It took a full day for Becker to decide what to do and he now stood in front of the menagerie, not ready yet to enter. He needed help, he knew that for sure, and Abby was the only person he felt he could ask.
Looking back on his argument with Jess, Becker now realized that he could have, no he should have, phrased his worries differently. But all those emotions had gotten the better of him. He wanted her to know that he had been genuine concerned when she disappeared from work, and most of all, he wanted her to know that he didn't see her as a child, but a beautiful woman.
But he had no idea what to do. His attempt to give her a box of chocolate had failed; for the first time Jess had ignored his gift. She'd remained distant from him all morning. She was friendly, but didn't look at him. She didn't offer him one of her sweet smiles and her rambling was directed towards the others. She only talked in short sentences to him and only when she need to for wor.
For a moment longer, Becker debated with himself, before he overcame his pride and stepped into the menagerie.
"I need your help," he said flat out.
"Okay," Abby couldn't hide her surprise, but knew better then to tease him this time.
"I messed up with Jess. I got really worried about her the other day when she left work without telling me, but instead of telling her that, I gave her a lecture about how she disobeyed my order to not give strangers her key. And I said that she should at least have told me that she was leaving work. I did call, really, but she didn't answer her phone."
"Which number did you use?"
Puzzled at the question, Becker gave her the number he had been calling two days ago.
"Gosh, you did mess up big times!" Connor appeared out of seemed like nowhere to Becker.
"Temple, what are you doing here?" Shock was temporarily written across the soldier's face.
"Visiting my girlfriend, and Rex," Connor flopped down onto the nearest chair, "but enough about me. You called the J-phone. That's Jess' 'favourite people phone'"
"Jess' what?" Becker had always thought that Connor was a little out of it, but he now started to worry about him seriously.
"Remember the four phones in our flat? The ones that spell out JESS?" When Becker nodded in response, Abby took over.
"The phones are set up to different lines. She gives out the numbers to different people: the E-phone is for people she doesn't know or doesn't like, the first S-phone is for family members, the second S is for friends. But the J is only for her favourite people. Connor and I have the number as well, but truth to be said, I bet she only gave it to us because she felt she had too after telling us what the lines meant."
It took a bit until the words finally sunk in. "Wait, no one else has the J-phone number? Only you two and me? But I got the number two months after Jess started working at the ARC."
Connor and Abby looked at their friend expectantly.
Becker felt excitement wash over him. He was her favourite person! Then he realized something.
"So for a good seven months her J-phone was never once rang?"
"Yep!" Connor stated.
"I have to apologize. Properly."
"Yeah, you should do that." Connor said, earning a shove from Abby.
The blonde stepped closer to Becker. "Well, you broke down her front door, because you were worried about her. Just ask her on a date already."
"On a date?" he asked incredulously, as if the thought had never quite occurred to him. "I can't do that! I work with her!"
"Connor and I work together," she pointed out.
"You're braver than I am," Becker said, not quite believing he had. "I wouldn't be able to handle knowing that my girlfriend works at such a dangerous job."
Connor chuckled, "Oh? But you feel okay knowing that Jess is working at that same job when she's not your girlfriend?"
Becker frowned; he did have a point. "But she's not talking to me. Whenever I try to talk to her about something other than work, she finds an excuse to leave."
"I have an idea!" Conner excitedly jumped up from his seat and started pacing through the room. "You could get her more phones. She really loves her phones. Jess even told me this morning that she's thinking about getting three more so she can spell out her full name. I can help you with the technology."
"And I help you with the painting!" Abby offered immediately. "She won't be able to ignore you when you've such a great gift in hand."
The tension left the soldier as he listened, amused by the couple's words. They might be annoying at times, but he had to admit that the idea could work.
"Okay, I'm in!"
"And Becker, talk to her. Tell her about your feelings, will you? She needs to hear about them." Abby said quietly when Connor wasn't listening.
Jess was home alone that evening when there came a knock on her new front door.
She quickly went to open it, but no one was there. Rather, a large wrapped box was sitting on her threshold. A card was neatly placed on top of it with her name scrawled on it.
Her heart skipped a beat when she recognized the hand writing as Becker's.
Jess pulled the box inside and opened it carefully. Inside were three telephones, neatly painted, with the letters ICA on them. She stared in surprise, but before anything sunk in, the I phone started to ring.
"Jess speaking," she answered, curiously.
"Miss Parker, I have to inform you that there is an emotional retard on the loose. I heard that he wants to apologize for some improper behavior towards a beautiful and smart young lady."
Jess blushed at the words. She was sure she had heard the voice before, but couldn't quite place it. Without a word of goodbye, the person on the other line hung up, but the A-phone rang an instant later.
"Jess, it's Abby. When the door bell rings, please open it." Abby also hung up before Jess could respond. She hadn't even replaced the receiver when the C-phone started its melody.
"Jess speaking, let me guess: Connor?"
"Yeah, isn't this exciting! I have me own line now! C for Connor!" There was a muffled sound in the background. "Sorry back to the topic. Give him a chance to say sorry."
The weird phone calls started to make sense to the Field-Coordinator and her heart beat sped up.
Jess had felt bad after her argument with Becker, but his lecture had been unnecessary and she felt like she had to stand up for herself. In her mind, he had owed her a better apology than just a bar of chocolate. It seemed perhaps she might be getting that. She placed the new telephones on her kitchen table, in order, when the bell rang. Nervously she went to the door and opened it again.
She found herself face to face with a single red flower. Before she could say a word Becker handed it to her and began to speak.
"Jessica, I am so sorry for my outburst yesterday. I shouldn't have talked to you like that."
Feeling jittery, Becker ran his hand through his hair. "I actually wanted to tell you that I was worried about you. It was just so unlike you to leave the ARC before closing. I know you don't have to report to me. And I shouldn't have broken your door."
Before Jess could answer her E-phone was ringing. The girl jumped at the given opportunity which would buy her some more time to think of a response, but motioned him in before she answered the phone.
Surprised, Jess turned towards the man standing a few meters behind her, who was now holding his mobile to his ear, having had dialled ahead of time and hit send in his pocket.
"Oh, not you too," she said with a laugh. "Connor already talks to Abby on the phones. You know you don't need them when we're in the same room."
Becker, who was relieved to see her smile, shut his mobile and looked at her in dismay, "Jessica! That's not the polite way to answer the phone."
"Sorry," she apologized, hanging up. "Shall we try again?"
Becker ignored her, but dialled again. Jess got a grin on her face as she answered, "Parker Residence. This is Jessica Parker. May I ask who is calling and how I may be of assistance to you?"
"I said polite Jess, not formal. But I'll go with it." He flashed her a grin across the room and then his voice turned serious and he stared at her intensively. "Jess, look, whenever it comes to you, emotions wash over me that I can't handle. And believe me I don't see you as a child, but as a smart, clever and beautiful young woman."
He took a deep breath and continued, "I was wondering if you'd like to go out with me for dinner tonight?"
Becker saw her surprised smile as she responded, "Before I agree, I have two questions. Who called the I-phone and why didn't you call the J-phone? That's the number I've given you."
The soldier laughed at her questions. "It was Matt. I gave him and Lester the number in case of an emergency. Consider the I phone your anomaly alert phone. As for the J-phone, Abby and Connor told me what line it was and I figured I didn't deserve to call your favourite person phone."
"Ah, yes, I see your point about that, but hopefully the date will change that. Because otherwise I don't really need the phone anymore with Abby and Connor now having their own lines. And then my name would read Essica, and that's just be silly." She realized she was back to her usual flustered rambling when Becker raised an eyebrow at her, she cut herself off and smiled at him brightly. "Pick me up at eight!"