Lucien never believed in the Script. When he was young and in love with his own brilliance he was determined to be the master of his own fate. When he was older and saw what cruelties the world brought he thought it as a farce. That some higher power should care so deeply which two people spent their lives together but did not give a whit if children starved or men tortured each other was ludicrous. And he observed early on that having a generic marker as a sign of divine intervention gave the church a lot of room to intercede on its own behalf. More often than not when pressed by an influential congregant they would "discover" soulmates in the form of a partner the parents approved of from an important family. Likewise the church could be persuaded to take a strong stance against marrying non-soulmates if the parents disapproved. Like all things religious, Lucien saw them for what they were: made by man, manipulated by man, for the benefit of man.
This was in spite of the many lectures by his father, the one man he knew to earnestly believe he had married his soulmate. He claimed that they recognized their shared words on the day they met. He said they had been inexplicably drawn to one another from across a crowded room. His mother had described kissing Thomas like feeling a shimmering light inside of her. Their story sounded to Lucien suspiciously like a love song he heard once on the wireless. He had long suspected some embellishment on both their parts. Lucien had remembered bitterly over the years how often his father would use his alleged soulmate union as proof of Thomas' moral superiority, yet as a child Thomas would deride him for being soft and having hysterics "just like your mother." It was under the brunt of one of these rebukes as a teenager that Lucien finally snarled back,
"Well, which is it? Was she a hysteric or your soulmate? I know you'd never marry a hysteric."
His father looked like he had been slapped in the face and Lucien was pleased to see it. So rather than make his home in Ballarat he joined the army and proceeded to drink, revel, and sleep his way across half the globe. That all ended the day he met Mei Lin Cheng in Singapore. The daughter of a wealthy local dignitary, he fell in love with her nearly instantly. Her Script was neither the Hokkien Chinese of her ancestors nor the Latin Malay of the region, but a formal greeting elegantly spelled out in Tamil.
"I guess this means I am destined to marry a foreigner."
Lucien wholeheartedly agreed. Neither of them seemed concerned that he was not from India. They married a year later and a daughter soon followed. They would have married sooner, but Lucien had wanted time to go home to see his father. They did not get on well but he hoped his father would share in this one joy with him. He loved Mei Lin with all his heart, he thought his father would certainly do the same.
It would be the last conversation they would ever have. Lucien returned home bursting with excitement to tell his father he had found his match, that he would share the happiness Thomas once knew with his mother.
Thomas took one look at the small black and white photograph and deadpanned, "She is not your soulmate."
Lucien knew there was no way he could tell that from the photograph. Mei Lin's arms were covered, and Thomas had made no effort to inquire about the circumstances of their meeting. Lucien knew what Thomas was trying to say.
"She is yellow."
"She is pagan."
"She is a foreign savage."
Any number of other insults would have amounted to the same thing. To Thomas, it was not possible that this woman could ever really be his soulmate. Lucien had failed again. That Thomas was technically right did not matter. The hypocrisy of the church was writ large all over Thomas' face. Lucien left the house and did not speak to him again.
Lucien returned to Singapore determined to leave his old life behind, but his hopes were short lived. World War II devoured Asia and Lucien's little family would not be spared. Lucien ended up a prisoner of the Japanese, the fate of his wife and child were unknown. When he was finally free he stayed behind in Asia, selling his soul to the British intelligence community in exchange for the resources he needed to look for his wife and child.
In the decade abroad his life had grown dark, often feeling bleaker than his days in the camps. He lived a solitary life, moving from country to country as assignments required. More often than not when he did his job well people's lives were ruined. Haunted by memories of his days as a POW and no closer to finding his family, he started to drink. Perhaps in those days, vacillating wildly between careful professional discipline and nights howling with fear, he let a touch of nostalgia creep in. He started to get a sense that whatever he turned his back on in Ballarat might not be better than what he had now, but maybe it wasn't worse either. So when he received a telegram at his office in Hong Kong and saw it was from Australia he didn't immediately throw it out, even though he assumed it was the latest message of disdain from his father. Curiosity got the better of him.
The telegraph was unsigned and not from Thomas, but it was about him. FATHER ILL STOP PLEASE COME SOON.
Now he stood in the hallway of his childhood home with no sign of his father, being brought to heel by a woman he didn't even know using words that were eerily familiar to him. He rubbed his wrist absentmindedly and followed Jean into the kitchen.
In his first days in Ballarat Lucien had little time to concern himself with affairs of the heart. He learned that his father's heart troubles had become complicated by a stroke while he was en route from Hong Kong. He could no longer speak, and there was nothing to do now but wait. Jean wanted to have Thomas released from the hospital so he could spend his last days at home, but without a relative to take responsibility the hospital had refused. Jean was nearly apoplectic over it, so on his very first day he promised he'd try his best to bring Thomas home. This was the very last thing Lucien wanted but he could tell immediately there would be no peace otherwise. It took a few days to arrange the discharge and home nurse visits but he managed it. They could not care for Thomas in his cramped bedroom but there was a larger bedroom towards the back of the house. In the end, Thomas lasted two days. Lucien did not get to make his peace with his father or even determine if Thomas knew that he was there. He seemed to recognize Jean, could manage a half-frozen smile and reach weakly out to her, but he did not make eye contact with Lucien once.
The funeral was open casket with all the high church trimmings. Jean sat weeping in the front pew, the dutiful grieving daughter surrounded by a throng of Thomas' friends and admirers. Lucien sat mute off to the side, a stranger in his own land. The very air in the place felt alien and oppressive. By the time Thomas was buried it had been less than ten days since his arrival in Ballarat. He could barely wrap his head around the change in place, the change in circumstance, the bizarre expectation that he should instantly go from estranged son to grieving orphan. To make it worse, there were many demands on his time that he was not prepared for. His father's housekeeper needed to be let go, his patients transferred, the house sold. Lucien saw no reason to remain. He was frustrated by the fact that everyone behaved as if he were there to stay. Thomas' patients kept calling. Jean expected him home for dinner. His father was barely in the ground when an old family friend, Patrick Tynneman, showed up with an offer to join the Colonists' Club. It was insulting, the thought that he would stay behind for these insignificant people, and he told him as much. Patrick was not pleased.
To make things worse his demons followed him from Hong Kong, as they had all throughout Asia. His nightmares returned with a vengeance. He could not abide to be near people, but left alone too long he would have panic attacks. Only a strong drink could keep him on an even keel, so he drank constantly. In the Intelligence Service, no one much cared how he behaved in his spare time as long as he completed each assignment with as little mess as possible. It was an odd contradiction for an agency that required strict adherence to orders, but if you fulfilled those orders and got results they were willing to tolerate pretty much anything. Lucien quickly found out the same did not hold for the citizens of Ballarat. First among those was Jean. She made no bones of the fact that she did not feel Lucien measured up to his father's standards. Lucien could not fathom how she held such a cruel man up on a pedestal. He was tempted to challenge her on a number of occasions over it but he always held his tongue. There was no point arguing over the dead. She seemed determined to protect his father's legacy at all costs, even if it was from Lucien as well. One night, with Jean fussing over his late night drinking, he finally lost his temper and suggested that she find work with a more respectable employer. Jean looked like she had been slapped in the face. He could tell she was holding back tears. Lucien immediately regretted saying it but did not apologize. He would be moving on soon, Jean needed to as well.
Despite all this, Lucien wasn't without friends in Ballarat. He quickly bonded with their lodger, a young nurse named Mattie. Jean's nephew Danny was a constable with the police and was frequently in the house. The police superintendent turned out to be an old school mate of his and convinced Lucien to work on a few cases as police surgeon in place of his father. Thomas' patients viewed Lucien as a continuation of his father's care and rejoiced when he agreed to continue treating them.
Jean was a living contradiction that more often than not left him confused and feeling like he was a step behind. Even when she was sharp-tongued and disapproving she was a great support to him. She cooked for him and cleaned, and more than once had to pack him off to bed when he was too drunk to find his room on his own. She took it upon herself to wake him from his night terrors when most people would have avoided him like the plague. She was also terribly bright; he suspected she didn't realize quite how intelligent she really was. More and more he came to value her insight both in murder and medical cases, especially when it came to the history and motives of local residents.
In the end it was Jean's bravery that impressed him most of all. Hot on the trail of a killer, Lucien had confronted an army sergeant he suspected of the murder. Cornered in his office, the sergeant pulled a gun on him. Suddenly Jean was there, her own pistol drawn. Her hand was shaking but her aim never faltered. Lucien was not sure what offended Jean more, that the sergeant was a murderer or that he had threatened someone inside her home. Lucien realized that night how foolish he had been to dismiss her. Without asking, Jean had folded Lucien in under the umbrella of her family and would give her life to protect him. It was not since meeting his own wife in Singapore that Lucien had experienced such devotion. Lucien asked her to stay the following evening. The strange coincidence of the Script on the day they met weighed on his mind from time to time. However since Jean seemed to barely tolerate him on most days, Lucien decided it was most likely a coincidence. He reasoned this was certainly the best for the both of them.