Jack disembarked from the boat and took a moment to readjust himself to solid ground. He had taken the leap and decided to follow her. It was probably one of the most spontaneous things he had ever done. Putting in for some unused leave, booking a cabin on a boat, and heading out within a week of her flying off hadn’t given him much time to second guess himself. However, the trip had been very long and very boring, so he had had plenty of time to think. Phryne Fisher really had brought out a different side of himーshe had been something he didn’t even know he needed.
The memory of her kiss still lingered in his mind. He had asked her to repeat her request just in case she wanted to take it back. But she had repeated it and willingly been pulled into his arms. Many nights had been filled trying to remember the feel of her body against him for what had been the briefest of momentsーthe taste of her lips and the shudder that ran through him as he felt her tongue make contact with his. She was intoxicating. He had lived his whole life following what was expected of him, but in the last year, she had pulled him out of his shell and made him see that there was more to life. This may not be the biggest decision of his life, but it certainly had been the least thought out.
So as he stood on the dock, he thought through the plan he had finally been able to make as he spent many lonely nights on board. He hadn’t called ahead or written to let her know he was comingーhe was taking her at her word that she wanted him to come after her. They had gone through some rough spots, but had seemed to come out stronger on the other side. He had kept the vision of her running toward him, the swallow pin he had given to her attached to the scarf flying in the wind.
Two months was a long time to go without seeing her face or hearing her voice. In the year he had known her he hadn’t been away from her for more than two weeks at a time. The fact that he had wished her gone at the beginning made him laugh. Where would he be right now if she hadn’t kept popping up at his crime scenes? He didn’t really want to think about it. He hadn’t truly appreciated how much she added to his life until she wasn’t there.
So as he stood on the dock, his body was vibrating in anticipation. He was sure that spending all this time with her family would have her even more excited to see him. With his limited luggage, he got himself a cab and headed to the Fisher Estate.
When the cab stopped in front of the house, he was surprised to see several people leaving. They all looked solemn, and many of them were dabbing handkerchiefs at their eyes. His heart suddenly dropped and it seemed that his lungs forgot how to work, and he had to force the lump in his throat down as he exited the vehicle. He hadn’t thought it weird that he hadn’t received any letters or telegrams, but the sudden possibility that she might not have been able to send any hit him like a brick wall. He didn’t notice the driver place his luggage on the sidewalk and drive away. Taking a few careful breaths to try and calm his racing heart, he walked into the house.
He frantically scanned the room, looking for any indication of what was happening. His eyes finally caught a familiar black bob and a flash of red lipstick. He hadn’t realized he had been holding his breath until he gasped for air. But he was still frozen in place as the fear subsided. He noticed that she was in a thinly disguised heated conversation with her father.
“Did you know the deceased?” The question came from a stout gentleman standing beside him.
“The deceased? Um…” he mumbled awkwardly, surprised by the man’s sudden presence.
“Margaret Fisher. Wonderful lady. A terrible loss.”
“Yes. Terrible loss.”
The gentleman gave Jack’s shoulder a firm squeeze and walked away.
His head spun in the direction of the familiar voiceーhow he had missed hearing that. Despite the fact that he had apparently walked into her mother’s wake, he couldn’t help the smile that lit up his face. There was a hesitancy in her walk as she neared himーfar from the run across the field he had been remembering. He couldn’t read her expression which normally wouldn’t be a problem, but in this situation, he certainly hadn’t expected her to be masking anything.
“What are you doing here?” It wasn’t an accusation, but certainly wasn’t said with any excitement.
“You asked me to come.” He shouldn’t have to remind her of that fact.
“You shouldn’t have come. I’m sorry.” She turned and walked away.
“What? Phryne.” Ignoring the people around him, he moved to go after her.
“You best give her some space, Jack.”
The voice belonged to Henry Fisher.
“And you would be an expert in what would be best for her.” He shook the man’s hand off his arm and turned to look for her, but she had disappeared.
It may have taken a lot for him to not overthink this tripーto just go with his heartーbut he had had a lot of time to think on the trip and he knew he had made the right decision. So to show up and have her walk awayーtell him he shouldn’t have comeーwas a stab in the heart. He turned and walked out of the house.
She had gone straight to her bedroom, leaving the guests behind. Standing against the door, she tried to catch her breath. But it was more than just a short sprint up the stairs and down the hallway that had her struggling to breathe. Jack Robinson had just walked through the doors of her house in London. He had followed herーjust as she asked. She closed her eyes and pressed her palms against them. She refused to cry but it was all becoming too much. Up until now she had been able to disassociate from her feelings as she had prepared the service and made all the other arrangements. She hadn’t had time to think about Melbourneーabout him .
But if she were being honest with herself, she hadn’t really wanted to think about it. Her heart couldn’t take any other pain. So she had refused to hope that he would come. And then he had walked through the doorsーin the middle of her mother’s wakeーin the middle of a fight with her father. He had not caught her at a good time, and reacting rashly, she had pushed him away.
Phryne knew that it was going to be a hard day, but she had put on a brave face for all of the people. She had watched her father make his rounds playing the grieving husband. Maybe that was a harsh attitude to have toward the man who had just lost his wife, but right now she was having a rather hard time caring. She had no doubt that he had loved her mother and had done the best that he could to be a good husband, but his best had never been enough ーat least not in a very long time.
Before the flight home, there was a moment where she had seen a side of her father she didn’t know if she had ever seen before. He had opened up to her, and she thought that maybe he could be different, but they didn’t really get a fair chance to find out. Arriving home to find her mother in the hospital had put quite a different twist to their homecoming. As much as Phryne had hoped her father would change, she hadn’t been able to get past the feeling that he was responsible for her mother’s deteriorating health.
The tears threatened again. She hit the door with her palm out of frustration, and the stinging pain temporarily distracted her.
Her resentment towards him had been escalating over the last couple of weeksーhis actions in Melbourne still causing her to see red if she thought about it too much. And just now she had caught him doctoring his drink and it had tipped her over the edge. She certainly couldn’t blame him for wanting to drown his sorrows, but he could at least wait until there wasn’t anyone else around. She just needed him to hold it together for one dayーone lousy day.
Pushing herself away from the door, she ran her hand through her hair. Balancing on a chair, she unbuckled her shoes and kicked them off. She had no intention of going back downstairs. Downstairs. Jack. Would he have left? She sighed. She couldn’t expect him to stick around after she had so brusquely told him he shouldn’t have come.
Why had she done that? She slid into the chair she had been leaning against.
Maybe she had been doing too much thinking recentlyーlet her father’s behavior eat away at her confidence. She had begun to wonder if she and her father were too much alike. When she was younger, her mother would comment that that was why she and her father were always at odds with each other. It was something that had lingered in the back of her mind and she had tried everything she could to prove she was nothing like him. But he was her fatherーthere were some things that you couldn’t changeーit was part of you. So maybe that had been too present in her thoughts recently seeing where her mother had ultimately ended upーin her mind due to her father’s actions.
Did Jack get as frustrated with her as she did with her father? Phryne had often expressed to her mother that she didn’t understand why she put up with it. And her mother had always just said that she loved him. But in Phryne’s mind that wasn’t enough, because it seemed that her mother wasn’t happyーhadn’t been happy for a while, and that was not what she wanted for anyone. She didn’t want Jack to end up regretting being with her. There had been several times she had messed things up for him and she had no intention of changing who she was, so she would probably continue to make a mess of things.
Had she been foolish to think this was a good idea? She couldn’t deny that she was happy to see himーnot just happyーher heart had skipped a beat at the sound of his voice. Even just the few words had stood out against the hum of conversation. Turning away from her father, her eyes had quickly scanned the room. She hadn’t thought she had imagined it, and then she saw him. The butterflies in her stomach fluttered in a way she had yet to get used to when it came to Jack Robinson, and when his eyes landed on her she had panicked.