Jean does not know when her attachment to Lucien became love. She guesses it was about the same time she stopped going to confession. Though she told herself she was too busy, guilt gnawed at her conscience. She knew she did not go to confession because she had something salacious to confess. She did not wish to share the lustful thoughts for another man that had started to dominate her waking dreams, even with a priest. Especially with a priest. Then when Jean finally did go to church she found Father Morton dead, his eyes reflecting terror while a halo of bees buzzed around him. She was immediately struck with fear that perhaps her own failure to repent of her sins had lead to his death. She wondered why a woman like her with relatively few sins of the flesh always bore the brunt of such punishments, when the bad girls of the world ran around scot free.
When Lucien Blake arrived in Ballarat it spun her neatly ordered world out of control. He was erratic and difficult and it was almost impossible to manage the household to any reasonable standard. She took to following him around to just to make sure he was not in harm's way. She told herself it was in the name of preserving the Blake legacy. If Jean could control his more destructive tendencies then she thought she might keep the surgery and his father's reputation intact, and by extension, her job. But even as she began the chase she knew it was more than that. She was drawn to him from the day he walked through the door. The chaos that surrounded him, that made every day a challenge also made her feel alive. Lucien seemed to attract adventure and was more than happy to take Jean along for the ride. It was infatuation at first, a base need to be near a man she found so exciting. But somewhere along the way it became more. Underneath the arrogance, the brilliance, the constant movement, there were glimpses of kindness. He was compassionate with his patients and a champion for the powerless. Jean often wondered what he was like before the war, before the nightmares and the drinking, and the walls he had built wandering for decades alone in Asia. Sometimes she would look at him and through the bravado a scared little boy would look back at her, begging to be loved.
And there was so much to love. That was the problem. Lucien had a broad chest, impossibly muscular arms for a man who lived behind a desk, and piecing blue eyes that seemed to see into Jean's soul. All the rest might have led to deep admiration, as it had for Lucien's father, not a deep and abiding lust. It was this more than anything else that was keeping her from confession. For the first time in a very long time Jean desired a man. They lived their lives so close together. It was impossible not to see him come home, tie loosened, and wonder what he looked like underneath all those layer. She would listen to him stirring just below her bedroom late into the night and wonder what would happen if he joined her instead. And to compound the issue, he seemed to want to be near her. He was always hanging around, in the kitchen, in the surgery, he even accompanied her once to the Begonia festival. She wondered sometimes if he shared her infatuation but his affection was so inconsistent it was maddening. One moment his hand was at her back and then he was off to flirt with a pretty woman. He'd tell her how pretty she looked one evening and then he would lock himself in his study for days, barely speaking to her. Jean wondered sometimes if she was imagining things.
When Lucien left for China, fleeing scandal and pursuing his family with equal enthusiasm, Jean felt like her world had frozen solid. All the chaos, all the confusion, and all the joy Lucien had brought with him had been carried off to a foreign land. But Jean still had hope. Lucien had promised to return, and the contents of the letter he left behind made Jean think they had come to an understanding. She must have read his letter a hundred times since he left. She read between the lines, searched for clues, and believed in his own formal way it was a confession of affection.
When she received the telegram heralding his return she felt as if she had been reborn. She had envisioned their reunion so many times. She would fling herself into his arms and kiss him soundly. She wanted him to know that all was forgiven, that she would always be there for him. This time they would start their lives in Ballarat together. The trip to pick him up seemed doomed from the start. First a call from the police informing Jean that their reunion would be a duty call instead. Then the car wouldn't start and she feared she would miss him entirely. What would he think if he finally came home with no one to welcome him? Finally Jean was there, running across the street toward him. Lucien, always the gentleman, was standing tall, helping others off the bus. Jean thought her heart would burst out of her chest. Lucien shouted her name, grasping her hands and smiling warmly. Before Jean could pull him towards her she spied Joy McDonald standing behind them. Clearly they had some unfinished business. The vision of the two of them, cozy together in a bus seat all the way from Melbourne made her blood run cold. She was suddenly grateful for the chance to pack him off on a murder case. It would give her a chance to read his letter one last time and see what she had got wrong.
Foxglove. Locked in his gaze just inches from her face, this odd word was the only thing she heard. After what happened in the sun room a few weeks ago it was not surprising that he would eventually try to kiss her. She was just not expecting it to happen in the kitchen over an egg salad sandwich. Things had not gone to plan in the beginning. Jean had quickly buried the foolish dreams that formed while he was abroad. Despite this, they seemed to be growing closer. She was never so happy as when they sat together on a quiet evening, drinks in hand, trading friendly barbs and stealing glances at one another. Or in the surgery alone after the patients had gone, huddling too close over a case file that Jean really did not need to see but Lucien was eager to discuss with her anyhow. Jean had done her best to put some distance between them. She had even gone out on a few dates with another man. It ended in disaster but at least she had tried. She did not want Lucien to think she was desperate. Since that ill-fated relationship Lucien seemed more attached to Jean than ever. Wasn't it like a man, Jean thought, to want what they think they can't have? He was home with her more evenings than not and she had caught him referring to the two of them as "we" several times, though she did not let him know she heard it. She did not think he realized what he was implying. It seemed to Jean sometimes that they were married a already. Lucien seemed eager for a domestic life now, and sometimes it seemed as if they were already together except for one missing element. One critical element that still left Jean distracted in the middle of the day, longing for more.
Then a few weeks ago he almost kissed her. Heartbroken and scared for her son Lucien was there, offering his comfort and possibly so much more. Pressed against his chest with her face in his hands suddenly Jean was terrified. At the time she really did not want to be kissed. She was so startled to realize he might return her desire that she just wanted to run and hide. The phone had saved her. Today was a different story. Today he came charging into the kitchen, slid one arm around the back of the chair, and leaned in towards her. Jean did her best to school her reaction, to act as if she did not know what was about to happen. However instead of the expected kiss Lucien started shouting about foxglove and the color yellow. Jean considered grabbing him and pulling him down into a chair. She wanted to force him to finish what he started, to put an end to the what ifs and almosts. Before Jean could even reach out he was gone in a shot. Jean did not know which was more off-putting, his smugness when he finally solved a case or that he had just run off and left her wanting.
Jean sat at the bar of the Colonists Club exhausted. It was past four in the morning. She would have admired the bar, all shining brass and aged mahogany, and enjoyed her chance to drink among Ballarat's upper crust if she wasn't so tired. The evening should have been a dream come true. She was to perform on stage with one of Australia's finest actresses. Her son would be there, as would Lucien and dear Mattie. It was her birthday and she was looking forward to a brief moment in the spotlight. Instead, Jaqueline Maddern died at her feet. Jean would never forget the look on Jaqueline's face, eyes cast heavenward looking for help that would never come. To compound the horror they were trapped in the club all night under William Munro's malevolent gaze. It was an evening of emotional wounds and bad mistakes. She had quarreled with her son and feared another estrangement. Jean had made a fatal error and defended Lucien to Munro and in return he had threatened both her sons. The night could not have gone any worse. The one bright spot was Lucien. Despite being in the throes of a case he seemed to always be there with a hand at her back or a kind word. She would have given anything for a few minutes alone with him, just to share space together and look him in the eyes and know everything would be alright. Jean prided herself on her independence but tonight of all nights she felt the despair creeping in, despair of the evening, despair for her life, and would have given anything to hold him. Despite this she was determined that neither Munro or anyone else in the room would get the satisfaction of seeing Jean break. She would not give that them, but it took all her strength to keep up appearances.
Lately Lucien seemed to be pursuing Jean with the hesitancy of a school boy. One day, he is holding her hand in the garden. The next he is behind her in the kitchen, arms around her, cheek against hers but only for a second before running off again. It was frustrating and thrilling at the same time. She wondered at this point if they would ever get there, to the balance point between them that she was sure they belonged at. They were so close, yet they both seemed afraid to take that final step. Now he was huddled next to her at the bar in the Colonists club. Jean had set her purse down and removed her earrings, as if this would in some small way lessen the burdens that weighed down on her, growing heavier with each passing hour. Lucien had offered a brief consoling hug before sitting down. Suddenly Jean was seized with an urge to lay her head on his shoulder. She wanted to reach up and kiss him. He needed to know how thankful Jean was for his very existence, to know how much she had relied on him that night. He needed to know that if Jean was his support and his caretaker, that in return Lucien gave her bravery, that he was a solace in dark times, that she considered him her partner if he wanted to be.
Jean looked up at him and saw how weary he was and knew her affections would be welcome. At the same time she was abruptly aware of all the people in the room. Susan Tynneman was staring at Jean from a corner, her face contorted with bitterness from her own disappointments. Willam Munro could he heard barking orders nearby. Somewhere in the room was Jean's son, and it would not do for him to witness this new aspect of her private life. Lucien pulled out a photo of Jaqueline and her killer and placed it on the bar and the moment passed. There was another clue to follow and the night was not yet over.
Much later they finally staggered out into the harsh sunlight and headed for home. Delirious and giddy from exhaustion, they laughed over a belated birthday cake before finally seeking out some rest. If Lucien was a little too open with his affections Jean doubted anyone was awake enough to notice. Mattie and Lucien declared they were headed to bed leaving Jean to settled her son and tend to the birthday dishes. She was surprised by a gentle tug on her hand.
"You should sleep."
Lucien was stripped down to his vest but had not yet completely undressed. Flustered, Jean patted ineffectually at her hair, which she knew had ben ruined over the long night.
"I can't sleep now. If this were a regular day I would have been up hours ago."
"But it's not a regular day. You need some rest. Doctor's orders."
Jean smiled weakly and nodded in agreement. Lucien followed her to the stairs to make sure Jean did as promised. On the way to her room Jean could not help but look back over her shoulder. Lucien was staring up at her with a look of undisguised longing. Jean knew what he was thinking. It would be so easy to sneak into his room. They could both lay their burdens at the foot of the bed and find comfort in each others arms. They would be warm and safe together. Instead Jean turned away and walked wearily towards her own bed. Perhaps she was too tired to invest the energy in such a momentous move. Perhaps in a night full of failures it was one sin to many.
It had been an usually dry spring, and the light blue police car kicked up dust at it pulled out of the driveway of 7 Mycroft Avenue. Inside, Superintendent Carlyle was driving Mei Lin off to start a new life in Hong Kong. She knew Lucien should have been the one to do it. Jean aught to have made him go, to encourage reconciliation one last time. But Lucien's heart was not in it and neither was Jean's. Just this once Jean needed to act in her own self-interest. Part of her feared that if Lucien were to get as far as the port he would get on that ship as well. Mei Lin and Lucien would join their daughter and pick up where their family let off, seventeen years older but still a family. So when Lucien told Jean he was going to let the Superintendent take Mei Lin away, Jean said nothing.
Jean was accustomed to loss but the last few weeks had been a particularly cruel blow. After so many years she had finally opened up her heart. There had been bumps in the road, misfirings and misunderstandings, but in the end she told Lucien how she felt, and thought she knew Lucien's intentions as well. Jean knew that to love someone was to give away some independence, to cede some control over your own life to another person. For Lucien, Jean was more than willing to make that sacrifice. For Lucien, Jean would have done anything. And then suddenly Mei Lin was there, and Jean was just the housekeeper. She never could have imagined the reversal of fortune that would quickly follow. They untangled a complex tale of deceit and conflicting loyalties and in the end Lucien was still standing next to Jean. Mei Lin had agreed to leave him, in body and spirit, and Lucien would stay in Ballarat.
As Lucien watched the police car drive away Jean could tell he was holding back tears. No matter what path he chose Jean knew that it could not have been easy. He would always wonder what could have been, and he would always blame himself for losing Me Lin in the first place. Jean placed her hand on his arm, hoping to communicate her sympathy. She wanted him to know that whatever happened next he would not be alone. Her touch seemed to remind both of them what they had almost lost. Lucien grabbed her hand and stepped in close, one hand cradling her cheek. His eyes were desperate, but he seemed to be hesitating. She could feel his grip on her hand loosen. Suddenly Jean could recall all the times they had been this close, in the sun room, the kitchen, her garden, all the times he had left her full of need and all the poorer for it. A voice screamed in the back of her mind, drowning out all other thoughts.
Not this time.
Before he can turn away Jean is on him. Lucien is hers now, she does not care who is watching or what others think. The kiss between them is all heat, theirs hands desperately reaching out for more, pulling their bodies closer. It is over all too fast and for a moment Jean clings to him, her forehead pressed against his own, sharing his ragged breath before she comes to her senses. Jean tries to retreat into the house but Lucien falls to his knees in the driveway begging Jean to marry him and it was all she could do to get him in the house, to finish this very personal business out of the eyes of neighbors. That kiss was the first of many that extended from the driveway into her bedroom, from that afternoon until early the next morning. Before it was over they had shared tears, secrets, several marriage proposals, and much more. If Jean collected more than her share of sins for a change, no one would be the wiser.