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Disconnection -- A wedding and after
Christina Parkinson made a beautiful bride. She walked down the aisle with her head held high, on the arm of her father, no pallor marring her features, and no nervousness evident in her voice as she spoke her wedding vows.
Of course there was no excitement in her either. When she spoke of love, I knew she lied, like an actress reading lines she had rehearsed - she said them because the play required it, not because they had any relevance to her. I knew it, she knew it, the man who gave her to her groom knew it, and I had no doubt that the tall dark boy by her side knew it too, and didn't care in the least. It was a travesty of a wedding, in my opinion, but a very well staged one.
It was an eminently suitable marriage, of course. A merging of two 'Crat families, and in this case it was the groom who would be assimilated, as Cedric Parkinson had no son. Christina would inherit her father's estate and powers, eventually, but control might well end up vested in her husband, who would become Andreas Corelli-Parkinson at the end of the ceremony. It was the duty of 'Crat women to ensure the continuity of the dynasty, primarily, although many of them did take an active part in the running of the family empires.
I was about to say that no female from one of the twenty families, no matter how ugly, would ever want for a husband, when I realised how stupid that comment was. Genetic enhancement ensured that there were no plain children in Aristocrat families, and no barren offspring either.
The large church was full of beaming people, important people, and it seemed I was alone in thinking that I was witnessing a disaster. Even Saul, my partner, who knew my feelings on the matter, failed to sympathise with them. "She has a role to play," he'd said, "and she doesn't need any tender emotions to play it. What's the problem?"
So I watched and I pinned a smile on my face, and we circulated amongst the great and the good. My inclusion in the guest list, Christina's enthusiastic greeting and her father's warm approval were all bound to do my career good, I supposed, so at least I had something to smile about. I found the day tiring however, and no matter how happy the people around me, I was unable to shake my feeling of depression.
At her first monitoring appointment, some four months later, Christina seemed happy. She said that she was enjoying married life, that her husband was a more than satisfactory lover in the physical sense and that they were personally compatible. She was content.
She was also, she told me, pregnant, and her husband and family were delighted.
She appeared much older than the girl who had demanded surgery seven months before, quieter, calm and composed. There was nothing in anything she said that would give rise to any concern, but even so, my doubts niggled at me.
"You feel no sense of loss since the procedure?" I asked, hoping, in a way that she would voice something negative, but I was disappointed.
"None at all. My depressions have gone, and everything is fine. I'm very very pleased with your work Judith."
I nodded, and made an appointment for another monitoring visit in a year, but told her to call me at any time, if she had concerns. Then I went back to my practice, and my patients and endeavoured to forget that Christina Parkinson existed.
I was relieved that there was little reportage of her surgery, and no flood of requests for the same procedure on other young girls, but I suppose I should have anticipated that. Few could have afforded it, and those that could didn't have that many heartbroken teenagers amongst them. And, perhaps, they like me, were biding their time, waiting to see what consequences there were, if any.
There were consequences, of course.
Less than a year after her marriage, Christina Corelli-Parkinson gave birth to twin girls, an event that was plastered all over the papers, the net, the TV news. Pictures of the exhausted but lovely mother, and the beaming father were everywhere.
"See," Saul said to me, "she's doing exactly what she was born to, and you helped. You should be proud of yourself."
But then, when the babies were a couple of months old, Christina came unexpectedly to see me.
"You have to help me," she said, twisting an expensive scarf between her fingers. She was still lovely, of course, but her hair was unstyled, and she hadn't bothered to put make-up on. "They make me so angry, the babies. Always crying, puking, demanding to be fed. They're driving me crazy, and if you don't do something, I swear I'll kill them, just to get some peace."
Of course, every mother says something similar, when driven to distraction, goodness knows, I'd felt it often enough with my two, but most mothers love their children and Christina was, thanks to me, incapable of doing that.
"I picked Kate up this morning," she said, "and the rage was so huge, I had opened the window to drop her out. If the maid hadn't come in to change the babies, I would have. The nursery is on the twenty-second floor." There was no hint of drama in her tone, just desperation.
I tried to doubt her, but found I believed her utterly.
"And it isn't just the children. I can barely keep from hitting my mother when she prattles about how lovely they are. I did hit Andreas when he told me I should make more effort about how I look. I need you to operate again, to suppress this anger, before I do something irreversible."
I shook my head, but knew that I would capitulate. Without the restraints of affection, she was a danger to her children, and the only non-surgical options weren't available to me in this case. You cannot have the grandchildren of the supreme ruler of your part of the world taken into care, and you cannot have a guard put on his daughter to make sure that she doesn't commit murder.
I called up my schedule and booked a priority appointment for the same afternoon, while she called her husband and father to tell them what was happening.
She handed me the phone, and I heard Cedric Parkinson's voice.
"It seems I must thank you again, Judith," he said warmly. "Your warnings were sounder than I envisioned, but it's reassuring that you're able to deal with these little problems. You'll benefit from it, I assure you."
I was less inclined to categorise the problems as 'little' but they were my responsibility, so an hour later I stood over Christina Parkinson again, and removed a little more of her humanity.
On to final part