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When she arrived home, he was in his usual place on the patio. It was an exceptionally dark night. The moon was covered with dense cloud. Rain fell in huge drops. He heard the Land Rover long before she pulled into her path and parked. Jasper heard her humming. She went through her front door. If she had been to a hide somewhere other than in the local area she was home early, he decided. He listened to the sound of her making a hot drink in her kitchen. He smiled. He couldn’t stop smiling. The sound of her voice flowed over him. It trickled into his mind and heart, lifting his spirits, and giving him hope.
Jasper stood silently by the holly tree and close to the biggest potted trees. One of them was shaped into a ball. He liked that. When the conservatory door opened and Claudie stepped out, he froze in the darkness and the shadow of the holly. The house security lights had recently failed on that side of the wall, but she was silhouetted in the glow from the working lights by the other side of the door.
Jasper watched her sniff the night air. He saw her expression. She looked puzzled. Then she was walking towards him. He tried to melt further into the shadows.
She picked up a garden fork that leaned against the house wall and held it out in front of her. The row of metal prongs looked lethal.
“I can see you. Who are you? What do you want? You have ten seconds to beat it, buddy, and then I scream for my husband.”
Jasper’s surprise pinned him to the spot. She can see me. How is that possible? Unless, unless, she is the one.
He saw her hesitate. He knew there was no husband, and now she must be deciding he’d called her bluff. If she could see him, then maybe she’d be able to hear him too.
“I’m sorry. I was only taking shelter from the rain for a few minutes. I don’t mean any harm.” He held out his hands by his sides in a gesture meant to convey that he was harmless.
She raised the garden fork a little as if his movement scared her.
He bent his head and his shoulders drooped. “I’m really no threat. I’ll leave, if you let me pass.”
She put down the garden fork. “What are you doing out here? There’s nothing around for miles. The road leads nowhere.”
Jasper edged sideways to leave. His thoughts tumbled in his head. A weight of sadness threatened to force tears from his eyes. He could only just bear the thought that she was afraid of him. He stuttered. “I…I’m lost.”
Claudie looked at him intently. He saw her frown.
“I can call you a cab. Where are you going?”
He shook his head. “No. I’ll walk back along the lane to the road.” Jasper moved, this time more quickly.
Claudie stepped back, but called. “Wait. You’re drenched. I can’t see anyone just wander off into the night like that.”
Jasper’s heart contracted. He wished he’d met her in the day, on the road, or somewhere she wouldn’t decide he was a threat. She could be the one and he loved her. His stomach ached with sorrow. He turned and in a burst of speed, he fled. A mist of spruce perfume hit Claudie and she stared after him.
He stopped at the bottom of the garden and looked back. She was inside, locking the door and he could see she still had the garden fork leaning against her hip in readiness. She’d taken it in for a weapon. He shook his head. How strange, he’d watched her all summer, and she’d shown no sign of knowing he was there. What alerted her to his presence this night? He felt desolate. He leapt the box that hedged the back of her garden and ran the length of the field.
At her bedroom window, Claudie saw a blue glow flashing through the rain. She stared out into the darkness. She pressed close to the glass, and as her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could see the puddles on her garden path. They too had a weird blue glow. She shook her head.
There was something strange about the man on her patio. He reeked of the forest. She wondered if he was homeless and lived there. Maybe the rain drove him out tonight to stand under the roof overhang.
Claudie took a shower and went to bed.
A line from a review of Forever Blue, because I love this comment, it's one of the best things ever said I think. (smiles)
"Wait until you find out what, 'Forever Blue' means."
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