|The Two Jennies
Author: Dichroic PM
Shirley Blythe, his daughter, and his airplane, after WWI.Rated: Fiction K - English - Chapters: 4 - Words: 4,546 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 1 - Published: 09-23-05 - id: 2590844
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No one at Ingleside was surprised at the bond between Susan and Jenny Blythe. She loved all the Blythes, and had served them devotedly for thirty years, but there was a certain fierce maternal tenderness she saved only for Shirley, Jenny's father. She had cared for him when Grandmother was so ill after his birth, and called him her "little brown boy". Grandfather said that with all Susan's heroism through the hard years from 1914 through 1918, he had never been so impressed as at the moment she waved his youngest son off to war. "There was tragedy in her eyes," he said, "But she was indomitable. I knew at that moment that we would win the war. With women like ours behind them, how could the fighting men not prevail?"
The Great War gave a new perspective to life afterward. The Blythe family feared that Susan would have the vapors when Shirley decided to move to New York to work on his beloved airplanes after the war, but she only said, "Well, little did I think that those blessed children would scatter as they have, with Rilla in Toronto, Di in Vancouver, and now Shirley in the United States, but I suppose we must just take a break and feed them well when they come to visit us here. I do not think that child will be finding lemon curd pies like ours in New York, though, and that you may tie to. But I do hope he will not be falling in love with a Yankee girl."
She even visited him twice, once with the family when he married the daughter of the airplane designer he worked for, and once alone, to help after the birth of his daughter Jenny Susan Anne, "named for her mother and both of mine," as Shirley said. Susan and the elder Jenny loved each other for Shirley's sake. When the exhausted white young mother held her precious tiny bundle for the first time, she kissed the rosy small cheek, looked up over the downy head, and said, "Promise me, Susan, that if anything – happens to me and Shirley, that you will care for her and love her."
"Of course I will and so will the dear Doctor and Mrs Doctor dear and all of her uncles and aunts," said Susan briskly. "But you will far outlive me and you will bring up this precious mite yourself, and help her with her own babies. Now, you go to sleep and rest yourself and do not worry about anything. Susan is on the case."
Less than four years later, though, Susan was proved wrong. The tears she had not shed during the war years ran down her cheeks as she read, "We laid her in a beautiful old place, with the trees she loved talking to each other overhead and her people all around her. Our son lies there with her. Since I must lose them, it was some comfort to lay them together. I hated to think of him all alone, so tiny as he was. I can't stay bear to stay here without her. Little Jenny and I will be at Ingleside soon."
"I remember how I felt after – after we lost Joyce," Anne said softly. "Thank God he has Jenny to comfort him. We must make his old room ready for him, Susan, and be prepared to help him with little Jenny. She may not even understand yet that her mother is not coming back."
"That we will," said Susan stoutly. "I do not think they can be here for a week at least, and I will go and borrow a crib and some toys for her from Jem and Faith. They still have Walter's little crib in the attic, and he and his sisters have all outgrown it."
Only a day, later, though, Gilbert stepped out on the Ingleside porch and looked to the south."That aeroplane is flying unusually low. I wonder if he's having problems?" He looked a bit longer. "Anne! Susan! I think he's going to land in the field next door! I'm going to go over to see if he needs petrol or anything."
But the high-wing 'plane swept to a reassuringly smooth landing. As soon as it stopped, an unexpectedly small head popped up. A man stepped out of the 'plane and swung a young child down. Forgetting his years, Gilbert ran toward them. "Shirley! Jenny! We didn't expect you for a week!"
"We flied here in my plane, Granddad. My Jenny-plane."
"It's a Curtiss JN-4 – nicknamed the Jenny," Shirley explained, smiling down at her. Then his face sobered. "Can we stay here for a bit, Dad? Neither of us could stand it there – the house was so empty without her."
"Of course, son," the doctor said. Your mother will love having a little girl in the house again. It's been too quiet, with you all grown and gone."
An hour later, Shirley doubted the house was ever quiet for long. Rilla and her brood were in Toronto, and Nan and Jerry were living in Halifax with their sons, but Jem and Faith, Diana and her husband George, and all of their children had come to visit, as had half the neighborhood. "You must expect people to be curious, when you make such a dramatic entrance," explained his mother, with a twinkle in her eye.
After a month, Jenny had settled into life at Ingleside as though she'd been born there. She still cried for her mother every night, but during the days she played with the other children in Rainbow Valley, or followed Susan around, trying to help with the cooking and baking. "And a real help she is too, for all she's so young," averred Susan proudly.
"Shirley seems restless, though," Anne observed to her husband. "Jenny is happy here, or as happy as she can be – poor motherless mite – but he doesn't seem to be able to settle."
"He's still grieving," replied Gilbert. "But I think it's more than that. He's done a man's work and lived an exciting life since he first enlisted in the war. He has nothing of his own to do here. I'll be sorry when he goes, but I don't think he'll stay here much longer."
Dr Blythe's knowledge of his son was proved a few days later when Shirley came to his parents as they sat on the porch after dinner, enjoying the magnificent purple-golden sunset over the harbor.
"Mother – Dad. I want to thank you for letting us come to you. It's been the best thing for Jenny, after her mother's death, to be with so many adults who love her."
"And for you, Shirley?" his mother asked, with that direct gray gaze that always seemed to see her children's hearts.
"It's been good for me, too, to have these weeks of peace and healing. But that's why I came to you. I need to ask a favor, though I hope you'll feel free to turn me down if it's too much to ask.
"Ask away, son," said the doctor, with a glance at his wife for confirmation. "We'll do it if we can."
"I can't stay here," Shirley said abruptly. "I love Ingleside, and all of you, but I don't fit here any more. I can't go back to New York either. Not without – not alone. I don't think I fit anywhere anymore."
"Then what will you do?" asked Anne, simply.
"I want to take the 'plane and just go. There's always work, taking someone who needs to travel in a hurry, or giving rides as a barnstormer, or teaching new pilots. But I can't take Jenny. Would you care for her for me? I can't bear to be away from her for long, so I'll visit every few weeks, depending where I am."
"You know Susan would be in her glory having Jenny with us. But Shirley," Anne gave him that direct look again. "You won't take any unnecessary risks, will you? We couldn't bear to lose you…too. And Jenny has already lost one parent."
"No, Mother." His brown gaze was as direct as hers had been. I'm a father now and I have responsibilities. And I think I know a little of what you and Father went through now." He placed one hand on each of theirs. "I won't take any unnecessary risks."