A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Two sets of wedding plans, decades apart...


Now, Mr Walpole, Doctor says he can’t think of one good reason why you couldn’t wake up today, and it would be good for me to hear the sound of your voice before I’m off on my holidays,” whispered the nurse, close to his ear and with a teasing cadence to her voice. He loved the sound of that voice and the hidden suggestion of something intensely private in her words

I would if I knew how, I’d wake up just to see youbut if I’m not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters … nothing really matters…

I can tell that you know what’s going on, you naughty boy,” she breathed, “when I wash that little bit of you … you know what I mean, I can tell… but it’s time for you to wake up and go out and see the world again. The accident was weeks ago now and as far as we can tell you’re mostly mended… ah, here’s your wife, she can talk some sense into you even if I can’t, but,” and here the whisper became even quieter, more like a breath of moist air than words, but he heard them anyway, “don’t tell her about the bed baths, let’s keep them as our little secret...”

If I’m not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters…

Good morning, nurse, how is the patient today?” That was Pauline’s voice, he’d got to recognise Pauline’s voice from his hospital bed and the way it smelt of baking bread, furniture polish, and, of course burning toast. And today there was something else there, in the fragrance of her words...

If I’m not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters… because nothing really matters…

Tony brought me again today,” confided Pauline, “I’m seeing quite a lot of Tony since his lovely wife passed away. I told you about that, didn’t I, the way Gladys went so suddenly, a warning to us all that time isn’t always on our side, and they always said she was the most beautiful of us all back in the youth club days when we danced and smooched secretly when the lights went dim, there was you and me and Tony and Gladys and all the other teenagers...”

And before another thought could dim the lights in his head he saw that youth club, the bored-looking man on the small stage at one end with his records and barely adequate record player, and the way his eyes were glued to the swirling skirts. They were something, were those swirling skirts with the white petticoats flashing like beckoning lights, and the whiter teeth smiling and laughing, and the girls sometimes giggling their promsies.

It was easy to make them giggle.

I just saw your knickers, Pauline…

And the giggle followed by I wouldn’t mind catching a gander at your undies, Bernie, white are they, and smelling of carbolic?”

Then a real rocker was played, one that took all your breath to keep up with the rhythm of it, and arms flailed along with legs, people gasped, some at the fringes were puffing of their cigarettes, smoking was allowed back then, and

that was cool, Bernie, that was real cool…


fancy a stroll outside for a breath of fresh air, Pauline?


Come on then, but you can keep your hands to yourself…

Of course he would! What kind of boy did she think he was? He was responsible now, had his “A” levels safely in the bag and was off to an apprenticeship come September, and boys about to do that weren’t going to act like kids, were they?

I didn’t mean it, about keeping your hands to yourself, Bernie, you can hold mine if you like, it’s nice holding hands, don’t you think?

But he hadn’t been thinking of hands, had he? Pauline was wearing a low cut dress with a full skirt and his imagination was roaming everywhere, when

Hiya guys! That was Tony’s voice, the boy he’d once called Toady and still did sometimes. Glad and I have decided it’s time to get wed, the two of us, time for me to make an honest woman of her! And before you ask, it’s not because she’s pregnant because she’s not!

Wed? Tony and Gladys? That brought it all home to him. Tony and he were the same age, give or take, and Tony had wedding plans.

We might, soon, if we feel like it… That was Pauline. His Pauline! And they’d never so much as thought about it, about the future in so many words. True, she’d sometimes had a wistful look on her face and asked him how many kids he was going to have when he got married. Not when they got married, that was, but when he got married as if he might one day find a wife somewhere out in the world, and marry her like young men do, and set up a home with her, and go out to the shops to buy nappies…

Might we? That was him giving voice to his confusion…

We’ve thought about it, continued Pauline, we’ve decided we might have two kids, one of each if we’re lucky, and when Bernie’s apprenticeship is over we’ll buy a house on that new estate they’re building on Parson’s fields…

Then it was Toady’s turn to contribute. Yes, that was it: he most definitely was a toady.

You look a bit flabbergasted, mate! But Glad and I (he always called her Glad when her name was Gladys, and that annoyed Bernie) are going to tie the knot in the summer… and we’ll go to Bournemouth for our honeymoon. We’ve decided on that one! Bournemouth and plenty of how’s your father for a whole week!

And then he had to put his own dirty great size nines into it.

Pauline and me, he said, have got plans for a big church do at Saint David’s, and a reception for our mates in the social club. Then we’ll take a trip to France, we thought, it can be nice in France, and have vino and loads of bed! For the honeymoon, that is...

Then Toady and Gladys wandered off, hand in hand. Yes, hand in bloody hand as if they owned the Universe, which they probably thought they did, and Pauline turned to him.

Is that right, Bernie? Are we getting married?

Might as well… And he shrugged casually as if it didn’t really mean much at all.

But we never talked about it, we never said anything, not about a church, Saint David’s, because I’m not getting married in any church, Bernie, churches are places for praying and if you pray you’ve got to believe there’s someone to pray to and I don’t!

That was the first time he got any idea that the fragments of faith the lurked inside his head, the bits he’d learned at Sunday School, the parts that had always been the fabric of his world, were not shared by Pauline.

But… Where had this come from?

There’s not but about it, Bernie, no church and that’s flat. If you want to get married to me, that is…

What would mother say? And David? His brother was getting to be old enough and courting too, and he knew his mother dreamed of floating dresses and whiter-then-white veils and all the paraphernalia of a church wedding, fancy hats, cooing and shedding happy tears and a man of God beaming down on them…

But we’ll have the kids, Bernie, we’ll certainly have the kids if that’s what you want

And the memory went where all his memories went. And Pauline was there, staring at him though he couldn’t see the stare, but if he had been able to he would have got a notion that something big was afoot.

When you wake up, Bernie, when you come round and are back to your old self, I’ll want a special present from you, and I hope you won’t mind … I’ll want a divorce because, well, you might have guessed, Tony and I want to get wed while we’re still young enough to enjoy each other, and you and I haven’t hit it off much lately

Still young enough? You haven’t been young enough for years beyond count! But never mind, if that’s what you want, if that’s what you really, really want… If I’m not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters…

© Peter Rogerson 02.05.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on May 2, 2018
Last Updated on May 2, 2018
Tags: coma, hospital, nurse, discotheque, dancing, wedding plans, religion, church, divorce


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 79 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..