When I wrote this, I felt like Jason was “losing focus”. I had started with him as the center- the poor student with few options having to make it back in a home town with no options. Millicent was to be his gateway out. As I wrote more about Millicent, his purpose was getting lost. I was taking too long to get him out. I also had this great prologue about his parents and had done nothing to tie it into the story. It took a long train ride of brainstorming, but I came up with a way to solve the problem (and laid the ground work for “The Omicron Matter”. Jason discovers Sean and his father are far more complex than anyone could imagine.
This is truly an excerpt of “Jason finds some notebooks.” I don’t even try to explain how he found them or what he and Stephan talked about afterward. Both are very well done and have some snappy dialog. Read ’em if your interest is piqued. One could argue that this portion is the least important part of the chapter. Except It is also a deeply emotional portion and one does not discard such passages easily. Jason struggles with anger and resentment while Jolene tries to walk him back from the cliff for her self reasons.
For your enjoyment. Look for more on Saturday.
Jason Finds Some Notebooks
Angry, Jason slammed the book down and stormed out of the room sloshing his coffee a good bit. In a few paces, he was in the kitchen. Jolene and Peter were prepping the meals for the day. Jason sat on a stool. Jolene glanced at him and said “It was noisy in there.”
Deciding direct was best, Jason said “Tell me about Stephan and my father.”
Jolene stopped mid chop. “Peter, now is a good time for a break. Go have some tea in the dining room. We aren’t to be bothered.”
“And if Stephanie asks?” Peter asked.
“Especially not by her” Jolene said emphatically.
Jolene carefully cleaned her hands. Then started a kettle of water. “I don’t know you stand that stuff” nodding to the cup of coffee. “ It’s so Dark and bitter.” Jason remained quiet as Jolene completed the tea ritual, the strainer holding the last of the leaves and stirring in some cream and sugar. She sat down on a stool and sipped her tea. Jason took a drink of the lukewarm coffee. It was cold and tasted a bit bitter. He grimaced after the sip. Jolene smiled over her warm tea, “told you.”
“You’re avoiding the topic,” he said angrily.
“I am composing my thoughts. You would do well to learn the skill.” She took a sip of tea, letting another moment pass. “Very well. Sean and Stephan were close friends. Nobody has told you how close. I expect you are a bit angry to find out now. “
“I feel like everyone is keeping some secret about my parents from me. No one dares tell me who they were or what they did for fear of…I don’t know what. A few days I learned about my mother’s difficult personality that no one dared mention. So what secret does my father hold?,” Jason’s voice came out high and sounded desperate and on the border of hysterical laughing.
“You’ll have to ask Stephan, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t say. Stephan and Sean arrived in town together. They were like partners or even brothers. Both were brilliant. Both seemed to be extremely well off. Stephan used his money to buy the pub and has built that out. Your father decided to try the ‘country gentleman’ career. Although I think it was more the ‘country scientist’. Stephan met me. Sean met Martha, but the two men continued to spend time together. “
“What about the books in his office?” Jason asked.
“I don’t know about any books in his office. No one has spent any time in Stephan’s office since your father. You shouldn’t dismiss that lightly.” Jolene said and took a sip of tea.
“Why didn’t you or Stephan or anyone talk to me? Tell me something? Anything?” he asked. He moved over to the tea pot and poured a cup for himself. He stirred in the milk and sugar and then sat on a stool.
“Stephan told me not to discuss history with you. I think he talked to your aunt and uncle as well. He said something wasn’t right about the accident. It would be safer for you, me, Stephanie, your guardians, if we asked few questions and talked about your parents less.” Jolene said with a bit of sadness.
“Why? Why hide the relationship?” Jason asked.
“I don’t know. You can ask Stephan, but I don’t think he’ll answer. Stephan and Sean never said where they came from or where they made their money. I don’t know after twenty years. Stephan only said they worked on some distant projects and that it was all honest work.“ She drank a bit of tea.
“You aren’t bothered by the mystery?” Jason asked.
“Of course I am bothered. But Stephan’s bothered he can’t tell me as well. And that helps. He is kind. He has been a loyal husband and loving father. Stephan says he agreed to not to talk and ‘please don’t press’. He was a catch and he was smitten with me. After a point, it seemed a fair trade.” Jolene shrugged and smiled a bit.
“And my father?” he asked.
“I would guess he had the same conversation with your mother, but I couldn’t know for sure. Martha was eventually polite with me, be we were never close,“ she said.
“Another little secret my uncle finally let me on to.” Jason said bitterly. “My mother was unpleasant.”
“Don’t be too harsh. She did really shine around Sean. And a cook and engineer don’t have much to say,” Jolene said a bit defensively.
“Unless they own a pub together,” Jason said with a smile.
“Toche! Unless they own a pub.” She raised her cup of tea in mock defeat. “Sean and Stephan would head off to the office. Martha and I would try to converse. The arrivals of you and Stephanie made conversation easier and so the silence was less awkward. Babies are wonderful that way and Martha doted on you both,“ Jolene said.
“What did they do?,” Jason asked.
Jolene shrugged and asked “I don’t know. What do you do in the office?”
“We are designing an automated water heater.”
Jolene smiled genuinely, “How fantastic. Please do finish. Stephan hasn’t done anything like that since the accident. Stephan and Sean would never say what they did. I think Martha knew, but she had the learning. I do know they had a couple of bad rows shortly before the accident. Martha looked worried. Stephan looked furious and called Sean and idiotic fool. Sean didn’t disagree which surprised me. He only said he had been helping Martha. Stephan said ‘they’ll find out’ and then they went quiet.” Jolene paused and thought. “It’s hard to forget such a strange conversation. They always got along. I asked Martha what it was about. She said they were looking at electrics and couldn’t say more.” She sipped her tea. Jason emptied his cup and poured some more hot tea.
“What happened the night of the accident?” he asked.
“They had a large house a couple of blocks away. She had a beautiful garden: fruit trees, roses, herbs, and vegetables. There was still some of that farm girl there. I think Stephan did some design work at the factory. Your mother did some work at the chemist, but for the most part, they stayed at home. Stephan believed they had an underground lab in the back, but I never saw it. Anyway, it was a Wednesday night. It was after dinner and we were all relaxing like you’ve seen, when the whole building seemed to rock and one of the windows blew in. Stephan just seemed to know. He leapt the bar and left leaving the mess. I was annoyed at first. The fire brigade was just arriving as he arrived. The lab was just gone – a crater. The house was half blown in and on fire. Your nanny was unconscious on the second floor. But everyone could hear you. Stephan and one of the brigade ran into the crumbling, burning house. I’ve never been so mad and scared at once. Anyway, clearly he got out with you and the brigade man saved the nanny.” She paused and smiled. “I think they got married not too long afterwards. I’ve never been quite so proud and I let him know if he ever did that again, I would kill him myself afterwards,“ Jolene said with a smile.
“Why did Stephan say it wasn’t right?” Jason asked.
“You’d have to ask him. We went the next day. Stephan walked all over the ruins. By then the house was nearly gone. There was a crater a couple of feet deep. Stephan looked close. The trees and the grass were scorched by the crater. He looked worried. Not sad. Not angry – worried. That was when he told me we had to distance ourselves from you. Stephanie was upset at first when your visits stopped. You two had become friends.“ Jolene looked sad and stared at her empty tea cup.
Jason sipped his tea. “And the rest is history. Everyone agreed to keep quiet about the accident and I am shuffled off to a farm where I can’t hurt anyone. “
Jolene pleaded with Jason, “Everyone was scared. It is easy to say it is an experiment that went wrong. Your Aunt certainly thought that. But for that to happen in someone’s house just didn’t make sense to anyone. Stephan made sure that any investigation remained fairly cursory. You’ll have to ask him why. He seemed to know more than was obvious and was genuinely scared.”
“Jolene, what am I supposed to think, to do? Everyone, including you and Stephan, has been hiding my past from me. I am angry at him for hiding the books and now it seems I should be angry for hiding me out on the farm. According to you he had a reason. But how many more secrets do I have to uncover? “ His voice was tense and his hands shook.
She took his hand for a moment. “Jason, maybe we made mistakes. The shock of the event may have clouded our judgments. And then we decided it was easier to let things go as time went on. I don’t know. If I were in your place, I would be angry as well. The world hasn’t been fair. Your aunt hasn’t been fair. We haven’t been fair. I do know something else. And I will admit I am being selfish. I know he has been more his old self than he has been in the last 20 years since the accident. He has been carrying something alone since Sean left. Maybe it’s time he let someone else help him carry it. Please give him a chance to explain.”
Jason looked at the ceiling and said quietly “Will I learn anything? Will I feel better?”
“I don’t know. I can’t say. I do know he has let you into his office. I know he has had a bounce that hasn’t been there in years. I don’t’ want to lose that again.” Jolene pled.
Jason signed and sipped his tea. Why did it always seem he was the one who was supposed to compromise, to forgive, to listen? Findley seemed to have it so much easier not caring. He set his cup down. “I guess should see if he still wants to explain.”
“Oh dear boy. If he says no, give me three minutes with him and I will fix that. It is a charity you do,” Jolene said with a bit of fierceness.
Jason laughed in a frustrated way. “At some point, somebody is going to have to compromise with me. It doesn’t feel fair. All the dandies in school, my Aunt, and now Stephan. When do I get to stay angry? Why don’t my feelings matter?”
She stood up and gave him a hug. “Oh they do matter. Do not doubt that. But ask yourself dear boy, if you want to be angry all the time like Findley Brown, or your Aunt or your mother? Is that what you long for? It’s not hard. Findley has less cause than you.“ She stood back. “Now go. I am going to freshen up. I think those onions must have been stronger than usual.” She pulled a cloth out, went to the sink and washed her face. Jason headed back to the office. The door was open and there was a glow coming out.