Malan Mothers on Rehome
Chapter 18

Fearn, if you would dispense the tea, and I pour the coffee, Nargo can assist with the milk jug. Right, girls?" Fearn and Nargo did a 'high five' and proceeded with their tasks, while the adults admired their dedication to these duties.

As soon as the drinks were poured, Esme sent Nargo and Fearn to bring in the plates of scones, pancakes, and decorated cupcakes. Esme explained to her guests that while she had baked the scones last night, Fearn had done most of the pancakes and cupcakes this afternoon, and Nargo had done the decorative icing on top of the cupcakes as soon as they cooled.

"As there will be more than we can consume just now, Fearn gets to take home whatever she fancies from the leftovers. She may even wish to take some to her best friends at school tomorrow."

Nargo was disappointed. "Mommy, can't I take some to school tomorrow?"

"Yes, dear, but I shall make a new lot of child-sized pancakes and scones for your classmates. That will suit them better." That satisfied Nargo.

Once the eats and drinks were consumed, Fearn and Nargo were asked by Esme to do the clearing up while the parents chatted.

Esme soon broached the topics of research and writing.

"Tom, my friend Jeannette, who is another Malan mother, is a publisher embarking on an encyclopaedia of Rehome. She would be interested in hiring you to do some research for that, as you are already doing local research for your own book. Does that appeal to you?"

"What? Getting paid to do research while I am doing much the same for my own book? Does a fish like to swim in water? Of course I'd be interested! I don't need a high rate of pay, either, if I can kill two birds with one stone."

"How are you at writing magazine articles?"

"I've done a few. It is not my usual line of writing, though. Why do you ask?"

"You may have heard about giant reptiles on the shore recently?"

"I heard such a story, but I didn't believe it. Just exaggeration."

"Tom, it was true. There is no imminent danger, as these animals are sea creatures that don't venture far onto land, and our city beaches are protected. However, some of us see a potential for wildlife tourism from Earth; people wanting to see exotic wild animals in their natural habitat.

It is a new experience for us as well. These creatures used to be on the other side of the ocean, but were displaced to this side for an indeterminate period, due to an algal bloom causing damage to the food chain over there. They island-hopped across to this side, and our marine biologist says they will not go back for a long time, if ever, if an adequate food supply is available here."

She continued, "The idea was that a good informative article from a visitor's viewpoint might encourage wildlife enthusiasts to visit Rehome. That was what the target was: first, writing the article, and Tom Pfeiffer – the Rehome Newspaper editor - placing it for you in publications on Earth. Tom has made quite a lot of money from syndication of some of his news stories, and this could be another, with you getting most of the benefit, as it would be your copyright.

Tom has actually suggested, through his wife Jeannette, that this could be one of a series of articles aimed at the tourist market. They would extol the virtues of Rehome as a place to visit. There are enough tourism, wildlife, and adventure magazines alone, as a target market, to make such articles worthwhile, but Tom reckons the scope is wider – in-flight magazines, big company publicity magazines, magazines aimed at the high-end business traveller; and so on. TV and radio programmes may be another market to be exploited, based on your articles. That could mean you get a higher profile. You may have to do interviews with the media. These will boost your other books, and increase the market for your Rehome book."

Tom Craven was getting more and more interested. He could see the potential income for him.

"Esme, I think I would be keen on taking up that offer. I can see me finding interesting aspects of Rehome for the encyclopaedia, and making an article out of the same data."

"Fine, Tom. You should contact Tom Pfeiffer at the newspaper, and discuss both projects with him. He will be amenable to persuasion, but I had better warn you. His wife Jeannette is the publisher, and the money person."

"Thanks, Esme. You are a doll; isn't she, Felicity?"

Felicity had warmed to Esme. "Yes, she is a nice person, Tom."

Esme had another question.

"Tom, have you considered the option I mentioned, of a working holiday farm for tourists; with or without Bed and Breakfast?"

Tom was careful in his reply.

"I talked it over with Felicity, Esme. She has never done anything like that, so is unsure about it."

Esme was not about to let Felicity abscond from the idea.

"Felicity, you underestimate yourself. You could establish a high-class clientele with your working farm. Many city-dwellers would love to get some hands-on experience of a farm. It is such a break from their usual round of sun and sand, boats and parties. They will love the idea, if presented as a break from the usual routine of a better-off clientele. They would pay well for quality. Get my drift?"

Felicity's former flirting with the upper classes was suddenly taking on a new aspect. Instead of a farm and the farmhouse being a lower-class option, she began to see it as an upper-class attraction.

"I am beginning to see the possibilities, Esme. You are a bright girl; no wonder the Bank wanted you on their staff." She came and gave Esme a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you, dear."

Tom was upbeat about it, too.

"Esme, can we consult with you about how we could go about setting up this business?"

"Of course, Tom. As Fearn's parents, you are friends of the family, so I can give you the benefit of my own experience in setting up a business. Mind you, doing it on Rehome is simpler than in the USA: much less paperwork!" she laughed at the contrast. "However, the nitty-gritty of running your business is much more important that the regulations. As with any business, you have to decide your clientele, your target consumers. You work out what they would be looking for, and how you could supply that desire. Then you have to cost out all the facilities you are going to offer, and factor those costs into your charges, so that you run at a profit, even if something goes wrong."

Felicity started to worry about what could go wrong, and Esme sensed that. She was quick to point out what she meant, in more detail.

"Felicity, you can never predict what will go wrong. Sometimes it happens through factors outwith your control, such as guests arriving late, or supplies failing to arrive when you need them. You simply include in your budgeting a notional sum to cover such eventualities.

Most important of all is to decided how much of the work you can do yourselves, and how much must be done by employees. For instance, how are you prepared for meals for 20 guests? Perhaps you need to employ a cook? If there is no cook that lives nearby, you should consider a live-in cook doing all the meals for your guests. That way you can guarantee a good standard of catering.

Work out all these variables before you start thinking about charges. If you can appeal to the well-heeled part of society, your level of charges is of little concern to them, AS LONG AS THE SERVICE IS RIGHT. That is the most important aspect. Brag about what you can offer; make it a desirable, high-quality option.

Do it right, and they will tell their friends. The last thing you want is them saying 'Don't go there: you will be disappointed.'

Do you understand that, Felicity?"

"I do now, dear. I never thought of 'service' in that way. To me it was always what the lower classes do. You made me see that serving the rich should not make you poor!"

"Well done, Felicity. You deserve a hug for that observation." Esme came forward and hugged Felicity, and kissed her on the cheek. Felicity was astonished at her own reaction. She felt empowered and cheered up inside her heart. This was the first time in years that she had felt good towards another woman. Before, other women were competition: just harpies trying to take away her Tom, and she was there to protect him from them.

Esme did not come over as that sort of woman. She came over more like a sister; gentle and caring for other people; someone Felicity could work with. She would henceforth be an acceptable friend in Felicity's eyes.

The girls returned to the room, and declared the crockery washed and dried, and all put away in their places. Felicity spoke to Fearn, for the first time with praise, "Very well done, Fearn and Nargo. I hadn't expected that you would be so competent and helpful. I am impressed by both of you."

Esme reckoned that it was farewell time. "Nargo should be thinking of preparing for school tomorrow before getting to bed, and I am sure Fearn probably has homework to deal with, so I'll let you three get home at a reasonable time."

Felicity agreed. "Quite right, Esme. Tom should also not be late in bed ... nor should I." She concluded this with a conspiratorial smile to Esme.

Esme came over to say goodbye, and gave Felicity a brief kiss, and followed this with a kiss to Tom. This kiss was not a peck on the cheek this time, but a lip-to-lip assault, albeit of brief duration.

Tom's eyes widened in surprise, but Felicity said nothing, so he relaxed again, accepting the kiss.

"Bye, Esme. Thanks again for your hospitality," said Tom, and turned to go for their coats. He found Fearn already there by the door, her own coat on, and those of her parents in her arms.

As they walked home, Felicity remarked to her husband, "Esme has good ideas, darling. I like that working farm concept, for the urban rich to experience life on a farm in our Colony. I think we need to have a cook on the staff, to be sure of excellent catering, and maids to ensure that all the bedrooms are perfect every day."

Tom was more down-to-Earth, if one could say that about another planet. "First we have to get the place built, Felicity, so we should devise a good layout for the extension, to offer quality accommodation for our proposed guests. We need to budget for an outlay before the income arrives."

Fearn was listening, and timidly chipped in, "You need to provide facilities for their children as well, Mum."

Instead of her usual sharp rejoinder, Felicity responded, "You are quite correct, Fearn. That is a helpful suggestion, and we shall take it on board. In fact, I think you should give us your input about any aspect of the layout that strikes you as needing improvement."

Fearn was astonished at the change in her mother, but happily accepted the improvement. "Thanks, Mum."

When they were home, Fearn was sent across to her bedroom to get her homework done for the morrow. Once the door had closed, Felicity rounded on her husband.

"Tom, I saw you. You kissed Esme, on the lips."

"Didn't have much choice in the matter, darling. She just slapped her lips on mine, and kissed me hard. I must say, I enjoyed it, almost as much as I enjoy kissing you, my sweet."

"You ENJOYED it?"

"Of course. Am I not human, of the male persuasion? What's not to like?"

"You don't regret kissing her?"

"Nope. She is a nice woman to be kissed by. I didn't instigate the manoeuvre, Felicity. I am not going to get upset about it, either. It was something that happened, that's all; nothing for you to get upset about. Now, was there anything more you wanted to talk about?"

Felicity was not used to this new, decisive Tom, but she found that she liked him, despite her earlier reservations about the change.

"No, dear."

"Fine. Now, being kissed by a pretty woman has made me horny. Want to do anything about it, before we go to sleep, Felicity?"

"I suppose so. You were nice, last night. I liked it. Is this type of lovemaking going to be a regular thing?"

"I don't see why not, Felicity. It is time we spent more time together. We had drifted away from each other somewhat, I thought. Have you any objections to getting closer again?"

"No, Tom. We used to be very good for each other. I'd like it if we could be again."

"We can be, darling, as long as you don't revert to your fawning behaviour towards the richer classes. I have no problem with serving them, if they pay for the privilege, but a display pretending to be one of them, is not on, dear. We are not part of them, and shouldn't try."

"I can live with that, Tom, as long as you love me in return."

"It is a deal, Felicity."

Tom Craven phoned Tom Pfeiffer next day.

"Hello? Tom? This is Tom Craven. I was asked to ring you."

"Ah, yes. Hello, Tom. Jeannette spoke about you. You are a book writer I understand?"

"Yes. Non-fiction material. I intend to write a book about living on Rehome Colony, so I need to research that, but you want some other research done about Rehome."

"Yes. Tricky situation. I compiled a first draft of a Rehome Encyclopaedia, but my publisher (my wife Jeannette) doesn't think it is comprehensive enough for publication yet. She is determined to get a reputation for high standards. I am forced to agree with her.

She has already spotted a few shortcomings, which we are working on, but you would be coming at it with a fresh eye, and a new writer's viewpoint. The ideal would be for you to read through the draft and make notes on areas where expansion or addition would be useful, and where you could look into these.

There are new aspects of the colony which crop up even now, such as these giant reptiles which recently appeared on our coast. There are other giant beasts in the oceans, but I don't intend to go searching for them, I can tell you!"

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