She showered, dressed in cut-off khakis, a raspberry T-shirt, and sandals and by twelve-thirty sat in her aunt’s kitchen. She sipped a cup of tea and choked down one of Trudie’s alfalfa scones.
“I didn’t hear you come in last night.” Vi gathered a pair of wicker baskets from a utility closet and lay them on the floor beside the table.
“Oh?” Molly had never employed such stealth. When she’d arrived home, she’d removed her shoes and climbed up to her apartment on tiptoes. “Did you go to bed early?”
“No earlier than usual. Maybe I became too engrossed in the new cooking show on cable. It’s called Eat And Purge Your Way To Better Health. Next weekend I’ll try the oat bran waffles. You break open a few capsules of Vitamin E and add that to a pinch of desiccated cod and pulverized seaweed for the topping. I’ll bring you up a batch. Supposedly, they freeze well.”
“That sounds yummy.” Maybe next weekend Molly would check if the Russians still booked flights to their space station.
“So, how did the balloon thing go?” Vi asked.
On the way downstairs, Molly had prepared herself for the question. “It went well.”
“Good. No mishaps? I burned an incense stick to be on the safe side.”
“I’m sure that helped.”
“Did Nick enjoy himself?”
A thousand tingly pinpricks invaded Molly’s chest and danced south. Oh, yes. “He seemed to.”
“So, what do you think?”
“What do I think about … ?”
Vi made a horizontal wavy motion with her hands. “About you and Nick getting together again?”
“You mean on a real date?”
“You’ve thought along those lines, haven’t you? Good. I like him. The way he looked at you, kiddo, he’s very interested.”
Molly finished her tea and carried the cup over to the sink. “He thinks I can convince his tenants to lower their demands. I can’t. He claims to have their welfare at heart. Does he? I don’t know for sure. He also claims to be practically broke. Is he? I don’t know that, either. It’s too complicated. So don’t expect him to ring this bell again anytime soon.”
“I’ll burn more incense.”
“Don’t bother. There isn’t enough of it on the planet to change things. Anyway, it isn’t like I’m in love with him or even gaga over him.” Well, she was sort of gaga, at least, if her heart and body were any indication. It was best, however, not to confess that to her aunt. Not unless she wanted an overload of incense clogging her nasal passages for the next year. “He’s handsome, sexy, forceful, bright, and probably has ten more positive attributes I haven’t even discovered. Even with all those pluses, he’s not for me.”
Vi rose, picked up the wicker baskets, and handed one to Molly. “Wanna bet?”
Molly slung her purse over her shoulder and followed her aunt out the front door.
“You’re sure this isn’t too early? Did I rush you out before you finished your scone?” They walked toward her aunt’s truck.
The remains of the scone, wrapped in a paper napkin, resided in Molly’s purse. “Tell Trudie she’s a genius.”
Dappled sun spread through the leafy trees and warmed Molly’s skin. She hoped her energy would soon return. She’d hate to spend the rest of the day moping.
“Another reason I wanted to get to the market and back before three is I need to work on my costume for the upcoming Love Parade.”
Last year, against her protestations, her aunt and Trudie had dragged Molly along with them. A fistfight had broken out midway through the festivities and the police had swarmed the area. The hem of her aunt’s gown — she’d recreated Mother Earth with a “living” hat — had fallen victim to a horde of marauding gender-bending pixies and they’d had to fight to keep the gown from being ripped off her body.
They settled in the truck.
“Trudie knows just about everyone who has a connection to a city agency,” Vi said. “She should since she’s worked at the Hall of Records for forty years.”
“You mean snooped.”
“I guess you could say that.”
“I would and worse.” Molly grabbed the armrest as the truck swerved around a bicyclist who’d wandered too close to traffic.
“Anyway, she’s friendly with a gal who works for the Department of Buildings. It seems Nick isn’t the only one who’s staked a claim to that particular area of SoMa.”
“Someone else is building condos?”
“The Blackthorn Group. They bought up a whole chunk of city real estate across the street from Nick’s project. At least half the block. The plans are drawn and the permits issued. It’s still hush-hush right now. Trudie said their project is mixed use. The plans call for a commercial high-rise almost as tall as the Trans America Pyramid and a hotel. The remainder is slated for residential. A small park in the middle with trees and benches will create a tranquil space. The ground floor of the commercial building will house restaurants and shops, the top floors condos. Trudie said it sounds swanky. Whoever builds nearby is going to make a killing. Nick included.”
Molly, who’d slumped in her seat, jolted up and faced her aunt. “What do you mean by ‘a killing?’”
“Whatever Nick expected to price his lofts at, he can easily ask more. That half of the block will turn into a showplace. Trudie’s friend says to expect builders to swarm down there.”
Nick had never mentioned the Blackthorn project. If he knew about it, would he let thirteen people stand in the way of his making “a killing?” All that money would just about ensure his interest in expanding down the street. Angel or devil? Molly still wasn’t certain. This latest news ensured something was about to happen, maybe quickly. Mentally, she pictured Nick beneath a halo and hoped for the best.
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