Meadow got home from Tosha's house to find that Orlando had just given Ophelia her bottle. Meadow put the sleepy Marcus into his crib and went back into the kitchen to clean up. "Been home long?" she asked her husband.
"I got home about ten minutes ago," Orlando answered. "Alvin said Ophelia was a complete angel," he reported, giving his tiny daughter a squeeze. Meadow smiled. "How's Tosha and George's new house?" Orlando asked.
"Magnificent," sighed Meadow, sounding somewhat wistful.
"Don't worry, hon'," Orlando assured his wife. "We'll have our own house, someday. Maybe a couple years from now." He paused, and looked into his wife's eyes. "Sorry, Meadow, but it's not like I'm going to make the kind of money that George will," he added, ruefully.
Meadow kissed him. "You're my ideal guy, Orlando, and our marriage and our children are much more important to me than any dumb house."
She headed for the bathroom, and poured herself a steaming bubble bath. She slid into the tub,
and daydreamed happily of a big, rambling farmhouse, where she could grow vegetables and maybe some fruit trees, and sell the produce from her front yard, and where Marcus and Ophelia (and maybe a third child?) could play tag, and hide-and-seek among the trees. 'I don't really want to wait a couple of years,' she said to herself, but she resolved to say nothing of the sort to her husband.
Leaving for her produce market the next morning, Meadow felt a pang of regret that she would be away from her children for the whole day, but comforted herself that at least she had finally found a good nanny, Kendall Lawson, whom Marcus clearly adored.
Nanny Kendall was in great demand, and consequently had the luxury of being very choosy about her clients. It was well known around town that Meadow and Orlando had rescued a baby girl abandoned at a church, and Nanny was interested in working for the family for exactly that reason.
"Bye, Nanny," Meadow said on her way out.
Meadow had again leased the small building where she had operated her produce market the previous summer.
She had convinced the landlord to add on a small bathroom to the side of the building, and to let her construct a greenhouse behind the building at her own expense.
Meadow always got to her venue early in the morning, so that she could weed her crops before she called in Ethan Barrett--whom she had rehired as cashier from the previous year--and opened her store.
Busy at her gardening that morning, Meadow found herself again lost in a daydream about a rustic farmhouse. ' How wonderful to be at home with the children all day,' she thought, 'as they play in the yard while I work. And when they're older, they can help out at the farmstand. Well,' she resolved, 'I'll just have to work really hard this summer, even if I have to be away from my kids all day. Maybe by fall, if I make enough money here at the market and Orlando does well at work, we'll be able to afford some sort of house.'
Meadow had a bit of luck that morning, as she befriended someone who could get her apartment rent reduced.
Yelena Andropova dropped in to do the shopping for her family. When Meadow commented on the unusually large order for one family, Yelena exclaimed, "Now that Yuri back living with us temporary, he eating us out of house and home!"
Yelena asked how Meadow's business was going and, after hearing her out, suggested to the young woman that she might need more help in the store. "Is good you have Ethan running cash register, but maybe should also have another salesperson besides you?" Yelena advised.
"I guess you're right, ma'am," Meadow admitted. "It doesn't seem as though I can afford it right now, but it's already hard for me to keep up with planting, composting, fertilizing, weeding, and restocking, in addition to selling."
"Must spend money to make money," Yelena advised, sagely.
A few doors down the street, Rebecka started her second day at Rebecka Realty $22, 760 in debt, because: (1) she had spent a fair amount of money decorating the elegant office where she would meet clients, and (2) she hadn't sold any lots on her opening day.
She got to work trying to sell to the potential customers who came into the venue, including some who had come by on opening day and had returned.
Rebecka managed to get her silver sales badge,
and to get her venue to Rank 3,
but--despite the cash awards from the community--by the end of the day her business was still in the red, because Rebecka still hadn't sold even one lot.
She called Meadow before she left the realty office for the day, to ask her friend if she wanted a ride home.
"Oh, I can't," said Meadow. "I've still got so much work to do out in the garden. I spent the whole day selling, and I haven't weeded or pruned or fertilized since early morning. I really think I'm going to have to hire another person."
"My cousin Lyndsay is in town for the summer," Rebecka said, "and she's a great salesperson and is looking for a job. I was hoping to hire her, but so far I don't have enough properties or clients to justify it. How about if I send her over to see you tomorrow morning, and maybe she could help you out for the time being?"
Lyndsay Louie showed up at Meadow's Produce first thing the next morning.
Meadow liked her and hired her immediately and, once Meadow had set a uniform for her, Lyndsay went straight to work.
Like her cousin, Rebecka, Lyndsay had a real zeal for selling.
Rebecka stopped by the market later that morning. "Checking on Lyndsay?" Meadow asked. "Because she's great."
"No, that's not why I'm here," said Rebecka. "I think I found a house you might like." She tried to sound tentative, since she had guessed that a hard sell wouldn't work on a cautious and cash-strapped young mother.
Meadow looked skeptical. "It better be a fixer-upper," she warned. "Not like that Art Deco palace you found for George and Tosha."
"Oh, don't worry," Rebecka brightened. "It's a real dump--come with me right now to see it," she urged.
"I can't get away now!" Meadow protested. "I have tons of customers--can't we go to the house this evening, instead?"
"Oh, come on," Rebecka chided. "It's early, and Ethan and Lyndsay can certainly handle the store for an hour. You'll be back before the lunch-hour shoppers come in. Besides, we can't see the house at night, because the electricity's been shut off."
Meadow relented and, on the way over to the property, Rebecka told her that she had found a 150-year-old farmhouse with an orchard, a barn, a pond, and a small pine forest.
"But how could Orlando and I possibly afford a place this big?" Meadow asked, once they had arrived at the address.
"It's really cheap," Rebecka answered, "because the house is in miserable condition. Come inside with me and see."
Rebecka wasn't kidding. The first floor held a small kitchen with rusting, non-working appliances,
a tiny back room and an outdated bath,
and a staircase leading up to the second floor.
"There's no fireplace?" asked Meadow. "In a house this old?"
"There are two old rusted pot-belly stoves out in the barn," Rebecka answered. "I think one of them used to be in the house, but they're not even usable at this point. You'll have to put in a fireplace. Or two."
The second floor was in as woeful shape as the first floor--damaged floorboards, dingy paint, "and no bathroom!" Meadow observed.
"Well, when the farmhouse was originally built, it had an outhouse," Rebecka explained. "That bathroom on the first floor was added much later, probably in the 1940s. But come on outside, and let me show you the best part."
They walked to the back of the lot, past a good-sized pond, where there was a large, if untended, orchard.
Meadow examined the trees. "These are good quality; they just need a little love and attention," she remarked.
"As does everything here," said Rebecka. "Look, I know this place isn't impressive, but you specifically said you wanted 'cheap', and this is cheap. My suggestion would be to buy it now, stay in your apartment, work on this place in whatever spare time you and Orlando have, and you can maybe get it into habitable shape by the fall. I don't think you'd be able to live here while renovating it."
"Gee, I'd hate to be spending money on rent for the apartment," Meadow replied, "and for my produce market, and for this place all at the same time. Maybe we could live in the barn while we fix up the house?"
"The barn has a dirt floor, so I can't imagine that would be a good move, especially with two little kids," Rebecka advised. "Look, I'm not going to tell you to buy this place or not; it's just that you said you wanted a farmhouse, and a cheap one, and a fixer-upper, so that's why I showed it to you."
Rebecka dropped Meadow off at the farmstand before arriving at her own business for the day.
She cleaned the toilet,
repaired the shower,
and mopped the floor,
before she opened the venue and resumed trying to sell at least one lot.
While schmoozing Holden Wood, Rebecka got her venue to Rank 4,
and the cash award really helped her bottom line--she was finally in the black.
She also earned her gold sales badge, and was determined to sell at least one lot. She concentrated hard on Holden,
and finally made a sale.
Exhausted, Rebecka took a brief nap, at exactly the wrong time--a reviewer came into the venue, was annoyed that Rebecka wasn't there to greet her, and gave Rebecka a bad review.
Philosophical, Rebecka muttered, 'You win some; you lose some.' She wasn't too depressed, because she had gotten a $20,000 cash grant that day for getting her venue to Rank 4, and had made a profit on her one lot sale of $8,399. She headed out to meet Yuri for dinner at Londoste, as they had planned.
At the restaurant, the maitre d' made a huge fuss over Yuri. "So delighted to see you again, Mr. Andropov!" the man gushed obsequiously.
'Nolan will be treating me that way someday,' Rebecka promised herself. She and Yuri took their seats.
"Great news about your first sale, Becks!" Yuri complimented her. "I hope this means you can relax a bit, and we can see each other more often--you seem to spend all your time working," he complained, somewhat good-naturedly.
Rebecka put down her menu. "Yuri, I've been thinking," she said, seriously.
'Uh oh,' Yuri thought to himself. 'Here comes the pressure for us to get engaged and married.'
Rebecka continued. "I feel bad that you're living with your parents, and not in your beautiful and expensive apartment while I'm decorating it. And, frankly, the decorating is going more slowly than I had originally anticipated, because of all the time I spend at my new realty company."
She paused, and took a breath. "So ... I think it's time you moved back in."
Yuri was delighted. He had not relished living with his parents, just because Rebecka didn't want to cohabit before marriage, and he was thrilled she had apparently changed her mind and was no longer concerned with getting a commitment from him.
"That's great, Becks!" he exulted. "It'll be so good living together--we can see each other every day, and support each other in our work, and have more fun together--"
"Oh, Yuri," Rebecka interrupted, "sorry, but I meant that--now that George and Tosha have moved out of the building, and Calista and Randy have taken over their apartment--I've decided to take over Calista and Randy's old apartment. I think I'll be okay moneywise with my realty company, and that I'll be able to afford to live on my own."
Yuri was stunned.
"You're kidding," he said, slowly.
"Don't take this the wrong way, Yuri," Rebecka said softly. "I really, really love and care for you. But I don't think you feel the same way about me. And I only want to be with someone who really, really loves and cares for me. I deserve that."
She continued. "You and I can still see each other, of course; that doesn't need to change. And we'll be living in the same building; it's just that we won't have the stress of being focused on each other 24-7. As we would if we were living together."
After dinner, Rebecka dropped Yuri off at his parents' house before she returned to Cornerstone Condominiums.
Entering the house, and going into the bedroom he had shared with his sister when they were children, Yuri, reeling, wasn't sure whether he had escaped from Rebecka's voracious clutches, or whether he had lost his best chance at a smart, hot, ambitious wife.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next week, when Rebecka moves out of the penthouse she's been decorating for Yuri, he moves in, his mother gives him some tough love, and business picks up at Rebecka Realty.