Welcome to Suzie’s House. This is a serial that posts every Friday. To see the following week’s post, click the link at the bottom.
Suzie stirred the stew, sending up inviting whafts of basil, thyme, and onion. Wisps of steam from the stock pot spread the scent throughout the kitchen. Suzie paused to take in the warmth and beauty of her kitchen, a long last look before she lost everything.
Light-yellow walls she had painted herself, oak cabinets she had refurbished, polished granite counters she had spent more than one paycheck on, everything looked homey and welcoming. She was going to miss this room even more than the rest of the five bedroom Victorian “painted lady” when the bank foreclosed.
Suzie pinched off three portions of bread dough and rolled each out, though she was more in the mood to punch something. She changed her mind about making a braid out of the bread, and put the three portions back together to make a loaf.
How ironic that she would loose her home, the home she had fought tooth and nail to keep in the divorce, to a simple inability to pay the mortgage.
One tear rolled down her face. She rubbed it off with the back of her hand, and blamed the onions. When someone knocked on the back door, she welcomed the break from her endlessly repeating thoughts.
“Come in!” Suzie shouted.
“You’re cooking? Stove AND oven?” Miranda let herself in, then teetered across the kitchen in ridiculous shoes – this time hot pink strappy things with spike heels inverted so the wide part hit the floor and the minuscule tip attached to the vamp. Suzie bet the heels would snap off in less than a week. The shoes went with a sequined mini skirt and feather-trimmed halter top. Her hair was blond streaked with pink today. Yesterday it was red.
Miranda flopped onto a kitchen chair. “What’s wrong?”
“What do you mean ‘what’s wrong?’ Nothing’s wrong.” Suzie shaped the loaf, then dropped it into a battered bread pan. She refused to look Miranda in the eye. If Miranda knew what was happening she would be sure to make trouble. Suzie wasn’t sure what form the trouble would take, but didn’t doubt who would take the brunt of it.
She draped a cup towel over the loaf and stuck it on the stove where it would probably over heat on the side near the burner and be too cool on the side away. Then the loaf would puff unevenly. She told herself she’d give it a turn every few minutes, knowing she lied to herself but pretending she didn’t.
“You don’t go to this much trouble if there’s nothing wrong.” Miranda plucked at a feather at her shoulder.
“I cook every day.”
“Not if you can help it.”
Suzie pulled out a chair on the opposite side of the kitchen table. Sitting, she ran her fingers over the smooth surface. “I like to cook.”
“Sure, when you’re in the mood. Which always seems to be when you are avoiding something else. Now spill.”
“If you hadn’t rescued me from Tommy Crocker in the third grade there’s no way I’d let you be so rude to me.” Suzie faked a glare.
“But I did rescue you. So spill.” Miranda leaned forward with her elbows on the table.
“Miranda, I’m going to have to sell the house.”
“No!” Miranda drew back as if she’d been slapped. “You love this house. I love this house. The judge said you could keep it, and there’s nothing your rotten X-husband can do to change it.”
Suzie tried to smile. Miranda had stood by her through the whole messy business, siding with her when Rob tried to lay claim on a house he hadn’t wanted to begin with. If she hadn’t used her inheritance as the down payment, he would never have set foot inside. He’d matched her on mortgage payments about half the time, but made her pay by getting his tubes cut after Ben was born so she couldn’t fill the rooms with children.
In the divorce proceedings Rob tried to claim the house for himself simply because he knew it would hurt her. When that didn’t work he tried to force her to sell, or cough up money he knew she didn’t have. Luckily the judge had not agreed.
“He can’t do anything, but the bank can. I’ve been running behind on the mortgage for months. They’re threatening to foreclose.”
“I know you never have enough money with the book keeping job, but you always pay it all eventually. Can’t they cut you a break?” Miranda jutted out her jaw in righteous anger.
“I lost my job. Even if I can make this month’s payment, what about next month? And the month after?”
“There must be something you can do.” Miranda tapped one hot-pink talon on the table top while her eyes narrowed. “I’ve got it! You should rent out your extra bedrooms. Sort of like a long-term bead and breakfast. What were those called? Boarding houses! You should make this a boarding house.”
“I thought of that, but who would I rent to? Some stranger who answered an add in the newspaper?” Suzie shuddered. “I have to think of my son. I can’t let just anyone live here.”
“So rent a room to me!” Miranda leaned back in her chair, her smile decidedly smug.
“What?” Suzie’s throat felt tight. She hoped she’d heard wrong.
“Rent a room to me. I can help you find renters for the other two rooms. That’ll put you in the black. Then you’ll have more than enough to pay the bank and I’ll get at least one good meal a day. What could be better?”
Suzie thought about what it was like when they lived together in the dormitories in college, and blanched.
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