A/N: Oh, look, another Mary Poppins fanfiction...I seriously think I have a problem! XD

So, I've currently been working on (yet another) Mary Poppins one-shot, but I've been having a bit of writer block with it and this is an idea that I've had for ages and I've been desperate to write it, so I thought I'd give it a go since I'm struggling with my other story.

As the description says, this is going to be a series of (sort of) one-shots that tell the story of Mary's life with Bert...some will be quite long and other will be quite short.

I don't know how often I'll update this since I'm moving away to uni soon, but as I said, I've been desperate to write this for ages, so hopefully that'll keep me motivated!

Anyway, I really hope you enjoy this first chapter! :D

A Thing Of Beauty Is A Joy Forever
Chapter One - The Meeting

I'm not quite sure just whom I'm writing these accounts for, whether they are for the members of my family that remain, whether they are for some unknown reader far in the future – whom may also be a relative of mine, or perhaps I'm simply writing them for myself, so that I can keep these memories with me forever…regardless of that, I truly believe that my life with the man I love has been absolutely beautiful and as I've always said: A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

So, this is my thing of beauty…this is the tale of my life with Bert Alfred.

*!*

I suppose that I should start at the very beginning, since it's a very good place to start. I met Bert when I was only sixteen and it still feels like it was only yesterday. I remember the day exactly as it was. It was a beautiful summers day – grotesquely cliché, I know – the sun was hot and beating down on the back of my neck – but not unpleasantly so. Bird song filled the air and the sky was the most beautiful shade of blue I'd ever seen. That day alone was a scene of pure beauty. Of course, I had no idea that my life would change so much on that day, but oh how it did.

I was walking through London late in the afternoon (I was going back to my Uncle Albert's home – I was staying with him at the time) and I must admit that I wasn't quite looking where I was going – something that I would never do now and certainly never did as an adult…despite what Bert may have said to people! – it was because I was a tad distracted at the time and I'll tell you why. You see, I was set to go to school within a week or two and I was terribly nervous; anyone who knows me now would not believe that Mary Poppins was nervous, but the truth is that I was a very shy young girl – my confidence actually came with my time in school. I was quite frequently filled with paranoia and fears of feeling all alone whilst I was away…I suppose it was understandable since I'd never spent any extended period of time away from my family…or perhaps I was nervous about my magic? Still, I was to be educated and as much as the idea thrilled me, my nerves would often keep my mind in a place that was far from reality…and the day I met Bert was no different. In fact, that was probably the very factor that caused me to meet him in the first place. Let me explain what I mean…

As I said earlier, I wasn't really paying attention to where I was going, one minute I was perfectly fine and walking down the street and the next I felt myself collide with something tall and firm, I stumbled slightly and found myself on the floor and somehow covered in soot. I was absolutely baffled at first, that was until I looked up and saw a young man – who was also covered in soot – staring down at me with a look of sheer panic. I remember blushing ferociously. Without a second thought, the young man dropped his arsenal of chimney sweep brushes and helped me to my feet and I was – as you may have guessed – frozen with shyness. When I was finally on my feet I remember that he gave me a look I couldn't quite recognise at the time, but looking back I now realise that it was a look of awe. I questioned Bert about this once and he told me that he was -and I quote – 'absolutely captivated by my beauty'…and when I think back to this day and recall that look of awe, I can't deny his claim. His mouth hung open ever so slightly (a dreadful habit that he never managed to kick) and his eyes began to bulge somewhat. Then he finally spoke to me…

"I'm…I'm terribly sorry, Miss…it was my fault I…I…" he stuttered.

He simply didn't know what to do with himself, he was stuck between picking up his brushes or checking me over for wounds and since he was far too nervous to do both, he ended up simply bouncing between myself and his brushes like an utter fool. But it made me smile.

"Oh, no, it really was my fault…I wasn't looking where I was going" I said in a mousy voice – I'm still surprised that he was able to understand a single thing that I said.

"But I've got yer nice dress all covered in soot…" he stated sadly.

"Oh, it's quite alright…besides, I made you drop your brushes"

"Oh, don't worry 'bout them – they've bin through much worse than that!" he chirped – still frightfully nervous, though.

When I look back on this memory, I find his nervousness incredibly endearing…and I think I did at the time too. Bert was only eighteen at the time, but really was no different from the charming man I fell in love with.

He began to gather up his brushes, but soon realised that one of them had snapped in half (I'm still not quite sure how that happened)

"Oh…" he said plainly.

"I'm so very sorry…" I whimpered slightly – then an idea hit me, "…close your eyes" I eventually said…timidly.

"Huh?"

"Trust me…close your eyes"

He did so. I'm not quite sure why he trusted me…then again, I'm not quite sure why I trusted him enough to do what I did, there just seemed to be this connection between us, I still can't quite explain in; but Bert exuded some sort of trustworthy manner that instantly made me feel at ease with him. I know that it sounds so frightfully mad, but I clearly wasn't incorrect in my judgements.

Anyway, when Bert finally closed his eyes and snapped my fingers.

"You can open your eyes now" I told him.

When he looked back down at his brush it was as good as new – as if it had never been snapped in the first place. I thought his eyes were going to jump out of his head!

"Cor!" he exclaimed, "'ow…'ow did you…did you do this?" he asked in sheer amazement.

I began to blush again.

"Consider it an apology"

"But 'ow did you…"

Then he looked at my dress.

"Yer dress is clean!" he practically bellowed.

"I cleaned it" I said almost shyly…well, I wasn't lying.

"Well, I never! 'ow'd you manage t' do all this?!"

"Magic" I replied with a slight hint or sarcasm in my voice – once again, I wasn't lying.

He simply smiled at me – that self-same smile that would warm my heart for years to come.

"Well, if it is indeed magic, then consider me completely and utterly enchanted!"

"Think nothing of it, Sir"

"Oh, don't go callin' me 'Sir'…the names Herbert Alfred, but everybody calls me Bert" he said as he extended his hand – which I took and shook timidly.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Bert…I'm Mary Poppins"

"Mary Poppins…" he echoed, "…well, Mary Poppins, you've just become the luckiest lady in all of London!" he proclaimed.

"Excuse me?"

"You just shook 'ands with a chimney sweep – you'll 'ave good luck now!"

"Well, I could certainly use some" I said truthfully – but I tried to play it off as a joke.

"What d'ya need luck for?"

"Oh, nothing" I excused.

"Don't sound like nothin'…I'm a good listener y'know"

There was just something about him that pulled me in, I was utterly enthralled by this sweet young man who had shown me such kindness and decorum – I felt as if I'd known him for years. So, I told him about my insecurities that day, I told him all about going to school and how I was so afraid of being alone, being a failure and so many other strands of fear that spread through my mind. Bert was right, he was a good listener, a true friend to all those he met…and in truth, I really did need a friend of my own, I was just shy, but I was also rather lonely. When I had finally finished, he spoke such word of kindness to me…

"Y'know, Mary, it's perfectly normal to feel that way, I mean, yer goin' to a new place an' yer gonna be meetin' new people…but you need t' remember that everybody else there will feel the exact same way – they're all gonna be nervous. But I just know that you'll fit in, I mean, look at 'ow you've been talkin' t' me for the past twenty minutes, you've 'ad no problems doin' that, so I just know that yer gonna be fine…I know somethin' special when I see it…"

His eyes widened slightly as he realised the possible power and insinuation that could lie behind those words…

"…an' besides -" he continued, "—I can be your friend…I know that I won't be with ya at school, but I'm 'appy to always be a listener if you ever need one"

"You would? But you hardly know me"

"True, I might not 'ave known you for very long, but all great thing 'ave small beginnings…an' in truth, Mary Poppins, most people would've belted me for bumpin' into them or coverin' their dress in soot, but you've actually bin speakin' t' me like an equal – you 'aven't been treatin' me like dirt like so many others do…I think I need a friend too, Mary Poppins"

My heart went out to Bert that day and I almost wept for him.

"I'd never treat you like dirt…a person is more than the money they have in their pockets"

"You 'ave no idea 'ow much it warms my 'eart to 'ear you say that" he said truthfully – I saw the hurt in his eyes that day…sometimes the happiest of people come from the darkest of pasts.

I held out my hand to him. He eyed it for a moment before taking it into his own.

"Friends" I proclaimed.

"Friends" he replied.

And there's really nothing more to tell. Bert walked me home that afternoon and we agreed that we would keep in contact whilst I was away and also agreed to meet each other whenever I returned home – a promise that we both kept…perhaps that'll be the next story I'll tell you? Bert and I wrote to each other constantly whilst I was away (a wonderful habit that – thankfully – neither of us gave up on) and I knew that it was the start of a truly wonderful friendship. Bert had shown me such compassion that day and pushed aside any of his own problems to help support me with mine – and I had been a complete stranger. When I fully comprehended this, I knew that I could never let him go…I do not wish to be biased, but I have never met another man as caring and considerate as Bert. I knew then that he was a true diamond in the rough – something I made sure never to forget.

I once asked Bert if he had felt that same way when we met, his answer was that he absolutely did – and then some!

**!**

A/N: So, there you have it - I'm actually quite happy with this and it was an absolute pleasure to write - it just all seemed to flow so well - I hope it was a joy to read too!

I would really love to hear your thoughts!

See you soon! xxx