Maybe it’s because everything seems to have been so dramatic for people lately, but Jean has sort of landed in her life as of late.
She used to be worried about graduating, about signing up with the football team in Barchester city, about never meeting anyone else after August. Then Juno had a baby and things sort of paled in comparison. A baby. A real, proper little baby that someone Jean’s age gave birth to. It’s so strange, but so nice and so very scary.
And it has shuffled Jean back into a comfortable place in her own existence, weird as it may sound. (She doesn’t tell people this, obviously.)
She visits the first time when Minos is just a week old and doesn’t much care for the giant stuffed toy she’d brought with her of course, but that’s hardly the point. Jean just wants to meet him, this tiny little person that has turned Juno’s life upside down.
They claim he sleeps pretty decently through the night and both Juno and David appear calm and happy, so maybe that’s true. Jean doesn’t know much about babies, but she remembers when her siblings where newborns and how helpless they were. Helpless and cranky. So far, Minos seems much happier with his lot in life.
Juno is happy to let Jean borrow him for a little while, though, while she takes a shower and makes a few phone calls. Quality time for a new parent, she gathers. And Jean is happy to spend some quality time snuggling.
“Feels weird that one of us has a baby, doesn’t it?” Jean talks to August but her gaze never leaves Minos’ adorable little face.
“Yeah,” August agrees and neither of them mention that it could have been the two of them. Or it could have been anyone, really, but the two of them had been an item for years, after all, and a lot of people had probably expected them to be the kind of young parents that Juno and David are now. Young parents who raise their kids first and advance in their careers later, if at all.
It feels far away – the two of them and what they used to be. But at the same time it’s not, it’s right there, beneath her skin.
Jean visits her family when she visits Minos, offering to babysit her siblings while her mum and Eric gets a night out for once. It’s very rare and they could use the time off.
Not that Janessa would ever agree that Jean babysits her – she’s too old for that, oh my god – but that’s what Jean does, at any rate. Makes dinner, supervises their homework and talks to them about their days.
Even if she’ll never really miss the tiny, crowded house, Jean will always miss the sense of belonging to a large crowd of people, of having a whole clan of faces there to support and nag. In the future, she can’t imagine having just one kid and put all her hopes and dreams on that kid’s shoulders. She wants a gang. A little team of her own.
Life on campus is improving. Or has been improving steadily over the past year or so. She’s stopped feeling lonely, which is a huge thing and she’s suddenly right in the middle of a whole network of students. Partying, dating, making out. Living the uni life, the way she’s always thought it would be based on what she’s read and seen on telly.
Vendela has started sleeping with a few guys she goes to class with and seems really happy with that. Jean isn’t all that interested in one-night-stands or the whole friends with benefits deal – it just feels too messy – but she likes going out.
Most of the time she goes out with Kitty, who’s a great beer-drinking partner and a terrible dancer, just like Jean.
Still, it’s nice to dance if you don’t care all that much about who’s looking at you.
They mostly frequent the pubs near the university – where the happy hour is a sweet deal and you can buy greasy fries for just a few simoleons – but occasionally they branch out and visit places in Barchester as well. Kitty – born and raised in Strangetown – finds everything quaint and exotic and Jean is happy to show her how to party, small town-style.
Sometimes that means you run into people who make your life a little more complicated.
Like Atticus Wester.
Lately, he has become trouble for her. Not trouble trouble, but still, a very unsettling fact in the outskirts of her life. Not because he’s her ex-boyfriend’s brother, but because he’s been hinting at having feelings for Jean. Real, deep feelings that go beyond the crush Jean and August would sometimes suspect he had on her when they were growing up. She’d been dating August back then, too, had been dating him since they were both 13 and ‘dating’ meant holding hands on the way home from school, and Atticus has been a silly little brother.
Now he isn’t. And Jean can’t deny that she feels flattered and a bit uncomfortable because he’s there, under the surface and inside her head and she shouldn’t be having thoughts about him at all. Ever.
Drinking helps. Except it doesn’t.
So when he asks if she would like to dance with him, she tells him yes, yes she would.
And maybe she would. It’s more that she shouldn’t.