Amy’s phone buzzed, causing the spoon in her empty tea-cup to rattle. She reached over with a groan. The relaxation she had felt every morning waking up on the island had seemed to vanish. With a stretch and another groan, Amy knew why she was feeling a sense of dread.
Traveling alone the last few months had led her to a few encounters with men. There was the weirdo in Lyon who had followed her in his car, the guy in London who didn’t understand what no meant when he offered to buy her drinks… and now a self-satisfied prick was here. She was done with it.
She pulled on some leggings and a sports bra. After some consideration, she opted for a long-sleeved shirt. The sun was peering through her window, but the grass sparkled with morning dew, hinting it’d be chillier than it looked. Amy grabbed the yoga mat leaning against the door frame and swung open her cabin door.
A slight breeze tickled the grass as Amy unrolled her mat on the side of the cabin, out of view of the main house. The only people who could watch her would have to cross over the employees only sign and past the washing Sophie still hadn’t taken down. Amy took a deep breath in and raised her hands above her head.
She wasn’t always so good at keeping up with her yoga practice. But facing the ocean, with the castle ruins on the coast below and nothing but the sound of the occasional disgruntled sheep, made her feel much more zen than she ever had before. She kept doing sun salutations, and other basic balances and stretches she remembered from a class she took years ago until she had worked up a decent sweat. Then she returned the mat to her cabin, grabbed her old teacup, and headed down the hill.
She checked her watch and sighed. It was already almost eight o’clock. That meant technically she had enough time to relax in the garden with her coffee and toast. But she usually was already brewing the coffee at this time. A familiar knot began to form in her chest.
Maybe she should just skip the toast, or cook it for a little less time, and then eat it at a faster rate—
Stop, she told herself firmly, locking the garden gate and heading to the shed. We don’t do this anymore.
There was no set schedule here. No “wake up by this time, or you won’t have time for a meal until after the 11 o’clock class is finished, but if the professor goes over class time, then you won’t have time to eat until after the 12 o’clock class, but then you have to leave campus by…” Amy waved the thoughts from her brain like she was trying to swat at bugs.
She chose the cleanest picnic table and settled herself. The island was still quiet, and she took a deep breath. And then promptly sneezed.
Amy groaned. This island would be perfect if she weren’t allergic to something. She sniffled, using her sleeve to wipe her nose. She wasn’t sure if it was pollen or dust or an evil spirit, but it seemed to tickle the inside of her nose relentlessly. She sneezed again.
Sophie never told her there were allergens on Kera. Then again, she reasoned, Sophie didn’t say too much about Kera before Amy agreed to come. She had only met her while hiking around somewhere in the Highlands. Amy had rented a camper car for a few days, and quickly discovered she hated driving in the UK. She positioned herself in some camping ground and just hiked everywhere. That was how she met Sophie, who was taking her own leisure trip when they both got caught in the rain, and Sophie had a little slip. Then Amy felt so bad she couldn’t say no to going to Kera to help out for a month or so.
Amy picked up her dishes. It wasn’t her fault that Sophie fell, but she still felt a weird sort of guilt for being there when it happened.
The door to the main house was open, and Amy headed into the kitchen, opening another door that warned only employees could enter. She washed her dishes and set them on a drying rack. Then she tied her hair back and grabbed an apron from the hooks. She chose the green one today, mostly because it was the only clean one that had pockets.
The water machine had to be turned on, and then Amy opened the fridge and began taking an inventory. They were almost out of clotted cream, and she only saw two cartons of milk in the fridge. She grabbed a notepad and began jotting down supplies, checking her watch. She was still three minutes behind schedule.
“You’re always so early,” Sophie remarked, adding a loud yawn. “How do you do it?”
“I sleep early,” Amy replied, double-checking her list.
She felt another tickle and tried to hold back her sneeze. It didn’t work.
“Allergy meds are in the drawer,” Sophie said. “Take some.”
“I will,” Amy replied with a sigh. “I don’t think they’re helping, though.”
“Just don’t sneeze in anyone’s food,” Sophie joked. “I don’t like giving out refunds.”
Amy smiled and grabbed a wooden crate from the corner. She headed out to the shed and searched through the large refrigerators lined against the far wall. When she found everything on her list, she returned to the kitchen. Sophie was already portioning out the jam and clotted cream into individual-sized servings. Two minutes behind schedule.
“I think I’ll need to bake more scones tomorrow,” she mused. “Wanna learn my secret recipe?”
“How do you know I won’t just sell it off?” Amy teased.
“Is it worth much?”
Sophie winked at Amy and began setting scones into two baskets, one for the fruit scones and one for plain.
“I’d like to think so,” she answered. “But I doubt it’d buy you anything too nice.”
“Then I guess I won’t,” Amy replied. “Doesn’t sound like it’s worth the effort.”
She left the kitchen and walked across the hall. The dining room doors were still closed. She quickly set up the room, checking her watch after every task. Finally, everything was right back on schedule. Amy felt herself breathe a sigh of relief as her chest un-knotted itself. She headed back to the kitchen with a sigh of relief.
“Nine o’clock on the dot,” Sophie remarked, checking the clock. “Show time.”
Amy nodded and took her spot in the dining room. There was already someone inside, circling the tables as if debating on which one to take.
“Good morning!” Amy greeted.
The man jumped and mumbled a good morning as he sat in his usual spot in the corner. Amy pulled out her notepad.
“Let me guess,” she said. “One scrambled egg, two pieces of bacon, and a black tea?”
“Y-yes please,” he stammered, turning a little pink. “How’d you remember?”
“You’ve been here a week,” Amy replied with a smile.
She headed to the kitchen to place the order and fix a teapot for one.
“The college kid?” Sophie guessed, sliding his order on a plate.
“Did you make him blush yet?”
Amy chuckled instead of answering her question and loaded the tea and food on a tray. She brought it to the dining room and greeted two more guests who had come down for breakfast, a couple who was just staying the night on their backpacking honeymoon. They placed an order, and Amy began her cycle of traveling between the two rooms.
The breakfast service went smoothly, mostly because Sophie was a pro at cooking with one hand and washing the dishes… well, probably with the same hand, Amy figured. But even with one arm in a cast and out of commission, she seemed to have no problem running the place. Sophie left her to break down the breakfast room and clean up the rest of the kitchen.
Amy put in her headphones as she worked, throwing the tablecloths into the washing machine and mopping the floor with the remainder of the hot water from the machine. She carried the bucket past the garden and poured it into the stream. The food trash was dumped behind the garden, in the nook surrounded by wildflowers. Amy took down the clean laundry next and hung the freshly washed tablecloths.
When she returned to the house, Sophie was checking out the last of the guests. Amy grabbed the laundry basket and headed up the stairs. Five of the rooms had to be cleaned for new guests. One was still occupied by the college kid, and the last one… Amy figured she didn’t have to clean his room. She took the sheets from the beds, vacuumed the floors, ran a dust cloth over every surface, and tried to open the bathroom door.
“Occupied!” an annoyed voice called out.
She didn’t have to guess who it was. She’d just have to come back later when His Royal Majesty was finished, she guessed with a roll of her eyes.
“Hey!” Tthe same voice again.
She debated not answering, but he’d probably call out again. She didn’t want him shouting through the house, and she had a feeling he had a voice that carried.
“What?” she asked.
“Where are the towels?”
“In your room,” she replied. “You’re supposed to bring it with you to the bathroom. There’s a note explaining it in every room.”
“Well, obviously I didn’t get the memo. Can you bring it to me?”
“Is there a please?” she asked, annoyed.
“Or I can just open the door,” he suggested. “I’ve done enough partially nude scenes to not care about nudity, you know.”
“Thanks for the warning, I’ll be sure to close my eyes.”
“You’re fine with water on the carpet, right?”
Amy rolled her eyes. Sure, she’d get his towel. And then throw it at his face.
“Wait there,” she ordered.
His towel was on the table, next to the note explaining what to do. If his head weren’t up his butt, Amy thought, he wouldn’t have been in this predicament.
“I’ll just leave it outside the door!” she called.
The door swung open, proving he didn’t know how to listen to anything. Amy could see the upper half of his body, still dripping with water, peeking out from behind the door.
“You can just hand it to me,” he said, holding out his hand with a smile.
Smirk. Amy corrected herself. He was definitely aware of how he looked, with muscles covered in water, blond hair damp and hanging in a way around his face that looked planned. She looked into his blue eyes and scowled.
“Next time, don’t forget it,” she said. “I’m not your maid.”
She threw the towel at his hand and stomped off with her laundry basket. Her heart pounded, but probably because she had just rushed down the stairs. Sophie gave her a questioning look, and Amy forced a smile.
“Your nephew forgot his towel,” she said. “And couldn’t get it himself.”
“He takes after his father,” Sophie said with a chuckle. “Don’t worry. I’m going to put him to work starting tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” Sophie said, giving a sheepish smile. “Sorry to ask, but I think he’s going to need some training. Think you can handle it?”
Amy wanted to say she’d have better luck jumping from the castle walls and actually flying than teaching him how to cook and clean. Instead, she forced another smile.
“I guess we’ll find out,” she replied.
“Great! Let’s get the laundry loaded and the rooms set up before lunch time!”
Amy nodded and tried to fight back a sigh. Her jerk-guy-free time on the island was about to come to an annoying end. She could feel it in the air.
Amy sneezed again.