Melissa woke up at half past six to feed the horses and get ready for the arrival of the new guests. She insisted on calling the people who stayed in her inn “guests” and not customers and she tried to convince the staff do the same. She wore a simple dress and leather boots because the weather was cold today and she went downstairs to find Mrs Phillipson. Mrs Phillipson was her beloved nanny and now was the cook of the inn. She prepared simple yet tasteful recipes that all the guest loved. Melissa wanted to tell her that this weekend they would have more guests than usual and that she would need to prepare at least four more servings per meal.
“Dear child, you seem so tired” she heard her nanny say for the tenth morning this month.
“Well, I have a lot of things in mind and I cannot sleep well at night” admitted Melissa. There was no point trying to conceal the truth. The black circles beneath her eyes were a big telltale.
“Darling, you should try to relax every now and then. You have me and Jonathan. We can take care of the inn if you want some days off”.
“Jonathan has got a newborn child and you should not work at all. I cannot make you do that for me. After all, this inn is my responsibility and I shall make it thrive”.
“Be careful, dear” said the plump woman with the rosy cheeks “because I am afraid that this inn has become more of a burden than a pleasure for you”.
“My father trusted me with this inn when he died and I do not want to disappoint him if he can see me from up there” Melissa said, trying to swallow her tears. Her parents died in a terrible car accident only three years ago and she still could not get used to the idea that she was all alone. If only she had a sister or a brother to turn to for advice…
Melissa went to the barn to feed the two horses. Chestnut and Coal were brown and black respectively and were both a gift from her father. She was an excellent rider herself and she offered these horses for the guests who wanted to ride across her property. The two horses were very happy to see her (or the food she brought!) and both started wagging their heads impatiently. Melissa found talking to her horses very calming and so she spent more than half an hour every day grooming them and telling them all of her problems.
“So, horsies, today we have four new guests. They have never stayed in our inn before. They booked four single rooms online under the name Robert Downing. It seems quite bizarre, doesn’t it, Chestnut?”. Chestnut snorted.
“It would be cheaper for them to book two doubles, but they didn’t. What kind of people are they? And what kind of relationship do they have?”
Melissa had a steady list of guests who visited the inn and very rarely did she have new people coming over. Of course she liked the idea of expanding her clientele but she wanted to make sure that her new guests would be fine people. At nights she stayed alone with the guests in the inn, as Mrs Phillipson and Jonathan left, and she did not like the idea of sleeping next door to a complete stranger.
“That is why I have to hire somebody for protection” she said to the horses “but we are broke. The inn is not very profitable, especially after dad’s death. I wish I had some extra money to make some changes to it. All I need is to build a new wing which will become a spa for the guests. I will transform the inn into a “relaxation getaway from the city hustle and bustle” and this will add character to my little lodging” she said. Melissa tried to maintain her optimism but her finances did not allow much room for hope. She would have to find more than £50.000 for her plans and so far she only had £5.800 in her bank account.
She gave a long sigh. She could not help but wonder: how many 26 year old girls out there wake up at 6.30 to feed the horses and clean their inns? How many young women do not have time to drink a cup of tea with a friend or go out on a date?
Her best friend, Marianne, left for Paris two years ago and Melissa missed her a lot. They were friends since high school and Marianne was the only who could bring some joy to her life. But after being fired by her awful boss, Marianne decided to move to continental Europe to pursue a career there. She managed to find a job in a law firm in Paris and now she visits England only twice a year. Of course she has invited Melissa many times to visit her but Melissa would always find excuses because she did not want to leave the inn unattended. “Go, have fun, and we will be here if anything comes up” Mrs. Phillipson told her again and again but Melissa could not shake the feeling that if she left something bad would happen…