by Maranda Marks Entire short story available from Amazon.com
What we think we want when we are young is not always what we really need. Margo leaves her depressed neighborhood and finds 'everything she always wanted' only to come back years later, successful in her career, to realize everyone has a story and sometimes you need to discover them to find out what you really always needed.
Margo stood at the door to the loft as the last of the guests were leaving,
“Lovely night dear, lovely project, so glad we are finally improving our downtown area.” The impeccably dressed older woman gave Margo an insincere grin as she extended her calfskin glove. Margo took it briefly then disengaged her hand as she walked the couple to the door and forced a smile.
“I want to thank you both for attending tonight.” Then added in a well-rehearsed voice,
“We are grateful for your firm’s generous endorsement for this project.” The man nodded, and his wife frowned and leaned in as if there were anyone around who might hear her comment.
“Too many unsavory characters, we need to build downtown up…” the woman paused, then added, “for our kind to enjoy.” Hastily, Margo opened the door and stood with her hand resting a bit too tightly on the knob, a subtle hint for the last of the guests to exit. Closing and locking the dead bolt she leaned back against it, then moved to refill her glass with the last of the red wine in the bottle. Shaking her head while thinking of the comment the investor had made she took a deep swallow, feeling the warmth spread through her, she began to relax.
Walking over to the large windows with the panoramic view of the city streets below, she expected to see the stuffy couple getting in their car, but the street was empty except for the old woman. Margo had seen her every day since she began working on the downtown project. Either standing in the doorway of the building on the other side of the old railroad tracks or sitting on the wrought iron bench in front. Placing her now empty wine glass on a table, she turned from the window to look at the wall display of large photos from when the warehouse was first operational. The series of photos displayed the character of the old district when it was in its prime. The architectural renderings of the revitalized area hung next to these showing the plans to retain the structures character, while using modern amenities. Of course, when the lofts were complete each would come with a hefty price. There was one photo she insisted needed to be included; a scene from the early nineteen forties during World War Two taken in front of the factory. It portrayed the women in the neighborhood that worked while their men were fighting overseas. Her grandmother stood with others in front of the entrance, proudly holding the American flag. Turning away Margo looked back out the window, but the woman was gone.
“I think you impressed them tonight.”
“Nick,” startled, she said his name a bit louder than she intended, “I thought you had left too.” Now blushing a bit to think she had not thought if he was still here. Nick Johnson was the chief architect for the downtown loft condominium project. He had come highly recommended and she was very impressed with his work so far. In fact, she could not have gotten this far without him. She was equally impressed with the man. Nick stood looking down at her, his deep blue eyes and wavy black hair held her captive for a moment and she thought, tonight he was extremely appealing in his black suit, light blue shirt and black tie. The chink of the glasses brought her wandering mind back in focus. It was late, and the caterers were almost finished with the cleanup from the party.
“I thought I would wait and walk you to your car; it’s late.” Margo and Nick followed the caterers out. Locking the loft, they headed down the stairwell, deciding to leave the elevator to the catering crew and their over packed rattling carts. It was just before midnight as she unlocked her car door.
“Drive safe and I’ll be here bright and early in the morning; the city inspectors are making a visit, again.” He rolled his eyes, and then gave her a wink. “I’ll play nice, I promise.” He then turned and walked towards his own car parked farther down the street.
The last inspection did not go so well, and she was grateful for Nick’s expertise in all matters. The inspector had a list two pages long and her frustration in matters that seemed so trivial, but could halt the entire project were becoming unbearable, but Nick, cool as usual, handled it all with ease. He’s always nice, she thought and smiled to herself as she locked her seat belt in place, then turned the ignition on. Phil Collins was on the radio singing, …Don’t think twice… just another day for you and me in paradise...” Switching the channel she looked up, the old woman was closing the door, as their eyes met, she smiled, nodded, then shut it.
Margo shook her head, she had that feeling you get when there is something you should know or do but it is just out of your reach. Shivering, she switched on the heat, turned down the street and headed for the interstate. She had an hour drive to her apartment and renewed her resolve to move temporarily into the display condo while the project was still in construction. It would just be more convenient, even though it meant moving into this neighborhood.
The morning after an event always left Margo feeling anxious to see the reviews. She flipped to the social and events section of the paper as she sipped her latte, then read the article aloud.
“The unveiling and reception of the plans for the new Grace Street Condos project was held last night. Comments from one potential investor stated that the project was one more positive addition to the rebirth of the downtown area.” There were other positive comments, then one caught her attention. The tearing down of the downtown historic area is a shame. This area has been rich in history, and by removing the structures it removes the memory of those who have worked, lived, fought and lived in an era that soon will be forgotten with urban renewal plans like this one… It went on, but Margo refolded the section laying the paper down speaking to the black type on the page as if to assure herself.
“Positive growth, of course that is what is needed.” Her firm was one of the largest property investment firms in the tri-state area. In addition, she knew how to loosen the wealthy community’s belt. Over the last five years, Margo had worked with the down-town renovation committee and the owners of the old warehouse to convert the building into multiple upscale loft condominiums, while dividing the lower level into a series of indoor specialty shops. Her team had overcome every concern, and objection; even overturning the antiquated city ordinances. Last night’s party was held to impress and woo the wealthy patrons to invest in the project. Yes, the reception went well, she had four very willing investors; each with a million-dollar price tag attached.
She had worked on other high-ticket projects before but when she received the call on this development project, the irony behind it was too great to refuse. This area was where she had grown up; the poor side of town. Margo’s father had worked for years in this very warehouse, as had his father before the war. They lived within sight at the end of the street in a three-story apartment building that had been in the Russo family for generations. Before her father was born, her grandparents were able to buy the corner building that housed four small apartments on the upper floors and one large six room living area on the main floor, with a spacious dining area and a parlor featuring a marble fireplace in the center. When World War Two began, her grandfather and many of the men who worked in the mill enlisted. Her grandmother, pregnant with her father at the time, made sure the family members that remained were looked after. She would cook meals and watch the neighborhood children, so the women could work in the factory. Some of the women and their children could not afford or did not want to be alone so they moved into the building either in the rooms with her grandmother or sharing quarters with others. Being with child and alone she never complained of having the help or companionship. Mr. O’Keefe and his wife lived on the second floor and took care of the building’s maintenance for her. During this time when money was so scarce everyone pitched in on the cooking, cleaning and anything that needed to be done. There were always children playing, a friendly face and even a shoulder to cry on, as bad news would arrive about a member of the neighborhood. When their families were finally reunited, some moved to larger homes, others stayed and those whose loved ones did not make it home became part of the family at the Russo home. Among the men that did not return was Margo’s grandfather, leaving her grandmother heartbroken to raise her infant son without a father. She survived because of the love and support of all the families in her building. high low cocktail dresses
Margo’s father grew up in this loud busy home full of people. When he graduated high school, he took a job at the mill down the street. After he married her mother, they moved into one of the small upper apartments. When Margo was born her parents moved to the first floor with her grandmother. Margo remembered there were always children and adults around; they never seemed to have a meal with just their family at the table. Every person who lived there was considered part of the family and they would never refuse a person in need. Her mother seemed to love cooking and helping their extended family as much as her grandmother. Margo despised the crowded home; she had to share her home and sometimes her room with other children and never seemed to be alone. Meals were always noisy and hectic. She would have to help her mother make enormous amounts of food to serve and she wondered how her parents stayed so happy. When she was fourteen, an event changed her life. Her mother passed away from heart failure and Margo blamed it on her always having to worry about others. It was then she made a vow to herself, she would leave this place as soon as she was able, live on her own and not take care of anyone but herself.
Now years later, here she was right back where she started, but this time on the right side of the tracks. After Margo’s father passed away, she inherited the deed to the apartment building. Margo’s property investment firm continued to purchase one after another of the now unsightly row houses and buildings on Grace Street. Some of the homes were foreclosed others abandoned when their occupants passed. Some sat boarded up, with her company holding the titles to them. The old women, Mrs. Marrow had moved back to the neighborhood and into the corner building to take care of her ailing grandmother shortly before Margo had left. After her grandmother passed away, her father let Mrs. Marrow stay in one of the apartments if she wanted for all her help and kindness. In his will, her father had put a stipulation; if Margo should decide to sell or change the existing structure in any way, Mrs. Marrow had first rights to purchase the apartment building for one dollar on every thousand that it appraised at. Now she needed to find a way to convince this woman to leave this property, surely, she did not want to purchase it or could even afford the property taxes on it, Of course, she could buy her a condominium close to this area and move her there or near any family she may have. She thought of asking her lawyers what she could do to contest this but as much as she needed this property, she would respect her father’s wish. She would just have to reason with her. The negotiations with foreign investors that wanted to build a five-star hotel in the location, where the row houses stood presently, were going well. Making a mental note to speak with her lawyer to get moving on the proceedings to condemn those other unsightly buildings and find a suitable home for Mrs. Morrow. The other tenants would have to find places to live on their own......to continue go to Amazon.com Maranda Marks Finding Home.