Scan┬Ědal (n.)- A circumstance or action that offends propriety or established moral conceptions; disgraces those associated with it

See GEMMA DOYLE

PART I

December 10th, 1897

Chapter 1

"Brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet." Vietnamese Proverb

It has been over one year since I have seen my dear friends, Felicity and Ann. We are making our way to London for the now rather infamous Christmas ball that the Felicity's family, the Worthingtons, host every year. No doubt it will bring joy to all who attend.

Ann shall be singing at the London Opera House on December 19th, and I am thrilled that she has finally begun to pursue her dreams as a performer.

Our darling Fee has been traipsing around Paris in trousers, claiming that she needs some time to sort her life out. I hope she has not grown to be like her mother, refusing to accept wrong-doings that are right under her aristocratic nose.

And as for myself? I've been residing near New York City and attending Vassar College. It's truly phenomenal how different London, New York, and Bombay are. They are three completely diverse worlds, and New York is, in my opinion, the best one yet. It has the color and flavor of Bombay, but the city life and scholarly feel of London. The amazing thing about New York, though, is the freedom for women. It is not perfect yet, for women cannot vote, but they can go to women's universities and learn the same things as men, and they can partake in the very same intellectual discussions as their husbands at the dinner table. Corsets, in fact, are considered terribly old fashioned.

Suddenly, a sharp jolt interrupts my thoughts, and I realize my train has stopped. A voice announces, "Victoria Station, London!"

I quickly gather my suitcase and elbow my way through swarms of people. Tom, my older brother, is waiting for me with a grin on his face, and envelops me in a hug.

Once Tom and I can move without bumping into each other, I hug him again.

"This will be our first Christmas without Father," Tom says softly as my things are put into the carriage.

"I know," I say. "Perhaps it is better that he faced his tiger. His death." That word sounds so strange to me now that I have seen someone die. My father started using laudanum and opium after the death of my mother as a way to ease the pain, and it soon spiraled into an addiction. He went back to India, to be at peace, he said. I know in my heart that he is dead in an opium den.

"Perhaps it is," Tom murmurs. His pained frown quickly changes into a smile. "Will we be discussing medicine and physcology, scholar?"

I make a disgusted face. "None of that for me. We can, however, discuss literature."

"Literature!" Tom laughs, shaking his head. "I should've known!"

I raise an eyebrow. "I'm sorry. Dead people fail to capture my attention."

"Gemma, Gemma," Tom sighs. "Medicine is about helping the living, not the dead."

"Of course," I giggle.

The sun is high in the sky as we pass East London, and Tom shuts the carriage curtains tightly, shielding the slums from sight.

As we pass noises of shouting people in Cockney accents, he says all too loudly, "Tell me. Is our dear friend Ann going to perform for us at the Christmas Ball? Maybe she shall be rich after all, for I have heard that she has a very prominent role in La Bohem."

I glare at him. "You know very well that Mrs. Worthington is livid with Ann for making up that story about her uncle."

"Because we know that the admiral's wife is all too concerned about reputations." He winks at me.

"You're hysterical, Tom," I say sarcastically.

"I know," he says in a sing-song voice, "you needn't flatter me. Where shall our little princess be dropped off?"

"Outside of the Worthingtons's home in Mayfair. Fee and I are going for tea at her new favorite restaurant. If all goes well, Ann will be here in a day or two."

"It's a shame that I don't have an extra set of trousers," Tom laughs. "I'm sure she would be thrilled to get them as a Christmas gift."

"Actually," I say airily, "her trousers are much finer than yours, and are probably tailored to perfection. She doesn't live on a medical student's money. Nor does she have to live with a grandmother that watches her as if she were three."

This silences Tom. I break the quietness by saying, "Speaking of Grandmama, how is she?"

"Unfortunately, she is getting along rather well," Tom states. "She asks about you frequently, and does not approve of your contact with Miss Bradshaw or the young Miss Worthington." I try to interrupt, but Tom continues, "She did tell me to tell you, however, that if you had to choose one to remain friends with, you should choose Miss Bradshaw. This is because, and I quote, 'Although a liar, she is not of questionable virtue, nor is she the daughter of a well-known whore.'"

"It is lovely to know that Grandmama has not lost her taste for unsolicited opinions and gossip," I say dryly.

"At least you didn't have to live with her while attending medical school. Between the two, I was about to go insane."

I pat him on the shoulder. "My sympathies go out to you. Oh my!" I cry, looking at the huge brick houses we are now trotting past. "I must get off here, but I'll see you at dinner tonight."

I give Tom a quick kiss on the cheek and open the carriage door, stepping out with my single suitcase,

"Tell Miss Worthington that I am truly sorry about the trousers," Tom calls after me, smiling.

OK, this will get A LOT more exciting. Please review on how it is so far!!