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The Ways of the Lonely Ones


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Mature Content: Yes.

Author: Arabella

With: Dr Danforth, Aoife Leane.
Location: Dr. Danforth's Practice.
When: Second Week of July 1876.
Time of Day: 9.05am.

 

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It was working pretty well. The one per cent of people in Kalispell who cared about, or even knew, Arabella Mudd were convinced that she had been besotted with Billy. Hadn’t they seen her throwing herself on his body and being carried off, in a dead faint of shock and grief? Hadn’t they heard Jemima Wigfall’s scuttlebutt that Arabella and Billy had shared more than just a kiss? Hadn’t they seen her, ever since his untimely death at the hands of Brendan Connelly, dressed in the deep black mourning clothes she’d been given by Crabbe when she was helping with the Memento Mori photographs? Hadn’t they heard about the execrably transcribed and composed poetry left at the lad’s still fresh grave and the basic wooden cross that she had paid for at its head?

 

She was dressed in her mourning black now, as she rapped on the fancy brass knocker on the glossily painted door of the stolid brick townhouse that contained Dr. Jonah William Danforth’s prospering medical practice. Maybe it was the black of the bonnet and the high neck of the sombre dress that made her face look so pale, as her thin white fingers played nervously with the tasselled edges of her black woollen shawl.

 

 @Bongo @boshmi

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It was  little busy this morning, so at the knock, the only person available to answer was the cook, Mrs. Towberman, and she readily wiped her hands and set aside her task, heading for the door, relieved that it was just a knock that summoned her, and not the frantic pounding that accompanied emergencies.

 

When she answered, the woman managed to maintain her composure while she wondered what perceived excitement brought the child here.

 

"Good morning," she greeted with a smile, for the over-zealous girl reminded her of her sister when they were children, "what do you need?"

 

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@Javia; @boshmi

 

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Aoife had come in fairly early that morning, for the encroaching height of summer had obviously not been lending itself well to the health of Kalispell's townsfolk, and the Doctor had needed plenty of help managing their inventory and attending to the influx of patients. She sat at the kitchen table, pencil in hand, as she marked down the various quantities of the medicines, creams, and syrups that adorned the surface around her.

 

Her brow was furrowed in concentration, and she scribbled with such speed that her exasperation was unmistakable to any eye. The busyness of the last few days had left this particular task on the ice for a while, along with time for meals, sleeping, and washing. Indeed, she'd hardly been back to her place at the Wigfall boarding house for two nights now, having instead slept in one of the practice's spare rooms, which, in itself then needed to be made up and cleaned, creating a cycle of work.

 

Needless to say, Aoife Ciara Leane was not at her most presentable; clad in sweater and shawl rather than blouse and ribbon, hair tied back sloppily, and with a mood to match. So when there came yet another knock at the door, she did not even lift a finger in reaction, leaving Mrs. Towberman to answer.

 

"Good morning, what do you need?" came the woman's voice from down the hall, and Aoife once again felt amazement at that lady's patience, for as yet another strand of hair slipped out of the knot behind her head, she had to take a moment so as to prevent a most vulgar outburst.

@Javia@Bongo

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She was just about to chicken out and make a run for it when the ominous clunk of the door handle being turned from the inside sealed her fate and made her tummy do a somersault. She vaguely recognised the woman who stood within, although wouldn’t be able to put a name to her face or know what role she played within the practice. Maybe she was like a nurse.

 

"Good morning," she greeted with a smile, for the over-zealous girl reminded her of her sister when they were children, "what do you need?"

 

Arabella could usually bellow her way through any situation with a raucous unthinking stream of blather or an unrelenting relay of inane questions. Saloon full of rowdy cowboys? ‘Out the way fellers! Precious beer comin’ thru!’ Distraught parent about to have their dead child photographed as a last keepsake? ‘Oh ain’t she just the prettiest little darlin’? What was her favourite game? Did she like playing with dollies? What was her favorite flower?...’ Talk, talk, talk, that’s all she did all day long until sleep finally closed her eyes and her mouth at night.

 

The small, lost voice that now sounded from her lips, she hardly recognised as her own.

 

“Please Mam and can I see the doctor?” she mumbled looking at the woman’s feet rather than her face, her head swimming a little at what she was about to do. “I got money.” The only thing that made her brave enough to carry on was that she always had her back up plan: if she really needed to back out at the last minute she would tell the Doctor that she was there on account of her suffering so very badly with painful cramps when the curse was on her each month, which was true, though maybe no worse than for any other woman.

 

@Bongo @boshmi

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"He's with a patient right now," the woman commented, standing back to let the girl in, "but you can wait in the parlor.  It should just be a few minutes."

 

She glanced to see that Arabella was following as she led the way to the room that served as home parlor, clinic waiting area and library.  "You may have a seat," she nodded to one of the red padded velveteen chairs, then continued, "would you like some tea or milk while you wait?  Dr. Danforth has a new nurse working for him, she's quite smart, if you'd like to talk to her instead?"

 

If Arabella agreed to that, she'd have to warn Aoife, but then, the nurse lived with the Wigfalls, and they and Arabella could be written by the same hand, were they fictional characters!

 

@boshmi; @Javia

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“Please Mam and can I see the doctor? I got money.”

"He's with a patient right now, but you can wait in the parlor. It should just be a few minutes. You may have a seat. Would you like some tea or milk while you wait?  Dr. Danforth has a new nurse working for him, she's quite smart, if you'd like to talk to her instead?"

Aoife set down her pencil slowly, and stared at the list on the kitchen table for a few seconds. It would seem that the inventory would likely not come to fruition this morning either. This patient had better have a serious problem, or at least one worth adding to the ever-growing list.

 

She took a second to remove the scowl from her face, and rose from the table, ducking her head into the hall to listen for the girl's answer.

@Javia@Bongo

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"He's with a patient right now," the woman commented, standing back to let the girl in, "but you can wait in the parlor.  It should just be a few minutes."

 

Arabella wanted to get this over and was disappointed at the delay but nodded compliantly; she was completely out of her comfort zone here and was scared that there were special rules and regulations about being at the doctors which she dare not break. She followed the lady to the parlour like a sleepwalking hypnotic subject following her own personal Caligari.

 

She glanced to see that Arabella was following as she led the way to the room that served as home parlor, clinic waiting area and library.  "You may have a seat," she nodded to one of the red padded velveteen chairs, then continued, "would you like some tea or milk while you wait?

 

“No thank you, Mam.” Arabella squeaked nervously. Were she telling her usual audience of saloon patrons and friends of this adventure, she would improve her performance in the retelling and have herself at this point making jokes and funny comments, very far from her current, terrified reality. But no matter, she would never tell anybody of this visit, ever.

 

Dr. Danforth has a new nurse working for him, she's quite smart, if you'd like to talk to her instead?"

 

Arabella almost jumped out of her seat. She hadn’t expected this choice: her mind had been set on seeing Dr Danforth, as described by Jemima Wigfall: Danforth the advanced medical practitioner; Danforth the gentle; Danforth the man. For although one might describe her ailment as an uniquely feminine one, it was also one that she was loath to have to disclose to another woman.

 

“No! I don’t wanna see no silly old nurse, I gotta see a real doctor!” she gasped urgently, in something of a panic that she was about to be thwarted “I got money!” she assured the woman again. Had she known said nurse was listening, she might have been a little more complimentary.

 

@Bongo @boshmi

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"Well, I can't say as I blame you," Mrs. Towberman agreed with the girl, after all, she was a mother, had her own girls close Arabella's age, and despite her opinions on the child's dramatics, her motherly instincts were strong.  "Nurses are quite knowledgeable, Miss Leane is an excellent nurse, but I'll let the doctor know you are waiting.  I don't think it will be any more than ten minutes or so."

 

As she headed back to the kitchen, Mrs. Towberman had to wonder what had the normally anxious and over-the-top girl so sober and serious, and while she was speculating, she would leave it at just that.

 

When she saw Aoife, she asked the young woman to watch for Dr. Danforth and let him know the girl was waiting for him in the parlor.

 

@boshmi; @Javia

 

(Feel free to have Jonah finish with his current patient!

 

 

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“No! I don’t wanna see no silly old nurse, I gotta see a real doctor!”

The frantic words were a relief to hear, even if they were a little insulting. At any rate, it meant that Aoife could get back to the inventory work, and so she sat back down at the kitchen table. Where had she been? Ah yes, rolls of bandage. Eight, to be precise, but no sooner had she picked up the pencil, down the hall came Mrs. Towberman again, with the admonition that the Doctor's presence was once more required.

 

Aoife gave a short nod, and put her head down again. Bandage. Rolls. Eight of them.

 

The pencil touched paper and an adjacent door swung wide, from whence Jonah emerged, evidently having finished with his patient. She put down the pencil. Again.

 

"There's a girl, in the parlor, asking for you. Doesn't want to see me." Aoife told him quickly. Bandage rolls - Eight, she quickly scribbled, defying any divine intervention that might have further postponed that particular line.

@Javia@Bongo

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It was a long and anxious wait for Arabella in that parlour, each tick of the large wooden clock on the mantle seeming to echo into a vast, long silence before spawning its answering … tock.

 

Arabella suddenly heard her name called and stood up, walking forward on numb, wooden legs like an automaton. Marching where she was bidden, she passed a serious looking nurse sat at a table doing something vaguely medical, caught her eye, and just as quickly looked away: feeling that the pale beauty must somehow be able to divine her exact malady and automatically despise her for it. In the back of her mind it registered that the aethereal young nurse must be the female Irish boarder at the Wigfalls’ that Jemima had told her all about and who was hardly ever in her room, sleeping scandalously over at the Medical Practice with Dr. Danforth.

 

But the Virginian girl was too preoccupied with her own troubles to think overly upon this and the alien atmosphere of the Doctor’s office-cum-examination-room did little to quell her nerves, with its impressive dark-wood desk and chairs, examination bed, disrobing screens (Jemima had described those, and how she’d had to strip to the waist behind them, in gratuitous detail) and cabinets full of all sort of exotic bottles and preparations and medical equipment and surgical impedimenta. It was all fascinating and terrifying at the same time for a girl who had never visited a real life bona fide certified physician before.

 

She stood, twisting her shawl into a knot as the great man himself (he whom she had once accused of looting the pie store) followed into the room behind her.

 

@Bongo @boshmi [if you feel the need!]

 

 

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