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.
AN: Season 1 Episode 6
Jean moved swiftly through the kitchen, busing her hands with the mundane task of making tea. She knew she had to turn down Robert before he could even ask the question. For now no one was the wiser, no one else but Mattie even knew that is was a possibility.
She glanced at the clock he should be arriving shortly. She timed it down to the minute, Mattie would be out and Lucien caught up with the case. The house would be empty and she could say what she needed to say without risking anyone overhearing their conversation. The sound of the kettle roaring jarred her from the thoughts swirling in her mind. Before she could think on it further, she heard the gentlest of knocks on the door. Setting the kettle to the side, she turned off the stove and down the hall. Taking a deep breath she pulled the door open and plastered a smile on her face, she still wasn't exactly sure what words she was going to string together to tell him that she wasn't interested, she was hoping it would come to her when she saw him, but now, she was at a loss.
"May I come in," Robert asked.
Jean waved her hand to the side, realizing that she had been standing there staring at him for awhile without offering any greeting, "Sorry Robert, my mind is still running through lines," she quickly covered.
"Ah, yes well you are one my most studious actors that's for certain," he turned towards her as she shut the door, "It's one of the many reasons why I enjoy working with you."
Jean bit the inside of her cheek to prevent the groan from escaping her mouth, he wasn't going to make this easy on her. As they walked down the hall she began to have a hard time remembering all her reasons for saying no to this man.
"Please," she gestured toward the living room, "have a seat. I was just making some tea when you arrived. I'll be right back."
Robert moved towards the kitchen, "Let me help you."
"Oh no, no, it's fine. It won't be but a moment," she retreated hastily into the kitchen taking several more deep breaths to calm herself. She placed the tea pot and cups onto the tray before moving towards the fridge to grab the milk, she she pulled the handle open she eyed the roast she bought today. A small smile crept across her face, Lucien hadn't defaced it yet, must not have been a bludgeoning case.
"Are you sure I can't assist you," Robert hollered from the next room jarring her from her thoughts.
Jean closed the door and moved back to the tray, remembering why she had to tell Robert no. There was just no sense marrying one man when you loved, or at least think you might love another. She lifted the tray and moved back towards the living room, "No I'm fine."
For the next few minutes Jean went through the motions of being a proper hostess, she poured him tea and offered him sugar. They talked about the weather, the play, and then she realized the small talk was done. It was time to explain to him why she asked him to come over at a strange hour in the afternoon.
She blurted out, "I'm needed here," she knew it was an excuse and a thinly veiled one at that. It was at least a little true to say she was needed here, but the sentence was phrased in the wrong order. She needed to be here, she hoped that she was wanted here too, but she wasn't entirely sure. It was also true that she needed a break from the drama society women, after the gossiping the night before she knew she couldn't show her face there any time soon. She'd of course hold her head high and finish this production, she was no quitter, but that would be it for awhile.
Jean braved a glance in Robert's direction and she could tell that he knew there was more to it, he of course knew she was talking about more than just the drama society. A small bit of her heart broke for the lie, or rather the omission. She didn't want to hurt Robert and truly figured this was the best way to spare his feelings in the long run, and possibly hers, but she felt her future burning up in front of her. Before either could say anything more she heard the sound of Lucien barreling through the hallway as he tended to do, the man may have been a spy but his feet would always let her know when he was home.
She immediately felt torn, on one hand she was glad to see Lucien, she was almost always glad to see him, but this was the worst possible moment. She feared that Robert could see right through her, read her every expression. Jean tried to steal her face, mask any emotion that she might be displaying at the realization that Lucien was home.
Why did Lucien have to show up, she groaned under her breath. The man had the worst timing in the world. She was grateful that Lucien didn't try to sit down and chat with the pair, but even still the moment hurt. Beside her was a man that wanted her and was willing to offer her a life together, but she did not love and on the other was a man she wanted but appeared to have no idea that someone else besides Joy could be interested in him.
"That's alright, I was just leaving. Thanks for the tea Jean," Robert said looking to save either of them any further embarrassment, "It was lovely."
Jean bowed her head down, not wanting to make eye contact with either of the men, but she caught Lucien glancing at the pair of them trying to deduce what he just walked in on. When Robert let go of her hand she followed after him, she wasn't sure why, perhaps out of a sense of politeness and good manners. In fact, she hadn't even realized he held her hand at all until he let go, the sudden sensation of utter emptiness brought her back. As she watched him step out that door, she sensed Lucien following behind her — she wasn't sure but she felt like perhaps she was watching her future walk out the door and her present was looming behind threatening to become the past.
"Jean" he softly repeated three times.
She couldn't hear him, or the telephone ringing. Her thoughts were yelling too loudly in her head.
"Are you alright?" Lucien asks, but the question goes unanswered as Jean swiftly answers the phone and hands it to him, before retreating upstairs to her room.
She hoped that he didn't notice her crying, the last thing she needed in this moment was an inquisitive Lucien Blake on a quest to solve the mystery of the crying housekeeper. For someone as observant as he was with everything else he seemed to fail with Jean. She tried to hide back the tears and moisture from her eyes. She knew he got it in the end, she couldn't hide it all from him, but he couldn't seem to grasp that it wasn't just Robert. It was hardly about him at all. It was Lucien that had her heart.
Later that evening, Jean picked up her knitting and returned to the chair where she said goodbye to Robert and resumed her stitches. There was something comforting about the receptive diving and darting of the yarn that was helping to heal the wounds of earlier. Nothing was resolved of course, but she had made a decision and would stand by it.
She was a bit surprised to see Lucien home, part of her hoped he would pick up his paper and return to his study. She wasn't much in the mood for entertaining Lucien, or being questioned.
"When is the big night?" He asked.
She hummed, pretending not to hear the question.
"The play," he replied moving towards his chair next to her.
"Oh in about three weeks," she kept her eyes on her knitting not sure whether to be pleased or annoyed with the fact that he remembered, asked, or was about to take up residence next to her.
"Good. Good," he opened the paper up clearly pretending to be interested in it, "that chap that was here earlier Richard, Roger—"
Jean cut him off knowing what he was doing, "Richard."
"Robert, yes," he replied nonchantly.
"He's the director of the play," she said looking him in the eye hoping that would satisfy his curiosity. She knew it wouldn't of course, she wouldn't shed tears over not getting a part, so what other reason would she have had to cry over a gentleman caller. Lucien might not be observant at the worst of times, but he was certainly no idiot of that she was certain.
"That's right," he paused, "Will we be seeing more of him?"
"No, I don't think so," she couldn't help the small bit of sadness that came from her voice. She wasn't sad about Robert specifically, despite the fact that he was a nice man, but rather the idea of it all. For a moment, she had allowed herself to think about getting married again, of being someone's wife again, managing her own house but it was fleeting. If she learned nothing else during the war and living on a farm, there was no point dreaming.
"Right," was all he said in reply.
She wanted to ask if they'd be seeing any more of Joy McDonald, but knew she couldn't be so bold as to suggest that point of discussion. Besides it might give her away. Instead she tried to focus on that warm fuzzy feeling she had in the pit of her stomach at the notion he wanted tickets to the play. He wanted to see her performance even though she was just in a couple of scenes. It brought a smile to her face, for the first time in three days. It was silly, but she let her mind drift as her sewing needles darted in and out of the fabric. She imagined him bringing her a bouquet of roses because it was the only flower he knew, or so he once told her. All the other women in the drama society would drop their jaws at the sight that Lucien wanted her, chose her over some young journalist. He'd wrap his arms around her beaming with pride as she stood by him looking up at his sweet face. The ruffling of the newspaper brought her back to reality, there was no point dreaming up something as foolish as all that. It was enough that he wanted to come to opening night. At the end of the day, all of this what little they had together meant everything to her - it was enough, it had to be.
AN: Season 1 Episode 10
Jean hesitates before stepping onto the scale, a little bit embarrassed at the notion of her employer, of Lucien, having any idea how much she weighs. He is a doctor, she reflects, but given the feelings that have begun to rise to the surface she feels more self-conscious then she probably should have. She steps onto the scale and hears Lucien mumble something about needing to adjust the calculations because the victim weighed 140 pounds. She hazarded a quick glance down, not thinking she could have weighed any more than their victim did. She quickly jumped off when she saw the number, 150, it wasn't a significant difference in practical terms, well except if one was going to be trying to figure out a person's dead weight she supposed.
Lucien gestures towards the stool that she only just realized was in front of the scale, "Would you mind popping up the stool there for me?"
She gave him a look of crazed concern. She was becoming accustomed to his wild plots and notions, but this one was certainly new. He held out his hand to her, "I won't let you fall." She heard the words come out of his mouth and while she knew he meant one thing, her heart felt another thing entirely — it was making it hard for her to focus on this experiment of his with his hand in hers. If he wasn't trying to calculate her dead weight in order to solve a crime it might almost be romantic.
Jean feels her breath quicken as he grasps her hand more firmly when she reaches the top step and wobbles a bit. She catches him glancing up at her and for just a moment thinks she sees a twinkle in his eye that she can't entirely place, but feels warm and if she dared to say it — loving. The moment or rather the spell is broken as it always seems to be in that house with the ring of the phone or a knock at the door.
"I'll get it," Jean stammers and steps down the stool abruptly, heading down the hall before Lucien can say anything.
She wasn't sure who to expect on the other side of the door, in fact she mostly stopped expecting these days. After two months living exclusively with Lucien she came to realize that any number of people would show up on their door step at any time of day. She wondered briefly as she pulled the door open whether this is what Lucien alluded to when he said things would always be messier with him.
"Ah," she lets out as she opens the door not surprised to see Joy on the other side. They don't bother with greetings, "He's in the surgery." For once Jean doesn't mind seeing her, it gives Lucien someone else to weigh and drop off a stool for one of his experiments. She just tried not to think about what Joy weighed, or him holding her hand or putting his arm on her waist, purely to keep her balance of course. All in the name of science. Either way it wasn't something that she could stand to watch, she closed the front door and went back to the kitchen, trying to keep herself distracted with the mundane task of preparing dinner.
The phone rang jarring her once more from her thoughts, today was turning out to be a very unnerving day. She checked the clock on the wall and wondered if Joy was still in with Lucien or let herself out. It had been nearly an hour since she let Joy in, she shook her head again not wanting to think about any of it. If Joy was what Lucien needed, if she was the one that could make him happy then she would just need to accept it.
After stumbling across the pictures of his wife and daughter, the sketches he drew that put faces to the nightmares she'd hear him shouting over at 2am, she knew that he deserved all the happiness the world could muster. She'd never met someone who had endured such heartbreak and tragedy, it was unspeakable the things he went through in that camp that she at least understood even if she didn't condone his drinking habits. Even though she was trying to be more understanding of the positive influence Joy was having on Lucien it didn't mean she wanted to see it or even be around it. She listened to Danny and was grateful to have an excuse to interrupt the pair. She didn't mind having to fetch the doctor for Lawson, anything that separated those two wasn't a bad thing in her mind.
A few hours later after Lucien left for the hospital and Joy went off to do whatever it was that brought her to Ballarat again the phone rang. Jean assumed it was Lucien calling to say he wouldn't be home for dinner, she knew that already of course because he had a meeting with the hospital board, but for as smart and observant as Lucien was he was horribly forgetful at times.
"I'll get that," she wiped her hands and reached for the phone.
"Blake's residence," rolled off her tongue easily. It was of course the proper greeting as this was his home and also his place of business. It didn't matter that she or anyone else lived here, it was the home of Doctor Blake, it was another reminder of her place in the world.
"Oh Mrs. McDonald," Jean held herself back from rolling her eyes.
"No I'm afraid he isn't," her face turned into a bit of worry when she heard Joy asking to Lucien's whereabouts.
"He's at his hospital board meeting," Jean then wondered if he remembered he was supposed to be there or if he had gotten himself wrapped up in the case again.
"Oh, about twenty minutes ago," Jean said glancing at her watch, feeling her concern heighten as she listened to Joy talk quickly on the other end of the phone, she could tell that something was the matter.
"But you can leave a message —" she started to say when she heard the phone hang up abruptly without warning. Jean looked at the phone as if she expected something to happen. There was no doubt that Joy sounded anxious on the phone, and that was enough to increase Jean's worry for Lucien. She worried he would do something rash with Nicholson and it would appear Joy was equally as worried. Jean put the phone back into its cradle and turned her attention back to Danny and Mattie, trying to shove her panicking thoughts of Lucien aside. There was nothing that she could do at this point, but brace for whatever potential impact and subsequent fall-out came when he returned home.
Jean was grateful that Danny had gone back to the station after dinner at the Mattie had to start her nursing shift, the house would be empty when Lucien returned and she would be able to deal with him, with whatever situation unfolded earlier today. She had hoped that Joy might call back and give her some warning or head's up, but the phone had been eerily quiet since they last spoke. She kept vigil at her post in the kitchen when she heard the front door open. It didn't slam shut, but it did close with more force then required. She heard him riffling through papers and moving swiftly through the otherwise quiet office. The tea kettle began to whistle and she quickly lifted it off the burner and placed it on the tray alongside the two cups. Whatever it was they would deal with it together as they had everything else they'd faced this year — the death of his father, Robert Hannam, Danny's near-death snake bite.
She gently knocked on the open door not waiting for a response before entering. She saw him sitting at his desk riffling through his papers, "I thought you may need some tea," she was used to him cocking things up, but she could immediately tell that this was more than just aggravating someone's nerves. His face was ashen, his eyes glassy, his hands were shaking as he brought them to his temple and leaned back in the chair. Worry filled the room. The anxiety was so palpable she could practically taste its bitter copper in her mouth.
"I made a fool of myself Jean. I humiliated Jeffery Nicolson in front of the entire hospital board. I treated the man like he was a bloody criminal. I resigned from the board before they had a chance to fire me," Lucien's words spilled rapidly from his mouth. His voice quivering as he spoke.
Jean tried to follow his words, but they didn't make sense. Her thoughts raced around in a jumble as he spoke. Accusations. Murder. Resignation. Everything his father worked to build up Lucien had managed to destroy in just a few months. She worried for him, but now for herself. Jean unconsciously played with the wedding band around her finger, spinning it around. Was he going to destroy her too, taking everyone down on his sinking ship.
"So you're the police surgeon and you've resigned from the hospital board, in disgrace," her brain speaking its thoughts aloud as she tried to make sense out of what he was telling her. She heard him respond, trying to justify things, but that seemed to make everything worse. She felt herself snapping, she knew she should walk away before she said any of the potentially hurtful things swirling around in her mind, but she couldn't help herself. Weeks of holding in emotions led to a raw explosion of all her feelings, jumbled together.
She spun around stopping him from continuing, "That's not the point. Piece by piece you have unraveled everything your father has built here. Don't you understand?" The words, the emotions just spilled from her, "Your patients need you, we need you." She stopped herself before she said I need you, because even though she did in both a professional manner and it would seem personally she didn't want him to know that. She felt herself shaking from anger, "And you don't need the likes of Jeffery Nicolson to make your life difficult because you do perfectly alright by yourself. And one day people might just stop forgiving you, and then what?"
She was grateful that he didn't call out for her, didn't try to stop her from leaving or to reason it all away. She wasn't entirely sure she meant the last bit, whether she'd ever stop forgiving him, but she needed him to think it. Perhaps it would mean something to him, she wasn't sure, but had hoped it might. She grabbed her coat and walked off, not all too surprised to run into Matthew in the drive, no doubt there to officially sack him.
"He does all the damage when he's sober anyway," was the last thing she remembered saying to Matthew before she took off as quickly as she could down the drive. It was true, but it wasn't, the man was toxic to himself and to everyone around him — with or without the drink. Jean wiped the tears from her face as she walked down the street, she looked back at the house a few times wondering if there would be any house, metaphorically speaking, to come back to in the morning.
She wasn't sure where to go, it was too late to call on any of her friends to stay for the night, and if she was honest with herself she didn't want to have to explain to them or anyone else why she couldn't be home tonight. How would one explain that they got into a huge potentially relationship ending argument with the man they were falling in love with, a man the whole town already thought you were sleeping with. A few minutes later she realized that her feet had taken her down the lane and towards her church. She laughed to herself at the irony as she stopped beside Doctor Thomas Blake's tombstone. She paused letting her fingers run over the letters, wondering what he would say if he could see his son now. She wondered if perhaps he would be able to get through to him, to shake him out of this self-harm routine he'd gotten himself into. Taking a deep breath she pulled her hand back and continued her walk through the cemetery up to the church. It would be empty at this time of night, but she figured the quiet solitude might be exactly what she needed right now.
Pulling the heavy door open, she slipped inside. The church alter was dimly lit, but the rest of the hall remained mostly dark. She dipped her hand into the holy water and anointed herself with it as she knelt crossing herself. As she looked down to the floor she realized that she was still wearing her kitchen apron, in her haste to leave the house she forgot to take it off. The thought that she could be seen like this in public made her let out a watery-eyed chuckle. The sight of it all was just so pathetically sad.
Jean pulled herself up and walked down the long aisle to the front of the church giving pause to look at Jesus on the cross before stepping to the vestibule alongside the alter. Several candles were still lit, but had burned low to their wicks already. She lifted a candle and lit it, holding it in her hands forgetting why she had just done that. It was rather instinctual, she'd come often and light a candle for young Christoper, worried about his job in the Army. Another for Jack who couldn't seem to help but find himself mixed up into trouble. For friends and in the past for her husband, but right now in this moment she found her mind staring blankly at the flickering red candle. It would be wrong to lit it and pray for oneself, and yet part of her wanted to do just that. She wanted to will God to give her the strength to help Lucien, to sort this mess out. She wanted to know why God had placed her in this house with this man, why this challenge and why now. Questions were swirling around her mind as she felt a flood of emotions threaten to spill out. Jean staggered back into a church pew, still holding onto the candle, and began sobbing. None of it made any sense, and yet in her heart she knew the reason behind all those questions.
She didn't doubt that she cared for him, nor he for her. Early on she thought of him as an annoying older brother, one constantly getting himself into mischief and she'd chide him like a know-it-all sister would do. It didn't take long though for that sisterly feeling to disappear. Doctor Blake, the junior, was tactile with nearly everyone, but she found his touches caused a certain spark in her. This spark was of a man and a woman, not of sibling affection. Occasionally, Jean caught him staring at her — at her more feminine features. It wasn't an uncommon thing, even if the frequency had seemed to decrease as she got older, men looked at women it's what they did. But the way he looked at her made her heart swell, she felt there was something more, something deeper there.
As Jean sat on the pew sobbing, she realized who she lit the candle for — it was for Lucien. Of course it would be for him. Her heart had pushed her through the motions when her brain couldn't or didn't dare to function. Despite all he had done, no matter the burning wreckage he brought into her life she still wanted the best for him, for things to be better. Selfishly she knew that she wanted things to be better for them too. She lifted her hand to her face and wiped away the tears as her crying slowed. Her eyes became transfixed on the flickering flame, she rose from the pew and placed the candle into one of the empty slots and said a prayer for Lucien.
Everything ached, her mind, her heart, and now her body. She returned to the pew and watched the candle burn awhile longer unsure of what to do now. She wasn't sure if it was safe, or rather wise, to go back to the house. While the Church wouldn't turn her away from staying the night, it would be uncomfortable and awkward in more than one way. She opened her purse and rummaged around, she had a few pound notes on her, just enough to get a room at Solider's Hill. It would be late enough that no one would really question, or even know that she was there. Jean would be able to get a few hours of sleep, and then slip out early in the morning.
It was a long walk, especially in heels, low ones at that, to the hotel. When she arrived it was half-passed eleven. She signed into the guest log book and handed the gentleman the carefully unfolded notes. It was most of the savings that she had intended on using to purchase a train ticket to go visit Christopher and Ruby in Adelaide, but sacrifices needed to be made. He handed her the key and gestured up the stairs towards her room, she nodded her thanks and headed up. The door had barely closed before Jean had her coat and apron off and had collapsed on the bed. She yanked the bedding back and crawled in, exhausted from the emotional roller coaster she'd ridden over the last several hours.
Jean woke with a start, disoriented by her surroundings, incessant knocking at the door calling her attention.
"Yes, coming," she slipped on her coat and pushed her hair back attempting to look slightly more presentable.
"Good Afternoon Miss, just wanting to know when you'll be checking out so we can attend to the room," a young woman answered as Jean opened the door.
Jean's face dropped, checking her watch she was horrified that she'd slept this late. "I'll be checking out in half an hour, if that's alright?"
"Oh yes, we'll go on to the next room. Thank you and have a lovely day," the maid replied politely and shuffled down the hall.
Jean shut the door and sat on the edge of the bed. It was nearly two in the afternoon, she'd never slept this many hours or this late in the day since she was pregnant with Christopher Jr. She scurried into the bathroom to freshen up as best as she could, tucked her apron into her handbag, then slipped on her heels stepping out of the room. Her plan of avoiding running into anyone and adding any further fodder for people to gossip about was shot to hell, but then she recalled from her interview several weeks back that there was a rear entrance that employees used. Jean checked the stairwell before ducking down and out the back door.
She spent the entire walk back to the house thinking about what she was going to say to Lucien, how they might fix this mess together. With me it will always be a bit messier, she replayed his words over and over again in her mind. When she reached the drive she noticed that the mailbox was empty, but assumed Mattie picked it up already. As she reached the house she was surprised by how quiet it seemed. His car was parked out front, so she knew he should be home. She checked his room first, catching sight of the telegram on the dresser. While she wasn't one to read someone else's mail she was growing more worried by the minute. Thinking he had done something stupid again, she read the message and her heart swelled, finally a piece of good news. His daughter was alive. She darted from the room into the hall calling for him, but got no reply. She went into his office and found a letter addressed to her on his desk. Now she really was worried, cautiously as if it would burst into flames at her touch she picked up the letter and began to read it.
I have received word that my daughter is alive and arrangements have been made for me to meet with her in Shanghai. This is the journey I have longed to make for so many years. You of all people will understand how much I need to see her, to hold her, to tell her I love her. Who knows what will happen, how it will end, but please know this, in coming back to Ballarat to my father's house I have found a place of light in the darkness, I have found my home. Thank you for caring and for being my friend. For the first time in a very long time, this feels like the beginning and not the end.
Yours with much affection,
She tried not to read too deeply into his closing remarks, although it was hard not to. Her heart filled with his words, it filled to a size she had not felt since marrying Christopher. It was also full of sadness, he had left without her having a chance to say goodbye, to be safe, and without him knowing that she wasn't really mad at him, just hurt because she cared so deeply. She took a deep shuttering breath and re-read the telegram once more, this time she caught the name at the bottom "John Wright" news desk. She knew this was Joy's doing, and for once she found herself thankful that this young woman showed up on their door step. If she helped him reconnect with his daughter, there was no way she could hold jealous spite over her any longer. Bringing together Lucien's family was more an important then her, then the practice, then all of it. For that she could be thankful.
She returned the telegram to its place on his dresser and carefully folded up his letter to her and took it upstairs. She needed a shower, and to get on with the day, but as she opened up her jewelry box to tuck the note safely away as prized as her emerald engagement ring, her eyes caught the jade broach he had given her three months earlier for her birthday. Her fingers ran across the delicate and intricately carved stone, she'd decided she would wear it today needing to feel a piece of him close to her heart. She replaced the letter in the broach's vacant spot in the box and closed the lid, giving her hands one last caress across the lid before taking a deep breath. She wasn't sure if he would be coming back, or if he did that things would ever be the same again. She repeated her prayer from last night, Dear God, Please watch over Lucien. He spends more time looking after everyone else than he does himself. I need you to be his eyes and ears when I am not there. Please keep him safe, and help him find his way back home.