Tropical Trek – Part 5

“Mark, just leave. I’ll get the copy to you, but this discussion is over. It’s not your business!” Suzy pushed Mark out of the door of her suite. Once the door shut behind her and was locked, she exhaled. She walked into the bathroom and rinsed off her face, then looked at the mirror. She noted the age around her eyes; she wasn’t a 30-something anymore. She sighed and stripped out of her clothes, then took a refreshing shower.

On stepping out, she slipped into her bathing suit and wrapped an oversized sarong around herself into the form of a dress. She dried her hair and headed back into the suite, then set up her laptop up to start working. She opened the door to get a breeze through her room and settled in to work.

After a couple hours passed, a knock came from the door. She worried it was Mark again; she really didn’t want to talk to him any more today. Her face became stern as she walked to the door. She swung open the door almost ready to say “Go away!” but she paused as she saw Steve’s face.

“Hey, everything alright? You look, peeved or something?” Steve asked.

Suzy stammered, “Oh, I, I thought you were going to be someone else. I’m fine. What’s up?” She looked over Steve and realized he had two plates of food in his hands.

“I saw your team downstairs eating. They said you were holed up in your room. Wanna bite to eat?”

Her stiffness melted away as she realized how nice of a guy Steve really was. “Sure, come on in. Want to sit on the patio?”

Steve shook his head and followed her through the room to the patio. They each took seats on the two woven chairs. Suzy crossed her legs up on the chair. “Thanks for dinner.” She looked over the plate of rice, beans, and meat. “They really like their rice here, don’t they?”

Steve chuckled. “It is a mainstay, I guess.” His sheepish grin came through when he shrugged his shoulders. His long arms were slightly reddened by the sun.

“How did you like the jungle trek today? Looks like you got some sun.”

He laughed, “Yeah, forgot the sunscreen.” He then launched into a tale about his afternoon with the guys.

Suzy liked watching him talk. He was animated and alive. As he wound down his story, he asked, “Have much more work to do?”

Suzy shook her head, “Probably about a half-hour or so. I was thinking of taking a dip afterward. Interested in meeting me back at the pool?”

He looked her over, her sarong had fallen open, showing her swimsuit, while she had her legs pulled up on the chair. She shifted to cover back up.

“Sure. I have my trunks on already,” he pointed at his shorts. “I could just wait here if you want.”

She blushed. “Sure, I’d like that,” and she stood up to head back to her computer. “Make yourself comfortable.”

Steve followed her in and crashed on the bed. “Ahh.” He sunk into the spread and propped his head on a pillow and settled in while Suzy set out to finish up work. She sat with her back to him, working steadily on the computer.

He started to speak behind her. “When I was young, I had this friend.” He tossed a balled-up piece of paper he found on the bed. “This reminds me of those times, but in reverse.”

She paused and listened to him, turning slightly to see his face. “She’d lay in my bed while I’d work away on the computer. I always wondered what she was thinking. Most of those times, we were just friends.”

She smiled and turned. “She was probably hoping you’d take a break and look at her, really see her. However, I bet she was happy as friends too.”

He tossed the paper up once more and caught it, then looked at her. “Oh, I did see her. I wanted her. But, see, I was happy as friends, too. You don’t want to mess those kinds of friendships up.”

Suzy turned back around. She had similar memories of a lifetime ago and knew their power. She made a few more keystrokes, then her computer made a whoosh sound. “That’s that.” And she turned back around.

“I’m not that friend, but I could be.” Behind her, the rainforest gave way to its namesake as the skies started to thunder and pour. She stood up and reached around her neck, loosening the knot, dropping her sarong, then crawled into the bed next to him.

He looked her over. Her dark brown hair framed her soft round face. He gently ran his fingers down her arm and over her hip. Then they came together in a soft kiss which seemed to last for minutes. Steve pulled back, then looked Suzy in her eyes. “I don’t want us to get too far in too fast. Okay?”

Suzy understood and shook her head, then rested her head on his arm. They listened to the rain as it lulled them to sleep in each other’s arms. She hoped he’d share more of his story, but now wasn’t the time.


Tropical Trek – Part 4

Suzy walked to her bed and saw a message left for her on her phone. She quickly recognized the number as a member of her team and played the voicemail:

“Hi Suzy. It’s Mark. The team was able to get an early flight. We’re already here. Meet us in the lobby in the morning at 7. Melissa saw you at dinner, but she didn’t want to interrupt. Catch up then.”

Suzy looked at the time. It was just after midnight. She slipped off her sandals, sarong and tee and slipped into bed. It was going to be a short night’s sleep. At least her brain could spin up a few pleasant dreams after the evening she just had.

6 AM arrived early. Suzy quickly showered, dressed, and finished up a few notes for the sites she had already scouted. Hopefully Mark would find at least one of them appealing to head to today. She gathered her pack and headed down to the lobby.

The team was gathered in the restaurant, and several plates filled the table with breakfast pastries and such. Melissa sipped on her personal morning shake while the rest of the team enjoyed the pastries, coffee and tea. Their chatter could be heard all the way into the lobby by Suzy as she walked in.

“Morning! Glad you all caught the early flight!” Suzy greeted them and then spied a cinnamon roll among the platters of food. She resisted temptation and picked up a bowl of fresh fruit and a boiled egg instead. “I’ve checked out a few places already, but let’s go over what I’ve found.”

Suzy took out her surface and walked through some of the sites. Mark and the team observed closely.

Suddenly, Mark spoke up. “Go back. Those rope bridges…where’s that? That looks interesting!”

Suzy pulled out her notes and reviewed one of the tourist’s experiences she visited at the start of her trip. “This location offers trails with three options, one at the top of the mountains, the rope bridges, and a basin experience. They hook together so you can do all three options with a little retracing of some of the trails. At the end of the experience, they provide a local meal including rice, meat, beans, some fresh fruit and vegetables.”

“Perfect! Let’s head there today. How long to get there?”

“It’s a quick ride, but the road up to the entrance is a bumpy dirt road. Did you get a 4×4?”

Mark rolled his eyes at her, “Of course…. I know we’re not in Chicago!”

The whole team, including Suzy, laughed. “Well, on that note,” Suzy announced, “This way!”

The team arrived onsite and spoke with the proprietor, getting the necessary releases, then opted for the swinging bridge trail. They worked through the trail setting up shots and repeatedly crossing the bridges capturing all angles as Melissa strutted her stuff and recited the script Suzy had prepared.

Suzy enjoyed the experience of seeing all of the lush greenery and crossing the bridges when she was here alone. The whole team being onsite changed the dynamics and the experience, but she hoped her original vision would still come through. It was fun to work with others, but she really enjoyed her quiet escapes at the start of the trip more. Now, it was time to work.

Finally, Mark made the final call, “CUT! Let’s head back and get lunch.”

Suzy looked at her watch. Four hours of filming and content for no more than 15 minutes of content. That should be good for today’s venture.

As the team arrived back at the entrance, the owner prepared their meals. While waiting, they shared the different shots and clips gathered and came up with a game plan for editing the content for the site. “Suzy, mind putting together some additional content we can throw on the site?”

This is always what Mark asks for on site, and always what Suzy delivers. “Sure thing. I’ll have it to out by the end of the day.”

With that, lunch was served. The team started digging into their lunches. The freshness of the food sated even the hungriest in the crew and was a welcome meal. As they sat eating and recovered from their morning’s work, the parking lot began to fill up. A few more cars pulled into the location. Suzy didn’t pay much attention, already thinking about the content she needed to put together this afternoon.

A familiar voice spoke up behind Suzy, “What’s for lunch?” She jumped a little, not expecting anyone to be so close.

She looked up to see Steve’s grinning face. “Hey, what are you doing here?” Her voice belied her excitement to see him, although she tried to control it. “Just some local food. Wanna bite?”

He looked over her plate. “Looks good.” He hesitated, realizing the entire table was looking his way. “But I don’t want to intrude.”

A voice from behind him called out, “Steve, we’re heading out, coming with us?”

Steve looked over his shoulder and shook his head yes, then turned back to Suzy, resting his hand on her shoulder. “I should get going…thanks though!” With that, he turned and walked over to his friends.

Suzy looked over her shoulder and waved bye. He turned back towards her and smiled before turning back around.

Melissa scooted closer to Suzy and in a not so hushed voice asked, “Who’s that? And, what about his friends?”

The team shifted their attention to Suzy as her face blushed through multiple shades of red.

Suzy tried to make light of it. “Oh, them? They’re staying at the same resort as us. I bumped into Steve a couple times yesterday.”

Melissa cooed, “I bet you did!” and snickered.

Suzy rolled her eyes and shook her head. The entire team chuckled at the exchange and went back to eating their lunch before heading back to the resort and an afternoon of photoshopping and editing.


Tropical Trek – Part 3

Back at the resort, Suzy stepped out of the shower in her room, freshly clean from the day’s trek. She slipped into some hipsters and a light bra, a tee, then picked up the multicolored sarong from the edge of the bed. She wrapped the sarong around her waist, shaping it into a flowing skirt.

Once dressed, she slipped on some strappy sandals and headed out to enjoy a bite to eat in the resort’s restaurant. As she made her way into the restaurant, she could see through the open-air eatery to the ocean. “A seat with a view of the water, please.”

The host guided her to a table set for two with a view down the mountainside and overlooking the water. He handed her a simple menu with local fare and some American standards. She nodded at him with thanks and took her seat.

Suzy quickly looked over the menu and decided on something local, although she couldn’t quite pronounce it. She set the menu down and looked out over the view before her. It was breathtaking. The sun was settling low in the sky as a pair of scarlet macaws flew between the trees which framed her view. The crash of the waves below was distant but soothing. She could get lost in the beauty so easily. This is what would inspire her story for this trip.

A voice from behind startled her back. “Mind if I take a seat?”

She looked up and saw Steve standing there. “Of course! Please.” Her cheeks blushed briefly, but she hoped he would mistake it for the sun. “How was your time with the fellas at the waterfall?”

He scoffed. “I had more fun talking to you.” His lips curled a little at the edges when he spoke. “Anyway, where were we before they so rudely interrupted?” He rested his chin on the heel of his hand.

Suzy was flattered, but she wasn’t here for a fling, but rather work. But a little flirting wouldn’t hurt. “I think you were going to let me in on why you were really here…” She glanced down and then back at him.

Steve leaned forward and lowered her voice, “It was to meet you.” His grin turned sheepish.

Suzy couldn’t help but laugh and roll her eyes. “How many times has that line worked for you?”

Steve started laughing at himself, “Tried, once. And apparently it bombed!”

Both of them started laughing at the same time. Then Steve stopped, “Seriously, just here to relax and have a break from home. We cool?”

Suzy smiled, “Sure. Want to have dinner with me since you’re already here?” She handed him her menu.

They continued their conversation over dinner, exchanging tidbits. Suzy found him interesting and charming. He was interested in hiking and did photography and some marketing related writing of his own and was a bit of a math guy. It was a strange but familiar mix to her own life. By the end of the meals they were comparing stories about their families, travels and life.

The restaurant grew quiet and they realized they were the only remaining customers. Suzy looked around noting the waiter standing at the bar, chatting with the bartender. “I think they may want to head out.” She nodded in their direction.

Steve nodded, “Can I walk you back to your room?”

Suzy grinned and found herself uncannily comfortable with Steve. “Sure.”

As they walked through the resort, Steve found Suzy’s hand and slipped his into hers. She didn’t pull away; it was nice to have someone hold her hand after so long. They found their way down one of the corridors, and Suzy stopped in front of one of the suites.

“Well, this is me.”

Steve fiddled with her fingers for a moment, not wanting to let her go, but then released her hand. “Okay,” he stammered, “hav…have a good night.”

She slid her key into the lock and let herself in. She turned back and looked at Steve, “Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow?”

Steve’s face lit up. “That would be nice.” He made sure her door securely closed before walking off to his room.

Suzy leaned against the inside of the door. She hadn’t felt this way in a long time.


Tropical Trek – Part 2

They swam to shore, then walked over to her pack and took seats on opposing rocks. He towered over her short stature.

“I’m Steve, by the way,” he stated as he brushed some of the wetness off his head.

“Suzy, nice to meet you,” she responded as she took her towel and dried her legs, then laid the towel across her lap. She dug into her bag, “Sesame snaps?”

He smirked and took a pack from her. “What brings you out here?”

Suzy smiled. “Oh, I am a writer for a travel site. I get to go to fabulous places, do fun things, eat interesting food, and write about it.”

“All by yourself?” Steve’s eyebrow arched up.

“No, no. I arrive a couple days before my team. They’ll do all the videography, photography, and our model/spokesperson will show off what I find.”

“Sounds like a dream job,” he leaned toward her a bit, “traveling the world and such.”

“Well, I used to live behind my computer, basically 24/7, and decided finally, once I had a good cushion built up, to change it all.”

“Getting out of that grind is good!” Steve smirked as he leaned back and bit into one of the sesame snaps. He chewed a moment and looked back over.

She raised her eyes back towards his, “and, what’s your story?”

Steve shifted once more, setting his arms on his knees. She noticed his skin on his shins was slick and smooth, like that of a swimmer. His face soften a bit.

“I’m out here with some buddies. Getting away from the grind.” He laughed at his choice of words. Then he leaned forward and started to speak in a hushed voice, “Actually, I’m here to…”

A clamoring group of men walked out of the dense rainforest . “Hey! Steve!” The troop began to set down their gear.

Suzy looked over the group and then back at Steve. “I should let you get back to your friends.” She extended her hand, “Nice to meet you, Steve.”

Steve shook her hand, then smiled back at her and stood up, “Thanks, later!” He held up the remaining sesame snap as he waved goodbye to join his group.

Suzy waved, then turned back to her pack and pulled out her phone to grab a couple shots of the pools and waterfall. She then made a few notes and packed away her belongings.

She watched the guys goofing around and giggled to herself, then decided to head back. She slipped her shorts back on and her hikers, then quietly headed back into the rainforest, and back to the resort.


Tropical Trek

The dense tropical forest surrounded her. The calls of macaws echoed through the vines above. A lone hiker stopped along the trail, wiped the sweat from her brow, and sipped from her canteen.

She slipped the canteen back in her pack. That waterfall can’t be too far now, she thought to herself. She couldn’t wait to take a dip.

She listened for the sound of rushing waters, but was met only with rustling leaves and more birds. She picked up the pace after her rest, knowing it was not far now.

Ahead she spied a small man made bridge over a creek bed. It was small, but at last, a sign she was close. She continued on the trail.

She swiped her bare legs, flicking away a pest. Her shorts, cuffed, and tank, let her skin breathe in the humid climate. Her cropped hair was tucked into a boony which kept the sunlight off her freckled face.

She tugged on her tank to get a little air. It was hotter here than she expected and not much breeze found it’s way to the rainforest floor.

She rounded a bend of granite rocks and in the distance finally heard a rush of water. A slight coolness drifted across her face and she sighed in relief.

As she neared the waterfall, the stream became wider. She stopped a moment to feel the water; cool to the touch and refreshing. She splashed a little on her face.

Behind her, she heard the sound of leaves pushing against each other, like something moving between them. She stood up and looked over the area.

A toucan took flight and she smiled to herself. Silly girl! It’s just a bird, she scolded herself. She adjusted her pack and carried on.

Finally, the greenness on the trail gave way to flowering plants and a series of fairy pools being fed by a glorious waterfall. She had arrived at her destination.

She found a spot to enjoy the falls and set down her pack. She pulled out a small towel and took a seat, watching the water cascade over the rocks. The rock face was covered with flowering plants in yellow, pink, and white flowers. Their sweet aroma filled the air.

She rested back on her elbows and dipped her toe in the babbling water. Another round of brush swayed and made a bit of noise. She sat up and turned to see a monkey moving between the branches.

She heard how these cute creatures could easily steal your food, so she secured her pack as best she could. He didn’t seem interested as he climbed on and disappeared into the forest.

She decided to take a quick plunge in the large pool at the base of the falls. She looked around, and seeing no one, shimmied out of her shorts, then headed into the pool.

The water chilled her at first. Her skin was covered in goosebumps from the temperature of the pool. However, it was refreshing as she swam toward the falls. The sound of the falls grew louder, drowning out the sounds of the forest.

She looked back toward her pack and a few rocks over, saw some hikers and a rucksack. It surprised her as there was no one visible to her in the area. She scanned around trying to see if someone else was nearby, but saw no one.

Part of her thought was to go over there to check it out, but the water was so enticing, especially as the falls also splashed her from behind, she decided to stay put. She looked up to the sky and began floating on her back, drifting about the pool.

After a few minutes, she felt a tug in her shirt. Her eyes were closed, but she figured a stick or something had caught on her clothes, so she reached to clear it away. Then a hand grasped her wrist.

She opened her eyes in surprise. She looked over to see a man holding her arm. His mouth was moving, but his voice was muffled. She lifted up her head from the water.

“Are you okay?” the man repeated.

She looked at him groggily and shook her head. “Yes, just enjoying a float. Where did you come from?”

She looked him over and realized he was bare chested and quite handsome. His eyes, light blue with little flecks of grey and gold, danced in the sun’s rays. His face was thin with a three day shadow of golden blond/brown hair.

“I was behind the waterfall,” he breathed out as he realized he was still holding her wrist. He gently let go. “I just saw you laying there limp and was worried.”

She smiled and then shrugged. “I’m good. No damsel in distress. Thank you though.” She tilted her head a bit. “Hey, I have some snacks to enjoy, if you’d like to share?” She swore his face blushed a little.

He looked down to his hands and smiled, holding them up. “Yeah, I think I should get out. I’m shriveled up like a prune!” He showed her the deep grooves in his fingers.

She chuckled as she raised her hand, “Me too!”

…to be continued


A Queen’s Place

The lady entered the great hall, dressed in silks foreign to the gathered crowd. Her crown sparkled of gems, carefully selected to finish her look, or perhaps it was the other way around. The bold red, deep emerald, and royal blue tones reminded all of her place in this world, and it was at the head of the table.

The knights and lords fell to their knees and silence took over where once was a frenzied din. The ladies curtsied as she passed. To each she nodded and shared a genuine smile. As she ascended to the elevated table at the front of the hall, she lifted her skirts slightly, revealing leather riding boots.

She stepped up to the table and welcomed her guests, “Please, rise! This is a festivity!” She raised her glass. “To the people of Riggs, the house of Whitney welcome you!”

With those words, the band resumed playing, the men rose, and the wine began to pour. Queen Filippa straightened her skirts before sitting. As she reached for her chalice, a page kneeled beside her.

“Your Majesty, Yarl Mikkel of Riggs wishes for an audience.”

Filippa looked out across the room and Mikkel nodded his head in her direction. She looked with annoyance back at the page with her dark eyes. “I shall see him. Tomorrow, in the morn. Ensure Lady Aramith is in attendance.” She pursed her ruby lips and waved off the page with the swift tilt of her head.

The page nodded and slipped away with little notice.

“Uncle,” Queen Filippa turn to the man to her right, “why do these roguish men whose lands have come under my protection keep groveling to take my hand?”

Her uncle scoffed.

The Queen continued, “I understand why,” stressing the word why vigorously, “but why can they not see I have all that I want, and easily can take more if I want it. I don’t need these fools falling at my feet. Goodness, I need a real man!”

A hearty laugh escaped her uncle’s mouth. “My dear, they seek the power, and, forgive me, who wouldn’t want a piece of you?”

Queen Filippa rolled her eyes and found levity in his words. Nothing like honest Uncle Abe to state the, well, obvious. She looked down her bosom and shifted a bit to ensure all was in the right place then exhaled in frustration. “I grow tired, Uncle. I shall see you tomorrow.”

Uncle Abe nodded at her as she departed the table to retire from the party.

Filippa paused outside a moment as she returned to her quarters to breathe in the night air. The river and the mountains which ran alongside castle laid awash in moonlight. She thought to herself, These are the views I want to share… The small quiet moments between the flurry of the crown’s demands; this is when I need somebody holding my hand.

She released her breath and continued to her chambers. Tomorrow brought another day of royal duty and another day of sorting out suitors. Tonight she would rest easy knowing Riggs lands and it’s people were now hers.


Beach Escape – Part 2

A bright light blinded her. She lifted her arm, blocking the rays from her eyes.

“You there!” A man’s voice bellowed. “Everything alright?”

His footsteps were heavy. She saw a flash of a badge on his shirt and lowered her arm and he moved his flashlight away from her face.

She lifted her arm pointing, “My car…”

He stepped closer and pointed his flashlight at the vehicle. “Pretty car. Is something wrong?”

Her eyes followed his light. Her car sat in the drive without a scratch. She rubbed her eyes, confused.

“Ma’am, are you okay?”

She finally snapped from her trance, “Yes, sorry, I must have had a dream. Sorry to be a bother.”

The officer smiled. “Long days at the beach can cause that.” He tipped his hat. “Have a good night. Be sure to lock up.” He waved his hand toward the duplex.

She nodded, and turned to go inside. She heard her phone ringing as she stepped inside and picked it up.

“Hey, Mom! Yes, I’m settled in. Sure see you then.”

She sighed as she looked at the time. Maybe I just need some sleep. She wandered through the duplex, shutting the windows and turning down the lights then found her way to the bed.

The image of the mangled car drifted in and out of her mind as she tried to get some sleep. Such a strange thing for her to imagine. But, why?


Beach Escape

Her sandals glided across the hard floor. She closed her eyes as her palm rested on the cool marble top. It was a kitchen she could only dream of, and it was hers for only a few short days, not hers to keep. It wasn’t spacious, nor well appointed, although, based on her smile you would think it were. It was also now fully stocked for a week.

She looked out the window above the sink to the pool just outside. From here, she couldn’t see the beach, but the sky stretched out for miles as she looked out toward the mainland. She flung open the window to let the sea breezes enter her escape.

She wandered throughout the small duplex, opening every window and sliding door, inhaling the sweet salt air. It was only one of two places she felt she ever belonged. This time, the closer escape fit her needs. She hoped one day in the future she would find her way back to the mountains, but for now, the shore was calling.

As night settled, the island traffic stilled, and the skies grew dark. The occasional laughter of tourists, burnt crisp from too much sun and teetering from too much drink, would waft through the curtains. Her lips would curl into a smile knowing how others loved this place, but not as much as she.

She spent a few minutes writing in her journal. Some poetry, prose, and flowers and swirly designs decorated the pages. She didn’t think anyone would ever find this journal interesting in the slightest, but it was her way to clear her mind and capture her creative thoughts … a sure difference from her day-to-day work.

She decided to head out for a dip to relax and unwind. She stuck her toe into the pool and grinned; it was heated and welcoming. She slid in and every muscle gave way to the buoyancy. She swam across the small pool and found a ledge to rest on. Her legs stretched out and softly fluttered as her breathing slowed.

She looked up through the swaying palms to the whole moon above and smiled. She planned a week of nothing special for the coming week and it was the most wonderful plan of all. So far, it started out exactly as she hoped. She closed her eyes and breathed out.

The squealing of tires startled her back to the real world. Suddenly a loud crash came from out front of the home. She jumped out of the pool and ran toward the sound of twisting metal and flashing lights. Her breath shortened as she moved around the house, worried for whoever was in the car. Was everyone alright? She stopped and stood in awe. Before her she saw her own car, twisted, in the one-car accident.


Fly Me to the Moon – Part Five

Jon and Mikaela walked out of the lift on Deck Three. She smiled when they walked out into the atrium, but then sighed and looked at Jon. “It isn’t anything like home, is it Jon?”

He looked ahead and shook his head, “It’s definitely something different.” He chuckled to himself. “But different can be good, I guess.”

“Well, hopefully you like different food. We definitely have some unique meals here on the station.” She guided him over to a glistening silver and white box with a touchscreen. The screen flashed an assortment of foods that seem like they did back on Earth.

Nothing seemed too out of the ordinary. “Everything looks great! Either that, or I’m starving.”

Mikaela glanced over, “You’re starving,” and grinned crookedly.

Jon chuckled and picked out his choice. A ticket printed. Mikaela then made her selection and pulled the table tent number. “Still a little service around here. They will bring it to us.” She walked over to a table which faced out to the lunar surface.

Jon followed her and took a seat. “Do you get used to the lower gravity?”

Mikaela smiled, “Oh, sure. But going home is always interesting. Especially the longer you stay. I always get home and am over five foot six, but it rapidly disappears.”

Jon smiled as they exchanged conversations and glances. He noticed her hair had streaks of gray coming in and small laugh lines around her eyes.

“You’ll probably be six four or more when you get back,” Mikaela observed then chuckled.

Jon and Mikaela continued exchanging a few stories, then the lights in the atrium dimmed. Mikaela looks up with a sad look. “We’ll, that’s our cue. Time to head out for sleep.”

Jon looked at his watch and nodded his head. “I’ll walk you back?”

They made their way to the lift and she pressed the same floor as Jon’s. “Our quarters are all together.”

Jon’s knuckles lightly brushed against her hand as the lift came to a stop. Mikaela grinned, but then swiftly stepped off the lift. “I’m right down there,” pointing down the hall in the opposite direction. “Good night, Jon.”

Jon watched her as she turned and entered her room. He raised his hand, waved goodnight and headed for his own.


Hi-Tea – Part One

Small intimate tables dotted the floor of the cafe with comfortable chairs. The air smelled of madeleines and other sweet treats, and the display case held savories and pastries alike. A sign hung in the window welcoming guests. It was finally opening day.

Sally straightened her apron and tucked a loose curl behind her ear. She’d picked the name “Hi-Tea” for their shop because that’s how her grandmother used to say hello to her, “Hi-ty!” It was something she herself would say upon waking as a small child. She grew out of saying it eventually, but the stories continued of how she’d greet the day from her mom to all who would listen.

She hoped her location on Heavenly Village Way would attract the locals and the tourists alike. It was a prime spot near the gondolas and heavily trafficked, but she knew it could be hard to keep consistent business throughout the year if the locals didn’t also come.

She walked to the front door. Morning was just dawning, and no traffic filled the street yet. It was late Spring, and a chill lingered in the air. She unlocked the door and stepped outside to wipe down the two sets of cafe tables and chairs waiting outside.

She looked up and down the street and spied a lone jogger out on their morning run. She waved hello as they passed by, then turned to go back inside for a little warmth. Her sweater was comfortable, but the morning temperatures were getting to her hands. She rubbed them together for a little warmth as she walked back inside.

“Nervous?” a voice from the corner called out. Her silent business partner, Sam, decided to not be so silent at times. “How about a cup of coffee? I’ll be your first customer.”

She glanced his way and stuck out her tongue, “To be a customer, you’ve got to pay!”

He laughed and retorted, “Oh, I think I bought a lifetime of coffee and pastries, woman. Go get me some!”

She rolled her eyes and headed behind the counter, then prepared him a creamy, frothy cup. She also pulled out a “salmon with everything” savory and set it on a plate. She took both over to the corner where he sat comfortably working away on his own pet project.

As she set it down, their first real customer came in. Sally greeted the customer and provided them a small menu to help with their selections.

The older lady perused the drink selections and walked over to the counter. “May I have an English Breakfast with cream and sugar? I haven’t had one in years.” Her voice had a faded English accent. “Also, do you have any financiers?”

Sally was thrilled. She could finally have someone let her know if she was close with her recipe. “Yes! I do. Please have a seat and I’ll bring everything to you as soon as your tea is brewed. Would you prefer a cup or a pot for one? A pot has two cups.”

“A cup will do, thank you.” the lady responded as she took a seat at one of the small low tables in a comfortable highbacked chair.

Sally went to work behind the counter plating a financier and gathering the supplies for the lady’s tea. She fixed a small plate with sugar and a small creamer, then delivered it to her table. “I’ll be right back with your tea and financier. You’re my first customer!”

She went back to the counter and finished up the tea, then picked up it and the financier, then returned to the table. “Here you go. Enjoy.”

The lady nodded thanks and began to prepare her tea.

Sally hesitated a moment, then turned and returned to behind her counter. She’d envisioned quiet moments like this, but she hadn’t planned for what to do with her time. She started fiddling with the display to make sure everything looked good and filled in the spots emptied by serving the salmon savory and the financier.

“Excuse me.” A quiet voice spoke from behind the counter. Sally almost didn’t hear her, but she saw a figure through the display case and popped up her head.

“Hello?” Sally walked around to see who was speaking. “Can I help you?” As she turned the corner, the figure disappeared. Sally shook her head; was her mind playing a trick on her? It must have been her own reflection.

Sally headed over to the lady in the high-backed chair. Maybe that’s who she heard. “Can I get you anything else?”

The kind lady said no, then asked if she settled up at the counter. Sally nodded yes and made her way back to the counter to close her tab and take payment.

Sally looked at her first customer sweetly. “Was everything okay?”

The lady nodded yes, then commented, “Your financier was delicious by the way. I wouldn’t change a thing!” and she winked at her as she handed Sally a tenner. “Keep the change dear. You’ve got a good setup here. I wish you luck.”

With that, the lady exited the cafe and wandered away.

Sally walked over to Sam sitting in the corner still and wondered out loud, “Did you see a little girl come in then walk out by chance?”

Sam just looked at her and shook his head in a firm no.