A glance at the chiming clock next to the door told me that no matter how I felt, the day was still young and quittin’ time was a good two hours away. So I suppressed the harassed look on my face, slapped a tight smile in its place and opened up.
“You the manager?” said a disembodied voice from behind a forest of green and red cellophane. I could see two straining hands clutching a basket filled with gourmet goodies, a rousing sausage and what appeared to be a bottle of wine that I hoped would not be Matteus. You bet I was the manager.
“Come in,” I said, opening the door as wide as it would go.
He staggered to the coffee table and waited as I cleared it of Arborgate brochures.
“Phew,” he said. “Someone’s wishing you a very Merry Christmas.”
Left alone I poked cautiously for a gift card. It could be from one of Judith’s admirers in which case, I’d have to drag it over to her apartment lest I rip into it. It’s not that I don’t get enough to eat, but the thought of someone caring about me to this extent was suddenly of overwhelming importance. It was as if the experience of finding and dealing with a deceased tenant had suddenly turned into something I would actually have to process emotionally. A scary thought I was happy to dismiss the second I found the festive gift card with my name on it.
“Happy Holidays with thanks for your excellent efforts. We’re very impressed with your tact and sensitivity.” – Kenneth Eberhard and the team at Community Concepts
Well, I’ll be damned. I’d impressed my new boss.
I’d also learned that I had a new boss. While I knew that Arborgate was a foreclosed property, owned and managed by Trust Company Bank (who had hired long-time resident, Judith Spinnaker to act as resident manager), and I knew that Ken was looking at it with an eye to enlarging his Atlanta holdings, Judith had not told me the deal was closed. Well, it didn’t seem to matter. What mattered was that I had been given a rare opportunity to shine. I was sorry for Abigail, but the ambitious part of me could not help being grateful. Tacky?
And I was hungry and pining just a little for some Christmas cheer in my own under-furnished townhouse. The basket, which I decided to carry home and unwrap before the Christmas lights I’d stuffed in a jug wine bottle and plugged in, looked to be holding an extensive selection of acquired tastes: smoked salmon, caviar, “savory” salami and buttery biscuits.
In a flush of competency, I picked up the phone and dialed the office at Mr. Eberhard's Buford Highway complex, “Belle Vue on Buford.”
“Barbara?” I said, when the smoked-filled voice of the resident manager barked her greeting. “It’s Nora at Arborgate.”
“You got it?”
“Did you order me this? That is so sweet of you.”
“Yeah, well, Mr. Eberhard thought you might need something extra. Beats a poinsettia, don’t it?”
“I'll say. I wasn’t expecting anything. I didn’t know the deal had gone through yet.”
“Oh, he’s not one to stall when he wants a thing.”
I'll bet. Mr. Eberhard is relatively young, like mid-30s, but he was a real grownup. Of course, I'm too inexperienced to view bosses as equals. To me they were like parents only more so.
“Is he there? I’d like to thank him for thinking of me.”
“Hell no, he’s up north with his family. I’ll tell you called, hear? You can close up early if you want. Where’s Judith?”
“Some place called Big Canoe,” I said. “On a date.”
“Lives high, does she?”
“It’s a pretty fancy place. Listen, you take care and be sure to enjoy your Christmas. I don’t think you’ll get much business tomorrow but you can never tell. The holidays are actually a good time to rent an apartment.”
“Okay, I’ll be here! Merry Christmas!”
I put in an hour updating the list of shoppers that had passed through the office throughout the week. The names scrawled earlier than yesterday seemed liked they’d been there since Thanksgiving. Which of these possible could I convert to applicants and then to residents? The woman named Patty, the girl who had walked me all over the complex only yesterday, seemed the most promising. In the morning, I would give her a call.