The business team sat in the dayroom. The silence more deafening than any of their meetings. Meg sat up when I entered with the laptop in hand. No one else moved.
“I wasn’t sure what devices you had so I just brought mine. I have those pictures you requested.”
“Awesome,” said Meg as she stood to meet me. The others shifted, the enthusiasm long gone.
“Do you really think the pictures are going to make a difference,” Vivica asked as Meg showed off the images. “I’m sorry to say but this isn’t working and nothing is going to change that.”
I sat on the couch. “Okay, what is the plan so far?”
“Well,” Meg started.
“The idea is to turn the island into a resort,” continued Vivica. “We, originally, were trying to model it after one of the Virgin Islands but the manor won’t support the new electrical requirements.”
Greg rose from a chair in the corner and joined us at the couch. “It’s not that the manor is structurally unsound or anything. I’ve calculated the amount of solar energy the manor roof could produce. On sunny days it’s fine but there’s not enough generator space to store the power for days like today.”
“What about the basement space under the foyer? Has Thomas told you about that?” Based on the blank stares, it had been overlooked. “There are five small rooms under the house. The door is tiny but one could piece together a generator under there. The right company could make a generator practically appear down there.”
Greg’s eyes met mine, grey eyes darkening as we spoke. Why hadn’t I noticed his eyes before? I reached out my hand, resting it on his wrist. He grabbed mine in response. Anger flashed across his face before disappearing.
“That could work,” he said, sliding his arm from under mine. “But that only solves one problem. How are we going to convince people to spend money to stay in a gloomy house away from civilization?”
“There’s someone for every adventure,” I replied. “Not everyone wants to vacation in the hustle of the real world. Think about how many people get caught up in period movies. There’s a huge audience out there craving an opportunity to step back in time, a chance to get away from the noise and the lights. Add a few themed events and this place could be a must see.”
As the group began anew, I took the opportunity to escape. I had done my part. Before I made it to the stairs, I was pulled around. Greg stood there, the anger back, his eyes black pools. “What the hell are you?”
I shook myself free from his grasp. “I’m sorry but I do believe that’s a highly inappropriate question.”
His jaw clenched. I wondered how his teeth held up under the pressure. “Let’s try this,” he snarled, “what the hell are you doing here?”
I let out a noisy breath. “I’ve been here a month, don’t you know by now? You are supposed to be top of your field.”
He raised his hand to strike me. I caught it still in the air. I leaned in close to him. “Never assume because you have a penis you are stronger than me. I may not be at 100% but I am, by no means, weak. Just like the humans, we are here to do a job, as described. If you think there is anything else to do, think again.” I shoved his hand away and turned back towards the stairs. His negativity reverberated through the open space. Once I reached my room, I was back to normal. The cloud that had shrouded lifted.
The morning sun called to me. The house was silent. The cycle of renewal had begun and I craved being outside. Jane stood at the kitchen door, basket in hand. “I’m just going to pick blueberries,” she said, her quiet voice echoing in the silence. She opened the door.
“Want company,” I asked following her. She walked without speaking. The summer sunshine coated my skin in warmth. I didn’t stop to bask in it, the berries were waiting.
Jane passed several heavy laden bushes before setting down her basket. We picked for a few moments before she spoke. “I have a boyfriend.” She paused before continuing. “I have no one I can talk to.” I patted her arm in reassurance and went back to picking. I resisted eating the tiny berries. Jane sighed, “I don’t know if it’s right.”
I chucked, “I have felt that same way about a lot of things. In fact, just yesterday, I was feeling that way about being here.”
“Really,” she responded.
I nodded. “My best friend told me exactly what I am going to tell – trust your instincts. I was letting my illness color my world but, deep down, I knew I need to stay.” I dropped a handful of berries into the basket and turned towards her. “We have generations of evolution that make up this feeling of instinct or intuition. We can’t explain it but we do have a tendency to want to explain it away. We convince ourselves that the mind is stronger than instinct. That because it comes in like magic, it’s something archaic and useless but it’s not. It’s all those who have come before us that have left their mark on our DNA. It’s designed to keep us safe, give us our best chance of survival and, even, happiness.”
She returned her focus to the berry picking. I followed suit, sneaking a berry into my mouth. the flavor exploded like an orgasm. This day was only going to get better.
“How do you know someone loves you?” She stopped picking and met my eyes.
“Well,” I said, “I believe that, for the sake of self preservation, we segment the parts of our being. When we love someone and they love us, we can share all those parts of ourselves without judgement. If someone truly loves us, they love all of us whether or not they understand it all.” I took another berry from the bush and ate it.
“It takes trust and, in the beginning, there will be fear and hesitation because we want them to love all of us. However, you should instinctively know whether or not trust will appear.” I took a deep breath. “I believe if someone truly and deeply loves you, then nothing you tell them will shock them. You should be able to tell them your wildest dream and they will support it because they love and trust you in return. It’s not an easy thing to do and we fail sometimes. It’s when we can stop, admit we made a mistake and make amends. In the end, though, love should leave us feeling whole. If it ever makes you feel empty, the perhaps it’s not really love.”
She looked down at the basket. Miraculously, we had it filled over halfway. “I suppose that’s enough berries.” She picked up the basket. I kept the berries in my hand.
“These are the most amazing blueberries,” I said, trying to savor them. “In the store blueberries are fat but they don’t taste like this. This is blueberries on steroids.”
Jane laughed, “I don’t always understand you but I love your enthusiasm.”
Rose stood at the kitchen door, a smile on her face. “Looks like you’ve got enough for breakfast and a pie,” she said as she looked into the basket. “Nice to see you back to normal.”
“Thanks,” I said resisting the urge to squish myself into her bosom. I turned my attention to the trees north of the yard.
“Don’t wander too far, breakfast will be ready in about half an hour.”
I waved to the ladies as they disappeared into the kitchen. I wandered over to the pine trees to inspect the vines. I rubbed one of the nodes and smelled the residue it left on my fingers. Warmth filled me with scented candles, winter fires, and fresh baked snickerdoodles. All I saw were Thomas’s eyes reflecting the flames in the darkness. I pressed the remaining fragrance between my fingers. I would need more than this. My arms went around the nearest cedar. My forehead rested on the trunk and I drank in the energy it offered. Once filled with courage, I returned to the house.
“Edward,” I said as we met in the doorway of the dining room, “do you think I could talk with you after breakfast? I think it’s time to share what I’ve been learning.” His face tightened but he smiled. I put my hand on his and let some of the calming energy flow from me to him.
Breakfast was oatmeal cooked with cinnamon and the berries Jane and I had picked. I appreciated the one bowl of delicious food but missed the firm burst the fresh berries offered.
Thomas touched my hand to get my attention. “Come swimming with me. It will just be you and me.”
Swimming could be fun. The weather was warm and my body was alive with the Earth’s energy. To stand in the heartbeat of the world, that was what I needed. “I, still, don’t have a swimming suit.” And I was not about to go naked with a potential audience.
“So wear what you have, you do have something?”
“I have shorts,” I replied.
What had I gotten myself into? I was going to talk with Edward and then go swimming with Thomas. I had gone insane. A month on the island was all it took.