The whole district was alive with a sense of fun and togetherness under the warm Poplar sun. The sky was a soothing blue, clear save for a few wispy clouds that were teasing the distant horizon. You could hear all of the familiar sounds of the busy workplaces buzzing, mothers gossiping and children giggling, everyone in a good mood- delirious with the freedom that came with the summer. There were still the loud sounds coming from the docks, but the men’s voices were cheerful, as they joshed each other in the warmth of the midday sunshine.
It was no secret that the world still had its problems, as did many people. But here, in the midst of a joyous afternoon, surrounded by friends and family- the residents of Poplar had their own beautiful bubble of perfection.
Everybody had their place, and everyone was welcome. Families who had lived there for generations, never straying from home, alongside with people who were just beginning their time in the district. The atmosphere was one that was free of judgement, and full of cheerfulness, a rarity in 1960 within the east end.
The good weather had fallen on a very convenient day for the young people of Poplar in particular. As the sports day for the cubs and girls brigade was set to begin at 11’o’clock.
Nonnatus house had been buzzing with preparations for some time now, and now the day was finally upon them.
They were extremely fortunate that there were very few babies due that week, and none on this specific day. The responsibility for the district rota had fallen to Sister Julienne- she had volunteered in order to allow the younger midwives some freedom. While Phyllis was happy enough to keep an ear out for the phone ringing. She could leave to help anyone in need of assistance, but for now was able to enjoy the day with her colleagues and the community.
Patsy had been chief organizer, being Akela and all. But as she had so timidly pointed out to Delia a fortnight before, she didn't fully know what to plan.
Her childhood hadn't included such an event, for many reasons. The first being that until the age of nine she had been homeschooled by a governess, her only classmate had been her sister Grace. And two people weren't enough for a proper jolly up to be organised. This part of her life had been privileged in many ways, but there were times when she'd yearned to experience what regular school attending students did.
The following three years had made all of her yearning seem childish and naive.
She had grown up so fast in the camps. Really, she’d lost her childhood when she'd first stepped onto the boat that had seen the last few moments of her freedom. Before she was interned alongside her mother and sister. The second that the cries and shouts of fear had begun (amid the freezing, sloshing water) Patsy had become more responsible than she ever dreamed she would have to.
When she was liberated at the age of 12 and a half, she had aged far beyond her years. Having seen and experienced things that no child should have to. Everyday had been repetitive, but the fear never dulled and the horror never ceased. Liberation should've been a clean slate, but her demons couldn't be shaken off so easily.
The remainder of her ‘childhood’ had consisted of little more than the past three years had. Except now the trauma happened in nightmares rather than in reality. She woke up most nights in the small hours. Cold sweats consumed her, and her surroundings always felt unfamiliar for a few moments or so. The shock of realizing that she was in a warm bed instead of a hut’s floor never lessened. And the people around her were just as strange, the women she'd been with for the last few years- were either elsewhere or dead.
The fact that she'd been sent to boarding school was bad enough. But her cruel nickname of ‘camp girl’ had made her even more isolated from the other students. They never really understood how badly Patsy had been damaged by the war, and they never bothered to ask. A lot of her scars could be hidden, and the visible ones served as a constant reminder of the pain that she had suffered.
The severe malnutrition had made the staff (which was made up almost entirely by Catholic nuns) wary of letting her join in with sports. The one time she had been given the nod to participate had resulted in a week long stay in the school's infirmary. She had collapsed halfway around the running track, her legs refusing to carry her any further. It had been debilitating and humiliating. And had managed to render her ‘exempt’ from any further sporting activities. Watching from the window of the dormitory had been lonely to say the least. The only consolation was the few hours of privacy that she was able to indulge herself in for a few hours a week.
Privacy in the camp had been fleeting, if not nonexistent. Peace had been fought for, for many years, and so it had felt almost compulsory to cherish the silence when it came. Though she couldn't help longing to be with the other students outside. The silence sometimes felt like a quarantine. Simply for being her.
Everything she did at the boarding school was mapped out for her, from her lesson timetable to what she ate. The nuns told her it was for the best, and so in the name of self preservation she complied. Structure became a kind of salvation. And even into her adulthood she was unable to shake the need for rules. It was safe when there were rules.
Her life was a schedule, everything was meticulously planned out. It minimized risks. Her childhood had made it painfully clear how serious the smallest of mistakes could be. She had already lost so much, and couldn't bear the thought of losing anything more.
Formality was the default. And keeping in line was easy, that was until she met Delia. Delia changed everything.
Delia had awoken something within her that had been forced to lie dormant for many years. The young brunette quite literally stumbled into Patsy’s life on the first day of nurses training. Ever since, the two had brought out the best in each other.
Delia’s kind words charm had brought Patsy out of her shell, and encouraged her to stray from the rules that the redhead had so carefully crafted for herself. Patsy was equally good for Delia, giving her a sense of belonging that she hadn't been fortunate to find until their romance began.
Their relationship had blossomed into something nothing less than perfect over the following years. And now, in Poplar several years later, their strong bond was still helping Patsy to grow. Most recently, it had given her the confidence to go ahead with her plans for the cubs’ sports day, with her girlfriend's help of course.
Hope this was enjoyable:) Let me know what you thought xx
Chapter 2: A fortnight before.
It's taken a while, but here's chapter 2:) A fortnight before the Sports Day. Xx
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A fortnight before the Sports Day...
That evening, after a busy day of attending to the pregnant mothers of Poplar, the residents of Nonnatus house (with the exception of Phyllis and Trixie) were gathered around the dining table. Both Phyllis and Trixie were out on duty, delivering a set of twins and delivering insulin respectively.
Mrs B had definitely out done herself in regards to pudding, and everybody was enjoying a sizable portion of coconut cake. Sister Monica Joan (of course) was tucking into a slice that was noticeably larger than everyone else's. Not that anyone minded.
Though it was rather entertaining to see the elderly nun eyeing up the portions that had been kept back for their absent friends. Upon realising that uneaten cake being left in her sister's reach was not a particularly good idea, Sister Julienne gently placed the lid back onto the cake tin. There was no protest from Sister Monica Joan, but she did shoot a frustrated glance at the now sealed tin when she didn't think anyone was watching. It didn't go unnoticed by Patsy and Delia, who shared a knowing look that said, ‘don't laugh or you'll set me off as well’. Delia took a long drink of water to hide her tell tale grin at Sister Monica Joan’s antics.
Patsy was sometimes reminded of her younger sister Grace by Sister Monica Joan's unashamedly obvious love for all things sweet. She let a fond smile linger on her lips at the memory of her younger sister demolishing fairy cakes (homemade with their mother’s help), while they lived in Singapore.
As plates became empty, and the clatter of cutlery ceased, the table split off into various conversations. The younger midwives (along with Delia) were deep in a discussion about a fashion article that had featured in the most recent issue of ‘Women's Realm’. The article had featured a model sporting a pale yellow dress, which Delia irrevocably taken with. Despite yellow in Patsy’s words, not being ‘my best colour’- she could see why Delia liked it. She could also picture the young brunette looking perfectly wonderful in the ensemble. The parasol that went with it- not so much.
“What do you mean ‘why not the parasol’?” Questioned the bemused redhead. “It's just not a practical accessory.”
“Well I think it is,” countered the welshwoman. “It's sophisticated.” Upon seeing the look on Patsy’s face, she hastened to clarify what she meant. “Don't get me wrong, I'm not planning on taking it with me to Bill’s for a portion of haddock, chips and marrow fat peas, but it wouldn't half look grand if you were sauntering around in the west end.” She tilted her head to one side, imagining the elaborate accessory turning people's heads. It wasn't usually something that she would go for, she definitely preferred modern over traditional, but this parasol (however frivolous) was gorgeous. She continued to enlighten Patsy as to why it was “as a matter of fact my dear Patsy” a glorious addition to the ensemble.
Patsy was listening intently to the brunette’s explanation, which was quickly becoming a daydream about the elegance of the fashion up west.
She loved it when Delia got this lost in thought, the wistful smile that appeared on her face. It was a smile that made her girlfriend's features seem even more perfect than usual. And one that never failed to brighten Patsy’s day. It was also giving the redhead an excuse to drift into a daydream of her own, one where her love was carrying the (oh so impractical) parasol no less.
She admired Delia’s ability to speak her mind freely, even over trivial matters such as this. Sometimes Patsy herself still struggled with speaking her mind, but doing so was undoubtedly a hundred times easier with her love by her side. The sense of comfort that Delia’s presence gave her was a gift that the redhead never stopped feeling grateful for.
She was only jolted out of this trance by Delia turning to Barbara for her opinion. She had just sat down again, after she had excused herself a few moments before to go and find the original article itself. It had been left on Patsy and Trixie’s bedside table a few hours earlier. She was just smoothing the creases out of her skirt when she looked up from the magazine at the mention of her name.
“Don't you agree Barbara? The parasol does look rather good.”
“Oh I um, I'm not-”
Barbara was saved from having to comment on the matter by Sister Julienne speaking suddenly at the head of the table, asking for everyone's attention. Naturally silence fell, and all eyes were on the senior nun.
“If I could have a moment of your time everybody,” began Sister Julienne. “Sister Winifred and I have just been discussing what she believes would be a lovely event, particularly for the cubs.” She looked briefly in Patsy’s direction at the mention of the cubs, before continuing. “Sister Winifred, if you would be so kind as to share this idea with the table.”
The rosy cheeked young nun stood excitedly. She then launched into a rapid explanation of what herself and Sister Julienne had just been discussing. She was talking a mile a minute, and in all honesty Patsy was struggling to keep up. Not that she would admit that, instead she just nodded encouragingly at the Sister.
In a nutshell, the idea was for a sports day to be arranged for the young people of Poplar. An idea that was well received by all who were seated at the table. Vitalised by the nun’s enthusiastic speech, Patsy offered her colleague some encouraging words.
“I'm sure it'll be wonderful Sister, what a marvellous idea, I'm sure the cubs will love it,” smiled the redhead.
Sister Winifred clasped her hands together and grinned. Then she shot a glance in Sister Julienne’s direction, as if asking for her blessing about whatever she was about to do next. Upon seeing the elder nun nod, she turned back to Patsy- hands still clasped and spoke again. Everyone around the table was looking at her expectantly. Delia looked at Sister Julienne quizzically, but got no response.
“Well actually Nurse Mount, we were hoping that you would do us the honour of being head organiser.” She paused, a hopeful smile glowing against the contrast of her dark blue habit.
Blindsided by this request, and feeling kind of vulnerable in front of all of her colleagues, Patsy tried to formulate a coherent response. This was a big responsibility, and she'd only have a fortnight to get everything sorted. Not to mention her lack of experience. Event planning was uncharted territory, why was Sister Winifred asking her?
Then she felt Delia’s right hand graze against her left, and let their pinky fingers become intertwined. A gesture that offered comfort, love and most importantly the belief that this was something that she could do. It was enough. The redhead took a breath, and let her gaze settle on Sister Winifred’s excited expression.
“Yes,” breathed Patsy. Shaking her head she repeated (more confidently this time), “Yes Sister. I'd love to, really I would. Thank you for thinking of me.”
She felt Delia give her hand a light squeeze. And gently returned the gesture.
Delia smiled to herself, it never ceased to amaze her that her girlfriend was so generous with her time. Giving up her days and evenings to help lead the cubs, and now the Sports Day preparations.
Everyone had offered Patsy their best wishes, and even gave her a light congratulatory round of applause. Looking to her side and seeing the redhead’s deep blush and bashful smile she felt a burst of pride glowing in her chest.
After a date had been decided upon (and the Rolodex had been checked) the chatter about the prospective event slowly died down.
Delia was finally able to ascertain Barbara’s stance on the parasol, which had been almost forgotten about over the course of the past ten minutes.
“It’s absolutely marvellous Delia!” Barbara grinned, tracing her finger over the article on the page of the magazine. “Really Patsy I think you should give if another chance. And hey this Sports Day could be the perfect opportunity for you to model it Delia.” She nudged Patsy jokingly. “It'll be great Patsy, if you're planning it then I'm sure it will be.”
This was obviously meant to be encouraging, but Delia could she all of the tell tale signs of Patsy being uncomfortable. The bright smile plastered onto her face, the forced chuckle at Barbara's (well intentioned) comment and the almost too polite responses that came out when she felt the need to deflect from how she was actually feeling.
Barbara, satisfied with Patsy’s response to her remark, excused herself from the table. She would have her room to herself, as Phyllis was out on duty, and was eager to take advantage of the peace.
Just the nuns and Patsy and Delia remained at the table, and sensing the redhead’s growing discomfort, Delia turned to her and said:
“Well Pats, it's getting rather late. How about we go upstairs and you can show that book you were talking about. The one about the Sailor?”
Patsy nodded in agreement, though of course there wasn't actually a book. About a sailor or otherwise.
Making their excuses to the nuns, they stood and made their way towards the stairs. Now out of earshot of the others, Delia whispered words that she hoped would be of some reassurance.
She got no response from Patsy. But the redhead took the lead, biting her bottom lip and lightly tugging on Delia’s cardigan's sleeve. Guiding her silently upstairs to her shared room.
Anxious to make her sweetheart feel better Delia perched beside her on the single bed. Ready to listen, she let her hand become intertwined with Patsy’s.
“It's just me now Pats, you can say what it is that's bothering you.”
“Okay, promise you won't think I'm being silly.” She said, unusually timidly.
“Oh Pats you know I never could,” Delia replied lovingly. Punctuating the last word with a soft kiss on her love’s cheek.
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