Finding love is the last thing on Andrea Reid’s mind when her travel business disappears overnight because of a global pandemic. Forced to find another way to support her four-year-old, and with restrictions thwarting her money-making plans, she must face her fears and try something new. Her reclusive neighbor David Canoe comes to the rescue. Who knew you could find love under lockdown?
Originally published as serial read on WattPad.
Andrea Reid did a quick mental calculation as the cashier weighed and scanned a small pumpkin, five heads of broccoli, three heads of purple cabbage and enough seafood to feed a small army. Stocking the house with a week’s worth of food for an active and always hungry four-year-old with special dietary needs was a nightmare in Montserrat.
It was an expense she did not mind to ensure Ryan had what he needed but now it was a major concern as the government had announced a national lockdown to curb the spread of a virus, which was rapidly infecting people around the world.
Having to tell her clients that the island was being closed to foreigners for the foreseeable future had been rough. Watching the bank reverse all the credit card payments had been worse. Eighteen months of Air B&B bookings and private chef gigs had disappeared overnight.
As she swiped her card to complete the purchase, a sigh escaped. The sound, muffled by the mask she wore, still caught the cashier’s attention. He sent a commiserating smile from behind his face shield then handed her the receipt. She declined the plastic bags he offered and packed her groceries into the reusable bags she kept on hand. Turning to go, she slammed into the back of the man who was awkwardly trying to maneuver a shopping cart.
“Beg your pardon,” said the man turning to see who he had run into.
Andrea looked up into the light brown eyes of her neighbor and bit back a sigh. David Canoe was out in public in the daylight. She had been wondering if he was a vampire, as the only time she had ever seen movement at his house was after the streetlights came on. The few times she had witnessed him diving into his pool on the back deck around sunset, had left her breathless. His tall, lean frame dripping with water was a sight to behold.
His British lilt slightly muffled behind the black mask was a surprise. She had always wondered what he sounded like. They had only waved at each other from their respective yards, the few times he acknowledged her. She knew his name because it had taken a few tries before the shippers stopped coming to her house asking for him. He got the cart moving in the right direction and nodded in her direction.
“Grab the ice cream and cookies first. You don’t want to be stuck inside with no comfort food.” As if he asked her opinion on shopping. No need to get all googly eyed over the man who intrigued her ever since he moved in next door three months before.
Back in her car, Andrea removed her mask and checked her reflection in the mirror. Ugh. Her eyes reflected her tiredness and stress level. She checked the time then put her hatchback in gear. She needed to collect Ryan from the sitter before the six o’clock curfew, but there were a few more stops to make.
How was she going to cover the bills next month and the months after that? She had several ventures, but all were built around serving people in the travel sector. Talk about having all her eggs in one basket. The apartment she reserved for Air B&B guests would be empty for months to come, based on predictions from travel experts. All five of the clients who had asked for her personalized chef services for the coming three weeks had cancelled their trips to Montserrat. All the local restaurants and bars were being shut down so bartending was out of the question.
As she made her way through Brades, Andrea started running through all the old jobs she had done in the past which she could use to generate money in the short time. Fashion consulting? Ha. She lived in jeans and T-shirts now. Landscaping? Her high school summer job held zero appeal. She should probably plant some vegetables. No telling how long this pandemic would last. But that still would not solve her immediate cash flow issue.
Andrea sighed and shifted her thoughts to the evening meal. Ryan enjoyed spending time in the kitchen with her. It was their chance to talk about his day or anything else he wanted to discuss. She had planned to bake a few days-worth of bread to avoid having to leave the house for the rest of the week. She was sure he would love to play in the dough. On impulse, she swung into a local hardware store, which also handled distribution of flour and other basic supplies. A few horns blared as she’d forgotten to use her indicator.
Replacing her mask, she got into the line, which snaked around the side of the building to wait her turn to enter.
Bread. She could make bread. Lots of it and sell it. She had a local audience on social media. It was the perfect place to advertise the breads for sale. What about essential workers? They would need meals. It would be a great way to put her cooking skills to work. Granted she specialized in international cuisine but cooking local was not beneath her or outside her experience. She had her grandmother Miss Ida to thank for that. God rest her soul.
By the time Andrea left the shop, she had purchased two large bags of flour, sugar, containers of butter, baking powder, and yeast. She had ignored the stares of people wondering if she had gone mad or was preparing for Armageddon. Desperate times called for cooking and she was ready.
Before losing her nerve, she took a photo of the bag of flour and posted that bread would be available the next morning.
She completed her errands and collected Ryan from the sitter. It would be a long night, but she needed this to work.
The scent of fresh baked bread wafted through the window as the breeze stirred the curtain. David looked at the time and groaned. He had forty minutes to find the error in the code that was keeping his client’s site from loading. He stood to stretch the kink out of his shoulders. Blinking lights through the window caught his attention.
“What in the world?”
There were four cars with the lights on dim lined up outside his neighbor’s house.
Wasn’t this illegal? He had no idea. He watched as someone flitted between the cars, handing out packages and the cars swiftly reversed and disappeared into the early morning light.
He recognized the woman he had run into at the supermarket as she waved goodbye to the driver of the final car. She turned in his direction and he stepped back from the window. He wondered what she did for a living. He never saw her leave except to drop off or pick up a little boy he figured was her son. She never seemed to be away from the house in the day except for short periods and it did not look like she had much of a social life after dark. At least they had that in common. He did not go out much either. Maybe she was a coder like he was. He was about to say she did not look the type but stopped himself. While he fit the mold of a code nerd from his glasses right down to his loafers, most women he knew who coded did not fit the usual profile.
A knock on the door interrupted his musings.
He glanced at the time then went to the door. He peeked through the peephole but only saw a shadow moving away. Curious, he opened the door and found a package on the step.
A note was stapled to the top of the brown bag.
Best eaten with some guava jelly or cheese. Enjoy. Breads by Andrea.
Intrigued, he closed the door and walked into the tiny kitchen. He wasn’t much of a cook, so he had not minded that the home he was renting did not have a large kitchen. Opening the bag, the scent of freshly baked bread warmed him right down to his feet. He counted ten rolls each a bit smaller than a hamburger bun. He broke off a piece and groaned. The buttery bread seemed to melt in his mouth.
He glanced at the time on the microwave and quickly made himself a sandwich. Cheese he did have in abundance. He had passed on the guava jelly in the store and now he regretted it. He added slices of tomato, cucumber and lettuce and took a huge bite as he headed back to his computer.
Stepping away from the computer and the hearty sandwich seemed exactly what he needed because in a matter of minutes he found the coding error which had evaded him for the last fourteen hours. Fixing the code quickly, he tested that it worked several times. He switched on various VPNs to ensure that different areas of the world were able to access the website without glitches. A few more tweaks, and he made the site live.
David logged his work hours and his software spit out an invoice. Once he reviewed the figures, he scheduled it to email the client in Sweden the following morning. He always delayed bills for twenty-four hours in case other glitches developed.
It was now six thirty in the morning and after shutting down his computer, he took a shower and went to bed.