62 Kneeling on Peas

On Thursday morning, Gervase cleared out the meeting room. As he stacked chairs, on Tank’s advice he re-checked the ceiling, noting the spread of the darkening stain, definitely larger than yesterday. It was time to send a report to the board and prepare an estimate of repairs. Hans and Sebastian appeared in the doorway, Lake Espresso cups in hand.Chapter 62 Kneeling on Peas

“Morning, Gervase. Is there an all-clear in here? For a private chat?” Hans occasionally used the meeting room; maybe the Cabot son was a new client.

“All yours.”

Earlier, on the way down the hill for coffee, Sebastian had chatted about his decision to list with R.M., without any idea that Hans was waiting, hoping for a chance to confide in him.

On the walk back, they’d talked about how people met; about the way, with a routine life, one sometimes arrived at the same time at the same traffic light with the same vehicles every day, and how one gradually began to recognize those people, even though no-one ever spoke. That, as opposed to two people sharing the same bus stop every day, and gradually striking up an acquaintance. Proximity didn’t necessarily equal opportunity. There was that old saw about future spouses meeting at weddings, and the role a chance meeting might play in a forming a relationship. They had met the old-fashioned way; a mutual acquaintance, Mrs. James, simply to be well-mannered, had introduced them.

“However it happened, I’m happy it did,” Sebastian declared. “You know a lot more people, so it’s been easier around here since we started to talk, well for me, anyway. I like having somebody to walk with, for coffee.” Now they were alone in the meeting room, Hans felt freer to open up.

“It’s good to have someone who’s easy to talk to. And who listens. I think I’ve been missing that, most of all. I haven’t mentioned it before but I’ve had a long-term relationship end, so I guess I’ve been a bit more lonely than usual.”

“I’m here for you then, friend. What’s up?”

“I came back on Monday from this conference and realized that I really wanted to talk about what had gone on there. Nobody to tell anymore. Not the actual conference but the stuff I noticed personally, what I thought.”

“I’ve never heard of a meeting of accountants before,” Sebastian laughed. “Is it as boring as it sounds?”

“Maybe not. Here’s something I found out,” Hans said, pleased to be telling it at last, “at the casino in the hotel. I didn’t gamble myself – I can’t afford to lose – but I was watching the people from the conference who did. They seemed to be mostly playing the slots, so I thought I’d conduct a informal survey and asked the staff if that was true. Bingo!”

“You’re quite a card yourself, Hans.”

“Hey, they said it was true. They also said that the best gamblers they’ve ever had there were Buddhists.”

“How so?”

“Seems they are completely focused, very logical, and fearless of risk.”

“Amazing. What else?”

“The Soo was a lot more interesting than I’d imagined.”

“Oh, is that where you went? I love it up there, in the U.P. Did you get over to the locks?”

“Took the tour. I found all that procedure and precision very soothing.”

“Ha! the truth comes out. What else did you do?”

“Didn’t go over but I was intrigued by the brochures about Drummond Island – the golf, the shipwrecks, the lighthouse, the star gazing – ever stayed on an island?”

“You have to understand about me that I collect places. Bred in the bone. So, lots of islands, yes, and that one is actually on my bucket list.”

“Nice.” Sebastian drained his cup but waited, sensing there might be more from Hans. He was right.

“I’m thinking of maybe selling my unit, too.”

“Really? Moving where? Let me guess. An island paradise?”

“I wish. Sounds crazy maybe, but no, buying another unit on the same floor.”

“The reason being…?”

“Mine’s a one bedroom, the smallest and cheapest unit in the place, on the lowest floor. It’s not what I really wanted at the time but well, that’s what he…got decided. Since then, I’ve started working from home and could really use extra space for an office. I can’t swing a two bedroom, like yours, but there’s a one plus den on the lake side, on my floor. She’s moving out.”

“Who’s ‘she’?”

Hans really didn’t want to say. A cousin of his, when they were growing up, used to understandably complain about how his mother had inflicted punishment by making her son kneel on peas; not the soft, squishy, cooked kind but the mercilessly hard and small, dried, uncooked ones. His cousin told him how bad this was but how squirming or moving made the pain worse. Hans felt like squirming now, too. Was there even a way to tell Sebastian about all of this without implicating himself, much less revealing the behavior of Peter, or Kitty? He worried that Sebastian would think less of him because of his association with people like them.

“Too much to tell? Never mind, Hans. Tell me when it’s easier, when you know I’m good at secrets.” Hans recognized the kindness; he could get used to kindness.

Pied-a-terre is a French expression, 'foot on the ground' for a small, second, city residence.

Pied-a-terre is a French expression – ‘foot on the ground’ – for a small, second residence, often a city condo.

“Thanks. If I’m going to move, at least it’ll be a relatively inexpensive and quick change, with fewer disruptions. I do like the building, and I have clients here.”

“Makes sense, then. We’ll be in it together. I like this place, too. In fact, I’m wondering if Matthew and I might not think about buying yours. We need a pied-a-terre type unit somewhere downtown, for times when either he or I are in town. Something handy and small but with some services included. Do you have a parking space?”

Hans was stunned. Things like this didn’t happen to him. He stammered out a yes.

“Good, ’cause that would be important. We’d need to pay much less than we hope to sell for, of course, but we have the money now, unfortunately, and can set our housing costs. At least, that’s what Matthew says.”

‘God bless Matthew’ Hans silently prayed, afraid to speak lest this lucky spell be broken.

“Not that I know what I’m going to be doing for sure, or where exactly either, but he and I can easily share a large one bedroom. Our twin beds are still upstairs! It’d be nice for us to come home and have a friend on the same floor, and as you say, staying in the building would simplify moving. So, Hans, are you going to show me your place, or what?”

“Of course,” Hans stumbled, “but it’s not in showing condition.”

“Hey, remember who you’re talking to here. I’m an expert at this business of getting ready for showings. Well, I’ve spoken with an expert anyway.”

Hans and Sebastian stood together waiting for the elevator, embarking on their joint endeavor. Gervase realized he was having his own Mrs. James type moment; it wasn’t who he was seeing, but who he wasn’t.