You are pretty single-minded about achieving your goal to become a doctor even though the social norms emphasized women lacked the physical and moral nature to be physicians or surgeons. But it is obvious you could not do it without Ziyaeddin Mizra who is your greatest supporter and advocate. You both are very mysterious. Thanks for the interview.

EC: So, why do you want to be a surgeon?

Libby: The human body is absolutely fascinating, especially the skeletal and muscular systems. Also, I like solving puzzles and making order of that which is disordered. When the body is broken or damaged, I find great joy in repairing it.

EC: Are you going to pretend the rest of your life that you are a man or do you think eventually society will accept that there can be women doctors? I know you said “Once I have proven myself equal to men in my program I will reveal the truth and they will all have to accept me”

Libby: I haven’t plans beyond achieving my diploma, which will require several more sessions of classes and the completion of a diploma project and then the exam. I’ve no intention of quitting until I have accomplished this and gained entrance into the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

EC: How did your father influence you?

Libby: My father is an extraordinarily talented physician and an exceptionally generous teacher. I had an unusual childhood—for a girl—following him from patient’s bedside to bedside, assisting him in his practice. His belief that I had the capacity of mind to understand medicine allowed me to learn at his side.

EC: Are there any great problems to pretending to be a man-what is the worst?

Libby: The freedom men have to urinate anyplace and any time they wish, which I do not also enjoy. There are other inconveniences, but this has caused me the most trouble so far, when I am among my fellow students and find myself in desperate need, and there are no alternatives to exposing my sex—quite literally!

EC: That is so gross and unsanitary!

EC: Then how would you compare being a man versus being a woman?

Libby: Each has its benefits and drawbacks. But I believe the restraints that our laws and customs impose on women are more noxious than those imposed on men, including barring women from entering many professions for which they are perfectly well qualified.

EC: Do you consider yourself a bookworm nerd?

Libby: I am unfamiliar with the word “nerd.” I would never actually ingest the pages of a book. I have sometimes cursed bookworms aloud for eating away sections of entire pages that I have needed to read! But you certainly must mean the use of the word “bookworm” metaphorically.

EC: I meant a person unusually devoted to reading and studying?

Libby: How delightful that we use that word in that manner, equating the physical hunger for food with the intellectual hunger for knowledge or the emotional hunger for entertainment found in a book. I had a largely solitary childhood, and books gave me both education and amusement, and also companionship. I guess I do spend as much time inside books as any paper-eating maggot. It is true that when I am especially agitated it becomes difficult to read. These moments are vexing.

EC: Would you diagnose yourself as being obsessive-compulsive and why?

Libby: I am unfamiliar with that exact term. But I do sometimes find myself overly preoccupied with certain thoughts and worries. Occasionally such worries grow so large that I feel obliged to take actions that will stanch the worry some.

EC: When you first me Ziyaeddin what was your first impression?

Libby: I met him more than two years ago at Haiknayes Castle, the home of the Duke of Loch Irvine, who is a particular friend of my father and me. I went to the library to retrieve a book and the strange man there teased me. He is a dreadful tease, actually. I tell him not to, yet he teases me anyway. At first it disconcerted me; I prefer direct speech. But I have become accustomed to it and have even learned to tease him, which I think he enjoys.

EC: Were you offended when he told you your idea was “absurd?”

Libby: I don’t take offence easily. I thought he was wrong to reject the idea so speedily (and look how well it has turned out, after all—so ha ha!). But mostly I felt desperation. I really had no other choice.

EC: Do you think you as a future surgeon and he as a portrait painter have a lot in common regarding the human body?

Libby: Not particularly. But he does. He insists on it. He is exasperating. And very handsome. And kind. And generous. And unexpectedly fierce at times. But exasperating. It is true that I have come to see that he paints not only what is on the outside of a person, but also what is within that person—pain, longing, fear, joy. He is an exceptionally fine artist. I wonder sometimes why he wishes to paint me. What I am within is entirely on the surface for everybody to see.

EC: It seems you have feelings for him-Does he have feelings for you?

Libby: I don’t know that he has feelings for me beyond exasperation and perhaps a mild curiosity. And amusement. I do amuse him. And friendship; I believe he does consider me a friend, despite constantly telling me to “be gone” whenever I interrupt him—but he is an artist and must have his quiet, so I concede that to him. As for me, I have felt frustrated with him almost from the start and attraction and exceptionally strong sexual desire, and affection. Regarding this last, I like most people. I don’t like cruel or unkind people, or people who think only of their own needs and desires or of superficialities.

EC: Are you saying he is cruel?

Libby: NO!  He is none of those. I have liked him from the second instance upon which we met, when we spoke in the alleyway and he teased me about my whiskers, which, it’s true, were horrendous. But I think it is also due to his character. There is a peace within him that, I believe, must have been hard won. I don’t know how. But I suspect he has suffered quite a lot in his past, and his strength came from surviving that.

EC: How would you describe your relationship with Ziyaeddin?

Libby: He tolerates my interruptions, studies me for his art, and sometimes looks at me in a manner I cannot understand. I admire his health, his generosity, his strength of both body and character, and his stillness. He is very still (which I am never). That is at least partially due to his lack of a proper prosthetic foot (which I will remedy, despite his objections)

EC: How did you come up with the idea of a prosthetic leg-I thought they did not exist?

Libby: Humans have made prostheses since humans have lost limbs—that is, forever. There are prosthetic hands, arms, feet, legs, eyes, even phalluses. There have been for centuries. That said, modern foot and leg prostheses are especially excellent, employing springs and hinges that cause the replacement limb to mimic the motion of the actual limb. In the case of prosthetic legs, this can impact the wearer’s stride dramatically and save unnecessary bone loss and degradation of joint tissue. I have told Ziyaeddin this, and that a replacement foot will relieve his chronic pain, but he is very stubborn.

EC: Let’s go back to the previous question because I do not think you answered it?

Libby: Oh—I suppose we are friends. That is, I am perhaps his friend, and he is my friend whom I very much want to kiss.

EC: Do you think you are pretty forward for a woman-telling Ziyaeddin you want to kiss him and to ask him to show you how the male anatomy works?

Libby: A true person of medicine must study the human experience in all its varied functions, actions, and reactions. I am a true person of medicine. Also, he is very handsome.

EC: What do you do for fun?

Libby: I study medicine. That is really the most fun anybody can have. But I think you are asking me what I do for amusement in addition to that. I catalogue my collection of plaster bones, teach my friend Coira how to read, and occasionally assist Mrs. Coutts in drying herbs for the kitchen, some of which I use in my personal apothecary. (Ziyaeddin has just come into the room and asked me what I am doing, so I told him this question.)

EC: What does he think?

Libby: He says that I must respond, “I disturb my host’s peace to excess.” But I don’t specifically do that for amusement, so I cannot include it in the list here. I will not, by the way, share with him any of my actual responses to these questions. And after all, he already knows that I find him physically appealing and that he exasperates me.

EC: What are your interests?

Libby: Medicine. Anatomy. Surgery. Fixing illnesses and injuries. And, if I must be entirely honest (which I always am; it is my most inconvenient trait), I am interested in the foreign-born portrait artist with whom I now live.

EC: If you could turn back the clock would you do anything differently today?

Libby: What a nonsensical question.

EC: Is there anything you want to add, if so please do?

Libby: Thank you for this invitation to speak with you. You are very kind.

EC: Thank you for doing this.  I appreciate your openness and honesty about your life.

THE PRINCE (Devil’s Duke Book 4)

Katharine Ashe

Avon Pub.

May 29th, 2018