The Apartment - Part 4

The Apartment - Part 4Who's a clever girl? “What are you going to do with all that money?”
I grin. “Have you already decided how to spend it?”

Caroline is looking bright, expectant and serious. “Well...”

“Come on. Let's have it. You tell me what I should do with 'all that money'. I've no doubt you can spend it ten times over.”

She puts a finger to a pensive face. “I think you ought to buy this apartment.”

“That's odd, I thought the first item on the list would be an extension to your wardrobe.”

“Oh, that as well, naturally, but I meant real money. Like buying things for the future. Thinking long term.”

“But this place isn't for sale.”

“Who says it isn't?”

“Um...”

“Did you ask?”

“Well, not exactly. The agent had it for rent.”

“So you didn't bother to check, or you aren't keen?”

“Are you about to tell me that you did ask?”

She grins, and prances over to the table.

“And?”

She picks up a folder. “It's for sale. Has been for two years. The owner is renting it because no-one wants to buy.”

“You're joking.”

She shakes her head and smiles. “No. It's for sale, darling, and you are now the sitting tenant. That means you can buy it cheaper than if you weren't the sitting tenant.”

“But what's wrong with the place?”

“Nothing.”

“Then why does no-one else want to buy it? There must be a problem we don't know about.”

“I know you don't read the news unless you are featured, and someone is saying something to boost your ego, but if you went to work...” She stopped to grin. “I know that's a very remote possibility, but, if you sat on the metro every morning and read the papers you'd know we are in the middle of the worst housing slump in living memory.”

“Are you... I mean... You don't sit on public transport, and when do you read the papers? Glossies, yes, but...”

“We don't all live in a pampered, self contained world that only extends from one playroom to the next.”

She stops while I heave a long-drawn-out sigh.

“That's all very well, but you don't know what's going on in the world around you.”

“So I should read the papers every morning before I eat my boiled egg?”

“You don't eat boiled eggs.”

“And you want me to buy a tv, so we can watch that every evening at nine, or is that ten o'clock?”

“Darling. Haven't you noticed? We already have a tv. What do you think that thing is up there?”

“Ah yes, I forgot.” I giggle.

“What's so funny?”

“As a matter of interest, do you know how it works?”

“Yes, you nincompoop. You press the on-switch and pictures come up on the screen. Surely you've seen yourself on tv?”

“Only on the monitors. I don't exactly rush home to watch. Anyway, how am I supposed to know when we're on?”

“You mean you don't...? I cant believe this. Are you for real? What planet are you on?”

I look down at my feet. “Darling. Love of my life. Oh wondrous one who is always right...”

“Oh shut up.”

“As I was saying... Actually, what the hell are we talking about? What's tv got to do with anything?”

“I have no idea. I thought we were talking about investing in the future.”

“So we were, and you were going to persuade me to buy this place because no-one else wants it.”

“No. I was going to persuade you to buy this place because it's going cheap.”

“Like the chicken who laid that egg I didn't have for breakfast.”

“So help me god, I'll bloody-well hit you.” She is looking round the room. “Unfortunately, the only things solid enough to clout you on the head are worth more than your head. Otherwise...”

“Darling.” I sit at the table. “I am now asking serious questions, and I am, surprise, surprise, actually interested in what you have to say.”

“Surprise? I suppose you think I'm just a decorative woman, and I don't posses the kind of amazing brain that you keep upstairs. Or is your brain right down in your boots?”

“An unfortunate phrase, you know what I meant.”

“Yes, you insufferable pig, I know exactly what you meant.”

“I sat at the table because I wanted to have a serious talk about what you suggested. Can we talk business?”

“Oh, the little boy has gone to the little boys' room, and the adult... if that is the right word, has come out of its shell.”

“Haven't we been here before?”

“Before?”

“When you first saw me you walked round me and called me an it.”

“Honestly, I don't know why I bother. I think I'll ring up Isabel and tell her you're all hers. She's bloody-well welcome to you.” She came over and stood inches from me. “You have the brain of a teenaged cockroach.”

“What happened to the neanderthal?”

“It regressed.”

I got up. “Look, I am going to go for a pee. Why don't you go and make yourself a cup of tea, or empty the gin bottle, and in five minutes time we will assemble here at this table and have a sane, sensible... Don't look at me like that, I promise you it is possible, discussion about buying this amazing apartment.”

She was into the kitchen before I'd moved an inch.

* * * * *

This is not a great start to a business meeting. We are both glaring at each other across the table. I don't see what I have done wrong, but I suppose it is up to me to say a few kind words to get things off to an un-glaring start.

“For starters, I admit to not knowing anything... I suppose I am in certain respects still a bit of a baby who really doesn't want to grow up. The lady Caroline, on the other hand, is a smart cookie, and I mean that, so please don't hit me. And she... Yes, look Caroline, I've been meaning to say this for a long time. Well...”

“I suppose this rigmarole is going somewhere?”

“I really only noticed how much you've invested in this place last week, or was it the week before? The reason I didn't notice was because you did everything so damn well. Everything here runs like clockwork. I don't know anything about shopping, running a house, cooking, putting things in the right cupboards and the fridge, and... well, you know, keeping the home fires burning, and all that.

“I want to thank you for that, and I'm sorry it's taken me so long to mention it. I really do apologise, and I really do appreciate the way you run this place, and, by and large, run the rest of my life. I'm pretty clever at all sorts of things, but I still don't know how to make a cup of coffee. And I have to learn all sorts of things like how to call a cab, and how not to think like a servant, and... well, you know.

“And I don't even know about house prices. I play the fool to cover the fact that you're the smart-arse, and I'm the ass in the story.”

Caroline gets up and comes round to my side of the table. “You aren't the ass. You just pretend to be an ass to get attention. Who said he was going to get his girls and make a million? Who got his girls. All of them, you lucky, pampered so-and-so. And who made his first million before he was twenty? You're not an idiot. Just don't pretend, and do try and take some things seriously for a change.” She gives me a peck on the cheek. “Do you want a drink after that long speech?”

“I do love you, Caroline.”

She gives me another kiss. “A Ricard?”

I grin. “Lovely. Not too much or I'll lose the plot.”

She is off to the kitchen.

I raise my voice. “So what's all this about crashing property prices?”

There is the clink of glasses in the kitchen, and shortly Caroline returns with a glass quarter full of my favourite drink.

“House prices have crashed by half and more in some parts. Don't you think it would be a good time to buy?”

“How do I gen up on this?”

Caroline shrugs. “Go to an estate agent and ask. Check the property pages in the local paper.”

“They've gone down how much?”

“Precisely. They've gone down a lot.”

I smile. “Trust a girl to notice.”

“What's it got to do with girls?”

“The sales are on.”

Caroline laughs. “Well, yes. Why not? Bargain prices. And you are a sitting tenant.”

I sit and think. I am running figures through my brain. I am thinking about long-term investments. I am thinking about where to put my payments. I am turning into a businessman. Actually, I rather like maths, and I rather like money. Put maths and money together and you get rising profits.

“Caroline, you are a clever girl. What's the asking price?”

She turns over one of the sheets of paper, and stabs her finger on a figure at the top of the page.

“Do we know how much it's gone down in price over the past... How many years has this crash been going?”

“Two or three years.”

“So we could be coming to the end?”

She shrugs. “I'm not a property expert either, I just...” She shrugs.

“You just know the sales are on.”

She smiles.

“It's still a lot of money. I'll knock twenty-five per cent off the asking price and see what happens.”

“Why not knock off fifty per cent?”

“Hmmm, that is probably a bit too much.” I purse my lips and think. “Thirty per cent?”

“Sounds good to me.”

“Okay. Let me think my tactics through and I'll see what they say.”

I get up and give Caroline a hug. “Who's a clever girl?”

 

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