This first day of fall, she was happy to see that she finally had an apple harvest--it was Marcus's first day of school, and Meadow planned to teach him to do homework that evening, and she knew that apple juice would help Marcus learn to do homework faster.
She went back into the house and began making breakfast. To her surprise, Orlando came downstairs and sat at the dining table.
"But honey--you don't have to go to work till 1:00 p.m. on Tuesdays," Meadow told him. "And you were up late last night painting in the garage. Did you get up this early just because it's Marcus's first day of school?"
"Yup." Orlando yawned. "Will there be food soon?"
"Right here, hon'," Meadow said, smiling.
'I sure married the right guy,' she thought, again. Meadow put down three plates of pancakes, placed the rest of the food on the counter,
and went to wake Marcus.
"So, are you excited about starting school, son?" Orlando asked.
"Yes, Daddy," Marcus answered enthusiastically.
Marcus ate his pancakes, and went back into his bedroom to get dressed for school. His mother started to clean up from breakfast.
Ophelia woke up from napping on her sleepy blanket, and toddled into the kitchen, cranky. She was not at all enthusiastic about her big brother's leaving for school for the first time.
"Mommy!" she wailed loudly. "I want to go to school, too!!"
Meadow picked up her daughter. "Sweetiepie, you can go to school with Marcus next year. But you and I are going to have lots of fun today--we're going to see your godmother Calista, and her little boy, Christopher. He's just about your age."
Meadow put Ophelia back down on the floor, and continued cleaning up. Marcus emerged from his room, dressed for school. He knelt down and patted his sister's arm.
"It's okay, Oph," he assured her. "I'm going to be away for just a little while. And, like Mommy said, you're going to have lots of fun today. And I'll be back pretty soon, and then we'll play some more."
Marcus left for school,
Orlando went back to bed,
and Meadow and Ophelia left to visit Calista.
The two friends were able to relax and chat,
while Ophelia and Christopher drew at the activity table.
"I'm so relieved you were free this morning," Meadow told her friend. "Ophelia was so unhappy that Marcus would be away all day, and I really needed to get her mind off that."
"I think it's great that Christopher has a playmate," said Calista. "And he's been missing Granddad and Nanny, because they spend so much time at their new dress shop now. We should definitely do this more often. "
"Absolutely!" Meadow agreed. "In fact, once my harvest is sold and I close up my downtown farmstand, you can drop Christopher off at our house every day."
"So, what are your plans for the farmstand?" asked Calista. "I just loooove the quality of your produce, and your business seems to be doing so well."
"Thanks, Calista," Meadow responded. "As soon as Orlando and I can afford it, we're going to put up a greenhouse at home. That way, I can be home all day with Ophelia, and I'll always be there when Marcus gets home from school. Whatever vegetables I raise through the end of the year I'll just sell to restaurants and gourmet stores. Then, once Ophelia starts school after New Year's, I'll start a farmstand in my front yard. I probably won't have all the customers I had downtown, but I'll save a lot of money by not having to pay rent for the downtown space."
Meadow was interrupted by a happy squeal from her daughter.
"They play together so nicely," Meadow observed.
Ophelia and Christopher--both of whom could talk--were conversing animatedly about something their mothers couldn't hear, though it was clear the kids had hit it off.
The two played with blocks for another hour,
then Ophelia wandered over to the aquarium, which fascinated her.
"You have lots of fun stuff at your house," she said to Christopher. She gazed in wonder at a giant clam that was spewing air bubbles.
About 1:00 p.m., Meadow said, "I think we have to get going," rising from the sofa and picking up Ophelia.
"Can't you stay for lunch?" Calista asked.
"We'd love to, but, no," Meadow responded, sounding apologetic. "I want to be home when Marcus gets back from school, and I still have to stop by my farmstand, to check in with Ethan and Lyndsey."
"So, what's wrong with this house?" Chloe challenged Rebecka.
"Well, as I told you before, Chloe, the kitchen is very yellow--including the appliances. And the entire house is big and square, and to some extent unimaginative," Rebecka responded.
"Do you actually sell a lot of houses with this approach?" Chloe asked, an edge in her voice.
Rebecka had not grossed $100,000 in her one summer since college by having bad sales instincts. She was always deferential to her customers, and spent a lot of time subjugating her own considerable ego. She knew Chloe didn't particularly like her (and she knew there was quite a bit of envy among women about her recent Realty Today magazine cover), but she wasn't about to let any of that get in the way of a sale."Look," she reasoned. "I know you and Kevin both work really hard, and that you're under a lot of stress with a young child. And I know you're trying to save money for your own restaurant. So, though this place isn't perfect, it has good potential, and--because the market is soft--it's something you guys can afford. And it's near Meadow's house. And there's a good-sized backyard. With a treehouse."
"So," Rebecka continued, "just please keep an open mind, and come see the interior."
Rebecka wondered at what point she would finally be able to stop paying penance for whatever horrible crime she had committed--in Yuri's friends' minds--by having dated Yuri during college.
The first floor was open, and largely unfinished.
When she saw the kitchen, Chloe laughed out loud. "Well, the quality of the appliances is fine, but what the heck were these people thinking with this color?" she said. "For one thing, it really shows dirt."
"There are no 'these people', Chloe," Rebecka told her. "This place was built on spec. So, no one's ever lived here, and that's why it's unfinished. And, no, I have no idea why the builders thought this was a good look for a kitchen."
"It's okay, though, I think," said Chloe. "I mean, the layout's good, and as long as we don't paint the walls yellow, I think it's manageable."
Rebecka silently congratulated herself. She knew that, once a prospect said something like "as long as we don't paint the walls yellow," the prospect was already seriously considering herself the owner.
The two women walked out the back kitchen doors. "Big deck," Chloe commented. "Room for a grill and a picnic table."
The first floor also contained a room the family could use as a study, a bedroom for Charlie (with an attached bathroom), and an unfinished room that could be made into a powder room.
The second floor contained a large, open room with its own deck, and 2 small rooms that, together, could serve as a bathroom.
After letting Chloe wander around in the house by herself for a while, Rebecka joined her client upstairs. "I think you're right about this house, Rebecka," Chloe said.
"Let me discuss it with Kevin, and we'll call you with an offer."
Meadow had lunch ready for Marcus when he got home after his first day of school.
"Once you eat you lunch, honey, do you want me to help you with your homework?" Meadow asked her son.
"Not until later, okay, Mommy?" Marcus pleaded. "I'm really tired, but I want to play with Ophelia. But I think I need to take a nap. And I'd like to watch TV. And then maybe I'll be able to do homework."
True to his word, Marcus played with his little sister,
then collapsed into bed, exhausted.
When it was time for him to get up, his mother made him apple juice,
and then taught him how to do homework.
"You should have see Nanny face," Yelena told her husband. "It like she see ghost or something."
"What on earth could be scaring Nanny?" Kennedy asked, genuinely confused. "It's not as if she's led a dangerous life--I'm pretty sure she's spent all her years caring for little kids."
"Trust me, Kenny; I been spy for long time. Something up with her, and I going to find out what."
"Maybe I put Yuri on it," she added.
"Yuri?" Kennedy asked his wife. "Why Yuri?"
"Yuri good spy, Kenny," Yelena chided. "Surely you no think I hire kid into SCIA because he our son."
"No!," Kennedy laughed. "I would never think that."
"That right," Yelena affirmed. "His whole life, Yuri been sneaky kid. He think like criminal. So, that useful to SCIA. And me."
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next time, as the Thayer-Centowski family starts the fall, Kevin and Chloe move into the big square yellow house, and their baby Charlie grows up.