Summer’s End

Can love be so instant it changes everything?

After losing the woman she loves, Marianne has chosen to live in exile on a tropical Thai island. At first glance, Emily Kane is just another guest passing through the small B&B she runs, but Emily has demons of her own and, together, they just might find a way to live again.

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The Red Lodge looked much tidier than Emily had envisioned, not that she had high expectations after three months on the road. The house felt a bit out of place, perched in between resorts along the beach, as if someone had forgotten to tear it down while developing the rest of the coast. She’d been scouring the internet on her  phone while in Bangkok, looking for a decent place to stay in Samui. Somewhere cheap enough so that she didn’t have to ask her parents for money again, but comfortable enough to meet her not-so-modest standards. She blamed her family for surrounding her with too much luxury because the only hotels she liked were well above her fifteen-quid-a-night budget while the ones that fit into it nicely appeared way too shabby—even the pictures on their website—for a girl brought up in Holland Park.

She’d asked her parents for extra cash twice. The first time when she had run out of funds one third into her three-month journey. The second—and last, she had sworn—after she’d bought a series of paintings from an extremely talented Vietnamese artist for quite a bargain, but the shipping costs had set her back half a month in lodging. She could hardly drag three forty-eight by sixty inch canvasses with her on the rest of her trip. Determined to make it on her own for one last week—because wasn’t that what this trip was all about?—she’d looked away from her phone and her gaze had landed on a pile of red flyers stacked on the nearby window sill.

The Red Lodge – Beachside B&B – Koh Samui

Only 3 rooms available at any time. Not for party people.

25 USD per night.

Tired of looking for a decent place to stay, Emily converted the amount in her head and opened the e-mail application on her phone. A few hours later she had written confirmation and a bed—although she had no idea of the state it would be in—for the last five days of her three-month sabbatical in Asia. The next day she boarded a plane to the island.

“Emily Kane?” A woman with the exact same upper-crust accent as her mother appeared in the doorway.

“That’s me.” It was hard to pin an age on her, but Emily guessed, based on nothing else but the similarity in tone of voice, that the woman must have been about the same age as her mother.

“Welcome to The Red Lodge. My name is Marianne.” She extended her hand, which took Emily by surprise as she wasn’t used to being greeted with a firm handshake anymore. “Please, come inside.”

Emily quite liked the personable approach and figured that, as she was flying back to London soon, she might as well get used to British people again. Not that she hadn’t encountered way too many on her travels, but she’d become rather good at avoiding them.

“Is it just you?” Marianne asked.

I’m not hiding a small person in my backpack. Emily just smiled and nodded. “Yep.” Six months ago, when she was still engaged, she and Jasper had considered Thailand a viable honeymoon destination. Surely they would have visited one of the islands, but they would never have picked a low-key place like this for accommodation.

But Jasper wasn’t here, and that was exactly how she wanted it. Wasn’t it?

“Absolutely nothing wrong with that.” Marianne flashed her a smile before proceeding to check her in.

Emily ran her eyes over the faded Ramones t-shirt—so tight around the shoulders—the woman wore and considered it quite age-inappropriate.

“Things are pretty relaxed around here. There’s no set breakfast time so feel free to sleep as long as you like.” Marianne handed her an old-fashioned key. “The kitchen,” she curled her fingers into air quotes, “closes at ten p.m. and silence is appreciated at night.”

“Thanks.” Emily took the key into possession and made a mental note to store her valuables in the safe—if her room even had one.

“Let me show you to your quarters.” Marianne arched her eyebrows up in mock anticipation. “You’re on the ground floor, overlooking the garden.”

Emily didn’t quite know what to make of Marianne. The ultra-posh accent didn’t seem to fit with her surroundings—nor with the t-shirt. She slung her backpack over her shoulder and followed Marianne from the hallway to the back of the house. Of all the places she’d stayed at, this one appeared the most at odds. The decoration was Asian, but the house felt thoroughly European. As though it had been transported here from Holland Park.

“Here we are.” The door to the room was open and when Marianne showed her in, Emily couldn’t believe what she saw. It was bright and the water from the pool outside reflected blue onto the wardrobe mirror through a large French window.

Stumped for words, Emily turned to her hostess.

“Quite a common reaction.” A satisfied grin tugged at the corners of the woman’s mouth. “But what can I say, I like my surroundings well-finished and pretty.”

“But… twenty-five dollars?”

“I’m not in this business for the money,” Marianne said matter-of-factly. “Why don’t you freshen up and I’ll see you later. I’ll be outside.”

Before Emily had a chance to reply, Marianne had turned on her heels and closed the door behind her. Emily couldn’t help but wonder if she’d just had an enormous bout of luck or whether there was a catch to this lush room she had just ventured into.


Another one who’s trying to find herself. In the five years since Marianne had opened the Lodge to the public, she’d seen too many of them pass. She walked up the stairs to her own room on the top floor. The third step creaked, as it had been doing for the past three weeks.

Emily reminded her of a previous life—the life she had led before her self-chosen exile to Thailand. Marianne had no idea how long the girl had been travelling, but even the dark complexion of her skin and the natural highlights in her hair—both the result of hours of exposure to the hot South-East Asian sun, no doubt—couldn’t hide her airs and graces.

If she’s lucky, she’ll learn. Marianne drew her t-shirt over her head and scanned the room for her bikini. Emily was the only guest today and a swim in the sea was long overdue. Before swapping her undies for swimwear, Marianne dropped to the floor in front of the mirror and performed twenty-five pushups. She’d only recently started working out again and they left her puffing on the carpet for a few minutes. Despite the sudden fatigue, which she knew would pass, she felt stronger. A word she hadn’t associated with herself in a long time.

After slipping into a black bikini and covering the rest of her skin with a t-shirt and pair of shorts, she descended the stairs. The house was too empty today. Even at full capacity, it was never loud or exceptionally cheerful, but at least there was some noise. Some signs of life. A pipe gurgling to life or water spattering in the pool outside. A reminder that she wasn’t alone.

She trudged through the garden, along the stone path by the pool, until she reached the beach. Outside, the sun beat down mercilessly, but the sky was a blue you couldn’t imagine if it wasn’t staring you in the face. So deep and pristine, it should grace many a touristic pamphlet, but a picture could never fully capture its essence. The sense of freedom and joy it provoked. The healing quality of a blue sky you could always count on during certain times of year was invaluable.

The sand was hot beneath her feet, but Marianne was used to that by now. She walked a bit quicker until she reached the moist part of the beach and stood overlooking the sea, as she did every day. The waves in August were usually lazier than this.

This was a quiet beach, with only two medium-sized resorts spread out across the strip. Marianne would never have chosen it otherwise. Not a lot of swimmers ventured into the sea at this time of the day, preferring the shadow provided by their hotel pool gazebos over the unflinching heat of the Thai afternoon sun.

“Is the water too cold for you?”

The voice that came from behind Marianne startled her. She spun around and looked into Emily’s grinning face.

“That was quick.” She returned Emily’s smile. “Room too small and stuffy for you?”

“Not in the least.” Emily winked and ran past her with the enthusiasm of a child who’s never seen the sea in her life. She wore a skimpy bikini with a flower pattern. Marianne followed her with her eyes as Emily waded into the water. Her skin was nut brown and contrasted heavily with the lightness of her hair that had grown unruly. Marianne checked herself for any signs of sudden arousal—for any inkling that some day this would pass—but as usual, she felt nothing. Hadn’t done so in five years.

She wondered what Emily’s story was—because they all had one. The ones who turned up alone despite the fact that they looked as if they’d never been anywhere on their own in their life. She looked a bit too old to be on a post-university gap year, but these days, you just never knew.

Marianne let her shorts drop onto the sand, stripped off her t-shirt and walked into the waves. It struck her again how different it was to cross from land to sea in different parts of the world. Brighton had its charms—and she’d owned a holiday house there for ten years for a reason—but, when put in perspective, the English Channel really had nothing on the Gulf of Thailand. Having it at her disposal whenever she wanted was a big plus, but it wasn’t the main reason she had fled Britain. If only.

With strong strokes—at least she swam every day and swimming in waves does so much more for the upper body than counting laps in the pool—she quickly made up the distance between Emily and her. If she’d had a romantic bone left in her body, Marianne could have almost considered it a romantic moment—swimming towards another woman in the shimmering sea. She shook off the thought and engaged in what had become her specialty since opening the Lodge. Small talk. Fleeting moments, people passing through, enough superficial connections to get through the day and feel human but not enough to ever feel deserted again. This was her life now, and it was exactly how she wanted it.

Facing Emily, Marianne treaded water. Her feet could reach the sea floor, but she really did want to get stronger.

“How long have you been travelling?” Marianne always found it interesting to discover how people ended up here. All these people passing by, occupying a room in her house—all momentarily in the same situation, but always a different tale to tell.

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