Three loud knocks rang out from the door of Nonnatus House and down the hallway. Trixie set down her tea and jumped up from her chair near the telephone. It was the middle of the night, probably two or three a.m. but she did not think to check on the watch on her uniform. She was on call and if the door was being knocked on it was her responsibility. She had been expecting an in-labor mother, a scared child, or a frantic husband, but the person she laid eyes on was none of those.
“Hello, Trixie,” Reverend Tom Hereward said sheepishly, as if he wished anyone else had answered the door.
“Tom?” Trixie replied in shock as she nervously pulled at one of the buttons on her uniform. “I-I was not expecting you.”
He smiled and gave a small nod. “Sister Julienne invited us.”
“Us?” Trixie questioned confused as Tom stepped aside to reveal a strikingly beautiful South Asian woman, who Trixie could only assume was from Papua New Guinea where he had been for the last few years. She was holding a fussy looking toddler of probably three years in her arms.
“Yes,” Tom told her awkwardly. “This is my wife Mawi and our daughter, Rebecca.”
“Oh,” Trixie expelled being shocked, repulsed, and jealous all at the same time. “I am sorry, sweeties. Please come in,” Trixie told them as she pulled the door open further and stepped aside to let them pass.
Trixie took a slow, deep breath to calm herself as she let Tom and his family walk further into the convent without her.
“Oh, Mr. Hereward,” Sister Julienne called down as she descendent the staircase.
Trixie nearly collapsed in relief that she was no longer going to have to lead this interaction.
“We had not been expecting you until dawn,” the sister explained.
“I do apologize for the odd hour of our arrival but the boat was a bit faster than expected and I fear I have been away too long to think of a suitable inn,” Tom told the nun with a warm smile.
“Not that long,” Trixie blurted but instantly regretted as she quickly passed them and headed for the kitchen.
Trixie ignored Sister Julienne’s huff that she usually made when she had inadvertently been caught in an awkward situations.
“Please follow me and I will show you to your rooms,” Sister Julienne told the Herewards.
“Go with her and take Rebecca,” Tom told his wife. “I will join you shortly.”
Mawi nodded with a brief glance at Trixie before she followed the nun up the stairs.
Tom placed his hands in his pockets and walked further into the kitchen.
“Trixie?” he called as he reached the table and sat down.
“Hmm?” was all she said in reply.
“You are angry with me,” he stated as he clasped his hands under the table and leaned toward her.
She swiftly turned toward him and placed her hands on her hips as she leaned back against the counter. “It has been less than four years.”
He peered at her slightly confused.
“Jesus, Tom! Since Barbara’s death,” Trixie called at him, pressing her lips together as tears rose in her eyes.
He looked down at the table. “I moved on. She wanted that,” he told Trixie.
“And who told you that, Tom?” Trixie said even more tearful.
“Her father,” Tom told her dejectedly as he peered down at the floor of the kitchen.
Trixie huffed, unsure how to respond to that.
The doorbell at the Turner house rang and Angela and Mae simultaneously dropped their dolls and ran toward the door. Teddy laughed as he struggled to keep up with them. Tim shook his head from the kitchen table, where he was working on his university application.
“Calm down now, children,” Dr. Turner told them as he rounded the corner to the door behind Shelagh. “We don’t want to overwhelm our guests.”
“Cousin Freddie!” Angela told him excitedly as Mae nodded alongside her.
Shelagh opened the door and peer up at her old Nonnatus colleague. Dr. Turner struggled to keep the children at bay and they came rushing up around Shelagh’s legs.
“Great scott, you lot have certainly multiplied,” Chummy exclaimed with a grin.
Shelagh laughed warmly. “We certainly have,” she told her with a smile. “Do come inside. I hope the drive from Dover was not too difficult,” she motioned as she stepped to one side and thankfully the children obeyed despite Mae having to pull Teddy by the arm.
“Not at all,” Peter answered as he ushered Freddie inside to let him instantly run off with the other children. He chuckled at the exchange. “Well, they certainly seem excited.”
“Yes. They don’t seem to fully understand the difference between good friends and family, so Freddie is a cousin as everyone at Nonnatus is an aunt or grandmother,” Dr. Turner explained.
“I certainly see no harm in that,” Chummy replied as she sat the couch in the Turners’ living room.
“Refreshments?” Shelagh called from the kitchen. “I apologize for not having any Horlicks,” she uttered giving a cheeky smile to Chummy.
“I’d much more fancy a beer if you have it,” she former Nonnatan replied.
“I do,” Shelagh told her.
“I would too,” Tim chimed in with a quick look up from his notebook and dictionary.
“As long as you are done with your work for the evening?” Dr. Turner questioned.
Tim nodded. “I worked longer than I planned, and all of this isn’t even due for a few more weeks.”
Shelagh huffed at the refrigerator as she held out two bottles of beer. “All right,” she told her son. “Take these to Chummy and Peter and then return for yours and your father’s.”
Valerie Dyer leaned back against the wall of the Poplar train station and exhaled the smoke from her cigarette. She was trying to keep herself relaxed and calm since she would be greeting two nuns she had mostly only heard stories about. But, so many stories from Trixie, the older nuns, and Barbara before she passed. It was odd now thinking that when those train wheels finally screamed to a stop before her, they would be depositing other Nonnatans she knew so much about but had never met.
“Precious, you doin’ all right there?” Lucille called as she moved closer to her position against the wall.
“Yeah, of course,” Val lied. She was still not fully used to Lucille addressing her in the loving way she had usually only reserved for patients.
“You just seem a bit nervous about all dis,” Lucile told her as she rather formerly folded her arms and leaned back against the wall beside her.
Val chuckled at her.
“What’s so funny?”” Lucille questioned.
“You, sweetheart,” Val told her. “You tryin’ to act casual and all prime and proper. I ain’t some church-goin’ man, darlin’. So ain’t expecting none of that.”
Lucille took a deep breath, peered down at her awkwardly folded arms and released them to her sides. “I understand dat, Valerie. But this is all new to me. I is gonna be a bit slow on the uptake.”
Val turned her head toward her and smirked. “You think I ain’t lookin’ forward to that, chick.”
Lucille shook her head as she laughed. Val returned the laughter until as train shrieked to a stop in front of them.
A bubbly, energetic nun nearly jumped off the train holding only a small suitcase by her side. She gracious smiled at the two nurses in Nonnatus uniforms waiting for her.
“Valerie Dyer and Lucille Anderson, I presume?” the sister asked extending her hand for her shake.
“Yeah,” Valerie replied more informally than she had intended. She remembered to extend her hand at the last moment.
The sister shook her hand and then peered at her quizzically. “Were you once the bartender at the Black Sails?”
Val laughed. “Good eye, sister.”
Lucille cocked an eyebrow at the both of them. “Now, how does a sister of the church know a local bartender?”
Val scoffed at her amid her playful glare.
The sister leaned forward to whisper to her. “I was once on a crusade to increase sheathe usage among dock workers. It might have been ill fated.”
Val laughed as Lucille looked increasing uncomfortable about the public discussion of sex.
“Ah, relax you,” Val told her with a smile and a light grasp of her arm.
“Forgive me,” the sister called, throwing up her free hand. “I forgot my manners. I’m Sister Winifred. I used to be in your job at Nonnatus but now I ran the orphanage at the Mother House.”
“A noble pursuit,” Lucille told her with a nod.
The small, almost frail-looking woman walked off the train, hauling a small suitcase behind her. Val suppressed a smirk. Trixie had described her old best friend as a quintessential woman of her generation, who fell perfectly into the teacher, nun stereotype, though it never quite fit her personality.
Val took a step toward her and extended a hand. “Cynthia, I’d reckon?” Val questioned her with a knowing smile.
The small woman laughed. “I can only assume Trixie told you about me,” she said in a slow, reserved tone.
Val nodded. “She sure did. I don’t think she respects anybody more than you.”
Cynthia looked embarrassed and closed her eyes for a moment before nodded and giving Val a reassuring smile.
Lucille smiled at them. “I do hope bikes are okay. We tried to arrange better transportation, but it all fall through.”
Cynthia gave a warm laugh.
“Opposition to bikes would have forced us to leave Nonnatus much earlier than we choose to,” Sister Winifred told them with a laugh.
“Could you stop the car here, sir?” Patience Mount called from the back seat of the cab from Heathrow International Airport. She was feeling rather tired. Sure, she had a coffee at the airport, but it had still been hours since they left their cottage in Edinburgh.
“We a few blocks from your destination, miss,” the cabbie told her.
Delia laughed. “We used to be community midwives in this district. We are fully aware.”
Patsy pressed her lips together and gave a small huff. “I do apologize for any chipped fare; I would just like to walk the remainder up to Nonnatus House.”
“Nonnatus?” the cabbie questioned. “Either of you Nurse Franklin?”
Patsy warmly shook her head. “Sadly not, sir.”
“Ah, too bad then. She delivered three of my kids. A bang-up job she did. My wife went to that health board hearing when she told off those pricks few years back. Don’t think my lady’s ever been prouder of another woman from ‘round here.”
He stopped the cab about a block down from the railway bridge. “Well, best of luck to you nurses regardless.”
“Thank you, sir,” Delia told him kindly as she closed the door behind Pasty.
The began down the road to Nonnatus House.
“You know, Pats,” Delia began stating. “You could have told that man about the contribution you made to Nonnatus. And additional year of operation because of you.”
Patsy bit her lower lip and shook her head. “I do not want any credit for that, Deels. Donating large sums of money that my family earned through methods I still do not fully understand is not some noble act. ‘Tis nothing more than the right thing to do.”
“Yes,” Delia admitted as she reached over and grasped her girlfriend’s hand. “But you still did it.”
Pasty shrugged her shoulders and huffed down at Delia. “Please do not overly praise me for it, darling. We are about to walk into an endless praising of it.”
“And you cannot handle that?” Delia asked with a cheeky smile.
Pasty huffed, knowing Delia had heard most of her explanations before. “All of that wealth was accumulated in a time and place I cannot even remember. It does not seem fair for me to receive any credit for giving it away.”
Delia laughed and stretched upward to kiss her on the cheek as they passed the electronics store and underneath the railway bridge near Healy Street. “But you are giving it away, sweetheart.”
“Pasty!” Trixie Franklin called frantically as she ran away from her place smoking a cigarette among two nurses Patsy and Delia barely knew on the steps of Nonnatus House.
Trixie slammed into the red-hair midwife, who held her tightly.
“Oh, Trixie,” Patsy uttered at her. “It is all right now. We are all back where we belong.”