Chummy almost didn't notice Timothy Turner on her way out of the community center. It wasn't unusual for the boy to be the last to leave the premises after Cubs (between Patrick constantly running late and Shelagh now helping out with odds and ends at the surgery and Nonnatus), but normally he was a bundle of energy. While he was progressing quickly in his calipers, Timothy still wasn't quite up to his old speed and so he spent most of his free time walking about and testing his strength. Chummy knew his parents probably didn't want him exerting himself as much as he was, but she also knew they were keeping him a little closer than he liked, so she let him be. Most Cubs nights ended with her wishing an out-of-breath Timothy a jolly good night and heading home to Peter and Freddie. Tonight, though, she walked right by him and assumed he'd left until a sheepish voice called out to her.
It took her a moment to spot him. Timothy was uncharacteristically sitting in a bit of a ball on the steps and fidgeting with his scarf.
"I say, is something the matter, young Turner?" she asked.
Timothy looked down at the floor and pulled tightly against his scarf. This was stupid. He didn't go last year, so why did he care this year? Plus, even if Akela said yes, he still had to ask his dad and Shelagh and that was much scarier. If he couldn't ask Chummy, then he definitely couldn't ask them.
"Timothy? Is everything quite alright?" Chummy asked again with some concern. It wasn't like him at all to be withdrawn. He'd been a little quieter since his struggle with Polio, but he was still the cheeky young man he'd always been.
Instead of answering her directly, Timothy pulled a rumpled flyer from his pocket and handed it to her.
Chummy let out a soft 'oh' as she unfolded a flyer she herself had made. Across the top in bright pink letters read 'Mother's Day Luncheon' with the details of the upcoming Sunday event in her own neat scroll below. She was such fool. Last year, it never occurred to her to talk to Timothy about the Luncheon because Dr. Turner sent him away to his grandmother's for the weekend. This year, though, there was Shelagh. She knew Timothy and his step-mum-to-be got along famously, but she hadn't realized just how famously until then.
"Do you think-I mean, could I-" Timothy tried to ask his question, but he had yet to call Shelagh his mum outloud and the whole situation felt very daunting all of a sudden. "Forget it, it doesn't matter." He quickly reached out to grab the flyer from Chummy as Patrick's car pulled up alongside the curb. Timothy started to run for the MG.
"Timothy!" Chummy called out. He turned around nervously. Chummy grinned happily. "I think it would be just spiffing if you asked her."
Timothy's face lit up and he nodded eagerly before hopping into the car. Dr. Turner waved goodbye to Chummy and Timothy gave her a big thumbs up before they drove away. Chummy excitedly took a notebook out of her pocket and added Timothy Turner and Shelagh Mannion to her Luncheon guest list.
"What are you and Akela so happy about?" Patrick asked with a suspicious smile. "Should I be worried?" Patrick felt a blanket of happiness fall over himself as well as he drove them back to the flat. Timothy had been a bit out of sorts since his hospitalization and frustrated with convalescing. It was wonderful to see him genuinely excited about something. Patrick's smile faded a bit when he realized Timothy hadn't responded to his question. "Tim?"
"It's nothing." Timothy lied horribly. In his elation at Akela's response, he'd forgotten that he still had two more people to ask. He couldn't not tell his dad before asking Shelagh. What if she said yes, but then he said no? Best to get it all out in the open. "Dad, I was thinking about Sunday."
"Oh, Tim, I'm sorry, I've been so wrapped up in the wedding and work, I forgot-I'm sure it's not too late to call Granny Parker, I'm so sorry." Patrick's knee-jerk apology was out of his mouth before he could realize that Tim wasn't sad about the upcoming date.
"Dad, no, it's okay," Timothy replied, "I don't want to go to Granny Parker's this year."
"You don't?" Patrick asked. Timothy took a deep breath and forced himself to look his dad in the eye as they pulled up to the flat. Patrick stopped the car and turned to face his son. Timothy had a look of serious determination on his face and Patrick was very curious as to where this conversation was heading.
"Dad, could I...I was wondering if I could take Aunty Shelagh to the Mother's Day Luncheon?" His voice tapered off a bit at the end and the word "aunty" was starting to sound odd in his mouth the more time he spent with her, but he'd done it, he'd asked.
Patrick was surprised, but ear-splittingly happy. He let out a sigh of relief.
"I think that's a wonderful idea, son,"
"But?" Timothy asked, sensing there was a part two to come.
"But," Patrick continued, "I don't think I'm the one you need to ask." Patrick smiled. Timothy's anxiety deflated.
"You're not cross?" Timothy asked, double checking.
"Why would I be?" Patrick asked, still beaming. "Tim, it means so much to Shelagh and me that you're accepting her as much as you are." Timothy paused.
"I know, I just...I didn't want you to think I didn't miss mummy." he admitted softly. "Plus, you're not married yet, so I didn't even know if I'd be allowed."
"Tim, I don't think you will ever forget mummy any more than I will. I told you before I proposed to Shelagh that it didn't mean I loved your mummy any less and I will never doubt that you feel the same way, alright?" Tim nodded. "As for Shelagh not legally being your mother yet, I don't think that sort of thing matters at times like this. She's basically been living with us since you came home from the hospital and..." Patrick paused, not knowing if he should reveal this particular secret but deciding it was warranted, "I don't know if you know this, but when you were in hospital and you were a bit groggy, you were already calling her 'mum'."
"I was?" Timothy asked, surprised. He had no memory of that. His memories of waking up from the Iron Lung were fuzzy at best. He just remembered feeling safer than he'd felt in a very long time. "I didn't know. You never said."
"We didn't know if you knew what you were saying." Patrick explained. "Shelagh didn't want to put any pressure on you if you weren't ready to call her that."
"I think I want to call her 'mum'." Timothy admitted shyly. "Do you think that's okay?"
"It's more than okay, Tim, and I think it would make her very happy." Timothy turned away; the conversation now held more feeling that he was wholly comfortable with and it was making him squirmy. Patrick sensed his son's restless energy and laughed.
"Come on, we can head inside and you can ask her yourself." he teased. Timothy felt a lurch of nervousness once more. Asking adults questions was exhausting.
The Turner boys walked peacefully into the flat. When Marianne passed, the flat had developed an air of dread about it. It was a roof over their heads, but it wasn't a home. Every nook and cranny carried heartbreaking memories in it and neither Patrick nor Timothy wanted to dwell on them, especially not with each other. Shelagh had made the flat a home again. Now, instead of stale air, they walked into rooms filled with smells of rich food and this week's flowers. Patrick looked forward to sitting with his family in the evening and Timothy looked forward to a meal made of something other than grease and charred bits.
Shelagh was humming in the kitchen when they arrived. Patrick always thought it amusing that she wouldn't accept his spare key because it was 'improper' for her to own a key to a man's lodging that she wasn't married to, but she was perfectly willing to take the spare key from its hiding place under the mat and let herself in to make supper. Whatever makes her comfortable, he supposed. It didn't matter to him. Either way, she was there in his arms and in two short weeks, she would never have to leave.
"That's a lovely tune, darling." Patrick spoke quietly, though he knew she would be adorably startled either way. Sure enough, he was rewarded for his greeting with a small yelp and a spatter of sauce from her jumpy ladle arm.
"Oh, Patrick, every time." she sighed with wry smile. She knew it amused him that she could be so calm and professional, but then jump at the slightest sound. She explained that when she was working, she was alert and prepared, but she let her guard down when she was relaxed in the flat. It didn't stop him.
"Sorry, my love." he grinned and walked closer for a quick kiss. They really did feel married already after so many months of tending to a sick child and nearly eight months of engagement. Two weeks couldn't come soon enough. Something was off about the moment, though… "It almost feels strange to kiss you hello without a groan from the younger crowd." he teased.
"Is everything well, Timothy?" Shelagh asked with a bit of her fiancee's teasing, but also true concern.
"Mmhmm." Timothy affirmed half-heartedly. Patrick gave his son a knowing look before departing.
"I just have a few case notes to see to before dinner, I won't be long." he snuck a second kiss from Shelagh and smiled as he finally got the expected eye roll from Timothy. Patrick walked quietly away to his office, leaving Timothy to talk to Shelagh in peace.
Timothy eyed the room, looking for a distraction. Shelagh's answer meant more than anyone's. They'd come so far and he couldn't help but feel that if she said no to the Luncheon, it would be like she was saying no to being his mum. He knew on some level that that wasn't fair, but he couldn't help it.
"Do you need any help?" he asked hopefully. Shelagh saw the stalling for what it was, but tried not to let it show.
"That's very sweet, Timothy dearest, but I'm afraid all there is to do now is wait for everything to finish cooking." she replied.
"Oh." he said.
"Did you have a good time at Cubs this evening?" Shelagh asked, trying to get him talking until he would eventually give up what he really wanted to talk about. She made sure to keep her eyes on her cloth as she cleaned off the countertop. Timothy was very like herself. She knew he wouldn't talk if all her attention was on her.
"Mmmhmm." he replied. "It was different. Akela taught us proper 'gentlemanly con-duct'," he overemphasized the odd new word, "like she said the boys in finishing school learn."
"That's a bit peculiar." Shelagh agreed with a laugh. She was never one for those sorts of lessons, despite her insistence on propriety. "I wonder why."
Timothy seized his opportunity.
"She said they might come in handy for Sunday's Luncheon." he rattled off so quickly Shelagh nearly didn't understand him.
"Sunday?" Shelagh asked gently. She wasn't unaware. She knew what Sunday was. Along with the flyers she'd seen plastered all over town, she and Patrick had briefly discussed the possibility of Timothy going to his grandmother's for the weekend. It seemed that wouldn't be happening, though.
"Yes." Timothy paused to gather his courage. "Would-would you come with me to the Mother's Day Luncheon, mu-Aunty Shelagh?" He cursed his fear. He was so close to saying what he felt, but he was too scared. Maybe she wouldn't want to come if she didn't think he saw her as his mum! What was he thinking? He braced himself for the rejection.
"Oh, Timothy, I would be honored to go with you." Shelagh whispered with tears in her eyes. He looked up in awe, but barely registered the love in her eyes before he was swept up into the biggest hug he'd ever seen her give - even to his dad.
"Really? You would? Even though the wedding isn't for two weeks?" he couldn't believe it. He never thought he'd be able to go. He never thought he could feel like this again. Maybe that was how his dad felt too; so lucky to have found whatever this feeling was for a second time.
"Of course I would." Shelagh promised as she let him out of her arms and set beside him. "Timothy, I'm not looking after you or loving you just because I'm marrying your father. I want to look after you, and I choose to love you, and I will go to as many luncheons as you want me to until you're too embarrassed to have me."
This time, it was Shelagh who was pulled into the hug.
"Thank you, mum." Timothy whispered.
"Always, son." Shelagh whispered back.
By the time Sunday came around, Timothy never knew how much drama had gone into getting Shelagh there. He didn't know about Shelagh crying to Patrick the night he asked her to the Luncheon because she was worried about what people would think and she didn't want him to be teased.
He didn't know that Shelagh had asked Trixie to spend her day off shopping with her because she had no idea what to wear and she barely knew how to shop for day-to-day clothing, let alone for a special event.
He didn't know one of the other mothers had spoken rudely to Shelagh when she went to buy him a new dress shirt because the event was for 'real mothers only, not unmarried divorcees'.
He didn't know it had taken hours of Patrick talking to her to keep her from back out. He also didn't know that those hours of convincing involved more than talking, but that was for the best.
He didn't know that over the course of the week, Shelagh had insisted on having lunch with Granny Parker to discuss the new development and to offer to back out if it made the older woman uncomfortable. He eventually did find out about that conversation and was pleased to know that Granny Parker had told Shelagh in no uncertain terms that the only reason she would ever be upset was if she didn't go and hurt Tim in the process.
Most of all, he didn't know that Shelagh was scared. She wore her fear behind a well-trained mask and smiled and greeted the other mothers and children warmly. It wasn't until it was time for Akela to make a small speech, in fact, that he noticed she was fiddling with the tablecloth the same way he fiddled with his scarf when he was nervous or uncomfortable.
"Good afternoon, everyone." Chummy announced cheerfully. "Thank you all so very much for coming. Our Cubs and Brownies are so delighted to have you all here and we hope they've had an opportunity to show you some of what they have learned." To her right, Jack flicked his fork and a dollop of potatoes went flying past Chummy's head. "Yes, thank you, Jack." she remarked with poise, though the mother's laughed at the glare she sent the boy's way. "As many of you know, as a midwife of Nonnatus house, I spent a lot of time around mothers and babies, and to see you all celebrated today brings one unconceivable joy. You've raised such wonderful young boys and girls and to thank you for that, I would like to invite up the people who know you best: your children."
Shelagh turned to Timothy in panic.
"Timothy?" she asked fearfully. He hadn't told her he needed to say anything. She didn't want him to be uncomfortable.
"It's okay, mum. Akela helped me, and dad." he assured her, though his hand trembled a bit with the nervousness of public speaking and of making her proud.
One by one, the girls and boys of Poplar got up and spoke as best they could. The small speeches were moving, and often hilarious, but Shelagh found she couldn't pay attention to anything except when Chummy was going to call Timothy's name. He was finally called last - she hated alphabetical order. He was a 'T' in both first and last name. He couldn't win.
"Timothy Turner." Chummy called out with a smile. Timothy smiled back and made his way to the front of the room. Shelagh watched him go, eyes glued to him and trying to ignore the gazes of others flitting between son and step-mother-to-be.
"Thank you, Akela." he started softly. His eyes fell to Shelagh and he relaxed a bit. He could tell her anything. He began to read. "I didn't get to go to the Luncheon last year, or the year before that." Shelagh's heart melted. She'd forgotten that Marianne had been too sick to go the year before her death. "Bageerah said I could bring my dad if I wanted, but I didn't want to do that." he paused. "Aunty Shelagh takes really good care of me...and dad...but she took good care of me when she was Sister Bernadette too. Sometimes, if I had to go to Nonnatus after school to wait for dad, Sister Bernadette would help me with my homework or play games with me, and now she's Aunty Shelagh and she still wants to do those things. I wanted her to come today because she's not Sister Bernadette or Aunty Shelagh anymore, she's just mum, and she's a great mum and I want her to know that." Timothy had to stop looking at Shelagh because she was crying and he didn't know what to do when adults cried, but it was okay. Akela nudged him and when he saw Shelagh had stood up, he hurried over as fast as he could. Mother and son held each other close.
"I love you, Timothy." Shelagh spoke sweetly into his hair.
"I love you, mum." he sniffled back.
He couldn't have asked for a better Mother's Day.