Cassidy was so engrossed in her book that she didn’t notice the sound of the door opening. What she did notice was Steven stepping into the living room. She glanced up at him, a little startled by his appearance. He was wearing an old leather jacket that she hadn’t seen the night before. After a very brief moment of confusion, Cassidy glanced at her watch. “I thought you said you’d be back by dinner.”
“Sorry,” Steven replied. “I took longer than expected. Have you eaten?”
Cassidy shook her head and suddenly realized how hungry she was.
Steven smiled. “Good, I brought some more food. I’ll go make dinner.” He turned and walked away, leaving Cassidy to scramble to her feet in order to follow him. She left the book behind on the couch and walked out into the kitchen. There were two plastic bags on the table, stuffed full with groceries. Steven was reaching into one of them to start putting things away, and Cassidy joined him.
“You don’t need to make dinner.”
“It’s the least I can do,” Steven replied. “To thank you for letting me stay…” he paused then, just as he was putting a bottle of juice into the fridge. “Well, you’ve had more time to think about it?”
“I can’t very well kick you out when you’ve just bought so much food,” Cassidy pointed out, smiling to show him that she was just teasing. “Of course I don’t mind if you stay longer.”
“If you ever do mind, I won’t give you any trouble,” Steven said.
“I know,” Cassidy said. “You said so in your letter. Thank you for breakfast.”
“Least I could do.”
“Well,” Cassidy shut the pantry door. “Can I help with dinner?”
Steven shook his head. “No, I can do it myself. You can keep reading.” He pulled out a pan from the drawer under the stove. Cassidy watched him for a moment before going back to the living room. However, instead of picking up the novel she’d been reading, she pulled her notebook out of her backpack and returned to the kitchen. She took a seat at the table and flipped open the notebook. She looked through the notes she had already written and tried to come up with a plot idea. So far, nothing had come to mind, but at least she was satisfied with the amount of scenery notes she had made.
Cassidy occasionally glanced up to watch Steven cook. He had a pot of rice sitting on one burner, while on another he was stir frying some chicken and vegetables. It made the cottage smell amazing, and just like that morning she was reminded of her mother’s cooking. Cassidy didn’t tend to be very creative when she cooked for herself, so she was pleasantly surprised by Steven’s insistence on cooking and wondered if he was going to keep it up.
“What are you working on?”
Steven’s voice shocked her, and Cassidy took a moment to reply. “Oh… well, I’m hoping to write a book. I thought that maybe coming here would give me some inspiration for a good story. All I’ve gotten so far is scenery stuff, though.” She sighed a dropped her pen on top of the notebook, where it rolled to the centre.
“You’ve only been here one day,” Steven pointed out. “Good ideas don’t just appear that quickly.”
“They do sometimes,” Cassidy replied.
“So maybe I can help,” Steven suggested, sounding a little tentative. “Why don’t you tell me what you’ve written?”
Cassidy nodded thoughtfully. She had often found it easier to come up with ideas and work out kinks in her writing while talking to someone. She picked up her pen and flipped the page over to her first set of notes from the day. She started to read them out to Steven, going into greater details about some of the points. She made a few extra notes while talking, but mostly she was absentmindedly doodling swirling patterns down the margin of her paper while she spoke. She went over her description of the tombstones, and then realized that she was not sticking to the notes, she was also telling Steven about her day. She wondered briefly if he was bored of her talking, but it was hard to tell since he was still working at the stove.
When she finished talking about her picnic lunch near the tombstones, Steven turned around. “Dinner’s ready.”
“Great,” Cassidy said enthusiastically. She started to close her book, but paused suddenly. She caught sight of what had started off as a mindless doodle. It had become a person, and it really wasn’t hard to figure out who the drawing was supposed to be. She’d even begun to draw the stove. Cassidy slammed the book closed and looked up to see if Steven had noticed anything. She was relieved to see that his back was facing her. She pushed the notebook aside and got up to help set the table.
Steven had bought juice. Cassidy filled two glasses with apple juice and placed them on the table, while Steven was serving the food onto their plates. She grabbed utensils, as well as salt and pepper, before taking her seat again. Steven had just finished with the food, and so he sat down as well.
“This smells great,” Cassidy commented. She didn’t want to eat first, but after a moment it became clear that Steven was waiting for her, so she picked up her fork. She stabbed a piece of chicken and some of the vegetables and quickly ate them. “And it tastes great,” she added.
Steven smiled and picked up his own fork. After they had both eaten a few bites, he gestured towards the notebook with his fork. “So, was that all you had written down?”
“Pretty much,” Cassidy replied, unwilling to open the notebook again. “It was just some more description stuff about the hills. Any input?”
“Have you written about the town yet?”
“I wrote a little about it yesterday,” Cassidy explained. “I’ll write some more when I go to explore it again. It’s a pretty place, especially along the pier.”
Steven nodded in agreement. “It is. Do you have any idea what kind of story you want to write?”
Cassidy shrugged. “You mean genre? Not really,” she paused to drink some juice. “I like reading fantasies and realistic fiction, and I’ve written a few short fantasy things before. I think I’ll keep to those genres for now.”
“Well, I’m sure the island will give you something to work with,” Steven said. “You could even go to the library and look up some old stories to see if anything interesting has happened on the island before. There must be lots of stories that could give you ideas.”
“I was thinking of looking through my grandfather’s stuff,” Cassidy said. “For just that reason. I took a writing class in high school and one of the projects we did was to write a scene based on an old photograph.”
Steven laughed, “There are lots of those around. If that’s all you need for inspiration, then you might just find you have a little too much.”
Cassidy couldn’t help but laugh with him. “Too much would be great! Then I won’t have to go through the whole process for my next book. If there is a next book.” She finished the last of her dinner, and only then realized that Steven had been done for a few minutes.
“Really?” Cassidy pushed her plate off to the side. “You must let me pay you back for some of this food.”
Steven shook his head as he got to his feet. “No, think of it as rent.”
“You don’t need to pay rent,” Cassidy protested. “If my grandfather said you would always be welcome here, then I intend to keep to his word. I don’t think he would have made you pay rent.”
“He wouldn’t have,” Steven agreed. He pulled a tub of ice cream from the freezer and placed it on the table. He got two bowls and two spoons, and then pried open the top of the tub. “But you’re not making me pay rent, either. I just feel that if you’re going to allow me to impose, I have to make some sort of contribution.” He handed her a bowl of ice cream. “So you’re not paying me for these groceries.”
“Fine,” Cassidy tried her best to seem grumpy, but her charade broke when he smiled and she smiled back without meaning to. Slightly embarrassed, she dug into the ice cream. It was vanilla, which was her favourite, and she had no trouble at all finishing up the whole bowl. She finished eating first, and started stacking the dishes. “I’m cleaning these, and you’re just going to sit there and do nothing.”
“If you insist.”
“I do,” Cassidy gathered up the last of the dishes and put them on the counter before running the water. Steven stepped up beside her and leaned against the counter. He watched silently for a moment as she squirted some soap into the sink and waited for it to fill up. Cassidy resisted the urge to return his stare. “That coat you were wearing when you came in…” she said, trying to distract him.
“It was George’s,” Steven admitted without hesitation. “It was cold this morning, and I didn’t think you’d mind. I won’t touch it again if you don’t want me to.”
“No, it’s fine. I was just curious,” Cassidy met his gaze briefly. His eyes were a very light blue, almost grey. A thought sprung into her head entirely unbidden – how was she lucky enough to find such a gorgeous squatter in her grandfather’s cottage? She then admitted to herself that he was attractive, something she hadn’t quite allowed herself to think the night before, since she was still a little wary of him. It wasn’t only his face, though; it was the way he held himself and even the way he was leaning against the counter beside her.
She shook the thoughts from her head when she noticed that the sink was almost full. She turned off the water and picked up the first dish. “Go sit down,” she told him. “It’s your turn to feel useless.”
Steven smiled but did as he was told and returned to the table. Cassidy did the dishes as quickly as she could, placing them all in the dish rack to air dry. When she was done, she drained the sink and washed her hands.
“Do you have any plans for the rest of the evening?” she asked, turning to face him.
“Not really. I was thinking of getting a fire going and maybe you could bounce some more story ideas off me until we get tired.”
“Sounds good,” Cassidy wiped her hands on her pants to dry them before picking up her notebook and leading the way to the living room.