Once again, Cassidy woke up the next morning to the smell of cooking. This time was slightly different, however, because she could still hear Steven moving around in the kitchen. She waited before getting up, snuggled in the warmth of the covers. She had opted for an early night before, so she was feeling surprisingly well rested despite it being near 7:00. Cassidy pushed back her blankets and climbed out of bed. It was colder than she had expected, so she quickly pulled on some socks and grabbed her sweater.
Steven was in the kitchen. He had his back to the living room, so it was easy for Cassidy to walk up without him noticing. He was dressed exactly as he had been the day before, and she realized suddenly that he must only have one set of clothing. As she watched, he slid some pancakes onto a plate and turned around to put them on the table. He jumped when he noticed her. “Oh, good morning.”
“Morning,” Cassidy replied, stifling laughter.
“These are for you,” Steven put the plate down, as well as the fork he was holding. “Do you want butter and syrup? Something to drink?”
“Yes, please,” Cassidy replied to both questions. “Are you going to eat too?”
“Yes, in a minute.” He opened the fridge and pulled out the syrup, butter and apple juice. By the time Cassidy had taken a seat at the table, he’d poured her a glass and gotten a knife for the butter.
“Thanks. Why are you up so early, anyway? The sun’s barely even started to rise.”
“I need to be in town early,” he explained. He turned his back to her in order to pour some more pancake batter onto the frying pan. “And I like to walk slowly to get there.”
“Can you be back for lunch?” Cassidy asked, while starting to spread butter over her pancakes. “I could make some soup or something.”
“That’d be great, but I can’t.”
“I can make pretty good soup,” Cassidy added. “One of the only things I can make well at this point.”
“I’ve no doubt,” Steven replied. “But I can’t leave the town until later.” He put his own plate of pancakes down and sat across from her.
“I’ll make it for dinner, then,” Cassidy decided.
“If you insist.”
“I do,” Cassidy replied with a smile. She started to pick at her pancakes, slowly because it was just too early for her to be feeling very hungry. On the other hand, Steven ate his pancakes so quickly it was almost as if he was afraid of them disappearing. Cassidy watched him a little more intently than she intended, but caught herself and looked down at her food before he noticed.
He glanced up almost as soon as she’d looked down. “Not hungry?”
“It’s a little early to be hungry,” Cassidy replied. She stabbed a piece of pancake with her fork. “And you must be starving?” she teased before eating the piece.
Steven shrugged almost sheepishly, “Just in a hurry,” he corrected.
“I’m beginning to think you just don’t want to be around me during the day.”
He laughed, “That’s not it at all, Cassidy.”
Her name sounded strange in his voice. It took her a moment to realize why. He pronounced it a little differently, the way her grandfather always had. It was because of the slight accent everyone on the island had when speaking. It was nearly undetectable in most words, but occasionally would make itself heard.
“That’s the first time you’ve said my name,” Cassidy commented, having just realized the fact herself.
She nodded. “I would have noticed if you’d said it before, you said it just like my grandpa used to.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Steven sounded concerned. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Cassidy couldn’t help but laugh, “You didn’t upset me. I used to love hearing him say my name. Say it as much as you want.”
He looked relieved. “Well, then I’ll say it after every sentence.”
“That might get a bit redundant, don’t you think?”
“Not if you like hearing it.”
“I’m sure you’d get bored,” Cassidy pointed out.
“Not if you like hearing it,” he repeated. “Why would I get bored of doing something I know you like?”
Cassidy was briefly taken by surprise, not so much but his words but by the sincerity in which they were said. “Well,” she finally managed, trying to sound as if his statement hadn’t confused her. “Who knew you were so concerned with what I like? So if I liked you being here for lunch, would you come back?”
“That’s something I can’t quite control,” he said. He pushed his chair back and stood up. Since she was finished eating, he grabbed her plate as well as his own and took them to the sink.
“Don’t do those dishes, Steven,” Cassidy spoke up.
“And if I want to?”
“I wouldn’t like that.” As soon as she’d said it, she was worried that she might have taken it too far. But to her relief when Steven turned around he was smiling.
“Then I suppose I can’t do them.”
The sun was starting to come up, and in that moment it peeked over a hill and shone right through the window behind his head. Cassidy blinked and put up a hand to block it. The sunlight was the deep orange colour it always was during sunrises, and it made Steven’s light brown hair look almost golden.
He turned his head to look back at the sun. “I have to go,” he said after a moment. He walked around the table, pausing when he was beside her. “I’ll be back for dinner again, if you don’t mind waiting.”
“Yeah, sure,” Cassidy nodded. “I think I’ll be here all day anyway.” She got up in order to go start the dishes. She turned on the water and looked back, only to see that he was gone. She hadn’t noticed the door opening, but through a window next to it she could see him walking down the path. Cassidy watched him until the full sink demanded her attention. While washing the dishes, her mind lingered on the conversation that had just happened. She ran it over a few times in her head, particularly that one sentence that had sounded so sincere.
The lights flickered ominously before starting to shine steadily. Cassidy looked down at the wooden staircase which led to the cottage’s basement. She knew her grandfather had hardly ever gone down them; the basement had mostly just served for storing things. Surely something down there could give her ideas.
With her notebook in hand and her camera slung around her neck, Cassidy made her way down the stairs. The floor of the basement was just cement, so she was wearing her running shoes. The basement was cooler than the rest of the house, and the air smelled musty and old. Cassidy took a deep breath, somehow finding the smell nice. It added to the whole atmosphere. It was just one small room, not even the whole size of the cottage above it. Two walls were lined with shelves; the rest of the basement was filled with old furniture or boxes, which were all covered by a thick layer of papers.
Cassidy put her notebook down, and walked over to the closest shelf. It held an assortment of boxes, old bottles, and random trinkets. She took a couple pictures, liking the way the dust had settled over the bottles. The grey brick wall behind the shelf just added to the look. She took a few more pictures of the shelves, but there wasn’t much there to hold her attention. She wanted old pictures, of people and places, or maybe some interesting pieces of paper.
She gathered some paper from an old armchair, and after making enough room for herself, sat down. Most of the papers didn’t interest her; they were old forms or instruction manuals for appliances that probably no longer existed. She put the pile off to the side and picked up another. The first few pages were boring, but then she found an old handwritten-note. Delighted, she read through it as quickly as she could, even though the writing was sometimes hard to decipher. The note itself wasn’t too interesting, but Cassidy was encouraged nonetheless. She placed it on its own as a start to a new pile.
As time passed, Cassidy’s various piles grew. By far the largest pile was papers she didn’t care about. Then she had a pile of handwritten letters and notes, another pile for old newspaper clippings, and a fourth pile for photographs. Anything else that seemed interesting but she didn’t know where to put went into a fifth pile. She had a quick break for lunch, and then got back to work.
Shortly after lunch, Cassidy pulled an old journal out of a bookshelf. Intrigued, she opened it up to see it filled with her grandfather’s handwriting. The first entry was dated twenty-one years earlier, a year before Cassidy was born. Distracted from her searching, Cassidy sat down and began to read.