AN: Story #2 in my Jealous Jean trilogy. You don't have to read Early Stirrings of Jealousy first, but it might be helpful. This will be another three part story. Parts 1 & 2 take place during 1.6. Part 3 is set during 1.10.
She should have known, all the clues were there. Lucien was on another war path with Patrick. His little friend wrote an article, and naturally there was a dead body in the mix. When she heard the knock she didn't detect the shrillness of it until she opened the door, her smile instantly faded away into spite. Once more the younger woman failed to remember common courtesy and pleasantries. Jean felt her blood boiling again as she thought about the look on Joy's face when she opened the door, and then hearing Lucien happily shout out her name from the kitchen. At the time she bit her tongue, almost hard enough to bleed, to keep her quick wit from saying something untoward. The only positive takeaway from the afternoon encounter was that Joy was livid with Lucien. Jean wasn't surprised of course, Lucien doesn't even need enough rope to hang himself to find his way into trouble. Joy was learning the hard way that to be Lucien's friend, if that's what she was to him, was no easy feat. Hopefully, losing her job would be enough to wash the taste of Lucien from her mouth and send her back to Melbourne where she belonged.
Jean looked at the tools still laying out on the table, she was tempted if only for a moment to pick up the wrench and give the roast a good whacking. The only thing that kept her from going through with the need to expel some frustrations was her since of propriety. Just because Lucien chose to desecrate their supper on a fortnightly basis didn't mean she needed to do it as well. Instead she did what she was supposed to do, she washed the roast of any particulates that Lucien's experiments might have left and prepared the brine. She checked the clock and knew that she'd have plenty of time to go to rehearsals before the roast was ready.
The house was dark, lest one solitary light glowing from the kitchen. No one was home and for that she was grateful. It felt ironic that the only thing on in the house was the kitchen, her domain. Perhaps not ironic, but iconic. She sighed knowing her place in life. It was made ubundatently clear to her the past two days that the world saw her one way and one way only - a widowed housekeeper. She couldn't seem to escape the role. In the play she was to escape, but it turned out that the only thing she was escaping into was that of a man. Even in drama she was a servant doting on people. Then there was Robert and his advances. She groaned. He appreciated her, but why? He was attentive, but there was no passion there. Their conversations were pleasant, but formal she hardly knew him nor he her. She was an eligible woman who could tend to his needs, that's what he needed - someone to keep house. It wasn't what she was looking for, she realized that if she declined him there was a chance she'd live the rest of her days alone - or worse taking care of Lucien and his wife whomever she turned out to be. She thought back to the conversation she overheard at the theater in-between rehearsals. She was meant to hear the gossip, of that she had no doubt. Susan was nothing if not cruel.
"He actually said, no but I'd like to," the woman replied it surprise.
"Yes," Susan hissed, "Our fine Doctor Blake practically told the entire club how he felt about that journalist from Melbourne, you know the one."
She held her breath at the memory and decided that tonight she deserved to drown her thoughts away, Lucien-style. She quickly crossed the hall and into the living room where he kept the sherry. She grabbed two glasses out of habit and collapsed on the couch with the bottle. If she wasn't so proper she'd have sipped straight from the bottle. It didn't help, each sip burned her throat, singed her heart, and pushed the bile of jealousy back up. As the bottle became lighter and lighter she felt her sorrow drift into spite.
The hour grew later and she knew she'd need to sneak upstairs soon. The longer she stayed in the living room the greater the chance that Lucien would come upon her, and tonight she couldn't take the risk of his company. With the alcohol dulling her inhibitions she worried about a loose-tongue, or worse loose-morals. She straightened her neck at the thought, she wasn't desperate. If he wanted to sleep with Joy, fine, she didn't need to throw herself at him only to be met with rejection. She didn't doubt Susan's words, she knew how Lucien felt about Joy, saw the way he looked at her. It was obvious and now apparently everyone at the club and the drama society knew - soon it'd spread throughout the rest of Ballarat. The only positive she was able to come up with is that perhaps finally the rumors about her and Lucien would stop. They weren't true, and even though she might wish something different it wasn't destined to happen now.
Her mind was drifting through the booze, she didn't hear Mattie come through the hall until she cleared her throat.
"Mattie, I think Robert is going to ask me to marry him," Jean looked down at her empty sherry glass as though she was trying to divine it to refill on its own.
"Has he said something?" Mattie inquired kneeling across from her.
She was annoyed, "No, but I can hear him thinking it." She felt Mattie's eyes searching her face, trying to get a read on her the way Lucien would do.
"And how do you feel?" Her voice was soft and concerned.
"I may never have a chance like this again," the honesty spilled from her lips.
Mattie scoffs "C'mon you could have a hundred chances if you wanted to."
Jean smiled, she wanted to believe her to accept her idyllic optimism, "Of course you think that way Mattie, you're young and lovely and you still think that life is kind."
"So what are you going to do about it?" She asked.
Jean smiled again and confidently replied, "I'm going to drink all of Lucien's sherry and then I'm going to raid the bottom drawer of his desk and drink all of his scotch." If he was going to take something away from her tonight, she was going to do the same to him. Drinking his liquor might actually hurt him the way she had been hurt by his words - well his words as repeated by Susan Tyneman which was arguably worse.
Before Mattie could reply the cause of Jean's troubled thoughts walked into the room as if he knew he was being talked about — even if no one ever said his name. Jean didn't think Mattie suspected anything, but she was as observant as the good doctor and had the added benefit of a woman's intuition. It was a deadly combination to someone wanting to keep a secret. She willed herself off the couch, not desiring to engage him tonight, and knowing with Mattie in the room it was her safest chance for an escape, so she took it.
She picked up the sherry and made her way down the hall. She stopped in the alcove before ascending the stairs and heard Mattie talking to Lucien, "You need to be very nice to her." It was clear that Mattie didn't think Jean could hear her. She wiped a tear, the alcohol was beginning to push her to an emotional cliff. She hastened upstairs, not wanting to be seen crying and to avoid hearing Lucien's response. She wasn't sure she wanted to hear anything from him ever again, not after hearing how he wanted Joy which meant that he didn't want her.