The moment I knocked on the door I heard my grandmother shriek in excitement. She ran to the door, and opened it so quickly I was almost knocked to the ground by the swinging wood. I had decided pre-knock to make my face seem very disappointed.
“How did it go?” She said breathlessly. Then she caught sight of the expression on my face, and her face fell. “Oh, Lydia, what happened?” I stepped past her dramatically, and walked into the living room. I slumped onto the couch, my eyes starting to water. I placed a hand over my eyes. Grandma sat down next to me.
“She knew!” I declared, feigning desperation.
“She could not have known!” I could act no longer. A cheeky smile broke onto my face. “Lydia! How could you be smiling?” I laughed.
“She knew, and she let me in anyway.” Grandma’s face was still for a bit, in shock, but then it morphed into happiness, and then annoyance.
“You had me worried, young lady! Very worried indeed!” I chuckled, knowing Grandma would not be too irked. I was right, and eventually she started laughing along with me.
“How did that happen, then? Did you brainwash the woman?” I giggled.
“No, Grandma. She said she had read my application and knew the tragedy I must have faced, and she said she would let me in. I have to say, I discouraged her, but she insisted. I asked her if she cared at all about her job, and she dismissed it. She said I would be her ‘project’ for the year.” Grandma smiled.
“I must meet this woman.” I nodded.
“She was so nice. I wonder if I will see her again.”
“I am sure you will.”
It was 3 o’clock, and I had not yet had lunch, so Grandma made me a sandwich from last night’s pork. It was a good, filling meal, and I felt very content afterwards. I retired to my room to read for a while, after Grandma had assured me there was nothing to do. It was a good book, but an easy read, and I finished it within the hour, after which I simply lay, considering what would happen in the next year. It was a long way off, but I was to become a nurse! I smiled to myself as I thought of this prospect. I was sure it was something I had been chosen to do, and I would make sure I was the best student in the year. It would be my life goal to work at an acclaimed hospital and help as many people as I could.
The evening was one of celebration, and we ate and made merry although I would be leaving the house soon. It was good, though, that they were less than an hour away, and so I hoped I would be able to visit them as frequently as possible. We talked of nothing of importance, and Eden, in my opinion, went to bed far too late, but I remembered that this was not my responsibility any longer. I had someone to care for her and look after her the way I had for so long. I had not realised it, but I had been laughing so much more in the weeks we had been with our grandparents, and my life had been so much easier. Perhaps that is what it would have been like had my parents survived. Perhaps not.
I went to bed tired, but satisfied. We had come to England and found our grandparents, and now I was going to do something for myself. It was something I was excited to do, but, I realised, it was not just for myself. In the long term, I would be helping other people, similar to what I had been doing the last three years. But this time, I was determined to enjoy it.
The next day I woke energised once again, and honestly, I did not know what to do with myself. It was only Thursday, and while Sunday was drawing ever closer, there was really no need to begin packing or getting ready just yet. That day, we fetched the groceries, and had a little walk around the village while we did. Eden skipped ahead of us merrily, and Grandma and I talked as we meandered along in the hot sun of summer. We passed the park, a relatively large one, with pleasant benches around the edge. It was used to play cricket every so often, but at the moment it had only people strolling on the footpath as we were. It was a park that we often passed on the way home, but we never really went around it, as the alternative route was the one we used the most as it was the shortest and quickest. We had decided to go through it this time just for a change, because the weather was so nice.
We wandered through, and Grandma, having once been a keen gardener, examined all the plants and was enthusiastically pointing out the ones that ‘must be beautiful in spring!’ and ‘Oh, look at that one, it must be so old’. Eden was very happy, as it was a perfect setting for her doll’s adventure. I simply listened and watched, as I had so many times before, and as I predicted I would many more times in the future. It was beautiful morning, and I watched as small dogs ran around the park after their owners, and the birds in the trees chirped happily. Bees buzzed, serving as a constant background hum as they pollinated flowers. We took our time strolling through, but even so, our walk came to an end far too soon. Once again, we were back on the streets of the suburb. We made it home just in time to start preparing lunch, and I set Eden to putting all the shopping away as Grandma and I began sandwiches. We made cheese, tomato and lettuce sandwiches on the spur of the moment, and they turned out to be quite nice. The rest of the afternoon we spent on the chairs in front of the house in the sun, reading our books. It was a lovely scene.
Grandpa returned home early, after his employer decided they would close shop before their normal closing time. He was in the best of moods, and after he came home, Eden wanted to play a game. We could not think of anything to play, so we decided that we would tell a story by each thinking of a sentence. We played it until tea time, laughter filling the household as ridiculous sentences were thrown about. It was a thrilling afternoon, which bled into evening, and eventually, after a perfect day, sleep came.
Friday was when I began to worry about Sunday. It was one day between then and when I would leave. I began to worry more as the day progressed, wondering if I would be judged by the other girls for being a ‘common woman’, as Ms Dale had put it. I shook this out of my head quickly, though, remembering that there must be others of my status. I wondered which the red-haired girl was? This, however, brought me onto the subject of the red-haired girl. I did not know what her name was, but she reminded me of a horrible girl who used to live around the neighbourhood I had when I was younger. Her name was Clarice, which I thought was a fittingly spiteful soudning name, and so I decided to call her Clarice for the time being, as I was sure I would find out her real name soon enough. How long had Clarice been outside the door? I was sure that her ‘subtle’ hint meant that she had heard something, but surely she cannot have been standing outside the door as long as to have heard about my age? I tried to shake these thoughts from my head, but they stayed persistently in the back of my mind , and though they did not bother me much, they were always there. It was a lazy day, and although the weather was nice, it was not as beautiful as it had been the day before, and we sat in the house and baked and read throughout the day. I felt sure that Eden would soon finish all the books in the house, but she had not seemed to have done it yet. She was still stuck in one, and I was so very glad to see she was still enjoying literature. I was sure she would turn out to be a wonderfully educated child with an excellent vocabulary, as she was reading such advanced books for her age. Grandpa again came home early, for which we were all happy, especially so Grandma, as she seemed to think he was getting more tired as each day went by. Again, we had fun and talked in front of the fire. It was another lovely evening, but another evening to me meant that Sunday was closer.
My sleep was surprisingly uninterrupted, and I woke in the morning quite rested. I knew the next day would bring my departure, but my mind seemed to have moved on. Or perhaps not, as I found out at lunchtime. I had a spoonful of tomato soup halfway to my mouth when I stopped, mid-action. Calmly, I placed it back in the bowl and looked at my family who surrounded me at the table.
“I leave tomorrow.” I looked at them, and my voice came out slightly faint and weak. I tried again. “I leave tomorrow.” It made no difference. My voice was still weak and vague, almost a whisper. I could not understand it. “I leave tomorrow!” I repeated.
“Yes, Lydia.” Grandma was looking at me, slightly confused, as I am sure I would have been in her place.
“I leave tomorrow.” I whispered into my soup.
“Lydia, why don’t you go and have a lie down and collect your thoughts? I will come and see you as soon as I have finished my lunch. Go on, dear.” I frowned, and stood up. I had to grip the edge of the table, for otherwise I surely would have fallen over. I felt most dizzy. I walked to my room in silence - Grandma, Grandpa and Eden watching as I wobbled my way there. Once through the doorway, I lunged most ungracefully onto my bed, and lay there, staring at the wall for a while. It was a creamy colour, with ornate floral patterns pressed into the wallpaper. It was a very wealthy-looking room for a house such as this. I rolled over onto my back. I knew nothing about nursing! What if all the other probationers knew some more advanced things? I knew some of the very basics of nursing, such as how to bandage a sore arm, and to apply something cold onto a bump, which would reduce the swelling, but other than that I knew almost nothing. Perhaps the others had been chosen for their already-advanced knowledge, and I was the one who would watch and be able to keep up, but never have the special touches that the others had. There was always someone like that. I flipped onto my front and pressed my face into my pillow to stop tears from falling. Luckily, I managed to stop them before they started. If they had, I am sure they would not have stopped for a while, and I knew I needed to control my emotions if I was to be a nurse. I breathed in through my nose, and then funnelled it out of my mouth in a small ‘o’. I was relatively calm, now. I flipped back over onto my back and examined the ceiling a bit more. It was a nice ceiling, I supposed. I was still watching a small black spot crawl slowly across it when Grandma knocked on the door frame, as my door was open.
“Lydia? Are you alright now?” I smiled, and nodded.
“I think so.” She seemed relieved.
“Good. I know it is an intimidating prospect, but once you are there I am sure you will enjoy it.” I sighed.
“That is what Mother and Father always used to say. ‘Once you are there I know you will enjoy it, Lydia.’ Sometimes I thought it was just a ruse to get me to cooperate.” Grandma smiled again.
“Perhaps. But a saying does not start without a sliver of truth.” I considered this.
“I suppose you are right.”
“Of course I am!” She laughed. “And if you really do not like it,” she winked at me. “Then you can run away back to us.” I laughed.
“Of course! I will, don’t you worry.” She looked down at me, sprawled on the bed, and smiled once again, fondly this time, with memories behind her eyes.
“You remind me so much of your mother, Lydia.” I sighed.
“I have been told.” She shook herself.
“Of course. Your father must have been reminded every time he saw you!” I remembered this.
“I am not sure that was such a good thing. He seemed so hurt every time he saw me for a while.” I sat up. “But he got better. The grief faded, as it always does, and diminshed to a mere throb. It was part of us, for so long. We were the Clarks, the grieving family. It was not a bright time.”
“But now it is!” Grandma sat down next to me, her legs elegantly crossed on the edge of the bed.
“Now it is.” I agreed. I smiled at her. “And now I have more opportunities than I ever had, or imagined I would.” We both fell into a silence, our thoughts seizing us and ransacking our minds. I would never say it, and I loved him, of course I loved him, and would never stop loving him, but perhaps it really was a good thing. Perhaps.
Mrs Barrett asked the doctor if there was anything she could do while Lydia returned. The doctor shook his head, grunting.
“I do not think anything can be done. She is unconscious, and that, really is as comfortable as we can make her. She is losing - and has lost - too much blood to survive.” He shook his head. “I was so hoping this would not happen. There have been too many deaths in childbirth. Too many.” Mrs Barrett was not a particularly sentimental woman, so went back over to the quiet child on the bunk opposite. She was not wailing, nor making any sound at all to alert them that she was still in fact alive. Mrs Barrett, watched her, and the only sign to tell her she was still breathing was the eyes. They were big, out of proportion things that babies always had. For now they were blue, but Mrs Barrett had noticed that newborns’ eyes were, generally blue. Then, later, they would either change, or remain blue. She picked up the child, whose eyes were swallowing all the sights of the small, shared cabin around her. The black irises were large in the absence of light, and the pale pupils were simply rings around the black circles. Mrs Barrett studied the girl, biting her lip. She seemed healthy now, but without any signs of crying the baby was very strange compared to the other births she had delivered. The woman sighed. She had done her best.