Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chapter Two

Right inside the front doors was a huge space that Adem called the foyer. As Dawn stood craning back to look up at the ceiling two stories above them, Liam nudged her. "I would hate to have to get the spider webs out of those corners."

"Use a really, really long pole," she smiled over at him. "And be very careful with your elbows."

Adem's voice bounced off the empty walls and bare floor. "Why don't you leave your stuff here and I will give you a quick tour before we head up stairs."

Scott, Liam, and Dawn set their stuff down near the bottom of the winding stair to the second floor. "Why would we need to watch our elbows?" Scott asked.

Dawn grinned mischievously, "Ticklish ribs, long sticks and windows don't go well together... especially, if pointy elbows are nearby."

Scott rolled his eyes at Liam. "Sometimes I think you two are too much alike." Liam shot him a questioning look. Scott answered it by adding, "You are both so weird, and I get scared if I understand you."

"Artistic tendencies," Liam and Dawn replied at the same time.

"Now," Austin jumped in, "nothing you can say can convince me that Liam has artistic tendencies."

"No," Dawn flashed Liam an affectionate smile, "he is just a genius. With so much intelligence, he is just destined to be exocentric." Kristy rolled her eyes and Scott hid a smile.

"Guys," Claudia broke in, "Adem is waiting."

The first floor was huge. The foyer opened straight into a large dinning room that looked out on the back of the house. To the right of the dinning room was a long rectangular room Adem called the parlor. In the front right corner, tucked behind the stairs and connected only to the parlor was a smaller room that Adem was currently using as an office. With only a coffee table and a recliner for furniture, the floor was littered with bills and excess paper. Austin seemed to cringe at the sight.

Claudia practically drooled over the kitchen. The spacious room took up the back left corner of the house. Dirt still caked most of the room, but it was easy to see that was going to be one of the essential rooms in the house. "We hired our cook on Friday of last week." Adem informed them as he led them out. "He is planning to start the cleaning tomorrow morning."

The kitchen was connected with the foyer by another spacious hall. Two large bathrooms and the stairwell to the basement were also off this hall. Liam looked very interested when Adem explained that the hall, foyer, dining room, and parlor could be joined together or closed off individually using a system of doors that slid invisibly into the walls. "Quite an interesting feat of engineering," he commented to Scott as Adem headed yet again toward the foyer. Kristy wagged her head.

The second floor went much more quickly. After climbing the gracefully curved stairs to a balcony overlooking the foyer, he proceeded to open one of the doors along the hall. "All the rooms on this floor are bedrooms," leaving the door open he headed toward the stair to the third floor on the opposite end of the balcony. "They each have an attached bathroom and at least one closet."

"Do all of them have these hard wood floors?" Dawn had just taken her turn at looking at the sample room.

"Yeah." Pausing to look back at her over the rest of the group, Adem added, "Jessi loves them, but I think they take too much upkeep." He watched as Scott and Kristy worked their way up the stairs to the landing. "It cost a small fortune to refinish all the floors on the first two floors. They only finished on Wednesday." Running his fingers through his hair, he grinned. "At least the third floor and the basement are carpeted."

As Adem was about to lead them all onto the third floor, a huge commotion rose from the direction of the dining room. With a volley of barks and the clicking of nails on hardwood floors, two big golden retrievers bounded into the foyer below the touring party.

"Adem," a female voice called over the sound of the dogs greeting the new arrivals.

"Luke and Leia." Kristy dropped her bags and sat on the steps between the first two floors. She was promptly covered in wet dog kisses.

"Adem." This time the caller came into view.

"Right here, Jessi." Managing to squeeze back around the corner of the hallway, he tried to peek around Austin. "We have visitors." He moved so the new arrival could see him. "Kristy brought her friends. Now let see if I can remember all the names." He leaned back on the banister to introduce everyone. "This is Austin and Claudia." He gestured to the two on his right. "They were just married a few months ago. Liam, Scott, and Dawn," He continued, accurately waving toward each in turn, "and, of course, Kristy." Kristy finally managed to rise again as the dogs decided move on to greet the new strangers.

"Everybody," he smiled down the line, "this is my wife, Jessi."

Jessi smiled up at the lot as they looked down on her. "Welcome to our new home. As you can see, we need all the help we can get."

"Ah... Jessi," Adem spoke up while glancing out the front window. "The architect just drove up the drive." Smiling apologetically he asked, "Would you finish the tour and get these guys working. I really should show him my plans for a hanger."

Liam's head came up almost immediately. "Do you have any airplanes?"

"Yeah," Adem responded in surprise. "Do you fly?"

"He has a hard time keeping his feet on the ground," Dawn commented.

Jessi spoke up from below. "Adem could use any help you can give him." She put her hands on her hips. "Adem, go ahead. I will take over from here."

Adem wove through the crowd on the landing and took the stairs two at a time. "Come on Liam, the architect will be getting impatient." Placing a quick kiss on his wife's cheek, he practically ran out the front door.

Liam set down his stuff and followed suit. The only exception was he gave Dawn an even briefer smooch. Dawn frowned slightly after him, but didn't say anything.

"Alright," Jessi smiled as she climbed the stairs. "Onward and upward."


The girls did not see the boys until dinner. After they had climbed to the third floor and deposited the baggage in Adem and Jessi's apartment on the right end of the house, Austin and Scott conveniently disappeared. Murmuring something about finding Adem and Liam, they tramped back down the stairs and out of sight.

"I will get to them later," Jessi responded when Kristy pointed out their absence. "When I get done with them, they will wish they had stayed."

Sharing a conspiring look with her sister-in-law, Jessi promptly set them to changing into work clothes and then brought them up to speed on the plans for the house.

"This is going to be the management's quarters." Jessi waved a hand to include the living room, bathroom and two bedrooms that took up the far half of the third floor. Glancing around at the empty rooms and coverless windows, she smiled. "It doesn't look like much now, but it will when we get done."

"I noticed all the bedrooms are empty," Claudia pointed out.

Jessi looked a bit puzzled. Kristy jumped into explain, "Claudia can't sleep on the floor. She is inhuman the next morning." Picking up a sweatshirt from the top of her bag, Kristy proceeded to pull it over her head. Claudia took advantage of the opportunity and elbowed her in the ribs.

"I ordered the box springs and mattresses two days ago." She had not seen the elbow work so she was a bit concerned about Kristy's red face. "Are you alright?" She asked.

Managing a weak grimace, Kristy nodded.

"When are they due to arrive?" Claudia asked as she carefully put Jessi between Kristy and herself.

"Today," Jessi answered. "Are you guys ready yet?"

"All except Dawn," Kristy announced. Everybody watched as Dawn tied her last shoe.

"Okay girls," Jessi lead the way out the door. "Follow me."

After a quick discussion about colors and themes, Jessi sat Claudia down with paint and upholstery samples and a notebook to record the possible combinations they could use. After a long dialogue about what kinds of ideas Jessi had already decided upon for different parts of the house, Kristy and Jessi left Dawn to plan a mural for the stairwell. Deciding that food was soon going to be everyone's highest priority soon, Jessi and Kristy decided to tackle the mess in the kitchen. As Jessi pointed out, they were going to have to eat, and the guys were not going to wait until the following morning for the food. Both Claudia and Dawn were under strict orders to come and join them as soon as they could.

The possibility of four hungry men turned out to be a great motivator. When the mattress truck arrived at about six, half the kitchen was clean and dinner was on the stove. Dawn was sent to go get the men so the poor delivery guys would not have wrestle thirteen mattresses and thirteen box springs into their individual bedrooms. Almost needless to say, dinner was late and bed followed on its heels. There was a lot to do and everyone planned on an early start the next morning.


A rude blaring beep, sounded from the next room. Rolling over, Austin groaned. “Is it morning already?” The answer was the hot glare of the morning sun pouring through the barren window above him. Reaching across the pillow to wake Claudia, Austin found nothing. “What?” Someone turned off the alarm in the next room.

Pushing himself up to look around the room, Austin's head exploded in pain. Slowing his upward rise to accommodate the headache, he scanned the almost empty room. “Claudia?” The answer was a loud blaring beeping as the alarm went off again. Wishing Liam would just turn the thing off instead of repeatedly hitting the snooze bar, Austin reached for his clothing.

As he was digging for a new set of clothing before he headed for the shower, Austin distantly heard the others moving around in the next room. Just then, the alarm started again. Austin threw down the socks he had just gotten out of his bag and was about to kill the stupid clock. He made it as far as the door, but had not opened it when the noise ended with a satisfying crash against the wall. Guessing that Scott also had lost patience with Liam's alarming habits, Austin stalked toward the empty shower.


“Good morning,” Dawn smiled across the kitchen island at Jessi and Kristy as they entered the kitchen. Clean and bright as she always was in the morning, Dawn fetched them coffee and doughnuts.

“Where did you get doughnuts?” Jessi asked as she selected a Boston cream from the box Dawn had slid over to them. “The closest…,” she glanced at the side of the box, “Whole Donut is ten miles.”

“I took the van.” Dawn turned to Kristy. “Have you ever driven that thing?” Kristy shook her head before she managed an answer around her honey dipped bite.

“No, why?”

“It is an accident waiting to happen.”

Liam and Austin appeared in the kitchen doorway, and Adem could be heard coming down the stairs. It sounded like a herd of elephants. Dawn continued talking as she fetched some mugs from one of the clean cupboards. “Scott should really trade it in for something newer. The difference in the amount of gas it uses would be reason enough for me.”

“Has anyone seen Claudia?” Austin slid onto the closest stool and claimed one of the mugs in the center of the island. Pouring as he spoke, he added, “She was gone when I woke up this morning. I can't find her anywhere.'

“Good morning, everyone.” Adem hugged his wife from behind and beamed at the rest of the group. “Isn't it gorgeous outside?”

Austin groaned. “Oh great, another morning person.”

“Hey,” Liam declared. “Morning people are much better than non-morning people.”

“Scott killed your alarm clock again, didn't he?” Austin asked.

“Yeah,” Liam admitted. “At least this time, he offered to buy me another.”

Kristy quickly took a sip of her coffee. Liam's alarm clock habits had been a running joke for years. When the guys had roomed together at different times, Liam's alarm clock would always be a casualty of the morning wars.

“Where is he now?” Dawn poured coffee for Adem and then returned to her doughnut.

“Showering,” Liam answered before finishing his coffee. “I was tempted to turn on the sink faucet, but refrained.”

Austin set down his mug and reached for a second doughnut. “Adem, do you have a list of all the projects that need to be done?”

Shaking his head, Adem said, “I have not been able to get organized yet.”

Jessi smiled. “You should see his office. He some how manages to keep all the bills paid, but I am constantly afraid that something important will get lost in that mess.”

Austin winced at the memory of the chaos in the room behind the stairs. “If you would not mind me knowing everything, I would be willing to work through that stuff with you.” He offered before finishing off his coffee. “Claudia would also be willing to help, but I would have to find her to ask her first.”

“I promised Jessi I would help with the decorating and furniture shopping.” Claudia interrupted. She had just entered the doorway behind Austin. Turning to her, Austin immediately escorted her to the stool next to him and protectively put his arm around the back of her chair. Dawn went to fetch something for her to drink.

“I need her,” Jessi announced. “I need someone who does this all the time and can visualize this stuff.” She pushed back from the counter. “Speaking of which, we need to get to work, girls. I have some catalogues upstairs and you have not seen the basement yet.” Claudia carefully extracted herself from her husband's embrace with a few kisses. Dawn mussed Liam's hair and gave him a quick kiss. Kristy was the last to follow, but that was because Scott appeared just in time to delay her. He was very reluctant to let her go. It took a promise of a mid-morning snack to finally win her freedom.


“So where had she been?” Liam asked as soon as Kristy had disappeared into the foyer.

“Who?” Scott spilled some of his coffee on the counter when he set it down.

“Claudia.” Liam continued to watch Austin. “She did not look very well.”

Austin rotated his cup. “She has not been herself for about a week now.”

“Maybe we can help.” Adem suggested as he shoved the cream toward Scott, who declined.

“I drink it black.” Before taking a sip, he asked, “What are her symptoms, Austin?”

Austin's brows pulled together as he thought. “She has been really tired almost all the time. It is probably because she has not been sleeping well. She is always out of bed and gone when I wake up in the morning.” Leaning back so he could cross his arms on his chest, he continued. “She also has been eating less and loosing weight. Not three days ago, she refused her favorite dish, because she said it upset her stomach. I just don't get it.” Shaking his head, Austin looked around at the others. “I am beginning to have a hard time sleeping too. She won't talk to me and I am worried sick.”

“Does not describe any malady I can recall off hand,” Liam said, “but I will think on it and get back to you. How about you guys?” Scott and Adem shook their heads.

“Maybe should ask one of the girls to find out for you,” Adem suggested before popping the last of his doughnut in his mouth. “They might have better success,” he managed to say without spitting doughnut all around.

“Maybe I will,” Austin pushed back form the counter. “Are you ready, Adem? I need to start doing something so I will quit dwelling on this.”

“Me, too,” Scott also pushed back his chair and started gathering garbage. “I want to have a better idea of what we are in for during the next two months.”

“Sounds good,” Adem wiped his mouth and rose. “This way, men.”

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