Episode 3
By Bernard Doove © 2008

Ken was less fazed by the news of his guestís origin than Jazmyn expected. "I kinda guessed it had to be something like that, improbable as it seems. People like you could not be kept secret for too long in this world, and Iím sure that we donít have the technology as yet either." Ken paused and thought for a moment, then said, "If I was to guess, I would to say that the wild electrical storm in conjunction with some local phenomenon managed to breach time-space as we know it, and you were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Itís interesting though that your township has a similar name for this area Ė both have ĎSpirití in their names. Even before white settlers came here, the natives told of encounters with strange creatures that were attributed to spirit people or animals. Itís possible that your circumstances are hardly unique."

"There is an absence of solid data, but I would still have to strongly agree with your hypothesis," Jazmyn said resignedly.

"I donít suppose that we could possibly retrace your route during another similar storm in order to reverse your crossing?"

Jazmyn shook her head. "I was running in the dark in a disorienting storm Ė I havenít the slightest idea where I went. Do you even remember exactly where I ran into you?"

Ken replied glumly, "Close, but not exactly."

Jazmyn grimaced. "We have no idea where exactly that I crossed over either, and that could be critical. Even the time of day could be a factor. On top of all that, even if we get all those factors right, would I end up in my universe or in yet another one? No, I have had time to think about it and I believe that I must resign myself to living here, and that scares me out of my fur."

"Jasmine, before you could understand me properly, I made a promise to you that you could stay until you were ready and able to go. I wonít just leave you at the mercy of an unfamiliar world, so youíre welcome in my place until you find something better."

"I am very grateful for that, Ken, but I have to ask Ė why? I can imagine a dozen different unpleasant scenarios for what you could do, but you are treating me like an old friend. Why are you doing this all for me?"

Ken smiled crookedly. "Oh, Iím not totally altruistic. The truth is that youíre the most interesting thing that has happened to me in a long time, and helping you has been enjoyable and fulfilling. I can imagine some of those scenarios that you mentioned, but I have no need of money because I have a very well-paid job that I like, I have no interest in publicity Ė in fact I prefer my privacy, and while I find you to be veryÖ wellÖ strange in terms of my experience, I donít fear or mistrust you. Bottom line Ė I like having you around."

Jazmyn nodded. "I can accept that, and I thank you. In return, I will try to help around the house and yard for the duration of my stay."

"Sounds like a good deal to me. Ha! It might even give me some incentive to finish that extra room that I have been procrastinating. While you may be comfy on the sofa, I donít think that itís ideal for long-term occupation."

Jazmyn smiled. "That is true. While the sofa is pleasant, I would feel uncomfortable taking up space in the living room for a long period."

"Hmm, and it would be awkward if I had a visitor. Yes, it looks like my weekends will be busy for a while. At least I have all the materials, so it shouldnít take too long."

Jazmyn looked at him curiously and said, "You are a software engineer, but you can also sew and build. Do you have any more talents?"

Ken laughed. "My primary talent is stubbornness. If I donít know how to do something, I keep trying until I do. I really hate to admit defeat, so it means that I have learned to do some very diverse things. I helped a friend with his extension, and I learned a lot from that experience, and sewing was somewhat of a necessity. So far, the only thing that I havenít really succeeded at is getting the garden going."

"If you can supply a few things for me, I promise to make a garden for you that you will be proud to show to people, or just to enjoy for itself."

"Deal! Do you think that you can grow tomatoes also? I love tomatoes."

"Mmm!" Jazmyn licked her lips. "Tomato sandwiches with some salt and pepper Ė I like those too," admitted Jazmyn. "And if your seasons are currently the same as mine, then this would be a good time to plant them."

"Iíll pick up some seedlings and stakes then. What else would you need?"

They had been slowly making their way back to the cabin, and Jazmyn pointed to the storage shed. "Let me know what tools and other garden supplies that you have in that shed, and I will make a list of what else we will need."

They went straight to the shed which was currently open because of Kenís need for the garden implements that he had been using that day. Those were leaning against the outside wall, but inside there were several other tools and a wheelbarrow.

"I see that you have all the basics at least," Jazmyn observed. "We could do with some fertilizer though."

"How much?" Ken asked.

"How big a garden do you want? If cost is not a factor, get plenty. It wonít go bad if it isnít used immediately."

"OK. What about plants?"

"I will have to identify the names of the large plants of this world first to ensure that you buy those that are suitable for this area, but for flowers and vegetables, get whatever suits you, and as many as you want."

"That could be a lot, you know?" Ken warned her.

Jazmyn smiled. "To put things into perspective, Julius and I were self-sufficient for vegetables for eight or nine months of the year."

"Wow! Big garden," Ken commented.

"Very big," Jazmyn agreed.

I think that I will drive to the plant nursery this afternoon to get a good start. Donít you strain yourself though. I want you to keep resting and healing for now."

"Yes, Doctor Ken," Jazmyn replied cheekily.

"Thatís Doctor Morita to you, smart-ass!" Ken said with a grin.

Ken returned with an impressive supply of fertilizer, plants and seeds. Jazmyn was amused by his newfound keenness, but pleased with the result. She had rested until Ken had returned as he had insisted, but she did direct him to finish up one garden bed so that it would be ready for to work on it. Meanwhile she prepared dinner for them both. It was nearly ready when Ken came inside.

"All done, and am I hungry!" he declared.

"Dinner will be ready to serve after you clean up," Jazmyn informed him.

"Perfect! I wonít be long."

Ken ate with a ravenous appetite after his exertions that day. Fortunately Jazmyn had anticipated that and had plenty of food to satisfy him. Then they cleaned up the dishes Ė Ken washing and Jazmyn drying once again.

After they were done, Ken said, "Iím going to watch a movie. Would you be interested in watching it too?"

"I am not sure," Jazmyn answered. "I did not watch too much video with Julius. I will watch some and determine if I find it interesting."

"OK. Maybe Iíll choose something popular. HmmmÖ do you like science-fiction?"

Jazmyn shrugged.

"Maybe Iíll leave Star Wars for another day then. I know! Raiders of the Lost Ark is good light entertainment." He found the DVD of the movie and put it in the player. He turned on the TV and the home theatre sound system, then pulled the sofa back over in front of the screen. Settling down on one side of the sofa, he indicated that Jazmyn should take the other. When she was settled, he hit the play button.

Jazmyn had not expected to be so entertained by the movie. In her world, several elements would have been proscribed, yet here it was just regarded as entertainment. She could see that there was very much more to be learned about this world. Thankfully Ken was very helpful in that regard. But for the moment, she was feeling content with what she had achieved. She went out onto the porch, as was becoming her habit, to sit and meditate on the dayís events, and to once again mourn the loss of her Companion. She knew that she would never quite get over his death, but she would honour his life with memories of the joy and love that they had shared, and not by getting mired in sorrow. She knew that he would have expected her to get on with her life, and although this was definitely not what he had anticipated, Kenís offer gave her hope and assuaged her fears of being abandoned in an unfamiliar new world.

When Ken came out later with mugs of coffee, she smiled welcomingly, and the two enjoyed a silent appreciation of the night together.

Jazmyn was woken by the sound of a frypan that was accidentally knocked over. Ken smiled apologetically. "Sorry, I was trying to make breakfast without disturbing you."

"You are awake early," Jazmyn commented.

"I want to make an early start on the extension today. Gotta do it while I have all this enthusiasm. Iíve been procrastinating it for too long."

"Then do not let me hold you back," Jazmyn said as she got up and hopped over to the fridge to get a drink of orange juice, still naked.

Kenís eyes goggled a little before he tore them away from the sight and he busied himself with making his breakfast.

Jazmyn realised the effect that sheíd had on Ken, but mentally shrugged. She might eventually get used to being dressed, but she was still far more comfortable unclothed, and it didnít hurt to remind Ken that this was her normal state.

"How is the leg this morning?" Ken asked.

Jazmyn carefully put some weight on her right foot. "Very good, but I know that I still need more time for it to heal properly."

"Good. Do you want me to plant any of the seedlings for you?"

"No, I can still do that myself. I will be on my hands and knees so that I will not put my leg under stress."

"But your fur will get filthy." Ken pointed out. "After the rain weíve had, the soil is especially sticky."

"That is true. Back at my home, I had protective clothing for that purpose. Yes, there is no need to look at me like that Ė I will wear clothing when it is appropriate."

"OK. In that case I think that I can help. I have another pair of overalls that I outgrew but never threw away because they are still in good condition. I think that they might suit you."

"That sounds good. Where are they?" Jazmyn asked.

"Where else? In the shed along with everything else that I donít use regularly. Iíll see if I can dig them out after breakfast."

Later, after about ten minutes of cursing and the sound of things crashing, Ken returned from the shed, holding up the overalls in triumph. By this time, Jazmyn had finished her breakfast and was ready to start. She was still nude, seeing no point in putting on clothes that would be covered by the overalls. After the obligatory modification for her tail, she tried them on and was pleased with the result. If she had been a male human, they would have been too big, but the bulk of her fur filled out the overalls, and her breasts were snugly contained by the bib and braces.

"Damn! You make overalls look sexy," Ken commented, then blushed as he realised what he had just admitted.

Jazmyn grinned. "That is funny. Julius used to say the same thing. He said that he would come out just to watch me working in them." She looked sad for a moment. "I would wear them even if I did not need to, just to drag him out of the house for some fresh air and sunshine. He used to get too involved in his work and would forget to take breaks."

"Iím sorry if my comment made you sad," Ken said.

Jazmyn smiled at him. "No, do not apologise. I want to remember my Companion for all the good times that we had together. Thank you for the overalls, Ken. Now it is time that we both started working, yes?"

Jazmyn gardening

Jazmyn spent the morning preparing and planting the vegetable bed, making the tomatoes her first priority. All the while, she was accompanied by the sounds of sawing, drilling, and hammering, with the occasional curse interspersed. She added the invective to her already considerable vocabulary.

Working while trying not to strain her injured leg proved a lot more arduous than Jazmyn had anticipated, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Ken when he came over to her to announce a break for lunch.

"You just sit on the porch chair while I grab us both something to drink," he firmly ordered. Jazmyn willingly complied, and Ken was soon back with some iced lemonade. While it wasnít a particularly hot day, their exertions had left them both a bit dehydrated, and they relaxed with their drinks for several minutes. Then Ken got up and said, "Iím going to throw together some sandwiches. I wonít be long, so take it easy."

Jazmyn nodded, feeling a bit drowsy. By the time that Ken returned with the plates of sandwiches, the vixen had nodded off. Ken regarded the sight of an anthropomorphic fox woman dressed in overalls asleep on his porch. It seemed a bit surreal, and yet so right.

"Jasmine," he said softly.

The vixenís eyes opened immediately, darting about for a moment to get her bearings, then she grinned sheepishly. "It was just a bit too comfortable sitting here."

"So I noticed," Ken said as he handed her one of the plates.

They ate their lunch leisurely, and then Ken took the plates back inside. When he returned, he said, "Iím getting back to work. Iíve gotten back into the swing of things, and I want to keep at it while the going is good. You can take a nap if you like though."

Jazmyn shook her head. "No, I think that I will continue also, although perhaps I might take it a bit more easily and finish up before I get too tired."

"OK. Have fun."

Jazmyn managed to get all the vegetable seedlings planted, although she left the tomato stakes out for the time due to the effort involved. They werenít needed for a couple of weeks anyway. She also sowed some bean and corn seeds, but left others for when another garden bed or two could be prepared. She did tire early and headed to the porch to rest in what had become her favourite chair. There she took a short nap to recharge. She woke before Ken quit for the day, and she decided to have a shower. While the overalls had kept most of her clean, her feet and hands were very dirty, and she felt as if her fur could use a good shampoo anyway. She was drying herself when Ken came inside.

"Could you help me to dry my fur again please, Ken?" Jazmyn asked.

"Let me wash my hands first," Ken replied.

Ken didnít feel as embarrassed as he did the first time, but he still stuck to the more innocuous parts of her anatomy. When she declared that her fur was dry enough, he urged her out of the bathroom so that he could take a shower also.

"What do you want for dinner?" Jazmyn asked as she left.

"Weíve both worked hard today, so take a couple of frozen pizzas out and heat them up. No effort involved."

"Peet-sas? That is a word that I have not learned yet," Jazmyn admitted.

"Itís basically meat and various toppings with tomato paste on a pastry base. Itís spelled p-i-z-z-a and comes in flat square boxes."

"OK, I will find them." Knowing what to look for now, Jazmyn quickly found half a dozen pizzas in the chest freezer, and in three different types. She chose two of them and followed the heating instructions. Then she made tea for them both, which was ready by the time that Ken emerged from the bathroom dressed only in a towel wrapped around his waist.

"You could have taken the time to dress first," he said when he saw Jazmyn.

"There is still a bit of dampness to dry out," Jazmyn explained, although privately she knew it didnít really matter, and she was just putting off the inevitable.

Ken had a hard time refuting the excuse though, so he didnít bother even trying. He shrugged and headed off to his bedroom to get into some clean clothes. He was soon back again, and he grabbed his mug of tea and sat on the sofa.

"Phew! That was a good dayís work. I saw what you have done so far, and if even half of that grows, weíre not going to lack for home-grown food for a long time."

Jazmyn sat down next to him with her own mug of tea, half empty, and said, "You say that as if you expect me to be here that long."

Kenís expression grew serious. "Jasmine, I honestly have not been able to think of an alternative that wouldnít make you worse off than you are now. Unless you can come up with an idea, well, you may have to get used to being here for a long time."

"What about you?" Jazmyn asked. "I am sure that you had not planned on a long-term guest."

"Well, not one like you anyway, although the extension was intended to give me that kind of option. As long as we can get along, I donít see a problem having a boarder. Besides, itís nice to be able to have someone to chat to for a change. Iíve brought friends and girlfriends out here, but itís way too far off the beaten track for them to want to come out here regularly. Itís the price that I pay for having this gorgeous isolated property."

"Conversation is certainly something that I can provide," Jazmyn replied. "And I think that I can keep myself busy enough without getting bored and bothering you. You have done so much to accommodate me Ė I can do no less."

"Itíll work out Ė just you wait and see," Ken reassured her.

The oven timer chimed a little later, and Ken took the two hot pizzas out. He said to Jazmyn, "Letís eat these out on the porch."

Jazmyn nodded and said, "That sounds good to me."

The two pizzas were barely enough to satiate the two voracious appetites. Ken leaned back in his chair with a sigh of repletion. "This has been a good weekend. Maybe not so much for you, but Iíve enjoyed it."

"In spite of everything that has happened to me, I would tend to agree. I could have been in much worse circumstances, even on my world," Jazmyn admitted.

"Which brings me to the subject of why you were running for your life. Are you ready to talk about it yet?" Ken asked.

"I have been avoiding that subject, have I not?" Jazmyn said, looking away from Ken.

"The phrase should be Ďhavenít Ií, and youíre still avoiding it," Ken pointed out.

Jazmyn was quiet for a few moments, then made a decision. "As I told you earlier, Julius isÖ wasÖ a writer and orator. He sometimes used those skills for political agitation."

"Hardly unusual," commented Ken.

"Perhaps in this world and country, but it is a very dangerous occupation in mine. I kept telling him that his luck would run out one day and I feared for his safety. He was fearless though, and much respected, and so managed to keep himself out of harmís way. Then one day he came across some information that was politically explosive. I begged Julius to let it go, but he insisted on acting upon it. That brought far too much attention his way though and his luck ran out. He got a very late warning of danger, which is when he made me flee without him. While I had been afraid of the consequences of his actions, I nevertheless supported him completely, and so that made me nearly as big a target as he was. Julius stayed to destroy sensitive documents and such before he intended to flee also and rendezvous with me later, hopefully at the home of one of his sympathisers. I do not believe that he left our house alive however."

"Iím sorry for your loss, Jasmine," Ken said gently. "I did not mean to re-open fresh wounds."

"Do not worry, Ken. I can and will deal with it. Shutting it in does not help, but it is good to be able to talk to someone else about it. Thank you for your concern."

""Youíre welcome, Jasmine. I hope this world treats you a lot better."

"Mine was not so bad. The politics were dangerous, and certain religious views too, but my world had many beautiful things also."

"Of course. I should have realised that, and itís not as if this world doesnít have its share of problems."

"I will try to make this little corner of it beautiful," promised Jazmyn.

"Thatís all I want too," admitted Ken.

They were silently thoughtful for a while before Ken stretched and got up out of his chair. "Urk! My muscles have stiffened up. I probably havenít been getting enough exercise and Iím a bit out of shape."

"There is no need to rush anything on my account," Jazmyn said.

"No, I needed this motivation. Itíll be goodÖ oofÖ in the long run."

Jazmyn grinned as Ken hammed it up a bit.

"Wanna watch Star Wars with me?" Ken asked. "Itíll be fun."

"Why not?" Jazmyn replied, and held out a hand to be helped out of the chair. Minutes later they were seated on the sofa with sodas and a huge bowl of potato chips between them. A couple of hours later, Jazmyn was wondering if she could make herself a Jedi costume.

Despite her exertions the previous day, Jazmyn was still up and making breakfast for both of them before Ken emerged from his bedroom.

"Morniní, Jasmine," Ken said a little blearily.

"Would you prefer cereal or scrambled eggs for breakfast?" Jazmyn asked.

"Hmm? Oh, scrambled eggs sounds good."

"I thought that you might like that, so I made enough for two. Those were the last eggs however."

"Iíll get more on the way home. Anything else we need?"

"I think that we need milk also, but I have not checked everything."

"Iíll have a good look tonight and do a proper grocery run tomorrow."

"I can check for you if you like?" offered Jazmyn.

"Youíre my guest, Jasmine, not my maid," Ken objected.

"No, as you called me last night, I am your boarder, and I will do whatever I can to pay my way. Besides, until you prepare another garden bed, I will not be able to plant any more of those seeds and plants that you bought, so I will have plenty of time to spare."

"Ugh! Thatís something else that Iíll do today Ė hire a rotary tiller. Itís just too much work otherwise."

"That makes a lot of sense," Jazmyn agreed.

"So what else will you do to occupy your time?" Ken asked.

"I will try to polish my language, learn more words, and try to learn more about this world."

"Practice your contractions," Ken advised. "Your speech sounds a bit stilted otherwise."

Jazmyn grimaced as she passed over a plate of scrambled eggs on toast. "I know. My worst habit is that I am too precise with my words. It takes me some time to relax into a new language."

"Considering how long youíve known English, youíve got nothing to be ashamed of."

"Nevertheless, it is a point of pride with me."

"Fair enough," Ken said, then got stuck into his food.

As Ken was about to leave for work, he said to Jazmyn, "I couldnít explain it to you before when I first left you alone to go to work, but almost nobody ever comes down this way, so if you hear a vehicle any time except when you expect me home, youíd better hide away. Iíll call you if I intend to come home early. If you need to call me, Iíve left my business card next to the phone."

"OK, Ken. I wish you a pleasant and productive day."

"Thanks, Jasmine. Same for you!"

"Honey, Iím home!" Ken called as he opened the door with one hand while carrying an armful of groceries with the other.

"What?" asked Jazmyn quizzically.

"Sorry, bad joke," Ken explained.

"I see. You seem to have brought home a lot more than eggs and milk," Jazmyn observed curiously.

"Yep. Grabbed a few more things while I was at the supermarket." He pulled out some meat from the bag. "Two big T-bone steaks for dinner."

"Well that will do for me, but what will you have?" Jazmyn asked with a straight face.

Ken stared at her for a moment, then he grinned. "OK, so you have a sense of humour also, but donít get between a man and his steak, fox-girl!"

Jazmyn grinned back. "Youíre stingy, but Iíll keep that in mind," she replied.

"Ah! You have been practicing your speech contractions," Ken noted.

"I recited them to myself while I did the gardening until they came naturally to my tongue."

"Then the steak is a good reward. One steak," Ken added sternly.

"Meany!" Jazmyn poked her tongue out at Ken.

"Meany? Where did you pick up that term?"

"TV of course. Did I use it incorrectly?" Jazmyn asked.

"No. I mean yes! I meanÖ you really are a kitsune sometimes, tricky one."

Jazmyn laughed. "Iíll behave now. Want me to cook those?"

"Yes, but not quite yet. I brought home that rotary tiller for the garden, and I intend to prepare a couple of garden beds before I lose the light. We can have dinner after that."

"That suits me," Jazmyn said with a nod.

The rest of the week proceeded much as Monday had. Jazmyn spent a large amount of time preparing and planting the garden beds that Ken had dug with the rotary tiller each afternoon. They spent the evenings watching movies and doing their own projects on the internet. Occasionally Jazmyn would interrupt Ken to ask him to more fully explain something that she had encountered in order to better understand it. Both went to bed tired but happy after a fulfilling day. On Friday afternoon, Ken brought home sushi, something that Jazmyn had never eaten before. She found it to be delightfully different, and especially enjoyed the sashimi with wasabi.

"Now youíre a proper kitsune," Ken said.

"Oh? Why?" Jazmyn asked curiously.

"Sushi is a style of food from Japan, the home of the kitsune. You couldnít really be one and never eat sushi!"

Jazmyn rolled her eyes. "Now youíre being silly."

"So you donít want the last of the sashimi then?" Ken asked slyly.

"Touch my sashimi and Iíll claw you, steak-boy!" she warned, but Ken tried to sneak a piece with his chopsticks anyway. That started a chopsticks war for the last pieces. Jazmyn held the last piece up in triumph.

"For someone who has never used chopsticks before today, you certainly know how to use them well," Ken said admiringly.

Jazmyn ate the sashimi before replying, just in case Ken was trying to distract her. "Thatís me Ė learn fast and win! Thanks for bringing the sushi home though. I really enjoyed it."

"Youíre welcome, Jasmine. And in the spirit of that, tonightís movie is ĎKung Fu Pandaí.

"Is it a movie from Japan?"

"No, but it has chopsticks!" Ken replied with a grin.

"You really are silly, you know?"

Saturday morning came and Ken slept in until ten. When he finally got out of bed, Jazmyn was not in the house. He checked out the window and caught a glimpse of her in the garden. Thrusting his feet into the sneakers by the door, Ken went outside to greet Jazmyn. When he approached her as she knelt by a garden bed, pulling weeds, he noticed that something was missing.

"Good morning, Jasmine. Where are your crutches?"

"Good morning, Ken. I hope you enjoyed your sleep." Jazmyn got up on her feet. "The crutches are inside. I walked over here," she said as she gave a little demonstration.

Ken was fascinated by the different gait of her digitigrade legs. "Your leg is all better now?"

"I wonít be doing any running, long-distance hiking or carrying heavy loads for a while yet, but basically I can get around without any pain now. Iím very glad to get rid of those crutches!"

"Heh! I know what you mean. The novelty wears off fast."

"Iíll get you to move a few things over here for me later, after youíve had your breakfast."

"No problem. Iíll have a quick breakfast and come back out soon."

After he had eaten a bowl of cereal, Ken moved some of the big potted plants over to where Jazmyn intended to put them, then he headed to the shed to grab the tools that he needed to recommence work on the extension. He had only been working for about an hour when he noticed the sound of a car coming down the road. Ken dropped the hammer that he had been holding and ran over to Jazmyn. Glimpsing a view of the car through the trees confirmed his suspicions.

"Thatís my sisterís car. You need to hide somewhere," Ken told Jazmyn.

"Where? In the cabin or in the trees?"

"Hide in my bedroom," Ken said as he motioned her towards the door. "Make sure you grab anything that belongs to you, or indicates that somebody else besides me is living here."

"Good idea," Jazmyn said as she walked inside. She had barely closed the door behind her before the car turned onto the track leading to the cabin. Ken stood there waiting for it.

The red Mitsubishi Pajero pulled up next to Ken, and the young Japanese lady inside said, "Hi, Ken!"

"Good morning, Sakura. What brings you here?" Ken enquired.

"Hello? First Saturday of the month Ė picnic lunch at the lookout?" Sakura reminded him.

Ken slapped his forehead. "Doh! I completely forgot! Iíve been so wrapped up in my work."

Sakura looked about as she got out of the car. "Thatís one of the reasons why we have these picnics. Iíd rag on you more, but by the looks of things, youíve been very busy, so itís no great surprise that it slipped your mind."

"Yeah, I finally got myself into gear. Iíd put things off for too long."

"Not that I want to interrupt your momentum, but I do have a picnic lunch packed and ready."

Ken couldnít think of an excuse that wouldnít sound fishy, so he said, "OK, just let me clean up a bit first."

"Sure," Sakura said. "Iíll just take a look at what youíve gotten done in the meantime."

Ken went inside and washed his hands, then went into his bedroom. Jazmyn looked at him expectantly. "My sister likes to have picnic lunches with me, to enjoy the fresh air and the view, and to keep me from getting into a rut. Weíd arranged this weeks ago, but with your arrival, it slipped my mind."

"Will she be coming inside at all?" Jazmyn asked.

"Possibly later, but she never comes into this room, so just keep the door shut and you should be alright."

"OK. I grabbed my laptop so that I would have something to do in case I needed to stay out of sight for a long time."

"Good idea. Weíll probably be at the lookout for about an hour. Iím not sure if Sakura will hang around any more after that, but Iíll try to keep her away from the cabin." As he spoke, Ken stripped off his overalls. Fortunately the clothes that he wore underneath were presentable, so he was able to leave again quickly. He firmly closed the door behind him.

Jazmyn sighed, annoyed that her gardening was being interrupted. She didnít like hiding from people either, even though she understood its necessity. She wondered if there could be anyone else here who could be discreet about her existence. She couldnít take the risk of finding out though. Resignedly, she opened up her laptop and went to a bookmarked website to continue her education with the new world.

Ken carried half of the picnic gear, following Sakura to the lookout. There they spread a rug on the ground and started unpacking everything.

As they did that, Sakura said, "So howís your latest girlfriend working out?"

For a moment, Ken had this weird feeling that Sakura was hinting at Jazmynís presence before he realised whom she meant. "Oh, you mean Michelle. She broke up with me a couple of weeks back. Seems she wasnít keen on travelling into these Ďwild and dangerous woodsí any more."

"Iím sorry to hear that. You really need to stop picking up those city girls as long as youíre determined to live out here in the middle of nowhere. I think that itís wonderful, but the novelty wears off quickly for those city types, and they get tired of driving most of an hour one way to get here."

"And how do you propose that I find a country girl out here?" Ken asked as he poured some fruit juice for both of them.

"Youíve been out here for long enough to know the answer by now. Are you even trying?" Sakura passed him some salad rolls.

"No, not at the moment anyway. Too soon after Michelle, and I want to concentrate on my projects for a while."

"So I noticed. Youíve done a lot since my last visit, and maybe youíve gotten the hang of gardening at last. Did you get help?"

"Yes, a keen gardener gave me lots of advice and help in exchange for a steak dinner."

"Where did you meet this gardener?"

Ken hesitated, then said, "I bumped into her locally." He hated to lie to his sister, so he answered as vaguely as possible. Fortunately she was side-tracked.

"Her? And I thought that you said that you couldnít find any girls out here?" Sakura grinned widely.

Ken nearly choked on his food. "What?! No! Weíre just acquaintances. Sheís not exactly my type, but she likes to help out."

"How would you know if sheís your type if you donít try?"

"Believe me, sheís way different from anyone youíve ever met."

"Now youíve really got me curious," Sakura said mischievously.

"Mind your own business, sis! I have a friend, and thatís the end of the story."

"Whatís this friendís name?" Sakura persisted.

Ken sighed. "Itís Jasmine."

"Jasmine who?"

"Just Jasmine. I told you weíre just friends. I havenít exactly delved into her life story." ĎDoes she even have a last name?í he privately wondered.

"My name means ĎCherry Blossomí, so now you have two flowers in your life," Sakura pointed out.

"Sheís just a friend!" Ken insisted.

"A friend who has gone to a lot of effort to help you. Are you sure sheís just a friend?"

"Arrgh! Enough already! Change of subject!" Ken said firmly.

Sakura still kept grinning knowingly, but she knew that she had pushed Ken as far as he would go for now, so she started talking about family news instead.

Jazmyn watched through the bedroom blinds as Sakura drove away. Kenís sister had entered the cabin briefly to dispose of a bit of trash, wash her hands, and clean up the picnic gear before she said farewell to her brother. Jazmyn picked up her laptop and left the bedroom. She met Ken as he came back inside.

"Did you enjoy your picnic?" asked Jazmyn.

"I usually do, but Sakura was getting a bit nosy about what has been happening and who has been helping me."

"Helping? Did you mention me?" Jazmyn asked with some concern.

"Yes, although I left out most of the details, especially the part about you being a fox. Youíre just a friend whom I met and you offered to help me with my garden."

"I see. Will we be expecting any more visitors?"

"Sakura is the only one who ever comes out here. Mom and Dad donít like driving on dirt roads, which suits me fine."

"Donít you like your parents?"

"Dadís okay. Itís Mom that I prefer taking in small doses. She was very disappointed in me and my lack of interest in Japanese tradition. Did your parents ever bug you about things that you cared little about?"

"I never had parents in your sense," Jazmyn explained.

"Oh. Right. Sorry." Ken felt a bit awkward.

"Donít let it bother you. It wasnít of concern to me."

"OK, if you say so. How about we get back to our projects?"

"Good idea. Iíve lost enough time today," Jazmyn said with a touch of frustration.

As they headed out, Ken suddenly asked, "Do you have a surname?"

"Huh? No, I donít," Jazmyn answered, wondering what had brought that question on.

"How do you distinguish yourself from other people named Jasmine then?"

"If any identification was seriously needed, I have an identification number. More informally though, I was known as Jazmyn Julius-Bené, meaning Juliusí Companion."

"I see. That kind of makes him your family then."

Jazmyn nodded. "I guess so," she agreed. When she thought about it from Kenís point of view, she had to concede that a Companion like her was part of the family. As she re-started her work in the garden, Jazmyn was suddenly just a little bit envious of Ken who had parents and a sister, and all the benefits of a family.


All characters and this story are copyright © 2008 Bernard Doove.

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To be continued in episode 4.

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