Monday, April 27, 2009

Rebecka Realty

With the commission she had earned from selling George and Tosha their new house, Rebecka Louie bought 7 tiny commercial lots downtown. One lot had a small building, which Rebecka planned to use as the office of "Rebecka Realty", which was what she'd decided to call her brand-new company.

She would have liked to call it "Andropova Realty"--since Yuri's family name commanded a lot of respect from the business community--but a marriage proposal from Yuri did not seem to be forthcoming.

Rebecka divided the space into a large portion that would serve as her sales office--which she decorated elegantly--and a smaller portion that housed her bathroom, eating area, and sleeping area--which she didn't bother decorating at all.

'No use spending money on something no one but I am going to see,' she said to herself.

She had bought each of the tiny lots for $1,600, hung the deeds on the wall, and priced each at $9,999.

She worked assiduously on her sales skills all morning,

and--though she wasn't making any sales, and though she annoyed several of her potential customers--she at least managed to get a bronze sales badge.

She was extremely pleased that Yuri's father, Kennedy Cox, dropped by to wish her good luck.

"Thank you so much, Mr. Cox!" she exclaimed. "I'm just sure I can make a ton of money here!!"

"You're a good hard worker, Rebecka," Kennedy observed. "Both my wife and I wish you all the best with your venture."

Energized by Kennedy's encouragement, Rebecka renewed her selling efforts,

and, though she didn't manage to sell any lots on her first day, she at least got Rebecka Realty to Rank 1 by early evening,

and to Rank 2 by the time she closed up shop at 8:30 p.m.

Rebecka would have liked to spend longer at her new venue on its opening day, but she had been invited by Tosha McCarthy to her house for the evening, along with several of Tosha's girlfriends.

Though Rebecka had, as Yuri's date, attended three weddings involving the neighborhood friends, tonight marked the first time that Rebecka had ever been invited on her own, without Yuri, and she was not about to miss the occasion.

Tosha and George hadn't had much time to decorate, so they had asked Randy London (who was currently working as the manager of Kennedy's architectural office) to send over one of the company's interior designers. The designer had suggested, since George and Tosha already owned one 1930s-style sofa, that they buy several other pieces from the same line. The designer also suggested a rug, table, and lamp, so Tosha at least had a comfortable seating area in time for her friends' visit.

All the girls thought Tosha's house was just gorgeous, and complimented Rebecka on finding it.

"Oh," Rebecka said, trying to sound modest, "anyone would know this was a great house."

"No, Rebecka, you should take credit where credit is deserved," urged Tosha. "You've obviously got some sixth sense that helps you figure out what people really want."

Tosha continued. "This is the last house I ever would have picked out on my own, but I just love it. And I had no idea George had some thing for the '30s that would make him go head over heels for this place."

Rebecka was tickled to receive such a compliment, especially in front of the other girls.

"Gee, Rebecka," Meadow asked, "can you find really cheap houses, too? For people who don't have any money?"

"Because," Meadow continued, "unlike George and Tosha, when Orlando and I say 'fixer-upper', we really mean it--we've got two little kids and no money. And I'm not working."

"Of course you're working, Meadow--you have your farmstand," Brittany interrupted, trying to be supportive.

"Yes, but, until my crops come in, we're going to be really strapped," Meadow explained. "And, once Ophelia grows up, our apartment's going to start seeming really small."

"Don't worry, Meadow," Rebecka assured her. "This is a buyer's market--there's a lot of stuff for sale, at really good prices. I'm sure I can find you something."

"Where is Ophelia tonight?" Yulia asked Meadow, who had brought Marcus with her to Tosha's, but not her baby daughter. "Is Orlando at home with her?"

"Oh," Meadow gasped, "Alvin volunteered to babysit!" She burst out laughing.

"Sorry, Brit;" Meadow said to her friend, "I don't mean anything by that, but it was just so funny how enthusiastic he was!"

"Yeah, I'm afraid I'm moving a little too slowly for Alvin in the marriage-and-family department," Brit admitted, "so Ophelia might be his 'surrogate baby'."

Brittany's friends knew not to take this subject any further. Though Brittany loved Alvin, and was happy to share an apartment with him, she was adamant about not getting even engaged until she was settled into her desired career.

"Soooo, Chloe," Tosha said, changing the subject. "Does Kevin know when the results of our civil service exam are coming out?"

"Yes," Chloe answered, "he says they'll be out in a couple of days, and then you two should be able to get positions in the police department. Gee, you'd think your college degrees would be able to get you something there at least for the time being...."

"That's not the way it works, I'm afraid," explained Tosha. "Though I won't be starting on the force the same time as Kevin, obviously, since I'm pregnant." She turned to Calista. "How are you doing? Do you have a paranormal job yet?"

"Not yet," replied Calista, as Marcus played happily at her feet, "but at least I have time to play music, and now that we've moved, I have room to set up my bass and amp."

Tosha was confused. "What do you mean--'since you moved'. Aren't you still in Cornerstone Condominiums?"

"Yes," Calista answered, "but we moved across the hall into your apartment after you and George moved out. In the old place, we had only one bathroom for the four of us, and your apartment has another half-bath."

Calista went on to describe the apartment's layout. "Randy and I moved into your bedroom, and put the computer desk in there,"

"and we set Granddad up in the room you were using as your study, so now he has his own bathroom."

"We put Christopher's crib and changing table in the really small room, but Granddad insisted that Christopher's toys stay in Granddad's room, because he loves watching Christopher play,"

"and Granddad can sometimes take a nap while Christopher amuses himself. The living room's pretty much as it was in our old apartment, but I had to put my dining set back into storage, because the only place there's room to eat is at the kitchen counter. It's worth it, though."

"Well, speaking of children," Meadow said, getting up from the sofa, "Marcus and I have to be getting home to his little sister." Marcus had crawled onto the toddler blanket Meadow had brought, and fallen fast asleep.

"Come on, little man," Meadow said as she lifted her son. "Let's go home and check on Ophelia and Uncle Alvin."

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next week, as we follow the progress of Meadow's farmstand and Rebecka Realty, and Rebecka and Yuri assess the state of their relationship.

While George and Tosha were decorating, George got promoted:

And, while Tosha was entertaining her girlfriends tonight, George got promoted again:

So, his score in the Million Dollar Challenge is 110 (10 points times 6 promotions for him and 5 promotions for Tosha).

And George, in his first day in the new house, got a genie lamp (I guess because he got his Games plaque), which Tosha used to get the couple another $36,000.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The New Old House

One late afternoon a few days after her wedding, Tosha excitedly called her neighbor, Calista. "Guess what!" she cried.

"I threw up this morning before work!!"

"Well, I didn't think morning sickness was that enjoyable," replied Calista, "but, hey, if it makes you happy...." She promised to drop by her friend's apartment with Christopher that evening.

'Hi, little man!" Tosha gushed at Christopher, when Calista came by and handed the baby to her.

George heard Calista arrive and padded out from the bedroom in his robe and slippers, rubbing his eyes. He was working nights, at an entertainment job, and had just gotten up. "Hey, Cal," he said, yawning.

"This is for you, and Tosh, and your future baby, from Randy, Granddad, Christopher, and me," Calista said, handing George a gift-wrapped box.

The gift was of baby toys--a jumpy chair and a mat with dangling toys. "Granddad got the same stuff for Christopher, and he just loves it," Calista reported.

George had to leave for his job almost immediately, but Tosha quickly rearranged her furniture and set up the toys. "Oh, how cute!" she exclaimed.

"Come on, sweet thing," Calista murmured to her son as she laid him on the mat. "Let's show Auntie Tosh how to use these."

Christopher immediately set about grabbing enthusiastically for the dangling toys.

Calista settled onto the sofa next to her friend. "How are things going at home," Tosha inquired, "with the baby and with your grandfather moved in?"

"Oh, it couldn't be better," Calista assured her. "Granddad is so devoted to Christopher--"

"he does everything for the baby--feeds him, plays with him, bathes him. I really think Granddad's been rejuvenated by having a baby to take care of."

"That's so wonderful," said Tosha. "I wish George or I had an older family member to be involved in our baby's life."

Calista laughed. "Granddad would probably be happy to take care of both your baby and Christopher every day."

"Thanks," said Tosha, "but we won't be staying in this building--George and I have already started looking for a new place. I just can't stand living near Maria."

George came home from work hours after Tosha had gone to sleep. He climbed into bed, eased his arm under her neck, and snuggled up to her while trying not to wake her. She roused briefly. "Did you see I set the baby toys up?" she asked him, sleepily.

"Yes," George answered. "I also noticed that they were pink. I guess that means Calista thinks we're having a girl."

"If Calista thinks we're having a girl, then we're probably having a girl," Tosha murmured before falling back asleep.

Tosha was soon pregnant enough that she wasn't allowed to work, but she still went to the Dance/Fitness venue every day. She was enjoying her pregnancy, and had had morning sickness only once. Teaching hula classes wasn't very tiring,

and, while George was at work, she liked the opportunity to socialize.

Rebecka Louie came into the venue frequently, both to exercise and to schmooze potential clients. (Rebecka had recently started her own real estate practice.)

Rebecka usually staked out a place right by the front door, so that she could see everyone who came in,

and rush right over to greet them.

"Hey, Rebecka," Tosha greeted her one afternoon. "You should let me know when you're here--I'll let you in for free."

"Thanks, but not necessary," replied Rebecka, puffing away on the treadmill. "This is a cost of doing business--you and George have got a very convenient location and, until I get my own space for my realty company, it's easy enough for me to work out of here. Besides," she added, "when I find you and George a house, I'll make it all back in a real estate commission."

"How're you doing with your search?" Tosha asked.

"Actually," said Rebecka, confidently, getting off the machine, "I've found the perfect place for you two. Come see it with me this afternoon, and promise me you'll keep an open mind."

"Okaaaaay," Tosha agreed, but she wondered why, if the house was "perfect" for her and George, she had to keep an open mind.

On the way over to see the house, Tosha asked, "Is it a fixer-upper?", since she and George had told Rebecka they'd be perfectly happy with a house that needed some work, as George was so handy.

"Nope," replied Rebecka. "It's in mint condition." Tosha was even more confused by the time they reached the address.

"This is ... unusual," Tosha observed.

"It was built in the 1930s," Rebecka enthused, "and it's in perfect shape, and it's an absolute steal. It's owned by friends of the Count's who moved back to Europe. The owners will sell it only to someone artistic--that dishy conductor Carlo almost bought it, but then he got a gig in Brazil. Come on inside."

Tosha followed Rebecka out of the early summer heat into a cavernous, dark, cool space.

"Wow," was all Tosha could say.

The first floor was almost entirely open--there were seemingly acres of gleaming terrazzo flooring. "You could play kickball in here," Tosha remarked.

The first floor comprised a dining area, a formal fireplace area,

a kitchen, a powder room,

and a large area behind the staircase with a door that led out to the backyard. "What would one do with this part of the space?" Tosha mused.

"Throw lots of splashy parties that will make your name?" Rebecka suggested. "I know you don't think much of Maria Ivanova, but I have to say she's pretty darn good at raising her profile." Tosha snorted in derision, and Rebecka continued. "Obviously, George isn't going to behave the way Maria does, but he's got to do something--besides just being a good dancer, that is, because there are lots of good dancers--to make his mark. And this is just the kind of house that will help you two raise your social profile and get him noticed and help his career."

Tosha was stunned. This behemoth of an artsy house was certainly not what she had had in mind. "So why is this place an 'absolute steal', as you said?" she inquired.

"Because," Rebecka sighed, "(1) the owners will sell only to an artistic type, as I told you; (2) the place is immense, and so it's difficult to light, and it will cost a lot to furnish it; and (3) the owners have been gone so long that all the landscaping went to pot and had to be ripped out, and the 1950s-era swimming pool had to be filled in. So you'd be starting from scratch in the yard."

"Well, that was honest," Tosha admitted.

"Come on upstairs," urged Rebecka. The sweeping central staircase was magnificent, and opened up into another polished expanse of terrazzo.

The second floor had two suites--a master bedroom with an elegant bathroom that even had a separate room for the toilet ('Classssy!' thought Tosha),

and a second spacious suite with a slightly smaller bathroom.

"This doesn't exactly say 'nursery' to me," Tosha commented.

"It's a nursery only for a very special child," Rebecka insisted.

Rebecka had to leave for another appointment, but wisely let Tosha stay in the house to walk around and get a feel for the place. Tosha took out her cellphone.

"Chloe? Could you spare a few minutes?" she asked her friend. "I'm out looking at a house, and the kitchen seems pretty nice to me, but I'd like your opinion."

Chloe arrived a few minutes later. "Geez, Louise," she whistled, after she'd walked through the house and ended up in the kitchen with Tosha.

"Great light, gorgeous marble countertops, custom period cabinetry,"

" top-flight appliances, a double stove, two copper sinks...." Her voice trailed off.

"You know what?" Chloe announced. "Just buy the place and hire me as your cook. I could be really happy here."

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next week, as Rebecka establishes an office for her realty company, Tosha invites the girls over to her new house for the evening, and two households move.