The drive back was quiet, but not as awkward as Calypso feared. Once they were on the main road again, Herne said. “You’re itching to get at those photos aren’t you?”
“Yes. It’s hard to truly tell on the small screen, but I think I’ve got a couple of really good shots of the animals.”
She frowned at a sudden thought, then asked. “Since the pictures are of your animals, and Mr Green’s, what’s the best thing to do if I want to maybe sell copies?”
“I’m happy for you to do it and I’m sure Mr Green would be too. Just let him know the details if you’re worried and I’m sure he’ll let you know if there are likely to be problems.”
He glanced across. “What are you thinking of? An online shop or something?”
“No. I’ve got some other pictures a friend is using to brighten up the meeting rooms at Z Corp and it just occurred to me that a number of the departments have sort of mascot animals and they might like to add them in to the collection.”
Herne laughed. “I can just picture it. Some important global meeting on whatever they do, with Owlbert staring down at them disapprovingly from the wall.”
“He can look rather superior when he wants can’t he.”
By the end of the drive, Herne had conjured up images of his dogs plastered across billboards in Tokyo, the lazy cat being adopted as the logo and model of a new leisure line and Caval enjoying life as an action movie star.
They pulled up outside her house and he walked around the car to help her out. “So your last day is tomorrow?”
“Yes.” She looked past him to the sturdy, comforting bulk of the house. “I’m going to miss being here.”
“I think here is going to miss you.”
That made her smile. “A couple of friends from work are coming to pick me up in the afternoon, so hopefully I’ll have time for one more walk.”
“Back to London, look for a reception job, start working again, with a bit of photography on the side maybe.”
Herne frowned. “I get the whole ‘need an income’ thing, but I think you could do more. I don’t know what. But you’re smart, you’re courageous and you’re good at people. You could do a lot with that.”
He shrugged. “Just my addition to the pile of irritating advice you’re getting.”
That made her smile and she reached up to kiss him on the cheek. “Thank you.”
His eyes sparked gold again and he suddenly seemed very close. “Well if that’s the reward I get for offering unhelpful advice, I’ll make sure to send more through on a regular basis.”
Calypso felt the blush wash up her face and ducked her head. Herne stepped back.
“Thanks again for making Wildwood possible. And good luck with the job hunt.”
“Thank you. I hope it won’t take too long.”
With that, Calypso retreated to the door of the cottage and Herne, after a pause, returned to the car and drove off.
She let herself into the house and flopped onto one of the sofas in the front room. Then got up again and prowled through to the library, and out, down the corridor to the kitchen. She made a cup of tea she didn’t really want, and took it upstairs to her work area in the back sitting room.
She paced the length of the room several times over, then sat at the desk and checked her emails. Three responses. Two were pleasant brush-offs, they already had the team they needed, but one asked her to come by the following week and included some possible times. She confirmed one of them, added it to her diary, responded to the email and got up to pace again.
She messaged Circe. Jason and Herc are picking me up tomorrow and I’m dreading going back to London.
It took a little while for the response. Too much fun to be had in the depths of the country?
She paced a bit more and thought, then replied. No, it’s more about the peace and the different pace. It’s not always slower. It’s just … different.
Different enough that your usual eloquence has flown out of the window. Don’t worry, you’ll be back into the swing of things in no time and loving it like you never left.
Calypso sighed, it was way too hard to explain. She asked after her imminent godchild and, after getting a happy report, signed off.
Sleep was elusive that night and she was up early, packing and tidying.
She opened the bedroom cupboard to get her things and found herself face-to-bag with Arachne’s dress. She pulled her clothes out and shut the door again, throwing everything into her suitcase and hustling it down the stairs.
Her inbox was empty. How long had it been since she emailed Hecate? She stomped out of the back door to say goodbye to Trixie’s grave, and somehow ended up across the field at the old folly.
She moped about the columns for a while, then realised she’d let time run away and had to hurry back to be at the house for Jason and Hercules. Their car pulled up in time for a late lunch, although it took a while to drag Jason from his minute investigation of the rooms long enough to eat. He, of course, found the dress.
He walked into the kitchen just as Calypso and Hercules were starting to eat. Note in one hand, dress (on hanger) dangling from the other.
With a mock-fierce glare, he asked. “And when were you going to mention getting fitted for this?”
Calypso tried to look innocent. “I forgot?”
Hercules put down his sandwich. “And why are you snooping about, reading Calypso’s private notes?”
“It’s not private. Both Arachne and Hermes specifically told me about it.”
Jason thrust the laden hanger at Calypso. “Come on, let’s see how it fits.”
Calypso stayed where she was. “After lunch. I’m too hungry to stand still for a fitting right now.”
“Alright, but straight after, you’re putting this on for a pinning, Petal. You’re not allowed to ‘forget’.”
He hooked the hanger over the top of the open door and joined them at the table.
A couple of minutes later, Calypso said. “I don’t know why she’s so insistent about this. It’s not like I’m ever going to wear the dress.”
Both men grinned and Jason said. “Now that’s where you’re wrong.”
Calypso looked between the two of them. Jason was beaming and Hercules looked like he’d been handed the world on a platter as he looked over at his partner. “We’re getting married.”
She jumped and tried to hug both of them at once across the table.
When they’d settled again, she got the details. The proposal – Hercules on bended knee; the acceptance – Jason “I ugly-cried”; the plans – a big, dressed-to-the-nines celebration in three months’ time.
“And since you’re at the top of our invitation list, you’re going to need a drop-the-mike dress.” Jason concluded triumphantly.
Calypso looked at him, worried. “Who else is on that list?”
“Most of Z Corp. I can’t wait for them to see you looking drop dead fab and doing something amazing.”
“Wearing a dress that probably officially belongs to the company.”
Jason waved a hand. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine. Now go and put that template dress on so we can check the fit and tuck it somewhere it’ll take Hermes forever to to find when he comes to get it.”
“Why is Hermes doing this? Won’t he get into trouble?”
Hercules answered. “Because it’s his job and every now and again, he has to do a fetch and carry that’s annoying for him. This is one of those moments and we are making the most of it. Besides, he lives for trouble.”
“I still have a bad feeling about this.”
Jason said. “Well I’m the one getting married, and so’s he and we want you to wear this dress and you wouldn’t want to disappoint us on our wedding day would you?”
Hercules winced. “Ouch.”
Calypso sighed and gave in. She returned to the kitchen a few minutes later, in the dress, to find Herne being enthusiastically welcomed in by Jason.
Herne blinked. “I didn’t know you were getting married.”