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, July 25, 2011

Chapter 30

   “Soon,” the contractor said. “Soon, Mrs. Grant.”

“Soon is a relative term, Mr. Campos. Can you give me a firm date?” I asked as we stepped over, around and through construction, looking at the week’s progress, which actually was considerable. Workmen were present this Saturday, setting tile in the master bath, finishing cabinet installation in the expanded kitchen and pantry, and installing pot lights high up in the newly vaulted ceilings in the living and dining areas. Last week they had finished laying tile in the kitchen. I had seriously wanted to keep the old linoleum, but Campos had shown me several patches beyond repair and warned of the dangers of asbestos. I’d relented and picked out a durable tile to match the cabinets he was installing.
   “I think I’ll have it all finished mid-August, including the final walk-through. It’s gone really well. The weather has held. Even though everyone else in the state wants rain...needs rain, it has made it easier for us. Now if we can just get those granite countertops from Fort Worth, we’ll be in good shape.”
   “Don’t worry. I’ll have you in by the fifteenth at the latest. I promise. Contract calls for penalties if I don’t, and I’m not real fond of penalties,” he said with a smile. “By the way, is that yellow tabby cat hanging around yours?”

“What? No, it’s not. What yellow tabby cat?”

“I think she’s lying on the back deck right now. Been here almost every day ... just  makes herself at home. Real friendly gato.”
   “Well, not my gato. I’m sure she belongs to one of the neighbors. No later than August 15th you say?”
   I liked this man and thought he was doing a great job with my additions. He’d even made some suggestions for improvements beyond the architect’s plans, and I have taken some and left some, choosing to spend my money wisely on quality upgrades with no frills.


“That’ll work. Thanks,” I said, relieved somewhat. An original estimate by the architect of six weeks’ work had been stretched to eight by the contractor, and I was eager to get settled in my new house. And was excited that afternoon because Colin was coming to see it for the first time. I was hoping he would approve. Then I asked myself what would happen if he didn’t. “Nothing,” was my answer ... I loved it, and that was all that mattered. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see what he thought. 
   Late in the afternoon Colin knocked on the open front door, peering in, curious about what type of house Maggie would live in, and what type of additions she’d approved. He didn’t much like changing the feel of a house, and he hoped she hadn’t modernized the charming cottage too much. But who was he to judge? It was her house, after all. Still, it would be interesting to see what she’d done.

   Hearing the knock, I stepped out of the kitchen area and invited him in. He began looking around and then heard a deep voice bellowing, “Murphy!”
  He turned and smiled broadly at my contractor. “Campos! Don’t tell me you’re here robbing this little lady blind? How are you friend?” They shook hands and slapped each other’s shoulders enthusiastically as I frowned ... Uh oh, I thought. Robbing me blind?
   “Bueno, Murphy, but tell her the truth. I’m the best damn contractor in Lubbock County, with the most reasonable and fair prices, and you know it. ’Fess up, amigo!”
   Still smiling broadly, Colin turned to me, “He’s right. He really does quality work and is honest to the core. How’d you find him? Yellow pages luck?”

“Uh, why no. Doug recommended him.”

“Doug? The guy you were with at La Diosa?”

“Yes, Sharon’s guy. Remember?” Why did it bother me he thought I was with another man?

“Oh, Sharon’s Doug. Yeah, I remember.” Turning back to Campos, he said, “So show me around, mi amigo. What damage have to done to this beautiful old house?”
   “Damage?” he said in mock horror. “I’ve brought out it’s full potential, my friend. Wait ‘til you get a load of this master suite ... it’s a beauty ... and then there’s the studio outside, but we’re not near done with anything yet ... there’s still ...” and they disappeared into the back of the house, leaving me standing by the front door, arms crossed in wonder.

   “Maggie?” I heard Colin yell a minute later. “You comin’?”

I’m coming, I said to herself. After all, it is my house.

   By the time we’d finished the contractor’s grand tour, all the workmen had gone for the day, and Campos left the two of us alone, promising to be back to work early Monday and to call Colin soon for a night of poker.
   Still looking around at all the details, I followed Inspector Colin, amused at his “mms” and “oohs,” wondering if he really liked it.

   Going through the entire house once more, opening drawers, cabinets and closets, looking at the workmanship, the style, running his large hands over the corners and carvings, he returned to the living area and stood next to the huge stone fireplace, turning to me. “This is well done, Margaret Grant. Well done.”
   “Thank you, Professor Murphy. Your admiration is appreciated.”

   “Actually, it’s better than well done. I’d say you upgraded the charm and functionality of the house without sacrificing its character. I can’t imagine how it could be better. If you paid a fair price for this ... and I’m sure you did, you’re turning it into a good investment property. And I’d kill for a studio like that  — the wall of windows was brilliant. Did you know you can see the park from there?”

“Yes,” I said laughing, “I did know. But I’m turning it into a home, not an investment property.”
   “Right, a home. But still, the return on your dollar would be impressive.”
   “I’m planning on staying quite a while in my home,” I said, emphasizing the word “home.”
   “Okay, I got it. I’m impressed ... you seem to be a woman of many talents.” He moved toward me, giving me a direct gaze before putting his arms loosely around my waist.

Surprised, I put my hands on his upper arms, leaned back and looked up at him skeptically. He bent down and kissed my forehead lightly, released me suddenly and said, “I’m starved! What’s for dinner?”

  Startled, and a little breathless, I said after a moment, “Ah, Murphy, as you saw when you walked through the kitchen three times, I don’t have ...”

A solid knock on the front door cut me off. Colin went to the door, opened it wide and grinned. Josh stood there, a huge McAllister’s restaurant bag in one hand, two giant drinks in the other.

   “Josh!” I said, pleasantly surprised.
   “Mrs. Grant! How nice to see you. Mom said she’ll be in town in a few weeks and wants to personally deliver your cleaned blanket. Said she’d be in touch, so she’ll call you soon!”
    Colin took the food, handed it to me, and gave Josh several bills that included a large tip, judging by the young man’s grin as he left, calling out, “Good night! And thanks, Murphy!”
   “Dinner’s here, m’lady. I remember you eat club sandwiches, and I ordered one sweet tea and one regular ... you choose.” He made a makeshift table with discarded wood and two saw horses. Then found boxes for chairs, brushing away sawdust.

“Well, bring it here, Mrs. Grant, don’t just stand there. I’m hungry, remember?”
   I moved toward him, handing him the fare. Just then, a flash of yellow caught my eye, and I turned to see an enormous tabby cat running down the hallway to the master bedroom, tail high in the air.
   “Your cat?” Murphy asked.
   “No! Can you help me get her out of here?”

“Why? There’s lots of windows open. She’ll probably leave in a few minutes ... just curious about the renovations, I’m sure. You sure she’s not yours?

“Of course I’m ... Let’s eat, Murphy.”
   Grinning, he opened the bag to set food on the table and said, “I’d told Josh I’d be by McAllister’s the week after the Fourth with a big tip but didn’t get the chance, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone. My promise to Josh and seeing this house you’re renovating. I got you an oatmeal raisin cookie. Figured you for the oatmeal raisin cookie-type. Is that right? Sit, sit.”
I laughed as I sat,. “Oatmeal raisin’s my favorite.” This man was full of surprises, wasn’t he? I opted for the regular tea to balance out the cookie.

   We spent the evening eating our take-out and then walking the block, commenting on the quaint old houses, planning my garden tasks, and getting to know each other better. With relief, I noticed the visiting cat cross the neighbor’s yard. I needed to make certain all the windows were shut tight.

   I showed Colin the studio space again, talking about my desire to start drawing and painting, although it’s been years since I’ve touched either sketchpad or canvas.
    “It was hard for me to get started designing when I first came here, too ... to Lubbock, that is. The classes helped, and one thing just led to another. I think the first step is always the most difficult in the creative process. At least it is for me. But then once I get going, I sort of lose myself in it. I love transforming wood into something useful as well as good-looking. Functionality and form, as I tell my students.”

“What type of things do you build or design?”

“Design and then build. Mainly furniture. Cabinets, desks, benches, things like that. I like detailed work but in a finished product that looks simple, like the wood was always meant to be that way. Like Campos did on those kitchen cabinets of yours. That’s real quality there, you know. You’re lucky to have him on the job. It’ll really pay off for you in the long run ... great investment.”

“Home, Murphy. Home. And I like quality. Do you hire out? Do commissions, I mean?”

“Only for special people,” he said smiling at her. “What’d you have in mind?”

“Oh, nothing, yet. I haven’t enough furniture to fill this place, just some mattresses and box springs in storage, so I don’t know what I need or want. But maybe we can talk about it after I’ve moved in ... hopefully in mid-August.”
   “Is that when Campos said he’d be finished?

“Yes. August 15th at the latest.”

“His word’s good as gold, so August 15th it is. I know some Saddle Tramps who’d love to earn a little cash by helping you move in. You have some furniture in storage you said?”
   “Yes, but not much. Probably need only two guys. Who would you recommend? Josh? Jamie? Will he be back by then do you think?
   “Josh for sure, and if Jamie’s not back, I volunteer my services, but mine won’t cost you. I’ll check with them if you’d like, and we’ll plan the move for the Saturday after completion. How does that sound?”
   “That’s great, thanks. I’ll count on it,” I said, pleased he would commit to helping several weeks away. That meant he was either an extremely considerate man, or he enjoyed my company enough to imagine seeing me through the next month, at least.

   “That way, I can see what furniture you do have and how large of a commission I can talk you into,” he said with a mouthful of leftover cookie and twinkle in one impossibly green eye.
   Mercenary, I thought.

   When darkness fell, we sat on the stone wall of the front porch and looked out over the serene park, watching stars begin to twinkle in the sky. 
   “As a student,” I said, reminiscing, “I played in that park. Flew kites, kissed a boy or two, and made snow angels on the slopes of the playa over there. But we called it Flint Park back then because Flint Street runs right next to it.”

“Makes sense. What’s it called now?”

“Tech Terrace Park.”

“Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Isn’t that the name of the neighborhood?”

“It is, but it’s still Flint Park, to me.”

   “Kissed a boy or two, huh?” Colin asked playfully.
   “Or three,” I said smiling, remembering again the Saddle Tramp with the red corduroy shirt.

  Around 10 o’clock, Colin bid me good night with a light peck on the cheek, saying he needed to be up for early Mass. He wanted to see me again. Could he call next week? The Cactus Theater is playing Poker and Lace again on Saturday. We could get tickets, maybe? 

“Yes, especially if you bring cookies,” I told him playfully. After he left, I closed all the windows because of the nosy cat and locked the doors because of the construction equipment inside. Then climbed into my Volvo and headed for the Nest, grinning like a schoolgirl who’d just been asked to the prom. Of course he could see me next week ... with or without cookies ... and the next and the next.

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