Anabelle felt darned good as she looked at more than sixty persons milling around the recreational room of the complex. And it was just 6:45, so others were evidently on their way. She made her way to the make-shift podium area she had set up at the front by turning a folding table on the side. When you are a teacher, you find innovative ways to get things done. The microphone was already set up and waiting. She did a quick scan of the notes on the pad in her hand.
Persons had started taking their seats. She had set up a small registration desk at the door so that she could keep a record of attendees and know which blocks and floors had representation.
The complex had a simple layout: five blocks, two floors each, ten apartments per floor with five on one side five on the other side, one hundred apartments. Each block had its foyer type entrance. There was also a basement and an exit to the center which led to the common area. The Recreational center was in the middle of the pentagon-shaped layout. There was a storage type warehouse to the back of the complex and a play area for the children. The parking areas were on the outskirts and ringed the entire complex. To have more than sixty persons thus far was a good sign as she had been to meetings in the past which barely had twenty.
At seven on the dot she stood behind the podium and a hush fell over the gathering.
“Good evening everyone. I’m Anabelle Landers from apartment 35 and your association president. I want to thank you for making it to our meeting. I trust that everyone has signed in at the desk at the entrance so that we can keep abreast of the representation fo the blocks and floors this evening. There are several things that we need to discuss as it relates to the complex and plans for the next three months which will take us up to the new year.”
She paused to catch her breath and scanned the crowd again. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw Marlon and Jason enter at that moment. Her agenda had a category for new tenant introduction. If she was to tell the truth, she had added it with them specifically in mind. What better way to get some information out of them without asking for it outright? She waited until they looked towards the front before making her next statement.
“Are there any new tenants here tonight? You are new if you have been living here for less than a month or you were absent and therefore not introduced at the last association meeting.”
One other hand went up apart from Joshua and Marlon. She beckoned them forward.
“Please. Join me and tell us something about yourselves.” She hastily stepped aside as the three made their way to the front. As if on cue both men stretched their hands out to indicate that the third person should speak first.
“Hi! I’m Cathy. I live in 12. I’m a nurse.” She stood there awkwardly. Anabelle prompted her by asking some questions and eventually they learned that she was somewhere in her mid-thirties and divorced for the past five years. She had no children and did interior decoration as a hobby in her free time.
“Thank you, Cathy.” She smiled and went back to her seat.
“And now we have these gentlemen.” She quickly handed the microphone to Marlon and stepped back.
“Good evening everyone. I’m Marlon Gentles and this is my brother Joshua.”
“Are you twins?” Came a question shouted from the audience.
“No. But we did hear a fair amount of that when we were younger.”
“Are there more of you? I got two sisters looking for decent chaps.”
There was a roar of laughter from the audience at that.
“No more brothers but I do have a sister we’ve been trying to give away since she was born. Any takers?”
The crowd again roared with laughter. After a few moments Marlon continued the introduction.
“We moved into 35 a few weeks ago. I’m a chef and dietician. I’ll let Joshua take over from here.” He handed the microphone over and stepped back to stand beside Anabelle. He turned and winked, and she felt her cheeks flush slightly. But as soon as she heard Joshua’s voice again, she blushed all over.
“Hi. I’m Joshua Gentles, the better in every way brother to the big oaf who spoke just now. He neglected to mention that he has a Ph.D. in dietetics. I also have a Ph.D. in physiotherapy. I am a fitness instructor, trainer, and therapist. Can I see from a show of hands those of you who work in the downtown area specifically on Clarke Avenue?” At least half of the hands went up.
“Tomorrow when you go to work look at the storefront across from the Citizen’s Bank. In two weeks’, time, it will be housing our operation ‘The Gentle Life’. It will be a twenty-four-hour gym as well as a nutrition consultancy. Many times, we go to the gym, yet we still neglect our diet. Or we take care of our nutrition, but we don’t get around to doing the exercise part of the equation. We give you one-stop with both. We have a couple of business cards and brochures if you’d like to hear more about what we have to offer. We already feel very welcome here. I think it’s the first place we’ve lived in that feels like it’s one big happy family.” He handed the microphone back to Anabelle. Their fingers brushed briefly, and she felt as if someone had struck a match and lit a flame. She jerked reflexively and looked at him. He too had been shaken, and their eyes met. Marlon cleared his throat and quickly ushered his brother off the stage and back to their seats and she quickly regained her composure.
“Thank you, gentlemen. It’s always nice to have such an eclectic mix of professions and talents. You never know when a skill set will be needed. Now let’s get right into the meat of the meeting. First on the agenda is the general upkeep of the complex…”
They spent a good forty-five minutes discussing matters surrounding the upgrade of the laundry facilities, security at the gate and on the perimeter, parking issues, and improving the playground in time for Christmas. By that time more persons had arrived. The meeting had swelled to over a hundred persons. Anabelle’s smile was a mile wide. She could say that her first meeting as president was a huge success. She brought the previous discussion to a close before moving on to the final item on the agenda.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention and input thus far. Dana has made a note of it all. Let us elect her as secretary. She has been doing a fantastic job of it all evening.” There was a round of applause and just like that they had an executive of two.
“There is one final thing I need for us to discuss. Depending on how long we take to do that we should be able to get out of here by 8:15. There is an idea I have been toying with for some time and I would love it if we could give it some thought. It would be a good citizenship venture and put Marsden Views on the community map as a complex of choice for residence. Christmas is coming up in about twelve weeks. I would love for us to go all out for the holiday. I’m talking decorations for each block and apartment, a Christmas tree out front, every window and door decorated. For those whose religious persuasion doesn’t oppose it that is. I mean all out. But the ultimate all out would be if we could pool resources and identify five organizations, one per block, with whom we could share the Christmas spirit. It could be a nursing home, a children’s home, a hospital ward, a church, feeding the homeless. Anything. It’s just a thought. Any views?”
She looked around the room that had fallen silent. There were a few tense moments before someone spoke out.
“Let’s put it to a vote. All in favor?” A sea of hands rose into the air. It didn’t make sense even to count the hands that were not raised. The majority vote carried.
“That looks like a yes, madam president. What do we do now?”
“Thank you all for the affirmative vote. Now we need to set up some committees in various areas. I have a list of areas. I’ll call them out and persons can indicate by a show of hands if they are interested and we will get your names. We have more than enough persons, so I don’t think any one person needs to be on more than one committee.”
Joshua raised his hand.
“Yes, Mr. Gentles?”
“Could I suggest, in the interest of time, that you call out the names of the committees you want and have persons move to a specific section of the room if that is the committee they wish to work with and provide paper for the names to be collected there.”
“Thank you for that suggestion, Mr. Gentles. That will save time. Dana?”
They quickly found several sheets of paper.
“Finance committee. You will be responsible for working out the budget when all the committees have come up with the items they will need. You will also need to work on the procurement of resources and keep track of the accounts. Persons interested in the finance committee please stand by the window on my left, your right.” There was a flurry of movement as persons moved as instructed.
“Marketing and Promotions Committee. You will be responsible for all public relations aspects of the project. So, we need flyers on every block reminding us of what is coming up. We need you to also look at the possible recipients for the venture. There are five blocks so depending on how much resources we can gather each block could have a recipient for their efforts. If needs be and we have any connections to any external agencies who we could bring on board to sponsor any aspect that will also fall under your portfolio. Please stand by the window on my right, your left.” There was another flurry of movement.
“Entertainment committee. You will be responsible for working out the activities for the complex starting from December 1 through December 31. We want to feel the Christmas spirit as soon as the season hits. It does not have to be a daily thing but there must be a sense of festivity in the air. Please stand to the back of the room if that committee tickles your fancy.” Persons moved as instructed. The crowd had thinned considerably. There were only two committees to go and the Gentles brothers had not yet moved. Suddenly the thought of ending up on a committee with Joshua came rushing to the forefront. What if he chose to work on her committee? She swallowed hard at the thought.
“Food preparation and distribution committee. You will be responsible for food and anything related to the preparation, packaging, and distribution to the selected charities. You will also be responsible for spearheading any food-related activities we may end up doing here as a community. In previous years I know that some blocks would come together and have their parties, but don’t you think we could make it one big complex party this year? Persons interested in that committee please come to the center of the room.” Marlon moved but Joshua remained where he was.
“The final committee is the gift packaging and decorating committee. You will be responsible for spearheading a uniformity in decorating the complex externally. Persons may choose to do their interior any way they wish but we will take care of the overall aesthetics from the gate into the center here. The balconies on both sides will also be uniformly decorated. I would like us to enter the city décor competition this year in the apartment complex category. This committee will also be responsible for procuring, sorting, packaging and strategizing for the distribution of gifts to the recipients. They will also be responsible for distribution on the complex. If you are interested in that area please come to me at the front. And, when you are all finished signing up and leaving your contact information please feel free to visit the buffet at the back for some light refreshment as you go back to your apartment. Thank you all for coming out and have a good evening.” She turned off the microphone and turned to the persons who had come to stand by her. She felt every hair on her neck bristle as Joshua approached.
Joshua was amazed by Anabelle. Throughout the meeting, it was clear to see how passionately she spoke about the apartment complex and the ideas she had for its development. At intervals, he had overheard persons whisper that they had been living there for years and it was the first time they had felt so involved in the running of the complex. She seemed to have that air about her that just made people feel very welcome and at home. He already saw some areas in which he could lend assistance. He was toying with the idea of installing a gym in the complex that tenants could use free of charge. There was bound to be a basic bicycle and treadmill that they would not need at the store downtown.
His ears had perked up when she brought up the topic of Christmas. It had always been his favorite holiday and he had some ideas already floating in his head. Back home he had been the one who spearheaded all the décor while Marlon took over the kitchen. It therefore came as no surprise when he jumped up even before Anabelle finished outlining the responsibilities of the food preparation committee. Joshua had kept his fingers crossed that she would be on the decorating committee and not merely be separating the folks only to walk to one of the areas previously mentioned. When she used the pronoun ‘we’ to refer to the decorating committee he could barely wait for her to give the instruction to gather before he swooped in like a homing pigeon coming to roost. He felt her tense as he approached but he could have cared less about her discomfort for now. He was going to be on her committee and there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it.