Friday, January 31, 2014

Worst Betty Scene Ever

An anonymous Betty recently commented on Betty Keira's magnificently entertaining review of Ring in a Teacup, saying, amongst other sapient things, that it's one of her favorites.  (There I go, just assuming the commenter is female.)  I love Ring in a Teacup myself, but it will never be a favorite – because of that ludicrous, horrible, ridiculous final scene, when Lucy runs away from Fraam's home, checks into a hotel without any money, and gets locked into her room by an hotel employee, who phones Fraam to let him know they've got a penniless impostor claiming to be his fiancée penned up on the premises.  This, for me, qualifies for inclusion on the short list of competitors for Worst Betty Scene Ever.

Other contenders?  Please share your views.

Just guessin’:
Betty JoDee:  pages 1 through 224 of The Hasty Marriage, but especially the wedding;
Betty Anonymous:  the Worst Betty Scene Ever is still better than anyone else’s best;
Betty Keira:  cold, damp Scotland and Eliza charging a hill and being outflanked by a major meteorological event;
Betty Debbie:  each description of Sarre’s parenting ‘skills’.

Oooh, ooh – I’m also nominating:

  1. scenes in which Maggy speaks in Scots dialect, even though the action may be magnificent, amusing or thrilling, as the random insertion of 'och' and 'wee' is sheerly irritating;
  2. every ruddy time Ivo and Julia discuss how unappealing intelligence is in a woman;
  3. Loveday plotting with Sieska or whatever her name is to get her married to a gold-digger via cruise ship skullduggery that makes absolutely no sense at all.  Why couldn’t she just have written as Loveday saying, ‘well, let’s go on a cruise so you can get to know him better and we don’t have to tell your cousin that golddigger will be on the ship, too’;
  4. Alcoholic Louisa of Heaven Around the Corner being prescribed 1-2 alcoholic beverages per day; and
  5. Jake, that pompous twit, abusing Browning to his own ends, in All Else Confusion.

What say you, Betties?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Huge Roses, Chapter 1, part 2

American nurse Tory Bird is visiting Amsterdam in conjunction with her sister Jane's business trip.  While there, she assists an injured English tourist, briefly meeting Dutch orthopedic surgeon Maximilan van den Nie.

When last we saw our heroine:

"Just for a moment, walking back in the crisp, fresh air, watching the moonlight gild the water of the canals, enjoying the almost lacey delicacy of the arched bridges, Tory’s mind flashed up a memory of Dr. van den Nie’s smile.  It is a romantic place, she thought, remembering Valerie Bailey’s words, and hooked an arm through her sister’s, drawing her close.  The two of them strolled contentedly, looking forward to a Saturday exploring together.  And not too far away, the big Dutch doctor, checking Frank Bailey’s altogether satisfactory chart, gave a moment’s thought to the quietly competent young American nurse.  Lovely eyes, he recalled, and nothing fussy about her."

Moving ever onward:

THE HUGE ROSES (working title)
copyright 2014 by Betty van den Betsy; not for reprint or publication without permission

Chapter 1, part 2

Nothing fussy indeed!  Tory, with time to spare while Jane focused on business, had organized bicycle rentals in the Waterland for their Saturday together, outside the usual tourist haunts of the capital city.  The two of them enjoyed a 20-mile bike ride, then caught the ferry that brought them back to the city center.  Jane had chosen their lunch stop, an opulent café-cum-chocolate shop where Tory delighted in a grilled cheese and ginger sandwich, and the two of them lingered over the chocolate counter, picking and choosing to fill boxes for a dozen friends.  “When we pass by a grocery store,” Tory announced, “I’m going to get some of that chopped ginger.  The twins will flip over those sandwiches!”
After an afternoon at the Rijksmuseum, steeping themselves in the simple, beautiful light and lifelike figures of Rembrandt and his disciples, Tory and Jane returned to their hotel to find their room had been enlivened by a gigantic bouquet of flowers in many shades of blues and yellows.  “Why would they send you flowers on your next-to-last day?” Tory asked.  She knew Jane was a valued customer of several hotel chains, and sometimes received upgrades and other perks.
“They wouldn’t,” her sister answered, picking up the card lying next to the vase.  “They’re for you.  And there are two cards.”  She handed both envelopes over, and Tory opened the first in puzzlement.  “Oh, they’re from the English people I helped yesterday.  The wife and I talked about our hotels.  And the other envelope...” she paused in astonishment.  “It’s from that doctor.  ‘I am unable to use the enclosed tickets for tonight’s orchestra performance at the Concertgebouw, and hope they may be useful to you.  It is, in my view, a quintessential Amsterdam experience.  You will be pleased to know that Frank Bailey is recovering well; one of my colleagues set his break and he is responding nicely.  Yours sincerely’ – I can’t make out the signature.  It’s a good thing the rest of this is typed.  There’s definitely an ‘M’ to start, and then a few blobs.”
She looked up, staring at her sister.  “I suppose Mrs. Bailey must have told him where we’re staying.  We talked about hotels.  Do you think we should go?  The concert starts,” she checked the tickets, “in about an hour and a half.  I bet they’re good seats, too; him and his Rolls.”
Jane burst out with a laugh, and said, “Of course we should go.  Let’s doll up a bit.  They’re a smidge more formal here than we might be at home.”
Doll up!  Easy for Jane to say, with her salary and the shops of Boston to peruse at her leisure, but Tory had a different kind of wardrobe.  She mentally reviewed her packing:  khaki slacks, a twill skirt, the black skirt – no, not denim.  “Jane, does a cotton knit dress count as dolling up?”
“That pretty leaf-green one?  That should be fine; I’ll lend you a scarf that will gussy it up a little, and pearl studs.  Sound okay?  I’m just wearing one of my suit skirts,” she threw a black wool pencil skirt onto the bed, “and this sweater.”  A lavender cashmere scoop-neck followed.  “And chunky amethysts,” Jane finished, striding to the bureau.  “I’ll shower first, if you don’t mind, since I have to blow-dry.”
‘Dolled up,’ Tory and Jane splashed out on a taxi to the concert hall.  Well, a splash for Tory, though she suspected Jane was getting used to chauffeured sedans.  She had a chance to eye the Vondelpark, one of Amsterdam’s few green spaces, as they drove by, and then stood gaping at the Concertgebouw while Jane paid the driver.  “Isn’t it supposed to be neoclassical?” Tory asked of the imposing building in front of them.
“Like I’d know neoclassical from – whatever.  Georgian?  Rococo?”  Jane answered.  One of the many things Tory loved about her sister was Jane’s fearlessness in admitting what she didn’t know.
“Well, I guess I don’t know, either.  But I didn’t expect so much brick.  Or the flourishes,” Tory explained.  They joined the well-behaved crowd moving into the main hall and found their excellent seats, settling into the red plush.  Tory gazed around in awe at the magnificent organ and ornately carved walls and ceiling.  “Oh, my goodness,” she whispered to Jane as a plump, older woman settled next to them.  “Isn’t it gorgeous?”
Still lost in the beauty of the elaborate balconies, Tory started when their neighbor spoke.  “You are the American nurse?” she asked, and Tory paused, then nodded hesitantly.  “My son, Max, told me he had shared his tickets with you.  It is too bad that he and his partner are both caught up in surgery – a construction site accident, with several people badly injured, I understand.  However, we are delighted to meet you.  Max was impressed with your cool head and kindness.”
Remembering what she’d read about the Dutch custom, Tory held out her hand and stated her name.  “Marijke van den Nie,” the other woman responded as they shook hands.  “Jane Bird, Mevrouw van den Nie,” Jane said in her turn, using the Dutch honorific for a married woman as the two shook hands across Tory.  “I’m Tory’s sister.”
“My companion is Juffrouw Christina de Groot,” Mevrouw van den Nie introduced, and Tory gazed past her with the beginnings of a smile.  She quickly withdrew both her smile and the hand she had extended when she encountered a cold, brief nod from an elegant, impeccably made-up blonde.  “How do you do,” she said, reverting to American protocol, then busied herself with the concert program to mask her surprise at the other woman’s hauteur.  However, Marijke van den Nie commented on the evening’s selections, and Tory enjoyed a brief, pleasant chat with her before the lights dimmed.
After a splendid program of Mahler, Brahms and a short burst from the contemporary composer Nico Muhly, Tory found herself outside once more, humming quietly along with the string section still playing in her head.  She gazed gratefully at Mevrouw van den Nie, extended her hand again and said, “Thank you so very much.  That was wonderful!”
“I enjoyed very much meeting you,” that lady replied.  “You were good to tell me something of Vermont.  I may not yet be a convert to your countryman Muhly’s music, but the New England country sounds lovely, a bit like the English Lake District.  Perhaps I’ll manage a visit one day.”
“Oh, do,” Tory replied, suddenly self-conscious at her dreaminess.
“Yes, do,” Jane added, recognizing her sister’s attack of shyness, “and perhaps work in a visit to the symphony in Boston, which is magnificent.  I confess I prefer Brahms to Muhly myself – though I hadn’t heard of him before today.  We would like to write to your son and thank him for his generosity if you could provide an address.”
“Surely there’s no need,” Juffrouw de Groot interjected, staring down her nose.  “We must get to the car.”
“This will only take a moment,” Mevrouw van den Nie responded, somewhat brusquely.  Her voice reverted to its usual warmth as she pulled a visiting card from her evening bag and handed it to Tory.  “Please write to him at my address, and I shall be certain he has your thanks.  He will be delighted to know you enjoyed the evening.”
“I had hoped to see Max this evening,” Juffrouw de Groot muttered, beginning to walk down the stairs of the Concergebouw.  After another round of handshakes, thanks and good-evenings, Mevrouw van den Nie followed.  Jane turned to Tory, smiling, and said, “Do you know, I think she snorted.  Or maybe I should say, ‘If she weren’t so elegant, I’d think she snorted.’”
“Snorted?” Tory asked, confused by Jane’s apparent non sequitor.
“I suspect your Mevrouw doesn’t much care for Miss de Groot,” Jane explained.  “And that’s not just because I didn’t like her myself.”
“I wonder if she’s the girlfriend,” Tory said.  “She looks like she’d fit nicely in a Rolls-Royce, and in the society page pictures from the big charity ball.”
“Well, it’s how you act that really matters,” Jane contended.  “Especially if you’re trying to raise money for charity.  Anyway, how do you know he’s not married?  They don’t always wear rings in these parts.  Here’s a cab for us.  Let’s get back to the hotel and get that thank-you note written.  We’ll just have time in the morning for a last stroll around the canals before we head for the airport.”

The next day, stretched out in the luxury of a business-class seat, Tory watched the clouds and ocean below her.  Voicing a thought aloud, she asked, “Jane, am I a prude?”
“Are you?” her seatmate answered.  “I wouldn’t have thought so.  Why are you asking?”
“I met a gorgeous man the other day, and I didn’t think about having wild sex with him in a hot tub or something, I thought about working in the garden together with our kids.  And now I’m imagining him sitting by the fireplace in Bristol, reading bits of a book aloud to me while I knit.  I mean, who does that?”
Jane laughed her warm, ready laugh.  “You do, little sister.  I heard enough of your randy heart-rendings over Rob Tucker in high school, and that snowboarder in college, and Dr. Dark Eyes during your practicals, to know you’re not a prude.  You’re a homebody and a nurturer and all kinds of other lovely things that will do you a lot more good in the long term than a hot and heavy sex life at 26 would do.”
          “Oh, no, that snowboarder!  I had forgotten about him.  At least my taste has improved!” Tory agonized, and picked up the airline magazine to puzzle through the quiz questions while Jane reviewed her meeting notes.  And if her thoughts turned rather too often to the blond Dutchman – he probably is married, she reflected – well, perhaps that’s just part of the fun of a vacation.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Economizing with Dearest Eulalia

Betty Anonymous on a timely post-holiday topic...

Did you ever have to economize, or, in other words, have to scrape and scrimp, cut down on expenses, lay out your money with a careful eye?

Economizing with Dearest Eulalia

I don’t know how many times I have read Dearest Eulalia.  I know I had always read things the way The Great Betty had meant them.  But this time my eyebrows shot up with mounting incredulity, in utter amazement, in total stupefaction... – What was that, dear little red pen?  You think I’m overdoing it?  Nah! – penlike Snort!

With something like nostalgia, I remember my days as a student, "far away" from home (about 480 km/300 miles). – Ok, I had worked at a place more than ten times that distance from home before but that was different. – Anyway, I always had enough money during those days but I tried to keep expenses down to a minimum so I could afford the train ride home during holidays, between semesters, or for the odd weekend.  (Hey, that’s almost like a Neels heroine!)  I bought a lot of my groceries at discount stores, back when discount stores did completely without frills or brand names.  The cheapest pasta, the cheapest cheese, the cheapest bread... You get the picture.

If only I had known, back then, that there was another way to save money on groceries, a way that would help me keep up appearances and eat like a king at the same time...

But then, the book I could have used as a guide would not be written for more than a decade.

Eulalia‘s Shopping List

Earl Grey
cheap tea bags
the finest coffee beans
tin of instant coffee
Cooper‘s marmalade

Bath Olivers

farm butter
butter substitute
Port Salut cheese
a few slices of the finest bacon
streaky bacon
lamb cutlets, a couple
chicken breast
lamb’s kidneys
minced beef
some sausages

If this is what Eulalia buys when pay day is a week away and the housekeeping purse is almost empty, then I don’t want to see what’s on her shopping list on pay day and the days thereafter. In fact, I am no longer surprised their housekeeping purse is almost empty at this point.

"She frowned as she spoke; pay day was still a week away and the housekeeping purse was almost empty. The Colonel's pension was just enough to pay for the maintenance of the house and Jane's wages; her own wages paid for food and what Jane called keeping up appearances [...]

"'That's a mercy. Now, Miss Lally, you do your shopping; I'll hang out the washing—see if you can get a couple of those small lamb cutlets for the Colonel and a bit of steak for us—or mince. I'll make a casserole for us and a pie if there's enough...'

"Eulalia got her coat from the hall and fetched a basket and sat down at the table to count the contents of her purse.  A week to pay day so funds were low.

"'It had better be mince,' she said.  'It's cheaper.'  And then she added, 'I hate mince...'

"She looked up and saw that Jane was smiling — not at her but at someone behind her. Mr van der Leurs was standing in the doorway holding the coffee tray. 'Delicious coffee,' he observed, 'And I was delighted to meet the Colonel.'  [...]

"Mr van der Leurs, without appearing to do so, noted that she bought Earl Grey, the finest coffee beans, Bath Olivers, farm butter, Brie and Port Salut cheese, Cooper's marmalade and a few slices of the finest bacon; and, these bought, she added cheap tea bags, a tin of instant coffee, a butter substitute, sugar and flour and streaky bacon. It was the same at the butcher's, where she bought lamb cutlets, a chicken breast, lamb's kidneys and then minced beef and some sausages.  He hadn't gone into the shop with her but had stood outside, apparently studying the contents of the window.  At the greengrocer's he followed her in to take the basket while she bought potatoes and a cabbage, celery, carrots and a bunch of grapes.
"'We make our own bread,' said Eulalia, bypassing the baker.

"Mr van der Leurs, keeping his thoughts to himself, made light-hearted conversation as they returned to the house.  It was evident to him that living was on two levels in the Colonel's house, which made it a sensible reason for him to marry her as quickly as possible."

It is sooo sweet of Eulalia and Jane to scrape and scrimp just so that the Colonel won’t know how bad the state of their finances really is, to let him enjoy the creature comforts he is used to probably all his life.  I don’t know what I would have done in their stead.  I am very much afraid I would have been a bit more of a realist and would have introduced meals to the Colonel’s menu that would have been a little easier on the housekeeping kitty.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year's Resolution (a/k/a The Huge Roses, Ch1 pt1)

I will get back to work on my work-in-progress.  In a bid to push myself along, I plan to post an installment every two weeks or so, unless y'all beg me to stop.

THE HUGE ROSES (working title)
copyright 2014 by Betty van den Betsy; not for reprint or publication without permission

Chapter 1, part 1

Amsterdam, justly renowned for the beauty of its city center, is nonetheless a bit of a maze.  Tory stopped in a convenient ell to study her map.  After a not-very-edifying morning around Dam Square, she wanted a traditional Dutch pancake for her lunch, and had no interest in accidentally veering into the Red Light District on her way to the pannekoekhuis.  “If I’ve figured out how to pronounce it,” she muttered, tracing the swirling lines of the city’s spiderweb, “I should be able to get to it.”  She lifted her head, though, when an unexpected sound penetrated the bustle of the city – a shout for help?
Tory trotted toward the sound, and it came again as she reached a corner.  There, just ahead on the side street, were three or four people clustered around a man lying on the sidewalk.  She joined the group quickly, saying, “I’m a nurse.  Could I help?”
“Thank goodness,” one of the women standing by said with an English accent, as the man on the ground spoke up through clenched teeth.
“I only stepped off the curb, but my foot slipped oddly from under me, and my right leg’s quite painful.”  His pale face, lightly beaded with sweat, testified he was understating the case.
“Has anyone phoned for an ambulance?” Tory asked, kneeling by the stranger and beginning a gentle examination of his leg.  “It’s easier than you might think to break a bone just by twisting it while walking about.  And I’m afraid,” she added, skimming a hand lightly over the tell-tale protrusion, “that you’ve fractured your fibula.”
Her sidewalk patient grimaced while above them the Englishwoman cried, “Oh, Frank!”
“The ambulance?” Tory asked again.
“Perhaps I might assist?” a new voice interjected, in a deep rumble with just a hint of the mellifluous Dutch accent.  Tory glanced up – and up – a long way up!  The newcomer was strikingly tall, and strikingly handsome; and now he was kneeling on the other side of the injured man from her, speaking rapid Dutch into a cell phone.  While her hands automatically did the limited first aid appropriate, her eyes and brain registered fair hair shading to silver at the temples, pale blue eyes, determined chin, not-quite-Roman nose and full lips.  She blushed as she realized those lips were now directing a question to her, and those eyes had noticed her staring.
“You’re a doctor?” he asked.  “I am, as well; an orthopedist with a practice here in Amsterdam.”
Tory rushed to explain, “I’m just a nurse, doctor.  This gentleman seems to have a closed fracture of the fibula, with possible involvement of the tibia.  I think I’ve done all I can for first aid.”
“Surely there’s no such thing as ‘just’ a nurse, please,” the doctor replied.  “You and your colleagues are essential to the successful practice of medicine, and you’ve done well here.  I’ve contacted the hospital, and our ambulance will be along shortly.  How are you feeling now, sir?” he asked, turning to the patient.  “The technicians will be able to administer some pain relief.”
“Well, I’m very grateful for the diagnosis and the young lady’s help,” the Englishman answered.  “I admit I wouldn’t say no to some kind of painkiller, though.”  As he spoke, the sound of a siren neared, and people moved away to make room for the ambulance.  Tory stood and felt a hand on her elbow.  The Englishwoman who had spoken first had grabbed her.
“Thank you so much for helping my husband,” she said.  “Poor Frank!  My nursing skills don’t go beyond sticking on a plaster, and I know he was in a lot of pain, even if he was trying not to show it.  I didn’t want to make it worse!  Do you think he’ll be okay?”
“I’ve heard great things about the medical care in the Netherlands,” Tory answered.  “In fact, I think the medical school at Leiden was one of the first in the world.  Your husband should be fine here, and lower-leg breaks usually heal up thoroughly in a few months.”
“What a way to end a vacation!  I’m Valerie Bailey, by the way; and Frank and I are indebted to you.  Could I offer you dinner tonight as a thank-you?”
“Oh, no, I couldn’t take you away from your husband tonight.  He’ll probably need a minor surgical procedure, and maybe a night at the hospital.  And I barely did anything.”
“Well, let me know your name, at least.  Are you a tourist, like us?”
“Tory Bird.”  They shook hands.  “I’m here for just a few days, sightseeing.  Then I’ll head home to the U.S.”
“Isn’t it funny you’d be the one to help us?  We’ve been staying at the American Hotel, thinking it was an odd name for Amsterdam!  It’s lovely, though the Leidesplein is a bit bright.  But now here’s an American to help when we need it most.  Are you staying at the hotel, too?”  Valerie kept on chattily, keeping one eye – sometimes both – on the activity by the ambulance.
“I’m at the Pulitzer,” Tory answered.  “They put it together from something like twenty of the old town houses, and the place is like a jigsaw puzzle with funny corners and doorways and odd little hallways, two steps up, then jog left and turn sharp right for the elevator.  But it’s right on a canal, with the old-fashioned street lights.  It’s a gorgeous city, isn’t it?”  Tory figured some mindless social chat might help calm Mrs. Bailey’s jangled nerves.
“Oh, beautiful.  And so romantic.”  Valerie perked up as the doctor gestured to her.  “They’ve settled him, I think, so I suppose I’ll be off.  Thank you again for everything.”  Another handshake, and she was darting away to follow her husband’s recumbent form into the back of the ambulance.  Tory dusted herself off, slung her purse back onto her shoulder, and began to dig for the map she had stowed there.
“And my thanks to you also,” the doctor said, striding briskly toward her.  Tory willed herself not to stare, though from his fair hair to his broad shoulders to his powerful legs the man warranted a closer look.  “You showed fine presence of mind and kindness.”
“Good heavens, I scarcely did anything.”  She ducked her head, embarrassed by the praise, and by the rush of warmth it induced in her.
“But a kind word, a kind smile, and a light touch mean the world to someone in shock and pain.  Do you need directions, or transport?  Where are you headed?”
“Just off to lunch,” Tory chirped brightly.  “Pancakes.”
The giant’s pale eyebrows rose, then his lids dropped to hood the bright blue eyes.  His smile was charming.  “An excellent choice after unexpected exertion,” he said.  “If you follow this street to its end and turn left, you’ll quickly come to the Prinsengracht.  Turn right, and a few minutes’ walk will bring you to the Pancake Bakery – the best pancakes in Amsterdam.  I’d be delighted to escort you there, but I’m due at the hospital for a consultation.”
“No, no, quite all right of course,” Tory gushed.  “I’m really enjoying exploring your city.  All quite beautiful and enjoyable.”  How she wished for some of her sister’s savoir faire as she struggled not to babble.  “Thank you, doctor.”
“Maximillan van den Nie,” he said, extending a large hand.  Tory reached out her own, murmuring her name, and risked a glance up.  She smiled a good-bye, and he returned the gesture, thinking how delightfully her bright smile transformed a rather ordinary face.  Then she turned about and headed away, while Mr. van den Nie resumed his fast pace down the street, deep in contemplation of techniques for rehabilitating elderly knee-replacement patients.
Tory, moving in a more leisurely fashion, was likewise sunk into her thoughts, or rather her impressions of Mr. van den Nie’s deep voice, his strong hands, his thoughtfulness – and her own lack of social grace!  She shook her head to clear her mind and struck out more briskly.  It was no use worrying about what impression she might have made, or not made, on a man she’d never see again; better to focus on a plan for making the most of the Rijksmuseum in the limited time available that afternoon.

Stuffed with pancakes, 17th-century silver and Rembrandt, Tory strolled back to the hotel as evening settled over the canals and their gracefully arched bridges, peering into the well-lit, centuries-old houses for the ready views of warm, welcoming interiors.  After making her way up two flights and down three corridors to get to the hotel room, she flopped onto the bed on her back and lifted her feet toward the ceiling – a favorite posture for relaxing after being on her feet all day.
A brisk stride in the hallway alerted her that her sister was returning from a day of business meetings, and as the door opened she peered around her raised legs to smile at Jane, who dropped her briefcase and kicked off her shoes.
“Busy day?  Productive?” Tory asked as Jane flopped onto the bed beside her.
“Great, but now I’ve got tons of notes to sort through.  Three days and eleven investment prospects!  I think I’ve got two definites and three definitely-nots, but it’s the maybes – the ones I’m not sure about, one way or the other – that are always hardest.  How about you, lazybones?  Did you find some fun?”
“Dam Square and the Palace, pretty boring; french fries with curry mayonnaise, pretty greasy; gigantic pancake that flopped over the edges of a dinner plate with cheese and ginger, fabulously delicious, yummiest thing I’ve tasted in ages; and the Rijksmuseum is incredible.  I would love to go back if you want to take a look tomorrow,” Tory reported.
“Absolutely,” Jane confirmed.  “I’ve seen ‘The Night Watch’ but I’d see it again and again, and I’m sure there’s lots more to explore there.  So did you like the Rijksmuseum better than the van Gogh?”
“Silly question, Jane.  They’re too different.  How nice we live in a world where we get both.  A world where we have high-powered, glamorous, urban businesswomen and mild-mannered, mousy, country nurses.  Oh,” Tory added, raising her arms against the pillow Jane swung toward her head, “I helped out an English tourist who broke his leg.”
“Broke his leg?  Here in the city?”
“One of these cobbled side streets, and he caught his foot in a tiny pothole and twisted the leg as he went down.  Very nasty way to end your vacation, I must say,” Tory clarified.
“You didn’t have to do much, did you?  No splinting?  Open break or closed?” Jane asked.
“Don’t turn into Dr. Jane on me, now.  Basically just gave him a hanky, identified the injury, and waited for the ambulance.  And not even much of that,” Tory admitted, “since a big Dutch doctor came along and took over just before the ambulance got there.”
“A big Dutch doctor?  Is that a new specialization?  They don’t run to fat much here,” Jane noted.
“Not fat,” Tory said.  “Tall.  Very tall, and broad, and blond, and actually quite – I don’t know – hunky? – in a well-dressed, low-key way.”
“Well, well, well.”  Jane leapt up and began pulling off her dark wool suit.  “You’ll tell me more about him over the rijsttafel.  Let’s get going soon, though, because I missed lunch and must have my dinner.  You’ve got first dibs on the bathroom.”
Tory flipped upright and walked into the luxuriously-equipped bathroom, peering at her reflection in the well-lit mirror.  The familiar face peered back, not magically transformed, still soft outlines of rounded cheeks, a slightly snub nose, unremarkable mouth.  Her skin shone with youth and health, and her large, wide-set eyes were an unusually deep green, “But who ever gets close enough to look?” she muttered, pulling a brush through her mouse-brown hair.
“What’s that?” Jane called from her foray through the closet in the next room.
“Just wishing I had cheekbones,” Tory called back, clipping her thick ponytail into a barrette.
“Three shades of foundation and two of blusher, and you’ve got cheekbones,” Jane announced, taking control of the sink and mirror with a thrust of her hip.  She had changed into slacks and a thick, cowl-necked cashmere sweater.  “You’ll want a warmer jacket, I think.  It was getting a bit brisk as I came back.”
Easy to joke, Tory thought as she dug into their shared closet, when you’ve got cheekbones that would slice a tomato, and auburn hair most women dye for, “and you’re tall enough to reach the back of this shelf!” she finished at a quiet roar.
“Oh, dear,” Jane commiserated, reaching over her literally-little sister’s head, “someone needs a good meal with plenty of protein, and a bit of perspective.  If you’re not careful, I’ll ask Dr. Bachman to send you to work in a burn ward for a few months.  Is this what you want?” she asked, handing over the chunky Nordic-patterned sweater Tory had knit herself the previous winter.
“Thank you, big sis.  Let’s get going; you’re right about the protein – though what’s really going to pick me up is a spicy peanut sauce.”
As they left the hotel, Jane asked casually, “So, I thought you were enjoying your visit here.  What’s got you needing a peanut-sauce picking up?”
“Nothing, really.  I’m loving the time off, and believe it or not I’m enjoying city living for a few days, especially in this particular city.  It’s great.  I guess I got a little down talking about that doctor, and thinking about how I decided to do my nursing degree instead of going off to medical school, and not being a sparkling, fascinating woman of mystery that tall blond men would follow down the street.”
“Well, I don’t know whether this helps at all,” Jane replied, “but I think all of us have moments like that.  I mean, here I am, 34 years old and heart-whole, living a fast-paced, overpaid, high-stress life in investment management when I trained to be a doctor to help and heal.  I’ve got a swank apartment and expensive clothes, but when I think of the life you lead in Bristol, and the warmth and kindness of the community you have there, a lot of what I’ve got and what I do seems pretty hollow.”
“Oh, my goodness!” Tory exclaimed.  “Jane, you’re so good.  You’re such a great sister, and you’re so good at your job, and that socially-responsible investing thing is going to change the world, and – yikes, look!  Don’t look!”  Tory paused for a breath, then hissed, “Just stop here, stay casual.  Look at the canal.  Now look just on the other side of the bridge, that gray car pointing toward us.  I’m pretty sure that’s Dr. den ver Nie, or whatever his name was, driving.”
“They do have long names, don’t they?”  Jane answered, pointing at nothing as her part in the charade.  “That’s a Rolls-Royce, by the way.  The Phantom.  A little roomier, and less pricey, than the Coupé, but still a very rich man’s automobile.”  She dropped her hand as the car eased toward them.  “And I see what you mean about the driver.  Even without the car for background, that’s a handsome man.”
“Well, that’s my Amsterdam adventure, then.  Helping an Englishman and stammering stupidly at a millionaire Dutch doctor.  Let’s get at that peanut sauce now, and on the way back to the hotel we can peer in people’s windows.  I love that they leave the curtains open.  I saw one room today, honestly in a 17th-century house or whatever, that had dark purple walls with pale purple trim and wide, random slashes of turquoise.  Apparently someone got tired of lace curtains and dark wood and Delft pottery on the mantelpiece, glowing discreetly in a beam of filtered light.”
Jane laughed and threw an arm around her sister as they set off again.  At the restaurant, Tory actually forgot Maximillan van den Nie in the novelty of the Indonesian buffet set down on their table, with its two-bite tastes of twenty different dishes to serve over rice.  She and Jane laughed and talked their way through the various offerings, celebrating their pleasure in each other’s company, and the fun of trying something new, and the beauty of the Netherlands’s capital city.  As they sat over tea after the meal, both quiet for once, Tory reflected on her great fortune in having such a strong friendship with her big sister, despite the eight-year age difference, and the very different lives the two of them live.  “And then there’s the twins,” she said, half-aloud.
“What’s that?” Jane asked.
“I was just thinking about the twins,” Tory answered.  “I’m going to bring them some gouda.”
“Well, that sounds lovely,” Jane answered, smiling.  “You’re such a genuinely nice person.”
“I was brought up right,” Tory teased – Jane having been responsible for much of her upbringing, while their learned parents had focused on academic research, teaching and frequent travel.  “Let’s head back, shall we?  I’m still fighting the adjustment from New Hampshire time.  And thanks for the compliment!”
Just for a moment, walking back in the crisp, fresh air, watching the moonlight gild the water of the canals, enjoying the almost lacey delicacy of the arched bridges, Tory’s mind flashed up a memory of Dr. van den Nie’s smile.  It is a romantic place, she thought, remembering Valerie Bailey’s words, and hooked an arm through her sister’s, drawing her close.  The two of them strolled contentedly, looking forward to a Saturday exploring together.  And not too far away, the big Dutch doctor, checking Frank Bailey’s altogether satisfactory chart, gave a moment’s thought to the quietly competent young American nurse.  Lovely eyes, he recalled, and nothing fussy about her.