It was later than usual when Shelagh was called into Sister Julienne’s office and on the way there, Shelagh briefly reflected the events of the day, which weighed heavily on Shelagh’s mind. The nurses had dropped discussing Shelagh’s path into the religious life, but every now and then, Shelagh could tell Trixie wanted to discuss more on the matter. Even throughout dinner, but thankfully Cynthia had reined in Trixie’s mood.
Then the matter of Doctor Turner, who seemed out of place when he had left his practice quite early to make at home patient calls. An added feature to his practice that had incentivized a great deal of his patients, but he usual left when someone called, not the other way around. In Shelagh’s opinion, she wanted the day to be over, but would never deny a request to see Sister Julienne.
“I know it’s awfully last minute Shelagh, but the fundraiser will be held at Nonnatus House. The regional board thinks it’s a great idea for us to host it, even if we have other duties. The charity will be focused on raising funds within our region and then dispersed equally to other health facilities.”
“I see Sister and you need not worry. I already have a few activities in mind.”
“As always, you have been my right hand in administrative duties and tasks that have been too large for myself. I will also enlist the nurses’ help.”
“Thank you, Sister.” Shelagh gathered herself to leave, but was stopped by Sister Julienne’s concerned question.
“Wait, Shelagh. Is something wrong?”
“I told them today,” answered Shelagh who did not meet Sister Julienne’s eyes nor the look of realization that dawned on them.
“I see my child. You were going to tell your fellow nurses at some point. Unless you have changed your mind?”
“It’s not that. I just imagined it all differently and now I don’t know what I feel. Relieved? Ashamed for hiding it? Embarrassed or even judged? I don’t know any more Sister. Everything seemed clear when I first told you of God’s plans for me, but…”
“I don’t know,” defeat evident in Shelagh’s reply, which Sister Julienne took note of.
“My dear Shelagh, we can’t always foresee or unravel God’s plans for us, but I think rest would do you well, the events of the day have been taxing.”
“Alright,” with that Shelagh finally left Sister Julienne’s office, but sleep was barely achieved throughout her restless night.
It had been a few days since Shelagh had informed the nurses on her future plans and with it came different reactions. Shelagh had already faced the nurses’ initial response to her news, most notably was Trixie. Shelagh had some idea how they would react; Cynthia was encouraging and even shared a secret with Shelagh that she would never voice to anyone. Jenny was indifferent on the matter, albeit shocked, but took on the mindset that it’s your life.
Then came Jane and Chummy, who had heard second-handily and after being informed, Chummy had called Shelagh. Inquiring if she was alright, but still congratulated her, even though Shelagh could hear hesitation over the land line, which accepted international calls. Jane was quiet on her thoughts, but smiled her congratulations.
It was Trixie who held reservations over Shelagh’s current plans in joining the Order and wanted to further discuss Shelagh’s decision. In turn, Shelagh dodged every attempt of discussion or ended their talks with ambiguous answers. Shelagh felt bad in avoiding Trixie’s inquiring mind, for she considered Trixie a good friend, but it was too soon to face rebuttals against her future profession. The past few days left nothing to be desired, especially the curious behavior of Doctor Turner.
Shelagh couldn’t help but worry about Doctor Turner, who had been distant in their exchanges and seemed distracted. Then there were moments when she noticed his gaze on her back, but other than that, he seemed absent. His whole disposition left her puzzled, but reminded herself it was not her place to say anything. There was nothing for her to say and decided to focus her attention on her present duties and teachings from her Bible.
The path of postulation was reaching a year and the next step was novitiate, in which she would receive her habit and leave for the Mother House after the birth of Jesus Christ. Shelagh had already received her letter of acceptance from the Mother House, which was the fasted reply on record. Her upbringing in Nonnatus House had afforded her some privilege within the Order and more or less the follow up of traditional entrance into it.
Nonetheless, she wanted to spend her last Christmas as Shelagh and with the family that took her in when she had nothing. The Sisters who clothed her, doted on her, and gave her everything she needed after she was orphaned. Even now, they continued to support her, it only seemed natural to join them and to give back what she had received as a child. She was brought up on the Anglican teaching, knew her Bible back to back and knew nothing else should cloud her mind.
Yet, unexpected events took flight and Shelagh found herself in the thick of things come one fine morning. Nurses Lee, Miler, and Franklin were engrossed in some sort of plan over breakfast before their morning duties. The subject of their discussion went unknown by Shelagh until Jane had seated herself soon after. Almost immediately the group had silenced themselves, the air felt tense and as soon as Jane had seated herself, she left.
“Goodness, we almost got caught there Trixie!”
“Honestly Jenny, Jane doesn’t know what we have planned, don’t worry.”
“What are you three conjuring up now?”
“Do you really want to know Shelagh?”
“Trixie,” warned Nurse Miller.
“No it’s fine Cynthia and yes, I suppose I do Trixie.”
“You sure? If you really want to know, I’ll tell, but you must promise that we will discuss your future plans later.”
A sigh escaped Shelagh, but knew sooner or later a discussion was needed. “Alright and yes. Now what’s going on?”
“Well, you know Sister Julienne’s guest, the Reverend Applebee-Thornton.”
“Yes,” eyeing Trixie suspiciously.
“Haven’t you noticed their interaction?
“You mean between the Reverend and Jane?”
“Really Shelagh, you must know they like you each. Wasn’t it you that recommended the Reverend to accompany Jane around?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Alright,” eyeing her reluctantly but continued on. “We were thinking about inviting the pair out to the club.”
“Now Trixie, I won’t deny they seem friendly, but really? The club?”
“Well for one Reverend Applebee-Thornton doesn’t seem like the type and neither does Jane.”
“What do you suppose then?”
“I think we should all wait and see if anything progresses between them naturally. What if they are just friends?”
“Oh, trust me Shelagh, they won’t remain just friends for long.”
Shelagh was about to ask more when all four of them were interrupted by a greater presence.
“What’s this business about just friends then?” asked Sister Evangelina.
“Oh Sister,” stated Shelagh who, along with the other nurses, stood from their seats. “Nothing at all, we were actually on our way out,” Shelagh spoke calmly and motioned the group out.
“Good, you best be getting on then,” watching the quartet out as she buttered her own piece of toast and muttered quietly to herself. “Silly girls,” then proceeded in taking a romping bite.
The subject of Jane and Reverend Applebee-Thornton was dropped as the nurses made their way to the community center, the Metropolitan Borough Poplar, were Nonnatus House held their weekly check-ups for residential families and antenatal education. Once there Shelagh had excused herself to the quaint kitchen, located in back of the hall and proceeded to make a batch of tea for her fellow nurses and Sisters.
It was there she started to compare Jane’s situation to her own. Perhaps, Jane and the Reverend would move past the realm of friendship and become something more. Was it similar to her own situation with- but her train of thought was interrupted by a surprising scene.
Just outside, Shelagh caught sight of Jane and the Reverend hand in hand, smiling rather happily at each other. It didn’t seem like much to an outside observer, but for Shelagh, she knew the simple contact would support Trixie’s earlier claim about the pair. She didn’t want to intrude on their moment any longer and turned to leave. Shelagh refocused her mind on her current tasks, but the simple act witnessed had deeply affected her.
The day had finally come to an end, but all throughout the day, Shelagh’s mind was elsewhere. Through dinner she remained silent, only spoke when addressed and volunteered her time to the dishes and restocking the nurses’ supplies. She didn’t know why, but Shelagh felt the need to distract herself with other chores and had even missed that evening’s prayer service.
Shelagh had just finished supplying her nurse’s handbag when Sister Julienne found her, who was holding a rolled piece of paper.
“There you are Shelagh, we had missed you during service.”
“Sorry, Sister. I’ve just been busy and wanted to restock everyone’s medical supplies, including my own.”
“Excellent and it’s quite alright. Actually, Doctor Turner came by and dropped this off for you. He sends his sincerest apologizes for being absentminded. It seems he’s been carrying this around for weeks now,” beaming at Shelagh as she passed the paper to her.
Shelagh had no time to excuse herself or to think about what the item was. She felt compelled to unveil the item in the presence of Sister Julienne, who was equally curious. The paper contained a drawing, drawn by the artistic ability of a child who was becoming quite good for his age.
There were two figures, the first one was of Shelagh in her nurse’s uniform accompanied by a smaller figure. A boy in his school’s uniform and it was none other than Timothy Turner. The scene of a happy boy next to his favorite nurse, in the open landscape of flowers and the sun drawn brightly above.
“How charming,” spoke Sister Julienne who smiled at the boy’s token of affection and left.
“Yes,” answered Shelagh, completely engrossed by the picture and remained motionless. At first, a smile had spread across her features, but soon her thoughts had turned against her.
‘Why didn’t Doctor Turner want to drop it off himself? Why did he leave without seeing me?’ A knot started to form in the pit of her stomach. The drawing was simple and to anyone else, they wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But to Shelagh it was beautiful and reminded her of what she was going to leave behind. Once she becomes a servant of the Lord, her duties would be cut in half, a great majority allocated to her Lord. Shelagh wouldn’t be able to do much as a nurse nor be allowed to think about anything else in her first years as a novice.
Shelagh’s legs were on autopilot, it felt like the room was spinning and like she was suffocating. All Shelagh could do was run and she ran to the one place that gave her solace. She found herself on her knees, hands clasped in prayer, tears in her eyes, and head held down in defeat. The only witnesses to her pained state were the two glass Saints on the window, illuminated by the light of the moon. Her weeping echoed throughout the chapel, which contained her growing uncertainty and unknown sorrow she held within. She didn’t know how long she remained there, but knew something deep inside of her was aching to be heard.
Hopefully you all enjoyed this! I shall try and update sooner, but sometimes I feel at a loss with this story. I know all the important bits, but getting there is rather frustrating, but it’s still fun nonetheless!