The first day in the nursing home was strange to Sybil. The room she shared with two other trainee nurses was sparsely furnished, with only three small, single beds, each with a cabinet, and one wardrobe shared between the three of them. Because it was only their first day, the three girls had no training. They were all expected to unpack, and acquaint themselves with the location that they would be training in.
Branson's words were still swimming through her mind. His declaration, his promise. Sybil hated herself for what she had replied. Her instant defence had been to tell him she was "flattered". He knew as well as she did that "her people" only said that when they wanted to remove unwanted attention from themselves. But the truth was she was scared. She had been weary of her friendship with Branson for quite some time.
At first, when he had spoken out about women's rights, and handed her pamphlets on the political talks, she had been intrigued by him. His promise of how he would not always be a chauffer inspired her, and she respected him. He was forward, sometimes rude, and he never sugar-coated any information. When Sybil asked her father for news of the War, he would change the topic, telling her that it was not suitable for a Lady's ears. And so she would walk to the garage, and sit with Branson, who would tell her everything she wanted to hear. He never lied to her; he never told her things were going better than they were. He told her the cold, honest truth.
Even knowing how passionate he was, she never expected his words as he dropped her at the nursing home.
"I promise to devote every waking minute to your happiness."
As she sat on the hard bed in the room, Sybil's thoughts wandered back to that moment. She found that she did not feel hurt by what he said to her, not in the slightest, but she realised her bad feelings were her own guilt. For just standing there, and not speaking. In that single moment, she'd made Branson feel as if she did not care for him. She made him feel as if he were nothing but her father's chauffer. And he was much more than that to her.
He was her best friend.
Sybil found her two new roommates very friendly, and quickly made friends with them. One of the women, Sarah, was a thirty-three year old wife of an officer. She held herself well, and spoke clearly, but without the air of a Lady, and so Sybil assumed that she must have money enough for a decent home and a few servants, but not an estate such as Downton. Giselle was only one year Sybil's senior, unmarried, and a housemaid in a London hotel. Her father was a French aristocrat who had seduced her mother who was working in the hotel whilst he was there on business. He had promised marriage and a comfortable home, but quickly returned to France without leaving an address when he found that the woman was pregnant. Sybil thought it disgusting.
She had not told either of them that she was a Lady, deciding that here, they were equals. It was one of Sybil's goals to see a world where the class barrier would disappear so why should she act any different?
Her first letter from home arrived after her first week of training. She was exhausted from being on her feet every day, but she loved it. She loved learning, and found her work to be very rewarding. The letter was from her mother, and she knew she should be happy to hear from her family, but she couldn't help but wish the scrawl across the paper wasn't the elegant script of Lady Grantham, but the rough writing of an Irishman.
The week had been hard, but she didn't miss home. She didn't miss her extravagant bed, she didn't miss being cooked for, and she didn't miss being dressed. But she did miss sitting in the garage on an overturned box while Branson told her the news of the war, and laughing in the car on the way to Ripon, while she encourage the revolutionary driver to go faster – to take the back roads and push the car. She missed pulling over in the lane and climbing up front instead of sitting in the back.
Her mother informed her of the goings on in the house. She explained that Edith was learning to drive, and was working as a farmhand to help out, and that Mary was getting serious about her Charity work. She told Sybil of the staff who had gone to war, how everyone was coping.
Sybil quickly penned a reply to her mother in her break simply telling her how busy the work was, but how she was enjoying it. She told her what she had learned, and added at the end that she missed the family too, rather than to leave her felling left out. She signed the letter and put it in her pocket to post tomorrow on her day off.
That night, as Sarah lay reading on her bed, and Giselle spoke in length of her officer sweetheart who she had just received a letter from, Sybil decided she would write to Branson. She needed to apologise for the way she had acted that day, and she needed to explain to him how she felt. She was sick of keeping everything bottled inside of her and letting class and etiquette dictate how she should act and feel. She would send the letter through Anna, who Sybil was sure would be discrete.
Sitting at the only table in the room, Sybil began to write.