Sorry for the long wait. Had a bit of a hard time deciding where this story would go after the Christmas Special, but finally here's chapter 4. Hope you enjoy
Jane tried to smother yet another sigh. Her mother, Kathryn Johnson, and been a great help to her, but that had also given her mother the idea that she always knew how Jane should run her life. At the moment the topic was that Freddie needed a father figure. Fifteen was not old enough to be considered a grown man, you needed guidance, role models. Jane poured them some more tea and tried to listen, but finally interrupted her mother in the middle of a sentence.
"Freddie has a father figure. Just because Eric is dead does not mean that he isn't a good role model. Besides, mother, Freddie got accepted to Ripon Grammar, you and I must be doing something right. And he has plenty of teachers that he likes and looks up to. He has written to me about several of them." Her mother looked at her intensely, trying to read her daughter's mind.
"It is not only Freddie I am thinking of, Jane" she paused and drank her tea "Most people would agree that your grieving period is well over. It wouldn't be considered anything but perfectly natural if you were to marry again" at this Jane only laughed, the idea just seemed too ridiculous. She didn't even notice her mother's suggestive tone.
"And who would I marry, mother?" she asked in jest and without waiting for answer she rose and went to take their empty cups to her mother's sink. She didn't reach it, but froze when she again heard her mother's voice.
"Does that mean he's no one suitable then?" Jane slowly turned around. She hadn't told her mother anything. Only that she had moved and she had tried to explain it with that she had been able to afford it thanks to her job at Downton, the money she got as a war widow and that she didn't have to worry about Freddie since he had his scholarship. She should have known better than to expect that her mother would've believed her. She should have told her that she had found extra work somewhere.
Fortunately her mother didn't look mad, not even disappointed, just worried. "You didn't think you could fool your own mother? Wouldn't I notice that my girl had fallen in love? And with your new house. I figured you didn't want to say something in front of Freddie. I've waited for you to tell, but you insist on keeping it a secret . . . So what's wrong with him, hm? He's not a foreigner, is he?" Kathryn knew that a lot of women and men had found love among the refugees.
Jane thought for a moment, but quickly decided she would not lie to her mother. She continued over to the sink and put down the china. "No, mother, he's not a foreigner" her mother sighed with relief, but then tried other possibilities.
"Alright, he doesn't have any employment?" She suggested, though knowing with the house it wasn't likely. Jane scoffed and folded her arms. "Well, there must be something wrong if you haven't told me about him. Has Freddie . . . guessed anything?"
"No, he doesn't know. It is all a bit" she searched for words "complicated" suddenly her mother got a nervous smile on her face.
"Jane, dearest, he's not . . . he's not in trouble, is he? With the law, I mean" that made Jane almost lose her temper, but it was mostly due to guilt. She and Robert weren't the best people on earth, but they were no criminals.
"You think I would associate with a criminal, that I would put Freddie at such risk? Is that how low you think of me?" her mother immediately looked incredible guilty, which made Jane feel very much ashamed. She knew her mother was just looking out for her and Freddie. "I'm sorry, it's just that . . . I can't tell you more. You just have to trust me. Now I really have to go" she kissed her mother's cheek and headed for the door. Before she opened it however, Kathryn carefully called after her.
"I know you would never get yourself into trouble with a married man" Jane didn't even bother to turn around.
"I'm not in any trouble, mother" was all she said, took her bag and walked out on the street.
There weren't a lot of people out and Jane slowly walked down the street. She hadn't really been in any hurry, she had just wanted to get out of there. What she and Robert had was perfect though you could hardly say the same about the circumstances. It couldn't lead anywhere, and they would forever be doomed to secrecy, but she was perfectly fine with what they had. Lost in her own thoughts she didn't notice the familiar face approaching her.
"Jane!" the kind Scottish voice called. Startled Jane started looking for the voice. "Jane, I thought it was you"
"Mrs Hughes" she smiled at Downton's housekeeper "How are you?"
"Oh, I am good. And you look well. How have you been?" Jane felt a certain tension growing. She had never experienced anything but kindness from Mrs Hughes, but she suspected that the perceptive woman may have guessed something about her and Lord Grantham.
"Very well, thank you. How, how is everyone? I heard about Mr Bates"
"Did you? Yes, from the papers of course. Yes, we are all trying to cope. I feel so sorry for Anna"
"At least life is better than death" Jane said but bit her tongue. Mrs Hughes however didn't seem to react.
"Yes, you are right, of course." She said and tried to remember if that had really been in the papers, happy news didn't travel as fast as bad ones "So, have you found new work? We haven't heard from you since you left Downton"
"No, I . . . I help my mother. I've meant to write but" but every time she had thought about she had felt like whatever she wrote it would be lying. Mrs Hughes smiled at her.
"Well, at least now I can tell the others I've met you and that you are well" Suddenly she noticed the big bag "Going somewhere?" she asked kindly, but her face read suspicion.
"This? Oh this, this is just, just some clothes that my mother has mended for me" it was a stupid lie and she suspected she hadn't sounded the least convincing.
Mrs Hughes studied the younger woman, she was obviously not telling the truth. Something was not right, maybe the same something that had not been right when she had left Downton. But Jane was a grown woman, not working at Downton anymore and what she was doing with the bag was none of Mrs Hughes' business.
"Your son's alright I hope" Jane smiled, finally a topic she could handle without lying
"Yes, he's doing very well at Ripon"
"Lord Grantham is a very kind man" Mrs Hughes noticed in confusion that Jane turned slightly pale. Surely there was nothing that would make the mentioning of Lord Grantham make Jane react negatively. Not really knowing how to handle the situation she placed a gentle hand on the younger woman's arm. "Let us know how you get by, and if there's anything we can do to help" she stopped herself, though she could never imagine Jane would get herself in the same sort of trouble as Ethel, Mrs Hughes felt she had already had her fair share of worries "Take care, Jane" They said goodbye and hurried in opposite directions, Mrs Hughes towards Downton Abbey and Mrs Moorsum towards the train station.
He had waited almost half an hour for her. Finally he saw her and he had to stop himself from rushing over and taking her bag. She saw him, only reacted with a slight nod and waited a minute before going after him into their cabin. He helped her to place her bag on the shelf and they sat down opposite to each other next to the window. They just sat there in silent, barely recognizing the other's presence, but soon after the conductor had checked their tickets it was evident that they would be alone with the four seats. Jane tried to relax and come up with something to say, anything. They couldn't go on like this for the whole trip.
"My mother said she'd notice a change in my behaviour. Asked me if I had fallen in love with a foreigner" it was meant to be a joke, but he looked up at her with a disturbed look.
"What did you tell her?" Robert asked almost looking concern.
"That I wasn't" Jane answered a bit shocked and slightly hurt that he'd ask. But then forgive him, she knew the stressed he lived under and shouldn't add to his worries with silly jokes. She leaned forward and took his hand "And that was all I told her" she assured him. Robert sighed.
"Yes, of course. I'm afraid this trip as made me a bit uneasy" Now it was Jane's turn to look concern and he to lean forward and he gently stroked her hand "But I'm glad we're here" Cora had gone to Ireland to take home Sybil, it would take long before they had an opportunity like this again. They shared a smile, but a noise outside the door made them quickly separated as if they had burned themselves. They waited a second, nothing happened and Robert made an effort to relax. He hated being anxious. Unlike other men he'd heard of in similar situations he did not find the secrecy thrilling or exciting, just tiring. He couldn't wait for them to reach London.