Unspoken ConversationBy Vanessa Mullen
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Jenna is crying.|
Jenna is crying and I'm the only one who knows. Avon? Ironic, isn't it? We don't exactly get on well together, Jenna and I, but I'm the one sitting here with an arm round her, because I'm the only one who understands.
Blake's fault, of course. When isn't anything Blake's fault? Virtually every problem I've ever had can be laid firmly at his door. All right, there are exceptions, but Jenna's distress I lay firmly at his door.
Did he realise that the rest of us were watching, that we could see everything that transpired on that planet of a million graves. Sinofer saw to that. She wanted us all to understand the lesson of the death of a friend, but the lesson Jenna learnt there was something else.
I woke up about three in the morning ship's time, which was early dawn on that part of the planet where Blake and Jenna were camping up a tree hiding from Travis. It was a perfectly reasonable time for me to be awake. It was my watch. The others, not to my surprise, had all gone to bed in spite of their protestations of wanting to demonstrate their sympathies with those on the surface below by staying and watching them on the main screen. Demonstrations rarely last long when there is no one around to be impressed.
It was obviously cold down down there. Jenna and Blake were close, closer than I'd ever seen them before. Not making love, I sometimes doubt whether the word sex even exists in Blake's rather limited vocabulary, just close. They were balanced in the crook of a branch and he had his arm round her. They were talking - quietly, but I could still make out the words. It is an odd, and rather stupid, quirk of human nature that makes intimate situations bring out intimate revelations. Of course, I listened.
She was telling him about her childhood and how it had been before her father had been convicted. They had been well off for an Earth family, which simply means that like myself they had had opportunities to reach out for something better. Her father had carried illegal cargoes on his ships once too often and was caught. The sentence was what it always is in such cases - exile. They were lucky in one respect. If he'd been smuggling shadow or highlife it would have been the death penalty, but even Stannis senior wasn't that stupid. The penal colony where the family had been exiled was primitive, a place that forced harsh demands on those who lived there. Jenna was strong when she was nineteen and she is still strong now. She shed no tears when she told Blake how she'd seen her father killed and watched her mother being gang-raped, of how she'd stayed in her hiding place and watched, helpless to intervene without suffering the same fate herself. She didn't cry when she told him of the guilt that she still felt, not even when he ran his hand gently over her hair and told her that it wasn't her fault.
When he kissed her, I looked briefly away. I am not a man given to emotion, but some things are difficult even for me. Until this moment, Blake had always seemed to me to be asexual, a man more committed to his cause than he could ever be to a person. Now, not only did I feel as though I was intruding on something that should not be happening, I was also only too aware of my own feelings.
I've wanted Blake for as long as I've known him. It's not logical, I'm fully aware of that. Blake is everything that I am not. He is passionate, dedicated; he wants to make everyone happy. He has an easy charm that makes everyone warm to him. I am cold, cynical. I see the world in terms of credits and computers. We are so different that I sometimes wonder that we are friends at all. Yet it is so. He loves me, but only in the way that he loves everyone. I love him... Aaah, I love him and that is something that you will never hear me admit to in the cold light of day.
His passion and warmth draw me and my coldness keeps me an eternal distance from him. I have passion too, but I keep it safe and hidden from public view. Only Anna ever cared enough to draw out the things that I keep deep inside of myself. I loved her with an intensity that will stay with me until I die and her death has not changed that. Sometimes I wonder if I betray her memory with my feelings for Blake, but I could not love her any the less for loving Blake also. I love Anna. I love him. It seems to me that I could not love Blake so much if Anna had not first shown me what love can be.
I digress, and that alone is a sign of how much this is affecting me.
Blake kissed Jenna, kissed her with thoroughness and exquisite care, kissed her in a way that I had not imagined him capable of, kissed her in a way that I wanted him to kiss me, and then the sun came up and I could see his mind turn to other things, to the necessity to kill Travis.
Things progressed as one might have expected. Blake caught Travis and, being Blake, decided not to kill him. He will never learn, or perhaps it is more true to say that if he ever does learn, he may no longer be the man that I love: a dichotomy that I do not find easy to accept. Jenna and Blake came back to the ship, but the moment had passed. Blake was himself once more. Jenna went to his cabin that night. I know - I rigged up the intercom pick-up to listen in. He was polite; he was friendly; he was charming, but he didn't ask her in. Married once more to his cause with a screenfull of Federation statistics to work through. If he felt anything from what had happened below, then there was no sign of it in his voice. She left, and only then did I hear him say her name. Such tenderness.
In that single sigh, I learned more of him than I had any right to know. Why he kept her from him isn't for me to say, but I have my own guesses. It's that sense of honour, that same crazy sense of honour that wouldn't let him kill Travis. He had nothing to offer Jenna but a life of fighting and eventually dying. He needed her as he needs all of us, but refused to bind her to him in a way that would allow of no escape. We are all free to leave at any time, he is so fond of telling us. I think he loves her enough to want her to be free.
I should have been jealous, but how can you resent what you've never had any chance of having? There are men who can love members of both sexes, but Blake isn't one of them. I left the watch to Cally who would never ask questions and went to Jenna. In the need to drown my own sorrow, I went to the only person who was in greater pain than myself and let her download her sorrows onto me. Because I knew: once touched by that flame, there was no turning back. She had been closer to the fire, her burns would be worse.
She needed my help, and if I am honest I sought her also because the closest I could be to Blake was to be with someone he loved.
I gave her the only gift I could, the one that it hurt me most to give.
"He does love you," I said, when she refused to let me in.
She's more intuitive than I gave her credit for, or perhaps my face showed more than I intended.
She simply said: "You too?" and let me hold her while she cried.
Am I crying too? Of course not. I'm the cynical one, remember? I have no feelings.
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