Living the Wrong Life

He didn’t know exactly what to say and his thoughts were sporadic, except for one question at the center of his mind. ‘What was even appropriate to say?’ He didn’t want to seem pushy, but his emotions were teetering on dangerous ground.

He looked down at the newly purchased parchment, crisp in form, but vacant in words. It was taunting him, waiting to spring to life, but remained blank. It remained empty and in its own vacancy it revealed how he felt since she left. He turned to his right, to the only item that contained his writing; it was a simple envelope with words neatly scrawled across it. It took him a good moment to properly write out the information, to ensure the recipient would be found and for the sender to be known.

Sister Bernadette           

St. Anne’s Sanatorium

Consent Road

Woodford Green

IG8.

Sender:

Dr. Turner

19 Kenilworth Row

London E14.

At the moment, that was all he was able to manage. Patrick was never good with his words and there were times when his words failed him. In medical school, it was emphasized to recite clinical facts and to only speak if one was certain about a diagnosis. Facts from academia were valued, not one’s opinion, but the switch to family practice taught him the value of words. They were a powerful tool in ensuring the confidence of a new midwife, the comfort it brought to mothers when layman terms were useful, and in articulating the need for help.

His words had improved with time, but even during his marriage to Marianne (God rest her soul) he still found himself at a loss. The war had taught him many things and lessons that were learned the hard way. When he got back, the Northfield Psychiatric Hospital encouraged him to use his words, especially the stroke of a pen to deal with the war neurosis.

Patrick was apprehensive in sharing his thoughts with others, avoiding the burden it brought and opted for the ladder. He chose to write and it had worked for some time. Whenever he found a moment to himself, he would write out new ideas and thoughts, but that would be the end of it.

Now, he didn’t know what to write. Would his words be enough to convince Sister Bernadette that he loved her? He recounted their last encounter, hoping against all the odds that it wouldn’t be the last.

 


 

The triple treatment can be miraculous.

We shall see. Thank you, Doctor. You’ve been…more than kind.

He remembered how his words failed him then, resorting to the classic doctor persona, while in reality he wanted to be bolder. A part of him wanted to reach out and reassure her that this wasn’t the end, but he knew if he did, he wouldn’t want to let go. That part of his mind grounded him in place and thought about God and his part in the matter.

Patrick was a man of science, but there were times when he couldn’t dismiss a miracle or when the crueler side of life choose to reveal itself. The same applied to the situation unfolding in front of him. ‘Was Sister Bernadette being punished for a secret only our hearts knew of? In which love played a role in, but with no victor to emerge. Could God really be that cruel?’ He thought to himself as he watched her retreating form and further contemplated those questions back to Poplar.

 


 

It had been three days since Sister Bernadette had taken her leave to St. Anne and the effect was felt by all. The nurses had short discussions speculating how Sister Bernadette was spending her time or what to send her on the next delivery day. The Sisters had kept her in their prayers as Sister Julienne made plans to visit her. All the while Doctor Turner was left in the dark, afraid if obvious concern would lead to unsavory gossip. He had missed Sister Bernadette’s calming demeanor, her intelligent mind, and the hands of the most talented midwife he had worked with.

The pain in not knowing her status and her missed presence was felt harshly that Monday morning at clinic. A new expecting wife came in for a check-up, accompanied by her anxious husband who was reluctant to leave his wife’s side. They were informed by Nurse Franklin that Doctor Turner would examine her shortly, but Sister Evangelina was adamant the husband took his leave.

“I’ll be fine Lloyd, just pop out for a cigarette. Hmm?”

“I would feel wrong ter leave. Ya don’t ‘ave to go through it alone.”

“But I won’t be alone,” while she placed her palm on the stubble of her husband’s cheek. “I have a nun, nurse, and a doctor.”

“Alwigh’ then,” as he kissed the inside of her hand and departed with another kiss on her lips.

Doctor Turner watched the scene play out above his notes and witnessed their evident love as an ache started to take form. He had remembered the last time he had kissed someone, it was on the palm of a certain woman bound to the Order. A woman who was a nun, a woman he had no right to kiss, but he couldn’t help himself.

He understood why Sister Bernadette turned away from him, even if it broke his heart, but in that moment he had forgotten their situation. Patrick wanted nothing more than for time to stop, for a time when his love wasn’t hopeless and he could freely express himself. He didn’t want to hide it away, but he respected her wishes and left.

At the same time, miles away the same scenario had played out for Sister Bernadette. A fellow occupant in St. Anne suffering from an aggressive form of TB had been visited by her husband. Visitors where scarce in the sanatorium, which St. Anne prided themselves on, but visitors still managed an audience with their loved one.

Sister Bernadette had not socialized with many, nothing pass simple etiquette was exchanged. Although, there was a nurse that stood out from the others, who was curious about Sister Bernadette’s background and made it her personal mission to make her stay bearable.

It was that nurse who pointed out the fellow patient with her visiting husband from the view of Sister Bernadette’s window. She knew the encounter was meant to be private, but couldn’t seem to tear her eyes away from them. They were out in the garden, hand in hand, love evident in their stance as he moved to kiss her.

Sister Bernadette felt heat starting to travel up her neck as she quickly turned away from the scene. The love she had witnessed left her vacant by the knowledge that she would never be held that way. It reminded her of her situation, which was hopeless, but at the same time she felt guilty. Her feelings in recent months and now were erupting for a man that was not her God nor Savior. She had wished for a different time, for a different life to live, if only for a moment with Doctor Turner.

 


 

Rain bombarded the roof of his car, pouring down as his thoughts were elsewhere. Sister Bernadette had not responded to his letters, not a single reply came for him in the mail. ‘Does that mean I said too much? Had I divulged more than I should have to the only other woman that had stolen my heart?’

He was interrupted from further debate when Timothy stirred awake from the back of the car.

“Are you sad, Dad?”

“How could I be sad when I have you?”

“Granny Parker said you used to sit in the car, after Mummy died. Like a sheep dog, but without his sheep.”

“Did she? How about some fried bread?”

“Yeah.”

“Come on then,” he started the car for their next destination. Hoping to distract his own mind and Timothy’s from his evident sadness while Sister Bernadette was experiencing her own sadness alone.

The same rain droplets pouring down Doctor Turner’s car rolled down the window of her room. The ability for rain to be everywhere at once reassured her that she was not completely alone for its potential to touch people who were miles away and to witness their lives.

Sister Bernadette envied its capacity for freedom and was frustrated at her inability to decide what she truly wanted. She was frustrated by her predicament, frustrated with unraveling God’s true message through all of this, and by Doctor Turner’s letters.

She reached out for her Bible in a need for comfort, but forgot that one of the letters was stuck in its passages. She felt taunted by its presence and unread message. She wanted to display self-control, restraint in the matter, but it was difficult in not knowing what he wrote. A mixture of frustration and sadness produced silent tears to fall down her face, which cradled her to sleep.

The next time Sister Bernadette took another look at Doctor Turner’s unopened letters, it was after a visit from Sister Julienne. Her look was empty of guilt and uncertainty, instead she was filled with anticipation and glee. She had decided it was time for her heart to lead as she gently opened the first letter and began to read it.

 


 

The time had come, she was being discharged, but her stubbornness propelled her to leave without proper transport. Doctor Turner had rushed over with Timothy, on their way to retrieve Sister-, no that wasn’t her name anymore. Nonetheless, they were off to meet her, to bring her home and to live a life together that was not hidden. The road ahead would be bumpy, it would follow with more difficult decisions, but there would be joy.

They weren’t going to hide anymore for it was obvious that they were perfect for each other and soon, everyone around them would know. Patrick Turner and Shelagh Mannion would be like other couples and soon a family; they would become husband and wife, parents to Timothy and perhaps, one day to another. It was their time to be with each other and to live a life not secret in love.

Author’s Note:

Inspired by a beautiful song called “Secret Love Song Part II” by Little Mix (highly recommend and make sure it’s part II). I own nothing, I just got inspired by that beautiful song and current rewatch episode (S2, Epi. 8)! I hope you all enjoyed this.

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