1861/08/02 Welcome Miss Deb
Scene Welcome Miss Deb
Characters Deborah and Kitty
Place Boarding House
Date 2 August 1861, Evening

The afternoon is getting on. It’s the hottest time of the day, these times, when the sun has been scorching the earth for the longest, but hasn’t set low enough to finally duck behind the horizon and offer the denizens of the planet’s surface some god damned peace and respite. For those men in collars, they are wilted. For those women in dresses and bonnets, they too seem to be fading. Even the always-impeccably dressed Kitty Morton is showing signs of the heat. Having left the office to the good Dr. Yin’s capabilities this evening, she moves into the boarding house, taking off her gloves as she does so. She has a purple and white plaid skirt on, with a purple blouse to match and a straw hat pinned to her auburn curls. A brown satchel hangs about her body. Despite looking quite nice, it can be noted that she does not wear crinoline today, her skirts not as plucky and full as they might be. In a nice, albeit plain, day dress like the one she has on now, the fashion faux paus might be noted.

“Madame?” Kitty calls in her syrupy southern accent upon entrance to the Boarding House. By her tone, she’s no doubt seeking the proprietress.

While the heat here has little on the blazing sun of the South, it is hardly pleasant for any woman dressed in appropriate layers for the fairer sex. Deborah has managed to hire a strong, burly young man to load up her trunks, including the ridiculously heavy one, onto a wagon and deposit both her and her items at the boarding house. After indicating he should wait briefly to make sure her second potential housing of the day works out, the newcomer brushes off her traveling dress and steps inside. Now the heat is only background for the stuffiness that sits in every building until the evening breeze arrives.

While she calls out, “Madam,” it is so soft as to be just shy of a normal person’s conversational volume. After biting her lower lip, she notices the other, more colorful woman in the entryway and offers a shy smile. “Good day. Do you know if she’s on her way? Or even in?” There is a definite lilt to her accent that could be identified as Georgian, for one who had the ear.

And who has an ear better than a sweet Charleston belle? Few, one would think. Kitty turns quickly, her skirts swishing just slightly for the lack of structure. She finishes peeling off her gloves, reaching up to unpin her hat. “I’m afraid I’ve no idea, ma’am,” the nurse responds. “I rather hoped, however. I was hoping her boy could bring some water up for me. This heat, this dust …” she sighs, letting the nonverbal gesture indicate her thoughts on the matter. “There’s usually a touch of supper, come sundown, so if she’s not in presently I can’t imagine it’ll be too much longer before she’s come.” Kitty smiles then, her dimples flashing to the other woman. “Are you a tenant here, ma’am?”

Deborah’s mouth morphs into a silent “oh” as she learns of the workings of the place, at least a bit. With a quick shake of her head that sends some of the travel-worn strands of auburn hair askew, she notes, “Not yet, but I sure am hoping I might be until I can talk to my cousin about maybe staying with him.” That plump lower lip gets caught in her teeth once more before she releases it, along with a soft sigh. “Water would be nice, though. So you don’t stay here either?” Unlike her counterpart, the Southern belle, this Georgian flower is more of the simple kind and her language reflects the lack of culture. While waiting for the response, she cannot help but peer at the stairway hopefully, as though she might produce the owner by sheer force of will and wishes.

No owner yet appears. But that’s alright, there’s a beacon of southern hospitality here! “Oh no, ma’am. That is to say, I do. I’ve taken the upstairs apartment, really it’s an attic I think, or it was once, but it suites me well enough for the time being. I’ve a mind to purchase or build a house, someday, but … for now…” she shakes her head. “Nevermind that. There’s a pitcher upstairs in my rooms, if you’d care to join me. You can sit down, and dust off a touch, and we can wait for the supper bell. Then the Mistress will be present, and if you need a room for the night I’m sure she’ll be able to accommodate.” Her smile becomes more gentle, easy, and reassuring. “My name is Kitty Morton, I ought to say, and it’s a pleasure to meet you, ma’am.”

Deborah blushes are her incorrect assumption, but that is quickly wiped away to be replaced by a strong lift of her brow upon hearing this apparently genteel woman intends to become a homeowner in her own right. Although her lips part to inquire further about that, she rapidly shuts them and listens to the offer. “Oh, that would be real kind of you, Miss Morton. The pleasure is surely all mine. First that nice man at the train station, then that there fella outside, now you. This town is just full of nice people.”

It takes a long moment for her to realize she did not reciprocate the introduction. “Oh, Lord!” Then a quick wince at the swear. “I’m Deborah Feeney. It’s real fine to meet you. Let me just run out real quick and let Mister Johanneson know to put my things in… hmm…” She looks around, glances at the stairs, then frowns in thought. “Well, maybe here. I couldn’t ask him to haul them all the way up to your room. We’d never them them back down.” Her soft voice s pensive as she considers. “Are they safe here, out in the open?”

“There’s some storage space under the main staircase leading up, here. I imagine they’d be just fine, there. Only a few folks call this place home, or even a place to rest their head. I cannot possibly imagine they’d start rifling through the underside of the steps and the like,” Kitty says, helpfully. She’ll step out of the way and pause to wait, only going up when Deborah is ready to go up.

“You said you intended to stay with your cousin, ma’am. May I ask who your cousin is? It’s possible I’d not know the name, but well, this is a rather small town and in my business I have seen quite a bit of it, in some form or another.”

Deborah nods her agreement without hesitation, clearly a fan of the storage space idea. “I will be right back. Good thinking.” She steps back out into the sunshine, which feels far less pleasant than it might sound any other time of year. After quick instructions to the hired help and a brief exchange of money, the blue-eyed woman re-enters the establishment and watches the man put her things — all her things, really — beneath the stairs.

Following Kitty’s lead toward her room, she laughs nervously, the quiet sound a bit wobbly in the still air. “I’m sure you do know him, for one reason or another. My cousin is John Bishop.” Her eyes are fixed on the woman’s face while she waits for the reaction.

Surprise. That’s the first one. The next? Why it’s delight. How odd! “Pastor Bishop? Well! How very fine that is!” The belle purrs, turning to lead the way up into the attic room. It’s actually one large room, the length of the house, with two deep windows, a wood-burning stove, some new wooden couches with nice cushions, a bed, and a large portrait of a wealthy seated man and a young girl with auburn hair standing beside him, traditionally. This high up, Kitty has left the windows open. “Sit down, please. Do be comfortable. I’ll pour us some water, for alas it’s all I have up here. Does your cousin know you are coming?”

A not-so-silent sigh of relief escapes Deborah when it becomes clear it is indeed a good thing to be associated with that name. Her smile is short-lived, however, and she takes her time settling into a comfy cushion while she considers her response to the unintentionally loaded question. “Thank you,” she replies to the announcement of impending water. “That is really all I need.”

Her fingers, worked but not calloused, fidget, smooth out the skirt of her dress, then lock together to prevent further movement. Finally, she replies, “No, he does not.” There is far more to the story and it is written all over her face, but she does not offer any detail at the moment. “Are you one of his flock, Miss Morton?”

“I’m a Baptist, yes ma’am,” Kitty says, pouring out two waters into simple pewter goblets, bringing them over and sitting in the nearby chair. “I had glass, fine heavy crystal,” she laments, momentarily, looking at the goblets. “But in transit from Charleston, they broke — every one.” The loss properly recognized, Kitty sips her own beverage, looking up at the woman again. “I sit under his tent every Sunday when he preaches. I have to admit, Miss Feeney, he left something of a … dark impression upon me when first I made his aquaitence. But he is quite a fine preacher, and speaks well with the spirit of the Lord. Many of us are quite impressed with him in that regard.” She smiles, an honest and unassuming smile. If she’s lying about any of that, it’s impossible to tell. “I’m sure he’ll be so pleased to have a cousin here to visit him!”

The material of the cup placed into Deborah’s hand appeared to be entirely immaterial to her. She took a long sip, longer than what might strictly be considered ladylike, then grinned as though she had just been given the finest roast in town. “Way I see it, glass doesn’t hold water any better’n metal. Thank you kindly.” The words are spoken with a gentle, warm smile to take any sting or judgment out of them. Anyone moving to the frontier likely left finery behind, in more ways than one.

A slow smirk climbs up the right side of her mouth. “I should have figured he would turn into a preacher, all things considered. It will be… interesting to see him like that on Sunday.” Comments about the dark impression are left aside for the moment, although it may be notable she didn’t seem in the least bit surprised to hear it.

She comes up short at Kitty’s last words, however. Pale cheeks bloom with color and she gently clears her throat before indulging in a bit more water. Nope, didn’t clear the lump any. After taking a deep breath to steady herself, she softly notes, “I’m not only here to visit, Miss Morton. I’m hoping he’ll take me in, what with us being family and all, even if we’re not the closest. I figured him being a man of the Lord might help in that way and nobody would look sideways at me for it.”

“Oh,” Kitty says, after taking a sip of her own water. “Well … no, I don’t imagine it would seem particularly strange at all,” Kitty admits. “It’s the nature of cousins and family to look after one another.” She sips the water again before setting the cup aside. It’s clear she’s comfortable in her little home, here.

“I won’t pry, of course, for your business is your own. But, well … do you want to live out here, ma’am? I’ve been out here but a few weeks myself and I must say, it’s a life that’s entirely different.”

Deborah allows herself a more open look at the furnishings and decorations, landing on the portrait for a long moment before she can bring herself back to the conversation at hand. The shy woman’s lips twitch in amusement, but years of repressing too much open laughter keeps the merriment contained mainly to her dancing blue eyes. “It was my choice, if that’s what you mean. I don’t know this town to know whether or not I want to live here, but I feel… I feel like I /need/ to live here.” Blushing, she rotates her cup this way and that in her hand idly. “I imagine I sound loonier than a dog with a twisted tail right about now.”

“No, I shouldn’t think that you do,” Kitty says, thoughtfully. “After all, I am here, am I not? By my own choice and my own hand. So I cannot say that it is odd to be here, lest I wonder for my own sanity.” She laughs at that, apparently much more free with her merriment. Her eyes flit to the portrait and she hmms softly.

“My father and I in Charleston,” she says by way of explanation. “We had that portrait done when I was eight. See, over his shoulder, through the glass paned window? You can see the harbor, and a slight slip of inlet where Fort Sumpter sits.” She sighs, perhaps a touch nostalgic, before returning to the conversation at hand.

“He was a doctor, and I his nurse. Now I work for a Dr. Yin, the best doctor in town, here.” The only doctor in town, but there’s no point in speaking too much on that, just now.

It was rather curious that Kitty came out here on the frontier, earning her a tilt of Deborah’s head as she mulled it over. Returning her attention to the painting, she squints slightly to look for that hint of Fort Sumpter. It takes a handful of heartbeats before she lets out a quiet “ah” and smiles as her eyes relax once more.

“I would imagine a town this small would only have one doctor,” she says with no little surprise. “Do you mean to tell me there are a few?” Again, her gaze slides to the portrait, then back to Kitty while she works through the pieces of this puzzle. “Did you come here because your father didn’t approve of you being a nurse?” The question is posed gently, with a slight forward lean in her posture and kindness in her eyes.

Kitty laughs again. “No ma’am. There’s but one doctor, though I don’t much care for the notion of applauding his abilities by the nature of him being the only one with such abilities. He’s good at what he does, and if we were to have another doctor, I’ve no fear for our business, of that I’m sure.” She sips her water again, following the other woman’s eyes to the portrait once more. It’s a fond thing to look at, that portrait, so she welcomes even another opportunity.

“Hmmm? Oh no, nothing of the sort at all, ma’am.” Kitty grins. “My father, why he raised me to be his nurse. I’ve been by his side for all manner of things, with him as my guiding light. Both in the office and in life. No, he passed recently, I’m afraid, so I simply … took up a new position.”

Deborah nods in understanding, either of the level of skill Dr. Yin must possess or of Kitty’s loyalty to him. “It is comforting to know I would be in good hands if I fall ill.” Realizing she put her foot firmly in her mouth with the comment about the nurse’s father, she takes some time in finishing her cup of water as new mental connections are made. Raised to be a nurse for her father, worked in an office… worrying her lower lip, she asks, “Was he often ill, Miss Morton?” A second thought takes root. “Or a doctor himself? Either way, what would bring you all the way out here to be a nurse?”

“Oh! Yes he was,” she says with a grin, shaking her head. “Forgive me, I must have forgotten to mention it.” She sips her water again, just as there’s a sound of a bell from down below.

“Oh, that must be supper. Come along, ma’am, we’ll go ahead and get you situated for the night. I’m sure come tomorrow your cousin will be delighted to see you.”

Wait, forgot to mention which? That he was ill or a doctor? There is no time for Deborah to ask the clarifying question, as the dinner bell has rung. Not only does that indicate food is available, but perhaps the proprietress is as well. “Thank you, Miss Morton. And please call me by my Christian name. I hardly need to stand on honors with one who has been so sweet to me. I will be quick, I hope, and can then join you for a good meal.”

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