Patsy Mount lay on her bed in the Nurses home and listened to the sounds around her. She had arrived a few hours ago, and had been herded into the main lecture theatre along with around twenty other young women by the Bursar and Training School Matron. Rooms and uniform had been allocated along with instructions to report back to the main lecture theatre the following day where training would commence promptly at 0900hrs. Patsy had taken a cursory glance at the other student nurses. Most were younger than her, but that was only to be expected, the war had put a serious dent in her education and she had spent an additional three years at school after liberation in order to make up the deficit. The other new entrants were already making alliances and forming cliques and Patsy was rather unpleasantly reminded of boarding school. She had no time for cliques. She would socialise if it suited her, but Patsy was used to her own company and it would not bother her if she went through the whole of nurse training alone. She, along with the others were escorted to the rooms that would house them for the duration of their training and found that they were mainly concentrated on two corridors.
Now that her meagre belongings had been packed away, Patsy surveyed her room. Sparse was probably the best way to describe it. She had placed some text books onto a shelf and writing materials were on her desk. All her clothes had been put away with the exception of her brand new uniform that was on a coat hanger on the back of the door, along with freshly polished shoes that were stowed just under her desk.
Taking a long drag from her cigarette, Patsy listened to the muffled sounds of other students talking as they went off exploring, and people walking on the street outside. There were also the creaks and thuds that always resonated in a large building that had no obvious origin. Other than the fact she now had a room to herself, it did feel remarkably like being back in boarding school. Patsy couldn't decide whether that was a bad thing or not. There had been a couple of knocks on her door, with other new-starters politely asking if she wanted to join them, but Patsy was keen to savour the short peace before the mayhem of nurse training truly started, so equally politely turned the offers down.
She was just stubbing out her cigarette when she heard two syncopated sets of footsteps coming up the corridor. As they got closer, Patsy could hear the conversation they were having. She recognised the voice of the Bursar but not the other voice, that had a soft Welsh lilt to it.
"You were supposed to report at 4 pm, Miss Busby."
"I know. The bus broke down and we had to wait for a replacement."
"You're lucky I was still here. I should have gone home an hour ago." Patsy raised an eyebrow. The Bursar sounded extremely resentful, but she had always understood that on enrolment day, the staff stayed as long as they needed to, in order to welcome new students.
"Thank you for staying. I am sorry I delayed you. And thank you for helping me with my stuff." Patsy smirked. Despite making the Bursar late off, this 'Miss Busby' had managed to get her to carry some of her belongings to her room. This sounded like someone Patsy might like to get to know.
"Well, as you pointed out, it was quicker to do that rather than wait for you to do several trips." There was a slight huff. "We had twenty five new starters today, Miss Busby. Of all of them, yours is the only name I know I'll remember."
"That was not a compliment." Patsy had to stifle a snigger of laughter at that. She had caught the tone of insolence from the Welsh woman. She was obviously someone who was not cowed by authority.
"You're to report to the Lecture Hall for 9 am. Make sure you're not late for that; Matron will be far less understanding." With that Patsy could hear a set of footsteps walk away even as there was further rustling, indicating that the woman outside was putting her belongings into her room.
Patsy was surprised to hear a shaky sigh from outside the room. "Well done, Delia. Great way to make a first impression." Clearly the woman was a lot less assured than the image she gave the Bursar. Patsy toyed with the idea of opening the door to say hello, but didn't want to let the woman know she had been overheard. She changed her mind when she heard the door open again and the woman mutter; "And I don't know where the Lecture Hall is. I'll be sent home by the end of the week at this rate."
Patsy swung herself up from her bed and opened the door. "You know, talking to yourself is the first sign of madness," she began, giving the woman a lop-sided smirk. Her heart stopped when she caught sight of the woman who was about to live next door to her for the duration of nurse training. She was gorgeous. Her dark brown hair was tied back into a messy ponytail, while bright blue eyes glimmered at her mischievously.
The young woman stood up straight as she picked up a bundle of uniforms and grinned back, "I always thought it was when you answered yourself back."
Patsy laughed and held out her hand, feeling immediately comfortable with this woman. "Patience Mount, but everyone calls me Patsy."
Delia juggled the clothing she was holding into one arm and took the taller woman's hand in her own. "Delia Busby, as you've probably already heard. Sorry to cause such a racket."
"Don't worry, I think it's only me you've disturbed. Everyone else went out exploring."
Delia raised her eyebrows. "Do you already know your way round then?"
"No, but I wasn't really in the mood to socialise."
The young Welsh woman looked immediately contrite. "Oh, and then I come along and ruin your peace and quiet. I am sorry."
Patsy grinned. "Well it's certainly one way to make a first impression."
Delia groaned. "Not you, too. Well, I'll just hang up my uniforms now and leave everything else till tomorrow so I don't disturb you." She bumped the door open and started to head in.
"Don't be silly. I'll give you a hand if you want." Patsy had no idea why she offered, but it felt like the most natural thing in the world. She knew she'd done the right thing when Delia beamed back at her and nodded gratefully.
Grabbing the last suitcase, Patsy stepped into Delia's room and looked around. It was a mirror image of her own set up so she set down the suitcase in the corner and grabbed the bedding that was folded neatly at the bottom of the bed. "First things, first. Get your bed sorted. That way, you can collapse with exhaustion whenever you need to."
"You sound like you're talking from experience," Delia mused as she placed the blankets on a chair and then grabbed one side of a sheet. The two of them worked quickly together to get the sheets on the bed.
"Definitely. Years of boarding school drummed that into me." Patsy looked at the edges of the bed critically. "I never got the hang of neat corners. I'm hoping there's some secret method no-one's ever explained before."
Delia shrugged. "It's something to do with pulling up one side, and folding it over smoothly. I have a feeling that making beds may be my downfall. I can barely manage to fold a letter into an envelope."
Patsy burst out laughing. "Oh well, I'm sure we'll struggle together."
Delia grinned as she grabbed the blankets and they worked quickly to finish making the bed. Once it was done, she eyed the rest of her belongings dubiously before grabbing her uniforms and hanging them in the wardrobe. She then placed both suitcases on the bed and flipped them open. There were books of various types and sizes laid on top of layers of clothing. Delia grabbed several and handed them to Patsy. "Would you mind putting them on the shelf?"
Patsy shook her head and took the books, springing into action and storing the rest of the books as Delia hurriedly stowed away her clothing.
The brunette made quick work of emptying the suitcases and closed them before storing them under the bed. She turned round to see Patsy sat on the solitary chair in the room. She glanced up at the shelf and noticed that the books had been positioned in height order and she nodded her approval. She then noticed that Patsy had placed a small clock on the nightstand along with a reading book that clearly had a bookmark partway through it. Delia raised her eyebrows; this woman was smart. "You're very good at tidying away," she lauded.
Patsy smirked. "It's my forte," she replied casually, provoking a grin from the Welsh woman in return.
With nothing left to do, Delia looked around and grabbed the small glass that had been placed by the sink in the corner. "Did you get one of these for your room?" She asked innocently.
Patsy frowned. "Yes, of course. Why?"
"Go and get it," Delia instructed, smiling.
Patsy raised her eyebrows at the request but did as she was told, letting herself back in without knocking. She grinned when she saw Delia sat on the bed, bottle of whiskey in hand. "Contraband already, Miss Busby?"
"Nope, this was a present from my dad. He told me I needed to raise a glass to my new adventure once I'd settled in and I promised him I would. I thought it might be nice if you joined me." Delia smiled cheekily.
"I'd have to say that was very good advice, and I am honoured that you would want to share it with me." She handed over her glass and Delia poured a healthy measure out for her before pouring her own.
"This is all for ulterior motives," Delia admitted as she nodded for Patsy to sit at the bottom of the bed. She sat at the top, cross-legged.
"Should I ask?" Patsy sounded confident but was suddenly very nervous by this announcement.
"Well, considering I'm going to be your neighbour all through training, and considering I am habitually clumsy and accident-prone, I thought I'd better bribe the neighbours in advance."
"Well, in that case I won't say no," Patsy replied before raising her glass towards Delia. The brunette dutifully clinked it as Patsy said the toast; "To new beginnings."
Delia smiled and took a healthy gulp from the glass, wincing as she swallowed it down. "I do not know how my dad manages to drink this stuff neat."
Patsy giggled as she took a sip. "Practice," she replied easily.
Delia relaxed slightly. "To be honest, I could just do with a friend. Getting here so late has put me on the back foot, and I've never been to London before. The furthest east I've ever been is Cardiff."
Patsy grimaced slightly. "I'm not sure I'm the most ideal person to make friends with, Delia."
"Why ever not? You've been nothing but kind ever since you teased me when you opened your door." Delia sounded almost affronted by Patsy's statement.
"You're catching me on a good day. I can be a bit prickly. I'm not the easiest person to get to know." Patsy knew she was putting up barriers, but she felt she needed to. Delia was charming and easy-going, and she was utterly adorable. Patsy could feel her defences slipping and she could not afford to put her guard down and let anyone in; it was far too risky.
"Well it's all a bit late now. We've already been introduced, and you've already had my dad's whiskey." Delia tossed back the remaining contents of the glass and gasped again. "That makes you practically family." She looked at Patsy wistfully. "And now you've told me you're prickly, I won't think it's just me. Although you will have to tell me if it is me; I wouldn't want to be obliviously causing you irritation."
Patsy felt the grin on her face widen even as she raised her eyebrows. Goodness, the girl was a chatterbox, but in a totally endearing way. "Don't worry, I'm absolutely certain you'll know when I'm irritated with you."
Delia smiled in relief. "I'm talking too much already aren't I? Mam's always telling me off for not giving anyone else a look in." She stopped suddenly and picked up the whiskey. "One more for the road?" She asked hopefully.
"A small one. I don't want to be hungover on the first day," Patsy replied, holding out her glass.
Delia obligingly poured just a splash of whiskey this time, and added the same to her glass before returning the bottle to the nightstand. "I'll have to hide that away later." She took a sip. "So Pats, what made you want to be a nurse?"
Patsy was surprised but pleased by the shortening of her name. It sounded right with Delia's accent. She thought for a moment before answering, inspecting the contents of her glass. "The short answer is that I want to help people," she shrugged.
"And the long answer?" Delia probed softly.
"The long answer will take a lot longer to go through than this will last." Patsy shook her glass before finishing the drink.
"Does that mean you'll come back and tell me?" Delia asked.
"Will you be plying me with whiskey?"
"Probably. I don't like to drink alone."
"Then yes, I'll come back." Patsy caught her breath when Delia gave her a full-on smile. She scolded herself mentally. This was dangerous territory already, and she'd only known the woman an hour or so. She had finished her drink so there was no need for her to stay, but Patsy realised that she didn't want to go just yet. "What about you? What brought you to the London? Aren't there any hospitals in Wales?"
Delia poked her tongue out at the slight but smiled immediately afterwards. "I had an opportunity and I took it. When I passed my exams I applied to three London hospitals and got offered places at all of them. Mam couldn't really say no after that. As shallow as it is to admit, the London sent the warmest invitation. So here I am." Delia shrugged at the explanation but Patsy was seriously impressed. To get offers at three different teaching hospitals was something to be proud of indeed. Behind the chatter and impish nature was clearly a very bright mind.
"Is that the short version or the long version?" Patsy asked suspiciously.
Delia laughed outright at that. "Oh, that is definitely the short version, but it absolutely nails it."
"Hmmmm, looks like we'll need more than one night to get our respective long versions out then," Patsy decided.
Delia nodded in agreement. "Definitely. Although if we need more than one bottle, the next one's on you."
"Fair's fair, I suppose," Patsy concurred. "I might branch out and get gin next time."
"I cannot drink that neat," Delia stated flatly, causing Patsy to giggle.
"Of course not, you fool. I'm sure we can find some tonic from somewhere too."
Delia leaned back. "I think my mam's worst fears are already being realised. I haven't even started training yet and I'm already planning my next alcoholic adventure."
"Dear lord, what did your mother expect? It's not as if you're staying at a convent."
"Mam has thought the absolute worst of every single aspect of my coming to London to train. I seriously thought she had something to do with the bus breaking down on the way here."
From Delia's tone it was clear there was some real friction with her mother regarding her career choice. Patsy didn't want the young woman to dwell on that on her first night here. The unfamiliarity would only serve to amplify any negative emotions, and that would not do the Welsh woman any good at all being so far from home. "Well, look on the bright side. Because you turned up late, you've found someone who will happily drink your whiskey for you."
"That's the bright side?" Delia asked, even as she grinned.
"Well, that and getting the Bursar to carry your bags. I have a feeling that story might go down in legend."
"No, you can't tell anyone about that. I'll get skinned alive."
Patsy grinned. "Your secret's safe with me," she paused a beat. "For now."
Delia groaned and leaned her head back against the headboard. "Why do I think you're going to hold that over me?"
"I won't, I promise. I'm prickly, I'm not mean."
Delia looked back at Patsy. "Well, whatever you are, you've made my first night a bit more bearable. So thank you."
The blonde soon-to-be nurse smiled. "Glad to hear it. But on that note, I really should retire to bed. It's going to be a long day tomorrow."
"Pats," Delia called, just as the woman opened the door. "Can I ask just one more favour?"
Patsy narrowed her eyes. "Depends what it is," she replied, her suspicions raised.
Delia shook her head. "It's nothing nasty. It's just I have no idea where I'm going tomorrow. I just wondered if I could tag along with you?"
Patsy could hear the uncertainty in her voice again. "Well, it was all a bit of a blur when we got shown around, so I may not be the best person to go to class with, but perhaps we can work it out between us." She smiled brightly, as Delia beamed at her.
"Brilliant. What time are you knocking for me?" The brunette asked cheekily.
"Oh, I see how this is going to be." Patsy shook her head. "Be ready for breakfast at 0730 and that way we haven't got to rush on the first day."
Delia smiled, approving the plan, and carried on smiling long after the door to her room had closed.
Patsy collapsed onto her bed, unable to take the grin from her face, even as she was castigating herself. She'd been here just a few hours and already she'd been drawn in by a pair of stunning blue eyes and a smile with adorable dimples. It was the first day. Everyone was vulnerable on the first day and it would have been unfair not to help the Welsh woman out. Patsy resolved to put a bit of distance between them tomorrow, when they officially started their training and she could hide behind her uniform and appropriate behaviour.