by thea marie
Backstory introducing Miss J.J. Hart, daughter of Jonathan and Jennifer Hart/Hart to Hart
|This is the first in a series of stories featuring the late-in-life daughter of Jonathan and Jennifer Hart of the 80's series, Hart to Hart.
* The rest of the series can be found at:
The Queen of Harts and a Diamond
"Marie, I’m going to take a walk out back. Will you please tell that daughter of mine, if she shows up while I’m out, to get a shower and to be ready to have dinner with her father and me when he gets in."
Jennifer Hart strolled out onto the rear grounds of the estate, Willow Pond, that she shared with her husband, Jonathan, their daughter, J.J., and Marie, their housekeeper. Freely roaming the house and the gardens was their third generation mutt, Freeway III, nicknamed Third.
The warm California summer sun felt good on her skin after being cooped up inside in the air-conditioning, all morning with her writing. She breathed deeply, taking in the comforting, earthy scents carried by the breezes that softly played across the lawn. The abundant green foliage danced and swayed as she slowly passed through it. She loved being out here. It was soothing and relaxing, and she found that the serene ambiance served to clear her head when her writing was giving her a hard time.
The piece that she had been working on was not going as smoothly as she planned, and when she began to feel the twinges of a headache coming on, she decided to take a break. The article was supposed to examine the erosion of self-esteem in adolescent females in western culture, but she was having a hard time concentrating. Her thoughts kept drifting back to her own experiences and to what might lie ahead for J.J.
Her daughter was now twelve. The age was significant to her in that her own life had changed so dramatically at twelve. That was the year that her mother, Suzanne, had been killed in an auto accident. Her father, Stephen Edwards had not coped well during the difficult time that followed.
During her early childhood, while her mother had been living, her father spent a great deal of time traveling the world as an art dealer. It was the mutual understanding between the couple that as the mother, Suzanne would be mainly involved in raising their child. With the sudden loss of his beloved wife, Stephen was left with a huge void in his personal life and a prepubescent daughter he felt inadequate to raise on his own.
Subsequently, he enrolled his daughter in a proper young ladies’ boarding school, and immersed himself in his work in the art galleries of the world. He telephoned often and visited her when he could or when necessity dictated it. On holidays, her free time was spent with him at home in Maryland or accompanying him on his trips around the world with his gallery work.
Eventually, after a period of adjustment that lasted some years, they finally developed a strong bond. She knew that her father loved her, and she in turn loved him, but her life had never been the same after losing her beautiful mother to whom she had been so close.
To further the resulting feelings of loneliness, emptiness and confusion; shortly after that twelfth year, she underwent a rapid transformation from a skinny, coltish redhead with freckles into a tall, curvaceous, striking young woman. The unruly red hair darkened into a wavy mane of shades of auburn, minimizing the sprinkling of freckles across her nose and cheeks.
Everywhere she went it seemed that she turned heads, but she found it all very disconcerting. All of a sudden and out of nowhere, boys were tripping over themselves trying to gain her attentions and affections. Never having been a boy-crazy teen, or one to actively seek excessive attention, she had been totally unprepared for all of it. Her girlfriends at school tended to not understand why she didn't enjoy the persistent entreaties of the young men who ventured from the neighboring boys’ school to meet her.
With no one to tell her how to handle it, she had essentially avoided it all by pouring herself into her studies, thereby giving herself time to figure it all out on her own. She focused instead on developing the things that she knew to be positive about herself: her intelligence, her love of people and life, and her ability to write.
Eventually, she learned by trial and error, by making mistakes and gaining insight from them, to trust in herself and her instincts. When she did begin to date, she found that the guys she tended to attract usually turned out to be superficial, attracted to her physical beauty, or her father’s money; but not to her free spirit and her need for independence. The men to whom she was attracted tended to be seekers of adventure and excitement, but were not appreciative of that same trait in a woman. They all seemed to want to tame her and to make her be what they thought that she should be. It was during those years that she learned to distrust most men, their actions, and their motives.That is, until she met Jonathan Hart, an American in London, just as she had been at that time.
Nursing her wounds after escaping her most disastrous and destructive relationship, the one with that cad, Elliott Manning, she fled Australia to return to New York. Dealing with Elliott had nearly broken her spirit, and she decided to make writing her career and her life.
Traveling the globe, she had become quite successful in her chosen line of work. After Elliott, who still left a bad taste in her mouth, she had come to believe that exclusive relationships and/or marriage were not in her future. Certainly there would be no children for her. She could not see or feel herself as a mother to anyone. Not ties for Jennifer Edwards. There would be no need to trust anyone but herself, and nobody to or for whom she had to be accountable- no guessing and no game playing.
Working as an investigative reporter, she was dispatched from New York to London to work, assigned to secure an interview with Jonathan Hart, the self-made millionaire from Los Angeles, California. There was a lot of unusual speculation as to why he was in London, and it was her assignment to find out the actual reason.
After many unsuccessful attempts to contact him, it was only by pure chance that she happened upon the man that would so change her life.
From the moment she turned on that bar stool to meet his crystal blue eyes, she knew right away that Jonathan Hart was indeed a different sort of man. Immediately something electric passed between them and connected their spirits. No man before him had ever been able to touch her soul with just one look as he had done that day. From the first time that he uttered her name, "Jennifer", she was his to do with whatever he wanted.
What she didn't know at the time was that he had already decided that she was going to be with him for the rest of his life, and what Jonathan Hart put his mind to, he usually achieved. She had been no exception.
Wrapping her arms around herself, she smiled quietly at those fond memories. She stopped out there in the open and lifted her face to the azure sky. Closing her eyes, she allowed the warmth and light of the bright sun and her fond memories to wash over her.
Their first ten years together had been pure magic. They married quickly and began an odyssey of love that carried them around the world several times and into adventures, danger, and intrigue. Jonathan encouraged her independence and her writing. She supported him in his business ventures and marveled in his seemingly insatiable need for excitement. He encouraged her to take chances and to trust him. She harnessed his restless spirit and kept him grounded.
And they made love. Wonderfully. Endlessly. Everywhere.
Jonathan’s childhood mentor, Max, lived with them then. He managed the estate, served as their driver, and generally looked after the two of them. It wasn’t easy for him. It was murder on his nerves because they often found themselves in tight spots due to her boundless curiosity as well as Jonathan's nerve andhis penchant for attracting danger. Quite often, Max found himself caught up in the middle of one of their escapades.
It was at the beginning of that tenth year that things began to change. She had gone out into the field to conduct some in-depth research for a story about a special medical evacuation unit that was being reactivated after years of dormancy. In the course of her investigation, she inadvertently discovered an illegal operation related to the history of the unit.
In an attempt to get rid of the evidence that she had uncovered, the main suspect had gotten onto the estate and into the house. He set fire to her files and to her desk. As it happened, she and Jonathan had gone away for a weekend rest at their cabin, and Max, who remained behind was, very fortunately, outside taking their dog, Freeway Jr. for a middle of the night walk.
The house and all of its contents burned to the ground. Almost nothing could be salvaged. All that remained intact were the things that were stored in a huge vault under the house; pictures, her manuscripts, and some sentimental items, one of them being a hideous crystal vase that she never could stand.
Following that disaster, the three of them rented a house off the Pacific coast until the house in Bel Air could be rebuilt. It was there at the beach house that Max became so ill. Jonathan arranged for the best doctors and treatment that his considerable money could buy, but there was little that could be done other than to make him comfortable. Before he went in for his final surgery, Max called the two of them to his bedside.
"Jonathan, I just want you to know that you have been the son that I never had." He said in his craggy voice which illness had softened to almost a whisper. "I couldn’a been prouder of you if you had been my own kid. You are what I’m leavin’ here after I’m gone to let everybody know that I was here and I done some good."
Jonathan, unable to speak, simply leaned down and tenderly kissed Max’s cheek. It had been a powerful, and at the same time poignant gesture between two such macho men.
Max then took her by both hands, and at the moment they touched, something electric flowed between them. At the time, she had dismissed it as a surge of emotion brought on by the solemn moment.
"Jennifer," He said. "You continue to stick with this bum. You are the best thing that ever happened to him- to both of us. You and him have taken each other to a lot of places since you’ve been together, but Jonathan’s gonna take you someplace you never thought that you’d go. But it’s someplace you need to go, trust me. Trust him. No matter what happens, you two get on with the exciting business of life. You got lots more to do yet."
She could recall looking to Jonathan, and him returning the questioning look she'd sent. Max merely smiled and closed his eyes.
That had been their last converstion. He died during the surgery.
Stopping again, she wiped away the tears from her face as she recalled the doctor coming out to the waiting room to tell them that Max was gone. Then she resumed her slow walk, running her hands through her hair, pulling the stray strands that the breeze had blown loose out of her face and off her neck, once more securing it all in the clamp she had earlier placed in her hair.
After the funeral, according to arrangements Max made before his surgery and left for them in a letter that he had written to them, they went to Montreal and sailed up the St. Lawrence on a trip meant to heal them. The letter contained specific instructions that he wanted them to follow.
He'd set it up as sort of a scavenger hunt, and that had been fun. They ran into some trouble and got out of it, as usual. But, three months after Max’s passing and after that trip, she found that she still could not get herself together.
Listless and lethargic, and totally turned off by even the thought of eating anything, she attributed her symptoms to depression. It got so bad that she considered seeking professional help, thinking that her symptoms might be somehow related, somewhere in her subconscious, to having lost her mother as a child.
Jonathan became especially concerned when she started uncharacteristically sleeping for long periods of time during the day. He insisted upon her seeing her medical doctor before seeking out the psychologist.Three months after Max’s death, during that visit to the doctor, they were informed that her 'depression' was actually a pregnancy smoothly progressing into its second trimester.
She would be forty that year and Jonathan was going on forty-five. After all that time, it couldn’t be that a baby was coming their way. She knew that Jonathan always wanted children. Her position on the subject had softened somewhat, but that was mostly out of her love for him. They, mostly he, had decided after the fifth year of their marriage that if a child came it would be fine. Nothing had been done to prevent a pregnancy, and when it didn’t happen, they accepted that they were not meant to be parents and they had moved on with their lives.Then there was this.
She remembered wondering then as she still sometimes did if that was the place that Jonathan was supposed to take her? The place that she needed to go of which Max had spoken? Was that what he meant when he said that they weren’t finished with the exciting business of life? Had Max facilitated their conceiving when he held her hands that day? Had that been what she felt?
Their lives had definitely changed, but it was a totally new adventure. The baby, a little girl, was born just as the house at Willow Pond had been rebuilt and refurnished enough for them to move back in. Calculating back from the time that she was born, it appeared that J.J. had been conceived on that trip that Max arranged for them.
Marie, one of Max's good friends, had been the housekeeper on the Thornton estate next door to them in Bel Air. She told them that she had longed admired them because she could tell that they were so genuinely enamored of each other. Max, she said, always spoke lovingly of them to her of their escapades. Marie seemed especially fond of her. She said that she could tell that there was even more joy to come for them. She and Max knew that a baby was in their future. She said that they both knew that there was too much love between them for there not to be a living legacy as testimony of that love.
That had been such a nice thing to hear at such an otherwise unsettlinging time in her life.
Once she learned of her their child-to-be, Marie terminated her employment with the Thorntons and came to work for them per the arrangement that, unbeknownst to them, she and Max had made in the event that he didn't make it. The Thornton's spent much of the year away from their Bel Air home, so she was not needed as much with them. Her presence in their home allowed them to raise their child while she took care of the house, the way they would have been able to do if Max had still been with them.
Their arrangement must have given Max much comfort in his final days. He had even written them a letter of recommendation for her. It wasn’t needed. Once she presented herself to them, she had been with them ever since. She was competent, trustworthy, flexible, and a welcome addition to their home.
Jonathan, having been an orphan as a child, was thrilled at finally being a father and wanted to name the baby Jennifer Justine,for her. But she had insisted on reversing the names to allow the child her individuality. She was finally named Justine Jennifer Hart, but had been nicknamed "J.J" by her father who thought her formal name a bit much for somebody so tiny at the time of her birth. The nickname stuck, and as time progressed, it turned out to be a perfect fit.
From the beginning, J.J. had been bright, fun loving, mischievous, and adventurous. She greatly resembled her mother, but had inherited her father’s twinkling blue eyes. Always full of energy, she was game for anything. She traveled extremely well, so they didn't have to curtail their comings and goings much until J.J. started school.
To keep from pulling J.J. from school, she began to try to limit herself more to writing assignments that kept her close to home.If it became necessary for her to leave to pursue her work, Jonathan would happily rearrange his schedule to be at home. If that was a problem, J.J. would go with her and, and she would schedule a tutor. As a result, J.J. was globally knowledgeable and like her mother, who spoke several languages, J.J. at twelve, was displaying the same talent. She spoke French and Spanish fluently, and they were working together on her mastering German.
Given her initial reluctance to have a child, she was still sometimes amazed by her depth of feeling for that little girl. A mother’s love was something that she heard and read about, but the actual experience itself had been phenomenal.
Throughout the pregnancy, she had been silently terrified that there would be no room in her heart to love anyone other than Jonathan. For ten years, he had been her entire world. How could anyone else fit? She knew that he desperately wanted the baby. She wanted it for him. What woman would not want his child? He was handsome, kind, generous, sensitive, sexy, wealthy, and all of the things that any woman would want in a man. Her most pressing concern lie in if she could be a good mother to his child.
Patricia, her longtime friend, editor, and subsequently J.J.’s godmother, had been absolutely delighted about the baby and confused by her ambivalence. When she called Pat in New York to tell her of the pregnancy, Pat's initial reaction had been, "Well I’ll be damned!"
Then in her blunt manner, she went right at it.
"What the hell took you so long? Girl, if I had your sweet, sexy, handsome husband,in all this time I would have had six or seven of his babies, and would probably be pregnant again. Jennifer, I declare, you have to be the only woman in the world who would be worried about being knocked up by Jonathan Hart. And you’re his wife, for Christ’s sake!"
Remembering that conversation always made her laugh.
She remembered the nurse placing her newborn into her arms for the first time. Tired, drained, and sleepy she looked down into that brand-new face. The little eyes opened, looking so directly at her. They were blue eyes, just like Jonathan’s eyes.
When reaching to touch her fascinatingly tiny fingers, the baby flexed, then curled her entire tiny hand around her one finger. Then, as if she knew, the little girl turned her head to nuzzle at her bosom.
" She recognizes her mommy, Jennifer, and she’s hungry." Dr. Kendall whispered down to her from where she stood at her side.
As instinctively as her daughter knew to turn to her, she intuitively moved her gown aside and placed her nipple to the baby’s mouth. J.J. closed her eyes and contentedly began to nurse.
Jonathan had been standing over them, watching. She could still feel his hand in her hair as he gently caressed the back of her neck. She had looked up to him to gauge his reaction to witnessing Jennifer Edwards Hart actually nursing a baby. Tears flowed down his beautiful face. His heart had to have also been full. That was his baby that Jennifer Edwards Hart was nursing.
"I love you." He whispered.
It was at that moment that she understood what Max had been saying to them on that final day of his life. The three Harts had arrived safely at that place, and the exciting business of a new life had begun.
J.J. was the crown jewel of their union. Jonathan adored her, and she delighted in her daddy. They were a lot alike in nature, so it was a constant effort to keep the two of them reined in. Having grown up in an orphanage with nothing until he met Max, Jonathan tended to want to spoil J.J. and to give her the world. She was only four weeks old when he commissioned her first diamond: a gold bracelet with her parents’ personal logo; the two intertwined hearts with "J" engraved on each. In the middle of these two hearts, at the place where they were joined, a diamond had been set.
"That’s you." He said to his daughter, pointing to the sparkling stone. "A diamond made from two J.'s."
That bracelet was still on J.J.'s wrist.
She, herself, had been a product of an affluent home and background, and had witnessed first hand in her friends and acquaintances the damage that overindulging a child could cause. She allowed him the bracelet, but not a whole lot more- at least not without a fight. She made it her mission to ensure that J.J. grow up as close to normal as possible, but with Jonathan Hart for her father, it was an ongoing daily struggle.
On their ranch and on her father’s horse farm in Maryland, places they visited more often since J.J.’s birth, the baby learned to ride a horse before she could walk. Jonathan started it off by riding with the weeks-old infant strapped to his chest. From the start, J.J. loved horses and being outdoors. Shortly before J.J. was one, despite her vigorous protests, Jonathan placed J.J. on the back of a pony. J.J. picked up the reins in her tiny hands and confidently rode with her daddy walking alongside.
By age five she could lead that same horse to the fence or a railing where she would climb up to mount him and ride off alone. Now, twelve, she was absolutely fearless.
They had always approached parenting differently. While she taught J.J. her letters, numbers, colors, and how to read and love books, Jonathan was teaching her to recognize shapes and to do mathematics using playing cards. He taught her about probability using the racing forms and dice. And it was through her father that she learned the importance of being able to read people.
She wanted her to dance the ballet, take piano lessons, and to love the opera. It turned out, however, that J.J. preferred jazz, dancing to pop music, going to Lakers' basketball games, was a diehard Raiders fan, played piano by ear, and liked nothing better than racing through the skies in her father’s airplane. She excelled in all things physical and had Jonathan’s strong competitive spirit. Ever-active, she played baseball, basketball, tennis, soccer, and to her mother’s consternation, football, the ponies and poker.
Saturday mornings were reserved for Jonathan to take their daughter up for rides in his Piper. It delighted J.J. to no end that her father could fly his own airplanes. However, she also suspected that Jonathan and Frank their personal pilot on the Hart Industries jet were teaching J.J. to fly the Piper. They spent far too much time in those planes with that girl to just be flying around with her.
J.J. also shared her father’s talent for manipulating electronics and locks. It was only by circumstance that she learned that her, then eight-year-old daughter, knew how to override the security system on the estate.
There had been an electrical storm, and she and J.J. found themselves locked outside of the malfunctioning massive front gates. After a slight nervous hesitation, J.J. quietly asked for a nail file and a credit card. Looking in question at her after getting the suspect request, she could see something in J.J.'s eyes. She dug into her purse and handed her the things for which she had asked.
J.J. got out, nimbly climbed up on the hood of the car, and picked open the locked circuit box. After a little maneuvering inside of it, the gates swung open. J.J. jumped down and slid back into the car without a word, handing back the items back. Then she proceeded to look out of the window in order to not meet her mother's eyes.
She had only asked one question of her, "Your father?" as she drove in, looking straight ahead.
J.J. never answered that question.
It didn't matter; she didn’t have to say a word because the answer was evident. J.J. and Jonathan didn’t tell everything, which was probably for the best.
Having reached the back end, Jennifer could see Third nosing about in the brush and flowers around the gazebo, and she figured that J.J. was most likely sitting inside. The two of them, her daughter and her dog, were seldom far apart when they were at home.
Approaching the gazebo, she could see what appeared to be two figures through the heavy lattice. Third ran up to her brushing himself against her legs, begging to be petted, and she obliged him, reaching down to rub his hairy head. Going around to the opening of the gazebo, there to her complete surprise was J.J. engaged in a kiss with a friend of hers, Tommy Steele, a frequent visitor to their home.
"Ahem." She cleared her throat, stepping around to the front of the gazebo with both hands on her hips.
The children jumped apart, eyes wide with shock.
Tommy grabbed his football and without saying a word, bolted from the gazebo, gingerly moving around the woman standing in the entrance. J.J. remained frozen to the bench, her eyes glued to her mother.
Saying nothing, Jennifer crooked her finger, gesturing for J.J. to come with her. They walked back toward the house, child following mother. Third following them both.
J.J.'s mind was whirling, not sure what was coming next, but sure that she was in big trouble. Alternately, she felt hot, then cold, and then clammy. Her stomach was doing backward flips.
"Just stay calm." She told herself while watching her mother’s back as they continued through the yard. "Just wait for her and follow her lead. I am so dead…"
They reached the house. Jennifer stood aside and held the door open for J.J., then she closed the door behind her, leaving Third outside whimpering in confusion.
"No witnesses." J.J. noted to herself. "I'm totally in for it."
She looked up at her mother beseechingly, in a last ditch effort to either read her or garner her sympathy.
But Jennifer ignored the pleading eyes, shaking her head and motioning with her finger for J.J. to continue to follow her. They walked through the house in that manner and passed Marie who was watering the fresh flowers by the front door.
Marie could tell from their body language that there was trouble. As she continued her work, she peered questioningly at J.J., who lowering her head and throwing up her hands in silent surrender, walked on past.
Mother and daughter continued up the front staircase to the master bedroom.
"Please, please, please don’t let my daddy be in there." J.J. prayed silently as they approached the door. "I can’t take a double-teaming on this one."
Upon entering the room, she didn’t see or hear her father. But she did hear her mother close the door behind them.
"Oh God, please…."
aking her back into the dressing room, Jennifer gestured for J.J. to sit down on the bench at her dressing table.
She took the thin shoulders in her hands and turned her daughter so that she was facing the mirror. In it, J.J. could see her own smudged face and terrified eyes.
Then, in one quick move, Jennifer reached down to J.J.’s waist and pulled the dirty tee shirt she was wearing over her head, which left her undeveloped chest exposed.
"Mom!" J.J. whined, quickly crossing her hands over her bosom to cover her nakedness.
"Oh puh’leese" Jennifer said softly, pulling her daughter’s hands down to her lap. "Even if you had something other than those two dots up there, I am familiar with the territory. Besides, it’s just us in here."
J.J. looked into the mirror, watching her mother’s eyes which were now looking into her eyes.
"I just want you to watch." Jennifer said quietly.
J.J. did watch as her mother removed the band that held her messy ponytail.
Jennifer picked up her hairbrush from the dressing table and began slowly brushing and smoothing her daughter’s hair. It was thick and lush like Jonathan’s, curly like hers used to be at that age. She pulled back the loose strands that had fallen into her face.
J.J.’s thoughts raced as she continued to watch her mother’s face in the mirror.
"Is she mad at me? What’s she going to do to me? What are her eyes saying?"
As if she could hear her, Jennifer repeated, "Just watch."
As Jennifer continued to brush her hair back away from her face, J.J. began to examine her mother's face in the mirror. She noticed that her mother’s auburn hair was also pulled back, held there with a clip. Usually she wore it down in soft curls that swept across her forehead and reached down to her shoulders. They both watched.
Starting at the top, J.J. began comparing. Her hair was red with flecks of bronze and gold. Her mother's was red, but a couple of shades darker with the same bronze and gold highlights. They had the same hairline with the pronounced widow’s peak and the same high forehead. Both faces bore the same clearly defined dark eyebrows. J.J. stared into her mother’s honey brown almond shaped eyes with her own almond shaped blue eyes. There were the same cheekbones, the same nose with its sprinkling of freckles, the same slight cleft in the chin, and since she was too scared and confused to smile, her mother’s mouth.
"Mom, am I beginning to look like you?"
"You've always looked like me."
J.J. had never paid too much attention to her looks. At twelve she thought she was average looking and kind of skinny. She focused more on what she could do. Could she be the fastest runner? Could she help her team out-play the other team? Had she done her best in school? Did she make her daddy laugh or her mother smile?
She had long been aware that her parents were wealthy, important people-her father an industrialist and her mother a well-known journalist. To her, they were just her parents. The other things could be embarrassing at times, especially when her daddy drove his Rolls Royce to drop her off and pick her up from school. For her, the less said about money, the better.
What she was more acutely aware of was that her mother was beautiful.
She had seen how people could not take their eyes off of her when she entered a room, especially when she was all dressed up. She watched as her father’s powerful, important businessmen friends turned stupid when her mother came around them. She noticed how her father’s gaze sometimes fixed on his wife as if she were one of those exquisite works of art they often took her to see.
She herself had been captivated watching her mother when she was with her father. She seemed to almost glow, and he acted like he was with someone very special when he was with her. Having a beautiful mother had always been a source of great pride for J.J.
At that moment, watching her mother’s face watch hers in the mirror, Jennifer Hart was scary beautiful.
"Do you see, J.J.?" she heard her mother ask as she held her hair in her hands.
"That I’m going to look just like you?"
"Your blue eyes are going to make your face a lot more interesting."
"Mom?" J.J. tilted her head slightly to the side, while keeping her eyes locked on her mother’s. "How come you got me sitting here with no shirt, as naked as a jaybird?
"Jennifer smiled and sat down next to J.J.
"Two things." She began. "First, I didn’t want to be distracted by that filthy shirt. Your dirty face is enough. Secondly, I wanted to tell you that I was just as flat up there as you are now when I was twelve."
J.J. discreetly allowed her eyes to travel to her mother’s bosom.
Jennifer was wearing a knit tip with a low cut neckline that tastefully displayed cleavage.
"For real." She answered.
They sat together, side by side, in silence for a moment. Then Jennifer asked, "Do you remember when I told you about having a period?"
"Yeah, how could I forget." J.J. frowned. "I’m still disgusted."
"Well, get used to the idea. It could happen any day now. When it does, liebchen, all of it begins to happen, and overnight you are going to be a physical beauty."
"Mom!" J.J. protested, instantly turning red.
"It’s a fact." Jennifer stated flatly. "Not because you’re mine, but because you will be. That is a reality. It’s not meant to be a compliment."
Jennifer turned and straddled the bench to take her daughter's hands in her own. She pulled her around so that they were facing each other. Placing a finger under the small chin, she lifted it so that the two of them were eye to eye. At times, J.J. found her mother's eyes disturbing, especially when she had gotten herself into trouble with her, but she was compelled at that moment to look into them as she obviously meant for her to do.
When her mother spoke, she listened carefully.
"J.J., beauty is a blessing, but it can also be a burden. When something is ugly on the outside, you don’t want too much to do with it at first. You tend to move away from it. If you come back to it, it’s because you’ve discovered something good about it that you like despite the fact that you may not find it physically attractive.
Beauty, on the other hand, tends to attract immediately. When you're physically attractive, people want to be with you whether they know the real you or not. Do you understand what I’m saying?"
J.J. nodded slightly. "I think so. It's like when people know that you're rich or they find out who Daddy is, they want to be my friend."
Jennifer nodded and asked, "Why were you kissing Tommy out there?"
J.J. blushed again. She tried to look away, but Jennifer brought her face back around with her finger.
"I want to know."
"He said that he wanted to kiss me." J.J. shamefacedly answered.
"Did you want to kiss him?"
"I don’t know. Sort of…well…yes…I guess so. I hadn’t ever kissed a boy before."Jennifer rolled her eyes. There it was, that damned Hart need for adventure…
"What were you and Tommy doing before he asked to kiss you?"
"We were playing football."
Putting it together, Jennifer nodded knowingly, "Tackle?"
"He wasn’t supposed to." J.J. answered, sounding a little confused. "It was supposed to be touch…"
Jennifer shook her head.
"And so it begins." She thought to herself. "Jonathan’s whole head is going to be silver."
She took J.J.’s hands in hers again. "J.J., Tommy is your friend. He has been your friend for a while now, but today he wanted to kiss you because you are a girl, a pretty girl. That’s what he sees and what I wanted you to see in the mirror. You have a lot blessings that will make people want to be with you. You will have to be careful that people want to be with you because of you-not your looks, not because of who your father is, not your money-just you."
J.J. surveyed her mother quickly from head to foot.
"But didn’t my daddy like you because of your looks?" She asked.
Jennifer smiled, remembering that very first meeting, those blue eyes and that infectious smile.
"Yes, I think so, and I liked his looks- at first. But that’s not what’s kept us together all these years. We love each other because of who we are and what we do for each other."
Looking deeply into that precious freckled face and thinking about that article that she was working on, she squeezed J.J.'s hands and said to her sincerely, "I just want you to be a happy, fully finished person- not just a pretty face. I want you to grow up understanding that the lovely package will require that you be smart and perceptive about people and their motives. Take your time, J.J. and kiss only the people that you want to kiss. Be sure of the reasons why you want to kiss."
J.J. looked down at her mother’s hands that still held hers.
"I shouldn’t have kissed Tommy, should I?. There wasn’t a right reason."
Her heart melting, Jennifer pulled her daughter to her. She held her close, resting her chin of top of the child’s head. Even after all the years that had gone by, it still sometimes hurt that her own mother had not been able to be there for her. Pa tried, but it just wasn't the same.
"You’re a little young yet." She said softly. "Wait a little while before the next kiss. You wanted to see what it was like. Now you know."
"Yeah, well it wasn’t all that." J.J. quietly admitted. "In fact, I really don’t see what all the hype is over kissing boys. It was really kind of icky."
"Good." Jennifer thought with some relief.
She felt J.J. wrap her arms around her, sigh deeply, and relax. The small heart was beating fast and hard against her, and she knew that J.J. was fearful of her reaction and had been terrified for the last few minutes. Feeling sorry for her and really wanting to just chuckle ar her antics, she rubbed J.J.’s back and rocked her gently to calm her. This wasn't one to share with Jonathan.
She suspected that there might be a lot more mother and daughter secrets to be kept between them in the years to come. She would laugh about this by herself later. Maybe this day would be a beginning in helping J.J. make the transitions that she would soon face. Maybe not.
One thing was assured, as long as it was within her power to be there, she resolved that J.J. would always have her mother to turn to when she didn't understand what was happening to or around her. Nothing would be too difficult to discuss.
J.J. Hart was hers, her own personal adventure in the exciting business of life.
"Max," she thought, "You were so right."
She held J.J. closer, kissed the top of her head, and closed her eyes sending her a mother's love, Hart to Hart.
And for the first time in a long time she could see her own mother’s face.She was smiling down on both of them.
To read other stories in this series, please visit J.J.'s Room: