Mystery LoverBy: Annette Broadrick
Contents - Next Jennifer Chisholm opened her eyes in surprise and glanced around her living room. She must have fallen asleep while watching television. She couldn’t decide what it was that had awakened her. Sam, her fourteen-pound tiger-striped cat, had made himself comfortable by draping himself across her as she lay on the couch. One outstretched paw rested softly against her cheek, the rest of him covered her to her knees. No wonder she’d slept so comfortably. She’d been sleeping under a fur coat—a living fur coat.
The low tones from the television drew her attention for a moment. The actors in a black-and-white movie, filmed more than fifty years ago, cavorted across the screen.
What time was it?
The rhythmic ticking of her clock was the only other sound in the room. She glanced to where it hung over her rolltop desk in the corner. The hands faithfully pointed out to her that it was ten minutes past two o’clock in the morning.
She had gratefully stretched out on the couch at nine in order to watch one of her favorite television shows before going to bed. Jennifer’s day had been hectic. Her days were generally hectic when Mr. Cameron was out of the office. He’d been gone for almost a week now.
Jennifer was thankful that tomorrow was Saturday. She would have a couple of days to recuperate from her busy schedule. Hopefully he would be back in the office on Monday.
“I’m sorry, Sunshine. I’m afraid I miscalculated this one.”
That was what had awakened her. Chad was contacting her. Jennifer’s eyes widened. Her surprise wasn’t due to the fact that she was suddenly hearing something when there was no one there—she was used to that. What had caught her off guard was that she hadn’t heard from Chad since she’d told him off several months ago. There was only one person who referred to her as Sunshine—one person who didn’t have to communicate with her by phone or in person.
When she was a small child she had referred to him as her invisible friend. The adults around her had been amused and a little sorry for her. An only child was often a lonely one. No doubt making up an invisible friend made life a little easier to handle.
Jennifer had never been able to convince anyone that she wasn’t making him up. In time, she had stopped trying.
“Chad! What’s wrong?” Her voice sounded loud in the room, but she hardly noticed. She could feel his agitation and pain, something she’d never felt with him before. Something was wrong—drastically wrong.
She tried to sit up, but Sam’s weight on her chest seemed to hold her pressed against the sofa and cushions.
“Nothing that you can do anything about, I’m sorry to say. I just wanted you to know how very special you’ve been to me all these years.”
Jennifer had never heard him pay her a compliment before. She had once told him that he only came into her life to bully and irritate her, and he’d never denied the accusation. Now he sounded so full of regret . . .as though he were telling her goodbye.
Once again she tried to sit up. Pushing against the sleeping cat, she said impatiently, “Would you get off me, darn it? You must weigh close to a ton!”
Jennifer felt a jolt as her remark reached Chad just before he said, “I apologize for disturbing you at this hour. I should have realized___“
He seemed to fade away. “Don’t leave, Chad!” she said rapidly. “I was talking to Sam.”
“My cat. Don’t you remember? I’ve had him for several years.”
“I had forgotten the name.”
“Please tell me what’s wrong. You seem different, somehow.‘’ She stood up, concentrating on the voice in her head.
“That’s not important. I just wanted to let you know, Sunshine, that I love you very much___I always have. ”
Chad loved her? The irritating, teasing, invisible friend of her youth actually loved her? Jennifer couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“No, you’re not dreaming. ” That was a perfect example of why she found him so irritating. She found it most uncomfortable to have someone who could monitor—and offer unasked-for comments on—her thoughts. But Jennifer had to admit that the past few months had been very lonely without him.
He’d been such an integral part of her life for so long that she hadn’t realized how much she would miss his presence. If she’d known, she would never have yelled at him, ordered him to get out of her life and to leave her alone.
He had done just that.
Now he was back and she knew something was seriously wrong.
“What is it?”
“I didn’t mean to upset you. I just needed to—”
“I’m going to be much more than just upset if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.”