In Starting Over, Victoria met Toby in the antique store she owns in Oak Grove Square. The man is a frustrating mix of coldhearted developer, sweet and charming hunk, and a broken-hearted little boy still mourning his grandparents.
Toby and Victoria have had a disagreement about his latest development project. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘gold’. Return to Tuesday Tales here, to read more snippets from the talented Tuesday Tales bunch.
She busied herself with turning the ‘Open’ sign to ‘Closed’ and replied without turning around. “I don’t think we have anything to discuss.”
“C’mon, Victoria, cut me some slack. I come bearing an olive branch.”
“What? You’ll tear down the rest of the square too? Make it all modern and high-rise to match?”
A grim faced stare met her as she turned to face him. He hesitated before replying. “You really don’t give me much credit, do you?”
“Credit?” She laughed, but the edge on the laughter was raspy and ragged. “Oh…I give you credit all right. Credit that you want to tear down pieces of the past, fragments of our history…and cover it all up. Asphalt and concrete. Build it out. Build it up. Build. Build. Build.” The words flew out in a rush and then came to a halt as her face softened.
A look of sadness filled her eyes, replacing the previous angry flashes. “I’m sorry, Toby. I’m sorry that you feel the need to bury your past and your hurts in a flurry of development. But paving over the disappointments in life isn’t the way everyone wants to go. Everyone has issues from the past they’d like to leave behind…but most of us still relish the memories and the era of a time from before. That’s why this little town is so successful. People love coming here to step back into a small piece of the past, if only for a brief time before returning to the hustle and bustle of the modern world.”
She stepped closer, looking in straight in the eye without wavering. The softness of her words tempered the intense look. “Don’t you see what your modern facility, as needed as it may be, would do to Oak Grove Square?”
“You love this town, don’t you?”
“With every fiber of my being. I was running away too. I have memories that aren’t pleasant either. That’s why I chose to start over. Here. This town saved me. My heart belongs here and I will protect this square with all that I have.”
“Then, please…” he pleaded. “Please give me a chance. I worked hard this week on an alternative plan. There’s no more three story complex. Won’t you come see what it is before you make any final judgements?”
Victoria tipped her head back and searched his face for any trace of deceit. Not feeling any sense of deception in him, she nodded. “Alright, I’ll look. Where?” She pointed towards his empty hands. “You say you brought an olive branch, but I don’t see it.”
“At my office. Come with me now?” A slight grin threatened to sneak out. “Before you change your mind?”
This time Victoria’s soft laughter held more joy than scorn. “Maybe you do know me better than I thought.” She shook her head and pulled her hair back behind her ears. “Let me lock up. Shall I follow you there?”
“I can drive. Then I’ll bring you back so you can get your car.”
“What if I don’t like what I see and I want to walk out?”
“That’s why I want to drive. Then I have you captive and we have to talk it out.”
“You don’t fight fair,” she muttered as she ducked behind the counter to grab her purse.
A few minutes later the lights were out, the front door locked securely and the two headed towards Toby’s beamer in a truce. At least for the time being.
The atmosphere on the drive to his office wasn’t as tense as when she’d left his car the week before, but it wasn’t as warm and pleasant as some of their earlier times together either. An uneasy anticipation filled each of them, although for different reasons.
Victoria felt like she was entering the lion’s den as they stepped into the development office. She wasn’t surprised at the clean, austere look of the front office. Two black leather sofas sat on either side of a low steel and glass table. The walls of cool gray linen wrapped the room, including the ultra-modern receptionist desk.
“Oh my God, I should have known,” she laughed. “What? No frills? No doilies or knick knacks? No golden trinkets?”
“Nope. Not a one. They’re all down in your little shop. You didn’t leave any frippery for the rest of us.” His chuckle let her know that he didn’t really mind her assessment. He motioned towards the first room in the short hallway. When he flipped on the light, it revealed a conference room as severe as the rest of the office, except for the rolls and piles of paper scattered across the surface of the gleaming glass monstrosity functioning as a table.
Victoria strode to the side, anxious to scan the blueprints in front of her and see what Toby’s mysterious Plan B was.
“Those are the bungalow plans. Those won’t tell you much yet.” Toby moved next to her grabbed a set of prints from a tube and started to unroll them. “You’ll want to see these first. This is the overall plan for the space.” He dropped few weighted bags on the corners to hold the plans flat and started pointing. “This is the empty lot on the corner. Here’s Main and here’s First.”
“That doesn’t show a big building there.”
“Nope. Not anymore. Told you I changed the idea.”
“What are those little squares?” She tapped a finger on the plans.
“Bungalows. Small independent residential buildings. See how they’re all set along this path?”
“It looks like it meanders all over the place.” Victoria looked puzzled, while Toby looked pleased.
“It does. It’s a walking path that wanders through the complex. This area along the two streets is a park area, which can be shared by the residents and the community. The bungalows in this area closest to the town are for those more independent…the ones that don’t need as much care.”
He pointed to the far side of the plans where a larger building occupied the space. “This week I put on option on the five acres behind the corner lot. If I get that property, that’s where the larger facility will go.” He held up a hand to ward off any protest. “Single story only. With the park environment continuing and encircling all the buildings.”
“All the buildings?”
“Yes. Three. But spread out. One will house residents in private rooms needing minimum care and interaction. One will be for those needing more intensive medical care and supervision. The third will have community rooms for programs and crafts, a kitchen and dining hall for meals, and a physical therapy room.” Now he looked very proud of himself. “It has everything the other facility had, just spread out and put together in a different way.”
“More like the woods. I plan to keep the trees and plantings fairly heavy, so they feel like they’re more in nature.”
“While from the downtown, all the merchants and visitors will see is a large park.” Victoria turned to Toby with a look of amazement. This she’d never expected. “Well…” Words failed her as an intense happiness welled up inside her. A lump filled her throat. She couldn’t speak even if she’d had anything to say.