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“…at least the statements are in order, so I’ll get to work on the reconciliation report before we have to send it off to Pancake & Sons next week.” Hunter rambled on. I  stopped following after a while.

He wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know about the financial aspect of this business but he’s always been a know-it-all. He just can’t help it. I didn’t mind because this is why I hired him in the first place.

He was brilliant with numbers. Unlike Poppy and his brothers, Hunter didn’t just graduate from university. He did university courses while still in high school so he was able to get his degree in two years followed by his MBA in Finance.

I was surprised he was so willing to turn down all other offers to join our small organization. We still outsource to an accounting firm for most of our financial stuff but it was better to have an in-house person to keep us organized. As a non-profit organization we needed to be on top of our financial reporting game and Hunter was just the guy for that job. He said he’d rather work for an organization that does good instead of some large corporation, but I think Hunter just didn’t want to pass on an opportunity to work so closely with his girlfriend.

“Uh-oh..” I heard Kyleigh mumble from by her desk.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Um…I have some bad news. You might want to sit down for this.”

I was already sitting down, but okay. “What is it?”

“So…Doctor Christine Caldwell just sent an email turning down the position for Head of Staff.”

“What?!” I gasped, leaping off my seat as well. “Why?”

“She said personal issues.”

“What personal issues?”

“That’s all she said.” Kyleigh shrugged at me and then started going through the files on her desktop. “I guess we’ll have to go with someone else on the short list.”

But I didn’t want anyone on the short list. Dr Caldwell was the most qualified of all the applicants. She was a well-reputed veterinary surgeon graduating summa cum laude from Brindleton Bay University. She even won awards for inventing a non-invasive surgery technique for treating animals with snort-nose fever. I didn’t think we could get anyone as good as her considering we were a new organization and didn’t yet have a reputation that drew people to us.

I knew it was crazy and despite Abike and the rest of them telling me I shouldn’t, I decided to go to Brindleton Bay to talk to her, and I left right away.

The last time I went to Brindleton Bay it was with Shiloh and the four-hour drive was the worst so I refused to do that again. I took a bus to Willow Creek, then hopped on a ferry that would take me to Brindleton Bay. Doing it that way shaved a couple of hours off of my commute.

All I had to do was convince Christine to change her mind and then I’ll be on my way home before Mom made dinner.

It took me a while to find her house. I told the cab driver the address but he took me to the wrong street so I had to go wandering the block until I found the right one.

It was a cute little cottage and it had an impeccable view of the harbour and ocean. I knocked on the door but then a thought occurred to me. What if she thought I was trying to bully her into taking the position by showing up unannounced to her house? Maybe I was crazy for doing this?

“I can’t believe you came all the way here,” she said as she let me come inside.

“I left Oasis Springs as soon as I received your email.”

“Can I get you something to drink?” She seemed pleasantly surprised to see me and not at all creeped out so I relaxed.

“No, thank you.” I was still a little nauseous from that ferry ride. I drank so much water, I had no room for even one more drop. “Christine, I don’t understand why you don’t want the position anymore.”

Her smile wasn’t as bright anymore. “It’s like I said in the email. Personal issues.”

“Do you mind telling me what it is?” I asked. “I don’t mean to pry but we really want you to be the head of staff at the hospital which means we are willing to accommodate you in any way.”

“I’m…I’m not sure if you can.” She said, biting her lip nervously.

“Try me.”

With a deep sigh, she went on. “I have two boys. They’re seven and three, and they’re quite the handful and I take care of them on my own. I don’t know if a big move to a strange town is what’s best for them right now. Brindleton Bay is their home.”

I already knew she had children so I wasn’t surprised by that. It must be hard being a single mom to two young boys. I know how hard it is for Clara and she only has one kid to worry about. “I totally get it Christine, but Oasis Springs is a pretty great town to live in. It’s always sunny, our winters are never cold, and the people are friendly. I’m sure your boys will adjust to living there just fine.”

“It’s not so simple, Olive.” She said. “I’m a single mom. Their father is gone. It’s been hard on my oldest, especially since he gets picked on at school.”

“My goddaughter is the same age as him and she’s so sweet. They’ll be best friends in no time. Trust me, she’ll help him fit in at OS Elementary.”

“Isn’t it too late to enroll him? School starts in a couple weeks.”

“I have a great relationship with the principal. I was her best student back in the day. I can pull some strings to get him enrolled in time for the start of the new school year…”

“Stwane-jerrr!” I suddenly heard a little voice say. When I looked down I saw the most adorable pair of big green eyes looking right back at me.

“Oh, hi,” I said to the little guy.

“Sam, sweetie, this is Miss Olive. Say hello to Miss Olive.”

“Hullo, meees Olib! I want play!” He cheered. I guess he got over the whole ‘stranger’ thing pretty fast.

“Why don’t you go and play with Alex?” Christine said to him gently. “Mommy and Miss Olive have to talk for a bit.”

“Mickey went boo boo!”

Soon his brother came in along with one huge dog that looked like a Husky. “Mom, Mickey pooped all over the patio again!”

“So? Clean it up. The baggies are in the drawer.”

“But I don’t wanna…”

“Alex, you wanted a dog right? Now you have to clean up after him.”

I tried not to laugh since the kid seemed so upset about having to clean up poop. It brought me back to the old days when I first got Shiloh and I hated picking up her messes.

The little one followed him and the dog out onto the patio and then we were alone again.

“See, I told you they were a handful.”

“They’re adorable!”

“Until Alex gets cranky because he can’t find his action figure or Sam tosses his applesauce onto the floor.” She sighed heavily. “My job at the clinic here might not be challenging and it pays crap but I get good hours and I’m allowed to have the boys with me sometimes. This job – it’s a dream job! – but to be in a management position means longer hours and I don’t know any of the sitters in your town. It’s just a lot for me to consider before I make a selfish decision.”

“What if I sweetened the pot a little?”

“What do you mean?” She eyed me curiously.

“What if we include a child care allowance as part of your compensation package?”

 “Child care?”

“Yes,” I said. “We’ll cover the cost of day care or a professional nanny to look after your kids for you while you work. We can also discuss your hours in more detail later but…just don’t say no. Like you said, this is your dream job and I know I’m not a mother and I don’t know your kids or your life but I think your boys would want to see their mother fulfilled in a place where she can flourish.”

I meant every word I said to her. I just didn’t think it would flow out so eloquently. I sounded like a professional motivational speaker or something. And it worked!

She agreed to take a few days to think it over and for that I was grateful.

Now it was time for me to head back to the terminal to get on the 5 pm ferry back to Willow Creek. I had about an hour to spare before boarding so I decided to take a walk around the area to kill time. The town was beautiful at this time of the day and the smell of the ocean breeze was lovely, even if I got a whiff of fresh fish in between.

There were so many lush trees in between the more developed areas. It seemed like the perfect place to relax and forget about the world. I could see why Christine was so reluctant to leave.

I wouldn’t want to leave either. I mean, if this was the view from the port imagine how the rest of the town looked. I didn’t have the time to go sight-seeing last time I was here and I still didn’t have the time to do any of that now but I took a mental note to plan a more extended visit to Brindleton Bay sometime in the future.

It just seemed so peaceful, like nothing bad ever happens here. Even the cats and seagulls seem to get along. Like they have some kind of mutual understanding.

I was almost at the end of the port when I came around the corner and saw a man there on his cell phone. I almost didn’t give him a second glance but there was just something about him that stopped me in my tracks.

And I just stood there staring at him for who knows how long.

This man with broad shoulders, big arms and long hair looked nothing like anyone I knew, and yet I was drawn to him.

I didn’t know what was happening to me. I was having a complete visceral reaction to this stranger and I didn’t know why. And then after a while, he turned around.

A smile warmed my face when I saw his.

And it all made sense.

“Eli…”

“…Olive?”

Thanks to Clyder7222 for the Caldwell family. We will see more of them in upcoming chapters. 😀

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