Your mother said it was stupid, this excursion of yours, this leap of faith. She said you would go broke; you would live the rest of your days in poverty.
She swore never to give you a penny if you run into financial problems.
You were alright with that, for she never helped you anyway. After packing your luggage, you left and never looked back once.
Your mother was right, of course, your precocious idea wasn’t so glistening anymore. Infact, it was more like an unfinished basement, vacuous and dull. Ironically, the apartment building you bought barely had a balcony, much less a basement. If it had, maybe it would have worked out better? It’s much too late to dwell on that now, the customers had come and gone, but none wanted to rent any of the two bedroom suits.
“It’s air conditioned,” You would say, putting on your most persuasive smile.
“I see that,” The woman replied, sweeping the room resolutely until finally resting her hands on the velvet couch, “I just don’t think it’s within our budget, right, Tom?” At this point, she would cling to her apathetic husband, slowly leading him to the door of the third floor apartment.
“I can cut you a deal. Only 45,000.” You knew that they would never take the bait, but it never hurt anyone to hope.
“I’m sorry, but we must be going. We have tickets to a symphony; I don’t want to miss it. Did you hear they are playing Mozart this afternoon?” The woman wound her scarf around her neck. You appreciated her effort to let you down easy, but it did not change the fact she never planned to lease the rental; she probably only wanted to look around, scope the competition or compare prices. After all, you had heard her say it was quite mundane and too costly for the area.
You smiled once again and said, “No, I didn’t know that.”
“Well, you should get out more. Maybe see a show?” Hearing the pity in her voice made you sick. You both knew the apartment would have trouble selling, but at that time, you still had hope for the dilapidated rentals.
“I will once I can rent out some of these flats.” You laughed between words, but it wasn’t a joyful chuckle, it was tired, lifeless. You waved as the lady and her not-so-talkative husband bustled out into the cold, winter air.
The next group to come was an elderly woman and her two granddaughters. The youngest one was one of those jittery kinds of kids, any moment she would run between rooms and under your legs. The eldest stood next to her grandmother, like a guard, rolling her eyes as her younger sister passed by.
“The apartment on the second floor would do just fine for your family,” You exclaimed, unlocking the door to the carpeted suit.
“I hope so,” the elderly woman said. She had a thick southern accent; you had trouble understanding her.
“When you first walk in, you will enter into a large den.” You gestured to the sparsely decorated room. The younger child ran over to the green, obsolete couch and jumped on it.
“Veronica, get down right now!” The woman yelled, snapping her fingers.
“No!” The girl, Veronica, replied, putting her hands to her hips.
The lady stood her ground and raised her eyebrows. “No? Do you want to get ice cream, or not?”
“Yes! But I don’t wanna get down,” Veronica shouted again and stuck out her tongue. You backed up to the door, not wanting to get involved.
“Come here this instant, young lady!” The elderly woman yelled as the older sister ran to the little girl’s side.
Tears began to run down Veronica’s cheeks and she stomped her foot. “I want ice cream!”
“I know you do, but you have to get down and start behaving.” The older sister picked up the girl and held her against her hip.
“I am so sorry for all this racket,” The old lady said, “We must get going, it’s almost her nap time.” She pointed towards the little girl and adjusted the large, leather purse slung across her shoulder. “Thank you for your time.” She gave me a tired smile and left the room, her granddaughters trailing afterwards.
And then, she came.
You still remember the first time you saw her; her lips were painted rouge, her cheeks stained pink.
Her smile lit up the room as you showed her to the first floor bedroom.
“It’s quite nice,” she said, tossing her chestnut hair over her shoulders. You fell for her, fast. “What’s your name, again?” She raised a brunette eyebrow and smiled.
“Julie,” you said, sticking out your free hand, the other latched onto a clipboard.
“That’s a beautiful name,” she beamed and turned around to scope the bedroom. It was plain, with only a queen sized bed and a wardrobe to fill the space.
“Do you want to see the rest of the apartment?” You asked.
“I would love to!” Beatrice grinned and followed me down a narrow hallway.
You could have spent the rest of the day with her. That evening, she listened as you told her about the other customers to come by. She laughed as you told her of Victoria, the little girl who refused to get off the couch. She rolled her eyes as you told her about the stuffy lady and her reticent husband. She commented on the newly painted cupboards and the vacuum carpets. Suddenly you heard yourself asking for her number.
She gave it to you.
You put it in your phone, smiling the rest of the day, even though she didn’t buy the flat.
The next few months went by in a blur, a flash of moments.
Giving customer after customer tours.
Eating ice cream with Beatrice.
Cleaning out the fourth floor of the apartment, hoping it would sell.
Long calls, dates, and walks with your sweetheart.
A large man, with an amber beard rented the second floor apartment.
Then a single mom and her two children took the third floor.
You asked Beatrice to be your girlfriend. She said yes.
The price of the top floor of your building was skyrocketing as people bid more and more money to buy it.
But just when everything was looking up, it came crashing down.
Like a broken elevator. The elevator that was shattered as the tornado hit. The building crumbled, your future scattered.
Tears dripped onto red ink, your eviction notice bled.
But Beatrice was there.
She stood with you.
She offered her couch.
She held your hand as you signed away your ownership of the apartment. The same apartment that your mother said never to buy. It would be a mistake.
But it wasn’t.
And now, as you hold the hands of your soon-to-be wife, you thank the ramshackle apartment that started it all.