Fortunately the call to Wood finished way before the silver Audi in front of me pulled to the curb. While I love books, and my major form of investing is tied up in paper, glue and string, I didn’t think there was much money to be had in selling them – even if Pulp (where Beatrice worked) was the largest independent on the West Coast.
Why, you ask, am I curious about her income? You need to understand that in our metropolis very few structures, monuments or companies are older than Nevermore. I had a sneaking suspicion this Lavender Lady (the house was a pale lavender with purple trim and a green door) was one of the few – I wasn’t hedging my bets here. The Lavender Lady resides in Old Town where the trees lining the streets are close to achieving old-growth status and yards are large enough to required a couple full time gardeners to maintain. My entire cottage would easily fit in the Lavender Lady’s main floor – with room left over for a nice kitchen, cook’s nook and parlor (this kind of house doesn’t have anything as common as a family room). She even sported a white picket fence and a trellis over an odd gate with creeping roses climbing over it (pale yellow if you’re wondering).
Other than greeting each other after we parked Beatrice was quiet, leaving me free to crane my neck while I followed her. She veered away from the front door onto a narrower walk which led around the side of the house, down a flight of stairs. “We are almost there.” I think she felt the need to reassure me, since this couldn’t be the short way. Finally we turned the corner and then I knew the LL was older than Nevermore. The Lavender Lady must occupy four full-sized lots, and I am saying four circa 1830 sized lots, and it was beautiful. The dominant feature was a massive oak tree in full autumn glory, much to the delight of several scurrying squirrels. The smell of flowers, decaying leaves and fermenting berries filled my lungs while a faint prickle ran across my curling toes – interesting. “Impressive” was the best description I could come up with for the LL. The complicated gate mechanism made more sense now – developers might be proving a nuisance.
However I still wasn’t ready to judge this book by its cover (who am I kidding? I’d live in a closet here before moving back with Aunt Pearl).
When I turned around, I found Beatrice waiting by an open door watching me take it all in, “Not as expansive as Nevermore, but for the city it isn’t bad.”
Smiling, I replied, “Not much around here is, but this is close. Big Ben’s family invested in land when it was cheap, before the city was more than a speck.” I pushed away feelings I didn’t want to feel and forced myself to sound bright, “Let’s see inside!”.
Beatrice’s apartment consisted of the entire basement of the grand house above, and while there weren’t any water stains, cobwebs or unidentifiable odors (the big three for subterranean living) – it did provide a certain je ne sais quoi. Nature vs. Nurture was all I could think of (or in this Architecture vs. Decorating) while Beatrice gave me the grand tour of the place. The kitchen, laundry and bathrooms all felt like a vintage 1940’s soap advert. The hallways and rooms were dominated by bookshelves meticulously arranged (I assume, though I am not sure by what method) – but each one had at least one shelf devoted to some sort of collection; stamps, shells, feathers, postcards and bones? If you wed a college library to a cabinet of curiosities you’d get the same feel. Each door made me think of a Phillip Marlowe detective novel; a brass door knob, key hole and large frosted pane of glass with bold gold lettering designating the room’s utility: Book Room (seriously), Washroom and such.
One pane, the last of the tour was blank. “This would be your room.” Beatrice stepped aside and let me turn the knob. Compared to the tidy array (neither cluttered or ruthlessly organized it felt like a lived-in museum. “Tidy” is the best I can do here) of furniture and interesting things this room felt like a shock – completely bare of anything, except for indents in the carpet (the sterling upside was it has its own bathroom). It was perfect.
“I can clear out some kitchen cabinets and space in the hall closet for your stuff and we can figure out how best to fit your furniture around the house. Anything else you can put in storage here on the property.” Still wandering around looking out the window and in the medicine cabinet, I assumed she was trying to iron out any future kinks or qualms I might have.
“So what do you think?”