Delia stopped so suddenly as they walked into the Tea Room that Patsy had to step to one side in order to avoid bumping into her.
“What’s wrong?” The tall red-head asked.
“Mam didn’t tell me he was coming,” Delia tried to explain, a look of panic in her eyes.
Patsy glanced across the room and saw that Mrs Busby had company. Patsy vaguely remembered meeting him over a year ago but those had been under very different circumstances. She steeled herself. “Well, he’s here now. Let’s make the best of it.” She jerked her chin towards the table.
Delia’s father got to his feet as the two women approached and grinned broadly. “Hello, sweetheart,” he greeted softly, forgoing the expected formal standards of public meetings and sweeping his daughter into a tight hug.
“Dad,” Delia barely managed to choke out, breathing in his familiar smell and revelling in the comfort of his arms. She managed to disengage slightly and looked up into the bright blue eyes of her father. “What a lovely surprise.” She smiled delightedly.
Mr Busby smiled back expansively as he touched her cheek. “I needed to remind myself of that beautiful face.” He paused a fraction. “And those adorable dimples.” He winked as he watched his daughter blush.
“Dad!” Delia stepped back a bit further, simultaneously embarrassed and delighted. She gestured to Patsy. “This is Patsy,” she introduced.
Mr Busby immediately extended his hand and shook Patsy’s cordially. “Come on girls. Sit down.”
The women exchanged greetings with a curiously taciturn Mrs Busby before taking their seats.
Mr Busby looked at the two younger women. “Enid tells me that we’ve met before, but I’m afraid I was rather distracted by this one giving us all a heart attack.”
It still pained Patsy to recall Delia’s accident. The man in front of her bore no resemblance at all to the devastated shell of a man she recalled meeting at the hospital. “I must confess that I was rather distracted too,” she admitted politely.
Mr Busby grinned. “That’s Delia for you. Always wants to be the centre of attention.”
“Dad!” Delia squirmed in embarrassment. Her father was clearly in fine form today.
Mrs Busby took pity on her daughter. “Behave, Gerraint,” she warned gently.
Mr Busby’s smile softened, and Patsy noticed that he had the same indentation of dimples as Delia.
“I’m sorry Patsy,” he apologised. “But if it wasn’t for my daughter leading us all a merry dance, I’m positive I would have remembered such a charming and beautiful young woman.”
Patsy smiled in delight. It was quite clear where Delia got her way with words. “You flatter me, sir,” she replied modestly.
“Gerraint, please,” Mr Busby corrected affably. “Now then. Let’s order something. My stomach thinks my throat’s been cut.”
“Gerraint! We’re out in public,” Mrs Busby admonished in a hiss.
Patsy was warming to the man now. “Me too. Delia rushed me out this morning before I had time for breakfast.”
Delia looked at Patsy in astonishment. She had never seen Patsy so relaxed in public. She caught the dark look her mother gave Patsy but decided that she didn’t care. Delia had wanted Patsy to meet her father properly for the longest time, but her mother had managed to block her at every turn. It would seem that dad had found a way past the obstruction.
Gerraint looked between Delia and Mrs Busby. “Your mother wouldn’t let me eat anything until you got here and I’m starving.”
“I’m so sorry we kept you waiting.” Patsy’s breeding snapped into place as she looked at the older table guests.
“Nonsense, Patsy. It’s my fault for getting here so early. I’ve been enviously looking at all the cakes being doled out.”
Their attention was briefly taken by placing their order. Patsy was amused to see Mr Busby lay on just as much charm with the waitress, who couldn’t help but respond with a bright smile. She rather suspected that their tea would be in a larger pot, and there would be more cakes than had been requested.
“So, Enid tells me you’re to blame for Delia becoming a midwife.” Gerraint struck up the conversation again the second the waitress had left the table.
“Well, I am a midwife, but Delia’s more than capable of making her own decisions,” Patsy responded, not quite sure where this was headed.
“I still can’t understand it. It’s a filthy occupation.” Mrs Busby shuddered and earned a narrow-eyed stare from her daughter.
“Nonsense,” Mr Busby disputed instantly. “I can’t imagine a more rewarding vocation. Bringing life into the world.” He tailed off slightly, obviously recalling something. “I’ll never forget when you were born, cariad,” he continued. “You took your time. Kept me and your mother waiting for hours.”
“I know the feeling,” Patsy mused, a wry grin on her face.
Delia opened her mouth in indignant surprise but her father continued speaking as if he hadn’t noticed her wanting to talk.
“I took one look at those brilliant blue eyes and I was lost.”
Mrs Busby tsked. “From that moment on, she could do what she liked.”
Gerraint shrugged but did not appear apologetic. “We’d had two boys before that. I’d got quite used to being a disciplinarian with them.”
Patsy wasn’t sure Mr Busby really knew what a disciplinarian was, but she listened attentively.
“I wasn’t used to a little girl crawling into my lap for cuddles when I got home from work. How can you say no to that look?” He looked directly at Patsy as if she would know exactly what he meant.
Patsy did know exactly what he meant and found herself agreeing before she realised that perhaps that was not the wisest thing to do.
Delia was looking on in astonishment. Within 10 minutes of meeting, Patsy and her father had struck up an easy conversation. She could see the look of discomfort on her mother’s face and wondered what she was thinking. Delia knew that her mother was aware that Patsy and Delia’s relationship went further than friendship. She had been at great pains to remind Delia to keep her business in London. Mrs Busby seemed certain that her husband would be heartbroken by Delia’s choices.
Now, Patsy sat opposite her father in a small Tea Room, and they were conversing as if they’d known each other their whole lives.
“So, how are you getting on sweetheart? Are you glad you’ve taken it up?” Mr Busby smiled adoringly at his daughter.
“I really am, dad. It’s exhausting, and I’m having to study every night but it’s definitely worth it.” Delia lit up as she spoke, and both Patsy and her father grinned at her enthusiasm.
Mrs Busby frowned. “You’re not out on one of those bicycles are you? I can’t believe you’d risk that again after all you put us through.”
Delia paled slightly but squared her shoulders. “Yes I am, mam. Barbara came out with me and ensured that I was competent and safe.”
“It’s a pity you didn’t do that last time,” Mrs Busby muttered almost spitefully.
“There’s no need for that, Enid. Delia didn’t intend to get run over last time.”
“It wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t been in London.” Mrs Busby knew she sounded petulant but she still couldn’t quite forgive her daughter for the accident.
“You try telling Hwyll Evans that. His son was injured by the post van last week. It can happen anywhere.” He leaned over and placed a hand over Delia’s. “Just promise me you won’t rush and not take any unnecessary risks,” he pleaded softly.
Delia nodded. Her emotions were all over the place. She was angry at her mother for reminding her of what Delia had put her through. It infuriated her, as her mother never seemed to take into consideration how the accident had impacted on Delia. At the same time, she was overwhelmed by her father’s support and understanding.
Gerraint smiled, once again flashing the Busby dimples. “Good.” He looked back towards Patsy. “So, Patsy. This one here is wonderful at sending the most bland, strait laced letters home. I can’t believe she hasn’t been up to mischief. I need details.”
Patsy looked at Delia with a lop-sided smile. “She’s actually remarkably well-behaved,” she replied, a hint of surprise in her voice. Her smile turned into a grin. “But there have been a few…” She paused while searching for the right word. “Incidents.”
Mr Busby laughed delightedly before taking a large bite from his tea-cake. “Do tell,” he invited eagerly.
“She’s lovely,” Delia’s father whispered in her ear as he hugged her farewell. Delia blushed furiously and her eyes widened in shock, but her father simply stood back and smiled. He turned to Patsy and took her proffered hand to shake it, before pulling her into a hug too. “Don’t hurt her,” he begged quietly, having the same impact on the tall midwife as he stepped away.
Gerraint waited for Enid to say her goodbyes before taking her hand and smiling at the younger women. “I know holidays are always busy times for you midwives, but you’re both welcome to visit and stay.” He fixed Delia with a look. “Don’t be a stranger,” he asserted, winking at her. “Patsy, do come and visit. I know we only live in a village, but we aren’t far from Tenby and that’s a beautiful beach, no matter what time of year.”
Patsy smiled affectionately. “I’d be delighted to, but I don’t want to be too much trouble.”
“Nonsense. It’ll be no trouble at all, will it Enid?”
“No,” Mrs Busby barely choked out, astonished that the invitation had been so blithely extended without even a cursory discussion.
Mr and Mrs Busby waved goodbye to Patsy and Delia as their bus disappeared around the corner. Gerraint held out the crook of his arm and his wife took it begrudgingly.
“You shouldn’t encourage her foolishness, Gerraint. She should be getting married and settling down. Not swanning around London doing whatever she pleases.” Enid was careful to leave the ‘with whomever she pleases’ out of her comment, but the inference was crystal clear.
“If she’s happy, then I’m happy,” Mr Busby said simply.
“She’s wilful. Always done whatever she pleases. No matter what it…” Mrs Busby halted before she revealed too much.
“I’m not a fool, Enid. And I’m not naive,” Gerraint replied steadily, patting his wife’s hand gently.
Mrs Busby stiffened. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“You’re not a fool, either, cariad.” Mr Busby stopped and turned to face his wife. “She looks at her the way I look at you.”
Mrs Busby’s heart lurched and she paled. “What?”
“It was why I needed to come. I needed to make sure.” He smiled softly. “She looks at her the way I have always looked at you. I know that look. I know what it signifies and I know how much happiness it reflects. So that’s that. It’s good enough for me.” He paused, and looked fractionally admonishingly at Mrs Busby. “It should be good enough for you too. If Delia’s happy, then I am happy.”
Mrs Busby nodded sharply, but remained unconvinced.