"There isn't much more that I can do," the doctor told her,
pulling his white coat straighter about the shoulders. "To be quite honest,
her condition rather baffles me."
The girl's step-mother smiled, opening the door for him to leave. "Thank you so much for your time, Doctor. It's a great reassurance to have your help. We can only hope for a swift recovery."
He nodded, retrieving his hat. "Quite so. Good day, Madame."
She closed the door behind him and sat in thought for a time, letting her eyes roam the room. It was small, though well-furnished - her husband had not been poor. A carefully-preserved bouquet of roses lay on the windowsill, gathering dust, beside the young woman's sick bed. She, too, was gathering dust, in a sense; at least, so long as her step-mother still had use for her, she would not let her die. She absently touched the apple core that sat atop her step-daughter's bureau, but was startled from her reverie by a knock at the door.
She stood quickly, gathering her skirts about her. Was it time for his visit already? She greeted him, and he entered, crossing immediately to the object of his affections. "There's been no change, then?"
She drew close to him, resting a hand delicately on his strong shoulder. "The doctor says there's nothing he can do. Surely you don't intend to wait forever?"