Colleen Murphy has a seemingly bright future ahead of her. Fresh out of college and on the brink of a burgeoning career, she cannot wait to realize a taste of independence. New to Florida and anxious to begin her new job in sales, it seems she can do no wrong. Unfortunately, Colleen is about to discover that post-college life is nothing like she envisioned.
After she is enthusiastically welcomed into her condo community by three elderly residents, Colleen begins her new job, which quickly propels her into a series of soul searching scenarios when she realizes she is just a telemarketer with an employer that may be involved with the mob. With a cast of unpredictable characters by her side, Colleen soon experiences a whirlwind of surprising events that include meeting her neighbor's grandson, Scott, who quickly proves he is not too good to be true. As Colleen is forced to come to terms with her own reality, life repeatedly tests her limits. Can Colleen survive her greatest challenges and find her place in the world?
In this amusing narrative, a young woman must learn to navigate through an uncertain career, friendship, and love with wit and charm as she begins a new chapter after college graduation.
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.50(d)|
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A Girl, a Dream, and SPF 50
By Marissa Brady
iUniverseCopyright © 2016 Marissa Brady
All rights reserved.
What have I gotten myself into?
Reality has descended upon me in an alarmingly sudden way. I barely know where I am, or why I am here. I look suspiciously into the lid of my iced coffee and wonder fleetingly if a disgruntled barista might have roofied my drink in an attempt to stick it to the man. I miserably recall my purpose here and the fact that it's entirely of my own volition. Fortunately, Dana -- my newly acquired real estate agent -- seems competent and rational enough to get me through this.
Her perfectly positioned ponytail swishes to the left as she gazes steadily at the cracked light fixtures in the bathroom. She is beautiful, in an understated, practical sort of way. Her quick wit and efficient manner are not only noted, but also greatly appreciated, as I now have less than one month to find an apartment. She is tall and slender enough that her slim fit black pants threaten to slither to the floor, and her loose white tank top is precariously balancing on her protruding collarbones. I immediately find myself worrying whether or not she is eating properly. This is due to my innate desire to overfeed people to reach my own level of protuberance. She seems a bit weary, but I opt to attribute this to our grueling day and my less than optimal attitude, combined with what I have gathered of her overactive schedule.
Dana is a textbook, Type A overachiever. She is the founder of the Southern Florida Women's Business Alliance, an active member of the Democratic Voter's League, and -- in addition to her full time job as a real estate agent -- she serves as a consultant to several entrepreneurial friends and acquaintances. In her late 20s Dana successfully owned and operated a small chain of Southern Floridian nightclubs. The legends supply her with more than enough business credibility, despite having long since been sold off due to the excessive stress they had provided. At least this is according to Southern Florida Realty's website, which is how I discovered Dana.
She sighs and taps the fingers of her exquisitely manicured hand on the sink. "I think that the bulb is out, and once we replace it, we won't notice the cracks in the sconce, I really do," she attests confidently. She pauses for a moment, and with a glimmer in her eye and a bounce in her stride, she passionately marches over to the other end of the living room. She throws open the sliding doors that lead to a small narrow porch. "Just get a look at that Florida sunshine! You can't get this in New York, can you?"
I dimly smile as a minimal amount of natural daylight spills onto the stained and tattered carpet. But, I only do so to provide Dana a level of comfort that will allow her to continue to help rather than feel inclined to drop me as a client. This poor woman has been traipsing up and down what seems like the entire length the state, for hours, and I have not yet provided a single approving comment. She has been overly kind and patient as I have pouted and rejected each option. It seems that each hovel sinks to a new low, location after location. At this point, my options range from meager to dismal. Highlights include a seventh floor walkup that nearly caused a fatal heart attack; the three bedroom that I would share with two goliaths posing as auto mechanics; the apartment that seemed passable until I noticed a heard of cockroaches migrating towards the master bedroom with an unnerving sense of entitlement: and, finally, the luxury low-rise located directly adjacent to the Tri-Rail, a local train that sends thunderous tremors through the apartment bi-hourly. I am running out of options.
It is raining furiously. I notice that the level of water pooling in the parking lot is rising, enough so that I'm fairly certain I saw a school of bass swimming along their merry way just a few moments ago. I briefly ponder if I should run to The Home Depot to gather the supplies necessary to build an arc, or perhaps a fishing pole and some bait. I am trying to distract myself from the bleak state of affairs through humor -- something I apparently do often, according to my mother.
This place is decrepit and nauseating, I think, while I bite my tongue to avoid verbalizing it. This action may have been a tad overzealous, as the brackish taste of blood fills my mouth.
Floral wallpaper is slowly peeling its way from the ceiling to the floor as if it is trying to escape the prison chamber that is this apartment. A thick layer of dust covers every item, so much so that when Dana turns on the ceiling fan to display its attributes, we both break out into a fit of sneezes and coughs. Everything is either faded, floral, dilapidated, or some combination of the three. The walls are decorated with a variety of painted aluminum sea horses, end tables scattered with locally acquired seashells, and each decorative element is a different shade of sherbet.
I am suddenly struck with a feeling of intense nausea that can only be attributed to abnormally high level of pastel influence that is currently bombarding my senses. Palm trees and wooden artifacts are scattered around in a fleeting attempt for someone to give this dismal apartment a mediocre amount of cheer. The effect is instead transposed, producing a level of desperation that forms a knot in my stomach, now rivaling nausea, as I realize that what I am about to say could actually be a rather sizeable mistake. I recall the conclusion of my mother's pep talk prior to my departure from home: "Remember Colleen, stay positive, and reveal your ..." she drifted off--and it is important to note the length of the pause--"personality slowly to others." Knowing that she is always right and I do have a tendency to overreact trending towards pessimism, I make my decision.
"I'll take it," I say with a growing grin. I have mentally stripped the wallpaper, pulled out the carpet and discarded the palm trees. The place is already coated in fresh paint, newly tiled, and appropriately furnished. There is a certain level of possibility that exists here that was not present in the other homes. I silently establish that it will be dinner-party ready in a maximum of a week.
If I take out the wall separating the kitchen from the living space, it will offer a greater ease when hosting social gatherings, I muse.
"Well Colleen, you don't waste any time, do you?" said Dana. "I'll have the lease drafted up later this afternoon, and you can be in by next week after you interview with the association." I can see in her face and hear in her voice a massive amount of relief. I can imagine she was not thrilled with the possibility of spending future days with my exhausting itinerary and me.
"The what?" I ask, mildly confused. My naivete had led me to believe that I would be able to move in immediately after signing.
"The condo association. It's a formality. They'll just want to make sure you aren't a convicted felon or criminally insane," Dana laughs. "It is a bit ridiculous, but there is really is no avoiding it. You'll have to come by for an interview and then you can move in immediately thereafter." She hands me a thick stack of papers labeled Bay Breeze Community Rulebook. "You'd better read this before the interview, just in case," she says with a wink. She puts a firm hand on my shoulder and looks me in the eye. "I like your style, Colleen. You are going to be just fine."
I always appreciate comments like these, even if people don't mean them. I may present the air of confidence, but I am pretty sure I am just mostly impulsive and constantly seeking approval. I also tend to relentlessly over-analyze situations that are most likely meaningless. But all of this will soon become enormously apparent.
After a harrowing trip back to the Northeast to gather some paperwork and tie up some loose ends, I arrive back at the Bay Breeze clubhouse, where the interview is to be held, sporting a freshly pressed pink tweed suit accented by an oversized black poppy broach, the anthers of which continue to flutter into my eye. Despite the fact that my eye is now profusely tearing, I have tried to present myself in a manner that would make it difficult for the association to reject. A strand of pearls is secure around my neck, and my hair has been carefully straightened, despite resistance from the heavy water-laden air. I have a resume in one hand and a stack of business cards in the other. I am going for professional, yet gentle, with a young, sophisticated edge. Although Dana has alluded that this interview is less of an interview and more standard procedure, I am nervous and I have that underlying fear that things will not go as smoothly as previously anticipated.
The room is spacious, a single ceiling fan circulating the thick July air. A card table is in one corner, a bookshelf is filled with board games and puzzles, and I can hear the clatter of pool game coming from a room labeled "Billiards" on the other side of the room. A small paper sign indicates that I should be seated on one of the wicker chairs adorning the clubhouse and another on the door to a boardroom indicates that another interview is in progress.
What the hell is this interview? I ponder. Will they ask me about a time I mediated a conflict? Will they inquire about my main weakness? Always turn a negative into a positive and show how I strive for improvement and continuously evolve and mature, I silently coach myself. I am a strong, independent candidate for this condo community. I am startled from my preparation as a middle-aged couple exits and, without a greeting or wave, disappears from the clubhouse all together. I wait a few moments and then enter the boardroom.
I am greeted by two elfish looking individuals sporting white polo shirts with the names Rose and Albie scrawled in the upper left corner along with matching khaki shorts and similarly-styled brown orthopedic shoes. Each appears to be no less than 80, their walkers tucked underneath the coat rack, their oxygen tanks presumably left at home. Neither can be much more than 5 feet tall, their backs straining with scoliosis. Rose's hair is mostly covered with a Bay Breeze visor, but in what is exposed I spot a stray curler and in the light her white hair appears to be highlighted by an indigo glimmer. Albie's suspenders show slightly from underneath his pilled sweater, his mouth seemingly permanently pressed into a frown, which I wonder whether is caused by eternal sadness, or perhaps a recent stroke. Regardless, I determine to treat him with extra care and mild manner.
Rose holds out a leathery, wrinkled hand and introduces me to Albie, who raises an unkempt eyebrow as a greeting. Both begin to stand, but I am inspired by their struggle and excessive wheezing to encourage them against any drastic movement. Rose catches her breath, shuffles around a few papers, and commences what will soon become the most irrelevant interview in the history of time.
"Do you understand the rules listed in the rulebook? Do you have any questions?" She asks with little intonation.
Dana has instructed me to ask at least one question in order to show my interest in the community. I am prepared at this point to pose said query to my new acquaintances Rose and Albie. I tentatively clear my throat and flip to the appropriate page in my notebook. "I noticed on page 14 that it states that no pets are allowed in the association. Does this include all animals? Could I possibly have a goldfish?"
I know it was an extremely unfortunate question. However, it was all I could muster due to the brutally straightforward and painstakingly detailed contents of the aforementioned rulebook. As it turns out, goldfish are in fact NOT permitted. After my request for a scaled companion was denied, I assumed that there would be more of an interrogation, but it appears that there is nothing to follow except for a brief summary of a few key rules including the no pet policy, the community speed limit of 15 mph, and the fact that pick-up trucks are not approved vehicles to be on premise. I think to question the latter rule, but since I do not foresee any time when this will become an issue, I opt to avoid further discussion.
"You're IN sweetie!" Rose says smiling, while Albie stoically nods his approval. Both are evidently relieved to drop the burden of maintaining their professionalism during the 'interview.' Rose continues gregariously. "It will be lovely to have a nice young girl in the complex. You have to meet my grandson; he works in Tamarac at the Wynn Dixie. He comes every Sunday to call out the BINGO numbers. Do you play? He is such a pleasant boy; I think you two would hit it off." I wonder what information Rose seems to have gathered about me that leads her to believe this statement and how she somehow pegged my affinity for BINGO; however I decide to ignore my skepticism and opt to feel flattered.
"I would love that Rose." I say truthfully, as I am in no position to reject friendship in any form. I awkwardly hand her one of my business cards with my number on it and head over to my very first brand new, slightly ancient, apartment.
Hey one gal's trash is another gal's treasure.
"Mother Fuuu" I begin, and then stop myself as I picture the pained look that spreads across my Mother's face each time she witnesses me cursing. I think for a second and then recall a favorite expression I created in order to get out my aggression, while not causing my mother any excess grief. "Mother Brother!" I scream with a feeling of satisfaction. It is a few days later and I am covered in sweat, dust, and other unknown elements and the place still looks completely horrendous. I am fully regretting the cliché I previously used that somehow this dump was somehow related to treasure. I thought it looked bad when I had initially viewed it and at that point I was smitten with the concept of independence. I am now throwing a completely irrational fit over the less than satisfactory state of my new home.
It is now that I notice not only is the wallpaper peeling, but there are several layers below it, making it virtually impossible to ever get it all off in order to paint it. In addition, Bay Breeze Community Handbook's rule number 40 has suddenly resurfaced in my mind, which very clearly states that I am in no way allowed to paint or alter any stylistic features of the apartment. Regrettably, this resurfaced after I had successfully removed an awkwardly shaped portion of one of the layers in the bathroom. All I've managed to do is move the dust from the apartment onto my body, and I have made the walls to look even more unbearable than they ever were to begin with -- but at least it feels like my own mess.
I am happy to see that all of my belongings I shipped have arrived, although much is rain damaged. Apparently the mail carrier thought it appropriate to leave everything on the stoop to gather rain for most of the day. I silently vow to give a stern lecture to the next delivery person I see. Although I am tired and lonely, in the back of my mind the idea that this ugly place is mine makes it worthwhile. It may be infested with ants, it may be falling apart, it may be the ugliest piece of crap I have ever seen, but it is mine. Well, technically it is not mine, but I will be taking over for at least the next year.
The idea of independence continues to thrill me. I will be starting my first job on Monday. I will be leaving my apartment, getting into my brand new car and arriving at my new job and I will blow them all away. Not in the murderous sense, but in the sense that I know I can do anything at all! I feel infinite. I am ready to take on the world. I also feel light headed and dizzy, and may have inhaled a few too many paint fumes. I actually need to lie down for some time.
After the apartment has aired out a bit, I feel slightly more rational. I have thrown out whatever has been destroyed and put away anything I will actually need. The place is as clean and as put together as possible at this moment. I am now free to dream. My bed is calling to me and luring me to become engulfed in its outstretched, down-filled arms, and I am feeling that my body and mind are ready to submit. The bed's overall appeal and comfort are an enormous relief. Although I'll tell any host that I can sleep anywhere, this is not true. I have always had tremendous difficulty sleeping, which inevitably leads to a frustrating period of time each night where I try to coax myself to sleep. I try to persuade my body to relax, to quiet my hyperactive mind, but nothing works and I end up exhausted from the effort, but no closer to sleep. Fortunately, at this moment I feel such a sense of serenity, or enormous exhaustion more accurately, that I am invited to the deepest sleep I have ever known.
Excerpted from A Girl, a Dream, and SPF 50 by Marissa Brady. Copyright © 2016 Marissa Brady. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
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