One of my favorite characters is TJ. He's been in two of my short stories already. You met him first in the Two Grumpy Old Men Café and then in the Finale of the Two Grumpy Old Men Café
A perpetual playboy. Swears he'll never get married. Now that the café belongs to someone else, what is he up to?
Read Part 2 of TJ's latest escapades in
TJ & the Real Estate Lady.
Closing his eyes, he lets his mind wander. It goes back to his childhood, back to when he was a boy in South Branch. Particularly of one morning he was hiding in the backseat of his brother’s 56 Chevy, reading a Hardy Boys novel his teacher had loaned him. He was eleven. The book was the Hidden Harbor Mystery. Frank and Joe Hardy and their friend Chet Morton have just been arrested. TJ couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. He ignored his sister calling him for dinner, he had taken a box of soda crackers from the shelf when he sneaked out so he wasn’t hungry. He slithered down on the floor when his friends ran through the yard looking for him so they wouldn’t see him.
It’s always been one of his fondest memories. The car was new, you could still smell the cleaners and drying glues. Taking off his sneakers, he could lie down full length on the seat. Warm sunshine streamed in the back window, making the hiding spot toasty and comfortable. A bottle of cola propped between his knees. He was doing his favorite thing with his favorite heroes. TJ remembers the intense feeling of content he experienced that afternoon. Recalling it now causes him a brief shiver. His eyes shoot open. His hands rise out of the water for emphasis.
“That’s it. I’m moving back to South Branch!”
Momentarily unfocused he shakes his head and looks around. Bubbles burst and steams rises about him. The deck and starry night stop moving and his head clears. Crawling out of the tub, he steps from the fiberglass step onto the cedar platform, grabbing a large black towel. Taking two steps down he walks out on the ceramic tiles, toweling the moisture from his body. Deep in thought he wobbles some but manages to dry himself thoroughly. The more he thinks of his existence here he feels out of touch, unconnected from his beginnings, his kin. He’s almost afraid to admit it but he’s tired of living alone. Wrapping the towel about his chest he heads towards the bedroom with one last statement to the empty deck.
“Tomorrow I’m selling my house!”
A one acre lot in the gated community of Sheldon’s Lake Estates sells for a quarter million dollars. The transaction stipulates that any home built within the estate must be a minimum of equal value. Most homes average one million. To be offered a listing in this neighborhood is a realtor’s most distinguished moment. Commissions will be in the thousands. TJ knows this as he flips through the list of realty companies on his phone.
He is at a dining table on the back deck facing the lake, the spa area to his left. The rear of the house faces southeast and this time of the day, the sun is low and beginning its ascent into the sky. Mellow rays penetrate the trees and fronds that line the lawn and separate the properties down to the water three hundred feet away. The mockingbirds are singing. The biscuit on the plate is half eaten and drips with strawberry jam. The Fred Flintstone coffee mug steams with fresh brew. TJ wipes an errant drip of sweetness from his chin with his napkin and his eyebrows go up. Eyeing the listing he laughs at the name on the screen.
Two Rooks and a Castle Real Estate Agency. Serving all of Hillsborough and Polk Counties.
“I like the sound of that.” TJ says as he thumbs the dial icon. After the eighth ring he guesses it’s going to voicemail and is about to click end, when a cheerful voice answers.
“Two Rooks and a Castle. How can we help you today?”
“Hello there. I’d like to speak to your most junior agent, the newest addition to your sales team.”
A pause follows TJ’s request.
“Oh…well I guess that would be me.”
TJ frowns at the phone. As charming as the voice is, it is not a young person.
“And you’re the receptionist too?”
The lady’s laughter is like soft chimes, happy sounds.
“No, I’m just sitting in for a moment.”
TJ usually just says what he’s thinking.
“She had to use the little girl’s room huh?”
“No, actually, he had to use the little boy’s room.”
TJ is amused by her quick quip, the pleasing sound of her voice causes a wide grin.
“Of course, how sexist of me. Please forgive me. The reason I called is that I’d like to sell my house and I want you to sell it for me. What’s your name?”
“Louisa. And what’s yours please?”
“People call me TJ.”
“Just a second TJ, the other lines are ringing. Can I call you back in about ten minutes?
“Sure, number here is 234-555-9876.”
“Where is your property located TJ?”
TJ hears the faint gasp as reality of the location sets into Louisa’s mind. Her voice has a slight tremor.
“I’ll call you right away TJ…and thank you for calling Two Rooks and a Castle.”
TJ only has time to finish the rest of the biscuit and fetch fresh coffee when his cell rings.
“Hello Louisa. Thanks for calling me back so promptly. Now when can you come and list the property?”
“If you are free now, I’m only a half hour away.”
“Great, then come on over and bring anything I need to sign.”
He glances at his watch.
“It’s almost nine thirty now, so around ten then? The address is 200 Waterfowl Way.”
“Perfect, I’ll see you soon. Thank you TJ.”
He hates to hang up. He likes the sound of her voice. He tries to imagine what she looks like.
“Yes, yes, see you shortly.”
Placing the cell on the table he sits back. Smiling to himself, he decides the dreamlike voice probably comes from a short bearded lady, two yards wide. If he let his imagination drift, he sees her as a tall Brunette, cinnamon eyes with flowing hair, long legs and the shortest skirt. Shaking the thought away he tells himself no more women until he settles back into New Brunswick. He plans on leaving as soon as possible. Pushing his chair back he gathers plate, napkin and cup and mutters to himself.
“Need to make that bed and straighten the hot tub deck before she gets here.”
TJ is tossing the empty scotch bottle in the recycle bin in his garage. The large two car door is open to the driveway and street. His 1970 Chevy Nova sits in the left bay. The right bay is open and his Ford F150 is in the driveway. Before he shuts the door a mint green Jeep Cherokee pulls in the driveway and parks beside the truck. If this is the real estate agent, the woman sitting at the wheel is not what TJ was expecting. Even from a distance the smile is perfect. He walks out the receding garage door to greet his visitor. TJ reaches to open her door. He`s mesmerized.
The lady getting out of the car is as tall as he is, slim and lithe, the way she moves reminds him of a dancer. A slender chin and fine nose make her smile even more delightful. Short auburn curls in a stylish cut compliment her happy eyes. Silver looped earrings and a matching pendant glisten on her soft skin. She`s a beautiful woman. He guesses her to be close to fifty-five. Her voice is more pleasing, sexier than on the phone. TJ gets goosebumps.
`You sir are a gentleman. I’m Louisa Bourque. Are you TJ Parker?”
TJ steps back, pleasure gleaming from his eyes.
“I am but I don’t think I mentioned my last name.”
Louisa Bourque likes the confidence in the man’s eyes, the cockiness in his grin and is immediately drawn to him.
“Well, with the property lists available to us, it was easy to attain your last name. I hope you don’t mind but the information is public. Just give me a second please and I’ll grab my briefcase from the back seat.”
While she is doing so, TJ comments on her familiar last name.
“I don’t know any Bourque’s in Florida but there were many where I grew up.”
The smile is genuine when she faces him. Her hands hold her briefcase in front. Black slacks and the black open-toed shoes have a white bow on the front A beige lace blouse over a dark camisole heightens her light tan. Her briefcase is soft brown leather. There is no wedding band. TJ is awestruck. She turns her head slightly when she speaks to him.
“I don’t think you would know them, my parents are originally from Canada.”
TJ perks up.
“Where abouts in Canada?”
Louisa is struck by the memory of her childhood visits to her grandparents in the summers.
“Small communities in New Brunswick. My father is from Shediac and my mother is from South Branch.”
“TJ, what a surprise. What are you doing here?”
“Wilmot, I want you to be my best man!”
Thank you for visiting today. Hope you enjoyed the story and meeting TJ. Please feel free to leave a comment below.