The Weatherman

When Serena Frost starts a new job at the British Weather Centre, she learns about a rival company, Readiweather.com, whose forecasts are uncannily accurate. A chance encounter with Readiweather's founder piques Serena's interest, but she soon finds both her heart and her life in danger, as some people will stop at nothing to discover Readiweather's secret.

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15. Chapter Fifteen

Jeff strode purposefully through the corridors of the Royal Berkshire Hospital until he came to the burns unit. He cleaned his hands with the sanitiser gel and entered the ward.

            “Serena Frost?” he asked a blonde nurse at the reception desk.

            “Third bed on the left,” the nurse replied.

            “How’s she doing?”

            “As well as can be expected,” the nurse answered without a hint of emotion. “Her blisters are going down and there will be quite a lot of scarring, but she’ll live. Chlorine accident filling a swimming pool, wasn’t it?”

            Jeff nodded and made his way to Serena’s bed.

            “Hi,” she smiled. “I was wondering when you were going to turn up.”

            “How are you?” Jeff asked, concerned. He could see scarring on her face and neck, and patches of her hair had fallen out.

            Serena pulled her arms out from under the bedclothes, revealing more                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                scars. Jeff winced as he saw them. “I’m like that all over,” she said. “Guess my bikini-wearing days are past.” She rolled on to her side to shift the pressure from one set of scars to another.

            “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” she said. “It wasn’t your fault.” She paused. “How’s my face?”

            Jeff looked at it more closely. “Beautiful,” he answered, with a smile.

            “No, really.”

            “Nothing a touch of make-up can’t hide. But you’re still beautiful to me. Your scars saved my life. You should have showered immediately and washed the chemicals off before they burned you too badly, but you sent me the email first instead. You were more concerned with my survival than saving your skin. Thank you.” They looked into each other’s eyes for a moment.

            “So, what did you do?” Serena asked.

            “When I’d watched the video, I came up with a plan. Everything needed to appear to have occurred exactly as it was on the video or else I might have prevented you from sending the email, which would have created a temporal instability.” He could see Serena trying to process the information. “Don’t think too hard about that. Anyhow, I swapped some of the bullets in my gun for blanks. Not all of them, as I still had to shoot the holes in the door frame, and sadly I still had to let Ronnie die – there was no way of faking that.”

            “Couldn’t you have locked him in a bedroom?”

            “No. Everything had to appear exactly the same as it did in the CCTV footage. If I’d locked Ronnie away then when you sent me the footage, he wouldn’t have been shot, so I wouldn’t have locked him away… And if he’d as much as barked to be let out, that could have changed things completely. Not to mention that if he hadn’t been shot, there would have been a bullet unaccounted for.”

            “And the blood?” Serena asked. “You lost a lot of that.”

            “Theatrical blood packs,” Jeff explained. “I sent an email back a week earlier telling me to order them.”

            Serena smiled. “So you let me sit there crying for nothing?”

            “Not for nothing,” Jeff answered. “You needed to cry so that your tears would flush the chemicals from your eyes. Otherwise you’d have been blinded.” They sat in silent for a few moments.

            “I’m going to close Readiweather down,” Jeff announced, breaking the silence.

            “Why?” Serena asked.

            “Those chemicals are just too dangerous,” Jeff explained, indicating Serena’s scars “They came close to killing you. I couldn’t let that happen again.”

            “If it hadn’t been for those chemicals, I’d have been killed by lightning instead,” Serena reminded him. “And who knows who else your forecasts might have saved, without your even knowing it?”

            Jeff smiled. “Well, you know, if I’m going to keep it going, I’m going to have to get help running it. I’ve been getting so many calls and emails it’s much more than a full time job to process them all and I can’t keep working at that level indefinitely.”

            “You’re thinking of taking on an employee?” Serena asked.

            “Not an employee. A partner. Obviously it’d help if they already knew how the system worked. If they had a background in Meteorology, that’d help too. And, given the round-the-clock nature of the business, they’d need to be on hand out-of-hours to answer the calls and help maintain the system.”

            Serena smiled at him again. “Anyone in mind?”

            Jeff smiled back. “Yes, I can think of someone who’d fit the bill admirably. I’d like to offer them a permanent position as soon as possible.”

            The sound of heels on the ward floor heralded the nurse’s approach. “I’m afraid visiting hours are over for today,” she interrupted. “And Miss Frost needs rest.”

            “Just a couple of minutes,” Jeff pleaded.

            The nurse glance at Serena who nodded back. “Very well,” replied the nurse. “Two minutes.”

            Serena looked back at Jeff. To her surprise, he was knelt down on one knee by the side of her bed. In his right hand he held a small red jewellery box, which he opened to reveal a diamond ring.

            “Serena,” he said. “I love you, and I don’t want to lose you again. Will you marry me?”

            There was a silence that seemed like a thousand years to Jeff before Serena replied.

            “I’m sorry,” she answered at last. “I can’t. It really wouldn’t be a good idea…”

            Jeff stayed where he was, crestfallen, his mind in turmoil. He’d received a message from his future self only a few hours earlier telling him to “propose to Serena at the end of visiting time, and she’ll say ‘Yes’.” Why hadn’t she? He’d followed the instructions to the letter, hadn’t he? Something must have happened differently that had been affected by receiving the message. Was it just that knowing the outcome had affected his whole demeanour and given him a confidence he shouldn’t have had? Had that air of confidence – taking Serena’s acceptance for granted – put her off?

            Jeff became aware of a gentle laughter and looked up.

            “Only kidding,” teased Serena with a big smile. “Of course I will, you idiot!”

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