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Chapter 30: Jeannie Returns to School

The rest of Jeannie's weekend in Los Angeles passed uneventfully enough.  She gathered that Andrew and their mom did not talk after her talk with Kim.  The two of them had spent Sunday with Andrew acting the perfect gentleman, like nothing had happened the day before.  Granted, Andrew had spent a lot of the day in bed, in the sauna, or in the hot tub, trying to recover from his fall, but his behavior toward their mother had been a complete about-face from the day before.  Today, he seemed a little better physically, but said nothing as he steered the car through mid-morning traffic to the freeway so Jeannie could catch her flight back.  His face was a mask of steely determination, more appropriate for a NASCAR racetrack than the streets of West Los Angeles.

"You want to talk about it?" she asked.

He shook his head.  "Nothing to talk about."

"That's a crock, big brother, and you know it."  They had spent the morning at the hospital, where Jeannie was tested as a possible donor match.  That is where she had said her goodbyes to her Mom, as Kim remained behind to get more information about the chemotherapy treatments that would begin the following day.  Jeannie chewed her lip as she stared out the window at some people on the sidewalk, noting the absurdity that several of them were wearing shorts and t-shirts in late February.  "Look, I'll change my plans and stay.  Hell, I'm not exactly excited about returning to New Haven.  Do you have any idea how cold that place can get?"

"You're bloody well going back and that's that."  He didn't raise his voice, but his tone made it clear the matter was closed. 

Jeannie fell silent and fiddled with the lumpy bandage on her arm.  Why did blood testers always use giant cotton balls and reams of tape when you had blood drawn?  Wouldn't a simple band-aid do the trick?

"Don't mess with that," Andrew cautioned.

She pulled her hand away from her arm.  "How'd you get so lucky to avoid testing?"

"We know my blood doesn't match hers from an accident I had when I was little."  He had no recollection of the accident, but he could see his sister was obviously interested in this little bit of new information.  "I got hit by a car.  Don't remember it really."

They had finally made it to the 10 freeway, with Andrew taking advantage of the carpool lane to pass the dozen cars waiting for a green light, all for the privilege to join the unending traffic jam that was the LA freeway system.  "So will you really be okay, Andy?  After the other day?"

He shrugged as they pulled up behind a slow-moving SUV and joined the morning crawl.  "I'm sure we'll hash things out, at least some of it."  He glanced at her.  "I'm sorry about what I said to you.  She's right.  It wasn't my place to tell you."

"You're wrong," Jeannie said.  "If you didn't, nobody would have.  I think I needed to know."

"And now?  What do you think?"

She looked out the window.  She had tried to avoid thinking about the conversation she had with her mother on Saturday, and had instead spent Sunday running errands and doing tasks around the house to make things easier for her mother and brother once the chemo treatments started.  They needed her help.  She figured that was more important than dwelling on a past that no longer seemed as clear as she thought it was.  She had figured she would think a bit more about that on the plane, so she was not completely prepared to answer Andrew's questions.  Jeannie shook her head.  "I don't know.  I believe Mom when she says she wasn't unfaithful to Dad, and she's pretty sure I'm a Donovan."  She pressed her head back against the seat rest.  "Other than that, I don't know what to think."

"Well what else did she tell you?"  He moved the car into the transition to the 405.

A lot, Jeannie thought, but she was not sure she wanted to go into everything.  And then there were the things Jeannie really did not want to think about.  She started to giggle, and cupped her hand to her mouth.

"What?" Andrew glanced quickly at her to see what was so funny, then had to hit his brakes to avoid running into the back of a Prius.

"Don't ever get Mom started on what Dad was like in the sack," Jeannie said, still giggling.

"No bloody way!" Andrew exclaimed.  "She didn't?"

"Oh yes she did," she said, now laughing heartily at the mortified expression on her brother's face.  His cheeks were starting to turn the color of a lobster.  "Well, she didn't go into exacting detail."  She stopped laughing, and switched to sarcastic mode.  "Look, mostly, she talked a lot about how much they were in love, how they were soulmates, and how that was good and bad."  She looked back out the window.  "Whatever.  It doesn't change anything."

"You're intent on hating him, aren't you?"

"I have my reasons, Andy."  Maybe now even more than before.  She could see that he was debating a response, but then decided to let it go.  There was a brief silence in the car and Jeannie fiddled with the lump on her arm again.  "Do you think I can take this off yet?"

"Leave it."

She grinned.  "Was that First Leftenant Donovan of the 3 PARAs speaking just now?  He's quite good at giving orders, as I'm sure the men in his command discovered."  She expected her brother to laugh at the ribbing, but his expression turned stony.  "I'm sorry," she said quickly.  "I didn't realize that's a sore subject."

"Just let it go," he said, but it was not as strong an order.

The traffic was clearing and they were starting to make some good time to the airport.  Soon enough, Jeannie would be on a plane, heading back to school and leaving her family behind.  "I'm going to call every night.  Let's say at 6 pm your time.  You'll give me an update?"

"Sure, Sis."  His tone was appreciative, and she knew he had already forgiven her for mentioning the army.  He gave her a long look, before turning back to traffic.  After another silence, he said, "I just want to say something, and I know you don't want to hear it, but I'm going to say it regardless."  He waited for her to nod, letting him know she was listening.  "I know Dad mucked up some things with you, but, please, when he comes home, just give him a chance to explain.  Just hear him out."

"So he can tell me how sorry he is and things will be different in the future?  Until he disappears the next time or misses something else that's important to me?"  She rolled her eyes.  "Yeah, that'll do a lot of good."

"Please," Andrew said.  "Just listen to him.  For your big brother?"

She thought for a moment.  It was all academic, wasn't it?  Their dad had never disappeared for so long before without contacting them and, whatever Andrew believed, Jeannie thought he was probably dead.  Maybe that sounded cold, but Jeannie was a pragmatist and saw no reason to ignore the likely reality.  And if that was true, there was no reason to hurt her brother by being stubborn.  "Okay," she said, then suddenly added, "But on one condition."

"Which is?"  Now Andrew sounded a little nervous.

Jeannie leaned forward slightly and turned to face him.  "You talk to Mom, and try to resolve things. I know you don't want to talk about the war, so I'm not saying you have to do that, but whatever this hang-up you think she has about you and Dad, try to work it out."  Before he could protest, she piled on a little guilt.  "She's sick and she's going to have a very rough time of it for the next several weeks.  It'll be a lot easier if the two of you aren't walking on eggshells or fighting all the time."

"Things will be fine with us.  I'm not going to start any more arguments."  Andrew gave her a reassuring glance.

"That's superficial Andy talking," Jeannie said.  "I'm talking about my brother."

Andrew sighed, as he switched lanes into the airport exit.  "For you, Sis. . . . I'll do it.  Just let me figure out the right time.  Okay?"

Jeannie sat back in her seat and grinned wryly.  She was going to make one hell of a lawyer if that little negotiation was a sign.  She had given up nothing by making a promise she would never have to perform, and she had gotten exactly what she had wanted in exchange.  She smiled at Andrew and favored him with one of his favorite British expressions.  "Well that, big brother, is bloody brilliant."

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Oct. 10th, 2010 12:21 am (UTC)
Another wonderful chapter. I love the relationship between Andrew and Jeannie and the way they each have issues with a different parent. It's very real and organic. Looking forward to more.

Erica
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )