, you come straight into the main reception room,” she was now in comission mode, “it is a good size and is quite typical of properties of this era in the area. They were once farm labourers cottages, are you familiar with the area Miss Mannion?”

“I grew up in Poplar, in the Manse,” Bernie explained, surprised how the edge to her voice actually cut the air.

“Mannion, of course. I knew it rang a bell,” Melody laughed as if she had said something really funny. Paddy and Bernie remained lacking in humour.

Melody composed herself, “You’re Reverend Mannion’s daughter, I take it?” Bernie nodded. Melody paused for a moment, the carefully applied sheen she wore so well, for an unguarded moment, dulled. “My Nanna, she... your father was very kind...very kind to my family...to me.”

For a moment three people stood in Little Acorn Cottage in universes all of their own. Melody remembering a time she had wanted to forget, about someone she would never want to forget. Bernie sensed and was familiar with what Melody was feeling, something she had believed unlikely a few minutes earlier. She reassured herself that it wasn’t anything like jealousy she had been experiencing, more a sense of mistrust?

Paddy had always like Melody, she was brash and upfront, but women like that were easier to get on with, he had always found. It was the deep ones that scared him. He saw a shift in Bernie that reassured him, his old pal Wilf was doing his magic again. Reverend Mannion’s gift had always been in bringing people together, and here he was, at it again from beyond the grave.

Melody was back in Homes Under the Hammer mode, “There is an active solid fuel fireplace, but you can use it for decoration purposes, as the property is fully gas central heated.”

“Oh Paddy, you can lend me some logs from the Crown,” Bernie said with glee.

“Bernie, real fires are hard work and messy. You will realize this when you have put a winter in at the Crown,” Paddy found himself smiling at the thought of this, “trust me, stick a floral arrangement and a couple of candles in front of it and have done.”

“Always the romantic,” winked Melody at Bernie this time. Oddly Bernie didn’t feel her hackles rise and actually smiled back at Melody.

“So through here is the kitchen/diner,“ the agent directed.

Paddy and Bernie stood in the kitchen on the uneven stone floor. It contained twenty-first century units that mimicked original appliances long since removed.

“Kitchen/diner?“ remarked Paddy.

Melody gestured towards the tiny pine table and two chairs.

“Shall we go upstairs?” asked Paddy, receiving a much more positive response than he was used to.

Bernie held Paddy back with her arm, so that Melody went ahead. Then she jumped in behind the guide. It of course had nothing to do with the length of Melody’s cut price New Mark skirt, Bernie had decided it was definitely a New Mark suit.

The stairway was too underlit to confirm the existence of years standing pulling pints, although at Bernie’s height, she saw a lot more of those legs than was necessary. The steep staircase led to a small landing with three doors. Melody gestured to the one in the middle. Bernie opened the polished wooden door to reveal as Melody was keen to point out, “A good sized bedroom.”

The room contained a double bed with brass fittings, a bedside cabinet at each side made of oak or something resembling oak. There was also a chest of drawers opposite the bed with a mirror, that looked like it once belonged to some other piece of furniture, it was perched precariously on top.

Bernie made straight for the window. She admired the view of the surrounding countryside, the Cleveland Hills in the distance, ”It’s the same view as the Crown, Paddy.”

“Give or take a yard or two,“ replied Paddy. “Where are you going to put your clothes?” Melody opened the door to a large built in cupboard, which she reassured was also a good size.

“The owner is happy to rent out, furnished or unfurnished, it is up to you,” Melody threw in, as she made her way to the second bedroom.

“You will need a new bed,” commented Paddy turning up his nose.

“Why?” asked Bernie perching on the mattress and having a little bounce, “I like this one, it’s fancy she said rubbing the brass fittings.”

“Well the head board is alright, but you will need a new mattress.”

Bernie bounced again, “Feels fine to me.”

“Bernie you don’t know who has slept in there?”

“Well I will use my own linen,” Bernie frowned.

“I am talking about the mattress, Bernie.”

“That doctor, Dr Enys slept here last,” declared Bernie, “the locum. He’s been renting this cottage for the last six months, we know that. He used to come into the Crown,” Bernie grinned. “You saw him for your man flu.”

“You definitely need to change the mattress then, imagine all the germs he brought home.”

“Oh Paddy, I am sure he washed his hands,” Bernie sighed.

“Well there is no way I am sleeping on that mattress”

“Finally today, you’ve got something right.”

Melody popped her head around the door, “Are you two always like this?”

Bernie blushed and Paddy grinned, “No, sometimes she lets me argue back.”

The second bedroom contained a single bed, which wasn’t discussed. A double wardrobe, another good sized space for storage Melody pointed out.

Bernie looked out of the window and smiled, “I am right opposite the war memorial.”

“No excuse for missing the bus then,” Paddy teased.

Following been shown the good sized bathroom. The agent left Paddy and Bernie alone to mooch around.

“What do you think then?” asked Bernie her face revealing her own thoughts behind a beaming smile.

“It’s very small,” confessed Paddy.

“Well so am I,” Bernie replied defiantly.

Paddy couldn’t help but smile at this, “I think I would feel a bit cramped in here, to be honest Bernie.”

“You won’t be living here,” Bernie responded with some confusion. “You are used to having a whole floor of a pub to live in, it’s bound to feel small to you.” Paddy nodded in defeat.

“I am used to only having a bedroom to myself, this feels like a palace to me.” Bernie twirled around the good sized master bedroom of her potential new kingdom. Going back over to the window she leaned in as far as she could.

“Look. I can see the end of the beer garden from here, you can wave at me.”

Paddy moved in close behind her and put his arms around her waist and whispered in her left ear, “I wouldn’t have to wave, if you moved into the Crown.”

Bernie managed to swivel around in his embrace, “Paddy you promised,” she admonished. “This cottage and my new role at Crane Carers are all reasons I have decided to stay in Poplar.”

Paddy stopped her from wriggling free and looked at her in all seriousness, “The only reasons you’re staying?”

Bernie realized she was trapped and rested her hands on his arms and hummed,

“Well, I would miss,” she paused for a moment and screwed up her nose, “I would miss Val.”

“Just Val?” Paddy asked leaning forwards and kissing her forehead.

“No,“ answered Bernie leaning back against the window sill, Paddy moved in closer, “Who else?” with another kiss, to her cheek this time.

“Chummy,” Bernie said trying to be serious, “and Peter of course.”

Bernie tried to sit her bottom onto the window sill, but it was just a fraction to high and she slipped back into Paddy’s arms.

“Who else?” a kiss to the left cheek this time.

“Ermm, Tim and Jack,” Bernie said with a great deal of conviction. A kiss landed on her nose, “Who else?”

“Well there is someone else, but it’s a secret,” giggled Bernie. This time he hit her lips and then whispered, “tell me?”

Bernie leaned forwards and kissed him back and grinned.

“It’s Fred isn’t it?” smiled Paddy. Pressing his forehead against hers.

“No,“ Bernie reached up and pulled Paddy’s head away from hers by gently grabbing his hair. She shook her head after a lot of deliberation and Paddy gave her a crooked smile and decided to try an earlobe. Which resulted in Bernie trying to wiggle free unsuccessfully, as he held her closer against him. Between giggles, she eventually surrendered with a shriek,

“It’s Tommy!” she confessed.

“Tommy who?” Paddy jumped back slightly, trying to place all the Tommy’s he and Bernie knew. Most of them were over sixty or under ten. Bernie stood tight lipped, hands now firmly in his hair. Paddy leaned down towards her neck and she gave in instantly,

“The alpaca.”

Paddy rocked with laughter at the revelation of his rival, and added, “I thought he was in love with Phyll?”

Bernie leaned in and frowned, “Thwarted by the Matron,” she whispered in Paddy’s ear. It was a strange combination of syllables, but it had an effect.

“So no one else… at all?” Paddy murmured into Bernie’s neck.

The barmaid was glad it was coming on winter, so there was likely to be only a few ardent smokers, shivering near a beer garden heater at the Crown. It would be unlikely they would be focused on the upstairs window of a cottage a few doors down. How was she supposed to give him a reply, when he had now moved back to her lips and had full control of her mouth and well pretty much nothing else.

“Are you two finished in the bedroom?” A voice came up the stairs. Bernie gasped breaking them apart, she had forgotten all about the estate agent.

Paddy couldn’t respond to the enquiry, breathless from Bernie’s kiss and laughing at her shocked face. So Bernie was the one who shouted back down the stairs, “Be down in a minute, Melody,” she winked at Paddy and added, “just checking it is a good size.”

Chapter Text

I Don’t Like Cricket. Oh no, I love it. (Dreadlock Holiday, 10CC)

 

“Are you sure you don’t mind being left to hold the fort?” Bernie fiddled with the edge of a Buckle’s Brewery beer towel as she waited for a reassuring reply from her friend. She didn’t have long to wait, Valerie Dyer’s reply was instantaneous.

 

“No, I will be just fine, thank you.”

 

“No, but are you really sure?” Bernie tried again, “because if you really feel that you cannae manage here on your own, I could have a word with Paddy and I am sure he would understand.”

 

Val pursed her lips together to hide a grin and in all seriousness continued, “Bernie, I will bravely struggle on here alone. If I get overwhelmed I will send a helicopter to Headingley to land on the pitch and bring you back to Poplar in a flash, before I collapse under all  the pressure.”

 

Bernie wasn’t amused, but before she could complain, Evie and Vi bustled out of the kitchen with two battered looking straw picnic baskets and the chef called her over to help. Val followed her to the bar table, where, the flushed looking ladies had relieved themselves of their burdens, resulting in sending unsuspecting beer mats flying in all directions.

 

Val bent over and picked a couple of Crown beer mats up, smiling at the fading picture of her boss and his son embossed upon them. Frequent soakings with spilt liquids and dripping condensation had blurred the Turner profiles somewhat.

 

“We need some more of these making,” Val mentioned, not sure if anyone was paying her any intention, she nudged Bernie in the back with her elbow, “you should be on the next set, will attract more attention than these two ugly mugs.”

 

Val now did have more attention, Bernie’s. “Great idea Val, something to strike off my bucket list; face on a beer mat before I am forty. My life is complete.”

 

“The next batch of those are going to feature Jack’s photo and opening and closing times. So he remembers where he works and when.”

 

Bernie felt a shiver down her spine and her tummy flip as she heard Paddy’s voice and realized he had heard her and Val’s banter. She scrunched her eyes together and squeezed her hands into fists, hidden from view by Evie and Vi discussing if there had made enough sausage rolls. She sent up a silent prayer, why for just one day, could she not get through it, without putting her size 3 foot in her big gob? She wanted a whole day without saying something that didn’t sound like she wanted to be somewhere else, living a different life; instead of happier than she had ever thought she could be, somewhere she knew she belonged and was loved and valued.

 

Val who had learnt to read her colleague like a well thumbed chick-fic deflected the attention well away from her wee pal. “Good idea Paddy we could hang one around his neck like a dog tag, put on the back, if found please return to the Crown”

 

Paddy smirked at Val’s joke, he would have laughed out loud, but it was Val and didn’t want to give the impression he found her funny. It would spoil the greater joke that they pretended to barely tolerate each other most of the time. He stopped to retrieve another stray beer mat that had wheeled itself in a vain escape attempt towards the inn door. He was about to say something, but took in the sight of hampers for the first time. His attention deferred to Vi and her pastry chef for the day Evie, Violet was an excellent cook, but the ex-landlady had the magic touch with flour and fat. 

 

“Are we feeding the whole of North Yorkshire?” choked Paddy.

 

Violet took a deep breath and folded her arms under her ample bosom, “We have a long day ahead of us, Mr. Turner and I don't want anyone saying the Crown can’t provide a decent picnic.”

 

The landlord knew when Violet referred to him as Mr. Turner, it was best to make that the end of it. The glance from Evie, assured him that was the wisest course of action.

 

“You will have a marvelous time, Bernie is ever so excited, aren’t you chick?” Val couldn’t help herself.

 

Bernie flicked Val a look of warning while Paddy said nothing, but he handed the thwarted beer mat to Bernie as he turned to go chivvy Tim up. He did it without a word, but a look that left her in no doubt he had heard every word. 



“The bus is here!” an informing cry came from outside the inn, Bernie dawdled out her legs heavy, bearing their share of the burden of regret flowing down from her heart. Her thoughts of Paddy were interrupted by an excited Tom Hereward.

 

“Lovely day for it, Bernie,” he beamed as he kissed Bernie awkwardly on the cheek. Time had passed since Easter and no-one was completely certain, if it had been the effects of Bernie’s sermon in the Crown on Easter Sunday or the epilogue on returning home delivered by Bobby Hereward, but the churchman's relationship with the other chamber of the heart of the village had improved markedly. 

 

“Bobby not with you then?” asked Bernie, she and the new mother had become better acquainted once the tension had been released slightly over Easter. She was hoping the Hereward’s had found a babysitter, amongst the Poplar folk not heading to Leeds for the day. The more people she could find to sit between her and Trixie the better she thought.

 

“She is just helping Dolly secure the baby seat into the school bus,” Tom explained. Bernie tried very hard to stop a snort, “You are bringing the bairn?”

 

“Well yes, I asked Paddy and he said “why not start them young” or something like that,” Tom explained nervously. 

 

Bernie detected the hesitation in the father’s voice and quickly reassured him, “Sounds like Paddy. I think Tim’s christening was held at Anfield by all accounts.”

 

Tom’s eyes widened and he started to bluster, Bernie gently took hold of his arm and reassured, “Not really.”

 

Tom’s face relaxed and Bernie grinned, but then started to wonder if Tim was even christened. Marianne had probably preferred some ancient pagan naming ceremony on the top of Roseberry Topping or some other hill.

 

Tom clambered on the school bus in response to the wailing sound of someone being less than impressed with the seating arrangements. Bernie smiled to see Phyl, Julia and Lucille coming towards her, more reinforcements she thought. The Matron’s reciprocal smile froze at the sound of the reluctant passenger coming from the bus.

 

“A baby at the cricket?” Phyllis Crane shrieked in disbelief. Lucille looked away hiding her giggles and looking towards the bus, wondering if those on board had heard. The young nurse’s amusement only made it harder for Bernie to hide her own. Fortunately Reverend Julia was more practiced in presenting a straight face after years of Sunday School teaching. 

 

“Well there will be plenty of us available, if a stroll around the ground is required,” she interjected in a glass half-full manner she had long perfected.

 

“Put me down first for baby-sitting duty,” laughed Bernie with glee. 

 

Phyllis tutted, “Do you not like cricket Bernie?” 

 

The colour faded from Bernie’s face. The Matron was one of her closest friends, but she still had the ability to make her feel like a schoolgirl who had said a rude word, she didn’t know the meaning of yet. All Bernie could manage as way of an explanation, while looking at her schools and shuffling,

 

“I am Scottish.” 

 

The rest of the party filtering out of the Crown and from all directions from the village, seemed to converge at the bus at this point. Phyllis nodded and said, “Aye lass, you are.” Everyone else nodded or sighed in agreement. 

 

Bernie huffed and decided to head back into the pub until she saw Paddy stood in the doorway. She cringed, not again , they hadn’t even packed the bus and this was her second bout of verbal diarrhoea. She would just apologise and start the day again, actually start the month again as August was only a few hours old. As she came closer she noticed Paddy, who was vaping something citrus, was grinning at her.

 

“Sorry,” she muttered, “I guess I am not very sporty, unless it’s tiddly winks. Even Trixie is better than me at egg jarping.”

 

Paddy pushed a stray golden hair behind Bernie’s pink ear that matched her blushing face. “That’s because you cheat.”

 

Bernie was horrified, “I do not,” she cried as Paddy offered her the fruity fag substitute. Bernie knocked it away with disgust.

 

“Yes, you do. You used a very underhand technique, last time we played Twister.” Paddy held her gaze until the penny dropped and she gasped, before she could protest Paddy leaned forward and whispered in her ear, ”I am waiting for a rematch.” 

 

As Bernie turned to answer he kissed her gently on the lips. Bernie who just had to have the last word responded, “It’s like kissing an Opal Fruit.”

 

“Starburst,” Tim said as he pushed past the pair. “They are called Starburst now, have been for years, probably my whole life and you two are gross, I have asked Fred for the ticket furthest away from you two when we get to the ground.”

 

“Charming!” Bernie and Paddy said in unison and giggled in realization

 

“And you ask me why,” Tim groaned as he moved towards the bus with one of the packed full hampers. 

 

“What’s the betting his ticket is the one next to the seat Lucille is given,” whispered Bernie.

 

“Odds on,” laughed Paddy, “a dead cert.”



Fred and Reggie rolled a barrel of Bowl a Maiden Over into the boot of the school bus and a carton of Jasper’s Beck semillon/chardonnay/pinot grigio. Jack lobbed the second hamper on top of the one Tim had loaded earlier. Julia and Phyllis stood looking astonished at the contents of the boot.

 

“Are we going to watch the match or invade Yorkshire in the name of the Crown?” asked Phyllis.

 

Fred explained that they were allowed to take in 4 pints of beer per person or 75mls of wine and his comprehensive school maths ensured they were within their combined limits.

 

“But Trixie and Lucille don’t drink and Tim and Jack are under age and Dolly is driving,” calculated Julia.

 

“Don’t involve me,” chirped up Dolly Smart, “I am just driving this charabanc as a favour to Fred here. I am not boring my arse off watching some silly boys playing rounders all day, “ she laughed scornfully. Bernie felt Paddy bristle beside her and chuckled, she had always like Dolly.

 

“Actually some of them are quite fit,” said Lucille, who suddenly realized she had spoken aloud and looked around to see if anyone had heard her. Bernie noticed Tim looked very much like his dad when irritated.

 

More out of sympathy for Lucille than the Turners, she asked Dolly what she was going to do in Leeds all day and then wished she hadn’t. Dolly shrieked with laughter and shook her head and said, “Shoes!, what other good reason is there to go to Leeds, other than shopping.”

 

Bernie was reminded of a Christmas shopping trip her and Val had taken and was going to interject Cocktails at Harvey Nic’s, but then remembered Dolly was the designated driver.

 

As if on cue the police escort arrived, Chummy looked deliriously happy, Bernie hadn’t realized her old friend was such a sports fan. She then remembered the inspector had looked like that since her and Peter had announced their engagement. 

 

Bernie leaned into Paddy and asked, “Do I look at you like that, like Chummy looks at Peter?”

 

Paddy spluttered on the, one of his five a day, flavour vape pen. Bernie’s forehead knotted and the double exclamation marks formed between her eyebrows, as the tiny dimples appeared as she sucked in her lips. 

 

Paddy regained his composure, “You do sometimes, when you’re not looking at me like that.” 

 

Bernie relaxed as Paddy kissed the tension from her forehead and a wide smile replaced the gurn and the eyes brightened and the eyelids dipped, “There it is,” he laughed gently. 

 

Everyone piled into the bus and headed out towards Mount Busby Farm and Alpaca Sanctuary; where Lady Keville was waiting with the Two Loves and their protege Trixie Franklin. Bernie’s friend found a seat on the bus adjacent to Paddy and Bernie.

 

“Trixie, you do know we are going to be sat in the sun all day close to the boundary. Why are you dressed ready for the Royal Box, Centre Court at Wimbledon?” Bernie asked as she observed how everyone else was attired. The emphasis seemed to be on comfort and sun protection with light casual clothes and a variety of headwear. 

 

To be fair, her friend had brought a very chic white wide brimmed hat that complimented her white designer fitted dress and matching coat. Trixie’s employer Patience Mount, herself looking very cool in cropped cotton trousers and loose fitting blouse, on point as always, turned from her seat near the front, The ex-model shook her head at Bernie, as if to say, I did try and tell her. Bernie smiled back at the sophisticated older woman. 

 

The other Love, an excited Delia was chatting away to Antonia, who was herself overjoyed to be leaving Poplar on purpose. The ex-nurse turned market gardner was wearing a very pretty sundress and straw hat belying her 80 plus years, but it all looked a lot more comfortable than Trixie’s Royal Ascot ensemble. 

 

Part of Trixie’s philosophy included there was nothing worse than being wrongly dressed for an occasion, but she wasn’t a fool. She surveyed the rest of the passengers and then turned to Bernie and confidently stated, 

 

“Well I think it’s quite obvious which one of us is most likely to be asked into the Royal Enclosure to be introduced to Prince Harry and Meghan.”

 

Bernie opened her mouth but Paddy squeezed the hand he had been holding and shook his head and grinned. Bernie raised her eyebrows and grinned back. 

 

To correct Trixie, well that just wouldn’t be cricket, would it?

 

Happy Yorkshire Day!