|Waltzing In The Wards
Author: Child Of Old PM
Kathleen Arcile has been called up to be a nurse during WW2, nursing soldiers despite the fact she was only meant to be a midwife. From a simple country girl to a hectic London Nurse, its a big change for Kathy to make. And when two soldiers walk into the ward, one German and the Other British, Kathy has to decide which side she really is fighting for... Please R&R!Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Tragedy - Chapters: 2 - Words: 8,316 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 07-14-12 - Published: 06-23-12 - id: 3035158
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter Two: Rushed Off My Feet
"I think our shifts overlap here too." At lunch on our first day on the ward, Grace leaned over and pressed one slender finger to my time table.
I carefully read it through once again, then looked at hers.
"And here." I poked at another section on our time tables.
"And then we overlap here, here, and here." Lizzie leaned over and stabbed, rather viciously, at both our time tables.
We both jerked up and looked at her.
Apart from the dressing down we'd received from the matron on the ward, both Grace and I had had a fairly good day, our shifts mostly together.
"What's up, Lizzie? Bad day?" Grace asked, rather surprised. "But you looked fine when I saw you in Ward 32 earlier."
Lizzie's face darkened considerably.
"Thats because at that point Sister hadn't noticed I was wearing the wrong cap."
Grace groaned sympathetically.
"Oh, Lizzie, didn't you find it in the end?"
Lizzie shook her head miserably.
"No. I'm pretty sure Myrtle's hiding it somewhere." She confided bitterly.
Not wanting to judge, but secretly agreeing with Lizzie's theory, I kept quiet and glanced around the hospital cantine.
"Oh, who's that?" I suddenly asked, changing the subject quickly and pointing to Myrtle, who had her sour face on. She was talking rather slowly to a man who had his back to us.
Grace rolled her eyes and patted my back.
"I know you may wish to forget her, but that's Myrtle Lucas, Kathy. She's the horrifyingly beastly girl we live with."
I pulled a face at her.
"Not her, you sarcastic bugger. Him." I jabbed more forcefully at the man Myrtle was talking to, who seemed in a desperate hurry to get away from her.
I felt sorry for him.
"Him?" Lizzie still sounded fairly upset but her voice had perked up ever so slightly as she had looked up to see who we were looking at. "That's Dr. Layton. He's got a reputation with the girls, so don't get to close to him. Even if he does look like a man out of the flicks."
And with that, she dropped her head back into her folded arms and let out a muffled sound of frustration.
"Well, looks like Myrtle wants to get close to him." Grace giggled as we watched her sidle closer.
He backed up a step or too, holding up his hands like he was surrendering.
"And he wants to get away from her."
Lizzie raised her head to give us a sorrowful glance.
"Don't blame her, it's hardly her fault she's got a face like a mule and a body to match."
I didn't want to laugh. I really didn't. But it was such an accurate description of Myrtle that I snorted through my hands.
Grace didn't try and hide it, laughing rather hysterically at the poor-taste joke.
"Hush, Grace." I tried to admonish her, hiding a smile. "People can't help the way they are born, just as you can't help being blond and Lizzie can't help having brown eyes and-"
"And you can't help having the most gorgeous hair on earth, yeah, we get it Sister Kathy." Grace rolled her eyes and shoved me playfully slightly.
But Lizzie wasn't done yet.
"I don't think we need a big army, really." She confessed. "Just send Myrtle in with one of her foul expressions and a lecture and those bloody jerry's will be quaking in their boots, never mind a spit in the eye for Adolf."
Grace laughed out loud again, drawing attention to ourselves once more as Dr. Layton made his excuses and escaped with a relieved expression.
"Oh, blast!" Grace cried with a practically frightened expression. "He's coming over here. What on earth does he want?"
"Probably trying to proposition us to kill Myrtle in the night." Lizzie sniggered as Grace and I watched in horror as Dr Layton approached us.
"We don't need propositioning. Hand me the weapon and I'll do it meself." Grace muttered as we all turned our heads back to our lunches, which were almost done anyway.
"Hallo!" Dr Layton appeared next to our table, dark hair swept back and wearing a white, over-all coat.
We murmured our greetings, trying not to catch each others eyes.
"You must be the other girls who are staying at St. Miriams abbey with Nurse Lucas."
We all nodded, glancing rather shyly up at him.
His smile was easy, friendly.
"Let me see if I can match you all up." He tapped his chin playfully. "You must be Grace." He said, pointing at Lizzie. "And you must be Lizzie." He pointed at Grace. He then smiled down on me. "And you are definitely Kathleen."
I blushed under his gaze and picked at my food.
"One out of three, sir." Grace said perkily. "Kathy's the only only one you got right!"
"Yeah, and I've been working with you the past few weeks." Lizzie muttered, stabbing rather viciously at her food and talking just low enough so he couldn't hear.
"Oh." he had the good grace to look in the least bit sheepish, running a hand through his scruffy hair. "I'm dreadfully sorry. I thought I'd had you all down, after the way Nurse Lucas has described you all." He grinned, looking surprisingly school-boy-ish. "But I do tend to tune out the moment she starts talking."
Lizzie let out a tinkling laugh and I almost throttled her on the spot. How dare she be so attractive?
"Don't feel bad, we all do it so frightfully often." She tinkled at him.
"Oh." He grinned at us again, suddenly cheered. "Well that's nice to know." His head jerked suddenly, his eyes coming to rest on a nun across the café who was hailing him rather vigorously. He grinned again and gave us a nod. "If you lady's will excuse me..."
And he was gone.
Lizzie sighed, deeming her lunch beneath her notice as she shoved it to one side.
"I would give up all the riches in the world, everything I owned, just for a real, full conversation with that man."
I snorted, though my own feelings reflected her words.
"What poppycock! Come, Lizzie, don't be so soppy or you won't be any use to your patients."
"I won't be any use to my patients if I can't find my cap!" Lizzie wailed, returning to her original problem. "Matron said if I didn't find it by my afternoon shift, if I wasn't fired she'd give me all night shifts for a week!"
"Oh, for heaven's sake!" Grace threw up her hands. "Just sneak one from the airing cupboard. They've been there for so bloody long I doubt anybody would notice. Or at least, thats what Nurse Jones says."
"But they're old and dusty, and Dr. Layton wouldn't even dare to look at me if I wear them." Lizzie cried, only half joking.
Grace and I exchanged glances, then looked at Lizzie.
"Just wear it or not only will you not have a love life to lead, you also wouldn't have a job or a home." I pointed out.
"Yeah!" Grace grinned, smacking her hand against the table. "Don't be such a dreadful milkmaid!"
The rest of the day passed without much more issues, though Lizzie did pull a face at me when we passed.
Lizzie and I had a double shift when Grace didn't, so she went home early, promising to save some dinner and cake for us when we got home.
"But only for us, and not Myrtle." Lizzie pulled a face again. "I hate that stroppy cow."
"Really? I hadn't noticed." I retorted sarcastically.
"Ok, so you two are going to continue arguing here." Grace grinned.
I pulled a face back at her.
"And I'll go see the new nurses." She continued like I hadn't spoken. "I hope none of them are like Myrtle." She pulled a face this time, similar to mine, before waving her fingers at us and sashaying out of the ward.
We stared after her.
"Sometimes I think how unfair it is that some people get no looks or personality at all." I commented.
"Then I looked at her." I finished, shook my head and returned to what I was doing.
"Nurse Arcile!" Came the cry about two hours later whilst I stood at the foot of a sleeping patients bed checking his vitals.
I turned around to see Matron stride towards me, still bellowing my name with her booming voice.
I resisted the urge to shush her and quickly moved away from the patient who was now restlessly moving in his sleep. When I reached her, she stopped bellowing and panted furiously for a bit.
"There you are, Nurse." She panted. "May the lord sing praises that I've found you. I've been lookin' everywhere."
"What is it, Matron?" I asked respectfully in a quieter voice. "Something happened?"
"There's a woman at the door. She's in labour. Now, I know you only just started but all the other midwives are out on call and I know you qualified in midwifery-"
"That's ok, Matron." I assured her, a zip of excitement and panic threading through me. "Where did you say she was?"
"On the doorstep." Matron asked promptly, following me as I started to rush out the ward. "And no running in the wards!"
"On the doorstep?" I cried once we were safely out of range. "Why did nobody move her?"
"Well, she's from the East End, nurse. Being a bit forward coming here in the first place." Matron sniffed.
I resisted the urge to snap at her and ran around to the front entrance.
"I'll kill him, I'll bloody murder him!" A woman was shouting in an accent that was a cross between cultured and east end.
"Are you a midwife?" A young girl, probably only about fourteen, asked hastily as she supported the pregnant woman on the door step.
I nodded curtly.
"Bring her in."
The girl half led half carried the screaming, crying woman inside the hospital. Matron's face was turning red and she was starting to squawk.
"We can't have her in here!" She blustered. "She's a common tart, not the sort we have in these wards...why, she's probably not even married to the father-"
"I am!" The woman shouted, before cringing and letting out a low moan.
"Matron, I'm sorry." I turned on matron, gently but firmly. "But there's nothing we can do now. I couldn't care less if she was married to the father or not but that baby's coming now. We need a bed. And doesn't the church always teach us 'love thy neighbour?'" I asked when I could see that Matron wasn't going to budge.
She sighed, starting to slope off.
"This way please!"
"When this is over, I'll kill him, I swear it!" The woman was still screaming.
"Calm yourself mam, or you'll 'urt the nipper." The young girl soothed, casting a desperate glance at me. "She's me mam. Can't you do summit to stop the pain, Nurse?"
"I'm very sorry, but it's too late in the stage." I told her sympathetically, leading her into the birthing ward and setting her down on the bed.
"Now lets see how dilated you are, Mrs..." I trailed off, looking at the girl for support.
"'er names Frances Logan." The young girl supplied. "And I'm Madge."
"Ok, Madge." I lent down and measured the ladys bump before checking how dilated Mrs Logan was.
"This baby is coming fast." I told her, quickly rushing around to sort through all the tools. "Tell me, Mrs Logan, how many baby's have you had?"
"Ten!" The woman gasped. "Madge 'ere's ma third."
"Ten children?" I asked, astounded, and momentarily forgetting that the poor woman was in labour.
"Yeah. This'll be my eleventh."
"All with the same man?" I asked as the woman screamed.
"Two men. I ain't not prozzie though, nurse. I was married to both of 'em. Madge's father died down by the docks when she was only a nipper."
"Oh, that's awful. I'm so sorry." I murmured.
"Don't be. He was an awful bully."
"And Madge wasn't even his kid. She's the real daughter of the man I'm with now, but don't you go telling anybody nurse. I wanna remain respectable."
"Of course." I muttered, moving about.
Mrs Logan moaned and suddenly screamed, rolling over.
"Oh, get this thing outta me!"
"Mrs Logan, I can't do that with you squirming." I told her firmly, my heart pounding against my rib cage. "Now, you say you've had ten children? How long ago was the last one born?"
Mrs Logan cried out as a sudden contraction hit her and reared off the bed before settling more comfortably on it.
"Nine months." She panted. "This one was conceived just a few days after I'd givven birth."
I tried to keep the shock and utter disgust off my face.
"It should be easy for you to remember then." I moved around the bed to collect some towels to put underneath her. Madge was smoothing her mother's matted hair off her face, muttering soothing words of comfort to her. I presumed she must've done this a lot.
"Just try and remember how you did this the last ten times, Mrs Logan." I used my brisk, professional nurses voice when I spoke to her. "Whilst I check this baby's vitals."
I glanced at the hovering Matron, who stood distractedly in the doorway, her expression torn between worry and disdain.
Choosing to ignore her, I took my stethoscope and my measuring tape and proceeded to try and remember everything I'd been taught in nursing school.
It soon became very obvious that this baby wasn't going arrive in an easy birth.
But I smiled reassuringly at Mrs Logan and Madge anyway.
"If you'll excuse me for one moment." I pardoned myself briskly before going over to hover next to matron.
"The baby is presenting in the breach position." I whispered to her out of the corner of my mouth, turning my head away as Mrs Logan started screaming and moaning in agony.
The matron looked at me blankly before her expression cleared.
"Do you need a doctor, nurse?" She asked knowingly.
I resisted the urge to grind my teeth together.
"If you'd be so kind as to fetch a doctor who is available and knowledgeable in this area of medicine, that would be most appreciated." I told her, trying to keep the tartness out of my voice as well as the implication that she herself was not up to the job.
She nodded, her eyes widening for a bit.
"Dr Layton, nurse?"
I gave her a brisk nod before turning back to Mrs Logan, who was shouting the house down.
I told her soothing things. I let her tell me stories in between contractions. I, in turn, told her about me. I told her about the farm, and about Ruthie and Davie.
I told her to stop pushing and measured how dilated she was.
Eventually, we couldn't hold off much longer.
"Right, I want you to give me two large pushes please, Mrs Logan." I instructed her, kneeling at the foot of the bed.
"Come on, mam, you ain't lost one yet, just do as the nurse asks ya." Madge instructed her mother with remarkable poise and calmness with just enough strength in her voice to let the older woman know that she was serious.
Mrs Logan, with sweat beading on her brow and her face starting to resemble a beetroot salad, started to scream as she pushed. Her screams echoed around the previously silent ward, bouncing off the walls in an eerie way that made them sound like the howl of a wolf.
I felt like panting as much as she was, but I forced myself to remain calm.
"I can see the baby's bottom, Mrs Logan." I told her, cheer and hope in my voice. "Just one more big push."
She yelled out again before finally the babies body was out but the heat was still held within the birth canal.
"That was amazing, Mrs Logan." I congratulated her. "You did really well."
"I need to push." She groaned.
"Umm..." I looked behind me to see if Matron had returned with a doctor yet but no such luck.
"Alright." I sat back and surveyed the situation critically. "Ok, fine."
I can do this. I thought.
Bugger, no I can't.
But I wasn't going to let Mrs Logan know that. I took hold of the baby's body and held it lightly.
"Now, Mrs Logan, I want you to give one small push." I instructed her.
Sounding like a whale (Or at least, what I thought a whale might sound like) Mrs Logan heaved.
The baby jerked and I looked up to smile encouragingly at Madge and Mrs Logan.
"That's good. Now another one, just a bit stronger."
The baby started to slide out but was still getting caught in the birth canal.
"Stronger, Mrs Logan, the baby's crowning." I told her, a smile gracing my features. I loved this. And I'd saved this baby's life.
Then, with one final, tremendous push and a groan, the baby popped out into my waiting arms.
It's crys filled the ward and I grinned happily down on its little, gooey face.
Mrs Logan had collapsed back against the bed and Madge was soothing her so I quickly cut the umbilical chord and cleaned up the little baby, wrapping it in a soft linen to protect it from the harsh cold of the ward.
I cooed into its face before slowly walking over to Mrs Logan and Madge, passing the baby over to Madge who held her arms out when Mrs Logan was too tired to do so.
"Congratulations, Mrs Logan." I told her, smiling down on her red face. "It's a healthy little baby girl."
"A girl?" Mrs Logan croaked horsely, and she opened her arms in a silent invitation for Madge to place her newborn baby in her arms. "My third little girl."
Madge looked up at me, tears of happiness brimming in her eyes.
"There's only me and ma little sister Phillipa who are the girls in mams brood." She informed me, before looking back down on her baby sister. "But now theres this little one as well."
She reached over and gently ran her finger over the baby's smooth, newborn cheek.
"What are you going to name her?" I asked softly, curiously eager to know despite everything.
Mrs Logan smiled as tears dripped onto her babies forehead.
"Constance." She told me finally. "My little Constance."
"Connie." Madge abbreviated, awestruck.
I smiled as they looked down on their newborn in wonder. It was almost as if they hadn't seen a newborn baby before.
"I'll leave you two to rest for a while." I smiled at them before starting to walk away, my feet clicking cleanly and precisely against the hard, stone floor.
Behind me, I could hear their laughter and watery giggles.
"What is it with you and givin' us all such fancy names, mam?" Madge laughed. "Me with Margaret after the little princess, Charlie with Charles, Phill with Phillipa and now this little Connie with Constance!"
Their watery laughs filled my heart with song.
I may have come here to fight for the war. But I was also here to help. And help I just did.
Just as these happy thoughts came to my mind, I bumped into something hard and warm.
"Ooph!" I grunted in an unladylike way.
Dr Layton grinned down on me.
Matron stood behind him, her arms crossed over her fat little chest and she was scowling at me.
"Nurse Arcile." Was all Dr. Layton said. "You were amazing. Welcome to the team."