Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 13, 2011, Chapter 23

      Tuesday, the second day of VBS, I once again headed to St. Elizabeth’s to check on my students and their students, but this time I did run into Father Murphy ... literally. As I stepped inside the door to the fellowship hall, he was stepping out, looking at some papers in his hand instead of where he was going, and he ran right into me, once again knocking me back against the wall. His papers flew everywhere.

   “Ouch,” I said rubbing my banged elbow as he grabbed me and then let go abruptly.

“I am so sorry!” Father Murphy said with another pained expression.
   “This is getting to be a habit, Father,” I said as I straightened my suit.

  “What? Oh, yes. You’re the craft lady, aren’t you? Your second crushing! We need to be a little more careful,” he said with
a smile as he stepped back, straightening his own suit—a long black cassock—before commencing to pick up his papers. 
   I looked into his green eyes and smiled and was surprised I didn’t feel the same deep tugging. Must be the cassock, I thought as I stood up straight. Catholic guilt was still alive and well, even at my age.
  Extending a hand, I said, “Yes, we do need to be more careful. We haven’t been formally introduced, though. I’m Margaret Grant. Moved here from Dallas a few months ago.”

He shook my hand quickly. “Yes, I know. Father Fitz knows you. You work on the university campus, in Communications, I believe? You’ve done a great job with the kids’ crafts. Thanks so much.”
   “My pleasure, Father. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check on today’s projects.”

“Not at all. Nice running into you!” he said pointedly and headed out the door.

    At least I won’t have to worry anymore about facing the fires of hell over him, clumsy man.
Chapter 23
  By Thursday, I didn’t really have to check on the projects, but enjoyed talking with my new friends as they told amusing stories about their morning classes. I haven’t seen either of the priests again, but Jenny Bodecker has become a loyal fan and Fern is a constant pleasure. 
  Elaine had asked for the afternoon off, so I hurried to get back to cover the phones in our small offices. As the proud niece of the first African-American professor at Tech, Elaine was a Red Raider through and through, much like Sharon, although Elaine was the only one of her  seven siblings and cousins who hadn’t finished her degree at Tech. Or anywhere, for that matter.
   “I fell in love with Reginald, and we couldn’t wait to get married and have kids,” she’d explained one day as she rolled her eyes heavenward. “Now they’re all grown and gone and I’m finishing up where I left off. Should graduate in another year.” 
   Taking night classes and an occasional Saturday class, Elaine was, not surprisingly, majoring in Communications.  She already knows enough to run circle around some professional communicators I know, but all universities insist on a degree for the official “professional” status and accompanying larger paycheck. I  just hope I’ll be able to keep her once she is official — she’s a valuable member of the team. I’ll have to check with Finance into how much of a salary increase can be offered once Elaine’s degree is completed.
   Elaine’s request for the afternoon off was a family matter rather than a school one, though. Her aunt Frances, widow of Uncle William, the professor, was “getting on in years,” and at her own insistence, the family was moving her to a nearby assisted-living facility. Elaine had mentioned I might want to look at her aunt’s house. It was going on the market. The family hadn’t chosen an agent, but I could come by that evening to look it over. It’s an older home on a large corner lot near Tech Terrace Park, just the area I hoped to settle into. 
  Right after work, I pulled the Volvo in front of the address Elaine had provided — the northwest corner of 22nd and Gary. Elaine came out of the bright red front door waving and motioned me to come inside. 
   My heart gave a slight leap as I gazed at the 1930s-style one-story stone house. Two identical archways dominated the front of the structure, the first tall-peaked arch presiding over a fair-sized covered porch and the main entrance. It was supported by wide stone columns and surrounded by a thick stone wall about three feet high. To the right, the other archway crowned a portico serving as a wide carport, but could make a great screened-in porch. A large south-facing picture window on the left was flanked by a huge red oak tree, towering over the yard with welcoming shade.

  On the east side, I could see the detached garage, also in the irregularly shaped stones, which had been converted into an apartment. Elaine and Reginald had lived there when they were first married. It had probably housed either relatives and/or Tech students for several decades. I quickly scanned the surrounding neighborhood. Not a McMansion in sight!

   Once inside, Elaine greeted me in a small foyer that opened into a large front room flooded with light from the picture window and two smaller windows on the west. A front stone fireplace graced the corner, no doubt original to the home. Hardwood floors throughout, the house was crowded with vintage furniture, obviously lovingly cared for by Aunt Frances. The attached dining room was behind the main room and led to the kitchen and adjoining laundry off to the left, both of which could use an update, although I rather liked the ancient red, yellow and green-splashed linoleum floor. Two fair-sized bedrooms on the east side and one full bath, complete with pink and maroon deco tile, finished out the early 1930’s house.

  “I know it needs a lot of work,” Elaine said, “but I think it has possibilities.”

Oh, definitely, I thought, as I easily fell in love with the quaint place. I was imagining moving a wall here and there, expanding out the back to add a master bedroom with much needed walk-in closets, enlarging the kitchen, putting in a pantry, opening up the ceiling in the main area and perhaps even the dining room. My mind fairly reeled with the possibilities!
   Further exploration showed the back yard was also big enough for a large deck, and a huge pecan tree shaded half of it. The kitchen area could be bumped out to the west, and the east area near the garage was certainly big enough for a good-sized addition with master bath. The other half of the yard could be reworked into a wonder of a garden. It looked as though Aunt Frances had once delighted in tending it herself, but both the front and back areas were in need of restoration landscaping. 
Perhaps the garage apartment out back might make a good studio? I don’t need the extra income from a rental space. Could the south side be turned into a wall of windows to let in the light? How fun would it be to paint again and to have an area for messy projects!
  By today, I am well on my way to buying  myself a house, with Sharon and Doug reluctantly approving the impending move. They were impressed, however, with the location—three blocks south of campus, five minutes from the Nest—and with the soundness of the structure. The price is certainly reasonable because Elaine’s family doesn’t want to work through an agent. And they’re asking fair-market value which I am willing to pay. 
  Their only stipulation was that Aunt Frances had to approve of the new owner. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous as I accompanied Elaine to afternoon tea on Sunday. A tiny lady with fire in her eyes, Aunt Frances was direct, polite and asked me frankly what would be done to “her house” if she allowed me to move in. 
   Briefly outlining my thoughts about vaulted ceilings, window walls and granite countertops, I was delighted when Aunt Francis approved with enthusiasm, asking to visit at least once when it was completed.
   Doug knows several contractors who might bid on the remodeling, one in particular who has done some work on the Nest. I guess I will be filling my off-work hours with planning the first home I’ve bought by myself. 
   It is a job I know will consume me, so it was with great reluctance I answered another call from Monsignor Fitzpatrick late this afternoon. Now that Vacation Bible School is finished, he needs my help on a committee he’s forming, or rather one Father Murphy is forming. The Newman Club for Catholic college students will be celebrating its 75th anniversary next year, and St. Elizabeth’s, being the original site for the area’s club, wanted to throw a year-long party to draw in new members. 
      “Surely, Mrs. Maggie,” he pleaded, “with yer great experience at da university,” they couldn’t do it without me. Why, I would be the “most valuable member o’ da committee.” We would meet only occasionally, and I could just give ideas, not have to serve regularly. 
   I didn’t have the heart, or courage, to say no, so I agreed to meet with the clumsy Father Murphy for the initial planning meeting early Saturday morning. 

No comments:

Post a Comment