Though the lotion Persephone put on my hand last night worked, it had worn off by lunch time. Despite my outburst, she returned with a sandwich. This time she hadn’t cut it and I wondered if she feared it would cause another scolding. As much as I hated to admit it, it was true that I couldn’t cut things in the mornings.
In the past, I ate in a most uncivilized manner. My ham I would eat whole with my fingers, my eggs I would struggle with a spoon for and end up spilling them on the tray. This morning, though, I was able to eat as I normally did, albeit with some shaking.
How did she know I needed the help?
She was eating lunch with me but also scribbling in a journal.
“What is that?” I asked, nodding at it.
“Observations,” she answered in her soft voice. “I see you eat your sandwich with no problem.”
“Of course not,” I said. “Why would I?”
Her eyes looked at me for a brief second before looking back at her journal to continue writing.
“Tell me, how are your hands?” she asked.
I shrugged. “Functioning.”
“Do they ache?”
“No,” I said after a minute’s reflection.
“And your chest?”
“Yes,” I said.
It went like that all the way down to my feet. I sneezed a couple times and winced.
“It hurts to sneeze and cough?” she asked.
“Yes. In my chest and throat,” I added.
“I see,” she mumbled and wrote something down.
She tilted her head at me curiously. I didn’t like how she stared.
“Perhaps you could show some respect and not stare?” I snapped.
“I am counting the time in between your flinches,” she said.
I had to give her this: she was strong skinned.
She didn’t elaborate. Again.
“Do you have to do that?” I snapped.
“Do what?” she asked, writing something else.
“You never give me a complete answer!” I shouted, slamming my book shut. “You say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but you never tell me everything!”
She leaned back in her chair comfortably.
“Do you really want to know?” she asked.
Her tone wasn’t morbid. In fact, she spoke as if it were uncommon.
“Of course,” I said. “Wouldn’t you?”
She took a sip of her water.
“Last night, your right hand was locked at the joints,” she said. “This morning, I’m willing to bet your hands, shoulders, and toes were stiff – among others, of course. Am I correct?” she asked and I nodded. “That is because something is attacking your joints.”
I frowned at her. “Like… a poison?”
“No,” she sighed. “This is where it gets frustrating for me. I have written to a fellow practitioner. I hope to have an answer soon.” She frowned thoughtfully at the floor. “Before you fell ill last winter, would you get sick easily?”
I thought. “Yes. I came down with a cold at least every month. A fever was common in the colder months.”
“Do you wish me to keep you completely informed of my observations?” she asked, closing her notebook and standing up.
“Please,” I said.
“Then I will.”
“Madame Petit,” I said quickly before she went to her room. She turned. “I would like to go to the gardens, if the invitation is still extended.”
She smiled a little. “Of course, Master Luc,” she said and summoned for Jacques to help me dress.
“Will you need my assistance, Master?” he asked me.
I thought it over. “Perhaps on the way back…. I will summon you if I need it.”
Jacques hesitated. “Will you really?”
“What is that supposed to mean?” I demanded, taking my cane from it.
“Just that your pride can get in the way, Monsieur,” he said frankly and I thought back to this morning.
I didn’t answer. He finished helping me with my shirt. I wanted to look presentable but getting in all the required clothing was exhausting. I stuck simply with my trousers and loose black shirt.
Persephone was waiting for me outside of my door and walked beside me quietly. She never seemed to speak unless it was about medical things. I wondered if she ever spoke of other things.
I smiled as we walked into the greenhouse. I hadn’t been in many weeks. All those doctors refused to let me go. As I bent over a petunia, she opened a window. I sighed, taking a deep breath as the outside air filled the room. It smelled of rain. I continued among the flowers, not realizing she was no longer beside me.
“Can you hand me the clippers?” I asked, assuming she was there.
I blinked and looked over my shoulder. She was standing by the window, watching me with a small smile on her face. I cleared my throat, embarrassed.
“The clippers, please,” I said, pointing at the table where they were.
She walked over and watched as I pruned the roses.
“Do you know how to garden, Madame?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “These hands were made for stitching, I’m afraid.”
I cleared my throat again. “Perhaps, on a day where I am feeling fit enough, I can show you.”
“That would be lovely.”
I nodded once and jumped slightly when my father’s voice preceded his entrance.
“Where is that chill coming from?” he demanded.
“Forgive me,” Persephone said, rushing to the window. “I opened it to give Monsieur Luc some fresh air.”
My father frowned at her. “We were told fresh air would make him worse.”
Persephone sighed. “Yes, if he is out in the rain or in extreme heat, Master,” she said. “But he is inside and has been in a stuffy room.”
My father glanced at me. “Are you… feeling better?”
I knew he was skeptic about her method so I gave him an honest response.
“I have not felt a change,” I said. “It was nice, though, to feel some cool fresh air on my face.”
“Hmm,” my father mused. “I’m surprised to see you are out of bed.”
“He’s on his way back,” Persephone said and I frowned.
“I am?” I asked and she nodded, coming over. “Why?”
“You are very flushed,” she said. “It’s time you took a break.”
“We’ve only been here for half an hour!” I said indignantly.
“Be that as it may,” she began, taking my elbow.
“No,” I snapped, taking it from her. “I’ll stay in my greenhouse however long I choose! A woman’s orders will not keep me from what I love!”
Persephone’s face went stony and I cursed myself. These outbursts were getting more and more ridiculous.
“This woman is here to help you,” she said. “No amount of arguing will stop that. Now which would you prefer, Master Luc: To return to your bed in comfort, or to pass out here on the greenhouse floor and wake up with more bruises?”
I clenched my jaw. I knew she was right. But I didn’t want to admit it. Not to her. My father maybe, but not to her.
So, I threw the clippers on the table and limped past her, pushing by my father. When I got to the stairs, it was my father who helped me into bed.
“She is looking out for you,” he said. “Stop being cruel to her.”
“I don’t know why I do it, Father,” I admitted. “One minute I’m happy and the next…. It’s like I become a different person.”
“Have you spoken to her about it?” he asked, fluffing my pillows.
“No. She is here to cure my illness, not my mind.”
“I’ve heard certain illnesses can affect the mind as well,” he said, sitting down beside me and I looked at him. “Next time she comes in here, speak with her about it. But be gentle.”
I sighed. “I will try.”