There were voices: a man and a woman, speaking in hushed tones. I tried to focus, to listen to their conversation through the fog in my head.
“The incision seems to be healing well now, Doctor.” The woman, whispered.
A man’s voice responded, softly, “Excellent. Maybe now she will not endanger herself by moving around.”
“Shall we remove the restraints?”
Were they referring to me?
“No. Not yet.”
I could hear the nod of the crisply starched cap, even though I could not see it.
Did I dare open my eyes?
It was then that I realized they were moving away. My opportunity to ask questions…
“Where am I?” I blurted out, looking about.
The man had turned away and was walking toward the bed across the ward, his back to me.
“You are at The Royal Asylum For Women.” The nurse spoke kindly, brushing hair back from my forehead.
“You had an acute attack of abdominal dropsy brought on by a neurosis.”
“Where is my daughter?”
“What does that mean?” I demanded.
“She is being cared for elsewhere.”
“I do not know.”
“Bring her to me!” Anger crept into my voice.
“I cannot. You are not able to care for her in your condition,” she said sternly.
“My condition.” Fear suddenly replaced anger. “What is my condition?”
“You have had a surgery.”
“What kind of surgery?”
“Dr. Jenkins performed a hysterectomy.” She looked at me pityingly.
Surely not. Why? And not the Dr. Jenkins I had known from another life… Stuart Jenkins? Surely there were plenty of other Dr. Jenkins in this world.
At the sound of his name the man turned around and began to walk back to my bedside.
It WAS him!
He smiled pleasantly as he approached.
My mouth filled with bile.
“Ah, Mrs. Aspern. Awake are we?”
“You had no right!” I screamed at him. Others in the ward shifted in their beds uncomfortably, taking notice. I tried to sit up but my arms were tied down to the bed. I jerked at the leather wrist restraints so hard that the bed frame rattled.
“Oh, yes, I did. I have every right as your treating physician.”
“I have removed hundreds of uteri in my career. In fact, every woman in this ward right now, has had this same procedure by me. I think I am able to judge well enough when one is causing problems.” He stared down at me haughtily. “And yours most certainly was causing all manner of infirmary.”
He reached a hand into his pocket and pulled out the old pessary, dropping it onto my abdomen. It hurt greatly as the heavy, metallic weight hit the incision. The padding from the bandages was not enough to break the fall.
“It was probably simply pinching the vaginal mucosa, causing your pain, but it was easy to see that your uterus and ovaries were sitting too low in your pelvis, causing you fits of hysteria. You should feel much better from now on.” Another smile spread across his face.
“You did not ask my opinion!” I hissed through clenched teeth.
It was rape. It was worse than rape. This man had had his hands inside of me, stolen from me without my consent.
A glint appeared in his eye as he leaned in close to my ear. He whispered slowly, threateningly, “The feeble minded are never able to make their own decisions.”