On the last day of October, on schedule, the refurbishment of Blue Bay Lodge was complete and it was time to reveal the new look to the world. For the whole of October, the lodge had been closed to the public with only workmen and a few staff permitted on the property, and the rumour mill among the local community was at a fever pitch. The building was very much a landmark in the small seaside hamlet and had been in its original form for 25 years, so everyone was very eager to see the new look lodge.
The staff had been divided into two groups, with one group on paid vacation, while the other assisted with the clean up as each area was handed over to the lodge management. Everyone was back for the last four days before the big reveal.
By the middle of October, the entire upper floor with the bedrooms, boardroom, upstairs patio and all the balconies was completed and ready for occupation. The lobby, lower patio and restaurant was still a hive of activity, but progress was evident all around. On the penultimate day of October, the last workmen left the site, the refurbished lodge was handed back to Paul and all the staff got stuck in for the final spit and polish.
He, Andrew and the executive chef had, during the final two weeks of October, been working on the re-opening function. Local dignitaries had been invited and acceptances received. The press had also been invited and several TV outlets had requested accreditation. Andrew had also invited Ben and Emma Davidson, whom he had found to be a lovely couple, lonely, but fantastic company, and had grown very fond of, during the handover period and thereafter when he often invited them for a meal at the lodge or tea and scones.
Due to space constraints only 100 guests could be invited and the function would take the form of a cocktail party. Several tall cocktail tables had been arranged on the outer edges of the lobby and an extra bar had been set up on the patio, for those guests who wanted to get their own drinks, in addition to the normal service bar. Waiters would circulate among the guests taking orders and collect from either the service bar or the patio bar.
"Wow Drew, it's stunning", he breathed. And it was. The lobby had been transformed".
The parquet floor had been replaced with white, gold veined granite tiles, almost identical to the granite top table in the centre of the lobby. The long wall on the left, broken only by the entrances to the cloakrooms was now a deep navy blue with concealed lighting washing down it. On the wall hung various works of art from a local artist that were for sale.
The couches and armchairs were arranged in the middle of the room as he had seen on his first visit and the arrangement on the centre table was now a huge mass of proteas.
Gone were the two carpeted staircases. In their place rose two brushed stainless steel and clear glass staircases with thick glass treads, lit from below. The solid walls of the upper landing had been replaced with the same clear glass and brushed stainless steel railings. Two chandeliers hung from the double volume ceiling on either side of the landing. Table lamps shone at various points around the room that now positively reeked of style. It had been a rebirth for the lodge.
Walking further into the room, Ryan saw the reception desk had also been restored to its original mahogany glory and gleamed in the soft overhead downlights above it.
Moving through the doors onto the patio, all the tables there and in the restaurant had been covered with white damask linen cloths. The restaurant tables were laid with crockery, glassware and gleaming silverware and both the restaurant and patio tables had a candlelamp which glowed warmly.
The whole place looked chic, modern and smart, yet somehow homely at the same time. Andrew and his team of advisors had done a masterful job.
Upstairs in the bedrooms it was the same. The blue and white theme had been carried through with the carpets in the passageway on either side of the marble tiled landing being navy blue with a small red, gold and green fleck in it. The walls were white with brass wall sconces between the doors of the rooms. The same carpet was used in the bedrooms and here the walls were white too. The entire wall on the balcony side of the room was sliding glass doors, draped from ceiling to floor in thick off-white curtains with navy blue and gold tiebacks.
The bed headboards were padded in navy blue with white buttons and the beds, Queen size and twin singles were covered with a blue and white striped comforter and sported plush pillows in white linen. Brightly coloured scatter cushions in the same colours as the flecks in the carpet, finished the look on the beds. A refurbished sofa, upholstered in a large navy and white floral fabric, stood against a wall, also adorned with the bright scatter cushions.
Bathroom floors were tiled with the same marble tile and the walls tiled to the ceiling with white tiles and small navy surrounds. The separate showers had frosted glass doors and thick white towels hung on the railings, as did fluffy white bathrobes behind the door. It bathrooms smelled faintly of sandalwood, the fragrance Andrew has chosen for the guest amenities.
Ryan was amazed at the changes and he turned to Andrew.
"I'm stunned! It's just beautiful. If we can achieve the same thing with the yacht, I'll be a very happy man. Congratulations on a job well done, my love", and he took Andrew in his arms and lovingly kissed him.
"Thanks babe, it hasn't been easy, but I'm really pleased at how it turned out. And we were only slightly over budget".
"I won't ask what "slightly over budget" equates to, but at a guess I would say it was not only a few hundred rand".
"Hah, you know me too well".
They descended the stairs to the lobby, where a crowd was already gathering and a few waiters in black aprons circulating with silver trays of sparkling wine, fruit juice and bottled water, while half a dozen more were taking drinks orders for the bar.
Conversation quietened for a few moments when a spotlight revealed a baby grand piano and a pianist who settled onto the seat and began playing.
The table on which the flowers stood had been arranged with three cheese boards and crackers for guests to help themselves, and white aproned waiters now circulated with canapés of local ingredients like biltong, snoek, crayfish and mussels, as well as the usual beef, chicken, duck and smoked salmon. A selection of hot snacks would follow later in the evening.
The evening went spectacularly well with the official reopening being performed by the local city councillor. Everyone chatted, ate and drank while Paul, Andrew and Ryan circulated through the crowd. Their guests all seemed to enjoy themselves and they received many compliments on the new look of the lodge and the evening in general. The only sour note occurred towards the latter part of the evening.
A few guests were already leaving and Andrew was chatting to Ben and Emma, while Ryan stood directly behind him chatting to some locals who had been invited. His eyes widened when he heard a female voice behind him ask,
"So tell me young man, what's it like being a kept man?"
Andrew spun around and glared at the group Ryan was talking to. Ryan, spotting his reaction laid a hand on his arm. Andrew could see he was furious.
"Don't worry babe, I got this", and turned to look at the older woman who had posed the question.
"First of all ma'am", he ground out with huge emphasis on the 'ma'am', I'm not sure who are are, and quite frankly, I don't want to know!
Secondly, I am not a kept man. I have finances of my own. But if my partner wishes to spend money on me, I will allow him to do so, because he loves me and I love him and our relationship is such that it actually does not matter", his voice rising slightly.
"And thirdly, and most importantly, it is none of your f......freaking business! So take your bigoted little brain and fuck off, you've just overstayed your welcome!"
In the shattering silence that followed, applause was heard somewhere behind them. The woman's mouth opened and closed like a beached fish and she blustered,
"Well I never! Come Anthony, we are leaving!", grabbing her husband and bustling towards the doors.
"I'm sorry", he whispered as he walked past Ryan, following his wife.
Andrew and Ryan turned round to see Ben Davidson grinning from ear to ear, still applauding. He was walked up to Ryan and slapped him on the back.
"Brilliantly done, my boy! I wouldn't have missed that for the world. That old cow deserved what she got and more, frankly. That just put the cherry on a wonderful evening".
Ryan gazed, slightly embarrassed , at the man whom Andrew had introduced him to earlier in the evening as the previous owner.
"Thank you Mr Davidson, I don't make a habit of being rude to people, but she just pissed me off".
"She's had it coming for years, my boy. It's about time someone put her in her place. Been a pain in my butt almost since we opened the place. Thinks she's better than everyone".
"I just hope I haven't ruined the whole evening", looking at the crowd that had gathered. "My apologies folks, if I embarrassed you. Please continue to enjoy the evening", taking Andrew's hand and leading him to a quiet corner. He looked at Andrew and said softly,
"Babe, I'm sorry if I spoilt your big evening. I just got so angry at what she said. And the way she said it!"
Andrew placed a finger on Ryan's lips.
"Shhh, you have done nothing wrong. If you had not jumped down the old hags throat, I was going to. You just did it more succinctly. I wouldn't have been so nice. I'm proud of you and I love you", and kissed him deeply. "As much as I would love to stand here with you and snog, I think we need to get back to our guests. Quite honestly, I would love to go home, but unfortunately we have to stay to the end. It should not be too long now".
They returned to thd remaining guests, who were dwindling by the minute and within an hour, they were the only ones left, along with Paul and Marie, and the Davidsons, who were just leaving. Andrew and Ryan walked them to the door, the two old people gushing about the lovely evening and the changes to the lodge. They drove away and the two guys rejoined Paul and Marie for coffee while the staff completed the clean up.
They sat on the patio watching the lights of Cape Town twinkling across the bay. If had been a very good evening.
Paul suddenly started giggling and they stared at him with amused, questioning looks.
"That old bats face when Ry told her to fuck off! Oh my god, priceless! I thought she was going to have apoplexy!"
"Ry doesn't lose it very often, but when he does it's usually pretty spectacular. Now you know why I like to keep on his good side", sniggered Andrew.
"Yeah, I'll have to remember never to cross him. That old buddy deserved it though. Still can't believe he told her to fuck off though! I have never heard him talk like that".
"Leave Ryan alone, you two", Marie scolded them. "He did what was necessary. It was a lovely evening though. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and I think the lodge got some good publicity".
She looked round as the maitrè d approached the table.
"Mr Paul, everything is put away and locked up. Can we go, the transport is waiting for us?"
"Yes Charles, you can. And thank the staff for me. I will send out a memo first thing tomorrow for the notice board".
"Thank you Mr Paul, Mr Andrew. See you tomorrow".
And then they were four. They finished their coffee and Paul carried the tray to the kitchen wash up area, then locked the patio doors and turned off all unnecessary lights.
"Well, back to business! The first guests check in tomorrow and we are actually full for the rest of the week. The weekend is looking good too, and next weekend we have our first wedding in the garden".
They locked the main doors behind them and drove away, leaving only the night security to patrol the grounds.
The lodge was back in business!
The newly reopened establishment took off with a bang. In the two weeks that followed the reopening, a few travel writers and bloggers were invited to spend two nights at the lodge. Paul had negotiateda deal with a spa situated in an old house, just two properties from the lodge, and the spa was included in the invitation.
Excellent write ups were received and business took off. The festive season with its year end functions kept the Food & Beverage department very busy and was a great success.They were fully booked for the December holiday season with visitors from upcountry and international tourists, particularly from British and American, and were looking good for the remainder of the summer. The test, however, would come when the Cape 'green season', winter, set in. Tourism usually dropped off during the cold, wet and windy winter, although on days when it was clear and the sun wad out, the Cape was spectacular in winter. Paul had the marketing people already working on winter promotions, and it remained to be sen hoe successful they would be. But, at the moment, they were riding the crest of the wave.
A buffet luncheon was planned for Christmas Day on the patio and in the restaurant, and that too was fully subscribed, as was the New Years Eve dinner dance where they would utilise the lobby and patio.
Andrew and Ryan would attend both functions, before jetting out for Mauritius on New Years Day for ten days on the paradise island.
They were also negotiating with several tour companies to advertise the yacht and has so far received several enquiries and three firm reservations for after the launch. The April launch date was slightly problematic, due to it falling in autumn and the weather would already be starting to change for winter, but they desperately wanted to get a few charters under their belts before winter set in. The weather would not be conducive to long charters, so they were concentrating on day charters and possibly a few two or three day trips. When they arrived back from Mauritius, it was going to be full steam ahead on Project Belle Catherine.
But before then, Andrew had other plans!
On Christmas Day morning, Ryan woke up to find himself alone in bed. He could smell coffee brewing and, he guessed, muffins baking. The bedside clock said 9am.
He and Andrew had been out to dinner on Christmas Eve, and had arrived back at the apartment after midnight. Andrew had seemed a bit subdued in the earlier part of the evening, but seemed to snap out of it as the evening wore on. The flickering lights on the tree in the lounge welcomed them home, it's image reflected in the windows. Half s dozen gift wrapped parcels lay under the tree.
Ryan brewed a pot of coffee and they sat on the couch drinking coffee and sipping Ameretto liqueur while opening their gifts.
Ryan had given Andrew his first pair of deck shoes, a foul weather jacket, both for the yacht, and a 24 carat gold chain at the bottom of which hung a small oblong plaque on which was inscribed, 'To Drew. With all Mt love, Ryan". Andrew cried!
He, in turn, gave Ryan Tag Heuer watch to replace the one he had that had become rather battered and scratched, a pair of expensive sunglasses, and a GoPro camera.
They snuggled for a while until full stomachs and more than a few glasses of wine made both rather sleepy, so they headed off to bed.
With the aroma of coffee beaconing him, Ryan got out of bed, slipped on his robe and padded barefoot out of the bedroom. Andrew was standing at the big windows overlooking the marina and harbour. His hands were braced against the windows and his shoulders were shaking. Concerned, Ryan hurried to him and taking him in his arms, turned him around to look at him. His face was wet with tears and he looked lost and forlorn.
"Drew love, why are you crying? Has something happened?"
Andrew looked at him, clutched himself to Ryan's chest and sobbed. They stayed like that for a couple of minutes until Andrew began calming down. While he had been crying, Ryan had an insight to the problem. When Andrew had quietened to just a few sniffles, he said quietly,
"This is about your parents, isn't it?"
Andrew nodded his head against Ryan's chest and sniffed again.
"I'm sorry! This isn't how I wanted our first Christmas to start out. It just suddenly dawned on me that I won't be seeing them for Christmas lunch today", he said, starting to sob again. "It will be the first time in 27 years that we haven't eaten Christmas lunch together as a family".
Ryan held him tightly, trying to give him some comfort.
"Oh my love, I wish I could say it's going to be okay. But we both know it isn't. I know I cannot replace them. But know that you have me now, and I will be your family, if you will have me. I know you will always miss them, especially at times like this. But you are not alone. I promise, you will always have me".
Andrew sniffed again and looked at Ryan, smiling sadly.
"God, what would I do without you? You're always around to pick up the pieces when my wheels fall off, first in Europe and now here. I though I was going to be okay. I've been thinking about them for a while now in the run up to Christmas. Then it all comes crashing back and I feel so lost and overwhelmed".
"You're allowed to feel like that", a Ryan said. "It's been less than a year, and you've been very busy since the accident. Maybe that was your way of coping with what happened. I don't know for sure. But you are an only child and the two people you loved most in the world, and who loved you in return, were suddenly taking away from you. Any normal person would feel thd way you do. Just know, as I said, that you are not alone.I love you more than you know. And I will care for you in every way possible. And if you need a shoulder to cry on, mine is always available. Please don't do it on your own like you were doing just now. Deal?"
"Thank you my love", then looked alarmed. "Damn, the muffins! I had forgotten all about them".
He extricated himself from Ryan's arms and dashed to the kitchen to rescue the slightly over-browned muffins from the oven. They poured mugs of coffee and ate the warm bran muffins with cheese and apricot preserve while watching the marina come to life and listening to Christmas music.
A little later they showered together and dressed casually, but smartly, for lunch at the lodge. Ryan had been a bit miffed when his parents had turned down an invitation to come down from Johannesburg for Christmas and New Year saying they had already made plans for the holidays, but would see them early in the new year.
Lunch turned out to be a great success. Andrew had invited Ben and Emma to join them, and the Mason's, and the couple were really good company, with Emma having a wicked sense of humour. The food wad tasty and plentiful, and everyone had a good time. Andrew seemed to have gotten over his melancholy and was beaming as he, Paul and Ryan, played host and wandered through the tables chatting with the guests. A jumping castle had been set up in the grass alongside the swimming pool and the kids were having a ball under the watchful eyes of two young attendants. The parents also kept watch, but generally were relaxed, if a little uncomfortable from overeating.
Late in the afternoon the luncheon guests started heading for home, or to their bedrooms upstairs and the draft began clearing away and preparing for dinner. Nothing formal had been arranged, but the a la carte menu was available should anyone want to come down for dinner. Andrew suspected that room service would be busy later in the evening.
After asking Paul to arrange for a small platter of cols meats and cheeses to nibble on for supper, he and Ryan said their farewells to Paul and Marie, and walked with the Davidsons to the parking area, confirming along the way that the older couple would be joining them for the New Years Eve dinner dance. They were very appreciative of the invitation, saying they were looking forward to it. Andrew watched ad they slowly walked to their vehicle. Ryan slipped his arm through Andrew's and nudged him.
"They're nice people, aren't they? So down to earth and unassuming. You really like them, don't you?"
"Yes, I do. Very much", he said quietly. Ryan glanced at him, sensing a note of sadness creep into his voice. "They remind me so much of my parents. Very different in stature, but much the same in nature".
"Yeah, you're absolutely right. Hey, don't go getting all morbid on me again. My shoulder is still wet from this morning".
Andrew inhaled deeply.
"No, I'm fine. Let's go home.I want a nice quiet evening at home alone with you"
"Sounds good, let's go".
The week between Christmas and New Year wad spent fairly quietly. The drove to Clifton Beach, spent two days next yo the pool at the lodge, took the cable car to the top of Table Mountain or just walked around the marina and the Victoria and Albert shopping precinct. And packed for their trip.
New Years eve was soon upon them and Ryan noticed that Andrew was a lot more animated than he had been. He put it down to the prospect of the trip to Mauritius, just happy that the love of his life was happy too.
When they arrived at the lodge and walked into the lobby, they both stopped dead in their tracks and gasped. The room looked amazing! Andrew had nothing to do with the arrangements for the evening, it had all been Paul and his team. The theme they had opted for was 'Night of a Thousand Stars'.