A/N: So sorry for the delay. I had this written out, then rewrote it, (as you will see, this is in Josephine's POV, when originally it was supposed to be entirely from Dr. Cecil's. Still not sure if I should have kept it that way or not) then added stuff, then cut a bunch out, then added more, so on and so on. I am not thrilled with it, but I'm not not thrilled with it either. Anyway, I think at the very least it can be considered a great first draft.
It kind of morphed into something it wasn't supposed to. I wanted it to be much shorter. And so, I kind of went back and forth between adding more detail and just making a full-length story out it or keeping it less detailed. So, I do recognize that it may have a feel of, this doesn't know what it wants to be.
BUT I wanted to get this posted so I can at least finish it and move on to finishing Broken Bottles and Savage Love (I hope to resume writing this weekend). Then once those are finished, I can come back and revisit this. I am considering making it full length, if there seems to be an interest in that. I just more or less like getting my ideas out on paper for people to enjoy.
So, in your reviews, please be kind, and keep in mind that I recognize a lot of the flaws inherent in the writing.
Oh, and there will be a far shorter Part IV.
He knelt down beside her and pressed his fingertips to her wrist. She looked down, watching his movements with a tired, disinterested gaze. He had a pensive look about him. His brow was furrowed, his neatly coiffed hair parted in the middle, mustache trim, spectacles resting on his nondescript nose. She felt the familiar warmth she had felt so often when he entered a room, but there was something there with it now, a confused hatred, a needling pain.
He removed his hands from her wrist and reached in to retrieve his notebook from his inner pocket. He scribbled in it with his pencil. His hazel eyes moved up to her face and a small smile came to his lips. He touched her cheek gently but withdrew his hand before one could question the motives behind his touch.
"Oh, Josephine," he murmured sadly. "You look so tired."
Her eye lids were heavy, but she could not sleep. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw it. That mound of brains and bone and flesh where his face had been. And at night, when all she wanted to do was close her eyes and find peace, she saw it, and she felt that same longing in her chest for her doctor to come and make it all go away. When it had first started, she could not remember, but even now, it did not go away. She would lay in bed at night, staring up at the ceiling, longing to be wrapped in the protective arms of the man she hated.
"Are you finished trying to convince everyone I've touched you?" he asked, rising to a standing position in front of her. He loomed over her. He was not much taller than she, but she felt very small compared to him now. She nodded slowly. He continued, speaking matter of factly, "No one will believe you. You're a sick woman. I'm a well-respected doctor. A war veteran."
Her gaze was lifted up toward him. Eyes red and dry, so tired. She nodded again. She did not have the energy to speak. She only wanted to go to sleep.
"You are done then?" he asked again. "Use your words."
"I am finished, Doctor Cecil," she answered. "I promise."
He flinched. His lips pinched into a bemused line. He did not like her knew practice of referring to him as Dr. Cecil. It was cold and distant, as she now wanted things to be. He snapped his little notebook shut and put it back into his coat pocket. He sat down on the couch beside her, body turned toward hers, arms draped over the back of the couch. He would have shut her bedroom door when he entered. He would not speak so openly and sit so close had he not. She was beginning to realize, in this home, he was beyond reproach.
"Why do you resist me so, Josephine?" he murmured to her. He could feel the heat of his breath on her cheek. His breath smelled like mint leaves from his morning tea. He had patted on just the right amount of aftershave onto his cheeks that morning. He always smelled so good. "What is done is done. You'll never be a virgin again."
That was his favorite. He reminded her with every visit to her room that her virginity was gone, never to return. Her hopes of a cure and a happy marriage had vanished. He had taken that from her, and now, he reminded her of it every time they were alone.
"I love you," he pleaded in a soft whisper. His fingers, warm and prodding, traced her cheek bone. "Why lie to yourself?"
She turned to look at him. He removed the glasses from his nose and plopped them into the front pocket of his white coat. He scooted closer. His tweed covered knee brushed against hers. "Be mine, Josephine. I've never wanted anything like I want you –"
She gathered the energy to deposit a large spray of saliva onto his face, collecting en mass just below his left eye. He remained still, eyes closed, allowing the viscous liquid to slowly drive down his cheek before he sat back from her and plucked his handkerchief from his trouser pocket. He wiped his face off, brow lifted, tongue pressed to his bottom lip, hands shaking slightly. He began to shake his head.
"I do not believe that you are stable enough to be in the presence of the other patients," he said, voice controlled but there was an audible strain within. Her lips parted. "Until I believe you're in control of yourself, you will remain in your rooms. Isolated."
"I hate you." Her voice was hoarse. For a moment, she saw very real pain on his face. It turned darker, more frightful. He reached into his pocket and retrieved the vial of morphine. She opened her mouth to accept the drops. He rolled the glass between his fingers and looked down at her, a small snarl coming to his face.
He put the vial back into his pocket. Her eyes widened slightly. "Please, Doctor Cecil, I must sleep," she pleaded. She reached out and grabbed onto his coat. It had been just over a week since he had ceased giving her morphine.
He remained before her a few moments, staring off at her closed bedroom door. His eyes moved back down toward her. He stared at her. She continued to stare back; desperation filled her dark green eyes. "Please doctor. Please."
Uncertainty flooded his gaze, when suddenly he ripped his hand free from her. He turned on his heel and left without another word. Sometime later, Anne came in to help her into bed.
Her initial fear that he would drug her and leave her in a stupor was unfounded, but what he chose to do instead was far crueler. He withheld morphine from her almost in its entirety. Not even a small bout for sleep. Her episodes increased. Her body trembled, she'd scream, and cry, and screech, and Dr. Cecil would stand by, arms crossed over his chest, a frown on his face.
The first time he closed in on her, she had fought valiantly. His cheek was discolored for about a week afterward, but he managed to get the needle into her arm. It was always just enough to end her episode. But then another would come. Her episodes grew with such intensity and frequency, that it was no wonder no one believed she was telling the truth. Her insistence that Dr. Cecil had touched her had been received as a delusion. A sick woman's fancy, a symptom of her sudden, rapid deterioration.
That was what he was able to convince everyone anyway. In reality, she had been quite in control of herself for the first few days following the revelation in his office. She pleaded with Maude and Anne. She told them what the doctor had done. Anne was sympathetic to her. She tried to explain to her that Dr. Cecil was a vocal opponent to such theories. He would never have suggested she do such things.
"No," she had said in earnest, grabbing onto Anne's shoulders. "He's in love with me."
Anne had looked so sad. Josephine had whispered to her desperately, "I'm not mad."
Maude was less sympathetic. She reacted with anger, informing Josephine that such accusations had no place at Dr. Cecil's asylum for gentlewomen. Dr. Cecil was an honorable man. He helped women; he'd never touch a patient. How dare she make such claims and risk all that he had built? Did she think she was the first well-bred woman of beauty to have come under his roof? Anne now cared for her nearly exclusively.
She wrote to her father, begging him to come and take her away. She did not tell him what had happened. She was too ashamed. Dr. Cecil, however, must have informed him of her recent… claims. The letter she received from her father was gentle, but scolding. He was disappointed she was now resisting Dr. Cecil's attempts to cure her. Her deterioration was her own fault. She needed to follow Dr. Cecil's orders and only when Dr. Cecil assured him that she was cured, would he come to collect her.
Dr. Cecil came into her room the night she had received that letter. He hoped to find her vulnerable and browbeaten. He sat beside her on the couch before the window, gently coaxing her, expounding on the importance of obedience. She responded with silence, staring out the window until he grew frustrated and left her.
And so, her bedroom became her prison. Dr. Cecil would not ever let her leave. She needed no confirmation, but shortly after the letter from her father had come, he admitted as such. He knelt down before her on the couch, gently taking her wrist in his large, warm hands, and took her pulse. When finished, as he scribbled into his notebook, he said, "You will never leave here. I will make sure of that."
He looked at her. "But your stay here need not be unpleasant," he examined his pencil before slipping it into his pocket. "Things can be as they were before. You may enjoy the grounds. Spend time with your friends here." He reached into his pocket and withdrew the small vial.
She gazed up hopefully. The soft plea left her lips and she leaned forward.
"Of course, I would need to see your attitude has become more agreeable."
She frowned. The hand not holding the vial extended towards her. She accepted it, allowing him to pull her to her feet. A ghost of a smile graced his lips. His eyes moved downward. A little shiver overtook her. She had seen that look in his eyes before. She'd seen it so many times. It was the look he got in his eyes shortly before he would gently bend her over his desk, or before he would direct her onto the bed and tell her to pull her skirts up to her waist. It made her heart race then and it made her heart race now. She knew what it was then, as well as she knew what it was now. She felt another crushing wave of shame. A sliver of doubt entered her mind. It was like a painful little splinter of wood on the bottom of your foot after a summer day spent barefoot on the back porch, but it wedged into her already fragile brain like a little needle. She pushed it away and instead focused on her rage. He was to blame for this. He had deceived her.
One hand went to the small of her back, the other the side of her neck. He pulled her against him gently and lowered his head. She could feel him, warm and hard, pressed again her lower belly. He meant to kiss her, but she turned her face from his. His mustache tickled her cheek. The hand on her lower back held her to him more tightly, the hand on her neck moved to gently nudge her face back toward his.
"No!" she cried, slammed down on his chest and employing all her strength to be separated from him. She pressed at his chest hard and used more force to turn her head to the side. Unexpectedly, he released her, and she stumbled backward. She fell onto the couch and looked up, fearful he might choose to employ force. He did not. He simply stood there, gazing down at her with hard eyes.
He said with flushed cheeks, yanking at the bottom of his vest to straighten it, "You will be re-integrated into the household, only when you have proven to me, your attitude has improved."
He had left her there without saying anything else. She sat on the couch, staring off at the grey, raw winter day. She fell asleep on the couch, only to awaken from a terrible nightmare. She was awake long enough to see Dr. Luther injecting the needle into her arm, and then, silence.
Anne would bring her breakfast in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, and dinner in the evenings. She had a particularly violent episode during the winter months. Anne had bumped into the side table as she was collecting her dinner plates. The collection of books she had stacked there fell to the floor in a loud and violent crash.
She came to on the floor, half cradled by Dr. Cecil, his hands gently stroking her cheek. He was speaking to her softly. Anne was nearby, watching with concern on her face, hands clasped in front of her.
"You're safe," he was telling her. "You're quite safe."
She forgot for a moment, what he had done to her. She smiled at him, those hazel eyes bringing her a sense of security and safety. His hold on her was gentle and warm. She wanted to stay there forever. Slowly she began to blink, and that feeling of safety evaporated once more. She removed herself from his hold, but she allowed him to help her to her feet.
"Into bed," he had ordered her gently.
"I won't sleep," she said hoarsely. When she slept, she had nightmares. Terrible, terrible nightmares. And so, she simply did not sleep. Her body would not let her. Not until it had no more choice in the matter.
He retrieved the morphine from his pocket and put a few drops on her tongue. He lowered her head down to the pillow, gently rubbing her forehead, and he remained at her bedside until she found sleep. "Thank you, Doctor," she whispered over and over until she found blissful darkness.
More than once, he attempted to have sessions with her. He would sit in the chair in her room and ask her questions. She refused to speak to him. He would sit there for five to ten minutes before he would give up with a sigh and leave the room without anything said further.
She feared the increase of her episodes. She was deteriorating. Without the morphine, without him to talk to… but she was unwilling to voice these concerns to Dr. Cecil. Seeing him brought her too much pain. He reminded her of her own shame, her own foolishness.
On Christmas he brought her a small gift. It was a beautiful gold chain, a gold crucifix hanging from it, the body of Christ set in white gold. "I hope to see you wear it," he murmured to her softly, finger tips tracing along her collar bone. She stared at the gift, tears in her eyes. She placed the cover back on the box, placed it on the table, and looked away. His hand withdrew, and left her alone.
He brought her journal in with him one day. He wanted her to continue journaling, even if she would not speak to him. Do as she had before. Push herself.
"It was working," he told her. "We were getting somewhere."
She had said nothing, but she did as he asked. It was harder, now that she knew he would not be pressing her on her entries. She did not have him to lean on any longer. Before, she would sit there in terror, petrified to let those memories in once again. What they might bring her was too frightening to consider. But she knew he would be there to make it alright. He would give her that smile and everything would be better.
He had a way of listening. He'd watch with slightly widened eyes, a small upward tilt to his lips. It was comforting. And when she would breakdown and cry, and feel desperate and alone, he'd put his arm around her and hold her close to him and he would make her feel so… safe.
But that sense of safety was gone and her journal entries were not nearly as brave as they once had been. She no longer got through the door. She stopped on the bottom step. Instead, she wrote about her day, her boredom, her sadness, her hopelessness.
On days he came to see her, which was not every day, he would read her more recent entries. They did not please him and she struggled with the sense of shame she felt at the disappointment in his eyes. He would close the journal gently and place it down on the table.
"I am sorry you feel that way," he murmured one day. In truth, he looked defeated. He looked out her window, his eyes were wet. Whatever he considered saying, he decided not to voice it, and he shook his head and left her. He stopped reading the entries after that.
On the day that Mrs. Humphries had returned, the old woman gave her a thorough tongue lashing. Her lecture went about the same lines as Maude's, but it had more of a motherly reproachfullness to it.
"I knew this would happen," she said in exasperation. "When Dr. Cecil wrote to me, I was not surprised. He is far too altruistic. He spent far too much time on you. This is how you repay him. With these accusations. A man of such good standing. A surgeon during the war. Shame on you. Shame on you. He should put you on the third floor. I told him. His heart is too gentle. He refuses. I knew this would happen…You would destroy everything we have built here!"
She had spent the next three days crying in her room. Dr. Cecil did not refuse her the dose of morphine she had asked for. After three days without sleep, she had begged him. She had grabbed onto his arm as he tried to leave and begged through her tears. She'd die if he did not. She could not continue on through this agony. As she fell asleep, he remained in the room, petting her hair gently. How long he stayed after that, she could not say.
The only real change Mrs. Humphries's return brought was that she was required to continue with her needlepoint and sewing. She remained in her room and Mrs. Humphries would come in around noon, just after Anne retrieved her breakfast plates, and check on her progress.
It was something about the snow, maybe the coldness of her room that day, but on the first real storm of the year, sometime in late January, her will finally broke. She sat down on the couch as Anne came in to retrieve her dinner plates and wrapped the heavy winter robe around her body. She asked Anne to tell Dr. Cecil she needed to speak with him.
"I will get word to him," Anne vowed. Josephine knew she would. Only Maude seemed particularly angry with her still. She watched the grey day turn dark as she waited, straining her eyes to see the falling snow until the very last minute.
It was dark when her door creaked open, but still she remained, gazing out the black window with unfocused eyes. The door clicked softly and she listened to the clinking of the key in the lock. His footsteps were soft as they crossed the cold hard floor. He stopped in the middle of the room. Her heart began to pound. She hoped he brought morphine.
The deep rumble of his voice drew her attention. She turned her head to the left. She could see the crisp white of his coat in her periphery. He had his arms crossed behind his back, face grim. He looked so much like he looked on the first day she saw him. A handsome, if rather nondescript looking man with a severe look about him. Strong jaw, inquisitive eyes, low cheekbones, of taller than average height. He almost always looked serious, as though he was deep in thought. Even when he smiled, there was a little glimmer in his eyes that betrayed what was going on within. He seemed as much of a stranger to her now as she had when she first met him, but now, there was a painful, nagging, pull in her chest and a tightness in her throat. In struck her as a cruel joke, that the one confession she had yearned to hear for months, had laid in bed thinking about from the first time she had skittishly placed her fingers beneath her legs, had been the one confession that had had shattered whatever feeling of love she might have had budding for him.
She walked toward him slowly, pulling her robe around her on impulse. He looked severe, cold, and angry. He looked almost a stranger. His eyes remained pinned on her as she came closer. The only sign of anxiety was the subtle bob of his Adam's apple. Her hands, trembling ever so slightly, came up and touched the lapels of his coat. She ran her hands down the white fabric slowly. She looked back up and nodded slowly.
She watched his eyes light up. His lips parted and his shoulders stiffened. A puff of air rushed from his mouth and his lips warped into a tiny smile that resembled more of a snarl. His hand went to her face. His fingertips brushed over the skin of her cheekbone. His eyes darted across her face frantically. His touch was a warm graze of the fingers. She did not allow herself to find comfort in it.
As he lowered his mouth to hers, she flinched. A sharp sucking sound came from his lips as he took in a harsh breath and her face jerked to the side so fast, a pulse of pain rushed through her neck. He seized her by the chin with a firm grip of his hand. He held her face still, lips hovering over hers. "Kiss me," he ordered. He pressed his mouth to hers again. She remained still as stone. He pulled back to look at her better. "Suit yourself."
He turned to leave. She reached out and grabbed him by the lapels again. "No, No," she said, shaking her head. "I'm sorry."
She stepped closer to him. Timidly, she pressed her hands to the back of his neck. Applying minimal pressure, she pulled him downward and place a gentle kiss to his lips. It was chaste, gentle. He made no efforts to turn it lascivious. His own hand went to close around her neck. Still, the kisses remained tender and soft. His hand pulsed and he let out a contented sigh against her lips. Only then did he press his mouth to hers and part and his lips. The hand remained on her neck, making certain she could not flee from him. The other arm circled around her middle and pulled her close to him. His body was warm and firm. He had never kissed her like this, but she found familiar comfort in his arms. She did not allow herself to sink into the fading warmth of her morphine. She would not confuse her feelings again.
He pulled back from her, lifting the hand from her neck and smoothing it over the top of her head.
"Put your arms over your head," he instructed. She hesitated. Foolishly, she had believed it would be as it was before. Her insides quivered when she realized he had no obligation to pretense any longer. He could do as he pleased. He said curtly, "Do as I say, Josephine."
Fearful he would leave, she raised her slender arms up over her head and waited. He watched with smug satisfaction. Her eyes fluttered closed as his fingers collected her cotton gown as the waist. He balled the fabric up into balls before, very slowly, lifting it upward.
He pulled the gown over her head with a final flourish. He held it in a ball in front of him. Her nipples tightened as they were left bare in the cool air. She should have put on another log before he arrived. His eyes drunk in the sight of her greedily, but then, his head jerked toward the fireplace. Goosebumps erupted over her skin and he looked back to her body.
"I will warm you," he murmured. The back of his knuckles gently traced the side of her arm.
He let out another deep breath as he looked her over. Hands clasped between her legs, she turned her chin downward, fighting off the crippling humiliation with eyes squeezed shut. He wrapped his fingers around one of her wrists and pulled her hand away. He next retrieved the other, leaving the little mess of hair between her legs bare to his gaze.
"Don't hide from me," he murmured to her softly. He released her hands and put his hands to her waist. He prodded gently with his fingers. She was unable to lift her chin to look at him.
"We've laid together many times," he reminded her. "In this very bed."
"I remember," she answered.
"I would never hurt you, Josephine," he murmured. He lowered his lips to her neck. His kisses were soft and tender.
She nodded. Her body was stiff. Between her legs, her body quivered in anticipation. He moved his feet in shuffling steps, gently nudging her back toward the bed.
"It will be as it was before," His mouth left a scorching trail along her collarbone. "Say yes."
"Yes doctor," she answered. She let out a little noise as he pushed her down onto the bed.
"Do you want some morphine?" he asked her tenderly. He looped his arms under her legs and dragged her to the edge of the bed. "Will that relax you?"
"Yes," she answered with shaky breath. She feared he might be angry, but instead, he nodded without any sign of anger. He dug into his white coat and retrieved three small vials in his hand. He read the labels thoughtfully.
"I am going to give you a new drug," he told her, putting two of the other vials back into his pocket. "It is supposed to be less addictive than morphine. A doctor from England just wrote a fascinating paper on it. It is safe, I assure you. I would not give it you if it was not."
"I trust you." The words spilled from her lips before she could help them. He glanced up at her, staring dumbly. But she shook her head and looked down. He did not press the issue. It was only after she accepted the drops that she asked, "what is it called?"
"They call it diamorphine," he answered, putting the vial back into his pocket. "Another name is heroine."
He removed his coat and began to unbutton his vest. His eyes raked over her as he did so. She fought the urge to cover herself. Instead, she looked up at the canopy above her, embracing the warmth of the medication. The sound of his suspenders snapping over his shoulders drew her gaze.
His mouth found hers again and as his hands worked between her legs to ready her, she closed her eyes and let the drug take hold of her. He had not given her very much but the feeling was quite exquisite. A gasp rushed from her when she felt the hot, dampness of his tongue upon a nipple. Her hands went to fist his hair tightly, ruining the neatly combed part. He continued his attentions with his mouth a few more moments before pulling back.
"That hurts," he told her before putting his mouth back on hers. Her hands remained in his hair, tugging each time his thumb brushed against her clitoris. His fingers plucked at her hardening nipple. One hand went down to clamp over his as he rolled the swollen flesh between his fingers.
He was breathing heavily and pushed her thighs apart with a gruffness in his touch. He did not hurt her. In fact, he entered her with great ease. His body was heavy on top of hers. He was pressed to her tightly, arms on either side of her head, lips to her ear. With each thrust, which were hard, fast, and deep, he grunted loudly in her ear, hot puffs of air colliding against her cheek.
He let out a low groan as he climaxed, open mouth pressed to the side of her face. He remained on top of her some time, breathing hard, placing kisses long her neck and collar bone.
He stroked her forehead, pushing back some sweaty dark locks from her face. Her eyes fluttered open to look at him in the darkening room. "The fire is going out," she observed. He blinked and then turned his head to look. He removed himself from her, pulled his trousers back up and slipped the suspenders over his shoulders. He was bare chested as he bent down and retrieved a log from the stack by the fire place. His body was slender, with lean muscle just visible beneath the pale skin.
"I will be sure that Anne keeps the fire stoked," he said. She did not answer. She collected her nightgown from the foot of the bed and pulled it on over her head. He remained by the fire place, hand on the mantel, but he watched her with a purposeful gaze.
"Anne will come to help you dress for the day in the morning. I will be sure Mrs. Humphries knows you will be attending breakfast."
Again, she did not respond. She merely slid beneath the covers. Now that he was off of her, she was growing cold. He bent down to collect his shirt. She watched him dress, the blankets pulled up to her chin. Once the white coat was back on, he came to sit on the bed.
"How do you feel?" he asked her. He clarified without hesitation. "With the heroine?"
He did not want to know how she felt about what had just happened. If he had, she was not sure how she would be able to answer.
"Well," she answered. He nodded. He lifted his thumb and placed it underneath an eye. He pulled down and looked at her closely. He got a crease between his eyebrows when he was examining a patient. He checked the other eye.
"It should work as well as the morphine to keep the nightmares away." The pad of his thumb brushed along her bottom lip. She thought he might kiss her one last time, but he merely stood. "Good night."
She did not say anything and watched him silently slip from the room without another word.
The next day went quite smoothly. Anne came in just after seven to help her dress. Dr. Cecil came in at quarter of eight to administer a small amount of morphine. She asked him why he did not give her the heroine, but he simply frowned at her and shook his head. He hardly spoke to her and after taking her pule and looking at her eyes and in her mouth, he left the room.
She was greeted warmly by the other patients. Elizabeth was very happy to see her. She and Mable got into an argument at breakfast over the fact that Elizabeth decided to sit next to Josephine. Frank and James were very kind and told her how happy they were that she was feeling better. She tried to swallow down the embarrassment that everyone in the house believed she had imagined a relationship with Dr. Cecil, or that she had tried to lie to get him into trouble during an episode, or that she was in love with him and he had spurned her. Mrs. Humphries was distant initially, but at sewing class, the old woman stood over her shoulder for some time, watching her work. Just before walking away, she rested a hand on the top of her hand in a warm and maternal show of affection.
Dr. Cecil came in to check on her just after lunch. He found her in the library looking through the atlas.
"I have long been curious of Egypt," he said from over her shoulder. She had not heard him come and jumped at the sound of his voice. They must have been well alone, because he placed his hand to her shoulder and gently stroked the side of her neck with bent knuckles. "I think when I marry, I shall take my wife there for honeymoon. They have tours now. You can go the length of the Nile."
His fingers gently played with a loose girl at the back of her neck. "Do you think my wife would enjoy that?"
"I think she will," Josephine answered. His hand withdrew.
"We will have our afternoon session at two o'clock," he told her. "Bring your journal."
"I will not talk to you," she called softly. His retreat ceased and he came back to stand behind her. He knelt down by her chair and looked up at her, eyes quite alert, face neutral.
"No?" he asked softly. She looked down. She could not meet his gaze.
"I'll give you what you've asked for," she whispered. "Nothing else."
"What if I put you back into your room?" he murmured softly. "Withheld your morphine?"
"Then I will resume my resistance to your attentions," she answered. She lifted her gaze long enough to show how serious she was.
"Very well," he said, rising to his feet. "Then forget your journal. Be prepared to spend the afternoon on your back."
He slammed his fist down on the table and she tensed. She sucked in a deep, violent breath. It sounded very much like a sob. He halted in sudden realization of what he had done. He stared down at her with hard eyes, waiting to see how she would react. His reaction distracted her. She looked up at him, eyes wet, lower lip trembling.
"Two o'clock," he told her and then was gone.
When she arrived in his office, he was writing at his desk. It had been some time since she had been inside his office. She looked around with a sad curve of her lips. She pulled the door shut with a soft click and took her seat. He did not greet her. He looked up, let his eyes run over her briefly, and then went back to his writing.
When he stood, he went into his drawer to retrieve the key to the door. She watched him cross the room, lock the door, and then return to his desk. She rose as he slowly slid the drawer shut, careful not to make any loud noises. He watched her approach silently. The look on his face was quite impossible to read. It was immovable as stone, blank and expressionless, and yet there was great passion bubbling just beneath the surface.
She turned from him and put her hands on the desk. She hoped when he put his hands on her, one on her shoulder and one on her hip, he would bend her over with the same tenderness he did before. She waited, lower lips trembling, tears coming to her eyes. She readied for it. He had been so angry this afternoon, she suspected it would be harsh and abrupt.
His hand closed around her shoulder. She squeezed her eyes shut but his other hand did not go to her hip and he did not force her over. Instead, he gently turned her and tilted her chin upward. Her eyes fluttered closed as his lips brushed over her cheekbone. He kissed her nose, her jaw, her forehead.
He surprised her by bringing her over to the couch. Rarely had he taken her there. He kissed her some while. His hands groped at her. She was ashamed by the feelings that surged inside of her. His hand slipped between her legs. She squeezed her thighs shut, terrified of what he would find there. He forced his hand further, instructing her between wet kisses to open her legs for him. She did, and his fingers pushed inside of her.
"You want it as badly as I do, Josephine," he murmured against her lips. His fingers pressed into her deep, steady, and slow. His thumb brushed against her clitoris and she sucked in a breath. "You can lie to me, you can lie to yourself, but your body does not lie…"
"That's not true," she protested.
"Don't lie to me," he said, kissing her again. "I'm your doctor. You can trust me."
"Stop," she breathed.
"I'll take care of you. You'll be safe."
"Stop," she demanded again, more firmly. She could not stand those lies. They tugged at a part of her so deep and so raw that the words giving him exactly what he wanted were on the tip of her tongue. She'd wanted it so badly.
"Say it, Josephine. Say you'll be mine, and I'll take such good care of you," he pressed, touching her cheek. She pushed back pushed at him hard.
"Stop!" she demanded, a tear slipping from her eye. "I hate you," she told him. "I'll never be yours."
He nodded, lips parted, tongue pressed to his bottom lip. "So be it, then," he said. He grabbed her quite forcefully and flipped her over on the couch. She protested weakly, wincing when he pushed her skirts up around her hips and grabbed her hard around the waist.
He did not hurt her. It was the shame that made it necessary to bite down on the pillow and smother her tears. When he finished, he left her here to pull her own skirts back down to cover herself. She sucked in a deep breath, tears dribbling down her cheeks. She watched him return to his desk and retrieve the key. He ran a hand through his hair, calmed his breathing, and then unlocked the door.
"Oh, stop your blubbering," he scolded. "I've fucked you countless times before."
The coarseness of his words brought another little cry from her. She'd never felt so ashamed of herself. How could she have let this happen. What he must think of her, to treat her this way. The mere thought of it was so painful to her.
"Collect yourself, Josephine, or I'll have Maude come to fetch you," he said. She nodded and wiped her note with the back of her wrist. She looked toward the window, eyes wide. He sighed and rummaged through a drawer. She flinched when he sat down beside her.
"This is how you want it," he told her. She watched him press a needle into the vial and pull the liquid into the syringe. "Not how I want it. I'd make you my wife. You'd rather be a whore. Give me your arm."
She obeyed. She did not want him to get any angrier. She wanted to ask him if he thought that… that she was a whore. He was very good at injections. She almost never felt any pain. She preferred this method. It was always a better feeling, more intense, more euphoric.
"Is that the heroine?" she asked him, voice hoarse. His eyes flickered over her face. He looked back down to her arm. He pressed a small swatch of cloth to the injection site and slowly pulled the needle from her arm.
"Yes," he answered. He took on of her hands and placed it over the cloth pressed to her arm. "Hold it there until you have returned to your room."
"Yes doctor," she whispered, closing her eyes. Warmth slowly spread up her arm and through the rest of her body. Her worries slowly began to fade from her and she felt a beautiful moment of peace and relaxation.
"Stand up," he instructed. She slowly shook her head, sinking against the couch. "Josephine," he said, rather tenderly. He took hold of her by the upper arms and brought her to her feet. She was only partially aware of his bringing her toward the door.
"Ah, Anne," he said. His voice was far away. She slowly swayed her head from side to side. "Bring Josephine up to her room. She had another particularly bad episode and needs her rest."
"Of course," Anne said. "Come on now, love. Look at you. You look like you've been through it." Anne gently patted her pasty cheeks.
She did not remember getting to the stairs, but she awoke that evening. Anne was there to get her ready for dinner.
The Doctor came in to greet them at dinner as he always did. He had his handsome grin on his face, hands buried in his white coat as he went down the line, making small conversation with a few of the ladies. His eyes lingered on her, a tight smile on his face. She looked down to her food. Her breathing grew a bit more labored. She felt red blotches begin to erupt over her chest and neck. He moved on from her and she was able to calm herself.
She was surprised when he slipped into her room that night. But then again, he had always demonstrated an impressive stamina. She had been asleep. She felt the blankets pulled from her and then he slid in beside her.
"Shh, it's me," he whispered quietly. He did not waist any time. He pressed himself to her and slowly pushed into her. There was some resistance but not much pain. His face stayed pressed to her neck, his body pressed close to hers. And as quickly and quietly as he had arrived, he was gone.
She did not find sleep after that. The feeling of him inside of her lingered. The smell of him was on her pillow. His words remained in her head. Whore. That's what he had called her. And it was true. She was a whore. She'd let him touch her that way because deep down inside of her she had wanted him to. Did she really believe it would cure her? She could no longer remember. Perhaps she hadn't believed it. From the first, it was him she thought of when she had tried to bring herself to orgasm. Every moment, from the first moment his fingers had brushed against her, she had been present in those moments. The smell of him, his warmth, his smile, his laugh, the way he would stare at her from across a room. And now she was a whore.
That was the last night that she cried. After that, when he would take her, whether it be in her room or in his office, no tears would fall. He spoke to her very little. He made no more proposals, no more promises of love and marriage, protection and safety.
Occasionally, he would tell her how beautiful she was. Sometimes, his words were quite shocking. Vulgar, vile things that she would never dare repeat. But his words were never hateful or degrading. Not since the day in the office when he first used that word. He didn't need to say it any longer. She felt it in his touch.
On one very warm day, she entered his office to find the windows open. She walked over to it, sticking her head out and breathing in the fresh air. He rose from his desk but did not retrieve the key to the door as he always did.
"We will walk in the gardens," he instructed. He added coolly, "Do not fear. I will not try to talk to you."
He was true to his word. They walked through the budding bushes. The sun was warm, but the breeze was cold. After her second shiver, he removed his coat and put it over her shoulders. His hands caressed her shoulders through the coat and then he stepped away.
"Thank you, doctor," she murmured to him. He nodded.
The walks continued throughout the month of March. They walked nearly every day. It was at night that he would find his gratification in her body.
"The roses will bloom soon," she said at the end of March. He reached out and examined a bud. He nodded thoughtfully. "I love roses."
His gaze lifted up from the bud. They remained on her. He looked very sad. Then he nodded and turned, continuing to walk slowly through the garden.
"Would gardening lift your spirits?" he asked a few days after. "Would you like to help Mrs. Humphries tend garden?"
"Oh, I would love that," she answered honestly. "Would she allow it?"
"She would," he answered. "I will tell her."
"Thank you, Doctor," she smiled. "Thank you."
Indeed, the gardening did lift her spirits and she and the doctor fell into a nice little routine. She would tend the garden in the morning, walk the gardens with him in the afternoon, and he would come to her room at night. Sometimes, he would remain in bed with her afterward and she would fall asleep with him there. When she awoke, he was gone.
"You are enjoying the gardening?" he asked her one day as they walked the flowers.
"Very much," she answered. "May I show you?"
"Of course," he answered, a small smile coming to his lips. They then walked toward the vegetable garden she now tended. She had chosen strawberries, green beans, and tomatoes. She explained to him that day how one must care of each plan and showed him how they thrived. He watched with hands clasped behind his back, a small nod to his head, a little smile on his lips.
He had her play the piano on Wednesday and Friday evenings. He enjoyed hearing her sing. Throughout these evenings, she would occasionally glance in his direction. Almost always she found his gaze on her. When she felt overwhelmed, or thought that an episode might be particularly bad, no matter where she was, her eyes would search him out. When she found his gaze on her, a small smile on his lips, she felt the terror, and fear, and anxiety begin to leave her.
She was settling into her new life rather comfortably when May twelfth brought the arrival of visitors to the asylum. Excited chatter filled the rooms during sewing class when Hattie hurried in and made an announcement a carriage had come. Without heed to Mrs. Humphries direct orders to the contrary, the women rose from their seats and hurried to the front drawing room to gaze out the windows.
Josephine followed slowly, hanging to the back, and only peering out the window once most of the others had left the room to get a better view. She pulled the curtain to the side and gazed outside at the newcomers.
A rotund man of middle age stepped from the carriage, followed by an older woman of a fair complexion and a slim build. Last exited a beautiful woman, young, with pale skin and blond hair. She was dressed in a very tasteful dress, if quite yankee in its style.
The doctor hurried down the front steps, extending an arm in a stationary wave. He shook the man's hand heartily and greeted the older woman with a charming bow and kiss to her hand. Josephine's eyes stared at the young woman as he greeted her.
In a house full of women, it did not take long for rumors to fill every corner of the asylum. The truth came from Elizabeth, who heard from Hattie, who heard from Jane, who heard from Maude, who had spoken to Anne, who had been instructed to tell Mary that she was to ready a spare room from their guests.
Mr. Edward Blythnik and his wife, Mrs. Astrid Blythnik, had arrived at the asylum with their daughter, the beautiful, nineteen-year-old Miss. Rose Blythnik, to tour and observe the facility. Mr. Blythnik was quite the philanthropist and now that he no longer had the abolitionist movement to help fund, he had turned his sights on the mentally ill.
"How long will they stay?" Josephine asked Anne as she readied for bed the night of their arrival.
"A week, no more," Anne answered.
"Will Miss Blythnik be joining us?" she asked. Anne smiled and retrieved Josephine's robe from the bench.
"Oh no, Miss Blythnik is quite healthy. Doctor Cecil met the family during one of his visits to New York. He and Rose make a fine match, don't you think? There's been talk he is looking for a wife to help run the asylum with him. Mrs. Humphries won't live forever."
Josephine did not answer. She looked off to the side, lips parting. Her throat went dry and her face flushed red. She was suddenly very very hot.
"Oh, Josephine… do you still…"
"He is my doctor," Josephine answered. "Nothing more. I understand that."
Anne smiled kindly. "Good." She placed a gentle hand to Josephine's cheek. "Dr. Cecil has told me to give you your morphine dose for the night. He is taking the evening off to keep company with the Blythniks. He'll only see patients if required of him."
Josephine nodded dumbly. She asked Anne for a little bit more once Anne withdrew her hand. She looked uncertain. "Dr. Cecil gives me more at night. So, I can sleep. That's not nearly what he usually gives me," she lied. Anne looked unsure but eventually relented. Josephine was able to find sleep without much struggle.
She awoke in the morning. Dr. Cecil had not awoken her that night. While in the gardening, hands dug deep into the fresh soil, she heard voices approaching from behind her. She heard his rich rumble and turned her head over her shoulder. Miss Blythnik walked beside him, her parents taking up the rear.
"It is so lovely what you have done here, Doctor," Rose complimented him. Her voice was soft and feminine. She had a kind smile on her lips and rosy cheeks. "So many treat the afflicted as animals."
"I believe in treating the mentally ill humanely, with compassion," he said, directing a tender gaze and a kind smile at the young socialite. Josephine stared, hands still deep in the soil.
"A fine place you've given them," Mr. Blythnik said. He was sweating badly. He wiped his forehead with his handkerchief. "A place they may find peace, without forcing the healthy to mix with them."
Josephine looked up at Dr. Cecil. He had stopped somewhat close to her. If she had the desire or inclination, she could reach out and grab onto his pant leg. His gaze did not leave Rose. He winked at her and a small, playful smile came to her lips. She raised a hand to her lips to smother her giggle shyly.
Josephine hated her. Not many years ago, Josephine had done the very same with her own suitors. She had been the woman the entire state hoped to marry. The kind of woman those three states over hoped to marry. Now she was a mental patient, a lunatic, kneeling in filth, hands submerged deep into dirt. Whore. The word ripped cruelly through her brain.
"It is my goal to be fully self-sustaining within five years. We are very close."
"That would be quite impressive," Mrs. Blythnik said.
"Allow me to show you where we keep the hogs and cows," Dr. Cecil said. He led them back down the walkway through the roses. He had not given her so much as a glance. She watched them pass the rose bushes. He plucked a flower from the bush and put it behind her ear. They both shared warm, familiar smiles.
She got to her room before she began to cry. It was a strange, violent kind of sobbing, but it was like nothing she had ever experienced before. Her breathing was hard, fast, and loud, tears came to her eyes but did not fall. She grabbed a pillow and whipped it at a mirror. She grabbed at her hair and pulled, hoping the pain might distract her from the violent beating of her heart.
The next thing she knew, she was being pulled off the floor by gentle, warm hands. Mrs. Humphries was speaking, soft and fast, but she could not understand the words. She felt a slight stinging on her forehead, and when she pulled her fingers from the spot, she found blood, red, hot, and wet, smeared on her finger tips.
"Josephine," she heard her doctor say softly. She looked up at him, blinking rapidly. "You fainted."
"Oh, I… I was not feeling well," she answered. He gently pressed a rag to her upper lip. It was then she realized her nose had been bleeding.
"Did you have an episode?" he asked. His hand was on the back of her neck. He squeezed gently and she felt some comfort in it.
"I think so," she answered. He did a quick examination of her. He helped her to her feet and handed her off to Anne.
"Get her cleaned up." He looked her over with a frown.
Her skirt was dirty from the garden. Dirt was caked under nails, her skin stained. She could feel the caked dirt from when she had pulled at her hair, felt the stains on her face. She felt a crushing sense of inadequacy. Images of Miss Blythnik, flower in her hair, came to her mind, and she could not understand this feeling of dread that had taken root in the pit of her stomach. It threatened to overwhelm her once more.
"Mrs. Humphries, you will administer medicines tonight if you would be so kind? I'll be hosting our guests to dinner in my office."
"Of course, doctor," she said grimly.
The doctor turned to leave and Josephine called after him. He turned, waiting with a lifted brow. He appeared so cool, so detached. Her trembled somewhat violently and her eyes darted around to those in the room. Was it the audience that had inspired this sudden coldness or the arrival of Miss Blythnik? She found it cruel regardless, that he would do what did to her, and then act as though she were nothing to him.
"It is no matter," she answered. He waited.
"It is something," he answered. "Tell me." His voice offered no room for argument. She swallowed thickly.
"I feel quite…overwhelmed," she admitted. He nodded thoughtfully and came closer. He patted his pockets. She cursed their audience as he administered the morphine. If they were not there, she would have given him permission to hold her if he desired it. He had not touched her last night. Surely, he was in need of her. She breathed in deeply through her nose. She smelt dirt and blood, and just breaking through that, the smell of his aftershave.
Instead, she said nothing and laid back onto the bed. Anne scolded her, reminding her they needed to clean her first. The Doctor left the room without a glance back in her direction.
She refused to go to dinner that night. Mrs. Humphries did not fight her much on it. She claimed her head hurt too badly and Mrs. Humphries protests ceased. As she left the room, she muttered something about taking advantage because the doctor was absent.
Once again, she was not awoken in the night by the doctor climbing into bed with her. When she was awakened by Anne that morning, she looked around the room for any sign he had come last night and she had simply slept through it. She found none.
On her way to breakfast, as Elizabeth happily bounded down the stairs, Mable behind her, and slid her arm into Josephine's, she caught sight of Dr. Cecil in the sunny drawing room, taking breakfast with his guests. He was leaning back, legs crossed, chuckling happily about something that had been said. Elizabeth dragged her around the staircase and into the dining room where their breakfast awaited them.
Three days passed in which she did not see the Doctor at all. He cancelled their scheduled sessions and had Mrs. Humphries provide her with her nightly medicines. The Blythniks interviewed with a number of the patients, asking them about the hospital and how they liked it. Josephine was not asked to meet with them.
On one of the last evenings with the Blythniks in attendance, they had a little gathering in the parlor. Josephine remained in the corner with Elizabeth as Rose played the piano and sang her pretty songs. Her gaze was not on the beautiful young woman though. Her eyes were fixed intently on the doctor. He wore a tan suit. She did not like it. He looked better in brown or dark grey. The tan suit was new. She wondered if Rose liked men in tan suits, and if the Doctor knew that.
Because of the increase in her episodes the past few days, Dr. Cecil had given her an added dose of morphine before the get together. Mrs. Humphries had given it to her but informed her as she did so that the Doctor did not want her to be nervous of an episode in front of guests. Josephine thought he simply did not want her to embarrass him.
So, when his eyes darted over to lock on hers, her reaction time was severely retarded. His facial expression did not change, his head did not move, but his hazel darted were on her in a moment. They sat there, eyes locked, until her brain registered the need to look away. She pinned her eyes on Rose and did her best to keep a smile on her lips.
At the end of the night, as Josephine made to leave the room, she chanced another look at Dr. Cecil. He was talking to Mr. Blythnik, but his eyes were elevated over the short man's head and pointed in direction of the stout little man's daughter. She was seated on the piano bench, staring at him with flushed cheeks and a coy smile.
Josephine returned to her room. She asked Anne for a small dose of morphine. She wanted to know if she was sleeping through the night and missing his visits. She realized around midnight that she had not been missing his visits. He simply wasn't visiting.
Angry tears threatened to spill. He was not only a scoundrel and an immoral man, but he was a liar as well. No doubt it was Miss Blythnik's bedroom he was sneaking into this past week, whispering promises of marriage into her ear. She wondered if Rose believed him or not.
She lay in bed, staring out the window, until the sky turned red and the sun began to rise. As Anne helped her dress, she lamented, "Did you sleep last night?"
"A little," Josephine lied.
She learned at breakfast that Dr. Cecil had left that morning to go into the city. He would return before long. Hattie burst into tears when she heard the news. Josephine stared at her numbly. Josephine retreated to the solitude of her room for the day, claiming another headache. Mrs. Humphries ordered she work on her sewing if she was going to be obstinate.
As she shut her door, she saw spots in her eyes. She swayed and when she came to, she was seated on the ground, one arm draped over the seat of a chair, her forehead in her hands. She remained there. It was a comfortable position, and the mere thought of standing brought an anxious beating to her heart. She found comfort on the floor and she passed some hours in that position.
She assumed it was Mrs. Humphries come to check on her sewing when the door opened but the door clicked shut. She looked up and found the doctor standing there, hands clasped behind his back, a frown on his face.
"You've deteriorated this week. Quite rapidly. Will you tell me why?" he observed coolly.
"No," she answered simply.
He pinned a hard stare at her. He breathed, "Josephine, you look terrible."
"You are charming."
His voice was soft. "I am very sorry you hate me so much, Josephine. I'm very sorry for it."
She stared at him, lips parted, breathing elevated ever so slightly.
"But this pertains to your health. I demand an answer."
She looked up from her spot on the floor, a tired, spiteful smile coming to her lips. "Your newfound concern coincides directly with Miss Blythnik's departure from the home."
An eyebrow quirked.
"Am I to believe it is jealously that has inspired this sudden deterioration then?"
"Your neglect of me is the inspiration, sir, nothing else," she responded.
"My neglect of you?" he asked from his spot by the door. He gazed down at her imperiously. How could he be so cold? After all he had done. "I have kept you medicated, fed, I have attended to you after ever episode."
"You –" she began, color rising to her cheeks. She fell silent and lowered her face to her hands.
"Ah," he said. She could hear the mocking curve of his lips. Pain sliced through her heart and she turned to look up at him. He was not the man she had believed he was, to turn so hateful after she rejected his proclamation of love. It was clear to her now, he had never really loved her.
But as her eyes found him, she was surprised to find his gaze on the floor, his eyes thoughtful and reticent. He murmured thoughtfully, "So, it was jealously that has wounded you."
"You deceive yourself if you believe that," she snapped with such vehemence that she saw spots in her eyes.
"Indeed," he said. "Then allow me to free you of me."
She looked up, brow knitting. She felt a nervous trembling in her limbs.
"It is true. Miss Blythnik is a great beauty. Well-bred, educated. She comes with a grand home in southern Vermont. It was her grandmothers, left to her by will. Not mention her dowry. And she has a singular interest in those afflicted with emotional and mental derangement. She has a gentle heart. I find her manners pleasing and we were able to converse at great length with little strain."
Her eyelids fluttered, but she kept her face upturned. She was once again struck with the pathetic nature of her current position. Pale, hair limp and ratty, circles around her eyes. Not a tenth of the woman she was when she came to this hospital.
He came to her in earnest then, kneeling down in front of her and taking her hands in his. "Tell me now, Josephine, that you wish for me to close my heart to you at once, turn my affections wholly toward Miss Blythnik, and return you to the status of patient in my eyes. Tell me true, that is what you want."
She was able to hold his gaze. She felt that familiar warmth he used to inspire in her. When he would walk into a room, when she would feel his gaze on her. Inexplicably, the thought of separating from him now, she was not ready for that.
She lowered her head and pressed a hand to her face. She erupted into tears. She hated herself. Her brain felt as though she was splintered in two, caught between two different paths, longing for both as forcefully as she was repulsed by them.
"You may fight me all you like, Josephine. If you need to make me the villain in your story, you may. You will not be whole until you accept the truth of it. You knew what we were doing was wrong, and yet you did not shy away from it. You were eager and passionate. How else to bring you to climax, but through your own desire and passion? Was it not through a desire for my person? We both had the same need for the other, but you are unwilling to accept your own sin. The conflict is tearing you apart."
She shook her head. "No," she protested. "I believed… I believed it."
"Perhaps you did," he relented. His touch was welcome. Soft, tender hands stroked her head. She leaned to the side, pressing herself more firmly into his hands. "But was my admission of love so shocking to you? The hours we spent together. Surely, you saw that our relationship was no longer of doctor and patient, but man and woman. I will always be your doctor, but also your lover. The sooner you stop fighting this, the sooner you will find peace of mind."
"Even if that is true," she countered, drawing her hands from her face and looking upward. "What of now? If I see my sin for what you claim it to be, I wish to stop. I asked you to let me go. You've refused. You've turned me into your slave."
"Perhaps," he agreed. "And do not think I am not tormented by own wrongdoing. I once considered myself a good man. I have accepted some time ago now that I am not. I am too selfish to let you go. No other man will know you as I have."
She looked down but he grabbed her chin and forced her to look up. "Unless," he began forcefully. "You tell me now that you will find true happiness being apart from me. That it brings you no pain to think of my love for you decimated, and my passions instead pointed entirely toward another woman. Tell me now, Josephine, and I promise to you, I will never touch you again."
She said instead, "You let me suffer this week." She accused, "You neglected me."
He reached up, placing a hand to her cheek. He whispered, "Too many in the house. Mrs. Humphries eyes are always on me now. A small part of her believes you," he admitted.
She closed her eyes and lowered her face to her hands again. She was suddenly very tired. She wanted to weep but did not have the energy. He collected her weak body into his arms and cradled her there on the floor. He rested his cheek on the top of her head, she pressed her face into his neck. She mumbled into his throat, "You chose her over me."
He did not react to her. She was not sure if he heard her or not. He tilted her face upward and kissed her.
"You must trim your mustache tomorrow," she instructed. A small smile came to his lips.
"I will," he promised. He trailed his fingers along her lips. "Rose Blythnik is beautiful," he told her. "And also, vapid and shallow. Vain, insipid, dull, trivial… She pales in comparison to you. Believe me, Josephine, my affections for you have never wavered. I am most constant. And this revelation of jealously," his voice dropped. "It inspires a hope in my breast that I dare not foster."
"It is wise you do not," she answered.
"I won't," he replied. He removed himself from her and pulled her to a standing position. He guided her to the bed with a hand to her hip. He laid her down and straddled her, one foot on the ground, one knee pressed to the bed, and plucked at the fasteners in the front of her bodice. She laid there, making no efforts to stop him, but doing nothing to assist him either.
The look of appreciation in his eyes when he undressed her always brought her some semblance of pleasure. She thought back to that day in the garden, covered and dirt, blood, and tears. She sucked in a sharp breath and his gaze moved upward.
"Is there anything I can say to you? Anything at all? That will convince you to marry me?" he asked her.
Tell me you're sorry. That you were wrong. That you'll let me go because you're hurting me so badly, and I'll marry you in a heartbeat.
"No," she answered.
He shook his head. "Something I can do? What if I locked you up? Isolated you again. Put you on the third floor. What then?"
"There is nothing you could do or say that would bring me to bind my soul to yours for a lifetime."
A puff of air rushed from his nostrils and he looked to the side. He resumed undressing her, placing kisses to every bit of skin he revealed as he revealed it. She continued to lay their passively, heart pounding as she watched his passion grow. She wanted reassurances but she dare not ask for them. Did he have any moment in that past few days where he lay in bed and let his thoughts wander to what Rose looked like stripped down. Had he stripped her down in his mind. Had he put his mouth to her breasts in his mind. Did his blood get hot for her?
"You may not be my wife," he told her as her pushed up her shift around her waist. "But you are mine regardless."
He forced her legs apart before he gripped her waist and nudged her back. He got onto the bed and fell atop of her. He panted against her. He was not as talkative as he usually was.
"Doctor," she breathed. She wasn't sure what she wanted to say. She just wanted him to talk.
"Josephine?" he asked against her ear. He sucked on her earlobe. His tongue was hot and wet along the shell of her ear.
"Just – Just…"
"What?" he asked.
Something suddenly bubbled up inside of her. A violent rush. Something she could not control and she began, "Doctor, I –"
"My name," he cut her off. He put his hand over her mouth as he continued his thrusts. "Use my name. Luther."
"No," she whispered.
"Yes," he urged. "Luther."
"You're my doctor," she answered. He groaned and she wrapped her arms around him and held him closer to her. "Doctor –"
She felt his body tense and then with a violent tremble, he climaxed inside of her. He was usually quite methodical about making sure she found her own climax. He would point to it. See how you react for me? Is it for me or are you just a whore? He has asked her that one night and she had erupted into a fit of tears. He had not asked her that again, but he did continue to make sure she found pleasure.
As he usually did, he remained inside of her. He peppered gentle kisses along her jaw, cheeks, neck and breasts.
"I couldn't get to you," he said, breath hot against her flesh. "I left my room every night – I kept running into James or Anne. I just couldn't risk it. Mrs. Humphries suspects our true relationship. I see the way she looks at me. That cold, silent judging. I think my interactions with Miss Blythnik have calmed her suspicions."
She nodded. He lowered his face again, placing kisses to her throat and collar bone. Finally, he rolled off of her. There was some awkward fumbling, but she let him put her under the covers with him. The lay apart from another, staring up at the ceiling. He sighed and tapped a thumb against his chest.
"Do you hate me still?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered. He continued to stare, thumb tapping.
"When you close your eyes and think of your future, am I ever in it?"
She could not answer. Her throat closed up and her eyes filled with tears. Her jaw contorted and her lips parted. The slow, but audible, intake of breath drew his gaze. He asked her then, very softly, "Are you happy?"
She might have moved her head. She wasn't sure. It would have been small, hardly notable shake of her head. He looked back to the canopy of her bed. A few moments passed and he got out of the bed. She scooted back to the edge of the bed and pulled herself into a sitting position to watch him dress.
"Do you want to take dinner in your room tonight?" he asked her. She nodded. Once dressed he came to stand in front of her. He took her face in his hands. The pad of his thumb gently caressed her cheek.
"My love for you is constant," he told her. "So long as you are mine, I will love you faithfully."
He did not wait for a response or a reaction. He bent down and placed a kiss to her forehead. She watched him walk from the room without a word.
After her confession, or rather, or lack of denial, he became freer with his affection. Her episodes slowed, her mind began to clear, and she felt, for the first time in a very long time, quite at peace.
She had particularly bad day when she came to her afternoon session. He had been examining his journal and observed dryly, "One of us is barren."
"I'm sorry?" she had asked.
"It's been months," he said. "God knows I've tried…"
She had erupted into a fit of tears. Of course, it was her. She had a malady of the mind, why not of the body. Realizing how cruel his words had been, he hurried to her, collecting her in his arms and cradling her gently.
"It is no matter," he told her. "It could very well be me. Do not fret yourself."
"A woman who cannot give birth is no woman at all!" she cried.
"No, no, no," he told her. She leaned into him, desperate for comfort. "That is not true at all. Do you think your worth comes down to procreation? I do not believe that. You speak French. Spanish. You're educated."
"No man will take a wife that cannot bare children."
"I would," he answered. "If it was you."
She had pulled him down to her. She wanted to feel the closeness of him. They had spent most of that session lying on the couch.
She still did not talk to him, but she did not object when he ordered she read to him. She would arrive for their sessions at 2 o'clock and sit down to read. He thoroughly enjoyed her reading to him in French. He presented a book to her one day, wrapped in brown paper. She was quite happy to find one of her favorites within. He had written to her father. He had sent her books up in a large crate that had arrived just that morning.
He did not understand a word of it, but he sat at his desk listening intently, a smile on his lips. She would look up more than once as she read to see if he was looking at her or not. He almost was.
He would always stop her toward the end of their session and sit down beside her. He was content just to kiss her. Sometimes, he would masturbate her. It struck her as odd when he did this. Often, he would allow her to leave without requiring anything in return.
Most of his free time, he spent with her. Mrs. Humphries would cast disapproving glances in their direction, but the doctor no longer seemed to care. She would not risk losing her job. If she were to be totally honest, her life was not at all unpleasant, and even when he would slip into her bedroom at night, she found some warmth at his arrival.
Things went along that was until the end of July. She walked into his office to start their session, a small smile on her face, her book tucked underneath her arm. The window was closed. It was far too hot out to let in any of the thick, heavy summer air. She was surprised to find him standing behind his desk, a dark frown pulling his face downward.
"Doctor?" she asked, taking her seat on the couch. He looked up. A cold, tight smile slowly spread across his face. He said nothing. He merely continued to stare, eyes widened ever so slightly. "What is the matter?"
"I must offer you congratulations," he said to her. Her brow knitted together. He had no reason to be angry with her, and she had no cause for congratulations. Her mouth gaped. "By the end of the month you shall be free of me."
"I – I – what do you mean?"
"It is quite simple, Josephine. You are leaving. The end of the month your father will arrive, he will sign you out, and he will take you away."
He looked down at the letter. She was unable to process the news fully.
"The next month we need to renew our efforts. Real sessions, Josephine, you must speak to me. Two sessions a day. In the morning and in the afternoon and you will be journaling again. We must get passed the shooting. We must focus on coping mechanism."
"But I – I'm not ready."
"Yes," he looked back up from the letter. His skin was taught across his face and his brow was elevated. He looked almost crazed. "I told your father this. But ah! I shall congratulate further. When he arrives, it will be with a husband for you."
Her mouth was suddenly very dry. "Husband?"
"It appears, he has found a man to marry you, despite your ailment. Since I am… how did he put it… 'unable to bring about any meaningful improvement in my daughter' he has decided to marry you off."
He slapped the letter down and looked out the window, hands on his hips. His eyes went back to her and he added, a terrible bite to his words, "but please, Madame Devereaux, do not forget to donate when you have moved on. Every penny costs."
"I don't understand –"
"It is very simply," he said. "I am inept. Your father has found you a husband. You leave at the end of the month. What you have hoped and prayed for for so long. We must focus on your coping mechanisms. I have seen cruel treatment of sick women. Husbands embarrassed, angry, unable to comprehend that it has nothing to do with the quality of person. It is impossible to say how this man will treat you. If I am unable to keep you hear, I must be content that you will not be mistreated. What do you know, Josephine? What do you know of this…." he picked up the letter. "Charles Devereaux."
"I know the name," she murmured. She knew they were rich farmers, four sons in need of wives. He hung his head, staring down at his desk. When he spoke again, his voice was gentler.
"We need to resume our sessions properly. We can focus on coping mechanisms. I fear …" he took in a deep breath. "I want you to start journaling today. Get to the door again. I know you have the strength. If you could –"
"I don't want to go," she suddenly said. Panic began to overtake her. He looked up from the table, face hard as stone, eyes slightly widened. He looked almost crazed. She shook her head. "I cannot leave this place."
"I can stop your father from removing you," he answered. "Please believe me, Josephine, I said all I can say. I have no power to stop him."
"But what –" she placed her hand to her throat. She gripped the crucifix that hung there. "What if he is cruel?"
She looked up to the doctor. He stared back. She gave a desperate smile, "I have a very large dowry."
"Men can be cruel to sick wives," he answered dryly. She knew that well enough. "Which is why we must do all we can…"
"Tell my father," she demanded. "Tell him I am too sick. I cannot leave –"
"I have done all I can to prevent you from leaving here," he said gravely. "The thought of you… going to the bed of another man…" his voice dropped, and he whispered with unbridled passion, "I am in agony."
"There must be something you can do," she said. "There must be something."
"There is," he said. She waited impatiently. He pinned her with a hard stare. "You can marry me."
They simply stared at one another. She knew it was true. Once she was his wife, there was nothing her father could do.
"Josephine," her voice broke as he said her name. It was like a sob. He came around the side of his desk and dropped to his knees before her. He took hold of her hands, cradling them reverently. "As my wife, you could help run this asylum. You could help so many. Josephine, I know everything there is to know about you and I love you anyway. I love you because of everything I know of you. This man might marry you, take your money, and lock you away forever. He may take to beating you, drugging you… it is impossible to know. Please, Josephine. Please. Tell me I'm a better alternative to you than that."
She looked down at him, jaw trembling. Panic continued to build in her chest. She began to breath heavily. She felt an episode coming upon her. She removed her hands from his so that she could grab onto them. She squeezed firmly and he got up to sit beside her.
"I know what I have done to you. I know how you must hate me. Do not believe that I am unaware how beastly I have treated you. I do not deserve you, but I promise you this, Josephine. I will be the tenderest, most attentive, faithful husband you can ever hope for."
She nodded. She reminded him softly, "I cannot bare children."
He was giving a tiny shake of his head. "I need nothing else in this world, as long as I have you with me always."
She looked up at him, a tear slipping from her eye. "Yes," she whispered.
"What?" he asked, as though he had not just proposed to her.
"Yes," she said more firmly. "I cannot go out there. I cannot leave. I… I will marry you."
Oddly enough, the joy that came to his eyes, brought a small smile to her lips.