Suzie ripped the check out of the checkbook and stuffed it in the envelope along with the tab from the bottom of the utility bill. She licked the envelope, glanced at the clock, then winced. The mail man would be coming any minute, and this bill was already overdue. Lately her finances had been as steady as a newborn fawn.
She marked the front of the bill with the date of payment and check number and put it away with the paid bills and receipts for later entry into the budget. Five bills to go. She ran through the numbers again, and once again came out in the red. Time to juggle her finances.
Every month had been like that since Drew left. She’d already asked Miranda to move in with Vin and make the room she now kept her shoes and clothes in available to rent, but Miranda had insisted she needed the room, even if she never slept there. She’d offered to pay more in rent, but not enough to stop the financial hemorrhage.
She shuffled the remaining bills again. Mortgage, obviously had to be paid. It went on top. Cable TV… well, Vin used it now and then, and it was bundled with phone and internet access. The boys used the internet to access their grades and some homework. Ben’s math book was online so he didn’t have to keep hauling it back and forth from school. She could pay the minimum on the credit card, much as it pained her to have to do so. The dentist would probably let her pay in parts. She’d have to call and ask. That left the lawyer’s fee.
Suzie dropped her head into her hand and sighed. How was she supposed to pay for Gene’s adoption if she couldn’t even afford a rather gentle consulting fee?
She wasn’t even sure she would qualify as a parent. Not when she couldn’t support her natural born son. Gene wasn’t exactly wildly enthusiastic about it either. Should she really be trying to do this?
But it could make such a difference to Gene in the long run. He would never have to deal with his abusive father again, and he would always know where his home was.
There was a bump and a clatter out front. Someone knocked on her door.
As she stood, the mail truck drove off. Lovely. She’d missed it. Now she’d have to take the mail to that mail box a few blocks down.
While she was at it, maybe she should stop off at Job Service. It was clearly time to take up the job search again. She’d stopped looking after Miranda convinced her to turn the house into a boarding house. For a while, she’d made more money than she really needed. But that was before Drew left and Gene moved in, not to mention before the bills started getting bigger.
Hopefully these last couple of years of unemployment wouldn’t hurt her prospects too much. At least by now the rumors her ex-husband had floated should have died out. But because of them and the way he had gotten her fired, she couldn’t use her most recent employer as a reference.
Having reached the front door, she opened it. There, framed perfectly in the doorway, sat a suitcase.
Though scuffed, with a smear of paled dirt on the black canvas side, she recognized it immediately. It was the suitcase Drew had taken with him when he left.
Suzie put her hand over her mouth, and breathed carefully. Her eyes stung, making her blink. For the first time in months, she felt that his return might be real.
She looked around eagerly, stepping onto the porch when she didn’t immediately see him. There was no sign of anyone. She looked more closely at the case. It had shipping stickers from the post office all over it. So he’d mailed it to her.
Her laughter might have been a touch bitter. He’d sent his things, but not come home himself.
“What a tease.”
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