“Alright, who’s ready to go?” Colette smiled down at her grandchildren.
Four little voices cried out in unison. “ME!”
Jocelyne felt a warmth wash over her as she watched her parents gather up the children and head for the door. “Have fun.” She called out to her daughters and nephew. “And don’t drive Oma and Opa TOO crazy, okay?”
“We won’t!” Charlie promised.
“See you tonight, Tante Joce!” Zayne skipped over to give her a quick hug before joining the others by the door.
“Bye, honey.” Tobi smiled at his daughter. “We’ll call and let you know when we’re on our way back.”
Jocelyne loved seeing her father so happy again. Every day, he seemed to get better and better – closer and closer to being his old self again. “Sounds great.” She returned his smile.
“Do you think Tante Clara will let us see Rory before we go to the zoo, Opa?” Jocelyne heard Tony ask as they headed out the door.
Tobi just laughed. “We’ll see, sweetie.”
The mention of Rory made Jocelyne’s smile widen even more. She was such a tiny little thing, and so adorable. Fragile and new and beautiful. But a lot of work too.
Little Aurora was still less than two weeks old, and Clara and Florian already had their hands full between the new baby and their pair of energetic eight-year-olds. Tobi and Colette were taking Remus and River with them on their outing to the zoo in the hopes of giving their parents a bit of a break. It was a gesture Clara and Florian had gratefully accepted.
And speaking of a break… It’s amazing how quiet the house is right now. Jocelyne mused to herself. Her parents and children had left barely a minute ago, but the change was already noticeable. And with her grandmother gone for the day as well, the only sound left in the huge, empty house was the soft tapping of her grandfather’s fingers on the keyboard in the other room.
“How’s it going in here, Opa?” Jocelyne asked as she crossed the threshold into the study.
“Relishing in the silence.” Jonas laughed. “Not that I don’t love a full house or anything, but…”
“I get it.” His granddaughter smiled. “It’s a nice change, isn’t it?”
Jocelyne crossed to the bookshelf, retrieving a well-loved copy of her great-grandfather’s novel. It had been a long time since she’d picked it up, but it was a story she’d been thinking of quite a bit lately. She took a seat on the sofa and opened up to chapter one.
She’d barely made it to the third chapter when she was interrupted by a knocking at the door.
“I’ll get it, Opa.” She set the book down on the coffee table and headed for the entryway, leaving Jonas to his video game.
Jocelyne fought back the butterflies in her stomach at the sight of the face on the other side of the glass. I should have known. “Hi, Mark.” She forced a smile as she opened the door.
“Hey.” His lips stretched into a smile as he spoke. “How’s it going?”
She shrugged. “Okay, I guess.” He knows maman and Papa have the kids today. What the hell is he doing here? “What’s up?”
“Nothing much. I was passing by on my way into the city and thought I’d stop by to say hello.”
Jocelyne raised an eyebrow at him. “Mark, you live in the city. You don’t just ‘pass by’ us all the way out here.” She almost laughed. “I know where you live, remember?”
“Shit. You caught me.” Mark chuckled softly, a slight hint of embarrassment evident on his face. “Okay, okay. I wanted to see you.” He admitted at last. “I’m on my way to the movies. That ridiculous Escape from Hell movie opened yesterday.”
“Yeah. I figured it might be worth checking out… And I was wondering if maybe you’d want to come?”
“Oh. Um. I… I can’t.” Jocelyne spluttered awkwardly. “I’m sorry.”
Mark’s face fell. “Oh.”
“Y-yeah, I have to get ready for a job interview tomorrow.” She explained apologetically. “A-and, uh… I promised Clara I’d stop by and visit this afternoon too.”
“I understand.” She could tell Mark was trying very hard to smile. “How’s Clara doing, by the way? With the new baby?”
“They’re great.” Jocelyne was much more successful in feigning her cheerfulness. “Really great. I’ll tell them you said hello.”
“Okay.” He said nothing for a moment. “Well, I guess I’d better get going. I’ll let you know if the movie’s any good.” Mark muttered awkwardly. “And good luck with your interview.”
“Thanks. See you later, Mark. Have fun.”
“Escape from Hell, huh?” Jonas’ voice broke the silence as Jocelyne sat back onto the small loveseat.
She should have known he’d heard their conversation. “Oh, uh… Yeah. That new horror movie.”
Her grandfather nodded, smiling. “I know. You’ve been talking about it for weeks.” Jonas rose to his feet and joined her on the couch. “And… wasn’t that job interview yesterday?”
For a moment, Jocelyne considered denying it. But she knew it was no use. “What’s your point, Opa?”
Jonas did not beat around the bush. “Why did you lie?” He asked simply.
“I… I just didn’t feel like going.” She sounded anything but convincing. “I’m not really into that movie anyway.”
He chuckled softly to himself. “Honey, what part of ‘talking about it for weeks’ was unclear?” Jonas teased. “I know it’s been years, Jocelyne… But you’re definitely due for some acting practice, I think.”
“Why does it matter anyway?” Jocelyne felt her irritation beginning to rise. “It’s none of your business, Opa.”
“Seeing the people I love hurting is my business.” He insisted, his voice serious. “I’ve seen far too much of that lately… Your Vater is finally getting better. But now it’s your turn.”
“What are you talking about?”
Jonas sighed softly. “It’s been, what? Ten months since you’ve come home? Almost a year already. And I don’t think I’ve seen you happy once, Jocelyne.”
“Of course I’m happy!” She cried. “You’ve seen me smiling and laughing plenty of times! We’ve had fun together with the kids, haven’t we?”
Her grandfather nodded. “Sure we have. But laughing or smiling or having fun isn’t the same as being happy.” He explained gently. “And I think you could be happy, Jocelyne. If you let yourself.” Jonas sighed. “This isn’t the first time I’ve seen you push him away.”
“Oh my God.” Jocelyne rolled her eyes. “Is this seriously all because of Mark?”
“It’s because of you… Though I suppose Mark definitely fits into the equation too.” Jonas admitted. “I just see you falling into the same trap you always fell into when you were a kid.” He explained.
Jonas nodded. “You’re bending over backward for everyone else. You’re putting on a brave face and trying so hard to make everyone else happy. And now that you have a chance to have your own happiness, it’s like you keep pushing it away… Why?”
She shook her head, feeling her anger and bitterness bubbling up inside of her. “You really wanna know?”
Jocelyne took a deep breath. “Do you remember what happened the last time I tried to be happy? Mark broke my heart, and the rest of you pushed and pushed until I just…” She left the sentence unfinished. “And now look at me! I’m miserable, okay? I admit it – you’re right. I’m not happy, Opa. I haven’t been for a long time. And I’m not even sure if I deserve to be anymore!” She didn’t even know where the words were coming from – they seemed to spill from her mouth without warning.
“Jocelyne, we all feel terrible about what happened all those years ago.” Jonas replied gently. “You know that. And I know there’s nothing we can ever do to make it right again. But we’re all sorry, and we want to start over. We’ve talked about it, haven’t we?”
His granddaughter nodded. “And I forgave you. I forgave all of you.” She said seriously. “But it’s not about you… It’s about me. And Luc.” Jocelyne admitted at last. It was strangely freeing to finally speak the words aloud. “Part of me is still so mad at him. And another part of me wants to forgive him for everything… But none of it matters. I never got to tell him how I’m feeling.” She shook her head. “And that’s my fault. I’ve made amends with everyone – you, Oma, my parents, Gus, Clara… But not him. And not myself either, Opa.”
Jonas’ voice was pained. “Jocelyne… Honey, you need to move past this. You can’t keep punishing yourself. You need to forgive your Bruder… But more importantly, you need to forgive yourself. It’s been so long.”
“I know.” Jocelyne felt tears welling up in her eyes. “But I can’t. It’s too late.”
He shook his head. “It’s never too late.” Her grandfather appeared thoughtful for a moment. “Y’know, I think it’s high time you had a talk with Lucas.”
“I can’t. He’s dead, Opa. He’s gone.”
Jonas gestured down at the worn copy of Dust to Dust on the table in front of them. “Hasn’t that old book taught you anything?” He asked gently. “The dead hear so much more than you think.”