Sequence: Drawn Upon Imagination (part six)
Her father’s misogyny made for an awkward pause between them. Then, seeing that she studied the sunken flesh under her right eye, where fragments of shattered bone had been flushed out, the flap of skin stitched down, Dr. Eastland, confident in his profession, found words.
He took off his glasses. This either illustrated, or had been inspired by, his thoughts. “Do you wear glasses, Luberta?”
“No.” And in the way awkwardness spurs self-consciousness, she giggled, surprising herself, and expanded on this monosyllable. “No, I never have. Not yet.”
“I would have said, in that case…if you did…that no one would be likely to notice. I hope you’ll consider leaving well alone. I don’t advise you. A small bone graft is generally quite safe; notwithstanding, every subject will take a procedure differently.” He paused—a pause of some length—before he dropped his last comment. “I suppose women suffer most over these imperfections.”
Luberta thought he invited her to explain. Even Dr. Eastland, for being a sort of honorary uncle, had his prejudices regarding Poor Miss Bragg. She was not the penniless Potash Princess, aging wallflower, not, in private minds, this alone. Before Talou had been brought to the hospital, Luberta had been perfectly clear on the gossip’s undercurrent.
But she could hardly say, “I’m a professional blackmailer. You see, it’s simple.”
Not so simple, but complicated…her becoming Talou for Desanges’s sake. And not a question that could be answered, if asked from the shelter of a blind. He would not hear Luberta speaking, but a person invented in rumor and fantasy, and he would be certain he knew better. Even Dr. Eastland. Still more the casual gawper who could not inform herself enough about those things she called deviance.
She tied a scarf over her hair. Through the open window Luberta had heard a low thrum of speech―a conversation, in which one participant was at first incredulous, then merely offended, at last mollified; the other insensible of the impression he made, and autocratic throughout. This reminded Luberta that she did have one friend, after all. Only she hadn’t felt Harvey quite counted. He had always told her, “Having friends is a weakness I do not indulge.”
But since he’d returned in May from his annual trip to Cannes, and had found out, Luberta didn’t know from whom, that his occasional secretary was now an inmate at Miss Tremelhies’s rest home, Harvey had visited her every few days. Though he came, if she were not mistaken, under an impulse new to Harvey…and this was not fellow-feeling. It was loneliness, she thought.
“Did you pay some poor groundskeeper to take charge of Ulalume? Is that what I heard going on?”
Drawn Upon Imagination
(2016, Stephanie Foster)