Both men looked nervous as I set my journal and supplies down. I opened the letter again and took a few deep breaths.
“I’ll read it out loud,” I said in a strong voice. “Then we will speak about what to do next.”
The duke nodded and I cleared my throat.
“Dear Persephone, I am saddened that you are encountering this disease. It is new, not many know of it. It does not surprise me that he is ill. Your patient suffers from what they recently coined rheumatoid arthritis. To put it plainly, your patient’s body is attacking itself. Not only will his joints begin to deform, his immune system is confused. It thinks it is constantly being attacked so he will get sick very easily. I wouldn’t be surprised if it has been lying dormant for most of his life. My best advice to give you is a list of herbs to make but you already have come up with it so don’t be afraid to give that to him. With proper treatment, he will get better and you can even slow the rate at which his joints will twist. He must eat healthy foods, get rest, and move around as much as he is possible. I am always ready for any questions.”
No one spoke as I let the words sink in.
“May I?” Luc whispered and I immediately passed it to him.
The duke looked on the verge of tears so I put a reassuring hand on his arm. I waited until Luc had read through it a couple times.
“So I can get better,” he mumbled.
I couldn’t stop a tear as I stood beside him. I offered my hand and he took it cautiously.
“You’re not going to die,” I whispered. “Not if you do exactly as I say from here on out.”
He looked wary. “Like what?”
“First we need to cure your fever,” I said, wiping my face. “Then we’ll focus on getting you moving.” I looked out the window. It was snowing. “We’ll have to do it inside the manor, though. That snow will make you sick and I don’t want that. I’ll speak with the cook and have her start preparing more nutritional meals for you.”
“And the herbs?” he asked.
“When I was in your gardens, I saw that you had a few I knew were good for pain and some for inflammation. With arthritis, there’s a lot of inflammation. Dr. Giovani and I believe that this is the best way to go forward, Monsieurs Moreau. You have to make a choice: Let me stay and do this or get another opinion.”
I let go of Luc’s hand when I realized I was still holding it. I stepped back and put my hands behind my back.
“What do you think, Luc?” his father asked.
He frowned. “You do not wish to decide?”
His father sighed. “This is your sickness, son. You were right. I have been unfair. It should be your decision what we do.”
Luc looked at me for a while. I met his gaze steadily.
“You truly think you can help me?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said immediately. “So long as you do as I say.”
He bit his lip. “Will your treatments hurt?”
“The exercise will at first,” I admitted. “But we’ll be starting slowly so you can work yourself into it.”
“How long will these treatments last?”
At this, I sighed. His face fell a little.
“The rest of your life, Master Luc.”
He laughed. “You’re joking, right?”
I just stared at him.
“So you’d be moving in permanently?” the duke asked.
“No,” I said. “I will move back home, should you wish. I’ll stay until he is well enough to walk without his cane. Then, each time he gets ill, you will send for me and I’ll come care for him.”
We looked at him again. His eyes were fixed on the floor.
“I know this is unpleasant, Master Luc,” I said quietly.
“No you don’t,” he snapped, glaring at me. “You’re not living with it! Don’t even try to say you understand!”
“I don’t understand,” I said and he stopped. “But I saw this in my parents. You’re in for a long recovery but it’s possible if you follow-”
“If I follow your orders,” he interrupted, a glare still on his face. “Stop being a broken record.” I didn’t respond which seemed to make him angrier. “Are you always a stone wall!?”
“I don’t know what you want from me,” I said, trying to keep my voice even. “Empathy, apathy, full disclosure?”
“I want you to be honest!” he shouted.
“I have been honest with you since day one, Luc Moreau!” I shouted and he looked surprised that I was shouting. “I have been honest and patient! I have found an answer for you and you’re not even willing to be open to my suggestions!” I snatched up my supplies and glared at him. “Make up your mind, Luc Moreau, or I’m leaving in the morning.”
I turned and left the office, slamming the door behind me.
An answer has arrived in the form of a letter from Dr. Katerina Giovani. It is rheumatoid arthritis. I wish I had more medical books about this affliction. It’s been nearly 20 years since my parents died of this disease. The arthritis is not the killer here. No, it is Luc’s state of mind and when he gets ill that is taking his life from him slowly.
He did not take the news well. I anticipated that. Unfortunately, I lost my temper. I am tired of him speaking to me like that, though. Perhaps he will use the journal I purchased for him to get his frustrations out of his system. Then we can move forward.
For now, I wait to hear if they want me to stay.
The bell didn’t ring once that day so I started packing up, cursing myself for losing my temper. I didn’t go down for supper and someone knocked.
“Come in,” I mumbled and turned.
The duke, of all people, came in with my dinner. I ran forward and took it from him.
“You don’t have to serve me,” I said quickly.
His eyes landed on my bag.
“You are leaving?” he asked.
“It is obviously Master Luc does not wish me to stay,” I said and handed him a piece of paper. “That has all of my instructions as well as how to make the medicine I prepared for him.”
He passed it back. “I do not want you to leave,” he said.
“With all due respect, it doesn’t matter if you do or don’t,” I said. I gestured at the door separating our rooms. “If he doesn’t want me here, he will not accept my treatment.”
He frowned. “Why do you think he doesn’t want you here?”
I stared at him. “He hasn’t called for me once. It’s obvious that-”
To my surprise, he laughed a little.
“My dear, he hasn’t called for you because he’s been writing in his journal ever since you left the office.”
I blinked. “He’s using the journal?”
“Yes,” he said. “Do you wish to leave?”
“No,” I said. “I want to help him get better. But if he is going to keep yelling at me then I might not be able to keep myself from yelling back.”
He looked at me curiously. “Why haven’t you yelled back before now?”
I shrugged. “Fighting will get us nowhere. Besides, he is a noble and I am a commoner.”
He put a hand on my shoulder. “Not while you are here,” he said. “While you are here, you are on equal footing.”
I bit my lip. “If you both truly wish for me to stay, then I need to go check on him.”
The duke beamed. “Thank you.”
I curtsied a little. “And thank you for bringing me my dinner.”
“Make sure you eat it,” he said. “We can’t have you getting sick, too.”
I chuckled. “I will.”
He nodded and left. I stared at the door between mine and Luc’s. I was still gathering the courage to go in when he rang the bell.
I took a deep breath and grabbed my supplies. I opened the door to see him sitting up, the journal on his nightstand and his sleeve rolled up.
Neither of us spoke as I took his pulse and checked his temperature.
“Are you overheated?” I asked.
“Yes,” he muttered.
I changed out the blanket and asked Jacques to make sure every blanket was washed before coming in here.
“It is further action to make sure you don’t get sick,” I explained to him. “The further away from illness we can keep you, the better. Do you need anything else from me?”
He didn’t answer so I made to leave. Before I could go, he reached out and held my hand. I hesitated then looked at him. His eyes were somber and I knew he was about to apologize.
“Get some sleep, Master Luc,” I whispered, squeezing his hand.
He didn’t let it go, though.
“It’s just Luc, Madame Petit,” he said quietly.
He let my hand go and closed his eyes.