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The Twelfth of March

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The day had started badly, around three o’clock in the morning, with her head over the bowl of the toilet. Sister Bernadette felt terrible, and she mused that she must look quite green in the face. She longed to return to bed, but she’d already missed Lauds. She hoped Sister Julienne wouldn’t be at odds with her over it. With a deep and calming breath, she made her way from her room, across the hall and to the top of the stairs. She looked down, and a wave of nausea hit her. She stepped backwards and clutched at her stomach.

‘Good morning Sister.’

Bernadette turned and offered a poor attempt at a smile at Nurse Franklin, ‘Good morning.’

‘I hope you weren’t coming up for me,’ Trixie said as she walked over, ‘I’m only ten minutes late.’

‘Ten minutes?’ Bernadette repeated, ‘You best hurry down, there’ll be no eggs left.’

‘Right you are, Sister.’ Trixie smiled, stepping onto the staircase, ‘See you down there.’

Bernadette watched her go. She should’ve been up hours ago. However would she explain her tardiness? She tried to put it out of her mind as she slowly and steadily descended the stairs, keeping her eyes downcast so as not to trip. After what seemed like hours, she stepped down onto the floor and looked up.

Sister Julienne smiled softly, ‘Good morning Sister.’

She stumbled over her words as she answered, ‘Good morning.’

‘We missed you at Lauds.’

‘I am sorry Sister.’

‘Come, join us for breakfast.’ Julienne said, touching her arm gently.

Bernadette swallowed hard, ‘I… I’d rather not.’ She watched her superior’s reaction.

‘Are you quite well?’

She was wringing her hands together, ‘I was ill in the night.’

Julienne gave her a look, ‘Should I send for Doctor Turner?’

‘No, thank you.’ Bernadette said with a shake of her head.

‘If you’re sure…’ Julienne patted her arm and turned away, leaving her alone in the hall. Bernadette wrinkled her nose at the smell of bacon wafting past her face. She cleared her throat and headed past the dinning room and made her way to the clinical room.

Several days later, it was much of the same. In fact, Bernadette would’ve said it was worse. Her appetite was well and truly gone, she could barely keep fluids down and she spent so much time vomiting, she’d requisitioned an enamel bowl for her personal use in her room, save her running back and forth to the bathroom. She had tried her best to hide her blossoming illness from her Sisters and the Nurses, but she wasn’t sure how much longer she’d be able to hide it.

As it turned out, not much longer at all. Three days later, she was sitting out in the small garden at Nonnatus, Fred on his knees tackling the weeds that were trying their best to take over.  Behind her, she heard her name and she stood up, turned. It was a strange sensation that she’d never felt before. Sister Julienne was at the doorway between the house and garden and was smiling softly, until she realised that Sister Bernadette would not be able to assist her.

Her head went first, dizzy and swimming in fog. Next, her legs, buckling at the knees.