The Daunting Tale of Jealous Jean

 

Introduction: Basically there are four characters in this tale. Three have been friends for many years and then an outsider comes along and everything changes.

Jean and Olivia are same sex partners. Faith and Angela recently met and became friends easily.

Jealous Jean, the protagonist, resents the newcomer (Angela), and strategically sets out to remove her from the picture, subtlety and smoothly. She uses manipulative control strategies and makes up stories, to ultimately accomplish her goal which is to defame or get rid of Angela all together and win back her own lost territory.  

All the while that this behaviour is happening, Angela is completely unaware of Jealous Jean’s mission — until seven long and agonizing years later through private secret discussions with Olivia. Those secret discussions got even more detailed when Olivia was about to have a serious, life threatening operation. Thanks to her taking a huge personal risk in speaking out to Angela privately, in person and by phone, the mystery behind the sudden end of an envied and widely admired friendship between Angela and Faith, is slowly and finally resolved.

  

Once upon a time, in a far away land, Angela, a somewhat naive, fun-loving, caring and giving person, got duped by a jealous, conniving, socially desperate misfit. At the time when the strategy was unfolding, Angela had no idea something nefarious was happening behind the scenes. The murderous process was slow and methodical, much like an intravenous drip or a slow poisoning, and then a sudden jolt of lightening struck and the lights went out on a dynamic, incredible friendship. Poof! One minute it is there, and the next it’s gone. And so the story goes.

 

Angela grew up in a dysfunctional middle class family in a small Northern British Columbian village of close to 350 people. At a very young age she witnessed her father pinning her mother to the floor midway through a heated argument, with his hands around her neck, choking her windpipe. She was gasping for air and he did nothing to help. She witnessed her father beating her brother with a leather belt, more often than once, and throwing him in the cold, unlighted basement room, locking the door from the outside, for which only he had a key. When she was ten, she merrily skipped from her home on the hill to her dad’s technology office, on a professional development day, to pay him a surprise visit. She quietly entered the two story building, didn’t see him or anyone else on the main floor so tiptoed downstairs to see if maybe he was down there doing stuff in the workshop.

 

As she approached the middle stair, she heard some loud rhythmic breathing and the sounds of rusty bed coils squeaking as they descended deeply and sprang up again. Down, up; down, up. Squeak. Squeak; squeak, squeak. Heavy breathing with the occasional yeees, yeees, yes!

 

Huh?, she wondered what was going on.

 

She felt odd and instantly knew she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She looked over the railing and saw a bare bum and four bare legs of two half naked bodies doing something peculiar on a bed in the area where shift workers occasionally slept. 

 

She turned to run away unnoticed, but her wet sneaker squeaked on the vinyl covered step. Immediately her father started yelling who is there, several times, as Angela tried to get away fast enough to not get caught. 

 

She froze at the sound of hearing him say get back here or else. He knew he had been caught in the ultimate act of deception. Stopping short of spanking her after somehow getting his pants back on, he threatened to have her sent to a foster home a thousand miles away. He went on to say that if she mentioned anything of what she saw to anyone, she would never see her mother, brothers or two sisters again. With a wicked smirk and very angry eyes, he held her head in his hands and sternly said: Poof! You’d better go home now.

 

Fear resonated throughout her body. As her knees shook and her eyes cried, she turned around, headed towards the door, walked out and never again returned to that office. All of it was enough to convince herself to never get married, to never have children and to never get trapped in a life like her mother’s. She stopped talking to that evil man for several weeks and rarely addressed him as most children address their fathers.

 

Faith and her older brother were raised in a middle class family. Her mother was a doctor and the main bread earner. In those days, new doctors were required to put in time throughout the province serving smaller communities in remote and isolated regions, for at least the first ten years of their careers. They lived in Spuzzum, Agassiz, Fort Nelson, Lytton, Field and Bella Coola. All small one or two industry towns with diverse populations, diverse challenges and great places for children to activate their imaginations through story telling, creative games and imaginary friends to keep them company. 

 

Faith especially enjoyed the dress-up occasions like the Christmas Pageant in which she always secured a lead singing role or the yearly community week long ho-down that always included an opportunity to play a part in the fairy tale story the local Pythean Sisters and Knights of Columbus organized for closing night. She had that youthful spunk and sense of confidence that always made her the star of the presentations. But, the ounce of snobbery severely impacted her social life, leaving her lonely and left out in the cold most of her young life. 

 

The family finally settled in Kamloops when Faith was thirteen. It was an awkward age to make friends and because their new home was located at the outskirts of the sprawling city, people her own age were few and far between. She found comfort in the company of her imaginary friends and successfully secured acting roles in the annual school musical and in the presentations organized by the vibrant Kamloops Arts community.

 

Angela and Faith’s friendship grew stronger under very unusual circumstances. Faith had been a high school Drama teacher who collapsed one day in front of a class of bewildered Grade Nine students. When she came through, her demeanour was one of a Frankenstein nut-bar stomping across the room, shouting nonsense, waving her arms wildly in the air, and bashing her head over and over again against the green chalkboard. The blood from her forehead  poured down the board much like the sound of nails doing the same thing. The students were suddenly silent and so scared they fled the classroom en masse leaving Angela, the teacher’s aide, as the only one to come to the rescue. They went to the hospital together and after a full assessment, Faith was put on long term disability, admitted for psychiatric evaluation and then put into care —first locally, then out of town, out of province and out of the country. 

 

Angela kept in touch with her every step of the way through recovery, either in person or by phone, text messaging or email. Since Faith’s long time best friends Jean and Olivia did not use text messaging or emails, and could not afford long distance calling, Angela kept them in the loop on most things. They seemed most appreciative.

 

After two and a half years of being in and out of institutions, both close to home and far away, Faith’s mental illnesses had been diagnosed and the dosages of medication seemed to be effective. She felt ready to re-enter her social world but not quite ready to get back to the classroom.

 

Since Faith was feeling a bit fragile and insecure, the initial socializing was only with a limited audience — her newest friend, Angela, and her long time acquaintances, two women named Jean and Olivia. 

 

Those visits most often took place at Jean and Olivia’s because Jean (aka The Driver) didn’t like going out. They played card games, watched the Fifth Estate, W5 and various public television dramas and murder mysteries, made meals, did dishes, or just sat and talked at least once a week, sometimes twice. 

 

During those occasions, it was obvious that Jean was strongly opinionated, competitive and sure she was the best at everything. To keep the peace,  nobody called her on it. The tension often filled the room and her personality was aggravating. Angela figured out very early that she had no desire to be Jean’s friend but, for Faith’s sake, there was no point stirring the pot and highlighting the large elephant in the room. Poof! It’s spit in your face but just suck it up to keep the peace.

 

It was difficult to figure out how Jean, Olivia and Faith became friends, but they had been for many years and Angela had no plans to rock that boat. She was there for Faith. Faith wanted her there and there was no other personal agenda. Their friendship was real; their friendship was strong. After having gone through as much as they had over the past six months together and still wanting to be together, they both knew their friendship was meant to be.

 

The two of them spent a lot of time together; spoke openly and honestly most of the time. To the outside world, Faith’s family was a cohesive unit. The parents never argued or raised their voices, and the children were always courteous and well behaved. When the doors and windows were closed, however, things were a lot different. Her parents were closeted alcoholics who would go out on weekends, often leaving the children at home alone. One night her brother invited over a friend who raped her at the age of ten. At the time, she thought it was a tantalizing fun activity and nothing to be upset about, but a part of her convinced her it would be best to not tell anyone. It would be another inside secret. The outside world need not know what goes on in her inside world.

 

Shh, mustn’t say anything.

 

Faith lost her beloved grandmother mysteriously one day and only found out many years later, by overhearing her mother speak on the phone, that her Nana suffered from depression and ended her own life. Her mother never talked about it. Her father never talked about it. Nobody ever talked about it. It was an inside secret. Poof! One day Nana was there and the next she was gone. 

 

Shh, mustn’t say anything.

 

Faith married young and before completing Teacher’s College because of her first pregnancy. Her husband was a Civil Engineer and already gainfully employed in the village where they lived in the Lower Nicola Valley. 

 

Two years after the birth of their son, came twin girls and a year after that a still birth. With the family image in place and careers going well, the relationship soured and her lisping husband strayed into the arms of someone else’s husband. 

 

Shh, mustn’t say anything.

 

For a year, she pretended to not know; but, that sight of seeing the two tall, slender men embracing each other passionately, with locked lips, behind the town hall one late moonlit evening, was not one that could be erased.  To save face, just like all other secrets in her life, she kept that truth tight under her breast. 

 

She and her cheating husband continued to sleep in the same bed to keep up appearances, but their bodies and their souls no longer connected.  Poof!

 

In a moment of weakness, while talking with their longtime gardener, she spilled the beans about the adultery and burst into tears. She held Faith in her arms to console her. 

 

As they rocked back and forth, their lips met and they kissed passionately. Faith, while shaking with fear, tried to get loose without success, and then hands and fingers were going where hands and fingers should not go. She felt mortified and violated. It was an out of body experience that ignited a rage that had been suppressed for far too long. She then turned to the woman speechlessly as she pointed her to the door managing only to say get the hell out of my house and don’t ever come back. Poof!

 

Shh, mustn’t say anything.

 

In her burst of anger, she continued to follow the light in front of her and kept the train running down the track. She bit the bullet, packed her belongings and moved out of the house. Later that day, she sat down with her children, aged fifteen and seventeen, at a local McDonald’s, and was surprised to learn they anticipated this day —mom and dad had finished their journey together and the time had come to open new doors. 

 

The bricks of her wall

Came tumbling down

She was lost in the rubble.

 

Angela found her the next day crying in the teachers’ lounge, and gave her the comfort she needed to assure her she was not alone and would never be alone. They forged an instant and easy friendship, learned about each other’s shared history of shock and abuse, and comfortably supported each other’s quest to heal.

 

Angela and Faith travelled to places near and far; enjoyed wine tastings and cider tastings; went on European cycling vacations; debated and discussed current issues; visited family and friends. They shared recipes and introduced each other to new meals. They were avid sale shoppers, and only used coupons when they truly made sense. Their favourite pastimes were movies, long walks and meaningful talks. They lived separately, but kept in touch almost daily. Theirs was an incredible journey and a widely admired friendship not only before her mental breakdown in the classroom, but afterwards as well.

 

What seemed like a perfect world to Angela, turned into something completely different overnight. All doors were slammed shut. Email addresses were blocked. Phone calls were never answered. Phone messages were not acknowledged. Faith’s anger intensified with threats of harassment or stalking charges. Two and a half years of hard work, dedication and commitment to honesty, integrity and trust, had led to this blast of insanity. Now the bricks in her wall came tumbling down and she felt lost in yet another deep, dark secret. Yet another Poof of the unknown! 

 

Shh, mustn’t say anything.

 

For seven years Angela lived in a daze wondering how the tides of a widely envied friendship had changed so suddenly without explanation. The greatest friendship that ever existed between two people, came to a sudden halt. No lead up. No hints. No discussion. Lightening in the darkened skies of the far North had struck instantly; mutual friends and acquaintances scrambled and never looked back. They didn’t want to be involved. In their shared stunned state, perhaps they didn’t know how to help. All they could say was let it go and walk away.

 

Angela could not let it go and walk away. Something was missing. Something wasn’t right. She must have said something. She must have done something. She felt scared. She felt worried, dumbfounded,  lost and alone. She found herself abandoned in a world filled with people who were nowhere to be seen. 

 

Shh, mustn’t say anything.

 

She felt fearful that the known diagnosis of serious mental illnesses consuming her now very angry and medicated best friend, could result in a murder or a suicide or both. She started to tread slowly and discretely through the rubble at first to figure out the mystery, but then decided to step away and do nothing — just like everyone else. 

 

She held on to the belief that despite the power and uncertainty of mental illnesses, eventually the secret truth would prevail and the friendship could be reconciled. How that could possibly happen wasn’t entirely clear but she remembered the parable about the Phoenix rising from the ashes and still could see a brightly shining light at the end of a long dark tunnel.

 

As long as there is life then there is hope.

 

As time went by, not a phone call, text message, email, birthday card or Christmas card from Faith. Angela wandered through life in a daze, and could only feel moderately settled by attributing the perplexing  behaviour to mental illness. 

 

Nobody liked to hear those difficult words, but nobody was offering any other words that could shed light onto the darkness. Add that to Faith’s drama student and teacher background, and the indoctrinated importance of keeping so many of her life experiences secret, then perhaps some sense could be found. Was everything they had built together part of an act, with the curtain falling like an Anne Boleyn guillotine ending or was it only a cliffhanger?

 

Seven years later, a glimmer of light seemed to shine on what in police circles would be called a cold case. Someone close to the inside track contacted Angela and asked if they could meet in a private place for a chat. The intrigue took her breath away. Had somebody finally written Act Two?

 

It was Olivia who placed the call. She had been carrying a secret, a deep, dark secret, and suddenly talking about it became very important. Angela was delighted to hear that voice and elated that the time had finally come to go down deep into the vault to pull out the cold case file box, and open up an investigation.

 

The two met privately many times over a period of six months and rehashed as much of that past as they could.  Angela felt Olivia had the answers all the while, but she was protecting someone — herself or protecting something — her for better for worse relationship with Jean. 

 

At first the enlightening message was not clearly coming out. Each subsequent visit shed more light on to the unraveling of the mind-boggling mystery.  It had the makings of a real life Fifth Estate or W5 investigation and a public television drama script that a Miss Marple, Father Brown, Hercule Poirot or Nancy Drew show could not possibly match.

 

Olivia’s life was entangled in a relationship with a controlling, jealous partner. Jean, The Driver, was someone who masterminded schemes to dominate relationships that she deemed to be hers — or, hers first. She had that air of ownership that comes with possessiveness:

 

Jean to Olivia: You can’t cook — I’ll take over the cooking.

Jean to Olivia: You can no longer drive well — I’ll take over the driving.

Jean to Olivia: Computers are too complicated for you to learn so I will take that on. If you want to email someone, let me know so I can do it for you.

Jean to Olivia: Cycling in the city has become too dangerous — time to sell the bicycle.

Jean to Olivia: You haven’t touched your favourite hobby tools for a while — time to sell them.

Jean to Olivia: Since i am paying for the take out order, I will do the ordering.

Jean to Olivia: Since my money is paying for our new vehicle, I will decide which one to buy.

Jean to Olivia: You are friends with someone I don’t like.  Angela. Don’t invite her over anymore. Your telephone conversations with her annoy me. I want those stopped. In fact, I want that friendship to stop or else.

 

Jean was nicknamed The Driver because of her masterful ability to drive the ball during golfing games. She played as part of a foursome for nearly a decade, but that ended a couple of years ago when arthritis took over.  The nickname stuck as it was quite à propos for many aspects of her attitude and personality. 

 

She was brought up in a cult-like community where all members were genealogically related. They worked together, made meals together, ate together and protected each other in all aspects of life. Outsiders were seen as the enemy; it was forbidden to make eye contact with them or to develop friendships. As a consequence, she was self-reliant, anti-social and very much a loner. Her personality was stubborn, under-developed and difficult to be around. 

 

Even though she left the grip of the cult while in her twenties to become a computer programmer, after graduation she secured a good government job, and never returned to her controlled family communal home environment in the Kootenays.

 

Olivia suffers day after day in silence, just like any other abused spouse, because she is desperate, needy and simply dreads the alternative. Jean provides the roof over her head. Her employee benefits provide the health care, including the much needed hearing aid and eye care coverage, plus dental. Her pension is supporting Olivia and will continue to do so even after Jean’s death. That relationship takes care of the essentials of life, but at great personal expense.

 

But, finally, in spite of it all, Olivia has a conscience and she could no longer stand by hearing Jean revel in having turned very good wine into terrible vinegar, and feeling a sense of victory for having succeeded. Olivia was referring to the careful destruction of the once incredible friendship between Angela and Faith — a type of friendship that Olivia admired and yearned for herself, but one that seemed to deeply bother Jean as though it had robbed her of something.  The envy possessed her.

 

During the earlier times when Angela was present in that newly formed foursome relationship, she sort of got the picture that things were not quite right.  She never felt very comfortable and although Olivia always made her feel welcome in their home, Jean did not. 

 

When the four of them were in a room together, conversations seemingly needed to be dominated by Jean; card game rules had to be hers; take-out orders could only include items she would eat; television shows were hers to choose; her cooking skills needed to be acknowledged as better than anyone’s; only Jean could accurately predict political outcomes; and, her preferred party could be the only one worthy of power. The obese domineering and controlling personality disorder became even clearer as time unfolded, and it was even more clear now because of Olivia’s honesty.

 

The truth will set you free.

 

Olivia is stuck with a difficult person upon whom she depends for shelter, food and clothing. As a woman in her late sixties, she is the product of a tough life, minimally educated, and a physically and mentally abused divorcee who raised a son with Down’s Syndrome and an obsessive compulsive disorder on her own, while working three or more part time janitorial, housecleaning or child minding jobs. She lived from pay cheque to pay cheque, collected bottles and cans around the neighbourhood several times a week, and pork and beans, spuds and hotdogs were staple meals. Her son sadly died at the age of 33 from massive head and body injuries from a high cliff dive into Lynn Valley Creek.

 

While in her mid-fifties, she started to experience health issues, but had no benefits. She got worried and by happenstance from searching through Companion Wanted Ads, she met Jean — someone who was alone and lonely, successfully employed, and looking for a late in life companion.

 

Shortly after meeting each other and enjoying a few dates, Olivia and Jean moved into a three bedroom home together, established a daily routine and in order to establish even more security, they got married to each other one year later. Interestingly it is apparently only a marriage on paper, but it provides each with what they really needed: financial security for one and secured companionship for the other. Those needs have not changed.  

 

Then came the current era of true colours. Olivia has been living with the realization that her companion has shown her evil stripes beyond their own relationship. Her conscience has now gotten the better side of her and that is why suddenly, out of the blue, these secret encounters with Angela have been taking place. She needed to say something directly to her about Jean’s carefully orchestrated in-house unsavory behaviour and her masterminded scheme to regain lost territory, to destroy the life of one very good person and destroy an incredible and widely envied friendship. Poof!  It had to happen and The Driver handled the  swing to perfection.

 

Common decency stepped forward even further when Olivia had to mentally prepare herself for a serious medical operation. With that added burden on her mind, the time was right to expose the more blatant truth about what actually happened to Angela and Faith’s friendship.

 

Olivia’s secret phone call to Angela, two days before the operation, spelled it out much more clearly than during any of their previous talks over the previous months. No more vagueness. No more beating around the bush. No more careful attempts to soften the blow. No more Shh! They talked for nearly an hour and the news was both shocking and enlightening. Poof! The light switched on.

 

It turns out that the great friend that Angela had suddenly and surprisingly lost, was “owned” by The Driver, the master manipulator who was jealous of the time they spent together, the praises they expressed to one another, and the fun they shared day after day after day. It was a relationship she had wanted exclusively for herself and it was taking away one to one time that the two of them once enjoyed. Angela, the outsider, was a problem.  Problems like that needed to be dealt with. 

 

Jealous Jean — a cultist, needed to gain back her control and reconquer the lost time and territory she used to enjoy with Faith. An intruder had entered her property and that was simply not within the edicts of her upbringing. 

 

Fake news and fake stories about Angela, gleefully told to Faith, became The Driver’s prized and ultimately effective weapons, her own shiny surgical tools to perform a delicate operation in support of her secret personal plot to eliminate the bond and terminate the friendship between the two. Her resolve was to drive the friendship not only to the ground, but into a deep, dark pit. Those tools successfully worked to meet her intended end results — a direct hit that would make any hope of reconciliation impossible. The cat was now out of the bag and within that bag there was more to tell.

 

One cold and windy April night, seven years ago, possessive and jealous Jean went for the kill with a series of toxic stories about things Angela had apparently said or done. Those made up tales, delivered with confidence, choked and shocked a mentally unstable and vulnerable Faith. 

 

Hyperbole, distortions and poisonous lies. Faith took it all in and clammed up just like she did during her traumatic childhood experiences. Confused, dizzy, uncomfortable and lost in the rubble once again. She was stunned as the curtain suddenly fell right in front of her — no time for even a final bow.

 

Shh, say nothing, just walk away.

 

Poof!  The Driver’s strategy went from slow and easy to a massive bang. A hole in one.

 

Jealous Jean did not want Angela the outsider in her own life nor in the life of her Olivia — that was clear. But, what was now also perfectly clear was that that particular outsider was not to be a part of Faith’s life either.

 

The story of jealousy and cruelty shared by Olivia that stormy night, was as sharp as the thin, shiny blade of the surgical knife held solely and firmly by The Driver — clearly a troubled cousin of Dracula’s maker and a story character that is a cross between a witch and a bitch!

 

The ultimate secret of this daunting tale of jealous Jean and a possibly forever lost friendship has been unleashed and unraveled, and now someone else can carry that truth forward. Will it be Jealous Jean, the driver, herself? Not likely. Will it be Olivia or will it be Angela? Possibly. Or, will it just rest under the rubble because there are no prosthetics that can possibly ever do this sad, crippled cold case justice?

 

A seven year mystery exposed. Many complex and traumatized personalities unravelled. A sad friend left even sadder. Broken hearts. Broken souls. Broken secrets. Broken lives.  Poof!   

Even though life is a mess

It is still a test

Of our very best

Before we come to rest

At that point Angela decided that her patience had expired. It was now time to speak out. There would be no more hushing. The hushing had to end and the truth needed to be not only expressed, but heard. 

 

She picks up the phone and dials Faith’s number. The answering machine intervenes with a familiar voice saying:  this number is no longer in service but leave a message and I will get back to you at some point.  It was Jean’s voice on Faith’s machine. It felt like a mirror had shattered or that the teacher’s long, manicured fingernails took a long, screeching journey down the chalkboard.

 

Huh?, she wonders as her blood curdled and her perplexed mind flashed back through all aspects of this peculiar, daunting saga.  

Something still isn’t right — that’s still obvious.   

She puts down her fogged up bi-focal glasses, closes her creative writing book in front of her, and then says in a sad and cracking voice: 

I can’t see anymore; can’t hear anymore; can’t even believe anymore. My Faith and my faith have gone.  Poof! Gone, and it was just that easy. This carefully and successfully manipulated chapter of a forever incomplete manuscript will never, ever get to being right!

 

At the same time, while feeling mentally strangled, Angela hears, in the background, the familiar and still meaningless words of Faith, clearly still daunted, consumed and naked, and still, after all these years, lost and confined in a darkness:  

 

Shh! it is what it is and we just move on. End of story.

 

Through the corners of her crying eyes, her imagination sees Jealous Jean lurking nearby, holding out her hand to Faith. They walk away, hand in hand, without a care in the world. And, so the story goes.