For most four year olds the last place they’d want to be on Christmas Eve was a maternity ward. Most four year olds would want to be at home, annoying their parents and refusing to go to bed as they eagerly awaited Santa’s arrival. Emilee however was not most four year olds. She knew the ward corridors and every member of staff that walked along them. She was used to the sound of screaming women, crying babies and pale looking Husbands. She hoped secretly that Phyllis would be there today - she was a bit like her Mam - she always, always had sweeties in her uniform pocket!
As she trotted towards the Nurses Station, the young girl was thrilled to see the stern looking woman scribbling away. Emilee broke into a gallop, rushing over to her older friend, before Delia could stop her. She didn’t say a word, simply grinned up at the Nurse. Phyllis smirked, pretending she hadn’t noticed Emilee she continued to work. Emilee giggled, clambering onto Nurse Crane’s knee.
“Emilee!” Delia chided, “What have we said about climbing on people?”
“But Phyllis isn’t a people. She’s Phyllis.” Emilee shrugged.
“A person-“ Delia sighed.
Phyllis sent a sympathetic glance to Delia before handing Emilee a Haribo Coca Cola bottle from the tub at the side of her desk. Emilee was bright, funny and above all else cheeky. She was a carbon copy of Delia to look at but for the fact she was tall for her age. Her personality however was much more in line with Patsy’s - she even had the raised eyebrow and fishhook smile down to a tee. She was a popular member of the ward, doted on by everyone she came into contact with and more than used to sitting quietly when her parents were working on opposing shifts. Tonight though Emilee would have no need to be quiet - it was tradition that the members of the ward would sing Christmas Carols for the patients and throw them a little party. After all - no one wanted to be in hospital over Christmas. Although, Delia hadn’t told Patsy they were coming. She’d come up with a thin-veiled excuse about Emilee probably being in bed early.
Patsy yawned as she wrapped her stethoscope around her neck. She’d just finished her last rounds and was absolutely exhausted. She wondered briefly whether she could get away with sneaking off and not bothering with the carolling, but the better part of her won out, and she trudged slowly towards the Nurses Station. She readjusted her Christmas jumper. She hadn’t been sure when Trixie had suggested they all wear them but she had to admit it did have her feeling slightly more festive than she might otherwise be. She reconciled herself with the fact she no longer had to work Christmas Day at least.
She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she didn’t notice her wife stood down at the Nurses Station or her daughter clambering off Nurse Crane’s knee. It wasn’t until she heard ‘Mummy’ shouted from up the corridor that she looked up and saw them. She couldn’t help the enormous grin that spread across her face or the chuckle that escaped her as Emilee rushed towards her, arms open, her young face full of excitement at seeing her.
“Hello darling.” Patsy beamed picking her up and spinning her round before pressing a kiss to her cheek, “This is a pleasant surprise, to what do I owe the pleasure of such fine company?”
“Singing Carrots.” Emilee responded.
“Carols.” Patsy corrected.
She adjusted her daughter more comfortably onto her hip as she made her way over to where Delia and everyone else was stood. Delia beamed as she saw her wife and daughter approaching, the sight of them together never failed to warm her heart. She ran her hand soothingly over Patsy’s back as she reached her.
“Good day?” Delia asked.
“It is now.” Patsy responded with a wink as Barbara handed her and Delia the carol sheets. She scanned it before glancing at Emilee, “Ready to sing some songs?”
Emilee nodded enthusiastically as Shelagh signalled for them all to start singing the first song.
“Away in a manger…”
There was no doubt that the loudest voice was Emilee’s.
“Bed time?” Patsy asked.
A slight smirk graced her features as she nodded her head towards Emilee. The youngster had draped herself across the chairs in the waiting area, completely oblivious to the noise and laughter occurring around her. Delia chuckled as she glanced at the time on her watch.
“We ought to be making tracks anyway, Pats. We’ve got a lot to do. I didn’t have time to chop the vegetables for dinner tomorrow or set the table or-“
Patsy caught Delia’s hands, raising one eyebrow with a practised and knowing smile. Delia relaxed at the simple gesture.
“Stop worrying.” Patsy whispered, “I imagine keeping our daughter entertained was a feat in itself. The rest doesn’t matter, we’ll do it tonight.”
“But Pats, you must be exhausted.”
“I must be.” Patsy hummed as she let go of Delia’s hands and moved to wear Emilee was sleeping. “But I don’t feel it.” She murmured, picking up her daughter gently. “Let’s go home.”
“Out for the count as my Mam would say.” Delia smiled as she entered the kitchen where Patsy was peeling potatoes, plopping them into a pan of water. “Pats, just help me with bringing the presents down, I can do that. You need rest.”
“Delia, I know how excited Em was yesterday with me and how hard work she was because of it. I can imagine how impossible she’s been today… you need rest too and a job shared is a job halved. I’m almost done here. You go set the table and then we’ll bring Em’s presents down and then we’ll sit and enjoy Santa’s late night supper.” Patsy winked, nodding her head towards the plate that sat on the coffee table. “It’s quite a spread.”
“Em suggested we give Santa a choice.” Delia chuckled, “She thinks that eating millions of mince pies must be pretty boring so she’d give him the option of something a little less boring.”
“So she’s given him a sample of the entire kitchen?” Patsy winked.
“Something like that.” Delia replied, “Along with a bottle of water, a glass of milk, a glass of Vimto, a bottle of Irn Bru and a bottle of Coca-Cola.”
“And the whisky?”
“That might have been me.”
“Delia Busby-Mount.” Patsy gasped in mock horror.
“I thought ‘Santa’ might like a night cap.”
“Let’s get those presents down and under the tree.”
Delia sighed in relief as she sank down onto the sofa. She smiled as she felt Patsy flop down beside her, burrowing into her chest. The Welsh woman pressed a kiss to the top of her exhausted wife’s head. She was about to settle down when the plate of food and the tumblers and bottles surrounding it caught her eye. It would be an eclectic midnight feast. There was a mince pie, olives, a few Monster Munch, a Wispa chocolate bar, two Jammy Dodgers, oranges and some pate and bread sat on the plate.
“Before you get too comfy, we have to eat this.” Delia murmured to Patsy who hummed in response.
The red-head tiredly sat up, reaching for the whisky before adding a dash of Coca-Cola. As Delia reached for the plate, she noticed a pile of letters and cards sat underneath it.
“I forgot about those.” Delia winced settling back down with the cards in one hand and the plate in the other.
“They’ll just be Christmas cards.” Patsy mumbled as she too re-settled, her head resting on Delia’s chest.
Patsy reached out for an olive as Delia began opening the cards one by one, reading them out as she did so. It was only when she reached the last one that she paused. Patsy’s relationship with her Father had grown ever more distant since Emilee’s birth. As Patsy relished her new role as a Mother, her distaste for her Father had only grown. He’d never sent a single birthday card or Christmas present to his Granddaughter and Patsy struggled to comprehend how anyone could be so far away and so distant from their own child. She’d stopped trying to be even the slightest bit cordiale with her Father - instead opting to dote on her own family.
“What is it?” Patsy asked without moving. She didn’t need to look at Delia to know something was bothering her.
“This one, it’s for you.” Delia replied quietly, “I think it’s from your Father.”
Patsy sat up. She took the card and immediately stood up.
“What are you doing?”
“Putting this where it belongs.” Patsy grumbled as she headed towards the bin.
“I’m not interested in another card signed by his secretary.” Patsy growled.
“Well at least put it on the side so we can recycle it tomorrow.” Delia responded, “Although I do think you should at least open it.”
“Why? We both know that he won’t have included you or Em in the card.” Patsy spat, slamming the card down on the side.
“Because despite everything he is your Father. How would you feel if Em-“
“Don’t compare me to him, Delia.” Patsy warned.
“I’m not comparing you to him.” Delia sighed, “Look, it’s up to you what you do and I’m not going to argue with you about it on Christmas… Day.” She finished, noticing the clock strike midnight, “Now come back over here and wish me a Merry Christmas.”
Patsy dipped her head in an apologetic smile before reaching her hand down to Delia. The smaller woman frowned but stood up, allowing Patsy to pull her close and kiss her slowly. As they pulled away, a puppy eyed Patsy offered Delia a small smile.
“I’m sorry.” She whispered, “It’s just I look at Em and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her. Nothing else matters but her and I just… I want her to always know she’s loved and I can’t fathom how… I wish my Father felt that way. I know I shouldn’t let it bother me but…”
“Of course it bothers you Pats.” Delia smiled, her hand reaching up to stroke Patsy’s cheek. “And that’s ok.”
“I tried, Deels.” Patsy implored, her eyes searching her wife’s.
“I know you did, darling.”
“And he still didn’t want me.”
Delia closed her eyes tight as she felt Patsy collapse into her, the taller woman’s face buried in her shoulder. She held her wife tight, cursing her damned Father for what felt like the millionth time in their relationship.
Patsy’s heart may not be broken anymore but that didn’t mean Delia had managed put all the pieces back together.
No, Patsy’s heart wasn’t broken, but it was chipped.