"I have no idea."
"Are you over it yet?"
"I get by," she says.
Which isn't true. She is struggling. She is struggling mightily.
"The master bedroom is at the other end of the house," she says. "It's identical to this one. Think of the house as a beautiful butterfly, the living room and dining room as its body, the two bedrooms as its wings."
"How large is the living room?"
"Twenty by thirty. That's a good-sized room."
"And the bedrooms?"
"Each fifteen by twenty. Come, let me show you the other one. Total square footage under air is a bit over three thousand."
She leads him through the house again, past the living room, and into the dining room, and then through to the master bedroom.
"From the bed, you can look right down into the privacy garden and the pool," she says.
"How much are they asking?"
"A million-seven. They've been offered a mill-four but they turned it down. I think they might be willing to let it go for a mill-six, somewhere in there."
"That's a lot of money," he says.
"Not for this location."
"For any location," he says. "A million-six comes to more than five hundred dollars a square foot."
"You've got to figure a million for the property alone," she says. "You won't find many other views like this one."
"Well, I'll have to think about it," he says, and her heart sinks.
She gets back to the office at a quarter past noon.
They exchange phone numbers, and Alice promises to have some new houses to show him by tomorrow morning at nine, when they'll go out looking again. She hopes he might call before then with an offer on any of the three houses she's shown him, but she knows this is unlikely.
He'd told her he was looking for something that would cost no more than a million, a million-five, and she'd assured him that getting an eighty percent mortgage would be no problem. That means he would have to come up with $320,000 in cash if he goes for the Healey house at a million-six. She knows for certain that Frank and Marcia Allenby will never budge below a million-six, never.
Of the seven percent commission on the sale, the agency will keep three and Alice will take home four, which comes to $64,000. She figures that will carry her a good year and more, even if she doesn't make another sale, a likelihood in that she hasn't made a sale thus far, and she's already been working for Lane Realty for almost six months now.
She took the job at the end of November, when she realized she wasn't going to be able to make it on the scant savings she and Eddie had managed to accumulate since their move to Florida. The house she still lives in with the kids is in a good school district, even if it does cost $1,600 a month, which at her present rate of cash flow she will no longer be able to afford come June, unless Mr. Reginald Webster or somebody or anybody buys something. Or unless, of course, the insurance money comes through. It was supposed to come through a month and a half ago.
She picks up the phone, dials a number by heart, and waits.
"Briggs, Randolph and Soames," a woman's voice says.
"Mr. Briggs, please," she says.
"May I say who's calling?"
"One moment, please."
"Hi, Alice," a man's voice says.
"Hello, Andy, how are you?"
"Good, thanks, and you?"
"Fine, Andy. Andy, I hate to keep bothering you about this..."
"It's no bother at all," Andy says. "I'm as annoyed as you are."
"Have you heard anything from them?"
"They're still stalling."
"It's been eight months now," she says. "What proof do they need?"
From Alice in Jeopardy, chapter 1, pages 3-23. Copyright © 2005 by Hui Corp. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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