Delia headed for Victoria Park, not caring that she was in uniform without her cardigan or cape, despite the cold weather. She needed the wide open greenery and the fresh smelling air. It hinted at the clean simplicity of life in Wales. Delia stalked purposefully around the perimeter of the park to allow her anger to dissipate. She didn't want to vent her ire at Patsy. That would be unfair and very definitely undeserving. Delia needed to be in control when she eventually sought the other woman out. She knew Patsy would want to know what had happened. Patsy would want to help, but wouldn't be able to if Delia couldn't articulate what was wrong.
Eventually though, the thought of Patsy's comforting presence became too great to resist and she returned to the Nurses Accommodation, slowing as she approached. Delia stood outside for long moments, trying to order her thoughts and get a grip on her emotions. Inhaling deeply, she steeled herself and headed upstairs.
Patsy looked up from her magazine when she heard her door open. The second she saw the look on Delia's face, she hurriedly stubbed out her cigarette and sprang from the bed. A long arm reached for the 'door book' and Patsy wedged it with practised ease before leading Delia to the bed to sit down.
Delia numbly kicked off her shoes without bothering to untie them. She lay down on the bed and rolled away from the door to face the window, tucking her hands underneath her head and the pillow.
Wordlessly, Patsy spooned her from behind, pulling the smaller woman in close. "Deels, you're freezing. Where have you been?" She whispered in concern.
"I needed to go for a walk. I had to try and sort things out in my head," the brunette replied, her voice dull and holding none of the usual warmth that Patsy so adored.
Patsy frowned. "What happened to your cardigan?" Her eyes widened when she heard Delia clamp down on a sob. "Delia?"
"I gave it to Angela," Delia croaked out, feeling her throat constrict. She felt Patsy hug her slightly closer and was surprised and relieved when the other woman didn't press her for information. She doubted she could speak right now anyway. Delia thought she'd walked for long enough to get a grip on her emotions, but the second she saw Patsy, a whole new wave of sadness crashed through her.
Patsy felt Delia shiver slightly and snuggled in behind the smaller woman tightly, hoping to share her body heat and warm her up. She knew that it was always going to be a very difficult day for Delia. She couldn't even begin to imagine having to witness a lobotomy. She knew there were no words of consolation that would help right now. Instead, Patsy held Delia and waited. She was certain it would be enough for Delia to know that she was here. Delia would talk when she was ready. And if she wasn't, that didn't matter either. Patsy just wanted her to feel loved and safe. She might still have difficulty expressing her own emotions, but Patsy knew that she could give Delia the love and comfort she needed in private. So she waited patiently, occasionally stroking Delia's hair or kissing the back of her head, just to emphasise that she was there.
Delia was grateful for Patsy's warmth. She hadn't realised how cold she'd become since leaving the hospital. She allowed Patsy's comfort to envelop her and found that she relaxed into Patsy's embrace. Despite her throat feeling dry and tight, Delia forced herself to tell Patsy about what had happened. She heard Patsy inhale sharply when she described the events on the roof, but she continued pressing on, finishing with the curt dismissal by Matron, and how that made her feel.
Delia swallowed when she ended, moving her hand so that she could grip Patsy's hand that was laid across her waist. "What am I going to do, Pats?"
"I think you did everything you could, Delia. I don't think anyone can criticise you for your actions," Patsy reasoned.
Delia shook her head. "That's not what I meant. How do I go back to that ward? I don't agree with how they treat their patients. I don't want to be part of it. But if I don't go, I'll end up being back-squadded at best. I could get kicked off the training course for insubordination. But I don't know that I can be party to that regime."
Patsy sighed as she ordered her own thoughts. "Do you remember the first Winter ball we attended?"
Delia frowned and smiled at the same time, confused by the complete swerve of conversation. "How could I forget? That was when I became absolutely certain I liked women."
"Women in general?" Patsy's tone was lightly teasing as she fished for more.
"Yes, actually. I already knew I liked you."
Patsy somehow hugged Delia even closer. "Do you remember that pig of a doctor?"
Delia pulled a face. "Ugh. What a vile specimen. But at least it allowed you to be my knight in shining armour." Despite her thoughts being firmly embedded in the current situation, if felt nice to be somewhat distracted by past events.
"I know I haven't told you where I learned how to do that," Patsy admitted.
"I just assumed it was during the War and you understandably didn't want to talk about it," Delia replied matter-of-factly.
Patsy kissed the back of Delia's head again. "That's exactly right. But I think it might help to know."
Delia had no idea where the conversation was going, but found herself nodding acquiescence.
"In the camp, the guards were angry, and resentful towards us. They were highly unpredictable and hated having to guard us. The guards assigned to work in the camps were those considered unworthy of fighting. And to guard women, who hadn't done everything they could to avoid capture was an insult. There was certainly no honour to be had at all."
Patsy swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry from the memories. "One of the guards was a lot older than the others. He didn't really engage with any of the women, except for dealing with daily roll calls and whatever else the camp commandant decided needed to be done. But he had a soft spot for the children in the camp. He ensured they got extra food, and shielded them from the insane punishments that were doled out."
Patsy smiled wanly as she felt Delia trace random patterns on her hand, offering comfort almost unconsciously. "He was the one who taught me how to do that. It was all about gravity and physics. And a little on how joints work. In return, I taught him some English."
"Wouldn't that be viewed as collaborating?" Delia asked curiously.
"It may well have been. But no one said anything to me. And all the mothers seemed to sense that he was doing what he could to protect the children in the camp." Patsy sighed heavily. "That's the reason I brought it up."
Delia furrowed her brow. "I'm not following you."
"Everyone in the camp hated all the guards. We couldn't think of them as even human. They certainly didn't treat us humanely. But he did. In the smallest of ways, he made tiny adjustments to make things just a little less horrifying." Patsy hugged Delia tightly. "He gave us hope that perhaps someone else might treat us humanely. Or those in other camps might have a little more consideration. Just that tiniest bit of generosity, and humanity made us feel like humans, not trapped animals."
Patsy kissed the side of Delia's head gently, as she tried to gain control of her voice again. The revelation had been quite traumatic to talk about. "It made a difference to us Delia. Don't think that you're not helping. Being there and treating the patients with dignity and compassion, even if none of the other staff are, will go far further than you'd ever realise."
"It feels like I'm complicit in something I don't agree with," Delia grumbled. She mulled over Patsy's words though. She hadn't thought about the impact she might make if she remained.
Patsy sighed. "I know. And there were days when that guard undertook tasks we hated him for. I still have an instantly hostile reaction to anyone I know is Japanese," she admitted. "Sometimes it takes me a while to get past that prejudice, because of my experiences. But what helps me get past that is knowing that not all the Japanese behaved in the same way during the War. Those tiny acts of kindness that allowed me to see one of them at least as not a monster or the enemy."
She twisted her hand slightly so that they could hold hands. "I'm not saying it's the same situation at all. And not everyone responds to a kind word." Aware that Delia couldn't see her, Patsy had the freedom to pull a face, knowing that she certainly responded more positively to genuine action rather than hollow platitudes. But Delia would never do anything that wasn't authentic or in the patient's best interest. She kissed the back of Delia's head again before continuing. "But if some of the patients feel more like humans and a little less like voiceless prisoners, isn't that a good thing?"
Delia closed her eyes as Patsy's words prompted the memory of Angela describing herself as a human being. She felt another hot tear trickle down the side of her face. Shifting suddenly, the young trainee nurse spun round on the bed and buried herself into Patsy's warmth, welcoming the feeling of protection. She wasn't convinced, but knew now that she could at least report for duty on her next shift.
For the next few weeks, they continued working their respective placements. Delia found that she had to remind herself that she was making a difference, almost on a daily basis. What kept her going was seeing the change in Patsy. The blonde nurse was thriving in her department. The work was orderly and logical. Staff Nurse Cooper had well and truly taken Patsy under her wing and Delia was delighted at how positive and enthusiastic Patsy was. It made a very welcome change to the last two placements, and reminded Delia that nursing shouldn't simply be defined as one bad experience.
The Welsh nurse knew without doubt that she would not specialise in Mental Health, despite the niggling perception that she was making a difference with some of the patients. She was tempted to return to paediatrics, knowing that she had done well there. But after the dramatic events on the roof, Delia wasn't sure she wanted to go to a department that was likely to be full of extremes. She needed a bit of stability until she could centre herself again. The trouble was, she didn't know what that might look like after they qualified.
Delia was trying to find the words to explain all this to Patsy as they sat in Benny's cafe late one morning. They both had a day off but were not in the mood to do anything too energetic, so they decided to go for an early lunch.
"Delia, I don't know why you're worrying so much. Your exam record alone means you'll be snapped up on any ward that you go for."
"Only if I pass final exams," Delia replied gloomily.
Patsy smiled as she shook her head. "You'll be fine. I know it's hard, Delia. If you want a bit of logic and orderliness, you might want to consider Male Surgical," she suggested.
Delia pulled a face. "I don't want to think I'm copying you or following you around," she admitted in a small voice.
Patsy's smile broadened. "We're not in school anymore. I'd love to work on the same ward as you. I just didn't want to suggest it because I didn't want to put any pressure on you."
Delia managed a small smile in return. "I'll think about it," she promised.
Both women were startled by a cry in the corner. Benny's wife, Shirley stood up suddenly and looked panicked. "Oh Lord. My waters have broken."
Patsy and Delia hurried over to where she was clutching her distended abdomen with one hand and gripping the nearby table with the other. "Can we help at all?" Patsy asked courteously.
"You might have to," Shirley replied between panting breaths. "This is my fourth."
"Let's get you comfortable and call the midwife." Patsy tried to be as reassuring as possible, even though she could feel her heart pounding. Desperately, she tried to recall Mr Slade's lectures.
"We're not on the phone." Benny had come out from the kitchen and was hurriedly taking his apron off.
Delia nodded to Patsy and moved away from Shirley. "There's a telephone box just down the street. Call for Shirley's midwife." Delia gently guided Benny towards the exit even as she gestured to the few remaining patrons that they should leave.
"I don't know the number," Benny admitted, paling as panic began to set in.
Delia rested her arm on Benny's forearm. "Everything will be alright. Come on, Benny. You've already got three kids. Who looked after Shirley then?"
"The nuns at Nonnatus came out." Benny's eyes widened as he heard his wife cry out in pain again. He looked over to where she was trying to find a comfortable position.
"That's good. Go to the phone box and ask the Operator to put you through. They'll be here in no time," Delia assured him.
He looked back to where Delia stood and clutched her hand. "Promise me you'll look after her," he begged.
"I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to flip the sign to close the cafe so we can have a bit of privacy and slide the bolt over once you're gone, but just knock and I'll let you back in."
He nodded shakily. "Alright, Taffy. And go out to the back if you need boiling water. There's a kettle on the stove."
Delia nodded and bundled him out of the door hurriedly before going back to Patsy and Shirley. "What do you need, Pats?" She asked brightly.
Patsy shot Delia a look, realising that she had manoeuvred her into taking the lead with the patient. "Well hopefully the midwife will be here very shortly, but in the meantime can you have a look round and see if you can find something clean and warm to wrap baby in, just in case there's an early arrival?" She tried to give her voice a tone of breezy confidence, but Patsy's heart was racing.
Delia nodded, and headed straight to the kitchen. Patsy turned back to Shirley, squeezing her hand sympathetically as another wave of pain crashed through her. "I hate to admit this Shirley, but you are far more experienced than I am with respect to childbirth. Do forgive me if I ask any silly questions."
"I'm just grateful you're here. My Benny is useless in a crisis. Every time I've given birth he's fallen to pieces." Shirley panted in an effort to control her breathing.
Patsy nodded, feeling a little more reassured. "Now, I hope you don't mind but I need to take a quick look to see what's going on. I won't touch anything, I promise."
Shirley nodded. "You're young sweetheart. Once you've had a baby you'll realise that once it gets going, the last thing you care about is your dignity. Look away."
Patsy raised her eyebrows slightly, grateful at that moment that she had absolutely no intention of going through childbirth. She lifted Shirley's dress and took a quick glance. "We're going to have to remove your undies I'm afraid."
The cafe owner's wife nodded and shifted her body weight as Patsy tugged at the garment.
As soon as it was clear, Patsy could clearly see that the baby was crowning. "How swift was your last birth?" She asked, trying to keep her voice neutral.
"That one shot out. I barely had time to realise I was in labour," Shirley replied, wincing again before crying out and clenching her hands in reaction to the pain.
Patsy nodded. "I suspect there may well be a repeat run. I can see that baby is crowning."
"What can I do?" Delia asked as she came back. She was carrying a selection of clean towels and had found a cushion that she placed behind Shirley's back.
"I rather think baby is taking care of himself," Patsy replied. "Shirley, do you remember all your ante-natal classes? About the breathing and not pushing?"
Shirley nodded, her face now covered with a sheen of sweat. "I do, but I don't know if I'll be able to manage. All I want to do is push."
"Please don't. Just concentrate on your breathing. It will help with that feeling," Patsy replied, finding that concentrating on the task at hand was giving her focus and calming her. She grabbed one of the towels and positioned it just under Shirley. "As soon as you get the urge to push, start panting. It will slow baby down." Patsy took one of Shirley's hands and gave a sympathetic squeeze. "At the very least I'd like to slow the journey down a little so that the midwife can arrive in time."
Shirley nodded but it was clear that she was fighting a losing battle with the urge to push. "I know. They always seem to calm everything down." She barked out a half-laugh. "You're not doing too bad though."
Patsy gave a lop-sided smile but it fell quickly as she saw Shirley tense again. There was no stopping this baby. She moved back down to take another look. "Alright Shirley, I see that baby is not taking no for an answer. Just try and pant if you can. It might stop any sudden dilation." Patsy shuddered at the thought of Shirley possibly tearing but she was limited with what she could do. She looked up and saw that Delia had knelt behind Shirley and was holding her hands, gently giving reassurance and encouragement. The blonde nurse sighed in relief. At least she could simply concentrate on what was happening down below.
"Oh god, oh god. I have to push," Shirley panted, the last word becoming strangled as the urge took over.
Patsy quickly positioned her hands close to the baby's head. "Are you absolutely sure you have to push?" She asked quickly. The only answer was a continuing grunt. Patsy looked up at Delia quickly. "Looks like we're going to deliver a baby," she stated cheerily.
Delia's eyes widened and she adjusted her position in order to support Shirley as much as possible. "Listen to Patsy. Baby's on his way. She'll help." She winced as she realised that she'd just heaped the pressure on Patsy, but the blonde nurse wasn't really listening.
"Big push now Shirley. Work with the contraction. Come on now." Patsy's tone had become efficient and brusque, but Shirley happily reacted to it, leaning up as she bore down with all her might.
The contraction finished and Shirley gasped for breath. "What's happening?" She managed between breaths.
"You've almost crowned. You need a big push on the next contraction. Can you do that?" Patsy encouraged, focusing on the baby.
Shirley had barely begun to nod when the next contraction gripped her. Trusting Patsy, she pushed again, although she was beginning to feel exhausted.
Patsy sensed that she was flagging. "Come on Shirley. One big push and baby will crown."
Shirley continued to push and Patsy couldn't help but smile in delight as she saw the baby's head come through completely, dark wet hair matted on its head. She took a quick look to make sure that the umbilical cord wasn't obviously caught but couldn't really see anything. "Well done, Shirley. Well done. We're nearly there. One more push on the next contraction. Ready?"
Shirley swallowed and gripped Delia's hand more tightly. "I'm not sure I've got the strength," she panted.
Patsy looked up. "Yes you do. You've done this three times already. You know you have the strength to do it," she coached, smiling broadly at the mother-to-be.
Shirley tensed again and started pushing. Patsy was ready and kept her hands close to the baby as finally it was born. Grabbing a towel, Patsy wrapped the infant, rubbing slightly to provide a stimulus and all three women gasped in relief as the baby cried loudly. "I did it," Shirley exclaimed in wonder.
Patsy found that she was quite choked with emotion. She never thought she would react that way to the birth of a baby. "You did it," she agreed. "You've got a beautiful daughter." Very carefully, she handed the precious bundle to Shirley. "Hold her to your chest. It will help with the delivery of the placenta."
Shirley couldn't contain her joy, and could not stop smiling as she looked at her wrapped bundle. "I'll never live this down," she said ruefully. "Benny will be beside himself knowing that his little girl was actually born in his cafe."
A sudden knocking at the door startled them. Delia looked at Shirley. "I'll need to let them in. Do you think you can lean back against the wall?" She asked gently. At Shirley's nod, Delia helped her adjust and then got up to go to the door.
Shirley looked at the blonde nurse before her. "Thank you so much Patsy. You were amazing."
Patsy shook her head quickly as she laid another towel across Shirley's lower half in an attempt to preserve her dignity. "Not me. I think baby just wanted to make an entrance and she wasn't prepared to wait for anyone."
"Don't sell yourself short. You've got a way about you." She frowned for a second. "Patsy. Is that short for Patricia?" She asked.
Patsy shook her head. "No. Patience." To her surprise, Shirley burst out laughing at the response.
"Goodness me, how perfect."
The bolt on the door scraped open and suddenly, Benny was at Shirley's side, a look of awe on his face. He was followed by a small bespectacled nun, who hurried up to where they sat.
"Benny, this is your daughter, Patience," Shirley announced.
Benny's eyes widened. "Patience? When was that decided?"
"When she decided that she didn't have any. Giving her a name to remind her of its virtue is the least we can do," Shirley declared, winking at Patsy who was staring at her in astonishment.
"Patience," Benny tried the name out and then smiled broadly. "I like it," he approved.
"Welcome to the world, Patience," the nun greeted in a soft Scottish accent.
"Hello Sister Bernadette," Shirley greeted. "Sorry you couldn't deliver this little one."
Sister Bernadette smiled warmly at the new mother. "It sounds like you've been in very safe hands. But there are a few other things we need to do before we're all done." She glanced to where Patsy was still kneeling. "Well done. You've done an amazing job."
Patsy shook her head again. "All I really did was catch her," she replied with genuine modesty.
The small nun peered at the blonde woman astutely. "You've brought a life into the world. There is nothing ordinary about that. When you have a moment, celebrate what you've been part of." She looked at Shirley and the infant briefly. "There's just a little more to do, but I can take it from here."
"Are you sure?" Patsy couldn't help but ask, blushing when she saw the nun raise an eyebrow in amusement. "Sorry. We'll leave you to it. Congratulations, Shirley."
"Yes. Congratulations. And well done Benny," Delia added, giving the cafe owner a quick hug.
"I can't stop smiling. My daughter was born in my cafe." Benny seemed to be in a daze.
"Babies aren't fussy where they're born, Benny. But it's certainly a lovely story to tell her when she's older. Now, we will need to get your new addition home once I've sorted this last bit out, so perhaps you might want to think about making arrangements for that?" Sister Bernadette suggested.
Patsy hurried to the kitchen so she could wash her hands and then joined Delia by the cafe door, looking back to where Sister Bernadette was now expertly managing the delivery of the afterbirth.
Benny looked at them. "Thank you girls. You don't know how much this means."
"It was the least we could do. Now, be a good husband and look after Shirley. She's going to need your help," Patsy advised, earning an approving nod from the midwife.
As they left the cafe, Delia couldn't help but beam at a somewhat shell-shocked Patsy. "I can't believe you delivered a baby. I am so proud of you," she declared.
Patsy grinned back before frowning slightly. "I can't believe she named the baby Patience," she replied.
"How lovely," Delia lauded, unable to keep the smile from her face.
Patsy paused for a moment. "Yes. Yes it is," she agreed before they headed back towards the Nurses Home.
To Be Continued...