When Luke was looking for an apartment in London, he didn’t really expect anything too fancy. Just a small place to stay for his last year of college. It’s not like he could afford better anyway. So when he saw an advertisement for a really good looking flat in the centre, for such a small amount, he wasn’t really believing it. It seemed like a cat fish. The only two pictures shown a modern, fully furnished, nice decorated apartment that should be way above his range of price. The ad didn’t say much more. Just that the visits would only be the next week with landlady, and that candidates were asked to bring all requested file with them. Even though it looked really too good to be true, Luke hasn’t found a place yet and he was running out of time, so he’d better take every opportunity. He was already expecting it to be a fake ad, so what could happen anyways?
He took contact with the landlady by e-mail, and she gave him an appointment for the visit and interview three days later. Luke tried to look his best on this particular morning: all neat blond hair, fresh white button-up and light soap scent. He avoided to wear any of his piercing and covered the small tattoo he had on his left collarbone. Giving one last look at his reflection, he left his hotel room thinking he was just the good amount of formally dressed.
But when he walked through Belgravia distinct, he felt a bit under-dressed. Everything was claiming his belonging to a world of luxury, refined delight and ‘haute couture’. The white smooth classical facades screamed their appurtenance to the royalty when Luke was just another boy without a crown. He almost gave up on the visit. He could not afford living in such a neighbourhood, the ad must be fake. But he also thought that it would be really rude of him not to show up at all. Yeah, he would just go apologise saying he was mistaken, either by a whole fake ad, or by a price lacking at least a zero.
He entered one those white majestic building, and was welcome by a concierge who look at him severely, his eyes were judging every bit of his being. The man, who eyed him scornfully, was somewhat fifty, according to the baldness of his skull and to Luke’s estimations. His tanned skin and features tended to show he had some Indian origins. The young man tried stay collected under his sceptical examination.
“You’re here to visit Mrs. Irwin’s apartment, I suppose?” the man said with slight posh tone.
“Yes. I’m Luke Hemmings.”
“Hu-hum”, mutter the concierge, looking down at his desk. “And what time is your appointment?”
The older man looked up at him, when he pronounced ‘sir’. He sent Luke an intense and enigmatic glance, but quickly return his attention back to his task. Not looking at the young blond man, he said “It should not be too long before someone comes down for you. You can sit in the armchairs behind you if you want.”
Luke did as told and sat down in a very comfortable club armchair, whose brown leather looked vintage but was undeniably qualitative. A nice collection of newspapers and magazines was on display on the coffee table in front of him. He took the time to inspect all of them before choosing on to eventually read. But before he could finish his task, a young woman, probably in her early twenties just like him, crossed the lobby walking at a determined pace. Her heels clicked loudly on the marble tiled floor. She didn’t even acknowledge Luke or the concierge and pass the door with haughty and pissed expression plastered on her face. The young man raised his eyebrows at her disrespectful behaviour and send a questioning look to the concierge. But he seemed completely unconcern.
Luke couldn’t question any further because another woman appeared in the lobby. She was a bit older, probably in her early thirties. She wore an aura of assurance and an elegant black skirt suit, very cinched at the waist, both very professional and really attractive. Her graceful traits evoked some feline figure to Luke. She sighed at the sight of the other girl leaving the building in a fury, then turned to Luke and give a polite smile.
“You are Luke Hemmings, right?” she asked reaching out her hand
“Yes, pleasure to meet you.” Luke responded shaking it.
“It is a pleasure to meet you too, follow me please.”
She led him to the elevator, left open from her previous journey down to the lobby. They both stepped in and she pressed the last button. Immediately the small cabin started its elevation, and just as fast the awkward tension that always lays in the elevators.
“Hum… Mrs. Irwin, I…” Luke began but, much to his surprise, he was cut out by a laugh.
“I’m not Mrs. Irwin” she chuckled. “I’m Anna Langton, her personal assistant.”
“Oh.”, was all Luke found to answer.
“And I’m in charge to find an occupant for this apartment. Sadly, you are already our twenty-fifth visitor and none of them has satisfied Mrs. Irwin standards. It would be easier if she knew what she wanted. Well, no, actually I’m sure she knows full well, but she hasn’t told me…” she sighed at the end of her rambling, probably just really relived to exteriorized her feelings.
“I’m sorry, that must be hard for you.” Luke said in a soothing manner.
Much like the concierge a bit early, Anna gave him that intrigued look. Luke wonder what was so odd about him. However, he had check his reflection many times before he left.
“She is not that of an evil boss, you know. She is such an influent person in this world, that you can easily expect her to have some demanding requirements.”
Luke had no idea who Mrs. Irwin was and what influence she had. But it made sense with the posh surrounding.
“I hope she treats you right anyway.” he said sincerely.
Anna smiled to him, the first of hers that reached her eyes. “And I hope to find the one in a million she looking for.” She replied when the doors opened to the last level.
“Then I’m sorry to be only number 25.” Luke chuckled.
Anna opened the only door that obviously led to the apartment with small laugh too. The interior was just like the rest of the building let it guessed. So swanky Luke was at loss of word. It was exactly like the photos he had seen. Modern, elegant, with all this creator’s furniture. Dark grey polished concreted floor and vintage-like parquet. Shining stainless steel, matt black metal and brown plush leather. It was chic and stylish enough to feature any architecture publication.
A just as posh lady come in sight as Anna’s laugh faded. She was around seventy, Luke guess, even if she looked very dynamic for such an age. She had a thin skin dotted with age spot. Her blond to withe hair was combed in a sublime combination of waves, giving her a royal aspect. Her two piecing green eyes staring right at the blond boy.
“This is Luke Hemmings.” the assistant introduced.
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Irwin.” he said, hoping this time he wasn’t mistaken.
“Nice to meet you too.” She shook his hand and reach to take the required file that Luke has brought his him. She started to roam it while getting further in the apartment.
“Come with me. The apartment has two bedrooms but one of them is currently unavailable so you can only use the one on this floor, I am sorry about that. Also there is a study room upstairs but for now there are a lot of boxes in there, so it is not useable neither. That being said, this situation his only temporary.”
She moved forward in the apartment with her speech rolling off. Luke, on the other hand, was very speechless. He discovered a nice loft space, doodle-storey high, with huge windows and a mezzanine upstairs. In the living room he had the surprise to see a baby grand piano. A baby grand piano! What the hell?
Seeing his stare at the precious object Mrs. Irwin added “This piano is very delicate, so if you don’t know how to treat un instrument, then please, don’t touch it.” Luke merely nodded, still trying to proceed all he was seeing. But then he remembered that all of this seemed way too good to be true.
“Hum, Mrs. Irwin?” He interrupted, recalling what he wanted to say in the elevator. “I’m sorry, but are you sure you set the right price on the ad? Because this apartment is clearly way above what I can afford.”
“Mister...” she paused and looked at the file. “Hemmings, right?”
“Just Luke, madam”. He said with a polite smile.
For the first time she completely looked at him and smiled, which seemed to be sincere. “Luke. Listen, I could afford to own the apartment without having anyone living in there. Money is not a problem.”
Luke was left a bit slack-jawed. Who in the world could have so much money, that a huge loft in Belgravia was just some random possession? But before he could even try to respond to this, Mrs. Irwin went on.
“I am not looking for someone who has money; that, I already have. I am looking for someone who knows the value of money. Someone who has to work and to earn things to live. Someone who is down to earth and can tell what are the real issues and what is just another whim. I want to give this space to someone who will make a good use of it.”
It took a couple of seconds before Luke could actually find something to answer “That is very generous of you.” To what Mrs. Irwin chuckled briefly. Then she motioned for him to follow her and she passed the door to the bedroom. A really fancy bedroom, fit for a five-star hotel. But at this point Luke had run out of vocabulary to describe such a wealthy place. Mrs. Irwin moved around and showed him the en-suite bathroom. She looked down in the file once again and asked “Tell me Luke, where are you from?”
“Sydney, Australia.” Luke responded. “I moved here for my studies. I’m in the physiotherapy program at King’s college. In third year.” His way of speaking was a bit clipped, he tried to make a good impression, but was very nervous that he would never be at her level of standards.
“Physiotherapy? What made you chose this career?”
Luke smiled, that was a question he could easily answer. “I’ve always wanted to do something that could help people, with a concrete action. And I also enjoy sports a lot. So physiotherapy almost imposed itself to me.”
“Very nice. What kind of sport to you enjoy? Or practice?”, Mrs. Irwin questioned further.
“I use to be in a swim club, back in Sydney. Maybe I’ll join the university team this year. And I work out on a daily basis, or just go for a run.”
“So you are the healthy kind of man.” She said, half question, half statement.
Luke chuckled a bit. “Yes, you can say that. All quinoa and home-made smoothies”, he joked but then almost immediately regretted it. Maybe she wouldn’t find that funny at all. Fortunately, Mrs. Irwin let a small chuckle out too.
“No parties?”, she added a couple of seconds later.
Luke felt his smile fall down and his broad shoulders slouch down too. He lightly shook his head, but didn’t look at her. “No, I try to say away for that”. His voice was low and serious all of a sudden. That made Mrs. Irwin believe him, because she wouldn’t have bite it if anyone else had say this.
“Any girlfriend?” She then asked with a lighter tone.
“No, I’m all new here, so no relationship.”
For a moment it seemed like she was waiting for him to add ‘yet’. But it never came, because Luke didn’t even want to say it. She nodded small then led him back to the living room and by the entry.
“I have one last question for you, Luke. Do you want to live here?”
“Madam, anyone would be crazy to turn answer no.”
“But what do you answer?”
“I would love to live here.”
Mrs. Irwin slightly smiled and told him they would contact him with their final decision. Anna then came by his side and led him out of the apartment and into the elevator again. She smiled at him and said “You know; I think it’s her first smile of the day. She even laughed! Well not that much maybe but I heard that chuckle, Luke. And that doesn’t happen all that often.”
“Really? So I didn’t completely screw up?”
Anna laughed a bit at his reaction and shook her head in disbelief. “No, Luke. No at all. I think she might actually like you. And you could really be the one going to live in this apartment. Because once she has something in mind, nothing can stop her.”
She added a bit later “Of course, she can tell that you don’t come from the same world, but I think that is exactly what she was looking for.” Anna looked relieved that the interview has gone well too. Even if Luke wasn’t Mrs. Irwin choice in the end, she had an idea of what to look for now. And that was a huge improvement.
The young man felt relieved for her too. She seemed like a very hard-worker, devoted to her job, despite how stressful and unrewarding it could be. Then it hit him that he didn’t know really who was Mrs. Irwin and why she was so rich.
“Anna? What business Mrs. Irwin is in?”
At first the assistant looked surprised by the question, but then nodded like she recalled something. “Right, you are new here. Mrs. Irwin is at the head of the Irwin Family and the Irwin group. Which is a media group, basically. It includes several companies, a large part of them are in the press industry. Newspapers, magazine, and probably all of your favourite ones. There are also four radio stations and two television channels, and even if they can’t compare to the national ones, they are still reached a large public. Luke, don’t think that she is just some media guru, she is the British private media.”
It all made sense now. She was, just like Anna has said earlier, an influent woman. Probably even one of the most influent person in this country. Luke had to admit it somewhat scared him. It was most likely not someone to turn your back too.
The elevator went to a stop and they both stepped out. Anna added on the threshold of the lobby. “I’m sure I’ll see you soon. Because this one, is definitely not a keeper.” She chucked a bit and motion her head to the girl waiting in the club armchair Luke has sat on before. She was much like the one that left the lobby in fury earlier that day. And all her being was screaming “bourgeois” to the world.
Luke nodded a bit and said with smile. “I hope I made for search for the one in a million a bit easier. Have a good day, Anna.”
“Have a good day, Luke.”
Then she left his side to walk to the waiting brunette in the armchair. Luke turned to the concierge and said “Goodbye sir” before exiting the building. He felt the insistent glance of the older man on him all along. That glance again. But just when he reached the door, he heard “Goodbye” said in a kind tone. He smiled to the concierge when he passed through the door, surprisingly finding the other already smiling warmly at him.
Three days later, Luke had the final response. And... He was the one in a million! He made it! This dreamy apartment was his! Well not really his in theory, but he was going to live there. He had another appointment in Belgravia to sign the contract with Anna. Then he moved in all his belonging, which wasn’t much. Luke felt incredibly happy. It was a sign for sure! A sign that he made the good decision in leaving Australia to London, and have a fresh start here.
Yeah, his new life was going to be awesome!
But all of his optimistic dreams about second chances, new departures and such, were compromised shortly after. Just a week after Luke moved in, he found out the ad for the apartment had, indeed, hidden some crucial point.