Christina ‘Chrissy” Monet aspired for something more than the life of a simple blog columnist. Her wishes come true when an old wooded property comes up for sale, and she pours her life-savings into the fixer-upper. The property comes with the added bonus of a handsome neighbor by the name of Adam Smith, but sparks fizzle rather than sizzle when she realizes he owns half the property she hoped to have. They part ways with biting remarks on her part, but she finds her carpentry skills aren’t up to the task and she’s forced into a relationship with the mysterious Smith. Strange happenings occur and she’s left wondering whether Smith has more up his sleeve than muscle.
I hadn’t driven that road in fifteen years. Hell, I hadn’t been driving the car those fifteen years ago, not unless my parents had decided it was time to teach their ten-year old daughter how to drive a stick. Things had changed, I had changed, and more things were going to change.
First, though, my heels clicked on the empty halls. It was the long walk I took once a week to down the hollow corridor to the dungeon-like room. It was there that I would be a slave to my master, a man of little pity but a long whip. He would crack it and order us-
“Do you have to be so loud?” the man beside me complained. On either side of us were rows of desks and cubicles filled with our fellow employees.
All right, I admit I wasn’t walking to some evil dungeon that held a torture master. Instead I was at my office, or rather my office away from my office. My name is Christina Monet, and I am a website content provider extraordinaire.
At least, that was my job description. In layman’s terms I was a blogger, a columnist, a bullshitter, a writer of interesting one-off articles that caught your attention in the blink of an eye and lost it just as fast. I could crank out a column a day if the topic didn’t involve too much research, two if it was in-depth science-y stuff. That was how I made my living, and I wasn’t half-bad at it. I got the clicks and was rewarded with a paycheck. That paycheck was what got me on that old road down memory lane.
First, though, it got me this weekly meeting of the content providers. The man beside me was one of them. I can’t remember his name, so to be accurate and mature I’ll call him Butt-face. Butt-face scowled at the clack of my shoes, but I couldn’t help it. Most days I went around in pajamas and slippers. This weekly submission to the pantriarchy was a real pain in the heels.
“I have a condition that forces me to walk loudly,” I told Butt-face. He sneered, but didn’t bother me further.
We walked down the long hall to the meeting room where our boss, Mr. Whinier, would go over the sales figures and crack his whip to get us motivated. Me and a half dozen others, including Butt-face, walked into the long meeting room with its long meeting table and took our seats. At the head of the table was Whinier. He was about fifty with hair that bespoke Rogaine and a wide, fake smile that scared small children. Me, too, when he got close enough.
At the foot was a giant flat-screen TV. On the screen was another half-dozen smaller screens. Some showed people, and others were black but soon turned on to show more of our fellow employees. I envied those people. They were the special ones, the ones who worked too far from the office to be forced to come into the meeting and only had an occasional face-to-face meeting with the boss. Oh sure, they wore blouses and shirts like the rest of us, but I bet underneath the screen they were naked. Now you know why I envied them.
“All right, time for the sales figures,” Mr. Whinier barked.
As he droned on about money, profits, stocks and money, my eyes wandered over to the screen and my mind wandered into a daydream. I imagined myself seated at my desk in my own home, and a causal glance out the window would show me a shimmering lake or green lawn with waving grass. Birds would be chirping on the windowsill and a dog would-
“Miss Monet, pay attention!” Whinier barked.
I jumped and slapped a smile on my face. “Sorry about that, Mr. Whinier.”
“I don’t want apologies, I just want you to pay attention,” he growled.
He went over his numbers, and a long two hours later the meeting was at an end and so were a few of my brain cells. I, with my compatriots, stumbled from the room and out into the harsh artificial light of the long hallway to the elevators. Butt-face came up beside me and sneered. “You’re lucky you make so much money or Whinier would’ve booted your ass out the door.”
“He’d boot your ass out the door but it’s too big,” I snapped back.
I eluded his ugly looks and opted for the one route his chubbiness would never travel, the stairs. As I made my way down the many flights I pondered my present situation and decided I really needed a change of scenery, if only to escape having to be face-to-face with Butt-face. Maybe seeing him and the others through a screen would ease the shock of seeing their cheerful, smiling faces every week.
With that decided I shuffled into my apartment and plopped myself onto my decrepit couch. The place was the pits and I could have afforded better, but I saved my money and held out for a piece of real estate of my own far from the bustle and hustle of the city. That, and the boardroom.
Then the phone rang. I picked it up and groaned. It was my mom for our weekly chat. My parents lived too far away to visit, so we called each other a lot. I answered it. “Hi, mom.”
“Hello, Chrissy, I was just checking up on you and your week,” my mom’s sweet voice sang over the receiver.
“Ugh,” I groaned.
“That well?” she teased.
“You know a good piece of swamp I can buy so I can get out of these face-to-face meetings?” I asked her.
“There’s always the guest house,” my mom suggested. My parents had a guest house in the backyard I used as my own home before moving to the city.
I rolled onto my stomach and glared at the arm of the couch. “I was hoping to get a dog someday, and you know Dad’s allergies.” He was allergic to every kind of pet that had fur. Even the sight of a cat or dog on the television made him shudder.
“What about a small house nearby? We could help you move in,” she persisted.
I face planted into the couch cushion and my words were muffled by the old fluff. “Mom.”
“All right, all right, no moving in next door to the parents because you want to be your own woman,” my mom agreed. There was a pause and I could imagine her tapping her chin like she always did. “You know, if you’re really looking for something to buy there’s always the cabin near Froggy Pond,” she told me.
I lifted my head and looked at the receiver like it was nuts. “Froggy Pond?” I repeated.
My mom laughed. “Don’t you remember? It’s what you called the pond near that cabin house we rented when you were ten. You hunted the tadpoles and frogs, and there were so many you ended up nicknaming it Froggy Pond.”
My eyes lit up. “You mean that place is for sale?” I recalled a well-built cabin, sturdy enough to be called a house, and a natural spring and pond on the property.
“Yes. Your father saw it listed in the paper a few weeks back. I’m not sure if it’s still for sale, but we almost thought about buying it because the price was so good. The only problem is it’s so secluded, and your father didn’t want to make the two-hour long commute one-way, especially during the winter,” she explained.
Visions of forest cabins danced in my head. My home-away-from-civilization-and-face-to-face-meetings was near at hand. “Could you find me the phone number of the realtor?” I pleaded.
“I suppose, but you have to do something for me in return,” my mom demanded.
My face fell and I sighed. “What is it?”
“You have to come visit us more often.”
I snorted. “I think I can manage that.” I was four hours from them now. Moving would get me half that distance.
To make a short story even shorter, my mom got me the phone number and it turned out it wasn’t the realtor. The phone rang on the other line as I waited breathlessly and with my pitch all ready. I was just looking, not too interested, would the owner go down on the price? All that jazz.
Someone picked up. “Hello?” came the scratchy voice of an elderly man.
I turned on my best professional talking voice. “Hi, my name is Christina Monet, and I was calling about the Johnson property. Is it still for sale?”
“That depends on what you were going to use it for. There’s some stuff I want to put in the contract about not developing the area,” the man told me.
I frowned. “The owner wants to put some stipulations in the contract?” I guessed.
“I am the owner,” Johnson replied.
“Oh! I’m sorry! I thought you were a realtor or something,” I apologized.
“Nope, but what were you planning on doing with the property?” he gruffly asked me.
“I was going to live in the cabin, if it’s still there,” I explained.
“Any plans to build a bigger house?”
“Pave the road?”
“I hope not.”
“Dig up the pond and be fiddling with the spring?”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Yer not the first one to be calling, and a bunch of the others wanted to be messing with the natural look of the place,” he explained.
“To be honest I don’t really have that much money saved up so if I did have something else planned other than fixing up the house I’d have to leave the job to my kids to finish,” I admitted.
“You plan on having kids?” he asked me.
“Uh, maybe some day, but I didn’t think there were that many eligible bachelors up there,” I replied.
He snorted. “Ya might be surprised, but what’d you say yer name was again?”
“Monet, Monet,” he mumbled. “You related to a Peter Monet?”
I pulled my phone away, blinked at it, then returned it to my ear. “Yes, he’s my dad, but how’d you know that?”
“Ya rented the place a few years back?” he questioned me.
“Yes, but how-”
Johnson chuckled. “Got a memory like a bear trap. Once it’s in there it don’t let go, though I am getting a little rusty.”
It was my turn to snort. “You’ve got a lot better memory than me.”
“Well, I might and I might not, but you were hoping to get that land, so it’s yers,” he told me.
I nearly dropped the phone. “It is?” I squeaked.
“Yep. When can ya sign some papers the damn government and that realtor of mine wants filled out?” he asked me.
“But don’t you want to haggle?” I wondered.
“Nope. You’ve got all the right specs for me. Don’t want to change anything and ya know the place already. Can’t beat that,” he explained. “Now you takin’ it or leavin’ it?”
My face broke out in a wide, stupid grin. “I’ll take it!”
And that was how I got my first piece of real estate.