Chapter Seven

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Joyce took a sip of grape juice. The Internet said this would help her quit smoking by releasing toxins, or something like that. She was off to the loo every twenty minutes and still ached for a cigarette. But she and Bob made a promise. She’d quit smoking, and he’d quit television. She was down to two packs a day and eight glasses of juice, while Bob was down to six hours of television, and he returned to their bed at night instead of sleeping in his recliner. Progress.

She placed the juice on the desk and wiggled the computer mouse, waking up the monitor. Displayed on the screen was 1,600 square feet of prefabricated perfection. Their new home—a white clapboard single-story with blue shutters, wraparound porch and, most importantly, not a single shared wall with any neighbor. It felt good to have something to look forward to. Almost… exciting.

The pain of losing Josh would never go away, but at least she had Bob by her side again. Having him there brought a hint of warmth back to her life. She felt assured they’d now be able to enjoy the time they had left, until the blessed day she would meet Josh in “paradise” as Joyce called it.

It didn’t even require a lawyer. Kevin’s family was quick to throw money at them to keep their mouths shut. It was a darn shame for Kevin. Not so much for Joyce and Bob.

Still, her loyalty was to Patrick, and after twenty-five years, it seemed the least she could do was stay long enough to train her replacement.

The door chimed and in came Chase, the new maintenance man Patrick had hired. According to Bob, he wasn’t particularly skilled. He sure was a nice piece of eye sugar (or however that saying went) for the residents though.

“Do you have any work orders?” Chase asked, running a hand through his blond mane.

“Do I have work orders?” she repeated. Ha! She placed all seventeen orders on the counter. “You can start with these.”

There had been a notable increase in maintenance requests. Silly things. Lexie’s garbage disposal now clogged daily. Trisha’s wall “makes an odd buzzing sound” but only when she’s alone. Chase had logged far too many hours trying to locate the noise.

“Do you know if he’s single?” Carmen had asked when she called earlier to complain about her garbage disposal. “Don’t ask him. I was just curious. For a friend,” she quickly added.

“I’m sure I don’t know the answer to that question,” Joyce told her, and offered to send Bob to take a look at her disposal instead, when, miraculously, Carmen was able to fix it herself. By plugging it in.

The guy was good-looking, she’d give them that, but his messy hair and five o’clock shadow (no matter the time) weren’t her style. His eyes were lovely though. An emerald green. And he was a good kid, very charming. But she liked a clean-shaved man—like Bob.

“These should keep me busy for a while,” Chase said, flipping through the stack of work orders.

“Good, get to work then,” Joyce said, shooing him out of the lobby. “I’m expecting an applicant here any second, and Patrick is running late.”

“I’m surprised you haven’t found someone yet. Aren’t you guys leaving soon?”

“Yep, cutting it close. Crossing my toes for this one.” The fact it was ten minutes before the scheduled interview and she had yet to arrive wasn’t promising though. “Oh, Chase, before I forget. Carmen wants to know if you’re single.” Or was I not supposed to ask that?

“Um… I am but—”

“Oh, dear.” Joyce shook her head. “This is no good. We’ll tell everyone you’re not. When it comes to residents, mark my words: Be friendly with everyone. Make friends with no one. Never mix business and pleasure. Especially in this business.”

“Thanks. I’ll… keep that in mind.” He smiled and grabbed his work orders, examining the pile as he walked out.

Joyce returned to her desk and checked the time—almost noon. Applicant must be dependable, punctual…the ad said. Important qualities her replacement must possess. Which is why Joyce wrote the ad herself.

The door chimed. In came Wysteria, the girlfriend of Vincent in Apartment 39. She’d been around a lot lately. Too much. Joyce knew she was living there, and moving in without filling out an application and being approved is a major no-no.

“Application,” Joyce reminded Wysteria. “Bring it in.”

She removed the Tootsie Pop from her mouth. “Totally on it,” she said with a wink.

Joyce grunted and rolled her eyes. Experience told her it would take at least five more reminders before the rental application showed up on her desk. That can be the new manager’s problem.

She was admiring the picture of her new home when the door chimed again. This time, in came a girl. A young thing with a freckled face, a mass of dark curly hair, blue eyes, a stain on the front of her dress and scrapes on her knees. “Hi. Are you Joyce?” the girl asked.

“I am.”

She looked disappointed. “I’m Cambria Clyne. I have an interview with Patrick for the apartment management position. His secretary told me to meet him here at noon.”

The girl, Cambria, was a sweaty mess. If an interview made her flustered, then she’d never survive as an on-site manager. Which prompted Joyce to ask, “Hmm, you really want this job?”

“Yes, I do,” Cambria replied.

Joyce regarded her. She was a cute girl. They already had a cute maintenance man. Might as well give all the residents a bit of eye sugar. Although, she couldn’t help but feel a tad bit guilty because:

 Kevin will eat her alive.






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