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Amber opened the door to see Colin, Maverick and Annabel.
“Come on in,” she said. “I’m just finishing up the attic. A plumber is coming tomorrow to replace the roof and guttering and install some insulation in the ceiling, now all that stuff is gone, this house is quite cold in the evenings.”
“It will be lovely in the summer,” Annabel offered.
“Grandpa Colin wanted to ask you something,” Maverick prompted.
“I’ll get to it in my own time,” the man complained. “I have nothing but time to fill now I ain’t sleeping great.”
“Come into the living room then, Dean from the friends of the Library dropped around a sofa he wanted out of his house. Said if I didn’t take it, he’d be dumping it anyway.”
The four of them trooped through into the living room with its high ceilings and Amber waited.
“What is it that you do dear,” Annabel asked. “You’ve done an amazing job with this house so far and thank you so much for hiring that youngster Robert to do your veranda, he should be close to home, what with Milly’s condition an all.”
“Milly’s condition,” Amber asked.
“Oh, I really shouldn’t talk.”
“No Gran you shouldn’t. That’s the problem with this town, too much talk. Amber, if you want to know what is up with Milly, ask her, she is always willing to tell people, but Gran, let Milly tell because then the facts are correct.”
Annabel harrumphed from the sofa. Stan chose this moment to blut out his question.
“I want to know if Roxy could stay here over the Christmas holidays. I want to give her a job at the hardware store. I’d be paying her, but I am past having a teenager in the house. Can she stay here?” Colin asked. He rose to go. “Damn uncomfortable sofa, no wonder that paramedic fellow got rid of it.”
“She can stay, she’s managed to be on time and not wag any classes all this term. She can help Robert out when he is on site as well if she wants. She gave me the idea of the extended verhanda. It will be good for her to see it come together.”
“See I told you, it was stupid coming out here to ask. An old man like me can’t be having too much time traipsing about. I got to work tomorrow. I’ll skype Roxy when I get home on that stupid computer you brought me.” He told his grandson. “I wanted one like Amber here has, it is so much flasher.”
“I checked out the price of one of them. Amber has expensive tastes in computers.”
“Amber’s business involves having reliable and quality computing power. Amber doesn’t spend any other money except on her computer,” she paused and reflected on the bill for the roof, “and this hous. Amber spends plenty on this house.”
“You’ve hardly started dear,” Annabel winked.
Amber smiled and showed the three visitors out of the door before heading up to the attic and finishing the clean out.
“There’s a false wall between your living and kitchen,” Robert announced to Amber. He was taking a break inside out of the increasing summer heat, the two verandas done, the roofing done, and the footings in place for the garage and entertainment deck. He was going to cut out a big hole in the wall of the dining room so that Amber could access the deck from there.
“What do you mean,” she asked.
“Well, there’s a cupboard built into the wall here.” He pointed to an odd cupboard that was currently serving to hold Amber’s growing pile of linen which consisted of a spare set of sheets and a spare towel and a big pile of hand towels and tea towels that people kept giving her for some reason. After the renovations were finished she was planning to get Annabel to teach her what to do with all of them. There was one of her, she did not need 15 teatowels.
“But the cupboard only runs to here. Your kitchen benches aren’t that deep. It’s not a structural wall, I know you’re trying to save money but I could rip it out for you when you are ready.” Robert responded. “It wouldn’t cost much.”
Amber nodded thinking.
“I’ll probably gut the place myself,” she replied, still thoughtful, “but don’t worry, I’m not installing a new kitchen or updating any of the bathrooms, you and Milly are still my goto in that regard.”
“Milly’s just getting over another bout of Pancreatitis. If you have kids ever, Amber get them immunised. Her parents didn’t immunise them and she was fine as a child, never had a day’s serious illness, but she got the mumps about five years ago. That’s what triggered her first bout. Man, I hate those anti vaxers now. We got our kids immunised after that and I can tell you when we are blessed to be grandparents the kids have already said that immunizations are happening on schedule.”
“Good to know.” Her phone buzzed, she flicked the screen expertly. “I got to get that, it’s one of my clients,” pressing the right buttons she answered fluently in Mandarin.
“Okay, I will send the translation in a week,” she hung up the phone.
Robert was looking at her. “You speak a foreign language, you must be a genius.”
Amber laughed. “I run an online business translating documents. Most of it is fairly routine, translating legal documents for immigrants. I have a program that does most of that for me but I have a core group of academics who use to me to translate some pretty cool documents.”
“So what language was that,” he asked.
“Mandarin. I learnt to speak and read it when I was eight. I lived with a family and the grandmother only spoke Mandarin. She taught me to read and write in Chinese. It’s a little complecated but essentially the written languages in China are similar, it’s the spoken language that varies.”
“Do you speak any other languages,” he asked.
“Come on,” Amber ignored his question, “Let’s measure the hallway and both rooms and see if you are right.” The number of languages Amber spoke was a little embarrassing. She was gifted. Her two Melbourne friends were the only ones who actually knew, and that was only because she outsourced part of her business to them.
They measured the rooms and Robert calculated that there was a missing house section of 30 centimetres.
“You are going to rip that wall open and make the downstairs more open planned aren’t you.” He asked her.
“Yep, nice big kitchen feeding into an eating area and crossing over in the living area over there. I’m contemplating getting rid of the down stairs bedroom. I have three rooms upstairs and the attic is large enough to convert into another bedroom if I want it. I thought the bedroom out the back would make a nice office for me. There’s thick walls there as well.” Her laptop beeped indicating an email.
“I’d better get started on that translation. It’s a much older text than what I have done before so it should be pretty interesting.” Amber took the plates off the table and quickly washed them up, dried them and put them away. She returned to the table and sat down, pen, paper and laptop beside her. At some point, Robert must have said goodbye to her, but she was too engrossed in the translation to notice.
Amber closed her laptop, stretched her back out and stood. A car pulled up and she recognised the sound of Maverick’s motor. The car door slammed and she heard his boots on the new veranda steps.
She stood and opened the door, wondering why Maverick would come around so late at night.