The sun was starting to set on the horizon, sending out beautiful colors that her camera couldn’t seem to capture. Amy sighed and set her phone down, reaching for the can of hard cider next to her. Except for the sound of distant sheep bleating and the ocean waves lapping against the rocky shore, it was quiet and peaceful.
Amy checked her watch. The sun was supposed to finish setting in about ten minutes. That meant she had another two minutes here before she should head back to her cabin. Otherwise, she’d have to walk back in the dark. Her phone had a flashlight, obviously, but her risk of slipping or stepping in sheep dung or a hole increased. If she sprained her ankle, then she’d be slower at work and then—
A loud huff somewhere behind her pulled Amy from her thoughts. She turned to look. There were rumors of this castle being haunted, but she had never heard anything before.
A slow thumping sound came up from the stairs, and a head of blond hair appeared. Amy rolled her eyes.
“You could’ve warned me you were here,” she said.
He jumped and gave her a confused look.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Watching the sunset,” she replied with a shrug. “Drinking some cider.”
He finished his hike up the stairs, somehow managing to look graceful even though half of the steps were missing large chunks. He sat next to her on the giant window overlooking the ocean.
“Shouldn’t you be hiding?” she asked.
“The last ferry left hours ago.”
“We still have some guests.”
“Just the usuals,” Colin replied with a shrug. “Two old couples who’ve probably never even heard of television… and your rock-obsessed boyfriend.”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” Amy said with a scoff. “I can be nice to people and not want to date them, you know.”
“It’s the ‘nice to people’ part that has me in doubt,” he replied.
Amy flushed but didn’t respond. He didn’t add anything else to their conversation, and they sat in silence. By Amy’s guess, she should probably start packing her picnic basket and heading down. The sun was sinking lower by the minute.
She reached into the picnic basket and grabbed an unopened cider.
“Can we call it even?” she asked, holding it out to him. “I’ll forgive you for being the worst new employee and you’ll forgive me for playing a harmless joke?”
He smiled, and she felt the corners of her lips twitch up. He took the cider from her.
“Well, I guess I’m easily bribed,” he said.
She looked at the horizon. His smile seemed to make his eyes shine, and she couldn’t help but notice that he had an almost-dimple in one cheek. She cleared her throat, trying to silently throw those thoughts into a mental trash bin.
“This castle’s pretty old,” Colin noted, looking around.
She wondered if he had run out of things to talk about already. Or maybe he had just now noticed that half of the castle was gone and the rest was in shambles.
“Very old,” she agreed, taking another sip of cider.
He didn’t reply.
“It was where a noble family lived a long time ago,” she said. “I remember Sophie telling me about it. They had the castle here so that they could watch the ocean. If anyone tried to attack them, they’d see them coming. But then, one of their enemies waited for a foggy night. Then, they—”
Amy trailed off as she realized Colin’s eyes were glazed over and he was nodding slowly. He was such a bad actor, she thought. With a roll of her eyes, she picked up her phone and tried to take a few more pictures of the disappearing sunset.
“You’re always taking pictures.”
Amy ignored him as she tried to adjust the brightness setting on the camera. The lighting just didn’t seem right. With a sigh, she put away her phone.
“I’m not very good,” she admitted. “I’m pretty sure I don’t even post most of them. They’re just eating up my storage space.”
“Practice makes perfect, right?”
“Something like that.”
Amy sighed and took another drink of her cider. She could feel Colin’s eyes on her, but she refused to look up. If she met those blue eyes, she was going to say something dumb—
“My dad was a photographer,” she said.
So much for that plan, a voice in her head remarked dryly. And you didn’t even look at him.
“That’s cool. Did he teach you about photography then?”
Amy scoffed. She had all but walked into this line of questioning. Then again, she mused, the chances of him remembering this conversation (since it wasn’t centered around him) were slim. The chances of him telling anyone else were even slimmer.
“No,” she replied. “He traveled a lot, so he was never really home.”
“Did he…” Colin began and cleared his throat. “I mean… you’re using the past tense quite a bit.”
“He died,” she said.
That might have been the first time he sounded sincere. Amy didn’t know what to do with him suddenly acting like this.
“It was an accident in the mountains,” she said, setting her cider down. “I’m not sure about the specifics, but I think it was somewhere near Mount Everest.”
“Were you two close?”
“Not at all,” Amy said, wondering in the back of her mind why she was talking so much. “He was never around.”
She felt a smile on her face, even though she couldn’t feel any humor.
“You know,” she said, crossing her legs and leaning against the window frame. “One thing I remember about him was that he kept saying life was meant to be lived to the fullest, and that you should always go after what you want most in life.”
Colin nodded slowly, his face looking thoughtful.
“That seems like pretty sound advice,” he noted.
“Except for when it’s him saying it,” Amy replied bitterly. “If he was going after what he wanted most, why was it always somewhere far away from me?”
I wasn’t even on his top ten priorities list, she felt like adding. But at least she could bite back that sentence before it popped out. She cleared her throat.
“Anyway, maybe I’m just following his footsteps or something,” she said quickly. “But I feel like I should be taking pictures when I travel, you know?”
“So you feel closer to him?”
“So maybe I can understand him more one day,” Amy replied. “Why photography was so special to him, you know?” She paused. “More special than his own kid.”
“Oh,” Colin said slowly and hesitated.
She could practically feel the gears turning in his head, like he was trying to figure out how to respond. His eyes shifted from left to right, like he was waiting for a script to appear with the proper words to tell her. Maybe she had said too much, she thought.
“Anyway,” she said, busying her hands with untying and retying her ponytail. “What are you going to do on your day off tomorrow?”
Colin shrugged. The sun was gone now. She couldn’t see his expression, but it seemed distant as his head looked away from her.
“Any cool sites to see here?” he asked in a half-joking manner.
“I saw some sheep bones in the hill over there,” Amy replied. “And there’s always kayaking around the island.”
She paused. There was something different about him. Maybe his chest was less puffed-out than usual. Maybe his shoulders were a little slumped from fatigue. Either way, he was looking a little less prick-actor in this light.
Probably because there was no light.
“You should check out Oban,” she suggested. “It’s a pretty town, and there’s quite a bit to see… I have to go there tomorrow anyway for more allergy pills, so we can take the ferry together.”
“How many allergy pills do you take?”
“As many as it takes to breathe like a normal person,” she retorted.
“Didn’t you buy allergy meds the day we met?”
“Okay, fine, go to Oban by yourself.”
“I wasn’t saying that,” Colin replied quickly. “I’m pretty sure I’ll need a tour guide in town.”
“I’m not your tour guide,” Amy said with a scoff.
“Then, what are you offering to take me to Oban for?” he countered. “A date?”
Amy scoffed again and stood up.
“Look, I was just asking so you wouldn’t feel so lonely,” she said, brushing off her pants and grabbing her things.
“So you were asking me out of pity,” he replied, standing up as well.
“Something like that.”
His eyes narrowed, and he opened his mouth. Amy felt the gears turning in his head again. Finally, he sighed.
“Well, then, I accept.”
Amy cocked her head, but it was hard to make out his expression in the dark. As if on cue, he flashed the light on his phone. She swore and covered her eyes.
“If you really pity me,” he continued, moving the light away from her face, “how about escorting me back? It’s really dark, and I’ve already fallen enough times today.”
Amy begrudgingly agreed and turned on her own phone light. He wasn’t as smooth as he thought he was, she told herself. Or as cute. She cleared her throat and smacked her arm to get her mind to stop going to places it shouldn’t go.
“Bug,” she told Colin, flushing and walking ahead.