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These Arms of Mine

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Chapter 1: ‘Lonely Tearsdrops’ – Jackie Wilson

 

‘Just give me another chance
For our romance
Come on and tell me
That one day you'll return
'Cause every day that you've been gone away
You'll know my heart does nothing but burn crying’

 

“I don’t want you to go.” Eleanor says. You stare into her eyes, so much like your own and smile.

“I know but I have to.” Your mind is set on it. You’ve known since Delia sent the letter asking for you that you would go.

Please, Pats, I need to see you.

“But why? Where are you going, Mama?”

“To see an old friend.” You hate leaving her and she hates you leaving but you must do this. It’s been eight years since you last saw Delia hop on that train bound for Wales. It’s been eight years since you caught a glimpse of those expressive blue eyes and dimples that could convince you to do anything. Eight long years and now you have a six-year-old daughter and widowhood to greet her with.

And what does she have to greet you with? A husband? A family? A life lived without you.

You lift Eleanor onto your knee and tuck a few errant strands behind her ear. She looks up at you, frown in place and lower lip poking out. You stroke her cheek.

“You’re my daughter, Eleanor, you know I wouldn’t leave you without good reason and you know I’ll be home as soon as I can. In the meantime, Aunt Trixie will be looking after you.”

“Auntie Trix?” she says, smile in place and dimples so reminiscent of Delia, of Edward, of your losses on show that it makes your heartache just a little.

“Yes.” Eleanor cheers and you smile. “Don’t think I don’t know about all that cake she feeds you, my Darling. Not too much, okay? You’ll make yourself sick,” you say, ticking her. She squirms and giggles in your arms and it fills you, it gives you air to breathe. You sometimes wonder if this is how you used to make your mother feel.

You hope so.

“I won’t, Mama. I won’t.” You stop tickling her and smile.

“I love you, Elle.”

“Love you, too, Mama” she says, reaching up and kissing your cheek with a loud ‘mwah’. You kiss her forehead, breathing in the scent of your little girl.

You hear a knock at the door and place her on the chair next to you before going to answer it, dusting imaginary lint off your jeans and squaring your shoulders as you rise.

“How’re my two favourite girls?” Trixie says, stepping into your living room and depositing her coat on the back of your sofa with a flick of her wrist, smile in place.

The glare you throw at her goes ignored as she breezes past and scoops Eleanor up. You shake your head, pick up her coat and hang it where it belongs, willing to play into this familiar theatrical routine to the soundtrack of their light-hearted laughter.

“We’re good, Aunt Trix.”

“Now that’s what I like to hear.” Trixie turns to face you, Eleanor tucked onto her hip. “And where are you going?” she says, cocking an eyebrow.

“Out. With a friend.” You say, looking for your gloves and willing yourself not to blush.

“And where might ‘out’ be?”

“Mama’s friend from London and Natus.”

“Oh, really, Elle Belle. Which friend is this?” You sigh.

“Delia.”

“Pats.”

“No, no, I know. She asked to see me. She needs me for something. I’ll go and do what I can and that will be that.” Trixie throws a sympathetic look your way and you look away. You can’t bear it. “I won’t be long, a couple of hours at the most. You know where everything is. Make sure she’s in bed by eight o’ clock.”

“I will, I know the drill,” Trixie responds, voice softer and less playful. You remember the days she used to tuck your little girl in, back when you first lost Edward and didn’t know what to do with yourself other than cry.

Another loss.

You loved him in your own way. You were the best of friends and he healed your broken heart after Delia left, always understanding that you loved him as much as you could but never that much. Always understanding that your heart belonged to somebody else, even if you never said who.

You swallow down the lump in your throat.

“I mean it. Be good. I know what you two are like when you get together.”

“Angels?”

“Devils. Now, I’ll be back as soon as I can,” you say, kissing Eleanor’s forehead and touching Trixie’s forearm.

“Take all the time you need, Pats. You know I love spending time with this little monster,” she says, squeezing your hand for a second before letting it go and spinning Eleanor in circles. Eleanor squeals and Trixie laughs, softly.

You smile and try to hold onto this lightness, this happiness for a few seconds longer.

“Thank you for this, Trix. I’ll see you soon. I love you both,” you say, righting your scarf around your neck.

“Love you, too,” they both respond in unison and you smile. What would you have done without Trixie? Trixie who’s always been there, helping you through losing Delia, losing Edward and raising your daughter alongside you, despite having her own family to look after.

At least if Delia is going to break your heart just a little bit more, you’ll be warm and comfortable, and you’ll have love to come back to.

You pull your coat tighter around you as the wind bites into your skin and tuck your head down, focusing on one foot in front of the other. What could she possibly want from you? You haven’t heard a word since her mother came and swooped her away from you and now she’s here, asking for you.

You feel sick, like you’re walking to the firing squad. You know it’s overdramatic but despite every loss, every time you remember your mother, your sister, your lack of family, the loss of Delia breaks you slightly more.

Because she’s alive.

She walked away.

She had a choice and she left you. She. Left. You.

You look up and focus ahead.

You have a daughter, now. Things are different. There’s a strength inside you you never knew before. Despite losing almost everyone, you feel stronger than ever with memories of Eleanor tucked inside your rib cage, fortifying your bones until they’re stronger than metal.

If she walks away, you won’t stand there watching this time. You will hold your head high, eyes dry and walk back to your daughters loving smile.

You keep walking, always looking forward, head high, even though for the first time since you read her letter, you’re wondering why you’re doing this, why she deserves your time. Even though, deep down, you know the answer.

Before you know it, you’re standing in front of Delia inside your old haunt. The Jukebox stills stands off to the side.

For a moment, the blue of her eyes takes your breath away. The smell of sweet smelling Tulips, the smell of her washes over you and every memory, every kiss, every touch comes flooding back.

You remember why you place fresh flowers on your window sill, every day, why you always smile when you deliver a cup of hot milk to Eleanor when she can’t sleep, why you never loved Edward as much as you wished you could. And it’s with these last thoughts you remember why you must be strong, why you cannot let her break you again, why you need to be everything your daughter needs you to be.

She cannot lose another parent. She will not suffer like you did. Luckily, Eleanor was young when Edward passed, when a car ran him over and took him from you both. You show her pictures and tell her stories about him and she listens, she learns and loves him in her own way, but you know it’s not the same. So, you square your shoulders, hold your head high and look the woman you love in the eye and the eye alone. You don’t want to see how good, how beautiful she looks despite knowing it must be so.

“Hello,” you say.

“Pats,” she breathes out wraps her arms around you. “It’s so good to you.” You politely smile and pat her on the back, a crease in your brow as you try to figure her out. She burrows her head into your neck. You tense and fall back on propriety, stepping away. Your skin feels two sizes two small and itches but you don’t let it show.

“It’s good to see you, too.”

“I’ve missed you so much.” She wraps her arms around herself and you frown. She’s missed you and yet she never responded to your letters. She upped and left without a word, and you both know that all she had to do was send you a letter or call you on the phone and you would have responded. Immediately. Like you have.

She’s missed you and yet she left without any contact.

You catch a glimpse of her tear stained face, red tinted cheeks, and blue, blue eyes before looking off to the side. You swallow and take a few moments to compose yourself.

“I believe you asked to see me?”

“Yes, yes.” She wipes quickly wipes her eyes and takes a breath, sitting down at that familiar table. “There’s so much to say- to tell you. I-I don’t know where to begin. I’m just so glad you came. That you’ve given me this chance.” She looks small and lost. It reminds you of that hospital visit.

You pull out the chair opposite Delia and take a seat.

“Just-just start at the beginning. Why am I here? What do you need? From me of all people? You never responded to my letters.” You clench your jaw and fist in tandem before releasing both. “I’m sorry. Please, go ahead. What do you need?”

“Oh, Cariad. Pats,” she whispers. You look around glancing at all the people who are paying you both no attention. “I did respond.” You frown.

“No, I never received a response. Not at all. God knows I wanted one. Just to even know you were okay would have been enough.”

“I know,” she says, reaching out and placing her hand over yours. Your mind is too pre-occupied trying to figure out what she’s on about to pull it away. “I know. Me,” she takes a deep breath before continuing, tears falling, once again. “Me Mam passed away a couple of months ago.”

“Oh, I am so sorry to hear that.”

“While I don’t doubt you are, I think a part of you isn’t but it’s okay. She was lost after Tad died and then she got sick, too. I half think it was heartbreak that killed her.”

“Delia, I really am sorry to hear that.” You turn your hand so it sits in hers and squeeze it for a moment before remembering yourself and quickly letting go. “How’re you holding up?”

“I’m getting there. It’s hard but,” she shrugs. “I’ll get there. I can be strong, just like you.” You smile in encouragement and wish you could help her but you still don’t understand what’s going on, what she’s trying to tell you. And you know nobody else can ever help with grief.

No matter who they are or what they mean to you.

You both sit in silence for a few minutes trying to figure out how to proceed. You play with your fingers, your mind simultaneously too empty and too full.

It’s with a deep breath and a wipe of her eyes that Delia begins again, tucking her hands in her lap and looking so, so small. How you wish you could wrap her in your arms and make everything okay but you know that won’t happen, not now and maybe not ever again. There’s a distance between you that’s never existed, not even when you first met and you wish you could melt into the rising darkness outside.

“I was there, in the room when she passed away. She kept saying sorry, that she wished knew how to fix it. I didn’t know what she meant, at first but then she told me about the letters, the ones you sent to me, the ones I wrote to you…the ones she kept in a locked drawer instead of posting.” You gasp and clench your jaw, a dull ache settling across…everywhere.

“Why?” Delia frowns. “Why did she do that? To you? To us?”

“I don’t know. She said she thought it was best and that afterwards, when she saw how sad and heartbroken I was she didn’t know how to fix it. She thought she’d lose me – that I’d come to London and be with you and that would be that. No letters, no calls.”

“Would it have been like that?” You wish you could lodge these words back into your throat as soon as you finish uttering them. It shouldn’t-it doesn’t matter. Not now.

“Maybe at first but I would have forgiven her, eventually. She was me Mam. I would have because I would have had you and I’d have been happy. We’d have been happy. And now? Now, I don’t know what to do. I don’t have any one and I can’t even be angry at her because she’s gone, but I am. I’m so, so angry at her. She took you away from me. I spent years wondering what I did wrong, why you wouldn’t reach out to me, why I wasn’t enough.” She looks down, playing with her fingers. “But it was her,” she says, her voice falling to nothing.

You wish you could cry. You want to but fire in your blood heats the tears to nothing and it feels like carbon monoxide is filling your lungs. Willing the sickness to stay down, you close your eyes and focus on your breathing, on inhaling oxygen to exhale the poison that that monster of a woman has placed inside of you.

All those years of hurting and wishing and wanting were because of her.

Your life could have been-would have been so different.

“I know things have changed. Phyllis once told me that you have a daughter and a husband. I don’t want to cause you anymore pain but I just-I just wanted you to know the truth. I never stopped wanting, I never stopped loving you and I’m happy for you. Really, I am.” She reaches forward, placing her hand on your lower arm, soft smile on her face as she looks down, wiping away the last of her tears. “I bet you’re an amazing mother.” She looks up, tilting her head and hitting you with a familiar twinkle in her red rimmed eyes. “I always imagined you as a stern but loving one. I’d sneak our child some sweets and you’d find out, telling us both off for spoiling our dinner but nursing us when we were sick from eating too much.” You smile and imagine Delia doing just that with Eleanor. Oh, how these two would cause you so much trouble if they were together.

“You imagined that?”

“Yes. I know it’s silly, that we could never have children together but, sometimes,” she shrugs and you see her rosy cheeks steadily redden. You’ve always adored it when Delia blushes, on the very rare occasions that ever happened. “I’d see you with a child and I just wouldn’t be able to stop myself from imagining a little you running about.” You smile and think of Eleanor, focusing on knowing that you have her to go home too, no matter the answer to your next question.

“What about you?” She frowns. “Did you ever-did you ever get married or find anyone else?”

“Of course not.” She looks down. You feel something lodge itself in your throat and it takes you a while to clear it and find a way to speak.

“Why? I bet you had all the men tripping over themselves for your hand.” You ignore the squeeze in your heart as you utter these words and force a smile on your face. Delia-the Delia that you remember always was the most desirable wife in your eyes.

“Because of you, Patience Elizabeth Mount. It’s always been you.”

“But I—”

“It’s okay, Cariad. I understand why. I’m glad you found somebody to love you, to give you a child.”

“I-it,” you take a few moments to formulate a response. “It wasn’t like that. He knew I never loved him like that.” She frowns and tilts her head, much like your daughter does now and your heart melts.

“Then why?”

“We-Edward and I were good friends. Trixie introduced us one night, about a year after you left.” You smile, remembering it well. His slick, dark hair and friendly face instantly endeared you to him. He was a good man. “He was-he was like us and after a few months, once we became really good friends, he confided in me that his family was pressuring him to marry.”

“Oh.”

“Yes,” you look down. “I’m not proud that I didn’t marry for love, neither was Edward. He used to dream about the day people like us could marry the people we really loved.”

“Someday we will be able too. I know it.”

“He used to say the same thing.” You smile again. “He always reminded me a little bit of you.”

“I’ll have you know, Patience Mount, that I am all woman, as well you know.” You can’t help the laughter spilling out from you. She always had this effect on you.

“Indeed, I do but that’s not what I meant. He was so optimistic, like you. So happy and cheerful. And he was from Wales, too.”

“Something about the Welsh, eh?”

“Yes.” You smile. “I think that was half the reason I could marry him – because he reminded me of you.”

“Then why,” she says, struggling to figure her thoughts. “Then why a child?” You sigh.

“We both loved Eleanor from the moment she was born but we didn’t create her from love. Edward’s mother wanted an heir but more than that, Edward and I wanted a child, just not with each other, and he wanted to provide even more security for me, should anything happen to him, because his mother never liked me.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, as optimistic as he was, he always felt like he would leave this world earlier than expected and he did.” Delia sucks in a breath and looks at you, trying to read how you are feeling.

“I’m glad you found such a good man, such a good friend to marry.” You smile. Of all the people, she would be the one to know not to apologise for his death.

“Me too.” You’re silent for a few minutes remembering his laughter, his friendship, his voice. “We were both so relieved when I got pregnant after our first, and only…encounter. I assure you, our natures were even more absolute after that excruciating experience. It took us all day, a lot of lewd magazines and a lot of imagination to make it work.” Delia giggles and you throw a playful glare in her direction. “Shouldn’t you be consumed with jealousy instead of laughing at me?” You smile at the twinkle in Delia’s eye.

“Would you be jealous if I lay with somebody else?” You sigh, once again.

“Unashamedly so.” She smiles and looks softly at you.

“A part of me is jealous but a bigger part of me is happy you have a child, a daughter no less, Cariad. And I know, I know now that it wasn’t from love – that it wasn’t like we were. But I meant it, I’m happy that you were loved by a good man. It’s all I ever wanted for you.”

The tears finally begin to come but you fight them, like always. You never have and never will be one to cry. Even with Delia, you rarely did so. She stands and walks around the table, arm raised to the side and head slightly tilted.

“Pats, let’s go for a walk. It’s still so warm out at this time of night and it’ll be good to get out of the glare of these lights.”

You stand and feel some of the distance begin to melt away as you hold the door open and catch a hint of that particular vanilla sweet scent.

It’s after a few minutes of you both walking along in silence, the darkness hiding a lot but not the paleness overclouding Delia’s face, that you notice something is wrong. Your surreptitious glances turn into a determined stare as you force her stop and stand in front of her, holding her in place and noticing the sheen of sweat, her ashen pallor, the subtle flinch as your voice breaks the silence to enquire what’s wrong.

“It’s-It’s not-nothing to w-w-worry about. Just.” She sighs. “After accident. Stress. Migraines.”

“Right. Well, we best get you home, then.”

“Sorry. Useless. So, useless.”

“No, this isn’t your fault.” You lift her chin and force her to look you in the eye. “We can continue this another time, for now, let’s get you home, okay?” you whisper as softly and jovially as you can. You wish you could continue this conversation, that you could begin to bridge the gap of eight years between you but more than that, you wish that Delia didn’t have to go through this.

You always wondered if there would be any lingering after effects. The fact that there is and that you’re in part the cause of this settles on your shoulders.

If she didn’t borrow your bike. If her mother didn’t come between you. If you’d have had the courage to go to Wales and demand and answer.

If. If. If.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: ‘Bring it on Home to me’ – Sam Cook

 

‘You know I'll always be your slave
'Til I'm buried, buried in my grave
Oh honey, bring it to me
Bring your sweet loving
Bring it on home to me’

 

It’s Saturday morning and you’re restless, replaying every moment of last night on loop. She’d looked so devastatingly good, even with tears falling and a bridge made up of every minute you’ve been separated stretched between you both. A bridge you’re willing to break down, if she is.

That’s why you’re here, in front of the stove with patches of flour on your hands, cheeks, the counter tops.

The smell brings back so many memories.

You see Delia’s excited face, eyes so, so blue and bright and loving as she shared her home delicacy with you for the first time. Of course, it was delicious but not as delicious as the smile you were graced with as she watched you savour the taste of her home, her childhood. The first of many experiences of hers she shared with you, recreated for you as if, piece by piece, she could build you a new childhood.

Maybe now you’ll get a chance to thank her, to tell her that you know how to be a good mother, to give Elle a good childhood all because of her.

You begin to cook a new batch and think of Edward. He’s the one that taught you how to make these one Saturday afternoon and it had become your tradition.

You still remember the first time he made them for you, the day before your wedding, your heart forever smarting over the fact that you were marrying the wrong person. You still remember the crease of a frown on his face, the downturn of his lips as yours quivered and a few stray tears began to fall.

He’d only ever seen you cry once before. Once when you vaguely told him of Delia, of the pain, the heartbreak. No names, no places but utter desolation.

“It’s okay, Anwylyd. I’m sorry, you don’t have to eat them.” You feel his arms wrap around you, the musky smell of him calms you.

“No. No, it’s fine,” you say, wiping away the tears. From that moment on, for the duration of your marriage, you’d stop finding things you couldn’t do together. He already put a stop to calling you Cariad, you’d promised to never call him Darling and both of you avoided eating fish and chips like the plague for your own reasons.

That afternoon, he taught you how to make Welsh cakes. An afternoon filled with laughter, of new memories mixed with the old, joyous ones and far too many welsh cakes residing in your stomachs.

You’d both fallen asleep on the sofa, far too full and tired to move. Even the crick in your necks as you woke up on your wedding day wasn’t enough to bring the mood down.

He was never who you wanted to marry but at least he was one of the greatest friends you could have asked for, and that was more than most.

Now, so many years later, here you were, standing with a smile on your face and packing up some of those delicious treats for the one you always wished you could marry.

You can almost see Edward standing beside you, dimpled smile on display, his dark hair perfectly styled much like the always pressed shirts he frequently wore. You can here the soft Welsh lilt to his voice encouraging you to at least forge a friendship out of your heartbreak.

That combined with Trixie’s subtle as a brick encouragement has spurred you on to do this. To do something nice, something meaningful but not too heavy to cheer Delia up, to make her feel better after how things ended last night.

If you didn’t have Eleanor to look after, you would have gone to her room with her, tucked her in and kept watch overnight. You’re not sure what’s between you anymore but you care. Above everything else you feel towards Delia and this situation, you can’t deny that you care – that you still love her.

You always will.

Even Trixie knows that, despite her curt mood last night as you returned home.

Trixie raises an eyebrow at you as you walk through the door into the kitchen, small smile in place.

“I take it the night went well.” You hum in response and Trixie narrows her eyes. “How is Delia?”

“Perfect.” You sigh, and Trixie rolls her eyes, following you from the living area into the kitchen where you begin preparing a milky brew.

“She broke your heart—”

“No. Her mother broke both of our hearts, not Delia,” you say, spinning around and glaring at Trixie. She takes a step back, frown in place. She moves her lips, but no words come out. You relax your defensive stance and feel the weight of the wold press down on you. “I-I’m sorry. It’s just,” you shrug. “I’ve always been a little bit defensive of Delia.”

“I know, I know you have but Pats, it’s been eight years.” She sighs. “Things aren’t the same. For both of you.”

You know this. God do you know this, especially after how the night ended. She’s both the same and different. There are new things for you to learn, to share…If she still wants that from you because you know. You know above any and everything that you want her in your life in whatever way she’ll allow. If friendship is all you can have, you’ll grip it tight with both hands, act your part in all the right places and do everything in your power to make her happy, to see a smile on her face.

You unclench your fists and wipe the sweaty palms against your jean clad thighs.

“I know.” You sigh. “It really wasn’t her fault, she explained everything.” Trixie looks suspicious but allows you to continue. “Her mother kept my letters from her, and her letters from me.”

“I know Mrs Busby was never the nicest woman in the world, but I never imagined she could be so cruel. What a rotten thing to do. And to her own daughter, no less.” She throws her arms in an exasperated manner before placing them on her hips and pacing the room.

“I know,” you say, sitting at the small table, back against the cold kitchen wall, the scraping of your chair the only noise for a few moments. Trixie pulls out the chair opposite you, lighting a cigarette and taking a few puffs before continuing.

“So, what happens now?”

You shrug, rolling down one of your plaid sleeves and playing with it as you try to formulate a response. What now? You know you want her in your life but how do you go about showing that? How do you show her your life, and include her within it? You’re a mother. You’re a mother and that means despite what you want, you might not be able to have it.

You frown, glaring at your shirt sleeves.

Trixie places her hand over yours and you still your fidgeting movements, slowly dragging your eyes to face her. You smile, your glare softens as you take her in, her long blonde hair still as vibrant and dyed as ever, those big eyes so gentle and understanding.

She gets it, she gets you.

“Well, how about we start with you going to see her again? Knowing you, I’m assuming there’s still more for the both of you to say? Hmm?”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right. We had to-we couldn’t finish our conversation.” She quirks an eyebrow and you look away. “She wasn’t feeling too good, is all. Maybe I should check on her in the morning?”

“Splendid idea.”

“You’re sure it’s not too much? What if she doesn’t want to see me, Trix? I-I have a child now. That could be too much. Things have changed so much. I-I don’t want to lose her again.” You scoff. “Not even now when we haven’t even friendship to bind us.” Trixie rolls her eyes and sighs so deeply, you wonder if there’s any oxygen left inside of her.

“Patience, you are being utterly ridiculous. She’s come back to Poplar and arranged a meeting with you after 8 years. 8 long years and she came here to speak to you over the stupidity of her brutish mother. I know it’s not good to speak ill of the dead, but that woman was a devil.”

“Trix.” She sends a sharp look your way. “As much as it pains me to say it, she is Delia’s mother and though she mostly went about displaying that in the wrong way, I’m sure it came from love.”

“Maybe. Maybe you’re right but Pat’s, look what she’s done to you both. You’re here doubting whether Delia, the woman that looked at you as though you were the reason the earth rotated, even wants to see you, much less anything else.”

It’s quiet, too quiet and your skin begins to crawl before the habit of a lifetime begins to kick in.

“How was Elle?”

“Perfect as always, the little angel.” You scoff but adore the softening of Trixie’s voice as she talks about your daughter. The being that came from inside you, that personifies all the good in you

“Maybe for you. You’re not the one that has to mother a sugar fiend both before and after the inevitable energy crash hits.”

She laughs and rubs her empty belly.

“Maybe so, but I do have two boys to contend with. I hope we have a daughter, one day.”

“You will, but for now, you can borrow mine to occasionally dress up in pretty dresses,” you say, squeezing her hand and rising. “Coffee?”

“Perhaps I should head home and make sure my children are in bed.”

“Did she go down easy at eight?” you say, eyes narrowing at the silence as you turn to look at Trixie, who looks everywhere but at you.

“It may or may not have been a little after eight, but not too late.”

“Mhmm.”

“It wasn’t. She wanted just one last story.”

“She always wants ‘one more story’ from you,” you say, smile in place.

“She really is an angel, Pats.”

“I know.” You know it’s not physically possible, but you feel your heart melt as you think of your daughter. In an instant, you feel your heart melt a little bit more as you imagine Elle and Delia, together and smiling and happy.

It’s the same warmth that flooded your system as Trixie hugged you goodbye and said, “don’t be shy, Patience, fight for her, this time,” before squeezing your wrists an elegantly strutting out of the door.

Something collides and wraps itself around your leg just as you’re laying out a few Welsh cakes on a plate, a side of jam and butter ready for you to slather on for your daughter.

“Mama.”

“Hello, Darling, did you sleep well?” you say, ducking down to her level. She nods her head. You take in her unruly morning hair, sticking in all directions, her yellow mussed up pyjamas, the crease marks of her pillow temporarily etched into her cheek.

You wonder if you mother felt this sense of awe, this sense of complete and utter devotion when she looked at you and your sister. Like you would do anything to see her happy.

You wonder how Mrs Busby could stand to do that to Delia. You know she never liked you, only endured your presence for her daughter and you get that, you do, but to do that, to take away happiness, to take away love from your child is unimaginable.

“Well, Bach, would you like to partake in some of these delicious Welsh cakes?”

“Yes, Mama,” she says.

You both walk towards the dining table before lifting her slightly to aid in her climbing onto the seat. Bach, such an appropriate nickname for you’re small, half Welsh princess. Edward had taught you that word, had called Elle that from the moment she was born and even though your pronunciation is more than a little bit too English for the word, as Edward lovingly used to tease you, you still can’t give it up, can’t let her go without something from him.

“Mama, we see Nana today?”

You internally cringe at seeing the remnants of her partially swallowed breakfast before you.

“Eleanor Mount, you do not talk with a mouth full of food. But yes, you are to spend the morning with Nana Phyllis. I may or may not have heard she brought you a little gift from Spain.” She bounces in her seat and you try to get her to keep still.

They have always had a wonderful relationship, one that you’re more than proud to witness and combining that with the fact your gifts are involved? Well, you’re already prepared to face the losing battle of calming her down and instead focus on making her as presentable as possible.

And what a sight it is. As much as Eleanor Mount and Beatrix Franklin love wearing dresses, together, love wearing anything remotely linked to the phrase ‘girly’, Eleanor is still your daughter. She’s six and you’re allowing her to begin to express herself in what she wears and whilst sometimes, it’s dresses, today it’s jeans and a blue jumper, the latter a gift from Phyllis.

When your daughter looks at you, eyes so blue, a different face briefly flashes before your eyes and you feel electric as you remember your plan for the rest of the morning.

A knock at the door and an excited squeal from your daughter bring you back to the task at hand.

When you open the door, you see Phyllis waiting for you. Solid, unchanging, reliable Phyllis that’s been a lighthouse to you more times than you care to count in the past eight years. The sincere smile that spreads across your face is effortless, instinctual, as is the softening of every tense limb.

Here was this woman who’d always looked after you, looked after Trixie and Barbara and Eleanor, and as you so recently found out, Delia. This brick of a woman has spent years looking after the very foundations of your world and you wish you could thank her, that you could use words and be eloquent enough to tell her everything within your heart. The knowing look as she glances your way, arms wrapped around Elle tells you that she might know, and you step forward, wrapping your arms around them both.

“Oh, I say, Lass, are you okay?”

“I’m very much perfect, Phyllis. How was your holiday?”

“It was delightful but I’m glad to be back with my Cariño,” she says, pinching Eleanor’s nose and you smile at their antics, their giggles.

“Missed you, Nana.”

“I’ve missed you, too, Lass but today, today we don’t need to miss each other. You’re all mine,” she says, tucking a far too old Elle onto her hip. You know better than to say anything about Eleanor being old enough to walk.

“So, ladies, what’s the plan?” You ask, standing at the car door as Phyllis straps your child into the seat.”

“Today, today we tackle the Natural History Museum, right, Cariño?”

“Yeah. Dinosaurs.”

“Well, Darling, you enjoy yourself and be good for Nana. I love you.”

“Love you,” she says as her door shuts.

You grab Phyllis’ arm before she can move to open her door. She looks at you, stern faced as usual before softening, turning steel edges into rounded corners at the sight of you biting your lip, brow creased. You untangle your fidgeting fingers and straighten out the green and white floral dress you’re wearing, smiling at the sight. Delia always loved you in green.

“Thank you, Phyllis. Just thank you.”

“Whatever for, Lass? You know It’s always a pleasure spending the day with Elle.”

“I know. What I mean is, thank you,” you say, looking up to face her, staring her in the eye, “thank you for looking out for Delia when all of us failed too.”

She smiles.

“Patience, there’s not a thing for you to thank me for. Delia is a wonderful girl, a wonderful friend to me. I always thought you two would find your way back together. She only told me about her mother’s…involvement a few weeks ago, else I would have been sure to interfere years ago. I’m only sorry you lost so much time.”

“Me too.”

You swallow and will the tears stinging your eyes to stay down. Phyllis squeezes your hand and climbs into the car. You watch until they’ve turned at the end of the road before entering your house.

“Right, Patience Mount. Time to get on, no dilly dallying and putting things off today, I’m afraid. Oh, no. I’m going mad,” you say, closing your eyes and searching out the Tupperware box filled with a certain sweet treat for a certain sweet heart.

*

You take a deep breath.

“Delia, it’s me,” you say after three raps on her door.

She opens the door and you swallow, deeply. What a sight to behold? This woman has always been beautiful to you, no matter her appearance but there was always something about her with her hair down that did something to you.

“Morning, Pats.”

“Just about.” You mirror the smile stretched across her face, still standing in the doorway clutching your Tupperware box and taking in the sight of Delia in her pyjamas, the sneaky moments you got to see this before, at the London, flit before your mind’s eye.

“Well, are you going to come in or stand out there like a Wally?”

You step into her room and take it in, almost missing the click of the door shutting. There’s a single bed, an opened suitcase still full of her clothing sitting on the one chair in the room, and one window letting in glorious sunlight, a vase of tulips proudly standing to attention on its sill, a myriad of yellow, red and orange petals warming the room.

You marvel at how she can make such a utilitarian room feel like home.

“What’s that you’ve got there?”

“Oh,” you turn to face her and say, surprised that you’d completely forgotten your mission for the morning. “I brought these to you-for you. How are you feeling?”

She smiles.

“I’m okay, Cariad. The headaches are much better now than they used to be, so they go away pretty quickly, now. And as you can see, I haven’t exactly been busy this morning.”

She throws a cheeky grin your way and you feel the tension ease as you perch at the foot of her bed, the one she’s sitting on, legs bent to the side and arm bearing her weight. You quickly look away from the glimpse of her collar bone her position displays to you, willing your cheeks not to heat up as you remember the taste of that patch of skin.

“So, what did you bring me?”

“Oh, yes. Here. I just thought these might cheer you up a bit. I put a jar of jam in my bag but I’m afraid butter wouldn’t have lasted. Though I suppose I could have asked the proprietors of this establishment if I could have temporarily liberated them of some. Maybe I should go down and ask,” you say, beginning to rise.

“Pats, don’t be silly,” Delia says, her gentle Welsh lilt fully prominent. “This, this is perfect. Diolch, Cariad. It really has made me feel much better.” She squeezes your wrist before diving in and taking a bite, a few stray crumbs sticking to her cheeks and dropping to the bed cover as she enthusiastically takes a bite.

You ignore the moan that leaves her mouth and begin rooting around in your bag for the strawberry jam, presenting it to her.

“You really are an angel, you know that?”

“Yes, an angel that’s going to make you go sit on the chair over there rather than dirty up your bed covers.”

She laughs.

“Some things don’t change.”

“And too many things do.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” she says around a mouthful of food. You roll your eyes.

“Delia,” you reprimand. “It’s unbecoming to talk with a mouthful.”

“Sori,” she says, taking out another cake and dipping it into the jar of jam.

“What am I going to do with you?”

She looks up, grinning, cheeks puffed out as she continues eating, thankfully with her mouth closed, and melt at the glint in her eyes.

“What are you doing for the rest of the day? Or are you going to be luxuriating upon this delightful single bed in your night clothes all day?”

She laughs, licking her fingers clean before shrugging.

“I don’t know. Maybe go for a walk, I really am feeling better and I have so much energy, today.”

“Yes, well, maybe that’s because of the amount of sugar you’ve just consumed.”

“I suppose you’re right, yet again, Patience Mount. Who taught you to make Welsh cakes, Pats?” She rises and begins rooting through the suitcase she’d placed on the floor.

“Oh, erm, Ed-Edward.” You play with the edges of her duvet.

“Good man. He knew exactly what to teach a Welsh man’s wife.” She looks up winks and you narrow your eyes in mock annoyance.

“And just what is that supposed to mean?”

Her cheeky expression immediately dissolves into a faux innocent one and you bite back the smile threating to take over your face, cheeks twitching at the effort.

“It would have been the one thing I’d teach my wife. What’s the point of marrying her if she can’t even cook the best meal around?” Your hearty laugh fills the room and Delia smiles, tongue between her teeth.

“I’d hardly call it a meal, and I’m surprised you can even taste them with the amount of jam you slathered on.”

“It only enhanced the flavour Miss ‘thin layer of butter and jam’ Mount.”

“You know me well.”

“Hmm. I hope I still do.”

“Well, I quite agree, a spot of fresh air would do us good. How about I go wait in the foyer and you get ready, yes?”

“Ever the planner. Sounds perfect, Pats, I’ll be quick.”

Warmth. That’s what you feel. The kind that comes from sitting by the fire with a warm, milky brew on a cold December night, Eleanor tucked into your side. Heat seeping into your bones and you feel so relaxed, so…free.

Delia is by your side, arm brushing against yours as she walks next to you, smile on her face. You can’t help but smile, too.

“Ah, the smoggy Poplar air, haven’t I missed you?” she says, taking a rather too deep to be useful breath to demonstrate her point.

“What’s not to miss? Cramped streets, noisy neighbours, and smoggy air. Much better than your Welsh valleys, I’d say, Delia.” She laughs.

“Yes, but at least you and Phyllis are here.”

“That we are. Nana Phyllis is with Elle today. I do believe they’re terrorising the staff at the Natural History Museum today.”

“Nana Phyllis? How lovely, Pats.”

“Yes, I always thought so. Phyllis has been a mother to us all in so many ways and now she Elle to grandmother.” You smile. “She’s given up so much,” you sigh.

“Yes, she has. But look what she has now? Trips to Spain, a family, a wonderful job, and no husband to bother her. I’d say she’s living the dream.”

“Would you now, Miss Busby?”

“I-I always thought, after I went back to Wales. Well, I always thought that if I could live a life like Phyllis’, well, I’d be happy enough with that.”

“Would you?”

“I don’t know. I think so, I hope so. We’ll see, right, Pats?” She looks at you, blue locked on to blue.

“Yes, I suppose we will. Unless some man sweeps you off your feet.” She throws her head back in laughter.

“Not likely. I’ve spent the past eight years working and avoiding marriage for a specific reason, I’ll have you know.”

“I bet you have. So, there were offers?” You force your voice to be strong, clinical, slipping into your Nurse Mount persona, instinctually. You turn yourself a little to face her, to gage her reaction.

“There was some…offers made but of course I turned them down, much to my Mam’s dismay.” Delia shrugs. “I retrained as a midwife.”

“Really?”

“Yes. It’s amazing. So much more rewarding than male surgical and it reminded me of you. It made me feel closer to you, somehow.” She stops a second to look at you and smile. “But now, we’re both here so I guess I don’t need that anymore.” You continue walking.

“That you don’t but you’re not planning on giving it up, are you?” She sighs.

“Maybe. I mean, I’m just waiting for the sale of me Mam and Tad’s to go through, so I can move back to London. Matron said when I’d left there’d always be a job waiting for me. I know it’s been eight years, but I’ve written to her every now and again and I went to see her yesterday, before I saw you. The old battle-ax is still as daunting as ever but Pats, she honest to God hugged me.”

“Excuse me? Are we talking about the same Matron? The very same one that had men overexerting themselves to try and get better faster to get away from her?”

“The very same,” she says, giggling. “But yes, before I left, she offered me a job should I choose to take it. Enough about me, though, Pats. What about you? What do you do now? I can’t imagine you as anything other than a midwife. A house wife just doesn’t seem to suit you.” You laugh.

“Luckily for me, Sister Julienne has allowed me to continue working at Nonnatus during the day. Obviously, there’s limitations to all that I can do, and it is not as rewarding as being a full-time midwife, but the nuns love Elle and its nice being useful.” You sigh. “If only for a little while. I’d hate to be in the house doing nothing all day. It’s a nice balance, though. I get to work and be a mother. It’s the best of both worlds.”

“I can imagine. And I bet you excel in both of your roles.”

“Yes. It was so very kind of Sister Julienne to allow me this privilege and I do hope so, though I’m afraid I may be sadly lacking in both, still, sometimes.”

“Oh, Pats, still doubtful as ever despite how exemplary you’ve always been in everything you do.

“So, you’ve been in contact with Phyllis?”

“Yes. After the last dinner I had in Nonnatus house, we talked. She’s so kind and easy to confide in. It was weird to write to her, at first, especially after months of not receiving a response from you, but eventually, it just became therapeutic and sometimes she’d say something about you.” She clears her throat. “I-I always thought she knew. At least how I felt about you.” You frown, and Delia catches it. “We never spoke about it…explicitly but it was just the way she phrased things, the way she seemed so sympathetic when she told me about you getting married.” Your skin feels too small for your frame and your throat clogs up. How heart-breaking it must have been for Delia to learn of your engagement, your marriage, your pregnancy. You imagine how it would feel to hear about Delia doing all those things and swallow down the sick feeling creeping up on you.

“Well, I think I can safely confirm that she did-does know.”

“Yes, after my last conversation with her in Wales, I think I can soundly agree with you. I think I’d still be in Wales wallowing after all I’ve lost if it wasn’t for her.”

You stop walking. Delia walks a few paces ahead before realising and turns to face you.

“Oh, Patsy, I am so sorry. You must think me an insensitive brute of a woman.” You shake your head.

“Delia, whatever are you talking about?” You step forward and wrap your arms around her. “I really am sorry for your loss.”

She burrows her head, tucking herself under your chin, ear pressed to your chest and for an instant, you worry she can hear the thudding of your heart before disregarding the worry completely. This is Delia. She needs this. She’d always been one for physical displays of affection, no matter how small, when upset.

You.

You and Phyllis, that’s what she said.

That’s all she believes she has left.

You decide then and there to not let her down, to be what she needs and show her there is more.

“Come?”

“Hmm?”

“Come tomorrow.” She lifts her head from your chest, arms still wrapped around you and frowns. You shake your head, willing some semblance of sense to come seeping through your thoughts as you both disengage from one another. “Come tomorrow. It’s my turn to host our weekly Sunday dinner. Phyllis will be there.”

“And who else?”

“Oh, just the usual gang. Trixie and her husband John, Barbara, Tom, Val and Lucille – if they can make it – and Elle.”

“So, your daughter, your best friend’s and their partners, and two people called Val and Lucille? That all?” You wince at the sarcasm in her voice.

“Yes, that’s all. Well, and don’t forget Phyllis. She’d love to see you there, I’m sure.” She bites her lip and stands beside you before beginning to walk the cobbled streets again.

“I don’t know, Pat’s. I wouldn’t walk to intrude. And would I even be welcome?”

“Nonsense. You wouldn’t be intruding, I’ve invited you and of course you’d be welcome. If memory serves me right, Trixie and Barbara were quite fond of you,” you say, ignoring the years of misdirected anger Trixie sent Delia’s way. Surely things would be different now? Now Trixie knows as much as you about the situation? You shake your head. “Please, Deels, I’d love for you to be there, to meet everyone. Phyllis already loves you, Val and Lucille are lovely and my daughter, well, I have an inkling that you may well become her favourite person.”

You surreptitiously look at Delia from the corner of your eye as she worries her lip and sigh.

“You don’t have to, not if you really don’t want to. I’m sorry for asking.”

“It’s-It’s not that, Pats. Of course, I’d love to meet everyone, see your home, your daughter but what if I’m not good enough? What if they-what if she doesn’t like me?”

“Rubbish. How could she not like you? Hmm? Your favourite colour is yellow, you’re a sugar fiend and you know how to bake? She’ll adore you. In fact, I’d wager she’ll want to trade me in for you in no time.” Delia giggles and you relax at the sound. “Just…think about it, please?”

“I will, Cariad,” she says, softly. “I mean,” she says brightly, too brightly, “if we’re going to be friends, I best meet everyone, right?”

You swallow. A car whizzes by and you check the street you’re now walking on. There’s a pub up ahead with two men sitting outside, beers in hand despite it only being the early afternoon, cigarettes hanging from their lips and a row of shops, bustling with activity across the street.

And you vow, you vow to try your best to never mess this opportunity up.

Not again.

You stand as close as propriety will allow, briefly squeezing her fingers.

“Whatever will make you happiest, Deels,” you whisper.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: ‘Can’t Nobody Love You’ – Solomon Burke

 

‘I’m gonna love you in the morning, baby
And I’m gonna love you through the night
I won’t stop
I won’t stop loving you, babe
‘Til everything’s alright

Can’t nobody love you
Like I’m loving you right now
‘Cause they don’t know how to love you
Don’t know how to love you like I do’

A cool, comforting breeze rushes over you both, sunlight warming your skin almost as much as Delia walking close beside you does.

“What’s she like?” Delia asks as you amble back to her lodgings after exploring the maze of Poplar streets.

You frown.

“Eleanor,” she clarifies.

You take a few moments to formulate a response.

“You.”

“Cariad, how could she be like me? She doesn’t even know me.”

“No, she doesn’t but whenever I look at her, I see you.” Delia furrows her brow. “She has your eyes – so expressive, so blue.” Delia’s hearty laugh, her smile steals your attention for a few moments, as they always have. You surreptitiously glance around the deserted street, squeezing her hand as yours brushes past. “And a dimple like yours when she smiles. And the cheekiest grin. She always keeps me on my toes. She’s wonderful, perfect…She’s just like you.”

You look down at your feet. You’ve never been one for expressing yourself but something about this moment means words that used to be so hard to find, flood from you. Maybe it’s the fact that she never meant to leave you, that you’re a mother, that you have this chance. Whatever it is, it’s softened you.

“Oh, Cariad, you always were a sweet talker when you wanted to be.” You laugh, lightness filling your chest as Delia looks at you like that. Like she used to. “Do you think.” Delia looks down and the smile that was on her face fades. “Do you think she’ll like me?”

She plays with her fingers and oh, how you wish you weren’t walking down the street, that people couldn’t see you, that you could wrap her in your arms.

“I know she will.” Delia looks up, smile back in place and beams at you.

“How old is she?”

“Six.”

“When is her birthday?”

“The 8th of April.”

“Favourite colour?”

“Yellow, just like yours.”

“Good choice.”

“Yes, I thought you might like that fact. Maybe, if you come tomorrow, you’ll both get to tell me why Red is an inferior colour and that the front door should most certainly be painted a brighter colour.”

You wink.

Delia bites her lip and you mirror her, teeth biting into soft flesh and heat crawling up your body as you imagine things decidedly too wicked for such a public setting.

“Maybe,” she says, looking small as you’ve ever seen her as she shrugs.

“Either way, whenever you two meet, I’m sure you’ll have endless moments of joy singling me out.”

She laughs, lightly.

“I’m just-I’m just scared she won’t like me, Pats. You don’t know for certain that she will.”

“Deels, I most assuredly do know that she will adore you. If I thought otherwise, I wouldn’t want you to meet each other.” You hook your arm with hers. “But there’s plenty of time for meetings, right, Deels?” You ask, heart beating almost as quickly as it did the first time you and Delia shared a kiss.

You almost smile at the confidence, the single mindedness of a younger Delia as she marched in the room, berating you for being a “ridiculous fool” after you’d spent the week avoiding her, avoiding your feelings for her. You remember her hands moving from her shapely hips and framing your face as she kissed you, briefly, “getting it over with” before you both dived in again, exploring her mouth with yours, tentatively beginning to learn the continent of her body as your hands wandered and you pushed her back onto your bed.

Delia’s voice brings you back in an instant, better than any bucket of ice could.

“I suppose I should meet everyone. I’m only here for another week before I have to go back.”

“Oh, yes, right. Of course.” So that’s how long she’s here for. She was only here to clear her conscience before meandering back to Wales, to her life, to a place far away from you.

She watches you and you avoiding meeting her eye. She brings you to a stop outside where she’s staying, the one she has only seven days left of occupying. You will Nurse Mount to put in an appearance, to shield you until you get home, get through your day and can curl up in your bed and cry.

“Patience Elizabeth Mount, you can get that kicked puppy look off your face, right now and look at me.” You look up, frown in place, preparing to argue your case when a raised hand stops you. “I have to go back to settle a few things. I told you I was moving back here, back home but it can’t be now.” She sighs. “It can’t be now, no matter how much I wish it.” She deflates, and you simultaneously wish you could bear the burden for her and berate yourself for always thinking the worst.

“I understand but we still have the week, don’t we? Let’s not dwell on impending departures.”

Her hand on your bicep stops you from turning away to walk toward the door to her temporary abode. You tense for a moment before relaxing and facing her. She stares you in the eye.

“I’m coming back, Patsy. It won’t be another eight years.”

You swallow.

“Right, of course. Now, may I walk you to your door, Miss Busby,” you say, complete with a flourish of your hand.

She giggles.

“You most certainly may, Miss Mount. Wait.” You both stop, Delia frowning. “Is it Miss Mount? Or Mrs Mount? Or Ms Mount? Or Mrs something else?” You raise an eyebrow before rolling your eyes.

“Miss Mount will do nicely, Delia.” She laughs, and you wonder how she can be so okay with you marrying somebody else.

If the roles were reversed, you’d be furious at him, at her, at the world.

You wonder if Delia meant it when she said you were to become friends. You wonder how you’ll navigate only friendship with the love of your life. The only thing you know for certain is that you will endure anything to have her in your life, even if it means a lifetime of restraint.

“How would you like to come in for a milky brew?” Delia says as you get to the door.

“Perhaps we could put a hold on the milk and exchange the tea for coffee?” Delia wrinkles her nose and you laugh. “Not a fan?”

“Not a bit but your wish is my command.”

She walks through the door. You follow, admiring the curve of her hip, the swing of her arms, the shape of her legs.

*

“So, what’s this Val and Lucy like?” Delia asks as she lounges on her bed, milky tea in hand. You’re perched at the foot of it, eyeing up the chair Delia saw fit to place her open suitcase back on to. You’re in desperate need of some distance to prevent your natural inclinations from taking over.

“Val and Lucille?” you say, taking a sip of your black coffee. It’s granulated but you make do and suppress your wince at the taste.

“Oh, right, yes. Sorry, I got a bit confused.”

“Well, they’re both lovely, hardworking midwives.” She raises an eyebrow at you and you narrow your eyes. “They’re very close friends to one another.” She smirks, and you try to hold back your grin. “They’re a good team, both unattached and have no children so I’m afraid they pick up a lot of the work load for me when I’m unavailable. I’ve no doubt Sister Julienne wouldn’t have allowed me the privilege she has without them working at Nonnatus. That combined with the fact our workload has somewhat declined…but that’s beside the point. I think you’ll like them. Val was in the army and Lucille is a former librarian from Jamaica.”

“From reading books to delivering babies. That’s quite a leap.”

“Yes, I suppose it is. I’ve never really thought about it.” You shrug.

“Still a mixed bunch down at Nonnatus, I see.”

“Yes, it makes one being rather different much easier to bear and it’s nice having something in common with them both. Val is familiar with the horrors of war and Lucille knows what it’s like to be raised somewhere other than England.

There’s others, Nurse Evans, a rather severe woman who’s taken over Phyllis’ role and Nurse Tate, her protégée, you could say. I’m afraid neither are very happy with me working and being a mother.”

“That’s crazy. You’re a damn good nurse.”

“Language.”

“Sorry, Cariad but that’s ridiculous. You’re good at your job and you’re not neglecting your motherly duties so why should it matter?” You shrug.

Their annoyance matters little to you, anymore. The little comments against your character, the rather curt responses you frequently receive are nothing to you because as Delia observed, as Trixie, Barbara, Phyllis, Val, Lucille, even Sister Julienne remind you, you’re good at what you do, at being a competent nurse as well as a mother first and foremost.

“It’s these bloody narrow minded old biddys.”

“Delia.”

“I’m sorry, but it is. How is anything going to change for the better with people like that judging everyone? They’d sooner have us all chained to a man pumping out babies.” You smirk as she begins pacing up and down the room.

“Darling, I don’t think even Jesus himself could chain you to a man.” You lean back, resting on your elbows and observe this formidable, beautiful, passionate woman.

 “I should hope not. Some of us don’t need men. We’re not poor little creatures who can’t thrive on their own.”

“Here, here.”

“Yes, they have their uses, as your Eleanor proves but they’re not for everyone. So why shouldn’t we have careers. And why shouldn’t you be a working mother?”

“I quite agree.”

“Sorry,” Delia sighs. “It just reminded me of some arguments with me Mam.” She stands in the middle of the room, arms wrapped tight around herself.

“Not to worry, Deels. We, neither of us, must worry about men and marriage anymore so let’s just ignore those who are ignorant. As you said, we at Nonnatus are a mixed bunch.

Perhaps I could have a word with Sister Julienne? There’s not a terribly big workload but I do believe with mine, and Phyllis’, I’m sure, recommendation, she’ll fit you in. It’ll be nice to work alongside somebody I used to, especially since Trixie and Barbara have been house wives for so long.”

“I don’t know, Pats. I wouldn’t want to cause any issues and for now, for now I think I need to focus on meeting your-your family.”

She sits beside you, her warmth seeping into you.

“How are Trixie and Barbara?”

“Both happily married with little sprogs of their own.” She smiles.

“Good. That’s good. I’m sure they have beautiful families.”

“Yes, they do and they’ve been a godsend with me and Eleanor after Edward passed on.”

“I won’t lie to you, Pats, it hurt to hear that you’d found someone, married someone but I was so, so happy that you had someone to look after you, to love you and begin a family with. And because of that, I wish-I wish that he was still here, that I could meet him.”

You take deep breaths, your eyes burning and your hands beginning to shake. You put down your coffee you’d just taken a sip from and turn to face Delia, eyes looking at your hands as they reach to hold hers.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I was too scared to come after you. I’m sorry you had to hear about these things. I was happy with him.” You look up at her, wiping away some of her tears before continuing, once again looking down. “He was a great husband, a great father, a great friend that I wish you could have met. But he was never you. I loved him in my own way, but-but I just need you to know. I need you to know that I never loved him like I love you.”

“Cariad.”

“It was so hard, sometimes. For both of us. When Eleanor was conceived, to derive any pleasure from the moment at all, I had to imagine you. And Edward, poor, Darling, Edward, he shouted out “Philip” as he finished…the deed but it needed to be done and we didn’t know of any other way to do so.

Of course, now, I wonder why we didn’t just use something akin to an oral syringe but, at the time, it just felt like so much pressure and I’m afraid my brain wasn’t being as sharp as it usual is. I’d married this man, one of my best friends to appease society and yet it was still demanding more of me, of my body.”

She wraps her arms around your shaking body as your recall the best and worst of your marriage. You don’t regret Eleanor, you’d loved her from the moment you saw her, but her conception and your pregnancy was less than ideal.

Indeed, he really did have rather too much of one thing and not enough of another.

“It’s okay, love. No more remembering for either of us, today, okay? We’ve plenty of time to catch up.” You nod your head against her chest, sniffling a little as she holds you tight.

“Nid wy'n gofyn bywyd moethus,
Aur y byd na'i berlau mân:
Gofyn wyf am galon hapus,
Calon onest, calon lân,” Delia sings into your ear and you begin to calm down as she rocks you both.

“She knows,” you say, voice hoarse.

“Hmm?”

“Elle. She-she found some pictures a while ago; there was one of us when we worked together at the London. She asked about you and I told her.”

“Everything?” she says.

You sigh.

“Of course, there were…things I could not tell her, but she knows that I care very deeply about you and most importantly, she knows you love yellow and cupcakes.”

“Well, that is very important information.”

“Yes, especially to a six-year-old. Speaking of, I’m afraid I must go,” you say, disentangling yourself after noticing the hour.

It feels like you’ve only just arrived and there’s so much more to say between you both. You’d both meandered the streets of Poplar, talking about everything and nothing so much so, you barely remember most of the conversation. You only remember the feeling of contentment, of feeling as though your world has become a little more complete.

“Despite the fact I’m sure Phyllis and Eleanor don’t need me, we did arrange to meet at the house for four so I’m afraid I’m already running late. Good thing Phyllis has a spare key.” You stand, wiping your eyes and taking in another glance of her room, her belongings, her space.

“Good thing indeed. One last thing, Cariad.”

She walks over to her suitcase, rooting around for something at the bottom before turning to present it to you.

It’s a photo. It’s a photo of a simpler time, a different time. A younger version of you and Delia stares back at you. You stroke the glass covering her face, smiling fondly as you recall the escapades you both used to get up to at the London and those God awful uniforms.

“A photo like that, eh, Cariad?”

“Yes, indeed.”

“Now,” she says, taking the photo from you and hugging it to her chest. “Off with you, Patience Mount. Go look after your girl.”

You smile and turn to go, stopping before you exit her space.

“See you soon, Deels?”

“See you soon, Pats. 11 tomorrow okay for you?”

“Perfect.” You nod, smiling. “I’ll pick you up then.”

You cannot wait.

*

You frown as a sense of Déjà vu overwhelms you.

Delia has crawled back under her duvet after letting you into her room.

The curtains are closed.

You’d walked, nearly skipped over, palms sweaty and a beaming grin of your face, imagining how the day was going to play out.

But being here reminds you, reminds you to know better than get your hopes up.

A pale faced Delia lies curled up in front of you, brow creased and a stray tear falling from her closed eyes.

“Sorry,” she whispers.

“Whatever for?”

You walk over, sitting on the edge of her bed and running your hand over her back. You feel the fabric of her shirt sticking to her skin and sigh.

“Another headache?” She flinches at the volume of your voice. “Sorry,” you whisper.

“Y-yes. Nervous.” She winces. “Stress. Headache.”

Your stomach drops as you witness yet another side effect to the accident.

You’ve so many questions.

So much has changed all from that one incident.

“I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry,” you settle for whispering, resting your forehead on her bicep and squeezing her arm. You breathe in the vanilla sweet scent of her and remind yourself that she’s okay, in temporary debilitating pain, but otherwise okay.

You want to wrap yourself around her and whisper your sorrys until everything is okay, again.

If you could take back that moment, that decision to allow her to use your bike, you think you just might to spare her this pain. And yet, you don’t think you ultimately would. Not if it meant never meeting Edward and giving up Eleanor.

Things are so complicated in your head, it’s a wonder you haven’t developed a much milder headache, yourself.

“Why?”

“Hmm.”

“You’re sorry. Why?”

“Shh, we’ll talk later. For now, you just rest up, okay, Deels,” you say, leaning back and running your hand, softly through her hair. “Let me see what I can find to help.”

When you return, it’s with a meagre bounty of an empty bowl, a bowl of cold water and a flannel. You dip the flannel in the water and wring it out.

“Here,” you place it on her forehead. “I’ll leave the water by your bed and there’s a bowl here if you’re sick. I’ve asked Mrs Brown to check on you and given her strict instructions on what to look out for. She has my number to call in an emergency and to keep me updated, in the meantime. I’m sorry I can’t stay but I will be back later.”

She grunts a response and you feel torn.

“Rest. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

You kiss her forehead and use every ounce of willpower to walk out the door.

You nursed your mother and sister as they withered away before your eyes; you did the same for your father. You’ve nursed hundreds of women through pregnancies and copious amounts of people through illnesses and yet this time, you must leave. You must go to your daughter and friends. Follow propriety against every single instinct because you can’t act as anything more than a concerned friend because that is very much all that you are, despite what you feel. And even if you were more, in this current arrangement, you could never show it.

You know you cannot drop all your responsibilities. You shouldn’t even want to. Delia can leave at any moment and there’s no certainty that you’ll ever see her again.

And you’re a mother. You cannot let Delia be your world, be your everything when you already have somebody who is your life. You have someone, the only one you would ever put above Delia.

You tell yourself all this as you walk home. Your skin feels like it’s shrunk in the wash, that you’ve withered down to your past self. Since you were a girl, a child in a cesspool of depravity, you instinctually began to look after those in need and despite the fact that this situation is completely different, you can’t quite mute this innate part of you that wants to run back and nurse back to health.

You see Elisabeth’s haunting eyes, her pale face and sweaty skin, her small body curled up on the filthy floor in tortured sleep. You hear Mrs Shepherd telling you what to do to bring down a fever, reminding you to get your meagre rations for you and your sister, insisting that you be useful if you must stay in the way.

Eleanor’s face greets you as the door to your home, the door you’ve been staring at for a while now swings open. Your heart stops and for a minute. You forget that you’re not there anymore, that Eleanor is perfectly safe and happy and smiling and alive.

She runs down the steps to greet you, a confused Trixie standing at the door.

“Mama.”

She wraps her small arms around your legs. You lean down, and you hold her close, breathing in her scent, muscles relaxing as you come back to the present, to life, to love.

“Where’s Delia?” Trixie queries as you walk into your home, watching Eleanor as she runs through to the Kitchen, food stained dress swaying with her movements.

You take off your coat, hanging it on the hook before turning to face Trixie.

“She’s…unwell.”

You tilt your head, taking a deep breath and beginning to walk away.

“Again?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure she’s not trying to get out of coming here?” You bite back the cutting remark that’s poised to leave your lips and sigh.

“Trix. Things are different, she’s different now. You’re a nurse, you know how damaging head trauma can be.” She frowns and purses her red lips.

“So, there was some long-term damage caused by the accident?”

You nod your head and take a breath.

“And that’s why she can’t be here, today?”

You nod again.

“She-she.”

“Where’s my Welsh Lassie?” Phyllis says as she walks into the hall, familiar blue dress exchanged for a white one with light pink accents, highlighting her now grey hair.

You watch as her smiling face falls and feel the echo of sadness hit you in your stomach.

“I’m afraid she’s suffering through a rather bad migraine. I’ve left my number with the landlady of the establishment she’s staying in should they need me for anything, and I’ve instructed them on what to do.”

Phyllis nods.

“Perhaps it’d be wise, Nurse Mount, if I went and stayed with her. As well we all know, nothing better when you’re a little unwell than having someone familiar looking after you.”

Once again, you’re reduced to nodding and Trixie looks between you both, slightly baffled before shrugging and walking off.

“I’m sorry, I’m afraid I’ve grown quite fond of our Welsh Wonder.”

“Me too,” you say, mustering up a small smile. “I wish-I wish.” You shake your head.

“I know, Lass, I know. Not to worry. Dinner is nearly ready so how about I pack us up some leftovers and head over to check on her? Hopefully, she’ll be up to eating something.”

You nod once more and will yourself to find your words.

“Tell her.”

Phyllis squeezes your fidgeting hands as the rest of the sentence gets left unsaid.

“I will, Lass. I think she knows to call you if she needs anything. Now, you go and get on, love. I’ll go check on our girl. And Patsy.”

You look up to her, small smile in place.

“I’ll call with an update, so, no worrying yourself sick. I’ll look after her”

You nod once more, hearing the others singing and laughing and being joyous.

“Who strangled the poor cat? You sound positively ghastly making all that noise.” you say, breezing into the room and smiling at Phyllis’ giggles in the background.

“Right you are, Nurse Mount. So how about I get my provisions and leave before my ears bleed,” Phyllis says, winking at you.

“Yes, one or is that two servings of dinner coming right up?” Lucille asks, standing by the stove and stirring something that smells decidedly too spicy for your palette.

“Two.”

“Right you are then, any preferences?”

“Two of your finest Vegetarian Curries with a healthy dose of rice,” Phyllis cuts in.

You frown.

“Vegetarian?”

“Oh, yes. I’m afraid after one too many drinks, Delia’s dog dying, a rather unfortunate mix up at a meat farm and a passionate speech about animal cruelty, Delia decided to become vegetarian, too. Not my finest moment but it led to some good.” She pats your arm as she walks past.

 “Really?” Barbara asks.

“I don’t know why you’re all so surprised. We, all of us know how big Delia’s heart is when animals are concerned, is it any wonder the Lass saw sense?”

“So, you’ve been in contact with her,” Trixie says, pursed lips and eyes narrowed.

“Aye, she’s had a rotten time of it, that one and I just wanted to see her through safe.”

“Not to stereotype but you English aren’t known for handling spice quite as well as you do, Phyllis, as these here people know,” Lucille says, interrupting with a raised eyebrow as she scoops ladles full of food into Tupperware.

“Right you are but Delia really is a Welsh wonder. I think, even now she could still surprise me, that one.”

You nod your head in agreement, the truth punching you in the stomach. Trixie catches your eye and you see the softness of her face, the sad smile she throws your way.

Oh, how you’ve both changed since you lost each other.

“Now, as lovely as it is being with you all, I have places to be and people, or rather someone that needs me.”

Phyllis picks up the Tupperware full of food handed to her from Val and take some of your cutlery.

“Right, I’ll see you out,” you say, following her to the door. “Phyllis, do you think it wise to give Delia something so spicy in her state?”

“What do you think the extra rice is for? Plus, if I know Delia as well as I think I do, she’ll love to have some homecooked food to eat when she’s feeling better, whether that’s today or tomorrow.  I used to be a nurse, too, Nurse Mount, as well you know.”

“Yes, I’m sure-I mean, I know you will, I just…worry, that’s all.”

“I know you do, you always have but you don’t need to anymore. Like I said to you earlier, I’ll look after our girl.”

You watch as she leaves, your nails cutting into your palms as you clench your fists.

Hasn’t the world been cruel enough, already? Why did it have to hurt Delia like this?

“I’m glad she’s back for you, Pats,” Barbara says, placing her hand on your shoulder as you watch Phyllis climb into her car.

You tense at the insinuation.

“I only wish she could have made it today to see everyone.”

“Me too,” you whisper, all the while wishing you didn’t promise Edward you’d give up smoking for Eleanor’s sake.

You really could do with a cigarette right about now.

*

“Mount residence,” you say, breathless from running to the phone in the hall.

“Oh, hello, Patsy, it’s Phyllis.”

You roll your eyes.

“Yes, I know. I’d know your voice, anywhere,” you quip back. “Is-Is everything okay. Delia? Does she need anything.”

“Everything is fine, Lass. In fact, I think she’s feeling much better if her appetite is anything to go by.”

You heave a sigh of relief. All throughout the day, thoughts of Delia plagued your mind as you went through the motions. You barely remember what you ate, what it tasted like. You engaged through your Nurse Mount persona and it showed, if the concerned looks Barbara and Trixie threw your way were anything to go by.

Even your Darling Elle looked at you a few times confused.

“Mama, why you sad?” She’d asked as you bathed her after everyone left. You couldn’t bare the myriad of food stains on her clothes and skin, anymore and so you’d deposited her in the warm water and began, gently scrubbing her skin.

“Hmm? Mama is okay, Elle,” you said, kissing her forehead and continuing to clean her.

Once that was done, you’d begun scrubbing floors, cleaning counters, dusting…everything. Elle had sat on the floor playing with her toys, decidedly more quiet than normal.

And then the phone had rung, and you’d sprinted to it.

“Good. That’s-that’s good.”

“Indeed, it is. I just thought I’d let you know how she was doing. And whilst I know it might be a little bit late, I thought, if I came and picked you both up in my car, we could make an evening of it and visit Delia? She told me this one was brought on by nerves.”

“Oh, yes, of course. If she’s feeling up for a visit, we’d love to.”

You heart beats fast and you almost smile at the thought of seeing Delia again, so soon. You’re glad this bout of sickness was short and make a mental note to ask more about her condition when you can.

“Well, I’m afraid it’s not quite so simple.”

You frown.

“Delia wouldn’t know you were coming.”

“Phyllis.”

“No, just hear me out, Patience. If she’s this nervous at the thought of meeting everyone, she’ll get like this every time and it’ll never happen. Why not forgo that with a little omittance on my part? Hmm?”

You bite your lip as you think about the situation. Phyllis is right, this would help but you always have despised being anything less than honest with Delia.

“But.”

“C’mon, Lass. Let’s get over this over with. I’ll be round soon,” Phyllis says, hanging up the phone.

You sigh.

“Elle,” you say, walking into the room. She sits looking up at you as soon, eyes open, honest, almost knowing. “We’re going with Nana Phyllis to visit a friend of Mama’s, okay?”

She grins and nods enthusiastically.

“Come on, let’s get you ready.”

You take a deep breath and square your shoulders.

Time for these two to meet.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: ‘Bewitched’ – Doris Day

‘I'm wild again, beguiled again
A simpering, whimpering child again
Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I

Couldn't sleep and wouldn't sleep
Then love came and told me I shouldn't sleep
Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I’

The car steadily moves on, the whirr of the engine harmonising with the steady stream of worries plaguing your mind.

What will she say to this invasion of control? Will she be angry? Upset? Annoyed? Happy?

You don’t know.

You don’t know, and it makes you feel nauseous, like you can’t quite get enough air into your lungs.

Elle sits quietly in the back, gazing out of the window, ever observant. Phyllis taps her fingers on the steering wheel, spontaneously humming a song then stopping and clenching the wheel tighter, before once again starting the cycle again.

Everything is too too tense for you to do anything but think of all the things that could go wrong with this.

Oh, you believe, you know they’ll get along just fine but this deception on your part doesn’t quite sit well with you.

You’d changed during the time it took for Phyllis to get you both, Elle still in her pyjamas but you in your trusty, comfortable plaid shirt, and jeans, all the while knowing that Delia used to have a soft spot for the combination. Indeed, you fondly remember the way her eyes used to linger on your calves, your thighs, you hips.

“C’mon, Lass,” Phyllis says, bringing you back from staring into space and seeing nothing by squeezing your hand and alerting you to your arrival. “Let’s face the music. You ready Cariño?” she shouts back.

Elle nods her head.

In unison, you and Phyllis clamber out, Phyllis retrieving Elle and settling her on her hip. You almost roll your eyes, biting your tongue once again. Phyllis knows she’s perfectly well how old your daughter is.

Their steady chatter becomes muted to your ears. You stand by the door you just exited, palms sweaty and take a few deep breaths, focusing on a steady inhale and exhale, willing your mind to empty as you worry your lip.

Phyllis turns to face you, face softening before turning and pushing the door open. Elle peers over her shoulder, once again her eyes become so like yours as they will your strength to make an appearance. You almost smile at the thought that Elle’s eyes constantly shift on a pendulum from looking like yours to Delia’s depending on her mood.

You frown, wondering if you’re going crazy at the thought.

In your mind you hear Edward’s soft rumble of a voice, urging you to be strong, to calm down and focus on the here and now. You see his encouraging smile spread across his face, almost feel his hands squeezing your biceps as he spurs you.

“Patience don’t keep trying mine and get in here,” Delia says, as effective as any bucket of ice ever could be. You shake your head, wondering when she got there and how long you’ve been standing there.

She looks good, better, despite her pursed lips and the way her hands are settling on her hips. You admire the way the pale-yellow fabric of her dress caresses her waist, the crease in her brow just above her nose, her rigid stance that’s so alive and strong and beautiful and her.

You close your eyes for a second, willing yourself to focus.

“Sorry, I—”

“You’d better have a good excuse for this surprise visit, Patience Mount. I’m glad always to see you and Phyllis, to meet Eleanor but I wasn’t prepared. This isn’t fair and you know it. You can’t spring things like this, important things like this on me,” she says, turning and marching back to her room.

You swallow and follow her, head down, words failing you as they always seem to when you need them the most.

Phyllis sits on the lone chair as you enter, a worried glance thrown your way. Elle stands, touching the flowers on the window sill, being as gentle as a six-year-old can be and your shoulders relax at the sight.

Elle turns, dimples on smile as she beams up at you and then Delia.

“De-Lee-Ah,” your little girl sounds out, pointing at Delia.

Through your peripheral vision, you see Delia soften, can almost see her heart melt as blue meets blue.

“Hello, pretty girl. It’s so good to finally meet you.”

She steps forward, kneeling to Elle’s level and smiling.

“You know Mama.”

Delia gulps and nods.

“And she knows me, Cariño.”

“You know Nana?”

Delia nods.

“You good,” Elle says as rushes forward, wrapping her tiny arms around Delia’s neck. Delia wraps her arms around Elle and swings her round, their laughter filling the room, warming you.

You find yourself perched once again on the edge of Delia’s bed as you take in the sight before you. Despite how annoyed Delia is with you, how sorry you feel about this deception, you can’t help feeling it’s worth it as Delia sits on the floor, Elle on her lap as they talk about everything and nothing, both enamoured with one another.

You look up and spot Phyllis observing you. She nods her head once, smiling before going back to admiring the vision of beauty set before you both.

They talk, they talk and talk and talk about everything and nothing and you and Phyllis stand sentinel, occasionally throwing glances and smiles one another’s way as Delia and Elle forget everyone but each other.

You know you need to apologise - there’s always something for you to apologise for - but for now, everything is okay.

“Can you really make the best cupcakes in the world? Mama tries but,” Elle finishes the sentence by crinkling her nose.

“Eleanor Elisabeth Delia Mount, I’ll have you know, my cupcakes are just fine.”

Delia looks at you and scoffs, Phyllis chuckles and Eleanor frowns.

“Pats, if I remember right, baking was never your strong suit. Your cooking was at least edible but baking, no.”

You huff and narrow your eyes.

“I’ll have you know, my cooking has greatly improved as the Welsh cakes proved.”

Delia narrows her eyes right back.

“One trick pony, I’ll bet.”

Phyllis laughs.

“Now, now, girls, there’s plenty of time to test Patsy’s standards of cooking but we should be off soon. I’m afraid it’s a little past Elle’s bed time as it is and I know Patsy has work tomorrow.”

Phyllis rises and walks towards Elle, taking her hand.

“Now, why don’t you say bye to Delia and we’ll get you settled into the car whilst Mama and Delia have a chat, hmm?”

Elle wraps her small arms around Delia’s neck before leaning back to face her.

“Bye Dee-la.”

“Delia, Darling,” you say.

“Dee-Lee-Ah,” Elle repeats.

“Yes, we’ll see you later, Lass, hopefully, sans anymore headaches.”

“See you soon, Phyl, and see you soon, Bach,” Delia says, tickling Elle a little before wrapping her arms around your daughter.

You hear Delia take a deep inhale before she places Elle down with a bop on the nose. Elle beams.

“See you soon, Dee.”

Elle waves and you try to catch your breath after hearing Delia call your little girl Bach. You almost start shaking, your body as confused as your mind. You’re so, so happy at hearing that term of endearment come from Delia’s lips in that Welsh twang, that Welsh twang reminds you of your friend, one of your very best friends that was taken too soon like so many people in your life.

Delia turns to face you, her smile falling a little as she looks down.

“I’m sorry,” you say, close to tears once again. Even when you were pregnant, you don’t remember wanting to cry as much as you have this weekend.

If you didn’t know better about the deception of time, you’d almost be shocked at how much has happened since you finished up your shift at Nonnatus on Friday.

Delia looks up to face you, frown in place and jaw clenched.

“Phyllis thought it might be a good idea, that it would help prevent you getting these headaches out of nerves to just…turn up. I rather thought she might be on to something but I’m sorry that I upset you. I never meant to do that. It’s just I wanted you both to meet so badly and I don’t want that to cause you pain. You have to know that I didn’t—”

“Pats. It’s okay. It’s just,” she says, wrapping her arms around herself and pacing the room. “It’s just, my Mam used to do stuff like that, deciding things for me and it-I’m sick of people deciding what’s best for me.”

She stops and turns to face you, tears beginning to fall.

“I’m sick of everyone trying to control everything to protect me. I’m a grown woman.”

You swallow, a glassy sheen coating your eyes and watching.

“And I know I’m not the same as I was, that these headaches make things difficult, sometimes but I would have figured it out. I would have found a way to get around them for this, for her, for you. I’m not broken, damn it.”

“I know. I know. I know,” you say, rising and wrapping your arms around her. “I know you’re not, Darling. I never meant to make you feel so-so inadequate when you’re anything but.”

“I know. And I know it’s not really your fault but I have to let you know, to tell you how I’m feeling, this time. Keeping things, hiding things has done so much damage to us, to me, to you.”

She steps back, wipes her eyes before holding your hands and looking up.

“Please trust me to find away, even when you think I can’t,” she pleads and you nod.

“I-I’m sorry.”

“Cariad, you’ve said that far too much lately.”

“Yes, well, perhaps if I say it enough, it might fix things, this, us,” you say, squeezing her hands.

She purses her lips and watches you.

“This isn’t your fault, what happened isn’t your fault or mine, it’s my mother’s.”

“But perhaps if-never mind. What’s done is done, right?”

“Pats.”

“I should go, Phyllis and Elle are waiting and we really must be getting back.”

“Patsy.”

“I’ll see you soon. Maybe after work, tomorrow, you could come around for a spot of dinner? Hmm? Barbara will be there with Elle if I come and pick you up straight from work but I’m sure she’d love to see you, too,” you say, straightening brushing off your jeans and walking towards the door.

“Patsy.”

“Say five o’ clock? If you want to, of course.”

“Patsy, stop.”

You sigh, resting your forehead against the door.

“Talk to me.”

“It’s-it’s nothing. But, yes. Are you up for visiting us tomorrow? You really don’t have to but I’d love-I’d really like to see you and I’m sure Elle would, too.”

She nods her head, trying her hardest to meet your eyes as you do your best to avoid her gaze.

“Of course. I’d love to see your home, Cariad and spend more time with everyone,” she whispers. “I’ve missed you, all of you.”

You swallow.

“See you then, Deels.”

It was hard when you lost her, it broke your heart, but you had all of these people, these friends to help you pick up the pieces and forge a new life, a new start. But who did Delia have? An overbearing mother and a passive father. Did she have anyone else? Any friend to rely on?

There’s so much more you don’t know, so many things left unsaid and you vow to yourself to change that as soon as you can.

*

“Nurse Mount, I’ve been informed that a Miss Busby has returned to Poplar, at least for a short time,” Sister Julienne says, pouring a cup of tea for herself as she does so as you all lunch together.

“Yes-yes. She has.

You take a sip of your tea and the others continue talking around you.

So much is the same and so much has changed.

Barbara and Trixie have been exchanged for Val and Lucille, Sister Winifred still never returning from The Mother House, Sister Monica Joan passing on and leaving an emptiness no one ever being able to fill.

You remember those first few months of pain and darkness and this draining ache that left you lethargic, languishing in loneliness and how Sister Monica Joan seemed to just know. You’d often be gifted with weeds, with the last slice of cake, the last spoonful of jam all carefully guarded by the astute nun who seemed to know all that you wouldn’t-weren’t allowed to say.

She knew. You knew she did. Even now the poem she once orated to you still echoes within your ribs, you heart beating out its steady rhythm as you realise just how true it was.

You can picture her face, her all knowing eyes as they looked into yours and the skin of one of her weathered hands had wrapped itself around yours.

“O Rose, thou art sick! 
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy

In my experience, time and adequate sustenance help to heal all. I saved this from the jaws of those piranhas of gluttony for your pleasure, Nurse Mount. It seems you could use a little sweetness in your life,” she’d said, presenting you the last piece of cake. “Eat, enjoy,” she’d said, her eyes sparkling before she’d fled the room.

You’d never forgotten the words, even going so far as to sourcing a copy of it and reading it over and over again whenever you felt overwhelmed by everything.

And now you realise that worm has a name, has the face of Delia’s mother.

“You alright there, Pats? You’ve hardly touched your cheese butty,” Val asks.

“Yes, I’m fine,” you say, taking a bite of your lunch.

“I do hope all is well, Nurse Mount. If you need any time away, don’t hesitate to ask. Whilst we are in need of your expertise, you are a mother, after all.”

Nurse Evans scoffs and you swallow down the rest of your mouthful.

“Thank you, Sister but I assure you, I am quite capable of performing my duties.”

“I’ve no doubt you are, forgive me if I gave you any opinion otherwise.”

You nod your head and continue eating, smiling at the playfulness between Val and Lucille, the complete innocence of Sister Frances, the clumsiness of Fred as he makes a racket in the room next door, the sharp words Sister Julienne throws his way through the slightly opened door.

So much has changed and yet it still feels a little bit like home in its familiarity.

Even if Trixie and you no longer share a room, if Sister Monica Joan no longer haunts the halls sniffing out any ounce of sugar inside, dropping pearls of wisdom as she goes, if Phyllis doesn’t bluster into the room dictating your schedule for the day.

You swallow down your last mouthful of tea before rising and poking your head into the room, holding back your laughter at the sight. Fred looks sheepish, sitting on the floor, surrounded by a mountain of broken wood.

“And do be sure to fix this broken mess as soon as possible.”

“Yes, sorry, Sister. I tripped over that-that-who let that bloody cat in?”

“Language, Mr Buckle. You are in the house of God.”

“Sorry, Sister, I’ll get right on to fixing these chairs,” he says, rising before tripping again on a stray chair leg.

“Do be careful,” Sister Julienne says, rolling her eyes and you stand there, clenching your jaw and willing the laughter to stay inside of you. “May I help you with something?”

“May I have a word before I begin my rounds?”

“Certainly.”

You follow her to her office, hands fidgeting and once again wishing you hadn’t given up smoking.

“What can I do for you?”

“Well, I was just wondering if-if—” You take a deep breath and look around the room as if it could talk back, could tell you the right words to say.

“In my experience, it’s best to just get it out and not overthink what one has to say. What’s bothering you, Nurse Mount?”

“Delia is moving back to London and she’s qualified as a midwife.”

“Really? I’m sure she’s an exceptional midwife,” she says after the silence hangs on a moment too long, a knowing look in her eyes.

“Yes, I’m sure. She always was a sight to behold when she put her mind to something.”

“Indeed, is that all, Nurse?”

“Oh, no. I was-I mean-Is there any chance that there’s any positions available here? She’s been offered a position at the London and I’m afraid she’ll be back on Male Surgical, a waste for someone I’m positive is more than proficient at midwifery.”

“I’m afraid that the more the years go on, the less expectant mothers need or indeed want us to assist in the birth of their children.” You nod your head and look down. “Perhaps it would be best for Nurse Busby to work at the London. I’m happy to put in a good word, to recommend that she be placed on the maternity ward at the London but I’m afraid we aren’t in need of any more Nurses, here, Nurse Mount.”

“Right. Well, that’s that. Thank you, Sister.”

“Not at all and Patsy.” You freeze. “If anything should come up, here, I’ll be sure to let you know. And for what it’s worth, I’m very glad to hear that Miss Busby has returned to you-to all of us here. I’ve always regretted not reaching out, offering a place for her here. I always imagined she’d returned but I’m afraid I never expected it to take so long.”

You swallow and nod your head.

“Please, invite her for lunch some time, I’d love to see her again and I’m sure the others would love to meet her.”

“I will. Thank you, Sister,” you say, fleeing the room and retreating back into your role as Nurse Mount as you head out for your afternoon rounds.

*

“Deels, time to go,” you say, knocking on her door and entering.

“What’s the point of knocking if you walk straight in, Pats?” Delia says, turning around to face you. Her hair down as she finishes getting ready.

Your mouth goes dry as you take in the vision that is Delia Busby. She always, always looks good to you but something about her hair being down sends your pulse sky rocketing, makes you want to reach out and touch and kiss and hold all that’s no longer yours.

You shake off the thoughts and walk towards the window, taking in the pink-yellow-blue hued evening sky.

“You were expecting me, were you not? I’m nothing if not punctual.”

“That you are, Cariad. Some things never change,” she says finishing on a sigh.

You turn and her eyes flick back up to meet yours as she finishes putting the last pin in her hair. You smirk. She tilts her head to the side and looks you up and down. You narrow your eyes as you try to read the glint in her eye.

“I’ve always thought your work uniform looked particularly good on you, Pats. Very…flattering to your figure.”

You narrow your eyes.

“Ready to go?”

“Lead the way.”

“Follow me, then, Busby.”

You’re walking along, taking in the still warm evenings as you head to your house, your home with it’s yellow walls and flowered sills and you wonder what Delia will think. Will she remember like you do? Wonder why you made her dream home yours?

How could you explain that whatever Delia’s dreams were, they were also yours? Even when you were angry, felt abandoned and alone, you couldn’t help yourself.

And now. Now your daughter loves yellow walls and flowers and geometric patterns, equates those things with home so how could you change that?

“Alright, Pats?”

“I’m always okay, Deels.”

“Yes, you always were a terrible liar, weren’t you?”

You roll your eyes.

“How is Barbara?”

“She’s well, expecting baby number two at any moment.”

“Fit to burst, then?”

“Yes. She’s a trooper if there ever was one. She already has two kids and now she’s going to have a third.”

Delia frowns.

“I thought you said this was baby number two?”

“I did but I’m afraid she married Tom Hereward so,” you say, finishing with an uncharacteristic shrug.

“Pats.”

“Yes? Deels, honestly, I think any woman that marries a man like that deserves a medal.”

She laughs.

“You’re awful. He’s a…nice man, a vicar no less.”

“Yes, and awfully boring to boot.”

“Well, Miss Mount, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you didn’t like him. Perhaps there’s some jealousy in the air?”

You roll your eyes and chuckle.

“I assure you, as much as I love Barbara as a friend, they really are a good match. I don’t dis-like Tom, he’s just a terrible bore but a bore than makes Barbara happy which is all that matters. And thankfully, neither of us had to marry him,” you say, winking at Delia.

She throws her head back and you almost walk past your door as you take in the curve of her neck.

“Thankfully, indeed. This door is as red as your lipstick, Cariad.”

 You smile and shrug.

“What can I say, I have a thing for red.”

“That you do.”

Delia giggles, you chuckle and that’s when Barbara opens the door, round belly proudly protruding in your direction. You see a bundle of brown hair head in your direction and land in your arms before you have a chance to say anything.

“Mama.”

“Hello, Darling,” you say, adjusting the dress Elle is wearing. “Thanks for this, Barbara,” you say, rising.

“Not a problem. I love spending time with my Elle, Belle,” she says, ruffling Elle’s hair. “Nice to see you again, Delia.”

“You too and I see a congratulations are in order.”

“Yes. Hopefully this one puts in an appearance soon,” Barbara says, rubbing her stomach. “My bladder can’t take much more.”

You all laugh, Elle looking between you all.

“Dee, come play,” Elle says, tugging on Delia’s hand and dragging her into your home ahead of you.

“Well, it’s time I headed home. Duty calls. Someone needs to cook supper and make sure Tom doesn’t tear his hair out.”

Barbara walks – or rather waddles – inside to where her coat resides, picking it up and putting it on. You walk over, placing a hand on her back and rubbing gently.

“You’re walking?”

“It’s only five minutes away.”

“Just give me a moment and I’ll walk you home.”

“Pats, I’ll be fine.”

“Yes but—”

“No. You stay. You’ve a guest.”

You sigh.

“Be safe and call me when you get home,” you say, following her to the door.

Delia and Elle are in deep in conversation, the background buzz of their voices relaxing you. You think for the first time you understand what home; what family means with them both filling your space with their life and love and laughter.

“Really, thank you for looking after Elle for me.”

“It’s really okay, she’s always a pleasure and Pats,” she says, looking serious and running her thumb over your arm a couple of times. Your heart beat picks up and you can almost feel the blood rushing through your veins. “I-I’m really happy for you. I don’t know what’s going on, not exactly, but I’m glad she’s back.”

Your frown.

“What do you mean?” Barbara looks to the side, sighing softly.

“Tom always says that love is the biggest blessing, that it’s God’s greatest gift. I’m just glad He gave it back to you.”

“I-I-I’m not sure that’s what Tom meant about love but thank you, really, thank you.” Your shoulders dip and you feel lighter, glad that Barbara understands and just…knows without forcing you to endure the awkward, girly conversations that Trixie submitted you to.

“I want you to know that-that my husband’s opinion, whatever that may be, is not my own. I see it, I see you two together and-and that really is a blessing. You don’t get to say that love is a gift from God and then say it’s wrong in some cases. That’s-that’s stupid and if Tom thinks that for a moment that’s he’s an…he’s a stupid, idiot that I love but that doesn’t make him right.” Tears begin to fall, and you smile softly, wrapping Barbara in your arms. “Why are people so idiotic,” she says between sniffles and you know it’s the hormones wreaking havoc upon poor Barbara that are causing her to be so upset but you also know that those hormones don’t make people lie, that this is how she truly feels and you wish you knew how to voice your gratitude, your love and respect for not only this beautiful, strong woman in your life but Trixie and Phyllis and Delia, your Welsh beauty. Instead you squeeze her one last time before releasing her.

“I’m glad she’s back, too. I’ve missed her friendship.”

Barbara frowns.

“Friendship? Pat’s, you don’t have to lie to me.”

“I’m not. Maybe we were once…more but that’s in the past.”

Barbara’s frown deepens as she looks at you, eyes searching your face. You clench your fists rather than your jaw and meet her eyes.

“Right, right.” She nods her head. “Well, I really should be heading back.”

“I expect a phone call as soon as you get home,” you say, sternly.

“Of course, but Pats, you know I’m pregnant not dying, right?”

You chuckle before she heads off, one hand on her back. You watch until she turns the corner at the end of your road before heading into your home.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: ‘My Dearest Darling’ – Etta James

‘All I need
Is someone like you
My dearest darling
Please love me to


Within my heart
I pray your answer's yes
I'll make your life
Full of happiness’

You wish Elle was still awake, still a buffer between you and Delia and this awkwardness that’s seeped into your skin now that she’s in your space, armed with questions you don’t want to answer.

You’ve always tended to avoid discussing things you didn’t want to, and everyone has always either respected that or allowed you to get away with it.

Everyone except Delia that is.

It’s not that she ever forced you, but she had-has this way of making you do and say things you never would with anyone else by pushing just enough here and standing back just enough there to decode you, no matter how long it took.

“I hope my cooking wasn’t too subpar for your tastes,” you say, scrubbing away at the dirty dishes you’d allowed to sit in the sink for far too long, too engrossed in watching Elle and Delia interact to worry about hygiene as much as you usually would.

“Hmm, it was pretty good for your old standards, Pats,” she says, drying a plate and throwing a wink your way.

You playfully glare at her.

“Well, next time I shan’t even bother to hassle Phyllis for a recipe. You can fend for yourself, Busby.”

She laughs, the sound filling your kitchen, echoing off the yellow walls, echoing the joy that’s bleeding through your veins in this moment.

“It was delicious, Pats. Diolch for the food, for this evening-this week. I—”

You swallow, willing the lightness of earlier to come back, avoiding acknowledging the building tears in both of your eyes. You’re not ready, not yet, not for questions you don’t want to answer. You want five more minutes, five more seconds to steel yourself.

“Well, you’re most welcome, as always Deels. Perhaps I should be thanking you for tiring Elle out so thoroughly after the amount of sugar you both consumed with dessert. Cupcakes? Really, did you have to both eat so many?”

She laughs again.

“Well, at least we ran around for a bit to burn ourselves out, right?”

“Yes, and nearly made yourselves sick in the process. Really, I thought I had two six-year-olds running about the place.”

She sticks her tongue out, drying the last pieces of cutlery.

“Careful, now. Wouldn’t want you to cut yourself, Deels. I remember how clumsy you were and I’m assuming that hasn’t changed,” you say, turning to face her completely rather than eye her out of the corner of your eye, and leaning against the sink, arms crossed.

You wink.

“My, my, Miss Mount, is that anyway to treat a guest? Pointing out my flaws as I help clean up this mess?”

You laugh.

“Yes, well, it was infinitely endearing watching you stumble about, tripping over your own feet, sometimes. I’d like it if something we used to know about each other were the same. And as I told you earlier, I’m happy to tidy everything away.”

“Yes, I know you are, but teamwork gets everything done quicker and I always thought we made quite a team. I don’t suppose there’s much about me that’s changed, not really, Pats.”

You smile.

“We did make a good team, didn’t we?”

She looks at you for a moment, and walks over to you, grabbing your hands.

“Can we-can we talk? There’s so much more left to say.”

You swallow and look her in the eye as she stands looking up at you, blue eyes boring into you.

You nod.

You want to know everything. How she’s been, how she’s really been, what she’s thinking, what she’s feeling, where this leaves you, where this leaves you and her, together but you’re scared. You know to get these answers you need to give and that scares you, as it always has.

Even when you were tentatively beginning your relationship with Delia it scared you but not like this. Now you know how good, how right things were with her, you don’t know how to accept that things might be different, that she could say things that mean friendship at best is all you can have.

Of course, if that’s what was decided, you would learn to live with it and live with it happier than not having her at all but at the minute you don’t know. You don’t know and that means you still have hope.

You’d thought that after losing so much, so many people you’d learned how useless, how impractical hope is but now, you cannot help yourself. Everything has changed, you’ve both changed in ways neither of you know, yet but there’s still enough of Delia, your Delia there.

You both sit at opposite ends of the sofa, turned towards one another, spines rigid. You play with your fingers and allow Delia time to begin this conversation. You don’t know where to begin and you realise after your last conversation how important it is to allow Delia to lead this, whatever this is that is happening between you both.

As a midwife, as a mother, you’re so used to taking the lead, being the active but controlled anchor in times of need. You thought it would be hard allowing yourself to drift, to ride the current dictated by someone else but this moment is just enough like the way things used to be that you find yourself slipping back, easing back into old habits where Delia is concerned.

She was always your anchor.

You hope she can keep you tethered, grounded, safe.

“What did you mean?”

You frown.

“What did you mean, last night? That maybe if you said sorry enough.”

You take a deep breath and look away, staring at your fidgeting fingers as if they could decode every thought, every feeling into words that you could share.

Delia sits, quietly, you catch sight of her leg bouncing up and down out of the corner of your eye, but she just sits, waits, doesn’t push but doesn’t back down, either.

You begin to pick at your nails but before you inflict any damage, a warm, slightly tanned hand reaches over and lies over your hand.

You can’t shift your gaze from the sight that nearly reduces you to tears.

Still, all these years later, the contrast, the warmth, the connection of such a simple gesture threatens to overwhelm you.

Sure, hugging and kissing occurred but the simplicity of having your hand joined with Delia’s, the symbolism of all you wished for but could never publicly have in such a reassuring gesture never failed to bring you peace, clarity you otherwise wouldn’t have.

You loved her hands. The softness contrasted with the callouses. How hard working and strong they were. How gentle and loving and tender they could be. How they use to run over your skin, your hair, touch you inside and out until you were reduced to nothing but a whimpering mess under her ministrations.

Yes, her hands were one of your favourite things and the fact that she’d laid them over your stained, rough, scarred ones, used to allow your fingers to intertwine with hers, it still leaves you breathless.

For a moment in time, you’d held all you’d wanted in the universe within your hands.

“I-I’m just sorry,” you say and hope she doesn’t take her hand away at such a big failure on your part.

“So you keep saying but why, Pats?” she says, rubbing your arm with her free hand. “Why are you so sorry.”

“Because. Because if you’d never have borrowed my bike, if I didn’t make you late to work, you’d never have been in that accident.”

You hear Delia’s sharp intake of breath and watch as her fingers curl around your hand, pressing tightly against your skin.

“If I’d have been stronger, less afraid, I would have come after you. If I-If I wasn’t me,” you say, moving one of your hands from underneath Delia’s and hitting your chest. “If I wasn’t me, we could have been happy but then that means Elle wouldn’t be here, and that I never would have met Edward and I’m just sorry.”

Delia is quiet for a few moments, her hands no longer touching you and you wrap your own arms around yourself as you silently cry.

“I’m sorry,” you say once again and instantly, you feel Delia wrap her arms around you and burrow your head in the crook of her neck.

She rests the side of her head on the top of yours, one hand caressing the side of your face, her thumb stroking your cheek. You listen to her heartbeat, steady and strong and alive and begin to calm down.

“Cariad,” she says, huskily before clearing her throat. “Patsy, it’s okay.” She kisses your head. “It’s not your fault, none of this but I’m sorry, too. I was too scared to come to you, too.”

“It’s-it’s-” You shake your head.

“Well, we make a right pair don’t we, Cariad? Sorry over things neither of us can change.”

You nod against her chest and listen to her heartbeat, how it’s still strong but beating a little fast, just like yours and you wonder if Delia is as scared about this conversation as you are.

“So, maybe, no more sori’s? Hmm? Let’s just look ahead. And Pat’s, really, please don’t be sorry anymore. It’s okay, well, it’s not but none of it is your fault and I’m glad you met Edward, had Elle. Maybe one good thing about out time apart is that now we know, really, truly know how special what we had was. Hmm?”

“Was?” you croak out.

Delia kisses your forehead.

“Is.”

“Is?”

“If you want it to be, Patience.”

Delia’s heart beat is thumping at a speed of approximately a mile a minute, echoing the vascular organ within your chest.

You nod against her chest.

“Yes, I think-I think I’d like that very much,” you whisper, a smile spreading across your face.

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

You lean out of Delia’s embrace and stare at her, taking in the watery blue eyes, the dimpled smile, the flush in her cheeks, so reminiscent of the first time you had a similar conversation.

Delia was the brave one, the instigator in that conversation, too and you think that maybe, maybe you both aren’t as different as you feared.

She brushes a stray lock of hair behind your ear and takes you in, still smiling and glowing and being effortless everything you need in this moment.

“I should go,” she says, and you frown. “Don’t look at me like that, Cariad, it’s late.”

“Stay,” you say without thinking. “Stay tonight.”

“I-I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“But.”

The crease between your brow deepens and you wonder if you read everything wrong, if she didn’t mean what you thought. You heart begins to pound, again, you can almost hear the blood rushing through your veins.

“I just-what would Elle think? Hmm? How would we explain that? I don’t want to give the girl a heart attack when she comes down and the morning and sees a stranger sleeping on here,” she says, patting the gold and red cushions.

“She simply adores you, Deels and you wouldn’t be sleeping down here.”

“She’s only just met me and where else wouldn’t I be sleeping?”

“In bed. With me.” You grab her hands.

“Pats.” She sighs.

“No. It’s late, like you said so why not stay? Just-just for one night. I’ll walk you home tomorrow, before work, if you like?”

“I just-won’t there be questions if we share a bed? If I stay, maybe I should sleep down here.”

You swallow, heartbeat still elevated.

“If-if that’s what you really want. I mean, if you don’t want to stay then that’s okay. It would, it would just be nice to spend more time together, but I don’t want to force you.”

She grabs your hands and sighs.

“Of course, I want to stay, my love.”

You lift your gaze at that so rarely used term of endearment. Cariad over the years became much like another name for you but ‘my love’ was said so rarely that it made-makes your breath catch.

“Of course, I want to stay but you’re a mother, now. It’s not just us we have to think about. Won’t it be confusing for her? I don’t think we can be us in front of her.”

“Delia, I will not lie to my daughter.”

“Oh,” she says, face falling and hands slipping from yours. You grab them.

“I’m not going to lie to her, and I-I really would like this to work.”

Her brow furrows.

“Of course, there’ll be limitations in our displays of affection in front of her, much as I would expect anyone to impose on themselves in front of a six-year-old, but she’ll know what she needs to know and that will be that.”

“But she’ll have to lie. She’ll have to lie and hide things for us. It’s not fair to do that to her.”

You look around the room as you formulate your response. You have to make this work, to make Delia understand and stay and be with you again.

“Delia, we are not lying to her and she will not need to lie to anyone for us, merely just omit certain things but I will not allow her to think of you as anything less than the woman I love.”

Delia’s breath catches as she looks at you and your determined, focused face as you meet her gaze, head on.

She looks away.

“Pa-I.”

“I-I won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to do but here, here in this house we can be honest with each other, if you still want that. Phyllis, Trixie and Barbara know.”

“Barbara?”

“Yes, Barbara knows so how can we leave Eleanor out?”

“But she’s six, Pats.”

“Yes, she is but we’ll talk to her, together, when you’re ready, if you want?”

“Okay, okay, Cariad but-but not yet. She can’t know yet.”

You frown. She sighs.

“We’re different, now. We have to, we have to go slow and-and learn each other again before we tell her, okay? If we’re doing to do this, to bring her into this, then we’re going to have to be sure, be strong.”

“But I am sure, Delia. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sure of anything in my life.”

She smiles, dimples in full force and melting your heart, as they always have done.

You smile back.

“Smooth talker. But please, Pat’s, can we just-can we go slow. It’s been so long, things-things about me have changed. After the accident.”

She looks down.

“Is it the headaches? I don’t mind, we’ll find ways to get you through them. Together.”

She nods and looks down.

“That’s not all.”

You frown.

“I-I was in another accident, afterwards, back in Wales.”

You swallow.

“Oh.”

“I had some burns down here,” she says, running her hand over her left side. “And a broken knee.”

You swallow again and close your eyes. Delia nearly died, again and you wouldn’t have known, could’ve lived your life in a world without Delia even existing.

You used to lay awake at night missing her, wondering why you weren’t enough, what you did but she’d always, always been alive in your mind.

Except she nearly hadn’t.

“Pats.”

You take as deep a breath as you can and will the air to fill your lungs, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Everything is too warm. You feel trapped.

“Pats, listen to me, it’s okay. I’m here, focusing on my breathing okay? Breathe, come on, sweet girl, that’s it just take a deep breath in and out,” Delia says, hand holding yours firmly in place over her heart. Her heart that’s still beating and strong and she’s alive and here.

She’s alive.

“You nearly?” you ask, opening your eyes.

She nods.

“But I didn’t. I’m here.”

“Did that-is that why you have the headaches?”

“No, I had them before. They got worse for a while after I got hurt the second time.”

“How? How did it happen.”

“There was a storm and Tad came to get me from work. A drunk driver hit us along the way. My leg got trapped but Tad got me out just before the car caught fire. Some of the flames got us both but that was the worst of it.”

You shiver both at the tone of her voice and the images created in your mind as you imagine the scene playing out.

Delia could have died, and she would have thought you’d given up on her.

Delia could have died.

Died.

“Please, stay. Please. Stay here. Tonight. With me.”

“Pats.

“Please, let me hold you, just for tonight. We can go as slow as you want tomorrow but Deels, I need you here, with me. Just for tonight,” you say, on your knees in front of her.

You lean forward, arms wrapped loosely around her waist and head against her stomach.

“Please.”

She sighs.

“Whatever you need, Cariad but Elle can’t know, okay? I’ll leave early.”

“You can stay for breakfast.”

She runs her hand through your hair, and you sigh, relaxing into this moment. She leans down and kisses the top of your head.

“Maybe next time,” she whispers, and you decide not to argue.

There’s so much you don’t know, that you still need to talk about but for tonight, you cannot take anymore. You just want things to be light and easy and comfortable because Delia nearly died…again but she didn’t and she’s here and she’s with you.

*

Yet again, you’re reminded of the changes that have happened. You’re sitting on your double bed, freshly changed into your pyjamas and Delia is in the bathroom, changing into the pair you let her borrow.

You hadn’t thought twice about undressing in front of her, despite the marks of motherhood that mar your skin over the physical scars of your childhood and Delia sat on your bed, watching you in the most tender and respectful way. The way she always looked at you whilst you were in any state, undressed or not.

Even when she leered at you, you still felt the reverence of her gaze.

It was the same for you.

You adored the easy way she would change in front of you, allowed you to see her in a way nobody else ever could, or would but now. Now she nervously skitters off into the bathroom, banishing you from seeing the vision that is Delia Busby and you understand, in a way.

The very first time Delia saw you semi-naked, scars on show, your heart was in your throat and Delia had to coach you through breathing techniques to get you to relax.

You shiver as you remember the way her fingers ran along the rough edges of your permanently puckered skin, the way her lips had ghosted along each mark and wish Delia felt comfortable enough with you to trust you.

Surely, she should know that you of all people could understand.

She walks back into the room and stands in the door frame, her dress in her hands and tears brimming in her eyes.

You look up to her before patting the bed next to you. She walks over and sits beside you, her warmth heating your skin.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

You frown.

“Why?”

“I-nobody has seen me.” She looks down. “Nobody has seen how damaged I am, Pats. My brain is broken and my skin-my skin.”

“Delia.”

She looks up.

“Do you remember what you said? Well, more accurately, what you quoted to me when I said how I felt about my own scars?”

She nods once. You smile.

“‘Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars’ and you, my Darling are the strongest of them all,” you say wrapping your arms around her and kissing her cheek. “Please, don’t hide from me. When you’re ready, I’ll be here to kiss them all better. Now, come, I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted.

“Right, you are, Pats,” she says, yawning and wiping the tears from her eyes.

You both crawl onto the bed and for the first time in years, you fall asleep with your arms wrapped around Delia, her scent filling your nose and her softness surround you.

“Sweet dreams.”

“No da, Cariad.”

You smile.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ – Sam Cooke

‘There been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on

It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon' come, oh yes it will’

You lie awake on your side and watch every breath, every twitch, every movement as Delia sleeps beside you. You spent years wishing that you did this the last time you had the chance, and a small smile breaks across your face that you get the privilege to do this, now.

After your conversation, Delia’s confession you’d both drifted off to sleep but it wasn’t long before you awoke to Delia curled up beside you and at the sight, you couldn’t bring yourself to sleep again. So, you’d watched and absorbed and tried to catalogue everything about these moments, not wasting a second, not taking Delia being safe and here for granted.

You also spend half the night wondering how to make things easier, make things right and show Delia that you don’t care about the scars, the changes to her body. All you care about is that it’s her body, her spirit that is near, that you can worship.

And Elle. How do you navigate explaining to her, showing her your feelings for Delia without compromising everything you hold dear? You know your daughter, know she is loving and gentle and kind and would not judge you for your inclinations, your relationship with Delia but society would, and she is too young to understand that.

Night begins to give way to day, and you track the little sunlight filtering through your curtains across Delia’s face, her hair, the curve of her neck, knowing that soon, Elle will be awake and though you wish Delia would stay, you know you must respect her wishes.

And she was right. You must take it slow, work together to make your relationship strong, to share it with Elle.

“Delia,” you whisper, lips accidentally brushing against her ear.

She doesn’t move, doesn’t acknowledge your morning wakeup call.

“Delia, it’s time to get up,” you say, nudging her side and smiling at the sight of her scrunching her face. “Come on, rise and shine.”

She groans and rolls away from you. You roll your eyes and tuck one of your hands under her borrowed shirt, fingers brushing over her side, traversing the rigid mountains of her puckered flesh. You swallow down the emotions and tickle her sides. Delia jumps and you laugh as she tries to wriggle free of you.

“Pats.”

“Well, I did try and wake you. Elle’s still asleep for the moment but I fear not for much longer.”

She harrumphs and you smile, hand caressing her hip under her shirt.

She freezes.

“Pats.”

“Yes, Darling?”

“Your-your hand, it’s—”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

You pull your hand away as if her seared flesh had just scalded it.

“I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry if you didn’t want me to touch you like that. I just…wanted to wake you and I used to-Oh, of course, it just felt so much like old times, I forgot myself.”

“No-no, it’s okay,” she says, taking a deep breath. “Nobody has touched me…there since it healed.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, and Pats,” she says, looking you in the eye for the first time. “I’m the one with memory issues so if you’re forgetting, too, we’re really in a pickle.” She winks and you can’t help the laugh spilling from your lips. “I suppose it is time to get ready before Elle wakes up. Thanks for waking me.”

You sigh.

“Can’t I tempt you with breakfast?”

“I’m afraid not, Cariad. Slow, remember,” she says, throwing back the covers and swinging her legs over the side of your bed. You wrap your arm around her waist from behind, and she stills. You rest your forehead against her back and take a few deeps breaths, thumb rubbing her stomach over her shirt and inhaling the comforting scent that is so…Delia.

“Thank you,” you say.

“Whatever for?”

“Giving me last night.”

She turns slightly, leaning down to kiss the crown of your head.

“You don’t have to thank me for that, not ever.”

You sigh and pick up one of her hands, playing with it for a few moments before moving it under the back of your nightshirt and folding your legs under you so you’re on your knees. Her fingers trace the map of scars across your back, goose bumps rising across your skin.

“I rather think we’re a perfect match, don’t you?” you say, and Delia looks at you, eyes watering, grabbing one of your hands and placing it on her scarred flesh.

“I’ll say,” she says after a few moments.

You purse your lips and muster the strength to respect Delia’s wishes, Delia’s wholly right wishes. Elle does have to come first, despite you wanting otherwise.

“Come on then, Darling, let’s get you ready before my little monster awakes.”

She smiles at you and kisses your cheek, the edge of her lips brushing yours and your skin feels electric, charged.

You smile.

*

You smile all day long.

Almost exactly as the door shut behind Delia, Elle came bounding down the stairs, hair askew and eyes wide.

“Be careful.”

“Good morning, Mama.”

“Good morning, Darling. Are you hungry?”

She vigorously nods her head and you settle her at the dinner table.

“Peanut butter on toast or cereal?”

“Hmm. Both?”

“Elle.”

“Can I have peanut but and ‘nana on toast?” she says, toothy grin in place.

“Banana.”

“Yes. Can we have peanut butter and banana on toast, please, Mama?”

You smile and oblige her wishes, gingerly eating you portion as you watch Elle smear the remnants of her breakfast across her face as she eats.

She’s such a smart girl, even though she is often messy and can sometimes forget her words, you never hear anything but glowing reviews from her teacher. She’s smart, talented, compassionate and you hope that the world doesn’t take that from her, doesn’t make her as closed off and cynical as you were and often still are.

With ease, you get her ready for school, talking about inane things and imagining how different your morning routine would be if Delia was here, too.

“When will Delia be back?” Elle says, echoing the thoughts in your head and you freeze for a second.

“I-I don’t know. Soon, I should imagine, if that’s okay with you?”

She nods a few times, a crease in her brow as she takes on a contemplative look.

You hold your breath.

“Delia is good,” she says, shrugging and pulling on her shoes on the bottom step.

You lean down and put your shoes on, too.

“Over, under, around and through, meet Mr. Bunny Rabbit, pull and through,” you sing together.

A few weeks ago, you began to teach her how to tie her shoe laces and she’d gotten the hang of it after a few days but even so, she still likes to do this with you, and you enjoy it just as much.

Once you’d walked Elle to school, you’d walked along to Nonnatus house, enjoying the warm breeze on your skin and thinking back to how good things had become in such a short period of time.

Before Delia came back you were okay, were willing to accept that that was how good, how happy your life would become and that was more than enough. You had Elle, your friends, your job, the Nuns and it was more than you ever expected throughout your teenage years, so you never complained, stopped yourself from talking about the heartbreak that lingered in your bones from losing your family, Edward, Delia.

But now?

Now you have a chance to have your love back in your life, if you’re careful and patient.

You wonder if perhaps your mother somehow knew about the struggles you would come to face, if perhaps she named you Patience to remind you that you what you would need to reach this point, to reach contentment and build a good life.

You remember the last thing you father said to you in Hong Kong when you went to see him through his final days. How he told you to keep being strong, brave, courageous, that one day you’d find true happiness, as if he could see into the future and see this moment for you.

You see the smile on his face as you confided in him about Delia, dimples, so like yours, appearing in his cheeks, strong jawline emphasised even more as he’d withered away before your eyes. You’d always been told you looked like him as a child and up until Delia, you even acted like him.

The smile had fallen from his face when you continued your story, told him she’d left you, told him that everyone you ever loved always left.

For the first time since you were a child, since before you were interned, he’d hugged you as you sobbed into his chest.

“Everything will be okay, it always is in the end,” he’d said, kissing your cheek. “I forgot,” he’d coughed, violently. “I’d forgotten that love never leaves, not really,” more coughing. “But don’t you forget that Patience. Don’t you dare forget that.”

Two days later you’d awoken to his lifeless body, his words etched into your brain.

And he was right.

Once at Nonnatus house, you’d scribbled a rushed letter inviting Delia around to yours once you finish work. During your morning rounds, you’d found the time to hand it to Mrs Brown before rushing back for lunch, imagining the way the evening would go. You’d get chips for all of you to enjoy, a rare treat that used to bring painful memories to the fore.

You’d talk and spend time and smile your way through the evening with Delia and Elle. All you had to do is get through the rest of your rounds and trust that Delia would want to be with you both this evening.

*

You’re exhausted, your blood lead in your veins.

Once again words from recited to you from Sister Monica Joan flit to your mind and the ache in your heart grows twofold.

“Nature's first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.”

Those words had become a symphony to your nights of loneliness. They’d remind you of all you’d lost, of all those moments yet to happen you needed to cherish with your little girl and yet tonight, tonight a mother has lost a child, a brother lost a sister.

You’d guided Mrs Smith through birth, did everything you were trained to do. You’d spent minute after minute once the baby was born trying to get her to breath, to scream, to cry and announce her arrival into the world but silence was all that greeted you.

You’d taken a deep breath after twenty minutes and looked to the mother’s expectant eyes.

“I knew something was wrong,” she’d whispered. “I couldn’t feel my baby moving for a few days but I just thought-it wasn’t very active.”

“She.”

“She wasn’t very active, not like my Jack.”

She’d cried and you’d fought back the tears as much as you could and yet some still escaped, you’d tasted the saltiness of them. You’d wiped your face, walked over, her baby cradled in your arms and handed it to Mrs Smith.

“She’s perfect, so perfect.”

And then she’d sobbed. You’d taken off your gloves, your gown and wrapped your arms round her as best you could.

“I’m so, so sorry.”

Afterwards, you’d walked back to Nonnatus, rang Phyllis and explained the situation, had asked if she could stay with Elle for you and as always, she’d agreed.

It was Val who found you sitting in the garden, staring into nothingness an hour after your working day had officially finished.

“Alright there, Patsy.”

You turn to look at her, outwardly calm and stone faced, inwardly reeling.

You sigh and nod.

“Nurse Dyer.”

“I heard what happened,” she says, sitting down beside you. “I remember the first time I had to deliver a stillborn, broke my heart, it did. Sister Monica Joan found me, said something about a Bumblebee and enternity. Didn’t make much sense to me but she sat with me, dried my tears and said, ‘death is for the living.’” She shrugs. “At least the poor bugger isn’t suffering, right? That’s what I took from it. Now, whenever anything like that happens, I remember her saying ‘death it for the living.’ For all her faults, she always found a way to make you feel better, didn’t she?”

You nod.

“Emily Dickinson.”

“Hmm?”

“’Some things that fly there be —
Birds — Hours — the Bumblebee —
Of these no Elegy.

Some things that stay there be —
Grief — Hills — Eternity —
Nor this behooveth me.

There are that resting, rise.
Can I expound the skies?
How still the Riddle lies!’ that’s what Sister Monica Joan said, right?”

She laughs.

“How’d you know that? That woman was off her head.”

You smile and shrug, thinking of her, the innocent sparkle of joy in her eyes, the happiness she gained from the simplest of things.

“She always made sense to me.”

“Well, I’d be worried in that case, if I were you.”

“I miss her.”

“Me too. It still surprises me when there’s cake left after a day.” She sighs. “You should get yourself home, Pats. You’ve got a family to look after.”

“Yeah.”

“I know it probably doesn’t help but as awful as it is, these things happen.”

“I know.”

“Go on and see that little girl of yours, give her a hug from me.”

“I will.” You stand and squeeze Val’s shoulder. “Thank you.”

*

You stand at your door and you begin to thaw, to calm as the familiar washes over you.

Opening the door, the smell of home greets you and you shrug off your coat, take off your shoes and smile as you remember this morning with Elle and head towards the kitchen, the heart of your house.

You bump into Delia before you get there.

“Cariad,” she says, stepping back in surprise, before reaching out and grabbing your wrist, bringing your hand to her lips and kissing it.

Goosebumps cover your skin and your heart begins to speed up.

“Go on and get in there,” she says, tilting her head. “Dinner is nearly ready. Cauliflower cheese, your favourite.”

You groan and she laughs.

“Devil woman.”

“You love it.”

“I love you,” you say, turning and walking into the kitchen before she can react. “Hey, you.”

You wrap Elle in your arms and breathe in her scent, feel her warm body pressed close to you.

“Hello, Phyllis. Thank you for looking after things here for me.”

“Not a problem, Lass. Spending time with two of my favourite girls is never a problem.”

“Yes, you always have had a weakness for blue eyed, brunette’s with Welsh blood in them.”

“And it would seem I wasn’t the only one in this room with such a weakness.”

You smile.

“Apparently not.”

“Sit yourself down, Kid. You’ve had a rotten day.”

“Mama, look,” Elle says, pointing to a hand drawn picture on the table. You pick it up and note the various stick figures spread across the page. “That’s you, and me, and Nanna, and Trixie, that’s Barbara but I forgot to draw Tom. Oh, and that’s Delia, she’s wearing a yellow dress like me.”

“Yes, I see. It’s beautiful, you’re so talented, Darling but what’s this?”

“That’s Patchy.”

“Patchy?”

“Our cat.”

“But we don’t have a cat, Darling.”

“But we could if you got us one, Mama.”

She pouts and looks up to you, Phyllis chuckles and Delia walks into the room towards the end of the conversation, smiling as she catches your eyes and suspiciously looking like she’s holding back the laughter.

“But who would look after him when I was at work and you were at school?”

“Her, Patchy’s a girl and Nanna will.”

“Oh, will she now.” You turn to face Phyllis who holds her hands up in surrender.

“I made no such deal, I can assure you.”

“Please, Nanna. She’ll need to go for walks.”

“I don’t think cats need to be taken for walks, Bach.”

“Oh.”

“Not helping, Delia.”

Delia shrugs, and adjusts her cardigan that slips a little at the movement. You narrow your eyes as she looks at you all wide eyed and amused.

“Please?”

“No.”

“Oh, come on, Pats. It’s just a cat.”

“Just a cat that would need to be trained and fed and looked after. Are you going to do all that?” you ask, raising your eyebrow.

Delia shrugs again.

“Sure. I mean, when I move back, I’ll keep an eye on it if I’m not working and I’m sure Phyllis will too, right Nanna?”

“Yeah, Nanna will help, too, Mama.”

You roll your eyes, half-heartedly attempting to put off the inevitable.

“We’ll see. Now, let’s hang this on the board and have some dinner, yes?”

“Right you are. Come on girls, let’s get ready to dig in.”

You stand beside Delia and hang Elle’s drawing on the board there. Delia squeezes your hip and you narrow your eyes at her.

“Devil woman,” you whisper once again, and she laughs as she heads towards the table.

You turn and take in the sight. There’s food on the table, Phyllis is sitting to the right of Elle, who is sitting to the right of Delia at your round table.

“Wait for Mama, Cariad,” Delia lightly scolds as Elle sticks her fork into the serving platter of cauliflower cheese sitting in the centre of the table.

You smile, all the while wondering how you came to acquire a six-year-old daughter that loves vegetables.

“Hurry up, Lass, before the food gets cold.”

You walk over and dig in.

*

“Are you really okay, Cariad?” Delia asks, untucking her head from under your shoulder as you sat and held each other on the sofa.

She looks at you and you take in the light freckles on the bridge of her nose, the bright blue eyes, the warmth of her curled into you.

“I-I am, now.”

You close your eyes and lean your head back against the sofa.

“You’re exhausted.”

“Just a bit tired but it’s okay,” you say, forcing your eyes open. “You don’t need to leave, yet.”

“I’m afraid I do, Pats. You need to sleep and if I don’t leave now, I have a feeling I won’t make it home, again, tonight.”

“Is that such a bad thing.”

“No, except that Elle might catch us and Mrs Brown might become suspicious of my activities.”

You sigh.

“When you get back from whatever you have to do in Wales, you really ought to just stay here until-until you find a place.” You shrug. “Or just stay here, with me, with us.”

“Cariad.”

You shake your head as if that could dislodge the words you’d just spoken out of existence.

“Forgive me. Ignore that. We’ll, we’ll talk tomorrow? But you really should stay here when you first move back from Wales, at least. It’ll save you money and you won’t have to worry about where you’re living whilst you look for work.”

“And where would I sleep?”

“My bed…or the spare room.”

“Spare room?”

“Yes, did I forget to mention that?”

She narrows her eyes at you.

“You may have done. Careful, Pats, I may think you nefarious with your woman wiles luring me into your bed.”

You laugh.

“Yes, well, have you looked in the mirror? You can’t blame a woman for trying.”

“Smooth talker.”

“Only for you.”

“Pats, I’m leaving tomorrow.”

You gasp.

“But you said.”

“I know, I know but somebody’s already interested in my parents place and I’d rather get things sorted as quick as possible. The solicitor contacted me today.”

“Oh, so you didn’t know.”

“Not till early this afternoon. That’s another reason I should get back so I can pack for tomorrow.”

“You’re selling the place?”

“Yes.”

“Didn’t you want to keep your childhood home?”

Delia sighs.

“I’ll miss it but my home is here. With you. And Phyllis. And Elle if she allows it.”

“She will.”

“Cariad.”

“We’ll talk when you get back. We’ll talk about how we’ll do this. How we’ll make it work.”

“Okay.”

You smile

“So, you’ll stay here? When you get back? I’ll give you a house tour, and everything,” you say, winking.

She laughs.

“Well, aren’t I lucky?”

“So, that’s a yes?”

“Okay, Cariad. But I’ll be sleeping in the spare room, right?”

You nod.

“No funny business, Miss Mount, I know how disarming you can be.”

“I make no promises. If you happen to fall into my bed, who am I to argue?”

She laughs again, swinging her legs out from under her and rising.

“Right, well, come on then, you, see me to the door like the lady you are.”

She puts on her shoes and shrugs on her coat.

“How long will you be gone?” you ask, the warmth of the nights joy leaving you as soon as she leaves your arms and you feel the loneliness of her impending departure, keenly.

“I-I don’t know. As long as it takes to get everything sorted but I’ll come back as soon as I can,” she says, reaching for your hands and squeezing them. “I’m coming back, Cariad, I just need some time, okay? Which reminds me, write down your phone number. I’ll call you as much as I can, okay?”

You nod your head and follow her command.

As you go to the door, her hand stops you. You turn to face her and will this moment to stay locked in your mind, to see you through the next few days, weeks, possible months of separation.

“I’ll be seeing you, Cariad,” she says, leaning forward and pressing her lips to your cheek, once again catching the side of your lips. “And when I get back,” she whispers, “I expect a proper kiss hello.”

She leans back and winks. You smile.

“And I shall be more than happy to oblige your wishes, Darling. Come home, soon. We’ll be waiting.”

And with that, she walks into the dark and you hope with everything you have that times goes quickly until you’re reunited again.

You think of Mrs Smith, see her holding her stillborn child and sigh.

Despite the ache of Delia leaving, you’ve still so much to live for and the events of the day have only served to make that clearer to you. You’re blessed with so many people to love that are healthy and alive and you vow, for the sake of that child’s life, to live the best life possible, to give and to love as much as you can because some people never get the chance to.

Chapter Text

Interlude: ‘ (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ – Aretha Franklin

‘When my soul was in the lost and found
You came along, to claim it
I didn't know just what was wrong with me
'Til your kiss helped me name it

Now I'm no longer doubtful of what I'm living for
And if I make you happy I don't need to do more

'Cause you make me feel
You make me feel
You make me feel like a natural woman’

 

It takes all of my willpower to leave you, to leave your door, your warmth, your home but I know I have to.

I know you’re scared, Cariad, I am too but I have to believe that it won’t be like last time. I have to trust that we can believe in each other enough this time.

I almost didn’t write you that letter.

What utter fools we’d been.

You didn’t come after me and I didn’t come after you and why? Why, because we didn’t believe in us enough. We were too scared to seek answers that would have changed our lives completely from what they’d become. But after spending time in your new world, seeing how wonderful and love filled your life has become, I can no longer bring myself to regret it.

Maybe it was meant to be this way.

My Mam was so small and fragile when she’d lain in that bed. I knew what was coming. I knew that it was the end for her. She did too.

I’ll never forget the soft way she looked at me, the way she tucked my hair behind my ear before uttering those fateful words.

“I’m so sorry, Delia.”

I frowned. There was nothing to forgive.

It took years for me to understand, to accept my Mam’s way of looking after me. In the years since I’d returned from London, she’d gotten better, and we were in a good place.

Then Tad died and she’d gotten sick, too and here we were but surely, she couldn’t be apologising for that.

“Don’t be silly, Mam. There’s nothing to forgive.”

She’d begun to cry. I’d felt the tension of holding back the tears, the rise of a headache building as I perched on her bed wrapped my arms around her as best I could.

“It’ll be okay. I’ll be okay.”

“Annwyl, I didn’t mean to do it. I thought-I thought it would make things better for you. And then it didn’t. You were so sad, you’ve always been so sad since and I didn’t know how-I couldn’t fix it,” she’d rushed out and I’d leaned away to look at her, took in the weathered, wrinkled skin, the down turn of her lips.

“Mam, what are you on about?”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Mam?” I’d said, my heart pounding, my hands beginning to shake.

“The letters. The letters you wrote to Patsy, the ones she wrote to you, I kept them. I thought-I thought you could start again, have an easier life here in Wales with me and your Tad, with your family.”

I’d gasped.

“Did-Did Tad know?” I’d said, raising from the bed and stepping away to look out of the window.

It was a beautiful Spring day outside. All green grass and yellow flowers but the space between my ribs felt like a grave yard of ‘could have beens’.

“No, he’d have told you, if he knew, you know that.”

And I did.

After years I’d come to understand my mother or, rather, I’d thought I’d understood her but Tad, Tad was the one person I knew inside out and that knew me back to front from the moment I was born.

I’d told him about Patsy a few months after I’d arrived back in Wales.

It was raining and I’d gotten drenched in the down pour and dreaded my Mam’s response, but Tad fixed it for me like always.

Mam was out shopping or gossiping, or both, I can’t remember now, I didn’t really care then, I was just glad I wouldn’t have to hear her having a go at me. Tad wrapped me in a towel and guide me to the bath, ran it just how I liked and just before he was about to leave, he’d placed his hand on my cheek and looked at me.

It’d been so long since it was just us with no Mam there to interfere.

“I see it, Delia. I see the sadness in your eyes and whenever you’re ready, if you’re ever ready, I’ll be here for you. Rwy'n dy garu di.”

He’d held me as I cried and the smell of him comforted me enough to spill my secrets.

He’d tried to get me to contact Patsy. He’d even suggested us taking a trip to London and me talking to her then, but I couldn’t. I was too scared, too stupid and naïve.

After I’d come out of the bath, he’d removed all the incriminating evidence. By the time Mam had come home, we were sitting with the radio playing, singing along with our favourite songs when they’d come on and laughing at the bad jokes we’d told.

So, yes, Mam was right, Tad would have told me if he had known.

“They’re-they’re in a box, in my wardrobe, just behind my shoes.”

I’d frowned and stood staring out of the window still.

“Hmm?”

“The letters.”

“You kept them? Why? You obviously never wanted me to read them.”

“I-I don’t know why I kept them. I never read them. I just-I couldn’t destroy them. I tried but it felt…wrong, Annwyl.”

“Wrong?” I’d roared, turning to face her with my arms crossed before softening.

She was dying and though she could still talk more than most at this moment, she was still my Mam and I didn’t have long left with her.

So, I’d clenched my jaw and willed my body to relax, to ignore the ache draining every pour of my body.

The next day, she was gone, and I had a funeral to arrange and plan. Thankfully, being as organised as she was, Mam had told me exactly what to do complete with written instructions and it was like another slap to the face, to read her words in ink and remember what she’d kept from me but still, as long as I had something to plan for, I could continue to ignore her confession.

And then the funeral was over, and I was left sitting on the floor with a box of unopened letters.

I’d run my fingers over your familiar handwriting and sigh. I’d never get to tell her how angry and hurt I was and yet, it wasn’t all her fault.

I didn’t fight for you.

They are still unopened back home in Wales. I’d almost opened one, but it felt wrong without you there to read them with me.

Maybe when I get back from Wales, I’ll show you them? but then, maybe I should burn them, and we could start anew?

Phyllis would know what to do.

She was the reason I’d finally written the letter to you and I’d finally gotten the courage to see you.

She found me sitting on the floor with our letters, our failures spread around me and I couldn’t help but tell her everything about us, perhaps in more detail than you would like for her to know, but she was all I had until I came back to you.

She’d encouraged me to see you, to explain things but even then, I was too scared.

Phyllis being Phyllis, she planted the seed and encouraged it to grown until I couldn’t bear to hear her voice in my head saying, “in my experience, Lass, life is too short for what ifs. You already feel guilty enough, but I think it’ll just get worse if you don’t do something about it,” without actually doing something about it.

And then there we were, sitting by the same old jukebox, at the same old table but things were so different. You were so much colder than before, just like when we first met and me? Me, I forgot everything, and it felt like I was back to being a twenty-something-year-old in love.

The smell of you was overwhelming.

The familiar faint odour of bleach still clings to your skin and your eyes, my God, your eyes are still so penetrating. And your voice? The clipped hello was so formal and polite and clinical but the slight shiver in your body before you tensed gave you away.

I couldn’t tell whether you were happy to see me or not, but I knew that I affected you, still and that meant that I’d made the right choice. Whatever happened, we deserved closure and the truth and that’s what I was there to bring you.

And now this.

Here we are, once again willing to make a go of it but it’s so much harder now.

Elle is as stunning as you and equally as important so we can’t mess this up. I know you know this but sometimes, Cariad, you care so deeply that you forget to be cautious in some ways. I mean, sure, you would never hold my hand or, heaven forbid, kiss me on the lips in public but you want me to be around at times when I shouldn’t, you want to take risks that I happily would have done before, when it was just us but I can’t and so I put my foot down.

Do you know how hard it can be to resist you and your wants? I want to give you everything, but things have changed, we’ve changed, and so I can’t.

I would have loved to have had breakfast with you and Elle. Saying no was its own brand of torture but we have to be careful, my love.

Even knowing this, you managed to trick me, didn’t you, Patience Mount? Roommates? You and I both know that you’ll never allow us to sleep under the same roof in separate beds for long.

I wonder what Elle will say when she figures it out. We both know she will. She’s too bright not too. I wonder if she’ll hate us for making her a part of our secret or love us more for allowing her to be a part of it?

You’re right. You usual are. We can’t keep this from her, but it will be so much harder for her if we do this, but you know that, don’t you?

I wonder if the day will ever come when people like us can live and love freely and openly. What a thought, Cariad. It’s almost enough to bring tears to my eyes.

I can’t wait to see you and claim that kiss I’d asked of you, to finally begin to give you parts of myself no one else has ever been given.

I mean, sure, me and Carol kissed that one time, or rather, Carol kissed me before I’d pushed her away, explained as best I could in the vaguest way possible about you. You’d have been proud at how I channelled my inner Patience Mount to be polite but firm in rejecting her.

She’d understood. In fact, I daresay that we’re friends now, though she is in a relationship with Mary, you’ll be happy to note.

Seeing them together used to hurt, used to remind me of us and how we’d daringly share soft looks in a room full of people, but I think it will make me smile, now.

People like us deserve to be happy, right, Pats? All we’re doing is loving people. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to believe that loving someone as I love you is wrong. It’s the easiest and most natural thing I think I’ve ever done, Cariad and I don’t think I could stop. I willed myself to for eight years and it didn’t make a dent.

I think you’ll like Carol and Mary. Maybe they could come visit us sometime? I don’t think I’d tell you about the kiss, though, Cariad. Or maybe I would because I’ve never been good at keeping things from you.

I tried.

I tried to hide my body from you, to shield you from seeing the scars that have tallied up over the years, but you found a way around that, didn’t you?

I don’t think you realise how complete I felt when you touched my burn marks and I touched your scars and you’d said we were a perfect match.

And we, aren’t we Cariad? Despite everything we have ahead of us, all the battles and pain and love and happiness, we are perfect for one another.

So that’s why I ignore the worry, the fear that separation from you brings.

Because we’ll always find a way back, won’t we?

Chapter Text

Chapter 7: ‘ Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me’ – The Orioles

‘Thrill me, thrill me!
Walk me down the lane where shadows
Will be (Will be)
Hiding lovers just the same as we'll be, we'll be
When you make me tell you I love you
(I love you)’

 

By the end of the week, you’re in a solid routine.

Wake up, get Elle and yourself ready for the day, go to work or visit Trixie or Baraba whilst missing Delia and wondering…so many things, collect Elle, go home and spend your evening simultaneously being a mother and hoping for a phone call from Delia like a teenager in love.

She’d called the evening she’d left to let you know that she arrived safely, and you could have kissed her for her thoughtfulness. Even so many years later, she still knows you, knows what you need.

The day she had left had been torturous for you. Even Elle picked up on your sour mood and remained quiet throughout the day. Val had taken one look at you, nodded her head and left you be, only checking in with you as you left for the day.

Nurse Mount was in control whilst Patsy cowered within your rib cage and hid in the darkness.

It’s stupid, you feel foolish for it but despite the weight of the confessions between you, despite the declarations of love and affection, you still fear her leaving you behind. What if she changes her mind? What if having Elle is too much for her?

Then you remember that this is Delia, your Delia who is made up of love and kindness and honesty and you know that even thinking those thoughts for a second is ridiculous and a disservice to the woman you love.

You know that she’s not perfect, that she can push you a little too far sometimes, that she can be infinitely more stubborn than you at others but together, you work, you fit.

You’re Patience Elizabeth Mount, insecure, sometimes cold, sometimes far too closed off and in need of someone so warm and open.

So, yes, you wait with half of your attention on Elle, the other awaiting a call that may not come anytime soon.

Elle had asked once where Delia had gone, you’d told her the truth and that was enough. Elle likes Delia but she hasn’t had the time to love her fully, yet and you dread the future days Delia has to leave you both for any extended amount of time because Elle mopes like you, misses people intensely like you but she shows it and you must be strong for your daughter instead of caving in on yourself like you want too, now.

You’re still learning, Delia is still teaching you that sometimes, when the people closest to you leave, they can-they want to come back to you and you want Elle to know distance like that.

Elle is laying across from you on the floor, scrawling on some once plain paper as she hums along to the radio. You’re sitting on the sofa, watching, tea in hand, fingers tapping the mug along with the beat of the music as you enjoy the peace, the quiet of the moment.

She’s growing so quick, far too quick for your liking. Already she’s gone from the tiny bundle that fit so snuggly in your arms into this beautiful, bright person that challenges you in all the best ways.

Just as you’re about to inelegantly fold yourself down on the floor with her, that’s when the phone rings.

You almost roll your eyes. If it is Delia, of course she’d call when you were no longer thinking of her and if it was work, of course they’d call when you no longer needed the distraction.

“Mama, you answer it?” Elle says, as the phone continues its shrill shriek.

You shake your head and jump into action, answering in a breathless tone and heart beating double time.

“Hello, Patience Mount, speaking.”

“Well, if it isn’t a joy to hear that RP accent of yours, Cariad,” Delia says, laughter clouding her tone.

You smile, turn and face Elle, one eye surreptitiously watching your ever-curious daughter.

“Delia,” you say on a sigh. “How are you? Are you well? The headaches aren’t causing you any issues, are they?”

She laughs.

“Calm down, Pats. I’m okay, just a bit lonely and missing you. Sori I haven’t called sooner, I’ve been a bit tied up.”

“No, no, it’s okay. I’m just glad to hear your voice,” you say, voice declining to a whisper. Elle is still humming along to the radio and drawing.

“I know. It’s good to hear yours, too. How’re you and your mini-me?”

“We’re okay. Elle is doing well at school,” you say, brightly. “She drew a picture the other day. She didn’t say it, but I think it was for you considering the number of cupcakes with different designs she’d drawn in it.”

Delia laughs, again and it makes you smile.

“I’ll look forward to seeing that, to seeing you both when I come home. How are you?”

“I’m okay,” you rush out, fingers playing with the telephone cord.

She sighs.

“Cariad.”

“I miss you and I think-I think I might be out of a job soon, but I am okay, really.”

“Oh, Pats.”

“Don’t, ‘oh, Pat’s,’ me. I knew this was coming. Work at Nonnatus has been declining for years now and we both know that no where else will hire me with a six-year-old but really, it’s okay. I’m more worried for the others than anything. I can survive without work, but Val and Lucille need it. I’ll miss them, but at least the Nuns will have somewhere to go.”

“Shall I ask Matron if they’re any other positions going when I get back?”

You smile.

“Maybe. We’ll see. For now, just focus on coming home to me, yes, Darling?”

“Deal.” She sighs again. “Speaking of, I should go. I’ve got an early start in the morning.”

“Yes, I suppose you should. Sleep well, Darling and come home soon.”

“I will. Look after my girls for me.”

You smile.

“I will.”

She hangs up and the smile she gifted you with still lingers.

You appreciate the lightness of your conversations with her, that neither of you delve too deep. She hasn’t asked about your finances and you haven’t asked for any specifics regarding her trip to Wales. All that matters to you, all that matters to you both is that you’ll be together in some form.

You know you’ll have to have these conversations at some point, must explain that Edwards mother, despite his beliefs, found a way out of supporting both you and Elle.

Once the funeral was over, Mrs Jones come to you with a deal. You could have sole custody of Elle with no interference from their family if you agreed to handover all of Edwards assets. You’d agreed, straight away, had brokered a formal contract that your family lawyer, the one you hadn’t seen since the reading of your fathers will, approved.

It was iron tight.

Elle was yours, Edward’s finances was theirs and you were more than okay with that, even though, as sole heir to the Mount empire, you’d had to rely on your family’s money since.

You know it was for the best. You couldn’t imagine selling off your grandchild and walking out the door with such as broad smiles as Edward’s mother had, slim frame encased in black as it always was as she’d slammed the door shut after informing you that you had a week to depart the property as her farewell.

That woman may have birthed a kind, loving man but she has no place in your child’s life. Before Elle, you’d owned a dog together, a stray that he’d found one night.  When Fleas eventually succumbed after a year of his coming to live with you and passed away, you’d held Edward as a few stray tears had fallen. Like then, he’d have been devastated if he knew how things had panned out, of the compromises you’d come to make.

He known your aversion to your family’s wealth, the aversion you still clung to after your fathers passing.

But he didn’t know you now.

 

Over the years, you’d acknowledged your foolishness, your stubborn pride. Accepting your family’s money wasn’t a weakness, not now. It was a strength. It gave you the ability to support those you love, and as Trixie screeched at you one, dreary day, it only served to emphasise your strengths.

You had-have all of this money and yet you choose to work, to not squander it on unnecessary things, to give and help whenever and wherever you can.

You don’t ask Delia anything to do with her inheritance. You know you have more than enough for you both, but you also know that Delia is a stubborn and prideful as you.

Avoidance was for the best, at least until you could both soothe and navigate arguments with a look, a touch, a kiss.

What you wouldn’t give simply for Delia’s hand to be clasped in yours, to feel her warmth and softness enveloped within your arms.

*

“Patsy,” Val says, cigarette in hand and nodding her head as you walk into Trixie’s dining room, Elle running into the back garden to play with James, George, and TJ.

James and George are so loud and confident, just like Trixie, and blond to boot. You can hear them from a mile away. But TJ, TJ is so quiet and thoughtful, just like Barbara. He calms the foursome and you’re sure he’s the reason they don’t you get into more trouble than they already do.

You smile.

You missed the three boys last week. They’d gone on a Cubs expedition to the beach.

After you’d given birth to Elle, it was made clear that some thought you no longer capable of being Akela and you’d accepted that, but it doesn’t mean you don’t miss it. The boisterousness, the comradery, the silliness…you’re just glad Elle gets to experience that second hand in Aunt Trixie’s and Aunt Barbara’s houses.

You walk over to stand beside Val, both looking through the window to the back garden and watching the children run and play and be joyous.

“Let’s hope they live happier lives than us, Red.”

“Yes, indeed.”

“You alright? Trix said your friend’s gone back to Wales, was it? Been a bad week for you.”

“On the contrary,” you say, smile upturning the corners of your lips. “It’s not been all bad,” you sigh. “It could have been better, but it was nice to catch up with Delia.”

“Ah, yes. The mysterious Delia. When’d I get to meet her, then? Barbara likes her so she can’t be half bad.”

You focus ahead, half of your attention on the children, the other half thinking of your Welsh beauty.

You temper your smile as best you can, try to inject more of Nurse Mount’s tone into your voice.

You fail on both accounts.

“She’s…wonderful.”

“Yeah?” Val says and you see from the corner of your eye that she’s facing you.

“Valerie Dyer get your pale butt in here and help us out with the cooking. You too, Patsy. There’s plenty for you both to do,” Lucille says, breezing into the room, hands on her hips before she turns and walks back to the kitchen.

You smile, Valerie winks before she shouts, “are you sure you want me and ol’ Red here anywhere near an oven?”

You scoff before it turns into a chuckle at Lucille’s hastily shouted, “not at all”.

*

You’re washing up, hands already beginning to prune, and Valerie is drying, the others working like a well-oiled machine to get the food organised on serving platters.

“So, Delia,” she says, nudging your shoulder with hers and speaking quietly.

“Hmm?”

“What’s she like?”

“She’s…Welsh.”

“Right,” Val says, and you can almost hear her rolling her eyes. “She’s wonderful, if I remember right.”

“Yes,” you sigh. “She is. You’d like her, I think.”

“I’m sure I will.”

“Yeah.”

Val sighs as you both continue with your tasks for a few minutes. “Getting you to talk is like getting blood from a stone, sometimes, Patsy.”

“She’s-she’s not some one you can explain. You’ll just have to meet her.”

“And when will that be?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know when she’s coming back,” you rush out, hands frantically scrubbing at the same pan you have been for the past few minutes.

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“I’m sure she’ll be back before you know it. Why such a short visit, anyway?”

You shrug and feign ignorance.

“I don’t know. She’s moving back here, I think. She just has somethings loose ends to tie up back in Wales.”

“Oh, right. That’s good, then. Trix said she’d be good for you.”

You frown.

“She did?”

“Yeah. Said you were old pals at the London, that she knew you better than anyone.” You see her shrug from the corner of your eye. “If she makes you happy, that’s all that matters.”

You stop what you’re doing and turn to look at her, the chatter of the others muted to your ears.

“What do you mean?”

Val raises an eyebrow at you before shrugging and throwing down the tea towel.

“Luce, I’m starving, when can we eat?” she says and you watch her walk over to a steaming plate of veg, hand getting swatted away as she picks up a carrot and dunks it in gravy.

She looks up to you and winks.

You smile.

*

“Well, that was simply divine, Lucille. You must teach us your secrets,” Trixie says, and you, like every other adult around the table, nod your head in agreement.

“Yeah, it was good, ‘Cille,” Elle says.

You chuckle at your daughter trying to play grown up whilst a spot of gravy lingers on her cheek.

“Ah, you like it then, Chile?” Lucille says, walking over with a napkin and wiping Elle’s face.

Elle nods emphatically.

“Mum, what’s for dessert?” George says.

Trixie rolls her eyes.

“What is it with boys and being bottomless pits?”

“If my daughter and Val are anything to go by, that stands for girls as well.”

“Yes, well, I suppose we best feed this lot. Come get the dessert with me, Patsy.”

You follow her.

As soon as she’s in the kitchen, she shuts the door behind her and you look to her, your brow creased, taking in her folded arms and tapping foot.

“Are you okay, Trixie?”

“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” You frown and she rolls her eyes. “How’re you holding up? You know, with Delia back in Wales?” she says, unfolding her arms and staring you in the eyes.

“I-I’m fine.”

“Fine?”

“Yes. I’ve spoken to Delia a few times and I miss her, but she’ll be back as soon as she can and I’m okay with that.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, she’s spoken to Matron about a job at the London, she still talks about coming back, of course I’m sure she’s coming home.”

Trixie’s face softens, her shoulders drooping a little.

“That’s not what I meant, Pats. I’m positively sure Delia is coming back but how are you, really?”

You sigh and your shoulder drop a little, too.

“Really? I’m okay, I promise. A little sad and a little lonely but when haven’t I been that?”

“The few days Delia was here,” she states, eyes blinking at the truthfulness of her comment.

“Trix. Please, don’t worry. Let’s get dessert sorted and enjoy the rest of the day, okay?”

“Okay. Let’s go feed those animals of ours.”

You smile.

“Thanks.”

“Whatever for?”

“For being you, old thing and sporting your terrible timing.”

“Well I couldn’t very well ask you, yesterday. I needed to get that dress finished and, as we both know, perfection requires attention. And I might have overheard you and Val talking, earlier. Don’t roll your eyes at me, Nurse Mount.”

“Eavesdropper.”

You both laugh.

“Come on, let’s get this dessert out.”

Barbara’s eyes light up as much as the children’s as you walk out, trifle in hand as Trixie follows holding the dishes and spoons.

As soon as it’s on the table, you serve up yourself a small portion and Barbara a significantly bigger portion and sit in the vacant seat beside her.

She smiles.

“Thanks,” she says, rubbing her protruding stomach before taking a rather large spoonful and scooping it into her mouth.

Your eyes crease as the grin extends upon your face.

Some things, some people never change.

“Oh, this is good,” she moans out and you chuckle.

“Yeah?”

She nods.

“How’re you? How’s the little junior doing? you say, rubbing her belly.

“We’re okay, although this one is thinks my ribs are drums for it to beat,” she says, scooping another mouthful. “How’re you?”

“Do I look that bad? I’m being asked that a lot, lately,” you say, swirling your spoon around your trifle.

She shrugs.

“You seem alright to me.” She drops the spoon into the almost empty dish and reaches for your hand, squeezing it before letting go to eat, again. She pauses as the spoon reaches her lips. “It’s only because we care,” she says, “but I know what they can be like.” She takes a mouthful before continuing. “She’ll be back before you know it. How’re you going to explain things to Elle?”

Your head snaps up and you look at her innocently, inquiring eyes.

“You’re the first person to ask that.”

“Really?” She frowns. “I mean, we all know you’re supposed to be together, but the world-the world isn’t so…accepting?”

You nod.

“I know and I don’t rightly know what to do. Delia-Delia wants to take it slow.”

“That’s sensible.” Barbara shrugs again as she looks, forlornly at her empty bowl. You hand her you untouched portion and she smiles at you. “You’ll figure it out, Patsy, you always do.” She digs in and once again, the spoon pauses at her lips as she continues:

“What are heavy? Sea-sand and sorrow;
What are brief? Today and tomorrow;
What are frail? Spring blossoms and youth;
What are deep? The ocean and truth.”

You laugh as she takes another bite.

“Shall I call you Sister Monica Joan, now?”

Barbara eyes bulge as big as her now filled with trifle cheeks and she hastily swallows.

“It was my Dad’s favourite poem. I thought it might make you feel better.”

“Well, it certainly did that,” you say, still chuckling to yourself. “What is it with people and quoting poetry at me?”

She shrugs, wiping her lips.

“Maybe it allows us to tell you things without being too direct. Unlike Trixie, I know better than to try and confront you, head on,” she says, and you look at her. Really, simply, look at her.

So often people, yourself included have thought of Barbara as quaint, innocent, oblivious but moments like this remind you she’s anything but.

You squeeze her shoulder before turning towards the sound of a vase breaking.

“James Michael Franklin-Smith,” Trixie screeches.

You turn and pull a faux worried face at Barbara as she laughs.

“Be thankful you’ve only the one and a girl at that.”

You laugh, heartily before sobering.

Would Delia like anymore children?

As though she can read your mind, Barbara bursts out laughing.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: ‘ Come Get To This’ – Marvin Gaye

‘Girl, you've been gone away for a real long time
I nearly went out of my mind
I miss your loving when you left, baby you did


Ah baby, come here, let me caress you
Ah ah baby let us, ah tell me what you missed
Come here, sugar, and get to this’

 

Your routine has been the same as that first few days for these past few weeks, although, now, you’ve figured out that every few days, Delia will call, and you’ll talk about everything meaningless and it will be everything meaningful to you.

You’d missed it. Missed how easy, how freeing it was to talk to your person about anything that could pop into your head.

And then.

And then Elle and Delia had taken to talking on the phone after one evening after you’d had to check on dessert, a perfectly edible and tasty dessert of apple crumble. Coming back and sitting beside Elle, stroking her hair as she’d withered on about Mrs Hawkins, her teacher, Paws, the neighbourhood cat, the drawings she’d made, giggling at something Delia had said had broken you in the sweetest way possible.

You couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the evening and well into the next day, despite Val’s teasing, a punctured tyre and being forced to deal with two problematic patients that have always had an issue with you working and being a single mother.

Three weeks.

Three weeks you’ve gone without her and for the first time in your life, you don’t feel left behind because you know, you know she’s coming home, despite never asking when. You know because it’s in the softened, Welsh lilt of ‘I miss you’s’, the ‘I’ll be seeing you soon, Cariad’ she gifts you with at the end of every phone call, her allowing you to inform Elle of her impending arrival.

“Eleanor, can I ask you something?” you say, half of your dinner still on your plate as you set your cutlery down, fold your arms on the table and look to your daughter. She swallows her mouthful of mashed potato and looks to you.

“How would you feel about Delia coming to live with us?”

She looks at you for a few moments and your heart hammers in your chest.

“Doesn’t she have a home, Mama?”

You shake your head.

“She used to but….it got taken away and I care very much,” you swallow. “I care very much about her so would like her to have a home with us, if that’s okay?”

She nods.

“I like her, Mama. She’s fun.”

You smile.

“Yes, she is. So, you don’t mind?”

She shakes her head, smiling.

“Cupcakes every day,” she says, clapping her hands and bouncing in her seat.

You frown.

“Sit still and finish your dinner, Eleanor.”

You have no doubt that cupcakes will be on the menu more than you’d like.

It’s been three nights since your last conversation with Delia and you almost skip home in anticipation of her call.

In lieu of working at the clinic or district rounds, you’d been requested to assist at the London for the day and you’d quickly realised you were enduring the sweetest form of torture imaginable.

As soon as you’d stepped through the doors, you could almost see Delia, years younger, puffed sleeves on display, rushing through the halls to fulfil her duties. You could almost see the both of you sneaking glances at each other in passing, Delia often with a wink and a grin that would tint your cheeks red in an instant and garner a small chuckle from the Welsh beauty.

And then Matron had found you during your rushed lunch break, still as regal and clinical and daunting as ever, the storm of her frown clearing for an instant as she’d smiled at you, for the first time in your life.

“My, my, my, what a sight for sore eyes you are, Nurse Mount.”

“Hello, Matron.”

“What brings you back to The London?” she says, pulling up a chair and sitting beside you, piercing brown eyes locked on you.

“Assisting on the Maternity Ward. Nurse shortage, I’m afraid,” you say, staring at your cheese and pickle sandwich to avoid her gaze.

She sighs and you feel her hand gently squeeze your shoulder before she lets go.

“How’ve you been, Patience? I’ve been informed you’re now a mother.”

You frown and look up to her. It jars you to hear her clipped tone soften around the syllables of your name at all, let alone your first one.

“Yes. Eleanor, she’s six.”

“Oh. You know, I never envisioned you as a mother, but Nurse Busby informs me that you’re a wonderful one and I’m inclined to agree,” she says, head tiled to the side as she takes you in. “Yes, I can see it. And, though I can never condone it publicly, I’m so very glad to see the nursing profession hasn’t lost you to motherhood.”

You look at her and try to figure out a response.

“Nurse Busby will be lodging with you, will she not?”

You nod your head.

“You two always were thick as thieves,” she says, and your heart begins to race. She pats your hand with hers before rising. “I’m glad to see your friendship is alive and well as ever. I must dash, duty calls and all that. I hope to see you again, Nurse Mount.”

“Thank you, Matron,” you whisper. She turns and looks at you one last time before marching out of the room, Nurses clearing the way as she’d bulldozes past.

You’d scoffed down your lunch, managed to sneak in a phone call asking Phyllis to pick up Elle for you and then continued your afternoon on the ward distracted by your interaction with Matron. When did she get so…soft?

It still bothers you now as you step into your home, almost vibrating with the anticipation of hearing Delia’s voice after being surrounded by some many reminders, so many memories of her.

A heavenly smell greets you as you walk into the door.

“Mama,” Elle says, rushing towards you and wrapping her arms around your legs. You reach down and hug her close, breathing in the scent of your child that never fails to soothe you.

“I missed you, Darling.”

“Missed you, too.”

“How was your day?” you say, shrugging off your green coat.

“Me and Charlie made mud Castles.”

You resist the urge to shudder at the thought of Elle being coated in filth and dirt as Phyllis enters the hall.

“Good evening, Lass. Dinner’s nearly ready so you go get yourself sorted and we’ll be at the table waiting, won’t’ we, missus.”

“Yes, Nanna.”

“You really didn’t have to all this.”

“Nonsense. You’ve had a long day at the hospital, and I had time to spare. Now, go get changed so this little monster can eat,” Phyllis says.

You walk up the stairs to the sound of Elle’s giggles as Phyllis tickles her.

*

You enjoy dinner. Enjoy the ease and familiarity of nights like this, and at some points, you can imagine hearing a cheeky response, a laugh that sets your pulse racing and you can’t wait for the moment that really happens.

The evening passes and heads towards night before you know.

You walk into Elle’s room; yellow walls darkened by the night and kiss her forehead as she sleeps. Phyllis had read her bedtime story tonight instead of you and you’d sat waiting by the ever-quiet phone, biting your nails, something you go back to as you walk back down into the living room.

Phyllis sits on the sofa and turns to face you as you enter the room. Two cups of tea sit on the table and you pick the one she nudges in your direction up as you sit beside her.

“You okay there, Patsy?”

“Yes, I’m quite alright, Phyllis. Thank you once again for your help this evening.”

“Not a problem, Kid. It may have been many moons ago, but I remember how tiring it can be rushing about on those wards, let alone being a mother.”

You frown and feel your body tense.

“I am quite capable of both.”

“Right you are, Lass but as I’ve told you before, there’s no shame in having a little help to lighten the load.”

She pats your knee. You relax.

“Yes, you’re right, as always.”

“How was it being back there?”

“It was…strange. I-I didn’t dislike it, but I much prefer Nonnatus and Poplar.”

She nods her head.

“How’re you holding up with our Welsh Wonder being back in Wales?”

You swallow.

“I miss her, of course but these things must be endured.”

She sighs.

“Sadly, you’re right there, kiddo. But, not to worry. Elle was telling me about a trip to The National Gallery with Delia, so you’ve got that to look forward to. I think Elle’s been learning Welsh from her, so you might want to dust up on yours.”

You smile.

“I was hopeless when Deels tried to teach me before. Even Edward gave up for the most part, but I fear you may be right. Who knows what plans those two can concoct? Best I at least have a rudimentary knowledge, so I have some warning.”

Phyllis throws her head back and laughs.

“I imagine we’ll all be in danger of their charms when those two put their heads together to get their own way.”

You laugh.

“I’ll be hopeless, won’t I? They’ll forever be breaking me down.”

“Of course they will, Kiddo, but you’ll be happy for it, so there is that.”

You nod your head and take a sip of your tea.

“Phyllis, have you doctored this by any chance?”

“I thought a tot of whisky might relax you a bit after such a long day. I know you’re not a fan of drinking alcohol, but this is upon a nurse’s recommendation. You finish up your drink and get yourself to bed.”

She pats your knee, again.

“But Delia hasn’t called, yet?”

“It’s pushing nine, Lass, I don’t think she’ll be calling tonight.”

You frown and take another, larger sip of your drink.

“Are you-are you staying the night?”

“No but I’ll clear this all away and lock up for the night.”

“Phyllis-”

“Patience, I know I don’t have too but I want to. Now, hurry on, drink up and get yourself some rest. It’s Saturday, tomorrow and you have a daughter to entertain.”

She winks.

“And who knows what tomorrow will bring.”

You frown before complying, all the will feeling a heaviness in your body you haven’t felt for quite some time.

Is Delia well? Safe? Why hasn’t she called?

You get changed into your trusty flannel pyjamas, possibly the very same ones Delia used to see you wear or at least ones very similar, and clamber into bed.

You stare at the ceiling, a slither of moonlight breaking through your curtains. Usually, you’d get up and close them but tonight, you lie and stare at the patch of light as Phyllis potters about downstairs.

You don’t hear her leave, but you must drift off to sleep.

It’s still dark when you startle awake, patch of light gone as you feel someone’s cold feet brush against your leg and you tense, getting ready to scream as you move to lie on your back.

“Hello, Cariad.”

You freeze.

“Am I dreaming?”

You feel and hear Delia quietly laugh, her chest pressed against your side as she brings her head to rest below your chin.

“I don’t think so.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”

“I wanted to surprise you and to be quite honest with you, Cariad, I didn’t know.”

You frown into the darkness and as though Delia can see it, she answers.

“I wasn’t planning on leaving until Monday, but things were wrapped up quicker than expected and-and I missed you,” she says, clinging to you a big tighter. “I paid extra to change my ticket to this afternoon so I could come home quicker.”

You sigh.

“That’s-I,” you sigh again. “Come here, Darling.”

She leans up on her elbow, her other arm occupied by her hand hugging your waist.

You reach up and stoke her cheek before leaning in, mouths reconnecting.

Tension you didn’t ever realise you were holding releases as your lips meet and the softness you remembered becomes nothing compared to this.

Delia climbs on top of you, pinning you between her knees as she leans into the kiss. When you part, you both gulp in a breath.

You frown as you hear the front door close.

“Phyllis let me in,” Delia says, shrugging.

You stroke her cheek.

“Come here, you.”

You kiss again and feel an echoing shudder run through Delia’s body as you begin to kiss her cheeks, her chin, her neck, working lower.

She fists your hair and sighs as you continue your exploration, reconnecting with her body.

You run your hand up her night shirt, her thighs, her sides and feel her tense as you brush her scars. You learn back and look at her, using your hands to trace her features in the darkness.

“Darling,” you say, sighing before reaching over and turning on the lamp on your bedside table. “Let me see you.”

Blue eyes glimmer in the low light as she looks at you. You reach out and run you hand up her thighs, again, the cotton of her night shirt rising as you lift it higher, eyes always locked on Delia’s until you lift the shirt completely off her and throw it to the side.

Instantly, Delia’s arms wrap around her torso, shielding her body from view.

You grab her shoulder and switch positions so that she’s pinned beneath your knees before cradling her face and resting your forehead against hers.

“Please, let me see you, Darling. Let me-let me love you. All of you.”

She nods her head, closing her eyes and turning her head to the side as you lean back and lift her arms, taking in the sight of gnarled flesh, running your fingers over each mountain you and Delia are about to conquer before your lips follow the same route.

The sweet smell of Delia’s skin consumes you as your lips continue their journey across her abdomen, drifting lower, near her hip bones.

“You’re so beautiful, my Darling. So, so beautiful.”

Delia whimpers and you look up to her, seeing her eyes open, tears beginning to fall as she looks at you.

You lift your shirt, take it off and grab Delia’s hands.

“See here,” you say, guiding her hand across your abdomen and encouraging her hands to wander across your stretch marks. “And here,” you say, leaning forward so her hands can feel the familiar scars tattooed across your back, your bare chest pressed against her bare chest as you shudder. “We match, don’t we?”

You lean back to look at her.

“Cariad,” she whispers before capturing your lips with hers, mouths pressed together, hard before her wandering tongue probes at your mouth and you allow it entry.

You both frantically touch, everywhere as you strip each other of your last remaining garments, hands and eyes learning each other once again, cataloguing each new scar, scratch, freckle.

“You’re so beautiful,” you say, and she smiles at you.

“And you’re as stunning as ever, Smooth Talker.”

She tickles your side and you try to be quiet as you giggle, once again ending up on your back with Delia, gloriously naked Delia, on top of you and a red tint to your skin as you begin to sweat, temperature on the rise.

You close your eyes as Delia kisses you once more, your hand brushing her hair behind her ear before stroking her cheek, getting lost in the kiss.

“Oh,” you say, eyes snapping open as two rogue fingers enter you, beginning a steady pace. “Oh.”

Delia smirks and you narrow your eyes at her before sighing and looking up.

“Feel good?”

You nod as she continues her steady rhythm, lips now kissing your neck as her fingers move in and out.

“Deels.”

“Yes?” She leans back, hands and lips stopping as she looks at you, faux innocent expression in place

You growl.

“Don’t stop.”

“Oh, I thought you had something to say,” she says, shrugging and you remember how torturous, how playful she could be but always, how loving.

Even though you’d only ever had stolen moments, Delia would often make them solely about you as she wound you up, to bring you back down as if you had all the time in the world, as if you were like any other acceptable couple.

You shake your head.

“Some things never change.”

She chuckles.

“You love it,” she says before diving back in.

You close your eyes tight as you feel the familiar tension building between your thighs as Delia’s hands continue to work, her lips, her silky tongue exploring your breasts.

In. Out. In. Out. Kiss. Lick. Swirl.

You skin feels on fire, sweat slickened as your body slides against Delia’s.

You hiss in pleasure as she hits just the right angle and bite your lip before your back arches and your jaw clenches, your desired scream of pleasure tempered to a moan, a sigh as you clench your eyes closed.

When you’ve calmed, Delia working you down, you open your eyes to the sight of Delia bringing her fingers to her mouth, clearing away the remnants of you and groan as she moans.

“Woman, you will be the death of me.”

“Not my fault you taste good, Pats.”

You roll your eyes as Delia snuggles into your side, room beginning to lighten as dawn threatens the horizon.

You roll on top of Delia, working down her body, once again kissing…everywhere before reaching your destination with a firm lick.

“Ffyc,” she says, hips beginning to move before you grab her thighs with your hands and hold them down, continue to kiss and lick and bite and garner moans and sighs that create a melody for you to follow.

You moan as you taste the sweet and salty taste of Delia on your lips again after so long. You’d forgotten just how good she tasted, how good it felt to reduce her to only Welsh and grunts and groans, how the scent of Delia was so much stronger as you lay between her thighs.

You continue your ministrations and add in two fingers that easily slide inside of her, the wet sounds of your fingers moving, mouth devouring harmonising with Delia.

“Ffyc, ffyc, ffyc, ffyc, ffyc,” she says as you feel her body tense under you, silence reigning before she collapses down, all the while you continue taking every last drop until she groans and tugs your hair.

You lie on top of her, watching as she catches her breath, smile on your face.

“Hello, Darling.”

“Shwmae, Cariad.”

You smile.

“Welcome home.”

“What a welcoming.”

You chuckle.

“Indeed. Everything sorted?”

She nods and hums a response you assume means an affirmative.

“Tired?”

She nods.

“Sleep, Darling. You must be exhausted after such a long journey.”

“Diolch.”

You smile and watch her sleep as the early morning light peaks into the room, dimmed by the closed curtains.

*

“Good morning, Deels,” you say as Delia strolls into the kitchen, yawning and still in her night gown.

“Delia,” Elle yells, running towards her and jumping in her arms, thankfully being caught by Delia.

“Eleanor, be careful.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s okay, Pats. Morning, Bach.”

They hug and you make Delia a cup of tea before putting some bread on to toast, turning to watch as she looks at you, Elle back to drawing at the dining table.

“Sleep well?”

“Like a baby.”

She walks over and squeezes your hand, quickly taking a glance over at Elle who’s paying neither of you any attention. You stand smiling at each other for a few moments before you go back to making her a quick breakfast.

“So, when do I get the house tour? Where’s my room?”

You roll your eyes and hand her the plate of toast.

“Butter and Jam are just there on the dining table,” you say, placing her tea down at the empty seat opposite Elle.

“Thanks, Pats.”

“It’s my pleasure,” you say, and Delia smiles.

It’s just as you’re all in the living room, washed and dressed that you get the call.

“Good morning, Patience Mount speaking.”

“Patsy, I’m glad I caught you.”

“Val,” you say. “What’s wrong?” as you not her breathless tone of voice.

“Oh, nothing’s wrong. Just get to Barbara’s as soon as possible, Baby’s here.”

“What?”

“Yes,” she laughs, “a healthy baby girl delivered about thirty minutes ago. I’m still here but Barbara told me to let you guys know before I go back and check on them.”

“Right, I best let you get on with it, then. I’ll see you soon,” you say, hanging up with a smile in place.

Delia is looking right at you, her frown melting away as she takes in your smile.

“Barbara’s had a little girl.”

“Yay,” Elle shouts. “No more boys.”

You laugh.

“That’s right, baby, not another boy.”

Delia smiles, eyes softened, dimples on display.

“Come on, shoes on.”

Elle runs off into the hall.

“Pass on my congratulations.”

You frown.

“Whatever do you mean, Deels. You’re coming with us.”

Her brow creases.

“But-It’s been years, Pats,” she sighs. “Barbara won’t want me clogging up the place.”

“Nonsense.”

You walk over to her, hands holding her biceps and looking at her, eye to eye.

“She’ll want you there.”

“But.”

“No. Listen to me, Delia Anwen Busby, you are coming with us to visit Barbara and baby, she’ll be happy to see you, I know it.”

Delia nods and follows orders, quietly following you and Elle as you walk to her house, Elle holding your hand and chattering on about all the things she can do with a girl to play with.

“Darling, she’s just a baby at the moment, you can’t do these things yet.”

She huffs and Delia smiles.

*

Barbara lies on the bed, sweaty and tired as you’ve ever seen her but glowing, smile firmly in place as she holds her new born babe.

“Oh, Barbara,” you say, rushing into the room and carefully side hugging her before looking at her daughter. “Congratulations. She’s beautiful.”

“Thanks, Pats. How’s the little one?”

“She’s fine, Phyllis is keeping her distracted.”

She looks to the door and sees Delia standing there, wringing her hands.

“Oh, Delia. It’s so good to see you again, despite how awful I look.”

“Don’t be silly, Barbs, you look beautiful, especially with such a gorgeous girl in your arms,” Delia says, walking over and standing next to the bed.

“Where’s my youngest niece hiding?” Trixie says, bursting into the room and announcing her presence in her usual, dramatic fashion.

“Oh, Delia. I wasn’t expecting you back. Patsy never said anything.”

“I’m afraid I didn’t quite know until I was on the train that I would be back so soon, either. Things…wrapped up quicker than expected, shall we say.”

Trixie stares at Delia’s downturned head and you wish you weren’t sitting on the other side of the bed so that you could hold her hand.

“Well, I for one think it’s great that you’re here,” Barbara says, nodding her head decisively and alleviating some of the tension building in the room. “Why don’t you do the honours, Delia and have a hold Gwen Hereward. Even Tom hasn’t held her, yet,” Barbara says, all enthusiasm and joy and you see Delia relax, smile softly down at Barbara.

“Do you think that’s wise?” Trixie says. “Especially since Delia still has issues relating to a brain injury.”

You glare at Trixie who’s looking innocently at Barbara.

“She-I think. I think I should go,” Delia says, turning to leave the room.

“No,” Barbara shouts as much as Barbara ever could shout and you all freeze at the volume, the break in her voice. “No. Don’t you dare leave this room, Delia. You and only you are to be the first to hold Gwen,” Barbara says, shaking, frown marring her face.

Gwen begins to cry at the tension in the room and you stand, still as a statue.

You turn to glare at Trixie once more and note that she no longer in charge and put together. She’s looking down, hands twisting together.

“See, even Gwen agrees,” Barbara says.

“I think it’s best I go, Barbara, honestly.”

Delia begins to head towards the door before Trixie shakes her head, just as they stand near each other, Delia facing away from you.

“No. No, I-I do apologise, Delia. I just-please, may I talk to you? In private?”

“No, you may not Beatrix Franklin-Smith.”

“Pats,” Delia says, turning around to face you.

“No, Deels, how dare she talk about you like that.”

“Pats, it’s okay. We’ll just-we’ll just be in the hall, talking.”

“And then you’ll come back? This little one really wants a cuddle from you.”

Delia’s face softens as she looks towards Barbara. You knew they were fond of each other, but you never realised just how much Barbara cared for Delia. You never realised the friendship they’d lost over the years and so you squeeze Barbara’s shoulder in both solidarity and empathy.

“We’ll see. Llongyfarchiadau. She’s perfect.”

They leave and you sit with Barbara.

“Gwen is Welsh, you know?” Barbara says.

“Yeah, I know.”

“You were late one day, and Delia was waiting for you. I told her I liked the name Gwen, I think one of the expectant mothers had asked my opinion of it as an option. Delia said it meant fair in Welsh, I just thought it was pretty and when I saw her,” she says, tilting her head to the sleeping baby in her arms. “When I saw her, I knew it was her name.”

You smile, softly.

“It’s a beautiful name for a beautiful girl.”

“She’ll come back, won’t she, Pats? I really want her too.”

“Me too,” you say, sighing. “She’ll be back in her own time. Delia always is.”

“Where is the baby?” Tom says, bursting into the room, stopping at the sight of Gwen wrapped in her mother’s arms with your arm around them both. “Is it?”

Barbara smiles and nods.

“Tom, meet your daughter, Gwen,” she says, and you rise.

“I should go and leave you to become acquainted,” you say, walking to the door.

“Bring Delia back with you, then Tom can hold her.”

Tom frowns and looks to you, you turn and face Barbara, bewildered by what she’d said.

“Whatever do you mean?”

“Yes, what do you mean I can’t hold my daughter yet.”

Barbara looks at both of you, setting her shoulders.

“I told you, Patsy, Delia is to be the next one to hold her.”

“But.”

“No, Tom. She’s missed out on so much, we’re giving her this.”

“But I’m the father.”

“Yes, and you’ll be here for the rest of Gwen’s life and all her firsts.”

You stand, frozen, still trying to process Barbara’s bold stance on the situation. She could have been forgiven for allowing Tom this moment and yet she won’t for the sake of your love.

“Well, if she didn’t go back to Wales.”

“Tom Hereward, don’t you dare finish that sentence,” she bites out and both you and Tom blink in shock. Neither of you had ever seen Barbara so adamant, so firm in something and you know what it’s costing her, the strength she’s using to keep her stance.

“Right, well, call me when I’m allowed to hold my child,” he says, breezing out of the room in a fury and you still stand there, blinking and wondering what on earth is going on.

“Barbara, don’t you think Tom ought to hold his daughter?”

She looks at you and glares as much as Barbara ever could.

“I thought you of all people would understand.”

You frown.

“What?”

She sighs.

“She never got this, and she never will get this-this moment of holding a baby girl that she won’t have to hand off to a stranger. I know it’s not the same, that she didn’t get to hold Elle like this with you but-but I thought it might be special still.”

You swallow the rapidly building lump in your throat and realise, once again that the world doesn’t deserve someone as giving and loving as Barbara.

“I know it’s not for me but-but thank you, thank you so much,” you say, bounding across the room and holding her close once again, a few tears falling. “Thank you.”

“You’re right, it isn’t for you but you’re welcome. Please, please bring her back. Make sure Trixie fixes this,” she says, and you nod your head.

“I will, I promise.”

“I thought it was a sign from God when I saw her at the door.”

“Hmm?”

“Delia. We’d once talked about having children and she’d said she’d love a little girl. The look in her eye…her smile was so sad,” Barbara says, playing with Gwen’s fingers as the baby sleeps. “She never said anything about you both, but I knew there was…something there and that meant she wouldn’t get this moment. And then here I was with Gwen in my arms. I know you don’t believe in Him, Patsy, but I do, and I believe Gwen arriving the day Delia has come home is his gift to her, so you have to help me give it.”

“I will. I will, Barbara,” you say wiping you face and composing yourself.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: ‘ I’ll Be Satisfied’ – Jackie Wilson

‘Just a kiss, just a smile.
Hold my hand, baby
Just, once in a while.
That's all need, that's all I need
And I'll be satisfied.

Think of me when you're away.
Call me darling
Just, once a day.
That's all need, that's all I need
And I'll be satisfied.

True love came to me when I met you.
True love makes me know I won't forget you.
When you're around me, it makes me feel
Life is worth living, baby, love is so forgiving.’

 

They both jump as you enter the hall where Delia has her arm around a crying Trixie before they look up at you.

Your fists clench, you feel your shoulders tense.

“Don’t,” Delia says, raising a finger in your direction. “Just, don’t. No more fighting, Pats.”

You sigh and nod.

“I-I am terribly sorry to you both,” Trixie says, and you frown, watching Delia rub her back.

“It’s okay. All is forgiven but we best get back in there so I can hold baby Gwen and Barbara can relax.”

You watch as they both walk into the room, Trixie giving you a wide berth, and you stand, still silent and wondering.

Why did Trixie say that? How can she be so supportive and encouraging to you and go and say something like that?

Still frowning, you walk into the room and you gasp, breath catching at the sight of Delia humming and rocking Gwen in her arms as she paces the room. Trixie sits with her arm around Barbara’s shoulder, both grinning at Delia and Gwen. Trixie looks at you, eyes softening and smile widening. You smile back and walk to the other side of Barbara, all three of you watching the duo.

“I must say, Pat’s, Delia would make a rather wonderful mother.”

“Here, here,” Barbara softly cheers as she rests her head on your shoulder.

“I-Yes, I quite agree with you both.”

“So, you better get on with it.”

You frown and narrow your eyes at Trixie.

“And how do you suppose I go about doing that? I’m aware that I may be the more aesthetically masculine one of us both, but I assure you, I positively cannot impregnate Delia.

Barbara laughs and Delia grins and you see her bite her lip to hold back the laughter as she continues to pace the room and rock Gwen in her arms.

“Patience, we all know there are ways around that little issue.”

“Little issue?”

“Yes.”

“And just what do you think society would think? Two seemingly single mothers living together, one a widow and the other without a father in sight?”

“I suppose you are right. Spoil sport.”

You sigh.

“Nothing would make me happier, Trix.”

Barbara wraps an arm around your waist and squeezes, Trixie’s hand squeezes your shoulder and you see Delia swallow, her back facing you.

“I know, Pats. But who knows how things will play out for you both? We must keep positive and for now, you both have Elle and you get to be Aunt’s to our four babies.”

“Really?”

Trixie sighs.

“Yes. I was ghastly to Delia earlier out of childishness, but we all know better.”

Barbara begins to softly snore and you and Trixie chuckle at each other.

“So, when do I and Aunt Patsy get to hold baby?”

“Oh, yes, sorry, she’s just so beautiful. Here,” Delia says, handing Trixie Gwen and coming to stand next to you.

You tug her hand and guide her onto your lap, kissing her shoulder as she smiles down at you.

“She’s perfect, Pat’s.”

“I know.”

*

“Well, if it isn’t the infamous Delia,” Val says, breezing into Barbara’s living room and throwing her coat on the back of the single sofa. “Pleasure to meet you,” she says, sticking her hand out which Delia gingerly shakes, frown in place as she sits opposite you, looking up to Val.

“Likewise. I’m sorry, and you are?”

“Oh, Val, Valerie Dyer.”

“Oh,” Delia says, charming smile in place and you smile as you take a sip of your coffee, something you rarely drink unless tired, Elle’s sleeping head in your lap as you run your hand through her hair.

“It’s about time,” Val says, sitting down next to Delia and facing her. “I knew it was you the moment I saw you.”

“How so?”

“I was told to look for a compact, brunette, fire cracker. You look like the type. Yeah, you look like the type to keep Patsy over here on her toes.”

You raise an eyebrow and Delia giggles.

“Firecracker? Who told you that?”

“Well, that weren’t the exact word used, just the gist of it,” Val says, shrugging.

Lucille walks into the room and sits next to you, perched on the arm of the chair you’re sitting on.

“And who’s this?”

“Delia,” you say. “Delia, Lucille. Lucille, Delia.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Delia, I’ve heard so much about you. Is Valerie, here, bothering you?” she says, eyebrow raised as Val meets her gaze head on.

“No, no. Valerie is…Valerie.”

“Mhmm.”

“Hey, I am here, y’know?”

You smile and look away, trying not to laugh.

“And you, Patience Mount, sitting her chuckling away. I expected better from you?”

“Me?”

“Yes, you. You know better than to leave Delia here to fend for herself.”

“Oi. What do you mean by that?”

Lucille sighs before a grin over takes her that turns into a giggle and Delia reciprocates your broad grin, your happiness at their playfulness, her being here, the joy encompassed in this day.

“It really is a pleasure to meet you, Delia. Trixie and Barbara said you’re a midwife too,” Lucille says, switching positions with Val as she walks over to you.

Val grins as she looks over and Delia and Lucille talking away like old friends and you watch her.

“It’s rude to stare, Patsy.”

“Sorry,” you say, looking away.

“Delia seems nice.”

“She is.”

“She make you happy?”

“Always.”

Val hums a response.

*

You’re tucking in Elle after a long, exhausting but good day.

“Night, Mama.”

“Night, Darling,” you say, kissing her forehead.

Delia stands in the doorway, watching you both, face soft and arms crossed. You wave her into the room, and she frowns.

“Elle, Darling, would you like a goodnight kiss from Delia?” you whisper.

Elle nods her head in response, and you watch Delia’s uncross her arms and walk into the room.

“Sleep well, dream good, Bach,” she says, stooping down to kiss Elle’s forehead.

She turns to you, smiling, a tear rolling down her cheek. You brush it away and take her hand, leaving Elle’s door open a fraction.

“Come on, Deels. Let’s give you the grand tour.”

*

“Two bathrooms?” Delia says, shaking her head and sitting down on the sofa.

You nod.

“Why would somebody need two bathrooms, Cariad?”

“Just in case,” you say, shrugging.

“Just in case of what?”

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe I’m bathing Elle and you need the toilet?”

“Oh well, I suppose that is useful. I just-I never imagined people would need that.”

You sigh.

“I know. Growing up-Well, Nonnatus was very different to how I grew up. And it’s not two bathrooms as such, just an extra toilet facility.”

“Yes. We certainly do come from two very different worlds, don’t we, Cariad?”

You shake your head.

“Don’t do that.”

“Do what?”

“It doesn’t matter what worlds we come from, how we grew up. I despise the falsity, the superficiality of wealth but some things about it have uses and it doesn’t matter where you’ve come from. All that matters is the world we live in now and that’s one we share,” you say, kneeling by her feet, hands holding hers. “Don’t do that. Don’t compare. We’ve both had good, we’ve both had bad and now we have now; infinitely better.”

“Oh, Cariad.”

You smile.

“So, what do you think of the place?”

“It’s lovely. So…homey.”

“Homey?”

“Yes, it feels like home here, Pats.”

“Good. Because it is.”

Delia sighs.

“Pats.”

“No. No, Delia. I know we’re taking it slow and I’m okay with that but why spend any more time apart?”

“Because.”

“Because?”

“Because you have all these memories here, with Edward and the others. You have all this past. We didn’t make this home together, you and your husband did. And yes, we should-we need to take it slow. There’s three of us, now.”

You sigh.

“Darling, Edward never lived here.”

She frowns.

“What?”

“The house we shared went back to his family as a condition of me having full custody of Elle. I bought this place with the money my father left me.”

Her brow furrows, deeper.

“What?”

“My Darling, there’s so much to explain, isn’t there?”

She nods her head, looking at you, eyes roaming your face.

“Edward left everything to me in his will and his family were not amenable to that. His mother contacted me, offered me full custody of Elle in exchange for all of Edward’s assets to be handed back to the family. Of course, I agreed. I may not have loved him as a wife should, but I did love him, and his money was the last thing I ever wanted from him.

After my father passed, as sole heir, I inherited everything, though I’d never used a penny of it until then. Once I saw this place, I knew it would be a good home for Elle to grow up in, so I purchased it.”

“Oh, Pats,” she says, tugging on your hands and guiding you to sit on her lap, arms wrapped around you and though it feels a little strange, it feels good to be the one being held like this.

She kisses dip of your collarbone and you wrap your arms around her, holding her close and burrowing your head into her neck.

“You’re wrong, you know?” you say.

“Hmm?”

“A part of you did make this home. I know you see it in the flowers, the geometric patterns, the yellow walls,” you say, sighing and leaning back to face her. “I-When I was decorating, I couldn’t stop myself. I couldn’t stop remembering.”

“Cariad.”

She strokes your cheek.

“But if it’s not what you want, we can find another house, together. Only one bathroom, if you like.”

You wink.

She laughs and squeezes your hips with her hands.

“I-I think. I think with a little more yellow and a little less red, this place would be perfect.

You laugh.

“Devil woman. But if that’s what it takes,” you say, shrugging. “Now, what would it take to keep you in my bed?” you say, eyebrow raised, and Delia throws her head back.

“Time, Cariad. Time. We have some of that, now.”

You sigh.

“Yes, we do but I’d rather not waste any more.”

Her thumb strokes your cheek as she looks at you.

“I know. But I don’t think it’s wasting time if we ease Elle into this, into us. Better to go slow now and have the rest of our lives, right, Cariad?”

You sigh.

“Must you always be so right, so perfect?”

She giggles.

“Funny, that. I often think the same of you. Now, come, help me get my room sorted and maybe, maybe tonight I’ll let you coax me into your bed before I slink of in the morning like some woman of the night.”

You both laugh as you rise. You tug her hand as she begins to walk away, bringing you both face to face.

“Darling, you’re too bright to be a woman of the night,” you whisper, entwining your fingers with hers as you wander down the hall, picking up one of her bags and climbing the stairs as she does the same, behind you.

*

“Deels,” you say as she lays with her head on your chest, your hand running through her hair.

“Hmm?”

“Why did Trixie say those things?”

It goes silent for a moment and you wonder if she’s fallen asleep.

“I-I think it’s best you talk to Trixie about that, Cariad.”

“But why?”

She sighs.

“Because it has more to do with Trixie than me.”

“Is she jealous?” you say, almost scoffing in disbelief as you frown.

“Pats,” she says, leaning on her elbow and looking down at you. “It might not make sense to you.”

“You’re right it doesn’t. She’s been here, with us and you, you’ve had no one and.”

“Pats. Just because it doesn’t make sense to you, it doesn’t mean it’s not valid.”

“But.”

“But nothing, Patience. You’re right, she’s been here, with you all and then here I come, disrupting everything.”

“Deels.”

“No, listen. Change has never been easy for Trixie, has it? Not only that, look at the mess she was left to clean up after I’d left.”

“But she knows.”

“Yes, I’m aware she knows what really happened but still, that doesn’t mean she didn’t have to step up, to look after you and she hasn’t had much time to process what actually happened.”

“It wasn’t your fault.”

“It wasn’t yours either but that doesn’t stop our irrational guilt. And I could have come back for you, regardless.”

“I could have done more, too.”

“Exactly. Please don’t be mad, don’t be too hard on her. You were okay with her earlier and she’s trying, just like we’re trying to figure this all out too.”

You place your hand behind her neck and guide her head towards yours, resting your forehead against hers.

“You’re perfect.”

“Mmm, yes, you’re perffaith for me,” she whispers, leaning in to kiss you. “Now, let’s get some sleep, I’m exhausted.”

“Me too.”

“Nos da, Cariad.”

“Good night, Darling.”

*

You thought your routine before was perfect but now, now it’s infinitely better with Delia singing with you both as you tie your shoes, with Delia sending you both off with a kiss on the cheek, with Delia cooking dinner for you all every night as she awaits to hear back from Matron and you revel in this temporary reprieve from life.

You love coming home to your family, imagining Delia was your wife would do nothing to change the moment or how you feel, only allowing the wider world to know the truth too.

If you believed in God, you’d pray daily for the day when you really could marry her.

“How was work?” she asks, as you sit next to each other on the sofa, her feet curled underneath her as you both listen to the radio. Though you have a TV, you rarely turn it on.

“Tiring but okay. Val says hi.”

“Oh, how is she? We should invite her and Lucille around for dinner. I can’t imagine it’s much fun with all those nuns and nurses of an evening.”

“Hmm, yes, I suppose you’re right.”

“I’m always right and don’t you forget it.”

You both laugh.

“Cariad?”

“Yes, Darling?”

“How would feel about a couple of friends from Wales coming to visit?”

“It would be nice to meet some friends of yours. This is your home, too, Deels. Of course it’s okay.”

She smiles at you.

“They’re…like us?”

You raise an eyebrow.

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“What are they like?”

“Oh, they’re lovely, a wonderful couple. You’d like them, I think,” she says, sighing. “When they first got together, it was a little…hard. It made me think of you and how we used to be. But now, well, I think Carol has been dying to meet you since I told her about you a few weeks ago.”

“You never told her about me?”

“Well, in a roundabout way, I guess I did but now she knows exactly who you are. Mary is lovely, too but I don’t really know her that well. She’s more reserved.”

“Did you? Have you ever thought of them like that?”

“What?” she says, scoffing. “No. Don’t get me wrong, they’re very pretty women but not for me. I only have the patience for one kind of woman,” she says, winking at you and you roll your eyes.

“That was awful, Deels.”

She laughs.

“I suppose it was.”

“So, you’ve never done anything with anyone?”

“Well,” she says, and you narrow your eyes.

“Okay, Cariad, please keep calm about this. Once, once a very long time ago. A long time ago, Pats, me and Carol kissed but that was before Mary and straight after, I told her vaguely about you.”

You clench your jaw and narrow your eyes, the world turning a little red. Delia looks at you, her soft gaze hardening as she stands and turns to face you, hands on her hips.

“Don’t you do that?”

“What?” you say in a clipped tone, eyebrow raised.

“We kissed once, a very long time ago and now we’re good friends and nothing more. She’s in love with Mary. She loves Mary like I love you and you love me. If they come to visit, you will not be rude, or mean or short with her over that, Patience Mount. I have to live with the knowledge that you got married, that you had intercourse with someone else. Right? Trust me,” she says, sighing. “There is nothing for you to be jealous of. I’m telling you because we have to be honest with each other for this to work. There really is no one else for me,” she says, deflating and sitting beside you.

You turn to face her, anger slipping away drop by drop during her rant.

“I’m sorry, Darling. I just-the thought of anyone else doing anything with you makes me positively boil with jealousy and anger. You’re mine,” you whisper. “You’re mine.”

“Yes, I’m yours, Cariad,” she says, reaching for your hand.

You smile at the sight of her small fingers, her smooth skin encompassing yours.

“Let me know when you hear back from them. I’ll take the day off from work to help you get ready,” you say, kissing the back of her hand. “Maybe, if they’re staying for a few nights, we’d be best to let Trix look after Elle for the first one? Explain the situation?”

Delia smiles.

“Maybe you’re right but for now, let’s just enjoy the music. Dance with me, Pats,” she says, turning to look at you.

You stand and hold out a hand.

“May I?”

She laughs and rises.

The warmer your kiss
The deeper you touch me, baby

You look into her eyes, smile in place as you begin to move to the music, Delia in your arms.

Girl, when you hold my hand
I feel so grand
That I could cry

And you could. You could almost cry at how overwhelming this moment is. Delia is here, dancing in your arms and not just in your heads.

You twirl her around and she throws her head back laughing and you can’t stop the smile on your face.

With every passing day
I love you more in every way
I'm in love to stay
And I wanna say

She rests her forehead against yours and you step back, sitting on the sofa and sitting her on your lap.

“I knew those long legs were made for dancing.”

You laugh.

“Only with you.”

“Smooth talker.”

“We’ve been through this, Deels, only for you.”

“Mhmm, and that’s how it will stay.”

“That it will. And I will get irrationally jealous, I will want to throttle any man, or woman, that shows you too much attention, Deels, but I’ll deal with it.”

“Good because you know, at the end of the day, I’ll be coming home to you and Elle.”

“Yes, I do know that.”

“Speaking of your mini-me.”

“Darling, she looks like you and is speaking more Welsh, daily, I think by this point, she’s a mini-you.”

Delia laughs.

“Well, either way, I promised a trip to the National Gallery on Saturday. Will you be joining us?”

You sigh.

“I wish, Darling, but I promised Trixie I’d help out with another dress making session,” you say, rolling your eyes. "How many dresses does one need?"

“Not to worry, Cariad, we’ll just have to tell you all about it Saturday evening.”

“I’d like that. And maybe, I’ll get us some chips with lashings of salt and vinegar on.”

Delia wrinkles her nose and you stroke her cheek.

“Come, let’s go to bed,” you say.

Delia looks at you, smiling sadly and you look down.

“Spare room, again?”

She nods and you sigh.

“Right.”

“Pats.”

“No-no, it’s okay. I get it. We need to go slow because of Elle. I’ll just, I’ll see you in the morning,” you say, leaning down and kissing her cheek. “Nos da, Welshie.”

She laughs.

“My love, I wonder if you ever will learn to sound Welsh when you speak it,” she says, leaning forward and kissing your mouth.

She pulls away and you lean in, kissing her again.

“Sleep well, Darling.”

She sighs.

“You too, Cariad.”

*

It’s not long after you’ve gotten ready for bed, after you’ve drifted off to sleep that you’re roused by cold feet press against your calf and smile.

“Nos da.”

“Good night, Deels.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 10: ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’ – Marvin Gaye with Tammi Terrell

‘Like sweet morning dew, I took one look at you,

And it was plain to see, you were my destiny.

 

With arms open wide, I threw away my pride.

I’ll sacrifice for you, dedicate my life to you.’

 

You lie in bed, once again alone after a busy day at Nonnatus. 

Mondays. 

You used to like them. They signified a new beginning, a fresh week for you to try and find happiness in. Now, now they signify time away from your family.

Your family that’s not in here with you.

You miss the days when Elle would refuse to sleep anywhere but by your side, the days when you’d sneak into Delia’s bed and hold her.

Elle rarely has nightmares, but she did on Friday night, catching you and Delia unawares.

“Mama, Mama,” Elle says, whispering, loudly in your ear and pushing your shoulder. 

You groan and wipe your eyes, taking in you daughter, eyes wide as she looks at you, Delia’s warmth against your back.

“What is it, Darling?”

She looks at you in silence.

“Bad dream?”

She nods and you sigh, knowing that every child suffers from them but still disheartened that your little girl had one.

“Come here,” you say, lifting the cover and scooting back as much as you can to make room for her. 

Elle clambers up and curls against your front. You tuck her hair behind her ear and kiss her cheek.

“Do you want to tell me what it was about?”

She shakes her head and you wrap your arms around her.

“Okay. Sweet dreams, Darling.”

It’s a few minutes later that the silence is broken, and your heavy eyelids snap open.

“Mama?”

“Yes.”

“Did Delia have a nightmare, too?”

You sigh.

“Yes, Darling,” you say, thinking that these past eight years are a nightmare of their own that you’re both groggily waking up from.

“You keep her safe from the monsters, too?”

“I hope so.”

You’d fallen into a blissful sleep, ensconced by the warmth of you love and your child.

You awoke to a soft Delia, a Delia that’s refused to sleep in your bed since, lest Elle catch you both again.

“I’m sorry, Cariad.”

The weekend had passed in a blur of excited smiles on Saturday morning, delighted smiles on Saturday evening and a replay of their trip throughout Sunday.

Elle was as enamoured with Delia as you, albeit in a very different way.

You’d all agreed to forgo the weekly weekend meet up, Barbara busy with her new born, Trixie meeting up with her fitness class friends, Val and Lucille busy with work and you spending time with your family.

You’d gone to the park, watched Elle be fearless, Delia cautiously following along, your heart in your throat as they’d climbed trees, climbed anything they could and ran circles around you, literally, as you sat with a book in your hand. A book you were not even reading, just holding it in front of your as you peered over the top and watched the duo have fun.

Mothers you’d attended as a midwife smiled at you as they passed, their little ones running around or not so little, anymore. They’d smiled at Elle, at Delia and Elle and their antics and your heart swelled with pride.

This. This is your family and you get to show them off to the world. Maybe not in the way you’d liked or as honestly as you’d liked but there was nothing you could do about that.

After, you’d had a picnic, Elle once again regaling you with everything they both saw at the gallery whilst you’d been helping Trixie.

Trixie; a complicated, beautiful mess of a best friend.

“I-I’m sorry, Pats,” Trixie says and the needle you were sewing with pricks your thumb.

“Hmm?” you say, bringing the aforementioned digit to your lips as it bleeds.

“I’m sorry for being such a brute to Delia.”

You were at a loss at how to respond, you previously feelings and Delia’s explanation coming to the fore of your mind.

“I just thought I should apologise to you, too. It was stupid, childish and selfish to be jealous and so…annoyed with Delia.”

You frown.

“Annoyed?”

“Yes, annoyed that she gets to disappear for eight years and pick up as if nothing had changed, as if we hadn’t changed.

Your brow furrows even more and Trixie rolls her eyes.

“Don’t look at me like that. I know it’s stupid but Pats, she didn’t just leave you, she left all of us. And I’m not as stupid as this blonde hair may lead you to believe, I know it isn’t her fault, but couldn’t she have written a letter? Maybe not to me but at least Barbara.”

“She wrote to Phyllis.”

“I know. She told me after I explained how I felt.”

“And now? How do you feel, now?”

Trixie sighs.

“I feel selfish and childish and just so sorry.”

You sigh before moving close and wrapping an arm around her.

“As Delia wisely said, we’re all suffering from a bout of irrational guilt and we’re all trying to adjust to…this. But Trix, don’t ever speak about her like that, again. She isn’t broken, she isn’t a danger.”

“Oh, Pats. I do know that. I was just being spiteful. Please, I told Delia but please make sure she knows that I don’t think that. Not really. I was just being…hurtful, ashamedly so.”

Finally understanding Trixie’s reaction, you’d felt an unknown weight being lifted, had enjoyed the afternoon more than you otherwise would have.

A sliver of moonlight finds its way through your curtains as you ruminate on the weekend you’d had.

You smile.

This is the first weekend of the rest of your life.

Now all you need to do is to find a way to convince Delia to sleep where she belongs, that everything will be okay and Elle will accept this new normal, knowing it comes from a place of love.

*

You wake in the morning, refreshed, despite wishing Delia was by your side because she’s here, in your house, in your life and your daughter is sleeping, peacefully two doors down the hallway. 

You frown as you enter Elle’s room and discover an empty bed, blanket thrown back, slippers by her bed. Checking the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the garden, you feel your palms begin to sweat, your heart rate picking up as you still cannot find your daughter.

You wonder if she’s taken to sleepwalking, though she never has before and panic.

You rush to the front door and check it, still locked. 

And then you know. Can almost see exactly where Elle is, and you roll your eyes at your stupidity.

You walk up the stairs and head towards Delia’s room as quietly as possible, heart seemingly in your throat and just imagining the vision that will greet you, let alone seeing it.

As you push the door open, your heartbeat picks up for a very different reason than minutes before and as you take in the sight before you, you simultaneously feel overwhelmed and at peace.

Elle lies on her front, Delia’s arm slung across her back on top of the duvet, both still sleeping, heads turned towards each other.

You bring one hand to your mouth to keep in any noise, unwilling to disturb the moment as the biggest smiles stretches across your face, the other wrapped around yourself, as if it was keeping your heart in your chest, preventing you from splitting open with joy.

Leaving the room, you make your way downstairs, reluctantly making breakfast to wake them with. You know you all have responsibilities, things you must do but for once, you wish you could ignore everything, leave them in peace to slumber and just observe.

Alas, the world keeps moving and so must you.

You place the toast, butter, jam, a banana, juice and coffee on a tray before heading up to Delia’s room. You never usually allow anyone to eat upstairs unless their unwell but this, this is a special occasion and you want to mark it in your own way, in a way that neither may realise.

After navigating the stairs, you use your elbow and hip to manoeuvre your way into the room.

“Wakey, wakey, rise and shine,” you say, and both groan, Delia stretching into waking and her eyes lock onto yours.

You smile.

“Morning, Cariad.”

“Good morning, Deels. Did you sleep well?”

“Like a baby,” she says, shifting around a still slumbering Elle so she can sit up. 

You walk over, perch on the edge of the bed, tray still in hand.

“That for me?” she says with a tilt of her head.

You nod.

“And the little one?”

“Of course, but it seems Elle is not interested in eating at the moment.”

“Yes, she had a bit of a rough night.”

You frown.

“Just a tummy ache, Cariad.”

“Why didn’t she come to me?”

Delia shrugs.

“I’ve no idea. Maybe it what when she scratched her knee, the other day and I cleaned it up for her, or when she had a tummy ache on Saturday, and I look after her.”

She shrugs again as she takes a bite of toasted lathered in jam.

You narrow your eyes.

“A tummy ache you’ve conveniently left out of all conversations until now.”

You raise an eyebrow. Delia freezes before swallowing.

“Erm, we may have eaten a bit too much.”

“Really?”

“Yes, well, there was cake.”

You roll your eyes.

“What a surprise.”

Delia nervously laughs.

“Sorry, Cariad.”

You grin. 

“As if I could expect anything less from my two sugar fiends. Do you know what caused her stomach ache this time?”

She shakes her head.

“Right. Do you think this calls for a day off school?”

She shrugs.

“I don’t know. If she’s feeling okay when she wakes, then no but we’ll see.”

You place the tray on the bedside table and walk around the bed to where Elle is sleeping.

“Elle, Darling,” you coo, stroking her face. 

She groans and shakes her head, but you call her name, again and eventually, she wakes, bleary eyed.

“Good morning, little one, how are you feeling.”

“Okay, Mama.”

“You’re sure?”

Elle nods as she rolls over, smiling at Delia before unsubtly staring at the toast in Delia’s hand.

“Hungry, Bach?”

“So hungry, Dee.”

“Well, come sit here and we’ll sort you something out,” Delia says, patting the space next to her which Elle eagerly fills. 

“Butter or jam?”

“Jam.”

“Good choice.”

“Coffee or orange juice?”

Elle crinkles her nose and Delia laughs. You smile at them.

“Juice.”

You sit in the small space Elle just vacated and watch as they eat, chatting away as if you’re not in the room before reluctantly breaking the moment.

“No belly ache, Darling?”

Elle shakes her head and you sigh.

“Then I suppose we should get you ready for school and me ready for work.”

“Go, go get ready, Pats. I’ll sort this one out,” Delia says, tickling a giggling Elle’s sighs and so you do. 

Picking up the tray you exit the room to a shout from Delia.

“Leave that downstairs, I’ll sort it out once you’ve both gone.”

You smile at that, knowing that Delia will be here, roaming your house, making it just a little bit more like home, every day.

*

That day sees you opening your front door with a relieved sigh to be home.

“I’m home,” you shout and Delia walks into the hall to greet you, helping you discard your coat and scarf.

You turn to face her, and she steps closer, one hand stroking your cheek before she deposits a kiss on your lips that you sigh into.

“How was your day, Cariad?”

“Quite uneventful and yours?”

“The same. Well, I had a call from Matron. They’ve found me a place in Maternity. One of the nurses is pregnant so,” she says, shrugging, “Monday I’ll be starting.”

She smiles.

“Really? That’s wonderful, Darling,” you say, wrapping your arms around her and she clings back.

“It is. I’m so glad to be able to work but I’ll miss this.”

You sigh.

“I’ll miss it, too. I adore being greeted by you as I come home.”

“I adore greeting you and Pats,” she says, stepping back. “I’m a little bit worried.”

You frown as she fiddles with her fingers and looks down.

“Whatever for? You’re a wonderful midwife, there’s no need to be nervous.”

“I-I’m not nervous about the job, just…Elle. Things are changing so much, lately, I don’t want to confuse her, anymore.”

“Darling, it’s okay,” you say, stepping forward and kissing Delia’s forehead. “We’ll figure it out. Maybe you could have a word with Matron about getting you regular hours, a weekly routine?”

She burrows into your shoulder.

“I-I’m lucky enough to be given this job, I don’t want to push it.”

She sighs and burrows in closer, arms around your waist.

“Like I said, we’ll figure something out. Elle will understand.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes. Now, come on, let’s go celebrate the good news.”

She walks off and you stand in the hall.

You will miss this domesticity, too but you know, you understand Delia. You know that this couldn’t keep up, forever. She needs to work, to feel useful and that’s why you didn’t suggest an alternative to her working. You’ve more than enough money but she has more than enough pride to shoot down the ideas roaming around in your brain.

But wouldn’t it be lovely to come home to your Welsh beauty, every day?

You sigh.

You’ve a feeling that, soon, Delia and Elle will be the ones coming home to you.

Work is still declining at Nonnatus and though you wish to stay working there until you retire, until you and Delia are old women with a grown-up daughter and lives well lived behind you, you know that isn’t an option.

You know that it will be closing down in the next few years, know that you’ll leave before that so that Val and Lucille will have more work, know that it will be the end of your working career, that you will spend the rest of your time as a mother, an unofficial wife.

You smile and wonder what Delia will think when you discuss this with her. You smile and imagine the day you can make her your wife. 

“There you are. C’mon,” Delia says, grabbing your wrist and tugging you along.

You smile.

*

The week had flown by and before you know it, Elle is in bed and you’re sitting on the sofa, awaiting Delia’s return as you check the clock on the wall, biting your nails.

8:53pm. 

Delia finished at 8. Delia is cycling home. Delia is late and she’s cycling home and you clench your eyes closed, counting numbers and that’s when you hear the key in the lock, hear…somebody clambering into your home and you hold your breath, eyes glued to the still empty doorway until she appears, tired but oh so beautiful and you take a deep breath.

“Deels.”

“Evening, Cariad.”

“I think by this point, it’s night, Darling,” you say, walking over and wrapping your arms around her. “You’re a little late, I was worried,” you can’t help saying and Delia leans away, strokes your cheek.

“Oh, Cariad, I’m sorry. Baby, unfortunately wasn’t running on schedule so it took a little longer. I’m sorry I didn’t call, I just wanted to get home.”

She looks at your face, looks in your eyes before smiling softly and kissing you, one hand on your hip, the other behind your neck. You wrap your arms around her waist and take in her Vanilla sweet scent, her warmth pressed against you before you separate, foreheads pressed together as you each take a breath.

“I’ll call if I’m ever going to be late, okay?”

You nod.

She kisses you again.

“How was it?”

“Good, exhausting but good. I’ve missed working.” 

You sigh as you sit on the sofa, Delia beside you as she takes your hand and plays with your fingers.

“Don’t get me wrong, Pats, I loved every moment I’ve spent with you and Elle but it’s different.”

You sigh again.

“I know precisely what you mean, Darling. We’ve, both of us, become workaholics, I fear,” you sigh again, it almost becoming a habit. “I wonder what I’ll do when I’m no longer working.”

“That’s a little way off, so no need to worry just yet, Pats.”

You shake your head.

“I’m afraid not. It appears I may need to leave sooner than anticipated.” 

Delia manoeuvres into your lap, one arm around your shoulder and the other turning your face to look at hers.

“Then we’ll figure it out, together, Cariad. Times are changing. You never know, you could be a secretary in no time,” Delia says, winking. “I’d love to see you,” she says, sighing. “Sitting behind a desk, all dressed up and in charge, in your element as keep things clean and tidy.”

You roll your eyes.

“Delia.”

“Yes, Cariad?”

“You’re terrible,” you say, shaking your head. “Maybe I’ll just stay home and keep this place clean and tidy. It appears you and Elle aren’t the most amenable to that.”

She laughs.

“Yes, maybe you’ll do that, but I doubt it. You’ll find something to occupy your time with besides housekeeping, Cariad. We both know you better than that.” 

“We do but for now, Darling, let me go make us a cup of Horlicks whilst you get changed and you can tell me about your day.”

“Perfect,” she says on a sigh and you’re inclined to agree.

Even just a few months ago, you’d never have imagined this moment becoming real, that you could live a life so simple and happy with Delia and that’s why you stand, stirring two mugs of Horlicks with a smile on your face.

“Why do you look like the cat that got the cream, Miss Mount?” 

You turn and see Delia standing in her pyjamas that look suspiciously like a set of yours, eyebrow raised, and you grin.

“Maybe because I feel like I am,” you say, putting the mugs down and walking towards her. “Oh, my, it seems like you may have picked out the wrong night clothes,” you say, leaning close and whispering into Delia’s ear, “maybe I’ll help you get out of these and into the right ones?” 

You watch the goose bumps appear on her skin, the shake of her shoulder as she shivers.

“Pats.”

“Yes, Darling,” you say as you lean back and pick up the mugs, handing one over.

She groans and you laugh.

“Come on, let’s drink these, you tell me about your day and then we head to bed.”

She nods and obliges you. You wonder if she knows, if she’s on to you. There’s no way, not tonight, -not after being worried and scared and then happy at Delia’s joy in working-there’s no way she’s not sleeping beside you tonight, dressed or otherwise.

And you’ve missed her. Oh, how you’ve missed her body and loving it and showing her your love in a different way to words or looks. You’ve missed touching her but tonight, tonight she is yours, if she’ll allow it.  

*

It’s after yet another yawn as she regales you with her day, telling you who is who, what the patients were like, thanked you once again for the packed lunch you left for her (though she left later than you) that you decide to call it a day.

“Come on, Darling, let’s go you to bed.”

She looks softly at you, feet tucked onto the sofa as she looks up to you and smiles. You lean forward and rest your forehead to hers before rising and holding a hand out to hers, a hand you hold all the way to the top of the stairs. 

You tighten your hold when she begins to let go. 

She stops and sighs.

“Cariad.”

“Come to bed. With me,” you whisper. “Elle won’t think anything of it. She’s found you in my bed, before. She’s slept in your bed, before.”

“What if she tells someone about it?”

“She won’t.”

“How do you know that, Pats?”

“Because it’s not anything out of the ordinary for her.”

Delia frowns.

“Trixie has slept in bed with us, before, when I’ve had bad days. Particularly on your birthday and our anniversary. Barbara has stayed over when I had a rather awful bout of flu. Provided she doesn’t catch us both unawares and undressed, it won’t mean anything special to Elle. Just me. You. Us,” you say, trailing off and looking down.

Delia tilts your chin up, so you face her, her eyes watery.

“Pats,” she whispers, and you hold her face in your hands, foreheads pressed together.

“Please, stay.”

She nods and you smile.

You smile the whole time as you and Delia both get ready for bed, as she clambers in besides you and tucks herself against your side.

“Now, I do believe I have some pyjamas to claim back.”

“Pats.”

“Yes, Delia?” you say, eyes wide and innocent.

She shakes her head and you grin, forcing her onto her back and hovering above her. She gasps before giggling as you begin to undo the buttons.

“I see you have a one-track mind, tonight, Miss Mount.”

“I’ve missed feeling you against me, Darling. We don’t have to do anything more.”

“I thought you said provided Elle doesn’t catch us undressed all will be well, hmm?”

“She won’t,” you say, encouraging Delia to lean forward so you can take the top off. “We’ll get dressed before we fall asleep. Just, can I hold you for a while?” you ask, kissing her lips. “We get to do it so rarely, Darling.”

“I know, Cariad,” Delia says, helping you out of your pyjamas, the next few moments silent until you both sigh in relief. “You’re so beautiful, Pats.”

“As are you,” you say, rolling onto your back as Delia tucks herself beside you, her hand wandering and making your temperature rise and goose bumps appear on your skin.

You shiver as her hand lightly brushes your breasts, your navel, your hips and turn, bringing your hand to her cheek before moving it down the length of her body and up again. Her breath becomes ragged and you smile into the darkness.

“The cat that got the cream, aren’t you, Cariad?”

You chuckle.

“As long as you’re the cream, always,” you say with a wink and she laughs before gasping as your fingers enter her in a steady rhythm.

She draws close, body’s almost pressed chest to chest with your hand between you both, buried between her thighs until hers moves next to yours, her fingers suddenly inside of you, a familiar pressure building.

You both breathe in ragged tandem, skin heating, sweat making your bodies slick as they slide against each other.

You’d meant it. You would have been happy just holding her naked body against you for a while before you both readied for sleep but you’re glad for this moment as the pressure builds and builds.

In. Out. In. Out.

Delia breaks first, head thrown back, teeth biting her lip, vein in her neck prominent as she wills her pleasure to stay silent. Not long after, your back arches, you bring your mouth to Delia’s, screaming your fulfilled desire into her mouth before slumping back. 

You both lie on your backs, breathing heavy. You bring your fingers to your lips and taste Delia, moaning.

Delia giggles.

“Well, I’d certainly say you got the cream there, Cariad.”

“Delia.”

She laughs.

“Come on,” she says, getting up and throwing your pyjamas back at you as she gets dressed. “Time to get some sleep.”

“Hmm. Maybe. Or can I just hold you for a while longer,” you say, and she sighs as she gets back into bed, beside you.

“I’m not going anywhere, Cariad.”

“I know. I just, we’ve lost so long, and we so rarely get to be alone like this. I just, I just want a little longer.”

“Okay, but you have an early start, tomorrow, Cariad. I don’t want you to be exhausted.”

“I won’t be. And, Darling, you know I’ve worked on much less sleep for less pleasant reasons.”

“I know.”

“Oh, but you have work tomorrow. Sleep, Deels, I won’t be too far behind.”

She rolls onto her side and wraps herself around you.

“Sleep well, my love.”

You kiss her forehead. 

Nights are fast becoming one of your favourite parts of the day after so many years of them being the worst.

 You don’t think you’ll ever get bored of Delia falling asleep in your arms.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12: ‘ Simply Beautiful’ – Al Green

‘What about the way you love me?

And the way you squeeze me?

Simply beautiful

Yeah, beautiful

 

                                                                       When you get right down to it            

 

When you needed me

I was right there beside you, girl

 

Sometime, when you’re feeling low

All you got to do is call me

Simply beautiful’

 

You’re excited.

It’s your first weekend off with Delia in such a long time and you feel spoilt by the amount of uninterrupted time you and Elle will get to spend with her.

So, you head home from Nonnatus, smile in place.

It’s a beautiful day, if a little cold, that you’d spent a majority of with Val at the clinic. The clinic where patients were unusually positive, and receptive to everything you had to say, as though they could feel how good this weekend would be.

“I’m home,” you shout as you enter the door and beginning alleviating yourself of your outerwear.

Elle comes running and throws her arms around you and you spin her around.

She’s so big, so smart, now but you both still revel in this moment, as if she’s still six years old.

You head towards the living kitchen Elle just vacated.

“How was school, Darling?” you say, running your hand through her hair.

“It was okay. I finished another drawing for you, Mama,” she says, and you smile, all the while wondering where to put the ever growing and ever-talented pictures you’ve been gifted.

She’s nine, ten in just a few days and already her artistic abilities far exceed yours.

It reminds you of Elisabeth who used to draw like Elle when she was little.

You can’t help, for an instant, wondering if Elle might be an example of how Elisabeth would have grown to be if she had made it to ten.

You’re chattering away, praising your latest artistic gift when Delia walks in, frown on her face that you match.

“Are you okay, Deels?”

She looks at you and slightly shakes her head.

“I’ve, erm, I’ve got to go back to Wales, Pats.”

“Why?” you say, standing, all warmth gone from your voice.

You thought that the last time she’d left, those weeks where all you had were phone calls was the last time she was leaving you for that place.

She wrings her fingers together and looks down.

“My Auntie Blod called, there’s a family emergency.”

“And they need you, why? They haven’t bothered with you for all this time, so why now?”

She looks up and you stand, squaring your shoulders.

“Pats.”

“Elle, Darling,” you say, placing a hand on her arm. “Why don’t you go into the living room and put the radio on. I know you like listening to the songs they play.”

Elle looks between you both, crease in her brow before she nods and heads off, her head down and hand gripping now creased paper as she holds it too tight.

You will the urge to bite, to be cold and callous, down but it’s there.

She’s leaving you, again and it makes your blood simultaneously run cold and burn hot.

“Cariad,” she says, stepping out and reaching for you but you move out of her reach, turn and stand at the sink, arms folded. “Don’t be like this, Pat’s. I have to go.”

“And what about the surprise we had planned for Elle’s birthday this weekend, hmm?”

“I know. I know the timing isn’t right but.”

You slam your hands down onto the counter and you can almost see Delia jump in your mind’s eye.

“The timing isn’t right? It couldn’t be worse.”

You spin around to face her.

“What about us, Delia? When do we come first?”

She clenches her jaw and narrows her eyes.

“Don’t you dare, Patience.”

She steps forward, not reaching for you but bringing herself as eye to eye as possible.

“Don’t you dare say that. Do you think I would leave you both if it wasn’t a necessity, really? There’s a child involved, Patience, that’s why I’m going.”

You swallow and narrow your eyes.

“There’s a child involved, here, too. What about Elle?”

“I’ll make it up to her when I get back.”

You scoff.

“Is that so? And in the meantime, we’re both supposed to hang on, waiting for your return.”

“Cariad,” she says, reaching for you again and once again, you move away from her touch.

Her shoulders drop.

“When do you leave?”

She swallows.

“Tonight.”

“When will you be back?”

“I don’t-I don’t know. As soon as possible.”

You nod.

“Well, I suppose you should go pack.”

“Pats.”

“No, Delia. Just-just go.”

She looks at you and you look just beside her head, jaw clenched, and arms once again crossed.

In the doorway, she stops turns to look at you before narrowing her eyes.

“For someone so smart, Patience, you can be incredibly dense.”

You can almost feel your eyes blaze and it takes all your strength not to lash out, completely.

“Excuse me?”

She shrugs.

“I love you, Cariad. I’ll be home as soon as I can, and I’ll call Phyllis and leave her my number for when you’re ready to be an adult and talk.”

She walks out the door and you feel the fight leave you as you stand, arms wrapped around yourself as you try to make sense of everything.

An hour ago you were excited for this time with Delia, for family day trips to Brighton with its bright lights and beaches and now? Now, you’re getting left behind, Elle is getting left behind, and her birthday celebrations shelved.

That’s what’s upsetting you the most.

Elle walks into the room and wraps her arms about your waist. You kneel down and cuddle your daughter close, calming down in her presence.

“I love you,” she says, and you squeeze her tight, knowing that somehow, you’ll make her special day as special as possible, even if Delia won’t be there with you to celebrate.

“Come on, Darling, we’ve empty bellies to feed,” you say, poking her stomach and she giggles, as ticklish as she’s always been.

You both work on dinner, Elle standing on a stool and handing you the washed vegetables as you cut them, watches you begin to cook and talks to you about everything and nothing.

What would you do without your girl?

Delia walks in just as you spin around and place the final plate of food on the table, bags in hand. You eye her up, note the slight crease in her brow, the tension of her shoulders.

“Do you have time for dinner?” you say, inclining your head to the third plate laid out at the table.

She nods.

Elle looks between you both, downturned mouth as she takes a mouthful of food and Delia sits.

It’s silent. The laughter from you and Elle earlier is decidedly gone and you don’t know how to make it better.

Once everything is eaten, Delia rises to wash up as she usually does.

“Leave them,” you say. “You’ve a train to catch.”

She turns to face you and you see tears building in her eyes.

Elle sits at the table still looking down and you clench your jaw and fists in tandem.

“Come on, Darling, let’s go get our coats and shoes on and see Delia off.”

“Where you going, Dee?”

Delia walks over and couches, hands cradling Elle’s face.

“I’ve got to go back to Wales for a little while, but I’ll be back as soon as I can, Bach,” she says, kissing Elle’s forehead. “I’ll be back and we can do whatever you want, okay?”

Elle nods.

“Promise?”

“I promise, little one.”

Elle grins and you feel your nails digging into your palms.

*

You answer the door to a frowning Phyllis and she barges past you in stony silence.

You look down and remember how you felt every time your mother and father scolded you when you were a child.

You traipse behind her as she settles on the sofa, Elle sleeping soundly in her room. You wish she was awake and boisterous and running into Phyllis’ arms.

“You’re both as stupid as one another, you know, Lass.”

You furrow your brow and stay standing in the door way, hands in clasped in front of you.

“Sit down.”

You follow her orders, still silent and sit beside her. Phyllis tilts your chin up and meets your eyes.

“I thought you were past all this nonsense. I understand, Patsy, I really do but you should know better. Of course, Delia is coming back,” she says.

You go to open your mouth to respond but Phyllis holds up a hand.

“Yes, I know, I’ve already had words with her. She should have spoken to you first before making this decision. You’ve both made mistakes, now, be a good girl and give Delia a call. She’s worried,” Phyllis says, handing you a folded piece of paper you know contains a contact number. “In my experience, Lass, it’s best not to go to bed without forgiveness. I’m betting neither of you slept well, so how’s about I go wake Elle up and get her ready and you give your other half a call, yes?”

You nod your head and gulp down a breath, feeling every minute of wakefulness pressing down on you. You really didn’t sleep well and though she’s been gone less than a day, you miss Delia. You miss waking up next to her and feeling her warmth, seeing her mussed hair and crinkled pyjamas, hearing her morning voice.

Oh, how you miss her voice, but you know you can remedy that with a phone call and so that’s what you do. You head to the phone, smiling as you hear Elle running around upstairs, hers and Phyllis’ laughter echoing down to you.

“Hello,” you hear an unfamiliar voice answer, the Welsh twang sending a pang right to your heart.

“Hello, this is Patience Mount, Patsy. May I speak with Delia, please? Delia Busby.”

“Delia,” the voice shouts and you flinch at the volume.

“Yes, Auntie?” you hear in the background.

“There’s a Patsy on the phone asking for you.”

You hold your breath and hear a commotion on the other end.

“Pats?”

You sigh and relax at the familiar soft tones of your love.

“Hello, Delia.”

“Cariad.”

You smile at the whispered term of endearment and once again wish that she was by your side.

“How was your trip?”

“Excruciating.”

“Yes, I imagine it wasn’t the best.”

“No, it really wasn’t but I shan’t be here too long, I don’t think.”

You sigh.

“I-I-Forgive me?”

Delia chuckles.

“I will on two conditions, Pats. One, you hear me out and two, you forgive me. Deal?”

“Deal, Deels.”

Delia laughs and you smile.

“You’re awful,” she says and you hear a noise in the background. “I’m sori, Cariad but it’ll have to be quick. Duty calls.”

“It’s okay, Deels. Just-can I speak to you tonight, before bed?”

“Of course,” she says, and you can almost hear the smile in her voice. “Pats, I think we’re going to mothers again.”

“Excuse me?”

“My cousin has just given birth, but the thing is-the thing is that you know what my family is like, Pats. They’re not very…accepting and let’s just say that baby doesn’t look like me…or you.”

“Delia, whatever do you mean?” you say, frowning.

“I mean the babies father is from Jamaica and the boy looks it.”

“Oh,” you say, fingers worrying your lower lip.

“Yes, and so they’ve asked me to look after him, to become his new Mam instead of going through an agency. Apparently, I’m the liberal type so of course I’ll take this little ‘problem’ of theirs and avoid it getting out in the village.”

“That’s-It’s.”

“It’s awful, that’s what it is. This poor little boy, Pat’s. How can I leave him here? That’s-that’s why we need to talk. Phyllis is right, we’ve both been very stupid, haven’t we but, Pat’s what other choice do I have.”

“What other choice, indeed,” you say, frowning and wondering just how, in less than a day, you and Delia are separated, have argued and are now considering taking on another child.

“Talk to me, please, Pat’s. Tell me what to do.”

You sigh.

“Delia, you know what to do. You’ve already decided, haven’t you?”

She sighs at the bite in your tone and you soften.

“No. No, I haven’t, Cariad. I can’t-It’s-We have to make this decision…together. I won’t leave him here but if you don’t want him then I’ll-I’ll bring him home and we’ll find someone that…does.”

A lump builds in your throat as you hear the crack shattering her voice into fragments, cutting her heart to pieces as she utters that sentence.

She’s picking you and Elle. If you put your foot down, if you say no, you know she’ll accept it, will give the baby up to someone else but you also know it would break her heart.

“Deels.”

“I-I have to go now, Pats. Baby needs me,” she says, and you hear the shrill cry of a new born in the background.

“Okay, Darling but call tonight, whenever you can. We need to talk, don’t we?”

“Yes, I think we do.”

“Deels, I love you. I know I don’t say it enough, but I do.”

She sighs.

“I know, Cariad, I love you, too.”

“I know. I’m sorry if I ever made you doubt that.”

“I know you are. Hwyl am nawr.”

Once Delia hangs up, you stand near the phone, holding it to your chest and wonder, if Delia was still on the line, would she be able to hear your heartbeat?

You don’t know what to do.

Breaking Delia’s heart is the last thing you want to do but you know that a child is a big responsibility, that someone would need to be at home all hours of the day and you wonder what Elle would think. What would everyone think? Two single mothers, living together with no man in sight.

It could cause you both so many issues.

Delia adores her job, has told you so much about the patients she interacts with and the smile on her face as she does so tells you enough.

You couldn’t allow her to give up her work.

You sigh.

What can you do? Are you ready to be a mother? Is Elle ready to be a sister? Like Delia is so fond of reminding you, it’s not just the two of you, anymore.

“Come on, eat up,” Phyllis says, handing over a bowl of yoghurt and fruit and squeezing your arm.

You muster up a smile and Phyllis softens.

“Whatever it is, Lass, it’ll all work out. You and Delia have been through enough to weather this storm.”

You smile more convincingly and hope that Phyllis is right. She usually is.

All three of you head to the park for the morning, you and Phyllis sitting on a bench and watching Elle run riot with a few other children who are regulars here.

“So, what’s our Welsh wonder gotten herself into, now?”

“She hasn’t told you?”

“No, Lass. As well she should, she told me she had to speak with you, first.”

You smile.

“I-I’m not entirely sure what’s going on. Phyllis, hypothetically, how do you think Elle will react to a bro-a sibling?”

Phyllis looks at you for a few moments and you try not to squirm, try not to pull at the collar of your shirt as you look down at your fiddling hands.

“I think. I believe Elle will be just fine. Hypothetically, of course, I’d be rather more concerned with and Delia.”

You frown.

“Whatever do you mean, Phyllis?”

“I mean, are you both ready for that?”

“We’re already raising one child between us.”

“Yes, but that explained away by your widowhood and Delia needing a place to stay. Where will this baby be coming from?”

“Hypothetically, what if Delia’s cousin has given birth to a mixed-race child and the family insists on giving baby up for adoption?”

Phyllis hums a response.

“That would be very noble of you both but are you ready to be a mother again, Patsy?”

You shrug.

“Delia wants.”

“Stop. I didn’t ask what Delia wanted, Patience, I asked what you want.”

You look ahead and imagine a future with a new born but you can’t, there’s too many variables, too many unknowns for you to fathom it and so you shrug.

“I don’t know.”

You sigh.

“I don’t know what I want. What would be for the best. Delia’s bringing baby home, so whether I want to be a mother again or not, I’ll have to be, temporarily.”

“Did she ask?”

You frown.

“Did she ask if it was okay to disrupt your home like that, Lass?”

“Of course, not but where else would baby go?”

“I understand but.”

“No, Phyllis. We have a duty to make sure baby ends up in the best hands possible, whether that’s with us or not. It’s okay that she didn’t ask. Quite frankly, I’d be offended if she did. We may have communication issues, but she knows me better than that, I assure you.”

“I see.”

It’s silent for a few minutes, save for the excited screams of children, Elle included as they run and climb and laugh.

“So, you’ll have a trial run, then?”

“Hmm?”

“If Delia is bringing baby back with her, Lass, then you can see how it goes, hypothetically of course.”

“Oh, well, quite.”

*

“What have you and Elle been up to?”

“We went to the park with Phyllis and then visited the nuns at Nonnatus. As you can imagine, Elle was thoroughly spoilt ahead of her birthday by the Sisters and that’s why she’s asleep, already. She’s exhausted.”

Delia laughs.

“Yes, I can imagine.”

“How about yours, Deels? What have you been up to?”

She sighs.

“I’ve been looking after baby and making sure my cousin, Carys is okay.”

“How are they both?”

“Baby is fine. He’s so beautiful, Pat’s and Carys is holding up well. Safe to say she won’t be allowed back to Liverpool anytime soon, though.”

“Oh, is that where…it happened?”

“Yes, she was away studying to become a midwife.”

“How does she feel about all of this?”

Delia sighs.

“She wants me to have him and she wants us gone as soon as possible.”

You gasp.

“That’s positively ghastly, Deels. That’s her baby.”

“I know but she wants done with it all. As she keeps telling me, she didn’t mean for this to happen and Pats, you know what my family can be like. Being here, I realise how lucky I was to escape it all, to find you and make a home with you.”

You sigh.

“In that respect, Delia, I’m very much equally as lucky, despite having no family left to pressure me.”

“Pats, please be honest with me, what are we going to do?”

You worry your lip for a few moments.

“I don’t know.”

“Right,” she says, and you can almost see her deflate.

“That’s not a no, Deels. Can we just-can we just see how it goes when you first come back? A trial run of sorts.”

“Pats, this is a baby, not a pet.”

“I know, I know it is, but he’ll be coming here, anyway, won’t he? And then we’ll get a chance to see how Elle reacts, too.”

It’s silent for a few moments.

“Yes, Cariad, I suppose you are right.”

“There’s a first time for everything,” you say, and you smile at the small laugh Delia blesses you with.

“That there is. What are you up to tomorrow?”

“I thought-I thought I might take Elle to the Natural History Museum, I know she loves it there and it’d be a nice way to finish the weekend.”

“Not as good as out Brighton trip, though.”

You sigh.

“No, maybe not but needs must.”

“I really am sori, Pats. I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

“Darling, I know you didn’t. And I know I reacted badly but when don’t I when people leave me? I’m a certified mess.”

Delia laughs.

“Yes, but you’re my mess and I wouldn’t have you any other way.”

You smile your signature soft smile.

“What are you doing tomorrow?”

“I’m…not really sure. We’ll see how things go with baby.”

“Deels, does he have a name?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Everyone here refuses to name him.”

“That’s awful.”

“I know.”

“Well, why don’t you?”

“Why don’t I what?”

“Delia, baby needs a name and since no one else is willing to give him one, why don’t you? You care about him.”

“I-I wanted to name him…with you, if we kept him.”

You sigh and you clench your jaw, willing yourself not to cry as you clutch the phone tighter to your ear.

“Well,” you say, taking a breath. “Well, it seems I care more about him than those you’re with so why don’t we?”

“Really?”

“Yes. I like the names William, or Maximus.”

“No, Cariad, we’re not naming him William, kids might call him Willy and Maximum is so a no. How about Caerwyn or Gwydion?”

You wrinkle your nose.

“I don’t think so, Darling. What is it with you Welsh and w’s and y’s.”

“Pats.”

“Well you do use a lot of them.”

You can almost see Delia roll her eyes and you chuckle, her giggle joining you.

“How about David?”

It’s silent for a few moments.

“How about Dafydd even though it has a y?”

You laugh.

“Dafydd? Sounds perfect to be, Deels.”

“Somebody shut him up,” you hear in the background and sigh, heart sinking.

“I have to go, Cariad.”

“I know.”

“I’ll be home soon.”

“Yeah, I’ll be waiting.”

“Oh, Pat’s, I know it’s a lot to ask and I’ll pay you back when I get home, but can you get some things for Dafydd?”

You roll your eyes.

“Of course, Deels and I don’t want your money, Darling, I have enough.”

She sighs.

“I know but.”

“But nothing. Now go look after Dafydd and I’ll sort this place out for your arrival.”

“Diolch, Cariad. Nos da.”

“Good night, Darling.”

*

Elle sits beside you on the bench as you both tuck into your cheese sandwiches in the park before heading back to the Natural History Museum. She swings her feels watches the dogs walking past on their leashes, head turning in all directions to see as much as possible.

“Elle, can Mama talk to you for a moment?” you say, placing the mostly uneaten sandwich back into its foil wrapping.

She swallows down a bite and looks at you, nodding once and focusing all of her attention on you.

You take a deep breath and hope you’ll be able to fathom your way through this conversation. You have no idea what to say and you wish with everything you had Delia was here to help you through it.

What if you say the wrong thing? But you know, you know you must have this conversation before Delia arrives with Dafydd.

Whatever you feel, whatever Delia feels, it comes second to your daughter and so you have to know what she will think.

Take another deep breath, you begin.

“Elle, how would you feel about a little brother or sister?”

She shrugs.

“Would that be okay?”

“Erm, I think so, Mama.”

She frowns.

“You think so.”

She nods.

“Emily has a little sister she plays with. It looks fun.”

You sigh.

“Babies are sometimes too small to play with, Darling.”

“But then they grow, don’t they, Mama.”

“Yes, then they grow.”

“And then I can play.”

You smile.

“Yes, then you can play but whilst they’re babies, they will cry and they won’t play and sometimes, Mama or Delia will need to give them attention instead of you.”

“Why?”

“Because they need to grow big and strong like you,” you say, tickling her sides and she giggles a response. “But we won’t love baby more than you.”

“Promise?”

“Always,” you say, brushing her hair aside and kissing her forehead. “I’ll never love anyone more than you.”

“Not even Dee?”

“Not even Deels.”

“Okay, Mama.”

“Okay?”

“I want a brother or sister to play with when it gets older,” she says, shrugging, as if that decided the final answer and you smile, remembering how care free children get to be.

“Okay. But Elle, it’s not a definite thing, okay?”

She nods before taking a big bite of her sandwich and watching the dogs again.

You think the conversation is ended until you’re both walking home, her hand securely locked in yours as she walks beside you.

“Mama?”

“Yes?”

“Is Delia having a baby?”

You pause and turn to look down at Elle who’s all wide eyes and curiosity. You shake your head and hope that does something to get your brain working again.

“N-No.”

“Are you?”

You scoff.

“Definitely not, Darling.”

“So, where would the baby come from?”

You crouch down to Elle’s level and stroke her cheek.

“Sometimes, my Darling, sometimes Mamas don’t want their babies, for whatever reason and someone else has to look after them and love them.”

Elle frowns.

“Mamas don’t want their babies?”

You shake your head.

“Then they’re not Mama’s.”

“No, I suppose they’re not.”

You take hold of her hand again and begin walking a bit further before Elle speaks.

“So, you’ll be his Mama, too?”

“Kind of,” you say, thinking of a safe way to word things. “Delia. Delia will be his Mama, and I’ll be there, too.”

“Like how you’re my Mama and Dee is there, too?”

“Precisely.”

“Mama?”

“Yes?”

“What does that mean?”

“Precisely?”

She nods and you smile.

“It means the same as exactly,” you say. “Do you remember what that means?”

“Yes, Mama.”

You smile.

Your little girl really is growing so quick.

“Mama?”

You roll your eyes.

“Yes?”

“Delia isn’t angry at us anymore, is she?”

You sigh.

“Darling, Delia never was angry with you.”

“Then why did she fight with you and leave us?”

“It-It was a silly mistake. We were angry at each other, but she was never angry at you, I promise and things are better now.”

“So, she’s coming home?”

“She’s coming home.”

It’s as you’re cooking dinner for you both that you begin to wonder if you jumped the gun too soon, having that conversation with Elle. Dafydd might not even being staying with you both. Perhaps you should have waited for Delia to be present but as much as Delia has had this thrust upon her, so have you.

You hope she calls tonight so that you can explain, ask if what you did, what you said was right or not.

Speaking of having things thrust upon you, as soon as the food is piping hot, you serve two plates full and leave them for a moment on the side to cool and to call Nonnatus. You know you need a few days off to get everything Delia will need, to build a cot and manoeuvre it into your room, to prepare yourself and Elle for a new-born.

Sister Julienne gives you the week.

*

It’s with a sense of achievement you rise, hands on your hips as you take in the new cot taking up residence in your room. You shake the sides to test if it’s sturdy and grin with satisfaction.

The day had flown by. You’d roped Barbara in to helping you with this venture, giving a minimal amount of details before you both delved in to buying what you need.

“All done in here,” Barbara asks, leaning against the door frame as you turn and smile at her.

“Yes. Thank you for your help today. Are you sure there isn’t anything I can do to repay you?”

“Pats, you and Delia have looked after my two more than enough times for me to do this for you.”

You smile before it abruptly slips from your face.

“Have you told Trix?”

You shake your head and Barbara sighs.

“You might want to do that before she finds out another way.”

You flinch and grimace.

“Yes, I fear you may be right on that front. I just-I don’t know what to say.”

“What’s really going on?”

You shrug.

“Delia may or may not be adopting a child,” you say, dropping to sit on the end of your bed.

“Oh,” Barbara says, walking over to join you. “So not just a temporary thing, then?”

You shake your head.

“No. Maybe. Quite honestly, I don’t know.”

“Why not?”

You shrug, both of you looking at the door in front of you as you talk.

“It’s a big responsibility. There’s Elle, Delia’s job. What will people think?” you say, turning to face her.

Barbara shrugs.

“So what? Elle will accept it. She’s great with Gwen and the boys, between you and Delia, you could work something out. Weren’t you saying that Nonnatus wouldn’t need you, soon? And people. Well, you’re two single mothers who happen to live together, of course you’d help each other out with the children,” she says, shrugging again. “If you ask me, it seems like a perfect solution.”

You scoff.

“I don’t think it’s perfect that his immediate family doesn’t want him simply for the colour of his skin.”

Barbara, sweet, innocent Barbara gasps.

“That’s-that’s awful.”

You nod your head, once again looking back to the door.

“Delia said that if I didn’t want this, that she would keep him here for a short time before finding him a new home but.”

“But it would break her heart.”

“Yes, it would.”

“But you know you can’t do this for that reason alone, don’t you, Patsy?”

You nod your head and sigh.

“Yes, I know but I just-I honestly don’t know what to do. I can’t see a baby in my future but that’s only because I can’t imagine it. I never thought we’d get the chance to raise a child together.”

“I know. You have the chance, now, though.”

“We’re-We’re going to have a trial run of sorts.”

You catch Barbara frowning from the corner of your eye.

“Well, Delia will be bringing him here, regardless so we’ll see how things go from there, I think. If it works, it works,” you say, shrugging.

“But what do you want, Patsy?”

“I don’t know.”

“You must do. Does Elle know?”

You nod your head.

“What did you tell her?”

“I asked if she minded having a brother or sister and explained things. Sort of.”

“Right.”

“Right.”

“You better tell Trixie about your newest arrival.”

“I know.”

“What are you going to tell her?”

“I don’t know.”

“For what it’s worth, I think you and Delia will make wonderful parents to this new-born. You’re already both wonderful to Elle. Not only that, I think you’re overthinking things.”

You swallow down the lump building in your throat at her words and nod your head, once.

“Right,” you say, rising. “Now that’s all done, perhaps it’s best we load up the spare room with the little one’s things before a well-deserved pick me up. A slice of lemon drizzle and a tea, do?”

Barbara grins.

“Of course. Now, hurry, let’s get these things put away for our afternoon snack. We’ve worked up an appetite.”

You roll your eyes.

“Of course, we have.”

*

The next day, you spend tidying up the house, cleaning and moving things around to be as child friendly as possible. The familiar smell of bleach and the familiar feel of everything being clean allows your mind to relax, allows you not to think about the impending arrival so intently.

Not only that, it takes your mind off of the fact Delia hasn’t called. You know she must be busy, that Dafydd will be taking a lot of her attention but it’d be nice to hear her voice, to have an update, a reassurance that she’ll be home.

So, you scrub the floor harder, wash up every plate and forget the waste of water as you do so. You go shopping for food, Elle’s favourite, Delia’s favourites all well stocked in your household and baby formula, too. You’d gotten a weird look from the cashier, but you ignored her as your mind ran around in circles.

You know breast feeding is for the best, that formula alone wouldn’t be best for the child but are else are you to do? You shrug it off and think something will be better than nothing.

Before you know it, it’s time to pick Elle up from school and she’s holding your hand filling the silence with everything about her day. You smile and listen as she tells you about Emily’s new puppy, how she stood up to James and his nasty words thrown Emily’s way, how she got all the questions right in her maths class and the teacher praised her.

Once again, you wonder again where the time has gone. When did you little baby girl get so big, and smart, and independent? Yes, you know she still needs you but not nearly as much as she used to, and it makes you both proud and a little sad.

She really won’t need you one day but you know you’ll be there for any and everything she could ever need.

“Mama, can we get a puppy, too?”

You worry your lip for a few moments.

“No, we can’t get a puppy, not yet, at least.”

“Why?”

“Remember our conversation on Sunday?”

She frowns for a few moments before looking up to you.

“Oh, so we can’t get a puppy because we’re getting a baby?”

You sigh.

“Well, we’re getting a baby but that may be temporary.”

She frowns harder.

“Temporary?”

“We might only have him a short time.”

“But why? He needs a Mama and we have two.”

“Yes, but.”

“And you said he needs someone to look after him and love him. Mama, we can’t leave him with no love.”

“Darling,” you say, sighing and crouching down. “I promise you, whatever happens, me and Delia will make sure he’s loved by someone.”

“But not you and Delia and me?”

You sigh.

“Maybe we will.”

Elle shakes her head, still frowning.

“Mama, we can’t give him away, too.”

“Elle.”

“No,” she says, storming down the rest of the road to your door.

You quickly catch up and she stands at the door, frown still on her face and arms crossed as she waits for you to unlock it.

“Elle, Darling, things aren’t so easy as you think,” you say, depositing your coat and picking Elle’s up from the floor. “If we keep him, who will look after him during the day? Me and Delia both have jobs to do.”

“Nanna Phyllis or Aunt Trix or Aunt Baba? They look after me.”

“Yes, but you’re a lot bigger. Baby will need to be looked after all the time like you when you were little.”

“You looked after me, then. Why can’t you look after him?”

You sigh.

“Why indeed,” you whisper out as she walks off, her young brain still trying to fathom such a complicated situation.

You wish Delia was here. You think she’d do a much better job of navigating this conversation than you.

*

You get your wish, that evening as you’re plating up dinner, a quiet Elle sitting in front of you.

“Elle.”

“Mama, did you think about getting rid of me?”

You frown and clench your jaw before answering.

“Not ever. I love you more than anything.”

She nods her head, sits quiet for a moment and then shrugs.

“If you want, I don’t mind sharing some with him. He’ll need some, won’t he? Does Dee want him?”

You sigh.

“I think Delia wants him very much, Darling.”

“Then he can stay?”

You sigh.

“Eat up, Darling.”

You hear a noise and frown, mind blank for a moment at it still reels to catch up from the conversation with Elle.

You hear the click of the front door closing and something loud clattering to the floor but before you even get up, Delia stands in the doorway, Dafydd in her arms, and she looks exhausted.

She coos at Dafydd who makes some indefinitely noise and you heart jumps to your throat, lodging every word you want to utter deep down in your throat.

“Dee,” Elle shouts.

“Hello, Bach, it’s so good to be home,” Delia says, walking into the room and you snap out of your trance, rise and hurry over, wrapping your arms around them both before sighing the stress away.

“Cariad,” she whispers in your ear and you turn, reaching for Elle and bringing her into the embrace, holding your world in your arms, again.

“We’ve missed you, Deels.”

“I’ve missed you, too,” she says, stepping away and kneeling down to Elle’s level.

“Elle, this is Dafydd. He’ll be staying with us, at least for a little while.”

Elle peers over and looks at him, strokes his cheek with a frown on her face and you and Delia hold your breaths.

“Dee, why can’t he stay with us forever?”

Delia’s mouth drops a little as she tries to stutter a response, looking to you.

You place your hand on Elle’s shoulder, guiding her to the table.

“Let’s eat and then we’ll talk. There some left over, Deels. I’ll make you a plate.”

“Thank you, Pats,” she says with as much sincerity as you’ve ever heard come from your Welsh love and you vow to look after her tonight. You know she must be shattered after travelling and nursing and mothering and travelling more.

You place a plate of food at the table and tilt your head towards it.

“Sit. Eat. I’ll hold Dafydd,” you say, taking him from her arms and securing him in yours.

As you look down, you take in his big brown eyes, his dark, curly hair, the lashes fluttering, opening and closing. You stroke his cheek and feel the softness of it. He makes a noise and you smile, chuckle as you sit down and watch him.

When you eventually look up, both Elle and Delia are looking at you, smiling, plates untouched.

“I didn’t make your dinner for nothing. Eat,” you snap at them, fondly.

They tuck in and you go back to looking at Dafydd, trying to fathom his birth mother not wanting him, not wanting this.

You couldn’t see a baby in your future, never thought it possible but your imagination is suddenly awake, creating images you never thought you’d be lucky enough to witness.

For once, you’re glad work at Nonnatus is on the decline. You know you won’t be leaving them in the lurch.

Chapter Text

Finis: ‘ Honest I Do’ – Aretha Franklin

‘Don’t you know that I love you?

Honest, I do (oh, honest, I do)

I’d never place no one above you’

 

I know I need to do this to make you, Mam and Dafydd proud but I’m scared, Mama. I’ve never been without our family since Mam brought Dafydd back when I was ten. You remember?

I remember how scared you were, I was too. What if Mam didn’t come back? What would we do without her? But she did, just like I will. And she brought Dafydd along, too and I’ve always had my little brother since.

He’s not so little, now, is he?

And now I’m the one leaving. What if he thinks I’m not coming back? You won’t let him think that, will you, Mama? I know he was little, but I won’t leave forever like his other Mam and his Tad. I’ll call and I’ll write, and I’ll visit, I promise.

But I’ll miss movie night, won’t I? I’ll miss Welsh cakes and family days to galleries and picnics. I’ll miss sneaking down and watching you and Mam dance to songs in the living room.

You didn’t know I knew that, did you? I think I was eight, but I can’t be sure. I heard a noise and went to investigate, and you and Mama were dancing around the living room, Mam singing and you smiling.

You want me to tell you a secret? You remember how you used to catch me playing ‘Honest I Do’ and ‘Let’s Stay Together’ all the time? Those were the first two songs you danced too, the two songs that played that night before I snuck back into bed and went to sleep. I decided you and Mam wouldn’t have been so happy if there were bad things lurking in the shadows.

I told Aunt Trix about it the next day and she smiled, made me promise to keep it a secret, said that precious things were meant to be kept safe and that meant not sharing it, not letting other people break it.

I didn’t understand at the time but now I do.

That’s why when I first saw you and Mam kissing (I quickly ran back into bed because it was a little disconcerting), I didn’t say anything, not even to Aunt Trix. I remembered James in school saying two men kissing was wrong and a sin and that’s when I began to understand what Aunt Trix meant.

But you know what, Mama, our family, our teulu will never be wrong. Not to me.

I know Dafydd will understand, too. I mean, he’s only eight but that was the age (I think) that I first began to understand, and times will change, Mama. I mean, they already are. It’s not illegal anymore and there’s marches, you know? Aunt Trix told me about them. I wish you and Mam would go so that you’d get to meet people like you, but I know you, Mama. You’re still a little too scared, aren’t you? I wish you and Mam could dance in front of everyone, together. I think they wouldn’t be so hateful, wouldn’t think it was wrong if they did.

Oh, can I tell you another secret? Sometimes, me and Dafydd sneak down and watch you both dance. I told him what Aunt Trix told me but he’s a little sad he can’t join in with you. Sometimes, if the music is extra loud, we’ll go and leave his door open and I’ll spin him around the room. Neither of us can dance, not really but he likes it.

You remember those times you and Mam would come running up the stairs at the noise? And you’d find me and Dafydd lying on his bed? Well, those were the times he got a bit too loud and couldn’t contain his joy, but we couldn’t tell you that, could we? Not without letting on and I was always too scared to do that. I never wanted to upset you, Mama. I didn’t want you to stop doing it and make Mam sad.

Sometimes, I want to scream at the world for making you and Mam hide, Mama. It hurts. It hurts me and you and Mam and it’ll hurt Dafydd when he’s old enough to understand why we keep secrets, but I know it won’t be forever.

Like I said, Mama, things are changing and one day, you and Mam will get married and me and Dafydd will get to dance with you both.

I can’t wait for that day.

You’re both so strong, Mama. That’s why I know I can do this, too. I can make you both proud just like you both make me proud.

That probably doesn’t make sense. Probably because you don’t know that I know as much as I do but Aunt Trix has helped a lot. And Aunt Baba (I know I can say Barbara, now but it feels wrong, Mama) and Nana Phyllis.

You don’t know but as I’ve gotten older, they’ve looked after me, told me a lot about the world you and Mam never wanted me to know.

It’s not all roses, is it?

I’m eighteen, now, Mama, I was bound to learn sometime but I thank you both for giving me such a carefree childhood.

You never got that, did you?

Mam used to say that the seaside trips, the picnics, all of the family things we did when I was little, that we still do for Dafydd, was as much for you as for us.

She loves you a lot, doesn’t she? She loves me and Dafydd a lot, too.

I’m about to leave our home, Mama, but at least I’ll have your love, our family to take with me and when I’m scared, I’ll call and you’ll come running, won’t you? I’m not even going that far but it’s far enough, isn’t it?

We’ve never really been separated like this, have we?

I’ve left you a little gift on your bed for you and Mam to see, later.

It took a while to get right but I sat down and made sure every line was perfect. Maybe Dafydd can get his dance a little early.

I hope you like it. Maybe you’ll tell us off when you realise me and Dafydd have been spying on you and Mam dancing, maybe you’ll tell us off when you realise me and Dafydd have been dancing at the same time, because that’s what I drew for you both.

I just couldn’t leave, even for just a few months at a time without letting and you and Mam know. Nothing can break our little family. I’ll be back like Mam always comes back. I have you both and my brawd waiting for me.

Speaking of Dafydd, where would we be without him, Mama? But I’m so scared. He looks different, his skin is a few shades too dark for a lot of people and I know he’ll get judged for it, like I know you and Mam will get judged if people knew about you.

Sometimes, I feel so ashamed at how relieved I am to look the way I do and that I am attracted to boys. My life will be so easier and yet you, Mam and Dafydd bring all the happiness to my life.

Remember when Dafydd first arrived, Mam standing in the doorway with this tiny baby in her arms. We were so scared she wasn’t coming back after the argument you’d both had the morning she’d left for Wales and yet she did, with Dafydd and everything was okay again. You didn’t argue, didn’t scream and cry at each other. You just squeezed her tight, then picked me up and we had our first family hug.

And then, do you remember the first time I called Mam, Mam? That was because of Dafydd, too. He called you Mama because that’s what I called you and I got confused and stopped calling Mam Delia. Everyone understood, thought that it was just two kids confused and that you allowed it to make things easier for us, but you knew better, didn’t you Mama? It was just one more way we could be a proper family, even if no-one else knew and now look at us.

But I’m so scared. I’m scared to be leaving you and Mam but most of all, I’m scared of leaving my little brawd. You and Mam can hide and omit but what can he do? I promise if anyone hurts him, Mama, I’ll come straight home, and we’ll make everything okay again, but I don’t think I’ll need to, will I? No one can hurt us as long as you and Mam are there.

But Mama, you really should get a hobby or something. Dafydd is in school, now, I’m going away to study and Mam has her work at the London. I think you’ll go crazy if you don’t have something to do. You’re not like Aunt Trix and Aunt Baba who are content with housework and daily mother’s meetings where gossip and tea is consumed in equal measures.

Maybe you could do some charity work? I know you like helping people. Especially people like Dafydd, or single parents, or people with bad childhoods.

I know you won’t tell me about yours, but Mam said it was the opposite of mine, though she wouldn’t say what that meant. I think, since mine was so happy, yours must have been awful. That’s why you helped that that woman who had nightmares, isn’t it? Mam said the woman had a traumatic childhood and that she needed someone to listen and that that’s why I wasn’t allowed to go with you when you went to visit her.

And I know you like to feel useful. That’s why you used to help Michael with the housework he couldn’t do whilst he was working. I heard Aunt Trix say that it was a shame his wife passed and left him with two children and a broken heart. And between you, Val and Sister Julienne, Lulu got a job after Nonnatus shutdown, wasn’t discriminated against for her colour.

You don’t know I know any of this, but I do.

You’re my hero, Mama and that’s why I have to go and make you proud, but I promise I’ll be back, whenever I can. People still think it’s weird how close we are, but they don’t know our secrets, do they? They don’t know how lucky, how happy our little family is.

So, I’ll leave in two hours. I’ll be on that train and I’ll be staying with Nana Phyllis and I’ll become the best doctor I can be.

It was a hard choice. I know you and Mam wonder if it was the right one, but I can still draw, I can still visit galleries and revel in art. I’ll just be a doctor and I’ll be able to help people like you and Mam.

I hope I make you proud.

Please, don’t be scared, too.

I’ll come home.

I promise.

Gorffen/Finis