Sophie looked in her bathroom mirror trying to decide if mascara and lipstick were enough. Izzy bowed and wagged her tail, asking with her eyes to play. Reaching down, Sophie gave Izzy a hug, “I can’t play now, little love. Amy and I are going out. She’ll be here any minute and I promised I’d be wearing more than my usual jeans and sweatshirt.” Izzy followed Sophie into her bedroom and watched as Sophie pulled a dress over her head. Slipping on boots and putting a pair of heels in a bag, Sophie looked in the mirror on the small closet door, and heard the shop bell jingle. “That’s it, Izzy, Amy’s here. You’re kibble is in your dish and I’ll be back to hug you good night before you know it.” Izzy followed Sophie and looked down the stairs as Sophie closed the gate and hurried down to meet Amy.
“You clean up well,” laughed Amy, hugging Sophie hello. “You should get out more often.” Sophie, let out a big sigh as she threw on her coat and scarf, locked the shop’s door, and turned to Amy, “Sometimes I wish I could,” sighed Sophie, “Maybe someday?” She slipped her arm through Amy’s and they started down the street toward the address where the meeting was being held.
Sophie and Amy entered one of the large towers with signs pointing their way to an area where a hostess welcomed them, took their coats and boots and directed them further into the building. Sophie spotted Jeff and John with another man, wine glasses in their hands and sampling appetizers from circulating servers’ trays. “That must be Jeff’s colleague from the law firm,” Sophie speculated. “And there’s people I recognize from some local shops and restaurants,” added Amy. The women circulated, saying hi to friends and acquaintances and getting a sense of people’s interest in the new development.
People were being encouraged to take their seats, as the meeting was about to begin. Jeff and his colleague and John joined Sophie and Amy a couple of rows back from the front. Four people took their place at the speakers table, and a young man rose tapping his water glass for attention.
“Thank you all for coming tonight. My name is Bradley Jones, and I’m the site manager and your main contact for TRM’s new development, the Waverley, at Church and Gloucester.” Amy leaned and whispered to Sophie, “Wow! What a hunk. He can manage my site any time.” Sophie rolled her eyes and shook her head.
“The building we are meeting in is one of TRM’s properties in the neighbourhood,” continued Mr. Jones, “I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Toddingham, the CEO of TRM.” A middle-aged, balding man stood and smiled, waiving at the crowd then returned to his seat. Mr. Jones nodded to the man on his left, “This is Mr. Haslip, from Smythe, Haslip & Browning, our architects.” Mr. Haslip stood, and looked like he was praying that there weren’t too many questions. “And last, but certainly not least, Ms. Simpson, our designer, who works with Mr. Haslip on the residences, the common areas and retail amenities” A medium height, black woman in a sensibly cut pant suit and flat shoes stood, smiled, and sat back down.
The lights lowered and Mr. Jones began describing the project as images were projected onto a large screen. Sophie watched, her heart pounding. ‘Why does it all have to come down to steel and glass, and how high the building would be,’ Sophie said under her breath, ‘The views will be gone when the next tower goes up; the winds whipping around the corners, making it impossible to enjoy sitting with a coffee at a sidewalk café.’ “Shush,” someone said behind her.
The presentation came to an end, and Mr. Jones smiled at the audience and asked if there were any questions. Several people raised their hands. One couple asked how much the condos were going to cost, obviously hoping they could afford one. Others in the gathering questioned the size of the amenities: how large was the indoor pool, how many treadmills and weights, how large was the catering kitchen, and on and on, Ms. Simpson stating that brochures would be available in the near future.
One of Sophie’s neighbours stood up and asked about the old buildings that were being torn down and what was happening to the shops and restaurants. Mr. Haslip shrunk lower in his seat. Mr. Jones said that most had found other locations, and they were working with the business owners to help in any way they could.
Sophie surprised herself, stood up and blurted out, “Does that mean you’re putting them into the retail spaces you have in the new building? Does that mean that you’re not going to tear the heart out of this community after all?”
Bradley Jones looked at the young woman giving him an “if looks could kill” stare. Her voice was cracking and her hand shook. ‘My God, he thought, she’s scared.’ “Thank you for asking those questions, Miss….” “Sophie, Sophie Thatcher,” Sophie answered, squaring her shoulders and sanding as tall as her 5′ 5″ frame would allow. Bradley had been leading meetings like this for several years, and put on what he hoped was his most empathetic smile, “I’m sure others here were wondering the same thing, Miss Thatcher, but didn’t want to ask. TRM wants to be a welcomed part of this community and to grow with it. There will, of course, be changes, but we are looking forward to working with the city and the local business and condo associations to ensure there are parks and services that make up an attractive neighbourhood.” Sophie sat back down, willing back the tears, knowing it was just a matter of time.
After the meeting ended, John and Jeff promised Sophie they would get in touch when Jeff had talked with his colleague. Amy and Sophie were pulling on their boots, when a voice asked, “Miss Thatcher, may I buy you and your friend coffee?” Sophie stood up, turned, and looked into the face of Bradley Jones, the man whose company or one like it, would put her out of business.