House Swap

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For Women

“Okay, I’ll go with you!”


“Yes, I’m serious.”

“But what about your mom? I thought you always spend Christmas together.”

“We do. Or at least we always have. But I’m 21 years old, and if I want to spend Christmas with my boyfriend, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

She sounded confident, but inside she was anything but sure of herself. She’d never not spent Christmas with her family and as much as she wanted to be with her boyfriend, it was killing her not to be able to see her mom. Making things worse, she knew she wouldn’t have the courage to tell her mother the truth which was silly because she was a junior in college and 21 years old. But she couldn’t bear to say she was choosing some guy her mom had never met over her own mother.

“This is gonna be so great, baby! You’re gonna love Phoenix this time of year and my parents can’t wait to meet you.”

“Well, we’ve been dating for six months now, and this seems like the right time to finally meet them, so…yeah, let’s do this!”

Gayle Lancaster knew this wasn’t going to be easy. She’d only lied to her mother once before, and it had involved a boy then, too. Just like in the movies, she’d snuck out of her room at night and spent several hours with a boy she thought she couldn’t live without. She knew this was different as she was actually falling in love with Drew, but she couldn’t bear to tell her mom she was going home with him rather than spending Christmas with her. With less than a week to go before she was expected home, she was going to have to pick up the phone and call and do so very soon. And…lie to her mom.

“I’m really glad you’re going home with me, Gayle, but I know you said your dad’s been gone for what, maybe a year now?”

“More like 18 months, but yeah, that’s about right. Why?”

“I don’t know. I just feel a little guilty. Does she have friends around? Does she date yet? I guess what I’m wondering is this—is this really gonna hurt her?”

Gayle already felt like crying, but she’d made up her mind. She was going to Phoenix with Drew.

“She’s dated a few times and she has friends.” Gayle hesitated knowing how much it was going to hurt her mom then said, “She’ll be okay.”

She was scrolling through pics of her family on her phone trying to assuage her guilt, but it was only making things worse.

“Can I see?” Drew said standing up and reaching out for her phone.

“Oh, sure.” Gayle handed it to him then Drew sat back down.

“She’s really pretty. And very young looking. How old is she?”

“My mom’s 50, but she’s like some kind of freak of nature, you know?”

“I dunno, she looks maybe 50 to me,” he said trying hard not to sound disagreeable. He turned the phone around to show her the photo he was looking and Gayle laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Drew asked.

“That’s not my mom. That’s her mom. That’s my grandmother.”

He turned the phone back around, looked it again, looked at Gayle, then back at the picture on the screen.

“Okay. Hold on. This woman…the woman in this picture…this really nice-looking woman with blonde hair and smooth skin is your grandmother?”

Gayle sighed and said, “Yes, it is. Here, let me show you something.” She got up and sat next to her boyfriend then scrolled through some pics.

“Okay, see this one?”

“Damn! She’s hot!” he said before it hit him that was also her grandmother only from many years ago.

“It’s okay. She was hot. I hate saying it, but she still kind of is. Anyway…that was her 22 years ago when she was 50. Same age as my mom is now.”

“Damn! This is…unbelievable! Both of my grandmothers look like grandmas. You know, gray hair, wrinkles, a little extra weight. Your grandma looks like a damn model. And although I’m not a math major that makes her around…75 or so?”

Gayle laughed and said, “She’s 72 to be exact. That’s why I’m hoping and praying I have the same genetics because if I do, then in 30 years I’ll still look this good.” She found some pics of her mom she took over the summer and handed him the phone.

“Oh, holy shit! That’s your mom?” He said even more incredulous than he’d been over pics of her grandmother. “Seriously? That woman is 50? Come on. No way!”

“Yes…way,” Gayle told her. “Both of them are amazing, right?”

“I’ve never seen women that age look like this,” he told her truthfully.

“Give me the phone,” she said. She Googled ‘Donna Mills’ then handed it to him. “How old do you think this actress is?”

“Um…like 45 or so?”

“Try 75.”

“What the…?”

“Okay, now check this out. I know you know this woman.” She found Raquel Welch’s pic and did the same thing.

“Yeah, of course I know who that is. Um…okay, she’s gotta be like…60 or so by now, but damn, she’s still gorgeous.”

“Try 76.”

Drew was shaking his head unable to process any of this. “Those pics have to be photoshopped. They have to be.”

“I can’t speak for whether or not the pics have been Gaziantep Oral Escort retouched, but I’ve seen them both on TV within the last year and that’s exactly how they look. I can speak for my mother and her mom and honest to God, they really are that amazing. I could Google a dozen other women over 65 who look 40. They’re rare, but they’re out there.”

“That makes no sense,” he said. “Okay, my mom is 53 and she looks well, like she’s 53. I don’t look at my mom that way, but come on, she’s not ‘hot.’ Sorry, but…your mom is.” He fidgeted then said, “Jesus, Gayle. Even your grandmother is kind of hot, God forgive me for saying that.”

Gayle laughed again and said, “They both take really good care of themselves and my grandmother has had some work done even though you can’t tell. But most of it is due to really good genetics so that’s why I’m hopeful I have their genes.”

“Your grandmother’s face doesn’t look the way most women do who’ve had work done. You know, all ‘swept back’ or the eyes bulging out or the lips look all swollen. I honestly can’t tell.”

“That’s why I said she’s a ‘freak of nature’. My mom too, to be completely honest.”

“I’m not sure how to say this, and please don’t take it the wrong way, but your mom won’t have any trouble finding another husband if that’s what she wants.”

“Thank you—I think,” Gayle said with a smiling knowing what Drew meant. “But it’s not that simple. She’s gone out a few times, and while looks aren’t everything, she said it’s really depressing looking at most guys her age.”

Gayle laughed yet again and told Drew, “It’s not like her standards are outrageously high. She only asks that they have a reasonably flat stomach and most of their hair and…all of their teeth.” She saw Drew give her a look. “I threw in the teeth thing, okay? But my point is she’s no snob. In fact, she’s the nicest, most down-to-earth person I know. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect someone you date to be at least minimally attractive to you. Do you?”

“Oh, so are you saying I’m only minimally attractive to you?” he said in a teasing kind of voice as he grabbed her and started tickling her.

Gayle shrieked and said, “Stop that! You know how ticklish I am! Drew! Stop!”

She was looking into his eyes when he stopped. Gayle stopped laughing and said, “You are way more than minimally attractive. You are freaking hot.”

“Hot enough to come to bed with me?” he said before kissing her.

“Mmmm. Definitely,” she purred as they moved over to the bed in his dorm room before making love for the second time that day.

The following evening, Gayle was spared having to make the phone call she was dreading when her mom called her first.

“Hi, honey! How’s school going?” he mother said cheerfully.

“Great, Mom! How are you?”

“Me? Wonderful! I’ve got everything laid out and ready to go. As soon as you get home we can start putting up the decorations! You know, I’ve really been excited about Christmas this year after last year being so hard with your father gone and all. I can’t wait for us to start decorating, baking, and going shopping! So when are you coming home?”

Gayle took a deep breath and after some hemming and hawing told her, “I think I wanna maybe hang out here over the break.”

“In…Seattle? In your apartment? Alone? I…I don’t understand,” her mom said. “Is something wrong, honey?”

“Wrong? No. Of course not, Mom. I just don’t feel like flying all the way to Florida then turning around and flying back to school. Besides, there’s tons of stuff to do around here. Stuff I haven’t had a chance to do because I’m always in class or studying.” Gayle was an excellent student so at least this part of her story was true.

There was silence for several seconds before Gayle said, “Mom? Are you okay?”

“Oh. Um, sure, honey. Of course I’m okay. Your father and I raised you to be strong and independent so why wouldn’t I be?” her mom said willing herself not to show any negative emotion.

“Mom? Are you really okay? Please tell me the truth.”

“Yes. I’m fine. Really. You go ahead and enjoy your time in Seattle. I’ll hang out with the Thompsons or maybe Sarah Asmundson. You remember her, right? The doctor’s wife?”

“Oh, sure. He passed away just before dad did,” Gayle said hating herself for lying to her mother. “Well, okay then. If you’re sure.”

“Definitely. Sure as can be!” her mother said feeling her throat get tight and tears welling up in her eyes.

“Well, okay, then. I guess I’ll talk to you later?”

Her mom bit her tongue, swallowed hard, then forced herself to say as pleasantly as possible, “Sure thing, sweetie! Talk to you soon, okay?”

Meredith Lancaster hung up and started to cry. She wasn’t okay. Not even close. She was hurt—deeply hurt. She’d been looking forward to having her daughter come home for Christmas from the day she left for her junior year of college back in September.

She knew that one day Gayle might not come home for Christmas. A husband and/or a career might mean living in another city and spending the holiday with his family. She just didn’t expect it to happen this soon and for no apparent reason, especially not to just ‘hang out’ in Seattle so far from home. So no, she was definitely not okay.

She willed herself to stop crying and decided instead to swim laps in the indoor pool out back. Meredith loved to swim. She also enjoyed aerobics and went to spinning classes. But today, she needed the exercise to help her forget and to drown out the sadness that was engulfing her.

An hour later, when she was so tired she couldn’t swim another lap, she toweled off then drug herself inside. After a hot shower, she felt a lot better and that’s when it hit her.

“If you can’t bring Mohammed to the mountain!” she thought to herself.

She sat down in front of her iMac desktop and opened up Google Chrome. She typed in ‘Seattle and vacation’ then started scrolling through the thousands of hits. Not far from the top she found one that a web site called, “House Swap” then clicked on the website.

She quickly understood what the site did. She would ‘swap’ her home in Orlando with someone in Seattle if she could find someone needing roughly the same days. She began her search and within two minutes found one that looked perfect.

“Bellevue home available from December 20th to January 1st. Writer who needs to see the sun looking for similar home in Orlando, Florida area.”

Meredith had a very nice home that was just under 3,000sqft with five bedrooms and three bathrooms plus the pool. Even so, it was no match for the home of this man who was evidently a published author. His home was well over 5,000sqft with not only an indoor pool but a media room and enough space for a small army of guests.

Gayle’s last day of classes was on the 19th so this couldn’t be any more perfect for her to fly out west and surprise her daughter. Meredith quickly entered all of the required personal information to verify her identity, hit ‘enter’, then sat back and smiled.

“I’ll bring the mountain to Mohammed!” she said out loud to herself.


“How you holding up these days, Chance?”

“I was feeling better until I started thinking about having to spend Christmas without her. Last year Christmas was brutal. Absolutely brutal. And I had most of our family around me to include Stephanie, but I still felt like I was in one of those kind of TV-show dreams where everything is fuzzy. You know, where although you see people walking passed you and talking, it’s like you’re not there. You’re somewhere lost in space watching it all happen and it only seems like you’re there.”

“I get it. At least to the degree someone who’s wife didn’t die can get it. I know I’ve said it a hundred times, but I’m just really, really sorry for you, Chance. And for Stephanie.”

“Thanks, Uncle Gregg. That means a lot. So does your friendship, by the way.”

“That’s what family is for, my friend. Speaking of family, I can’t imagine losing your wife and your mom and dad all at once. I’m really the only family you’ve got anywhere close to you.” He paused then said, “Sorry about that.” His favorite uncle was a well-known author if one considered reading presidential biographies interesting. He had a great sense of humor which was often self-deprecating and he’d just whipped it out.

Chance laughed and said, “Don’t sell yourself short. You’re a great guy—well, as far as geeky non-fiction writers go—and it’s been nice knowing I’ve got someone to lean on. We can’t change the past and what’s done is done, but I still beat myself up for moving to Seattle. Financially, we were successful beyond our wildest dreams, but if I hadn’t drug Kathy out here…” He stopped because he was choking up again and he knew if he said another word he’d cry and the last thing he wanted do was cry again.

Crying was something Chance Andrews hated doing because he’d cried more times the first year after Kathy’s death than he had since he was five years old. He was just 30 years when she was killed by some guy stoned out of his mind on meth. He was doing over 100mph when he flew through the intersection and hit her—and his parents—broadside. If he hadn’t taken a cab and left early to get Stephanie back home because she felt like she was getting sick, they’d have been in his father’s car, too. All three of them gone in an instant.

Deep down he knew it wasn’t his fault. None of it was his fault. They were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. But that didn’t stop him from feeling this never-ending guilt that he was somehow to blame for their deaths. Losing his parents was hard; losing his wife was…unbearable. He’d only cried a handful of times the second year and so far, he hadn’t cried even once in the first three months of his third year without her, and he didn’t want to ruin that by losing it on the phone.

Their daughter, Stephanie, was now six and it was a bittersweet thing to see her slowly forgetting her mother. That was something else Chance couldn’t change as it seemed to be nature’s way. Children that age didn’t have a lifetime of memories of their lost loved one even if it was a beautiful, doting mother she’d never know except through photos and the videos they’d taken together. What few memories she still had of her mom were fading fast and there were no new ones being formed. So it was only natural that she would be spared the long-term anguish and pain that older people felt in similar situations.

He snapped out of his thoughts and said, “Speaking of Christmas, what are you doing this year, Uncle Gregg?”

“I’m glad you asked, Chance my boy! I’m using that new app called ‘House Swap’ to um…swap houses…with someone from Orlando down in Florida.”

“No kidding? I’ve never heard of it. How does it work?”

“Well, you go on line, find the city you’re interested in, find a home you like, then you and the other owner verify each other’s identity using this secure area of the app. If everything checks out, you mail each other a key, alarm codes, and other pertinent information, and that’s it. It’s a binding legal contract.”

“Interesting. Does it cost anything?”

“There’s a sign-up fee, but that’s it. Why? You thinking about giving it a try?”

“Me? No. I can’t leave town. Work is just crazy busy. I’m like the proverbial hamster running on a fast-spinning wheel. I jumped on and now I don’t know how to get off. No, Stephanie and I will just hang out here again this year.”

“Would you mind kind of keeping an eye on the house for me while I’m gone?” his uncle asked.

“Sure. No problem. Anything specific?”

“Well, if the alarm goes off, I’ll have the alert sent to you. That way, you can decide whether or not to call the police or just go shut it off. It shouldn’t happen, but just in case. Oh, and if the temporary tenant has any problems with maintenance-related stuff, can I give them your number?”

“Yeah, sure. I’m happy to help out. You doing anything in Orlando other than Disney World?”

“Disney World? Not a chance—Chance. I just want to see the sun, you know? I plan to write all day, every day sitting while I’m sitting out on some patio by a pool then when I’m sick of writing I’m gonna lay out and drink beer or maybe something more exotic. My publisher is really riding me to get her the next two chapters, but it’s just so damn depressing here this time of year.”

“Yeah, this cold, wet, rainy weather gets old fast, doesn’t it? And the gray skies with the low ceiling are depressing as hell. That can be tough to take.”

“Exactly. Anyway, I’ll be leaving on the 20th and return on the 2nd of January so the new tenant will be in my house those same dates. Thanks for having my back, buddy.”

“You’ve had mine for the last several years so this is the least I can do. Have fun and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do if I…” He had to stop again knowing he didn’t have anyone to do those kinds of things with anymore.

Sure, he’d had all kinds of women making it known they were interested in him. That started within three months after Kathy’s passing. He was young, handsome, and now he was very well off. Opportunity wasn’t the issue. The problem was he just couldn’t generate enough interest to be interested back.

Just the thought of dating drove him crazy. Meeting someone, putting on this happy face, getting to know them, doing the whole social-dance thing to see how much you had in common, etc., was more than he could stand.

“You still have the alarm code, right?” his Uncle Gregg asked.

“Unless you changed it. Is it still the Mark of the Beast doubled, right?”

“Yes, indeed. 6-6-6-6-6-6.”

“Then we’re good. I’ve got a spare key just in case, too, so go have some fun in the sun. You deserve it. I’ve got everything covered back here, okay?”

“Thanks, Chance. And I know you don’t want to hear this, but please give some thought to maybe being open to meeting someone?” His nephew didn’t answer and he knew what that meant. “Okay, fine. I’ll leave it alone. Thanks again, okay?”


“First time in Seattle?” the limo driver asked.

“Yes. As a matter of fact it is. Oh, here’s the address. It’s in Bellevue.”

The limo driver looked at it and said, “Nice neighborhood.”

“Oh, I don’t live there. I’m just doing a timeshare kind of thing.”

“You mean like House Swap?”

“Yes,” Meredith said. “I guess I’m the last person to have heard of it.”

He put her things in the trunk, opened her door, then made his way into traffic and away from Sea-Tac airport. Traffic was terrible, but then it was bad nearly all the time now and had been for quite a few years. The limo driver slowed to 35 quite a few times on a road that was posted for 65 but eventually they made it.

“Wow. You weren’t kidding,” Meredith said when they pulled into the neighborhood.

“All multi-million dollar homes in here. I drive people to and from all the time. I love it, but it’s a little too rich for my blood. Well, way too rich to be honest,” the driver told her. “And just up here is your temporary residence.”

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