Never walk alone - 2. Chapter 2
While all geographical locations actually exist, places like Blue Bay Lodge exist only in my imagination.
Chapter 2 - Plans and Decisions
As they sailed between the island and mainland, Andrew looked to his left and a smile appeared on his face. They were just passing what had been the beginning of his business portfolio. A modern, three storeyed building stood on a large beachfront property, resplendent in white with navy blue detailing, with large windows and doors opening onto balconies and patios and an expanse of green lawn with a swimming pool surrounded by sun beds and navy blue umbrellas.
This was Blue Bay Lodge, a small hotel that Andrew had purchased soon after returning from Europe. Upon arriving back in Cape Town from Europe, Andrew had made the decision to get on with his life. He would continue to feel the ache of his loss, but he had to move on. And he had a lot of money that he wanted to do something with. While reading one of the monthly hospitality publications that his general manager received and passed on to the management team, he saw an advert for the sale of the lodge. His interest suddenly piqued, he jotted down the details and, later that day once he was home, he called the contact number. He had a fairly good idea which lodge it was and, if he was right, felt convinced that it had potential. Two days later was his weekend off and he arranged for a viewing on the Saturday morning at nine.
He purposely arrived early, deciding to have breakfast at the lodge to observe and take some notes. Upon arriving in the sparsely occupied parking area of the then, cream painted building, he walked towards the main entrance and was greeted with a beaming smile by the doorman / porter, whose name badge identified him as Thomas. His uniform was neat and clean, but slightly frayed at the collar and cuffs.
" Good morning sir, welcome to the Blue Bay Hotel ".
" Thank you, and good morning to you too, Thomas. How are you today? "
"I am well sir. Just a little sad ".
" Why are you sad? You say you are well, you have a job. Why would you be sad? "
Thomas shrugged and wrung his hands together. " Sir, that's the problem. We don't know how long we are going to have jobs. The owner, he is old and tired I think, and he wants to sell the hotel. Business is not as good as it used to be. There used to be many more cars in the parking area", he said in a very simple way, indicating the virtually empty parking bays.
Andrew nodded. " I know it's tough, but hang in there. Maybe things will change ".
Thomas studied him carefully for a few moments and said, " Thank you sir, I hope so. My wife she works here too, in the laundry. If we both lose our jobs, we won't be able to look after our five children. How will we feed them? "
" Well, just stay smiling and greet everyone like you greeted me today, and I'm sure everything will be just fine ", Andrew replied, already knowing that if he purchased the hotel, Thomas would be staying. " Now I need some breakfast. Where do I go? "
Thomas beamed at him again. " I see that you are a good man. You care about people. Bless you! Now, for your breakfast you need to go right through to the front. There is the restaurant and patio where you can sit and eat".
" Thank you, Thomas I will see you later ".
Thomas opened the door for him and tipped his hat as Andrew walked into the small hotel. Looking around, the lobby mirrored the uniform Thomas was wearing - neat and clean, but slightly frayed at the edges. The parquet floor, although just cleaned - it was still slightly damp and a housekeeping attendant was using a mop in one corner - looked like it needed a good polishing. The sofas scattered around the walls looked comfortable, but worn and slightly saggy. Everything looked clean and neat, but the entire central area where he walked looked tired.
He walked past two carpeted staircases, rising from opposite directions to the open landing above, and a small reception desk with an office on either side. Then he passed through french doors in the wall opposite the main entrance and was greeted by a smiling waitress standing at the desk. Her name badge proclaimed her to be Patricia.
" Good morning sir, may I have your room number? "
Andrew smiled at her. " Good morning, I'm not a resident. I just want to have some breakfast ".
" Yes, certainly sir. This way please " and she guided him to a table next to the windows, looking out over the bay to a very moody looking Table Mountain. She stood back as he got comfortable, then indicating the, once again slightly frayed, laminated menu explained,
" All the cold food is on the buffet. Please help yourself. I will come to get a hot food order from you. Would you like tea or coffee? "
" A pot of tea for me, thank you ".
" Normal or rooibos? ".
" Normal tea please ", indicating he wanted Ceylon tea. As she bustled away, he stood and walked over to the buffet and served himself some fruit salad with a scoop of muesli and yogurt. He also poured himself a glass of fresh orange juice. Back at the table, he perused the menu and then started eating his cereal and fruit. When Patricia came back with his pot of tea, he ordered two soft poached eggs on brown bread toast, grilled tomato and bacon.
He looked around. It was so quiet. A weekend should be busy. Andrew finished his muesli and soon after his hot meal arrived. The eggs had been perfectly cooked, the bacon of good quality and the tomato had been drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of brown sugar. Later, he fetched a small almond danish from the buffet and nibbled that while drinking his tea. All in all, it had been a good breakfast. He sat for a while, then walked over to the desk where he paid his bill and strolled to the reception desk, where once again he was greeted courteously, if somewhat seriously. " Good morning sir, may I help you? , enquired Jenny.
" Good morning, I have a 9am appointment with Mr Davidson. My name is Andrew Devlin ".
" Ah yes. He told me to expect you. I'll tell him that you are here. Please take a seat ".
A short while later, an elderly man appeared out of one of the offices, approached Andrew and introduced himself as Ben Davidson, the owner. Once Andrew had introduced himself, the two men sat chatting for a while, mainly talking shop. Eventually Andrew enquired as to the reason for selling the property.
Ben explained that he and his wife Emma, had opened the hotel twenty five years previously. The property had operated with some success, with the couple hoping their son would take over when they decided to retire. Sadly, when they did start talking about retirement, their son had advised that he felt it was too much to take on, was not interested and had subsequently emigrated to Australia. That had been five years ago. Unfortunately, their disappointment had led to them losing interest as well, standards had started to deteriorate and business to taper off as a result. Ben felt that they were too old to continue and wanted to retire and lead a quieter life.
He and Andrew did a complete walk through of the property, with Andrew taking copious notes, but secretly becoming more excited by the minute. Finally, back in the lobby, Andrew requested a copy of the latest financials and a forecast of confirmed future reservations which Ben quickly retrieved and handed to Andrew. As he walked Andrew to the door he stopped, looked at Andrew intently, and said,
" Well, what do you think? I would like this place to go to someone who will care for it, and the staff, the way we did for many years. I admit that care hasn't been there for the past few years and I regret that. But it's all become a bit too much. I am hoping that that someone is you. I see a young man with strength and resolve, yet one who has seen a lot of sadness as well".
Without warning, tears welled up in Andrew's eyes. His dad had said words very similar soon after Ryan had left for Europe. He looked down at the, now concerned looking, man.
" My dad said almost the same thing to me four years ago. Unfortunately, he and my mother were killed in a motor accident a few months ago and it is thanks to them that I am able to even consider this move. I would like to offer an option to purchase at full price, subject to the approval of my attorney and accountant. I'll have the financials with the accountant on Monday first thing and get them to put a rush on it. I have a meeting with my attorney anyway this Monday to sign some documents pertaining to my parents. Hopefully, by midweek, I can make you a firm offer. Would that be acceptable? "
Ben Davidson beamed. " My boy, you've made an old man very happy! Yes, yes, that's fine with me. I will look forward to hearing from you. If you need any further information, I'm a phone call away ".
The two men shook hands and Andrew turned to walk through the door which was, once again, being held open by a smiling Thomas.
"Heh, heh ", he chortled. "I'm sorry, I couldn't help overhearing what you and Mr Ben were saying. Are you really going to buy the hotel? "
Andrew smiled at him. " If all goes according to plan, then yes, I will be buying the hotel "
To Andrew's amazement, Thomas broke into a little jig, his smile even brighter than before. He stopped, looking slightly sheepish, and took Andrew's hands between his own.
" I knew when I saw you this morning that there was something special about you. And I was right! If I may ask, what is your name? "
" We'll have to see about that, Thomas. And my name is Andrew Devlin ".
He nodded sagely. "Mr Andrew. That sounds good "
" I must get going, Thomas. How long is it going to be for the whole hotel to knows about me? "
Thomas chortled again.
" Heh, heh, Mr Andrew knows me too well already ", then looked at him mischievously. " I tell only my wife. But after that, ten minutes and everybody they know ".
Andrew laughed and shook his head.
" Goodbye Thomas. I might see you later in the week".
"Goodbye Mr Andrew. Thank you. Have a good day ".
Andrew walked to his SUV with a spring in his step. Yes, he thought. It was a good one!
On the following Wednesday, Andrew confirmed his offer with Ben Davidson and advised that he and his attorney would see him on the following Friday with documentation. When he drove into the parking area, he realised the news was out. Almost the entire staff were gathered outside the door. As he stepped out of his SUV, ululating rose up as the staff began singing and dancing. Andrew was very touched by the welcome and struggled to control his emotions as he held up his hand.
Clearing his throat, he said, " Thank you for the welcome. But, " and he held up the portfolio of documents, "but nothing is official yet. These papers must be signed first. So please, please go back to your work stations and I promise I will talk to you when everything is signed. Thank you! "
They started dispersing and he walked to reception where Ben was waiting with his and Andrew's attorneys. Introductions over, Ben led them up some stairs to a small boardroom over the reception area. An elderly woman stood at a sideboard on which stood the requirements for tea and coffee, as well as biscuits.
Ben introduced the woman as his wife Emma, grey hair and makeup perfectly done and dressed in a severe dark grey skirt suit with a frilly white blouse. She wore comfortable black pumps on her stockinged feet and the outfit was finished with a silver seagull brooch with sapphire eyes. She looked very regal and Andrew was impressed.
She invited them all to help themselves to refreshments and then they all moved to the table to sign the documents. The two attorney's had been liaising with one another, so the two sets of documents were identical. Ben and Andrew signed their set of documents and then exchanged and each signed the others set, with the attorney's acting as witnesses and it was done. Andrew would take possession on the first of the new month, ten days later. Then, to the older couples astonishment, Andrew reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew an envelope which he handed to Emma. She opened it and her jaw dropped as she stared at the cheque it contained for ten million rand. She handed it to their attorney, walked around the table and hugged Andrew, whispering " Thank you", and walked out of the room. Business concluded, the four men shook hands and they walked back down the stairs to the lobby, where Emma stood waiting for them. She looked at Andrew, smiled sadly and said, " They're all in the restaurant waiting for you ".
Andrew walked into the restaurant to more ululating, dancing and applause. When it died down, he addressed his staff.
" Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to announce that I have bought the hotel ". He paused as the ululating picked up again.
" I will take over with my staff at the start of the new month. Mr and Mrs Davidson will still be around for a few weeks while we take over. I will be bringing in a General Manager, who I will introduce when he arrives. You will not see me every day, the GM will be running the hotel for me. But I will be around occasionally. As far as you are concerned, you carry on as normal. You are all, at this stage, still fully employed. I stress, at this stage! The new GM and myself will be observing you and doing job evaluations. Do your work well and you will not have a problem. Neglect your work and we will be talking again. I have seen things I like, but I have also seen many things I don't like. Changes are going to be made. You may not like the changes, but I think the changes will make things better. When I am finished, this hotel will be a luxury lodge. Yes, the name is going to change. It will no longer be Blue Bay Hotel, but Blue Bay Lodge. That's all for now "
He turned, left the room and after greeting Ben and Emma, drove away.
The lodge was his!
In Europe, things were not so rosy for Ryan. The charter season had started out well, but two days into their fourth charter came the first signs of trouble. The yacht had an electrical malfunction that blacked out the entire ship and left them drifting without power for an hour before the engineers managed to restore operations. Following the incident, the charters proceeded without a hitch until two weeks later when the same thing occurred, this time requiring the ship to be towed into port. The owner cancelled all future charters and took the decision to dry dock the yacht for a major overhaul and refurbishment. The crew were paid off, fortunately for the full charter season, and suddenly Ryan found himself without a job.
Taking it as an omen, he decided he was going home and booked himself onto a flight to Cape Town via Dubai. He had kept Andrew appraised of the situation with the yacht, but did not tell him he was coming home. He wanted it to be a surprise.
On the flight home, he pondered what the future held. While he was sure of his and Andrew's relationship, he was unsure of what exactly he wanted to do careerwise. In the short to medium term, finances were not a problem. He had managed to squirrel away most of his income for the time he had been away and had accumulated just over two hundred thousand Euro, or about three million ZAR. He did not want Andrew to feel obliged to support him, he wanted to pay his own way. He would need to find something to keep him busy. The eighteen hour trip was a tiring one by, strangely, when they touched down at Cape Town International, he felt energised and wide awake.
After passing through Customs and Immigration, he hired a vehicle and drove to Andrew's waterfront apartment. He had never been there as Andrew had purchased it soon after he left for Europe. It was early afternoon and he hoped Andrew would be home. He had been told about the lodge and Andrew had also advised that he had resigned from the hotel group, so he was reasonably sure that the possibility of Andrew being home was a good one. He found the complex, parked the car in one of the visitors parking bays and rode the elevator to the 12th Floor.
In his apartment, Andrew was sitting on the floor surrounded by paint swatches, fabric swatches and every other decor sample you can imagine and he felt like he was drowning. He had managed to persuade another childhood friend, who was also in the hotel industry, to accept the position of General Manager at the lodge. He, Ryan and Paul Mason had grown up together as kids, his home between that of Ryan's parents and Paul's parents. Paul, however, was straight and happily married to his wife, Marie, for five years. With Paul looking after the daily operations of the lodge, Andrew was involved in the planned complete refurbishment of the lodge. Hence, all the samples that now littered the room around him.
Just as he decided he needed a cup of tea, the doorbell chimed. He was expecting Paul and Marie for dinner, but realised it was still too early to be them. Wondering who it could be, and without checking the security peep hole, he flung open the door, revealing Ryan grinning like the village idiot.
" Surprise! ", he bellowed.
Shocked, Andrew slammed the door shut. Eyes wide and breathing in gasps, he approached the door and opened it, slowly this time. Ryan was leaning against the doorframe, his body shaking with laughter.
" That's not the way to welcome your boyfriend home! "
Andrew stared at him, then reached out a trembling hand to touch Ryan's face.
"Ry, it is you! What the fuck are you doing here? Why aren't you in Europe? "
" Oh man, the look on your face is priceless. Are you going to invite me in? "
" Oh shit! Sorry. Yes, come in. I can't believe it's you ".
He stepped back for Ryan to enter the apartment then closed the door. Without warning, he launched himself at Ryan who staggered backwards, tripped over some samples on the floor, and landed on the sofa with Andrew on top of him. Andrew's mouth came down onto his and they were kissing and Andrew was laughing and crying at the same time. Burying his face in Ryan's shoulder, he mumbled,
" Why are you here? Why didn't you tell me you were coming? How long are you staying? When are you going back? "
" Whoa, okay, slow down! Just let me sit up. I have something sharp digging into my back ".
Andrew slid off him and perched on the sofa, gripping Ryan's hand as if afraid he would disappear, still staring at him in disbelief. Ryan struggled to sit up and glared at the book of tile samples behind him, then threw them onto the floor.
" There, that's better, now I can sit back in comfort. Now to answer your questions " and he counted them off on his fingers. " One, I've come home. Two, I wanted to surprise you. Three, for as long as you'll have me. And four, I'm not!
Andrew gaped at Ryan like he had grown another head.
" You're not going back! You're home for good! ", he exclaimed.
Ryan nodded, grinning.
" Clever boy, got it in one!"
"I can't believe it! You're home and you're not leaving. This is amazing. I love you. But how? "
"Okay, tell you what. I've been travelling for eighteen hours and feel dirty and grimy. Let me have a shower and get cleaned up and I'll tell you the whole story. I can stay here, can't I? "
Andrew punched his arm, eyes shining. " Of course you can dumbass. As far as I am concerned, this place is just as much yours as it is mine. Mi casa e su casa ".
" Show me my bedroom and I'll get freshened up then we can catch up, okay? "
Andrew looked at him with raised eyebrows.
" Really, show me my bedroom! There is only one bedroom that you will be sleeping in and that's the main bedroom ".
"But where will you sleep? "
"Funny man! Don't get cute with me. Now go shower, you stink ".
Ryan turned, heading for the bathroom. " See, that's what I get for coming home. Just a bunch of insults ".
He ducked his head and ran into the bedroom giggling as Andrew threw a cushion at him.
Andrew flopped down onto the sofa with a shiteating grin on his face. Ry was home! Elation was not the word!
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