The optimistically-named "kitchen" of the house was the absolute pinnacle of dereliction. The place was quite literally crumbling to pieces. Not only was a large majority of the paint lying in flakes across the floor, even the flakes were buried under a film of dust so think you couldn't see what colour it had once been. 

Alan was in love with it.

There weren't sufficient cavities in the moulded old countertops to fit a dishwasher and electric stove, and the sorry-looking ceramic sink resembled something that had been assaulted violently with a sledgehammer for twenty minutes a day since the place had been erected. Hell, Alan couldn't even begin to decipher what period in history the hideous wall tiles were from, but he did know they were a perfect assault on the senses.

The woodworm visible in the floorboards and skirting only sweetened the deal further. Not to mention the damn place was subsiding. Alan whipped a cigarette from his pocket with a celebratory grin and lit up in contentment. As he strolled thoughtfully, his ears pricked at the sound of squealing and - could it be? - the rattling of tiny claws on pipes that came from somewhere near the pitiful old sink.

Rats! Alan almost wept with joy. Shit, this place is a murder-suicide away from being handed to me for free on a golden platter. He'd set out with cheap in mind, but this was like a beautiful dream he never wanted to wake up from.

Speaking of cheap.... The clacking of six-inch heels announced a new arrival in the room. Alan squared himself with the doorway (which lacked an actual door, as it so happened). Miss Mercedes Elliott was anything but cheap, except for those glistening red shoes. She had paused, head bent, to jot something on her clipboard. The board was already straining to hold the amount of notes she'd already scrawled since their arrival. The pencil skirt that sat on her narrow waistline was certainly not cheap. Her hair was pinned back with an elaborate sort of clip, certainly not cheap. Her glossy skin looked expensive. Everything about her looked expensive. Shit, even her name sounded expensive. Alan didn't know how that worked exactly, but Miss Mercedes Elliott pulled it off.

"So, what are you-?" She cut herself off and pinned his hand with a sudden sharp gaze, eyeing the trail of smoke with snaked from the tip of his cigarette towards the cracked, yellowing ceiling, swirling around the patches of mildew.

"You shouldn't smoke indoors, Mr. Fitzgerald," she advised sullenly.

"Would you call this indoors, though? What harm can one cigarette do?" Alan shrugged, casting a glance about the hollowed-out room. "Shit, a fire might even cheer the place up a bit."

Miss Elliott sighed in resignation, and inspected her notes again. She knew Alan had made a sickeningly valid point.

Alan took a triumphant lungful of nicotine, and let it out slowly and mysteriously. "I'm gonna take it," he muttered.

The woman's reaction was priceless. He hadn't thought her aqua, almond-shaped eyes could possibly swell any bigger, but the shock did it. Her carefully lipsticked lips came apart, but she seemed at a total loss for words.

"And demolish the house, you mean?" she asked, with a reasonable amount of composure, enough to sufficiently cover the bulk of her bewilderment.

Alan chewed on the inside of his cheek and strolled thoughtfully past the counter-tops against. The mere thought of demolitions generally disgusted him right to his core. He could hear the distant echo in the darkest corners of his mind, recalling the despair, the betrayal - the tugging at his heart as he watched his parents' old country house come down, brick by brick, tile by tile. And the worst part that the worthless pile of dust and rubble that resulted was the doing of his wealth-lusty brother and sister. Alan quickly shoved the resentment back into its box at the back of his skull, determined not to make this decision because of them. He had to do it for himself. 

"Nah," he quipped, slyly meeting Miss Elliott's eye and observing the justified surprise there.

She batted her thick eyelashes, and in a flurry of paper rustling, came towards him like an anxious, somewhat shy, tornado.

The End

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