My story continues… For a brief introduction and a link to the beginning, go here.
It was eight o’clock on a blustery evening in late November. Sister Helen Anderson switched off the main lights. Annie Fraser and Evie Jamieson were quietly moving between beds and cots, taking pulses, listening out for cries of pain, alert for signs of dangerous fever or any other crises among their young charges. It would be a long night. Many diseases of childhood could still be fatal; the right nursing could save a young life.
As Annie and Evie worked out on the ward, Helen sat in the office, checking reports and other paperwork left by the day shift, working by the light of her reading lamp. Then, satisfied, she quietly joined the two dedicated young women at their duties.
Tonight, there were only the three of them; night shifts did not, as a rule, warrant many staff. There was little hustle and bustle, in contrast with the hectic schedule the day shift had. Except, of course, when there had been raids. Emergencies had occurred back to back and side by side for hours at a time. Helen blinked and shook herself at the memory…
The night wore on. The coordination was almost uncanny. Little needed to be said, just a few words of counsel, now and then, would pass between Helen and the other two. She made them take it in turns to have short breaks, making sure they had drinks and a bite to eat.
“Sister,” whispered Evie, as she re-entered the ward, “You’ll need a drink, yourself… Annie and I will call you if there’s trouble. Promise.” She spread out one hand, holding it over where she knew her heart ought to be, and winked. Many in Helen’s position would not have tolerated the familiarity, but there was a special bond here; maybe some good could come out of a war, after all…
Helen sighed appreciatively. “Thank you, Evie. Just give me a few minutes.”
As Evie and Annie kept up their vigil on the ward, Helen was thinking as she drank her tea. It so happened that, at the end of this shift, they would all get a break until Monday morning. Now was as good a time as any, she thought…
Back on the ward, she looked around, taking fresh note of the condition of the more seriously ill children, then returned to the office to make her own notes for the day shift. She made one last tour of the ward, then beckoned to Evie and Annie with a nod.
“Ladies, when we finish, I’d be glad if I could have a word on the way out. Is that all right?” Then, noticing their concern, she added “It’s all right – you’re not in trouble, either of you!”
With the dawn came more wind and rain. The two younger women were waiting in the lobby of the staff entrance as Helen met them.
“Thank you, both. Sorry to detain you like this. You see, it’s nothing to do with this place. I just wanted to ask you both a favour.”
The other two looked up questioningly in response.
“It’s like this. I’ve been invited to a wedding, and I’ve been asked to bring a couple of friends. It’s a good few weeks away, yet – after Christmas – but I’m a bit nervous about it, to be honest. I’ve never really been used to parties and such, and… I’d really appreciate it if you’d both oblige.”
Evie looked at Annie, then spoke for them both. “Oblige? It’d be our pleasure. But… Do we know the couple getting hitched?”
Helen’s eyes melted into her trade-mark twinkle. “I think you know the bride-to-be. And the groom, just a little. Helen Anderson’s getting married to Archie McGeoch.”
The two young women gasped, and then visibly rocked. Annie’s eyes seemed to grow stalks. For once, she was dumb. For several seconds, the scene was reminiscent of an old silent movie; the picture was striking. Annie’s lips began to move, but the sound just didn’t come.
Evie reached into her pocket for a handkerchief. “Oh! Sister! I’m… so happy for you… Both of you!”
Annie just nodded. Helen looked into the faces of the other two with appreciation. “Thank you, both. And, er, off duty, it’s ‘Helen’. OK?
Just after mid-day on the same day, at the end of an early shift, Archie and George Baird were walking together in the direction of the bicycle sheds. “George,” said Archie, in a querying tone, “I want to ask ye something.”
“What’s that, Archie?”
“I’ve a little job needin’ doing.”
Now, George was well-known for his skills at such things as setting up wireless sets, or checking and testing accumulators. Generous by nature, he was sometimes unfairly taken advantage of, but rarely declined to help. And, anyway, he’d have done anything for Archie. He began to imagine what his friend might want.
“How can I help ye?”
“Well, George, it’s no’ for a wee bittie yet, but I was wonderin’… Would you be ma best man?”
This part is the end of section two of the whole story. I never expected to get this far. That’s why it’s a magic moment for me. The content of this part also has a magic moment in it. So I’m linking up with this week’s ‘Magic Moments’ hosted by Jaime at The Oliver’s Madhouse.
Update: part thirteen, which opens the third and final section of this story,
is now published here.
Oh, and… To Helen at All at Sea… Thanks again!