Gravel crunched beneath his feet as he walked down the path toward the lake. Somehow, Aubrey always ended up back at this spot whenever something was on his mind. Seeing his childhood friend this morning was a surprise, but the fact that he had been wearing coveralls and wiping his greasy hands on a rag had been a real shock. Russell wasn’t supposed to be working in a garage – he was supposed to be a “real estate tycoon.”
Inseperable throughout high school, they had big dreams and with the brash confidence of youth, they had not been shy about proclaiming their future success. “Real estate is where the money is. We’ll have our own company – we’ll own half the buildings in this town.” Most of the time their friends tolerated their improbable predictions of such grand success and wealth. On a few occasions someone would get tired of hearing it and would give them a hard time but that only made them more determined to accomplish their goals.
Picking up a handful of stones, Aubrey fingered them for several minutes, lost in thought. Almost without thinking, his fingers searched out a flat one and he threw it side-arm across the water, something he and Russ had done often. Six skips – Russ would have been impressed.
Maybe things would have worked for them if not for Uncle Hubert. Out of the blue, Russell’s great-uncle had given him $30,000. With that kind of money, Russ figured he was on his way. While Aubrey continued to prepare for college, Russell was determined to get on with life
Aubrey’s pleas were barely acknowledged. “Come on, Russ,” he had said, “ we’ve always planned to do this together but what do we know about business? There’s a lot to learn before we can hope to succeed.”
“Of course we’re going to succeed. ‘It’s all about location!’ See, I already know that. Anything else I need to know, I’ll learn along the way.”
So Aubrey had gone to college and earned degrees in marketing and finance, while Russell moved to Dallas to get in on the hot real estate market. Aubrey hadn’t heard from him again. He always wondered what had happened but with going to school, working part-time, and studying for his real estate license, he didn’t have time to think too much about it.
Years had passed since then and they had been good ones for Aubrey. He had worked hard in the investment firm where he landed after college graduation, and that diligence paid off. His boss had taken him under his wing and given him opportunities and experiences not available to most interns. By the time he reached thirty years of age, Aubrey’s portfolio was already rather impressive, and he was about to complete his first major real estate purchase. Since then, things had only gotten better.
Wandering back to the house, he settled into a chair on the expansive porch. He had attained the kind of success Russ had always expected to find, but Russ’s story was quite different. Once more Aubrey’s thoughts returned to this morning’s encounter.
“Aubrey Martin, huh?” After reading the new work order, he looked up into the face of his old friend. “Who would have thought we would meet again after all these years?”
“Russ? This is a surprise!” Confusion showed on Aubrey’s face as he looked at their surroundings. “How did you ...I never thought you’d be... Look, do you have a break coming up? Let’s go get some coffee.”
With downcast eyes, Russ had shared his story. He had made a good start, but then everything turned on him. His first apartment building burned down, but only after he had neglected to pay the insurance premiums. On the heels of that disaster he had been audited by the IRS, who did not appreciate his interpretation of tax law. Their final determination against him had made it necessary to sell his most profitable property. Bankruptcy, divorce and depression soon followed. Starting over again just seemed like an impossibility.
After recounting his sad tale, Russ’s break was over. Gravel crunched beneath his feet as he walked back down the path to the garage. Seeing childhood friend this morning had been a surprise. The fact that he had been dressed in coveralls and wiping his greasy hands on a rag had been humiliating, and his heart rebelled. “I wasn’t supposed to be working in a garage. I was supposed to be a real estate tycoon!”
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