Jodie liked her apartment. She had a beautiful view to the south. A nearby tree was home to two squirrels. She liked to watch them. So did her cat. Mrs. Neely owned the apartment building. She was an old lady who spoke with a thick Norwegian accent.
Jodie and Mrs. Neely got along very well. Mrs. Neely said that Jodie reminded her of her daughter, who had died in a car crash years ago. Mrs. Neely was a widow. She kept busy by volunteering at the local library and senior center. An excellent baker, she often brought bread and pastries to Jodie.
"You're trying to make me fat," laughed Jodie one day. "How will I ever find a boyfriend?"
"I still can't believe that Prince Charming hasn't found you," said Mrs. Neely. "Maybe you're just too pretty and too smart for the young men around here."
Jodie was going to graduate school at night. She had a day job as a teacher's assistant in the fourth grade. She loved teaching kids. The principal had already told her that a full-time teaching job was hers after she got her master's degree.
"Aren't there any nice boys in your graduate classes, Jodie?" Mrs. Neely asked.
"There are some," said Jodie. "But they're either married, or have a girlfriend, or are too focused on getting their degree. And don't forget, I have to concentrate on graduating, so I really shouldn't be dating anyway."
"Well, that's just a shame," said Mrs. Neely. "You're too pretty to be alone. But don't worry. You keep doing your homework, and I'll be on the lookout for you." She winked at Jodie. Jodie smiled. She loved Mrs. Neely.
Mrs. Neely died not long after that conversation. She had a stroke while mixing some batter for cookies. An ambulance took her to the hospital, where she died a day later.
Her son Ned was Mrs. Neely's sole heir. Ned had been married and divorced three times. None of his wives had anything nice to say about him. Ned didn't care. He was looking for Wife Number Four.
Ned introduced himself to Jodie right after Mrs. Neely's funeral on Saturday. He knew about Jodie because Mrs. Neely had told him about her. Ned said he was afraid that he might have to double her rent. Also, no pets were allowed in the building. "You'll have to take your cat to the pound," he said.
"In that case," she said, "I'm moving out."
"I was joking, of course. You're very pretty," said Ned.
"Thank you," said Jodie.
"Come to dinner with me at Chez Maison tonight and we can discuss your apartment and your cat." Ned had an air of confidence that Jodie found mildly attractive.
"That might be nice," she found herself saying. Ned told her he would pick her up at 8 and left. Jodie wondered if she was doing the right thing. She didn't even know this guy. Oh well, she thought, it would be nice to eat at a fancy restaurant for a change.
She picked up some cat food on her way home.