Hilda clapped her hands over her ears as loud static suddenly filled the room. Exclaiming in dismay, Nell quickly turned the volume down until it was barely audible, then shot her partner an apologetic look.
“Sorry, I didn’t realise it would be so loud…” she paused a second, frowning as she thought, then continued, “though now I think about it, didn’t you use the radio last? Is there something wrong with your hearing?”
“If you care to recall, the last time that radio was used we had the entire Staff in here,” Hilda retorted crisply.
“You haven’t used it since then?” Nell interrupted, surprised. That had been nearly a week ago.
“I haven’t had the time; and if you have had time to sit around listening to the radio, I’m going to start sending you more of my paperwork,” Hilda teased - she knew all too well how much work Nell took off her hands, and if anything her efforts tended to be expended in the direction of stopping Nell from commandeering it all. “As I was saying, the last time we used it all the Staff were here, so naturally the volume would be higher than we’d normally set it.”
“I’m sure you’re right,” Nell said meekly, adding “oh wise and ancient one” in an undertone.
Hilda heard, as she was meant to, and snorted. “Ancient? I’m not that much older than you - and I’m not the one who seems to have forgotten entirely why she switched on the radio in the first place.”
“I haven’t forgotten, I was merely concerned for your health,” Nell replied in a haughty tone that didn’t fool her partner for a minute. “Since you don’t appreciate my concern, I shall return to my work.”
Ostentatiously turning her back on her friend, she bent closer to the radio and began carefully turning the tuning knob. Grinning to herself, Hilda leant back more comfortably in her chair and let her work.
The pair had passed a happy afternoon, making the most of the chance to spend a long time together, and talk unreservedly without fear of being interrupted or overheard. Their neverending duties as Heads of the two schools meant these chances came only rarely, but were all the more valuable and appreciated for it.
As they enjoyed a well-deserved Abendessen, Nell had expressed regret over not being able to attend Midnight Mass, which had led Hilda to wonder whether they might not be able to hear a service on the radio. Nell had jumped on the idea at once, and was now trying to find a broadcast - something Hilda was more than content to let her attempt on her own, since Nell was well known in the staff room as the person who could best coax the radio to provide crystal clear sound for any station she wanted.
Sure enough, after a few minutes of cycling through frequencies - punctuated by annoyed muttering - Nell gave a cry of triumph.
“Have you found something?” Hilda asked, leaning forward.
Jumping to her feet, Nell struck a triumphant pose. “We have a Christmas service! You may thank me.”
“Thank you, oh mistress of the radio!” Hilda replied, laughing, as she stood and curtsied to her friend. “When does it start?”
“In fifteen minutes. It’s in German, of course, and it’s a Protestant service - which I find distinctly unfair since I was the one who did all the work to find it!”
“Perhaps it’s a sign you should convert,” Hilda said with mock seriousness.
“Never!” Nell replied emphatically, her eyes sparkling with suppressed laughter. “It’s a sign that I should remember it’s the season of goodwill, and let you enjoy your heathen service.”
Hilda’s eyes twinkled back. This was an old argument, and one they both enjoyed. “Heathen? Do you remember who won our last theological argument?”
“You teach Scripture, how is a simple Science mistress supposed to compete? It’s not a fair playing field, which I call most unchristian of you.”
“If that’s the best argument you can come up with, I’m not surprised I won!” Hilda retorted.
“Oh, I can do better, I just thought it lacking in Christmas spirit to demolish you completely straight away,” Nell said, attempting a dignified expression, which was so incongruous with her bruised face and barely hidden grin that Hilda collapsed with laughter, Nell joining in seconds later.
“Shall we shelve the matter for now?” Hilda finally suggested, pulling herself together. “The broadcast will start soon.”
Nell agreed, and leapt to her feet to fetch her rosary. Hilda, meanwhile, made a quick expedition to the Library, returning with two of the many copies of the Luther Bible that were generally used for Scripture lessons on german days. Thus equipped, they pulled their favourite chairs up to the radio and prepared to listen to the service.