The front door opened in the hallway. Mrs. Markham called in, “Everything all set in there? We have eager visitors, so stop your sparking!” Her voice was high and nervous.
Before Thankful or Lieutenant Fahy could respond, the Crenshaws stepped in from outside and crowded the hallway. Fahy grabbed his blanket and Thankful threw another over his useless legs. Without considering his feelings, Thankful took a small bottle of flower water from her pocket and poured it between the layered blankets to hide the smell of urine.
The door opened. “Mr. Fahy, are you all right?” Mrs. Markham asked when she saw his miserable face.
The lieutenant nodded, unable to speak. The Crenshaws filed in, looking at Fahy as if he were a curiosity in a freak show.
Thankful stood just behind the couch.
Graham extended his hand. “Mr. Fahy, good to meet you. Thankful says you make her happy.”
“Well, she’s a liar then,” Fahy said.
The family turned to Thankful. “Oh, he doesn’t mean it! He’s joking,” she said.
“Good thing you poked my sister before this happened,” Fred said, laughing.
“Fred Crenshaw, stop it at once!” Margaret demanded.
“Sorry, Mama.” Fred glared at Fahy.
Margaret sneezed. “Oh, it must be that smell of flowers—I suppose desert scents don’t agree with me.” She wrinkled her nose at Graham.
“Buck has told us all about your troubles, Mr. Fahy,” Graham said.
“Oh, has he? I guess he told you I was a thief and debtor—but those charges were dropped. Bloody scoundrels!”
Graham’s color rose at the sides of his thick neck. “I was meaning your paralysis. I’m sure you know I’m a doctor, and I believe we’ll be able to help you.”
“Do you know something the doctors here don’t?”
“No, but Thankful has mentioned that you might like to stay with us. There is a wonderful hospital in New York that I am associated with, and new cures are found all the time.”
“I need a miracle—got one, Buck?” Fahy asked before looking up at Graham. “No, I don’t want to live with you, sir.”
“But Thankful will need help and we can do that,” Graham said, anger slipping in now. “After the wedding, you may decide—once you know us better.”
“I don’t need to bloody know you. I want to be left alone. I told Thankful to call off the wedding, but …”
“But nothing!” Graham shouted. “Thankful will not have a bastard child! Never! If I have to drag you to this ceremony at gunpoint, I will!”
Everyone stared at him.
Fahy softened. “Dr. Crenshaw, how will it be for Thankful? You realize the life I’ll lead. You understand. What about your daughter, sir?”
“If you had cared about her yourself, you wouldn’t have knocked her up, you bastard,” Fred said.
Graham replied to Fahy, “It’s because I love my daughter I don’t want her reputation sullied further. She needs to leave here and you may come and be well-cared for the rest of your days.”
Thankful cried. Fahy took her hand, and she came from behind the couch and sat beside him. “Sir, I always intended to marry your daughter. Maybe someone from above knew that we wouldn’t be able to have children if we waited.”
“Oh, don’t use God to defend your disgraceful behavior. God is decidedly opposed to having relations before marriage,” Fred said. “Isn’t that so, Buck?”
Buck looked out the window.
“God or no God, Thankful is going to have a baby. It’s too late to discuss morality and ethics,” Graham said.
“Of course,” Fahy said. “I will marry her, but I refuse to live as an unwanted guest in your home. Maybe I’ll go back to Dublin.”
“Dublin?” Thankful cried.
“Oh, I knew a soldier would be the death of me somehow!” Margaret moaned. “And he’s not even that handsome,” she whispered to Meg.
Fahy heard and Meg blushed. She went to him, her every movement proclaiming her disgust for invalids. Meg tried a smile, but could not look him in the eye. “Mr. Fahy, do you have a proper chair? Maybe then you could come to the dance. Thankful wrote how much you loved them … I mean … well, you can still listen to the music and get pushed around and all.”
Silence now prevailed until Mrs. Markham brought in cool tea. They gulped it down and stood waiting, each in their own thoughts.
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3 responses to “Fiction: The Invalid”
This is a very powerful scene, Adrienne, bringing everyone’s anger and prejudices to the front.
The Crenshaw family have powerful emotions–that’s for sure. 😉
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