On occasion over the next few weeks I was requested by Sebastian to clean Jasper’s chamber. This usually took place when Sebastian knew that Jasper would be out of the house for a certain period.
The first time I merely changed the sheets on the bed and gave the dresser a cursory dust, but this time when Sebastian asked me to do it I leapt at the chance. Snooping isn't in my nature but I knew that this would be the only way to find out anything about Jasper without asking Sebastian.
Everything I knew about him I could count on the fingers of my left hand and, such was the disastrous state of my heart, a humble crumb of knowledge could quench its thirst for days.
Jasper left the house immediately after breakfast to go riding so I quickly went up the kitchen stairs and along the corridor to his chamber, fearful that he could return at any moment and find me snooping in there. The room was in some disarray. Piles of clothes were on the floor, so it took me a while to search pockets of trousers and shirts thoroughly for any letters or trinkets. I found nothing but a few acorns.
After tidying the clothes, I turned my attention to his dresser and slowly slid out the top drawer with a beating heart. But the contents didn't tell me much. A pile of kerchiefs, a bit of loose change, a bible; which I'm sure was probably Sebastian's. The bottom drawer was empty. I was growing frustrated. Jasper must have some personal keepsake or letter that would reveal something, anything.
Then horror of horrors, I heard footsteps on the landing outside heading directly for the chamber! Without thinking, I threw myself into the wardrobe and had just pulled the door to when Jasper strode in. The door was solid oak, so I all I could hear were muffled footsteps walking slowly to the window and then stopping. I was sure he could hear the pounding of my heart, it was so loud. Hopefully whatever it was he'd come back for wasn't in the wardrobe.
In the darkness I shut my eyes and kept very still. Jasper didn't move an inch. The tension was unbearable and I hardly dared breathe. I grasped a nearby woollen coat for comfort and reached my hand inside its depths. My fingers touched paper in the inside breast pocket. A letter! Slowly and unbelieving my daring, I slid it from the coat and deposited it inside my apron. I wondered what on earth I was going to do with it, but I tried not to think about that.
Outside Jasper suddenly let out a sigh of exasperation, walked abruptly to the dresser and I heard a drawer being yanked open and coins jingling. Then he left. I felt like collapsing and never coming out of the wardrobe, but I had to. I waited for what felt like ten minutes, then waited another five for good measure. By this time I was exhausted and utterly sick of the wardrobe. The scent of camphor and being surrounded by Jasper’s clothes was making me light-headed.
Cautiously I creaked open the door and peeked out. Empty. I crept out softly and tiptoed across the floor. When I reached the dresser I spied something that nearly made me pass out. One of my red cleaning cloths was on the floor by the bed. I felt physically sick knowing he must have seen it. Hoping he just thought it was Maggie doing a spot of dusting, I stuffed it into my apron along with the letter and left the room with some relief.
Jasper was outside, leaning casually against the main stair banister and looking at me quizzically. We stared at each other. I didn't know for the life of me what to say. The silence became thick and awkward. His eyes bored into me until I felt like a specimen of moth pinned to a piece of paper. I felt a slow blush start at my neck and move upwards until I was squirming in embarrassment. Jasper noticed this.
Then my worst nightmare happened as something clicked into place in his head. I could almost hear the pieces of the puzzle lock together. And then he smiled, a slow, devastating smile that told me that he now knew the thing I had most wanted him not to find out. Still smiling, he tossed a coin in the air, caught it and walked off down the stairs leaving me gasping in despair. I knew I was in big trouble.