There are some people who appreciate doing nothing. They would be quite happy to just lie in bed reading, or listening to radio, or just daydreaming.
Delia Busby is not one of those people. Not only does she rely on nursing to keep her busy, but her volunteer work with the Ambulance Brigade ensures that she always some sort of responsibility to fulfill.
So when the doctor tells her it could take up to four months for her leg to heal, she can practically feel the rest of her body begging for activity.
Yes, she knows the doctor’s orders are for her own well-being. She’s a nurse.
Yes, she knows she sounds like one of those argumentative patients who make her job difficult.
And yes, she knows she’s lucky, that she could have come out of the accident with far worse than a badly broken leg and plentiful bumps and bruises.
But that doesn’t mean that recuperating is going to be anything less than awful.
It’s not like there’s any way around it, though, so she puts on a cheerful smiles when Patsy brings her home, accompanied by Nurse Crane, who is kindly driving them back to their flat.
At least she’s not still living at the Nurse’s Home. Then she’d be surrounded be women who were constantly coming and going, women who were working, being useful, and reminding her of everything she’ll be missing out on.
And if she has to put up with anyone’s pitying stares, she’s glad it will only be Patsy’s.
It takes both women a surprisingly large amount of time to maneuver her up the stairs and in through the front door. That certainly doesn’t set a positive tone for Delia’s recovery. They deposit her onto a sofa that Delia doesn’t recall having any say in purchasing, before taking a moment to catch their breath.
It’s a nice shade of sage green and quite comfortable to sit on, so Delia doesn’t feel too bad about that this particular decision made without her.
Besides, it will go quite nicely with the yellow walls, whenever they’re actually able to strip the wallpaper and paint them.
Nurse Crane leaves Patsy to get her situated, while she pulls the care around.
“How is your bike?” it finally occurs to Delia to ask.
“What’s been salvaged of it is currently being repaired,” Patsy tells her, “and in the meantime, I am using the one that was originally intended to be Nurse Crane’s. Lucky for us, my bicycle took the brunt of the damage, so it’s going to be a while until Fred pieces it back together.”
She cups a hand gently against Delia’s face, careful to avoid the bruises along her cheekbone.
“How late is your shift?” Delia asks.
“Late,” is all Patsy says in return. “Luckily, Sister Mary Cynthia dropped off some soup yesterday.”
“I should be able to heat that up for supper,” Delia assures her.
After a short nap, at least. Climbing all those steps has left her exhausted.
“Yes, well she also dropped off some of Trixie’s novels.” Patsy looks apologetic. Delia can only imagine what’s inside those books. “I’ll try to see if anyone has some better reading materials to lend you.”
“I’ll be fine,” Delia promises. “I’ll probably sleep all evening anyway.”
“In that case,” Patsy leans over to kiss her lightly on the forehead, “I’ll leave you to it. Wouldn’t want Nurse Crane to get antsy.”
Delia laughs at the thought of Nurse Crane being anything other than antsy. Patsy tells her it’s happened before, that she’s actually quite calm under pressure, but Delia can’t quite believe her.
It’s harder to fall asleep than Delia had imagined it would be. The sofa is a bit narrower than a bed would be, and while the pillows are quite soft, they don’t make up for the slight chill in the room.
She has to stretch awkwardly to reach the blanket lying on the other side of the armrest. At one point, she carelessly knocks her leg against the back of the sofa, which has her biting back a yelp that would likely send the neighbors running.
Once she’s managed to get herself covered comfortably, Delia tosses and turns before finally falling a sleep.
She sleeps deeply and peacefully, but not nearly long enough before she’s woken by an insistent bladder. Using the facilities is a difficult task that involves hopping, clinging to the wall for support, and frequent stops for rest, but she manages. In fact, by the time Delia makes it back to the sofa, she feels triumphant enough to attempt dinner.
Patsy has kindly left all the necessary pots and bowls out for her. The table they sit on is another new addition, maple by the looks of it, sturdy and most assuredly secondhand. There are no other major additions to the flat, though, which both excites and frustrates Delia.
It’s going to be weeks before she can leave the flat and go shopping
She heats the soup, vegetable and bean, while resting her leg on a chair. The entire process is awkward, but any discomfort is outweighed by the growling of her stomach.
The soup tastes extra delicious after all the effort it required to make it. She eats more than she probably would under normal circumstances.
Delia’s once again exhausted by the time she returns to the sofa, and makes it less than a chapter in one of Trixie’s swoony pirate romances before the words start to blur and she gives up.
She stretches, much more carefully this time, to turn out the lamp. Then she goes back to sleep.
For all that Patsy tries to be quiet when she comes home, there’s no way for her avoid waking Delia.
“Did you manage alright?” Patsy asks as Delia rubs the sleep from her eyes.
“Not much to manage,” Delia replies. “Didn’t make it to the bed, though.”
“Would you like some help?”
Patsy half carries Delia into the bedroom, and it takes a great deal of effort on both their parts to change Delia into her pyjamas.
But soon enough they’re curled against each other in bed, comfortable warm and cozy.
Patsy’s out like a light, it must have been a long evening for her.
Delia’s mind has woken up a little, so she attempts to settle it by creating a mental list of things to keep her occupied during her bed rest and the rest of her recuperation.
It’s a long while before she finally dozes off, but at least she has something planned to keep her busy tomorrow.
Delia’s leg begins to heal slowly but steadily. She makes it through one of Trixie’s romances before practically begging Patsy for any other reading material. The influx of books is the only thing that keeps her from going completely stir-crazy.
After a few weeks, Delia master the art of hobbling from the bedroom into the kitchen, but it’s still a treat to have Patsy bring her morning tea.
It’s hard to tear herself from the jaws of sleep on those morning when Patsy leaves while it’s still dark out, but Delia forces herself to.
“What are you doing this Thursday?” Patsy asks quietly, even though she’s been up and moving around the flat for a while now.
Delia just sighs. She’ll be doing the same thing she does every time Patsy has a day off.
In the morning, she puts together the grocery list so that Patsy can go and pick everything up. She’s still bringing home plenty of food from Nonnatus House, but even they can’t account for every single meal.
If Delia’s lucky, someone from the London or the Ambulance Brigade will stop by for tea. She’s not particularly close with her fellow nurses, not the way Patsy is with the midwives, but they’re any company is good company at this point.
Listening to their stories about work makes her feel less cranky, and less prone to taking her frustrations out on poor Patsy, who’s only trying to rest after a long week.
Otherwise, the two of them just spend the day curled up on the sofa until it’s time to make dinner. Delia chops the vegetables at the table while Patsy does pretty much everything else.
Under normal circumstances, this would feel like domestic bliss, but when there’s no other option it starts to grate almost immediately.
“I thought, if you like, we could head to the shops and finally pick out a china pattern,” Patsy suggests.
“In case you’ve forgotten,” Delia reminds her, “one of us is an invalid.”
Patsy looks down at her and rests her hands on her hips. She’s not one for the self-pitying talk that Delia sometimes engages in.
Delia picks up her tea and takes a few sips until Patsy’s glare softens.
“You’re on the mend and Dr. Turner is dropping by this evening with your new crutches,” Patsy tells her. “I thought we could take them for a spin.”
The idea brightens Delia’s mood immensely. Just four short days until she can leave the flat.
They can actually start getting their home in order. Maybe they can even stop at the market for fresh flower. Delia’s parents sent a bouquet to her in the hospital, but that’s long since wilted.
“That would be lovely,” Delia agrees, as soon as she’s stop fantasizing about home decorating.
“Excellent,” Patsy says. “I saw a lovely blue and yellow floral, but I know you’ll put up a fuss.”
“Oh Pats,” Delia half wines. Those floral patterns are so dull. They always remind her of her stuffy old aunt back home. No one in the family could stand that woman.
“Which is why I refused to look any further until I had your very specific tastes the guide me,” Patsy teases.
Delia makes a sour face at her.
Patsy checks her watch.
“Now I really must be going,” she says, then rises to her feet.
A few moments later, there’s a crash from the kitchen. Patsy reappears a few seconds later with a guilty look and the teapot.
“Now we really have to find a china pattern,” she sets the teapot and its tray down at the foot of the bed. Delia sits up further to make room for it. “We’re down the two secondhand teacups.”
Delia giggles at Patsy’s uncharacteristic clumsiness.
“You need to go,” she says, stretching forward for a quick kiss. Patsy always ends up rushed the mornings. “Leave it as it is. Barbara’s bringing me more books this afternoon, I’ll ask her to help clean it up.”
Patsy looks reluctant to leave such a mess behind.
“Honestly,” Delia tells her, “Barbara will be much kinder about the extra work than Sister Evangelina will be about your tardiness.”
The mention of Sister Evangelina’s wrath lights a fire under Patsy’s feet. She quickly throws her coat on and rushes out the door, pausing only to kiss Delia goodbye again.
Wearily, Delia eyes the teapot at the foot of the bed, trying to decide if it’s in her best interest to have another cup or to roll back over and get a couple more hours of sleep.
Normally, Delia would spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alternating between the hospital and the Ambulance Brigade, with only a break for the requisite sleep to make it through her next shift. She had no family London, and all her friends were busy with their own families, so it seemed like the most useful way to spend her time.
Besides, nothing cools the sting of missing loved ones like feeling needed. And a nurse is always needed.
This year, though, work won’t be an option. Delia makes regular use of her crutches, provided she doesn’t have to contend with ice on the ground, but a return to work is still months away.
She had imagined that she’d feel far more cross about her situation at this point. She’s certainly restless, but she also feels much more optimistic than she did last months. She attributes that to actually being able to assist Patsy with decorating the flat.
They still haven’t found the time to take down that awful wallpaper, but it’s at least partially obscured by multiple garlands and plenty of Christmas cards.
(Even the aunts and cousins Delia hasn’t heard from since moving to London have written this year. She imagines her grandmother is responsible for that.)
So when Delia’s mother wrote her with an invitation for spend Christmas back home, she was in good enough spirits to decline. After all, she might be getting the hang of those crutches, but she can’t very well carry her valise from train to train without assistance.
Also, this is her first Christmas with Patsy, in their shared home. She wouldn’t trade that for the world.
(Not that she can explain that to her mother.)
Alas, while Delia may have both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to do as she pleases, Patsy most certainly doesn’t.
Not only is she working her usual mix of shifts, but she’s also helping to cover for Sister Winifred, who’s taken ill.
Delia put on a brace face when Patsy told her, but it has put a damper on her Christmas cheer.
Patsy works a long day shift on Christmas Eve, and while she struggles to day awake for dinner (one of the delicious meals Mrs. Turner is still bringing over every week), Delia firmly tells her to go to sleep immediately after.
And so she’s left to spend the rest of the night hobbling around the flat, tidying up. She’s straightened the holly wreath on the door twice when she realizes that Patsy has forgotten to wrap the small gifts she bought for her fellow midwives.
Happy to have something to do, a way to feel useful on Christmas, Delia locates the deer and holly print wrapping paper they purchased and gets to work.
A part of Delia feels like wrapping presents should be as easy as folding the sheets on hospital beds, but it isn’t. No matter how slowly she works or how careful she is, the end result is always just passable.
Still, just passable is enough to keep Delia awake and working until her eyelids starts to droop.
She carefully sets each gift on the kitchen table, where she knows Patsy won’t overlook them in her haste to get out the door.
The bed is warm with Patsy already in it. Delia’s asleep within seconds of her head hitting the pillow. Despite her best intentions, she doesn’t so much as stir when Patsy creeps out the door in the wee hours of the morning.
Delia eventually rises from sleep, her Christmas spirit restored. The packages on the table had been replaced by two notes.
The first reads, What would I do without you?
Delia smiles, glad she could be useful in a pinch.
The second note is tucked under a rectangular, flat box wrapped in ornament and pine needle patterned paper. Delia only needs a quick glance to guess that there’s a scarf or a neckerchief inside.
The note says, in bold block letters, A little suspense for you on Christmas Day. Do not open until tonight.
Delia grins and hobbles back the bedroom, where she unearths a small box from her nightstand. She adds it to the kitchen table display, knowing Patsy will love the brooch inside.
And as she puts the kettle on for her morning tea, Delia can’t help but hum O Little Town of Bethlehem to herself. Maybe she’ll put the record player on while she does the laundry.
They’re lucky that Patsy gets a good shift on New Year’s Eve. They spend it curled up on the sofa with warm drinks in hand. Long after midnight, they fall asleep there. The uncomfortable position is completely outweighed by the pleasure of having Patsy home and in her arms.
But Patsy’s back to work by noon on New Year’s Day, leaving Delia to her own devices.
There’s a small basket of clothes to be mended, so she sets to work on that. It’s certainly more relaxing than her weekly cleaning of the kitchen.
Patsy’s been particularly rough on work uniforms as of late, so Delia makes plenty of use of the red and light blue thread in her sewing box. Her own gray and purple uniforms remain untouched, the corresponding spools of thread fat and untouched at the bottom of the basket.
On the bright side, now that she’s feeling her old energy levels returning, she’s getting plenty of use out of her off-duty wardrobe.
A short string of yellow thread, and a larger one of white, then Delia’s done with all her mending.
She checks the clock on the mantle; it’s barely been over an hour.
It’s hard to keep busy when she’s cooped up at home day in and day out.
At least once a day, Delia considers braving the stairs down from their flat, just to get a bit of exercise. But they’ve been having a bit of a cold spell since Christmas, and there’s no telling what parts of the stairs or the sidewalks or the streets have been frozen with slippery ice.
Instead, Delia pulls one of the kitchen chairs up to the window and settles in for her most popular new hobby.
The streets below their flat are almost always busy with something. In the mornings it’s usually men on their way to work, then mothers on their way to market.
Right now there’s a swarm of children gathered below her window.
The thrill of their new Christmas presents hasn’t worn off and they’re all paying with balls or bats or dolls.
A few of them are even on bicycles, despite the cold and the risk of ice.
Delia watches as they nimbly dodge the other children, looping wide circles down the street.
It looks like fun. It doesn’t look like a terrifying risk of injury.
A boy who can’t be older than six loses control of his bicycle in one of those ice patches Delia was so worried about. She gasps loudly as he teeters to the left and falls completely over.
He lies there on the ground for a few seconds, and Delia’s already reaching for her crutches. She’s a trained nurse, she can be of use even with her injury.
He’s approached by an older girl with a matching head of dark curls. She first checks him over, then picks up the bicycle and looks at that.
The little boy grabs a fistful of his sister’s dress, and she takes hold of the bicycle. Then together they stroll off down the street, presumably towards home.
That’s one of the most wonderful things about children. When they fall down, they always get back up again. As soon as it stops hurting they’ve forgotten about it.
Maybe Delia could learn a thing of two from them about resilience.
Maybe she’ll give Patsy’s bicycle another chance.
When it’s warmer out and there’s no risk of ice.
On a street that doesn’t have such heavy traffic.
Under Patsy’s watchful eye, in case of emergency.
And maybe she’ll wear an extra layer of clothing for padding.
But still, it’s worth considering. She doesn’t want to be the kind of person who’s so easily defeated by a few bars of metal and rubber tires.
She’ll have to get back on that horse.
By the beginning of February, Delia feels that she’s mastered her crutches. It was either that or spend the entire winter in hiding.
That simply wouldn’t do.
Every afternoon, when the day is at its warmest, Delia picks up the crutches and maneuvers herself down to the street. That part is still awkward, but it’s worth any discomfort.
She makes her way down the street just in time to catch a crown of children coming home from school. The first few times she did this, Delia was painfully aware of the snickers she received from some of the older boys.
But she kept at it, and by now she feels she’s earned their respect.
Either that or she sight of her has become too commonplace to be entertaining.
The younger children regale her what they’ve learned today, and one amusing story about two girls who got reprimanded for passing notes in class.
Jenny and Linda, for their part, don’t look particularly chastened. Delia has no doubt they’ll do it again.
For a moment, Delia feels relief over the fact that she’s nurse and not a teacher. It’s hard enough for her to convince her adult patrons to look after themselves the way they should. Managing a room full of children sounds even harder.
Her presence isn’t enough to hold their attention for long, and soon enough she’s been abandoned for other diversions.
That’s just fine by Delia. She’s in no position to be running run, and she’s fairly certain that if she sat down to play jacks or dolls she’d never be able to get back up again.
There are plenty of other people to talk to as she walks down the blocks surrounding her home.
Sure, she’d seen all of the children from her window, but it wasn’t until she actually left the flat that Delia realized how many families live in the neighborhood.
Aside from a few pairs of newlyweds, the single young man across the street, and two girls a few years younger around the block, Delia and Patsy are the only people without children who live nearby.
She likes it. This much family makes the place feel more like a home.
Provided she doesn’t let herself focus on the fact that she and Patsy will never raise any children here.
She pushes the thought from her mind and greets Mrs. Edwards, whose head is stuck out of the window as she takes dry laundry off the line.
Delia had sworn that woman was everywhere when she first started doing her rounds of the neighborhood. It had been over a week before she’d been informed that Mrs. Edwards has an identical twin sister, Mrs. Hall, who lives one block over.
Delia can only tell the sisters apart if they’re with their respective families, or waving from inside their homes.
Delia’s arms get tired from the strain of supporting the rest of her body when she’s only three quarters of the way home.
Luckily, Mrs. Clarke sees her struggling and invites Delia in for tea.
An intimidatingly large woman, Mrs. Clarke is the keeper of a collection of porcelain dolls. They take up half the space in her hallway.
She also makes the best lemon cake Delia has every tasted.
Delia is more than happy to help the other woman fold laundry in exchange for tea and cake.
Mrs. Clarke chats happily about the possibility of her mother coming down for a visit. She hasn’t seen the Clarkes since their youngest daughter, Cheryl, was born, and the girl just turned two.
“She’s getting up there,” Mrs. Clarke looks a little emotional as she says this, “but she insists that she’ll be fine just taking the train. Says my brother’s children keep her young. Honestly, I think they’d just make me feel old. Little Gloria will be ten come May.”
She winks conspiratorially, and Delia can’t help but laugh.
Once she’s properly mobile again, she’ll have to invite Mrs. Clark over. She’s not quite ready to play hostess yet.
Mrs. Clarke as Delia if she needs help with anything before she goes, but Delia waves away her concern.
What she really needs is for her leg to finish healing and her cast to come off.
She’s getting close. Every now and then she puts a little pressure on her wounded leg, just to test it. It’s holding up well.
Delia is thoroughly exhausted by the time she climbs the stairs to the flat, and she all but collapses onto the sofa.
Patsy finds her there sleeping when she returns from work less than a half an hour later.
February 14th. Valentine’s Day.
This is the first Valentine’s Day that Delia has someone to celebrate with.
And she’s now going to let something as silly as her almost entirely healed leg get in the way of making the day perfect.
Patsy will be home in time for a late dinner. She’s told Delia that it required quite the effort to worm her way out of Trixie’s plans for celebrating their exciting lives as single women in London.
Delia can only imagine how Trixie plans to celebrate that.
So Delia could wait for Patsy to get home.
Or she could surprise her.
Her leg is in a good enough place that being jostled by strangers doesn’t really hurt, and her long walks around the neighborhood on her crutches have given her enough upper body strength to support herself on the way to the bus stop.
The look on Patsy’s face will be worth any challenges she encounters.
It’s been a trying few weeks at Nonnatus House. There’s a strong case of the flu going around, affecting midwives and patients alike, and the joy of bringing new life into the world has been tempered by the illness.
Delia throws a few things into the only bag she can carry on her back. It’s seen better days, but after tonight she might have to throw it away regardless.
She considers leaving the box of chocolates she purchased at home. February nights are cold and biting; they probably won’t want to stay out too long.
Delia packs them anyway. She blames it on the thrill of finally having someone to spend the holiday with. She may not be able to shout her love for Patience Mount from the rooftops, but they can certainly have a proper Valentine’s Day. And that involves sharing a large box of chocolates.
Delia is so excited about her plans that she’s barely even aware of the walk to the bus stop. The cold night air invigorates her rather than draining her.
A kind woman holds her crutches while Delia climbs onto the bus. Almost immediately, a man on his way home from work offers her his seat. He seems half-asleep on his feet, but he won’t take no for an answer, so she settles for thanking him profusely.
Getting off the bus turns out to be more difficult than getting onto it, but Delia manages. She spends a few moments adjusting the bag on her back and the scarf around her neck, but then she sets off down the street.
It’s out of her way to stop for fish and chips, but chocolate just isn’t a suitable dinner. Besides, she has plenty of pleasant memories of strolling the streets with Patsy, oil leaking out of the fish’s newspaper wrapping and onto their fingers.
After tonight, she’ll have one more.
She even crumpled a thick layer of newspaper over the other contents of her back to keep them clean. It’s probably pointless, though, and everything will likely be covered in grease by the time she reaches Nonnatus House.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any free hands to carry the food with.
Blocks away from her destination, Delia can feel butterflies swarming pleasantly in her belly.
She checks her watch as she waits on the street, wondering if she should just knock on the door. After all, everyone inside knows her as Patsy’s friends and roommate. Friends visit each other all the time.
She’s saved from her indecision by Barbara, who exits the building in her work uniform and immediately spots Delia.
“Patsy might be a few minutes,” she says. “There’s a lot of equipment that needs washing. You should wait inside.”
She helpful escorts Delia up the stairs and inside, where Delia is promptly handed off to Sister Julienne so that Barbara can get back to her work.
Sister Julienne attempts to talk Delia into a cup of tea and comfortable chair while Patsy finishes up, but Delia declines. She can rest just as easily on a stool while Patsy works.
The nun asks after Delia’s injuries as she leads her down the hall. Delia is glad to report than her cast will be off in ten days, although she won’t know when she can return to work until after that’s taken care of.
Sister Julienne points Delia towards a brightly lit room and excuses herself to monitor the phone.
Certain she’s made enough of a racket traipsing through Nonnatus House, Delia enters the room.
Apparently not though, as Patsy barely catches whatever soapy object slips through her fingers when she notices Delia’s arrival.
But there’s no thunk of wood or metal, and no shattering of glass, just a broad grin on Patsy’s face.
“To what do I owe this surprise?” she asks.
“An empty stomach and a craving for chips,” Delia teases. She leans in and risks a quick peck on Patsy’s lips. “I wanted to see you,” she whispers.
“Sit down,” Patsy responds in the bossy nurse voice Delia knows it’s easy to fall into. “I’ll be done in a minute.”
Finding no chair or stool, Delia leans her crutches against he walls and hoists herself on a dry patch of counter.
She pulls the fish and chips out of her bag, eying the expected patch of grease on the front of her bag.
At least the food is still warm.
Once Patsy’s put everything away, she joins Delia at the counter.
“There’s no point in going outside until we have to,” she comments as she starts on her food.
“It’s not too bad out” Delia replies through a mouthful of fish. She swallows and adds quietly, “Although it’s better in here with you.”
It’s a small thrill to admit something so personal in a house full of other people. But the look in Patsy’s eyes is worth the risk.
They eat the rest of their food in silence, just enjoying each other’s company.
Patsy shakes her head when Delia pulls out the box of chocolate.
“We really shouldn’t overstay our welcome,” she says. “And besides, you may have to roll me home after any more food.”
Delia laughs and tucks the chocolate back into her bag.
Reluctantly, they both put their coats back on, and prepare to leave the warmth of Nonnatus House. Patsy slings Delia’s bag over her shoulder and carries her own in one hand.
“You know you’ll never get the smell out of this, right?” Patsy says.
“Or the stain,” Delia agrees.
The walk home is slow, partially because of Delia and her crutches, but mostly because there are so many dark corners for two women to steal kisses in.