About to be a grandmother at age forty, Jennet has baby lust. Meanwhile, Jonathan’s father Stefan is plotting the path to a grandchild…
15. That Which Before Us Lies In Daily Life
Jennet drove to New York that weekend to see Kyle and Joel, who were excitedly awaiting word of when they could bring home their baby girl. In their Brooklyn brownstone apartment, a nursery had been decorated in pastel shades of pink, yellow, and blue, with a bassinet, a crib, a changing table stuffed with tiny outfits made of soft organic cotton, a scarily high-tech diaper pail, and an antique rocking chair. Jennet grew a little misty-eyed, thinking of how much she would have loved having all these things for baby Kyle. Instead, his bassinet had stood in her bedroom in her parents’ house. Her own bed was the changing table, and there was no rocking chair. She had nursed him in her father’s old La-Z-Boy recliner, in the living room, while she studied for her high school chemistry exams. Truth be told, she was envious of Kyle. She would have loved to have another baby, especially a girl.
They sat around the kitchen table, eating Kyle’s piquant spaghetti alla Norma with a bottle of Chianti. “So, Mom,” said Kyle. “What’s up with the man you met? The one who hates women?” He threw a glance at Joel, who smiled faintly. Doubtless he knew everything— at least, as much as Kyle knew.
“Well, I’m working on a papyrus he owns. It’s an exciting project,” she said, her face flushing.
“Come on. Spill it,” said Kyle. When he was a boy, she’d never shared her private thoughts and worries with him. She was the parent, and he was the child. But now that he was grown, the differences in their ages, a mere sixteen years, seemed so much less significant. Sometimes she confided in him, and he encouraged it, though as a child he had been quite content for her to hold her peace.
“It turns out he doesn’t hate women quite as much as he thought,” she said. “In fact, we were intimate. But afterwards, he shut down. It was like watching the Eastern Grid go dark in a total blackout. Wham— one minute we were so completely together, and the next, we were almost strangers again. Kyle, Joel,” she said, deliberately including her son’s partner in the conversation, “Why does a man act that way?”
“Because he’s afraid,” said Joel.
“Because he doesn’t trust you… yet,” said Kyle. “How did you react? Did you get insecure and start interrogating him about what was going to happen next?”
“No… he poured us some wine, and I sat there drinking it and waiting to see if he would say anything. He didn’t. So I thanked him for the wine and the sex and then I left.”
A squawk of laughter escaped Joel, and he nearly choked on his drink. Kyle grinned. “Mom, you did just right. You have to be patient. Just remember, he’s probably going nuts right now, wondering what you’re thinking. But he’ll hide what he’s feeling any way he can, because having feelings makes him vulnerable. This whole business of hating women— there’s only one realistic explanation for it. Something really bad happened to him.”
“I know,” said Jennet. They sat for a while, sipping the Chianti. She remembered the look in Sebelius’ eyes as he pinned her against the wall, ramming himself home in her. Oh yes, I’ve fallen for him, heaven help me. A misogynist who’s terrified of women and relationships.
“Mom,” said Kyle. “We’re going to name our daughter Eve.” Jennet drew in her breath. “Thank you,” she said. “I’m touched.”
“This woman hater you’re seeing,” said Joel. “Maybe you should wait a bit on letting him know that’s your middle name.”
Stefan Sebelius looked approvingly at Jennet Thorne. She was a lovely girl, attractive and obviously intelligent —Dr. Thorne, he reminded himself— but she didn’t have the sultry, petulant sensuality that had always made him feel so uncomfortable around Lorraine. Dr. Thorne was sexy in a different, more wholesome way, even though her body was similar. Willowy, he thought, nodding to himself. Every girl Jonathan ever brought home was like that. His eyes strayed to Jonathan, who was gaping at Dr. Thorne like a baby bird. He’s attracted to her, all right. She reminded him of those perky little Olympic gymnasts, with her dark, short-cropped hair and bright eyes. And she smells mighty good. He could scarcely believe she had a grown son. She seemed so young to be a senior professor. He’d been expecting someone much more intimidating, with glasses perched on the end of her nose. After extensive yet strategic nagging, he had pried from Jonathan the information that Dr. Thorne was about to become a grandmother. Incredible. She must have been a child bride.
He’d insisted that Jonathan bring her here to discuss the papyrus— and when he resisted, as Stefan had known he would, Stefan didn’t scruple to play every card he held. “This is the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in years,” he complained querulously. “And you won’t let me talk to the expert in person? The scholar who is going to publish our family heirloom?”
“I’ll talk to her if I get a chance,” said Jonathan curtly. He looked like a man under a death sentence.
“Obviously you’re ashamed of me. You’re ashamed to ask her to come meet your old father.”
That had done it. Now Dr. Thorne was here, sitting knee-to-knee with him, pointing out key words on the papyrus and explaining what an important discovery it was. He was highly entertained to learn that it told of a woman apostle. “So that’s why the old man wanted it incinerated,” he said, chuckling in satisfaction. His grandfather had been a severe, Puritanical killjoy who condemned anything remotely pleasurable as the work of the Devil, and who constantly belittled his grandmother. “He’s going to spin in his grave.” Thank goodness Olaf, his father, had had the good sense to ignore the instructions in the old coot’s will.
Looking up, he said, “I think we should offer our guest some coffee. Jonathan, go get some from the commissary.” Each floor in Stefan’s retirement home was equipped with a “commissary” where the residents could make snacks and drinks during the hours when the dining room was closed. Looking daggers at him, Jonathan got up. He knew Stefan was trying to get rid of him, and he was suspicious of his motives.
As soon as Jonathan was gone, he said, “Dr. Thorne, you’ve made my day. Thank you for coming to visit a lonely old man.”
She gave him a genuine smile that reached all the way to her eyes. “It’s my pleasure. But you must call me Jennet.”
“And I’m Stefan. Now, Jennet, we don’t have much time. Tell me, what do you think of my son?” She blinked a couple of times. “Do you believe everything they say about him?”
“No,” she answered, looking him in the eye. “No, I don’t. And… I like your son very much.” They smiled, understanding each other. Ah, thought Stefan. Now he could see that she was older, and a mother. She might be only a little slip of a gal, but she’s strong.
“Are you a patient woman, Jennet?”
“Oh yes, Stefan. Every time I see a new papyrus, it seems completely foreign to me at first, impossible to understand. It may take hours, days, weeks— sometimes even months or years to read and decipher. But I wait, and eventually it always reveals itself.”
He nodded, satisfied, as Jonathan returned with a tray of coffee cups.
Copyright 2015 by Linnet Moss
Notes: I like to write about the fathers of my romantic leads. I described Peter Noel’s father, Everett, in Opération Séduction because it shed a certain light on Peter’s own personality. And in some ways, Stefan is the key to understanding Jonathan.