Stephanie pushed through the revolving door, then checked the scrap of paper in her pocket. This was the right address.
She swished across the plush carpet letting her hand trail over the backs of velvety sofas as she made her made her way to the elevators. The building was a lot nicer than she had expected. Odd that no one else was around in the middle of the day.
She wondered why the rent was so low until she stepped into the elevator and examined the row of buttons. This apartment was on a below-ground floor. L717. Seven stories down. Probably a windowless cubby-hole. Still, Stephanie supposed she could make it work for a year until she got a raise.
She found the door and her knock was greeted by a woman with a mass of red curly hair.
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“Stephanie Jones? Come in. Come in.”
“This is the living room – furnished like the ad said. You’re going to love the kitchen.”
But Stephanie wasn’t ready to leave the living room. She had expected heavy-duty cardboard, put-it-together-yourself furnishings. This room looked as lush as the lobby above.
“The appliances are all new and …”
The redhead’s voice trailed off as she rejoined Stephanie in the living room.
“Don’t you just love the view?”
Stephanie did love the view. She had approached the window expecting a realistic mural. But the trees outside were swaying gently and a bright red cardinal suddenly landed on a branch in front of her.
She followed the agent from room to room. An extra guest room. Dining room big enough to host Thanksgiving. There was a large bay window in the eat-in kitchen. She watched through that window as a woodpecker silently poked at a tree trunk then moved off when a cardinal — the same one as before? — decided to takes its place.
How was that possible? Was there some sort of multi-story atrium or did the land slope away at the back of the building – a 7-story slope?
The agent had spread out papers for Stephanie to sign, but this was a big decision. She wasn’t used to making such big decisions on her own.
“Maybe, my mom should see the apartment before I sign.”
“Of course, dear. Your first apartment on your own, isn’t it? So exciting. Can she come today? I’d love you to have it but there have been other inquiries.”
The woman flashed a bright smile and Stephanie wanted to ask how there could be windows in an apartment seven stories below ground. Her mother would want to know.
“Why don’t we nose around the neighborhood a little?”
The agent stepped into the hall and motioned for Stephanie to follow. They passed the row of apartment doors, then turned the corner. There was a wide brightly lit hall with shops on either side. An escalator led to offices and shops on the level above.
They strolled past a shoe store with a pair of boots in the front window. These were much nicer than the ones Stephanie had tried on last week, but priced more in her range.
They strolled past a small bookstore with narrow aisles, towering bookcases and rolling library stools scattered about to help you reach the top shelves. Stephanie thought those places had all been replaced by the discount, stop-by-for-a-cup-of-coffee kind of book stores? She wished they could stop for just a moment … there was that new mystery she’d been looking for.
They took an escalator down a level where a theater was showing the movie she had missed last year during finals. The scent of cinnamon slipped out of a small café.
She noticed a sign indicating a park with a picture of kids playing. Eight floors below ground?
Stephanie suddenly needed to get out of this place.
“I actually have another appointment. I really have to leave.”
“Of course, dear. But do let me know when you can come back with your mother,” the agent said pointing toward an exit sign.
Stephanie followed the sign around a corner looking for a bank of elevators. What she saw was a wall of glass doors leading to the street.
This wasn’t a street that Stephanie recognized. A taxi was approaching and surely, the driver would know how to get her home. But it picked up another passenger before she could get the driver’s attention.
Why was there even a street here when she had come in on the ground floor – 8 stories higher?
Still, those boots were so cheap. And the apartment was great for the money.
She dialed her phone wondering if there could be any service here. The call connected easily.
“How’s the apartment? I don’t want you in a bad neighborhood. Dad and I are happy to help with the rent for a while.”
“Actually, the apartment’s great. The area is nice.” Stephanie turned around to see if the building was really still there. She noticed a bulletin posted on those glass doors. It was a help-wanted ad for an accountant – with that wonderful little quaint bookstore.
She wondered what the salary was. She thought about the rows of identical desks at that insurance company – and the third one, second row waiting for her to occupy next Monday.
And those boots.
“Why don’t you come see it, Mom?”
“I’d love to Steph. Dad and I could stop by over the weekend. You don’t have to decide right away, do you?”
“Well, actually …” A child pedaled by on a bicycle. A taxi turned the corner moving slowly in her direction.
Stephanie put her hand in the air to hail the cab, then glanced back at those glass doors. The red-headed agent was there, waiting, watching, smiling.
Stephanie let her hand drop. “This weekend would be great, Mom. Come for lunch. You’re going to love the kitchen.”