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In the next forty-five minutes, she completed the application documents, ran the borrower’s credit and calculated the applicant’s debt-to-income ratios. After checking the incoming fax machine, Skye pulled off the bank statements that had been sent in and began to complete the necessary paperwork which would, hopefully, culminate in a complete file being turned in. She immediately recognized that the client had good credit, standardized pay stubs and bank statements which showed a substantial amount of assets, along with an acceptable amount of seasoning. There had been no large deposits, no unexplainable spikes or dips in the balances shown during the most recent months.
Skye breathed an audible sigh of relief as she acknowledged that the client qualified for more than one program. She also realized they would qualify for several of the low interest rate loans which they, as a first-time home buyer, would also benefit from. The phone rang again.
Skye picked it up after only two rings. “Skye Thompson, Bankfor Residential Lending,” she said quickly, poised to reach for another application.
“Girl, how are you doing?”
The voice caught Skye off guard for a quick moment, then the familiar tone was recognized. They’d been best friends forever, starting with a double Dutch contest in the third grade. After challenging one another, they’d tied the contest in knots and became best friends from that day on. Even after Skye’s family had moved from New York to Atlanta, the friendship had continued.
Nita, as she’d been called since she turned sixteen, did not wait for an answer and continued speaking. “I know you’re busy, girl, but I had to call you. My crazed husband has just decreed an edict that all members of the wedding party are supposed to show up here on Friday of next week. Don’ ask me what he’s up to. I just know that it will entail me cooking my butt off. I don’t know why I married him. On second thought, yes I do,” she said, then laughed deeply.
Skye joined her, their voices mingling, as the meaning behind the unspoken washed over them both. The joke worked in more ways than one as there had been many occasions when Nita had referred to Branch as a very skilled lover. She claimed he made all others before him look like amateurs. It didn’t hurt that he was also her soul mate.
Skye had been Nita’s only bridesmaid, with her older sister, Monica, serving as the maid of honor. Skye’s memory of the day only two months earlier, when Nita and Branch had pledged their love for one another in a beautiful ceremony, was still fresh. The small church had been filled with family and friends from both sides of the couple.
It would have been difficult to imagine anyone in the wedding party being happier for Nita than Skye. Marriage was something they’d both talked about, dreamed about and fantasized about all throughout their years of growing up. Many times, they’d even discussed planning a double wedding. When Nita announced her engagement to Branch, Skye’s happiness for her was bittersweet with the knowledge that she would not be joining her best friend as she walked down the aisle as a bride. It took a minute, then Skye realized that she was genuinely happy for Nita. Her time would come. She was sure of it though she couldn’t put her finger on who, what, when and where.
“I’m up to my ears in work, girl, but you know I’ll be there. Should I bring anything? And just what is the occasion this time?” Skye asked, laughter in her voice. She knew that neither Nita or Branch really needed an excuse for a gathering. They both loved people, including friends and relatives, as much as they loved one another.
“Don’t ask. And, no, you don’t have to bring anything. Just try and get here by next Friday evening— say about seven or seven-thirty. I think Branch felt badly about a couple of his friends not being able to attend the wedding so he’s doing the catch-up thing with the photos. They just came back from the photographer,” Nita added.
“Oh, I can’t wait to see them. How’d they come out?” Skye asked, her breath coming in a rush from the excitement she felt. It would be the first time she would get to see the new home in Fort Lauderdale that Branch and Nita had purchased. They’d moved in only two weeks after the wedding ceremony.
Her mind was also still concentrating on figuring out what pieces of information might be missing from the file she was putting together. Daniel Drake, the branch manager, always seemed to find something she hadn’t thought of which would be necessary before a file was acceptable for submission.
“Girl, they are gorgeous. With the exception of one or two, they all came out perfectly. Of course, Lorenzo can mess up anything at any time. How many times did we have to tell that boy to look straight ahead?” she said, referring to her husband’s younger brother. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was looking down Monica’s dress in a couple of the pictures,” Nita added, laughing.
Skye sat back in her chair and laughed, too. “Girl, you are too much. Lorenzo seems to have a one-track mind, but Monica was way ahead of him. She probably knew what he was up to and was just taunting him.”
“Oh, you are so right. That would be just like her. Anyway, I’ll let you go. See you next Friday night—use our travel agent again. She can get you a special deal on the flights. I’ll e-mail you her information right now.” “Okay. I’ll do it right now, before I move on to the next thing in the pile on my desk. Then I’ll e-mail you with the flight’s information.”
“Good. Just be sure to get there before seven o’clock. We’re doing to dinner and I don’t want you to be late,” Nita added as she hung up.
Skye almost gave her standard retort, “Then it wouldn’t be me,” but instead placed the receiver in the cradle. She then began recalculating the debt-to-income ratios of her latest clients and finished the work necessary for the file to be submitted to underwriting. Her day moved forward quickly and before she knew it, the clock read six forty-five.
Dreading the traffic ahead of her on Memorial Drive, Skye delayed leaving the office.
Skye checked her e-mail, called the travel agency which Branch and Nita had an account with and booked her round-trip ticket.
After sending an e-mail to Nita, she repacked her briefcase and headed toward the elevators. Her car was parked in the company parking lot and as she approached it, her mind once again returned to the conversation she and Nita had shared earlier. Skye smiled, knowing the weekend would be a good change of pace for her. Lately, she’d given up on clubs and the local watering holes which only seemed to feature the same faces and even clichéd tactics.
Dating had offered some significant challenges right after college, with the pool of available men appearing to be inexhaustible. Now, some five years later, the novelty had worn off and the whole thing seemed to be one huge joke.
She’d stopped going out on occasional dates which seemed a test of her people-handling skills of late. The last time she’d had any kind of relationship was with Aldon Scott, co-owner of Triad, one of the largest title companies in Atlanta. That eight-month liaison ended when he disappeared for two weeks without a single phone call. Skye had been devastated when the truth behind his absence had come out…and the woman who she’d never known existed. Determined to put Aldon— and his double life—behind her, she immersed herself in work, decorating her apartment and selecting the pieces she wanted to pull the condo together. She refused to answer his phone call some three weeks later.
Sometimes, you have to give a brother the “Forget my name, number and information” act, she reasoned and vowed to never again speak to him again. When she heard he’d gotten married some months later after getting his assistant pregnant, it only confirmed her stance, making her even more committed to putting her career on the fast track.
The corporate offices of the Bank for Residential Lending were located on the fourteenth floor of a building on Peachtree Street which had been recently renovated. The marble and glass lobby, topped by an exquisitely ornate atrium ceiling, had been painstakingly brought to life incorporating Old World Federal style and New World elegance. She loved the feel of the building with its light airiness, and its corporate atmosphere. Daily, it buzzed with the best and brightest that the booming city of Atlanta, Georgia had to offer.
Skye’s five-foot-six-inch frame, shoulder-length hair and milk-chocolate skin often caused heads to turn. She had grown accustomed to the double take which sometimes preceded the approach of total strangers but never understood the reaction she seemed to cause. She often wondered what the fuss was all about.
Skye didn’t realize that her curvaceous body, her flawless skin and her sensuous lips were a drawing card. In her mind, it was all just part of an average-looking existence.
On most business days, Skye wore her hair pulled back into a tight knot and found it annoying when her hairdresser insisted on blowing it out. It seemed to draw too much attention in Skye’s mind, so she would wait until she arrived home, secure it with one of the many ponytail bands she owned and once again feel in control. In Skye’s world, control was a very important element.
She loved her work as a mortgage banker. It satisfied a need to help others that had been ingrained in her by her mother, Lillian Thompson, years before she’d moved to Atlanta.
Lillian Thompson had been a practical nurse in one of New York City’s fastest growing metropolitan hospitals. She’d seen it all in her time there. Everything from hopelessness, violent crime, domestic abuse and people dying of AIDS had been her constant reality for the thirty-three years she worked there.
Now, as Skye headed for the apartment she’d recently purchased in an eight-unit building, she thought of her mother and made a mental note to call her, realizing she was due in from a trip she’d taken to Arizona. Travel seemed to be the one thing that gave Lillian Thompson great enjoyment in her senior years. Thankfully, her health remained solid.
Skye drove quickly to her Stone Mountain neighborhood and pulled into her parking space. Rod’s space was empty and she wondered if he would be working late for the remainder of the week. He normally worked long hours and was also in the industry.
Mortgage broker of his own Federal Housing Administration–licensed shop, he did a sizable business in both conventional and government loans. Luckily, Skye represented one of his most frequently used lenders.
Skye knew that Rod’s insistence on her trying the industry out had been instrumental in her current success. She again thanked both him and the Lord. She knew it had been fate which had brought her to the building and to Rod.
In the beginning, when he’d first approached her, Skye figured he was trying to hit on her. His friendliness had caught her off guard, making it awkward at times when they ran into each other in the parking lot, or in the elevator.
It was only after he’d introduced himself, invited her over for a welcome to the neighborhood drink and she’d turned him down repeatedly, that he’d laughingly said, “Girl, you don’t have to worry—you’re safe with me. I’m not into fishing in my own pond,” he’d added, a huge grin on his face. Somehow, his sincerity was established with that one statement and Skye realized he was genuinely trying to be friendly. She relaxed for the first time since she’d moved into the complex and began to enjoy her stance as a new home owner, even if the home was a condominium.
In the ensuing months, they’d gotten together several times for impromptu dinners and sometimes even watched rented movies together. He’d never made a move on her.
Rod had a fantastic sense of design which was apparent by his use of color, texture and form throughout his three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit. Done in brown, beige, white with black accents throughout, it was warm yet elegant. He’d used distinctive African accents in the bathrooms and also in several of the prints which hung on the walls lining the hallway. Mocha-brown walls greeted you immediately upon entering the foyer which was accentuated by starkly framed black-and-white prints. White carpeting lined the hallway and covered the floors in both the living room and dining area.
Skye wondered how he kept it so clean and thought of her own single-bedroom apartment. In contrast, it was comfortable, but unremarkable. Her color palette ranged from pale blues, to an even paler palette of pastels. The one concession she’d allowed herself was to paint her bedroom a warm yellow. The stark white down-filled comforter and other white accents she’d pulled together made the room appear even larger than it was. She’d done the adjoining bathroom in the opposite color scheme with orange accents, leaving everything else stark white including the towels, rugs and shower curtain. A small bowl of tangerines occupied one corner of the countertop and a vase filled with eucalyptus tied with orange twine sat at the opposite corner. The fruit served a few purposes, reminding Skye each day to take her vitamins, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and to live a healthful existence. The eucalyptus reminded her to live in the present and to appreciate each day for what it represented—another chance to live life to its fullest.
Excerpted from Let Me Love You by Linda Walters Copyright © 2007 by Linda Walters. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted May 31, 2010
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