It had been a long day—a long week.
Patsy Mount opened the door of the nurses’ home and yawned. She walked into the room she shared with Anna and looked over at the dresser. She contemplated changing out of her uniform, putting on makeup for her night out, washing her face and tidying the room a bit—all useful things that needed doing. A sensible person would do them immediately, and Patsy was definitely a sensible person.
But it had been a long week.
Patsy sat down on her bed, and decided to close her eyes for a minute. Then she decided to lie down. Before she knew it, Anna was shaking her. “Patsy!” We’re going out tonight, you know that! How often is it that we have the night off? Come on, Delia and Katherine are meeting us out front!”
Patsy groaned and opened her eyes. The name “Delia” registered, and she sat up, blinking at Anna. “I’ve just got to change…”
“Well, be quick about it!” said her roommate. “Do you want me to wait, then?”
“Oh no, go on,” said Patsy.
“Are you sure?”
“Go!” Patsy wanted to be alone for a minute. She was sure she was blushing. What had that dream been about? Her and Delia… her and Delia… where? What were they doing?
As she undressed, she racked her brain for the details– it bothered her, having thoughts just out of reach like that.
Just as she had decided to forget about it, someone knocked on the door. “Pats?” The voice got quieter. “Love?”
“Coming!” said Patsy, going through her drawers frantically.
“Hurry up!” said Delia, opening the door. “What’ve you been–” She stopped at the sight of Patsy half naked.
Patsy got a strong feeling of déjà vu, then turned bright red as she remembered every detail of her dream.
Delia smirked at Patsy’s face, and they grinned at each other for a while, until Anna’s voice could be heard from the entrance to the nurse’s home: “What’s keeping you two?”
Patsy quickly started pulling on clothes as Delia shut the door with a wink, left, and made up some vague excuse about why they’d taken so long. They both got so tired of excuses sometimes, but right now, Patsy was still grinning. Tonight was going to be fun, and at the moment, everything felt okay.
As the group of four got closer to the fish and chips shop, they broke into the two pairs that by now seemed natural: Patsy and Delia, Anna and Katherine.
“Do you want to take a walk tomorrow?” said Delia to Patsy, walking ahead briskly to avoid the other two hearing them. “Just us, I mean?”
“That would be lovely,” said Patsy. “Or we could go shopping—I know you need to get something for your mum’s birthday.”
“That’s right, I do…” Delia said. “Look, Pats, there’s something I should tell you, don’t be mad about it…”
Anna skipped in front of them. “Come on, there it is, I’m starved!” she said, pulling her friends and running toward the smell of frying fish and potatoes.
Later, Delia mouthed at Patsy, who suddenly didn’t feel very good. What could Delia have to tell her that might make her angry? Patsy didn’t believe in worrying, but she wasn’t exactly looking forward to Delia’s announcement, whatever it
would turn out to be. She tried to ignore her feelings, though, and struck up a conversation with Katherine about hair coloring (“Would I look good as a redhead?”), but it wasn’t long before her friend had an announcement.
“My sister’s expecting a baby!” Katherine told them all.
“That’s absolutely brilliant!” said Delia. “And I suppose your family’s wondering loudly when you’ll be married? I would know something about that!”
“Speaking of, Delia,” said Katherine. “How was your date the other night? Second or third time you’ve seen—what was his name again?”
“Anthony,” said Delia quietly. “And it was the second date.”
“You’ve been seeing someone?” said Patsy, trying to keep her tone at “friendly interest”. Was this what Delia had been about to say to her, on the walk here? That she had a boyfriend?
“You didn’t know, Patsy?” said Anna, sounding surprised. “The first date must have been three weeks ago! You two are so close—it’s amazing it didn’t come up, even once!”
“I didn’t tell her, alright?” said Delia, sounding a bit fed up. “I felt bad because… because she went out with his brother once and it didn’t work out and I didn’t want her to feel bad. I’m sorry, Patsy.”
“Don’t worry, Patsy,” said Katherine. “You’ll meet the right man eventually!”
Patsy ate a chip while looking away from her three friends. “I suppose I am a bit jealous,” she said finally, and meant it.
“So you have a boyfriend now?” said Patsy, as she sat with Delia on a park bench where, luckily, no one seemed to be around to overhear their conversation.
“Come on, Pats,” Delia said pleadingly, raising her voice a bit. “You know it doesn’t mean anything. You know I’d rather it was you taking me to the pictures next week and holding my hand in public and I wish we didn’t have to do all this bloody hiding but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. We need to be safe, love, and that’s what this is, just a cover-up for us. No one will suspect anything if I have a boyfriend…”
“No one suspects anything anyway,” said Patsy, and then remembered the time the couple had been walking hand in hand because they thought no one else was around. An old lady had given them a long look, and Delia hadn’t noticed because the woman hadn’t actually said anything. Patsy had spent days trying to figure out whether the look was good or bad—given the circumstances, bad was most likely, but there was something in her, some instinct, that told her it was really the opposite.
“Patsy,” said Delia. “No one suspects anything now, but maybe they will eventually, and this is good protection. Nothing more.”
“Why didn’t you tell me before then?” Patsy asked. “If it means as little as you said, then why did you have to hide it?”
“Because I knew you’d be upset about it. Because I knew you seeing Anthony and me together would hurt you no matter what, and I… wanted to put that off.”
Patsy looked into Delia’s eyes. Delia blinked a lot when she was nervous, and you were looking at her, Patsy knew that from experience. This experience also involved getting the blinking to stop, which happened when you stroked Delia’s hair and leaned in, because it made her close her eyes and kiss you back. Thinking about it made Patsy want to stop questioning and arguing and worrying, and she gave her girlfriend a small smile that was hopefully reassuring. She pushed away the thought that Delia wasn’t technically her girlfriend and was in fact someone else’s, because it was only partly true, and said, “You know, Anna has the night shift tomorrow…”
“I’ll tell Katherine I want to come over and work things out between us,” said Delia. “You know, how you’re jealous because of Anthony’s brother. Speaking of which, did I tell you he doesn’t actually have a brother?”
“Well,” said Patsy. “That’s going to be hard to explain away to our friends if this gets serious…”
“In fact,” said Delia, smirking. “He has a sister.”
“The plot thickens. Is this why you hid it?” Patsy was joking, but somewhere inside she had a tiny fear it was true.
“Oh, you know that’s not why! I haven’t even met her.”
“Good,” said Patsy. There was silence. Then she said quietly, “So I’ll see you tomorrow night, then? My room?”
“Of course,” Delia whispered. “I’m looking forward to it already.”
These chapters are short and I'm sorry! They seem longer when writing them!
It was only 3:00.
The day was never going to end. Patsy was sure of it. Every time she checked, in between bedpans and reassurances, only a few minutes had passed. Patsy bustled about, deciding that checking the clock wasn’t helping. However, it proved extremely difficult to focus on anything but Delia’s smile, and her eyes, and her hair, and her—
Patsy looked up quickly at the matron. “Yes?”
“Is everything all right? Your face is quite red, as though you have a fever. Are you feeling hot?”
“I’m all right, ma’am, really, I just went to the seaside on my day off. Got a bit of a sunburn, unfortunately.”
“Hmmph,”said the matron. “Get back to work.”
It was 3:04.
Finally, finally, she was done for the day. Patsy found herself back in her room, watching Anna frantically pull parts of her nurse’s uniform out of the dresser in preparation for her shift. Once she had found it all and put it on, she dashed out the door without stopping to close drawers or put any clothing back into them.
Patsy looked at the mess disinterestedly, and then stepped out of the room to look at the clock in the hallway: 8:21. She turned around and saw Katherine looking at her knowingly.
“Waiting for Delia?”
Patsy spent one quick moment terrified that Katherine knew everything, then realized her tone was due to the fact that she thought her friends had been fighting. “I am, actually.”
“Were you terribly mad when you found out she was seeing the brother of your—your ex boyfriend?”
“Well,” said Patsy, “I was, but it wasn’t because of her—Anthony’s brother. He wasn’t my type. I just can’t believe she didn’t tell me. I’m supposed to be her best friend!” She tried to sound injured.
“I’m sure she just didn’t want to hurt you,” said Katherine.
“Something like that,” said Patsy. “I’m going to try to clean up the mess Anna’s left, and then get to bed. See you in the morning, Kate.”
Patsy went into her room and closed the door slowly. She sat on the bed and tapped her fingers on her knees, slightly nervous but mostly excited. She started folding Anna’s things, hoping it would calm her down. Someone knocked quietly at the door.
Delia slipped in, closed the door as fast as possible, and sat next to Patsy on the bed. “Hi, Pats.”
She was as close as was physically possible, their thighs touching, their heads turned to look into each other’s eyes.
Delia didn’t say anything more. Instead, she brought her hand up to the back of Patsy’s neck, pulled her in very slowly, and kissed her. Patsy sighed and kissed her back. They had just shifted position, Delia lying comfortably down on the bed, when there was a knock at the door. Patsy’s heart started pounding as she sprang up and opened it. Delia grabbed Katherine’s wrinkled blouse, which had been lying on the bed under her, and started to fold it.
There was a man at the door when Patsy opened it.
“You must be Patsy! I’ve heard a lot about you!”
Patsy just stood there.
“Is Delia here? Katherine said she was. I’m Anthony, pleased to meet you!” He stuck out his hand, and Patsy shook it automatically. She tried not to grip him as tightly as she wanted to.
“Anthony?” said Delia, sounding cheerful in a pained way. “My goodness!”
“I—I thought I would, um, take you out. You know, as a surprise.”
Delia looked torn. Patsy made a split-second decision. “How lovely!” she said. “That sounds quite fun. Have a good time, Delia!” They looked at each other for a second, Patsy trying to make an encouraging don’t-worry-about-it face. Then, Delia said brightly, “I’ve just got to get my coat from my room. Bye, Pats!”
She walked out the door with this Anthony. Patsy got up and closed it behind them, her nickname ringing in her ears. The nickname that Delia had never called her in front of anyone else before.
Patsy sat down on the bed, failing miserably at all attempts not to cry.