“Thanks! I will!” I called back over my shoulder.
“Hey, call me if you find any cute guys while you’re on the island and I’ll catch the next ferry over!” Sarah said, leaning in to my office and winking at me.
“Sure thing!” I said, laughing. “You know how devastatingly handsome those island boys can be, with their rubber hip waders and fishing gear strapped to their backs!”
“You never know…” Sarah said, shrugging, a mysterious twinkle in her eye. “You could run into tall, dark and dreamy anywhere.” She put her hand to her heart and gave a dramatic fake shiver.
I stifled a laugh as a shadow fell across the doorway, revealing a portly man in a grey suit. He almost blended into the gray fabric covering the walls of my cubicle. It was Mr. Peabody, my boss. He cleared his throat loudly, giving the two of us pointed looks of disdain.
“Miss Perkins, may I see you for a moment?” he asked, tapping his fingers on the doorway.
“Of course, Mr. Peabody,” I said, standing, and followed him out the door. I looked over my shoulder at Sarah, with a question mark clearly on my face, and she gave me an “I have no idea” kind of shrug.
Mr. Peabody’s office was down the hall from mine, in the corner of the building. Unlike my generic gray space, he had a window with a sweeping view of the Seattle skyline and the Puget Sound down below. What would I give for a view like that? Of course, that was why I was escaping to the San Juan Islands, to be surrounded by my own view of the water.
Mr. Peabody sat down at his desk, which was facing the door, away from the gorgeous window view. I bet he never even looks out the window, I thought to myself.
Folding his hands across his desk in what I supposed was to be an appealing look, he looked up at me and said, “Miss Perkins, it is my understanding that you are about to take leave for a week.”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
“Then please be so kind as to tell me the status of the Rockefeller account,” he said, leaning in with a direct look at me.
“We are still in negotiations with their marketing exec,” I stammered, feeling put on the spot. This was a huge account for our company, and I had been excited to be assigned as one of the leads for their campaign. But that was over a month ago. Now it was turning into a nightmare, as we continued to argue over which ads would be run and negotiate the contract fees.
“Brad is taking over for me while I am gone. He has been working on the account with me from the beginning, so he knows what is going on with them,” I said quickly, trying to sound reassuring.
“Miss Perkins, I hope that you realize how important this account is to us. Rockefeller Jewelers should hardly be put off in order for you to sit around and sunbathe for a week. Stellar and Sons cannot afford to lose this account!” Mr. Peabody spluttered. He leaned forward, as though to emphasize his disapproval more. “Frankly, I think it is very unprofessional of you to leave, Miss Perkins, especially at such a critical time as this!”
I stared at him, incredulous and unsure of what to say next. Did he just call me unprofessional for taking a vacation? I had worked my tail off at Stellar and Sons for the last three years. The only time I had ever taken off was on Thanksgiving and Christmas. This was my first vacation in three years! There was never a good time to leave, as we were always in the middle of some all-important project or another.
“I assure you, sir, that I submitted my vacation request at the beginning of the year, so it has been on the company calendar for four months. I had no idea that we would be in the middle of such a large project,” I said, trying to keep my voice calm and professional. Mr. Peabody was rolling his eyes, as though what I said didn’t matter in the least. “I can also assure you that Brad will take good care of the Rockefeller project. He can contact me anytime if any issues come up. I won’t be that far away.”
“You better be right,” Mr. Peabody said, pointing a stubby finger at me, “because if we lose this account, it will be on your head. There is a lot at stake here, Miss Perkins.”
I nodded solemnly, a lump forming in my throat. Did he just threaten me? Was my job on the line here?
I couldn’t leave Mr. Peabody’s office fast enough.
Despite my concerns over Mr. Peabody and whether I would have a job to come back to, I couldn’t wait to get home and pack for my trip. Flip flops…check. Sunglasses…check. Laptop…I guess I had better, just in case. But absolutely NO WORKING!
I left my tiny studio apartment and hit the road early the next morning, ready for some relaxation. I didn’t even let the downpour of Seattle rain outside dampen my spirits, but I did grab an extra sweater just in case.
The roads were wet, and I hydroplaned a few times in my beat up little Toyota Corolla, but the gray slowly disappeared the further north I drove. By the time I got to the ferry at Anacortes, it was full on sun, and I knew it was going to be a glorious week.
The line-up for the ferry was pretty full, seeing how it was a beautiful spring Saturday morning and everyone and their dog was heading out to the islands. I ate my breakfast, a container of yogurt and granola, while I sat in the car and waited for the ferry to arrive, watching other passengers taking those dogs for walks. The dogs eagerly greeted each other, their tails wagging, and chased a few seagulls which were either brave enough or dumb enough to try to scavenge from the road. They would scatter noisily when an excited pup came pouncing up to them, but would soon resume their search for goods.
Finally there was a click over the loud speakers and a tinny voice announced that it was time to load the ferry.
Twenty minutes later, I was looking out the window on board the ferry, my Corolla safely stowed on the deck below me. The gentle swaying of the boat helped solidify the fact that I really was here. I was going on a dream vacation by myself, to an island I have never been, and I was going to love every blissful moment of it.
I found the Sunny Acres Inn online, when I was searching out possible island destinations. The web page didn’t have much to it, frankly I thought they could use a little help in the advertisement department, but it boasted of scenic views of the Puget Sound, quaint little rooms, perfect for private comfort, and leisurely access to the owner’s adjacent alpaca farm. I was enchanted. Considering it didn’t cost a small fortune to rent for a week, which was a plus for my meager budget, it looked all the more attractive.
I was contentedly admiring how the sun created sparkling waves on the horizon line when a friendly voice broke my reverie.
“It’s pretty, isn’t it?”
I looked up and saw an attractive guy smiling down at me. He was holding a jigsaw puzzle box in his hands, and the way he was smiling made his dark eyes crinkle a little at the corners. Hello tall, dark and dreamy.
“It is,” I responded, and returned his smile.
“Would you be interested in working on a puzzle with me?” he asked, holding the puzzle box up. “That is, unless you are waiting for someone…” he suddenly looked a little sheepish, like maybe he regretted asking. I could almost see him starting to retreat.
“No! No!” I quickly assured him. “I mean, I’m not waiting for anyone.” I laughed, a little embarrassed at my exuberant response. “I would love to work on a puzzle.”
“How do you feel about castles in Ireland?” he asked, holding the box up so that I could see the picture on the front.
“I love castles in Ireland,” I replied.
He then extended his hand out to me. “I’m Rusty, by the way. Rusty Andrews.”
“Annie Perkins,” I answered, taking his hand in mine. “It’s nice to meet you.”
It was a 750 piece puzzle, with pieces so tiny I had to squint in order to see if the edges lined up. We sat hunched over the table, pulling out all the edge pieces to start on the frame. There were passengers working on other jigsaw puzzles scattered throughout the deck. I had noticed this practice before on some of my other, shorter ferry rides. The puzzles were left here on the boat, and passengers picked up where the last group had left off. I thought it was a little disconcerting, putting so much time and effort into completing something, and then just abandoning it, leaving it to chance that it would be completed by someone else. But the cycle repeated itself over and over. And here I was starting a new cycle over again, with this handsome stranger that I had only just met.
After working studiously for several minutes in silence, Rusty asked, “So, have you been to the San Juans before?”
“No, this is my first time,” I replied.
“You’re going to love it. They are beautiful.”
“I am guessing this is not your first time to the islands, then?”
Rusty chuckled. “No, I live there actually.” I looked in surprise at his crisp button-up shirt and slim dark jeans. I had assumed he was from the city. Rusty laughed again. “Don’t look so surprised!”
“I…I’m not surprised!” I said, but quickly ducked my head so that he wouldn’t see me blushing out of embarrassment.
“Sure you are,” he said, “But that’s okay. Not all of us dress in rubber boots and overalls.” After a beat, he added, “that’s only during the week, anyway.” I smiled. A few minutes later he continued, “So, where are you from?”
“I live in Seattle,” I replied. “I work at an advertisement firm, Stellar & Sons, but originally I’m from Arizona. My parents still live there.”
“Seattle’s a long ways from Arizona,” he said.
“No kidding! I had never seen more than a swimming pool full of water in my life until I moved up here! I can’t believe how gorgeous the Puget Sound is! I love it!”
Rusty smiled. “I know, I love it too. It’s a beautiful place to live.”
We talked more about Arizona. He asked about the desert and weather. He asked about what it was like to grow up there. Before I knew it, there was another click on the intercom and the same tinny voice announced that we were approaching the dock, and it was time to head to our vehicles.
I looked down at our puzzle. We had finished the border and were just starting to piece together some groupings that looked to be part of the corner turrets, built of ancient stone.
“It’s too bad that we didn’t have time to finish it,” I said.
“That’s the beauty of it,” Rusty replied. “It may be mindless entertainment to some, just something to pass the time, but really it’s the chance to work on something bigger than yourself, more than you could ever complete on your own, and create something beautiful with people you don’t even know.”
I looked at him thoughtfully, unsure of what to say. Had we started to create something beautiful together?
I was saved from having to make a response by the announcer repeating the message to gather our belongings and return to our vehicles. I gathered my bag and got up reluctantly.
“Well, I hope you have a nice stay,” Rusty said, a little awkward.
“Thanks,” I replied, feeling like I was standing at my door at the end of a blind date, wondering if he was going to lean in and kiss me.
“It was nice to meet you,” he finally said, offering me his hand.
I put my hand once again in his firm embrace, my heart sinking a little but unsure why. “You too!” I said, then we each made our way to the stairwell and parted ways.
By the time I got to my car I could have kicked myself. I hadn’t even asked the guy where he lived, what he did for a living, or how he ended up living on an island in the middle of the Puget Sound. He kept asking me questions about my life and I happily obliged him with the details. I cringed when I remembered retelling the story of when my best friend’s older brother pushed me into their swimming pool and I had shrieked and had a panic attack, making an embarrassing scene in front of twenty of my classmates. Her dad had even called the paramedics, thinking that I had gotten injured and broken my neck or something. Why on earth did I tell him that story? I sounded like such an idiot! But we had laughed together and our connection had felt warm and genuine.
I really liked the sound of his laugh.
The vehicles around me roared to life so I started mine up as well, and then followed the line of cars down off the steep ramp and onto the dock.
Check back tomorrow to see what Annie's week in the San Juan islands will bring her!