This little idea just popped up one evening. I can’t even remember what brought it on, but I’m sure “The Empire Strikes Back” was involved somehow. It’s not connected to the universe I dreamed up. This is stand-alone story that fits anywhere into the Voyage timeline.
Harriman was the first to see the shock and surprise ripple over the face of his oldest friend. Alarmed, Harry spun around expecting to see an armed contingent of gunmen forcing their way through the crowd.
Instead there were only the expected party-goers. In particular, Commander Lee Crane stood in the midst of a small crowd of middle-aged women, among them his own mother, Teresa.
“Jiggs, you eat something that didn’t agree with you?” Nelson asked with a smirk.
“What? Oh, yes, olives. Olives always give me heartburn. I didn’t know your pet sub commander was going to be here.”
Nelson rolled his eyes and grabbed at a passing Champagne glass as the waiter came by with a fresh tray. “Are we going over this again? Oh, course he’s here. Morton is here as well, if you’d look around. Jiggs, one of these days you’re going to have to tell me what it is about my captain that rubs your fur the wrong way,” Nelson groused. Jiggs continued to cast glances at the knot of women and the dark haired commander.
“The man just doesn’t know his place, that’s all. You spoil him like he was the heir to your throne. I think dose of humility now and then is good for him.”
Nelson just snorted and tossed back the contents of the long stemmed glass. “Well, tonight is not the night to harass my officers. Just leave Lee alone and while you’re at it, you can leave my exec alone. I don’t need you terrifying my officers to satisfy an itch you’ve got up your six.”
Nelson watched as Teresa reached up, gave her son a quick kiss on the check, then separated from the crowd. He shifted his gaze and watched as Jiggs placed his half full glass on a nearby table.
“Excuse me, Harry. I just thought of something I need to check on. I’ll be back in a minute.” Without further explanation, Jiggs Starke walked away. For second, Nelson could have sworn that Jiggs was following Teresa Crane. Not possible, the two had never met, to Nelson’s knowledge.
Teresa loved her son dearly but it was hot inside the ballroom and she desperately needed some space. She gave her son a quick kiss and explained she was going out for some air but she’d be back shortly.
She made her leisurely way out to the well-kept gardens with its burbling fountain and the cool night breeze. In groups of two or three, other happy party-goers met outside, all abuzz concerning the newest research grant.
Teresa found a secluded area near the fountain and leaned against the concrete pool, drawing her fingers over the cool water. She wasn’t thinking about any in particular, just that she was happy for her son. He loved it here at the Institute and Teresa couldn’t have wanted anything more for him.
Teresa Crane spun to face the old voice. It was a voice she hadn’t heard in over thirty years and it made her heart skip a beat. “Jiggs? Do they still call you Jiggs?” she asked as he emerged from the darkness.
“When they’re being kind. You look as lovely as when I last saw you.”
“Jiggs, that was thirty some years ago. I have a few more gray hairs and a few more wrinkles since then. You’re looking well. You know Admiral Nelson?”
“We ran together back in our Academy days.”
“Lord have mercy on the Navy,” Teresa replied tartly. Jiggs only smiled.
“How’s Roger?” Jiggs asked. Teresa’s smile faded and she turned away from the admiral.
“Lung cancer. Jiggs, he missed seeing Lee making Commander.”
Jiggs reached out, touching the woman’s shoulder and brushing back her long, dark hair.
“Teresa, sweetheart, I’m so sorry. I know how much Roger meant to you. How long ago?”
Teresa took a deep shuddering breath, clearly not over the shock of losing her husband. “Two years ago. I miss him so much. Sometimes, if I close my eyes and call his name, I can still feel his hands, smell his cologne, and hear his voice…”
In a moment that would have had Harriman wondering what had happened to his friend, Jiggs gathered the grieving widow close to him, giving her a shoulder to cry on.
After a few minutes, Teresa got herself under control and pulled away from Jiggs’ embrace.
“You always were there for me. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had said yes to you.”
Jiggs raise her chin with a finger, staring into her hazel eyes. After all this time Jiggs had to admit he was still in love with her. He had asked her to marry him and she had turned him down, afraid she couldn’t be a Navy wife. Jiggs accepted that but he never stopped loving her. He had been puzzled but happy to hear that two months after he had asked her, she had married a Navy pilot, Roger Crane.
“Never did understand what you saw in a flyboy. What did he have that I couldn’t give you?” Jiggs asked quietly, giving voice to a question he had been asking himself for over thirty years.
Teresa pulled away and walked around the fountain, putting its bulk between her and her old flame.
“Jiggs. Roger was there. I loved him, as much as I loved you. But you were gone, I couldn’t get a hold of you and by the time I found out, I had to make a choice. I couldn’t wait for you to come back to me. Roger never knew and I never had the heart to tell him.”
Jiggs frowned in confusion. “Teresa, you’re not making sense.”
“Jiggs, I turned you down and you shipped out. I couldn’t find you without announcing to the world why. Roger came along and he was the answer I prayed for. When he asked me to marry him, I said yes. I told him I was pregnant and I told him the baby was his.”
Jiggs felt his world come crashing in on him. Revelations were coming to light that he never expected to see. “Teresa, love. I need you to be straight with me. You were pregnant, Roger asked you to marry him and you said yes so you could have a father for the baby? Is that what you’re saying?”
Teresa nodded. “My parents would have disowned me if I had told them I conceived a child out of wedlock. Roger was my salvation. He loved my son like he was his own. I never had the heart to tell either of them the truth.”
Jiggs felt something in his stomach take a crash dive. He licked his dry lips and forced the words out past a parched throat.
“Love, how many children do you have?”
“One son, Jiggs. Lee is my only son.”