Amid the growing political tension, in the summer of 1922 Lucy and Suzanne decided to travel to Jersey once again. The island was a safe and comfortable place for them. Back in 1916, the Schwob family had boarded the ferry at Saint-Malo for their first of several family get-aways there. The white sandy beaches surrounded by dark rocky cliffs were wonderful for strolling. The fresh air was good for then twenty-one-year-old Lucy's poor health, and the sea made for invigorating swimming. The island's towns offered a blend of English and French culture. Although largely anglophone, many residents spoke French, and quite a few of the streets bore French names. Jersey's local dialect, also derived from French, and its distant Norman heritage and the persistence of many old French surnames among established Jersey families made the island seem familiar. Sometime that year, Lucy penned a never-published novel called "The Happy Island," suggesting that her first visit to Jersey was indeed blissful.
Jersey also provided the Schwobs some important psychological distance from World War I, which was still raging on the continent in 1916, but even on Jersey, the conflict was not quite so distant as the vacationers may have expected. A contingent of Jerseymen had volunteered to fight, and those who remained guarded the island's shoreline. The British army had also established a prisoner-of-war camp on Jersey and brought approximately fifteen hundred German soldiers to St. Brelade's Parish.
The Schwobs stayed at the St. Brelade's Bay Hotel, a gleaming white building overlooking the waves lapping the shoreline. Down the beach to the west, past a granite farmhouse and the parish church, lived several families of fishermen, including the Steels. A teenaged Bob Steel met Lucy, and the two developed a connection. Bob fished and worked as a farmhand, and although Lucy gave no physical description of him in her writings, it's not hard to imagine his muscles toned from physical labor and his skin deeply tanned from the hours on the boat and in the fields. "I'd have gaily thrown my soft, warm body into the merciless fire" for him, she recalled. "How obvious his royalty was to me!" she opined. "That love, so intellectual! To the point of debauchery, to the point of absurdity."
Lucy's attraction to Bob was aesthetic and idealistic, and a bit patronizing. She remembered him as authentic and primitive, a working-class contrast to her well-heeled bourgeois background. They flirted with each other, but both were shy about physical contact.
Bob was not the first young man to lavish attention on Lucy. Her cousin René was serving in the war at the very moment the family was on Jersey, and the letters he sent to Lucy from the trenches revealed his deepest thoughts. Later, in her unpublished memoirs, she would write about how one day, while at home on leave, he had confided to her how poor the military leadership was and of his despair of the war effort. René charmed Lucy with his strong personality and humorous antics, and she felt a deep affection for him. She soon realized that René wanted them to marry. Her father told René that his plan would not work, she recalled, offering a veiled hint that Lucy was not interested in men.
Lucy's complex attraction to Bob, and perhaps to René, may have revealed an evolving and fluid sense of sexual identity. By this point, she and Suzanne had been together for several years and were deeply in love. The two girls met in 1900 when Lucy was six and Suzanne eight; both families were part of elite society in Nantes. In 1908, Lucy returned from a year of school in England at the age of fourteen and reconnected with her old friend Suzanne. Lucy described their reunion as a lightning strike. Suzanne was beautiful, with long hair flowing over her shoulders and down her back and a wide bright smile across her face. Lucy captured Suzanne's vivacious spirit in a photograph that she treasured.
Suzanne was the daughter and granddaughter of influential doctors; another grandfather was a bookseller in Nantes. Her stable, peaceful background equipped her to provide a calming influence on Lucy, who suffered years of psychological abuse from a mentally ill mother who would soon be committed to an asylum. Their relationship was fueled with adolescent intensity. "A new feeling—troubling—animated me," wrote Lucy. "Jealous, exclusive passion.... Soon nothing existed for me except my relationship with Suzanne." They spent time together among family and friends, even traveling with each other on several vacations to Jersey and elsewhere. Lucy's house provided a mostly private meeting place, but for more intimate encounters, they snuck off to the countryside on their bicycles. "We, Suzanne and I, had to surmount difficulties that I prefer to leave to the imagination," Lucy wrote in a letter as she reminisced about the early days of being young and in love with another woman in a deeply conservative society.
Their connection, and their passion, strengthened over the next few years, but there were times when Suzanne could do little to help Lucy.
After Lucy underwent an appendectomy and suffered from lingering physical effects, her persistent anxiety worsened. In desperation, she decided to take the powerful drug ether, which in addition to its anesthetic powers is also famously hallucinogenic.
The drug became a habit. In that same letter, she recalled a hope to "discover, after having breathed it, the secret of a certain detachment, of a wonderful happiness, in this form of drunkenness (the dreams which accompanied it)." She probably also drank it, with typically disastrous effects on her gastrointestinal system. Lucy's health began to deteriorate, and her appetite vanished. She hoped to cure herself from her addiction by practicing yoga, fasting, and even by writing to a Hindu astrologer. She contemplated suicide.