The Restoration Ch. 01

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This is the first of a planned two-chapter story. I’d like to thank Ravenna933, as always, for her help in editing this story into the form you see below. I’d also like to thank my two beta readers, each of whom made small but helpful suggestions.

The house next door had been in slow, sad decline since Mr. Olszewski died in 1989. Mrs. Olszewski lived there as a widow right up to the end of her life, but she was neither handy nor wealthy enough to keep up with the routine maintenance, and by the time Victoria and I became her next door neighbours, the house was a sad, faded shell of what it had once been, its gardens overgrown, its paint peeling, its windows dirty.

Mrs. Olszewski had been a kind and sociable old lady when we met her, but as old age and dementia gradually consumed her, we saw less and less of her around the neighbourhood. By the end, you’d never have guessed that anyone lived next door. The only signs of life were the ever-present glow of her ancient television in the living room window, and one of the neighbour kids occasionally cutting her lawn in summer and shoveling her driveway in winter.

The end finally came for her one winter while Victoria and I were in Florida, and by the time we returned to Ontario, her family had already pillaged her belongings and put the place up for sale. I went to the Open House just to admire the house, and I marvelled at the mahogany woodwork, the original oak hardwood flooring, the brass and crystal light fixtures, the green and white subway tiled bathroom with black accents. The house was run-down, but there was so much potential. Someone, I thought, could really make this place beautiful again someday.

The ‘For Sale’ sign came down as quickly as it had gone up, and we saw no further signs of life next door for several months. Finally, one warm Saturday morning in May, a moving van pulled up outside while Victoria and I were having breakfast.

“We might finally have neighbours again,” Victoria remarked, looking curiously out the window as I sipped my morning coffee.

“What can you see?”

“There’s about fifteen people out there,” she observed. “It’s impossible to tell who the owner might be.”

“It’s going to be nice to have people next door who actually leave the house now and then. I just hope they fix the place up while maintaining its character.”

“You’ve already turned our house into a 1920’s design museum,” Victoria chided. “No scolding them about their decorating choices. Maybe they like white baseboards.”

“If they paint over that mahogany, I shall call the police,” I grinned, only half-joking.

Victoria rolled her eyes. “Not everyone is as handy as you are, Patrick, but I do hope they’re fixer-uppers. Mrs. Olszewski was lovely, God rest her soul, but her neglect was starting to drag the property values down. I can’t believe that she had a son living in town all this time. The bastard never visited or helped her out, he was just waiting for her to die so he could collect his inheritance. He could have at least had the windows cleaned for her every now and then.”

“He sure seemed like he made bank on selling the place,” I commented. “I never thought they’d get a price like that, in this town, for a house that needs that much work.”

“The rise in equity is good for our bottom line,” Victoria smiled, kissing me on the cheek.

Later that day I went out to my garage workshop where I was building yet another bookshelf for Victoria’s always-expanding book collection. I watched the activity next door out of the corner of my eye, seeing children running around underfoot, a couple of older people handling light items, and a core group of people appearing to be in their late 20’s to mid-30’s. One woman in the crowd kept catching my attention. She looked like she was in her late twenties, dark-haired and dark-eyed, with a complexion I guessed was Mediterranean. She was quite pretty, even while wearing minimal makeup, a messy ponytail with a ballcap, and comfortable work clothes that hid her figure. She appeared to be the one directing traffic as a couple of burly men unloaded furniture off the truck. Most of it was clearly well-made — no Ikea bookshelves or cheap particle board. I nodded in approval to myself as I watched an antique-looking bedroom set making its way into the house.

The woman caught my eye at one point, and I waved at her, trying to be friendly. She waved back, and in that moment, I noticed what seemed like a profound and deep sadness in her eyes. She wore a sad, forlorn look, and I noticed her demeanour was slow and deliberate. Moving into our first house was one of the happiest days of Victoria’s and my lives, but this woman, whoever she was, didn’t look at all happy to be there. Surprised, I turned back to my table saw, and when I looked up again, she was gone.

That evening, I was up in my room. Victoria and I have no children, and with a three-bedroom house, we’ve each taken one of the guest rooms for our hobbies. I’ve got my guitars and my PlayStation güvenilir bahis in mine; she’s got wall-to-wall bookcases with a leather-bound reading chair in hers.

I was laying on the guest bed in the dark, watching YouTube videos on my laptop, when I noticed a light on in the house next door. The window opposite mine always had drawn curtains in Mrs. Olszewski’s time — I literally couldn’t remember a time in the seven years we’d been neighbours when I’d been able to see in — but today it was wide open, and I realized with a start that I was looking at the green and white master bathroom. The dark-haired woman I’d seen earlier was visible inside, still in her grubby clothes. I could see sweat stains on her back and chest, and face had clear dust and dirt marks. I quickly flipped the laptop closed, plunging myself into total darkness.

As I watched, the woman inspected the old cast-iron tub and shower. She looked up at the curtain rod, seemed to notice that there was no shower curtain, and sighed heavily to herself. She then turned the taps and started filling the tub.

I knew I shouldn’t watch, but I was captivated, and she disappeared out of frame for a moment as my cock stirred between my legs. A few moments later she reappeared, fully nude, bending over with her bottom in the air towards me as she fiddled with the faucet. Her skin was bronzed and her ass shapely, and my cock responded by fully springing to life. I slid a hand into my pyjama bottoms, adjusting it until it was comfortable, but held off from touching it further. The woman turned and then carefully stepped into the tub, and I was treated to a glorious view of her side-boob for a split second before her body disappeared into the cast-iron cauldron. Now that I could only see her face in profile, I decided to make my retreat before I pushed my luck too far.

I seriously debated jerking off, but I decided I wanted sex if I could get it. My erect cock was loose in my pyjama bottoms as I found Victoria, curled up on the couch in the living room, reading.

“Well hello, sailor,” she greeted me, noticing the bulge. “What brought him out to play?”

“Can’t a man be devastatingly attracted to his beautiful wife?” I asked innocently.

“He can,” she smiled sweetly back, “but I also know you too well, Patrick Cullen. You’ve got that dirty look on your face. Something else is up.”

“There’s no keeping secrets from you, is there?” I asked rhetorically.

She shook her head expectantly.

“Apparently you can see into the master bathroom next door from my room upstairs,” I confessed nonchalantly. “Our lovely new neighbour is having a bath.”

“Pervert.” She smiled, devilishly. “Should I be upset at you spying on her?”

“It was a total accident,” I said truthfully. “I was just up there minding my own business and she appeared in the window.”

“I’m sure it was just as innocent as you say,” she responded knowingly. “She must be pretty if she can get your cock hard just by seeing her naked. Is she still up there?”

“She was when I came down.”

“I want to have a look.” She got up, heading for the stairs.

“Who are you calling a pervert again?” I teased after her. “Mine was accidental, but this is deliberate. Is the pot calling the kettle black?”

“Hush.” She smiled back at me as she headed upstairs to my room, keeping the lights off. I followed her, keeping my distance so as not to create too much movement.

“You can’t see anything,” she complained as she looked out the window. “Just her head.”

“You’d have to wait for her to get out to see anything more, I suppose,” I observed. The woman’s eyes were closed in the bath and she was lying motionless, relaxing.

“I doubt you could wait that long,” she said knowingly, quickly pulling the blind closed. She then reached down into my pants and seized my cock with gusto. “Besides, you’ve been spying on other girls, and I need to punish you,” she continued, dropping to her knees as she spoke.

Our lovemaking by the tenth year of our marriage was routine, but we still managed to get it on regularly enough. We’d been together so long that we knew each other’s bodies as well as our own, and our sex was rarely long or drawn out anymore — within ten minutes she’d sucked me off, I’d returned the favour with interest, and Victoria was back on the couch with her book.

The house next door remained quiet for the next few days. The pretty dark-haired woman appeared to be the only occupant, and I occasionally saw glimpses of her leaving and returning carrying shopping bags from the local hardware store. Without trying to, I managed to spy on her in the shower once more — I’d been so zoned out with my guitar that it shocked me when I suddenly looked up and saw a nude woman in the shower, clear as day. She’d evidently found a translucent shower curtain, so I couldn’t see her body in any detail, but I could see the outline of a trim female figure and a dark patch of hair between her legs through the semi-clear vinyl. I resolved türkçe bahis to never get caught spying, even by accident, and I quickly closed the blind to give her privacy and ensure I wasn’t seen.

The next afternoon, just after lunch, I was out in my workshop again cutting wood when I saw her, on her lawn, dressed in a tank top and shorts and staring forlornly at her house. I decided it was time to make my introductions, and I switched off my table saw. She turned around to look at me in the sudden silence.

“Hi!” I called, in as friendly a tone as I could manage.

“Hi.” Her face remained expressionless.

“I’m Patrick Cullen. I live next door with my wife, Victoria.” I offered my hand and she shook it.

“Ana Maria Robertson,” she responded. “I go by Ana.”

“You bought a beautiful house,” I gushed. “It’s going to be a lot of work, but there’s so much potential in that place.”

Ana nodded sadly. “That’s why we bought it.”

I noticed a wedding ring on her finger. “You and your husband?”

“No.” She grimaced stoically. “He passed away a few months ago.”

“I’m… sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say.

“So am I.” She gazed up at the house. “Graham was the handy man. He wanted a fixer-upper, and he fell in love with the potential in this place. We had our offer accepted back in February, and a week later, he was gone.”

“Do you need any help?” I offered.

She looked up, making eye contact with me for the first time. “I’m so overwhelmed. I don’t even know where to start. I don’t know the first thing about owning a house.”

“If you’re open to hearing a suggestion, I have one,” I ventured.

“Oh?” She regarded me with interest.

“Your bathroom window upstairs is kind of open,” I said, as innocently as I could muster.

Ana blushed. “I know. I hope I haven’t given you a show.”

“Not at all,” I lied reassuringly. “Mrs. Olszewski always had the curtains closed, so it’s never been an issue while we’ve lived here. I’ve never seen you in there, but I noticed the curtains had come down. You don’t want a bathroom with no privacy.”

“There weren’t any curtains on that window when I moved in. The previous owners must have taken them. It’s not like I care, though – can you imagine having curtains in a bathroom?” She retched.

“You need some frosted privacy glass. Come over here.” I led her around to the other side of our house and pointed out our upstairs bathroom window. “Do you see how the bottom sash is frosted over? It still lets light in, but you can’t see anything.”

“That’s a great idea, but I wouldn’t have a clue how to do it,” she said sadly.

“My treat,” I offered spontaneously. “I’m a carpenter by trade, but I know how to glaze a window. You can call it a housewarming present.”

She thought about it for a moment. “Okay, Patrick Cullen, but only on one condition.”

“You name it.”

“I don’t want you to do it for me. I want you to teach me.” She looked at me with determination. “For me to be true to Graham’s dream for this house, I have to learn how to take care of it myself. I’ve never done a lot of work with tools, but I have to start learning somewhere.”

“You’ve got a deal.” I smiled.

I grabbed my tools, and she invited me in. I could see Ana had already made a start on improving the house. There were boxes everywhere and the house was still in chaos, but some of Mrs. Olszewski’s outdated 80’s wallpaper was gone. The living room was covered in drop cloths, and the walls were midway through being painted in a tasteful period-appropriate arsenic green. I smiled to myself as she led me upstairs.

I entered the bathroom, noticing the faint scent of a feminine floral shampoo still lingering in the air. I quickly inspected the window, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it still in good operating order.

“Okay, so stop me if I’m giving you too much detail,” I began.

“I will, and there’s no such thing as too much detail.” She half-smiled at me.

“Don’t say that until you hear how much detail I can go into.” I smiled back as I started inspecting her window. “Okay, so the old-growth lumber they used back then doesn’t exist anymore, and you literally cannot buy anything now that’s this rot-resistant. If you take care of your windows, they’ll last as long as the house stands. There’s never a reason to replace them provided the wood is in good shape. If you properly maintain them, the R-value of their insulation is as good or better than modern windows. You’ve got no rot here, no problems. It’s in great shape.

“These pieces of trim on the sides are called the stops,” I continued, indicating at a piece of wood trim. “The stops keep the bottom half of the window, or sash, in place in its channel. The sash lock up here opens and closes and allows the sash to move up and down, and there are counterweights hidden in the wall that are attached by these ropes to make it stay in place when it’s open.”

“Got it,” Ana nodded.

“The window is designed to come apart güvenilir bahis siteleri for easy maintenance, and it’s not hard to remove either sash if you need to. I’ll show you what to do on one side, and then you do it on the other side.” I slid a putty knife between the stop and the jamb, then slid a pry bar in gently and popped the stop off. I let Ana do the same on the second side, and then I helped her pull the sash out of its channel.

“Your sash cords are knotted in place instead of being nailed, which is good for easy removal. I just have to tie the ropes off, so we don’t lose them in the walls, and then we’ll take this down to my workshop to pop the glass out.” I quickly tied off the sash cords, slid the wooden sash under my arm, then headed for the door.

Ana stared at me in awe. “It would have taken me all day to figure that out. But I bet Graham would have known how to do it.”

“What did he do for a living?” I asked, curious.

“He was an electrician, but only because they made him pick a specialty at trade school. He could fix anything.”

“Sounds like a man I would have gotten along with.” I smiled.

Ana choked up again before catching herself. “Graham got along with everyone.”

“I’m sorry.” I suddenly felt like an idiot.

“It’s okay.” She took a deep breath. “Someday, I’ll tell you all about him.”

We went down to my workshop, where I plugged in my heat gun and showed her how to remove the old glazing putty holding the glass in place with a painter’s 5-in-1 tool. As I’d suspected, a lot of the old glazing was worn out, and once we’d popped it out and removed the old glazing points with a set of pliers, Ana was able to get the old window out easily in one piece.

Once we had our measurements, we made a trip down to the local glass store, where I bought her a new pane of frosted privacy glass that the glazier cut to fit, along with a tub of glazing putty and a packet of new glazing points. Then, back at the workshop, I showed her how to glaze the window, and I watched with no small amount of pride as she hammered in the glazing points to secure the frosted glass and then sealed it tightly with a smooth, professional-grade finish.

“I am seriously impressed,” I said sincerely once she’d finished.

“Thanks, I’ve kind of impressed myself,” she said proudly. “I never would have guessed I could do that.”

“You’ll need to let your putty cure for a month or so before painting it, so I wouldn’t put the stops back on yet,” I advised. “But you can slide it back in the sash channel and the sash lock will hold it in place. Once it cures over in a month or so, pull it back out, paint the putty with oil-based sealer and then two coats of exterior-grade paint to protect it from the winters, and then you can reassemble the window.”

She smiled a full smile for the first time since I’d met her. “I’m still overwhelmed, but I surprised myself how good this looks now that I’m done. Maybe I can handle this after all. Thank you for the gift, for being a good teacher, and for letting me do most of the work.”

“You were a great student, and it was my pleasure. Would you like a beer?” I offered.

“I’d love one.”

I invited her into our house and gave her a quick tour, showing off all the changes and historical restoration work I’d done with pride. She took a real interest in my work and asked intelligent questions, which impressed me a great deal. I also showed her the view through my bedroom window so she could see how private her bathroom was going to be, thanks to her new privacy glass. Eventually we sank into the couches in the living room, with a cold one apiece.

“Graham and you would have gotten along like a house on fire,” she mused. “You guys are so much alike. You care about the same things, you’re both good with your hands. You even look kind of like him.”

“Do you have any pictures?” I asked.

Ana removed her phone from her purse, then showed me a picture. “This is the last one of us together.”

I looked on at picture of a beaming, happy couple on a bright wintry day, posing in front of the ‘Sold’ sign next door with massive smiles on their faces. She was right, Graham did look a little like me — his hair was a little darker than my sandy blond, he had a neatly-trimmed beard to my clean-shaven face, and he seemed a little more muscular, but there was a definite resemblance. Ana’s eyes were bright with happiness in the picture, and I contrasted that to the dead, defeated eyes I saw in the woman sitting across from me.

“Tell me about yourself, Patrick,” she said, changing the subject as she put her phone away. “I don’t really know anything about you.”

I shrugged. “My wife Victoria and I have been together since I was 20, and we’ve been married since I was 24. We’ll have our tenth wedding anniversary this summer. My parents are still together, and I have two younger brothers. After I finished university, I went to work for my Dad, who owns a carpentry business here in town. Dad’s a third-generation master carpenter and millwright, and while he was very proud of the fact that I was the first in my massive Irish-Canadian family to attend university, he always expected me to take over the family business when he retired.”

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