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Mystery Lover

By:Annette Broadrick

Mystery Lover
Annette Broadrick

       Chapter One


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."

"I walked into a trap, I'm afraid. Well laid, I might add. They knew me  well enough to know my curiosity would keep me following them until they  had me."

"Will you kindly tell me what you're talking about?"

"It's too late to go into it. It's never been important for you to know  what I do for a living. It's not important now. I just wanted to tell  you I love you and

hope life showers you with the blessings you deserve."

"Chad, please tell me what's wrong." She waited for a moment but got no response. "Chad?" There was no answer.

Frustrated beyond belief, Jennifer sank down beside Sam once more and stared unseeingly at the television.

How could he do this to her: check in to say goodbye and then leave again?

If she could just once get her hands on him she'd-

But that was the trouble. She had never laid eyes on him.

Dropping her head wearily on the back of the sofa, Jennifer tried to  clear her mind. Chad had a way of getting her emotions stirred up. He  was good at that. He always had been___





Jennifer couldn't remember exactly how old she was when Chad had first  made his presence known, but she knew it was some time after the  automobile accident that had changed her life. Her mother, upon being  questioned, had said Jennifer was just past five years of age when the  accident had occurred. Jennifer remembered very little about it and  often wondered if what she knew was what she had remembered or what  others had told her later.

After several days in the hospital following the accident, her father  had died, leaving her mother to find a way to support herself and  Jennifer.

No one was to blame for the fact that Jennifer had trouble making  friends. She was shy and often stood on the sidelines and waited for  someone to include her in their games.

As she grew older, and her mother allowed her to go home alone after  school, she returned to an empty apartment where she waited for her  mother to get off work.

Jennifer had grown increasingly despondent in the months following the accident. Until Chad spoke to her one day___

Jennifer had stood looking out the window of their Oceanside, California  apartment, yearning for the days when her mother had been home and  would take her to the beach. Jennifer loved to play on the beach and to  watch the waves as they came rolling in to touch the shoreline. ,

Now her mother had so little time for her. Jennifer had no one anymore.

"You have me, Sunshine."

Jennifer glanced around the room. There was no one there. She glanced at the television but it wasn't on.

"Who said that?" she finally asked softly.

"I did."

"Who are you?"

There was a brief pause before she heard, "Chad. "

Jennifer started walking through the apartment, looking behind doors,  vaguely aware that although she was hearing someone, the messages seemed  to come from inside her head.

"They are," he confirmed. "I'm sending you thought messages. "

"Do I know you?" she finally asked, puzzled.

"It's enough that I know you, Sunshine. I just wanted you to know that I'm here. You don't have to feel lonely."

"Are you real?"

"Real enough."

"I mean, you aren't my guardian angel, are you?"

She could feel his amusement. "Something like that, maybe. But I'm very much a human being. "

"How old are you?"

"Oh, I'm very old. Almost ancient."

Jennifer didn't doubt that at all. How many people could talk to you in  your head? She'd never known of anyone who did that before.

She asked her mother about Chad when she got home. Unfortunately her  mother had too much on her mind to really tune in to Jennifer's  questions and absently replied that she supposed everyone had a guardian  angel, and she was pleased to know that Jennifer's angel went by the  name of Chad.

Of course her schoolmates made fun of her. Jennifer discovered that she  didn't care. Probably they were so busy they didn't even hear their  angels talking to them.

She could always hear Chad.

But by the time Jennifer reached her teenage years, she discovered that Chad was far from being an angel.

"Why are you mooning over that picture of a movie star?" he asked one day.

Jennifer glanced around, embarrassed to be caught gazing with longing at  her idol's photograph. Then she realized she hadn't been caught. It was  Chad.

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