Chapter 1: Chapter 0:My Love
My Dearest Patsy,
I have tried and tried to find the right words to say to you – to reassure you, comfort you – but I find myself at a loss. I can’t just plaster on a happy face and pretend I’m not scared, because I am.
I’m terrified of being here at Nonnatus without you. Everyone has been so immensely kind to me over the past year and I’ve truly grown to love this place, but you are my home. Without you here, I can’t imagine these walls will seem half as safe.
I’m also petrified when I think of you out there facing this alone. Hong Kong seems so terribly far away and I know it holds so much heartache for you. I wish more than anything that I could be there for you, to calm your mind when it gets stormy.
The thing I want to assure you of, however, is that I have not been for one moment afraid of losing you. Distance is nothing compared to everything else we have faced together, not the least of which was my Mam. We can beat this. I know you’re not so sure that’s true but at least be sure that I am stubborn, Miss Mount, and I am not letting you go.
I want you to promise me that you will read this letter when it all feels hopeless and let it fill your head with thoughts of coming home to me. I’m proud of you for doing this even though you know it will be difficult.
I know you will be busy but if you get the opportunity I’m sure everyone here would love to hear from you, even if it’s just the odd postcard.
Until you come home, I will be missing you, I will be loving you, and I will be thinking of nothing but how it will feel to hold you in my arms again.
Stay safe my love.
Yours always, Delia.
My Darling Delia,
You are a fool if you think that I would not want to write to you every day if I could. Knowing I had your letter to read was all that kept me from telling the driver to turn around before we got even five miles from Poplar. If I thought I could get letters to you sooner using pigeon-post, I would drag one of the poor old beasts out of retirement myself.
I’ve only been in Hong Kong for a few short hours but already all I wanted to do was write to you. Even so, I don’t how interesting this letter will be for you as I have very little to report so far.
Travelling by aeroplane was much more comfortable than I remember sea travel to be, a luxury for which I must be thankful to my father, but after that last flight I think I would feel safer sticking to the water.
I flew from London to Beirut, to Karachi, to Calcutta, all without incidence (although I must admit to feeling quite turned around once I could no longer say which country I was actually in), but I had the poor fortune of sitting next to a talkative ex-pat on the flight into Hong Kong.
He was a bit of a self-professed air travel aficionado and he took great delight in informing me that we would be landing in one of the most dangerous airports in the world… Before I could explain that for some reason I didn’t find tales of imminent death quite so interesting, he started listing all of the horrifying ways pilots had managed to bugger their landings up in the past.
Suffice to say I was beyond thrilled to find to find out that our pilot was not, in fact, incompetent and we all landed safely. Is it wrong to wonder if my flight companion would have been a little disappointed?
By the time my car arrived at my father’s it had already gone nine and I was whisked away into a spare room by the maid before I could see much of the house or my father. She explained that the nurse has him on a strict schedule of rest and that he would not appreciate being disturbed.
I feel rotten that my first thought was of before the war, when I would hear him yell at the birds outside his window every morning in Singapore. He said they ruined his sleep but I know he already laid awake most nights, it was their cheeriness he couldn’t stand, even then. I don’t suppose he’s even capable of yelling anymore.
I’ve unpacked what little I brought with me but it hasn’t done much to calm my mind. I suppose it would only be early afternoon for you back home… thinking of you sitting down for tea and cakes with the others is just making me miss you more.
I know I should try and get some sleep as I’ll have to see my father early in the morning but I can’t stop thinking about what I may find. If nothing else I can feel a little better knowing I can send this letter to you tomorrow and maybe then you won’t seem so very far away.
As for your letter, I will keep it with me always while I am here and maybe it can help me hold on to that little bit of strength and conviction that you have given me. Promise me you will write again?
Until then I guess I must say goodnight,
P.S. I promise to send along a postcard as soon as I can get my hands on one so that you won’t feel obliged to share our letters with the others.
I was not entirely sure if Patsy would have sailed or flown to Hong Kong so i just made a call. In 1962 there were definitely flights from London to Hong Kong, including via the route I mentioned (I cannot even imagine) so the only question would be cost. I'm working on the basis that her father retained his wealth after the war and his estate would therefore be able to cover it if they wanted her there immediately. I'm also going to be working on the basis that Patsy hasn't seen her father since before the war? or if she has only briefly cause she said she was sent to boarding school after the camp? If anyone has any insight either way, let me know. Thanks for reading!
Chapter 3: Chapter 2: Dear Patsy 1
Sent after 6x4.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
I miss you. I wish I could talk to you. I wish you could be here, just for tonight, so that you could hold me and say all the things that would make me feel better. I don’t want you to worry, I’ve just had an awful day on the ward. I’ve seen the pain these cases have caused you but somehow I still wasn’t prepared. I felt helpless.
I feel helpless.
I promise tomorrow I will wake up and soldier on but tonight I am letting myself fall apart, just a little bit, so that I can imagine you putting me back together again. I just wanted you to know that.
I also think you should know that Trixie is back, and she is more than a little mad that you left and no one thought to inform her so you may want to flatter her a little in your next postcard. She’s been quite flat since her return, with you and Sister Mary Cynthia gone at the same time, and I may have promised her that you would be home before the summer… so you better not make a liar of me.
At least I have some good news to tell you, Sister Ursula has finally left us. I think she began to realise that perhaps Sister Julienne had things in hand after all, possibly prompted by a stern talking to from Phyllis after the Sister made poor Barbara cry.
Speaking of Phyllis, we owe her a bottle of something expensive. I won’t explain it all now because I know how you’ll get but she has been a godsend since you left. She’s taken over the cubs (God help them) and she’s been incredibly kind to me. She even lent me a book of Spanish poems from her private collection.
Under her strict instruction I have since returned the book but I made sure to copy down a few of the poems that have been brought me comfort in hopes they could do the same for you. If I imagine you reading the words I can almost pretend you are here with me.
“Never let me lose the marvel/of your statue-like eyes, or the accent/the solitary rose of your breath/places on my cheek at night.
I am afraid of being, on this shore,/a branchless trunk, and what I most regret/is having no flower, pulp, or clay/for the worm of my despair.
If you are my hidden treasure,/if you are my cross, my dampened pain,/if I am a dog, and you alone my master,
Never let me lose what I have gained,/and adorn the branches of your river/with leaves of my estranged Autumn."
There are people here who love you Pats… I love you. So please don’t let yourself forget that, even for a moment.
I hope to hear from you soon,
The poem quoted is "Sonnet of the Sweet Complaint" by Federico Garcia Lorca.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3: Dear Delia 2
My Darling Delia,
I’m glad to hear that Phyllis has been so kind to you, it’s comforting to know I’ve left you with people who love you even half as much as I do. And it doesn’t surprise me that Phyllis is one of those people, the woman really is a marvel.
As for Trixie, I promise to write to her expressing my sincerest apologies for leaving, even if I do have every intention of returning as soon as possible. Do you think a promise of gifts upon my return will make it up to her? I’ll be bringing back presents for everyone at this rate.
After your last letter I hope your horror at the hospital hasn’t scared you away from the idea of midwifery. You already know how incredible a nurse you are and I wager by the time you’ve finished there will be no one our mothers will trust more. I’ve experienced your expert care first hand so I feel quite qualified in my saying so.
As for my ‘expert care’, I feel as though I haven’t been of any help to my father so far, instead I have found myself falling back onto my roles as a nurse. I know he asked me here as his daughter but it’s like I don’t remember how to be her.
When I first saw him he was covered in tubes and so pale that it was easy to pretend that it could be any other patient lying in that bed.
I keep thinking back to when you were in the hospital after your accident. It was all I could do to be your friend, your colleague even, when all I wanted was to take your hand and promise you it would all be okay.
With my father I know I should be trying to bring him comfort but I find myself absolutely unable to maintain any conversation that doesn’t relate to his health. The trouble is, I’m not sure he knows quite how to connect either.
With my being in London the last few years and his rapid decline, we are functionally strangers to each other now. It has left me entirely unsure of what I’m doing here, if we are both simply torturing ourselves trying to get back something that was lost a long time ago.
Please write soon if you can, I feel as though I haven’t heard from you in months. I can barely even tell how long I’ve been gone; time passes strangely with none of life’s pillars around you.
I love you and I miss you,