This is the story of what happens when a pragmatist gives in to a romantic impulse. Be warned.
I’m that pragmatist and my name is Alysson Kowalski.
Now that we all know who we are, there’s a couple of things you need to be aware of before you start reading: I swear too smegging much; I couldn’t give a flick what you think of me; and I do expect you to pay attention. Listen up, there may be questions later.
Through the skinny end window of my three-metre square office I watched Jackdaw Court grow from a hole in the ground to something one might call an architectural oddity if one was being kind. That having been said, and almost in spite of myself, I got interested and when the ‘for sale’ boards went up I dropped into the estate agent on my way home.
I sat in my tiny ‘apartment’ (ain’t that a joke: read bedsit with pretensions) ate pizza, and studied the blurb with increasing fascination. It was the tower that got me. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been fascinated by towers, and the idea of living in one really floated my boat.
Not being one to let the grass grow, I was in the estate agent’s prim little office before nine thirty the next morning.
“The tower at Jackdaw Court. When can I see it?”
The over-presented receptionist looked at me as if I was something that had crawled out of the undressed lettuce that undoubtedly formed the mainstay of her meals. I favoured her with my best and most dangerous glare, and she thought better of whatever it was she had intended to say. Instead she made painfully slow progress on her computer. After faffing about for at least ten minutes she made a breakthrough.
“You can see it now” she said brightly. “Mister Brown is free.”
“Well wheel him out then. I don’t have all day.”
She picked up a handset and dialled three digits with a perfectly manicured finger.
“Customer wants to see the tower at Jackdaw Court. Now.” She put the handset down and only just managed not to sneer.
“He will be right with you.”
A middle-aged gent with a bit of a beer belly came out from the back office and smiled at me.
“Paul Brown” he stuck out a hand.
“Alysson Kowalski” I kept my own hands behind my back and his grin actually broadened.
“I’ll just get my car.”
I looked at him sternly. “You could do with the walk.” He winced then grinned.
“As you say.”
It was all of fifteen minutes, even with me needing to slow down for my new friend, but in that time we had sized each other up well enough for no fencing to be necessary.
“I take it” he said genially “that you have all your finances in position and you are in a position to proceed.”
“Yeah. Course I am. But blondie didn’t think so.”
“No. If she had she would have called on one of the thrusting young men who were also sitting in the back office drinking coffee.”
“How’d anything that stupid get a job?”
He grinned and shrugged.
“Yeah. There’s that” I had to admit. “But how does she keep the job?”
“She probably won’t. Especially if I make a sale this morning.”
“Eh? But don’t you make rather a lot of sales? The harmless duffer pose must be worth more than a few bob to the company.”
He grinned toothily. “It is. And I’m probably the most successful salesman in this branch. But you are not my target market. I’m supposed to deal with older people who would be turned off by Ranjit or Ralph – who are both a bit flashy.”
“Well then. I’d probably have wound up breaking someone’s pinky in a handshake. I don’t much care for flashy young men.”
By this time we were rounding the corner to come face to face with Jackdaw Court. Paul Brown visibly recoiled.
“It’s smegging ugly isn’t it” I said conversationally.
“No comment. But if you think that…”
“It’s the tower.”
He must have seen the yearning in my face, as he sprinted to unlock the front door of the tower apartment, which gave access to a flagstoned lobby and a broad stairway that ran up the side of the stone-clad building to the base of the tower proper. We ascended in single file with me in front. When we reached a second locked door Paul passed me a key. I opened up to find myself in a large, light entrance hall.
“Bedroom level. Both are en suite.”
I looked into the first room to find a hardwood floor and white wooden shutters at the window. Nice. The en suite was a wet room with slate walls and floor.
“Master the other side of the hall.” This was bigger and with windows in two walls, but it had the same flooring and shutters. The en suite was a proper bathroom with whirlpool bath, and walk-in shower. Again the floor was slate, but the walls were white composite. I nodded once and preceded Paul up the stairs. This floor was almost entirely taken up with a kitchen cum diner cum family room. The kitchen bit looked fine to me, and the rest was more than fine. Up again we reached the sitting room, which had a big balcony on one side and a tiny roof garden the other. A final bonus was the spiral staircase to a mezzanine level study.
I stood in the middle of the sitting room and considered my options. “Okay” I said. “Take it off the market. I’ll pay the asking price if I can be in inside a month.”
From Jackdaw Court by Jane Jago.
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