Colin’s phone buzzed just as the sky was brightening. He groaned and swatted it away from him. It crashed and continued to buzz, crawling across the floor.
“What?” he groaned, holding it to his ear.
“Hey…. Col—” Robbie’s voice sounded like he was under water. “Can—hear—e?”
“It’s too early and you’re going in and out,” Colin grumbled. “Call me back in a couple hours.”
“Season—call—contract,” Robbie’s voice crackled.
Colin hung up and planted his face in his pillow. The likelihood that it was important was minimal, he figured. Otherwise he wouldn’t have sent Colin here in the first place.
Colin sighed. It would have been his luck to be sent away just before something big happened and they needed him. Maybe they were changing up some of the episodes and were trying to get him back for filming.
Better than being stuck here, he thought, sitting up with a stretch.
Amy’s smile flashed in his mind. He shook his head to get rid of the image. No. No. This was the conniving girl that trapped him in a kitchen, made him dump disgusting food waste into a literal trash pile, and… and… he was sure there were other reasons why she was awful.
Colin quickly changed clothes and headed outside. He could see dew on the ground, which meant it was definitely too early for him to be awake. There was a large hill behind the house. Maybe he could hike to the top and get a better signal. If he cut through the back garden, he’d be at the foot of the hill. With the top in his view, he figured it must be an easy and short climb.
He stopped in his tracks. Amy was sitting at the picnic table, munching on a piece of toast as she stared at the horizon. She hadn’t even noticed him come outside. He strode over as she looked down at her watch.
“Have you considered acting?” he asked by way of greeting. “Because your performance yesterday was really something.”
Amy flushed and gave a sheepish smile.
“I mean, I honestly didn’t expect you to fall for it,” she admitted.
“I was just tired,” he replied quickly. “And I was only there for, like, a minute or two before I left.”
“That’s good to hear. I’d hate to think Sophie had to go and convince you to come out.”
His eyes narrowed.
“Well, I won’t be falling for anything else, mind you,” he said. “I mean, falling for your jokes.”
He wasn’t sure why he added that last sentence.
Amy opened her mouth to respond, but any reply was cut off by a sneeze. And then another. She curled over the table, covering her mouth. Colin didn’t want to admit it, but it was pretty cute.
“You should really take some allergy pills,” he said, pushing those thoughts from his head.
“I do,” she moaned miserably.
“Well… then,” he said and turned away.
He didn’t run from the garden, but he walked away quickly with an excuse of having to make an important phone call. And that wasn’t a lie.
The hill was muddy. And slippery. The sheep grazing on the hill had tricked him into thinking it was an easy walk. As he slipped and scraped his knee against the mud for the umpteenth time, Colin glared at a nearby sheep. It gave him a lazy look and returned its attention to the grass.
With a few swear words and several more slips in the mud, he made it to the top of the hill. The sun was climbing up in the sky, and he could see the first of the tourists making their way around the island. He sighed and called Robbie.
“It took you long enough.”
Robbie’s voice was clearer now.
“It had better be important,” Colin warned.
“Not really,” Robbie admitted. “We’re almost done with the filming, except for the season finale. I was just calling to make sure things are going alright with you.”
“Oh, yeah, things are great,” Colin replied sarcastically. “Except for the fact that I’ve been banished to an island.”
“Uh-huh, yeah, I hear you.”
This was what Robbie usually said when he wasn’t hearing him, Colin thought with a roll of his eyes.
“Anyway, your contract for the next two seasons needs to be signed,” Robbie continued. “Your father wants it signed when you’re back.”
“My contract isn’t up til next season,” Colin replied.
“Let’s be honest, you know we’re getting renewed,” Robbie pointed out. “And it’s not like you have any other projects going on.”
“Well, I might. Later.”
Even as he said it, Colin knew it was unlikely. He had a feeling Robbie was shaking his head on the other end of the line.
“Right, well, I’m just passing along your father’s message,” Robbie said.
Colin heard a slurping sound on the other end of the line.
“What are you doing?” he asked irritably.
“Oh, sorry, just drinking coffee,” Robbie replied sheepishly. “Look, I actually called you before this brunch thing, but it’s already started, so I’ll just call you back later, ok?”
“Your… father bought the cast brunch to celebrate,” Robbie replied slowly.
“He never bought brunch when I was there,” Colin muttered.
“I’ll, uh, call you back later.”
The line went dead, and Colin almost threw his phone to the ground.
“Whatever,” he mumbled, shoving his phone into his pocket.
So they weren’t missing him all that much. Of course his dad would be happy. Colin had been out of the papers for a few days. And Robbie was probably less stressed. But they could at least pretend to miss him.
The trip down the hill was much faster. Colin slipped and slid down most of the way. He swore and headed towards the house. The garden was empty, probably due to the overcast sky. He walked into the kitchen. Aunt Sophie was already in her apron, frying up some eggs.
He was definitely late.
“Well, I’d ask where you’ve been,” Aunt Sophie said with a chuckle. “But it looks like you’ve been through hell already.”
He looked down at his clothes, which were caked in mud.
“I’ll go change,” he muttered.
“No you won’t. There are customers out there. I don’t want them seeing you like this,” Aunt Sophie replied. “Just wash the dishes until they leave, and then you can wash yourself. It’s a miracle no one saw you come in.”
Colin sighed and put on the rubber gloves. There was only a small stack of dishes waiting, which struck Colin as strange. He turned to ask Aunt Sophie if she only had a few guests last night.
“What happened to you?”
Amy came into the kitchen with a full tray of dirty dishes. She looked at him with shock and what Colin hoped was not disgust.
“Nothing,” he muttered, grabbing the dishes.
“Were you mud-wrestling with some sheep?” she teased. “Is that why you’re an hour late?”
“Why? Did you miss me that much?” he retorted with a smile.
“Not really,” Amy replied. “Turns out I can handle the front of the house and do the dishes faster than you. At the same time.”
Colin’s smile faded. He picked up a teapot and began scrubbing it. He heard Amy leave as he sprayed hot water over the soapy teapot, splashing his shirt in the process. He swore.
“Well, at least it’s getting a bit of a wash,” Aunt Sophie joked. “Maybe try spraying down your muddy shoes next.”
He ignored her.
“You know, tomorrow is a day off,” Aunt Sophie said slowly. “It’s just the long-term guests here, and I can take care of them myself. Why don’t you wander around the island?” She paused. “Just… wear a hat and sunglasses just in case someone sees you.”
“Maybe Amy can show you around.”
Aunt Sophie didn’t respond, so Colin looked up. She was giving him a strange look, like he was a crystal ball and she was about to make some outlandish claims.
“Don’t even start,” he warned. “The only thing appealing about this whole island is the ferry. And that’s because it’s my way out.”
“I’m not saying anything,” Aunt Sophie replied, holding up her hands. “Well, ok, I’m just saying that you should be more… open-minded. Kera has a lot of beautiful attractions.”
“Like the mud and sheep and weak cell service?”
Aunt Sophie tossed a dish towel at his head.
“You sound like your father,” she remarked.
There was a knock at the window, and Aunt Sophie immediately jumped. The shutters were closed to keep him from being spotted, but the flush spreading across Aunt Sophie’s cheeks made Colin certain that she knew who was on the other side.
“One of your beautiful attractions?” he asked as Aunt Sophie practically sprinted to the window.
She stuck her tongue out at him and opened the shutters. A woman in oversized clothes and a floppy hat smiled.
“Hullo, Sophie,” she greeted. “I was wondering if you’d sell some leftover scones to me.”
“We’re out—” Colin began.
Aunt Sophie waved an arm at him and smiled at the woman.
“Breakfast just finished, and I just realized I forgot to put out a basket,” she said quickly. “It’s actually perfect timing that you’re here.”
She rushed over to the counter. Tucked in the corner was a basket of scones. Oddly enough, it was an assortment of fruit and plain scones. Colin remembered Amy being quite picky about keeping fruit scones and plain scones in separate baskets.
“Perfect timing indeed,” he remarked, raising a brow at Aunt Sophie.
If she heard him, she made no response. She put the scones into a container with some jam and clotted cream (which also happened to be all packed up beforehand).
“Thanks so much!” the woman said, reaching into the window to take the container. “I’ll bring this back later and we can settle the tab?”
“Yes, of course,” Aunt Sophie replied quickly. “No rush about paying for it. I know where you live.”
She laughed at her own joke. The woman chuckled, too.
“I should get back to the sheep,” the woman said. “You’re a lifesaver, Soph.”
“See you soon,” Aunt Sophie replied with a bigger smile.
Colin watched her slowly close the window as she gazed outside. He shook his head and gave a little tsk-tsk.
“What?” she demanded immediately.
“Who’s your girlfriend?”
“Ava’s… um,” she replied quickly and faltered. “She’s a… local.”
“She has a lot of sheep on this island, and she likes my scones.”
“Oh, I bet.”
“We have a friendly relationship. Nothing more.”
“Not yet at least,” Colin replied with a grin. “I’m not blind, Aunt Sophie. I see the way you’re looking at her… and acting around her.”
“Just saying, I’m cool with it,” Colin replied. “You can look lovingly at anyone, and I’ll still support you.”
“I’m looking at her normally!”
“You’re looking at her like a teenager with a huge crush. It’s kinda awkward to be around, honestly.”
“Oh, is that similar to the way you look at Amy?” Aunt Sophie retorted.
“What? No. I don’t look at her in a special way.”
She raised a brow at him, like she was silently asking him if they were both going to play dumb about this. He cleared his throat and turned his attention to the dishes. It wasn’t like he looked at Amy in any special way, he thought. He had no idea what Aunt Sophie was talking about. He shook his head.