Chapter Sixty-Nine: A Need


“…the love of the Father. In that line, grace is sufficient. It by definition must cover all manner of….”

My mind was elsewhere, bathed in joy of an irreverent kind. My heart sang. It had worked!

I had taken the risk to keep from becoming a prisoner to my own body and it had worked.

Baby Anne was at home with the maid and the cook. It felt good to be out and about, even if it was only to church.

A cough from Mrs. Fenuiel beside me brought the elaborately carved pulpit back into focus. The Reverend Drummond smiled benevolently upon his congregation from his lofty perch. He paused as he turned another page of his sermon notes.

When only his head is visible above his robes, he makes quite the pleasant visage.

I shifted in my seat, testing. I could not feel it inside, even when sitting for long periods of time on a hard wooden pew.

Each day that passed the pessary was less noticeable until I lost track of its presence entirely.

Well, maybe not entirely.

I had inserted a finger to feel its shape while lying on the bed in my shift that night and every night thereafter. It was a solid metal pillow with a central hole. I was not certain what exactly it was constructed of, as I was too afraid to pull it out. There was no telling if I would be able to get it back in properly and having to explain to the good doctor how it had “fallen” out would be too mortifying.

Furthermore, I had no intention of keeping my appointment to follow up with the doctor on Tuesday next. Looking him in the face after he had examined and felt of me down there was too much. The device was working. That should be sufficient.

“Let us pray.” The Reverend’s eyes fixed on mine for a moment. Did I look distracted? Surely he was used to distraction. I bowed my head dutifully.

What would it be like to be naked, body entwined with his in a passionate embrace?

My cheeks reddened. Why did that pop into my head? Here? In God’s house? Was what the doctor warned true? Was I becoming a whore? And then a new reality dawned on me. With a pessary occupying space, I could not make love to any man even if I wanted to.

I must not allow myself to want it.

I focused on the rise and fall of his voice, eloquent words masking their own intent.

Reality. I could never be a vicar’s wife. That was not me. I lacked the faith and fortitude. I lacked the innocence and capacity for love of humankind. I could not be his lover.

But protection. I longed to feel loved, safe, protected. God alone could not provide me with these very carnal, human things. Bernini had been wrong. I was fairly sure that even Saint Teresa in her ecstasy probably still felt unfulfilled. I felt the rocking of a ship in the dark. My face on his chest. His heartbeat. I could remember the intense pleasure of the very moment Anne had been wrought, but his features, the details, were lost to me already. Sadness stuck in my throat.

A hand touched the cold, hard oval pinned to my bodice.

There you are.


No. I did not want to leave this darkness…

Swells of organ music.

I must remain faithful to his memory.

Dutifully, I filed out of the pew, into the aisle, and out the door with Mrs. Finueil on my arm to exchange brief pleasantries with the Reverend Drummond. As we set foot on the steps the sun caught in my nostril and I sneezed.

I smiled.

Chapter Sixty-Eight: The Object


He lifted the edge of my chemise. Cold, bare fingers pried apart the lips and probed deep inside.

Relying on the digits, rather than his eyes, he proceeded to examine every nook and cranny of my nether regions.

“Bear down,” he said tersely.

I complied.

I looked up at the ceiling overhead rather than make eye contact with him. The whole process was terribly humiliating. A strange man’s hand doing things that brought back memories of prior lovers, long gone. These hands, however, were not loving or gentle.


Easier said than done. I felt like I needed to break wind, but there was a doctor’s face down there…

His fingers dug deep and high again, painfully this time, pressing toward my back.

The fingers were slowly withdrawn. In their place a cold, rigid metallic device was inserted and I felt myself pried open, wide. The instrument was shifted around. Finally, the prying sensation relaxed only to be traded for a sharp pinch that made me jump involuntarily.

“Almost done.”

A fullness then as something else was inserted. Hard. Metal. But this was smooth, almost pleasant, and weighty. It was shoved higher inside with fingers and held there with constant pressure for a minute or two.

“That is fine.” He stood up. His shirtsleeves were rolled above his elbows, leaving his hairy forearms exposed. “You may dress now.” He indicated the screen behind me.

I rose up, gingerly, gauging the fullness still left in place as it shifted inside. Shame hung in the air between us.

Wouldn’t it slide out?

I kept my thighs closed tightly as I walked to the corner. My dress hung across the back of the chair, with the crinoline and petty coats piled in the floor. How many other women had stood in this room, violated and yet hopeful of a cure?

I could hear him bustling about, instruments tossed into a pail, washing his hands in the basin, papers rustling, an uneasy cough.

Mrs. Finuiel had patted me on the hand as she exited the carriage at the house for the christening luncheon. “You should go see Dr. Peevy, my dear. He helped me with my…. issues.” She had given me a knowing wink.

And here I was.

Reasonably confident by now that the pessary would not escape its new home, I stepped out.

He was shrugging back into his waistcoat, his sleeves now rolled down and secured about his wrists.

“This should help to move your uterus back into place. The exam I just performed and the pessary itself can cause an… er… an hysteria of sorts. If you find yourself craving some uh…. shall we say excessive stimulation, please return post haste. Otherwise I will plan to see you back in two weeks and we will make sure this is fitted to the right size.”

He pushed the wire framed lenses that framed his gray eyes further back up his nose then ran his hand through his longish gray hair as he showed me the door.

The walk down the dusty steps to the street and the carriage waiting below was brief but I could feel the object inside of me shift with every movement, acutely aware of it even as I sat down on the leather seat.

Does one get used to this presence with time, then?

I was not so sure.