I didn't see Jasper for the rest of the day, or the day after that, so I was able to regain some sense of myself. I contrived to push the dream from my mind. It was just too ridiculous. I couldn't ever imagine finding myself in that situation, or ever not wanting him, so I thrust it out of my thoughts and tried not to wonder on its meaning too much. The vestiges tugged at the edges of my consciousness, though.
On the third afternoon, I was sitting with Sebastian in the library room while he explained the finer points of Shakespeare's sonnets to me. I had progressed so well that he was considering paying for the local school master to come and tutor me in other subjects.
I wasn't sure what mother would think of that, but I considered that mother didn't need to know. The day of my 16th birthday had come and gone some weeks ago, and she had sent me a present of a grey woollen coat. It was neither fashionable nor new, but it was warm and for that I was grateful. I had not seen either her or Anna for a couple of months, and mother had not invited me home to visit. Father’s death lay heavy and painful between us and I didn’t know how to resolve it.
Sebastian's petulant sigh broke through my musings. “It's no use, I've been prattling on for the last fifteen minutes and you haven't heard a word I've said. It's all very well to expound on the merits of the iambic pentameter but I'm starting to bore myself!”
“Sorry sir,” I said, ashamed, “My mind is not quite itself today, perhaps we could come back to it another time?”
“Humph, I suppose so. Besides, I've got a bible studies class shortly. It's too cold outside,” we both turned to look at the icy garden with its bare boughed trees, “so I thought I'd have it in my roo...er...here. Just a couple of the local lads, uh hum. I thought we'd have a look at Revelations and then have toast and tea”. He stopped abruptly, as if realising he was rambling.
I got up to leave and Sebastian tidied his papers. “Oh, I almost forgot!” he said, “Jasper asked me to give you this this morning before he went out.” My heart stopped and then started thudding painfully in my chest.
“Wh-what is it?” I asked, trying to breathe normally. Sebastian handed me a letter with my name on the front in swirly black ink.
“I don't know, I tried to look inside but I wasn't too successful. It's sealed firmly with the family crest.” I stared at him.
“I'm serious! I don't for the life of me know what it is. Some foolhardiness I'm sure. Don't take it too seriously, Jasper likes a joke, except when it's on him of course.”
I nodded and took the envelope and went upstairs as quickly as I could. Here it was, my summons. I was sure I wasn't going to like it, whatever it was. I sat on my bed and looked at the letter in my hand. It sat there innocently in my palm, small, white, and square, and Sebastian was right, it was sealed with a dollop of red wax with the impression of a wild maned lion holding a sword. I gulp, trying not to feel intimidated. Jasper's heritage was undeniable, he came from old money and he was letting me know it.
Gingerly I broke the seal and opened the flaps. Inside there was same swirly black writing. I managed to make out that it said that a Mr Jasper Donne Esq. was desirous of my company two nights hence for dinner in the dining room at 8pm sharp. No RSVP required. That was it. I sat there deliberating. An invite to dinner? Just me? What about Sebastian and Maggie, whatever would they think?
Then, just as I suppose he knew it would, my disbelief turned into pleasure. Whatever it meant, and as suspicious as I was, an invitation to spend the whole evening with Jasper was not to be turned down lightly. In fact, I hadn't even considered turning it down. Perhaps, in hindsight, it would have been a better idea.