Jason Haynes is something of a history aficionado. Despite not getting the best grades in school (his mother and Auntie Serena both maintain that the system is unfair and against him and his many special additional needs), he knows an awful lot about the past, and many want him on their team for pub quizzes. He has gleaned his impressive repertoire of knowledge from over half a lifetime of intently studying magazines (his favourites being BBC History Magazine, Historic UK’s History Magazine and History Today), books and television documentaries. A love of World’s Strongest Man and The Premier League aside, Jason is a devotee to quality British historical documentaries.
After watching Secrets of Great British Castles, Jason wanted to be Dan Jones for quite some time. He was also very keen on Witch Hunt: A Century Of Murder (though his crush on Suzannah Lipscomb, who has also appeared as a guest on Countdown, may have influenced that). Of course, one of Jason’s absolute favourite television historians is the iconic David Starkey. Everything the man has ever presented Jason has watched and make extensive notes on to expand his knowledge (his favourite by far was Monarchy). Of course, Jason’s absolute favourite television historian is the equally iconic Mary Beard. It’s probably something about her voice, she’s like a wise old grandmother figure who Jason never had but can pretend he sees every week when he watches her documentaries again and again and again while munching on the cake his Auntie Serena has made and left in the pantry for him.
Jason has spent several years analysing all of the historical documentaries which he can, and this has only increased since he has moved in with his Auntie Serena, who will happily sit and watch Mary Beard with him if she is not considerably busy with her hectic work as a vascular surgeon, lead clinical consultant of the Acute Assessment Unit and deputy CEO of Holby City Hospital. She’s a very nice auntie, Jason thinks. He’s glad he has an Auntie Serena who will watch as many documentaries as he likes with him. Some documentaries are excellent. Others are average at best. And some are simply just abysmal (Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire springs to mind. It was dreadful in comparison to the splendid Meet the Romans with Mary Beard, but then nobody can hold a candle to Mary Beard, really.)
It is therefore with equal measures of trepidation and excitement that Jason approaches a brand new historical documentary that appears in the TV listings. It is for the BBC (good, they have a better track record than Channel 5 for providing consistent historical accuracy) and it is entitled Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle. Jason’s first thought is that the title could be better, but he thinks he will give the six-part documentary a go, even if it isn’t presented by one of his favourite presenters, and is instead hosted by a new figure, one who hasn’t presented anything Jason has ever watched before, one who Jason is not sure will be up to the classical education of his favourite historians. He sets it to tape to the television hard drive and prepares a new notebook and snacks for when it airs.
It airs on Tuesday evenings at 8pm on BBC1. The introductory music involves lots of military drums and brass instruments set over some sketchy images of battlefields. So far, so average, Jason thinks. Then the opening scene is on. A tall, blonde (thought it could be dyed hair, Jason considers) woman is stood by a tank at the Imperial War Museum in London.
“Hello,” her voice is good – calm, assured, enunciated, “and welcome to Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle. I’m Major Bernie Wolfe, soldier turned army medic turned historian, and in this six-part series I’ll be guiding you through some of the aspects of the historical front lines which the public never get to see or hear about, but for those who were there, they can never unsee. We’ll be going on a historical journey, traversing from one land to the next in tours of duty at many of the most famous battles throughout history. Every episode will unearth new facts, previously left out of television documentaries. It’s time to see what life was really like for soldiers throughout history.”
The first episode is based around the allied trenches in World War One, which Jason supposes is a safe way to start an historical documentary series with a new presenter. Major Bernie Wolfe has a soothing voice and is clearly passionate about the history of the armed forces. The content is excellent, with intricate details which Jason did not otherwise know. He scribbles on his pad furiously, more so than any student would in an academic lecture theatre. And still he is not satisfied that he has jotted down everything which he needs until he has watched it on five consecutive evenings. He’s enthralled, absolutely so. By the time episode two (themed around World War Two) airs, Jason is ready and waiting on the sofa with a refill pad by his side and a shiny new folder (a navy-blue ring binder which his Auntie Serena specifically let him choose at W H Smith in the city centre on Saturday) dedicated to the documentary series sat in the centre of the coffee table.
After two episodes, order is abolished and an empire falls. Jason makes the decision to alter his ranking of his favourite television historians, despite having only seen two episodes featuring Major Bernie Wolfe. This sort of rapid change of heart in such a steadfast person is unheard of, but Jason deems her measured tones and lifelong service give her exemplary credentials. Mary Beard still sits proud at the top of the list, Jason’s ultimate history queen. David Starkey remains in second position, his lifelong commitment to historical education and a backlog of enjoyable documentaries keeping his position safe. But Suzannah Lipscomb, Jason’s teenage crush, finds herself pushed out of the bronze position by the new presenter on the block. Sometimes, Jason reasons, knowledge and a strong connection to your content make you worthier of such a high position than looking beautiful while you present.
Jason informs his Auntie Serena of his current historical documentary obsession, tells her to watch the episodes which he has saved to the television hard drive. She nods as she types up an important report on admissions times, and Jason is not convinced that she will actually take heed. He heads up to his bedroom instead of bothering her. He has another important duty to undertake. He must find the book Alan got him last Christmas about The Falklands War and the various political crises associated with it, for he has seen in advance that that particular event in history will be the topic of the next episode of Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle. Jason, ever the diligent and dedicated fan, is determined to read it from cover to cover before the next episode so that he goes into it with a solid background knowledge of the subject matter. He appreciates the additional details which Major Bernie Wolfe’s show is providing him with, and does not want to let a lack of understanding of the basic facts surrounding the period to impair his ability to watch and make comprehensive notes. By the time the episode airs, he has read the book completely. It is indeed amazing how much one’s favourite television show can take over the rest of one’s free time.
The fourth episode is centred around the Gulf War, and Jason enjoys it immensely. He thinks that if Major Bernie Wolfe does even more series like this one she may get very close to knocking the legend that is David Starkey down to third place.
After the fifth and penultimate episode (centred around the Bosnian War), Jason presents his Auntie Serena with his folder of notes. She’s off work for a few days and Jason believes it to be the perfect reading material to keep her occupied, rather than the Mills and Boon book she had been planning on settling down with. He tells her that history is much better than romance, and she retorts that her book is an historical romance. He tells her that the only love she should be wanting to read about is an appreciation for the level of detail which has gone into this new documentary series. Auntie Serena just sighs as she takes the folder from him. At least she’s taken it, Jason considers that a success.
Jason retrieves the folder in time for the sixth and final episode of Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle. He sits down and the introduction plays, and Major Bernie Wolfe appears on screen.
“Hello and welcome to Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle. Throughout this series I, Major Bernie Wolfe, soldier turned army medic turned historian, have been showing you the parts of battle which have previously been unseen or unheard of, unless you were there in person. Today is the final episode, and the one closest to my heart. We’ll be exploring the War in Afghanistan, where I was stationed for three consecutive tours. In fact, to begin this journey we’ll be starting out at the place where I first trained to be a soldier over two decades ago. Welcome to Military Academy Sandhurst.”
Jason’s pen is already flying across the paper.
The episode is filled with emotion, personal anecdotes and even re-enactments of certain scenes, featuring Major Bernie Wolfe herself. She details how, for her especially, working her way up the ranks as a woman was difficult. Jason thinks it wholly unfair that she should have received such discrimination, but unfortunately, he knows all too well from experience how unaccepting some people can be of those who are different to what is expected of them.
Jason discovers that the troops enjoyed watching romantic comedies in their downtime, and makes a note of that to tell his Auntie Serena when she returns from work. She likes romantic comedies. She arrives home just as Major Bernie Wolfe is at a sad part of the documentary, where she is describing how, when she became an army medic, she saw the worst possible results of explosions and drone attacks. She’s describing how nobody, not even a professional trauma surgeon, can ever get used to seeing death so regularly. Jason’s Auntie Serena stops as she enters the room, and drops her bag to the floor.
“What’s this?” She asks Jason. He shushes her angrily.
“This is Major Bernie Wolfe and Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle, the show I’ve been telling you all about for the last month. Now be quiet please Auntie Serena, I’m listening.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Jason notices his Auntie Serena sit down on the sofa and watch the remainder of the show, silent. It would appear she is as captivated by Major Bernie Wolfe as he is.
Serena Wendy Campbell is a number of things: middle aged, Harvard MBA, vascular surgeon, lead clinical consultant, deputy CEO, mother, auntie, daughter, member of the embittered ex-wives’ club. One thing which she had never before added to that list was the possibility that she might not be entirely heterosexual. It therefore comes as a bit of a shock when she walks into the sitting room after a long day at work and finds herself physically stirred by the dulcet tones of a blonde woman talking through the television at her nephew. The woman’s voice is like velvet and her eyes are beautiful. Serena is positive that she could get lost in them, given half a chance. When Jason informs her that it is this woman and her extensive military history that has been keeping him occupied these past few weeks, she suddenly wishes she had taken heed of his advice to watch the show earlier. Serena sits through what is the final episode then goes to find some dinner, which is what she should have been doing had she not been distracted by the woman on the television programme.
Over the coming weeks, Serena catches up on Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle. Never before has she been so grateful for television hard drives. Whereas her nephew has been making extensive notes about the facts presented, Serena finds she is presented with some rather surprising facts about herself as she increasingly notes to herself the angle of the woman’s shoulders, and the softness of her smile. Serena tries not to think too much about it, but when the episodes have finished and she heads up to bed she cannot pretend to herself that she can blame the dreams she has about the woman on the Shiraz she consumed before bed.
It is when she finds herself staring at Major Bernie Wolfe’s Wikipedia page, the cursor hovering over the curled blonde hair, that Serena admits to herself that she may be just a little bit gayer than she originally thought she was. The fact that she has a teenage schoolgirl crush on a barely heard of television historian is a fact that Serena sincerely hopes she will take to the grave. She can only imagine what chaos it would cause if Jason ever discovered the fact that she wanted to watch Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle for any reason other than the factual content. While Jason may find it stimulating intellectually, Serena certainly finds Major Bernie Wolfe to be more stimulating that she ever imagined in other areas.
Jason asks if they can watch Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle again. He does this frequently, watches historical documentaries that he has already seen if there is nothing new on the television that he wants to watch. Serena, for once, is more than happy to indulge him in watching the show as many times as he wants. For some reason, she finds Major Bernie Wolfe a lot easier to watch than constant reruns of Mary Beard, even though there are less episodes to choose from. It is when she finds herself mouthing along to parts of the narration that Serena realises that she’s perhaps invested a little too much time into the documentary presented by a woman who will likely never present anything on television ever again. Serena realises that she may actually be as bad as Elinor used to be when she learned all the words to the songs of her favourite boybands and scrawled the lyrics in coloured gel pen all up her arm, in spite of her mother’s constant threats of her getting ink poisoning. Serena has not yet gone as far as getting I Love Major Bernie Wolfe tattooed on her body, but she thinks the sentiment is there all the same, stamped across her heart. She stops and checks herself, chastising herself for being so foolish. In love with a woman she’s never met when Serena has never even been more than friends with a woman before? What is she thinking of? She goes in search of a nice bottle of Shiraz to help her forget about the captivating television presenter for a while.
Jason informs her one day that Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle has been nominated for the British Academy Television Award for Best Factual Series. Serena, never normally one to watch the BAFTAs, rosters herself off shift that night based on the slim chance that the woman who still occupies her mind may have a couple of seconds of screen time. Jason also wants to watch the awards, so they settle down together with fish and chips and stare intently at the screen for what seems like forever, until the award they actually care about is announced. Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle is up against some seriously good shows, a couple of which Jason has also watched and enjoyed. But Major Bernie Wolfe is who they want to win.
“And the BAFTA for Best Factual Series goes to…” Serena holds her breath and tenses, then almost chokes on her own tongue as the camera pans across the audience of nominees and she catches a glimpse of Major Bernie Wolfe.
“Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle!” For a brief moment Serena doesn’t realise it has happened, but then the woman herself is walking up the stage to collect her award and make her acceptance speech.
“Um, thank you everyone for this. It’s very unexpected.” Major Bernie Wolfe looks a bit shocked. “When I first retired from active military service nearly two years ago I took up the study of its history as a way to pass the time. I never expected to be approached by the BBC to make a documentary out about it, and certainly not one as successful as this has been. It gives me hope that I’m not just a nobody now I’m no longer a soldier. Um. It gives me a purpose again. So thanks to everyone who has watched, and everyone involved in the production of the series. It was a great team effort that got us here.”
The fact that Serena weeps a little bit at the address is a fact that she will never admit to anyone, ever.
Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle wins a string of further awards, from people’s choice television website and magazine awards (Serena may or may not have had to ask Jason how to vote in these after he announced he had done so, then was disappointed she was only allowed to cast one vote for the series) to further serious broadcasting authority awards. It seems that Major Bernie Wolfe is now a serious new name in televised historical documentaries. So much so that when Serena sees a patient’s newspaper open on a five-minute interview column with the woman, Serena finds a way to ensure that it doesn’t get disposed of but instead gets tucked away inside her bag for her to read when she’s back at home and ensconced in her bed. She considers sticking the half-page photo to her wall, then reprimands herself. She should not be acting like a spotty faced teenager over such a woman!
Hot on the success of her first series, the BBC are quick to make an announcement regarding their future with her. The statement features a link to a tweet from the woman herself which reads “@MajorBernieWolfe: Very excited to say I’ve received my latest commission from someone other than the army – let’s get recording the new series @BBC #InTheMorning”.
Finding out that there is going to be another series featuring Major Bernie Wolfe makes Serena make the noise she thinks may be what Morven and Elinor call a ‘squee.’ Jason also informs her that he is very excited, though Mary Beard has a new series on currently which is very good about the Romans. He also informs her that he has got himself a twitter account where he follows all of his favourite historians so that he is always up to date with what they are doing. Serena thinks about getting a twitter account for herself but she thinks that if she did she would spend absolutely no time paying attention to her deputy CEO duties at all. She vows to check in with Jason instead regarding a certain blonde army historian’s activity.
Serena finds herself being drawn to other women. Not as much as she’s drawn to Major Bernie Wolfe, but it is still affirming to realise that she actually is attracted to women alongside men, and is not lying to herself about her attraction to the television historian. It’s freeing, Serena thinks, to know this about herself, even if she hasn’t yet told anyone else about it. What would she say, anyway? She can imagine the teasing she would receive from Ric Griffin if he ever found out that she had her mid-life sexual awakening after watching a military history documentary on BBC1 with her nephew.
The new series is due to air around a year after the first series. It is entitled In The Morning, and is a three-part documentary based around the concept of Remembrance Day, to be aired over the remembrance weekend. Serena fears she fails spectacularly at trying to be subtle when asking Jason if he has remembered to set the television hard drive calendar to record it.
Major Bernie Wolfe’s second documentary is as brilliant as her first. This one features interviews with some of her comrades, and others who served in various wars throughout the years. It is good, Serena thinks, that the BBC have managed to find this woman to front their military history documentaries. The concept just would not be as good if the person presenting it did not have such a personal connection to the content being explored. Or wasn’t as attractive.
The final scene of the final episode shows Major Bernie Wolfe and all of the military personnel featured in the series stood at a cenotaph as the last post plays. The scene is both dramatic and emotive, and Serena finds herself almost moved to tears by the poignancy of the moment.
That doesn’t stop her going back to the show on iPlayer later on that week and pausing it on a close-up shot of the Major in her dress uniform. She should be ashamed of herself, Serena thinks. But damn if the woman doesn’t cut an imposing figure with all of her medals pinned to her chest.
Major Bernie Wolfe becomes a bit of a household name after In The Morning, which the BBC marketed as an integral part of their remembrance weekend coverage. According to Jason, there are quite a few people on twitter who make comments about how they would like to bunk down with the Major. Jason seems to find the comments annoying, and Serena cannot help but agree, though she is rather more annoyed with the thought of there being more than just her with her eye on the soldier. She tells herself to get a grip because it isn’t even as if this is a competition, none of them are ever going to meet the woman and they’re certainly not going to get into bed with her. But still, Serena thinks, how forward and undignified of them to post such suggestive messages online!
Major Bernie Wolfe is invited to deliver a slot on Radio 4 where she talks about the British involvement in Iraq, where she was also stationed for a couple of tours. Serena manages to download the podcast after Jason mentions it to her, and she listens to it as she drives to and from the hospital, allowing herself to imagine that the woman herself is in the car beside her, her voice soothing and informative as she talks about the perils of living under the threat of enemy fire.
Perhaps, Serena thinks, as she listens to another podcast of a separate radio show a few months later, it is the fact that Major Bernie Wolfe is also a trained medic that draws Serena to her. The show in question is a Q&A panel with various different medical professionals who offer their opinions onto funding and procedures. Truth be told, Serena only really cares about the opinions one person in it has to offer, but she can pretend that she’s listening to this specific show for work rather than pleasure. It is about medicine, after all.
Jason is immersed in watching a new Suzannah Lipscomb series (she still is as pretty as ever) and is, on the whole, ignoring his Auntie Serena who does not seem to be bothered about it and is instead reading something on her phone. Jason is not sure why, because she seemed very keen to start watching some historical shows with him, but has only been properly engaged in the ones which Major Bernie Wolfe has presented. Perhaps, Jason thinks, perhaps Auntie Serena is only interested in military history. He thinks he might offer to lend her his book on The Falklands War to read. She might enjoy that.
The programme finishes and Jason moves onto the next part of his routine: checking twitter to see if his favourite historians have got up to anything exciting over the day.
That’s when he sees it.
Jason’s face splits into the most enormous grin and he almost bounces off the sofa in excitement as he clicks on the link in the tweet to take him to the relevant webpage. His Auntie Serena looks up at him in confusion.
“What’s going on, Jason?”
It takes him a moment to reply as he is scanning his eyes across the website furiously, blurry images reflecting in his glasses as he leans his face in closer to take in absolutely everything as quickly as possible.
“The British Historical Education Society are running a series of weekend long conventions for their anniversary next year, and they’ve got the most amazing guests!” He continues scrolling down the list of dates and turns to face his aunt, still smiling madly.
“The final date is in Holby City, at the Holby City Convention Centre, on the 13th and 14th of February! The line-up includes Niall Ferguson, Richard Overy – ooh, he’s written some good books… Andrew Roberts… And there’s Simon Schama – he’s less interesting but also really famous… David Starkey – David Starkey! Oh Auntie Serena please can I get a ticket?” Jason continues through the list of guests and speakers until he reaches the last name on there.
“Auntie Serena! Major Bernie Wolfe is going to be there! I have to go! Please can I have a weekend-long ticket for Christmas, you’ve been asking me what I would like!”
Jason is more than a little bit excited, and is already forming an extensive list of reasons as to why he must attend. He expects his Auntie Serena to be resistant to his request. He expects her to be wary of him going to a large conference all on his own whist she is working at the hospital. Jason is therefore completely and utterly surprised when she calmly takes the laptop from him and clicks onto the booking page.
“Well, we may as well treat ourselves, eh? I’ll take the weekend off work.”
Jason was not expecting his Auntie Serena to book him a ticket. He certainly was not expecting her to book them one each. Maybe she likes history more than he thought.
There is very little that can affect Serena Campbell. She’s been in the cut throat world of NHS politics for too long now to be bothered when a wounded male ego hits out at her. She’s fought (and won) battles, developed nemeses, and forged civil working relationships with many of the men she originally couldn’t stand. One such man is Ric Griffin. She originally thought he was selfish, and as big headed as they got. His ego had been stroked by members of the hospital more times than the puppy Elinor had once had. But now, Serena and Ric have something which could be seen as a form of friendship. That is to say, they don’t kill each other and don’t mind spending time with one another as long as there is alcohol involved.
They can talk about many things with each other. Politics, policies, disastrous failed relationships. However, Serena is not a fan when Ric Griffin picks up on her scheduling arrangements for the new year.
“So, Serena. I notice you’ve rostered yourself off for the whole of the Valentine’s weekend. Is there a secret somebody you’ve not been telling people about?” Ric chuckles to himself as he swirls his single malt round the bottom of his glass, the amber liquid catching the lights above them and sending little beams scattering between them. Serena raises an eyebrow, keen to deter Ric from his course of conversation lest she accidentally reveal something to him which she isn’t quite ready to admit just yet.
“Why, were you wanting the weekend to propose to new wife number six?” She makes her voice patronising and a touch whiny, hoping she can put him off the scent. Unfortunately, Ric isn’t nearly drunk enough to be deterred so easily.
“Of course not, it just seems odd that you’d need the whole weekend if you’re not doing something nice with a man.” Serena sighs.
“For your information, I am doing something nice. Ah, with Jason.” She adds the information at Ric’s mischievous look. “There’s a history convention going on which he’s keen on, so I’ve booked us both tickets as his Christmas present.” She rolls her eyes, aims for an impression of flippancy, as if she isn’t acutely aware that she is going to be spending the romantic weekend pining after a blonde ex-soldier at a conference with her nephew. Ric shrugs.
“That’s nice of you. Couldn’t he have gone alone?”
“He’s vulnerable, and unpredictable in big crowds. It’s probably best I’m there lest he ask a panel member an inappropriate question.” She feels bad using Jason’s idiosyncrasies as her excuse to be going to a place she’s secretly bubbling with excitement to attend, but she can’t let Ric know about her silly crush. She can’t let anyone know about her silly crush. Serena sips her wine as Ric begins to talk about his plans for the new year. If she makes it to the convention without looking like a fool, it’ll be a miracle.
Christmas passes fairly uneventfully on the whole, aside from multiple reruns of various history documentaries. Several of Jason’s Christmas presents are the DVD box sets of some of his most favourite shows, and he revels in the behind the scenes footage which they include on the extra bonus features. Serena tries to channel his excitement but she’s exhausted, having pulled multiple double shifts over the busy festive period.
Jason waits to watch the box sets of Wartime Novelties: The Secrets Behind the Scenes of Battle and In The Morning with her, and Serena doesn’t know whether to be worried that he’s picked up on her keenness for Major Bernie Wolfe’s documentaries or grateful for the fact that she doesn’t need to think of an excuse to watch them anyway. The bonus features for In The Morning are especially wonderful, Serena thinks. There’s multiple outtakes of Major Bernie Wolfe bursting into laughter as she’s meant to narrate something as one of her ex-comrades pulls a prank or tells a joke off camera. Jason says that he thinks they’re being rude, but Serena is too busy trying to memorise every detail of the woman’s face as she laughs to respond to him.
When Jason’s in work and she isn’t during early January, Serena takes the DVDs out of their boxes and spends an entire day watching all of the episodes and bonus features yet again, pausing at certain moments to simply stare at the screen, admiring the beauty of the presenter. She knows she’s got it bad for Major Bernie Wolfe, but she’s not sure there’s anything she can do about it at this point.
February arrives, and checking twitter becomes Jason’s new hobby. There have been six conventions before the Holby City one: Glasgow, Birmingham, London, Manchester, Swansea and Belfast. Unsurprisingly, Jason has been informing her as each one occurs. Jason checks what the various historians have to say, alongside fans. He also studiously follows the live broadcasts and videos released by The British Historical Education Society. Major Bernie Wolfe has appeared at two other conventions (Birmingham and London), and appears to have been a massive hit with the fans. Jason is getting very excited for the event, and has bought a special autograph book which he intends to get all of his favourite historians to sign. Serena wonders if she could get Major Bernie Wolfe to sign her name on part of her. Perhaps she could nibble her initials onto Serena’s back, the vascular surgeon muses. She realises Jason is addressing her and quickly shapes her head to dispel the very not family appropriate thoughts. The weekend looms and Serena needs to plan an outfit. The outfit she will meet Major Bernie Wolfe in.
At Jason’s behest (not that Serena is complaining), they arrive at Holby City Convention Centre over nearly two hours early for the convention. They are the only people there, and the security guards behind the doors raise their eyebrows at the middle-aged woman and young adult male stood shivering outside the locked glass doors. Around forty-five minutes before the event is due to begin another figure is seen jogging along the street towards the doors, a woman with a green trench coat flapping in the breeze and a takeaway coffee cup in her hands. As she approaches, Serena inhales. For she recognises the figure. She’s gazed at countless images of this person over the past year and a half, and has dreamt of little else. Somehow, Serena has found herself less than two metres away from Major Bernie Wolfe.
Jason realises too because he’s suddenly bolting forward to offer his hand out to the woman, who looks somewhat startled but shakes his hand nonetheless.
“Auntie Serena, look! Major Bernie Wolfe is here! Why are you arriving at these doors, Major Bernie? This is the entrance for ticket holders like me and Auntie Serena. I really like your shows, you’re my third favourite television historian!”
Serena finds it in herself to walk forward and gently chastise Jason for being a little bit rude to the woman, but Major Bernie Wolfe won’t hear of it, instead tells Jason that she’s honoured and asks who his top two favourite television historians are. She agrees that David Starkey and Mary Beard are both excellent at their jobs, says she’s honoured to be placed in such high esteem. Jason laughs and introduces himself when Major Bernie Wolfe asks what his name is. He also introduces Serena and time seems to momentarily stand still when Major Bernie Wolfe turns and shakes her hand, murmuring a soft “the pleasure’s all mine” as their hands remain clasped for far longer than strictly necessary.
A security guard must realise who Major Bernie Wolfe is, because the doors are opened and she is invited through. Serena notices that the car park is filling up, and people are getting out. Major Bernie Wolfe momentarily stuns the security guard by saying she’ll go inside after a couple more minutes, she’d like to finish her conversation with Jason and Serena first. Jason is clearly over the moon, and reaches to take off his large backpack.
Immediately, two other security guards have come and grabbed at him and Serena, as Major Bernie Wolfe is also pulled away. Serena is startled, feels the warmth of the convention centre hit her as she’s pulled inside with her nephew. The security guards take Jason’s backpack and opens it up, taking items out and placing them on a table. Jason is distraught.
“What are you doing?! Auntie Serena, they’re ruining my backpack, I ordered it all perfectly and now I can’t ask Major Bernie for her autograph!”
The security guards ignore him and Jason has a meltdown, collapsing onto the floor in a jumble of gangly limbs, his arms wrapped round his head. He begins rocking backwards and forwards, sobbing brokenly. Serena approaches him and sits beside him, wondering if it would be rude to flip off the people now stood at the glass doors and gawking in at them. Placing a gentle hand on his back, she addresses her nephew gently, carefully.
“They just need to check what is in your bag for security reasons Jason. They are going to check everybody’s.” Jason still doesn’t understand, he cannot see past the injustice which he feels has been done to him.
“Why didn’t they ask? Everything is going to be packed all wrong now!”
A flustered looking security guard comes and passes over the now security-checked bag, edging away slowly. Serena tries her best to placate her nephew, but nothing seems to be working. Then, another person is crouched on Jason’s other side.
“Jason,” her voice is calm, designed not to startle him. “Jason, it’s Bernie. Major Bernie Wolfe. Would you like to come and sit in the breakroom for a while? You can have a cup of tea before the convention starts and we can repack your bag again, hmm? Exactly how you like it. Or I can teach you how we used to pack bags in the military, if you like.” Jason stops sniffling and looks at her, his glasses misted over by his tears.
“Okay Major Bernie.” He stands, and Major Bernie Wolfe offers a hand out to help Serena up. Serena feels metaphorically floored by the sheer strength she can tell the woman has as she’s physically pulled off the carpet.
“What do you say, Jason?”
“Thank you, Major Bernie.” Jason offers the soldier a weak smile, and the two women’s eyes meet. As they are directed into a small side room, Major Bernie Wolfe presses her hand to the small of Serena’s back, and the surgeon knows she’ll think of little else for weeks to come.
Jason feels a bit better now. Well, he is sat in a special room with Major Bernie Wolfe (who is a really nice person and talks to him and his Auntie Serena) and also in the room, getting coffee, it appears is somebody else Jason recognises.
“You’re Simon Schama!” Jason announces to the man, who turns and grins at him. They make small talk before the man leaves, clutching his paper cup. Major Bernie reminds Jason that Simon Schama has an early panel Q&A, so needs to get there in plenty of time. She isn’t on the main stage until later. Jason nods then turns to his Auntie Serena, asking if she would like to come with him to start following the meticulously planned schedule for the day. His Auntie Serena looks at Major Bernie and then back at him. There is a long pause before Auntie Serena smiles and gets to her feet, saying she would love to come and look round the convention with him. Jason grins. He’s really pleased that she’s here. They wave goodbye to Major Bernie Wolfe, and promise they’ll be at the front of the stage for her Q&A later in the day. Major Bernie says she looks forward to it, though she looks more towards Auntie Serena as she says it.
“Pull yourself together, Major!” Bernie chastises herself as she sits in the guests’ breakout room, clutching at a paper cup of strong black coffee (her second of the day) so hard that the cup is now more oval in shape, and the coffee is edging up the sides precariously. She takes a swig and then looks at herself in the mirror on the wall. She doesn’t think she looks too bad, and sees plenty of twitter messages stating the fact too. But for some reason, Bernie doesn’t care about what her hundreds of fans think. She just wants to know that Serena thinks she looks pretty. Serena. A woman Bernie has never previously met before in her entire life, but half an hour of conversation with the woman and her nephew has left the historian wishing she had covered her roots up and worn some eyeliner.
Bernie pulls another face at herself in the mirror before heading out to the convention with a member of the events team. She rather likes these events, especially this one in Holby City. Not that that’s anything to do with a mysterious brunette with sparkling eyes and an inquisitive nephew. Not at all.
Jason spends the whole Saturday of the convention in a borderline-delirious state of joyfulness. He bounds from stall to stall and talk to talk, his enthusiasm obvious to all who see him. Serena is more than content to follow in his wake, smiling politely at people talking about medieval settlements and looking appropriately enthused at television historians. Jason is a little bit upset that he cannot get through his whole list of questions at each of the Q&A sessions, but respects that there is a limited time frame and multiple people wanting to ask questions. Serena is pleased that he seems to have moved past the meltdown in the morning. She’s just counting down the time until they see Major Bernie Wolfe again.
Finally (blessedly), the time of the day comes when they make their way to the main convention stage for Major Bernie Wolfe’s panel and the following Q&A. Jason ensures they’re there in plenty of time, so that they get seats right on the front row where they can gaze adoringly at the woman without anyone obscuring their view. Serena realises that maybe she will be the only one gazing adoringly, but then Major Bernie Wolfe is Jason’s third favourite television historian, so she can’t be sure.
A woman holding a clipboard appears and thanks the people for coming. Serena realises that there’s a huge crowd amassed, with many people standing at the back of the room. It certainly appears that Major Bernie Wolfe is the big new name in television historians. She thanks her nephew’s organisational skills for ensuring she has got one of the best seats in the house for this. The woman announces Major Bernie Wolfe and she walks onto the stage, looking a little bit embarrassed by the attention. Her eyes scan the crowd and meet Serena’s, and oh. Serena feels her heart lurch in her chest, almost as if pulled by some invisible force. She smiles encouragingly at the historian, and Bernie smiles back briefly before sitting on the sofa provided and greeting the woman with the clipboard.
The session is all rather informal. The woman with the clipboard asks Major Bernie Wolfe some generic questions about her career and her shows, which the historian responds to easily, having clearly answered them all before. Then the woman turns to her clipboard and says she is going to ask a few questions taken from twitter. Some of the crowd giggle at this, and Serena soon realises why, as the questions are decidedly more unique in nature. Major Bernie Wolfe answers them all in good humour, and Serena thinks she is managing the attention wonderfully. Then one of the questions gets a little personal.
“Now, Major Wolfe, you don’t have to answer this, but several people on twitter have been wanting to know if you’re single? You’ve got quite a few fans of all genders queuing up for you, it seems.” Major Bernie Wolfe coughs awkwardly, then for the slightest moment (so short, in fact, Serena thinks she may have imagined it) her eyes track to Serena’s, before the turns back to the interviewer.
“Currently single, though you never know when that might change.” She folds her arms and plays the whole question of as slightly cocky, but Serena, her eyes trained on the historian, catches the briefest hint of a wink in her direction. Well. Serena’s pretty sure she’s going to need to go and lock herself in a toilet cubicle very soon. Is the woman genuinely flirting with her?
The questions turn to the crowd in the convention centre, and many people ask questions, primarily focused on military history. Jason gets chosen to ask two questions and Major Bernie Wolfe answers them perfectly, offering lots of detail which Jason hastily scribbles onto his notepad, grin splitting his face in two. All too soon, Serena thinks, the session is over, and the woman is thanking the historian.
“So, Major Wolfe, before you go for your signing session, might you be able to hint to us when you’re going to be filming a new show?” The Major laughs.
“I can’t spill any details I’m afraid, but I can tell you that I’m working on an exciting new project which is a bit different to my last two, and I hope people will enjoy it just as much.” The crowd claps and Serena’s mind is already whirring. A new thing from Major Bernie Wolfe for her to obsess over like a lovesick teenage girl? Wonderful.
Jason, of course, wants photos and autographs from every historian at the event. He’s saved up his wages and Serena also contributes some money. It is pretty pricey, at £10 per meeting with the stars, but Jason assures her this is excellent value. Serena agrees that it is excellent value for Major Bernie Wolfe. If she could, Serena would quite happily give her bank account to spend the night with the beautiful ex-soldier. That is not a thought she voices out loud though, lest security remove her from the convention on suspicion of being a creepy stalker of the Major.
Major Bernie Wolfe is at the far end of the table, so they see her last. When they arrive, she looks up and smiles.
“Hello Jason! Hello, Serena.” Serena’s heart sings that the woman has remembered her name. “Have you had a good day?” The majority of the time is spent with Jason babbling on, but when they have their photo and Jason goes to stand with the woman, she turns to Serena.
“Are you not coming onto the photo too?” Serena blushes and Jason announces that he has paid for the slot, but Auntie Serena is more than welcome to join them for a separate photo if she likes. The agent sat by the table looks mildly annoyed, but Major Bernie Wolfe shoots a glare in his direction that Serena imagines would send even the toughest of marines running to the hills. She goes to stand next to the soldier, and finds herself with a warm hand curved round her hip. She leans into the touch just as the photographer clicks and the shutter sounds. As she pulls away, Major Bernie Wolfe murmurs to her
“Are you here tomorrow?” Serena nods and flushes again, refusing to think too much into why the historian is so interested. “Good,” Major Bernie Wolfe replies. “Have a good evening.”
Serena just manages to squeeze out a “you too” before she hooks her arm through Jason’s and they head to the exit, Jason buoyed by the sheer volume of history he has experienced in a single day.
The next day is a big day. David Starkey is on the schedule. Jason has large yellow blocks on the timetable he has made dedicated to following everything about the man during the day. Serena is less enthused about the whole affair. It’s Valentine’s Day and she’s not going to be seeing Major Bernie Wolfe, after Jason informed her that she’s not on the schedule for today. Serena is in a bit of a grumpy mood, she thought the ex-soldier might have been a little bit fond of her, but it turns out she was just toying with Serena’s clearly over-eager nature. That hasn’t stopped Serena from placing the photo she bought from the conference on her bedside table, though.
They’re early once again, and thankfully the security guards recognise them. As they’re waiting to go in, a figure in a hoodie comes and stands near them, the hood pulled tightly round their head and the strings knotted in a little bow beneath their chin. Serena looks at them, raising an eyebrow, then the person holds out a cup of coffee to her. Serena looks at it sceptically, wondering who on earth this person is.
“Take it!” The voice is whispered, but Serena would recognise it anyway.
“Call me Bernie, please!” She glances round, they’re still early enough that she’s not drawn any attention to herself. Jason turns and grins when he realises who is stood with them.
“What are you doing?”
“I wanted to come today but I’m not on schedule. I’m hoping you can hide me in plain sight so I can enjoy David Starkey’s talk without anyone harassing me.” She looks a bit guilty. “Not that I don’t mind the fans, far from it. But I’d much rather not be mobbed today of all days.” Jason looks thoughtful.
“Today is Valentine’s Day, is that important, Major Wolfe?” Bernie looks at Serena, their eyes meeting in the cold morning. Serena thinks she may be about to drop the coffee cup from seeing the intensity in the brown depths.
“It just may be, Jason. It just may be.”
Serena spends the day walking round the conference with Bernie, the woman’s hood pulled up in an attempt to hide who she is. She’s also produced a pair of glasses which she is wearing too, to try and disguise herself a bit more. Soon into the day, the Major takes her hand, and Serena squeezes it. Pretending to be a couple looking at the various stalls suddenly makes the history much more interesting.
“So, why did you stop being a surgeon?” They’re taking a break from perusing the stalls, eating a sandwich each in the small café area. Jason has gone to pore over various books and DVDs which are being sold. Bernie looks hesitant.
“I got blown up,” she’s choosing her words carefully. “And in the blast some shrapnel caught my left hand.” She holds it out carefully and Serena begins to examine the damage, running her fingers gently along it, tracing the scars. Bernie sighs a little bit. “Not much use for a surgeon with nerve damage in two of their fingers and a thumb.” Serena, unsure if she’s about to cross a boundary, takes Bernie’s hand and brings it to her lips, kissing the wounded digits gently. Bernie sighs softly, and then Jason arrives, clutching an armful of historical goodies, breaking the moment between them.
The perfect day was never going to last forever, Serena thinks wistfully. At least Bernie gets to see David Starkey’s panel. Unfortunately, as the man finishes, someone bumps into them and as they turn to apologise they seem to recognise Bernie. As they’re about to open their mouth, Serena takes control of the situation.
“Think nothing of it,” she tells the (clumsy, foolish) young woman. “Now, darling, don’t you have your night shift to be preparing for? I’ll wait here for Jason.” Bernie realises what Serena is doing and nods, squeezing Serena’s hand gratefully.
“Of course, darling.” Serena briefly bites her lip to stop herself from laughing because, for some reason, Bernie is doing a Welsh accent. “See you tomorrow morning, keep the bed warm for me.” Then Major Bernie Wolfe’s lips are grazing across Serena’s cheek and a hurried ‘thank you’ is being whispered into her ear before the woman turns and walks towards the exit. Serena waits for Jason to have his photo taken, and the young woman turns to her.
“Your wife looks a bit like Major Bernie Wolfe.”
“Major Bernie Wolfe?” Serena feigns ignorance, despite her heart hammering at the thought of Bernie being referred to as her wife.
“Yeah, she was here yesterday. Beautiful military historian. Not Welsh though.” Serena raises an eyebrow.
“Well I’ll have to take your word for it. We’re only here today for David Starkey. In fact, here’s my delightful nephew Jason now. See you around!” Serena quickly power walks over to Jason, lest he say something to make the stranger suspicious. He’s already concerned about the fact that Bernie has gone, but Serena insists she will explain all in the car later. Jason shrugs. He’s met David Starkey. As far as he is concerned, his life has reached its highlight. The only possible way Jason’s life could now get better is if he meets his favourite historian in the world, Mary Beard. He shall have to keep on hoping.
Later that evening, curled up in her empty bed, Serena begins to wonder if her wonderful day with Major Bernie Wolfe was all a dream. As she falls into a deep slumber, she dreams of blonde curls and rosy cheeks. Her Valentine’s Day was much better than she had ever imagined it could be, even if she’s never going to meet the endearing historian again.
Bernie sits at her desk, scrolling through her twitter notifications. She wishes she wasn’t so besotted with the complete stranger (Serena, who she feels like she’s known a lifetime, despite only meeting her twice), wishes she didn’t spend hours going through all of her new followers (and she now has over thirty thousand in total, so it’s a lot) trying to find the account belonging to Serena (if Serena even has a twitter account). She sighs and closes the tab, then looks back to the email regarding her latest project. She can only hope.
The way Serena gets Instagram is like this: through the wonders of Facebook she discovers her daughter has an Instagram account. Then she discovers that the account is a private one (clever girl, Serena thinks, she must have learned something about online safety and the predators lurking out there). And so, in order to (like a good Mum, she tells herself) see just what other photos her daughter is sharing, she makes an account to send her a follower request. Elinor accepts, but only after calling Serena to make sure that she actually uploads some pictures so it doesn’t look ‘weird and, like, stalkerish.’ That’s fine, Serena thinks. She uploads the occasional shot of coffee or wine or baking. And a couple of she and Ellie when her daughter comes to visit. It’s actually rather nice, this Instagram thing, Serena thinks.
Six months after the history convention, and Serena is getting annoyed. There has been no indication of what Major Bernie Wolfe’s next project is going to be. The woman has only done one radio interview since then (in June), too. Serena is like a dying woman gasping for air. She needs new photos and videos of the blonde like she needs oxygen now. She even asks Jason about her tweets, and discovers the last known twitter activity of the woman was a retweet of a fundraiser for a soldiers’ charity she is an ambassador for. Serena feels herself getting annoyed. Why promise a woman a new project at a convention when you have absolutely no intention of following through? She feels instantly mean, wonders if the historian is ill. Considers going through the hospital files before realising that Major Bernie Wolfe may not even live in Holby City. Sometimes, Serena thinks, she wishes she weren’t so utterly infatuated with the blonde. Her life would be considerably more productive if it didn’t have a leggy blonde occupying her thoughts all the time.
Jason is a little bit worried about his Auntie Serena. She keeps staring into the distance, and he found her internet tabs open on the Wikipedia page for Major Bernie Wolfe, the BBC iPlayer page for a rerun of In The Morning, and, for work reasons he suspects, the NHS guidelines for requesting confidential patient data from other trusts. He thought his aunt was fond of military history, but the book he loaned her on the Falklands still remains unopened under the coffee table, so he’s a bit confused. He’s beginning to think she may just have a fondness for Major Bernie Wolfe. He’s fine with that, of course (and thinks her ambitions altogether more realistic than his for Suzannah Lipscomb). He just wishes she would tell him. Somebody on the internet is promoting a Major Bernie Wolfe calendar which they’ve designed, and if he knew for certain that Auntie Serena liked the historian, he would buy it for her to hang in her office at work.
“Yes, I’d love to do that… Thank you! Um, can I just check something with you? Great…”
Bernie puts the phone down later that afternoon feeling very positive.
Jason approaches her one evening and sits down opposite her. He looks at her seriously, gazing into her eyes steadily.
“Auntie Serena, I wish to ask you about something serious.” Serena gets worried. Her mind leaps to a thousand different conclusions as to what situations Jason has inadvertently found himself in which she needs to help him out of.
“Do you find Major Bernie Wolfe attractive?” Serena nearly spits her Shiraz over the carpet. Out of all the things that ran through her mind, this certainly wasn’t one of them.
“I beg your pardon?!”
“It’s a simple question, Auntie Serena. Yes or no?” Serena doesn’t want to annoy or deceive him, and so sighs, choosing to be honest. She’s kept it to herself for too many years now, anyway.
“Yes Jason, I do.”
“That’s good then.”
“Yes. I bought your birthday present today.”
“Oh?” Serena is a little confused, it is still August, after all.
“Yes. You are going to have to make use of it in September. With me of course.” Jason grins cunningly. “I did have an ulterior motive as I also wish to go to this event.” He hands her a printout and she reads it. She remembers to set her wine glass down on the coffee table before she drops it in shock.
“This ticket allows admittance for one person to the Former Trauma: A History of Frontline Medicine by Major Bernie Wolfe signing event at Holby City Central Bookstore. Book included in price.” Serena looks at Jason and then back down to the ticket. She’s going to meet Bernie again. Bernie who has written a book which Serena is sure she will be very interested in. She registers Jason producing a ticket of his own.
“I do hope you manage to get the day off work, Auntie Serena.”
Serena thinks she’s about to owe Ric Griffin a lot of favours. The event is in less than a month.
They end up being late to the signing on the day, which doesn’t put her in Jason’s favour. The signing is 2pm until 5pm, and Serena hasn’t managed to swap her shift fully. She finishes at 12, which she thinks gives her plenty of time to get herself and Jason to the bookstore in the city shopping centre for 2. However, a late surgery comes in (of course it does, she thinks, of course) which requires a vascular specialist so she’s called back into theatre and doesn’t leave until 1:45. Then she has to shower as she’s covered in blood and finally, finally when she’s picked Jason up and driven to the city centre and found a car parking space and they’ve gotten to the back of the massive queue it is 3pm. Jason isn’t pleased, and is giving her the silent treatment. She’s just thrilled that she’s here.
The queue moves forward slowly, as each person is allowed a few minutes of chatting with the historian, alongside a photograph should they wish. Serena’s hungry. She wishes she had had time for lunch.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, Bernie thinks. She’s not coming. What an idiot. Teach you to fall head over heels for a stranger, Wolfe.
The signing is in a little area at the back of the shop which has been sectioned off. A member of security staff beckons them in and they are suddenly stood before a table filled with books, behind which is sat Major Bernie Wolfe herself, looking as lovely as ever, if a little downbeat, Serena thinks. When she looks up and sees them, the expression is immediately chased away by a bright smile.
“Jason! Serena! How lovely to see you again!” She grins and bends down to the floor to pick up two books. How odd, Serena thinks, that she isn’t picking them up from the table. She hands the top copy to Jason, and the other to Serena. She then asks if they want a photo, a teasing glint in her eye which Serena likes to think is just for her. They stand with her in the bookshop so a member of staff can take the photo. Jason in the middle, with his Auntie Serena on his right and Major Bernie Wolfe on his left, Serena thinks the simple snapshot will become one of her favourites.
When she gets home that evening, Serena goes up to her bedroom to read her book in peace. She’s actually rather looking forward to reading about battlefield medicine through the ages. She opens the front page and sees the words she had neglected to look at in the shop written clearly, assuming all the books contained identical signatures by the historian.
‘Dearest Serena, thank you for providing glimpses of home to a soldier without one. Love and best wishes, Major Bernie Wolfe xx’
Beneath the words are a series of numbers (in pencil) which Serena can only assume is the woman’s phone number. She’d anticipated Serena going to the signing, and had prepared this. Serena forces herself to calm her breathing. This is more than she had ever dreamed of when she first saw Major Bernie Wolfe on her television screen. She checks the time, 9pm, then calls the number, hoping she isn’t being played for a fool.
“Hello, who is this speaking?” It’s her. It’s really her. Serena almost forgets how to breathe.
“Serena?” She sounds almost as if she can’t believe it.
“Do you put your phone number in every book you sign?” Serena allows the flirtatious edge to creep into her voice, allows herself to indulge in interacting with this woman beyond ticketed meetups.
“Only to one.” Bernie’s voice is honest and to the point, and Serena loves her for it.
“And why did you pick that one, hmm?” If Bernie were there to see her, she’d flutter her eyelashes a bit, act innocent and silly and carefree.
“Because I’d rather like to take you out to dinner, Serena.”
There it is, Bernie thinks. She’s said it now. If this blows up in her face, she’s not sure how she’ll cope.
“Dinner?” Serena sounds shocked, as if she can’t quite believe the offer has been made to her.
“When two people eat over candlelight and wine.” Bernie allows her voice to become huskier, more teasing.
“But when? And where?”
“There are restaurants in Holby, Serena.”
“You’re based in Holby?!” Bernie isn’t sure whether she should admit she was about to move to London until she met Serena at the Holby City convention, and Serena made her want to stay in the city she found herself in after being blown up.
“Yes, but don’t tell the press!”
“Bernie, I… I’d love to go out to dinner with you, but-”
“You’re not interested in women.” Bernie fills in the blank for her, feeling the harsh sting of rejection.
“No! I am interested. Very much so.” Serena’s voice is dripping with implication, and Bernie swallows, presses the phone a little tighter to her ear.
“But you’re a little bit well known and I’d rather not have our first date featured on someone’s twitter or Facebook or Instagram feed. I’m a successful surgeon and deputy CEO of Holby City hospital, and, well… I don’t like gossip. Can’t you come to mine instead?” Bernie almost laughs in relief.
“Inviting me over for dinner, hmm? I only hope you’re ready for dessert too.” Bernie winks, then realises Serena isn’t there to see it. Serena gasps down the line, then speaks again.
“Don’t you worry Major, I’m more than ready for dessert. Look, sorry, but Jason’s shouting up to me from downstairs and I really must go. Soon, though?”
“Soon,” Bernie agrees. “Goodnight, Serena.”
Bernie sleeps through the night dreaming of wine and chocolate and Serena. She knows this is going to work out, can feel it in her bones. Major Bernie Wolfe, a soldier who for so long has not known where to call home or what her purpose is in life, thinks she may just have found her reason to keep going.
Serena messages Bernie frequently. She keeps getting silly smiles on her face whenever she receives a message, and knows that Morven and Raf and Fletch suspect something. In her spare time at home, she powers through Former Trauma: A History of Frontline Medicine. It’s a fascinating read, made all the better by Bernie’s wonderful insights into it. Her narrative is perfect for the book, and makes it an enjoyable read. She’s a talented woman, Major Bernie Wolfe, that’s for sure.
The day comes when Bernie is due to come to her house, and Serena is flustered. Jason is out for the evening, visiting Alan, and is also unaware that his aunt has been messaging his third favourite television historian. Serena sets the pasta to cook, whilst chopping vegetables for the sauce. She leaves a bottle of her finest Shiraz to breathe, hopes Bernie drinks red wine. Finally, the doorbell rings, and Serena dashes to answer it. She’s never wanted a dinner to go so well in her entire life.
Bernie isn’t sure she’s had an evening this wonderful in her entire life. She usually spends her evenings wondering just who Major Berenice Griselda Wolfe is. It isn’t that she necessarily resents her newfound celebrity status, it’s just that the attention makes her uncomfortable when she’s not over some of her old war memories herself. She’s not got PTSD or Depression or an official mental health diagnosis, per se. But Bernie knows she’s teetering on the edge of a more sinister lifestyle. The nerve damage in her hand, amongst other injuries, lead to Bernie entering a chasm of darkness. The history research was a way out of that. And then the subsequent television and book deals were also welcome ways to keep busy. Bernie often thinks that she might have signed up to a life of running away from sorting through her memories to work out just who exactly she is. But sometimes, just sometimes, Bernie thinks she might like to stop questioning her post-army existence and settle down somewhere for good. She especially thinks that now she has met the wonderful Serena Campbell, who is currently sat across the table from her drinking wine which stains her lips the most tempting shade of dark red. Bernie longs to kiss the wine from Serena’s lips.
Somehow, they make their way to the living room and settle on the sofa, kissing and kissing and kissing. Serena’s head is spinning and her hands are wandering seemingly of their own accord. They want to touch Bernie everywhere all at once. Serena moans at the discovery that the Major is as toned as she thought she’d be, clear muscles and sinew make a landscape Serena is eager to explore every inch of. A thought briefly crosses her mind as to question if this is all too fast, too soon with the celebrity historian. But tonight, Serena has seen more than Major Bernie Wolfe, soldier turned army medic turned historian. She’s seen Bernie. Just Bernie. An ex-soldier who is a little bit battered and a little bit unsure, but is thoughtful and funny and smart. An ex-soldier who is currently sucking her way along Serena’s collarbone with definite intent. Serena lies back against the cushions and moans. Forget history, Serena’s keen to stay in the present.
Jason arrives home feeling happy from his evening out with Alan. They went to a late event at the museum in the city centre, themed around the progression of trade through history. It was all rather fascinating. He intends to tell his Auntie Serena all about it. Walking into the living room, Jason greets his aunt.
“Auntie Serena, tonight was good, I found out lots about-”
Jason pauses. His Auntie Serena is not alone. If he is not mistaken, Major Bernie Wolfe is on the sofa with his aunt, and they are both wearing fewer clothes than Jason would expect people to wear in a living room. He looks at them and then speaks once more.
“I can see you are busy. I wish you had told me Major Wolfe was going to visit though, Auntie Serena. I would have baked her some gingerbread.”
Jason leaves the lounge and heads up to his room. He briefly wonders if he could ever get Suzannah Lipscomb to visit the house, as his aunt seems to have succeeded in getting her favourite historian to visit. Perhaps he could offer her some gingerbread. He’s good at making that.
Serena is mortified. Her sweet, innocent, Autistic nephew has walked in on her about to indulge in sex with one of his favourite television celebrities. Bernie, for her part, seems unsure as to whether she should be humiliated or humoured by the whole situation. Serena looks her up and down. Her hair is mussed, her makeup smudged, and her exposed chest is peppered with red splotches where Serena has made her mark. A thrum of desire passes through Serena. Somehow, this gorgeous woman is hers. She has no idea how, but she is. And Serena fully intends to make the most out of the situation she has found herself in.
“Come up to bed, Major Wolfe.”
Bernie wakes in a bed which isn’t necessarily as comfortable as her own (she did spend a considerable amount of money on her mattress due to her back), or as comfortable as the ones in some of the luxury hotels she has stayed in. It is, however, the best bed she has ever woken in purely because it contains one Serena Wendy Campbell. One very naked Serena Wendy Campbell. Bernie traces a finger up the woman’s spine, perfectly content to spend as long as it takes until Serena wakes up simply trailing her fingers over her skin. Serena’s skin isn’t perfect, but then neither is her own, Bernie thinks. They’re both women who have have experienced life, and their various scars, stretchmarks and other blemishes are a testament to that. There are a few new marks, too. Bruises from where Bernie had nipped and sucked during the night (and sometime in the early morning, too).
Once again, Bernie finds her mind wandering to just how relaxed she feels. She’s lived a life travelling from one place to the next, meeting new people and leaving others behind at every turn. She’s never had a proper chance to settle down and find who she is as a person. She thinks working in the army has helped her with her hectic historian schedule. Travelling from place to place doing something she is good at is something Bernie has always done. But she thinks it might be nice to have somewhere, to have someone, to call home now she’s getting a little weary.
“Will Bernie be coming home tonight?” Jason asks his Auntie Serena. He’s currently doing their weekly online shopping order, and is concerned about how many boxes of cereal he should add to their basket. Since the historian moved in, Jason has realised that, for some reason, she has a real fondness for wheat-based cereals.
“Yes, she will,” Auntie Serena smiles. She’s been missing her partner, Jason can tell. But Major Bernie Wolfe has been travelling around the country for the past three weeks, filming a new documentary for the BBC about the treatment of soldiers with mental health problems through the years. Jason has been especially interested in finding out all about the technical details. He also helped Major Bernie a lot with the research she did at various archives for the series. He knows a lot about the subject matter and he hasn’t even seen the series yet. She’s promised him that his name is going to appear on the credits as an assistant researcher, and he is glowing with pride and excitement at the thought.
It’s nearing Christmas now, and he is very excited to spend his first official Christmas with Auntie Serena and Bernie now they’re all living together. A few people know that his auntie has been dating the famous television historian for over a year now, but it is still something which isn’t in public knowledge. That is to say, Major Bernie Wolfe’s Wikipedia page does not mention her having a significant other, and many people on twitter still express their desires regarding the ex-soldier. Jason sometimes wants to inform them that Major Bernie Wolfe is in a very nice relationship with his Auntie Serena. He knows his Auntie Serena has uploaded some lovely photos of herself and Bernie onto her Instagram account to share with her friends, but as it is private the people of twitter cannot find them to see just how happy Major Wolfe is with Jason’s Auntie Serena. Sometimes, Jason thinks he will just link a photo to the people crowding his twitter feed, but he understands Auntie Serena and Bernie’s desire for privacy as a couple, so refrains.
After all, Jason is now living with his third favourite television historian. His life is definitely excellent.
“So, um. You know how the people at the BBC know I’m, erm, in a relationship with you?”
“Yes.” Serena raises an eyebrow. Bernie is now home and they’re lolling around on the sofa, doing absolutely nothing and loving every minute of it.
“Well, they asked if I would be interested in doing part of a series they’re commissioning for Pride season. Various LGBT celebrities are going to have an episode each on their topic area. Religion, law, entertainment, that sort of thing. And they’d like me to do an episode on LGBT history, including the military.”
“And do you not want to do it?”
“No! I very much do. But, um. I’d rather let the world know I’m, ah, not heterosexual before I appear in a Pride show.”
“Ah! Okay.” Serena is feeling a little sleepy, mainly thanks to Bernie combing her fingers through her hair. She offers her partner a gentle smile, her eyes closed and her cheeks rosy.
“Ok. Well, we’ll sort something out then.”
“Mmmm. If Elinor was fine about me not being straight, then I’m sure the world will be fine with you not being straight too.” Serena’s beginning to doze. She thinks she may just fall asleep here on the sofa with her head in Bernie’s lap.
It’s Christmas Day, and Bernie feels joyous. She’s spent the morning preparing Christmas dinner with Serena, then eating it with her and Jason. Elinor called round in the afternoon to say hello, and even exchange gifts with Bernie, which Serena promises her is a sign of approval. They’re being silly, doing the small Christmassy things she never got to do whilst in the army. They’ve got paper crowns on their heads and silly jumpers on, and it’s bliss. Bernie doesn’t realise Jason has snapped a candid photo of them on his new phone until the flash has gone off and she’s pulling her gaze away from Serena’s, still laughing about something insignificant.
And so it is that Bernie composes a tweet on Christmas Day evening, the photo Jason took with the caption ‘@MajorBernieWolfe: Every soldier dreams of coming home for Christmas.’
Home is what Serena is, Bernie thinks. She’s lived a life of itinerancy, and now she’s found somewhere to return to, time and time again. Bernie has lived her life never quite sure what her purpose was, but now she knows. Her purpose was always, always to find a home. To find Serena.