I went to bed dreaming about the new graphics we were planning for the inn’s website, in addition to the staging for a photo shoot while I was on location at the inn. Rusty had some really great images of the house in different seasons with some beautiful photos portraying life with alpacas, but he hadn’t really utilized them on the website. They were all taken on actual film, something I hadn’t used for ages, which meant they needed to be scanned into the computer. A friend had helped him set up the website, a very basic page with a nice picture of the inn, but he didn’t really know how to navigate the page or what features are common in popular sites today.
When I asked Rusty about his negligence with his most valuable marketing tool his face turned a little pink. I tried not to smile at his embarrassment, it was so cute, and finally he admitted that he was still pretty “old school.” They had only had internet access at the inn for the last few years, when it became apparent that it was a needed asset for the inn.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll show you everything that you need to know. It’s not that hard, really, just takes a little time to play around with it and experiment. You’ll get the hang of it.”
I got up early the next day to get some of my own shots of the property in the morning light. The sun was just starting to peek through the trees, creating a natural filter with the light and casting its hazy beams across the valley. It made for some perfect portrayals of the main house and fields. I walked up the road a ways to get the best angle and could see Rusty and his dad working out in the fields with the animals. Different than the sounds of the afternoon or evening before, the sounds during my walk were still muted in the haze of the morning. It almost felt irreverent to disrupt the quiet with the crunching of my sneakers on the gravel road from each step. The pictures were worth the effort, however.
Thirty minutes later I was sitting across the dining room table with Rusty and his parents. Grace had served up a hearty breakfast on the side board and everyone was digging in. The smell of hash browns and country sausage filled the room, making my mouth water before I even took my first bite. That woman knew how to cook. Was there anything she couldn’t do?
“Do you usually eat your meals with your guests?” I asked the table in general. This seemed like a strange and impractical practice, but I thought that I already knew the answer.
Reggie guffawed. “Heck no! Usually Grace confines us to the little table in the kitchen. We aren’t allowed to sully her perfect spread in here.”
I smiled when I saw the twinkle in his eyes directed toward his wife. They were certainly an odd match, but somehow it worked. I could tell that she smoothed out his rough edges, and he probably brought a whole lot of liveliness to their house. I wondered what it had been like to grow up with them as parents.
“I do not confine you,” Grace protested, giving her husband a playful slap on the arm. “I merely suggest that our guests would appreciate their privacy.”
“Well, I would eat in the barn, as long as they pay me to use our house,” Reggie said, shrugging.
“What are you talking about? You eat in the barn all the time! I have to boot you out of here nearly every day just to get some peace. I bet little Missy is wishing you were out there right now sharing her meal,” Grace cried, but I could tell she was having fun with him. I couldn’t stop myself, I was laughing out loud. Rusty was shaking his head at his parents, but he had a broad smile on his face.
“Who’s little Missy?” I asked.
“She’s our cat,” Rusty explained. “She was a stray that wandered onto the farm one day a few years back and just never left.”
“I can’t get rid of the dang thing,” Reggie huffed. “She stays because we are stupid enough to keep feeding her.”
“Don’t let him fool you,” Grace leaned sideways to tell me. “He loves that mangy little thing. Once we couldn’t find her for several days. She usually comes to the doorstep every night for food, but she just didn’t turn up. Reggie went out searching for her for two nights in a row.”
“Aw, what was I supposed to do, let her starve?” Reggie said, scraping the remains of his breakfast around his plate. “She could have been eaten alive out there.”
Grace gave me a knowing look, one that said, “I told you so,” and I giggled.
Against Grace’s protests, I helped her clear up the dishes and take them into the kitchen, insisting that I could do my part as a guest, if they were going to share their meal with me. Rusty hung around awkwardly for a few minutes, straightening the tablecloth on the table or moving the salt and pepper shakers from one location to another. I would turn and smile at him periodically and he would give me a sheepish grin. Finally he approached me and said, “I know that this is supposed to be your vacation, and I've taken up a lot of your time with this website business, so I thought you might want to see more of the island today. If you would like, I could take you on a first-hand tour, but if you would rather explore on your own, I totally get it....”
I looked at him in surprise. “That sounds great! There is still so much I haven’t seen yet and I bet you know all the best places. But please don't feel obligated to take me. If you have other things you need to do I understand.”
"No!" he quickly interjected. "I want to take you, that is if you would like to go...."
I smiled at him as his voice trailed off. His self-conscious hesitation was endearing and I was secretly excited about the prospect of spending the day with him.
"I would love to," I replied and he beamed back at me.
I noticed that Grace had a pleased expression on her face as we left the room together.