One Year Later

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It was strange to be waking up in her old bed. It was strange to have slept on a surface and in an establishment that stayed in one place at all times. Anya would have experienced something close to land sickness if she hadn't fallen immediately asleep as soon as she had dropped her bags on the floor and collapsed into bed.

The inn was eerily quiet when she awoke the next morning, the high winter sun shining into her room. The snow clouds had stayed at bay for now and Anya breathed a sigh of relief. Things could go according to plan.

She had a text message waiting for her that read "On our way." Those three words acted faster than any cup of coffee could have and Anya was dressed and out of her room in record time.

She made her way downstairs and found Michaela standing behind the front desk, her eyes sorting through the pile of mail in front of her.

"Good morning."

"Morning, Cuz. You sleep well?"

"Amazing. It's nice to be back."

"It's nice to have you back."

The two cousins hugged, squeezing tight as it was a treat to be once again in each other's presence.

"Thanks for picking me up."

Michaela nodded.

"Of course. It particularly tradition at this point. Besides, there's no one else around to do it."

The quietness of the place was still hanging heavy in the air. Anya's ears were still adjusting to the lack of vibrations through the place, especially during what was usually their busiest time of year.

"Any word from Grandma and Frank?"

"Oh. Yeah. I just saw it."

Michaela reached into the stack of mail she had just been sorting and pulled out a postcard. A picture of Greece filled the front with the words "Having a great time. Not missing you at all. See you New Year's Eve" filling the back.

"Since when was Greece on the itinerary?" Anya asked.

"I'm guessing they didn't like Florence as much as they were thinking and made some adjustments to their plans. Talk about a honeymoon. Who knew they would be gone this long?"

"Considering the last time Grandma got a vacation, I think it's okay."

Michaela nodded in agreement. The thought of the crowd currently making its way in their direction brought all matters of business back to Anya's mind.

"So. Is everything ready?"

Michaela nodded. Her name tag gleamed in the overhead light, the word "assistant" long since removed so now it just read "manager". Anya had retired hers for good when Michaela had taken over full time, moving from Chicago after graduating in May.

"We have the crew and most of their families staying here in the inn. A few requested a loft out in the barn. They'll be the first guests to try out our new accommodations."

"And we're filled to capacity?"

Michaela nodded.

"They're bringing everyone. A crowd totaling almost 200. They'll be filling every bed, including the new wing downstairs in the basement apartments."

"Perfect. This will certainly be a new type of Christmas. When does Gloria arrive?"

"She'll be here shortly. The cleaning crew has already come and gone. The wait staff will be here in time to serve some refreshments once our guests arrive."

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