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Authors: Julie Kavanagh

Christmas with mr. jeffers

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Christmas with Mr. Jeffers

Julie Kavanagh

Christmas with Mr. Jeffers

Copyright 2011

By Books to Go Now

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Cover art design by Jose Mojica

First eBook Edition –November2011

Printed in the United States of America

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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously.

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Chapter One

Christmas, Scotland

Jane sat on the crowded bus with her best friend hidden in her large tote bag tucked under her feet. She wondered idly if she should have left him a little air to breathe and chuckled softly to herself, gaining some strange looks from the other passengers.The young woman ignored them andlooked away to the bright twinkly lights of the shops as the double-decker bus passed them by.

It was the Christmas season already - how quickly had the year passed and now it was the time to be merry.Glancing, at her fellow passengers it seemed to Jane - she was the only one feeling jolly

Jane loved this time of year; she loved the bright faces of the children as they speculated on the surprises waiting under the tree.She enjoyed, the bustle of the shops as warmly wrapped - people trod through the snow-laden streets with parcels, bent on delivering their own kind of surprises. Jane had never lost the sense of magic this special timeheld for her and although she wasn’t greatly religious, she loved to hear children- singing the season’s special songs.

She reached down, her gloved hand touching the softness of the bundle in her bag. Mr. Jeffers was just a worn raggle-taggle teddy but he was the closest thing to having a friend that Jane could remember having. One ear was slightly crooked due to regular repairs. It was a fault in the manufacture, her mother had told her every time she’d lovingly sewed the offending article back on the teddy’s head,but Jane knew it was like the scar she had down her left leg from falling off her bike. Mr. Jeffers had been there for that too.

Jane sighed softly as memories she’d not visited for several years flooded into her head. He’d been part of her life since she was five, when the fabric of her childhood had begun to unravel. It was Christmas time when he’d arrived in her life -not as a Christmas present wrapped and lovingly placed under the tree, but almost as an accident. The dark- headed boy who had lived across the street had given him to her… what was his name ? Oh yes, Tommy. He’d been older by only a few years, but his height made him seem so grown up at the time.

London-1992

Everybody in the street knew about Jane’s parents’ break up. She was too young to put together all the pieces but she knew something was wrong and blamed herself.

If only she could tie her shoelaces as well as Lyndsey Macgregor. If only she didn’t keep spilling her milk. There was an endless list of things she would do better to make it right between the two people she loved the most. Why wasn’t Daddy there when she woke up? And, where were the presents with his name on them waiting under the pretty tree. Mummy cried when she thought she wasn’t listening,

Escaping the tense atmosphere, the hushed but fierce voices Mummy tried to hide whenever Daddy visited, Jane snuck out of the house despite the bitter cold of the winter’s day. Wrapped up in her thick school coat and hand- knit-mittens,Jane watched the activity on the opposite side of the street. A large lorry arrived; two big burly men opened the back doors, fastening them to the sides of the lorry with a loud clatter.

Their neighbours were moving to new pastures, Jane heard Mrs. Grayson, who lived next door, told Mummy one morning on their way to school. Jane watched the commotion of the contents of the house being dismantled and lifted into the huge lorry. The man of the house and the two movers carried the household’s furniture and large crates, while children helped with bags, suitcases and other smaller items.

When Daddy left, his face was red, Mummy looked as though she was about to cry again. Mummy tried to conceal her sadness. Jane sighed as her Daddy stomped down the road.

The boy across the road was moving.He looked up and noticed her perched on the edge of the pavement.A teddy was in his hand. He marched across the street.

He’d never spoke to her before - he was ten and she was ‘just a baby’.

“What’s your name? ” he asked quickly before she guessed anyone spotted him on this side of the street. “I’m Tommy.”

“Jane,” she had looked up into eyes of the deepest chocolate, whose warmthbelied his gruffness. His hair was scruffy, a mass of dark brown which screamed out for a comb, and there was a graze on his chin from a fall.

He nodded quickly and held out the teddy. “Do you want it? I’m too old for it now. Its name is Mr. Jeffers.”

Jane nodded enthusiastically, her hands held out to gather the cuddly creature to her chest. Its softness seemed to cuddle her back.

“Got to go,” Tommy muttered as his mother’s voice called his name.

She looked up as he backed away.“Thank you,” she said in a whisper.

Christmas-Scotland

Jane smiled to herself as she stood to leave the bus. She’d never forgotten that boy’s kindness and, howhe and Mr. Jeffers had saved Christmas for the little girl she once was.

She was still grinning as she moved carefully along the slush-covered streets, through the playground and into the warmth of the primary school where she taught. Bright coloured garlands hung from the stark white ceilings. Cotton wool snowmen were stuck to every available wall and the gentle tinkle of sleigh bells sounded as she passed the Principal’s office.

“Jane,” Mr. Reynolds called as Jane stepped down the corridor, “could you pop back when you’ve hung up your coat?”

“Two minutes,” Jane waved as she for the staff room to grab a hot drink from the machine. He waved her to a seat before sitting in front of her.

“I need your help,” the rather plump man sighed deeply, his brow creased with the worry. “I know you’ve had your own problems recently, but we have a School Inspector popping in this morning and I feel you’re the best person for him to observe. You don’t mind, do you?”

Jane smiled again; the Inspector had picked a good morning to visit. Crossed fingers- this was going to be a great lesson.

“No, I don’t mind at all and please don’t worry about me,” Jane looked up into Jack Reynolds’ caring grey eyes. “It’s all sorted out between David and I. I won’t let it affect my work again.”

The two weeks she’d spent sorting things out were a stark reminder of why it hadn’t worked out for her and David. She didn’t know what she’d seen in him in the first place, but least said, soonest forgotten, as far as she was concerned. She didn’t need anything from him, not even the memories.

“That’s good to hear,” Jack Reynolds returned Jane’s warm grin; she was popular among the staff and children alike. He’d hate to lose her. “I didn’t mean that I worried about it affecting your work,” Jack quickly corrected himself. “I meant I’m glad that it’s all sorted out.”

Jane reached to touch him gently on the arm before she turned away.

“I know what you meant,” her smile was warmer as she trod past the multitude of oddly- shaped snowmen and snowflakes towards her classroom.

Chapter Two

The first part of the morning Jane spent in the large airy hall, practising Christmas carols for the school performance. Little Beth cried as she always did whenever they tried something new, but a quick cuddle and a few gentle words had her donning the cute sheep costume again.

Jane sighed and lifted a hand to wipe the tear from the corner of her eye before anyone else noticed. She was so emotional at this time of the year but it was a good feeling of warmth that filled her.

“Ok, Milton Class, you were wonderful. Beautiful! I’m so proud of you all.” Jane stood, her hands applauding her class’s effort.

Okay, Brian couldn’t sing a note in tune and unfortunately he was the loudest of the lot, but no one else seemed to notice. Little Beth cheered up and everything was going good, but Jane had her fingers crossed. In her experience there was always something that went wrong on the day and there were still twenty-four hours before the school concert.

“Have you seen him yet?” Louise McPherson, the school’s secretary caught Jane’s arm as she led her children back to class.

“Seen who?” Jane asked, her eyes catching sight of Louise’s excited face.

“The School Inspector. He’sgorgeous. All smouldering dark looks and come-to-bed eyes. You’ll like him and you should ask him out. I know he’ll jump at the chance. He’s not wearing a ring and I’m sure he hasn’t got a significant other,” Louise peered over her silver rimmed specs, speculation and a measure of anticipation lit her hazel eyes.

Louise was always trying to fix her up with one man or another. “That’s a School Inspector you’re talking about and you can’t know whether he has a girlfriend just by looking at him,” Jane gently scolded the older woman.

“It helps if you know the secretary for all the borough’s Inspectors like I do. Martha’s a close friend and she tells me Mr. Andrews hasn’t had a steady girlfriend for ages. She says he’s a lovely man and you two would be really good together.”

“Martha doesn’t know anything about me.” Jane laughed. The situation was ridiculous. Now she had two interfering biddies trying to sort out her love life, but she was more amused than angry. “We might hate each other on sight.”

“Martha knows him and I know you, so what more do you need? Now promise me you’ll give him that lovely smile and he’ll fall into your open arms,” Louise sighed.

“I promise,” Jane whispered but didn’t hold out much hope. She hadn’t been nicknamed ‘Plain Jane’ at school for nothing. She didn’t expect the man to fall in love with her; she’d settle for a good report on her lesson.

Yes, that was all she could hope for.

****

“Now then children, I’d like you to meet Mr. Andrews. He’s going to sit in with us this morning.”

Jane introduced the school visitor to the class. Some of the children smiled, a couple called out hello and two waved. The children were so friendly and indicative of the town they lived in.

She’d done the right thing when she moved back after the break-up of her short-lived marriage. In the heart of London she’d been lonely, but here she’d been accepted straight away - especially when they discovered she’d been born here, despite her strange Scottish accent. It hadn’t taken long for the delicate brogue of the region to filter back into her voice, making her feel settled and wanted.

“Good morning, children.” Mr. Andrews sat on one of the little chair looking much like a giant in one of their story books. “I’m here just to watch and see what you do.”

She couldn’t look at the man in the dark suit with the folder on his lap. She was nervous enough. This was her first year of teaching Reception. She was prepared for today - had written out her lesson plans, had made copious notes, but terrified she’d forget something.

Louise was right; he was drop dead gorgeous and his voice was to die for. The silly old lady had been reading too many romance novels and she thought everyone had theirsoul matewaiting out there for them. But Jane tried that. She’d thought David was the only one for her, but three years of marriage taught her that the concept of people falling in love and living happily- ever- after was a myth. It was created by ladies like Louise who read silly love stories.

No, it was time to do what she was good at and leave all the lovey-dovey stuff to other people. She glanced up at her teaching assistant, Mandy, who winked, nodding her head in support, her mouth full of a warm smile.

Chapter Three

“Did anyone bring a toy today?” Jane sat in her wooden chair, her tote bag sat on the floor by her knee.

A little girl, Angel, with messy hair, put up her hand. Jane smiled. This girl was the shyest in the class. She was new and struggled to participate in any –class activities. She knew Angel coped better in small groups, and this was the first time she’d offered her hand for anything. She was making progress.

Jane waited until Angel joined her at the front before asking her anything about the doll in her hand. Two little girls sat in the front row; they were always in the front row together and were always sniggering nastily at this shy child. They thought her name was silly but Jane thought it suited the delicate little thing. She had an ethereal feel about her with her beautiful blue eyes.

“Janice, Michaela, would you like to sit at the back?” Jane’s voice had a tone of authority and both girls shook their heads. “I don’t want to hear your voices, do you understand?” The girls nodded. Jane noticed the man making notes and she sighed inwardly. Would he think she couldn’t control her class?

Angel’s voice was clear as she told the class about her doll. It was obviously homemade but with skill. Laced with love.

“My mummy made it for me and told me to name her after my most favourite thing in the world,” Angel hesitated probably because she thought they would laugh at her.

Angle’s words captivated the children’s attention. Even Janice and Michaela craned their heads to listen.

“Would you like to tell us her name?” Jane asked gently, her hand on the little girl’s arm.

“I couldn’t call her Mummy‘’ so she’s called ‘Ice Cream.”’

The children laughed, but they also clapped. They didn’t think the name was silly; they loved ice cream too. Jane glanced over at Mr. Andrews; the man’s head was bent over his folder as he wrote more notes.

Daniel Jenkins waved his hand, calling out as he always did, “Miss, miss, did you bring a toy?”

“I might have…” Jane grinned, leaned over and pulled the teddy from her tote. She sat the threadbare toy on her lap. “Milton class, I’d like you to meet …”

The man cut her off, “Mr. Jeffers”.

Jane turned to look at the man; his eyes were of the deepest chocolate and his mass of dark brown hair screamed out for a comb although it was obvious he’d tried his best with it.

“Tommy?”

“Jane.” Tom smiled, it lit his eyes with unexpected warmth.

He waited at the back of the class until the children were dismissed for break.

“I never thought I’d see him again,” Tom said as he held the tatty little bear in front of him.

“I never thought …” Jane began but stopped. She wanted to tell him how much the teddy bear meant to her, how many secrets the much-loved toy kept, but this was about work, not her past. What she wanted to say wasn’t appropriate to say to a School Inspector. He was here to judge her work, not to relive childhood memories.

“Mr. Andrews?” Jack Reynolds, the school Principal peered into the classroom, his eyes taking in the scene of the man holding the teddy and not understanding the situation. “Are you done here? There’s a call from your office.”

Tom stood, a bright flush flooded his face as he handed the toy back

“Yes, of course, Jane and I know each other from childhood, we were catching up. Thank you, Mrs. Stewart, it was a lovely lesson.” Tom nodded his head and followed the Principal out of the room.

****

Jane was as pretty as he remembered her. He’d never forgotten and it wasn’t just because she had his precious toy. He’d written it off to a ten-year olds crush. What were the odds of him bumping into that little girl again and her having Mr. Jeffers with her?

One in a ... billion?

It was a small world. He’d been attracted to Jane, but noticed the telltale white mark on her left hand of a ring not long off her marriage finger.

Chapter Four

Jane watched Tom leave. He didn’t look back, but then what did she expect? They were strangers just as they had been that wintery day so many years ago. But, she’d watched his face when he held Mr Jeffers and a spur of the moment idea had her calling his name.

“Tom- Mr. Andrews!” Jane stood, her hand extended. She caught up to him and stopped. “I believe this belongs to you.”

He accepted the toy just as Mr. Reynolds called out his name and he left for another classroom.

****

Jane sat in her living room, idly watching a soap opera. The coffee in her favourite mug was cold and she’d barely tasted the ready- prepared meal she’d eaten. Picking up her empty plate and cutlery, she carried them to the tiny kitchen to wash.

Jane glanced into her small bedroom and at the empty space at the end of her bed where Mr. Jeffers usually sat. In the year she’d lived in this flat, he’d been there to comfort her. When David threatened all sorts of things, Mr. Jeffers had been there to cuddle and offer his own kind of reassurance, his soft fur scented with her perfume giving her the strength to carry on no matter what.

Now he’s gone back to his owner.

A quick shower and a set of comfy pyjamas and Jane was ready for bed.

She couldn’t sleep, her mind turning over the events of the day. How odd was it that Tom should turn up and in her classroom? How strange that it should be the very day she’d brought Mr. Jeffers to school when she’d never done it before. Closing her eyes tightly to stop the tears which threatened to fall, she sighed softly.

She wasn’t a child and didn’t need a toy to comfort her. Mr. Jeffers was back where he belonged. It wasn’t something to cry over, but it was a long time until she fell asleep.

“How did it go?” Louise was waiting at the school gate the next morning, her cheeks red from the cold and her hands wrapped up in hand -knit- bright orange mittens. “Did you ask him out?”

“It went ok,” Jane nodded but she didn’t really want to talk about it. Her day had started badly when her ex called and demanded the return of several CDs he claimed she had taken. “And no, I didn’t ask him out.”

“Why not?” Louise seemed disappointed. “He was just your sort. You two would have made a lovely couple.”

“Louise, you’re a dear but I don’t need your help with my love life. Mr. Andrews wasn’t my sort and, to be frank, I don’t want to be part of a ‘couple’. Been there, done that and I don’t want to do it again, thank you.”

“Only trying to help.”

****

Tom was at at his computer when he received a phone call. Martha could be very odd when the mood took her.

“Tom, is that you?” Martha breathed down the phone, putting on her sexy voice. Tom grinned, this woman could be a lot of fun. He enjoyed their conversations and it beat sitting here working any day.

“Martha, you’ve just phoned my office. Who else would it be?”

“You might have an incredibly beautiful woman sitting on your lap for all I know,” Martha oozed. For a sixty-year-old lady, she had a very sexy voice when she tried, and boy, was she trying right now.

“The only beautiful lady in my life is you,” Tom teased back, but that wasn’t the complete truth.

He’d met Jane again and he couldn’t get her out of his mind.

Not to mention, Mr. Jeffers was taking up space in his briefcase because he couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him alone in a strange place.

“Have you finished the report on yesterday’s visit yet?” she asked.

“Not quite. I have a few questions,” Tom hesitated, an idea forming in his head. “I think I may have to go back to the school.”

“Good idea,” Martha grinned. “The Principal just called to invite you to their Christmas concert. He thought you might enjoy it.”

“Perfect,” Tom agreed. His eyes caught sight of a furry leg sticking out from his briefcase. “I can complete my report and have it ready for tomorrow morning.”

It was only to return Mr. Jeffers to her care, but truth was he wanted to see Jane again.

He’d slept badly and knew the furry toy wasn’t in the right home. For all he knew she might have a child of her own missing the teddy. He didn’t want to cause the same sadness in another child. Yes, he was going to see Jane and give her back the bear.

“And just in case you’re wondering, Jane Stewart isn’t married any longer,” Martha added before she hung up.

Chapter Five

The hall was magical. - Glittery icicles hung from the high ceilings, and snowflakes - seemed to be suspended in air above the gathering audiences. The walls were covered with silvery paper, reflecting the twinkling light of the huge evergreen tree in the corner.Proud parentsand grandparents filled up the rows of blue chairs in front of the stage. Mandy stuck her bright red head through the blue curtains eyeing the growing crowd, her bottom sticking out like a huge pudding.

“Oh, you should see it out here,” she tittered, closing the curtain again as she turned to face Jane. “It’s filling up fast. I’ve never seen such a rush for seats.”

Jane blushed.

Mandy continued, “And why shouldn’t I say what everyone else is thinking? You’re the best teacher we have and the parents know it. You have such a wonderful way with the children and this concert is going to be great,” Mandy reached to touch Jane on her arm before rushing away to stop little Mikey from climbing into the crib. “Oh no, you don’t. That’s for the baby Jesus.”

The singing was beautiful. Pure voices saturated the entire hall with joy and love as the small children sang their hearts out. Even with Mary dropping baby Jesus it didn’t mar the presentation. Jane and the children took four bows before the curtains closed and the children were ushered back to their classrooms to remove their costumes before they were damaged in the excitement.

“Mrs. Stewart,” a familiar voice called her name.

“Mr. Andrews.”

“Can I talk to you in the staff room? And it’s Tom. Call me Tom.”

“Tom it is, then,” she smiled.

They walked down the hall, and he shut the door behind them after they entered the room.

“Let me congratulate you on a fantastic show. That was the best performance I’ve seen this year.”

“The children were wonderful,” Jane agreed, wondering why Tom’s hand was still on her arm-not that she was complaining.

“I hear you were in charge of the entire thing, which speaks of true dedication.”

Jane beamed; his praise meant a lot to her.

“I wanted to …” Tom looked around for his briefcase. “Look, I’m sorry. I have to go back to the office, but I wondered... would you like to go out for a drink? Tonight?”

She blinked in surprise, but answered, “Yes, I’d love to. It’s on me.”

“I can’t let a pretty lady like you buy me drinks,” Tom blustered. “I have some things to finish off before the holidays but give me your number and I’ll phone you as soon as I’m done.”

Jane wrote down her number on a slip of paper and then watched him go.

Tom thinks I’m pretty?And he wants to go out... with me?

“Jane, are you ok?” Louise paused to stand with her as they both watched the tall man climb into his car. Just wait until Martha heard about this.

“I’m great,” Jane beamed “I’m just great.”

Chapter Six

The end of the day was too long in coming, the children were over -excited and there was little point in trying to calm them. Both Jane and Mandy were exhausted by the time the parents had collected them. Jane rushed out wondering what she was going to wear tonight for her date with Tim. She had anew red dress with the buttons down the front. It was a perfect fit and she hadn’t had the opportunity to wear it.

Tom left a message to say he’d pick her up about seven.

When the door rang just after six thirty she ran to the door and threw it open.

“Going somewhere special.”

“David? What are you doing here?” Jane spluttered at the sight of her ex- husband.

“What kind of welcome is that for your husband?”

“Ex- ex-husband. What are you doing here?”

“I’m here bearing gifts,” David stepped into the small flat, making it seem so much smaller with his height. A large bag hung suspended from one hand. “It’s the season to be friendly.”

Jane followed him into her living room and groaned as he made himself comfortable on her- sofa, his large feet plonked on her glass coffee table.

“I asked why you were here,” Jane asked again. “You can’t stay here, I’m going out.”“So I see. Is that a new dress? David barely lifted his head as he flicked through the channels looking for something interesting to watch. “Is it a date?”

“I’m seeing an old friend. Why aren’t you with Sally?”

“We had a bit of a falling out,” David waved a hand as if dismissing the thought of Sally from his mind.

“You can’t stay here,” Jane muttered firmly a she retreated to her bedroom and shut the door.

****

Tom knocked on the door. But, instead of Jane he found a stern-faced man.

“I’m here to pick up Jane. I’m a little early,” Tom muttered, trying to peer around the man, looking for Jane, but she was nowhere to be seen.

He came early because he couldn’t wait to take her out and tell her how he felt about her and how he’d never really forgotten her.

“You’re here to pick up my wife?” David growled, his pale eyebrows gathering together.

“Your wife? I thought…”

“You thought wrong. Jane and I are together and you shouldn’t be here.”

“I’m sorry,” Tom stuttered. “I obviously misunderstood, but if you could give this to Jane...”

He handed her husband Mr. Jeffers wrapped up in shiny paper with a big red bow on the front. David nodded, took the present quickly and closed the door in Tom’s face.

****

“Did I hear the door?” Jane asked and frowned at David’s presence in her kitchen,

“Fancy a coffee?” David reached for the kettle and made the pretence of filling it from the tap.

“No, I don’t want a coffee and I don’t want you here. Didn’t you get the message when you received the divorce papers?” Jane glared at David.

“You’re looking good. You must have known I was coming.” David grinned.

“If I knew you were you coming, I would have... moved!” she snapped. Anger boiled through her. “And now, I want you to leave.”

“But what about us?”

“Thereisno ‘us’. You destroyed us when you started seeing that woman-was it Sally, or was she only one of many?”

Jane waited and waited, peering out at the window to look for Tom. By ten o’clock it was evident he wasn’t coming. No doubt, he’d thought better of it and she couldn’t really blame him. One failed marriage was hardly a striking endorsement for any new relationship.

She hung the new dress back in the wardrobe, slowly running her fingers down the length of the tiny pearl buttons. She shook out her hair, wiped off her carefully applied make-up and moved slowly around to tidy up her flat. Placing her foot on the bin’s pedal to throw away a small bag of rubbish, she noticed the shiny bow on a present.

“Mr. Jeffers!” Jane cried. She pulled the bear out of the bin and hugged the toy to her chest.

Tom had been here; he’d brought Mr. Jeffers home. His carefully written note explained it all, but why hadn’t he come in?

“Tom?” Jane dialled the number she’d been afraid to use before.

“Jane, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were still married. I would never have…”

“I’m not married. David is most definitely my ex-husband and I made sure he damn well knows it,” Jane stated firmly. “I didn’t know you’d been here. David didn’t say anything.”

“I don’t want to get between...”

“I wanted you here tonight. David was the one who needed to go.”

Tom sighed at the other end of the line. “It’s a little late, but I know a decent Chinese and could pick something up.”

“Sounds good to me. It will be just the three of us.”

“Three?”

“You, me, and Mr. Jeffers.”

There was a pause before he said, “There’s a lot of things I wish I’d said to you over these years. I can’t seem to get you out of my head... and I’m not ten any longer.”

Jane held the phone to her heart long after Tom hung up.

All this time Mr. Jeffers was a keeper of their relationship... waiting for her and Tom to meet again.

She cocked her head and looked at Mr. Jeffers.Had he planned her and Tom’s chance meeting?She swore Mr. Jeffers’s face changed and he was smiling from the end of the bed.

Jane pulled her special dress out of the wardrobe and wiggled it back over her head.

It was going to be a very special Christmas indeed.

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