Jean was angry. The day had passed much as the previous. She had enjoyed her day at leisure, but at the farewell reception things had somehow gone off. As the final night, the alcohol was flowing and so were Lucien's hands. It seemed all night long his arm was around her waist, his mouth was at her ear whispering something, at one point he had the audacity to kiss her hand in front of the other doctors. She had no choice but to play along. She had to admit, it felt nice having someone on her arm again, and she couldn't deny he was attentive. He always made sure she had a drink in her hand or had a few canapés snatched from a waiter, but that didn't matter. He was taking liberties and he knew it. The party lasted well into the night. Now as she returned to the room light headed from too much wine she turned on him.
"Lucien what do you think you were doing?"
"I'm your wife not your concubine. I did not sign on to be manhandled all night long."
"You know what I mean!"
"Jean we discussed this the first night. This is why I thought we should practice. It was necessary to keep up appearances."
"Not that far up! I'm not some hired woman to do with as you please!"
Lucien rushed forward at that to grab her arm but Jean stepped back, giving him a dangerous look.
"Jean, I am so sorry. I got carried away. I never wanted to make you feel uncomfortable. You have been so accommodating in all this madness and it's made the conference much easier, and I have treated you unfairly. I put you in a terrible position. If there's anyway I can make it up to you..."
"Oh great, what will it be? A kiss on the roof at midnight or a shag in the alley behind the hotel?"
Lucien stammered. Sober, Jean would have been mortified by her own words but now she just stared at him defiantly. His eyes glazed over and he looked like he was considering his options.
"That was not an offer Lucien."
Lucien hung his head.
"Right. Well, maybe I aught to sleep on the floor tonight."
Jean gave him a cold stare.
"I think that would be for the best."
They dressed for bed in silence. Despite her anger Jean was a little wobbly on her feet and Lucien was by her side with a steadying elbow when needed or ensuring she remembered to shut the bathroom door, all with a mournful demeanor. Jean crawled into bed without saying good night. The bed felt cold and empty without him which only annoyed her further. This was all his fault. For a long while she could hear him, puttering aimlessly around the room. His distress was palpable. Finally she called out to him in the darkness.
"Are you coming to bed?"
"I'll just sleep in the chair."
Jean turned down the covers.
"Get in before I change my mind."
She could have swore he sprinted over. When he got under the covers, he wisely moved as far to the opposite edge of the bed as possible. Jean was too distracted to notice that she hadn't laid out the cushions between them.
The night was a fitful blur. Upset and with her sleep disturbed by alcohol, dreams and reality merged into one another as she tossed and turned. At one point she woke up to Lucien spooned tightly against her back, his arm draped over her hip. She got out of bed and rolled him onto his back, eliciting sleepy grunts of protest. Later that night she woke up holding his hand. She fell back asleep, never knowing if it was real and not bothering to let go. Many more things happened in the night, beautiful things that jolted her awake with her heart racing, ashamed and relieved and a little disappointed to find her pajamas were still on and Lucien snoring beside her. She was sure she cried out his name at least once but fortunately it didn't seem to have awoken him. Jean made a mental note to limit what she drank before bed in the future. Clearly the wine was to blame. Or was it the sherry? Sometime around dawn Jean became aware of Lucien curled up behind her again and something hard was pressing against her leg. However before she could instigate she became aware of footsteps hurrying off to the bathroom. By the time she awoke Lucien was fully dressed and packing his suitcase.
They drove home mostly in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. As they pulled into the driveway on Mycroft Avenue, Jean let out a breath she felt like she was holding the whole car ride. The trip had got out of hand and she needed to regain some semblance of control over her own life. Lucien seemed more cheery, hopping out of the car and retrieving their luggage. When they were finally inside Lucien sighed audibly.
"Well I don't know about you but I am happy to be home."
"Yes," Jean paused. "It'll be nice to finally be myself again."
"Of course. Well, I hope you didn't have an awful time. I fear I asked too much of you."
"Oh no! It was...I mean, it wasn't lovely, but it wasn't all bad. We got through it. I met some very nice people. But I am glad to be home and we don't have to pretend to be married anymore. Things can finally get back to normal."
Jean thought she detected disappointment in Lucien's voice.
"Right. Well, thank you so much Jean. You assistance was invaluable. The conference would not have been the same without you."
Jean nodded at him, smiling weakly. They stood facing each other in silence, neither knowing what to say. The seconds seemed to stretch out, with one of them or the other shifting their gaze from the floor to the other person. Finally Jean spoke up, attempting to sound cheery.
"Well, I guess I should go upstairs and unpack. I think I'll freshen up a bit before dinner."
"You don't need to make dinner tonight, it's been a long day."
"Oh no! I want to. We need to get back to a regular schedule and I need to get the house in order."
They stood again, quietly eyeing each other.
"Let me carry your bag up to your room."
"It's fine Lucien. I can get it on the way up."
"Well," Jean finally spoke, bending down to pick up her suitcase, "I'll see you later."
Lucien watched Jean walk up the stairs and stayed there for a long while. He went in the kitchen to put the kettle on and then took it back off. He went into his office and barely shuffled some papers before walking back out. He wandered into the studio and put some logs in the fireplace but did not light them. He went back in to his surgery, then the kitchen again where he stood lost in thought, hands planted firmly on the table. Suddenly his head snapped up, as if he'd finally touched on a solution to a tricky case. He wheeled around and ran up the stairs, shouting as he went.
"Jean? Jean! There's one more thing we need to practice!"