He remembered driving all night that first night. Without a stopping place in mind, Webster had headed north. In the early hours of morning and somewhere along the dark highway, he picked Washington DC, as his destination.
Arriving on a Sunday morning, Webster stopped at a neighborhood cafe and ordered breakfast. A friendly waitress suggested he head over to Georgetown, even giving directions. She suggested he look for signs advertising apartments for rent. They were the best, she said, even if a little pricy, and they’re there, she told him, “if you look hard enough.”
Finding Georgetown had been the easy part. As the waitress warned, driving the streets searching for signs advertising the rentals had been the challenge. Webster was out of his element. Yet, he remained positive and continued looking.
The house was large, obviously old, and reeked of money. A small sign at the street only said there was an apartment available, nothing more. Webster had been hesitant to even ring the doorbell.
Summoning courage, he mounted the curving brick steps, took a deep breath, and pushed the button. They’re just people like me, he remembered thinking that day. And it’s Sunday. Everybody has to be nice on Sunday. He had smiled then, thinking, I bet it’s a rule that you have to smile.
The door had swung open revealing a short older woman. She couldn’t have been more than five feet, but her grin was a good six footer. Webster had resisted the temptation to look look behind him for someone she knew and liked. But he knew there was no one else. The little woman was definitely smiling at him.
“Well hello, young man,” she said. “I bet you are here about the apartment.” Grabbing Webster by the arm, she pulled him inside and gave the door a hearty shove.
“Come,” she said. “I’ll show you.”
That was how it all started.
The apartment was small but very nice. The furniture looked expensive, and the space had its own outside entrance. It was ideal except for the money. Webster had set a limit he could pay and the amount included utilities.
When the woman told him the price, Webster almost choked, and she had not mentioned electricity or other costs. He thanked her and was ready for a hasty retreat to the old Ford, even taking a couple of steps.
He took another stride before turning back to face her. She was giving him the once-over, an index finger gently touching her lower lip.
After a few moments of quiet, she inquired as to whether Webster had a number in mind. He began explaining, “I don’t have much to start on …”
He stopped when she held up her hand, saying, “How much?”
He told her, feeling his face grow red as he did.
“Is that the best you can do?”
“… Yes, ma’am.”
She had looked him up and down again, then she laid out her conditions.
“I’ll rent it to you for that amount,” she told him, “with two requirements.”
Webster couldn’t imagine what those could be.
Then she smiled, pointing a finger in his direction and shaking it to emphasize her requirements. “No loud parties, and you have dinner with me once a week … you pick the night.”
Webster thought he couldn’t have heard her correctly. But he had, she assured him. She gave her reasons: she was tired of being alone in the big house, he seemed a nice young man, and he could be her handyman—“if he didn’t mind.”
That is how he had met Mrs. Edith Ann Collins of Georgetown, Virginia.