It was January now. Peter had recovered enough to be allowed home from the hospital and his sister had come to look after him over the Christmas and New Year holidays. Brian had called in to visit Kate, but she wouldn’t tell him what was wrong with her. She kept asking him where he’d been for several days before Christmas and didn’t seem to believe him when he told her he’d had a few days off with flu.
She didn’t seem ill, but maybe she was suffering from stress or a stronger strain of the flu he’d had. It had given him some weird dreams, that was for sure.
It was the first day back at work after the holidays now and it didn’t look as though she was going to show. Brian picked up the phone and dialled her number. It rang and rang, but he knew she was there and he wasn’t going to stop ringing until she’d answered.
Kate lifted the receiver and put it to her ear.
“Kate, it’s Brian. Are you coming in to work today?”
“Huh, what day is it?” she said, her voice sleepy.
“It’s the 9th of January, Kate. You’ve missed Christmas and New Year.”
New Year, she thought. A time of new beginnings.
The trouble with new beginnings was that other things had to end. Kate hated the thought that she had to leave Ash behind her and carry on without him. What was the point if they couldn’t be together? She squeezed the iPod with her other hand. For two weeks she had listened over and over to the playlist that Ash had left her. A collection of songs that he had chosen, each and every song a reminder of his love for her.
Brian was speaking again.
“Come on, Kate, you can’t miss today.”
“Why not?” she sneered.
“Because if you do you won’t see the new researcher that starts today.”
He listened to the silence and waited.
“Peter’s got a new researcher?”
He grinned, he knew that would pique her interest.
“Yep, apparently so.”
“And is Peter there?”
“No, he’s still recovering from that fall he had.”
There was a pause again, then…
“All right,” and she hung up.
* * *
Two hours later Kate let herself in to the office of Sharpe’s Genealogists and Probate Researchers, hung up her coat and said a dismal Happy New Year to her colleagues. While Brian, James and Nathan seemed excited by the prospect of a new researcher, Kate had turned up only out of curiosity. She sat at her desk, sorting out her files, the thought of having to re-do all the work she’d lost on the Markham family tree an unhappy prospect. As she moved one of the case files from one pile to another, a slim white envelope fell out from between the pages. She bent down to pick it up with a sigh. It was sealed and had her name written on the front in copperplate flowing script.
It reminded her of the engraved words on the silver casket that Catherine’s ashes were in. She’d put them on her dressing table, the diary tucked underneath the new linen bag inside. They belonged to her now and she would look after them for Ash’s sake.
She stared at the envelope, then tore it open and slipped her fingers inside. When she felt the contents she froze and then pulled out the large black feather and stared at it. Along with the feather was a note-card. It was written in the same handwriting as the envelope and simply said…
We need to talk.
Was that it? No signature, no explanation? She turned the card over.
P.S. I wouldn’t have waited five hundred years 😉
Her heart was thumping and she looked around expecting to find her colleagues laughing at the joke they’d played on her, but they didn’t know anything about Ash and Brian didn’t appear to remember. If it wasn’t them and it couldn’t be Ash, there was only one other possibility. She remembered the angel who had bowed to her in the nightclub, but she didn’t understand what the message meant.
We need to talk? About what?
The three men were rowdy with excitement, but when the door opened they fell silent and all eyes turned on the young man that entered the room. Kate’s eyes were wide with anticipation. She caught Brian’s eye, he gestured at her to close her mouth.
“Hi, I’m looking for Peter Sharpe,” said the man in the doorway.
He pushed blonde hair out of pale green eyes and looked around at the four silent faces.
“I’m supposed to start work today.”
Kate let out her breath, disappointed and slumped in her chair, miserable again. What had she expected? That Ash would walk through the door and they’d carry on as if he never left?
Yes, she thought.
That’s exactly what she’d expected.
Brian introduced himself and shook hands with the newcomer.
“I’m Sam,” he said and stuck out his hand for Kate to shake.
Kate looked down at the message in her hand and stuffed it and the black angel feather back in the envelope, pushing it under the files on her desk.
“Kate,” she said, despondent, and took his hand.
He smiled at her. She wanted to cry.
He moved on to James and Nathan. He was going to get on with them like a house on fire, she thought, but Brian had other ideas.
“Kate, I think you should give Sam here the guided tour.”
She stared at him. Why was he picking her? He stared back and she backed down. He was doing it to try and take her mind off of whatever was making her miserable. His heart was in the right place, but she didn’t need a stray puppy to take care of. All she wanted to do was crawl back into bed and forget the world existed.
Sam Hale was standing by her desk, eyes bright, an eager smile on his face. If he’d had a tail it would have been wagging, furiously.
“Come on,” she forced herself to smile back, “I’ll show you how things work around here.”