What was hell for mariners, though, was heaven for tourists. The tortured sedimentary cliffs, the crashing sea spray, and the scenic harbor netted the quaint old fishing village great shoals of visitors every summer. These days, Boscastle's economic survival depended on the tourist trade. August, with schools closed and many Europeans on holiday, was high season, the make-or-break month for the gift shops and cafes that lined the narrow street, the month that would measure how some of the residents would fare the rest of the year.
Lee, however, was having none of it.
"I can't wait till all these people leave!" she hissed between licks along the exposed vanilla core of her chocolate-coated ice cream bar. She and Andrew were standing outside the newsagent's, just uphill from the big car park that had been built along the north bank of the Valency to accommodate the tourists.
"And anyway, just look at them," she sputtered as another tour bus stopped to disgorge a stream of travelers who then waddled off downhill like so many overnourished ducks, "Bet you none of them makes it to the top of Penally; they're all too fat!"
"I dunno, Lee; keep eating those ice creams and you could end up the same way," Andrew said calmly.
The girl lifted an eyebrow. "You want the tour or not, Drew?"
Andrew laughed. "Okay, okay; you're the boss. Lead on."
Stratton had only been in Boscastle for a few days, but he'd already developed a fondness for the wiry little girl. There was nothing fussy about this kid. She seemed to live every day in the same worn khaki shorts, a T-shirt from someplace called the Eden Project, and olive-green rubber wellies--the better to wander through the woods below the farm and along the river's soggy upper reaches. Her arms and legs were bony and browned by the sun, and her sandy hair was cropped close to the skull, with a ragged fringe at the forehead. When she looked up at him, and especially when she smiled, her eyes narrowed to slits so thin he marveled she could see out of them at all. He never saw her with any other children; she seemed perfectly happy in her own company. And whenever he saw her crossing the fields beyond his cottage, her strides were strong and determined. No loitering among the meadow flowers or daisy-chain making for this one; Lee always seemed to be on a mission.
It worried him a bit that she wandered the countryside all alone. It was a city-dweller's worry, he knew, and, anyway, Anne had told him she'd long since stopped trying to keep track of her daughter. "She's a bit of an old soul, is our Lilly; she goes her own way," Anne had said, with what Andrew thought was a hint of awe, as if her daughter was something of a mystery to her. "Mind you, she's a good girl, smart and strong and trustworthy, but stubborn as a goat. And she either likes you or she doesn't."
Apparently, she liked Andrew. At least, he guessed she did, since most mornings he found her sitting on the stone wall by the gate to his cottage, facing the front door as if impatient for him to get a move on. She'd been there the first day after he arrived from the States. Jet lag had kept him asleep until nearly midmorning. Yawning, a cup of tea in his hand, he'd opened the top half of the split door at the front of his cottage and been greeted with "Who are you?"
He'd had no idea who she was.
"I'm Andrew; who are you?" he'd replied.
"Lee. I live here."
"No you don't; I do."
"On this farm, I do."
"I see. So Anne's your mother?"
"But Anne told me her daughter's name was Lilly."
The girl screwed up her face in disgust. "I hate that name."
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm renting this cottage."
"Are you on holiday?"
"Not really; I'm taking a course, starting Monday. It's like being at school."
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