Shelagh Mannion felt like she was suffocating as she rolled out of bed. Unable to bare the turmoil as she bent over the porcelain sink. Her reflection in the mirror was no different than any other day, but she couldn’t recognize the woman that stared back at her. What was she doing, or rather, why were her thoughts consumed of him? The woman before her shouldn’t have these feelings. “Get it together Shelagh, this isn’t like you.” Determination filled her eyes as she turned to ready herself for the day, which had an air of misfortune already about it.
Her room at the convent was modest, with only a few items that chose to be displayed in her room. The items in question were her favorite and really, only possessions she owed. Her old life in Aberdeen left her with a few sentimental tokens, but that was the past, this was her life now. A dedicated nurse and midwife, yet an orphan that had found her place among nuns, with the good Lord as her father.
The convent had been her home for more than ten years now as a place of safety, yet she came here when she had nowhere else to go. Growing up in a convent wasn’t heard of during the 21st century, yet this place of religious solitude and sanctuary had been her upbringing. Her first home in Aberdeen, Scotland had been a blessed one until disaster struck.
Her mother was quite religious, beautiful, and quick on her feet, but it wasn’t enough to combat against the cancer. In the end, it was the infection that took her, robbing her father of a wife and her, a mother that she had only known for twelve years. After that, her home was never the same; her father fell prey to depression, losing his job and livelihood as a father.
Yet, God had taken sympathy upon Shelagh and had a hand in steering her life in another direction, a chance to start over in the most unexpected of ways.
“Well hello there child. How are you?”
The young girl of fourteen hid within herself, introversion became second nature to her and wasn’t used to the kindness of strangers. Especially those of neighboring lands, by the women’s voice, but could tell there was something else different about her.
“Well child, you don’t have to tell me now, but for starters I am Sister Julienne. I hail from the Order of Chichester, serving the house of St. Raymond Nonnatus.”
“You’re not Scottish.” It was barely heard, less than a whisper, but the child had rarely spoken during her time at this new location.
“No my dear girl, I am not. I’m here for convalesce and viewing on how the church of St. Clement has implemented new teaches. Along with the help and charity they have given to this community. I hope to bring those teachings to Poplar.”
“Yes, back in the East end part of London. Though I daresay the weather here and there is quite the same.” Sister Julienne smiled kindly down at the small child of fourteen, who seemed rather tiny for her age. She heard that the “home” or rather orphanage of St. Clement had recently admitted this young girl against their wishes. For a man came a week or so ago, drunk with despair demanding the poor girl be taken. The vicar tried to reason with the man, but he wouldn’t hear of it. The man had roared with angst that the girl reminded him of the home he lost and the love that God took no pity on.
The father didn’t want to be reminded every day of his dead wife. The church was keen on giving help to all that needed it, but did not wish to separate the bond of a father and daughter. While their backs were turned to the child, the man simply left.
Sister Julienne had heard exactly that from the vicar, along with the fact that the girl would hardly speak to anyone.
Sister Julienne smiled sweetly at the girl, honored she chose her to speak with. “Now my dear child, I was off to have a bit of tea. Would you like to join me?” Sister Julienne bent down, extending her hand towards the girl, who took it with ease. “One more thing child, whatever is your name? For you know mine, I would very much like to know yours.”
“It’s…I’m Shelagh Mannion.” Young Shelagh said with no confidence in the world, but was glad to speak with someone that didn’t have pity in their eyes for her.
“That’s rather pretty, I believe its meaning stems from Latin Caelia. Your name means heavenly, of the heavens my dear Shelagh.” Both women smiled at each other as they reached the kitchen of the old parish. The day seemed anew and the beginning of a special relationship had been planted in the smallest of ways.
Shelagh recounted what God had given her and now felt ashamed; forsaking the kindness of God as she was now turning to another. Guilt ridden even though Shelagh had not taken religious vows, yet she had continuously thought of becoming a novice; taking the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Shelagh Mannion had found a home at Nonnatus and would partake in the same rituals as the nuns, but never in an official capacity. Yet, she felt unworthy of the religious life, for her own father had rejected her. ‘Could she simply run away into the safety of vows, would that be right?’ she thought.
Even Sister Julienne seemed adamant Shelagh experience more to life, to think really hard if this was the path God had intended for her. Nonetheless, Shelagh had begun the process by starting her journey as a postulate months ago, but now she had been filled with unease.
Shelagh’s time in Poplar had been met with her own struggles, but it had been worth it in the end. Until now, she had more questions than answers and felt unease creep back into her heart. The unease had begun a month or so ago, when he took notice of her.
A glance here or the touch of his fingertips as they passed patients’ medical records back and forth, it was unbecoming. He was her colleague, nothing more, but her feelings had been in disarray for a while. During and after the Mave Carter pregnancy, which was deemed both a miracle and struggle at the same time. Her feelings were developing even before then, allowing her guard down around him and revealing small details about her childhood shared by few. He was widowed, it was wrong, but she couldn’t help how she felt.
She needed to leave. Shelagh had to clear her head of these thoughts, but failed to recognize that the heart was the one that dictated such a state.
Exiting her room, she was met by Sister Monica Joan who was rather eccentric by nature, haughty on more than one occasion, but Shelagh always loved her company.
“Good morning Sister.”
“Hark, why say good morning when disaster shall fall upon us. The divinity of nature has set our precedent for the day. For all have been warned by the absence of mercy…and cake!”
“It is looking rather nippy isn’t.” The weather was a perfect representation of her internal battle, yet she loved the cold days of Poplar.
Today was a rarity in which she was freed from her duties as a midwife in the vast community of Poplar. If Shelagh was being completely honest with herself, work wasn’t on her mind at the moment, and needed to get as far away as she could from her limbo of a life. Presented before her were diverging paths that she didn’t want to choose between, but if she didn’t, it would be the end of her.
Exiting the heavy door, she left Nonnatus house behind. With no specific place in mind, she mounted the reliable, worn out nylon seat of her bike and peddled away over the tough terrain of asphalt.
I hope you all like this, it’s a bit wordy and much, which always has been a problem of mine sadly. I’ll work on it, but anyways, please enjoy and there will be more to come for sure 😉