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Nature or Nurture Ch. 00-01

Skip the prologue to go straight to the action if you're an impatient reader!

Prologue

When Adison was eighteen, her mother died. Her older brother was off to university at that time, and since there were no other children and very few staff at the manor house, the funeral was a very quiet affair. She and her father returned home together.

The wind blew Adison's blond hair in her face. Her mother had always disliked her having it down, finding it indecent, but her father liked seeing it loose, so she decided to please him, and herself, on this sad day. Her father meanwhile contemplated how much she had come to resemble her mother, with her slender figure and her sweet, beautiful face. The black dress looked good on her, the color making her look a little pale, though that might be grief as well.

That night after dinner, as they sat together in her father's cosy library, Adison shared some of her thoughts with her father: 'Dad, you know I'm not ever going to be married, do you?'

His face lit up by the warm glow of the hearth, her father replied absently: 'You don't have to be married my dear, if you don't want to. We can live together, as we've always done.'

Adison objected to this:' Dad, I hope you live to ninety, but what will I do after that?'

'I'm sure your brother will take excellent care of you my dear', he replied, now putting his book away and concentrating on her.

Adison wasn't so sure, she had not really known her brother since he had been sent off to school when he was seven:' What if his wife doesn't like me, or I don't like her? What if she wants me to stop hunting and shooting, and start embroidering cushions and singing duets? What if she wants me to stop reading and writing essays and get married to an ancient baronet and raise a brood of children? What if they make me?

They could, you know.' The very idea of having to stop studying visibly upset Adison, which surprised her father, since Adison was usually very calm and collected.

Adison's dad, who had always kept her mother from sending her to girls' school, knowing she would be unhappy there, had to admit that his clever daughter had a point.

She had a great life now, always present at the meetings he held with his scholarly friends, taking notes and writing essays, testing her theories and asking difficult questions of the writers and scientists they invited to present their latest insights. But if he were no longer alive, and his son had taken over the manor house, Adison would be a beautiful but unfashionable and overeducated spinster living off her brothers charity. Her education would stop, which would mean that for Adison, life would stop.

Seeing that her father was finishing a thought, Adison patiently waited for his answer:

'You are right, dearest, we cannot count on your brother alone. We will have to make arrangements ourselves, and since I have plans to live to a very old age, we will have plenty of time to fulfill them.'

Her father started by opening a personal account for her, where he saved up as much as he could towards her future. Over their breakfast, they discussed a possible job.

'As far as I know, a noble lady without independence has three career options, 'Adison said to her dad,' marrying a wealthy man, becoming a governess, or studying to be a nurse.'

'If there were no children involved, or parents for that matter, you'd make an excellent governess....,' her father said comically.

Adison finished his sentence: '..but since there are, I think it will be nursing.'

Her father clearly didn't like the idea of his educated daughter settling for being a nurse: 'You have all the right qualities to become a doctor, Adison, if only they would allow girls to the colleges,' he observed regretfully.

Adison, knowing he was right, answered: 'I know dad, I could cut my hair, wear trousers and apply, but then my brother will die of shame.

What if I take the nurse's training, and apply to your friend from your Hong Kong days for a solid course in Chinese medicine to top it off? He never objected to answering a girl's questions when he visited, he even seemed to like me.'

Her father's face lightened: 'He sure does, Adison, and I think it is a capital idea. With nurse's training and Chinese medicine combined, you will always be able to make your own living, and who knows when you may get the chance to become a doctor.'

And so she wrote two application letters, and within a month Adison had two replies that she was very welcome to study in the big city.

Adison studied hard to combine both courses, and met with success on both counts. Her empathy with all living beings and her scientific accuracy made her well-suited to nursing, and learning to practice Chinese medicine with her father's friend, and all the other teachers he recommended, gave her the challenge she needed. Meanwhile, several expensive heirlooms disappeared from the manor house, sold by Adison's father to have the proceeds end up on Adison's independence account.

But when she came home, the quiet solicitude of the country could not longer challenge her.

After two weeks she told her father over dinner:' I'm sorry dad, but the country is no longer my favorite place to be. I feel I'm falling behind in my medical development, and I miss the noise and the entertainment of the city.

Her father, though sad, was also understanding:' I can imagine you do, love, it is time for you to stand on your own two feet, be independent. I will not cage my little bird, after raising you to be free. I wish you good luck, my dear, I'm sure you will do brilliantly. Use your savings well, and don't forget to write. I'll read your letters to our friends at our meetings.'

And the next week, Adison packed her things and was off to the city, to meet her future. She managed to lease the entire attic of a nice-sized house in a middle class neighborhood, and decided to live of her savings until she could find a position as a nurse in one of the town's hospitals.

Chapter 1

She had only moved into this attic a few days ago, and she was already getting used again to the noise of the large city outside and the muffled sounds of her neighbors. It reminded her of her boarding house in her student days, where it had made reading and studying quite a challenge after the quiet solicitude of their country house. It was the connection to her dad's friend from Hong Kong that had enabled her to lease such a nice roomy attic. It was easily large enough to hold a bed, a desk for writing and a little kitchen. And there was plenty of space left for her collection of books and papers. There was a door to the attic of the neigboring house, her landlord explained to her that it was the way to flee if a fire were to break out on the stairs or one of the floors below her. It was a nice place, and she really liked the feel of it.

On her third evening in the city, a furious thunderstorm shook the windows of her room. Flash after flash lightened up her room, and the roof directly over her head vibrated with the thunder. Adison was sitting at her desk, still dressed but thinking of calling it a day. The thunder started her musing about weather in the country, and she remembered walking out with her father, in the drenching rain with their umbrella's fighting to stay whole in the gusts of wind that a thunderstorm inevitably brings with it. She remembered standing on the hill with her dad, watching the bolts of lightning above the village in the valley nearest to them. It must have been quite a dangerous thing to do but she never felt scared, nor did her father ever show any sign of fear. Her mom never went on any of these excursions, but she didn't try to forbid them either. She trusted her husband not to risk his life or his daughter's.

Suddenly, a different sound breaks through the noise of the thunderstorm. Adison immediately realises this is not a natural sound. It is a humming sound, the sound of something metal vibrating. It seems to be coming from the attic next door. She puts on her slippers and moves towards the door. Listening with her ear against the wall reveals even more noises. Some machine in there makes the humming noise, and nearly covered by the sound of the raging thunderstorm she now hears a crackling sound as well. The air in her room is full of static energy. A deafening crash in the building next door shocks her out of her curiosity into fear. Clearly, lightning has struck part of the building. She wonders whether she'll be safe where she is, in the attic room very close to the striking point, with the windows opening on a three story drop, and a long stairwell her only road to safety. No sounds of a fire or alarming smells follow, so she decides it is safe to remain where she is for the time being. But this thought again is interrupted by the awful, heartrending scream of a human in dire need.

Another such scream follows, and another one. Someone is being tortured on the other side of the wall, maybe dying. And nobody has heard it except for her. She's heard that a weird doctor owns the building next door, and nobody has ever been in his house. She is amazed that can she hear the sounds in the neighbor's property so loudly. Another heartrending scream breaks the noise of the thunderstorm. The screams frighten her, but they also touch that place inside of her where her compassion lies, her pity stirring to life with a vengeance. Why doesn't anybody help this man who is screaming in such need? What is that doctor doing, shouldn't he be curing his patient instead of torturing him?

Her need to do something rising above her fear, Adison examines the door in front of her. A feeling of wonder comes over her when she finds a small knothole a bit higher up than she can reach. Quickly, she fetches a chair, and hitching up her full skirts, she climbs on it. Looking through the hole she sees a rather large, dimly lit space with a lot of weird stuff in it. Some kind of machinery, undoubtedly the source of the humming noise she heard earlier. The smell of ozone is overpowering, even through that small hole. Another scream catches at her throat, grabbing her attention to the victim of the torture. He is standing up, not constricted, but unspeakable things have clearly been done to him. He is naked and covered in blood running from a long cut that slashes his body from right to left and straight down his chest over his stomach, with more bleeding slashes criss-crossing his head. The slashes appear to have been stitched up in a makeshift way. He does not seem to be mortally injured to Adison's trained eye, but the continuing heart-rending screams attest to his suffering. He must be injured on the inside as well, is Adison's instant surmise. She can see no-one else in the room, until she follows the tortured man's line of sight and sees a man hiding behind a thick door, peeping through a tiny barred window in it. The weirdness of it all is drowned out by another heart-rending scream of the victim, and Adison can no longer stand her own inactivity. On an impulse, she wrenches the door open and runs toward the bleeding figure still standing and still screaming as if his insides are torn loose. Coming ever closer she understands why the other person present might be cowering behind a door, the victim is a powerful man and clearly beyond self control by what seems to be excruciating pain. But Adison was never easily scared, and her strong feeling of pity keeps her moving towards him. She needs to comfort him, and she needs to find a way to end or at least relieve his suffering somehow.

And with no concern for her own safety or for what the blood might do to her dress, she reaches for the man, to let him know help is near and ask him what he is suffering from. As soon as he feels her gentle touch, the stricken man turns to face her, his eyes grabbing hold of her in a strange yellow glare. His bloody hands grope towards her, a terrifying sight, but Adison recognises the need in his gesture and meets him with her arms open, welcoming him, offering him relief. As soon as her arms have closed on him, his frenzy seems to leave him, taking his strength with it. He crumples at her feet, his body spent, his agony silenced. Feeling him breathing heavily in her arms, small convulsions the only other movement in his body, Adison feels his need for another human being to hold him. Her instincts tell her he needs her close and quiet for now, and she decides to follow them and just be with him for now. Treatment can wait a little longer.Skip the prologue to go straight to the action if you're an impatient reader!

Prologue

When Adison was eighteen, her mother died. Her older brother was off to university at that time, and since there were no other children and very few staff at the manor house, the funeral was a very quiet affair. She and her father returned home together.

The wind blew Adison's blond hair in her face. Her mother had always disliked her having it down, finding it indecent, but her father liked seeing it loose, so she decided to please him, and herself, on this sad day. Her father meanwhile contemplated how much she had come to resemble her mother, with her slender figure and her sweet, beautiful face. The black dress looked good on her, the color making her look a little pale, though that might be grief as well.

That night after dinner, as they sat together in her father's cosy library, Adison shared some of her thoughts with her father: 'Dad, you know I'm not ever going to be married, do you?'

His face lit up by the warm glow of the hearth, her father replied absently: 'You don't have to be married my dear, if you don't want to. We can live together, as we've always done.'

Adison objected to this:' Dad, I hope you live to ninety, but what will I do after that?'

'I'm sure your brother will take excellent care of you my dear', he replied, now putting his book away and concentrating on her.

Adison wasn't so sure, she had not really known her brother since he had been sent off to school when he was seven:' What if his wife doesn't like me, or I don't like her? What if she wants me to stop hunting and shooting, and start embroidering cushions and singing duets? What if she wants me to stop reading and writing essays and get married to an ancient baronet and raise a brood of children? What if they make me?

They could, you know.' The very idea of having to stop studying visibly upset Adison, which surprised her father, since Adison was usually very calm and collected.

Adison's dad, who had always kept her mother from sending her to girls' school, knowing she would be unhappy there, had to admit that his clever daughter had a point.

She had a great life now, always present at the meetings he held with his scholarly friends, taking notes and writing essays, testing her theories and asking difficult questions of the writers and scientists they invited to present their latest insights. But if he were no longer alive, and his son had taken over the manor house, Adison would be a beautiful but unfashionable and overeducated spinster living off her brothers charity. Her education would stop, which would mean that for Adison, life would stop.

Seeing that her father was finishing a thought, Adison patiently waited for his answer:

'You are right, dearest, we cannot count on your brother alone. We will have to make arrangements ourselves, and since I have plans to live to a very old age, we will have plenty of time to fulfill them.'

Her father started by opening a personal account for her, where he saved up as much as he could towards her future. Over their breakfast, they discussed a possible job.

'As far as I know, a noble lady without independence has three career options, 'Adison said to her dad,' marrying a wealthy man, becoming a governess, or studying to be a nurse.'

'If there were no children involved, or parents for that matter, you'd make an excellent governess....,' her father said comically.

Adison finished his sentence: '..but since there are, I think it will be nursing.'

Her father clearly didn't like the idea of his educated daughter settling for being a nurse: 'You have all the right qualities to become a doctor, Adison, if only they would allow girls to the colleges,' he observed regretfully.

Adison, knowing he was right, answered: 'I know dad, I could cut my hair, wear trousers and apply, but then my brother will die of shame.

What if I take the nurse's training, and apply to your friend from your Hong Kong days for a solid course in Chinese medicine to top it off? He never objected to answering a girl's questions when he visited, he even seemed to like me.'

Her father's face lightened: 'He sure does, Adison, and I think it is a capital idea. With nurse's training and Chinese medicine combined, you will always be able to make your own living, and who knows when you may get the chance to become a doctor.'

And so she wrote two application letters, and within a month Adison had two replies that she was very welcome to study in the big city.

Adison studied hard to combine both courses, and met with success on both counts. Her empathy with all living beings and her scientific accuracy made her well-suited to nursing, and learning to practice Chinese medicine with her father's friend, and all the other teachers he recommended, gave her the challenge she needed. Meanwhile, several expensive heirlooms disappeared from the manor house, sold by Adison's father to have the proceeds end up on Adison's independence account.

But when she came home, the quiet solicitude of the country could not longer challenge her.

After two weeks she told her father over dinner:' I'm sorry dad, but the country is no longer my favorite place to be. I feel I'm falling behind in my medical development, and I miss the noise and the entertainment of the city.

Her father, though sad, was also understanding:' I can imagine you do, love, it is time for you to stand on your own two feet, be independent. I will not cage my little bird, after raising you to be free. I wish you good luck, my dear, I'm sure you will do brilliantly. Use your savings well, and don't forget to write. I'll read your letters to our friends at our meetings.'

And the next week, Adison packed her things and was off to the city, to meet her future. She managed to lease the entire attic of a nice-sized house in a middle class neighborhood, and decided to live of her savings until she could find a position as a nurse in one of the town's hospitals.

Chapter 1

She had only moved into this attic a few days ago, and she was already getting used again to the noise of the large city outside and the muffled sounds of her neighbors. It reminded her of her boarding house in her student days, where it had made reading and studying quite a challenge after the quiet solicitude of their country house. It was the connection to her dad's friend from Hong Kong that had enabled her to lease such a nice roomy attic. It was easily large enough to hold a bed, a desk for writing and a little kitchen. And there was plenty of space left for her collection of books and papers. There was a door to the attic of the neigboring house, her landlord explained to her that it was the way to flee if a fire were to break out on the stairs or one of the floors below her. It was a nice place, and she really liked the feel of it.

On her third evening in the city, a furious thunderstorm shook the windows of her room. Flash after flash lightened up her room, and the roof directly over her head vibrated with the thunder. Adison was sitting at her desk, still dressed but thinking of calling it a day. The thunder started her musing about weather in the country, and she remembered walking out with her father, in the drenching rain with their umbrella's fighting to stay whole in the gusts of wind that a thunderstorm inevitably brings with it. She remembered standing on the hill with her dad, watching the bolts of lightning above the village in the valley nearest to them. It must have been quite a dangerous thing to do but she never felt scared, nor did her father ever show any sign of fear. Her mom never went on any of these excursions, but she didn't try to forbid them either. She trusted her husband not to risk his life or his daughter's.

Suddenly, a different sound breaks through the noise of the thunderstorm. Adison immediately realises this is not a natural sound. It is a humming sound, the sound of something metal vibrating. It seems to be coming from the attic next door. She puts on her slippers and moves towards the door. Listening with her ear against the wall reveals even more noises. Some machine in there makes the humming noise, and nearly covered by the sound of the raging thunderstorm she now hears a crackling sound as well. The air in her room is full of static energy. A deafening crash in the building next door shocks her out of her curiosity into fear. Clearly, lightning has struck part of the building. She wonders whether she'll be safe where she is, in the attic room very close to the striking point, with the windows opening on a three story drop, and a long stairwell her only road to safety. No sounds of a fire or alarming smells follow, so she decides it is safe to remain where she is for the time being. But this thought again is interrupted by the awful, heartrending scream of a human in dire need.

Another such scream follows, and another one. Someone is being tortured on the other side of the wall, maybe dying. And nobody has heard it except for her. She's heard that a weird doctor owns the building next door, and nobody has ever been in his house. She is amazed that can she hear the sounds in the neighbor's property so loudly. Another heartrending scream breaks the noise of the thunderstorm. The screams frighten her, but they also touch that place inside of her where her compassion lies, her pity stirring to life with a vengeance. Why doesn't anybody help this man who is screaming in such need? What is that doctor doing, shouldn't he be curing his patient instead of torturing him?

Her need to do something rising above her fear, Adison examines the door in front of her. A feeling of wonder comes over her when she finds a small knothole a bit higher up than she can reach. Quickly, she fetches a chair, and hitching up her full skirts, she climbs on it. Looking through the hole she sees a rather large, dimly lit space with a lot of weird stuff in it. Some kind of machinery, undoubtedly the source of the humming noise she heard earlier. The smell of ozone is overpowering, even through that small hole. Another scream catches at her throat, grabbing her attention to the victim of the torture. He is standing up, not constricted, but unspeakable things have clearly been done to him. He is naked and covered in blood running from a long cut that slashes his body from right to left and straight down his chest over his stomach, with more bleeding slashes criss-crossing his head. The slashes appear to have been stitched up in a makeshift way. He does not seem to be mortally injured to Adison's trained eye, but the continuing heart-rending screams attest to his suffering. He must be injured on the inside as well, is Adison's instant surmise. She can see no-one else in the room, until she follows the tortured man's line of sight and sees a man hiding behind a thick door, peeping through a tiny barred window in it. The weirdness of it all is drowned out by another heart-rending scream of the victim, and Adison can no longer stand her own inactivity. On an impulse, she wrenches the door open and runs toward the bleeding figure still standing and still screaming as if his insides are torn loose. Coming ever closer she understands why the other person present might be cowering behind a door, the victim is a powerful man and clearly beyond self control by what seems to be excruciating pain. But Adison was never easily scared, and her strong feeling of pity keeps her moving towards him. She needs to comfort him, and she needs to find a way to end or at least relieve his suffering somehow.

And with no concern for her own safety or for what the blood might do to her dress, she reaches for the man, to let him know help is near and ask him what he is suffering from. As soon as he feels her gentle touch, the stricken man turns to face her, his eyes grabbing hold of her in a strange yellow glare. His bloody hands grope towards her, a terrifying sight, but Adison recognises the need in his gesture and meets him with her arms open, welcoming him, offering him relief. As soon as her arms have closed on him, his frenzy seems to leave him, taking his strength with it. He crumples at her feet, his body spent, his agony silenced. Feeling him breathing heavily in her arms, small convulsions the only other movement in his body, Adison feels his need for another human being to hold him. Her instincts tell her he needs her close and quiet for now, and she decides to follow them and just be with him for now. Treatment can wait a little longer.

nature   nurture   00-01  

Apr 15, 2018 in romance

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