Chapter 14: Trenton, North Carolina - October 2, 2017
“Hello! How can I help you?” A chipper red-haired woman asked me as I walked into the James Regan’s Real Estate office Monday morning. She was sitting behind a large wooden desk in the front of the office. Behind her, two real estate agents were talking away on the phone. The woman who greeted me was wearing a red blazer and a pair of black pants. Her hair was piled about a mile high on her head and she had just a bit too much blush on for my liking. I smiled though, trying to ignore the clown look she was giving off.
“Hi. My name is Abby Winters. I was wondering if you had any open spots for a real estate agent?” I asked. Behind her, one of the real estate agents suddenly turned around. It was an older man with no hair on his head, the fluorescent lighting shining off of it. He also wore a red blazer and black slacks. Quickly, he finished up his phone call and jumped out of his chair. It was almost like he materialized in front of me.
“Hello, Mrs. Winters! It’s such a pleasure to meet you! My name is James Regan, the owner of the company. What brings you to our little neck of the woods?” He asked, holding his hand out. I took it, shaking it.
“I’m going to be in town for a few months and was looking for a temporary position until I head back to New York.” I explained. He motioned for me to follow him over to his desk. I did, sitting in a folding chair inside of the cubicle. He sat in his computer chair, smiling at me in an almost creepy fashion.
“I can’t believe that you are sitting in my office! I read all about you in the New York Times and in the recent Realtor Editor.” He said. The Realtor Editor is a magazine meant for real estate agents. It gives tips about the market and other things that one in the business might want to know. They did an article on Sarah and me when we opened our firm. The Times also did a piece on us after I sold the mayor of New York City a penthouse last summer. I apparently had a fan here in Trenton.
“Oh, well thank you.” I replied, smiling. “Are you looking for any help around here?”
“Now that I think about it, I think we could use an assistant. Ginger at the front desk is only part time right now and she’s going out on medical leave to have her elbow fixed or something. I could use a pretty girl at the front desk.”
“I was actually talking about being an agent.” I responded. Glancing over, I noticed that the other agent was a man as well.
“I understand but I don’t have room for another agent right now. Nick and I would love to have you join our team as a secretary though.”
“Mr. Regan, have you ever had a female real estate agent?” I asked, He gazed up at the ceiling like he was deep in thought.
“Not that I can recall. Neither did my father when he opened this office. Women didn’t do this type of work when he started. I like to follow his ideas since they worked so well.”
“You don’t believe women can succeed in this field?” I asked, feeling my temperature start to rise.
“It’s not that. I mean, you obviously have done well for yourself. I just feel like around here; the women don’t necessarily fit into the mold of being agents. I don’t know where you are from but I do know that girls from Trenton aren’t exactly the brightest to begin with.”
“Right.” I stood, tucking my hands into my pockets. “Mr. Regan, I will have you know that I was born and raised in Trenton. I went to school here and earned high marks in my class as well. I’m not quite sure where you obtained this notion that you are superior than the entire women population but I can certainly provide proof that it’s false. I run a multi-million real estate firm with my other female partner, beating out two of the biggest competitors in the Big Apple which happen to be run by men. It’s 2017. I believe it’s about time for you to hop right on out of the 50’s and join the rest of us in the real world, buddy. Cause that way of thinking has no place around here anymore. And about the job, thanks but no thanks. I’d rather sell junk cars to people before I make a dime for you or your ego.” Turning, I walked by Ginger and out the door.
Outside, my Dad’s truck was parked next to the curb where I had left it. I was still fuming, amazed at the sick attitude that guy just gave me. Sarah and I had crossed a few men like him in our time working for other firms before our own. Sadly, a great deal of them thought it was a man’s world and that women belong in the line of interior design, not selling houses. It was something that drove us insane and we swore we would never have an idea like that while our company was in the infancy stage. She would die if I told her about the conversation I just had. I made a mental note to call her later as I climbed into the truck. Sighing, I glanced around Main Street.
What was I going to do now? Real estate was my only option in town really that would let me make money that was close to what I was making before. With that out the window, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I considered working from here, selling houses up in the city. I could do phone interviews with the clients and set them up with agents in person. It would be stealing money from my employees though who unlike me were there in person to do work. I shot that idea out the window and headed home, trying to brainstorm ideas. Real estate is the only job I’ve ever had. My Dad never made me work because I had to stay home with my mother when I was old enough for a job. I didn’t know what else I could do. I suddenly felt so useless and alone. My life was going fine until Michael made the decisions he did to ruin everything. I would still be in New York at my successful business, selling rich people expensive houses. Instead, I’m in the middle of Mayberry with no job, no sense of purpose and no one who could understand what the hell I was going through.
I pulled in the driveway and parked the truck. Daddy was at work. I had dropped him off before heading to the real estate office. He was considering getting me a car so we wouldn’t need to keep sharing his truck. Going in the side door, I saw Grams was gone as well. She’s been attending an adult day program a few times a week to help Dad out. She gets picked up by an aid in the morning and comes home around the same time as Dad. Tossing the keys on the dining room table, I headed to my room to change out of my dressy light pink blouse and my black slacks. I wanted to look professional when I went there. Obviously, it was wasted on the ignorant.
As I was changing into a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, my eyes landed on the bookshelf with my stories on them. I had shoved them all back on there so I could go to bed last night. It wasn’t the neatest and would need to be fixed at some point. Walking over, I picked up the one Cory had held yesterday. I thumbed through the pages, my teenage scribble filling up the lined paper. What if Cory had been right about my writing? I had given up after my first round of rejection. It was heart breaking to hear that no one thought I was good enough to publish. It was a big part of why I stopped writing. Had I given up to easily on my dream?
I tucked the binder in the crook of my arm and walked over to my suitcase. Pulling out my laptop, I headed for the living room. I set up shop on the coffee table, typing up the words I had written almost ten years ago. I had a file somewhere of this the first time I submitted it but God only knew where it was now. It took me about three hours to retype it all and edit everything so it was grammatically correct. I connected my laptop to the wireless printer in my room. I printed everything off, including a query letter. It was something that authors add to their work when they send it to an agency to represent them. It describes the novel and is basically a sales pitch. If the literacy agent approves of it, they help you get published. Before, I had stuck with agency in the city that I could walk to and had handed in physical copies of my work. This time, I planned on going at this with a different approach. I printed out ten copies of my story and sealed them into envelopes, leaving myself one copy as a hard copy. Using the internet, I found four literary agents in the area who were only accepting hard copies of work. I wrote their information on the envelops and set them off to the side.
Back on the computer, I found about twenty agencies that accepted digital submissions. I constructed emails to each of them and included my work. I sent those out, feeling confident in my chances this time. I slapped stamps on each of the envelops and shoved them into our mail box for the mail man. Worse comes to worse, they can all send me rejection letters. I’ll just keep trying with different stories and different agencies. I had over 100 stories just in my room alone. In the garage, there were boxes and boxes of them as well. I wasn’t about to give up on this dream again.
I was tucking my computer back into my bag when there was a loud knock on the front door. Walking up the hallway, I pulled it open to reveal Marie standing there. She was holding a car seat in one hand and her purse in the other. “Hey!” She said, smiling at me. Her daughter, Meadow, was sound asleep in the carrier.
“Hey. Come on in.” I stepped aside so she could come in. Carefully, she set Meadow on the floor near the couch and plopped down on the middle cushion. I let out a little chuckle. “Rough morning?”
“You have no clue. She’s been up since 2:30 this morning. My husband got to sleep in of course. I’m so ready for a nap it’s not even funny.”
“You want something to drink?” I asked.
“Coffee if you got it.” She replied. Nodding, I disappeared into the kitchen. I made a cup of coffee in the instant brewing machine, adding sugar and milk in it like she did when we were younger. Walking back into the living room, I saw she was leafing through the binder I had left on the coffee table. “Thanks.” She said, taking the coffee. “You re-reading some of your old work?”
“Sort of. I’m trying to get published now.” I said, sitting in Daddy’s chair. She made a noise, smiling at me.
“That’s great! I thought for sure you would be world famous by now. Which one did you submit? The spy saga?” I nodded.
“Yeah. I figured it was my best work when I was younger.”
“Why not try to right something now? I mean, look at everything that’s happened. You could totally make a best seller out of it.” My stomach flopped as she tip-toed around the subject of Michael. I had done a pretty good job of not thinking about him the past two days. He was always lingering in the back of my mind but I did all I could to shove him out of the constant pang of emotions that I was having. I felt terrible that no one knew what I was going through besides Dad and Grams but I just couldn’t deal with that right now. The sympathetic look on people’s faces that I know they would give me. I’d rather suffer in silence than put up with that any day.
“Maybe. I’m not sure. I haven’t written anything in a long time. Not quite sure if I can just jump right into it right now.”
“Well, how about we doing something together? We always said something about making a children’s book. You come up with the story and I’ll do the art work for it. Even if it’s just for Meadow. It’ll be fun.”
“That does sound fun. Let’s do it! I’ll get some paper.” Standing from the couch, I headed for my bedroom.