Grace Under Fire

Started by Charity, May 07, 2018, 09:32:14 pm

Charity

May 07, 2018, 09:32:14 pm Last Edit: May 07, 2018, 09:38:15 pm by Charity
News traveled fast, it was true, but gossip moved even quicker. News required fact and detail whereas all gossip needed was a story and a victim, two things that were always in large supply. It was a gaping, dripping maw, its hunger ravenous and unyielding, and the beast had finally found its prey. In a community of science and discovery, no one man or woman was unimportant. The strides they'd made and the contribution they offered to better society were invaluable, every life in high society treasured. To lose a life, to fail to keep someone of worth and standing alive, it was a social death sentence.

"He let him die, I heard," Elizabeth Vornbach murmured across the table to the companion she'd invited to afternoon tea.

"Not only that," Isabella Boyers, the mother of Reuben Tommy Boyers, began, "My husband told me it was all a case of absolute incompetence on his part. He said he exhibited a lack of medical prowess so grand it would have made the university students seem positively proficient," she continued, one elegant hand resting over her heart as though the story were too terrible to relay.

The well-to-do women sat on the veranda of a grand old mansion, both of them leaning forward in their whicker chairs, eager to lap up the words of the other. Elizabeth was a vision in blue, the silk of her tea dress bringing out the sapphire of her eyes. Her long dark hair was piled atop her head in artfully styled curls and topped with a matching blue sun hat. Her compatriot, Isabella, looked like she'd been dressed in glimmering sunlight. Her own tea dress was a beautiful combination of yellows and whites, her blonde hair in a thick, ornate braid over one shoulder, her sunhat brimmed with golden flowers and white feathers.

Mrs. Vornbach tutted gently and dropped a perfectly cut sugar cube into her porcelain teacup, its edges lined with gold. "How terrible, do you think Reuben will have to associate with him when he graduates?" she asked, seemingly genuinely terrified that the disgraced doctor would somehow taint the boy. "Oh no, I doubt it. I'm sure he'll be relieved of his position promptly," Mrs. Boyers assured her friend.

Gossip had no boundaries, it did not settle like a fog over those who shared it, nor did it hide discreetly in knowing smiles or exchanged glances. It was a virus, spreading from person to person without regard for distance or barrier. And this particular bit of gossip was no different. Just around the corner, hiding behind a pillar facing the veranda, two children huddled together and listened to the words of their mothers. Reuben had his arm around the shoulders of young Charity, protecting her from the troubling tale of the vile doctor. He was sixteen now and would be heading off to university soon, and he hoped with all his might that the failure would be removed from his post soon. "Who are they talking about?" Charity asked in a hushed breath. She was ten now and although she still had a ways to go in her knowledge of the social intricacies of adults, even she knew a failure like this was disgraceful. "Doctor Halladay," the boy answered, looking at her and squeezing her shoulders with a reassuring, cocky smile.
Dialogue Color: AntiqueWhite

Grace Halladay

Grace had spent hours in her room studying that day, her admittance into medical school required a high grade on the final test and she wasn't going to mess it up.  However her mind had been elsewhere for the most part, rare but there was a big party with several of her friends and classmates and Grace Halladay was NOT one to miss an opportunity to socialize.  The young girl not far removed from her sweet sixteenth birthday looked up to a picture on her wall, a memento from her parents when they traveled to Ariel to visit some of the historic birthplaces of modern medical breakthroughs and a theme park.  Smiling as she gazed upon it she heard her corpad go off.

Like any teen girl being far from her technology was a sin and so looking down on the bed beside her she saw her friend Joanna's face appear.  She swiped the screen accepting the call.

"Hey Joanna, are you still picking me up in an hour?"

"Yep.  My parents chauffeur will come by in the jet in an hour.  Don't forget to tell your parents you're staying over tonight."  Her friend reminded her, all the while curling her hair as she prepared herself for the party.

"Oh I forgot to tell them.  I'll see you soon.  Byes!"  Grace swiped off the call as she hopped out of bed, she had been ready for the party for awhile and just had to change into her dress.  Before she forgot though she wanted to tell her parents her plans before she forgot again.  Heading downstairs the manor was unusually quiet, her parents were in the den and speaking in hushed tones.  Grace crept up to the door frame and pressed against it, peeking around the corner to hear them speak.

"Dear, I know you did all you could but the charts were quite clear it was a risk for him to undergo the operation in the first place.  You told him that multiple times and yet he insisted.  There isn't a doctor on any planet that could have saved him."  Grace heard her mother's word and saw her rub her hand up and down her father's back, he himself was leaned over, hands pressed against his forehead.

"I know Annette but you know how these people are.  Especially that Vornbach woman.  I can practice medicine anywhere but little Grace.  She has friends, she's about to go to medical school.  Do you think they'll look kindly on her resume when her father was the head surgeon for Reginald Cumberbatch's failed surgery?  We cannot tell her.  Especially ahead of the graduation party."[/i]  It was hard for her to hear her father like this.  Her father was her idol, he was the best doctor in the world.  The universe even.  She moved away from the door and composed herself before turning the corner, pretending she'd not been listening.

"Papa, Joanna asked me to stay the night after the party.  I know the test is tomorrow but I don't have to go to class until the afternoon to take it.  Would that be okay?"

Her father and mother gave each other a look, clearly trying to determine if their daughter had heard anything.  She was fighting tears inside but kept a bright smile on her exterior.  After a moment her father nodded and she graciously took her leave of them.  Going back to her room she prepared for the party.  While the news was shocking she knew it would blow over when the autopsy revealed her father had done more than anyone else could have done, tonight she was going to have fun and she'd heard there might even be alcoholic beverages.

Charity

May 07, 2018, 10:31:54 pm #2 Last Edit: May 07, 2018, 10:34:08 pm by Charity
The Vornbachs never missed a party, no matter the distance or the time required to prepare. After an afternoon of playing in the gardens and sharing each others dreams and hopes for the future, Charity and her mother said good bye to Reuben and Mrs. Boyers, promising to see them that evening at the party. Once they'd gone, a slew of servants set to corralling and dressing their young charge while her mother waited for Charity's father to return from the office. At such a young age, the little aristocrat was still a wild whirlwind and it took three maids to drag her kicking and flailing back into her chambers. They'd gotten good at that, capturing the girl, and they had it down to under a minute now.

It took another hour before they were able to finish dressing her and tidying her hair, but when they were done, even Charity had to commend them for their efforts. Her dress was a pretty pale pink, tied at the waist with an embroidered pink ribbon, the lace trimmed hem ending mid shin. White tights covered her legs where they were then hidden beneath black button up boots. With half her hair pulled back and held in place by a big white bow, the rest cascaded around her shoulders in childlike curls.

By then, her father had returned home and her parents had tidied up for the evening's events, looking quite handsome together. The ride to the party was devoid of the earlier gossip, although her father did seem more grim than usual and her mother looked like the cat who's eaten the canary. Still, they doted upon their daughter with compliments, stories from the hospital, and musings about who they would see once they'd arrived.

Like most parties for the sickeningly wealthy, everything was grand and rich. A scanner had been built into the doorway to ensure that none of the guests arrived armed, and guards were posted all over the property to keep their unarmed clients safe. The guests twirled and waltzed about the large ballroom like bits of silk blowing about in the wind. The high, arched ceiling was painted with depictions of chubby cherubs and decadent visions of nymphs, or what one might have imagined a nymph looked like. A chandelier floated gracefully above the dance floor, its sparkling light gleaming down upon the entirety of the assembled upper echelon. Food had been brought in from all over the planet, and some from off world, only the best allowed to be served at such a distinguished affair.

The Vornbachs, having passed through the scanner without incident, entered the main doorway to the sound of their names announced by an attendant. "Oh, Isabella!" Elizabeth crooned, spotting her partner in crime and slipping free of her husband and child to join the other woman further in. Her sparkling white gown fluttered around her as she moved, diamonds sparkling around her neck under the light of the chandelier. Patting Charity's head tenderly, her father set his hand on her back and nudged gently, allowing her to escape his side and join the gaggle of young girls twittering around Reuben. Once both his loves were enjoying themselves, Mr. Vornbach made his way to his own business associates.
Dialogue Color: AntiqueWhite

Grace Halladay

May 07, 2018, 10:54:26 pm #3 Last Edit: May 07, 2018, 10:56:09 pm by Grace Halladay
Their chariot had arrived precisely on time and the two girls exited the jet all smiles for the night that was to come.  Passing through the scanners and into the ballroom their eyes were alight.  It never grew tired when her name was announced, she was proud to be a Halladay despite the unfortunate but likely misheard news of earlier.  Grace looked around to see if any of her other friends had arrived while Joanna eyed the buffet.  For a girl skinnier than herself Joanna had always been fond of a snack.  They parted ways briefly and Grace walked around the edges of the dance floor, she knew William would be at the party and she had it on good authority he'd be seeking her out tonight.  Grace made sure she looked her best so that she would not disappoint her crush.  Though she was not able to see him yet in the crowd.

She checked her dress periodically to ensure all was in place, while she was just starting to develop certain assets, the dress was helpful in ensuring they were more prominent than they would be otherwise.  The dress was a deep amythyst, the kind of fabric that seemed to change its hue depending on the angle. The full skirts brushed the shin, its hem lined with simple, elegant lace. A white collar made up of the same lace as the trim covered the shoulders and ended at the back, akin to the uniform of a sailor, a white ribbon tied neatly in the front. Fabric covered buttons ran along the side of the long sleeves, ending at the elbow and keeping the sleeves tight around the arm. Ties, secured at the sides of the dress, were pulled back and tied up in a pretty, perfect bow in the back of the dress, their tails hanging down, allowed to flutter as she moved.

As she wandered around looking for William she finally spotted him and by happy chance by Reuben.  Another medical student hopeful for the most prestigious school on Ariel.  As she approached from across the room she locked eyes with William who nudged his friend Reuben who in turn began to whisper in his ear.  She saw his smile curbed from whatever he was told but she disregarded.  When finally she successfully navigated the crowd and reached them she noticed a younger girl in quite a remarkable pink dress.  To put on the illusion she wasn't here just to speak to William she turned to the girl.  She then realized who it was.

"My.  Is that you Charity?  Charity Vornbach?  I could've sworn you were ready to graduate with the rest of us.  Your dress, it's stunning.  I am jealous.  Are those..."  She took the girl in, her eyes now stuck at her boots.

"Those are Vermici boots aren't they?  You look entirely delightful."  She complimented the young woman, who looked much more grown up than her actual age.  She chanced a glance at William and gave a slight curtsy.

"Reuben.  William."  She greeted them each with a smile but something had changed in Williams face since she and he first locked eyes.

*it should be clear but the dress was Dear Mrs Charity's concept and I thank her very much for letting me cheat on the test*

Charity

A hum of conversation moved through the ballroom as the Halladay girl was announced. Glances were cast in her direction, some scornful, some full of pity, and some simply curious. They watched her enter, stared as she moved around the edges of the room, and gawked when she approached the other young men and women. The buzz of conversation continued until the fickle socialites grew bored of it and returned to their dancing, conversing, and indulgence. The song changed and the dancers moved about the floor in an intricate pattern, their waltz like a choreographed dance. Attendants walked through the ballroom with trays covered in sweets and balancing glasses of champagne.

Charity stared silently at the other girl as the compliments poured out of her mouth and Reuben seemed to step closer to her, his arm wrapping around her shoulders almost protectively. The girl in pink inhaled, preparing to answer, but the young man tightened his grip on her shoulders. Casting him a curious glance, her lips smacked shut again. She wanted to thank the other girl for the sweet words, but Reuben seemed to think she shouldn't and she did tend to listen to what he said.

"Grace Halladay," Reuben began, nudging William a little and grinning dangerously, "I'm surprised you'd show your face around here, after what your father did," he said with a sneer, his chin lifting proudly and fire in his eyes, "Or I guess, after what he didn't do." Putting it together, finally, Charity turned her attention back toward Grace, looking her over as though her father's failure would be written on her somewhere. But still, she looked more confused than scornful.

"Look at her dress," one of the other girls murmured to another, "So last season," she added. The other girl giggled cruelly and bumped into the first girl, playfully chastising her for her open insult but doing nothing real to stop her from her mean spirited comments. Charity eyed them with a confused frown. The dress was not last season, she'd seen one like it on display in one of her favorite shops. Both the design and the color were very in fashion right now so she wasn't entirely sure what the other girls were talking about. In fact, she owned a dress very similar in cut to the one Grace was wearing, although it had been hand made for her and was in a softer white color. But still, she almost felt insulted for Grace. Again she opened her mouth to say something only to have Reuben clear his throat loudly, silencing her once more.
Dialogue Color: AntiqueWhite

Grace Halladay

May 07, 2018, 11:49:32 pm #5 Last Edit: May 07, 2018, 11:54:20 pm by Grace Halladay
The young girl seemed eager to respond but Reuben seemed to surround her as if protecting her, squeezing her to stop her from speaking before he addressed Grace.

"Grace Halladay."

Her gaze was taken away from William and back to Reuben who spoke her name as if she was some rodent.  He nudged William and his grin frightened her.  What was this about?  Was this some game they were playing?  Did she miss something in school?  She felt like she was on the outside of an inside joke.  She lowered her bottom lip to begin a response but Reuben spoke again.


"I'm surprised you'd show your face around here, after what your father did... Or I guess, after what he didn't do."

His disdain became clear, this was an inside joke.  She was the inside joke, her family name.  She wanted to defend her father, this was what her parents had been speaking about before but it was worse than she thought.  She wanted to defend her father but didn't know what happened, she didn't have the facts and upon reconsidering a lot of the room had taken notice of her when she arrived.  At first she was too involved in the potential events of the night but she heard whispers from everyone she'd passed.

She then heard in the background some girls commenting on her dress.  Last season?  She'd saved for two years and this dress was fresh off the Osiris fashion line.  Her father had to pay thousands of extra credits to get it custom made for her.  Reuben, William, Charity's faces all began to blur as she turned to see the crowd looking at her.

"Joanna?  Joanna.  Joanna!"  Grace called looking through the crowd, she knew she could count on her best friends support.  Finally finding her friend in the crowd she met her gaze and saw as one of the girls commenting on her dress whispered in her ear.  Joanna looked at the girl in disbelief before pushing through the crowd to reach the front.

"Joanna, please tell them it wasn't his fault.  You know Papa would do anything to help."  The two just looked at each other in silence, Joanna having a hard time keeping eye contact.  She held a crimson drink in her hand, looking at the crowd she realized the ramifications ahead.  She shed a tear before emptying the contents, splashing it across Grace's dress and face ruining the ensemble.  That was the last Grace ever saw of Joanna who stormed off in tears through the crowd.

Now Grace stood, her dress destroyed and worse her family name.  There was laughter and curses and even if the music played on she could no longer hear it.  If there was a God he would kill her right then and there.  Instead she stood still, among those who now sneered and decried her existence.

"It's lies!  She cried out, her tears mixing with the red beverage on her cheek as she turned to run away.  What didn't land on her face and dress from her friends drink however had landed on the floor and in her haste her heel caught her dress and slipped on the spill causing her to crash to the ground.  She heard the laughter around and as she brought herself to her knees she saw all, even her beloved William laughing at her.  The only one not laughing was young Charity, who was the last person she made eye contact with before stumbling and pushing her way through the crowd, some of the girls gave her a push or stepped on her dress causing it to rip and tear until finally she passed again through the detector and out of the ballroom.


Grace had no heart to call her parents, no friends to call.  No where to go.  She headed out of the estate and found a garden pathway and ran as long as she could until she found a pavilion where she collapsed on a bench, crying endless tears as she begged to wake up from this nightmare.  She had been humiliated, betrayed by her best friend and worst of all her proud family name disgraced.  There weren't enough tears so her body started to physically ache as she cried on that bench.


Charity

Charity watched in horror as the drink splashed across the other girl. Reuben stepped backward, pulling her with him in an attempt to protect her from any stray drops. Despite his best efforts, a few beads of the red liquid hit her cheek, her hand running over them quickly. Everything was happening so fast and she didn't feel like she was able to process it all. Grace's voice, her declaration that what they'd heard was untrue, startled Charity, her shoulders lifting and her chin tilting downward. A gasp slipped past her lips when Grace fell and she moved forward to help her up, her hands outstretched in the damp girl's direction. Just as before, Reuben tightened his hold on her shoulders and kept her in place, not allowing her to aid the Halladay in any way. All she could do was stare silently at the girl before she ran away from the group and out of the ballroom.

"Come on," one of the girls said to the group, laughing at the absolute circus the party had become. The group was quick to abandon their drinks and their snacks, hurrying after the retreating wreck into the gardens. Their heels clicked against the ground and they giggled amongst themselves as they looked for her. Her head start gave her some time, but they were surely closing in fast. Charity and Reuben stood in the gardens near the pavilion, within hearing distance of it, although they hadn't spotted her yet.

His grip was tight on her hand and she winced, "Reuben, you're hurting me," she told him carefully, confused by his aggressive behavior and cruelty. He was never that way, not with her, and she was afraid of what she was seeing. "Come on, we have to find her," he told her, tugging at her arm. "Why? She didn't do anything wrong," Charity told him. He turned and for a moment, she was afraid he was going to hit her. Instead, he set his hand on her cheek and smiled, the look in his eyes both tender and firm, "Charity, think. If she goes to University with us, she'll ruin things. I'll have to be in the same classes as her, how disgraceful would that be for me. For us. Do you want her to dirty our names? We'll be married one day, would it really be okay if our name is made lesser because she sullied it?" he asked, his voice calm and reasonable while his words were venom. Charity looked horrified, but said nothing.

"Here she is!" called one of the other girls, spotting Grace crying alone in the pavilion. "Nobody wants you here, Halladay. Why don't you and your dad go find some border moon? I'm sure they don't care if their doctors are useless there!" she spat at the girl. Reuben pulled Charity with the group into the pavilion, holding her close either to 'protect' her or to control her, keeping her silent.
Dialogue Color: AntiqueWhite

Grace Halladay

She had hoped the nightmare had ended, as she peered through tear-fogged eyes she assessed the damage to her beautiful dress.  The amethyst hue was stained a darker concoction from the red beverage.  It was painful that her best friend had been the one who had done the damage, clearly fearing for her social status more than the loss of a friend.  As she mourned her own social status, her dress and her friend she heard the pattering feet of the mob as it drew close.  She leaned back hoping they'd pass by the pavilion in the maze of hedges but she was spotted.

"Here she is!  Nobody wants you here, Halladay. Why don't you and your dad go find some border moon? I'm sure they don't care if their doctors are useless there!"

Their violent onslaught once again continued as they surrounded her, the only way out through the hedge-maze was the way they'd come in.  Her sadness was slowly replaced by anger, she felt some level of adrenaline kick in as she stood and wiped tears from her eyes only for them to be replaced by more.  She was a cornered animal and had to endure heckles from the crowd.  She heard those same girls from before continuing to take shots at her dress.  No sign of Joanna or William.

"He's not useless!"  She screamed, her voice trembling but firm as she tried to catch her breath and expel it back at the mob.  Something in her snapped at the comment, like her having to defend her father's name made her even more angry.  Grace did the unthinkable, she walked forward and winding up her arm slapped the girl across her face.  The smack was loud and echoed in the night air only to be drowned out by the gasps and then sudden silence of the crowd.  Physical acts of violence were not only unladylike they were practically unheard of in these circles.  The pain of the slap and the red mark paled in comparison to the abhorred look on the crowd.

"She slapped her."  One of the girls uttered to someone in the back who queried what had happened.  "Barbarian."  Another chimed in.  Several other words were tossed about in the crowd though much of it turned back on her father.  She heard someone call him butcher but couldn't make out who.

After recovering from the slap the one girl looked to her friends then to one of the boys who stepped forward and shoved Grace, her heel caught on her dress and as she fell to the ground she could hear her dress rip.  The grass was wet from the sprinkler system earlier in the evening causing further damage as mud stained on her dress.  Someone kicked grass in her face as the insults continued.

"Leave me alone!"  She nearly begged as again a barrage of tears streamed down her cheeks.  She ran her forearm over her eyes trying to quell the tears from bleeding out to no avail, some of the mob had grown tired of the spectacle and left.  The girl she'd slapped stepped forward and looked down at Grace which was fitting considering the disdain in her eyes.  At the risk of herself appearing unladylike she lifted her dress just enough to allow her to kick Grace in the ribs before herself walking off to applause from those remaining.  Grace crumpled to the ground.  Wishing a six foot hole would open up and just take her from this place.

Charity

Hands lifted to cover her lips, stifling the shocked gasp that threatened to break the oppressive silence. She shouldn't have done that, Charity thought to herself. Her father's failure could be overcome, with time, but hitting the other girl was social suicide. She'd practically carved her own name on the headstone they'd put over her social status. Once more Charity moved forward in an attempt to stop the boy from pushing her, knowing it was too harsh a retaliation. Boys ought not touch women in anger, or so her mother had told her. And again, Reuben tightened his grasp on her arm, keeping her by his side and away from the social pariah.

However, even Charity couldn't keep her mouth shut now, but she knew outright defending the other girl would have meant she'd be risking her own standing among the others. Tugging experimentally on the hold the boy had on her, she cleared her throat and stared up at him, urging him to release her. With a suspicious frown and a look that made it clear that he'd stop her if she tried to ruin their position, he released her.

"I've grown bored of this game," Charity announced loud enough for the rest of the group to hear, her hands clasped in front of her lap and her back straight, "I didn't come to this party to spend the night in the garden. Won't someone ask me to dance?" she asked, smiling winningly at the others. Reuben grinned and elbowed one of his schoolmates when he eagerly accepted Charity's offer. "Me! I will!" The others turned away from the crying girl and began making their way toward the ballroom once more, laughing among themselves about the good sport they'd just had and wondering what song would be playing for them to dance to. Reuben put his arm around his friend and they began to join the others, secure in the knowledge that Charity wouldn't embarrass him.

However, she lingered. When they were alone at last, the younger girl looked down at the bruised, soaked, grieving daughter of a medical failure. Her expression was clearly conflicted, shifting between pity and worry that someone might still have been watching. Swallowing hard, Charity reached into her sleeve and pulled out her personal handkerchief, the letters C.V embroidered in golden thread on one edge. Trying to make it look like an accident, she let it slip from her fingers, the fabric fluttering gently before it landed in front of Grace. There was one moment before Charity turned away to join the others where compassion burned fiercely in her eyes, but it was small and it was fleeting, and it was easy to miss. The sound of her heels clicking began to fade and Grace was once more left alone.
Dialogue Color: AntiqueWhite

Grace Halladay

As the crowd finally entirely dispersed Grace was left alone, only for a brief moment was the youngest of them lingering.  She dropped her handkerchief before scurrying off as well.  Grace tried to compose herself and reached over picking up the light fabric and squeezing it in her hand.  She slowly got to her feet and looked at the embroidered CV on it.  She was as determined as she was humiliated, vowing to herself to show them all by becoming the best surgeon in the world.

She hadn't the heart to call her parents and walked the long walk home.  It was dark by the time she arrived there and stood awhile out front of the estate trying to find the courage to go in and dreading to explain what happened.  She looked once more in her hand at the dainty kerchief before stuffing it in the breast of her ruined outfit before braving the entryway.

"Grace?  Is that you?  I thought you were staying at..."  Her mother called from the other room before coming around the corner to see her daughter muddied, bruised and in tears.  Grace's composure lasted only as long as her mothers first look before she broke down and ran towards her, wrapping her arms around her.


Some time later after she had relayed the events to her, Grace could hear her parents from downstairs.  They were quite loud, she'd never heard them argue before but she could make out most of what they were talking about.  Something about a waystation and settlers heading out to the rim.  She lay on her bed the whole night staring at the ceiling, her once beautiful dress cast down on the floor but the handkerchief gripped tightly.  The family would move weeks after the event, leaving behind these events to start fresh.

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