Matilda checked the address one last times before pulling into the empty parking space by the front door. This was the place her father had bought. It was an old building, part of a larger complex, from the Victorian Era she guessed. The street was quiet in the middle of the day, even with the warm summer sun overhead. In fact there wasn't another living soul amongst the buildings around her.
Further down the street towards town the buildings were newer. Cars had been parked here and there amongst the houses and children laughed as they ran and played. But none of them it seemed wanted to stray too close to the older end of the street. Infront on the houses there were small strips of green well-kept grass. Even from inside the car Matilda could smell the distinctive scent of newly cut grass. These common areas appeared well maintained and overall the older buildings were very pleasant. And yet somehow the complex gave off an unexplained sense of abandonment.
Putting the car into park and turning the engine off Matilda looked at her watch before smoothing her hair. She was a few minutes early. Stepping out of the car she adjusted her shirt and put her suit jacket on neatly. With her outfit complete Matilda felt instantly more at ease. The smooth lines of the charcoal fabric as it neatly covered her slim frame filled her with the confidence she was known for. She had to be confident in her line of work, especially looking the way that she did. She was only small, petite was the word that she usually heard, and delicate. Not usually the person you expected to be in charge of a team of builders and contractors.
Taking one last look at her reflection in the car window she smiled slightly. Yes, professional and presentable as usual. You only had one chance for a first impression after all, and if everything went to plan she would need the Estate Agent again very soon.
It was only a moment later that the Agent's car pulled up next to her own and a middle aged man got out. He seemed out of place with the surroundings, uncomfortable, but she couldn't see why. He looked exactly like every other Estate Agent that she had ever seen. His car was the standard fair emblazoned with the company logo. His suit and appearance sculpted in a similar way to her own to project confidence and expertise, and yet he looked nervous.
He asked extending his hand towards her with a false smile. The type of smile that only those in the business could see through.
"Yes, you must be Mr Reuter."
The false smile remained on the man's face as he nodded almost imperfectively while Matilda shook his hand.
"Is it nice to meet you at last Miss Baumann. I'm sure you will be comfortable here. As I told your Father, this unit has a lot of potential, as do the rest of the properties in this complex represented by ourselves at Reuter and Bolton."
Matilda's smile became as fake as the Estate agents as he removed the front door key from his pocket. That was why she was here, all business. Aside from the project that her father had sent her to manage, Baumann Development was looking to make a little extra money. If they could make a deal with the local estate agent and renovate the buildings themselves they could all make a little extra money. But none of that could start without Matilda Baumann living in and renovating this house while simultaneously working on the Museum project. All Business all the time. She was determined to do well while she was in town. For years she had been a project Manager at her father's company and still he refused to let her manage any of the bigger projects. At least now she had a more high profile task to perform alongside the usual residential work that she usually managed.
"I'm sure that it will do quite nicely Mr Reuter."
She said, their false smiles still firmly in place as the door was unlocked and they moved through the door together. It was as Matilda had expected based on what her Father had told her. The house was pleasant enough, but out of date. It had been renovated in the mid nineties and as a result was looking a little tired. It did have 'Potential' as the Agent had described it. 'Potential' as usual meaning, 'needs substantial renovation work'. She guessed the other units on the older side of Haven street were all in a similar condition.
The entrance way was carpeted in beige. Beige that continued up the staircase to the left of the door and she assumed throughout the entire top floor. The wallpaper was cream and gold with a Damask pattern that Matilda remembered from her childhood home. She almost put her hand out to check if it was embossed, but restrained herself just in time.
"Thank you. It will do while I am here."
Mr Reuter nodded handing Matilda the key.
"Very well Miss Baumann."
He made as if he was going to leave, but stopped looking back at her curiously.
"If you don't mind me asking, Miss. Why is your Father's company interested in this area?"
She was a little confused by the question, but figured the curiosity was warranted. Although she bristled slightly at the reminder that the company was her father's, she decided to answer his question honestly. No doubt this man was hoping for quite a bit of business from Edward Baumann and Baumann Development.
"I'm here to oversee the renovations of the Courthouse, Mr Reuter. Baumann Development is working with the trust to convert it into a new building for the museum. I need somewhere to stay while working on the project. If myself and the company can renovate this unit and potentially the others in the complex while I am here then I'm sure that we can all make a bit of profit"
The false smile slipped slightly as she spoke, before he schooled it back into place. Matilda ignored the way the man looked her up a down, obviously doubtful that a woman could supervise the work on her own. But what he said next surprised her.
"It's an interesting building that Courthouse, a lot of history. If those walls could talk."
With that he finally did walk out of the door, leaving Matilda to wonder exactly what he had meant by his comment. But she shrugged it off quickly. There was a lot still to do. Retrieving her tablet from the car Matilda set about taking notes and planning renovations.
A wooden door to her right led into the living room. The same beige carpet from the hall led her into this room, and the wallpaper followed. Finally giving in to the urge Matilda ran her hand along the wall confirming that it was indeed slightly raised. Her fingers followed the pattern almost reverently. She smiled a little remembering the feel of it from her room as a child. Even so it would have to go.
Continuing with her inspection after a moment, Matilda moved to the gas fireplace and mantle. Running her hand along the mantle she noted that it had been cleaned recently. Unlike the wallpaper it was completely smooth, the faux marble barely used despite the decades since it had been decorated. The window too was a nineties addition. Double glazing fit into the space left by the original window.
She was a little disappointed to see that there were no original Victorian features in the room, but she was not surprised. From what she had seen of the complex these houses had once been a hospital or commercial building of some sort, not residential. At some point the once large building had been divided up into as many homes as possible.
There was one obvious addition to the room. Across from the fireplace there was a pull out sofa bed. Her father had made sure to request some furniture for his daughter's short stay. Just the bare minimum, but it would be enough. He had learned a long time ago not to get her anything too extravagant. If she needed anything more she would get it for herself.
Through an archway on the left Matilda followed the carpet through to what had obviously been intended to be the dining room. The same wallpaper came with her as she explored. Finding the table and chairs her father had also requested, she continued to look around. Across from the archway a large patio door had been installed leading out into a small stretch of Garden, not much extending the width of the house and extending to a point after a few meters. But any little bit of green was an advantage these days. To the right there were two decorative alcoves furnished with shelves, all painted cream to match the wallpaper. While she was renovating the rest of the house this room and the living room would serve as her living quarters. A bed and office were all that she needed.
To the left there was a door and a serving hatch into what she assumed was the kitchen. Matilda stood for a moment looking at the hatch frowning slightly. It reminded her of something, some half remembered something from her childhood. For a second she thought she heard laughter, just on the edge of her hearing, children laughing together far away. But then it was gone and the memory eluded her. Turning to look back towards the living room window Matilda half expected to see the children from the other end of the street, closer now, but there was no one there.
The door next to the hatchway led back into the hallway along with the carpet which turned to the left behind the stairs. One door stood on the left, under stairs storage, and one door remained on the right. The last door as she expected led into the Kitchen. It was here that the beige carpet finally stopped, giving way to the equally outdated linoleum. The walls as well were different. Sponge painted cream walls greeted her rather than the wallpaper she was so used to seeing. The room was small, but functional. The utilities had already been replaced, a brand new cooker and refrigerator stood out amongst the white cabinets and faux marble countertops. From the doorway Matilda could see the other side of the hatch into the dinning room, but she turned from it quickly. Walking to a little door on her left she pushed it open to reveal the utility room. The linoleum started once again leading past a washer and drier, more counter tops and finally to a backdoor.
Opening the back door took Matilda out into the back garden. A small patio extended len width of the house with the back of the garden covered in grass. Like the front this grass had been cut recently and the smell wafted towards Matilda. It was a comforting smell and she smiled. Closing the back door reluctantly She retreated back through the house to the staircase.
Once again she followed the beige carpet to explore the first floor. Directly across from her when she reached the landing Matilda could see the open door of the bathroom. But instead of investigating the facilities she continued to follow the beige carpet into each of the three bedrooms. They were all identical beige creations. Instead of the wallpaper used throughout the rest of the house these rooms were painted cream. Each room boasted cream and gold fitted wardrobes at one end enough space for a full bedroom suite.
Finally Matilda left the beige carpet once again and stepped into the bathroom. There were tiles here rather than linoleum. Again cream was the colour of the day, the tiles extending half way up the wall on all sides, except where the Bath mounted shower stood. There the tiles rose to the ceiling. Every now and then there was a glitter of gold where seashells were painted onto the tiles. The walls above the tiles were cream as well and Matilda sighed. As soon as she started work there was going to be a much needed injection of colour in this house. Anyone could go mad in a place like this.
Done with her investigations for the moment Matilda retrieved her belongings from the car. There were only a couple of boxes worth, her briefcase and a suit bag hanging in the back of the car. She didn't need much and she didn't intend to stay very long. Once again she didn't see a single person while she stood out on the street. The sun was less intense now, the light failing a little, and she couldn't hear anything from the other end of the street.
Returning to the house Matilda unpacked the one thing that she took with her everywhere that she went. Her Violin. She hadn't actually played it in years, not since she was a teenager. But she always kept it tuned. The much loved instrument had been a gift from her parents when she had first started to play. No matter where she went it always came with her and sat where she could see it while she was working. Moving through to the dining room she placed the instrument lovingly onto one of the shelves.
That done Matilda removed her suit jacket, hanging it carefully on the back of one of the chairs she reached for her briefcase. She set up her laptop on the table, along with her tablet and her notes on the courthouse, and started her final preparations for the next day. She had designed the Museum layout herself, with the brief that the trust had given her. And there wasn't much that she needed to do before her meeting in the morning. But everything had to be perfect. This was her chance to prove to her father that she could do it, that she was good enough. She could prove that she wasn't as fragile as he presumed her to be, she wasn't a little girl anymore. This was her big break. She was so intent on the notes in front of her that Matilda didn't notice the whisper of sound, the tiny imperceptible notes of a piano played far off in some dream. Or that she had started to hum along.