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  • Twelve Rooms with a View
  • Written by Theresa Rebeck
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307592361
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Twelve Rooms with a View

A Novel

Written by Theresa RebeckAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Theresa Rebeck

eBook

List Price: $13.99

eBook

On Sale: May 04, 2010
Pages: 352 | ISBN: 978-0-307-59236-1
Published by : Crown Crown/Archetype
Twelve Rooms with a View Cover

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

How would it feel to go overnight from living in a trailer park to a twelve-room apartment overlooking Central Park in a landmark Victorian building?
 
This is what happens to housecleaner Tina Finn, who, with her sisters, Alison and Lucy, suddenly comes into possession of the Livingston Mansion Apartment at the Edgewood. The Finn sisters inherit the $11 million property from their estranged alcoholic mother, but they aren’t the only siblings vying for it. Their mother’s wealthy second husband, Bill—who died just three weeks before Tina’s mother—has two sons. And they are furious at the thought of losing the apartment that’s been in their family for generations. 

Tina moves into the nearly vacant, palatial space to solidify her claim to it, but she soon discovers that Bill’s sons aren’t the only ones who want her out. The building’s other residents are none too pleased by her presence either. In fact, the co-op board has designs on wresting control of the apartment from both sets of children. 

As Tina fends off all the people who want to evict her (or worse), she starts to get involved in her neighbors’ complex lives. There’s the mercurial, eccentric botanist who may be either a friend or an enemy; the self-absorbed, randy son of the co-op board president, whose friendship without benefits Tina tries to curry; the large, chaotic family whose depressed teenage daughter becomes Tina’s ally and spy; the ghost Tina hears crying at night in her apartment’s secret room . . . 

In this entertaining yarn by acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, and author Theresa Rebeck, we follow Tina Finn—a woman both comical and compelling, well intentioned and a bit of a thief—as she begins to love her new home, discovers traits to admire in people she’s only just met, and realizes, finally, her place in her family and the world.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

I was actually standing on the edge of my mother’s open grave when I heard about the house. Some idiot with tattoos and a shovel had tossed a huge wad of dirt at me. I think he was perturbed that everyone else had taken off, the way they’re supposed to, and I was standing there like someone had brained me with a frying pan. It’s not like I was making a scene. But I couldn’t leave. The service in the little chapel had totally blown—all that deacon or what ever he was could talk about was god and his mercy and utter unredeemable nonsense that had nothing to do with her—so I was just standing there, thinking maybe something else could be said while they put her in the earth, something simple but hopefully specific. Which is when Lucy came up and yanked at my arm.

“Come on,” she said. “We have to talk about the house.”

And I’m thinking, what house?

So Lucy dragged me off to talk about this house, which she and Daniel and Alison had clearly been deep in conversation about for a while, even though I had never heard of it. Which maybe I might resent? Especially as Daniel obviously had an interest but no real rights, as he is only Alison’s husband? But I was way too busy trying to catch up.

“The lawyer says it’s completely unencumbered. She died intestate, and that means it’s ours, that’s what the lawyer says.” This from Lucy.

“What lawyer?” I ask.

“Mom’s lawyer.”

“I have a hard time believing that that is true,” Daniel said.

“Why would he lie?” Lucy shot back at him.

“Why would a lawyer lie? I’m sorry, did you just say—”

“Yes I did. He’s our lawyer, why would he lie?”

“You just said he was Mom’s lawyer,” I pointed out.

“It’s the same thing,” she said.

“Really? I’ve never even heard of this guy, and I don’t know his name, and he’s my lawyer?”

“Bill left her his house,” Lucy told me, like I’m some kind of total moron. “And since she died without a will, that means it’s ours. Mom has left us a house.”

This entire chain of events seemed improbable to me. I’m so chronically broke and lost in an underworld of trouble that a stroke of luck like an actual house dropping out of the sky might be true only if it were literally true and I was about to fi nd myself squashed to death under somebody else’s house, like the Wicked Witch of the East. Surely this could not mean that. I continued to repeat things people had just said. “Bill left her his house?”

“Yes! He left her everything!” Lucy snapped.

“Didn’t he have kids?”

“Yes, in fact, he did,” Daniel piped up. “He has two grown sons.”

“Well, did he leave them something?”

“No, he didn’t,” Lucy said, fi rm. Daniel snorted. “What? It’s true! He didn’t leave them anything!” she repeated, as if they’d been arguing about this for days.

“The lawyer said it wouldn’t matter whether or not they agreed to the terms of their father’s will,” Alison noted, looking at Daniel, trying to be hopeful in the face of his inexplicable pessimism about somebody leaving us a house.

“If the lawyer said that, he’s a complete moron,” Daniel informed her. “I called Ira. He’s going to take a look at the documents and let us know what kind of a mess we’re in.”

“It’s not a mess, it’s a house,” Lucy said, sort of under her breath, in a peevish tone. She doesn’t like Daniel. She thinks he’s too bossy. Which he is, considering that we didn’t all marry him, just Alison.

So we took a left out of the cemetery in Daniel’s crummy old beige Honda and went straight into Manhattan to the lawyer’s offi ce. There was no brunch with distant relatives and people standing around saying trivial mournful things about Mom, which I didn’t mind being spared. It would have been hard to fi nd anybody who knew her anyway,
but I did think that the four of us would at least stop at a diner and have some eggs or a bagel. But not the Finns. We get right down to business.

Before noon we were squashed around a really small table in a really small conference room in the saddest Manhattan offi ce you ever saw. The walls were a nasty yellow and only half plastered together; seriously, you could see the dents where the Sheetrock was screwed into the uprights. The tabletop was that kind of Formica that looks vaguely like wood in somebody’s imagination. I was thinking, this is a lawyer’s office? What kind of lawyer? The overweight receptionist wore a pale green sloppy shirt, which unfortunately made her look even fatter than she was, and she kept poking her head in, fi rst to ask us if we wanted any coffee and then about seven more times to tell us that Mr. Long would be right with us. Finally the guy showed up. His name was Stuart Long, and he looked like an egg. Seriously, the guy had a really handsome face and a good head of brown hair, but the rest of him looked like an egg. For a moment it was all I could concentrate on, so I was not, frankly, paying full attention when Lucy interrupted him in midsentence and said, “Can you tell us about the house?”

“The house?” said the lawyer, seriously confused for a second. And I thought— of course, they got it wrong, of course there is no house.

“Bill’s house,” Alison explained. “The message you left on our machine said Bill left Mom a house, and the house would be part of the settlement. You left that, didn’t you leave that—”

“Well, I certainly would not have left any details about the settlement on a machine— I spoke to your husband, several times actually. Is that what you mean?”

“Yes, we spoke, and you told me about the house,” Daniel interrupted, all snotty and impatient, like these details were really beneath him. I could see Lucy stiffen up, because Daniel clearly had told her and Alison that he had gotten “a message,” when in fact he had been having long conversations with this lawyer that he had no right to have, much less lie about.

“You mean the apartment,” Egg Man insisted.

“Yes, the apartment.” Daniel was still acting above it all, as if he had a right to be annoyed.

“So it’s not a house,” I said.

“No, it’s an apartment. Olivia was living there. Up until her recent death.”

“Recent death— that’s an understatement,” I said.

“Yes, yes, this is I’m sure overwhelming for you,” the lawyer said.

He had very good manners, compared to everyone else in the room.

“But I take it from your questions that you’ve never seen the apartment?”

“Bill didn’t like us,” I said. “So we weren’t allowed to visit them.”

“He was reclusive,” Alison corrected me. “As I’m sure Mr. Long is aware.”

“Mom told me he didn’t want us to visit because Bill didn’t like us,” I said.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Alison.

“Could we get back to the point?” Lucy said. “What about this place— this apartment? We’re inheriting it, right?”

“Yes, well, the apartment was directly willed to your mother,” Egg Man agreed. “Because her death came so soon after her husband’s, the title was never offi cially transferred, but that will most likely be considered a technicality.”

“And it was her house,” Daniel reminded him. He was really stuck on this idea that it was a house.

“Technically it is, as I said, specifi cally included in the estate,” our round lawyer repeated. “Why don’t you let me walk you through this?”

“Why don’t you just tell us how much the place is worth?” Lucy threw in.

Mr. Long blinked but otherwise ignored her poor manners. “Obviously it’s not possible to be specifi c about the worth of the property until we have a professional evaluation,” he informed the room.

“You really don’t know?” Lucy persisted. “Like, it could be worth ten dollars or ten thousand dollars or a million dollars, but you don’t know?”

Before Egg Man could answer, Daniel tried to rip control of the meeting back to his side of the table. “She’s just a little impatient,” he said, smiling. “Sweetie, maybe we should let Mr. Long—”

Lucy rolled her eyes at this. “Just a ballpark, Daniel sweetie,” she shot back.

Mr. Long cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable. “Well, I guess I could—”

“Yes, why don’t you,” I said, trying to be nice, because I was feeling a little embarrassed by the way the others were acting. Also, I really wanted him to give up a number. “Just a ballpark,” I said, smiling brilliantly, sometimes that’s all a sad, round lawyer needs: a pretty girl smiling at him. I thought Lucy was going to gag, but it did the trick.

“A ballpark. A ballpark,” he said, smiling back at me. “I don’t know— eleven million?”

There was a big fat silence.

“Eleven million?” I said. “Eleven million what?” I know that sounds stupid, but what on earth was he talking about? Eleven million pesos?

“Eleven million dollars,” he clarifi ed. “That of course is almost a random number, there’s really no way of knowing. But it is twelve rooms, with a view of Central Park, on a very good block. I think eleven million would be considered conservative. In terms of estimates.”

So then there was a lot more talk, yelling even, people getting quite heated, worried about things that hadn’t happened and might not happen but maybe were happening or had happened already, and the solution
to all these things that no one understood, apparently, was for me, Tina, to move into that big old eleven- million- dollar apartment right away. Like that very day.

So it was odd how that happened? But that’s where I ended up.

~1~

The thing you have to understand about these big old apartments in New York City is that they are more completely astonishing than you ever thought they could be, even in your wildest dreams. When you walk along the edge of Central Park at sunrise, and you look up at the little golden windows blazing, and you think oh my god those apartments must be mind- blowing, who on earth could be so lucky that they get to live in one of those apartments? My mother and her husband were two of those people, and they lived in an apartment so huge and beautiful it was beyond imagining. Ceilings so high they made you feel like you were in a cathedral, or a forest. Light fixtures so big and far away and strangely shaped that they looked like some aging star exploding in the heavens. Mirrors in crumbling gilt frames that had little cherubs falling off the top. Clocks from three different centuries, none of which worked. So many turns in the hallways, leading to so many different dark rooms, that you thought maybe you’d stumbled into a dwarf’s diamond mine. The place was also, quite inexplicably, carpeted in mustard- colored wall- to- wall shag, and one of the bathrooms was papered in some high seventies silver-spotted stuff. Plus there was actual moss growing on the fi xtures in the kitchen—no kidding, moss. But none of that was in any way relevant. The place was fantastic.

There was nobody to let us in—we had to let ourselves in with the keys the nice round lawyer handed over, telling us about six times that he didn’t think it was "necessary" that we take immediate ownership. He was so worried about the whole idea—that I would just up and move into this huge old empty apartment where my mother had died only days ago—that he kept repeating to himself, in a sort of sad murmur,
"There’s no need to rush into anything. Really. You must all be overwhelmed. Let me walk you through this."

"But you said there might be some question about the will," Daniel reminded him.

"No, no question— well, no question about Mr. Drinan’s will. Your mother, as you know, does not seem to have left a will," he said, trying to drag us back into this nonsense. But now that the words "eleven million" had come out of his mouth, none of us was listening.

"We’d really like to get a look at the place," Daniel announced.

"Before we lose the light," Lucy said.

Sometimes I am amazed at the lines she pulls out. She just says this stuff like she really means it, even though she had said maybe a second ago that we needed to get over there and get Tina moved in to make it clear that we were taking own ership right away, because if there was going to be any contention or cloud on the title we’d need to have established a proprietary right to the property. She’s not even a lawyer; that’s just the way her brain works. She fi gures out the meanest truth, gets it out there and deals with it, then a second later pretends that what’s really worrying her is some weird thing about the light. It’s spectacularly nervy and impressive. And maybe Daniel doesn’t like it because Alison is the oldest, which means that they should be calling the
shots? But he just married into this situation, and there is no way around how smart Lucy is.

Meanwhile, I am the problem child who doesn’t get a vote. She’s caused too many problems; she doesn’t get a vote anymore. Even when it’s a question of where Tina is going to live, Tina doesn’t get to vote. I didn’t care. The truth was, I didn’t have anything better to do than let my sisters move me into my dead mom’s gigantic apartment on Central Park West. At the time I was living in a trailer park, for god’s sake, cleaning rich people’s houses out by the Delaware Water Gap. I didn’t even have a bank account because I couldn’t afford the monthly fees, and I had to borrow the fi fty bucks for the bus to the funeral from my stupid ex- boyfriend Darren, whose bright idea it was to move out to that lousy trailer park in the fi rst place. Oh well, the less said about the whole Delaware Water Gap fi asco the better, as it was not my smartest
or most shining hour. So when Lucy leaned back in her chair and said, "We probably should take own ership right away, just to be safe—Tina can stay there," I wasn’t about to put up a fi ght. Move into a palace on Central Park West, why not?

So we got the keys, crawled through traffi c to the Upper West Side, actually found a meter four blocks away from the promised land, and there we were, before the light was gone, while the sun was setting. The building itself was huge, a kind of murky dark brown stone with the occasional purple brick stuck in. Strange and gloomy gargoyles snarled from the cornices three stories up. Underneath them, two serious-minded
ea gles with the tails of lions guarded the entryway; these characters didn’t look like they were kidding around, but they also didn’t look like they intended to eat you or spit molten lava at you, unlike the ones above. Plus there were actual gas lamps, the old Victorian ones, burning by the heads of the eagle-lions, and another gas lamp, a really big one, hung dead center over the door, right above a huge name in gothic type: EDGEWOOD. In fact, all the windows on the fi rst two fl oors had scrollwork and carvings and inexplicable Latin words inscribed above them. It all added up into a gothic sort of Victorian mess that was quite friendly while simultaneously seeming like the kind of place you might never come out of alive.

The foyer was predictably spectacular. Marble floors dotted with black stone tiles, vaulted ceilings, and the biggest crystal chandelier you’ve ever seen in your life. A huge black chair with actual wings, which I later found out was carved ebony, sat right in front of an enormous fireplace, with two more giant eagle- lions on either side. The fireplace was filled with an enormous sort of greenery, which I later found out was made of silk. The doorman’s station, a nice little brass stand piled with FedEx packages and a couple of manila envelopes, was empty. Behind that were two brass elevators with elaborate doors.

"Wow," I said. "Check out the chair with wings."

"We’ll have time for that later," Lucy told me grimly, giving me a little shove toward the elevators.

"We should wait for the doorman, shouldn’t we?" I said, looking around. The place was deserted.

"Why? We live here," Lucy announced, pressing her lips together, like don’t mess with me, as she pushed the elevator button. She kept tapping at that stupid button, as impatient as Moses whacking the rock, like that might hurry god up instead of just pissing him off.

"Seriously, we can’t just go up there," I said. The whole situation suddenly seemed dicey. Alison started pushing the elevator button too, pressing it really hard. Both of them were in such a rush, like rushing through all this would make it okay. It reminded me of Darren and the whole Delaware Water Gap fiasco— things happen too fast and you end up stuck in the middle of nowhere with a complete shithead and a boatload of trouble. I was about to explain this to my sisters when the elevator dinged and Daniel swung open the outer door.

"You guys, wait a minute," I said. "We should wait for the doorman."

"Who knows where he is?" Daniel said. "We’re not waiting."

And since no one showed up to stop us, I got in.

According to the keys the Egg Man had given us, Mom’s apartment was 8A, so we took the elevator to the eighth floor, where it disgorged us on a horrible little landing. An old green fluorescent strip light flickered feebly, making us look like ghosts, and the venetian blinds at the windows were so old and cracked and dusty that even a hapless loser like me found them offensive. It was startling to find a landing so grungy in this fancy building, but this was the least of the improbabilities that were coming my way. It was taking Lucy a long minute to fi gure out how to work all the keys and I was in a bad mood by this time. I thought we really should have waited to tell the doorman
we were there, and I was worried about a total stranger showing up and saying, "Hey! What are you doing?" A door to the side and behind the two elevators had been painted a sad brown maybe a hundred years ago, and next to it was another door, painted a gorgeous pearly gray, with "8B" in heavy brass. The "8A" on our door by contrast was in those sticky-backed gold-and-black letters that you buy at the hardware store. It was a sad little sight; it really was.

And then Lucy figured out the locks, and there was a click and a sort of a breeze, and the door to the apartment swung open. You couldn’t tell how big the place was right away. The blinds were  drawn, and we didn’t know where the switches were, so we all stepped tentatively into the gloom. It smelled too, a sort of funny old-people
smell, not as if someone had died in there, but more like camphor and dried paper and mothballs. And far off, in with the mothballs, was a hint of old flowers and jewelry and France.

"Hey, Mom’s perfume," I said.

"What?" said Lucy, who had wandered into the next room looking for a light switch.

"Don’t you smell Mom’s perfume?" I asked. It seemed unmistakable to me, even though she hardly ever wore that stuff because it was so ridiculously expensive. Our dad had given her a bottle of it on their wedding night, and they could never afford it again, so she wore it only once every three years or so when he had an actual job and they got to go to a cocktail party. We would watch her put on her one black dress and the earrings with the sparkles and the smallest little dab of the most expensive
perfume in the world. Who knows if it really was the most expensive in the world, I rather doubt it, but that’s what she told us. Anyway there it was in that huge apartment, in with a bunch of mothballs, the smell of my mother when she was happy.

"What was the name of that stuff?" I asked, taking another step in. I loved the apartment already, so dark and big and strange, with my mother’s perfume hiding in it like a secret. "Mom’s perfume. Don’t you smell it?"

"No," said Alison, running her hand up the wall, like a blind person looking for a doorway. "I don’t."

Maybe I was making it up. There were a lot of smells in there in the dark. Mostly I think it smelled as if time had just stopped. And then Daniel found the light switch, and there was the smallest golden glow from high up near the ceiling. You could barely see anything because the room was so big, but what you could see was that time actually had stopped there. Between 1857, say, and 1960, things had happened, and
then just like that, they had stopped happening.

The ceiling was high and far away, with shadowy coves around the corners, and right in the middle of this enormous lake of a ceiling was the strangest old chandelier, glued together out of what looked like iron filings, with things dripping and looping out of it. It must have been poorly wired, because it had only three fake-candle fifteen- att bulbs, which is why it gave off so little light. And then there was this mustard-colored
shag carpeting, which I believe I have mentioned, and one lone chair in a corner. It was a pretty big chair, but seriously, it was one chair.

"What a dump!" Daniel whistled, low.

"Could we not piss on this before we’ve even seen it, Daniel?" called Lucy from the kitchen. But she sounded friendly, not edgy. She was having a pretty good time, I think.

Alison was not. She kept pawing at the wall. "Is this the only light? There has to be another light switch somewhere," she said, all worried.

"Here, I’ve got one," said Lucy, throwing a switch in the kitchen. It didn’t really do much, because the kitchen was a whole separate room with a big fat wall in front of it, so there was just a little doorway-sized bit of light that didn’t make it very far into the living room, or parlor, or what ever you wanted to call this giant space.

"Oh that’s a big help," said Alison.

"Wow, this kitchen is a mess, you should see this!" yelled Lucy.

"Oh, god, there’s something growing in here."

"That’s not funny," Alison snapped.

"No kidding," Lucy called back, banging things around in a sudden, alarming frenzy. "No kidding, there’s stuff growing everywhere—ick, it’s moving! It’s moving! No, wait— never mind, never mind."

"I am in no mood, Lucy! This is ridiculous. Daniel! Where are you? Tina, where did you go? Where is everybody! Could we all stay in one place, please? DANIEL." Alison suddenly sounded like a total nut.

It’s something that happens to her— she gets more and more worked up, and she truly doesn’t know how to stop it once she starts. No one is quite sure why Daniel married her, as he’s pretty good- looking and certainly could have done a lot better. Not that Alison is mean or stupid; she’s just sort of high- strung in a way that is defi nitely trying. Anyway, that apartment was literally starting to drive her crazy. She kept slapping the wall, looking for another light switch, and Daniel was ignoring how scared she was; he was heading across the gigantic room into the gloom on the other side, where that one chair sat, next to a big hole in the wall. Well, it wasn’t a hole, it was a hallway. But from where we were standing, it looked like a hole, and the sloping black shadow that used to be Daniel was about to disappear into it.

"Daniel, just wait, could you wait, please?" Alison yelled, completely panicked. "I cannot see where you are going!"

"It’s fine, Alison," he said, sounding like a bastard, then disappeared.

"Daniel, WAIT," she yelled, almost crying now.

"Here, Alison," I said, and I pulled open the blind at one of the incredibly large windows. A beautiful gold and red light shot through and hit every wall in that room, making everything glow and move. The sun was going down, and the light was cutting through the branches of the trees, shifting in the wind. That big old room went from being all weird and dreary to being something else altogether, skipping everything in
between.

"Wow," I said.

"Yes, thank you, that’s much better," Alison nodded, looking around, still anxious as shit. "Although that isn’t going to be much help when the sun is gone."

"Is it going somewhere?" I asked.

"It’s going down, and then what will you do? Because that chandelier gives off no light whatsoever, it’s worse than useless. You’d think they’d have some area lamps in a room this size."

"You’d think they’d have some furniture in a room this size," I observed.

"Okay, I don’t know what that stuff is that’s growing in the kitchen," Lucy announced, barging into the big light- fi lled room, "but it’s kind of disgusting in there. We’re going to have to have this whole place professionally cleaned before we put it on the market, and even that might not be enough. Oh god, who knows what that stuff is? And it’s everywhere. On the counters, in the closets. Who knows what’s in the refrigerator?
I was afraid to look."

"There’s really something growing?" I asked. The more dire her pronouncements, the more I wanted to see the stuff. I slid over to the doorway to take a peek.

"Is it mold?" Alison asked, her panic starting to rev up again. "Because that could ruin everything. This place will be useless, worse than useless, if there’s mold. It costs millions to get rid of that stuff."

"It doesn’t cost millions," Lucy countered.

"A serious mold problem in an exclusive building? That’s millions."

"You’ve never had a serious mold problem in any building, Alison. You don’t know anything about it," Lucy said bluntly.

"I know that if the other own ers fi nd out, they could sue us," Alison shot back. "We would be the responsible parties if mold in this apartment made anybody in the building sick. It could be making us sick right now."

"Let’s not get ahead of ourselves," Lucy said, looking at me and rolling her eyes. Everybody rolls their eyes at Alison behind her back, even if she might be right. She’s just so irredeemably uptight.

"Holy shit," I said when I finally got a good look at the kitchen. "What, is it bad? It’s bad, isn’t it."

"No, no, it’s not that bad," I lied. The whole kitchen was green. Or at least most of it. "And I don’t think it’s mold. I think it’s moss."

"Moss doesn’t grow inside apartments," Alison hissed. "We have to get out of here. We have to leave immediately, it will make us all sick. It’s probably what killed Mom."

"Mom died of a heart attack," I reminded her.

"We have to leave now, before we all get sick. DANIEL! WE HAVE TO GO."

"There’s another apartment back here!" Daniel yelled.

"What?" said Lucy, following him into the black hallway.

"There’s a whole second apartment, another kitchen and another living room or parlor—there’s like six bedrooms and two dining rooms!" he yelled.

"How can there be two dining rooms?" Lucy muttered. And then she disappeared. I looked at Alison, standing very still, arms at her sides.

I completely did not want to contribute any fuel to the coming conflagration. But I did want to see the rest of that apartment.

"It’ll be okay, Alison," I said. "It’s not mold. It’s moss! And Mom died of a heart attack. Let’s go see the rest of this place, it sounds awesome."

Realizing that I didn’t sound particularly convincing, I bolted down the hallway. The place was awesome. The hall was dark and twisty, and there were rooms everywhere that hooked into other rooms and then hooked back to that twisty hallway farther own. Seriously, you never quite knew where you were, and then you were in a place you had gone through six rooms ago, but you didn’t know how you had gotten back there. And while some of those rooms were as empty and lonely as that giant front room, some of the others were cozy and interesting. One was painted a weird shade of pink that I had never seen before, with no furniture but with framed pictures of flowers on three walls and a gigantic mirror on the fourth wall. No kidding, the room looked six times as big as it was because of that mirror, and you’d jump when you walked in because you thought someone else was there with you, but it was just you. Another room had little beds that were only six inches off the ground and old solar-system stickers stuck on the ceiling, and someone had painted a giant sun setting over the ocean, right on one of the walls. Another room was painted dark purple, with stars on the ceiling and a little bitty chandelier that had glass moons and suns hanging from it. There was no furniture in that room either.

Twelve rooms is a lot of rooms. That apartment felt as if it went on forever, even before I got to the second kitchen and the two dining rooms. That’s where Lucy and Daniel had ended up and were fi guring things out.

"This is where they lived," Lucy observed, looking around.

She was right. There was furniture in these rooms, a couple of chairs and a comfortable couch across from a tele vi sion set, and a coffee table with a clicker and some dirty plates on it. On one side was the so-called second kitchen, but it was really more of a half-kitchen dinette. It had the smallest sink imaginable, a very skinny refrigerator, and an old electric stovetop with a tiny oven. It was kind of doll-sized, frankly, but nothing was growing on it. And on the other side of this TV room–kitchen area was an archway, and beyond an old bed, with two bedside tables and a chair with some dirty clothes on it. The bed wasn’t made.

"Jesus," I said, and sat down. Compared to the rest of that great apartment, this little TV-bedroom-kitchen space seemed stupidly ordinary. They lived in the most amazing apartment ever, but they just holed up in the back of it and pretended they were living in a boring normal place like the rest of us. It was overwhelming. Alison, arriving behind me, took a step forward.

"Look," she said, pointing to the coffee table. "Fish sticks. She was eating fish sticks when she died."

"Oh, for crying out loud," said Lucy, and she reached over, grabbed the plate, and turned back to the tiny kitchenette, where she proceeded to bang the cabinet doors.

"What are you looking for now?" I sighed, lying down on the couch. I could hardly keep my head up.

"It’s disgusting," she snapped. "That’s just been sitting there for days, I can’t believe no one cleaned it up."

"Who would clean it up?" I asked.

"Someone, I don’t know who. Who found her—wasn’t it a neighbor? What did they do, just let the EMS people pick up the body and then leave the place like this? It’s disgusting. It could attract bugs, or mice." Lucy started looking under the little sink for a garbage can. "Oh god, if there are mice, I’m just going to kill myself," she muttered. "It’s going to cost a fortune to take care of that mold issue; I do NOT want to have to deal with exterminators."

"Relax," Daniel told her, turning slowly and taking it all in with a kind of speculative grimace. "We won’t have to do a thing. What’d he say, eleven million? This place is worth more than that as is. With mold and mice and fi sh sticks on dirty plates and a shitty economy. This place is worth a fortune. We won’t have to do a thing."

"Oh, well," said Alison, apparently having something like a philosophical moment. "She had a good life."

"She had a shitty life," I said.

"Look, there’re actually some things in the freezer," Lucy announced, swinging open the little door. "Some hamburgers and frozen vegetables, and the ice-cube maker seems to work . . . plenty of food. You’ll be all right at least for the next couple of days, Tina, then we’ll have to spring for some groceries, I’m guessing, because as usual you are completely broke, is that the story?"

"That’s the story." I shrugged. "Look, seriously, Lucy, maybe we should wait a day. For me to move in? So we have time to like tell the building super and stuff, so they know I’m here?"

"There’s no reason you shouldn’t move in right now," Lucy said.

"You need a place to stay, my place is too small, and so is Daniel and Alison’s. Where else are you going to go? By your own account you can hardly afford a hotel room."
"This is— it’s just—"

"It’s our apartment. Why not stay here?"

There was a why not, obviously. There was a good reason to slow things down, but not one of us wanted to mention it. Even me. You split eleven million dollars three ways, even after taxes? Every single one of us suddenly has a whole new life. I’m fairly certain that was the sum total of all the thinking going on in that apartment when they handed me the keys and told me to sit tight.


From the Hardcover edition.
Theresa Rebeck

About Theresa Rebeck

Theresa Rebeck - Twelve Rooms with a View

Photo © Monique Carboni

THERESA REBECK is the author of the novel Three Girls and Their Brother. Her plays include Our House, Bad Dates, Omnium Gatherum (a Pulitzer finalist), The Scene, and Mauritius, which won Boston’s prestigious IRNE and the Elliot Norton Awards and premiered on Broadway in 2007. Rebeck lives with her husband and two children in Brooklyn, New York.
Praise

Praise

"Rebeck flawlessly, uproariously captures what it means to covet that elusive, transformative, deluxe apartment in the sky."
USA Today

"Tina is the type of heroine readers wish for; a little unsure of her place in the world yet well-intentioned. At various turns compelling, yet just a little bit devious…Make sure to add this book to your reading list this year."
Sacramento Book Review

"Greed, sibling rivalry and generational dysfunction are at the heart of this clever, entertaining exploration of family dynamics…. An unusual and inventive adventure…The stories in this building are poignant, tragic and complex, Tina the catalyst for shocking revelations and dark secrets, for poisonous relationships and unexpected forgiveness. Whether money and property can purchase happiness or not, Tina is the beneficiary of her experience, discovering the value of integrity and the price of belonging in the world."
—Curled Up with a Good Book, curledup.com

"The scenes are impeccably handled and laughs abound."
Kirkus

"Theresa Rebeck upends the fairy tale of New York privilege in this giddy, entertaining satire, set in an enchanted castle peopled with pampered royals, urban witches, deposed princes and one very wily damsel.  As she did so deftly in Three Girls and Their Brother, Rebeck makes hilarious use of our baser instincts and obsessions."
—Susanna Sonnenberg
 
“Theresa Rebeck wonderfully captures the not-so-uncommon wars that can erupt when a luxurious old apartment passes from one generation to another.  Eccentric characters, a building rich with lore, and a high stakes tale set in the world of Manhattan real estate makes the story more real than real!”
—Barbara Corcoran
 
"In New York City, real estate isn't just part of the story, it is the story. Reading this book is like getting buzzed into an exclusive world, where sons with the arrogant confidence of the very rich collide with accidental wealth mixed with a pinch of eccentricity. The result is funny and insightful--believe it or not, characters like this exist in the real world too!"
—Jennifer Gould Keil, New York Post columnist

 
Praise for THREE GIRLS AND THEIR BROTHER
 
“A deliciously wicked satire.”
People (4 out of 4 stars)
 
“A wickedly enjoyable exposé of modern celebrity.”
Kirkus (starred review)
 
“A fizzy satire of celeb-obsessed NYC about flame-haired teenage sisters who get photographed for The New Yorker and soon become megastars.”
Entertainment Weekly (A-)
 
Three Girls and Their Brother is pointed and funny, an entertaining, cautionary story about the powerful and the preyed upon.”
Boston Globe
 
“In her funny and well-observed first novel, award-winning Broadway playwright Rebeck (Omnium Gatherum; Mauritius) weighs in on the peculiarity and absurdity of fame in modern America.”
Library Journal


From the Hardcover edition.

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