Jack was up earlier than usual the following morning, and was quite amused by how difficult a task it was to wake Harry. His friend had clearly taken in more than a shot the night before, because Harry admitted to having a crushing headache.
"How many did you drink before going to bed?" Jack asked as they stumbled downstairs after dressing, passing Mrs. Logger, who tried to draw them in for breakfast. Neither of them were in the mood, but accepted pieces of toast to take along anyway.
"I don't know," Harry grumbled as they walked along the sidewalk, enjoying the quiet. The town of Los Angeles didn't get noisy until at least lunchtime, and they would be in the studio by that point. "Two?" Harry gave a half-hearted shrug and practically ran headfirst into a pole holding up a café's awning. Jack burst out laughing as he steered Harry in the proper direction and gave him a pat on the back.
"I think you've learned your lesson for next time," he said, and Harry gave Jack a look of irritation. They eventually went into the studio around 7:30, where Mr. Gleeson was helping hook up one of the carriages. Mr. Atwood stood on the stoop of the building, jotting something down on a notepad, and glanced up just as Jack and Harry approached.
"Ah…" he greeted. "Morning."
Jack started to respond, but yawned right in the middle of it. "Sorry," he apologized, and looked at Harry, who was getting instructions from Mr. Gleeson. When the young actor disappeared into the building, Mr. Gleeson ordered Jack and Mr. Atwood into the carriage.
"Harry and Bridget will be taking care of things around the studio," he explained once the two men were in the front and Jack was in the back. "Plus, it'll give them a chance to really get comfortable with each other without our interference. All right, Jack?" He glanced over his shoulder, and Jack nodded, holding tightly onto his sketchpad.
It was a beautiful early September day, and the sun made Jack feel very sleepy as they drove along the paved and dirt roads. He tried his best to stay awake, but within the first half hour, eventually dozed off against the edge of the open window. The heat caused beads of sweat to pop out on his forehead, and he sleepily dragged a hand across it to wipe them away.
Mr. Gleeson peered behind him at last to announce their arrival about an hour later, and smirked when he saw his employee sound asleep. He chuckled when Jack gave a loud snore, and turned to Mr. Atwood with a look of amusement on his face.
"Kid!" Mr. Atwood hissed once the carriage pulled to a stop, and he leaned over to give Jack's shoulder a shake. Jack merely let out a soft moan and shifted positions, too comfortable to wake up.
"Jack!" Mr. Gleeson added, shaking the boy a bit more roughly, and Jack's eyes eventually snapped open. He looked a bit confused for a moment, and after straightening up, realized where he was.
"Sleep much last night, Dawson?" Mr. Atwood asked with a smirk on his face, and Jack was grateful the heat made his cheeks crimson.
"I'm sorry," he apologized. "It's getting a bit hot." He blinked in the bright sun as he stepped out of the carriage, and all three stood facing the mansion at the bottom of the great hill.
"So, this is it?" Mr. Atwood asked, pointing, and Mr. Gleeson checked the slip of paper on which he'd jotted the address and nodded.
"Yep…1400 Dorsal Lane. That's it right there." He looked at Jack, who sneezed suddenly, and both men stared at him with wide eyes. Jack refused to say anything, and they didn't press him on the matter. Eventually, the three descended the hill. Jack tripped over one of the gopher holes, and Mr. Gleeson had to catch him by the scruff of the neck.
"Watch it," Mr. Atwood warned once Jack straightened up, and they walked the rest of the way. They approached a great wooden door, where a large black iron knocker sat ready and waiting. Mr. Gleeson volunteered to do the honors, and Jack stood beside the agent, waiting anxiously for someone to answer.
While he stood with nothing to do, Jack peered around. The grounds were very widespread, and a dense wood surrounded the property just like his parent's farm in Wisconsin. The door opened at last, and a woman appeared. She was tall and blonde, adorned in a white lace dress and pearls around her neck.
"Good morning, Lady Morton," Mr. Gleeson greeted cheerfully, just as Jack broke into another sneezing fit due to the strong scent from the mansion's nearby gardens. Mr. Atwood practically shoved him inside once Lady Morton invited them to follow her, and the two men shook their heads at him.
"Sorry," Jack squeaked as they were brought into a great parlor.
"I knew you were coming today, but unfortunately my husband went on an early morning hunt and is not quite back yet. But if you will sit down and make yourselves comfortable, I'll ring the maid to bring us some tea."
Mr. Gleeson started to insist that wasn't necessary, but she waved her hand and rang the bell sitting on the writing desk. As they sat, Lady Morton--her first name was Elizabeth--asked them all sorts of questions about the film. "Needless to say, we were quite honored when we discovered you'd be using our mansion for part of the scenery," she told them with a big smile on her pale face.
"We were thinking of using the interior, as well, at one point," Mr. Gleeson explained. "But that would invade your privacy too much. That's why we have this young man sitting here…he's our artist, and will be constructing plans of an interior for the set."
Jack blushed crimson again as Lady Morton turned her attention on him. "How old are you, dear?" she asked. "You can't be any older than thirteen!"
Jack scowled. "Actually, I turn sixteen next month," he replied, and she gasped with surprise.
"My goodness. You have such a sweet young face," she added, and Jack stole a glance at his manager, who was clearly trying not to laugh out loud.
The maid eventually arrived and brought them a tray of tea, a mug of which Jack accepted gratefully. "Thanks," he told her, and when the young maid bowed her head and left, he turned to Lady Morton.
"So, tell me," she began, leaning back against the couch. "What is this picture about? You did not specify in your letter."
Both Jack and Mr. Atwood choked on their tea, and turned to stare at Mr. Gleeson with wide eyes. At that very moment, Lord John Morton appeared, saving Mr. Gleeson from the embarrassing task of explaining the basic plot of a pornography film. All three guests stood at once when he arrived, and shook hands with the owner of the mansion.
"Yes, yes. We were expecting you." Lord Morton chuckled. "Do sit down. I see you've had refreshment already. Would you care for anything else while you're here?"
"No, thank you," they replied in unison, and when Lord Morton took his seat, the question was tossed into the open again.
Mr. Gleeson tried to appear as calm as possible when he explained the situation, and much to their surprise, the couple was pleased.
"It's brilliant when artists break out of the old-fashioned shell," Lord Morton said, pounding his fist on the table. "Quite honestly, my wife and I believe nudity is indeed a form of art. Come here and have a look at some of the statues we've collected over the past year or so."
Jack followed his bosses after Lord Morton, with Lady Morton following close behind. They discovered that the Mortons had collected tons of nude statues, and even stored nude paintings in a couple of private rooms.
"Ah…" Mr. Atwood breathed. "I see."
"My husband was a painter when he was much younger," Lady Morton spoke up. "He was always looking for fresh subjects. That's me, right there, at seventeen."
Jack saw a nude portrait hanging just above their bed, and turned to stare at Lord Morton.
"I just drew my first nude portrait two days ago," he said, and Mr. Atwood looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "Was it awkward for you?"
Lord Morton shook his head. "No, lad, not truly. I'd been married to Lady Morton for a year at that point, so it seemed only natural."
Mr. Gleeson looked very surprised to discover how well their new clients would handle the information regarding the film, especially given the nature of society these days. Even though people were trying to break from the prim Victorian ways of life, there were more than enough who felt it was just fine to stay how they were.
"I appreciate this, Lord Morton," he said, shaking hands with the tall, cheerful man. "We honestly weren't sure how you would react to having your home subject to this."
Lord Morton pulled Jack aside and told him to continue working on his art. "One day," he began as they made their way towards the entrance of the mansion, "I hope you'll make it to Europe. The scenery is fantastic, and let's just say the residents of most countries, particularly France, are willing to er…pose." He winked, and Jack grinned.
"I hope to go someday, sir," he replied, shaking hands with Lord Morton.
After being invited to eat lunch with the couple, Jack, Mr. Gleeson, and Mr. Atwood decided to head back to the studio around two o'clock. Even though the visit started off as being rather awkward, Jack admitted he had a good time altogether.
He couldn't actually fall asleep on the journey back, but tried to focus on something more pleasant. Lord Morton's suggestion of Europe stuck in the back of his mind, and he knew he would have to go one day. Not right then, of course, because he could barely afford to travel from one end of the United States to the other.
Still, he knew the time was approaching when he'd have to leave again; he was starting to feel very claustrophobic in California. Even though I've only been here a month, he thought with a sigh, and leaned his chin in his palm.
When Jack brought up the subject to Harry at dinner, his friend listened intently.
"Maybe you could travel to New York for now," he suggested. "There's always something to do there, and you could make enough money to travel to Europe."
Jack thought for a moment. He'd never been to New York, but knew his father's parents arrived there from Ireland years and years before.
"Maybe," he replied. "I was talking to Lord Morton, who was an artist himself, and he told me to try to go to France. But unfortunately, I know I won't be able to afford it for a long time."
Harry shrugged. "That might not necessarily be true, Jack," he said. "Luck changes. Actually…" He paused. "I wasn't sure when I would tell you this, because we haven't had a chance to spend time alone together since production started."
Jack took a sip from his Coke and stared, not quite sure what was coming. His friend tapped the table with his fingers, looking very awkward indeed, and finally blew out his breath.
"I did something crazy, Jack," he began. "I asked Bridget to marry me."
Jack choked on his Coke, having to grab a napkin and avoid drenching the tablecloth.
"Excuse me?" he gasped once he managed to calm down, and Harry smirked.
"I love her, Jack," he explained. "I know we haven't been together long, but she's of marrying age and so am I."
"So?" Jack cried. "That doesn't mean anything…" He leaned back. "What did she say?"
Harry beamed. "She said yes," he replied. "Jack, she said yes!"
Jack's mouth hung open wide; he certainly hadn't been expecting this.
A few moments of silence passed, and Harry looked truly uncomfortable. "Say something, Jack," he begged, and Jack blinked.
"Wow," he breathed, and Harry stared at him. "Con—congratulations," he added. "When is the wedding?"
Harry sighed, no longer having any interest in his dinner. "Next August," he replied. "Unfortunately, Bridget's father expects her to marry a man with money, and…well…I'm not the richest chap on the planet. So let's just say we're secretly engaged…her parents don't know, and I'm going to work as long and as hard as I can until I make enough to be considered worthy of her hand."
Jack wet his lips. "I had no idea it was that serious," he said, and Harry smiled.
"You'll come to the wedding, won't you?" he asked, and Jack frowned.
"Er…" he began, and Harry sighed.
"I know you're planning on leaving after the film's over, but would you at least consider coming back?"
Jack lowered his head, unsure of how to answer. "I don't know," he replied. "Harry, it's nothing against you or Bridget. I'm really very happy for the both of you, but I honestly don't know where I'll be by next August. As you said, my luck might change, and I may be in Europe by then, or at least en route. I don't want to make a promise I might not be able to keep."
Harry nodded in understanding. "Well, I suppose we'll let the chips fall where they may." He shoved his plate away and glanced at his watch. "Getting late," he announced, standing. "Are you ready to go?"
Jack glanced around; the café they'd gone to for dinner was not too crowded, and he wasn't quite ready to be in the dimness of his bedroom just yet.
"I think I'll stay here a while," he replied, and Harry nodded.
"Okay," he replied. "I'll see you tomorrow, then." He put his share of the money on the table, and after he left, Jack sighed heavily, leaning his chin in his palm.
"Might I get something else for you, dear?" the waitress asked, coming over with her order pad, and Jack glanced at her.
"Actually, a cup of coffee would be nice," he replied.
"Would you like a bit of cream in it?"
"Just plain, thanks," he added, and she left him alone. When he received his coffee, he sat sipping at it for a good period of time, watching as customers got up and left. Eventually, he had to leave himself, because the café was getting ready to close.
"Hope to see you soon, Jack," the waitress told him, and he stared at her, shocked that she already knew him by name.
"Thanks," he said, and quickly left the building.
As he walked back to his flat, he gazed at the California landscape. It wasn't a bad place to live, but he felt very nomadic at times. I'll wonder if anyplace will tie me down and satisfy me, he thought as he climbed the steps and opened the front door, greeting Mrs. Logger at her desk.
"Good day?" she asked, and he looked at her wearily.
"I don't think I'm cut out for this," he replied, and she raised an eyebrow.
"Feeling restless, are we?" She chuckled. "I can see in your eyes that you're not happy here, Jack."
He fiddled with the binding on his portfolio and hesitated to answer. "It's not that I'm not happy," he replied. "I just don't like being tied down, you know?"
She smiled fondly. "Well, go and rest, Jack, and see how you feel in the morning. Perhaps it's just been a stressful day for you." She waved her hand as she continued filling in the account books, and Jack smiled back, making his way up the stairs.