Out and About is the second book in the Cathedral Lake series. This story takes place about eight years after book one, Type and Cross, and is told from the points of view of Jensen Keller and Bella Perish. Today, we’re going to get to know Jensen a little better.
Cathedral Lake is a fictional town in Western Pennsylvania where the series takes place. We learn a little about the town history in book two, through Jensen and Bella. Jensen is Royce and Vanessa’s son, Hope and Faith’s brother. He was a graduating high school senior in Royce and Vanessa’s story, and he was selected to be the valedictorian. It was through his speech that we began to get a sense of who he is, but his character is finally fleshed out in Out and About.
Hair: Light brown, wavy
Occupation: Currently unemployed, just graduated with an advanced degree from the University of Pennsylvania
Quirks: Cracks knuckles (which really bothers his dad)
Jensen has agreed to meet me this afternoon at Cathedral Lake for a little chat. I “bribed” him by telling him I’d bring cappuccino from his favorite coffeehouse, Common Grounds, and cinnamon rolls from the food truck at the town square. He assured me they weren’t as good as Sylvia’s (his parents’ housekeeper), but they were a close second. (And I didn’t really have to bribe him; he was willing to talk with me. It was just difficult finding a time in his hectic schedule.) I arrive first and select a picnic bench out of the shade of the trees, one of the only places to sit in the beach’s picnic grove that is out in the sun. It’s very warm for March in Pennsylvania. The snow has long since melted and my father has been golfing. Today is sunny, warm. Around fifty degrees. There’s no breeze, which is good. I sip my coffee—black—and wait for Jensen to join me. He walks up a scant two minutes later, and after a quick greeting, he digs into the cappuccino and cinnamon rolls. His closed eyes and smile of satisfaction when he takes the first bite tell me I made a good choice—even if Sylvia’s are better.
Jensen: Hi. Nice to see you again. It’s been a while. And thanks for the snack. (He raises his glass in kind of a salute.) So, should we just jump right in?
Me: Sure. First, I do want to thank you for carving some time out for me today. I know your schedule is crazy. Want to tell everybody why you’re so busy?
Jensen: (He swallows and wipes his hands and mouth on a paper napkin.) Well, I would, but doesn’t that kind of reveal too much of the book?
Me: You have a point. Still, I think people who haven’t read any of the Cathedral Lake books might be interested in meeting you, getting to know a little about you.
Jensen: Okay. What do you think they’d want to know?
Me: Well, you chose to meet here at the lake. I know it holds some significance for you. Why don’t you tell us what makes Cathedral Lake so special to you?
Jensen: I love it here. I always have. When I was young, before we would travel upstate for weekends at the lake, we had Cathedral Lake right in our hometown. My family was always happy here, picnicking, swimming and rafting. This is where Dad and I were closest, where we had talks about my friends and my future, or just bonded over fishing and floating. And, of course, I have fond memories of hanging out with my sisters here, before our ages and interests took us in different directions. We’d build sand castles or dig holes. It was just a great place for families. Still is.
Me: It sounds like you have some wonderful memories here. Especially given everything that’s happened in your family.
Jensen: I think you might be getting too close to revealing details from the series again.
Me: It’s harder than I thought to stay away from big plot points. (I sigh.) Okay, how about this? Do you still visit here regularly, or do you only go upstate now?
Jensen: I don’t really have the time to spend out of town, especially not long weekends or whole weeks. I’m happy if I can carve out an hour here and there. But Bella and I sneak here sometimes, if we can get away for a quick lunch or an extended work break.
Me: It’s not really sneaking if you’re surrounded by people. This beach gets pretty busy in nice weather, doesn’t it? (I look around. It’s fifty degrees in early March, but there are random couples walking on the beach, some lone joggers, and a few kids riding bikes. Summers saw hundreds, thousands more on any given day.)
Jensen: We don’t usually come to this part of the beach. (He nods toward the far shore, nothing more than a rock-covered beach at the bottom of a steep, grassy knoll which could easily be confused with a gentle mountain slope. Rocks and trees dot the hillside. It is unmarred by man’s penchant to cultivate, and it doesn’t look easy to navigate.) We spend most of our time over there. That’s actually where we met. If you know what you’re looking for, there’s a path from her father’s property down to the hillside.
Me: Don’t tell me you were one of those high school boys who snuck to his girlfriend’s house in the middle of the night.
Jensen: (He laughs.) No. Nothing like that. Besides, you know I didn’t meet her until the summer after I left Penn. It was a rocky start, for sure. But not because of the hillside!
(We both half-laugh, half-groan at the poor pun.)
Me: Things are good with you both now, though?
Jensen: Well, don’t you think people should read our story and see for themselves how it all ended up?
Me: Another good point. I guess it’s hard to tell your story without telling your story, if you know what I mean.
Jensen: (He nods, finishes his drink, and puts all the trash in the take-out bag. Then he glances at his phone.) So, is that it?
Me: I guess you’re about out of time. How about we end with something completely off topic?
Jensen: Sure. Shoot.
Me: I know you don’t consider yourself a foodie, but I also know you love all types of food. Pretty much any nation’s cuisine. Savory or sweet. Meal or snack. If you had to pick a favorite food, what would it be?
Jensen: Just one? Man, that’s hard. I can think of about twenty favorite meals. But, okay, one food only. Um… cherry pie. Homemade cherry pie, with dark cherries—fresh, not the canned crap—and a slightly sweet pastry crust. Can’t beat that. Warm, no ice cream or whipped cream. Just let the fruit and crust stand on their own.
Me: That sounds good. I’ve haven’t had a homemade cherry pie since I was a little girl. Even after this huge cinnamon roll, I could eat a piece.
Jensen: Even after this cinnamon roll, I could eat the whole pie. (He stands, gathers the bag of trash, and shakes my hand.) It was great catching up. Let’s do it again sometime soon.
Me: Well, if you weren’t so busy with—
Jensen: Seriously, Stace. Stop revealing all the secrets from the book.
Me: (I cringe and stand.) Sorry. Like I said before, it’s hard.
Jensen walks me to the parking lot, where he throws away the trash. I’m going through my bag and trying to organize myself. He patiently waits. I tell him he doesn’t have to, but he jokes that too many weird things happen to people alone there. He glances up the hill toward the ruins of the cathedral. I know he’s just teasing me about the “ghost” that haunts the place, but a chill runs through me nonetheless. Must be the wind, right? It is March, even if it’s mild today. He makes sure I get in my car before he heads for his own, and I sneak a peek at the charred remains of the old cathedral. Then I stop dawdling. Whether I want to admit it or not, I’m glad he waited for me. I pull out of the parking lot right before him, glad to have had a few minutes of his time, and even more glad to be away from the cathedral ruins.
So, there you have it. A quick chat with Jensen Keller, one of the main characters of book two of the Cathedral Lake series, Out and About. Whether you’ve read the novel or not, I’d love to know what you think. Leave a comment, and let’s talk about it.