IT had been a hectic 36 hours, installing the new beds, hanging curtains, getting the electrician to make last-minute adjustments to the lighting and a host of other things to get the rooms ready for paying guests. Then there were the finishing touches the tea-trays with their tins of home-made shortbread, the locally sourced toiletries, the folders of tourist information. But it had been worth it. The guests, two couples on their way to a wedding followed by a week’s holiday on the Isle of Skye, had professed themselves so pleased with the accommodation and their dinner and breakfast that they’d arranged to stay a night on their way back south.
It was a good start, Holly thought, as she changed the bed in the room with the lovely view of the loch. And well deserved, though she said so herself! Even though the spring sunshine was only feebly filtering its way through the clouds this morning, the room looked warm and golden, exactly how she had envisaged it.
The bedroom next door had been equally appreciated. And, of course, the visitors had raved over Corin’s dinner. Well, three of them had. One of the men seemed harder to please, taking a long time to choose what he wanted to eat and bemoaning the absence of his favourite vintage from the wine list.
When she went downstairs to the kitchen she found Judy frowning over a text message.
“Louise wants to go to Italy with Eddie and his family over Easter. Hope you don’t mind, she says, when we haven’t seen her for weeks! Right. I’ll be on the phone the minute she comes home from school. This isn’t something to sort out by texting. And what about Granmar? It’s very selfish of Louise to expect her to travel up here on her own.”
“I’m sure Granmar will cope. She drives all over the place,” Holly said. She refused Judy’s offer of coffee and poured herself a glass of water. She hadn’t enjoyed her breakfast coffee; she didn’t like the taste of the new brand they’d ordered. She must speak to Corin about it. “But, Mum, we’re getting bookings now for the Easter holidays. I’m not sure where we’ll all sleep.”
“I thought we’d get Mr Mack’s old bedroom through there cleared out and put a sofa bed in it for your father and me. Then Granmar and Louise, if she comes, can share our room in the annexe.”
“Good idea.” The chaotic little room where the book-in ledger had eventually been run to earth, thanks to Iris, was one they’d shut the door on so far.
For a moment she remembered with longing the high-ceilinged Victorian rooms of the flat where she and Corin had lived in Glasgow. Their first married home. The sitting-room, with its sanded floors and big bay window. The bedroom from where they could see the winter moon through the trees in the park. All that space, just for them. If only they could transport that flat here to give them privacy, a place to call their own.
Then she shook herself. This this hotel was what Corin wanted, and Mum and Dad had been heroes, the way they’d been willing to relocate and work so hard to make it a real family business. She wasn’t going to be the one to let the side down.
“I’ve finished upstairs,” she said. “I’ll make a start on that room now, shall I? I hope we’ve got plenty of bin bags. I don’t think it’s been tidied since the year dot.”
“Louise?” Judy pressed the speaker on her phone so that Tom and Holly could hear the conversation from both ends.
“Mum. Hi! What’s up?”
“Nothing’s up. Just wanted to speak to you, darling. Your dad and I were looking forward to seeing you at Easter so . . .”
“I was, too, looking forward to seeing you, I mean. But Ed’s family are going to Rome and asked me if I’d like to go and the architecture is really cool there. I’ve always wanted to see it.”
Judy raised her eyebrows at her husband and elder daughter as Louise waxed lyrical on the beauty of Rome’s ancient buildings.
“So, you’re saying it would be an educational trip?” she asked when she got a word in edgeways.
Her light sarcasm was lost on Louise.
“Totally. Thanks, Mum!”
Judy shrugged helplessly.
“You seem to have it all settled. Can I speak to Granmar?”
“She’s getting her roots done. She’ll be back in an hour or so.”
“I’ll call her later. Did it occur to you, Louise, that Granmar would appreciate company when she comes up here? It’s a very long drive from Harpenden.”
“Oh, Granmar’s not planning to visit at Easter, either,” Louise said blithely. “Ages ago, long before you moved, she booked a painting holiday in Devon.”
“I see.” Judy pursed her lips. “Well, let’s think. If it doesn’t interfere with your exams maybe you could come up on the May Bank Holiday weekend?”
“I’ll check my timetable and run that past Eddie,” Louise said.
“I meant . . .” Judy stopped. “Of course Eddie will be welcome, too. Tell Granmar I’ll catch her later. Here’s your dad for a quick word, sweetheart.”
She handed the phone to Tom.
Perhaps sensing that Judy was about to expostulate, Tom carried the phone into the hall and took it off the speaker facility. Judy could faintly hear his side of the conversation as he put an amusing slant on their new life and didn’t refer to Louise’s Easter plans.
“What do you think of that?” Judy flopped into a chair and looked at Holly. “What are you laughing at?”
Holly came over and squeezed her mother’s shoulders.
“You must take after your father,” she said. “Granmar’s free artistic spirit skipped a generation! Louise does miss us, Mum, of course she does. And she really wants to see us and the hotel, but this opportunity’s come to go somewhere she’s dreamed of and her head’s in the clouds.”
Judy smiled reluctantly.
“You’re right. I’ve known my mother for almost fifty years and she still surprises me. I expect I’ll say the same about Louise when she’s middle-aged.”