Chapter Eighty-Seven: Tethered

  

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.

“Why?”

“You had an acute attack of abdominal dropsy brought on by a neurosis.”

“Where is my daughter?” 

“Safe.”

“What does that mean?” I demanded.

“She is being cared for elsewhere.”

“By whom?” 

“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. 

Oh, God.

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. 

Please… 

At the sound of his name the man turned around and began to walk back to my bedside.

His face.

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.”

“You hack!”

“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.

I winced.

“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.” 

Chapter Sixty-Eight: The Object

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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.

“Relax.”

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.