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23 September 2015

A Pair of Brown Eyes: Chapter 30 (the Last but One)

Take Claire to the clinic or to his own room? By this hour, the fireplace would already be lit upstairs, so the latter seemed like the obvious choice, proper manners notwithstanding: this was no time to be worrying about as petty a thing as delicacy.

Once in the bedchamber, Andrew laid Claire on his bed, softly, face down, head tilted to her left. Then, he went downstairs to retrieve his medical instruments, and quickly back to her side. With trembling hands —which in vain he tried to steady— he took a pair of scissors out of his bag. "I'm sorry for what I'm about to do," he said, as her back began to get exposed following the blade's movement.

The spectacle that opened up was too much for him to endure, and yet— endure it he must! Endure the view of her swollen skin and horrid wounds! Some of them were old, some newly inflicted; some of them healed, some infected; some were the obvious result of kicking, others revealed the use of more sophisticated weapons... Andrew gasped, imagining fists, boots, belts, rods... He had to stop there, he needed to regain his composure.

Unfortunately, his shock wasn't over yet. Turning her around, he discovered another heartbreaking evidence of the dreadful life she must have led: a section in her lower abdomen disclosed an alarming story: while a number of reasons could have induced a doctor —and, judging by the exactness of the cut, one had been summoned to do the job: was it comforting or was it not?— to take such an extreme measure as to remove her ovaries, the most likely presented itself as the consequence of a miscarriage gone horribly bad. The circumstances of said miscarriage, Andrew didn't dare to guess, and, leaving all other implications aside, it must have caused her a great deal of pain. His Claire! His poor Claire!

With the utmost care, Andrew set to the task of applying all necessary cures to her wounds —at least to the ones that could still be benefited from them. He was relieved to ascertain that her ribs were not so severely fractured as he had previously thought and that no real damage was done to her internal organs: she would recover in no time! After he was done, he put his jacket back on her, her own clothes no longer fit for use.

Just as he was leaving the room, intent to letting Claire rest as peacefully as possible, Andrew heard his housekeeper's voice downstairs, as she talked to someone on the front door. Ethel! He must have left her worried after their earlier conversation. What was he going to tell her now? Wavering, he went to meet her.

"Did you find her?", were the first words she addressed him. "Is she fine?"

Instead of answering, Andrew stepped closer to her sister and pulled her into a tight embrace.


When Ethel left a while later, with the promise to be back in the morning with a change of clothes for Claire, Andrew climbed the stairs once again, unable as he was to leave her side even for a second.

He sat by Claire's side. He took her hand. He felt relieved.

Her pulse was steadier, her breathing deeper. Some colour had returned to her cheeks, and she looked relaxed. Relaxed..., and so dazzling..., and captivating...., dressed in his jacket —which had never looked so good. If only circumstances had been happier... No, that wasn't the path to tread at the moment. All the sufferings she must have undergone... first with her husband, then in her fleeing scheme; she had built a whole new life..., from scratch..., while keeping that monstrous secret all to herself. His brave Claire! Andrew saw her in a new light, and he was utterly impressed with this exceptional lady. A gush of the most profound love filled his heart... But that wasn't the right path, either. Would she be warm enough? Andrew secured the blanket around her.

After that, he just remained where he was, his hand fastly clasped around hers, his mind lost in some far-away place, terrifying time... He felt appalled.

The place was London. The time, that period in Claire's life when she was still living with her husband. How must her days have passed by, in the frightful company of such bastard? Andrew could picture her, failing to accommodate his taste in whatever preposterous whim he might have set his mind to, and receiving one of those treatments he had but seen a sample of. His stomach revolted. And for how long had she been married to him? Some of the wounds looked very old: those hideous wounds covering up her entire body!

That a man —any man— should be able to inflict such pain on the one person they were bound to protect was beyond himself; and that such a person happened to be Claire was..., was...; words— failed— him.

He sat back. He set his eyes on Claire. The marks on her face were darkening. He felt ashamed.

What fraud of a medical man was he, not to have understood sooner? He should have recognised those symptoms with no need of physical reminders. He, who had been the unwilling witness to dozens of cases like Claire's, had failed to recognise those signs in the woman he loved. Stupid, stupid man! Merely because those things never happened to people one knows? Such a silly, puerile delusion! Was that his best excuse? He could have spared her, at least this once. He should have spared her, had he not been so blind.

He stood up. He went to the other end of the room. Then back. Pacing the floor. Over and over. He took another look at Claire.

He clenched his fist. He slammed the wall. He felt mortified.

Thoughts of guilt ran freely, accusing him. Tormenting him. Eating him inside. Guilt for what he had done —or not done— to Claire.

Not only was he a bluff as a doctor, but also as a gentleman. What had he done to her? He was almost as guilty as Richardson himself. He, too, had mistreated her; he, too, had been cruel to her; he, too, had given her lots of pain. She had given him plenty of clues about the truth hidden behind her secretive behaviour, and what had he done about them? Nothing. Nothing at all. He had failed to read them properly, busy as he was feeling jealous, and irritable, and exasperated.

He almost wished himself back to that time when he was unaware of her terrible predicament, to the time when those self-absorbed feelings were his main concern, and he could feel as dejected as he chose. Almost. No, that was not true! He needed to know, and it served him right to have learned about it in such a horrendous way: that was his punishment; hopefully, it would be her relief. Would she ever forgive him?

He sat back. He hid his head in his hands. Mostly, he felt scared.

Scared, imagining her many frights over the years —the agonizing anticipation of yet another outburst, the excruciating aftermath of it; the perpetual anxiety, her spirit being crashed by degrees... He would gladly have taken her place each and every of those occasions.

He approached Claire's bed once more. He stroked her hair. He planted a kiss on her cheek.

The bed looked so huge, with her lying in it. Oh, Lord, how scared he was! Scared, and desperate, and desperately eager for her to wake up, so he could tell her she needn't be scared any longer.

She was safe now; he would make sure of it. Of course she wanted herself away from that odious man! Just as she should be, as she needed, as he wanted her to. Her well-being was all that mattered. And Andrew would help her; he wouldn't fail her again. Ever again.

So many more things he would wish to tell her...


Author's note.- I didn't anticipate that this chapter would be such a hassle, but that's what it's been —a true nightmare, actually—, and I must excuse myself once again for my tardiness; I'd better not look back at the date for my last entry, I get the shivers and develop a cold sweat just to think about it. Believe it or not, I've been working on it all throughout the summer, but it never seemed to get right, besides a family tragedy dried me up for a while. Hope it was worth the waiting.


  1. YAY!!! I was so happy to see another chapter! Sorry to hear about your family tragedy. I hope you're doing better now. :) I understand all too well how things don't seem right so they just sit and no forward progress is made. It's the place I currently sit. :(

    Now the chapter. I just want to hug Andrew. He's feeling so guilty over not knowing or picking up on Claire's behavior. He shouldn't blame himself. As he said, when you're close to a person you don't want to think something that terrible could happen to them.

    He has her now and she's safe from that person. I'm sure when Claire wakes she'll be mortified to know that Andrew not only knows her secret, but has seen her wounds. :( A long overdue conversation is in order for those two then the healing can begin. :)

  2. I'm sorry to hear about your family and I hope that things are better for you now.

    Oh poor Andrew. This was a beautifully written chapter. I felt so bad for him reading through. He has so much anger and so much guilt over Claire's situation. Man. Whether he wants to believe/acknowledge it now, Claire is VERY lucky to have met him and that he's there with her now. She will forgive him (she has to, that's the only way I see this working out). I do hope that she divorces that asshole Richardson. No more running. She's found all she'll ever need.

    This chapter was well worth the wait.