Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Firearms Factory

Calista and Randy arrived back at their apartment at Cornerstone Condominiums from London Motors mid-afternoon.

“Let's just check in with your grandfather and make sure everything's okay with him and the baby, and then let's go to bed,” Randy suggested. “I'm exhausted.”

Just then, Berjes entered the room with a very grown-up looking Christopher.

“Surprise!” Berjes cried. “Little Christopher became a toddler as soon as he woke up from his nap this morning!”

He handed the child to Randy as Calista stood nearby, dumbstruck.

Berjes continued. “I wasn't expecting him to grow up, of course, but we had a fine time together, and I dressed him in one of those delightful outfits you brought back from Paris, dearest,” he assured Calista.

Calista took the boy from Randy. “Oh, look at Mommy's big boy!” she cried, turning him upside down to his delight.

“I thought you two would be back long before now,” Berjes said to Randy.

“Yeah, well, it was a tough first day at London Motors,” Randy said. “Sorry about that.”

“Oh, no problem,” Berjes said brightly. “My great-grandson and I always have a wonderful time together! But now it's bedtime for both of us,” he announced, taking the boy back from Calista and disappearing into the nursery.

Calista turned and faced her husband squarely. “Randy, it's just awful that we missed Christopher's birthday,” she said.

“It's one thing for you to be devoted to your business's success,” she continued. “As I am—to whatever you want. But it's entirely another thing to give our family short shrift in favor of that business.”

“Honey,” Randy sputtered, “Why do you think I'm doing all this--trying to make a success of the car dealership? So that Christopher doesn't ever have to worry about anything!”

“I realize you'll have to work long hours,” Calista replied.

“It's just that living all the way across town makes it impossible to spend time with Christopher during the day. I think to make our family life work we'll just have to live really close to the dealership.”

“Calista, darling,” Randy reasoned, “London Motors is in an old industrial neighborhood. Many of the buildings are abandoned. There's no decent place there for a family to live.”

Calista then told her husband where she thought they could live.

“You're kidding!” he exclaimed.

“Not at all,” she replied calmly.


Rebecka Louie was having a very good morning at her realty office.

She had gotten Rebecka Realty to Rank 9,

and, thanks to the business perks she'd chosen, she was now able find a mark among her potential customers, and to assess which real estate lot would most appeal to the mark. Her dazzling sales skills had even become more effective.

Upon closing a sale to Erik Alioto, Rebecka achieved her lifetime want of earning $100,000.

Just after Erik left, the phone rang.

“Hi, Calista! What can I do for you?” Rebecka asked.

“I'd like to have another look at that building across the street from Randy's car dealership,” Calista said.

“Why?” Rebecka asked, confused. “Isn't the old warehouse working out for London Motors?”

“Oh, it's going swimmingly,” Calista replied, distractedly.

“No," she continued. "I'm looking for someplace for Randy and Christopher and Granddad and me to live, so that we can be closer to the dealership.”

Rebecka was silent for a moment.

“'re considering living in a former firearms factory?” she asked, trying not to sound too incredulous.


Calista was almost ready to leave her apartment for the day when the phone rang. It was Meadow.

“Hey, Calista--how did opening day go at the car biz? I called yesterday, but your granddad said you and Randy hadn't come home all night. Is everything okay?” Meadow asked, sounding a tiny bit worried.

“Um, yeah,” Calista answered, “but today's a disaster!”

“I was just about to leave to meet Rebecka—to see a place to live—we really have to move—and Granddad's come down with the flu. Never a good thing for a bloke his age, and I feel quite guilty about it, because I think the two weeks he babysat Christopher while Randy and I were in Europe took quite a bit out of him. So now I really have no choice but to wake Christopher up and bring him with me, and that's bad idea, too, because he has the sniffles, and I'm worried about taking him out in public, but I don't know what else to do. There's no one in this apartment complex I could find to babysit. And because Granddad lives with us, I've never had to find a nanny.”

Calista sounded so desperate that Meadow's heart went out to her.

“Just a minute, Cal,” Meadow said, and put her hand over the phone. Calista could hear her talking to another person. Meadow got back on the line. “Here's what we can do,” Meadow suggested. “Nanny Kendall is here,”

“and she said she could take care of Christopher today. I'm just about to head to the farmstand downtown, and it's not a big deal for me to have Marcus and Ophelia with me at work—they play so nicely together, and my customers think they're such charmers," she laughed.

“So, on my way to work, I can drop Nanny off at your apartment. She's totally on board with this—she likes a challenge.”

Calista didn't know what to say, other than “Thanks, Meadow—you're a lifesaver!”

Before she left her apartment, Calista dressed Christopher and helped him with the potty,

and moved his activity table out of Berjes's bedroom into the living room,

so that the elderly man could get the rest he needed to get over his illness.

Calista met Rebecka across the street from London Motors.

“Rebecka, you didn't sound that enthusiastic on the phone about showing me this place again,” observed Calista.

“Believe me,” Rebecka assured her, “I'd be thrilled if you guys bought this place and fixed it up. It's a historical building, and it's got great details.”

“But,” she continued as the two went through the massive front gate and up the long brick walk, “Randy thought this was too big for a car dealership—and now you're considering it for a house?”

“The space really speaks to me though,” said Calista as they approached the ornate wrought iron front doors. “And the location certainly couldn't be more convenient for my family. Not to mention I'd finally have room for all my furniture and art and everything!”

The two women entered the cavernous building.

“For instance,” Calista mused, “I can totally see putting a statue here, and a chess table, and a nice big seating area like Tosha and George have in their house, and maybe a fireplace....”

They walked toward the middle of the long, narrow first floor. “And there could be an amazing open kitchen right about here,” Calista added.

They continued to the back of the first floor, past a wrought-iron spiral staircase and an impressive black marble column, which supported the loft area where the factory's offices had been located.

“And there's enough room back here for a suite for Granddad, and another suite for Christopher.”

Rebecka, though she hadn't been a realtor for long, had gained enough experience to know just to keep her mouth shut when she had an artistic and creative client who was wandering through a property and imagining aloud what she could do with it.

The two women climbed up the back staircase, which was just a few feet from another entrance.

“And this would just be a monster master bedroom suite for Randy and me,” Calista observed once they'd climbed up to the loft. “I'd have enough room for my bass and my amp, and for my cauldron and my throne and my spellbook....”

“You know,” Rebecka said cautiously, trying to add value, “I don't know a lot of people who could make a home out of this humongous space.”

“But if anyone can, it's you,” she said to Calista.

Meanwhile, back at Cornerstone Condominiums, Berjes was awakened by the doorbell. 'Ah, the nanny is here at last,' he said to himself.

'I'll let the woman in and then I can resume the slumber I so desperately need.' He shuffled to the front door and opened it, to find Kendal Lawson.

'What an absolutely angelic creature!' Berjes thought to himself. He asked her in.

“I am Nanny Kendal,” she announced stiffly.

“I have spent a lifetime in domestic service and have many years of experience in childcare. I have been told you are ill, so please be assured that you may return to your bed for the day and that I will take care of all of your great-grandson's needs.”

Berjes was instantly smitten.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next week to see the Firearms Factory adapted for family living, Christopher's fashion statements, and Berjes's romantic pursuit of Nanny Kendal.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ophelia, and London Motors

"I love the way Ophelia looks at you," Meadow told her husband, as he was helping the little girl with her potty training.

"Complete trust and adoration," she observed.

Orlando praised Ophelia for her efforts, picked her up off the potty and put her down at the activity table with Marcus.

"Yes, the three of us got very lucky with her," Orlando remarked.

Like her big brother, Ophelia was an agreeable child who never gave her parents any trouble.

She was always eager to learn new skills,

and Meadow thought she was a fast learner.

"You're Mommy's little star--yes you are!" Meadow told her. 'Your birth parents must have been smart,' she thought to herself.

Meadow devoted a great deal of time and care to Ophelia, perhaps trying to compensate for the girl's having been abandoned as an infant.

But, since Ophelia had been so young when Meadow had found her at the Church of the Good Shepherd, the child probably retained no memories of her life before being adopted.

Ophelia adored her mother, and seemed to try hard to please her,

and she and Marcus were inseparable.

"Boy, those kids could not look more different," Orlando remarked one evening. "Hair, skintone, facial features--everything."

"Shhh," Meadow whispered, "don't let them hear you," although both she and her husband knew that they would soon have to reveal to the children that Ophelia was adopted. Marcus was due to start school in the fall, and his parents didn't want him to hear any potentially upsetting news from another child.

Marcus and Ophelia played so nicely together that occasionally their tired parents were able--after feeding the children and dressing them in their PJs--to leave the two alone and go upstairs to bed, confident that they would be able to hear any crying via the open stairway that connected the two floors of the farmhouse.

Ophelia and Marcus seemed to relish their late-night time together.

Listening to the giggling, Meadow asked her husband, "What do you think they're talking about down there?" as he snuggled up behind her.

"Probably conspiring to take over the world," he answered sleepily.

The toddlers would play with their toys until they got tired,

and then would crawl onto their blankets and go to sleep side by side.

"Remember the kitchen guys are coming this afternoon," Orlando reminded his wife early one morning as he was doing dishes.

"It will be so great finally to have a dishwasher," he added.

"And Calista's coming by this morning," Meadow said. "She's bringing over some clothes for Ophelia that she got in Paris while she and Randy were on vacation."

"We sure picked a generous godmother for Ophelia," Orlando laughed.

Calista and Randy had not gone on a honeymoon after their wedding, since Calista had been pregnant with their son Christopher at the time, had had quite a bit of morning sickness, and consequently hadn't felt up to traveling.

The couple had recently bought an old warehouse that Rebecka had found for them, and they decided to take a vacation while Kennedy Cox's architectural firm (where Randy worked as the business manager) supervised renovations to the old brick building to transform it into the kind of upscale space that Randy wanted for the high-end car dealership he planned to open.

Before Calista arrived, Meadow fed Ophelia,

and continued her potty training,

before turning her attention to Marcus.

"Ophelia's hair has gotten long," Calista commented.

"Yeah, I like it," Meadow replied, putting Marcus down near his sister. "It looks so much more feminine."

"Can you stay for lunch?" she asked her friend.

"No, I've got to head over to Randy's car dealership," Calista answered. "Today's opening day, and I want to give him as much support as I can. Oh, before I forget, here's a present for my godchild."

When Orlando came home from work, Ophelia was playing on the jumpy horse. "What is that you're wearing, honeybun?" he asked his daughter, picking her up.

"It's a present from Calista," Meadow explained.

"Oh, how cute!" Orlando exclaimed.

"Now you look just like your godmother!!"

Randy's new business, London Motors, was housed in a former warehouse.

Kennedy's architects had outdone themselves in redesigning the space,

which housed two automotive display platforms, plus a small room in which Randy could take a break--nap, eat, shower--if he needed.

Calista didn't require any such amenities, since she had brought her throne to the dealership, and could sit in it whenever her needs decayed.

"Now remember the plan, honey--" Randy told his wife, "we stick with our premium price. It doesn't matter if we don't sell any cars our first day. This is a high-end dealership, and we don't discount. Let's just try to raise the business up a few ranks, and build our sales skills, and that will pay off eventually."

The new store didn't attract many customers till early evening,

but finally got its first star, which Randy used to get a lower wholesale price on cars.

As he'd planned, he and Calista worked on their sales skills,

and, to his surprise, Calista kept up with him in this regard.

Business picked up later in the evening, so Randy wanted to stay open.

Calista sat in her throne for a while,

and, once refreshed, she attended to customers while Randy took a nap.

The next morning while chatting up a customer, Calista wrangled a discount on home furnishings,

and Randy was surprised, but pleased and proud, when Calista got her gold sales badge before he got his.

And Randy was astounded when Calista actually made the first sale for London Motors.

"That's great, honey!" he exclaimed, amazed.

Soon thereafter, Randy got his gold sales badge,

the business got to Rank 5, and Randy was able to get the biggest discount available.

"Okay, time to close up shop and head for home," Randy announced.

"Why?" asked Calista. "I don't know much about business, but it seems to me that we've just started to get some momentum here."

"Yelena's Rule No. 1," Randy responded, quoting his business idol.

"Or Rule No. 5," he mused, "or something like that: get your business to Rank 5, then close it and have your spouse re-open it. Because you can get business perks much faster by going from Rank 0 to Rank 5 than you can by going from Rank 5 to Rank 10. So we'll go home, I'll close the business, you'll buy it, and we'll start again tomorrow and get cash awards!"

"Okay," Calista said, a little confused, though she was happy to be getting home to Christopher. "I'm sure Granddad needs a break by now."

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next week as Christopher Gothier London (who, as it turns out, isn't that much younger than Ophelia--whose exact age her adoptive parents don't know) grows up suddenly. Randy and Calista have a mild argument about priorities, sales pick up at Rebecka Realty, Meadow saves the day, and someone falls instantly in love.