Chapter 1: Prologue: Christmas 1960
Trixie Franklin stuffed a handful of chocolate Quality Street into her coat pocket, stolen from the newly arrived big purple tin, donated by a grateful patient. If other years were anything to go by, it would be the first of many Christmas donations received by the Nonnatuns. She made her way to All Saints' Church, while Sister Mary Cynthia rode off to assist in Rosemary McConlough's delivery.
Trixie negotiated the frosty Poplar streets on her bicycle, dodging preoccupied shoppers, Christmas Trees and stall holders. She abandoned her bike and hurried up the well gritted church steps, into the all too familiar church. She paused at the oversized doors. She knew she shouldn't dawdle, Mrs McConlough was after all expecting twins. This would be the first time she would enter All Saints' since she had called off her engagement to its curate.
It wasn't the sound of the dreadful din of the Sunday School Choir that stopped Trixie in her tracks, it was the sight of Tom high above her. Seeing him stood alone and so exposed made Trixie's heart miss a beat.
Trixie knew the Turners would be in their usual pew just behind the Sunday School. Trixie also knew Tom had spotted her, those dimples caused by holding in his laugh at the children's choir, had faded slightly.
The kids continued making the congregation wish for a much more Silent Night. She was probably the only person in the church glad the little ones were singing and Mr Hereward was not preaching. She would have hated to attract any unwanted attention to herself or Tom, by a break in the clergy's sermon, caused by her impromptu entrance. He moved his glance from her, to what she supposed was the Sunday School teacher in the front pew.
Barbara Gilbert was usually allocated Sunday mornings off. Sister Julienne was always looking for opportunities to involve Nonnatus in the community and with the local Anglican Church. Barbara considered it a privilege to have most Sunday mornings off. Desiring to carry on the role she was so familiar with, as a Sunday School teacher, just as she had been at her father's parish in Liverpool.
In return, she was always quick to volunteer for a Friday or Saturday night shift to allow Trixie or Patsy a weekend night off. Recently though Patsy had taken to not going out of a weekend, since Delia had returned to Wales. Patsy had taken to sitting in her room and reading of a night. Trixie had thought it must be difficult for Patsy, as it had been her bike that Delia had been riding, when she was involved in a terrible road traffic accident. Trixie herself was also now staying in of a weekend.
Nurse Franklin kept her eyes on the highly polished church floor, as she made her way towards Dr Turner. On reaching him she only needed to whisper the prospective mother's name, to gain Dr Turner's full comprehension. The nurse absentmindedly noticed that under her right hand the doctor's shoulder was shaking ever so slightly. As she followed the still chuckling doctor out of the church, Trixie hardly noticed the earnest but off key offering of the children's choir. She was just relieved to have retrieved the GP, without embarrassing herself by distracting her ex-fiancé.
Why on Earth didn't the Turners sit at the back? The young nurse wondered. It wasn't as if this was the first time, Trixie or one of her colleagues had been sent to fetch the doctor out of church on a Sunday morning. Come to think of it, Trixie didn't have to search that far back into her memory to find a time when the last place you would have found Patrick Turner on a Sunday morning, was All Saints' Church or any other church for that matter.
Chapter 2: The New Girl in Town
Trixie arrives in Poplar, what could go wrong? This chapter is a wee bit glum, please hang in there.
Trixie Franklin wouldn't consider herself to have the unbreakable faith she attributed to the sisters or Shelagh Turner. She didn't have the quiet assurance of Chummy or Barbara. She did possess a faith though, it was a private matter between her and her maker. She had been brought up a church goer. She was baptised at two months and confirmed at twelve into the Anglican Church. As an infant she attended the crèche, later graduating to the Sunday School and eventually the main congregation. The choir mistress had spotted little Beatrix Franklin's sweet, but crystal clear voice when she was part of the Sunday School Choir. She encouraged Trixie to join the adult choir a little earlier than expected. Mrs Forster had nurtured Trixie's natural raw talent and earmarked the young girl for solo parts.
Mrs Forster was pleased to have a diamond in the rough to hone and in turn Trixie gained confidence and familiarity with being looked at. Trixie would be the first to admit that singing, was the part of the church service she enjoyed the most. Sometimes the god that the fire and brimstone preacher pontificated about, seemed somewhat cold and distant to her. The god that she lifted her voice in worship to, seemed somehow closer and more approachable.
Trixie had needed to lean on that faith when she first arrived in Poplar, as a newly qualified midwife at the tender age of twenty-two. The idea of joining a convent in a secular role hadn't phased her. She had been educated at a Church of England school and always felt comfortable in a religious setting. It wasn't the nuns that were the problem.
As soon as she arrived, she realized she was the youngest member of Nonnatus House and in most cases by a considerable number of years. Next to her in age was a young nun by the name of Sister Bernadette. Trixie surmised the sister was about 5 or 6 years older than her and was relieved when she was chosen to be her mentor. She soon discovered her new teacher was easy to work with, incredibly knowledgeable and very keen to pass that knowledge on. She also found out Sister Bernadette had a quick wit and a very dry sense of humour. She also like her pupil, didn't suffer fools gladly. Trixie had been told her tongue often erred on the sharp side. Sister Bernadette didn't seem to be very concerned about this.
Under Sister Bernadette's tutelage Trixie grew in skill and confidence. All should have been well. It wasn't long before the young midwife realized her three fellow lay nurses resented the young nun bitterly. Two were nearing retirement age, the other was engaged to be married to a wealthy widower and counting the days to her wedding. Sister Bernadette was probably one of the most professional and conscientious nurses Trixie had ever met in her short career. The sister felt it her responsibility to keep updated as much as possible, in regards to her chosen field. She had been given responsibility by Sister Julienne, who had seen something in the young nun even as a postulant, and in turn had put her in charge of further education at Nonnatus.
To experienced midwives thirty years older than the sister, this was just too much and considered an insult. Trixie had heard some of things they called her friend, her only friend, and her blood boiled. To Trixie her mentor was far from Miss High and Mighty or Sister Bossydette, or much worse. The young apprentice's refusal to join in the backbiting and even defend her friend at times, meant that the established nursing staff rejected their new colleague. Never blatantly in front of Sister Julienne, just as their venom towards the youngest sister was carefully contained in front of the other sisters.
It was the evenings that were hardest for the newest resident of Nonnatus. Once the Great Silence started Trixie found herself completely isolated. She had no wish to join in the gossip and spiteful talk of her colleagues, but she was lonely. Once the nuns had removed themselves for contemplation, Trixie took to her room. She had spent her first month's wages on a small record player, which became her closest companion and comfort in those first dark months.
On her days off Nurse Franklin would travel up west. After a trip to Boots for new cosmetics and toiletries, it was straight to the HMV record shop. Trixie spent hours in the sound booths deciding between all the new releases and always left with a small bundle of 45s. Just as singing in the choir had helped her momentarily escape from her troubled home life, the dansette helped her momentarily escape Nonnatus.
The rest of Trixie's wages she spent in Poplar. Nurse Franklin may not have been an instant hit with the other midwives, but she was with the mothers and soon to be mothers of the East End. Her friendly, easy-going manner made her patients also feel at ease. Under the much respected wing of Sister Bernadette, her competence and confidence grew and so did her reputation and popularity among Poplar's residents.
Trixie's experience of caring for her war-ravaged father, meant that her innocence and naivety had been stolen from her, far too soon. It did mean however, that she was fairly unshockable and she soon became very fond of what she called her Poplar heroines. She gave back by not getting her hair done once a week in a fancy salon, but by Doris Aston a familiar face at the parish ante and postnatal clinics. She didn't waste her time looking for something unique in the boutiques around Carnaby Street. She could always be seen in an original, when it had been made exclusively for her by Poplar seamstress Ivy Jackson.
If only Trixie had been born two or three years later and hadn't had to live and work with, the back in the day, Weird Sisters. The young nurse longed for someone she could talk to and would make living in Poplar bearable.Trixie's unspoken attitude of irreverence however, did at least bring her some crumb of comfort around the convent dining table. At least until the table placings would someday ineveitably be altered.
Sister Bossydette is not mine, I remember it from early Tumblr days and would love to know who to credit for it.
The Weird Sisters is one of the more modern terms referring to the 3 witches in Macbeth.
Chapter 3: Trials and Tribu-bleedin'-lations
Thank you for the lovely responses I have gotten so far. I really miss the Sister Evangelina days.
Trixie Franklin had been at Nonnatus House getting on for six months, but to the young midwife it seemed like years. Trixie had not trained at a London based hospital, but much nearer home, she was a stranger in town.
After the death of her father, the bright lights of London had lured the newly qualified midwife to the nation's capital. For the first time Trixie felt she could finally start living her life for herself.
Her parents had encouraged her to take up nursing. The truth was, she had been a caregiver all her young life. Her father had suffered terribly from what they referred to in the Great War as shell shock. She knew it would be unfair to train to be a nurse, too far from home. Her mother still needed her daughter's support dealing with the horrors that tormented Trixie's father.
Following the loss of her husband, Mrs Franklin realized how much her only daughter had sacrificed for the family and much to Trixie's surprise encouraged her to spread her wings.
London had been one big fat disappointment. She loved the work, she was growing fonder of her mentor and the other nuns. Trixie had built up a good relationship with Sister Bernadette, but she could hardly ask her if she fancied accompanying her to a dance at the weekend.
The senior midwife Sister Evangelina, could be sharp but so could Trixie. The nun was never cruel or malicious, just particular. Unfortunately the subtle bullying and resentment from the older nurses, was starting to make Trixie doubt her decision to move to the city. She marvelled at how Sister Bernadette kept cool, calm and professional in all situations. Trixie thought she surely must know that she didn't always have the respect and support she was due from Trixie's fellow nurses. If she did, she never let on.
One particular Tuesday clinic had been - as Sister Evangelina always liked to put it - an afternoon of trials and tribu-bleedin'-lations. Sister Bernadette had been seconded to the London and without her understated but firm direction, the clinic had failed to function with its regular military precision. Patients were getting restless, having to wait longer than they were used to. Notes went missing and instruments had been mislaid.
One of the doctors was berating Sister Evangelina, which Trixie thought was incredibly brave. The younger midwife made herself busy. Sister Evangelina had already had a go at her earlier - for what? She wasn't quite sure. This had come not long after, one of the nurses had loudly apportioned blame for her own shortcomings on Nurse Franklin.
Trixie couldn't help but overhear from the kitchen that Sister Evangelina and the usually placid Dr Turner were now at loggerheads. Apparently over the ridiculous decision, according to the doctor, of not choosing to send one of the useless ones to the London. Instead of the only nurse that actually seems to know what she's doing!
Trixie smarted, this day couldn't end soon enough.
A furious Sister Evangelina stormed out of the kitchen and pushed a set of notes into Nurse Franklin's hands.
"Would you please go and assist Dr Turner, Nurse! If I have to deal with him much longer, we won't just be a nurse short!"
Trixie took the notes from her superior and followed Dr Turner behind one of the screens. She wasn't phased by the order. Dr Turner and that particular Sister, did tend to rub each other up the wrong way at times and if it was going to happen, it was definitely going to happen today. She had noticed Dr Turner always appeared most at ease when he worked with Sister Bernadette, but then so did most people. The young nun always seemed to provide the calm eye to Poplar's frequent storms. The doctor had always been pleasant and appreciative of Trixie's work, so she marched behind the screen with confidence.
She handed Dr Turner the notes she had been given. The doctor turned on the young midwife immediately. Trixie didn't fully comprehend what was being said, but she knew he was angry and venting his anger on her. For not the first time today, she was taking responsibility for someone else's mistake. She had inadvertently handed the doctor the wrong set of patient notes. Trixie tried to muster an apology, but finally things had gone just too far for the young midwife. She turned on her heels and fled the clinic.
Trixie found herself in the alley way that ran between All Saints' church and its parish hall. Her lithe frame shaking and tears threatening to fall. The doctor hadn't actually been that aggressive. Sister Evangelina had said much worse to her earlier. She wondered if it was the tone coming from a male voice that had upset her. It had been a while since she had heard an angry raised voice aimed at her, emanating from a man. Trixie clung to the wall of the parish hall, she now realized she was shaking with anger, directed at herself for her unguarded emotional response.
What would he think? What would they think? What would Sister Bernadette think when she found out? Sister Bernadette would never show such a lack of control in response to Dr Turner or anyone for that matter. Her thoughts were interrupted;
"Are you alright Nurse?" The voice was soft, controlled now, "It's been a difficult day, Nurse... erm, I didn't mean to raise my voice, Nurse.. er..yes, Nurse."
"Franklin, it's Nurse Franklin. I have been here 6 months, Dr Turner!" Trixie could have bitten off her tongue, but she was afraid it was so sharp she might cut herself. Trixie's embarrassment at being discovered, propelled her into the well used strategy of attack.
When a reply didn't come she figured he was waiting for an apology, she turned to face him. She realized he wasn't saying anything because he was trying not to laugh. Trixie was about to explode again when he suddenly asked her if she wanted a cigarette. Trixie would have sold her grandmother for a cigarette at that moment. Her cigarette case was in her handbag inside the clinic. She nodded.
Trixie had been a social smoker before coming to the East End. The perfected poise of lighting and holding a du Maurier taken from its signature red tin, was more of a fashion accessory than a habit. That had all changed in the last six months. She was smoking nearly a pack a day now, still nowhere near as much as Dr Turner, she hastened a guess.
She took the ugly old fashioned Henley from the cigarette case he offered her and accepted the light. There was something about this small act of kindness that finally seeped through Trixie's last shred of defiance and the dam finally broke. She hadn't been able to tell anyone how she was feeling. Not her mother, who was so proud of her. Not her mentor, who she looked up to and didn't want to disappoint.
She poured her heart out to the man who five minutes ago was the cause of her distress. Dr Turner stood beside her quietly puffing away, when she was done he refused the return of his now mascara stained hanky.
"You know what you need?" He said gesticulating his left index finger towards her. She shook her head, " You need! A bloody good night out!"
Trixie didn't quite know how to respond to this. Surely he was married. She had never met the wife, but she was more than certain there was a Mrs Turner. Yes, he was wearing a wedding ring. There was a son wasn't there? Tommy or something?
Trixie looked at the doctor again, she supposed he wasn't bad looking for his age, but he must be well into his 40's. What was he thinking? Honestly, the arrogance of some doctors. Trixie suddenly realized she was up a back alley with a man she believed had just propositioned her. Then why wasn't she trying to get away? Why was she not more ill at ease?
"Heavens to Mugatroyd! What on earth are you pair doing taking a cigarette break now? Of all the times!" Sister Evangelina was now boiling with rage.
"Nurse Franklin," the accent on her surname was not lost on Trixie, "Was taken unwell and I simply came out to see if she needed assistance."
Sister Evangelina had her head in her hands, "And does she?"
"Are you fit enough to continue Nurse Franklin, or do you need to return to Nonnatus?"
Trixie smiled, "I think I am recovered, thank you for your kind attention, Dr Turner."
The Sister raised her eyebrow in disbelief, "Well isn't that just marvellous news Nurse Franklin! Now can we all just get back to work?" She growled.
They stubbed out their cigarettes and Doctor Turner gave Trixie a sly wink before following a glowering nun back into the clinic.
Trixie looked at the makeup ruined hanky and wondered what the initial P embroidered in one corner might stand for.
Chapter 4: The Visitor
Thank you for reading, I am so chuffed. I think things might be looking up at last for our girl.
Trixie knew from the state of Dr Turner's handkerchief that her make-up was no longer intact. The last thing she wanted was to keep Sister Evangelina waiting any longer. There was no way however Trixie Franklin was going to walk into the Poplar antenatal clinic looking like a panda.
In the Ladies, Trixie corrected her make-up. Touching-up the brave face she had perfected the application of since being a small child. A bit of stiff upper lip here, a blind eye there, a good deal of cheek and a dash of take it on the chin. Vulnerable, bruised Beatrix Franklin stared into the looking glass. Nurse Trixie Franklin SRN, SCM smiled back.
She was needed, Sister Evangelina was now cracking the whip. Everyone upped their game and the clinic finished only 15 minutes late. She noticed Dr Turner watching her ever so often.
To be fair, all things considered, he was still a fairly youngish man. He had been surrounded by nuns and the Weird Sisters, for quite sometime now. Was it really that remarkable that he would notice her?
Trixie didn't like to think she was vain, by any stretch of the imagination, but she was aware that she stood out. Sister Bernadette was the closest to her in age and although Trixie was slightly envious of the sister's sunshine smile. Not forgetting those striking blue eyes, always hidden behind her appalling National Health glasses. There was absolutely no way Dr Turner was going to notice her.
Trixie was used to male attention. She knew how to open a door with just a smile. In training she had won many admirers, leading to a smattering of gossip among some of her less popular fellow student nurses. Trixie didn't care, she knew that between the young doctors she was known as the 'girl who said goodnight through the keyhole'. She enjoyed dancing, the pictures and even the odd dinner, but Trixie had already spent too many years as a little wife and mother. She needed to concentrate on qualifying. One day she would like to be a real wife and mother, but not just yet. There would be plenty of time for that.
The plenty of time for that, she had hoped would start in Poplar. It turned out that the only men she met, were either expectant fathers, ulcer patients or overworked married GPs. Without a girlfriend she was never going to find a boyfriend.
Following the clinic of humiliation, Trixie volunteered to do the evening insulin round. She didn't rush, accepting more than one offer of a cup of tea and a variety of biscuits. Trixie dawdled home pushing her bike, rather than riding it. Hopefully she would be too late for high tea, Mrs B would have made a plate up for her. She could eat it in solitude, in peace.
She was beginning to understand the sister's love of the Great Silence. Would it be so terrible to admit she had made a mistake coming to Poplar? Was it time to start looking for a new position closer to home? She loved feeling a small but important part of each of the East End families she tended, but she couldn't feel more alone when it was time to return to the convent.
A weary Trixie hoped to slink into the dining room, locate her meal and avoid anymore tension.
"Nurse Franklin, at last!"
"Sorry Sister Julienne, the round took a little longer than I anticipated."
"As long as all is well, Nurse?" Trixie nodded at her superior. The sister continued, "You have a visitor."
Trixie's first thought was for her mother, followed by a lightning image of Dr Turner, which she swiftly dismissed.
As Sister Julienne led Trixie into the sitting room, a tall dark haired woman stubbed out a purple cigarette. She rose to her feet from one of the Nonnatus settees and moved towards the nun and young midwife.
Trixie assumed she was around mid-thirties, she was smartly dressed in a well tailored mauve skirt suit, set off by a string of pearls and attached to her right lapel, an exquisite silver brooch in the shape of a rose, set off with a couple of small raindrop pearls. Her face was open and her smile warm, her make-up and shoulder length hair, flawless.
"Nurse Franklin, may I have the pleasure of introducing you to Mrs Turner."
Trixie hesitated as the approaching woman outstretched her right hand. She was more than a little bewildered with the identity of her unexpected guest.
"Mrs Turner, this is the nurse you requested to see," Sister Julienne continued as Trixie managed a light handshake.
Mrs Turner smiled and nodded at Sister Julienne. It was in a way that Trixie would have comprehended as a polite dismal, if she had ever been witness to anyone attempting to dismiss Sister Julienne on any previous occasion.
The Sister-in-Charge did make as to vacate the room, mentioning something about tea and biscuits. She was stopped by the visitor, explaining her visit would be short, as she was aware that Nurse Franklin had already had a long and trying day.
Trixie coloured at this comment, which did not go unnoticed by the nun, who nodded her head before leaving, remarking, "As you wish."
Once the sister had departed, the woman's shoulders dropped and her eyes seemed to take on a twinkle. She leaned forward and took both of Trixie's hands in her own, they felt soft and warm. Trixie, who prided herself on her hand care routine, suddenly became aware that no amount of Nivea would ever make a midwives hands feel anything less than a Brillo pad. Especially in comparison to Mrs Turner's beautifully manicured and conditioned long elegant pair.
"My dear, I hope you won't take umbrage with my impertinent and unannounced visit and who knows maybe even unwelcome?" Mrs Turner paused for Trixie to answer, but she said nothing. There wasn't a coherent thought in her head, that she could possibly attempt to repeat at that moment.
The visitor smiled and continued, "Let me explain, my husband, the dear man, seems to be under the distinct impression that you need a friend, is that right? My dear."
Trixie managed to mumble, "There was some sort of conversation, where he..Dr Turner that is, could...quite possibly may have...formed that impression from...my words."
Trixie felt those dratted tears well up again behind her lids. "He was most kind, I have his handkerchief, I will have it laundered."
"Dear god no! Throw it away, sweetie! The man has more hankies than ties." The doctor's wife rolled her eyes and threw her head back and laughed.
Trixie couldn't contemplate undertaking such a wasteful response to such a kindness shown to her, "But Mrs Turner..."
"If we are to be friends, you better call me Marianne."
"My name is Beatrix, but people call me Trixie."
"Well then Trixie, I believe we have a bloody good night out to arrange!"
Chapter 5: Sister Bernadette
Thank you so much for reading and your support. Things are changing at Nonnatus and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Sister Bernadette couldn't be quite certain when she first noticed the change in her colleague.
As a newly qualified midwife, Shelagh Mannion had joined the order of St. Raymond Nonnatus as a postulant in 1948. Nonnatus House was her home and the sisters were her family. She loved her calling with a passion. She couldn't imagine leading any other life besides tending to the mothers and babies of Poplar. Complimented participating in the functioning and running of the convent and praising her Lord with her sisters.
It hadn't all been easy. She was completely aware of what had been troubling Nurse Franklin. She herself had once been newly qualified and full of anticipation, eager to attempt all the things she believed God was asking of her. Sister Bernadette soon learnt that she may have found herself gladly starting on the path the Lord had so clearly set out for her, but that didn't mean it was going to be easy to navigate and without pitfalls.
She immediately felt supported and maybe even championed by Sister Julienne. Sister Evangelina could be terse and a traditionalist to the core, but she put the welfare of her patients beyond any personal stubbornness. As long as the young agitator could back up some of her newfangled notions with good old fashioned common sense and tangible proof, she would take note.
The Weird Sisters - she really would have to stop calling them that, Trixie could be so naughty - were a different matter. Sister didn't like to assume she could read anyone's intentions, but at times she felt the older secular nurses, went against her advice and findings, just to be belligerent.
She had voiced her concerns to her superior. In turn Sister Julienne had reassured her that following Sister Monica Joan's relief of nursing duties, she had discussions with Mother Jesu Emanuel. Specifically the need for a young, enthusiastic midwife who would propel them into the brave new world of the NHS.
Prior to Sister Bernadette's appointment, there had been the addition of a new GP at the Kenilworth Row practice. Recently married and returned from the war. Dr Turner was brimming with enthusiasm for the infant NHS, including a burgeoning passion for obstetrics and women's health. Sister Julienne knew Nonnatus House would need to maintain its reputation for excellence as never before, just to secure NHS funding.
Sister Bernadette had struggled from day one to engage the Weird Sisters in any kind of positive change. With the unfailing support of Sister Julienne and the encouragement of the new doctor, she remained steadfast in her task.
She attended every study day, up-date and course Nonnatus could spare her for. She studied research articles as voraciously as she studied the Word of God. Not just in the midwifery periodicals, she was always questioning Dr Turner concerning his prescribing or orders.
He eventually got into the habit of leaving her articles ringed, bearing almost indecipherable scribbles in the margins. She hoped she wasn't becoming a nuisance, but he explained it was important that Kenilworth and Nonnatus worked coherently together, he had plans for the future, ambitious plans.
Nurse Franklin's arrival heralded hope of a new era for Sister Bernadette. She was keen, quick and confident, but she soon became lonely and marginalized. The young nun feared she may lose her ally before too long.
She started to notice around the time Trixie had been at Nonnatus about six months, the young woman became a little more vivacious and suddenly regained the spring in her step.
The youngest midwife was very rarely to be found in the convent on her day off. Sister Bernadette noticed Trixie was coming back from her rounds much later than before, often missing high tea. She had also started to miss lunch times during the working week. Something the nun knew would concern Sister Julienne, if it became a regular habit.
There were other signs; Sister Evangelina was always chastising Nurse Franklin about the din as she referred to it, coming from the midwife's bedroom during the Great Silence.
Sister Bernadette never did, she had a love of music that went beyond hymns and plainsong. She would walk slowly past the young woman's door, picking up rhythms and melodies and whatever lyrics she could decipher. She knew it wasn't sacred music, but she envied Trixie being able to choose whichever record suited her current mood. The religious music did both comfort and excite the young sister, but it didn't always satisfy. She noticed that she began to recognize some of the songs Trixie had recently started playing from her teens. They seemed to be a mixture of genres she hadn't heard coming from the dansette before.
Sister Bernadette was grateful she didn't have to fill her time worrying about frivolous things, such as hair and make-up. These things were trivial and unimportant. She just couldn't help notice that the young girl, who had always prided herself on being attired in the height of fashion, had added a new sense of style and finesse to her outfits. Not that Sister Bernadette cared for such inconsequentialities.
What Sister Bernadette didn't find quite so inconsequential was Nurse Franklin's demeanour at times. She had noticed a new air of confidence within her colleague. She no longer shrunk in front of her superiors and always seemed to have a reply or retort at the ready, when the situation begged it. The nun was glad to see her counterpart overcoming the ordeal of the previous six months, but she did wonder if Trixie sometimes didn't quite realize when she had crossed the line.
This was definitely the case when it came to Nurse Franklin's interactions with the doctors. One doctor in particular. There was an ease about Trixie's intercourse with Dr Turner that unnerved the young sister. She had worked with the genial doctor for going on 6 years now, but she would never dream of addressing him with the familiarity Nurse Franklin did. She often found them chatting, laughing and smoking cigarettes in the parish hall kitchen.
Sister Bernadette didn't quite know why for certain it vexed her so much, but it did. Nurse Franklin certainly had an easy manner with everyone it was true, the young nun admired, even envied it at times. Her current manner around Dr Turner was not exactly unprofessional, but perhaps inappropriate.
Trixie had confided in her mentor that she had struck up a friendship with Mrs Turner. In fact the new midwife, now seemed to talk of nothing other than Mrs Turner, or as she insisted Marianne. Sister Bernadette cringed slightly everytime Trixie insisted on using the doctor's wife's Christian name, she wasn't sure why?
She was of course glad that the nurse who embodied her and Sister Julienne's hope for the future for Nonnatus, had found another reason to stay in Poplar, other than midwifery. As hard as she tried, Sister Bernadette could not shake off the discomfort she felt about this unlikely friendship and its consequences.
Marianne Turner had befriended Trixie out of kindness and with a generosity of spirit, who could find fault with that? Definitely not a woman who had taken holy orders and made a lifetime commitment to a religious community. Sister Bernadette knew she really shouldn't be putting herself into Dr Turner's wife's shoes, should she?
Chapter 6: Tea with the Turners
Hello again, thank you for reading. Trixie deserves a treat, how about tea with the Turners?
The bloody good night out, turned out to be a fish and chip supper at the Turner's flat. Trixie wasn't too disappointed. To be sat at a dining table and not to be surrounded by a sea of wimples, was a rare treat in itself. Trixie was not a lover of fresh fish, but coated in batter and doused in vinegar with a shake of salt, she could just about cope.
Trixie had helped Marianne lay the table and fix a pot of tea and a glass of pop for Timothy. Dr Turner and son had gone to fetch the supper. The two women chatted easily together.
Trixie had expected the Turners to live in a house. One of the large Victorian ones in the older part of the parish, she had visited occasionally on her rounds. She was surprised to see the family looking somewhat wedged into a two bedroom flat. Not that it wasn't pleasant and Trixie felt comfortable straight away.
She had always imagined Mrs Turner to have a large kitchen and a housekeeper. Dr Turner to always be in his study when not administering to the people of Poplar, something more in keeping with Trixie's own childhood home. To Trixie's embarrassment Marianne seemed to read her mind, unless she just automatically explained their unexpected living arrangements routinely, to each first time visitor.
Apparently the Turners didn't just own the apartment but also the property underneath and were hoping to refurbish and extend. Eventually relocating the surgery and opening a small maternity home. This was the first Trixie had heard of this. Marianne assured her that Sister Julienne was fully aware of her husband's plans, and had given him her full support.
"The funny little nun is apparently going to help with choosing the right equipment and so on," Marianne informed her guest. "Poor wee sweetie! What it really means is Sister Sexy-Eyes has been charged with the insurmountable task of trying to keep Patrick within budget and within reason."
Trixie dropped a knife on the table at her host’s irreligious remarks about her favourite nun. Ready to leap to Sister Bernadette's defence, she turned to see only mischief and not a hint of malice in Marianne's eyes. Trixie relaxed and allowed herself an indulgent giggle. Mrs Turner knowing she now had her dinner guest on side, continued,
"I am in charge of decor," she roared with laughter, "Apparently, that's all they think I am fit for and they are probably right.”
Trixie was amazed by all this.
"Maybe I shouldn't have told you, but I thought everyone would have known. There's just some wrangling about planning permission, additional NHS funding, staffing and some other red tape. Would you mind awfully buttering some bread, sweetie?"
The meal past pleasantly, Dr Turner talked to Trixie about the Tuesday clinic and a few expectant mothers. Marianne rolled her eyes at him. Trixie was careful not to let on about her new found knowledge, as she was not too sure if she should be privy to such information. Timothy enjoyed telling his new Auntie Trixie about school, cubs and a homeless snail he had tried to reunite with its lost shell, his mother again rolled her eyes,
"Most peculiar boy, takes after his father."
Trixie blinked but saw Dr Turner give his wife a smile that said, yes, I've heard that before. Marianne ruffled the boy's hair and smiled at her son as if to say and that's something to be very proud of.
After Timothy had been put to bed, Dr Turner left to attend to a patient. Marianne fixed them both a Campari and soda with a maraschino cherry. She took off her shoes and wrapped her feet underneath her on the golden settee, gesturing to Trixie to do the same.
She offered her companion a Sobranie cigarette from a gold case. Trixie had smoked the multicoloured brand before, but had found them difficult to source nearer home and almost impossible in Poplar. Trixie randomly picked a pink cigarette, noticing Marianne lit up a yellow tab, a near match to her silk blouse.
The hostess asked Trixie about herself and her guest was polite and hid her lack of actual revelation, under a lot of well worked wit and frequently practiced deflection techniques.
Marianne was fully aware of what was happening. She had no wish to force the girl to divulge more than she was willing, resulting only in making her feel uncomfortable. So not with too much regret Marianne took the lead. She told Trixie about herself; her childhood, her musical training, her exploits as an entertainer for the troops during the war. How she met her husband, how they came to Poplar and all about her peculiar little boy.
Marianne's Patrick, seemed very different to the Dr Turner, Trixie had been working with for the last few months, but she supposed he would. She blushed slightly when she remembered her confusion in the alleyway alongside All Saints' Parish Hall.
The only thing that Marianne was not forthcoming about, was an answer to Trixie's regrettable remark; declaring how splendid it would be, if she were to be the next midwife, to deliver a baby brother or sister for Timothy. Trixie chastised herself, she may be a doctor's wife, but that didn't mean she was as comfortable discussing such intimate subjects as Trixie might be and not on such a short acquaintance. Marianne had put Trixie so much at ease, that after two or was it three Camparis? She was beginning to forget herself.
Marianne deflected the conversation back to her inquisitor and they found much more solid ground; discussing Trixie's frequent trips up west. A date was set for the midwife's next day off, which fortunately was a school day and Marianne would be available until about half past three.
"I usually get the 10 o'clock bus from Chrisp Street, or one soon after." Trixie offered.
"Make it half past." Marianne interjected, "Would you like me to pick you up in a taxi outside Nonnatus or would you prefer to meet here? Either way suits, convents on the way."
Trixie had to stop herself from pleading can't we make it nine. Desperate to be spotted by at least one Nonnatus resident, getting into a black cab with the doctor's wife. Thankfully she maintained her composure.
"Ten-thirty at Nonnatus, that would be just splendid."
Chapter 7: Up West
Hello again. Thank you for reading. Fancy at trip Up West!
The taxi pulled up at twenty-to-eleven, Marianne Turner waved out of the passenger window to her new friend without apology. Trixie tried to look as if she hadn't been stood at the top of the daunting Nonnatus steps for a least 15 minutes, checking her watch every two.
The black cab dropped the two excited shoppers on Bond Street.
"We might as well start as we mean to go on," grinned an awfully pleased with herself Marianne, linking Trixie by the arm and leading her into Fenwicks department store.
They began by visiting every single cosmetic counter, checking every single shade of lipstick against their individual skin tones. Covering themselves in so many different fragrances that Trixie started to feel slightly nauseous. They decided to mooch their way through ladies fashions, accessories, haberdashery, leather goods and finally the gentlemen's department. Mrs Turner wanted to buy a scarf for her husband, the nights were starting to draw in.
Marianne and Trixie left several packages with the Fenwicks concierge to collect later. The weary shoppers wandered arm in arm up Brook Street towards Grosvenor Square. Suddenly Marianne stopped, turning to Trixie, she gave her a cheeky smile,
"Do you fancy a pot of tea and a bite to eat?" Trixie nodded in relief.
Before she knew it, Trixie found herself thanking the Claridges' Hotel doorman as he politely allowed access via the grand revolving doors to the two women.
"I usually just go the Lyons Corner House tea rooms," mumbled a startled Trixie.
"Oh, that's far too long a walk." Marianne was defiant. "My treat, well Patrick's," she giggled shamelessly.
The friends sat in the elegant Reading Room, drinking the prestigious hotels own blend of tea, eating plain scones with strawberry jam and real Devonshire clotted cream and fresh strawberries. Marianne said that Dr Turner had once brought her here for a birthday treat and she was certain she had spotted Princess Margaret. Trixie's eyes stayed peeled towards the door, just in case, the monarch's sister just happened to pop in.
When Trixie was finally convinced, Princess Margaret wasn't going to grace them with her presence that day. They took the short walk up Davies Street, Trixie was now on familiar territory as they headed towards the Oxford Street HMV store.
"When Patrick and I used to come here," Marianne started wistfully, Trixie got the impression that her friend was not referring to the most recent past.
"He always used to tell me Edward Elgar opened this record shop in the 1920's."
"Is that true?" Trixie asked.
"I haven't the faintest idea," she wickedly chuckled, "but, he never got tired of telling me. Why do men do that?"
Trixie was chuckling now. "I think it's because they don't like to gossip,” she explained, "so they fill the silences with useless bits of information."
Marianne and Trixie held onto each other as they giggled their way into the landmark record shop.Trixie had seen her new friend enjoy herself in the department store, but in the record shop, Marianne was the proverbial kid in a sweet shop.
She paid attention to all the new releases and US imports Trixie pointed out. She reminisced as she searched the classical and sacred music section, moving onto old standards, musical scores, jazz and blues records. Delighting in introducing her new friend to some of her old friends.
With a pile of vinyl each under their arms, they squeezed together into one of the new sound booths, attracting only a raised eyebrow from the assistant. Taking it in turns to chose the next record to put on the adjoining record player. Singing and moving to each tune. They both left the shop with a package of 45s and 78s each.
Out on Oxford Street, Marianne suddenly hailed a black cab, pulling Trixie so violently into the responding vehicle, that she nearly dropped her records.
"Where are we going?" She exclaimed.
"Somewhere I haven't been in years, somewhere Patrick and I used to frequent."
Trixie had heard of Wigmore Hall, but had never been. They were too late for the afternoon performance, but Marianne didn't seem to care. Not for the first time that day she led a mesmerized Trixie by the arm, on this occasion into the bar. Where she ordered two champagne cocktails without even consulting her companion.
They could still hear the music from the Bach recital, well underway in the auditorium. Marianne offered Trixie a cocktail cigarette from her gold case. Trixie chose a purple one, she had noticed Marianne favoured the green today, a slightly different shade to her lime green coat.
As they smoked, sipped at their cocktails and listened to the small orchestra, Marianne appeared to unwind a little after the excitement of the day. She began to tell Trixie, about the times Dr Turner and her had attended the classical music venue, what they had heard, who they had seen. At one point she let slip, that she had also performed at the hall once. When Trixie enthusiastically asked for more details, she changed the subject.
Trixie had tea with the Turners, it was another fish supper as Marianne was definitely not in the mood to cook. Patrick said all the right things about his new scarf. Timothy was delighted with his new set of marbles and some fresh editions to his marble tracks and ramps from Auntie Trixie. Soon realizing she wasn't going to be allowed to contribute to the transport, any of the refreshments or the evening meal. Trixie had been blessed with the foresight that Marianne would not prevent her buying a gift for her peculiar boy.
The girls played their new records, danced and sang along, smoked cigarettes and drank babycham. While Patrick and Timothy built the most elaborate assault course in Poplar, for the prized new alleys. Timothy already knew which ones he would swap at school tomorrow, definitely not the steely.
His real aunts and uncles lived miles away and he hardly saw them. It might be quite smashing having a pretend auntie, specially if it was Trixie. She seemed to know about presents and she made Mum laugh and that made Dad laugh too.
"Did you leave any vinyl, in HMV?" Patrick pretended to scold.
"Just some beastly Frank Sinatra, no-one wanted," Marianne retorted, Trixie guessed by Dr Turners curled lip, he must be a fan. He pretended to ignore his teasing wife and addressed Trixie.
"Did you know Sir Edward Elgar opened the HMV record shop in 1921?"
Marianne and Trixie, now completely full of bubbles, collapsed on each other in hysterical laughter.
Father and son looked at each other and simply responded, "Women?"
Chapter 8: A Penny Waiting for Change
Thank you so much for still being here. This chapter is very short, but sometimes there are never enough words.
If Trixie's day off fell on a school day, it was more than likely she and Marianne would be found up west. Their favourite haunts were Fenwicks and Selfridges, occasionally Harvey Nicks and Harrods were also graced with their presence. HMV always got a visit.
Claridges gave way to the Lyons Corner House, much to Patrick's relief. Occasionally they took in a lunchtime performance at the Wigmore Hall. If Timothy wasn't at school, quite often Trixie would accompany mother and son to Victoria Park or a more grand day out to the Science or Natural History Museum or the London Zoo.
Trixie was always a welcome addition, for Marianne she was glad of another adult to field all of Timothy's increasingly in-depth questions. For the young boy, he knew Auntie Trixie always came with a ready supply of humbugs and a couple of new marbles for his collection. If it was the zoo, she would treat him to a toy animal, he had soon built up quite a collection; including a horse, a camel and his favourite an oversized seal. Mummy let him keep them on the mantelpiece because they were from Aunty Trixie.
Things improved at Nonnatus too. The youngest of the Weird Sisters eventually married and left. In keeping with Sister Julienne's plans for the midwifery service, a young newly qualified midwife was appointed to the parish. Cynthia Miller was an instant hit with both Trixie and Sister Bernadette. She lacked the brashness of Nurse Franklin and often found herself as peacemaker between the young midwife and her older colleagues.
With the dynamics becoming more even and perhaps with retirement on the near horizon for the two established midwives, tensions at Nonnatus House seemed to ease considerably. Sisters Julienne and Evangelina seemed to have become more sensitive to the climate their young colleagues had been working in and chose to intervene more often.
The remaining two Weird Sisters would retire at the end of 1956 and be replaced in the new year with a newly qualified midwife. With the potential of another, if she passed her exams.
Trixie and Cynthia had become firm friends. With the more experienced midwife trying to take the new recruit under her wing, as Sister Bernadette had so successfully done with her.
Trixie was glad of her new friend, as Marianne had cancelled a few of their outings of late. Patrick was vague when she enquired after his wife. He simply said she was tired or a bit under the weather.
Marianne hadn't confided in her friend any desire for another child. After spending so much time with the Turners, Trixie however, believed that they both very much wanted a sibling for Timothy. She could understand if Marianne wanted to keep a pregnancy secret at first. She may be having a difficult first trimester. Trixie convinced herself that she was going to be an unofficial aunt to another Turner. All being well, soon Marianne would feel well enough and confident enough to share the good news with her friend.
"So, you can all understand that we need to work together to maintain the high standards of care, we already pride ourselves in,” Sister Julienne continued.
Trixie was sat next to her superior, but it sounded like she was a million miles away echoing from some deep abandoned East End bomb crater.
"Dr Turner will be seeing patients and carrying out his normal duties for the foreseeable future and when the...when necessary he will appoint a locum."
Trixie started to feel bile rise in her throat. Sister Julienne was still talking, why was she still talking?
"The plan is to nurse Mrs Turner at home for as long as possible. Myself and Sister Evangelina will take on the role of main caregivers to Mrs Turner encompassing the district rounds in the process. If extra support is needed, I would like to ask Nurse.."
Not Me, Not Me, please not me!
" ...Miller, if she will volunteer for extra duties. Meanwhile Sister Bernadette will be in charge of our midwifery services, I know she can rely on you all to keep things in order and maybe go that extra mile. During what I can only envisage as being a very difficult time for us all."
The bile in Trixie's throat struggled for release, Sister Julienne and the others round the dining table seemed to be falling further and further down the bomb crater, Trixie could no longer make out what was being said. Or was it her that was falling, was it her own voice she couldn't hear.
Trixie felt something grab at her heart? The grip unrelentingly began to tighten inside her chest. She wasn't sure how she was going to manage to breathe. But somehow she found a way.
Chapter 9: A Prick From A Rose
Hello again! This was the first fic I wrote over 4 chapters and I hadn't realized how short the chapters actually are. I feel like I am almost teasing you. At least you don't have to wait a week for updates. Thank you.
Trixie Franklin took a long slow drag on her black Sobranie cigarette. She had especially purchased a complete packet of the black cocktail brand. The rainbow pack that she and Marianne had delighted in, no longer seemed appropriate.
Dressed head to toe in black, a pink cigarette would have just looked vulgar. Marianne would have told her so. Trixie hated wearing black on black, she believed it made her look pale and brittle. She didn't want to appear brittle, not unlike the cut crystal glass she held in her left hand.
Cynthia and Mrs B moved almost silently around the Nonnatus dining room, offering the mourners tea, sandwiches and cake. Sister Julienne sat talking to a woman, who had been introduced to Trixie earlier as Mrs Parker, Marianne's mother. Sister Bernadette was sat at one end of the long dining table. She was armed with paper and coloured pencils, trying to occupy a bewildered 10-year-old boy. Dressed smartly in his school uniform, but marked absent on the register.
Sister Evangelina was talking to Dr Turner, he was staring right passed her, towards Trixie. She knew he didn't see her, he didn't see anyone. He was nodding at intervals in mute response, to whatever encouragement the concerned nun was trying to offer him. The ugly Henley in his hand was practically a butt. Trixie wondered if the tab end might be singeing his fingers. If it was, he hadn't noticed.
She wanted to say something to him. She had wanted to say something, since Sister Julienne's revelation in the early autumn, but she had never found the words. They had of course worked together since then, at the Tuesday clinic and during the occasional complex delivery. They had worked diligently and professionally alongside each other. They had both offered comfort and support to their patients, but never to each other.
She wondered if he had noticed the brooch. The silver pearl encrusted rose that Marianne had been wearing the day Trixie had first met her. She had admired it so much and said so, on more than one occasion. She never imagined that one day she would own it. She had wanted to return it, to explain it was too valuable, too precious to accept. This however had been made more difficult than she could have anticipated, due to the fact that Patrick, hadn't been the one to give it to her.
She hadn't seen either father or son since Sister Julienne had announced Mrs Turner's death to Nonnatus. She was leaving for her rounds, when she heard a breathless yell and her whole body froze.
"Aunty Trixie…Aunty Trixie! Wait!"
Trixie remembered where she was, who she was and most important of all, who it was, that wanted her attention, so badly. Trixie was proficient in finding her most winning smile, when the occasion called for it.
"Timothy, sweetie! Calm down, I am going nowhere."
The child soon recovered his normal breathing pattern, following the exertion he had employed to accomplish his errand.
"Dad said I was to find you and give you this."
That was all the boy said. Trixie took from his outstretched hand a simple ivory envelope, similar to the ones they used at Nonnatus and at Kenilworth Row. She started to explain to the child,
"Timothy, will you tell your father, I've been meaning..." but he had turned his back on her and was running again.
"Sorry Aunty Trixie, I will be late, if I don't hurry."
"Surely you're not going to school?" He was gone. She reassured herself that Timothy wasn't in uniform and he was probably headed for Marianne's mothers, so Patrick could make arrangements.
"Drat!" There was so much she wanted to say, so much she should have said by now. She clutched the flimsy envelope, tight in her fist in anger at the missed opportunity.
"Damn!" Trixie looked at her thumb, a tiny speck of blood started to ooze from an almost invisible wound. She sucked her thumb to stem the bleed. Trembling she opened the envelope and withdrew its contents, a silver and pearl rose brooch and a scribbled note.
Marianne wanted you to have this. She knew you admired it. Patrick.
That was all it said. Trixie sank to the bottom step of the Nonnatus stone staircase and finally let her heart break.
Unbeknown to her, someone had witnessed this latest turn of events, from the top of the steps. Sister Bernadette said nothing as she guided Trixie up the never ending steps into the convent and up to her room. She said nothing as she put Trixie to bed, closed the curtains and brought her a hot chocolate with two aspirin. She only spoke to Sister Julienne, simply to inform her that she had cancelled her plans for her day-off and would be replacing Nurse Franklin on the rota.
Chapter 10: A New Era
Welcome back and welcome to some familiar faces.
Trixie was disappointed at how little compassionate leave Dr Turner allowed himself. He appeared to need a distraction and was soon back working harder than ever. The Kenilworth Row plans that had been shelved during Marianne's illness, were back on the front burner. Patrick seemed more passionate than ever, to pursue his dreams for his catchment area. Passionate or obsessed, Trixie thought. It was a thin line.
Nurse Franklin didn't need anything as ambitious as building a new maternity home to distract her from her grief. With the Weird Sisters finally a thing of the past, a new era dawned at Nonnatus house. Nurse Jenny Lee and Nurse 'Chummy' Browne arrived early in the spring. Sister Julienne's prayers for a young, ambitious nursing and midwifery team, familiar with the workings and aims of the augmenting NHS; had finally been answered.
Trixie settled herself into the role of senior lay nurse, watching over and supporting her new colleagues. She also saw herself as housemother and social secretary to this new family of mismatched housemates.
Jenny didn't lack confidence, and although Trixie felt at times her fashion sense was a little 1956, she was good fun and always up for post-work drinks and socializing. Trixie prided herself on her knowledge of cocktails and the in tipples, befitting an up-to-the-minute woman of the world.
Chummy and Cynthia could appear awkward and a little behind the times in their own particular ways, but Trixie adored them both. She saw it as her responsibility to instruct, educate and refine them in the ways of a modern woman, eager for the birth of a new much anticipated decade.
Trixie knew she could be tactless, even wounding at times. The other girls were well aware, it was just a defence mechanism, most likely to be cranked into action after a couple of visits to her makeshift drinks cabinet. There was only once that this particular predisposition, seriously threatened to disrupt the newly found Nonnatus harmony.
She later blamed herself, Chummy had warned her that she shouldn't be trusted with something so delicate. It must have took Chummy great courage to admit to Trixie that she had lost it.
Trixie knew she was being unreasonable, she hadn't had the easiest of days. She just couldn't keep the rage inside. Deflected towards Chummy, but born out of anger at herself. For lending such a precious keepsake to her dear clumsy friend; ironically for luck.
Isn't that what Marianne would have wanted? Wouldn't she have approved? A gesture of friendship, to give Camilla courage when Peter introduced her to his mother.
It was Sister Bernadette that found the treasured brooch in Evie's pig pen. Trixie didn't know whether to laugh or cry. She knew exactly what Marianne would have done, maybe was doing; somewhere?
It was also Sister Bernadette who painstakingly cleaned the defiled rose with a very fine sewing needle. Diligently, gently and with great love, she tended to the intricate silverwork with the needle.
At the same time and with the same patience and care, she attempted to mend the torn relationship between her two friends. She carefully tried to sew together the ragged torn edge of Trixie's temper and repair the frayed garment of Chummy's self belief. She worked quietly and effectively all night until the brooch was once again restored to its former glory and the friendship was repaired with an invisible mend.
Nurse Franklin continued to work with Dr Turner. They never discussed his late wife, or reminisced on past times. Trixie never taunted herself, by mentally recounting the stories her old friend had so enjoyed entertaining her with. She reverted to calling him Dr Turner in her head instead of the Patrick, she had gotten used to during her friendship with Marianne. This wasn't as difficult as she had imagined, as she had always referred to him as Dr Turner in the clinical setting and to anyone apart from Marianne.
Trixie tried to forget Mariannes romantic - and Trixie suspected, slightly embellished- tales of how she and Patrick had met during the war. The reams of letters that found their way across Europe. The day Sister Julienne knocked on the door of Marianne and Patrick's new Poplar home and offered Marianne a room in the convent, prior to their impending wedding. In a way, the couple knew they didn't have the option to refuse. They had been separated by war and then illness and then God, Marianne irreverently would giggle.
Trixie didn't know the full extent of Patrick's hospitalisation, that brought an end to his war. Marianne had not been as forthcoming and revealing on this subject as others. When Trixie had finally trusted her dear friend with certain glimpses of her own childhood and her own father's 'horrors'. Marianne offered as much empathy as she could muster, but it had been a difficult topic for both of them and had rarely been touched upon. It seemed as though just knowing they shared some measure of experience, brought them even closer together.
Trixie in 1957, decanted all those memories and confidences and pushed them into the back of her emotional drinks cabinet. She rarely indulged in them, putting them all firmly on ice. It was just that Trixie forgot, ice has the tendency to melt.
Chapter 11: The Dead Buterfly Effect
Hello Again. Time has moved on and so have things at Nonnatus, some more obviously than others. Thank you for reading.
Trixie Franklin stood at the Chrisp Street bus stop, she was glad she had decided to wear a jacket, September was starting to take on an autumnal feel. She puffed on her black Sobranie. There were other things she could be doing with her one day off, but she had promised. Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted.
"Aunty Trixie, Aunty Trixie!"
She didn't react at first, it had been over a year since she had heard herself being referred to in that way. He was beside her before she could respond. A breathless Timothy, talking between pants,
"Dad... said you... were going... to see.. Sister... Berna..dette," he paused to catch his breath.
"I am on my way Timothy, I am just waiting for the bus."
"Dad says I can't visit her in the sanat...hospital. And he says, he is too busy to go."
Trixie felt a pang of pity for the small boy. "I will pass on your best wishes Timothy, from you and your father."
"Can you give her this?" The child held out a match box, a scrap of paper fastened to it with an elastic band. "Dad said to post it, but I don't want it to get damaged."
"Whatever is it?, Timothy?" She asked as she took the precious package from him.
"She will understand." Was his only reply and he was off as quick as he had come.
Turning as the No.55 to Woodford Green arrived, he added,
"Thank you Auntie Trixie."
The most peculiar boy thought Trixie and absentmindedly rubbed the brooch on her lapel.
Trixie sat on the No.55 and aimlessly stared out of the window as the over crowded East End turned into increasingly rural Essex. She had to admit she was slightly anxious about this visit. She could tell by her friend's frequent letters she was improving. She knew that the diagnosis of tuberculosis shouldn't strike fear into her heart, like it was capable of doing when Trixie was a child. She also knew that the reason for that change, the advances in antibiotic therapy didn't come without a price. She was apprehensive about seeing the usually robust sister, perhaps debilitated due to the disease and it's cure.
Trixie thought back a few months to the last time her and her former mentor had worked closely together on a delivery. The whole of Nonnatus had been waiting and secretly dreading the call from Mave Carter, to say baby Carter was finally on the way. The only thing they were dreading more, was the absence of that call.
Trixie had been the one to receive it, when she answered the door to the prospective father and uncle. She had gathered her bag and pack and headed for the door. Sister Bernadette met her and smiled, "Would you like some company?"
It had been a difficult delivery and not without incident. Trixie had relished every minute of it. She hardly ever got to work with Sister Bernadette anymore. They were both more than likely, when the occasion warranted the assistance of more than one midwife, to be assigned duties with one of the newer members of the team. There was something about working on this extraordinary case, with Sister Bernadette and Dr Turner, that made Trixie nostalgic. She remembered similar occasions when she had first come to Poplar, when the three of them had worked together and how much she had learnt from those times.
Later her and Patrick would try and engage Marianne in the joys and trials of midwifery. Marianne would just roll her eyes and remind them that the whole of Kenilworth Row had not been designated for medical purposes and this was in fact her home.
Trixie had thought about this as she looked down from the Carter's window. Mave and Meg were introducing Little Mave and Little Meg to Mr Carter. The midwife watched Sister Bernadette and Dr Turner chatting by the boot of his car, parked in the alley way below.
It wasn't the fact that the sister took two drags on the doctor's cigarette that made Trixie feel uneasy. She and her mentor had spent many long, hard days and nights working together, where they had leant on each other and used humour and a little mischief as a comforter and protector. If anyone knew Sister Bernadette hadn't been born in a convent, it was Nurse Franklin.
It was the abrupt reminder of a day too long past that had unsettled her. A time when she herself had needed reassurance and friendship. She hadn't been physically assaulted like the young nun had, by Mave’s overwrought twin sister. She had though once upon a time, been mentally slapped in the face by her colleagues once to often. Patrick had comforted her with a cigarette in a not so dissimilar alley.
It had been a turning point in her life in Poplar. Later that evening she had met Marianne. She had also felt from that point on, someone was watching over her.
She watched Sister Bernadette take her bicycle and wheel it over the cobblestones. She looked none the worse from the unprecedented clout. Even though Trixie was sure she would have a right old shiner tomorrow. Trixie would have to insist her friend accept the use of her powder compact, at the very least.
She watched Dr Turner watch the nun walk away and tried to recall when she last saw him smile that way.
Chapter 12: The Unexploded Trifle
Hello! Thought I would give you all a few days to catch up or take a breath.
As the number 55 made its return journey back to central London. Trixie was pleased she had visited her friend. She had looked frail, Trixie was sure she had lost weight. Although difficult to tell in her more fitted dressing gown, rather than her usual habit, but her face did look thinner.
She had found her in good spirits, if not a little tired and a bit preoccupied, which was to be expected. She seemed particularly thrilled with the dead butterfly. Trixie not for the first time, heard Marianne's laughter ringing in her ears. She knew exactly what Marianne would have said.
She had tried to talk to Dr Turner, she really had. Tried to take more of an interest in Timothy. She had asked them to join them in the dining room on more than one occasion. He always made some excuse, she had taken to making up a little bag of food for him to take home for the pair of them. Quite often he would leave before she had finished preparing it. Sister Bernadette always seemed to know what to say and Trixie felt awkward and out of place. A bit like a spare set of forceps, left behind in the autoclave.
By Christmas 1958, Trixie realized she had been more than a spare set of forceps. She felt like she had been offered a front row seat at Billy Smart’s Circus and had foolishly been sat facing the wrong way, throughout the entire performance.
It was Christmas Eve and she knew she wasn't the only Nonnatun, whose wedding invitation had seemingly got lost in the post. Unless of course they had arrived at Nonnatus House following, its inhabitants and half of Poplar, being evacuated due to an newly discovered unexploded bomb. When she saw the bride-to-be coming out of the nuns makeshift chapel in the Rescue Centre. She could hardly believe her eyes. Trixie had seen her former colleague so little since she had last visited her in St Anne's and was still a little startled at seeing her out of the habit.
"Si..Shelagh! I didn't expect to see you here, on the day of your wedding!"
Trixie didn't know if she believed in fate, but she would put this meeting down to divine providence and ask her burning question anyway. Even though she had been told to wait until after Christmas.
"We have a patient, Jenny and I, here in the Rescue Centre. Mrs Bridges, her husband is suffering from battle fatigue and I wondered if I could talk to Dr Turner. Obviously not today, I mean, I know this isn't a good time..."
Trixie reeled back on her heels at the sight of the anger in the former nuns eyes.
"No this is not a good time, Nurse Franklin!" She snapped, "I am sure I don't know what you are talking about! Dr Turner is sat by his son's bedside and has been since yesterday evening." Shelagh seemed to gasp for air, but continued,
"Timothy has polio and has been placed in an Iron Lung. I am very sorry to hear about your Mr...I can't imagine why you think Patrick would be more suited to deal with this, rather than the designated locum. If you feel it is an emergency, I suggest you refer to him, Nurse!"
Shelagh had finished talking through frustration and tears. Trixie could only watch her walk away. She had been on call all night, dashing between her patients, the ones who had been fortunate enough to remain in their own homes, then checking on Alan and Yvonne Bridges. She hadn't even been aware Shelagh had spent the night at the Leopold Institute or why?
Trixie found a quiet spot on the stairs and hugged her knees together. She knew it wasn't her fault, but she had only added to Shelagh's distress. She had been so wrapped up in her own efforts to help Alan, she hadn't questioned why Shelagh was at the Rescue Centre on the morning of her wedding. Or stopped to think before hastily asking for what she wanted.
Her thoughts soon went beyond Shelagh to Timothy and Patrick. Just over two years ago she had sat at the Nonnatus dining table and heard the worst news imaginable. She couldn't comprehend, that today she had just been told similar news concerning the same family.
That old familiar taste of bile climbed up Trixie's throat, as the shouts and the laugher from the main hall started to echo and move further and further away. All Trixie could hear was the rhythmical ticking of the unexploded bomb a few streets away, she could hear it, keeping time. It was getting louder and louder.
The bomb did go off , but Trixie, everyone and everything else survived, this time.
Yvonne Bridges was able to give birth in her own home and unbeknown to the sisters with her childhood sweetheart present.
Alan offered the emotionally tender Trixie a sweet sherry, after Jenny had left to meet Alec. She followed him into the kitchen,
"I think I will have one myself, just to wet the baby's head."
Trixie noticed him pull out a bottle of Famous Grouse scotch whisky.
"Yvonne's old man, got me onto this, never used to touch anything stronger than a pint a' mild, but he always fetches me one when he comes to visit." Alan poured a hefty measure into a tumbler, "A little nip, now and again Nurse, well it sometimes calms..what do you call them.. the horrors?"
Alan reached for a sherry glass for the midwife.
"Actually Alan, I wouldn't mind a nip myself. It's awfully cold in that beastly working men's club and if Jenny's boyfriend is right about Nonnatus, we may be there for a few more nights."
"Have a drop of the low flying bird, as my father-in-law always calls it." Alan poured her a rather large dram equal to his own. "You've earned it, you've really helped me Nurse, let me do something for you."
Trixie knew that she was now last on call and was rather glad of it after leaving the Bridges, once ensuring the baby's head was more than sufficiently wet. She was finding her bike didn't quite go in the direction she wanted.
She stopped at the little tobacconist off Chrisp Street, that never seemed to close. The proprietor had stocked Marianne's colour coordinated accessories and when Marianne finally gave up smoking forever, he switched his stock to Nurse Franklin's favoured all black selection.
As soon as he heard the bell chime, as she walked through the door, he was there. She wondered if he ever slept? He immediately took the Sobranie Black Russian from beneath the counter
"What tickles your fancy today, Nurse. Something a bit special, it is Christmas after all! How's about a nice bottle of advocaat, I have Warninks. Makes a lovely snowball with a drop of Lowcocks lemonade. How are you off for maraschino cherries, sweetheart?"
Trixie realized she hadn't actually spoken since she stepped into the establishment. The eternally cheery shopkeeper always seemed to know what she wanted.
She had intended to buy a small bottle of scotch and try and hide it from the nuns, but maybe the garish bright yellow liquid combined with a bit of child's pop, wouldn't seem so much of a temptation to the sisters. It was Christmas Eve after all and it could be something even Cynthia might enjoy. She had a feeling Sister Monica Joan might not be able to resist.
As she was about to pay, she noticed something catch her eye, reflected by the glass of the countertop.
Trixie finally found her voice, "A bag of those too, please."
The lights were on at Kenilworth Row, Dr Turner's car was parked in its regular spot. Surely that was a good sign?
Trixie went up to the flat door where she had boldly let herself in maybe a hundred times before, but not recently, not these days. She tripped up the steps and stood on something soft.
"Damn and blast!" she cried as she removed, first her foot, then her work shoe, from a sherry trifle. It had been left on the Turner doorstep by some thoughtful patient . Trixie tried to repair the damaged greaseproof paper covering it, hoping no-one would notice.
She took a large handkerchief from the bottom of her nurses bag, fumbling past the advocaat bottle. She tried to clean from her shoe, the cream, jelly and hundreds and thousands. For the first time in her life, Trixie realized the popular pudding decoration was so aptly named. The tiny sugar sprinkles were in, her shoe, her stocking, between her toes and absolutely everywhere, hundreds and thousands of them.
Trixie sat on the step for a few minutes, took a deep breath of Poplar night air, nearly making herself dizzy. Wiped her leaking eyes, on the trifle and street muck, stained hankie and realized how ridiculous she must look. If Marianne came to the door now, she would...
Trixie put the small net bag with the shiny glass marbles through Dr Turner’s letterbox and slowly made her way to her temporary home, giving herself enough time to clear her head.
Chapter 13: Caught Between the Moon and the Toon
Thank you so much for sticking with my Trixie Trip. We are heading back to 1960 now.
Trixie watched Sister Julienne straighten Shelagh's veil. The nun left the former nun at the entrance to the aisle. Trixie moved forward and in her role as chief bridesmaid, handed her charge her homegrown and homemade hyacinth bouquet. She squeezed the bride reassuringly by the shoulders and asked Shelagh if she was ready?
Trixie followed the bride, Cynthia and Jenny down the aisle. Towards a nervous awaiting Patrick and a smiling, if not somewhat fragile looking, Timothy.
She was glad Shelagh had asked her to help with the rescheduled wedding. It had given the friends time to reconcile and discover the new dynamics of their relationship. She had however been relieved, that the headquarters for the wedding arrangements, had been focused at the Noakes' new home and not Kenilworth Row. She hadn't been inside the Turner flat in over two years. Trixie knew she would have found it impossible to help arrange Patrick's forthcoming marraige celebrations, in a place that held so many conflicting emotions for her.
She was also relieved that the last formal event she had attended at All Saints' Church had been Chummy and Peter's wedding, banishing some of the dark memories of Marianne's funeral. Trixie still had a Pacific Blue rose pressed into her bible, from the bouquet she had precariously caught after Chummy's awkward toss. At the time she would have never dreamt, it would have been so much more appropriate for Sister Bernadette to have caught it.
Trixie's own wedding plans didn't result in the same happy ever after, the new Turners looked headed towards. The whole relationship with Tom Hereward seemed to be happening to someone else. If Trixie had held auditions for the part of her fiancé, she couldn't have cast it any better.
The curate was good looking, respectable and compassionate. Involved in the community in the same intensive way Trixie was, but like her part of Poplar, but not of it. There was potential for them both to grow and also move on, if the time came.
It took quite a while for Trixie to realize she was actually just in love with love or at least the idea of it. Her parents marriage had been damaged irrevocably by the consequences of war. Since being in Poplar the optomist's belief in happy endings had been somewhat renewed in the most unlikely of settings.
It wasn't just witnessing the quiet tender love of Chummy and Peter or the unexpected hidden attachment of the Turners; both versions. The nurse witnessed it everyday, in the homes she felt privileged to visit in Poplar. It wasn't that romantic Hollywood type love or the unbridled passion she read about in novels. It was about family, commitment and sharing. This was what she wanted for herself, not just to be its witness on a daily basis.
Trixie had finally admitted to herself, she wasn't going to follow Tom to Newcastle, never mind the moon. She knew she hadn't found what she longed for, to fill that magnum sized hole in her life. Romantic but also pragmatic, she did the decent thing and made it easy for him and took responsibility for both their hearts.
Ironically it was Sister Mary Cynthia who saved her, or at least set her on the path to salvation. Trixie could relate to Job; The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. He had given her a closer friendship with Shelagh, but distanced Cynthia from her by calling the postulant closer to Him. He had generously given her Jenny and Chummy, but He had inexplicably taken Marianne. Maybe Trixie's old childhood fire and brimstone preacher, had been right all along. God was a jealous god.
As they sat by the phone at Nonnatus after hanging up on a concerned volunteer, they were in that moment, just Trixie and Cynthia once again.
The gentle but determined soul that was now Sister Mary Cynthia, woke her fellow nun to take over phone duties. Sister Winifred didn't grumble at being roused or ask why she was now on call. She often wondered at Sister Mary Cynthia's wisdom and devotion for such a new disciple, as she so often wondered at her own shortcomings. So all her sister had to do was ask.
Title explanation: The Toon is the local nickname for Newcastle.
Chapter 14: My Name is Beatrix
Thank you for reading. It is 1960.
"Most of you know me by now, but for those who do not. My name is Beatrix, but people call me Trixie and I am an alcoholic.
I am afraid I need your help once again. I need to make a confession, clear the air so to speak, but it's just impossible.
I let someone down very badly and I can never make amends.
When I first came to London around 6 years ago, I felt incredibly lonely and was very unhappy.
I was befriended by the most kind and generous of souls. A wonderful, vibrant and brave woman.
Who I had the privilege to call the dearest of friends, for too short a time.
You see she became very ill and she died.
I failed her and her family. When I needed to find something deep within myself, I just couldn't reach that far.
I should have been able to do more, give more of myself to her husband and son, who have never been less than kind to me. I just didn't know how. The truth was, I just didn't know how to be.
As some of you know I am a qualified nurse and midwife. But, I couldn't find a way to ease suffering or relieve pain. I lied to myself, it was better that others more innately skilled, more competent than I, give of their time and their love.
I absorbed myself in my work, I distracted myself with new friends and I numbed my guilt with scotch and its kin.
Recently I have been pointing my finger at my childhood, particularly my relationship with my father for my relationship with the bottle. As you all well know, it is never easy to try and go against the grain.
Once the clear direction of my future with my fiancé vanished, I found myself so far down the wrong road, that I finally had to admit I was lost.
I really thought it was that simple. What I have only now come to realize is, that the seeds may have been sown in my childhood and reaped after the collapse of my impending marriage.
But all the really hard work was done by me, in between those two defining relationships.
I hid behind a glass for so long, because what I saw reflected in it, was a more confident, more capable Trixie.
Reflected in it was funny, vivacious, devil may-care Trixie.
What I didn't find in any bottle or in any glass for that matter, whether finest crystal or a cheap paper cup, it's all the same in the end.
I didn't find how to grieve, how to mourn, how to feel pain, how to not always have the answers, how to miss someone, how to be vulnerable. How to be, just Trixie.
Therefore, I didn't discover, how to heal and that's why I am here. That's why I catch the No.49 bus each week.
I now have to learn, how to say I am sorry and to make amends, but I fear it may be too late."
Chapter 15: For All the Saints
Thank you so much, I know there has been a small band of readers who have followed this story. I really enjoyed writing it and still enjoy reading it, so lovely to share with you.
We are back in December 1960....
Rosemary McConlough didn't give birth to her twins that Sunday, but by the time the Quality Street tin was empty, she was the proud mother of one of each. Not only that, but when Christmas morning would finally arrive, her aunty Iris would wake up to more than a stocking at the end of her bed. Iris had been given, when it came to unexpected Christmas presents, the most precious of all.
Trixie was back at All Saints' Church. This time there wasn't a service in progress that she dreaded interrupting. All Saints' was preparing for its screen debut. Trixie would rather be in charge of the ulcer clinic, than be at Poplar parish church that afternoon. She had never been able to say no to Sister Bernadette, even in a skirt suit and heels. She also had only ever said no to Tom, on one occasion.
As the church got ready for its premier, Trixie had been put in charge of flower arranging, thanks to Constance Spry and a generous godmother. Iris Willens in her role as the church caretaker had done most of the work prior to going into labour. All Trixie needed to complete were a few titivations.
She was attending to the foliage around the church pillars, when she became aware of an all too familiar scent. All too familiar because she had purchased it from Fenwicks herself, not so long ago.
Tom had meant to be kind and was unaware of how close he had stood behind her. The sensation of his breath on her neck had unnerved her, as he tried to make awkward small talk.
Trixie found a quiet spot at the back of the church, sat behind a large square pillar. She could really do with a cigarette right now. To tell the truth, which she knew she owed it to herself to do, she could really do with a drink right now.
Against the commotion of the BBC dress rehearsal, Trixie didn't hear anyone else come in. He was sat beside her before she realized.
"Is this where the naughty children sit?"
"This pew is reserved for sinners only, Dr Turner."
"Well, this hassock looks to have my name on it,” he answered shifting the kneeling cushion out of the way.
Trixie giggled a little to loudly for someone wanting to go unnoticed and Patrick playfully shushed her.
"How is it all going?" He asked surveying the organised chaos in front of him.
"Well it's a good job you are here, Doctor. Cecil B De Milne is about to have a stroke, if he doesn't calm down." They both looked over to where the BBC's red faced Barrington Swann was managing to ruffle everyone else's feathers.
"Who is really in charge?" Patrick asked the question, he already knew the answer too.
Trixie raised her eyebrows, rolled her eyes and pursed her lips. Patrick knew she was too polite to say, so he answered his own question,
"Don't tell me...Field Marshall Turner, she was born for days like these."
Trixie was holding on to the pew, shaking with laughter now.
"Ably assisted by Gunner Gilbert, second in command," she just managed to spray out, before she could no longer speak for laughing.
"What of the company padre?"
"Oh he definitely would like to go AWOL" Trixie replied, sobering up a little, her attention turning to Tom.
Tom stood exactly where she had seen him on her last visit; in the pulpit. He was helping lighting and camera set up for his shots, ready for when he would record his very succinct and cheerful Christmas message for the waiting British public, to ponder on Christmas Day.
He again looked alone and isolated as he had when Trixie had seen him last. His ministry wasn't sermonising and pontificating. It was helping, listening, and healing; he belonged with his congregation, not above it and it didn't matter if it was in the East End or on Tyneside. Trixie knew that now.
They had both stopped laughing, Patrick played with his hat. Trixie held her hands together in her lap, to try and quell the irritating sensation they had recently acquired to be busy. She felt for the ring on her left hand, but it was no longer there.
"Is all well with you,Trixie? I am still your GP. You would tell me if you needed... anything, a referral even...to someone...somewhere else?"
Trixie stiffened. How could he know? Did everyone know? Had Sister Julienne spoke to him about her? Or maybe to Shelagh, they were still close. now even after everything. Had he maybe just been watching her?
"I am fine, Doctor." She paused and took a deep breath, "No, I am not fine really, but I think I may have found a way."
She took another deliberate intake of air. Only Sisters Mary Cynthia and Julienne knew of her recently arranged Tuesday night obligation.
"I have ...joined a group, made some new friends, in a similar situation...like minded people."
"That's good, that's very good,” he looked relieved.
"I am thinking of taking up keep-fit in the new year," she smiled. "It's supposed to be very good for the body and the mind and who knows maybe even the soul. I probably won't be very good at it."
"I am sure whatever you choose to do, you will be very good at it, Trixie."
"That's not true! I am not a very good friend or even a very good person."
Patrick recoiled at this, but didn't interject.
"I let you down and Timothy and most of all Marianne,” her early tears of laughter had turned to tears that stung.
Patrick offered her his handkerchief, she pushed it away.
"I haven't returned the last one you gave me," she sobbed.
"Marianne told me, you had thrown it away."
"No! I washed it!" She responded, wounded by this innocent accusation. "I keep it as a spare at the bottom of midwifery bag, for my patients."
Patrick smiled, it was like her.
"It's also ideal for removing trifle from your shoe."
Patrick looked confused and raised an eyebrow. He knew the nurses had to clean a lot of things from their shoes, as did he. However, he couldn't help feeling he had missed something.
They again sat looking directly ahead, absentmindedly watching Tom's increasing discomfort. Patrick's son sat at the piano, face interchanging between boredom and amusement, in the way only a young teens can. Marianne's rather peculiar boy was turning into a rather remarkable young man.
It was Patrick who spoke first, "This is a strange place for me. It has witnessed two of the happiest days of my life and also the saddest. Timothy and Angela were also christened here. When I sit here I feel both passion and sorrow."
Trixie nodded, she had a similar relationship with the imposing building, she suddenly remembered singing with Patrick at Alec's funeral. Jenny had started again, found a way to deal with loss and found hope and new love. Maybe it wasn't too late for Trixie, she looked over at Violet Buckle organising the layette raffle draw. Fred's wife glowed with happiness, maybe it was never too late. Iris Willans was testament to that.
Patrick suddenly continued, "It is like when I see Sister Evangelina. I remember her bringing my son into the world, but also guiding his mother out of it."
He paused taking his time, Trixie heard his breathing pattern deepen. He then added,
"Even Shelagh, most of the time I look at her and see only love and a kind of peace, but occasionally when I hear Tim call her mum..for just a brief moment, there is only confusion and pain, just a brief moment."
Trixie heard Patrick take hold of a breath and let it escape slowly from between his lips.
"When I look at Tim, I only see Marianne. It seems more and more each day, but it's now less with regret and more with pride."
They were both still staring out at the mayhem ensuing in front of them, but neither of them were focused on the direction they were facing. Patrick wasn't finished,
"Do you know how I feel when I look at you Trixie?... I feel glad, I feel happy. There are no conflicting emotions when I look at you Trixie. I just remember the joy you brought to Marianne's life, the fun, the laughter, the music. I am sure that's what Tim will remember too."
He turned to face her, she kept her gaze ahead of her.
"So don't ever think you didn't do enough, you are enough!"
Trixie couldn't speak for quite some time. Eventually she found the courage to turn to him. She brought her hand towards his coat and said,
"l remember Marianne buying you this scarf, she was worried the nights were beginning to draw in. That was a good day, a sunny day."
Tom Hereward looked back from his crows nest perspective, away from the increasingly flustered Smee and the rest of his unusual cast.
His attention returned to the two people he had been watching avidly at the back of the church. He noticed they were no longer there.
He had been concerned for the young women who had been visibly upset, but he knew she was in good hands.
You see there is an alleyway that runs between the church and the parish hall, it's the perfect place to share a confidence, to confess, to reminisce and to smoke a sneaky cigarette, whatever your brand.
Thank you very much for reading.
I have loved putting my stuff on A03 old and new. With complete indulgence re-visiting some old friends and finding new ones. All done now and thanks to all readers. Not sure what happens next, but we shall see ;)