“There’s a house on Macky Ave for sale.”
My husband looks up from his phone. “Really?”
“Hmm.” I focus on buttering my toast. “On the sunny side.”
“Well, we better go take a look.”
I shrug. “Bound to be too expensive.”
“No harm in going to see.”
“When’s the open home?”
“This afternoon. Two o’clock.”
It is. Perfect. From the tips of its steel-pressed ceilings to the toes of its polished wooden floors.
“What do you think?” Sean whispers, walking past me to inspect the ensuite.
I follow him in and stare at the huge tiled shower. “It’s nice.”
Sean shakes his head. “Better than nice,” he mutters.
There’s got to be close to fifty others here, couples mostly. Wealthy-looking confident types in smart outfits. I should have changed out of my jeans. Worn something more ‘worldly’.
“Small garage,” I say softly.
“The shed out back makes up for it.” Sean opens the mirrored cabinet above the sink and closes it again.
He’s right. The shed is nicer than our apartment. It’s lined simply with plywood and has neat rows of shelves and hooks. The floor is smooth, unblemished concrete. Huge windows on two sides reveal a walnut tree through one, and a trellis of passionfruit through the other. Sean would suggest we store the gardening equipment in the shed; the bikes, the camping gear, the boxes of winter clothes. He’d want to leave the garage clear for his Audi.
If I had my way, I’d claim the shed for myself. They’re all the rage, these so-called she-sheds. I read about them in a magazine. Somewhere for the wife to create her little haven, her escape. It makes sense with all this focus on equality amongst the sexes. A garage for him, a shed for her.
I’d put a rug on the floor, a comfortable chair near the window, books, pots of paint, and old mugs filled with paint brushes on the shelves, a couple of aprons on the hooks, maybe a blanket draped over the chair, a long table pressed against the wall overlooking the walnut tree. While we’re at it, let’s add in a little dog curled up in his cute wee bed, with a name like Jasper or Bree. Hang on, make that a cat. A fluffy moggy that likes to curl on my lap and purrs whenever I stroke her.
“I’m going to talk to the agent.” Sean strides towards the woman in heels hovering at the front door. I wait further down the hall but I can hear their conversation. Sean asks about price indication; the agent talks up the market, the location. “It’s difficult to say,” she says brightly.
I turn and walk through the living room and out onto the rear deck. There’s a young attractive couple standing outside my she-shed having a loud discussion. “Places like this never come up, Derek. It’s only four back from the beach.”
Derek seems to have heard this before. “The bank would never lend us the money.”
“We won’t know till we ask them. Besides, it’s an auction, the market is slowing, you said so yourself.”
Derek spots me on the deck. He knows I’ve been listening.
“Let’s talk about it when we get home,” he mutters, brushing past his wife and disappearing inside the shed.
The woman glances at me and I can see the fever in her eyes; how much this house means to her. She follows her husband inside the shed. “This could be your man-cave,” she says. “Imagine it.”
There’s over twenty bidders at the auction; a real estate agent’s dream. Sean has been to four banks to talk loans and interest rates, and we’ve been back through the house twice. I told him last night we shouldn’t bother coming. It was bound to sell above our top price. He said I should try to be optimistic, at least try.
Derek and his wife are sitting in front of us holding hands. She’s staring at the auctioneer like he’s a preacher, or a doctor delivering her baby. We don’t stand a chance.
Less than one minute after the bidding starts, the price is fifty thousand over our maximum price.
“Sorry,” Sean whispers. He reaches for my hand and squeezes. “Next time.”
I smile as best I can. “It was always going to be a long shot.”
Sean lets go of my hand.
Derek is an enthusiastic bidder. He’s like a child in class desperate to give the answer. He can barely keep his bottom on the seat. I wonder if he’s thinking of his future man-cave.
The bidding climbs higher and higher. Derek becomes still and quiet. He is no longer holding hands with his wife. She dabs at her eyes with the cuff of her designer shirt.
The successful bidder is an older man near the back. His expression doesn’t alter one iota when the auctioneer bangs his wooden mallet. I wonder what the old guy will do with the shed. Whether he plans to offer it to his wife.
“The house was too big. There are only two of us. What do we want four bedrooms for?”
“Exactly. Then your parents would want to come and stay.”
Sean rolls his eyes. “God help us.”
“Besides, the longer we stay here renting, the more we can save for a deposit when the right place comes along.”
“Absolutely.” Sean stands and kisses me on the tip of my nose. He rinses his mug and puts it in the dishwasher. “I better dash.”
Once he’s gone, I drop the act and return to bed. Curling up on my side, I face the empty grey wall. I should be used to it by now; that sense of loss for something I never had in the first place. At least I can let my she-shed become more beautiful and perfect as the months go by. I can tinker away. Turn it into everything I need and don’t have.
Olivia Spooner is an author of novels and short-stories. She lives in New Zealand and writes in her she-shed in the backyard with a cat on her lap and a dog by the door. More information can be found at oliviaspooner.com and on Olivia’s blog humbleink.com.