‘Catherine’ 12

26 May

As they reached the chapel an old woman approached.  Toothless and sallow skinned with wisps of grey hair tucked in a white mop cap.

‘Are you Colleen?’

‘I am that.’

‘I’ve to tell you Bernie’s awake and getting better.’

She nodded and was about to walk away, but Colleen pulled her back and delivered a hug almost enough to break her feeble bones.

‘Sure is that the truth?’

‘Yes it is dearie. She told me with her very own mouth when I was up on her ward last night.  The doctor says it’s pneumonia, and she’s very poorly, but by the grace of God, she’ll get better.’

Her smile, even without teeth, lit up the ancient face.

‘Will you see her again?’

Catherine asked hopefully,

‘I’ll be back up there tonight girlie.’

‘Please could you give her this?’

Catherine dug into the pocket of her pinafore and pulled out the forgotten Christmas Tree Afie had drawn for Bernie.  The three observed it with delight.  A watercolour perfectly balanced tree, emblazoned with candles and baubles below which were the words, Happy Christmas Bernadette, in beautifully formed script.  It occurred to Catherine that Alfie had inherited their father’s artistic talent, as she noted the precision with which it had been drawn, and for a poignant moment she remembered how Alf would perch on the chair arm watching their daddy sketch his designs for the print works.

‘She’ll get it tonight luvies. My name’s Gertie, if you need to find me, just ask for Gertie the nurse.’

‘Thank you Gertie.’

 The girls chorused gleefully, and the chapel bell rang for the service to begin.

Catherine reflected that even though they were in the workhouse, this might possibly be the best Christmas ever. 

























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