It had taken even the resourceful Rose time to find the telephone number she wanted. Uncle Matthew was out so now was the perfect time to make the call.
'Beazley residence,' even after 3 months Jean still found it difficult not to say 'Blake residence', when she answered the phone.
'Hello, Jean.' Rose smiled as she heard the ever cheerful voice, 'It's Rose.'
'Rose!' Jean sat down, she wasn't worried this time, Rose's voice sounded happy, 'how lovely to hear from you. How are things? How's Matthew?'
'Things are ok, Matthew's doing fine; and that's what I'm ringing about.' Rose assured her, 'there's a retirement party for him and I'd love to surprise him with you being there.'
'Oh, Rose,' Jean smiled, 'that's so sweet of you. I'd love to, but when is it? I'd have to find somewhere to stay.'
'Oh don't worry about that, I'll find somewhere,' Rose brushed that little detail aside, 'it's next Friday. Sorry it's such short notice, I've had a hard time persuading him he should have a send off. You're one of his oldest friends, Jean, I'm so glad you can come.'
'Right.' Jean was looking forward to seeing Matthew. Her visit after his accident had been brief, Ruby needed her to help with Amelia and she had returned soon after. She missed Ballarat. Adelaide was alright, but she still hadn't made any friends, apart from the odd service wife. She missed Mattie and Charlie, and deep, deep down she missed Lucien. She tried not to think of him too often, but he never wrote or phoned. Mattie always included his good wishes in her letters but ...
She sighed and went to finish preparing the dinner. Ruby had recovered from the birth but somehow there never seemed a reason to go back. She still wasn't working, Christopher was topping up her funds but even he thought she should find a job. It was a bone of contention between them. Maybe this would be a good way to see if she was ever going to be needed back there, back home.
Rose asked Mattie to help her organise Matthew's party, she was the only other person who knew Jean would be there, but neither thought about finding somewhere for Jean to stay. Mattie assumed she would stay at the Soldier's Hill Hotel, although there was room at Lucien's, but that might be embarrassing for both of them.
'Have you booked Jean into a hotel, Rose?' she asked as they had a quiet cuppa, two days before the party.
'Oh, god!' Rose put her hand to her mouth, 'I clean forgot!' She grabbed the phone and dialled the number, after a brief conversation she pulled a face and put the receiver down.
'No room,' She sighed, 'and apparently everywhere else is full. She'll kill me!'
'Just pick her up from the station, she can change at yours.' Mattie smiled, 'Matthew will be pleased to see her, anyway. We'll think of something.'
'I can always give up my bed and sleep on the sofa.' Rose offered.
'As a last resort, she won't like to think she's turfed you out of your bed,' Mattie grinned.
'Dinner is ready, Nurse O'Brien.' Mrs Toohey called through.
Mattie grimaced at Rose, three months of Mrs Toohey's cooking had been hard to stomach. Occasionally Charlie suggested she have the night off and he would cook. She just thought he was a sweet boy and thanked him. He would do a decent roast, and they even managed to get Dr Blake to join them the odd time, but he spent most of his time down at the club when he wasn't working. Living on whisky. Both the lodgers were worried, but they knew it was because he missed Jean, desperately, and didn't know how to tell her, or even if he should.
'Thank you Mrs Toohey,' Mattie called back, but didn't move too quickly.
'Come on,' Rose grinned, Mrs Toohey had said she would do some for Rose and Rose didn't want to leave Mattie to suffer on her own.
They sat down and looked at the plates. Mrs Toohey always plated up the meal, so it didn't matter if you didn't like carrots, they were there on your plate. Fortunately Mrs Toohey never stopped to eat with them. Charlie and Mattie would just thank her and she would leave, then they would either throw it away or Charlie would magically resurrect the meal into something passable, even delicious. Tonight's offering was boiled potatoes, over-cooked peas and a lamb chop; wizened and dry. Not even Charlie or Jean could resurrect that chop! The door closed, Rose smiled.
'How can you smile, faced with that?' Mattie touched the chop with her fork.
'Come on, chuck the meat.' Rose stood up and went to look in the fridge. She spied some sausages. She grabbed them,
'Er...' Mattie pointed at the pan cupboard.
'Oil, lard, whatever.'
Mattie stood up and went to the fridge, the lard should be on the shelf, she found it and handed it to Rose who was busy heating up the pan. She threw the sausages in.
'Right, cut those potatoes up into quarters,' She ordered Mattie, 'all of them, Charlie'll be in soon.'
As the sausages cooked Rose threw in the potatoes as well and let them colour up.
'In the garden.' Mattie watched wide eyed.
'Get us one each, nice ripe ones.'
Charlie arrived and smelt the frying. That wasn't Mrs Toohey's cooking and Mattie was not that good. He looked through the hatch. the two girls were just plating up sausages, fried potatoes and tomatoes, for three!
'Hello, you two.' He grinned, 'what's happening. I thought it was Mrs T's night to cook.'
'Yes, well...' Rose grinned, 'the chop had been murdered, the peas drowned and the potatoes needed a transfusion.'
He sat down, 'You can come again.' He tucked in.
It was decided that Rose was a good cook, but she just said it was due to Uncle Matthew showing her how. Being a bachelor he had learned to cook rather than live on fish and chips or bacon sarnies.
In Adelaide Jean told Christopher and Ruby she would be away for a night the following week, to attend Matthew Lawson's retirement party. They just said, 'How nice,' but didn't dig any deeper. Although that was the reason she was disappointed they didn't ask any more. She decided to treat herself to a new dress for the occasion, nothing too fancy, just something smart and new. She knew Lucien would be there, but she wasn't dressing to impress him, she told herself.
Jean took a taxi to the station, Rose was going to pick her up and she was going to take her to change at Matthew's house. That was when Rose had had to admit she had been unable to find her somewhere to stay, but she was not to worry.
Jean was strangely unworried about not having somewhere to stay, she was sure she could find a couch at someone's house. This journey was important to her, she never really got the chance to say good bye to Lucien, he had left her hotel room the day before she left Ballarat and that was the last time she had seen him; and this was probably why she had not tried too hard to find work.
So how will Jean feel back in Ballarat? Will she get the chance to say good bye to Lucien or will he be 'preoccupied' as usual?