For the love of art – Part 1 November 2018

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For the love of art – Part 1 November 2018

Ellen ran her fingers lightly over her keyboard. A little ritual she performed whilst she read emails. A barely audible hum passing her bright red lips. Her purple glasses perched lightly on her nose as she tucked a strand of box-dyed red hair behind her ear. She sighed and peered closer at her screen, her pointy chin and nose poking forward.

What an interesting email she thought to herself. Ms Marjory Covent, was requesting to stay in a holiday rental that wasnt currently on their website listing. The house, no. 12 Hillside Drive, in Simons Town wasn’t listed because the owners hadnt been prepared to pay the listing fee, again, andEllen hadn’t bothered to follow up. Jeremy, her never-present boss, except at the end of the month, when the book-keeper came in, would never know that she hadnt made herself miserable chasing those annoying house owners who lived in Denmark, and took days to respond to her emails. Besides, she would pick up another house soon. Years of managing holiday homes had taught Ellen the art of noticing the homes she would definitely be able to rent to some German tourist or Vaalie from Gauteng. Quite unlike a home, rental houses lacked certain key elements. Personal or family photos and real plants were a definite give-away, as well as the slightly mismatched furniture, usually comprised of a blend of various decades of furnishing. These classic holiday homes belonged to families who owned a seaside house, in the hope of visiting the Cape frequently, but often didn’t. The houses sat stagnant and were either eventually sold or, if Ellen had her way, they foundher and she would be able to gently and expertly encourage the owners to allow her to rent the house, providing an income to the owner, and a tidy little commission to Ellen, which unfortunately Jeremy took the majority of.

Ellen pondered the email a little longer before deciding that a cup of rooibos was required to answer the email. Whilst she waited for the kettle to boil, in the communal kitchen, a room the size of a one stall loo, Ellen absent-mindedly bit at the fraying skin of her cuticle and thought about no. 12 Hillside Drive. The house was comprised of two entirely separate units. From the outside it looked like a two-level house but, once you walked into the property from the garage, you saw two entrance ways. One lead down a narrow flight of steps along the side of the house, to the ground-level apartment, and the other was the floor above. The unusual part was that the ground level apartment was completely closed. The windows boarded up and the door locked with a metal security gate. When Ellen had enquired about opening the bottom apartment up and renting that area too, the owners explained that it was a store room and contained old furniture and belongings from a great grandmother, which they werent yet prepared to part with. Ellen supposed it was cheaper to store the goods on the property than pay a storage facility. She’d hoped that the set of keys she’d received would allow her access to this closed bottom apartment. Sadly, they hadn’t. Ellen poured her tea. Black, with no sugar and took a tentative sip of the steaming red brew before returning to her desk. Placing her cup down, she referred to her calendar. She loved this months image. The title read: Fisherman in green by Irma Stern, owner unknown. The painting stared back at her. The rich colours allowing her to lose herself in the eyes of the portrait for just a moment. Ellen sighed, sat back and took another sip of her tea. She loved art. Especially South African art. Such a pity she hadnt gone to art school. Typing and administration was all her mother had thought she would suit. She took another sip, slurping. She knew what she was going to do. Quickly she typed up her email

Dear Ms Covent,

No. 12 Hillside Drive, Simons Town is available for the dates you request. We require a deposit, in cash, delivered to our offices by the end of this week. If you are interested, please let me.

Regards

Ellen Stapleton

Rental Agent

Ellen hit send dramatically with her index finger and smiled. It was winter, and Jeremy knew it was a slow month. He wouldnt suspect a thing. If Ms Covent accepted the terms, Ellen would receive a nice little bit of cash, and neither Jeremy, nor the owners of no. 12 would be the wiser. Ms Covent would only be in the house for seven days. What could go wrong?

This was first published in the Billboard Magazine in November 2018

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