Part 1 -
Nan stepped off the train in Chicago and looked at the buildings that surrounded her. It was bigger here in the city, with a lot more people that what she was used to.
Her hair swayed lightly from the gentle breeze. The long blond hair should have been put up that morning, but her hands hadn't stopped shaking from nervous excitement since the moment she had stepped on the train.
She looked over at her father standing next to her. She had been so surprised at the way he had acted over the past few days. First, he had come with her to Chicago, and when they talked, he seemed genuinely interested in what she had to say.
"You ready to go?" Mr. Harding asked, interrupting her thoughts.
Nan smiled and nodded. A moment later, she took her father's arm and they walked down the street.
"Where are you planning on staying?"
"Uh . .well, in the letter that they sent me, it said that there are lots of people who run boarding houses that are nearby the school." It had been so easy to stay calm when she was at Plumfield, but now she was in Chicago! Nan was so excited that she could hardly breathe.
"There's a place right over there." Mr. Harding pointed at a little yellow house on the corner across the street from the college. It had a small yard with neatly trimmed grass, roses lining the edges, and a white picket fence that enclosed and surrounded the house. There was a porch swing hanging idly by the front door.
Nan looked at the house and nodded. "I like it."
"Lets go talk to the person who runs the place." They walked up the path and Mr. Harding rang the bell while Nan inspected the porch.
The door swung open, and a cheerful "Hello" rang out.
"Hello," came Mr. Harding's reply. "I'm Mr. Harding, and I'm here to inquire about the room available."
He held out his hand and she eagerly shook it. "You're a little old to be going for your degree, aren't you?"
Nan had to stifle a laugh.
"Oh, it's not for me." Mr. Harding laughed out loud. "It's for my daughter, Miss Anthea Harding."
The lady just smiled, she didn't seem embarrassed at all. "Wonderful! I've been wanting a female boarder!"
She gave a very surprised Nan a quick hug, then motioned for them to enter the house. Nan smiled at her father, then went inside. Mr. Harding and the lady followed.
"Rent is ten dollars a month, and you get dinner everyday. Breakfast and Lunch cost twenty-five cents a meal - I'll give you a bill at the end of each month. If you chose to stay, you'll be the only boarder. My son Jonathan and I will be the only other people in the house."
"That sounds wonderful, Mrs. -" Nan stopped when she realized that she didn't even know the lady's name.
"Oh, forgive me, I didn't introduce myself. You can call me Widow Parker. Everyone else does." She chuckled.
"Thank you, Widow Parker."
"You won't thank me when you hear your curfew."
"Curfew?" Mr. Harding and Nan asked at the same time.
"Ten o'clock every night unless you have a really good reason to stay out and I know ahead of time. Otherwise, the door will be locked."
Nan shrugged, her hair dancing lightly on her shoulders. "That sounds fine to me."
"Well, if you're happy with it," Mr. Harding nodded thoughtfully, "then we'll take it."
"Wonderful!" Widow Parker jumped up excitedly. "A girl!"
Nan laughed and thought. ‘I think I'm going to like it here.'
"Please, call me Nan."
"I like that." Nan began to wonder if Widow Parker ever stopped smiling. "Your room is the first door on the left, Jonathan's is the second. Down the hall on the right is the bathroom, and my room is across from yours."
Mr. Harding stood. "I'll go down to the train station and get your things."
"Thank you, daddy."
He smiled, and left while Nan was shown around the house. A couple minutes later he returned with a carriage carrying her things.
"When do I get to meet your son?" Nan was talking easily with Widow Parker.
"He's at work right now, but he'll be home for dinner."
Mr. Harding entered the house followed by two men carrying a trunk between them. "We'll be going out to dinner tonight, Nan."
"Oh." Nan shrugged thoughtfully. "Then maybe I'll see him at breakfast."
"Possibly." Widow Parker smiled briefly before running to Nan's room to supervise the unloading of the carriage.
It didn't take long before a couple of trunks sat by the bed in her room.
"When the trunks are empty, I'll have Jonathan store them in the closet."
"That's okay," Nan smiled. "I can handle it."
"You sure?" Widow Parker's forehead creased.
"Yeah, it's probably easier than bags of grain."
Widow Parker's jaw dropped and she turned to stare at Mr. Harding.
Nan looked at her in surprise before she suddenly caught on. "No, no," she laughed. "It was my choice. I was at school, and felt like I had something to prove."
Her eyebrows went up, but Widow Parker didn't say anything.
Mr. Harding broke the silence that followed. "Are you ready to go over to the college and get registered?"
Nan looked at her unpacked bags, and then at Widow Parker.
"It's alright dear, you can unpack later."
Nan impulsively gave her a hug. "I'll be back by ten."
"I'll expect you." Widow Parker replied.
Mr. Harding offered his arm, and his daughter took it. They walked over to the school, and Nan had to stop for a moment to calm herself.
"Excited, or nervous?"
"Both." Nan gave a small smiled before walking through the open door to the registration offices.
"Can I help you?" A young woman behind the desk asked patiently.
Two minutes later, the woman looked at Nan and gasped. "You're the girl that's trying to be a doctor!"
Nan laughed. "Yes, I am."
"Everyone is talking about you."
Her eyebrows rose. "They are?"
"Sure. Mostly people are wondering if you'll last as long as the first woman."
"How long did she last?" Nan wasn't sure she wanted to know.
"About three weeks." The lady laughed. "You'll be the second woman to be accepted here trying to be a doctor."
"Oh." Nan was silent for a minute.
"Here's a copy of your classes, and I just need you to sign this paper, and you're ready to go."
Nan signed it, then looked at her classes. "They start tomorrow?" She gasped.
The lady nodded.
"I didn't think it would be so soon."
The lady shrugged. "We weren't sure that you'd make it."
"Oh." Nan took a deep breath. "Thank you."
Dinner was great, though it was long. It was nearing ten when they pulled up in front of the boarding house and Mr. Harding helped Nan out of the carriage.
"I'm leaving on the early train tomorrow."
Nan nodded slowly. "I wish I could come, but I'll be in classes all morning."
He smiled. "I understand."
There was a moment of silence as they thought of what to say.
"I love you, Nan." Mr. Harding finally said.
Nan bit her lip and was silent for a minute. "I love you, too, daddy. Thank you for coming."
He gave her a hug ten got back into the carriage. Nodding to the driver, Nan watched as they drove off, the gentle clopping of hoofs slowly fading.
Nan turned, and walked up the path to the house. Taking a deep breath, she entered the house to begin her new life. . .
As Nan walked past the dining room, she saw Widow Parker staring gloomily at the cold dinner and dirty dishes in front of her.
"Is everything all right?"
Widow Parker jumped in surprise and a tired smile returned. "Nan! I'm fine, why?"
Nan chuckled, "You just looked a little . . lonely."
She sighed. "In a way, I guess I am. Jonathan had to leave when the hospital called."
"Called?" Nan asked questioningly.
"Yes, on the telephone*."
‘You have one here in the house?" Nan gasped.
Widow Parker laughed at her expression. "We got one right after Jonathan graduated from college."
"Oh." Nan smiled. Something else to get used to.
Chuckling, Widow Parker rose from the table and set her dishes in the sink. "I'll get to those later. How about I help you unpack?"
Nan grinned. "That would be great."
"Wonderful!" The two hurried into Nan's bedroom and began unpacking the trunks and bags that Nan had brought.
"I'm kind of disappointed that I haven't gotten to meet your son." Nan said, if only to create conversation.
"He said the same thing."
Nan smiled and pulled a gown out of her trunk. As she held it up, it dropped gently towards the ground.
Widow Parker sighed. That's a beautiful dress."
The dress was cut high around her neck, with a small waistline that accented her skinny waist. When she had it on, the bottom of the dress would brush the floor.
"I just hope I get a chance to wear it."
"So do I." Widow Parker said dreamily.
Nan laughed. "You want to wear it?"
"No." She laughed. "But I would love to see you in it."
Nan hung the dress in the back of her closet. "I only brought it because Bess said I needed a formal gown."
"A friend." Nan shook her head. "No, . . a sister."
"Well," Widow Parker put the empty suitcases under the bed. "I'm sure you're tired from your trip, and you have classes in the morning. I'll let you get some sleep."
"Goodnight, Widow Parker."
Nan smiled as she sat down on the bed. She was finally on her way . .
Part 2 -
Nan woke to the insistent pounding on the door. Pulling the covers over her head she mumbled, "Just a couple more minutes, Mrs. Jo."
"Nan! Get up or you'll be late!"
Nan sat up quickly and looked around the still unfamiliar room. She remembered where she was and jumped to her feet. "I'll be out in a minute, Widow Parker!" She called.
A few minutes later, Nan ran out of the room, still pinning her hair tightly in a bun.
"Ready for breakfast?"
"How much time do I have?" Nan asked.
"Close to an hour." Widow Parker guided Nan to a seat and set a plate of food in front of her.
Nan tried to eat, but mostly just sat pushing her food around. After realizing that she wouldn't be able to eat anymore, she stood up and headed for the college.
Finding the classroom wasn't as easy as she thought it would be, so she arrived just before class started. The teacher looked up at her and sighed.
"The nurses' classes are in the building south of here."
"My name is Anthea Harding."
He shrugged. "So?"
She took a deep breath and looked around. Mostly the boys in the classroom appeared uninterested. "I'm a student in this class."
That got everyone's attention and the teacher's jaw dropped for a second before he shut it with an angry snap. "I don't teach women."
Nan sighed, "I don't think you have a choice, sir."
He glared at her for a minute before looking down at the roll. "What did you say your name was?"
"Harding, . . Harding, . . Harding, A." He looked up at her in annoyance. "What kind of a joke is this?"
"I was told that I wasn't the first." Nan replied.
"It's true." One of the students called. "But Carolyn didn't last very long. Not even a month." He smiled mockingly. "Think you'll last as long?"
Nan's eyes narrowed, but she didn't comment.
The teacher finally just motioned to an empty chair. "Have a seat, Ms. Harding."
Nan sat without a word, and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as the teacher introduced himself and began his class.
Nan wearily dropped into a seat at the boarding home, and rubbed her eyes. The whole day had pretty much been a repeat of that first class. She had to take at least five minutes in each of the classes to assure the teacher that she was supposed to be there.
Widow Parker entered the room and let out a surprised gasp.
Nan looked up.
Widow Parker chuckled. "I didn't hear you come in. How was your day?"
She shrugged, not sure of anything at the moment.
"Did you meet any new friends?"
"Not really." Nan murmured.
Widow Parker's eyes narrowed. She was about to say something more when they hear the front door close.
A young man entered the room, to the delight of his mother.
Nan watched as they embraced.
"I'm sorry about last night mother." He grinned and Nan could see the family resemblance. "One of the doctor's called in sick, and there was an emergency. After I started, they just seemed to find more and more things for me to do."
Nan took a minute to look over the mother and son. Widow Parker had long white hair that was always in a loose bun. She was shorter than her son, but tall and very skinny. Jonathan had short black hair, and was also tall and skinny. Probably around six feet, Nan guessed.
Jonathan suddenly looked over at her and smiled. "You must be Nan."
She smiled back. "Pleased to finally meet you, Jonathan."
He shook her hand. "How did your first day of school go?"
Nan shrugged. "I don't think they're quite ready for women doctors. Almost every class I went to told me where to go to be a nurse."
He grinned. "They'll get used to it."
"They don't have a choice." Nan said determinedly.
There was a loud ring, and Nan jumped. "What is that?"
Widow Parker explained. "It's the telephone. Jonathan, would you go answer it, please?"
"Sure." He hurried out of the room, and a moment later the ringing stopped, and soft murmurings could be heard.
"You'll have to try it sometime." Widow Parker stood up and started dusting.
Nan got up to help. "Maybe, . . someday."
Widow Parker chuckled, and Jonathan came back into the room, his expression unreadable.
"Who was it?"
"The hospital." He replied slowly. "They're short again, and need some more help."
"Jonathan, you haven't slept for over 24 hours." Widow Parker objected.
"The need me, mother." He insisted.
"They need more doctors." Widow Parker muttered. Then louder, she asked, "What about Katherine?"
Jonathan shrugged. "Katherine's at home today with her mother. She'll understand."
Widow Parker sighed, but nodded. "You'd better get going then."
He came over and kissed her cheek. "I love you, mother."
"I know." She smiled.
"Hey Nan, you want to come?"
Nan looked up from the figurine she had been intently dusting, trying to give them a little privacy. "Really?"
She looked over at Widow Parker who nodded her consent. "Do go, Nan. It might be fun."
Nan shrugged excitedly. "Okay."
"Dr. Parker!" A nurse ran over to them as soon as the were inside the hospital.
"What is it, Miss Brady?"
"They need you in room 6, immediately."
"Thanks." Jonathan turned to Nan. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Feel free to look around."
"Okay." Nan watched as he hurried off, then walked around the waiting room. A little boy was crying as his mother held a cloth stained with blood to his head. Another girl was moaning softly as she held a cloth filled with ice to her knee.
Nan wandered over to the desk to talk to the receptionist. "Excuse me?"
"Yes?" She looked up immediately.
"I'm here with Dr. Parker-"
The girl jumped to her feet. "Are you Katherine? Jonathan talks about you all the time! You never come to work on Thursdays, so I've never had the chance to meet you."
Nan laughed. "No, my name is Anthea Harding. I'm going to school here, and I'm boarding with his mother."
"I see." The girl smiled. "Sorry. I'm Sally Brady."
"Pleases to meet you, Sally. Please, call me Nan."
"Why are there so many people waiting here?"
"There are so many people who come here in a day, Nan. We just don't have enough doctors to take care of them right as they come. The more important ones we take back right away, or course, but the others we just take care of as soon as we can."
"How long have they been waiting?"
Sally shrugged. "Close to an hour, I think."
"That long?" Nan gasped. "But all that little boy needs is a couple of stitches, and that girl, all she needs is a splint, or something to wrap her knee so that she can walk."
"I know, Nan. It isn't up to me. We've been trying to get the owner of the hospital to hire some more people, but there just aren't any to be found."
"I could do it in my sleep."
"What?" Sally laughed.
"I'm going to be a doctor. I used to do this kind of stuff all the time back in Concord."
"Are you serious?" Sally stopped laughing.
"Mrs. Carter!" Sally called as she suddenly stood.
The lady with the little boy hurried over and he began to cry again. "Can you help my son?"
"Please, follow me." She started walking away, then paused and turned back. "Nan, will you help?"
Nan gaped at her for a minute, then slowly started to follow.
Sally grinned and called back over her shoulder. "Sam, watch the desk."
Nan looked back and saw a boy appear behind the desk, then shrugged and followed Sally into a small room.
Sally pulled some instruments out of a drawer and set them on a small table. Then she sat the screaming little boy next to them. Motioning to Nan, she said, "It's all yours."
"You mean, you want me to-"
"I don't know about this." Nan chuckled nervously.
"You'll be great. You've got everything you should need right in front of you. I'll get Jonathan to sign it when you're done."
Nan sighed. This wasn't what she had expected by making that comment. Not that she couldn't do it. .
Shrugging, she sat down and began to cleanse the wound. 15 minutes and a whole lot of tears later, she finished and sat back. "It's okay, Jeremy. I'm all done."
Sally showed them out, then came back to where Nan was cleaning up. "Leave it. One of the nurses will clean it up."
Nan nodded and sighed. "I can't believe I just did that."
"Well, you did a great job."
Jonathan walked in. "Nan, where have you been? I've been looking for you everywhere!"
He looked around the room and saw blood on the table and Nan peeling the cloth gloves off her hands.
"What's going on?"
Nan looked at Sally to explain.
"Uh, well, Nan just stitched up a cut on a little boy."
Part 3 -
Sally bit her bottom lip uneasily and Nan's eyebrows went up.
"Sally! They could sue us for. . for, malpractice! What were you thinking?" He was yelling pretty loudly, and Nan stood to defend her.
"I was thinking," Sally said loudly, "that there was a scared little boy with blood all over hid face, who had been waiting an hour just to see a doctor, and none were available. Nan has had experience, and she did a really good job."
Jonathan looked over at Nan.
"I've done it lots of times. Tommy had stitches in 3 different places once. After awhile, Mrs. Jo stopped sending for Doctor Pierce when he got hurt."
Jonathan sighed, "does anyone else know about this?"
"No." Sally's eyes never wavered from his.
"Keep it that way." He muttered. "It's time to go, Nan."
"Alright. See you later, Sally."
"Bye." She smiled, then whispered, "don't let him get to you."
Nan grinned, and they left. A couple of minutes later, they were walking back to the house.
"You shouldn't have done that." Jonathan muttered.
"I know. I'm sorry."
"Doctor!" A lady's voice stopped them, and Jonathan turned quickly.
Nan turned just in time to be enveloped in a big hug.
"Thank you, doctor. Jeremy is doing much better already."
Nan looked at Jonathan who had his eyebrows raised, and smiled in embarrassment. "I, I'm glad to hear that, Mrs. Carter."
"Is Jeremy around?" Jonathan asked.
At Mrs. Carter's curious glance, Nan introduced him. "This is Dr. Parker."
"Pleased to meet you, Dr. Parker."
Jonathan shook her hand. "And you, Mrs. Carter."
"Is Jeremy around?" Nan asked. "I'd like to see how the stitches are holding up."
"Of course. Stay here, and I'll go get him." She hurried into a nearby hose. A minute later, she came back out, and sat Jeremy on a fence. Nan pretended to inspect his head, then stepped back to let Jonathan look at them.
He stepped back and smiled. "He should be fine, Mrs. Carter."
"I know, Doctor, . . well, she already told me."
"Just call me Nan, Mrs. Carter."
"Of course, Nan. Thanks again."
"You're welcome." Nan flashed a brief smile, and they left.
"How did they look?" She asked when they were a distance away.
"You did a very good job. . doctor ."
"I never said that I was a doctor."
He laughed. "I know. But the next time you decide to do something like that, let me know first."
"So, who's Kathrine?"
"She's, . . well, . . we're dating." Jonathan blushed.
"Ah, . . are you going to get married?" Nan smiled.
"I don't know, maybe." He looked around uneasily, then changed the subject. "It sure is a nice evening."
Nan laughed. "Yes, it is."
The next day of school didn't go much better than the first. All of her teachers were reluctant to have her in their classrooms, and the other students weren't very supportive either. But she managed to get by without any confrontations until the end of her third week.
"Miss Harding, may we have a word with you?"
Nan turned, with her arms full of books, to see a big group of boys hurrying towards her, being led by a rival for the highest grade in one of her classes, Tom Clark. Tom was tall, and had very red hair. He was known for his temper, but Nan had never been afraid of bullies.
"Can I help you, Tom?"
"Well, you see," he pretended to hesitate, but Nan saw the laughter in his eyes. "We've all been talking, and we decided that it would be best if you were to drop out of your classes."
Nan raised an eyebrow. "You decided? What's the matter Tom? Worried that I'll get a better grade?"
One of the other boys stepped up to her. "We think that it would be better for everyone if you were to leave."
"Really?" She looked at the squarely. "And if I don't?"
"I don't think you want to know, Miss. Harding." Tom grinned, "But if you do, that's your choice."
She glared at them as they hurried off. "Bullies!"
Then heading back to the house to study, she quickly forgot the threats.
Nan woke when a loud crash echoed through the night. Grabbing her robe she hurried out of her room, to see Widow Parker and Jonathan do the same. Jonathan motioned for them to follow him, and they headed cautiously to the front door.
Opening it, he gasped then stepped onto the porch so that Nan and Widow Parker could see. The entire fence in the front yard had been knocked over, and the sidewalk had been painted. Jonathan walked down to the curb and turned around to read the writing.
Nan walked down to do the same.
"Nan, don't." He cautioned, but she ignored him and turned around to read what it said.
"No girl's allowed . . . Go home . . . Doctor's Orders . . . No women doctors." Nan muttered.
Jonathan and his mother looked at each other uneasily.
"I'm sorry." Nan sighed. "I think I know who did it. They threatened, but I didn't think they'd do anything."
"They threatened you?" Widow Parker gasped.
"Well, in a way, yes." Nan sighed. "Whitewashing the sidewalk will remove the signs of paint, that I can do tonight, the fence will take a couple hours, but I can fix it after school tomorrow. Nick taught me how a couple of years ago."
"To fix a fence?" Jonathan looked skeptical.
Nan just smiled, but it slowly faded. "After I'm done tomorrow, I'd understand if you . . wanted me to leave."
"Leave? Why?" Widow Parker asked.
"There's no way to stop them from doing it again. I don't want anything to happen to you."
"Oh, don't worry about us! We can handle some harmless pranks. The fence needed to be fixed anyway." Widow Parker brushed her comment aside.
"But if you want to leave," Jonathan broke in, "we certainly won't stop you."
"Oh, right." Widow Parker smiled. "I didn't think about that."
"Well, if you're sure you don't mind, I certainly don't plan on quitting school. If there's one thing I learned at Plumfield, it was to never quit." Nan grinned.
Widow Parker went into the house to get the whitewash and brushes. She soon returned, and they got to work.
"You have such wonderful stories of Plumfield, Nan. Your teachers, Mrs. Jo, and Nick are such interesting people."
"They always were. Ever since I first arrived at Plumfield. I got lost in the woods with another one of the students the second day that I was there. Mrs. Jo and Nick had to come find us. It was just one adventure after another."
"It sounds wonderful." Widow Parker grinned.
Nan yawned. "It was. Do you know what time it is?"
Jonathan pulled out a pocket watch. "It's 3:30."
"Ugh." Nan groaned.
"We're just about finished. Why don't you go get some sleep?" Widow Parker recommended.
"No, I couldn't."
"Why?" She asked.
"The mess is because of me. The least I can do is help you to clean it up."
"We don't have classes in a couple of hours, either. It's okay, Nan, go to bed."
Nan yawned again, then nodded.
Nan exited the house and started jogging towards the school. She would not be late and give Tom and his buddies something to take about!
After jogging and running, she arrived with minutes to spare. She sat down in her seat, and pulled out her books. Tom approached her with a cocky grin on his face.
"Need something, Tom?"
"I heard about your fence. So sorry for you, Nan." He was still smiling, and Nan knew instantly that he had done it.
"Well, actually, whoever did it did us a favor. Widow Parker was thinking about fixing it for a long time now, but I only know how to fix a fence. I wouldn't know how to go about destroying it." She pretended innocence.
He scowled. "The paint must have been a pain, though."
"See, now that's the funny thing. After we found it we immediately white washed it away. Now we have the best looking sidewalk in the city. But how would you have known that there was paint if we finished before 4 o'clock this morning?"
His scowl grew deeper. "You won't pass the class."
"Watch me." She muttered.
The teacher entered the classroom and began, leaving Tom no choice but to find his seat. He glared at Nan, but she ignored him, and focused on the class.
After all her classes were over, Nan started to walk home, half expecting someone to stop her on her way. But no one did, so she made it back in ten minutes, then got to work putting the fence together. After a while, Jonathan came home and together the fence didn't take long to finish.
When it was done, Jonathan ran into the house to get his mother, and she came out and gasped. "It looks great!"
Nan smiled. "We did a good job then?"
"It's perfect. It looks exactly the way it did before Jacob -" She put a hand over her mouth.
"Mother -" Jonathan stepped forward, but she brushed his hand off her arm and hurried into the house.
They never talked about it again, but Nan couldn't stop thinking about it. Jacob must have been Widow Parker's husband, so why did she never talk about him? Perhaps this was a mystery that she would never find the answer to . ."
Part 4 -
A couple days later, Nan was studying in the parlor while Widow Parker worked on some schooling. They both looked up in surprise when Jonathan came running into the house pulling a short black-haired girl behind him.
"Kathrine!" Widow Parker exclaimed. "How wonderful to see you again."
The young woman smiled. "And you, Widow Parker."
Jonathan was so excited that he couldn't stop moving. "I did it!"
Widow Parker looked over at Nan who shrugged in confusion. They looked back at Jonathan as Nan asked, "Did what?"
"I asked her to marry mer, and she said yes!"
Widow Parker sat stunned for a second, then leaper to her feet in a flurry and rushed over to him. "How Wonderful!"
Plans for the wedding were made and before they knew it, the wedding had come and gone. Jonathan and Kathrine found a house, and it was just Nan and Widow Parker. But they didn't mind. It gave them lots of time to talk, and Widow Parker became a mother to Nan. A third mother, but one loved just as much as the previous two.
The pranks didn't stop either. It mostly consisted of angry letters, or messes made to the front yard. Some times, Nan would begin to wonder is school was worth it, but Widow Parker would talk to her about it, or she would get an encouraging letter from her friends, and she would remember the reason for being there. She never stopped studying, and always knew the answers in class.
Jonathan got her a job at the hospital part time, and she enjoyed it so much that she would often end up working late because she didn't want to stop.
The first year of school ended with Nan excelling in all of her classes. Everyone at the school was surprised that she had stayed for so long, but she became even more determined to become a doctor. The next year was beginning, and Nan was ready for it.
"Your classes are in the next building."
Nan sighed, did she have to go through this all over again? "My name is Miss Anthea Harding, and I am in your class."
"No you're not." The teacher shook his head.
"My name is on your rolls." Nan said, staring defiantly at the man.
He took a pen and put a line through it. "Not anymore."
Nan hesitated, and was saved by the receptionist bounding through the door.
"A note for you, Dr. Harper. It's from the school board."
He grabbed the note, and Nan stood still while he read it. His face wrinkled in anger as he motioned towards a seat. "Sit down, Miss Harding."
She blinked in surprise, but didn't comment.
As class ended, everyone scurried outside. Nan gathered her books and hurried towards the hospital when she heard someone call her name. She turned, only to find Tom Clark scowling at her.
"Must you always be so pleasant, Tom?"
He grabbed her arm, but she pulled away. "I saw the note, Miss Harding. The only reason you were allowed to stay in the class was because Dr. Harper was threatened with his job if he didn't allow it."
She looked him in the eye. "Why are you telling me this, Tom?"
"Dr. Harper agrees with me. You shouldn't have been allowed in the school."
"But I'm here! So deal with it!" She yelled then turned and quickly walked away. Nan ended up being late for work, but it was a slow day, so no one noticed.
Jonathan commented on her mood a couple hours later. "You okay, Nan? You seem kind of . . . discouraged."
"I had a bad day at school." She muttered.
"You want to talk about it?"
She shook her head, but Jonathan was a lot like his mother, and before she knew it she was telling him the whole story.
"Dr. Cliff Harper?"
"You know him?" Nan asked.
Jonathan let out a breath of surprise. "Who doesn't? Dr. Harper is one of the best doctors ion the country!"
"One of the most arrogant, too."
Jonathan laughed. "Give him some time. He'll come around."
"I hope so."
"Don't worry." Jonathan suddenly hit his head in astonishment.
"I was so busy fixing all of your problems that I forgot to tell you the news!"
"Don't keep me in suspense, Jonathan. What is it?"
"Kathrine is pregnant."
Nan let out a little squeal. "You mean it?"
He laughed and nodded.
Nan gave him a hug. "Congratulations! When?"
"She's due in about 8 months."
"I can't wait."
"Neither can we. I have you to thank for it, too."
"What?" She laughed.
Jonathan nodded seriously. "It's true. The first time I told you about her you asked if we were going to get married. It got me to thinking about it."
"I see." Nan looked at his expression and they laughed together.
"Dr. Carter? Nan?" Sally came in, her face ashen.
Jonathan quickly stood. "What is it, Sally?"
"Your mother -"
Nan jumped to her feet. "Is she okay?"
"She's in room number 15."
They gave each other a worried look and headed out the door. Jonathan was the first to arrive and pushed open the door without a moment's hesitation. "What happened?"
Nan came in just in time to hear her reply. "Don't be so worried, Jonathan. I slipped and hurt my foot, that's all."
The doctor in the room shook his head. "She broke it, Dr. Parker. She needs to stay off it completely for a few weeks, and then use a cane to help her keep the pressure off it."
Jonathan nodded towards the doctor then stepped forward and shook his head at his mother. "How did you do it?"
"I was cleaning the leaves off of the roof, and I slipped."
"You fell off the roof?" Nan gasped.
Widow Parker nodded sheepishly.
Jonathan sighed. "It was a miracle that you weren't hurt worse. Come on, I'll call for a carriage and Nan can take you home."
"But I still have work-"
"It's a slow day, you can have it off. Come back tomorrow."
Nan shrugged. "Okay."
The next couple of weeks were spent with Nan going to school, then to work, then home to help Widow Parker. Dr. Harper tried to ignore her as much as he could, which Nan was grateful for, as she didn't have much time to study.
Their first quiz came back, and Nan looked at her paper in shock. She had known that she needed to study more, but failing the paper was unbelievable. She studied harder, finding more time for school and a little less for sleep, and when it was time for the next quiz she was sure that she was ready for it.
They got the papers and Nan was confident about her answers. She knew what they had been studying, and finished way before anyone else. Her surprise was evident when she got another failing grade. Wondering about it, she went up to Doctor Harper after class.
"Sir? I was wondering about my grade -"
"Not now, Miss Harding."
"I think it's wrong."
He looked up and glared. "You got what you deserved."
She took a step back as if she had been struck. Blinking away tears, she hurried out of the class only to run into Tom.
"You okay, Miss Harding?"
She only looked him in the eye for a second, then hurried away.
He watched her leave, and bit his bottom lip thoughtfully. She was so determined, but as soon as she realized that it would never work out for her, and left, the better it would be for her.
Part 5 -
Nan struggled over the next few months, trying to decide how to approach her grades. Two days before the day of graduation was the finale test, and Nan knew all the answers, but when she got the papers back face down on her desk she was hesitant to look at the grade. Taking a deep breath, she took the paper in both hands and flipped it over only to see the failing grade staring boldly at her.
She flipped it back and tried to imagine that it wasn't written on her paper, that she would pass the class and therefore she would graduate from college and become a doctor. She heard kids congratulating each other, and set her jaw. She would not allow this!
Standing she gathered her papers, and gave one last look at her teacher who was watching her reaction. Then, she calmly walked out of the room. Nan walked over to the offices and found the receptionist looking bored.
"Can I help you?"
"I hope so. I took a class from Dr. Harper, and he said that I didn't pass, but I'm pretty sure I got the answer's right."
The girl sighed. "Dr. Harper is the best. I think he would know more than some student."
"But, . . if I don't pass," Nan looked worried, "I don't graduate."
"A little hint," the girl moved closer as if telling a secret. "You should have studied."
Nan groaned in frustration. "I did!"
The receptionist shrugged and smiled. "Sorry."
Nan's eyes narrowed. "Is there someone else I can talk to?"
"You have to fill out a request and they'll get back to you as soon as they can, though it'll probably be after graduation is over." She slid over a paper and a pen.
Nan stood blinking in shock, then slowly picked up the pen.
"They'll never get it in time." A voice from behind stopped her.
She turned around, pen in hand, only to see Tom staring honestly at her.
"What do you want?" She muttered.
He grabbed her quiz out of her hand.
He ignored her and compared their two papers. "Question number one is correct. Number two . . ."
She watched in silence as he went over the entire test, finding none of her questions wrong. Then he handed it back to her and leaned over the desk of the receptionist until they were face-to-face.
"Can I help you, sir?"
"We need to see Mr. Bennings."
"That's not possible." She smiled sympathetically.
"Then you had better make it possible." Tom motioned towards Nan. "Because we're not leaving until we see him."
"I can get the police."
"On what grounds?"
Nan stood in shock as Tom seemed to be defending her.
Finally the receptionist stood. "I'll see if Mr. Bennings has a minute."
They were soon ushered into an office where Tom explained the situation. Nan handed over all her papers, and Tom showed his to be used in comparison. Mr. Bennings corrected the papers and gave her a correct grade. "This was the last class you needed before graduation?"
"Yes, sir." Nan nodded.
"Well then, Miss Harding, get ready to become a doctor."
Nan laughed. "Really?"
"Thank you!" Nan turned around to thank Tom only to find he had already left. "Sir?"
"He snuck out a couple minutes ago. It was really nice of him to come with you."
Nan nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, it was."
"Is your father coming?" Widow Parker asked, if only to stop her pacing.
"No," Nan chuckled at the irony. "His doctor won't let him. His health isn't too good at the moment."
"Well, Jonathan and I will be there."
"I couldn't bear it if you weren't. You helped me the most the last two years." Nan gave her a hug.
"I can't believe you're leaving right after the ceremony. I'm going to miss you so much. Jonathan couldn't believe it when you turned down the full-time job offer at the hospital."
Nan shrugged and smiled. "Oh, I couldn't stay. I made a promise that I'd be back, and I'm homesick. But I am going to miss you."
"You've changed over the years."
Nan looked worried. "Is that a good thing?"
Widow Parker laughed. "You're a beautiful young woman, Anthea , . . and a fine doctor."
Nan smiled. "Thanks."
Widow Parker looked at the clock and gasped. "You'd better go get changed. You wouldn't want to be late for your own graduation."
Nan headed towards her room. "It's a good thing, Bess convinced me to bring the formal. I don't know what I'd wear if I didn't have it."
"I'm just glad that I get to see you wear it!"
Nan appeared in the doorway. "You never did get to wear it."
Widow Parker made a face, and Nan laughed all the way to her room.
Nan sat stiffly through the speeches, waiting for her name to be called. She was so excited that she could hardly breathe. She had been waiting for this moment her whole life.
Mr. Bennings stood, and the crowd seemed to shift in their seats. "I won't take long, but before we continue with the regular list of names, I would like to introduce you to someone that I had the opportunity of meeting a couple days ago. The first, female -"
Nan's head snapped up.
" . . doctor to graduate from our school, Miss Anthea Harding."
The applause echoed through the building as the crowd and her fellow students recognized her. There were a few who would not applaud, such as Dr. Harper, but they were ignored.
As Nan looked out over the crowd, she saw Widow Parker who was jumping up and down excitedly. She was ushered up to the front, where Mr. Bennings held up a hand to quiet the crowd.
"We award you with this plaque of certification, and our sincere congratulations, Doctor Harding."
Nan bit her bottom lip to keep from crying, as she shook his hand and became a doctor. It was later described as the best moment of her life.
After the graduation ceremony was over, Nan was stopped by many people congratulating her, as well as a reporter from the local newspaper. She answered his questions, then looked around until she found Widow Parker.
"You did it!"
Nan laughed. "I did it."
Jonathan appeared with his wife and baby. "Good job, Doctor Harding."
"I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing that."
"You worker hard enough for it. Come on, we'd better get you to the train station or you'll be late."
"That would not be good." Nan laughed and they hurried off.
Nan gave Jonathan a hug, then turned to Widow Parker and they hugged tightly. "I'll miss you."
Widow Parker wiped away tears, and Nan did the same. "You'd better write."
"I will." They hugged again, and Nan happened to see a familiar face. "Excuse me for a minute, will you?" She hurried off. "Tom?"
"Or should I say, Doctor Clark?"
He grinned. "How are you, Doctor Harding?"
"Wonderful, . . because of you. Why did you -"
"You worked hard to pass. It wasn't fair of Doctor Harper."
He nodded. "I'm sorry about everything that -"
"Don't worry about it. It's forgiven and forgotten."
They smiled and the train whistle blew.
"I'll probably never see you again," Nan started.
"This isn't the last you've seen of me, Nan."
She grinned, and they shook hands. Nan ran back to the others and gave them another hug.
"Bye." She waved, then got on the train.
They waved until she was out of sight, then Nan tried to relax. She pulled out her plaque and smiled. She was a doctor, and she was going home . . .
"The hardest part of the last 2 years was not having the encouragement and support from my family and friends, and instead having people tell me that I shouldn't go for my dreams, and that I should give up."
* Alexander Gram Bell actually didn't found the American Telephone and Telegraph Company until 1885. Approximately 14 years after the television series ended.
* These stories roughly follow the ideas of Louisa May Alcott that she never wrote about, but that she hinted about. I have always wondered what happened at the end of Jo's Boys, so I decided to write it. If you read the book, you know that Widow Parker and Chicago's Medical School do not exist, though Nan did become a doctor. Because of the time period she probably would have had people complaining about her career choice, but maybe not to the extent of purposely flunking her or pulling pranks like those written.
I hope you enjoyed the story,