THE REAL ESTATE AGENT opened the blinds to reveal a sweeping view of treetops. She didn't say "Isn't this fantastic?" like a normal person would, Louella noticed. She just smiled in a superior way that was much more effective.
I will not be intimidated by this woman, Louella thought. She's hoity-toity but she's just a salesperson. Such self-reminders had kept Louella from making spending mistakes in the past, and she was counting on her usual good sense to prevent her from falling for this snazzy two bedroom condo on North Charles Street.
"And it has such a nice south-facing balcony," remarked the agent in carefully neutral tones.
Louella stepped out into the soft sunshine on the 11th floor and looked around. She could glimpse the Key Bridge and the bay in the distance. Nice, very nice. She was careful to show no enthusiasm. "What are the condo fees?"
The agent moistened her discreetly colored lips and referred to her sheet. "Let's see, it's been running at $440 a month, and that covers your real estate taxes, parking, pool, switchboard, party room-the only thing extra is gas and electric and your phone."
Damn! thought Louella. This is only the first place I've looked at and I'm in love! Ready to cut a deal! What's wrong with me?
She realized then that she'd never really had a wonderful place to live in. The D.C. condo had only been a 20-foot-square studio with a bath and kitchenette, with no view and no balcony. Her rowhouse next to her parents, though a lot cheaper and more spacious, was undistinguished. This place, on the other hand, oozed "I've arrived."
Louella's lips curled in a little smile as she thought how the other residents of the condo would react when she told them she was a cashier at the Giant. Well, so what? she thought. My Lottery money's no different from their trust funds. Well, maybe a little, but all of us got it without working for it.
She realized she was going to bid on the place, and was a little disappointed to think the bid might be accepted, and then she wouldn't be inspecting other upscale domains, seeing how those top five percenters lived. I'm a top five percenter, too! she thought suddenly. I never really looked at myself that way, just put that first Lottery check in the bank and forgot about it. But do I deserve to live like this?
She took her time, opened every kitchen cabinet, checked out the food in the freezer, inspected the oven for grease, ran a manicured finger along the top of the bathroom tile. "I know they have a maid in twice a week," said the agent, as if to explain the cleanliness.
Well, they can kiss that goodbye, thought Louella. She was glad she had worn her best suit, the pink Ultrasuede one her former fiancé's mother had given her. She was certain her pantyhose had no runs and her nail polish was unchipped. This gave her the confidence she needed. Her mouth was dry, but she choked out, before she lost her nerve, "I'd like to make them an offer."