David had to confess his disappointment as he peeked out the window near his work desk. There had been no more packages of fresh bread. His neighbor seemed to have changed her mind about the bread baking business. While he would not miss the cars parked outside at o ‘dark thirty for the past three days, he was out of bread. He had consumed the last two rolls from the batch she had given him with his one AM dinner. It was now eight in the morning, but he was too tired to make breakfast before heading off to bed. He was hungry. A couple of those rolls would have done the trick.
His internal clock was all screwed up, but it had been that way for the past seven years since he began his own software development business. His working hours were hell on relationships and so he had ended his last on again off again friends-with-benefits deal before moving to Montserrat. Not that he had been looking, but no woman had intrigued him enough before his neighbor, Andrea.
He had given in on his last coffee break and googled her. She ran a virtual travel agency, and he figured the bread baking was a desperate measure to make some money, given that the tourism sector had taken a hit globally. He had been asked to defer bills for three large clients in Australia and two in Vietnam. The pandemic had businesses small and great scrambling for a way to survive. He wondered how she was fearing. What could he do to help her?
He picked up the note she had sent with the bread and read it again. He knew it by heart but that did not stop him from reading it more times than he cared to count. He should say thank you. But how? There was no number on the note. He wasn’t supposed to go over there.
He decided to resurrect his Instagram page and send her a message. As he searched for her account, he discovered there were two. He decided to message her business page to keep things more formal. He thanked her for the bread and wondered if there was any way she could still drop off bread every two days, which he was happy to pay for.
David sat there staring at the blank inbox for the ten minutes before a yawn took over. He shook his head at his folly. He needed to go to bed.
The powers that be had rejected her application for a catering permit. She would need a health certificate and that office would be closed for the foreseeable future. Andrea had been holding out hope that it would come through. Catering and delivering food would have been easier to handle than the only option she was left with; turning on the camera and going live to teach classes.
Ryan was down for his afternoon nap and she figured it was a good time to design flyers and plan out the live cooking class. Her Instagram inbox was flashing with a message. It was from an account that she did not recognize but it had just followed her.
“O M gee!” she said out loud. It was from her neighbor, David.
The message was very formal, and she wondered if he ever smiled or knew how to have fun. He wanted more bread. She could do that without breaking the law she supposed. Drop it off on his doorstep as she had done a few days before. She thanked him for the offer and agreed that he would have a fresh batch of bread in the morning.
The message remained unread. Scrolling his feed, she realized he was a software engineer and wondered if that was why he was usually only up at night. It probably meant he was sleeping even now. Just in case, she peeked out the window but there was no movement on his side.
Moving back to her desk, she focused on designing a few Instagram stories and a newsletter inviting fans to join her class. She considered going live for a few minutes, but she was too nervous.
Do a live video.
The notification of a message from her sister popped up.
She shook her head as if her sister could see her.
Put on some red lipstick and that sexy T-shirt that says Cooks Like it Hot and promote the damn thing.
Her sister was a piece of work.
You can’t let my nephew starve.
That prompted Andrea into action. Ryan was her heart and she never wanted anything to happen to him. She checked on him still fast asleep in the day bed in the playroom and went to change her top and freshen her face.
She posted that she would go live in ten minutes to build anticipation and made a few notes of what she wanted to say.
Heading into the kitchen with her notes, she created a makeshift tripod with her cookbooks and a box of cereal. She tried sitting in front of it but didn’t like the look. She didn’t feel in control just sitting there with nothing to do with her. She stood and checked the lighting from different directions before settling on the angle which showed off her sparkling stainless steel and black appliances. It would mean she had to hold the phone with one hand, but it would have to do for today. She’d have to figure something out before the classes began.
She clicked to go live and took a deep breath as the timer counted down. Pasting a big grin on her face she began her spiel.
Her sister was the first to join, but that quickly changed as more and more of the travelers who she had booked trips for logged on and sent her greetings. She expressed her excitement at having them on with her and how disappointed she was that their trips had to be cancelled.
Andrea was relieved with the prompt Vicky gave to remind her of why she had created the live. She invited them to join her in two days for the live cooking session. They would learn to bake an easy savory pastry they would have enjoyed on island and her favorite dessert for being stuck inside.
As she was wrapping up the video, she noticed that David’s account joined. He sent a bunch of hearts which made her smile even more. He commented that he would be joining the class and a few others did as well. Now, there was no way she could chicken out. She had actual students ready to learn with her.
Ryan woke up and she fed him a snack. He was fussy, so she spent time cuddling and playing with him. It was another half an hour before she could check her messages and emails.
David had been true to his word. He’d completed the form to register for the class. There were three other forms as well. She calculated what that would be in revenue and realized this had the potential to be a recurring income stream that could make a difference.
David had also sent a heart in response to her agreement to supply his bread, which made her smile.
How do you want me to pay you for the bread and the class?
Andrea sighed. That question had come up when she was trying to sell bread. A few people had wanted to use a credit card to pay her, but she would lose much more than the bread was worth by the time she converted it to local currency. She did not mind overseas clients paying into her overseas bank account but for local clients, it would help if she could get the money to use for paying bills here.
She replied that she was unsure what was the best option.
The phone in her hand rang with an unknown number. She answered, figuring it would be David.
“Hello Andrea?” He really had a nice voice. She loved the way her name sounded on his lips.
“Yes, this is Andrea. Is this David?” She fingered her hair then rolled her eyes when she realized what she was doing. Not as if he could see her.
“It is. Hope you don’t mind I used the number you put in the form. Thanks again for the bread and agreeing to be my regular supplier. I forgot to get some when I was out shopping so you saved me from starvation.”
Andrea laughed. “Glad I could help.”
“About your payment issue. That’s a recurring problem for entrepreneurs in the Caribbean. I have a suggestion for you. It’s still being tested but I believe it could help you with collecting payments.”
“I have a UK bank account so you can pay me there if it’s a problem. I don’t know about trying something which is untested.”
Andrea kept an eye on Ryan who had curled up in the chair with a book. She could hear him pretend to read it. He knew a few words in it but this one was several grades above his level. However, he enjoyed the illustrations.
“It’s a new digital cash system. The central bank has already approved it, we are running beta tests for it now to see how people use it and what we need to tweak to improve its user friendliness. You won’t lose any money in the transactions. What people pay you is what you will get.”
“Really? What’s the catch?”
“No catch.” He sounded as if he was smiling. She wondered what he looked like when he smiled. “It has the same value as regular paper or polymer notes. But an easier way to move it around.”
“I guess it would. What do I need to do?”
“I will send you a link to the website where you can register. It’s on the official banking site and you can check that it is secure. Once that is entered, you will receive instructions on how to embed the payment details in your website or the link of your choice? Do you have a secure website?”
Andrea paused. She wasn’t sure.
“The travel site is part of a franchise network. What I want to do with the classes is personal, so I guess I need another website.” She sighed. More money she did not have to spend.
“No worries. It doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg.”
“Only an arm then.”
He laughed and she loved the sound of it. “Not even that. Keep the bread coming and you have a new website with all the bells and whistles.”
“Uh. That does not seem like a fair trade.”
“I can do this with my eyes closed, Andrea. Let me do this for you, please. May I use the email address you mentioned in the live? I’d like to send you a short form for you to give me some basic details and I can work up a template for you to look over.”
“Don’t you have paying client work? I’d hate to take up your time.”
“I do but I’m all caught up for now. I can work on this tonight if you like and have something for you to review in the morning.”
Andrea walked to the window of her living room and stared outside. She saw movement at his house and the window opened. He stuck his head out and waved at her. She waved back. What did she have to lose?
They spoke for a few minutes longer about the lockdown and he promised to send the form as soon as he hung up.
True to his word, a detailed web form was in her email. This was no basic Google form. Depending on her answer, new questions popped up. Andrea had to think up a business tag line on the spot, select colors for the site and sample layouts that she thought would fit her look.
She had not given much thought to how she would stream the classes and David’s form included suggestions as to how she could do so. She could even get the videos to use after to resell as a course. This was too much. She had not even given a class yet and she already felt as if she had succeeded.
An automated reply confirmed her form had been received. A wave of disappointment hit her. She would have liked if it had been another phone call. What was wrong with her? The man had a life and a job. She would have to wait and see what he came up with.