Bernie Wolfe had gone through life known by several different titles, some more welcome than others. Some were a result of her own hard work - Ms Bernie Wolfe, surgeon. Major Bernie Wolfe VC, decorated Army medic. One was a quirk of birth and largely ignored – Lady Berenice Wolfe, due to her father's very minor hereditary peerage. One was tried briefly but swiftly discarded – Mrs Marcus Dunn, wife. The titles with which Bernie Wolfe currently felt most kinship however, were the self appointed ones – failure, fuck up, washed up cripple.
Blown out of a fulfilling and rewarding career, courtesy of an IED planted at the roadside, she had been dropped into this grey, drab existence. No longer saving life and limb, with her very purpose ripped away, Bernie's days were now spent drinking too much whisky and avoiding the outside world as much as was humanly possible.
*beeeeep* “Bernie, pick up the bloody phone, I know you're there. Bernie! I can't believe you chased away yet another physio. Bernie? Oh for fuck's sake, look this is one battle you are not going to win. I'm just going to keep on sending new physiotherapists until you come to your senses and start actually working with one. You're my oldest friend, and I love you dearly, but this has been going on far too long now. It's time to pull your head out of your arse and actually start living again. With the right help, you can regain full mobility and even think about going back to work. You know me, Berenice Griselda Wolfe. You know I won’t give up.”
Bernie toasted the answerphone message with her grubby tumbler of Lagavulin “Yeah sure Cass. Have you forgotten how stubborn I can be when I really put my mind to it? You'll find some other charity case and move on soon enough.”
Bernie Wolfe seriously underestimated Cassandra Wilde and her levels of cunning and determination. She knew the ex soldier only too well. From the moment Bernie had tried to stop her visiting the hospital after being transported back to the UK for life saving surgery, Cass knew something was very wrong and that she was going to have a fight on her hands. She charmed, wheedled, flirted, bribed and, on occasion, blatantly snooped to make sure she knew exactly what was happening with her friend’s treatment.
Best friends since the dark days of boarding school, they had initially been thrust together in class seating plans and dormitories thanks to alphabetisation. They had become firm friends, in spite of their personalities being almost polar opposites. Cass put it down to them both having ancient Greek names. Bernie could never really see it herself, what with Cassandra being a beautiful, elegant name and Berenice being just plain weird. Whatever the reason for their friendship however, shy and socially awkward Bernie was eternally grateful to have been taken under the wing of the more outgoing girl. Wilde and Wolfe were almost instantly inseparable. The odd couple. Cassandra had the wild ideas, regularly getting the pair into any number of scrapes, and Bernie would try and be the voice of reason. It even occasionally worked.
Cass had always been there for Bernie. She encouraged her to pursue her dream of becoming a surgeon, supported the decision to join the RAMC in the face of fierce family opposition. She had tried to like Marcus Dunn when Bernie attempted to appease her family by marrying. She had obviously tried to subtly steer Bernie away from him, it being all too clear to her that the odious little man was no more than a gold digger and terrible social climber. Sadly Bernie had almost no self confidence with men, and he had been the first to show real interest around the time her father had started making increasingly loud noises about marriage. Cass went with Bernie to the solicitor when it became clear just how big a mistake the marriage had been. She even knew way, way before Bernie herself had realised, that Bernie was gay. She was damned if she was going to let Bernie give up entirely on life and drink herself into an early grave. Not when a bit of hard work, determination and sweat could give Bernie a new lease of life.
It may be something of a cliché to claim to know someone almost better than they know themselves, but in the case of Cass and her knowledge of the way Bernie’s mind worked, this was no mere exaggeration. Bernie was a stubborn mule of a woman, but Cass knew the right buttons to press, and exactly how to press those buttons, before Bernie would eventually give in.
Cass had spent weeks on end, after it became clearer and clearer that Bernie was determined to just rot away in her flat, researching and interviewing physiotherapists until she was finally ready to put the wheels of her plan in motion. She had a very good idea how many physios Bernie would reject out of hand. Therefore, the ones who went before were mere cannon fodder. All skilled, experienced and highly qualified physiotherapists obviously, just in case Cass had for once miscalculated her friend, but cannon fodder none the less.
Although she would deny it until the cows came home, Bernie Wolfe had a very distinct type. At school there had been Mrs Schmidt, the German teacher and Miss Barker the biology teacher. Both beautiful, brunette and velvety voiced. Of course, had you asked Bernie at the time, they were just brilliant, inspirational teachers... That Whatshername at uni (who Bernie had just pined desperately over from a distance). When she was doing her training at St Bart's there had been consultant Ms Keating (beautiful, brunette, velvety voiced) just a brilliant, inspirational doctor, surgeon and mentor. These were just the few that Cassandra could remember off the top of her head, too. It wasn't until Bernie was deployed in Afghanistan that the penny well and truly dropped, and she finally fell into the arms of Alex Dawson, beautiful, brunette and velvety voiced anaesthetist. It hadn't ended too well of course, but whose first love generally does?
Enter, one Serena Campbell.