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Years and Years

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1

“Come round tonight?” Serena asked as they grabbed a bite to eat in the medical school café.

Bernie nodded. “Okay but I can’t stay over. I’ve got an early shift at the gym in the morning.”

Serena pouted slightly and then smiled. “Ok. See you at around 6 then?”

“Perfect,” Bernie said. She reached over to grab Serena’s hand and squeezed it, wishing she could pull her close for a kiss. But it wasn’t really appropriate. The university might be well aware of their relationship but that didn’t mean broadcasting it was allowed.

Serena squeezed back before sighing. “Right, I’m going to have to go. I’ve got an anatomy lecture to give to the new lot of first years.”

Bernie’s ears pinked slightly as she remembered her first anatomy lecture from Serena. “Good luck.”

“Thanks Bernie. See you tonight.”

“Tonight.”

It was after six when Bernie made it round to Serena’s house. She was well versed in which buses to take now and could time it perfectly usually. However this time there had been unexpected roadworks and the buses were not running to time. She practically jogged up Serena’s garden path and knocked on the door.

The door swung open promptly and Bernie’s jaw dropped. Because Serena was standing there in a shiraz red dress with a plunging neckline and a slit up the side.

Serena chucked. “I take it you appreciate my shopping trip?”

Bernie nodded. “Wow Serena.”

She stepped forward and, putting an arm around Serena’s waist to pull her close, kissed her passionately.

A beeping from the kitchen drew them apart and Serena grasped Bernie’s hand and dragged her into the kitchen, letting the door slam behind them.

It was only once they were in the kitchen that the cogs in Bernie’s brain began to whirr. Because while the delicious smell coming from the oven was normal for dinner at Serena’s, the table with candles and the fancy wine glasses and the particularly expensive bottle of wine were not.

“Um Serena?” she said, “What’s the occasion? Have I missed something?”

Serena spun round quickly, her skirt lifting to reveal the top of her stockings. “What do you mean what’s the occasion?”

Bernie’s eyebrows knotted. “I mean I know it’s not your birthday, or mine for that matter. Did you get a promotion or something?”

Serena batted at Bernie’s arm. “Oh wow you are just that oblivious. It’s our anniversary, darling.”

“Our anniversary…” The cogs began to whirr once more. “Of the first time we slept together!”

“Well I figured that was as good as we are going to get. Did you seriously not remember?”

Serena seemed a little put out by Bernie’s misunderstanding.

Bernie ran a hand down Serena’s arm and interlinked their fingers. “I remember that night like it was yesterday. I just assumed we would celebrate our anniversary based on when we finally figured things out and got together.”

Serena sighed then tugged Bernie closer. “We can if you want to. I just thought that it was a bit close to Christmas to be useful. Plus this is the anniversary of me realising that I might not be as straight as I thought I was.”

Bernie nodded. “And that is important to you, I know. I’m sorry. We should celebrate our anniversary on this date. Far more appropriate. Just as long as we forget the bit where I ran out the door.”

Serena kissed Bernie chastely. “Oh, I think I might have forgiven you for that by now.”

Then she grinned madly. “Or we could celebrate our anniversary on the day that we made things official with the university. Wouldn’t you like to remember the date that we had that lovely meeting with the Vice Chancellor and the head of HR to establish that I wasn’t grooming you or whatever they thought!”

Bernie grimaced. “No thank you. That was the most awkward two hours of my life. Particularly the bit where they separated us so that I could spill all your secrets without you being there to threaten me!”

Serena grinned and kissed Bernie again. “So we are agreed then? This is our anniversary?”

Bernie nodded. “I just wish I’d realised sooner. I would have bought a gift.”

“Oh love, I don’t need a gift. I’ve got you.”

 

2

Bernie arrived nice and early. She figured that it didn’t hurt to make a good first impression, even if the head of the ward was your girlfriend. She followed the signs to AAU, remembering the time a couple of months ago that Serena had rung her up and asked her to bring her in a new set of clothes.

“Get me out of these scrubs Bernie, I hate them so much!”

It had been different that time since she wasn’t on placement then. On that occasion she had just been introduced as Serena’s girlfriend. This time she was a third-year student on placement. And this time Serena wasn’t just her girlfriend but also her boss or placement coordinator or whatever they called it these days.

A friendly looking nurse let her onto the ward and showed her where the locker room was so she could change. She pulled on a set of scrubs and looked at herself in the mirror. Not bad, she thought. She wasn’t sure what Serena had been moaning about with regards to the scrubs.

Then she walked out onto the ward. She knew that there were supposed to be two other placement students here at the same time as her but she couldn’t see them. Instead she headed for Serena’s office, hoping that she would be in.

“Come in,” Serena called as Bernie knocked firmly on the door.

Bernie stuck her head around the door and Serena’s face lit up in a grin. “Bernie!”

“Don’t look so surprised, you knew I was coming in today.”

“I did but it’s still nice to have you here at work, particular on our anniversary.”

Bernie smiled. “Is it our anniversary? I’d forgotten.”

Serena looked stricken for a moment and then, noticing the grin on Bernie’s face, stood up and smacked her on the arm. “You are terrible,” she said, “Not sure how I’ve put up with you for two years.”

“Because I’m very pretty?” Bernie suggested, “Also because I’m taking you out tonight. To that Italian on George Street.”

“The new one with the great reviews? How on earth did you manage to get a reservation?”

“By booking three months in advance,” Bernie said.

Serena smiled. “Well thank you Bernie.”

There was another knock at the door and another doctor stuck his head around the doorframe. “Serena? The new students are starting to arrive.”

He looked at Bernie. “I see you’ve found one already!”

“Yes,” Serena said, standing up, “Raf, this is Bernie, our new placement student. Bernie, this is Raf, my long-suffering registrar.”

“Oh, you’re Bernie!” Raf said significantly, leaving Bernie with no doubt that he knew about their relationship. He looked her up and down once. “Well very nice to meet you at last Bernie. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Bernie blushed as she followed the two doctors out of the room. If everyone knew about her and Serena this placement could become very awkward very quickly.

 

3

Bernie rushed up Serena’s garden path as the rain turned from light drizzle to torrential downpour. She hammered on Serena’s door and pushed her way through as soon as the door opened.

“Oh Bernie you’re drenched,” Serena said as she stepped back to let the sodden figure into the hallway.

“Was a bit wetter than I expected,” Bernie explained. “Don’t suppose I’ve left any of my clothes here? Think I might need to change before we head out.”

“I’ll check the drawers. I think there might be something. Get yourself upstairs and into the shower and I’ll dig something out while you’re warming up.”

Bernie followed the instructions gladly and was soon stood in the doorway of Serena’s en suite wrapped in a towel, rubbing her hair dry.

“Found anything?” she asked Serena who was perched on the edge of the bed.

“Well there is a pair of jogging bottoms you left last week, a smart shirt from that time you spilt Bolognese down your front in the restaurant and a jumper that I think you abandoned here at some point last winter.”

Bernie grimaced. Not the look she was going for at the fancy restaurant where their reservation for tonight was. Still, better than nothing. “Underwear?”

“None that’s yours. Can you manage in my knickers and no bra?”

There was a warm flush on Serena’s face as she spoke the words. Bernie nodded.

“Like the idea of me wearing your underwear Campbell?” she teased.

Serena’s face flushed a deeper red. “Anyway,” she said, trying to change the subject, “This would be so much easier if you just kept all your clothes here. You’re round all the time anyway so you should have more clothes…”

She paused as they both realised what she had said.

“Serena? Are you asking me…?”

Serena shook her head. Then nodded. Then shook her head.

Bernie approached her and sat down next to her on the bed. “Serena, we’ve been together for three years now.”

“We have.”

“And I stay here all the time.”

“You do.”

“So…”

Serena took a deep breath. “So Bernie would you like to move in with me?”

“What about Elinor? Won’t she mind?” Bernie checked.

Serena shook her head. “She wasn’t around much even before she started uni. And anyway, before she left, she dropped a couple of hints about making sure I wasn’t too lonely. I think she wants you to move in, not that she’d ever admit it.”

Bernie snuck a quick kiss before she answered. “Then yes I would Serena like to move in. That would be brilliant.”

Serena smiled at her and kissed her again. “Brilliant eh?”

Bernie just nodded before pressing Serena down onto the bed. “Not sure I’ll be needing those clothes at all today,” she commented as she began to unbutton Serena’s shirt.

“I’ll cancel the reservation,” Serena said before she let herself become overwhelmed by Bernie’s touch.

 

4

“It’s just weird, that’s all,” Bernie said.

Serena snuggled closer into her, pressing her lips to Bernie’s neck. “I know. But we knew it was going to happen.”

“It feels like he’s catching up with me. That’s not supposed to happen.”

Serena kissed her again. “I know. But look on the bright side, at least he’s not going to the same university as you, that would be weird.”

Bernie smiled. “Oh god that would be horrible. Imagine bumping into Cam in the corridors. Or you being his tutor!”

“Exactly. Be glad that he decided that he wanted to be as far away from his parents as possible!”

Bernie sighed. “Do you think that’s why he chose Edinburgh? To get away from us?”

Serena pulled her even closer. “Come on now Bernie, that boy loves you so much but he’s 18 and ready for a bit of independence. Plus Edinburgh’s lovely and the medical programme is great. It’ll be good for him.”

Bernie nodded. “Yeah. And he did say that we could go and visit him at some point.”

“Exactly. Maybe we could look into a short break at the beginning of your Christmas break?”

“Do I even get a Christmas break this year?” Bernie moaned, “Why did no one tell me how hard final year was going to be?”

“Pretty certain many people did, including me,” Serena said. She reached up and brushed Bernie’s fringe from her eyes. “I’d like to tell you it gets better but it’s not exactly like being a junior doctor is an easy ride either.”

Bernie groaned again.

“But look on the positive side of things,” Serena said.

“What, that I’ll be helping people?”

Serena laughed. “Well yes but also money.”

Bernie smiled at the thought. “Yeah. I’ve been thinking about that. I know you refuse to take any of my miserly pay from the gym but will you let me help with the bills once I’m earning a proper wage?”

“Of course,” Serena promised, “As long as you promise to spend some of your extra money on yourself and not just spoiling those kids of yours rotten.”

“Ha!”

Serena raised an eyebrow.

“Fine,” Bernie said, “Although I have been thinking about getting myself a car. I’m fed up of buses or asking you to give me a lift.”

“A car sounds like a great idea. Know what sort?”

Bernie smiled. “I’ve always fancied one of those little sporty numbers.”

Serena groaned. “Are you having a midlife crisis?”

“What? They look fun!”

 

5

“Did you specifically ask to be put on nights this week,” Serena whined as she passed Bernie on the stairs. “It’s not fair. You’ve only just got back and now I have to go into work and by the time I get back, you’ll be heading in again. It’s our anniversary and I don’t get to see you.”

Bernie just pulled her into a hug. “Sorry,” she muttered, too tired for more words. Her head dropped onto Serena’s shoulder and she let out a deep breath.

Serena pulled back and appraised her. “Oh Bernie, go to bed love. You’re clearly exhausted.”

“But you wanted to see me. And it’s our anniversary,” Bernie said, swaying slightly.

“Bernie I see you every day. We live together for goodness sake. And despite my moans just now I do understand what it’s like to be an FY1 on nights. So go to bed and we’ll talk at the weekend.”

She patted Bernie on the back and directed her towards the bedroom. Glancing at her watch she decided that the ward could cope with her being a few minutes late just this once so she followed Bernie up the stairs.

Bernie was sat on the edge of the bed just staring at the floor.

“Come on love, let’s get you into bed.”

Serena approached Bernie and gently began removing her clothes. Bernie was awake enough to give little resistance but wasn’t exactly helpful. Still, it didn’t take long for Serena to change Bernie into her pyjamas and wrap her back up in the duvet. She kissed her lightly on the forehead and Bernie sighed.

“Love you,” she murmured as she drifted off.

Serena stayed a moment longer just watching Bernie sleep peacefully before heading down the stairs. She paused a moment and checked her phone in the hallway. An email had popped into her inbox saying that the order of pastries from the bakery in town was confirmed and would be delivered this afternoon soon after Bernie’s alarm would go off. She smiled and hoped that the sweet treats would buoy Bernie up for another nightshift.

As she put on her shoes she noticed Bernie’s bag lying in the middle of the hall where she had clearly dropped it. Sticking out of it was a card. Intrigued, Serena pulled it out to find it had her name on the envelope. She opened it to find an anniversary card along with a voucher for an internet wine club.

To make the nights without me less lonely. All my love, Bernie xx

 

6

“So I hear you managed to get into surgery today,” Serena said.

Bernie looked up from her phone where she was attempting to order takeaway and grinned. “Yeah. Jac finally decided that I was trustworthy enough to help her out.”

“Well that’s great. She’ll make a heart surgeon of you yet.”

Bernie pulled a face. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying my time up on Darwin, but I don’t think that cardiology is for me long term.”

“Have you been thinking more about your specialism then? I know you weren’t sure last time I asked.”

“Yeah. I’ve been thinking. Now I’ve got 4 and a bit rotations under my belt I can recognise that the second one I did, the one on A&E at St James’, was the one I enjoyed the most. Particularly when they dealt with the more major incidents. The thrill of surgery when the surgeon in charge didn’t really know what he was going to have to deal with and the thinking on your feet, I think that is what I want to do. Cardiology is great and I can see why some people like it, but it can all be a bit samey. And, let’s be honest, I don’t fancy working with arrogant heart surgeons for my entire career!”

Serena laughed. “Ah so you’re going to be a trauma specialist then? Did I ever mention that Hanssen has been talking about getting a trauma bay installed in AAU?”

Bernie’s face lit up. “He has? That’s amazing!”

“Yeah. But the board decided it was too expensive. Going to have to keep working on them.”

“Do. It would be so good for the patients. And the hospital.”

She turned her head back to the phone and prodded it a few more time, looking confused.

Serena sighed and held out her hand. “Future trauma surgeon you may be, but tech expert you definitely aren’t. Pass it over or we’re never going to get this takeaway ordered.”

 

7

The car was fit to bursting and it was only Bernie’s inventiveness that meant that there was even space in the car to fit both Charlotte and Serena in as passengers. Serena had been initially reluctant to join them but Charlotte had persuaded her to come to calm Bernie down when she got stressed or upset or something.

“You know how mum gets,” was the comment that turned the tide and Serena agreed in the end.

It wasn’t too long a drive. In some ways Bernie was glad that it was Marcus that usually did the long drive up to Edinburgh with Cam. Charlotte had instead opted for Warwick University which was far closer to home. It was only by chance that Bernie and Serena had both managed to get the day off on the weekend Charlotte was moving in. Serena could be more flexible with her time due to being only part time at the hospital and a consultant to boot but Bernie was still only a lowly ST1 so didn’t have much pick of her days off.

Sat in the back to give Charlotte that last little bit of time with her mum, Serena watched the countryside go by outside the car window. She listened in to the conversation going on in the front of the car.

“You can come back home whenever you want,” Bernie said, again.

“I know mother. You’ve told me enough times.” Charlotte only sounded a little exasperated. “As you’ve said, there is a train journey or I can ring you up and you’ll come and get me anytime.”

“And you’re sure that you’ll have enough minutes on your phone? I’ll pay for an upgraded contract if you want.”

“I’ll be fine. I don’t ring people much anyway. Only you and dad.”

“And you will keep in touch won’t you? I don’t mean every day or anything… unless you want to.”

“Yes I’ll keep in touch.”

“Your mother is going to miss you,” Serena said, “If you hadn’t already worked that out.”

Charlotte turned her head and grinned at Serena. “I’ll miss her too. Make sure you look after her properly.”

“Oh don’t you worry about it, I fully intend on doing!” Serena said.

“It’s strange,” Charlotte commented, “Anyone would think she was suffering from empty nest syndrome and yet wasn’t it her that flew the nest herself years ago?”

Bernie lifted a hand off the steering wheel in order to poke Charlotte in the side. “Oy! I thought you were over that!”

“Oh, I am mum. I am. And anyway, if you hadn’t left, I wouldn’t have Serena here to tease you with!”

“It’s not fair. I’m not letting you two see each other anymore if you are just going to be mean to me!” Bernie moaned.

Serena laughed as Bernie muttered under her breath about how she had an ungrateful daughter and a horrible girlfriend and everyone hated her.

All three of them managed to stay jolly all the way through finding Charlotte’s halls and unpacking the car. Serena made up the bed while Bernie helped Charlotte put her clothes away in the wardrobe. Then, when the bedroom was straight and the girl in the next room came knocking to ask if Charlotte wanted to go with her to the student union, Bernie and Serena said their goodbyes. Serena gave Charlotte a brief hug and wished her luck and then Bernie practically flung herself on Charlotte and clung to her like her life depended on her.

“Be safe. I love you,” she whispered into Charlotte’s shoulder.

Then Charlotte pulled away and waved at them as she disappeared off with her new friend.

Serena slipped an arm around Bernie’s middle and pulled her close.

“Ok?” she asked.

Bernie nodded; the words stuck in her throat.

“Come on, let’s go and find the car. I spotted a pub a couple of miles back that was serving food. I’ll drive us there and you can drown your sorrows in a plate of chips or celebrate our anniversary, whichever takes your fancy.”

Bernie nodded again and allowed Serena to direct her down the corridor and back into the car park. She let her head fall onto Serena’s shoulder as they walked.

“I do love you,” she said as Serena opened the passenger door and bundled Bernie in. “So much.”

Serena bent down and kissed her quickly. “I love you too, even when you are soppy.”

“Happy anniversary Serena.”

 

8

Serena dropped the folder onto the table in front of Bernie where she was studying.

“Hey, I’m trying to work here!” Bernie complained.

Serena soothed her with a hand in her hair. “I’m sorry love but open it up and have a look!”

Bernie opened it slowly, intrigued, and then a bright smile crossed her face as she read the contents.

“They’ve agreed!”

Serena nodded. Bernie pushed her chair back from the table and pulled Serena, laughing, onto her lap.

“They’ve agreed!”

Bernie kissed Serena thoroughly and Serena clung to her shoulders. “Oh wonderful. So when will it be built?”

Serena pulled back from Bernie so she could see her face properly. “They are looking into getting the equipment right now and the trauma bay itself should be opened by October if all goes to plan.”

“That’s amazing!” Bernie said, “After all these years.”

“Yes. It took some work but we’ve done it. And you deserve some part in the success as well. All those fact and figures that you pulled out were so incredibly helpful. I think that’s what finally convinced the board that it was going to be worth the money.”

“I’m so glad Serena, so glad.”

“And do you know what comes with the trauma unit?”

Bernie tilted her head and looked quizzical. “Um patients? Prestige? Equipment?”

“No silly,” Serena said, batting her gently, “Jobs. We’re recruiting for a consultant to run the unit now but then there will be junior doctor positions as well.”

“Oh?” Bernie said. She tried to look mildly interested but her eyes were shining and Serena knew that she was actually really excited. “That sounds good. You’ll have even more people to work with.”

Serena kissed her again, just because she could no longer resist. “Oh Bernie, I was hoping that you’d come and join us.”

Bernie smiled and tugged Serena closer on her lap. “Really? I’d love to.”

“Good. I’ll let you know when the advert goes out. I know you like working at St James’ but honestly I can’t wait to be able to work at the same hospital as you again. Just like back in your early placements but better.”

Bernie smiled and placed a quick kiss on Serena’s cheek. “I can’t wait either, but no counting our chickens before they’re hatched! I might not get the job.”

“Psssh. I’m sure you will,” Serena said.

“Anyway, speaking of counting our chickens, as lovely as this is, can you get off my lap and let me carry on studying? I’ve got an MRCS exam coming up soon and it would be handy if I could get this passed and out of the way.”

Serena reluctantly slid of Bernie’s lap. “I’ll get on with dinner then. Thought I’d do something a bit special since it is our anniversary. How about a roast?”

“Perfect. Thank you, Serena. And well done. Seriously. The trauma unit sounds amazing and it is all down to you and your persistence.”

 

9

“Do you know this is our first proper anniversary meal out in seven years?” Serena commented as the taxi drove them further into the centre of Holby. “We’ve been so busy recently that we’ve not even been able to manage that.”

Bernie slid her hand across the back seat and ran her fingers along the back of Serena’s hand. As if on cue, Serena turned her hand and their fingers linked together.

“I know. I kept wishing each year that we might manage to do something special and then we never would. I’m so glad we’re doing it again.”

“I suppose that’s what comes of being made a registrar,” Serena said, “A bit more choice in your own schedule so we can take time off together.”

“It also helps that the Deputy CEO is my girlfriend and my boss is secretly a little bit scared of her!”

Serena blushed. “Do you think Gerry is really that scared of me?”

Bernie laughed. “No not really. But when you do that thing where you march through the hospital in your heels waving a folder at people, you can be quite intimidating. In a good way of course!”

“Of course,” Serena said.

The restaurant was busy when they arrived but they were quickly ushered to a table tucked away in a back corner and left with the menus. Bernie, as always, pushed the wine list Serena’s way.

“You can choose by yourself,” Serena said but she accepted the list anyway and perused it.

If Serena noticed that Bernie got more and more jittery throughout the meal, she never mentioned it. But by the time they reached dessert, Bernie was practically bouncing in her seat. Serena reached out a hand across the table and grabbed her hand.

“Bernie? Are you ok?”

Bernie nodded but the wriggling did not stop.

“Are you sure? You look like you need the toilet.”

Just then their dessert order arrived. Serena turned to speak to the waiter but when she turned back, Bernie was no longer sat at her chair. Instead she was kneeling on the floor next to the table with a small, velvet box in her hand.

“Bernie…” Serena breathed.

Bernie’s eyes rose to meet hers.

“I love you so much Serena. You’ve made me so happy over these years. I could never dream that I would fall for someone so wonderful. And now we get to work together and that is even better. And now that I’ve been made registrar, I think I might finally be worthy of you. So Serena Wendy Campbell, will you do me the great honour of becoming my wife?”

Serena reached out wavering hands and wrapped her hands around Bernie’s.

“Bernie...” she said again, just staring at her.

Bernie held her gaze for a moment before dropping her eyes to the floor and trying to remove her hands from Serena’s grasp.

“You don’t have to, if you don’t want to,” she said quietly, the tone of her voice betraying her feelings.

And Serena could do nothing but slide off her chair to join Bernie on the floor, letting go of her hands to lift Bernie’s chin and kiss her soundly.

Bernie pulled back and looked at her, brows furrowed. “What does that mean?”

“It means yes,” Serena said, a huge grin breaking out across her face, “Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Bernie’s smile exploded across her features and she dropped the ring in her hurry to hug Serena.

Serena fell into the embrace willingly. They only drew apart when a quiet round of applause began echoing around the restaurant and they drew apart to find the waiters and a few other patrons smiling at them and clapping.

“I see we’ve made a bit of a spectacle of ourselves!” Serena said.

Bernie ducked her head. “Sorry.”

“Oh, no love. It’s not a problem.”

Serena reluctantly separated herself from Bernie and the pair of them returned to their seats at the table. Their waiter retrieved the ring from the floor and held it out to them.

“I believe this belongs to you,” he said, and Bernie blushed once more.

She took it from his grasp and Serena held out her hand across the table. Bernie reached out and took her hand gently, her fingers moving slowly over Serena’s and sending tingles up Serena’s arm. Then she slid the ring into its place on Serena’s finger. Serena held up her hand and the ring sparkled in the candlelight.

“It’s perfect Bernie,” she said, “How did you get it so right?”

Bernie smiled. “Ah well I may have had some help on that front. Turns out both of our daughters know what they are talking about when it comes to buying beautiful jewellery.”

“Elinor helped?” Serena said, surprised.

“Yeah. I asked her permission first. Didn’t want to do anything without her consent.”

Serena reached out her hand again, marvelling once more at the ring, and took Bernie’s hand in hers. “You didn’t have to love but thank you. That means a lot.”

It was only once they resumed their dessert that Serena properly registered what Bernie had said while proposing. She put her spoon down and looked up at Bernie.

“Bernie,” she said seriously, “You know that you have always been worthy of me, right?”

Bernie looked up at her, spoon hovering halfway to her mouth. “Oh.”

“It doesn’t matter what your job title is or how much you earn or anything like that. You are worthy of me because you are you and always will be, understand?”

Bernie nodded and Serena relaxed back into her chair. “I love you no matter what, Bernie. No matter what.”

Bernie nodded once more. Then she pushed her fringe out of her eyes and tilted her head to one side. “I love you too,” she said, a small smile gracing her face.

“I know. And soon everyone will know as well. How are you at wedding planning?”

Bernie looked slightly green as Serena laughed.

“That’s what we have children for?” Bernie offered.

“Well it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when Elinor came along but I don’t doubt that she will be useful. Just make sure that you have some input into the proceedings as well love. It’ll be your day too.”

 

10

Despite their children’s pleading, they hadn’t spent the previous night apart. Bernie was very glad when she woke up with Serena in her arms that they had refused. She couldn’t imagine starting her wedding day without Serena right beside her.

Serena mumbled something as she woke up, her eyes fluttering open and a smile flickering across her features as she saw Bernie.

“Morning love,” she said, “Ready to get married?”

“I can’t wait,” Bernie replied and then pressed her lips delicately to Serena’s. “How long do we have before we are inundated?”

Serena rolled over in Bernie’s arms to look at the clock. “Ugh. Not long unfortunately.”

“Shame. There was one thing I’d rather be doing.”

Bernie rolled onto Serena and pressed her down into the mattress as Serena laughed with joy. “Oh, me too Bernie, me too, but I don’t think we’ve got long until our daughters burst into the room and interrupt us.”

“They’re old enough now to know what goes on between two people in love,” Bernie said, peppering Serena’s face and neck with kisses.

“Oh!” Serena said in pleasure, “I know. But they’d never let us live it down if they walked in on us.”

Bernie slid one hand up under Serena’s pyjama top and squeezed her breast. “You’re right, I know.”

Serena grabbed her hand and pulled it back down. “I’m always right. Let’s save any of that for tonight. At least we know that we won’t be disturbed in the hotel room.”

Bernie let up with one last kiss and then rolled off Serena and out of bed. Just in time it turned out as there was a knock at the door and Charlotte’s head stuck around it.

“Oh good, you’re up,” she said, “I drew the short straw and was sent to check.”

The primping and preening seemed to take forever. Bernie kept shooting glances at Serena who was clearly enjoying the whole process. Bernie on the other hand was not. But she would put up with it without fuss knowing that Serena was happy. It was almost lunch time before Charlotte and Elinor deemed them both ready.

“Time for a bite to eat before we hit the registry office?” Bernie asked.

Three heads turned towards her, scandalised.

“And ruin your beautiful make up?”

“Spill crumbs down your suit?”

Bernie shrank back, chastised. “Ok. Ok. But don’t blame me if my stomach rumbles during the ceremony!”

Cars had been hired to carry them to the registry office and soon they were stood at the front of a room full of their friends and family with a registrar beaming at them. The ceremony was quick and simple, just as Bernie had requested, and so it wasn’t long before rings had been placed on fingers and a kiss shared to a chorus of cheers. Then it was off to the reception, in the cars once more.

Bernie slipped her hand into Serena’s as they were driven out of the centre of Holby and into the surrounding countryside. She marvelled at the simple wedding band Serena was now wearing and began to tear up.

Serena glanced over at her. “Bernie, love, what’s the matter?”

She gently brushed the tears from Bernie’s cheeks.

“I…” Bernie whispered, “I just can’t believe you are actually my wife.”

Serena chuckled. “Oh love.” She slipped her hand free of Bernie’s in order to reach around Bernie’s shoulders and pull her closer. “Forever and always.”

They pulled up on the outskirts of a small village outside of Holby. Bernie raised an eyebrow as Serena pulled out two pairs of wellies from a bag Bernie hadn’t noticed earlier.

“And what do we need these for?” Bernie asked. She’d just let Serena, Elinor and Charlotte get on with the reception planning as it had bored her. As long as Serena was happy, she really didn’t care. She’d given a few opinions about flowers and table decorations and food menus, but she hadn’t until that moment known where the reception was to be held.

In response, Serena just pointed out into the field next to where they were parked. Bernie looked across to see an old, stone-built barn.

“Not what I was expecting,” she said as she donned the wellies and followed Serena out of the car and across the field.

Stepping inside the barn was however a magical experience. The wooden rafters were strung with flowers and lights and a chandelier hung in the centre with burning candles. The room was filled with long, wooden tables with wildflowers all down the centre.

Bernie stopped in the doorway and just gazed at it. “You thought of all of this?” she asked as Serena wrapped her arms around her waist from behind. “It’s so beautiful.”

“Well I had some help, but yes. You may not express your likes and dislikes well but I’ve caught on to what pleases you over the years.”

Bernie spun in Serena’s arms and kissed her passionately as the rest of their guests filtered into the barn and took up their seats.

The food was good, although both of them were so hungry that they decided they wouldn’t have been able to tell if it was terrible anyway.

It wasn’t long though before they hit the part of the evening that Bernie had been dreading the most, the speeches. She’d written something short and sweet thanking everyone for attending and saying how much she loved Serena. She wasn’t exactly looking forward to reading it out but it wasn’t going to be that bad. What worried her more was what Serena was going to say. Serena’s speech started normally, dropping a few anecdotes from years past but then it took a turn for the worse.

“So many people over the years have asked us how we met, and for years we have been parroting the same line about me teaching Bernie during her medical degree. While this is not exactly a lie, it is not the whole truth. Me and Bernie met exactly ten years ago tonight, and for the people paying attention, I did say tonight and not today.”

Bernie groaned and tried to bury her head in her hands. Serena just patted her on the head and continued.

“You see we actually met on Friday night in Bernie’s fresher’s week.”

Serena looked down at Bernie who seemed to be trying to escape under the table. She really didn’t want Serena telling the story of her running out on a one-night stand. No one knew that story. Well no one except Elinor who she hoped would be too embarrassed by the whole thing to spill the beans.

“But I’m not going to tell you anymore than that. I need to be a lot drunker to fill you in on all the details,” Serena said, laughing as Bernie let out a relieved sigh. “So I’ll just end by saying that, despite our ignominious start, I love this woman more than anything in the world, and I’m so incredibly proud to call her my wife.”

She pulled Bernie to her feet and kissed her firmly on the lips as the room applauded. And Bernie thought back to that night, ten years ago, when she met a beautiful stranger in a bar, went back to her house and slept with her. Serena was right, their start had been unusual, but since it had led them to this point, she really couldn’t care less. And with Serena by her side, things could only get better.