The mystery of the strange partial-house power outage has been revealed: sometime before we moved in, someone jerry-rigged a bunch of temporary connections to the power line, trying to get around the electric company, and those connections went bad. The electric company has made all right, however, and Scrivener is equipped with auto-save, so here's last night's installment.
Kristy called a realtor connected with the relocation company and arranged for them to spend Saturday looking at houses. A generously proportioned, older woman named Carol, she arrived at the apartment at 9AM on Saturday, and presented Kristy with an elaborately constructed binder with fliers for all the houses they would be visiting.
“Since this is our first time out, I thought we should look at a range of options in your size and price range,” Carol explained.
“That sounds great,” Kristy replied.
The sisters piled into Carol’s spacious Jaguar XJ. “This back seat is amazing, but it seems like it should come with a mimosa,” Katie announced. Kristy handed her the binder and she occupied herself with inspecting the house fliers.
Kristy had not been much in sympathy with Katie’s excitement over old houses. When Carol led them through Victorian four-squares, Katie rhapsodized about woodwork and tightly spiraled back staircases, while Kristy noted damaged paneling, peeling paint, old-fashioned radiators, and the probable lack of insulation. At the same time, newer houses all seemed to come in little subdivisions so manicured that one almost expected a giant hand to reach down from the sky and arrange plastic people on the lawn. The open floor plans and white walls which had seemed so cleanly natural in California here looked shallowly false.
By the time the the ladies stopped for lunch, tempers were beginning to shorten, and Kristy considered suggesting they call off the rest of the day. However, the limitations of the three months corporate housing were beginning to occur to her: by the time she allowed 30-45 days to close, plus time to move, it was necessary to find a house within the first month. Further, she began to wonder how eagerly Carol would put them on her schedule again if they did not find at least one house they could compliment, even if it were not the right house for them.
The next house was in the old part of Johnson, a neighborhood of two- and three-story Victorian houses presiding over tree-lined streets, where several houses had already charmed Katie but not Kristy. This one, however, was a single story bungalow, its gently sloping roof covered in deep blue tiles. The walls were brick up to waist height, and then light brown stucco.
“When was this built?” Kristy asked. “It looks like some of the old houses back in California.”
Carol consulted a sheaf of notes. “1919. It’s a Sears kit house. Two bedrooms. Kitchen needs a little work, but it has a new furnace and air conditioning, and it’s priced to sell.”
There were touches aplenty to warm Katie’s heart, beginning with the sinuous brass lizard-shaped door knocker on the heavy, green front door. Kristy noted that the windows, though wood-framed, were modern, and that the heating and cooling systems did indeed look modern. These practicalities assured, she could allow her heart to be warmed by touches such as the deep-set, finished-wood window seats in the identically-sized bedrooms — the more so when Carol pointed out that these doubled as cedar-lined chests.
“Look at the fireplace!” crowed Katie from the other room. Art nouveau tiles set off the small-ish fireplace, surmounted by a carved wooden mantle on which lizards like that on the door knocker flocked among stylized leaves.
The kitchen, and to a lesser extent the bathrooms, were the sticking point. The appliances were old, rust beginning to show through white enamel, and no concessions had been made to a more modern taste in layout and storage.
After spending nearly an hour in the bungalow, the women moved on to see the rest of the houses on their itinerary, but Katie’s heart was clearly won and every further house was assiduously, and unflatteringly, compared to the bungalow.
“You would hate that kitchen,” Kristy pointed out that night, as Katie was making dinner in the apartment.
“It’s pretty bad,” Katie conceded. “But we could get a new fridge and stove and fix it up, couldn’t we?”
“The asking price isn’t much more than the equity I can get out of my condo back in California. It would be easy to keep out enough money for renovations and still have a pretty tiny mortgage,” Kristy conceded. “Still, I can’t think of anything I’d like less than having to supervise a bunch of contractors all the time.”
“I could help!” Katie assured.
Through the weekend the hold of the bungalow on their minds remained firm — Kristy’s as well as Katie’s, despite her calmer approach to the matter. When she went running Sunday morning, she unconsciously directed her steps in that direction and found herself standing outside the low, wrought iron fence, looking up the walk.
Tuesday, over lunch, she called up Carol and asked if they could see it again that night. The sisters took their time wandering all over the house. An hour and a half had passed, and Kristy was sitting on the window seat in what she couldn’t help thinking of as ‘her room’: legs pulled up, her arms wrapped around her knees, looking out on the secluded backyard in the gathering gloom.
Carol entered, seeing Kristy and observing, “It’s such a pretty view. The yard would be just right for you: large enough to have a garden but not so big that it would be hard to manage.”
Kristy nodded. For several moments she remained silent. “All right,” she said. “I want to make an offer on it.”