After a very pregnant and uncomfortable pause, Trixie quipped, ‘wouldn’t you know only Patsy Mount could have twins without losing her hourglass figure. You’re disgusting Patsy.’ Nervous laughter erupted, easing the tension in the kitchen, but Delia, undeterred, continued her justification for Patsy adopting the orphans, ‘Patsy, we can raise them together; lots of single women raise children. Look at Nurse Crane, her mother raised her under horrible circumstances, her being an unwed mother, but look how Phyllis turned out.’
‘That’s true, I am a bastard,’ declared Nurse Crane, ‘but my mother loved me and sacrificed everything to give me a good home and education.’
Delia continued with her argument, ‘Fred, even bumbling Fred, raised his daughters by himself after his wife was killed in the blitz, and Dr. Turner raised Timothy by himself until he married Shelagh. Reggie’s mother was a widow and raised him by herself. We can do it Patsy, you’ll have plenty of money to provide security and protection, and they’ll have both of us to love and nurture them.’
‘Delia, assuming any court in the land will let two single women adopt these orphans, how are you going to care for them by yourself when I leave for Hong Kong? They are too young to travel, I can’t possibly take two infants with me even if their ages weren’t an issue; remember I’ll be caring for my dying father, and you can’t do it by yourself. They’re not dolls, Delia; you just can’t put them on a shelf when you tire of them!’
‘I know that Patsy, and please don’t condescend to me!! I’ll call my parents; I know they’ll come help until the twins are old enough to fly and we can join you in Hong Kong. Mum and Ta continue to ask me when they’re going to have grandchildren.’
‘I’m sure your mother will be overwhelmed with joy when she learns that I am party to this adoption, and that her grandchildren from her unmarried daughter are of mixed race,’ Patsy snarled, exaggerating ‘unmarried and mixed race.’
‘Mum will come around after she gets over the initial shock of me being a mother. They’re so beautiful she won’t be able to resist them.’
‘What about your father, Delia.’ how do you think this will affect his business?’
‘My Tad is used to defending me and my life choices to the local busy bodies, so he is well prepared for any controversy I might stir up.’
‘Where will you live, Delia? You, your parents and two infants can’t possibly stay here in the convent, and you know how long it took us to find a suitable flat for the two of us. The logistics alone render this idea even more preposterous.’
‘You have other options Patsy; you have a home in Chelsea, complete with a domestic staff, where you could temporarily put us up until they’re old enough to travel.’
‘Delia, you know how much I detest the idea that I’m just another rich kid living on the fortunes of my father and grandfather. I’ve always made it a point of pride to support myself on my wages. I simply refuse to accept anything I have not earned myself, and I certainly can’t afford that house in Chelsea on my wages. It’s out of the question.’
‘For god’s sake, Patsy, you live in a convent, you share a room with another person, you ride a bicycle through the slums of the east end at all hours of the day and night to deliver babies for the poorest of the poor. You count your pennies just like the rest of us. You've more than proven your worth to society; you have nothing else to prove, now is the time to put your other resources to work. We would stay only until they are old enough to fly, then I can burn it to the ground when we leave if that would make you happy.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous, Delia. Then I would be stuck raising them on my own since you would be in jail,’ Patsy said as a slight smile crossed her lips. ‘I’ve just never accepted the fact that I will inherit such circumstances; I’m uncomfortable even discussing money, but I can see your point, it would be a temporary solution, even if your family comes to help. That is, if I were to adopt them, which I am not going to do. But, for argument’s sake, it is already set up for father’s use so we wouldn't have to start from scratch, and since time is of the essence, I will concede your point, but we will not reside there once we return from Hong Kong, assuming I would do something so impetuous as adopting twins, which I’m not going to do, so the argument is moot.’
‘Patsy, I am getting whiplash. Every sentence coming out of your mouth is a contradiction of the previous one. Do you have any idea how tiring it is to always do the thinking for both of us? Sometimes, Patsy, your head is as thick as a turnip, and I am so tired of shouldering the load for both of us.’
‘Delia, I resent being compared to a root vegetable; I have not been able to think clearly; there is just so much pulling me in opposite directions right now that it makes it very difficult to think rationally. And, I had no idea you were shouldering the load for both of us; as I remember, I carried a pretty heavy burden while you were in Pembrokeshire, but of course you don’t remember, you couldn’t remember anything!’
‘I’m sorry, Pats, that was unfair of me. I should be easing your load, not piling more on you, but this is a situation that won't come our way again, and we cannot let it pass. And, oh yes, it was just wonderful having my life erased.’
‘Delia, it is out of the question, we, I, just can’t cope with another disappointment right now. If the courts said no, I couldn’t handle it. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you, you know I didn’t mean it, please forgive me.’
‘Of course, I can understand why you would choose to live in a boarding house environment instead of the plushness that a home in Chelsea would offer. Sharing a room with me is much more desirable than having domestic staff to provide for your every need, do peel me a grape, Maggie,’ Trixie piped in, again breaking the tension that was growing thick.
‘Oh Trixie, I do love sharing a room with you, and I do love living in a communal environment, but ………’
‘What is the twins’ story, Patsy’, Barbara interrupted, her eyes darting between Delia and Patsy, shocked by the candor she was witnessing from her normally circumspect friends.
Patsy took a deep breath before starting the story, ‘Their birth mother is a fifteen year old Irish girl, the daughter of Mrs. O'Shanassy who works in the drygoods stall at the market. Her father is a merchant marine who has been out to sea for months, and who would have disowned his daughter, and done no telling what to the twins, if he had known she was pregnant and by whom.
‘ The twins’ father is a fifteen year old boy, the son of one of the Indian engineers who was here working on the design of the council housing. His parents became suspicious that there might be an issue between the two teenagers, so they packed up the family and left the area without notice one night.
‘Mrs. O’Shanassy sent her daughter to the unwed mothers’ home to give birth and get rid of the evidence, so to speak. Fortunately, she had brought Maureen to the antenatal clinic so we knew she was carrying twins and could plan for their delivery, unlike the Bissette twins. We just weren’t prepared for Mother Nature’s wrath.’
‘Sister Julienne sent me to help at the home because their regular midwife was out on extended medical leave. She sent Delia with me as part of her midwifery training. The night Maureen O’Shanassy went into labor was the night of the blizzard. She was so young and not completely developed, and her labor was torture for her. The baby girl was born first and really tore Maureen badly, but baby was fairly strong even though small and underweight. Delia assisted with her delivery and then cared for the baby and Maureen while I dealt with the next baby; he was transverse so I had to turn him so he could be born properly. The mother was in tremendous pain and discomfort, and my efforts only added to her agony, but I had to turn him so that he could come out without injury.’
‘The two of you really performed herculean tasks that night, ‘ Barbara exclaimed in awe.
‘In retrospect, we kind of did. We were short on gas, and Maureen’s pain was unbearable, but I finally got him in position and delivered him. He was even smaller than his sister and very weak. I did have to expand his little lungs and help him breath for a bit.
‘We called for the flying squad but they couldn’t come because of the deep snow and gale force winds. I had no choice except to turn us into human incubators. Delia carried the girl tied to her chest while I tied the boy to mine. I had to sew up the mother and tend to her pain with a baby snug against my chest. Fortunately long arms came with my height. It was such a traumatic experience for the mother that she didn’t want to see or hold her babies. Delia and I became surrogate mothers, we even called them our own rhesus monkeys,’ Patsy gave her trademark crooked smile as she recalled their moniker for the twins.
‘We incubated them for almost a week before the flying squad could get there. Thankfully none of the other women went into labor during that period of time. Delia is correct, I was quite attached to my little monkey by the time we sent them to hospital. But, it is out of the question for me, for us, to adopt them, even if the court would allow it. I just don’t have time or the emotional energy to undertake such an endeavor.’
Sister Julienne appeared from the shadows, no telling how long she had been there or how much she had heard. ‘Goodness, there is certainly a lot of commotion in here for this time of morning.’
‘Young nurse Busby and I were angels of life’, sang an elated Sister Monica Joan. ‘The angel of death came for me, but I was far too busy preserving life to give him the time of day, so we shooed him away with his tail between his legs.’
‘It seems to me that you were certainly doing the Lord’s work this morning, Sister,’ said Sister Julienne as she smiled compassionately toward the elderly nun.
‘That cardboard box on the floor over there’, said Trixie, ‘was on the front stoop and contained the two infants that Delia is holding. The note inside, apparently from the mother, said she wanted Patsy to raise the babies together rather than let them go somewhere where their lives would be horrible. She has no means to take care of them, but doesn’t want them abused either. I suspect her mother is also involved, probably the chief instigator, but that was not indicated in the note. From what Patsy says, the birth mother wanted nothing to do with the twins after they were born. We can go to the market to see if Mrs. O’Shanassy is still there, although it probably doesn’t matter one whit.’
‘Sister Julienne, please grant them sanctuary until Patsy can make arrangements to adopt them. We’ll, I’ll, find a way to care for them after she leaves for Hong Kong’, said a tearful Delia. ‘Please don’t send them back to that unwed mothers’ home. The matron is wicked to the girls and their babies. She reduces their food, and waters down the babies’ formula, and she drinks on duty every night. There is talk that she skims money off the top of each adoption too. She really should be investigated.’
‘Delia, how do you know this? I never heard any of that.’
‘Patsy, the girls talked to me; they were too much in awe of you to gossip with you. Don’t get me wrong, they really respected and trusted you, but they thought you were so much above them socially that they were intimidated, but I was more on their level, so they talked to me.’
‘Delia, we are on the same level, please don’t demean yourself.’
‘You know what I mean, Patsy; you with your cut glass accent and me with my Welsh lilt; they felt more comfortable with me is all I’m saying.’
‘Children should be raised by a father and mother’, said a harsh judgmental voice as Sister Winifred stepped into the room wearing a look of displeasure on her face. ‘They would be better to go to the orphanage until a proper couple can adopt them.’
A collective gasp filled the room as Delia in total disbelief said, ‘I beg to differ, Sister. You would have them lie in their own body waste for hours until some stranger has the time to clean them? They wouldn’t have human touch and nurturing like they need to grow and develop. They might be separated because no one wants twins; so what happens to the one not adopted? You would have it flounder for months, years? We’ve already had this conversation while you were in morning prayer, and we identified plenty of people we know who have raised children by themselves. These babies will have two mothers to raise them and the security of money and status to protect them,’ Delia pronounced defiantly.
Barbara stepped forward and nervously said, ‘I, I, was raised by a single parent after my mother died, and I turned out just fine. So that’s another one to add to the list of successful single parents.’ Barbara appeared very surprised by her statement, but also very proud that she contributed to the justification of Delia’s plan.
A deep voice bellowed from the hallway as its owner stomped into the kitchen rattling the dishes in the cabinet and commanding everyone’s attention. ‘I've been in two world wars and I can tell you plenty of single women, and single men, raised orphaned kids. Most times the people raising them weren’t even related to the them, but it didn’t matter so long as they loved those kids, and those kids knew they were loved. Children need love and security, and having a mother and father won’t guarantee that. Sister Winifred, your piety is hollow; I suggest you go to your room and study what our Lord says about love!’ And, having shaken the rafters, Sister Evangelina stormed from the room.
‘I know what it's like to be handed off to an institution; my father abdicated his duties after we were repatriated by the Japanese. Rather than raise me himself, he sent me to Catholic boarding schools. My material needs were taken care of, but I was emotionally starved, no nun ever held and comforted me or told me I was loved. Fortunately, I had had plenty of love and nurturing during my formative years before we were captured, so my emotional and intellectual development were not stunted. And…..., Sister Winifred, that is why these children will NOT be placed in an orphanage….., because a proper couple is going to adopt them.’ Patsy stood stunned by what she had just heard herself say; she had no idea where it came from or that she was going to say it, it just bubbled forth from deep within her, but it was the truth and she knew what she had to do.
‘Patsy, your passage to Hong Kong by ship will take almost a month, but you could fly and be there in 24 hours. You can delay your departure by at least two weeks and still get to Hong Kong at the same time you would get there by ship. You told me your father has bought several cargo planes that fly between England and Hong Kong, so you could go on one of them and save your time and money. Please Patsy, please call your solicitor,’ pleaded a very tired Delia.
Patsy appeared to be in a trance, unable to move, or speak after her unanticipated outburst. She was also stunned by the reality that her colleagues were engaging in justifying her and Delia adopting these orphans; no one was addressing the oddity or the ‘unnaturalness’ of their relationship, well maybe one was. With this realization, Patsy felt her heart begin to slow its rapid beat and return from her throat to its correct anatomical position.
The twins were starting to squirm and whimper, and Delia’s fatigue was apparent. ‘Nurse Gilbert, Sister Winifred, please take the twins to the treatment room, change their nappies and prepare sugar water for them; I’m sure they are dehydrated’, said Sister Julienne in her soft but commanding voice.
‘Yes Sister,’ they said in unison.
Barbara stooped to pick up baby girl, cuddled her with minimum objection, and moved toward the treatment room. Sister Winifred bent to take baby boy from Delia’s other arm, but when she interrupted the contact with Delia’s chest, he protested violently, flailing his arms and legs and wailing at the top of his lungs, so much so that Sister Winifred had difficulty holding him. As she moved past a still stupefied Patsy, his protest became even more pronounced to the point that it jarred Patsy from her trance, and she reached out to take him from the nun, ‘here, let me have him, Sister,’ Patsy said, still somewhat dazed.
Once Patsy had a sturdy grip on baby boy, she cuddled him to her chest and his wailing changed to big crying gulps; as she spoke softly to him, his gulps turned into whimpers, and he grabbed her pajama collar with his tiny hand and snuggled as close as he could into her chest. As Patsy gently rocked him side to side while tenderly patting him on the back, the tears flowed down her cheeks and dripped onto his blanket.
‘I believe he remembers you, Nurse Mount,’ Sister Julienne said as she gave that all knowing, wise smile.
‘I believe he does, Sister,’ Patsy responded in her choked, tearful voice.
Delia rose from her chair, put on her pajama top, and walked to Patsy’s side where she surreptitiously pressed her knee into Patsy’s; Patsy pressed back, communicating more than spoken words could do. Their silent acknowledgment of their decision was interrupted when Patsy’s smile suddenly turned into a frown as she exclaimed, ‘Little man, you most certainly need a fresh nappy.’ Patsy turned to Delia and softly said, ‘as soon as I change him, I’ll call father’s London solicitor.
‘By the way, Nurse Mount, Nurse Busby, I am granting them sanctuary until this situation is settled,’ they heard sister Julienne declare as she glided from the room. ‘Oh, Nurse Mount, please use the phone in my office to call your solicitor, and by the way, I think it is a good idea to ask Dr. Turner to come and examine the twins, just as a precaution,’ Sister Julienne said before she disappeared through the doorway.