Jean leaned up against the door and stared at the note that Ms. McDonald handed her a moment ago. She may not have gone to university, but she was no dummy. She saw the interest in the younger woman's eyes, she was definitely after a story and didn't care whether Lucien looked poorly in the process. There was more though, her red lipstick and tight blouse certainly highlighted her feminine features a man would have to be blind to miss her seductive cues and Lucien was not blind, of that she was sure. She looked down at her chest for a moment and sighed, they weren't nearly as big as hers and after two kids they definitely weren't as perky.
Her fingers toyed with the scrap of paper, still debating what to do with it. Part of her, well more than fifty percent she was loathed to admit wanted to toss it out with the rubbish. She didn't need this woman poking her nose around making life difficult for the Doctor, he managed well-enough at that on his own. Jean finally pushed herself away from the door, willing her legs to move down the empty hallway, grateful that for once the house was empty. She didn't want Mattie coming upon her with her curious eyes, the woman would read her instantly. Jean shook her head, what would she have to read she was merely a friend looking out for another friend, or rather an employee looking out for her boss. She let out a guttural groan, annoyed with herself, she walked into his office and set the note down on his desk. As usual it was a mess, filled with papers and notes, instinctually she began picking things up to straighten away the clutter when she stopped. She felt wicked as her hands stilled, she realized that if she left the note on his desk in this state he might not see it, perhaps even lose it as he did his receipts. Jean bit her lip as she weighed the pros and cons of her devious thoughts, it didn't seem proper for a housekeeper/receptionist to keep things like this from her employer, after all taking messages was a fundamental part of her job. A wave of panic surged within when she wondered if he would let her go over something like this, she took a deep breath calming her anxiety. Lucien didn't strike her as the type of man that would do that, his father maybe, but not the son. She thought back to his words just a few weeks earlier, "I need a partner," and with that thought coursing through her veins she cleared the desk and set the note from Joy down where he'd be able to see it. As she let the note fall from her hands and watched it drift down to the desk she felt as though she was giving him away. She shook her head, he wasn't hers to give away even if she thought that there might be something there, something that they already shared between them. She straightened her back and stepped out of the study intent to butcher a chicken for dinner, if for no other reason than to release the wicked sensation of jealousy she felt.
For the second time in less than 24 hours Jean found herself leaning up against a closed door contemplating over her words and actions. Absentmindedly, she ran her fingers up to her hair only to get them tangled in her hairnet. Looking down, she realized she was in her pink robe. She let out a groan at the realization, she sat in Lucien's study for nearly an hour talking through the case together as had become a regular habit, in her night clothes. She was loathed to admit anything aloud, but she found herself enjoying the mental stimulation. In fact she thought she might even be good at it, or at least helping the good doctor solve these puzzles. He never used the word muse, in fact he specifically called for a partner, but no matter the term she felt that closeness growing.
Jean moved away from the door and plopped herself onto her chair in front of the dressing table in a heap. She replayed the beginning of their conversation over and over again, wondering if she had shared too much, whether he heard the true meaning of her words.
"That sounds more like it. Who else would you risk your life for?"
"It's always about family."
Before Jean had a chance to pull the words back into her mouth Lucien dove back into the case details, trying to work it all out. For that she was grateful and took several swigs of whiskey that still burned her throat to keep from saying anything else untoward. She wasn't sure what she had been thinking, when did Lucien become family she wondered. Naturally, she knew the answer to that, from day one. Initially she saw him as a dysfunctional younger brother that needed some mothering direction and guidance. She treated him that way, until he asked her to be his partner instead. When he left her room that night she wondered if he had always felt something different, and within days she felt the shift in herself as well.
Jean threw her head back and let out a low self-annoyed groan. She knew why she was annoyed by Joy's presence. Yes, the woman irritated her to no end with her lack of respect and sense of propriety — calling her Jean — she let out a huff at the memory. She was protective over Blake, but not in a sisterly way. Her thoughts drifted for a moment as she ran her hand down her leg in the way he had earlier that evening. She was caught off guard both by his action, or rather the boldness of it, and if she was honest with herself the electric shock that coursed through her body at his touch. It was frightening how normal and comforting she found his little touches throughout the day. While they initially annoyed her, she had come to appreciate and almost yearn for those tiny connections. There was no doubt that the man was tactile, in the span of three months he had touched her more than her husband had in a year before leaving for the war. Part of her was kicking herself, even now, for jumping off the floor and glaring at him that part that wanted his hands caressing every inch of her skin. She knew the thought was foolish, he wanted a partner — a friend, a confidante, someone to help him with "life" not a lover or wife — he had one of those already. He was working a case tonight, he moved her leg into position to replicate a crime scene, not in an effort to be nearer to her. She wasn't sure whether she should feel disappointed or grateful. She knew what people in town said about them, two eligible adults of a particular age living together under one roof must be going at it.
Feeling her frustrations well up again, she stood up and paced in front of her bedroom window, staring out into the darkness. Everything was simpler between them under the cover of darkness, during those times where they sat in his study. She thought back to the note, he said he got it but didn't mention anything about going and seeing her. A piece of her felt hopeful that he wouldn't, that he would leave siren alone but she knew he wouldn't — couldn't in fact. He was already drawn into her, she saw how his eyes lit up after their interaction. He would go to her tomorrow, or maybe the next day of that she was certain. And why wouldn't he, she thought looking down at her frumpy robe and long tattered night gown. The did their job well, hiding her form entirely. She glanced at herself in the mirror, she looked like a board without any shape at all. What could she hope to offer Lucien, she wasn't well-educated, didn't come from the right stock, and no longer had a youthful body.
She wiped a tear from the corner of her eye and hurriedly crossed the room to flick off the light, she couldn't bear to look at herself any longer. She shed her robe and crawled into bed, vowing to push down her jealous thoughts. He wasn't hers to have, and at the end of the day a man like Lucien deserved to be happy. She took a deep breath, if Joy made him happy then she'd find some way to be okay with that, to continue to support him and be the partner he asked for — until he no longer needed her for that. Another tear formed and this time she let it fall freely.
Jean woke up earlier than usual, her sleep had been fitful. She knew that Lucien was having supper with Joy at the Colonist Club, and she found herself unable to will herself to fall asleep. She went through the motions at dinner with Mattie, but she couldn't recall much of what the young woman had said. Her mind was elsewhere and she felt poorly for that, however the look that Mattie gave her when she was retiring to her room seemed to suggest that she had some inclining into her state of mind. Jean knew that Mattie was no stranger to the pangs of love, jealousy, and sadly heartbreak. The difference was that it was socially acceptable for Mattie to feel those things, she was young and unattached. Once more Jean found herself with the recently all to familiar feeling of jealous bile rising in her throat, jealous of their young lodger. For a split second, and only that did she wish she was younger and never married - she wondered if if would make any difference to Lucien. As quickly as she had the thought it would fade away, she wouldn't trade her children in for an second-love, nor would she have had a reason to meet Lucien to begin with. The point, as with all jealousy, was moot. Rationally she told herself this over and over as she struggled to sleep. Emotionally, her heart pained as every second ticked by that he wasn't home.
As seconds turned to minutes turned to hours Jean found her mind wandering into dark and dangerous waters. She wondered what Joy wore to dinner. She imagined her in a flowing skirt, something shorter than she would feel comfortable wearing. Another tight fitting sweater of course, perhaps a cardigan with a broach placed just so. It would sparkle and glimmer in the light, attracting a gentleman's eye as quickly as tiger would catch movement in the tall grass. Her lips would be a certain shade of red, lashes long and batted often. She pondered whether Lucien would divest himself of his coat and sit casually in his vest, or remain proper. Of course the pair would enjoy after dinner drinks, perhaps moving to a quieter corner of the room. They'd feign people-watching, but really just using it as an excuse to hide the glances at one another. As the hour grew later, Jean imagined Lucien helping her to her hotel - ever the gentleman. Would they share a kiss, or just a friendly hug? Worse, would she invite him up? Would he agree? The thoughts began to spiral out of control causing Jean to sit up out of bed, she was careful not to pace again, Mattie's room was just below. Instead she stared out into the night again. The sky was cloudier than the night before, the moon obscured by the passing clouds. She stared up towards the ceiling asking whether God was playing some cruel joke on her, that her mood would be so demonstrably visible to the world. It was foolish of course, God could hardly hear her prayers let alone move the heavens because Mrs. Beazley was having an angsty-crush on her employer. She scoffed at herself for such petulant thoughts and moved back to her bed.
After several more minutes of staring into a dark, empty room she flicked the light on. There was sewing or even reading she could do, certainly she needed to do something to occupy her hands. What she wanted to do was go down into surgery and look out the window, watch him walk up and gauge his behavior. Did he look like a freshly fucked man or someone who had a nice evening and nothing more? Once again her head spun into a frenzy. She flicked off the light deciding she didn't want the doctor to think she had stayed up for him. Quietly, she moved off the bed and padded down the hall to the bathroom. Turning the taps to cold, she splashed water onto her face, careful not to look in the mirror. Looking at herself now would spell uncertain disaster, if she learned nothing else from last night's foray into the green-eyed monster it was to avoid doing that. Before her brain could delve further into psychoanalyzing this recent psychosis she heard the door open. She wasn't sure how she could have missed the sound of his noisy car pulling up the drive, but clearly she had. Quickly she turned off the water and listened. She didn't think that he would dare bring her home with him, not when she had a hotel and not with Mattie in the house, but she couldn't be completely certain. She pressed her ear to the door, listening out for any sounds that might give him away. His keys clattered on the entry table and she heard the fridge open and then the cupboards. She thought it odd that Lucien would want a snack at this hour, especially after a meal at the Club. But before she could think on it further she heard the sink running, he must have had a glass of milk before bed. Moments later the door to his room closed. That was it, the night was over. Lucien was home — alone. Jean was in bed, almost, also alone.
She reached for the towel and dried her face before creeping back to her room. As she slid beneath the covers a small smile came to her face, he came home. She wasn't sure what the dinner meant if anything, but at the end of it he did come home and for now that was something. Tonight, it was everything. In the morning, she vowed to put a smile on her face and greet him cordially as always, but now it was morning and she felt her emotions to be a big jumble. Part of her wanted to question him like the Spanish Inquisition, the way she would if Jack came home late from one of his dates. It was wrong of course, and she'd never go through with it, but it didn't stop that curious mind of hers from wanting to know. She wondered if it was that curiosity that Lucien found intriguing about her, that made him want her to be his partner. Well, that was if he found anything about her "intriguing" she knew that was most likely too strong a word, too suggestive. The other part didn't want to know, was frightened that if he did tell her anything it would pop the bubble. She wasn't sure what the bubble was at this point, there were stirrings of feelings there. He was attractive, she knew that without a doubt. Too intelligent for his own good, of course. His vice was the drink, but even that seemed to be improving. She wasn't so foolish to think it had anything to do with her of course, but she did hope that if she was helping his life go more smoothly that by making a home here that it would ease his burdens.
When she finally dared to leave her room that morning, she moved past his room and out the front door collecting the morning edition. On the front page was Joy's article, there would be no avoiding her name today. With her other hand she picked up the milk bottles left on the porch and stepped back inside. She knew Mattie would be gone already, she was working odd hours at the moment, covering for another nurse who was on leave. It would be just the two of them for breakfast. She set the paper on the table and put away the milk, noting the empty bottle Lucien put back the night before. It brought a smile to her face, sometimes without realizing it he was a little boy drinking the last of the milk and putting the bottle away just as her sons had done. Picking up the kettle she filled it with water and set to the task of preparing breakfast, hoping that resuming her regular routine would help reset her mind. If nothing else going through the motions felt normal and she needed that today. As the bacon quietly sizzled away, she unfolded the paper and sipped at her tea as she read Joy's article. She feared that the woman might have included some salacious words for which the doctor would regret. As she scanned the page she found no such quote which surprised her, she was certain there would be one. Ms. McDonald seemed like the type of journalist, the type of woman to use a man like Lucien to get ahead and the fact that she hadn't was perhaps even more concerning to her. It didn't mean she liked the woman, but she was at least grateful for her omission. Whether it held any deeper meaning, only time would tell. When she heard the door to his room open she folded the paper back up and placed it at his seat, getting up to prepare him a cup of tea.
"Good morning Jean," he said brightly.
"Morning," she handed him a cup of tea.
"How was your night?" He asked a bit suspiciously.
"Fine," she answered with a raised eyebrow, "how was yours?" She hadn't intended to ask, but since he brought it up she knew it was only polite to ask in return.
He seemed to hesitate before replying, "Fine," with a smirk.
She looked at him quizzically trying to get a read on what exactly Fine meant, but could tell she wasn't going to get anything further from him this morning. She switched tactics, "Your little friend has written an article, I thought it was rather good actually."
"Oh," he said looking down at it, "Did she quote me?"
Jean pulled out her chair and slid down with her cup of tea, "No, I don't believe she did."
Silence fell between them as he read the paper, and she drank her tea. It was a comfortable silence, one that left her with a small feeling of hope. She thought she caught him glancing at her over his newspaper a few times and it brought a smile to her face, she felt it driving away those feelings of jealousy. She didn't know where life was taking them, but perhaps they were headed somewhere good.