Disclaimer : Characters and situations are all from my imagination.
Warnings : Sex and love between women
Feedback : Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nadine stood on the sidewalk, hands on the fencepost, and stared. The story said that the house was almost as old as the town itself, one of the first homes built when people came to Squire's Isle and decided to stay. But something over a hundred years was really just the sum of its parts. A new roof put in twenty years ago after a big storm, a chimney that had to be reconstructed, a porch added during World War II... the house itself was ageless. Partially new, partially old, but it had stood in the same spot and wore a similar face for all its years, so it got the title of landmark.
As far as Nadine was concerned, the house was ancient. It stood her entire life, a three-story sentinel on the edge of town, facing the harbor. Great people of the island had once lived there. They stood at the window, or on the original porch, or strode slowly on the widow's walk, and they plotted the town as it existed now.
A small blue-and-white sign on the front gate announced it was for sale.
Nadine knew exactly how much it cost: too damn much. The house itself might have been buyable with some financial finagling, but Nadine knew houses like this sucked money. Upkeep, repairs, just keeping it looking nice would be like burning money. But oh, how she was tempted. She ran her hand over the wood of the fence and then walked to the gate. She touched the metal latch with two fingers and smiled as she thought back to the times she'd seen the house as a child.
She couldn't think of specific memories. The image in her mind was, she knew, a pastiche of a hundred different days. Summer, hot, racing her friends down the sidewalk with the house rising like a palace between two hedges. She still had the bicycle, leaning against the tree on the sidewalk, but now she was an adult. She had a good job, she was married, and she had a life. Was it so crazy to want a house? She loved their condo, but a house was a symbol.
After a moment of hesitation, Nadine opened the gate and stepped onto the brick path that led to the porch. She felt like she was crossing a threshold, breaking that thin membrane that existed between the hallway and her parents' bedroom when she was a little girl. She felt like she was breaking a rule, resisting the urge to look around to see if she was going to get caught. She was almost to the porch when she heard a car pull up and park at the curb, and it took all of her willpower not to flee.
"Hi! Sorry, I think I'm running a little late."
Nadine smiled over her shoulder. "No, I just got here a little early."
Gail Call trotted up the walkway, smiling as she tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. She wore black slacks and a blazer with the real estate company's insignia on the breast. She held out her hand to Nadine as she approached, and they shook.
"Right this way, Mrs. Butler." She took the keys from her pocket and led Nadine onto the porch. "Now, don't take this the wrong way, but I've learned I have to ask. Are you actually interested in buying this house, or do you just want to see the inside?"
Her grin widened. "Don't feel bad. Part of the reason I was so glad to get the listing is because I was dying to take a tour myself. I think only two kinds of people have taken the tour: those willing to admit they're not going to buy it, and those who hold onto the lie to make me feel better." She shrugged. "I don't mind being a tour guide. Come on inside."
They stepped into a shadowy vestibule and Gail opened an inner door to usher Nadine to the main house. "You have the living room to your right, and the dining room..." She gestured to the closed doors at the left. A staircase directly ahead of them led up to an open second floor. Gail continued further in before she turned and gestured around them. "Where would you like to start first?"
"I don't even know." She opened the door to look into the dining room. "The people who own it now, they haven't been living here have they?"
"Oh, no. There's been talk of the town buying it and setting it up as a museum. The history of our little island. That's why we're not really expecting a private buyer."
"Who owned it before?"
Gail smiled. "I'm not supposed to say. But there are rumors it's being sold off in order to help pay for a certain... contest."
Nadine put the pieces together. The Dugans owned the house, and they were selling it to get money for the mayoral election. So whoever bought the house would be funding Patricia Hood-Colby's opponent. Any fantasy Nadine held of actually buying the house fled, and she relaxed enough to enjoy the tour.
"Wait." She tilted her head to the side. "If the city ends up buying the house, then..." That would mean the Dugans would be using city money to pay for their campaign. She raised an eyebrow, and Gail kept her face neutral. She shrugged, and Nadine clucked her tongue. She didn't know if it was illegal, but it was certainly shady enough to warrant a bookmark in her mind.
She walked into the kitchen. French doors looked out onto a wide patio, and she could see a well-tended backyard ringed by trees. Her footsteps echoed as she walked past the hollow spots where appliances would go. A walkway that ran under the stairs connected the kitchen to the living room, and she went through quickly, head ducked in case of cobwebs. She arrived on the other side as Gail pushed open the curtains to let the natural light in.
Nadine imagined the space filled with their furniture. A couch facing two chairs, a coffee table between them, and all seats facing the fire instead of a television. Bookshelves would line the back wall. And at night, they would sit together on the couch and read, cuddling before bedtime. She saw Gail watching her and smiled. "Can we see the upstairs?"
At the top of the stairs, Gail led her to the right. "This is the master bedroom." She turned on the light and stepped into the center of the space like a docent. There was a window seat built in, a place where she could see Miranda settling in to look down toward the harbor before bed. Nadine remained at the doorway and let her mind fill in the blanks again. Pictures on the wall of her parents, of her and Miranda... kids? Maybe one day. A house this big would need a kid or two just to fill the space.
"So, what would you like to know?" Gail said.
The images faded and Nadine was brought back to reality. She blinked at the real estate agent and smiled apologetically. "Sorry?"
"There are a lot of facts, stories, historical tidbits... fun things about the house that they made me memorize. In the summertime, you can see the whales from this window seat."
Nadine smiled. "Actually, I think I've seen enough."
Gail raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure?"
"Yes. I'm sorry to waste your time..."
"No, never a waste. I could never afford this place, but I feel kind of like its caretaker. I'm happy to guide people through. It's been sitting vacant too long. It needs people, and footsteps in its halls." She touched the wall briefly and gestured for Nadine to lead the way out. Nadine waited on the porch as Gail locked the door again, and they walked down the brick walkway together.
"May I ask you something? You don't have to answer."
"What made up your mind? Even when you knew it was too expensive, you were still looking at it like there was a chance. But then all of a sudden it wasn't even a viable fantasy. I guess I'm just nosy."
Nadine smiled and looked back at the house. "It's a great house, and I would be honored to make it my home. Miranda and I could make this our home, if we wanted to. But it would take work." She turned and scanned the town, the peaked roofs and the green lawns, the steps leading from the hill down to the water. She shrugged and said, "There's a place that's waiting to be our home. We'll find it one day, but for now it's fun to play the fantasy."
Gail was smiling. "I like that. I might steal the concept for my next customer."
Nadine laughed. "You do that. Thanks for showing me around, Gail."
"My pleasure. Truly."
Nadine waved goodbye when Gail drove away, then climbed onto her bicycle and began the ride back to town. She was going to meet Miranda for lunch in an hour, after Miranda was done with her weekend errands. She decided to kill time by taking a swing through the neighborhoods to see if there were any For Sale signs that spoke to her. She and Miranda weren't exactly in the market for a house, but if the right house came calling they couldn't be caught unaware. She couldn't wait to find the place where they would spend the rest of their lives.She smiled and lifted her feet from the pedals, coasting around a corner with a smile on her face as she thought of the future.
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