Tim browsed through his list of clients who had signed up for the viewing. He suspected it would be the usual mix of the curious, the fiercely competitive couples, the odd loud family with children and the serious house buyers.
Around two, he gathered his files and went out to the car. The viewing was set to start at three.
He checked that the key was working and walked around unlocking the doors. Around five to three, the first car came up the driveway to park crookedly next to the house. Tim made a face. He was betting this was one of the fierce competitive couples and he was right. The woman had a scowl on her face and the man strutted about looking as if he already owned the house but didn't think much of it.
Shortly after three, three more cars had arrived. Tim was checking off his list. Only two missing now. He walked around, shaking hands, handing out info folders. One of the children began to howl and the mother studiously ignored the glares from the other visitors.
Tim discreetly studied the crowd. Only one man stood out from the others, by being older and less abrasive. He looked both dejected and vaguely hopeful, eyes wide, taking in his surroundings. Tim guessed the man would find it difficult to enter into the final bidding, but of course you never could tell. Most people would assume the families were less well heeled than the others. In his experience, the money usually came from somewhere, elderly parents, for instance.
The visitors, with the exception of the older man surreptitiously studied each other out of the corner of their eyes. Tim sighed inwardly. He wished people wouldn't take these house sales so seriously. You'd think there was a war on. Though he had to admit that the real estate market was difficult at the moment.
The viewing would be ending at six, and at five forty five, the remaining couple arrived and completely unapologetically began to walk slowly around the house. Most of the others were beginning to get tired and were gathered outside the front steps. Tim had learned to read the signs. He had expected to be able to lock up and leave in fifteen minutes or so but the new arrivals showed no signs of even hurrying. Leisurely, they took their time, returning to peruse the inside of closets and insisted on having basement and attic opened again.
In the meantime, Tim kept an eye on the older man. It seemed he hadn't come in his own car, and was glancing nervously at his wrist watch. Since the new arrivals didn't need his attention at the moment, Tim walked over to have a chat.
"Is there a problem?"
The man met his gaze, looking slightly embarrassed.
"My sister was going to pick me up, but she's been delayed. Don't worry, I will walk out to the road and wait there, so you can lock up whenever you like. As far as I'm concerned."
Tim smiled, sensing the hint about the other visitors.
"It's alright. I'll drop you off in town later on. If you don't mind waiting while I lock up. Of course, there's no telling how long I'll be here. Maybe your sister will get here before I can leave."
"That's very kind of you."
Tim noticed that the man's gaze lingered a little longer than normally. This was probably the one. There was usually one among the visitors that would be interested, and he was pretty sure this man was the one this time.
He smiled encouragingly and returned to the other visitors. Apart from the late arrivals, the others began to file into their cars. Tim was wondering if he might lock up the garage, but just then, the late arrivals made a beeline for the garage. Oh, well, then maybe they'd soon be done. Unfortunately, they returned to the house and began over again.
When all the others were gone, the last couple finally came outside, and began to converse in low, discreet tones. He knew the type, they were trying to figure out how much of the price they might knock off.
Tim had rather suspected someone would put in a bid during the viewing, but so far no one had said anything. That was no surprise, on the whole it was more common for people to think it over before contacting him the following day, if that was a normal business day, and if not, next Monday.
At last the last couple left, without saying goodbye. Tim always made a point of shaking hands, introducing himself and at the end of the viewing, saying goodbye, but not all the buyers observed the same courtesies. It was their business. Tim didn't hold a grudge – unless someone tried to make off with parts of the furniture or other objects from the house.
Tim walked around one last time to check that all the doors and windows were closed. The owners wouldn't be back until later tonight.
The older man was waiting by the car, looking pensive and relaxed.
"There. All done. Ready?"
"Yes, thank you. Oh, I'm Martin, by the way."
"Tim. Pleased to meet you. So, what did you think?"
"Very nice. Perhaps a bit big for me, but I like it."
"Yes, it's one of the nicer ones on offer at the moment."
"Yes, I quite see that."
During the short trip back to town, Tim cast a few quick glances at Martin, who seemed to be looking back most of the time. In a few minutes, he'd know how serious the interest was. In his experience, most people between roughly thirty and sixty were up for a little fun. Most of them were pleasantly surprised to meet someone who was prepared to give them that. He even recalled a woman who was well past sixty, who had been delighted at his interest. Another happy memory was the young woman in the wheelchair. He was convinced no one had ever paid her any attention of this kind. She was overweight, but had a lovely smile and her eyes were the prettiest Tim had ever seen. He'd instantly been drawn to her so it had been anything but charity. If she hadn't moved a hundred miles away only a few weeks later, he suspected they would still have been seeing each other.
"Which way are you going?"
Martin told him.
"Oh, that's on my way. If you have time to wait while I leave my briefcase and the remaining folders I'll drop you off."
"I have time. No one's waiting for me. But are you sure it's no trouble?"
"No one's waiting for me either. So no trouble."
Tim dropped off his things, listened to his messages and returned to the car.
"I was going to have a beer. Would you like to join me?"
He could see Martin thinking, then thinking some more. Tim smiled. Was he thinking – he can't be serious, he's half my age? He would bet it was something along those lines. Then he could see Martin relaxing, perhaps deciding to take a chance. A beer was nothing. No commitment, no risk.
Tim decided to step things up a bit.
"I was thinking we could go to my place. There's beer and snacks and I can probably fix you a sandwich if you're hungry."
Again, Martin hesitated. A glint of suspicion passed over his face, but then he decided to take a chance.
Tim smiled. He even dared to shift a little in his seat so his thigh brushed Martin's. Martin tensed up, then studied him more closely. The gaze made a shiver go down Tim's spine. And he'd thought Martin needed more time. It was going to happen tonight.
He was right. They never even finished their beers. Martin ended up spending the night. He even stayed to have breakfast. Tim felt his eyes sting a little, when he realized he was Martin's first time with a man. All those years, all alone, living with his need without daring to satisfy it. He would show Martin the best time of his life. There was always someone. And Tim wasn't about to deny whoever it was the pleasure of a little surprise during their house hunt.