She sat rigidly in her chair, her corset pinching at her ribs. This was not comfortable in the least. What had ever possessed her to go from her folks farm in Kansas to Manhattan of all places was beyond her now. She had enjoyed the adventure of getting from Kansas to New York, but now that she was here, sitting in a small alcove awaiting her first interview, she was regretting her rash decisions. She didn’t want to marry Dill. She wanted to have a life, to make something great of herself. She wanted to really have a hope at the very least of raising her station in life. She had been the brightest of her class, and been dared by more than one of her girlfriends to attend college. And now, here she sat, waiting for the counselor to see her.
It was rather splendid really, this new age. Women were gaining a few freedoms. She had been able to travel without the need of a chaperone. She was actually residing at a female dormitory at the moment, though it would have probably been more financially reasonable to have stayed with Aunt Matilda and Uncle Adam, she just didn’t want to deal with family anymore.
She had more than her fill of being told how she should live her life. She had left her hope chest at home, in order to make a point that she wasn’t ready to marry, settle down, and have lord only knows how many children. That was not in her future or her interest. She wanted to dance at a nightclub, to taste her first champagne, to sparkle.
She had been sitting for the last hour. The other two women that had been with her had already come and gone. She reached into a pocket of her vest, extracted a dainty pocket watch, and popped the lid open. 4:55 p.m. Her face paled as her stomach grumbled at her. If she wasn’t seen today, she wouldn’t be able to enrol, and the office closed at 5:00 p.m. She sighed, frustrated with herself that she had allowed herself to hope against hope that she could actually make something of herself. Maybe Ma and Pops were right; all her talent lay in mending and cooking, and she wasn’t fit for a degree. “Ms Teslanoviach? We’re so sorry for the delay, Mr. Bradshaw can see you now,” a wiry male called out to her from a door.
“Oh. Coming!” she bustled herself out of her chair, grabbing her portfolio excitedly. This was really going to happen. She followed the man into the dimmed room. It was packed with books. A balding older gentleman in a Victorian suit slumped over his desk, scribbling away under a dying lamp. “Mr. Bradshaw, this is Nicole Teslanoviach. She has come here from Kansas,” the wiry man stopped to glimpse over her application before handing it to Mr. Bradshaw, “to enroll in the science curriculum.” he passed off the pages.
Mr. Bradshaw glanced at the pages quickly before motioning for Nicole to take a seat. “I’ll get to the point miss. This program is new, and not the most settling of fields for a gentlewoman such as yourself. There are dangers in the laboratory that are not suited to a female disposition,” he gently tried to rebuff her dreams.
“Mr. Bradshaw, sir, I believe that the laboratory will not disturb me in the least. I have looked forward to working with this institution for longer than you would believe,” she giggled, trying to win the man over.
“My dear, I don’t think you comprehend my meaning fully. There are chemicals that might severely impact your health. The anatomy laboratory is just not…” he blushed, “it’s just not proper for a woman. After all, the zoology room would probably make you faint,” he tried again.
“Sir, I grew up on a self-sufficient farm three towns away from the nearest railway station. I, being an only child, had to help with all the chores on the farm, including butchery and fertilizing the fields. I’ve had my hands in more mechanisms than you could bat an eyelash at, and I’ve dealt with more rank, rotting things than you would want to encounter, sir,” she answered defiantly.
“Still, my dear, maybe you would rather apply to the fine art class or the history college. I hear that the Latin professor is exceptional this year,” he pushed.
“No sir, this is what I want to work towards,” she didn’t budge. Mr. Bradshaw was becoming upset. His face had reddened to a dark crimson. She sat rigidly in her chair, her corset pinching, but she never wavered. This was her dream, and she was going to make it into a reality.
“Ms. Teslanoviach, I will tell you this now, and only now, and the decision is final. There is no more space in the science college. You can learn a humanities or you can leave. On top of that, you said you came from a small town? Can you even pay for your education?” he scoffed at her. Her face paled. She had hoped that there might have been some ability to attain a sponsorship or patronage. Her dreams were shattering into tiny jagged pieces around her. “No, Mr. Bradshaw, I do not have a sponsor. I had hoped-”
“You hoped? Miss, please, for the sake of my time, and this fine institution, leave. Apply in a few years when you can pay for your education or you have retained a sponsor. Mr. Yeltz, see Ms. Teslanoviach to the door,” he dismissed her.
She sat stunned, perplexed, for a second, not certain if she should argue or leave in a dignified huff. She looked into the face of the wiry man, his china-blue eyes pitying her. She wasn’t going to have it. One thing she knew was that she did not want anyone’s pity. She rose, put off with the situation and sauntered out of the room. She made it to the end of the hall and out the door before tears started stinging the back of her eyes. If she hurried, she could make it to the shadows of one of the Grecian columns before the tears would mar her makeup. Tears started flowing, blinding her vision as she turned a corner. She felt pebbles scuttle under her heels and the clang of a metal can that she tripped over.
Thud. She ran into someone. “I’m sorry,” she apologized as she tried to make her way around. Ham-sized fists settled on her narrow shoulders, “Oh, now, lass, what are you doing in this part of town?” a gruff voice asked her.
She looked up, startled to find herself lost in an alley. The man before her was stocky, dirty, and Irish. Her heart lept and started thudding heavily in her chest. “It looks like I’m a bit lost, sir. Do you know a way to Five Corners?” she asked, terrified for herself.
“Oh, missy, I do, but it’ll cost you,” he laughed. His hand clamped around her arms as she tried to pull away from his grasp.
“My, my flighty bird, aren’t you excitable.” He picked her up, throwing her over his shoulder. She screamed and kicked. Her petticoats took the brunt out of her struggle.
The snap of leather cut through the dismal walkway. A steady metal rap on rock and dirt trembled across the walls. “Unhand her.” A soft western drawl reverberated through the space. Nicole turned to see the man commanding man. A three-piece suit and leather duster. His face and hair were hidden beneath his straw hat.
“Ohho, what’s a cowboy doing in these areas?” The man holding her spat.
“Took a left at New Mexico and ended up here.” The westerner approached the brawler quickly, snapping his cane quickly across the man’s rough hands. With a shriek of anger and pain, the Irish man pushed Nicole away from him and hurtled himself at the newcomer. The wall greeted her, sending her into a puddle of blackness.
A quick step back from the rushing man and a swift hand jabbed into his throat, and the westerner brought the Irishman down. The brawler struggled for breath, spread out in the mud. A jab to the gut with the metal-tipped cane guaranteed the man would stay down. The Westerner analyzed the woman sprawled on the ground. He sniffed disdainfully at the unconscious creature. He withdrew a pocket watch from his vest and checked it. A sigh of exasperation escaped his lips before he hefted her into his arms and strolled out of the alley to disappear down a glowing blue corridor.
Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.
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