This was written hastily and without much proofreading, so read at your own risk. Also, forgive me if the dates aren't accurate, I didn't think too hard about them. My intention is that Jean is about 8 in the first scene, I think the rest will just make sense.
Jean awoke with a start, tear-stained and shivering despite the thick blanket above her, despite the thin layer of sweat she could feel on her palms as her fingers clenched into fists, grasping at the sheets as she gradually acquainted herself with being awake. She was hot, she realized, but she could still feel the ice-cold lake water consuming her entire being, could still hear the thundering crack that had come between ice skating and the most terrifying moment of her short life. It had been several hours ago, now, but the memory had come alive in her sleep, reminding her how terrified she'd been, and how incredibly cold. Knowing she wouldn't go back to sleep now, and seeking comfort, she crept out of her bed, past the identical one across the room where her older sister slept, and padded her way down the hallway to her father's bedroom.
Her tiny fist hesitated inches away from the door before she knocked ever so lightly. "Father?" she whispered, and when no response came, she gingerly turned the knob and pushed. The answering creak was deafeningly loud as it entered the silent stillness of the dark house, but she could see her father still sleeping in his bed, and he didn't rouse at the sound. She pressed on, hoping against hope that he would be willing to wrap an arm around her and wipe the tears that still fell silently down her cheeks.
"Father," she said again, a bit louder, as she reached the edge of his bed.
"Hmm?" the sound came out deep and rough from his chest, and his eyes fell open. "What is it?" he asked gruffly, and she already began to regret disturbing him.
Her voice shook as she answered, "I h-had a bad dream. I was on the lake again, except Julia wasn't there, and I-"
"Jean," he sighed, and while there was no malice in his voice, there was no sympathy either. "You know I've got to be up at dawn, right?"
Her heart sank, and she wished for all the world that she were back in bed, crying alone, rather than irritating her hard-working father. "Yes," she replied softly. "I'm sorry, I was just…" she trailed off, not knowing the words.
He reached out with one of his large, rough hands, and gave her shoulder a squeeze. She leaned into the touch, craving more. "Go back to bed Jean," he said simply. "It'll all look better in the morning."
And maybe it would, but the morning was a long way away, and Jean was frightened now. Still, her father had spoken, and she knew there was no chance of a hug or a comforting word, so she silently left his room and went back to bed.
She just made it through the door before the sobs overtook her, and she sank to the floor, wrapping her arms around her knees. She could think of nothing save the inexplicable terror she felt, despite being safe and warm in her bedroom, and she didn't know how long she sat with her back to the door, shoulders shaking, before a slender pair of arms came to rest around her.
"Jean," came the kind voice of her older sister, and after a moment of panic, she relaxed into the embrace, letting her head fall against Julia's shoulder.
"It's alright, Jean," she said after a moment, when her breathing had started to calm. "Come sleep in my bed for tonight. I won't tell anyone."
Jean looked up at her, eyes wide and still shining with tears in the thin light of the moon that fell through the window. "Promise?"
Julia smiled as she stood, reaching for Jean's hand and pulling her to her feet. "Promise."
"Mama?" Jean woke to the sound of a tiny voice calling out to her, and she sat straight up, eyes opening to the sight of little Chrisopher, standing by her bed with his favorite blanket pulled tightly over his head and around his body, a cloak that she knew he used for security as much as warmth.
"Yes, sweetheart, what's the matter?" she rushed to ask him, but even in her haste remembered to keep her voice low for the sake of her husband sleeping peacefully by her side. Luckily, he was a heavy sleeper, and she knew it would take more than a few whispers to wake him.
Her son crept closer to the bed, eyes wide. "I had a bad dream," he confessed, pulling the blanket ever tighter around his body.
Without even thinking, she reached for him, and he lifted his arms immediately, allowing her to pull him into her lap. Once there, he burrowed his face into her chest, and she could feel his tears sleeping into her nightdress. "Do you want to talk about it?" she asked softly, but he shook his head against her, so she allowed him her silence. Wrapping her arms tightly around him, she hoped he would feel in her embrace what she did not say in words—that he was safe, and loved, and that she would hold him for as long as he needed her to.
"Christopher!" Jean called out, arms flying out in search of his warmth, his love, his comforting presence. Where the love of her life should have been, her hands found cold empty sheets, and she refused to open her eyes, knowing it would only confirm what she already knew.
Her mind raced with the images that had plagued the better half of her nights for the past two weeks: Christopher, bleeding out on a battlefield; Christopher, buried alone in a nameless grave; Christopher, crying out her name, and the feeling of opening her own mouth to call back to him and finding herself unable to make a sound.
She did not weep. For two weeks, she'd wept, and everytime she thought she should have run out of tears, there had still been more to come out of her, but in this moment she found she simply didn't have the strength to do more than lie there in her grief and anger and regret.
The moment she received that awful, shattering news, an ache had settled deep into her chest, and it had not moved, had not given her one moment of respite, for two weeks, and she could feel the heaviness of it weighing her down, pulling her into mattress. Not for the first time, she wondered what would happen if she simply didn't get out of bed that day. Surely the world wouldn't end, she thought to herself. It's already ended, came the reply, the darkest whisper in the corner of her mind.
But she rejected that lie, as she had every day for two weeks, for down the hall there were two sleeping boys, and they needed her more than ever before. She reminded herself that her world hadn't ended; it had just gotten smaller, shrunk down to two boys who had nothing left but her.
She opened her eyes, and saw that the sky was still dark outside her window. She had learned by now that sleep wouldn't come after such an awakening, and so she forced herself to sit up. She did not spare another moment for her grief, knowing it would follow her around anyway. Now was as good a time as any to get a start on the day.
For a moment, Jean lay in her bed, not sure why she'd found herself awake in the middle of the night. Then she heard it again—someone was shouting on the floor below her. From her bedroom upstairs, she could only just hear it, but she'd always been a light sleeper, and it had been enough to wake her. It took her but a moment to place that voice, to know it was Lucien, and she leapt from her bed, feeling the cool night air penetrate her nightdress, but not pausing to pull on her warm robe.
She took the steps two at a time until she had reached the bottom, and the cries continued as she descended. By the time she reached the last step, she was pretty sure she knew the cause for Lucien's shouting, and her fears were all but confirmed when she pinpointed the direction; the sounds were coming from Lucien's bedroom.
She continued, unhalting, until she reached his door, and then she faltered. What was it she meant to do? Would she really go uninvited into a man's bedroom in the dead of night? She was only his housekeeper, never mind if she wished to be more than that, never mind if sometimes she thought maybe she was; he was her employer, and she wasn't meant to creep into his room.
Oh, but then she heard him call out again, and this time she thought she could make out the words stop, and please, and her hand found the knob of its own accord, opening the door before she could think twice.
"Lucien," she hissed into the darkness, as her heart very nearly broke at the sight before her. Lucien was asleep, but there was nothing restful about it; his hands gripped at the sheets, the covers he'd clearly shaken off lay pooled around his waist, and his face was twisted into an agony Jean herself could recognize all too well.
There was nothing appropriate or proper about the way Jean rushed to his side, took his shoulders in his hands, and gently shook him awake. She had to ease his suffering, propriety be damned. "Lucien," she whispered, again and again, until his murmuring had ceased, and his face relaxed somewhat. Before she knew what she was doing, she was sitting on his bed, pulling him into her embrace, smoothing a hand down his back as she watched the horrors of his past slip away from his haunted expression. Slowly, his eyes blinked open, and he stared up at her in something that could only be surprised as awe.
"Jean?" he asked, as if wondering if she were really there.
"I heard you," she said softly. "I came to be sure you were alright."
He was alright, she realized, and there was no more justification for her to be holding him quite so closely to her chest, and so all at once she released him and stood, smoothing her hands down the now-wrinkled fabric of her nightdress. She remembered, then, that in her haste she hadn't bothered with her robe. The nightdress was not what most people would call revealing, but she was certain he'd never seen so much of her skin, and she thanked the Lord above for the darkness of the room; surely it would prevent him from seeing the blush she could feel growing.
"Good night, Lucien," she said, as he looked at her, eyes wide and lips parted. She turned away, resolving to never speak of this again, and had reached the door when he spoke.
"Jean," he said, and she was forced to turn back, to look at him again in his disheveled state and let him see the apprehension on her face. He just smiled at her, a soft, sad sort of smile. "Thank you," he whispered.
She opened her mouth, but there was nothing to say, and she just nodded and left, shutting his door as softly as she could behind her.