Seaside Manor Bed and Breakfast - Lilly Mirren

Chapter 1


A seagull landed on a half empty plate, abandoned with chips on one side, and a milkshake in a half-full glass cup. The bird flapped as it lost balance, knocking the milkshake over. The glass fell to the concrete tiles below and smashed even as Emily Jones leapt to catch it. She grimaced as milkshake sprayed across her feet and up her black leggings.

Customers glanced up, attentions attracted by the noise, then looked away again, engaging in conversation over coffee and brunch. Emily wiped the sweat from her brow with the back of her sleeve, then squatted to retrieve the pieces of glass with careful fingers, piling each shard onto the black serving tray she’d set on the ground beside the spill.

More seagulls hovered close by, landing on the fence, empty tables, wherever they could find a perch. She waved a hand in their direction.


They scattered for a few moments, but not longer. She’d have to clear up this mess before they’d leave. She hurried the broken shards of glass to the rubbish bin, then returned for the plates of half eaten food. Birds were fighting over the scraps and she had to flap her hands at them a few times before they moved.

By the time she’d mopped up the spilled milkshake and wiped the tables clean, there were more customers waiting to be seated. With only two of them waiting tables, she had more than enough to do without having to clean up after a bunch of birds.

She found the customers seats and took orders, then disappeared into the bathroom for a few minutes of peace. She locked the stall door and sat fully clothed on the toilet lid, her face in her hands. How had she gotten here? She’d spent three years in culinary school, had worked in countless kitchens to pay her way, and yet still had thousands of dollars of debt from tuition. She’d landed a job as a sous chef in one of Sydney’s up and coming restaurants. Then, she’d met Callum.

Everything changed after that.

He was charming, handsome, and swept her away with his declarations of love and commitment. He’d had weekly gigs at the restaurant where she worked. A singer and guitarist in a small band, his tight jeans and messy hair had women swooning every time he looked their way — and he’d chosen her.

After losing mum, and never having known her father, he came along at exactly the right moment. She was lonely, vulnerable, and afraid of a future alone — Callum offered her everything she was looking for. He promised her forever, he was there for her and he loved her in a way she had never known before. He partied more than she liked. She was never one to drink much, didn’t touch drugs, liked to go to bed as soon as her shift at the restaurant was done. But he stayed up for hours, drinking, experimenting, joking with his friends. She was sure he’d change if she gave him a chance. He couldn’t live that way forever — he was young and in a band, so it was part of the lifestyle and she could accept it, for now.

When his band landed a job in the tourist beach town of Coffs Harbour, it hadn’t taken much convincing for him to get her to leave her job and follow him.

There’ll be plenty of cooking jobs there, he’d assured her. She hadn’t bothered to correct him — she wasn’t a cook she was a chef. There was a big difference. Still, she imagined there must be opportunity for someone with her skills in a place filled with hotels, resorts, and restaurants.

“You okay in there?” asked a voice. Helen mostly likely, the other waitress. She was no doubt feeling the push with Emily hiding away in the bathroom.

“Yeah, fine. I’ll be right there.”

She left the stall, washed her hands, splashed water on her face and stared at her reflection in the mirror. She’d never felt so lonely in all her life before. When Callum left for a new gig in Airlie Beach, he didn’t even feel the need to ask her to go with him. She wouldn’t have gone anyway. Not after what she’d found. Not after everything that’d happened between them. Still, she missed having someone around who cared whether she came home from her shift at the cafe. Tonight, she’d walk down the boardwalk, up the street, and over the hill to a single bedroom apartment with no lights on