In addition to being personable, smart, and generous, Mike was also patient and kind. He let her have equal say in their hunt for a new place. Having determined they were not the types who wanted to take care of a lawn, a garden, winter walkways, and the little faces of eager Halloween trick-or-treaters, they each had things they wanted in a condominium. He wanted at least two bathrooms, a big kitchen, in-unit washer and dryer, three to four bedrooms, a doorman, thick walls, solid floors, excellent security, in-building parking with three spaces for their unit alone, and a very healthy condo association balance. She wanted to be near public transportation and a decent grocery store, deciding he'd covered everything else on his list.
They looked at dozens of places -- she was surprised there were so many buildings that had what Mike wanted -- and one day while they were walking around with their realtor, Hank, they passed a place she knew to be one unit on each floor of the seven-story building.
"I've seen this place," said Hank. "Sensational. Everything you want and near the lake."
"Maybe a miracle will happen and someone will have to sell," said Mike.
It was so ridiculous they all guffawed then split up with Hank to run some errands and have some lunch.
They'd just started eating their vegetarian burritos and iced tea when Mike's cell rang.
"Hi, Hank," said Mike.
Mike's face looked like he'd won the lottery.
"We'll be right over," said Mike and hung up.
"There's a spot. In that building. The one we just passed. Top floor. The owner died and it just finished going through probate," he said to her. Mike was so excited his eyes were wide and his breathing was fast.
"Forget lunch," she said. "Let's go."
They summoned the waitress, muttered something about an emergency, paid her for lunch and added on a generous tip, and almost ran to the building.
Hank was waiting in the lobby with a small, blonde woman wearing a St. John suit and beige pumps, huge diamond rings, and enormous pearls. She carried a large hot pink leather satchel.
"This is Gigi," said Hank. "She's the listing agent."
Gigi shook their hands lightly and said, "You're smart to move so fast."
The doorman greeted Gigi warmly and nodded to the rest with a smile. The building security was so good they could only stop at their own floor. Her own breathing became shallow at the thrill of it.
The view was not ideal -- there was a skyscraper condo blocking a view to the lake -- but it was still pretty great. There were four bedrooms -- "Or three bedrooms and a generous den," added Gigi -- three bathrooms, a formal dining room, a working fireplace in the enormous living room, and a large kitchen that had been recently renovated.
"I don't think he knew he was going to die," said Gigi. "He wasn't very old but his wife had passed and his kids lived out of town. He brought me in hoping to get it done -- and this is what he said -- before anything happened and he and I drew up the papers which he signed, but he died the next day and it shot into probate. The kids aren't piggy but these things take time. Right after his wife passed, he redid the kitchen so it's maybe two years old. Same with the washer and dryer, which are front-loading and side by side, not one of those stackable affairs. Here, let me show you."
Gigi led them off the kitchen to a full laundry room. Mike gasped. She got tears in her eyes.
"You're making my lady cry," said Mike. "Pretty soon, she's going to start saying she's so lucky. We'll just take it."
"Wait a minute," said Hank with a laugh. "Don't you want to hear the price? Don't you want to see the garage?"
Mike looked her in the eyes and she smiled.
"Yeah," she said. "We need to see the garage."
"There are three spaces," said Gigi. "But there's only a valet on duty Monday through Friday. You're on your own on weekends, I'm afraid."
"We will seriously take it," said Mike.
She was having to dab at her eyes with her knuckles. They all took the elevator down to the garage and looked at the three spaces. The spaces were generously sized. Everyone was parked back in.
"Oh yes," said Gigi. "I almost forgot. The condo association wants everyone to back into the parking spots. I hope that's not a problem."
Mike looked at his beloved and smiled.
"I'm okay with it, but my darling could go down a street and around a corner and then back into an alley and up half a block all backwards. No, it's not a problem," Mike said.
She was almost jumping up and down. How the hell did she get so lucky? she thought.
Mike didn't even blink when they told him the asking price and didn't have a counter offer.
"I'm fine with that. It's what I want. I know there's a grocery store over behind the hospital and seven bus lines nearby so it's what my beloved wants," said Mike. "When do you think we can close."
"Do you need to consult your bank about a loan?" asked Hank.
"We'll be paying cash," said Mike.
"Never buy what you can't afford," she said in agreement.
"This is the easiest sale I've ever made," said Gigi.
"Can you contact the owners now?" asked Mike.
Gigi pulled out her cell phone and did just that, stepping to a corner of the garage to have the talk.
It took her all of two minutes.
"Yes," said Gigi. "It's yours. Do you want to close this week?"
She and Mike exchanged looks and he winked at her and nodded his head toward Gigi and Hank.
"Yes, please," she said, and she and Mike signed the contract -- Mike wanted her to be an owner with him -- and the realtors left them to finish their day.
On the way home, they stopped at the hardware store to pick up paint chips. After that they went to her place to survey her things to decide what would go with them and what would go to charity. While they talked about what things she was absolutely in love with and had to keep, he realized they'd not eaten and offered to go pick up something for an early dinner.
When Mike left, she got out a big sheet of paper and was writing down which pieces she had to keep. She was amazed at what she could do without. That cabinet looked fine but needed paint; her landlord had admired it and could have it. Her bed would work well in the second bedroom. The oak chest could go to her cousin who'd expressed an interest in it.
And then the phone rang.
"Oh, uh, um, hi, long time no speak," said the familiar voice.
"Kevin," she said. "Kevin."
"Yeah, hey, hi, yeah," said Kevin. "Listen, Connie's finally coming back to town on Thursday and I know he wants to see you. My lovely spouse will be making lobsters and you should come. Just us four. She wants to meet you and Connie would kill me if I didn't invite you."
She was silent. All that was real. Handsome Connie and large Kevin were real and their feelings were real. She wasn't being played.
"Oh, hello?" asked Kevin.
"I'm here, Kevin," she said.
"Is 7:30 okay with you? You still work in the same place?" asked Kevin.
"Kevin, things have changed," she said.
"Changed? What do you mean?" asked Kevin.
"I'm in love," she said. "I'm in love and my sweetheart and I are moving in together. He's gone to fetch dinner."
Kevin was quiet. She heard him breathing heavily.
"I didn't expect that," said Kevin.
"I didn't expect it either," she told Kevin. "I am very lucky."
"Connie's a good man," said Kevin. "You were lucky there, too."
"Connie's been missing for months," she said. "You stopped calling me. Everything was such high drama that I started believing it was two guys playing me."
"He was in the hospital," she said. "He was pretty sick. My lovely bride had to arrange to have him evacuated out of where he was. He didn't want you to know. He talked about you all the time, about how he'd see you when he got better."
It was real. He really cared. It was also high drama and she hated high drama.
"Kevin, I'm in love," she said with great sincerity. "He's wonderful and I am not going to hurt him."
"You could bring him along to dinner and compare," said Kevin.
"No, Kevin," she said. "And you know why?"
"Why?" asked Kevin.
"Because I'm in love. It's steady, true, and real. There's not been a moment of high drama," she said.
Kevin was quiet.
"I didn't expect that, is all," said Kevin.
"Please tell Connie I wish him nothing but wonderful things," she said. "Please tell your bride I'm sorry we never met."
"I didn't expect it," said Kevin and he sighed.
"Thanks for calling," she said. "Good bye."
He hung up on his end without saying good bye.
Mike came in shortly thereafter with a pizza, well done, easy sauce, with spinach, onions, and sausage, just the way she liked it for a special occasion. Mike preferred more sauce, pepperoni, and green peppers, but he'd never considered well done and thought it was genius.
"It's a special day with my special lady," said Mike. "So I got your favorite."
Her eyes welled up and she said, "I am so lucky."
"Come to my office next Thursday," said Mike. "We'll have the signing and then we'll have a nice lunch. Is eleven okay?"
Her boss was in town that day, but she didn't think he'd object to her taking a half day for a personal errand.
"Yes," she said, and bit into the pizza. It was delicious and with the flavor and texture of the pizza in her mouth and her great boyfriend sitting with her, she was almost dizzy from the perfection of the moment.
She decided to not tell Mike about Connie and Kevin.