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The Doctor's Niece

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This is a story of love, courage, determination, and change. It would have been a pleasure to have lived through it. However, experiencing it from the transcendence that being free from time and space gives, has been utterly delightful. Let me tell you about these two magnificent souls whom destiny worked so hard to get together.

 

 

Outside of Philadelphia

December 1918

 

William Mulder had trouble sleeping since he had been back from The War. He had been resting comfortably in his old bed for more than a week now, but his body wasn’t feeling completely safe yet. Each and every little sound woke him up, and he was ready to grab his rifle and start shooting. It didn't matter that he knew that he was back in his warm room, comfortable bed, silent house. All those months barely sleeping on a rickety bed, fighting for freedom —and, ultimately, for his life— had left a scar on his psyche and it  seemed it might never heal. Shell shock, the doctor had called it at his check-up as he landed in the States. It will pass, he had confidently said. But William wasn’t so sure about it.

Usually, it was nothing. He woke up, listened intently and nothing came up. Surely a creak in the house, an outside animal or just the wind. Tonight, it was different. He was sure someone was awake and around. William lit the candle by his bed and got up. Grabbing his robe and putting it over his light pajamas he walked into the corridor trying not to wake the servants. He had his own room on the second floor, but he’d been sleeping for a couple of days in the Guest room by the third one, hoping that the change of setting might help… But it still wasn’t. 

William listened harder and realized the muffled sound was coming from downstairs, so he quickly made for the second floor. Father was away on one of his business trips, so it had to be either mother or Samantha. He was heading towards the source of the noise, it was his sister’s room, he thought. What would Samantha be doing at this late hour? His mother startled him in the corridor ashe was about to open the door. 

"William! Thank God you are up. Go get the doctor! Your sister is having another seizure,” his mother ran along the hall.

“Another? What do you mean—?”

“There’s no time! I will explain later. Run, now, I will call him so that he is ready when you arrive!”

William got back to his room to get dressed. He grabbed yesterday’s tweed suit, which was still hanged on the valet stand, it being too early for the butler to have replaced it. Luckily, he was used to getting dressed quickly, and putting on just the pants and shirt —leaving out the vest for rapidity—, he was out of the manor in the blink of an eye. 

Not being a hundred percent awake, William almost hit his head getting into the car. These new vehicles hadn’t been designed for people with his height in mind, and he always had to take extra care not to bump his head. He was definitely not fully awake at that time in the middle of the night. 

He drove like a maniac on the dusty roads in the country. They should have moved to the city, everything would be easier, but his father liked the family manor too much, not caring about it being ten minutes away from civilization. The town doctor’s home was on the edge of the town, so William didn’t come across anybody. Lucky for them, because he might have run them over. He was on a mission to get the doctor, and that was what he was going to do. 

William hadn’t visited the doctor’s house in years, not since he and his son had stopped being friends. John had gone to another state to university, he apparently had some family in Maryland, whereas William had decided to stay at the University of Philadelphia. When the crisis was over, he would ask the doctor about how John was doing. Had he gone to the Old Continent? Would he even be alive?

Leaving the car in gear, William jumped off and started banging on the house’s door. The old man opened quite quickly, heeding his mother’s warning.

“Doctor Scully, Samantha—.”

“I know, your mother called. Katherine!” He suddenly yelled. “The boy is here! Get my bag!”

William snorted at being called ‘ the boy’. He was way past his boyish years, twenty-two and counting. Doctor Scully had delivered him, though. So he had been the boy for him for longer than he had been an adult. He’d let it pass this time.

A petite redhead appeared behind the doctor, seemingly half asleep, but running around with a huge bag and a coat. She had some resemblance to the man, but William had never seen her before. When the doctor had called for Katherine, he thought he had been calling his daughter. This woman had the same name, but she wasn’t Dr. Scully’s daughter, that much he knew. Katherine —the doctor’s daughter, whom he had known since their school years— had dark hair, despite her Irish origins, and was slightly older than him. This lady seemed around his age. William was immediately enraptured by her beauty. Her long red hair was braided at her back, though some locks had escaped it and were brushing her face. She seemed tired, surely by it being the middle of the night and her having been woken up so suddenly. Even in that circumstance, she radiated some kind of warmth that William wasn’t used to. Women around him were always uptight, trying to impress him, looking shy and diminished. Always perfectly groomed and wearing their best attires. But this Katherine was nothing like that. She didn’t seem to care, wearing a plain grey dress and her hair probably as she wore it while sleeping. However, she still had some kind of regal aura around her that William had never felt before.

“We’re all set, William, wake up.” Dr. Scully tapped his shoulder and ushered him back to the car, retrieving him from his daydreaming. “You can stare at my niece once your sister is feeling better.”

 


 

“She has not felt ill in weeks, and now she is sick again. I don't know what could have happened.” Mrs. Mulder said as soon as the three of them were back in the house. She was really worried. Her daughter could be dying and she didn’t know what to do. 

All of them followed her into the young girl’s room, where Monique, their maid, was waiting. It smelled like vomit, and the young girl was covered in sweat.

As soon as the doctor and Katherine entered the young girl’s room, they quickly started examining her while the family watched, their hearts in their mouths.

"This doesn't make sense," Miss Scully said, getting up and pacing the room. 

They had diagnosed the child with Spanish flu a few weeks ago, but this couldn’t be it, again. They hadn’t seen any other patient relapsing weeks after they had been cured. This had to be something else, something different they hadn’t taken into account before. Suddenly, it hit her.

"Did she… urinate before going to bed?" she asked the mother of the child, who was sobbing at her son’s shoulder.

"I guess so…" the woman managed to answer.

Katherine walked around the room, looking for the chamber pot. When she finally found it, she dipped a finger in it and licked it without a wince. 

William should have been disgusted, but he had seen worse in the war. He was, in fact, marveled by the lady’s guts. She not only didn’t care about how she looked, but she also didn’t make a fuss of doing whatever necessary to take care of her patients. It reminded him of the nurses that had taken care of him during the war times. How his eyes had been opened to a new reality.

"It's sweet… It's sweet!” Katherine announced, going back to the sick girl. “Has she been eating much? Hungry? Feeling tired? Thirsty? Dizzy?” 

Mrs. Mulder had almost left the room seeing her work, but she went back when she heard the young lady raised her voice. 

“Well, yes. But she has been more active since William has been back, so…” 

Katherine eyed the house's heir defiantly. So, this was all his fault. Katherine didn’t appreciate the rich people’s way of life. Living in abundance and eating until they blocked their arteries, while there were so many people out there who could barely feed their children. And, here they were, celebrating the coming back of their eldest kid by overfeeding the young one and bringing her to a diabetic coma. Maybe they shouldn’t have been so lucky as to get their son back. Others definitely hadn’t been. She hadn’t been. Katherine pushed the memory of her late father and brother aside and focused on the young lady in front of her.

"Well, I hope it doesn’t cost her her life,” she declared starting to get things out of the doctor’s bag.

“Katherine, enough!” The doctor admonished her, but she stood her ground and kept stealing angry glances at William.

"How is this my fault? Nobody told me she had been sick!" 

William found it strange apologizing to the lady for… for he didn't know exactly what. Enjoying his life now that he didn’t have to fear for it being over any moment? Coming back to his family and eating properly after months of starving? For enjoying time with his sister? It didn’t seem like something bad.

 


 

While the doctor and his niece worked on his sister, William was ushered out of the room. His mother told him that he should go rest, that the doctor would take care of everything and he should not worry about anything. He tried to get back in after a little while but he wasn’t allowed, so he just stayed outside the door, waiting for the crisis to end. 

After an hour or so, Doctor Scully and Katherine managed to stabilize Samantha and left the house, promising to visit the following day to check up on her. Katherine gave William another cold look when she left his sister’s room, and he tried to apologize again, but he still didn’t know what he had done wrong. 

William spent the rest of the night by his sister’s bed, awake, watching her sleep, afraid that she would have another seizure. Still, they wouldn’t tell him what was wrong with her, reassuring him that it was nothing, that he shouldn’t worry. That everything was back to normal. William wondered what the problem could have been. Had she been tired from all the parties? Whatever illness she had had during his absence must have needed for her to rest. 

If they had told him that Samantha shouldn’t have been too active, he would have made her lie down. How was he supposed to know? However hard it would have been because she was not that kind of child. Her always buzzing around had earned her nickname since she was as little as a toddler.

William was lost in thought when he noticed her breathing change and Samantha rolled on her side.

“Hey, bumblebee,” he whispered, checking to see if she was awake or just moving in her sleep.

“William, what are you doing here?” she sleepily opened one eye, and looked startled at his presence.

“You scared us pretty good tonight, little one. Why didn’t you tell me you were sick?”

Memories started coming back to her because her sleepy happy demeanor changed to a worried one in a matter of seconds.

“Mama told everybody to keep it from you. She said it would upset you and worsen your condition.”

William sighed. He didn’t like being kept in the dark. Whatever was going on with his mind, he was determined to be cleared from it. It was just a matter of time, all the doctors said. He just needed to forget about the terrors he had seen. But it wasn’t a threat to his life, so it had to be put aside. He had read in Katherine’s eyes that Samantha’s illness seemed much more dangerous.

“It will not, I promise,” he crossed his heart. “Just tell me what is happening to you.”

“I’m not really sure. I’m thirsty, hungry and cranky all the time. I spent a week in bed a while ago, and it seemed to get better… but I guess it was just a temporary thing, since it is back again.”

“The doctor’s niece said it was all my fault for exhausting you with my presence—.”

“Miss Scully was here?” Samantha woke completely at her mention, and sat up on the bed, smiling wildly. “So, you have met her?”

“I did, yes. But she wasn’t as pleased as you seem to be.”

“What did you do? She’s the nicest doctor I’ve ever met.”

Samantha frowned at him, that funny face she used to make whenever she didn’t agree with her brother’s ideas. Which was usually. They got on really well but the age gap was difficult to handle sometimes. However, he let it slip, he was more curious about his sister’s declaration.

“Katherine is a doctor?”

William realized just now that she had done most of the job, but she couldn’t possibly be a doctor. She was so young. And she was a woman. It just couldn’t be.

“You should call her Miss Scully, silly. Anyway, not yet. But she’s studying for it, at the Woman's Medical College. Oh, William, she is so clever, and lovely and—.”

“Hey, hush, now. Calm down,” William noticed her breathing was getting faster and he couldn’t allow that. Miss Scully would have all the reason to eye him angrily this time. “You are supposed to be resting and I’m only exciting you more and more. I shouldn’t be here.”

“No, please!” She yelled at this getting up, but immediately tucked herself down again. “I promise I’ll behave and stay calm. Please, stay. I have been missing you a lot.”

William pondered his options for a minute. He could go to his room and stay awake for the rest of the night —there was no way he was falling asleep now— worrying about her. Or, he could just stay awake in her room making sure she was okay. It seemed like an easy decision.

“Okay, I will stay. But you have to go back to sleep, it is late and you need to rest.”

“Thanks, William. You are the best big brother. I’m so happy you are back.”

Samantha closed her eyes and tried her best to fall asleep, even when she found it difficult. The little talk with her brother had excited her too much. She wanted to know more.

“You will tell me what you talked to her about tomorrow, will you, please?” she drowsily asked him.

“Of course. I will tell you all about Miss Scully in the morning. Now, be quiet and sleep.”

Samantha seemed to be fascinated by Katherine. William couldn’t blame her. He had been too since the first moment he saw her. He wasn’t used to coming across women so sure of themselves. Now that he knew she was attending University, he was even more impressed. Not everybody was cut out for higher studies. He himself had had trouble in his first year of law school —although he always thought it was because of his little interest in the matter. But medicine… It seemed like an even more difficult thing. In the war field, he had seen limbs amputated, bones showing out from skin, men yelling and crying from pain. It was a terrible view not many grown men could handle. And apparently, Miss Scully was diving into that world willingly.