Perkins Confession

"Confessions"

Last one. I promise. ;)

Who: Perkins, Sidney & Kathleen
When: September, 1918
Where: L'Eglise de Saint Boniface, Arras

What: Perkins confesses her secret to Sidney, and prepares to face the
consequences of her deception.

L'Eglise de Saint Boniface
==============================================
[The Grid]-----> > > > > THE LOST GENERATION < < <


Even in a place like this the war has left its marks, the once great windows
of the church depicting the lord saviour have been blown to pieces. Some of
the rafters from the roof are broken, and here and there holes from shells
and rounds score the walls of the church. Where there once were benches for
people to sit during sermons are now temporary tables upon where wounded
soldiers and civilians can be seen. The moans and cries of the wounded never
cease to stop, as they just keep coming in with every day that passes, a
numberless throng. Nuns from the local abbey along with nurses runs along
with blood stained rags trying their best to aid the doctors and field
medics that works in here.

At first glance it might be hard to think that faith in god can still linger
in a place so torn apart by the war as this, but the sheer compassion by
those who work here makes up for the tarnished facade of the church.

It is currently daytime.

Contents
Sidney
Perkins
Kathleen
Laurent

Backyard Garden <BG> Out <O>

Perkins has been in hospital a short time, in a cot stowed near the back of
the church, some curtains drawn around it to give some privacy. The
private's leg has been seen to and looks to be mending well enough. Not that
that's given the sapper much peace. Right now, Perkins sits propped up on
some pillows, hands twisting in lap. A nurse sent a message to Private
Sidney on Perkins's behalf, requesting he come to the hospital and speak
with him. But it wasn't anymore detailed than that.

Perkins's Desc
A young Englishman, he looks to be at enlistment age at least, but there's
a fresh-faced, bright-eyed look about him that makes it clear he's no
veteran. He's of an average height, with a lithe build that's more notable
for deftness and agility than brute strength. His fine-boned features may be
considered good-looking, if a bit too 'pretty', but they're usually obscured
with too much muck and dirt for it to matter much. He has clear green eyes
and golden blonde hair that's been cut short, in a military style.
He's clad in standard-issue, workmanlike woolen khaki, like every other
bloke on the line. Its lowly, lonely bar of rank insignia mark him as a
Private, and other patches pinpoint him as a member of the British Corps of
Royal Engineers. His loose, baggy jacket is detailed with blackened metal
buttons, and the lower part of his body is covered by likewise baggy woolen
trousers. Sturdy lace-up boots give his feet some protection, ankle-high and
hobnailed for extra grip. Puttees are bound around his legs from ankle to
knee, useful in keeping his feet dry and clean, if constrictive at times. A
British steel helmet is usually worn on his head.

Sidney looks about as he walks in, the ANZAC combat engineer still keeping
about his manner a bit of freshness not common among wizened veterans. He
brings with him some letters from where the platoon's stationed, particular
envelopes and packages seperated out to accompany him for those soldiers
from the squad now hospitalized. After dropping one envelope off with a
blinded Australian lad from the group, he walks over to where the nurses
are. "I'm Private Sidney. I was told a nurse asked for me about our Private
Perkins?"

Sidney's Desc
An able-bodied young man with curly blond sun-bleached hair, perhaps a
little longer than formal military regimen expects. His grooming is lax, and
the calloused hands speak of outdoors labour and physical work. Clear green
eyes are offset a bit by a slightly broad flat nose, and the hair's always
left a bit wild and stringy (think a younger Heath Ledger). When he speaks,
the twang presents a rural western Australian manner of speaking.

The soldier is clad in the standard-issued workmanlike woollen khaki jacket,
which is loose-necked and baggy, and detailed with blackened metal buttons.
The lower part of the body is covered by baggy woollen trousers topped
sturdy, lace-up, ankle-length boots made entirely of leather and hobnailed
for extra grip. Puttees are bound around the legs of the pants from ankle to
knee and useful in preventing water and mud from sloshing within, if
constrictive at times. The usual rabbit-fur-felt slouch hat characteristic
of the Australian infantry is missing, and a British steel helmet is worn on
the head.

The nurse closest to Sidney doesn't seem to know what he's talking about,
but calls over, "Kathleen? A Private Sidney's here for Perkins?" Kathleen
abandons her conversation with one of the other nurses to approach Sidney.
"G'day Private. I'm Nurse Campbell. I've been looking after Perkins. This
way, if you please?" She'll lead the way back to that curtained area.
Pulling it back for a moment, she steps inside and says to Perkins with a
slight smile, "Visitor for you."

Kathleen's Desc
Small but wiry - that's the usual impression folks get looking at this
woman, who appears to be in her mid-twenties. Slim and standing just over
five feet, she might at first glance seem somewhat frail. A closer look
reveals a hint of strength behind that compact frame, and weathered hands
that look like they've done some honest work in their day. Her face bears a
light tan, her sandy-blonde hair bleached almost white by too much sun. The
harsh, bright color seems almost at odds with her dark brown eyes and
delicate, features. Her looks are rather plain, a situation not helped any
by the unflattering bun her hair has been pulled up into.

She is dressed in a nurse's uniform. Light gray in color, the heavy dress
has brass buttons up the front and a large white collar. Over the shoulders
is draped a small cape with the word "Australia" on the epaulette.
Occasionally visible beneath the hem of the long dress are well-worn
ankle-high boots. On her back, a short, dark blue cape is thrown over one
shoulder. A drab brown floppy hat completes the ensemble. Around her neck, a
silver cross hangs from a plain chain. Her only other jewelry is a simple
gold band on her left ring finger.

Perkins starts a bit when the curtain is pulled. The private swallows hard,
taking a deep breath. "Yes. Thank you, Nurse Campbell. It was good of you to
come, Private Sidney." That's all the sapper says for the moment, not
meeting Sidney's eyes, though the nervous manner suggests there's more to be
said.

Sidney greets Perkins with a friendly smile. "G'day there digger." He
actually adds a quick blink with the grin flashed over to Nurse Campbell.
"How's that leg coming along? You did a good showing in the mission that
night. The Old Man's a bit grumpy we didn't take the town, but the rest of
the lads did fine later that day against Fritz." He offers out a small
envelope towards where Perkins is laying.

Kathleen hangs back by the curtain, letting Sidney pass her to approach the
private's bedside. "I'll leave you to to talk, then?" Eyebrows go up a bit
when she says that, looking to Perkins questioningly. Unsure if he'd rather
her stay.

"Yes," Perkins says, trying to drum up some good cheer. But it's clearly
fake cheer. "I heard the chaps did bloody well, taking the hill. I…I'm
sorry I wasn't there with you. I haven't made much of an account of myself
as a soldier." Another deep breath. "But I suppose that's over now, anyhow."
The private turns a pair of widened green eyes as Kathleen, head shaking
earnestly. Stay! A tentative hand reaches out to pick up the envelope. It's
a convenient excuse to keep not looking at Sidney. "What's this?"

Sidney nods a bit as he considers Perkins, listening with a smile. "Well,
I'm the only one that night that didn't come a gutzer, but you're looking
well enough. Just a leg shot, eh?" He then turns, tilting his head as he
regards Kathleen a moment, perhaps a hint of puzzlement. "I'm just a sapper,
ma'am. Private Will Sidney. Just stopped in to talk with a mate. Is there
word you'd want me to take back to the C.O.? Something medical?"

Kathleen doesn't leave, then, when she sees that pleading look from Perkins.
She instead steps over to the other side of the bed - opposite Sidney - and
says in agreement, "Indeed - I've heard that you lads made a good show of
it." She shakes her head to Sidney, "No, other than Private Perkins is
recovering well. 'Twas a bad scratch, but will be back up and about in no
time."

Sidney the envelope held out to Perkins has the wounded Private's military
mailing post address on it, and name. As if a letter had come, though no
return address.

"Not that it'll matter much," Perkins mutters after Kathleen, with a touch
of bitterness. The private a takes a breath, raising his head, though he
still won't meet Sidney's gaze. "I won't be going back on the field, Private
Sidney. There's no chance of it. They'd never allow…well. No use dwelling
on it now. I'll speak to the C.O. myself. I swear to God. I can't go on this
way. But I wanted to talk with you first. To…apologize. To you and all the
chaps."

"Of course it matters," Kathleen chides Perkins good-naturedly. "Most
important thing is for you to get well." But then she lapses into silence,
glancing between Perkins and Sidney.

Sidney blinks and quickly turns his gaze back to Perkins, the young blond's
cleanshaven jaw dropping with surprise. "Not going back?" A blink again,
"Fair dinkum? But the nurse said you weren't in bad shape?" He leans rather
quickly to check with his eyes the bandaged leg, or what's visible of it.
Not touching, but perhaps confused enough to check if the leg's still there.

Perkins shrinks into the cot when Sidney moves closer, taking another
shuddering breath. "Please, you must understand," the private begins, near
babbling now. "I never thought it would go this far. It seemed so simple,
back in England. All the chaps were going off to war, doing their bit. My
father was a soldier. Had been an officer, in the Boer War. I could shoot
better than most of the chaps going. There was all this talk of how we
should do our part to support the effort. Why shouldn't I? Why shouldn't I
go? It wasn't difficult, really. I stowed away on ship packed with VAD
girls, and no one took me for anything but. Papers, a uniform, some binding
and cotton to pack it…it was all such a lark. Grand adventurer, I was." A
bitter laugh and sniff. "So very liberated. But then it became so…real…"

"The leg'll be fine," Kathleen pipes up long enough to confirm that for
Sidney, then grows quiet again. She reaches out to give the injured
soldier's shoulder a gentle, reassuring squeeze.

Sidney listens to Perkins speak with wide open eyes, his confusion not
bringing words at first as he tries to follow the talk with a few blinks. A
glance quickly given for just a second to Kathleen, then his attention's
brought back to Perkins again. "So they found out you stowed away on a ship
fulla shiela's, like any good Jackaroo. Maybe found the company too
inviting, eh?" He tries to make a grin, but the confusion still rings in his
blue eyes. "One an officer's wife?" with a slight lean forward, though it's
not pressed as if he's feeling his nearness isn't welcomed. "Maybe the LT
can put in a word upstairs with the Old Boys and you'll just put in trench
duty. I'll vouch for ya, mate, that you've been a good lad on the lines with
the rest of us."

Perkins laughs. A high pitched, somewhat desperate laugh, but a genuine one.
A faint grin comes to the private's face, tinged with bitterness though it
is. "A kind offer, Private Sidney, though I won't hold you to it. You're a
good man. You're all good men…" Another deep breath. "That's been the
worst of it. Not the rest hasn't been horrid, but I think I could have taken
it, if it hadn't been for the lying. I'm a terrible liar, Private. Always
have been. You see…I'm not who I've been claiming to be." Another pause
for breath is taken, longer this time. This has been what the private's
dreaded saying. "My name isn't Robert Perkins. I never even joined the army
square. My…my name is…Davies. Susan Davies…"

Kathleen again says nothing. She'll keep her hand there on the young
soldier's shoulder if she'll allow it, looking to Sidney to gauge his
reaction to that.

Sidney makes a face, a bit of a grimace that's perhaps an expression of
uncertain conclusions. He starts to speak up, but before even a word comes
out clamps his lips back closed in another grimace. A look over to Kathleen
for a glance to her eyes, trying to read any expression there. His cheeks
flinch slightly, but there still appears to be alot of questions on the very
readable young man's face.

Perkins chances a look at Sidney's face, but the expression there makes her
eyes flinch away from it. She starts babbling again, desperately, "I never
thought it would go this far, Private, you must believe me I didn't. I only
wanted to do my part, to defend my country, I knew I'd be as good a soldier
as any man! I'd take it back now if I could but I can't. It's done and I'm
sorry for it. But wasn't I a good lad on the lines? You said it yourself,
not a moment ago!" Perkins makes no move for Kathleen to withdraw her hand.
On the contrary, she seems grateful of the support.

Kathleen's expression is mostly concerned, but with a slight squint to it. A
pointed glance that one might (correctly) interpret as: 'Hurt her feelings,
and I just might have to hurt you.' "You've got nothing to be ashamed of,"
she assures Perkins. "'Twas a brave thing you did."

Sidney reacts with a frown as he reads Kathleen's expression, his eyes even
narrowing a bit perturbed. A snort to her as he looks away, turning to face
Perkins once more. "Makes me look a dill, don't it." and offers the wounded
person a somewhat awkward attempt at a smile. "I never would've guessed." He
then draws in a deep breath, his chest lifting as if trying to force himself
to seriousness. "You fought as a soldier, right along with the rest of us.
Whether it was under your own name and …umm…body or not. Your actions on
the field speak for you, I say." and nods once before swallowing.

Perkins looks, tentatively, up at Sidney's face. She returns his smile when
she catches it, desperately grateful. "My mother was an actress, Private,"
she says. "Not difficult, really. I'm tall as it is. After I'd cut my hair,
a bit of sacking and cotton to pack my uniform, bound my…" She shrugs,
flushing a little. "Not the first time I'd done it. I played Mercutio back
at school." A weak attempt at a joke, even she can't make herself laugh at.
"Thank you. Both of you. I'll speak to the Captain myself. Confess it.
Perhaps if I tell them myself…well. What will come will come. I
just…didn't want you to hear it elsewhere, Private."

Kathleen relaxes given Sidney's reaction, the warning look fading from her
face and being replaced by a slight smile. "Nothing to it," she assures
Perkins. Then, with a glance between the two of them, she says, "I'm not
sure confessing it is the best thing, though, mate. Noble, indeed, but I'd
hate to see them try to make an example of you." The smile fades more to
concern.

Sidney coughs a little bit, more from a reflex of uncertainty, bringing a
smile up as he then nods to Perkains. "I'll not say a word on it, till
you've had your say, Perk..umm…." A chuckle, rising a slight blush.
"Davies." He then lowers his eyes, and softly, "You can still read your
post. I was the one that sent it." with a motion of his hand, trying to be
subtle about it, towards the envelope.

Perkins shakes her head a little at Kathleen. "There's nothing else for it
now. What other choices do I have? Try to stow away back to England?" She
looks down at her leg. "I've no chance of even getting out of hospital
without being caught, let alone out of war-torn France. No. I'm done for
now. Best try to make the best of the mess that I can." She shrugs at
Sidney, opening the letter. "You can call me Susan if you like. No need to
bother with secrecy now."

Kathleen is quick to offer, "Perkins doesn't, no. But who's to say Perkins
can't just disappear? Soldiers go missing now and again. And nobody would
know to look for Susan Davies. Sister Susan - nun's habit to cover the hair.
You could billet with me until you're well." It actually seems like the
young Australian has given this some thought.

Sidney looks over to Kathleen and shakes his head. "No need for 'im to be
remembered as a deserter. There was a joke made about h…" He clears his
throat, "Perkins by Thomas in a battle not long ago, asking if he'd
deserted." The young Australian's chin lifts. "Better to be thought dead
than a deserter."

Sidney turns back after stating that, going silent and intent on studying
Perkins reaction as she reads the letter.

Perkins reads over the letter, a smile on her lips. "Thank you," she says
simply to Sidney, folding it up and tucking it into her lap. At Kathleen's
words she just has to stare at the nurse for a moment, eyes wide. She /has/
given this some thought. "No…!" she says, firmly, but with a note of
regret. "It…it would never work. And I couldn't ask you, either of you, to
lie for me. I'm in enough of a fix as it is without involving anyone else."

Kathleen glances to Sidney, nodding slightly. She doesn't directly respond
to Perkins' protest, instead saying to Sidney, "Dead, we could manage.
Terrible case of the gangrene - came on all of a sudden. We'd have to work
out something with the orderlies." The grave detail, that is. "But it could
be done, sure." She chews her lip a bit, and one can almost see the wheels
turning in her head.

Sidney just faintly nods to Kathleen's comment, not that talkative while
he's considering the matter with great thought. Finally, softly, he mutters
down to where the female in uniform is bedded, "I'm sorry about the language
in the letter. I mean, it's the sort of thing we write to a mate, but I'd
never use some of those words around a woman." He manages a chuckle, though,
as if finding some humour offered to Perkins in sharing his thought.

Perkins chuckles along with Sidney. "I've heard worse, Private," she says.
"It was very kind of you…" And that seems to decide it for her. "No. I
can't allow you both to lie for me further. If it was found out, you'd be in
as much trouble as me, if not more. It won't be so bad." She doesn't sound
as if she believes that. "What's the worst they can do? Send me back to
England?" She sighs. "It's done now. It's clear I was never meant to be a
soldier, and I can't go on living a lie."

"No, the worst they can do is put you in prison for impersonating a
soldier," Kathleen points out quietly, her tone serious. She may not be
correct, but she certainly sounds convinced of it herself. She glances to
Sidney, searching for a sign of support there.

Sidney smiles gently back to Perkins, still a little awkward one might
imagine by the manner in which his manner seems uncertain to regard the
wounded as a fellow soldier or the more restrained politeness normally given
to a young woman of honorable fashion. "Perhaps you could have a word with
the LT about it. An officer, in command. They might not mind allowing you to
slip back to Blighty as a nurse so long as it was all kept quiet, not
bringing any embarrasment to the Old Boys."

"Perhaps…" Perkins says quietly in response to Kathleen. "But it's what
I've done, isn't it?" She stares up at Sidney, that desperately hopeful look
back in her eyes. "Do you really think…? Yes. Perhaps they would. If
nothing else, I'll be no worse off after speaking to a Lieutenant than I am
now."

Kathleen doesn't really look convinced of that, but she nods. "Well, you
have to do what you think is best. In the mean time, we'll focus on getting
you back on your feet. You let me know if you need anything, all right?"

Sidney mutters, "I don't know him well enough to know for certain what his
reaction might be. Just that my impression of those prim and proper poms.."
The Private halts there, trying to dispell a second thought about his words
with snicker. "English officers, that is." and nods back to Perkins with an
attempt to wink at Kathleen, the fellow Australian, "That you know, they
don't like cogs slipping the big wheel off track. Like poofs in uniform,
they'd rather look the other way or prefer that everyone forgets so long as
it doesn't make them look bad by appearing as a public scandal, you know?"

Perkins laughs softly. "You might have a point. The army is very concerned
about appearances, especially with the war dragging on so. Perhaps." She
looks up at Kathleen, nodding to the nurse. "I'm fine, really. A bit tired
is all. Thank you for all the work you've done on my leg, Nurse Campbell.
And…the rest of it."

Sidney gets a slight smirk at his assessment of the English officers, but
mostly Kathleen just hangs back, looking pensive and worried. "I hope you're
right." She nods to Perkins, "Think nothing of it. I'll leave you two to
catch up, then." Another nod, this time to Sidney, and Kathleen prepares to
go.

Sidney then speaks softly, lowering his voice. "Maybe not the LT. He's more
like us, a regular digger. The Major, Carver I think it was? He's …stiff
and proper. The sort that might arrange it." and nods to Perkin and then
offers the nod to Kathleen. "Maybe it could be noted on the medical record
that …" He pauses a moment. "With the suffering of the wound, the patient
was suffering a total absence of the gentlemanly parts. That might be a way
the Old Boys could cover it." Sidney looks to the nurse, "If medical staff
were willing to accept it." He grimaces a little. "A doctor would have to
write that up, though, not a nurse."

Perkins barks a laugh at Sidney's suggestion. "Oh, yes. I can just imagine
*that* medical report." She flushes at the idea. "The Major. Yes. Perhaps
that's the best way. In any case, there's no use fretting about it until
necessary. It will work itself out." She tries to sound confident, not
pulling it off at all.

Kathleen looks even less confident than Perkins sounds. She pauses near the
curtain, brow furling as she replies to Sidney, "I - uh - I don't see any
reason why the medical report should have to specify anything about… that.
Would probably just be easier to write it up that the wound was too serious
for him to return to duty."

Sidney offers a little nod to Kathleen, lowering his eyes and going quiet
for a moment after that. The Australian draws his shoulder strap to adjust
it a bit, shifting the weight of his rifle. "I'll keep mum on it, whatever
you wish." and then looks back to Perkins. "I'll have to apologize to
Private Hughes. Me and the lads really ribbed him about .." He stops, his
cheeks growing a little rosy. "Well, something maybe I could share with you
some other time." Added quickly, "Share word of, I mean." and tries to put
on a smile as he takes a step back from the bed, nearly bumping his back
into the curtain.

Perkins looks on point of asking exactly what Sidney was ribbed about, but
she doesn't. "Some other time, yes. Thank you, Private Sidney." She gives
him a smile as he goes, then eases back into a laying position on her cot.

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