This is a work of fiction.
Once I’ve put the formula into the food bank bin, my purchases are much more manageable.
I find myself not wanting to go home, thinking I should stay away until Victoria has come and gone. But no, I should go home and give Mom and Dad the cinnamon buns. But what if Victoria’s there? She might say that the smell of cinnamon would bother Mona and make me throw them all out. I realize I’ve never seen Victoria’s car, so I won’t know for sure if she’s there when I come home.
Slowly, I walk down our street.
In one yard, I see a woman putting up a sign. It’s probably something political, but as she struggles with it, I see that it’s a for sale sign. I look closely at the house. It’s huge and looks kind of old.
“Hi,” I say. “Is this your house or are you a real estate agent?”
She looks at me. She’s about thirty-five, with wavy blonde hair, gray-blue eyes, and she’s wearing jeans and a blousse that matches her eyes.
“I own it. I’m Mandy. What’s your name?”
“Billy. How much is the house?”
She tells me.
“I wish I could afford it. If it’s a pain, please say no, but could I see it?”
“Sure.” She leaves the sign lying in the grass and takes out a key. We climb up onto the porch and she unlocks it. Inside, the house smells like floor polish and various kinds of cleaners, but thankfully, no bleach. The living room is both huge and empty. The kitchen’s big, but has all the appliances except a microwave.
“Is it okay if I leave my bags in here?”
“Sure. Do I smell cinnamon buns?”
“Yep. Want one?”
“Only if there’s none of that cream cheese crap.”
“There won’t be any on yours or mine.”
“Great. I’ll put on a pot of coffee.”
A few minutes later, we’re standing there eating cinnamon buns and drinking coffee.
“There are four bedrooms,” she says. “Three upstairs and one here on the main floor. There’s also a small room that could hold a computer and printer. There are two full bathrooms, but one of the tubs need to be replaced. The upstairs bathroo sink leaks, so that needs to be fixed, too. There were mice in the attic, but they’ve been dealt with harshly. The furnace also probably needs to be replaced.” She puts down her cup and takes a bite of cinnamon bun. “These are the best. Thanks. Want to go and look around?”
“Sure, but I can’t afford . . . can I rent this place?”
“I don’t see why not. How much would you be willing to pay per month?”
“Some percentage of the asking price.”
“Would you rent to own?”
“Own? How does that work?”
“You pay and pay until it’s yours. If you stop paying before you own, then you’re left with no house and you don’t get anything back.”
“Interesting. How much per month?”
“Let me think about that. Come and see more of the house while I do.”
We leave our breakfast in the kitchen and she walks me through the whole house.
“I love this place. Would I be allowed to have a dog here?”
“Yes, and the yard’s fenced in. Mom loves her doggies.”
“Oh, was this your mom’s house?”
“Yep. She moved in with me and I don’t want to own an empty house.”
“Makes sense. Do all the appliances work?”
“The dryer doesn’t work well, the washing machine works, and the stove has one burner that doesn’t work, but everything else is fine. Mom didn’t have a microwave, so that’s why there isn’t one.”
“When can I move in?”
“I’ve decided on what to charge, so you can move in now, if you’re ready to pay. What’s your dog’s name?”
“I don’t have the dog yet. How much?”
She tells me.
I do some quick mental math and say, “Sounds good.” I hope I’ll make enough money illustrating books to be able to continue to pay her until I own the place.
We walk down the stairs and back into the kitchen.
“I think we should find a witness and sign an agreement now if you’d like. I know Dr. Booth is at home. Do you know her?”
“She’s some kind of surgeon, right?”
An hour or so later, I have an agreement to rent the house. Not only does Dr. Booth witness it, but her husband happens to be home and also just happens to be a lawyer!
I hold the keys in my hand, slightly bewildered about what I’ve just done. Mona can sleep in my old room tonight. In a day, I’ve grown and gone.
I look through the house and find that although there are no beds, there’s an old armchair that I can sleep in until I bring my bed.
I go back to the store and buy milk, meat, and some paper plates and cups. I also buy water and food bowls for the dog, a leash, and a few cleaning products.
I carry it all to my house and then go back to see the man who offered me the puppy.
He’s sitting on his porch, drinking from a big blue mug.
“Hi,” I say. He looks up at me.
“I got the dog food.”
“What? Hey, that was just a bad joke.”
“Oh, so you don’t have any puppies?” He smiles at me.
“I’ve got puppies, but they’re too young to leave their mom. If you give me your number, I promise I’ll call you when they’re ready. Hell, you can even pick one now, if you want.”
“Thanks, that’d be cool.”
“I’ll bring them out here and you can see them. Sorry, I can’t let you touch them, in case you’ve got that virus.”
Five minutes later, he brings a dog carrier onto the porch. I can’t see them all that well, but it’s full of squirmy puppies.
“Do you see one you like?”
“I like them all. Can I pick one some other time?”
“Sure. By the way, I’m Travis.”
I tell him my name and give him my number.
It’s definitely time to go home and start packing, Victoria or not.
There’s a black car parked in frnt of our house. Looking at it gives me an edgy feeling, and I’m positive it’s Victoria’s. She’ll either just have gotten there, or will just be on her way out. I’ll walk around the side of the house and go in the back, but she’ll probably hear me and come sniffing to make sure I haven’t brought home anything dangerous to Mona. I know I haven’t, but I’m sure she’ll say that I have.
The back yard faces south, and as I walk around the corner, I notice that my parents’ bedroom window is darker than it should be.