Alice’s Restaurant

February 16, 2007

Suzie’s House 6: Back to Work

Filed under: Suzie's House — aliceaudrey @ 1:25 am

The tour of Suzie’s house ended right where it had begun.  In the kitchen.  Drew watched Suzie move to the stove where something good was cooking and turn all the burners back on.  Conscientious woman, Suzie Hammacker.  Drew liked that about her.  Miranda, dressed in black leather and thigh-high boots, leaned against the counter to talk to Suzie.  Lots of sex appeal there.  Good fling material, were he so inclined. 

“I need to talk to you.  In private.”  Vin’s voice came in low and mean like a stray dog, but Drew wasn’t worried.  Whatever bothered his old friend could be worked out.  It always was. 

“Certainly.  Let me give you a ride to your apartment.”  Drew glanced over Vin’s shoulder at the ladies as he spoke, then leveled his gaze at Vin and spoke more slowly to convey his real meaning.  “As we agreed before.” 

Vin’s chin came up and he visibly checked his anger.  “Ah.  Yes.  Of course.”  He turned toward the ladies.  “Suzie, we’ll get back to you about Drew’s room.  I’ll take the one in back.” 

“All right.”  Suzie smiled uncertainly.  Drew wasn’t sure she really wanted to rent out either room. 

Be that as it may, he had other concerns.  He nodded his farewells, and followed Vin to the Subaru.  Vin got in his face, literally,  grabbing the front of his polo shirt and snarling at him. 

“Keep your hands off of Miranda.” 

Drew wasn’t surprised.  Without hesitation he said,  “All right.” 

Vin blinked a couple of times, apparently caught off guard by Drew’s easy acceptance.  

“Are you telling me you don’t have any designs on her?” 

“None.  Mind you if she keeps throwing herself at me….” 

Vin growled.  For a moment Drew thought he might start swinging, which could prove interesting.  Though more heavily built, Vin didn’t have as long of a reach as Drew.  They had gone a round or two in their spare time when they were at Quantico together.  In the last few years they hadn’t come to blows at all.  It would be interesting to see what time had done to their technique. 

Vin must be nuts about Miranda to be willing to do it in Suzie’s backyard, but if that was what he wanted, Drew would be quite happy to bring it on.  Vin struggled with his temper, his face doing some interesting contortions.  He released Drew’s shirt, then stomped around the car to the passenger’s seat.  Safely hidden by the car, Drew grinned. 

He had suspected for some time now that Vin might be more interested in Miranda than either of them let on.  Not that he minded.  Miranda wasn’t really his type.  If anyone, Suzie….  No.  Drew had no particular need for romantic entanglements at the moment. 

He settled behind the wheel of his old Subaru Legacy before giving Vin an assessing look.  “Want to see today’s footage?  The camera is in the back seat.”  Drew gestured in invitation.  “You did some fancy driving.” 

“I had to.”  Vin reached between the seats for the camera.  He fiddled with the buttons, then watched the playback screen intently.  “They were out for blood today.  Oooooh, That was closer than I realized.  Hah!  Nailed his partner in the rear finder.” 

Drew started the car.  “Notice we have the faces of the drivers from both cars.  I’ve already got the connection between them and the web site.”  He made a Y-turn in Suzie’s three-car parking lot, then eased up the narrow driveway to Jennifer Street. 

For the last several weeks Drew had been working on all the ins and outs of the case.  He wanted more than a slap on the wrist for the founder of an internet based club whose stated mission was to turn America’s streets into a demolition derby.  They played a number of games, racking up points for the amount of damage they could do to a car without paying for it.  Hit and Run for Hit Points they called it.  They used cab drivers as hockey pucks in several of their games. 

Though he had enough evidence to put most of the members away, he wanted the founder of the game more than anyone.  So far the founder had been very illusive.  A few days ago Drew had unearthed a connection he thought might help him flush out the self styled Smash Master.   

“I think the man in the blue mustang is the founder’s best friend.  Notice the grin on his face?”  Drew turned at the end of the block. 

“I’ll bet he ran straight to his buddy and told him how much fun he had beating up on the taxi driver in the red barrette.”  Vin looked quite smug.  The barrette was his idea, intended to give the club something to focus on.  “Did you check the web site to see if they have anything more about us?” 

“Haven’t had the chance yet.”  Drew turned on Willy Street headed for Shenks Corners.  “I’ll check their blogs after I drop you off.  I did hear from the home office, though.”  Drew kept his eyes on the road.  Vin wasn’t going to like what Drew had to say, but it had to be said. 

“Vin, I might have to take you off the case.” 

“Not on your life, buddy!”  Out of the corner of his eye Drew saw Vin put the camera down.  “We’ve almost cracked this case.  You can’t cut me out now.” 

“There’s been a fatality.  A cab driver in Chicago.  I can’t in good conscience expose you to the level of risk we are now facing.” 

“Did anyone claim the hit on their Hit Counter?” 

 “Yes.  The Smash Master.”

“So that’s why he wasn’t taking our bait.”  Vin sounded thoughtful, and not the least bit concerned.  “He was out of town.  We’ll get him now for sure.” 

Drew stopped at the light, the last one before Willy Street turned into Atwood Avenue, and leveled his friend with a hard look.  “Do you have any idea how dangerous what we are doing could get?  There isn’t much I can do from the Subaru to keep them from forcing you into a tree or a building.” 

“Better me than some cab driver who doesn’t know what’s going on.” 

“But any other cab driver would simply pull over and call in for an accident report.” 

“Which is what makes hunting me so much more fun for them.  We did it on purpose, remember?  I didn’t go into this deal blind.  I knew what I was doing when I offered to help.  I’ve faced worse danger in the line of duty.” 

“Yes, but you’re a civilian now.  The rules are different for civilians.” 

“Bend them.”  Vin’s eyes flashed angrily. 

That was the problem with Vin.  He never could live by the rules.  Drew bit back on a sharp retort.   

“I know what you’re thinking, but you won’t say it because you need me.” 

Drew ground is molars together, refusing to rise to the bait. 

“You won’t kick me off the case because if you do then Smash Master will get away from you.  You know he will.  You can’t get anyone in for a small-time case like this quickly enough to replace me.  He will slip through your fingers without me.” 

Drew opened his mouth to argue, then clamped it closed again. He really did need Vin.  Though he didn’t want to use him, letting him go would set the case back more than he cared to contemplate.  And they both knew it. 

He gave Vin a dirty look.  Vin grinned and waggled his head in smug victory.  “So I’m still on the case?” 

“You’re still on.” 

“Good, because the light went from green to red and green again and there’s someone behind us.” 

With a grunt Drew put the Subaru into gear. 

 .

February 2, 2007

Suzie’s House 5: …. Or Completely Devastated.

Filed under: Suzie's House — aliceaudrey @ 2:10 am

“What do you mean Drew has to move in too?” Vin knew Miranda had an interest Drew, but he’d hoped it was one of her passing crazes.

They walked down Brearly toward East Washington. Sitting on The Isthmus in the heart of Madison Wisconsin, Brearly ran only a few blocks long with one end at Lake Mendota and the other at Lake Monona. A relatively quiet street, lined with small, hundred year old houses on one side and a baseball field on the other it was a nice place for a stroll. Unless the woman you were strolling with happened to be ripping your heart out and stomping all over it.

Vin could hear the crack of a bat slamming into a baseball and half expected the ball to come lobbing over the yellow limestone wall as they passed. East Washington hummed with rush-hour traffic. In a couple more blocks they would reach the parking lot where Drew waited for him.

“You don’t have to be so touchy about it, do you?” Miranda wrinkled her nose, looking tantalizingly cute and peevish.

“Yes.” He pursed his lips and nodded thoughtfully. “I think I do. You ask me to move in, but you only want me if I bring a friend?”

“Come on, Marvin. Suzie really needs the money. The bank is about to foreclose on her.”

“I’ll be glad to lend her whatever she needs.” He agreed that it would be a real pity to see Suzie lose her house. Not only had she put her heart and soul in the building, she had started with the kind of house he’d liked but didn’t have time for.

“She doesn’t need another loan. She needs an income.” Miranda sashayed up to the button to activate the walk light at the intersection with East Washington.

Six lanes of heavy traffic made it hard to talk, but in a couple more blocks they would reach Drew and the conversation wouldn’t go Vin’s way at all. Vin stepped back so Miranda couldn’t watch the traffic light while facing him “I said I’d move in.”

“You and I aren’t going to be enough. We need Andrew too.”

“Nothing says it has to be Andrew who moves in with us.” He watched her closely, keeping her eyes on him while the traffic light behind Miranda went through a complete cycle. They missed their chance to cross the street, which suited him just fine.

She narrowed her eyes at him. Whatever she saw didn’t make her happy and probably wouldn’t make him happier either.

“You aren’t jealous of him, are you?” Her eyebrow arched briefly, adding to the probing intensity of her stare.

“No,” he said quickly. “No, of course not. No way.” He shook his head.

“You are. I knew it. Marvin,” She made his name sound like a complaint. “It isn’t like that between us and it never will be. We are just friends. Isn’t that enough?”

No. Just friends would never be enough for him. Nor did he believe she couldn’t come to see how well suited they were to one another. He knew all her little games and didn’t mind. Really. Where she would drive a man like Drew nuts she only made Vin want her more.

He shouldn’t be so worried. It wasn’t like Drew was interested in Miranda. As far as Vin could tell, he hardly knew Miranda existed. Of course the case they were working on together might be distracting Drew from the treasure who was about to throw herself at him.

Vin felt mildly nauseous. He really did not want to see Miranda throw herself at Drew, even if Vin could count on Drew to set her down easy.

The light changed. They crossed, heading toward Jennifer St, which was where Suzie lived. “Hey, there he is!” Miranda looked impossibly happy to see Drew, who was right where he and Vin had agreed to meet.

Her joy made various parts in Vin’s chest hurt. He carefully uncoiled his fists, shoving his hands into his pockets to keep them out of trouble. He didn’t want to hurt either Miranda, or Drew, with whom he’d kept in contact all these years and still considered his best friend.

But he wouldn’t mind burying her case of infatuation.

Drew raised an eyebrow in question as Vin and Miranda drew close. Vin shrugged uncomfortably. Miranda sidled up to Drew with a warm smile, completely oblivious to the fact she was an unexpected and not necessarily welcome addition to the party.

“Andrew, we were just talking about you,” Miranda purred. “I know you’re living out of a hotel. How would you like to move into a boarding house?”

Never a very responsive man, Drew merely waited to hear more. He leaned against his Subaru Legacy, managing to look tough with his arms crossed in spite of the size of the car. He was tough, but Vin didn’t want Miranda to notice.

Miranda’s smile wavered uncertainly. “Suzie is a great cook, and has the best house. You should see it.”
“All right.”

“You’ll do it?! You’ll move in with us?” Miranda’s smile flashed twice as bright as before. Vin would happily have killed to be the recipient. He ground his teeth together, feeling cold spreading from his belly like dread.

“No. I’ll go see. Get in. I’ll drive.”

“We can walk. It’s only half a dozen blocks,” Vin assured him.

“Thanks,” Miranda sounded entirely too grateful, and completely ignored Vin. “My shoes are killing me.” She went around to sit shot gun.

Vin stepped forward to take the back seat and tried to make his teeth unclench. Drew stopped him with a hand on his arm.

“We’ll talk about the case later, after we ditch her at Suzie’s house.”

Vin nodded agreement. As he slid into the back seat relief made him giddy. Drew wouldn’t really move into the house. He was only humoring Miranda. This could work out great. He and Miranda would move in, but not some guy who might distract Miranda. Then Vin could make some real progress with her.

Following Miranda’s directions, Drew parked in the little lot behind Suzie’s house. They all went in through the kitchen. It smelled wonderful. Suzie was pulling out a roast that made Vin’s stomach growl. Miranda was right. Moving in would suit him well. She gave them a short tour of the house.

To Vin’s surprise, Drew looked around with interest. “I thought you were leaving soon. We’ve almost got this case cracked. What are you going to do once it’s closed?”

“I’ve been assigned another case, one that will keep me here a bit longer.”

This day got worse and worse.

“Besides, if we are living in the same house it will be easier for us to work together without raising suspicion. No more meeting in empty parking lots. We’ll simply talk here.” Drew seemed so matter of fact about it.

So he wasn’t interested in Miranda after all. He actually wanted to live in Suzie’s house for good reasons. Vin relaxed. It would be all right. In fact, it would be better than all right. So long as Drew wasn’t interested in Miranda, living under the same roof should be fun.

“So you’ll do it then? Move in, I mean.”

“Sure.” They headed up the stairs with Miranda in front of them. “Even if I weren’t going to be here a while longer I would. I like the view better than anything at the hotel.” Drew said. His eyes were on the seat of Miranda’s little leather skirt. “With a little work, I think I could really get somewhere.”

January 26, 2007

Suzie’s House 4: … Or Broken….

Filed under: Suzie's House — aliceaudrey @ 1:37 am

When Vin brought his limping taxi into the Capital Cabs garage, the left fender  rubbed the tire, the muffler scraped the ground noisily, and the right rear view mirror hung by a wire.  At least Vin hoped the mirror still hung there.  Considering the way it had flopped around during the worst of it, the mirror might be long gone.  The smell of gasoline and oil assailed him as he got out from behind the wheel. 

.

“Vinny, Vinny, Vinny.  What are you doing with my cabs?”  Walter came out of the office to inspect the damage as Vin attempted to close the driver’s side door.  With a metallic screech of protest it popped open two or three times.  “This is the third one this week.”  Vin gave up as Walter glared at him.  “Are you paying for this one too?”  .“My client will.  Relax, Walter.  It’s covered.”  Vin crossed his arms, turned around, and propped his butt on the wayward car door. 

.

“It isn’t just the repair bill, Vinny.  Now I have another cab out of commission and the first isn’t back from the shop yet.”  .“It isn’t?”  Drew would have his guts for garters if he couldn’t come up with a cab tomorrow.  Without it they’d never catch the instigator of The Crash Course on video.  He pulled the red beret off his head and shoved it into his back pocket.  “I thought you said the repair guy was almost done.” 

.

“Apparently the axle wasn’t good after all.  They have to replace it.  Why don’t you rent a car?”  Walter spaced the words to make the suggestion a heavy-handed hint.  He hadn’t wanted to loan his cabs to Vin to begin with.  .“You’ll have to loan me another one.  It’s important.  Give me the oldest one you’ve got.” 

.

“You’re worse than that Straus fellow who got drunk on the job.  Unlike you and the rest of these clowns, he had an excuse for all the accidents.”  Walter’s eyes moved with Vin’s hands as Vin pulled off the black-frame nerd glasses and the little brown mustache. .“Trust me.  In the long run you’ll thank me.”  Vin saw a familiar, feminine shape entering the garage.  He felt like a deer in the headlights – unable to chose between talking Walter around and going to her.  She won, but Walter would understand.   

.

Vin stepped around his friend with a wave.  “See you tomorrow.”   .She dressed like a dominatrix today; black leather skirt, thigh-high leather boots, black bustier,  black wig, and a little fringed purse that could double as a whip.  Walter let out a low whistle.  Vin ignored him. 

.

“Marvin,” Miranda greeted in a Zsa Zsa Gabor voice.  “I have marvelous news.” .When she gave him an air kiss by either cheek he resisted the urge to show her a real kiss.  He and Miranda had an understanding.  So long as he never crossed the line she would tolerate him.  Every day she tolerated him, he got a little closer to what he really wanted.  So he air kissed her, biding his time. 

.

“I can’t wait to tell you,”  Miranda gushed.  “Remember that little problem you were telling me about?”  .“Little problem?”  He quirked an eyebrow at her.  Typical Miranda to make him look bad in front of  the guys. 

.

“With your apartment.  Didn’t you say the subletter wanted it back sooner than you expected?”  Clearly oblivious to her slander on his manhood, Miranda gave him an impatient look. .“Yes.”  He took her elbow and guided her out through the garage bay.  After a moment, his mind caught up with her words.   

.

He had told her the story of his near homelessness in the hopes she would invite him to move into her apartment with her, or at least let him crash for a few days.  Of course it was completely true.  He was about to lose his Spaight Street apartment when the sublease ran out, but he could afford to buy a house if he wanted.  And as soon as Miranda agreed to be his bride, he’d let her pick one out.  .Now, at last, it appeared she was going to invite him in.  He hadn’t even had to wait until the last, pathetic moment in which to find some other place so she’d take pity on him.  He felt like pumping his fist in the air, but managed to keep it to himself as they turned onto the sidewalk along Brearly and headed toward East  Washington. 

.

“What do you have in mind?”  He prompted her. .“Suzie’s house.  She needs renters in order to cover the mortgage.” 

.

So much for his hopes and dreams.  “Suzie’s house?”

.  “You don’t have to sound so down about it.  It’ll be great.  She’ll provide meals, and you know what a great cook she is.  And it’s a lot nicer than either of our places.  And it’ll always be clean without our having to worry about it.”. 

“Wait.  You’re moving in too?”

. “I’m moving in this afternoon!”  Miranda grinned.  When Miranda grinned, Vin’s world did a little spin as if it was a merry-go-round and she the central pillar.  He grinned back.  Her smile softened.  “So you’ll do it?  You’ll move in with us?”.

 “Yes.  Sure.  Um… next week end.  I can move in next weekend.”  He made himself stop nodding.  And grinning.

.  “Great!  Only one thing.”  She gave him the sidelong look that always meant trouble.  “We have to get Andrew to move in too.”.

 Vin’s world stopped turning. 

.

January 19, 2007

Suzie’s House 3: Rules Are Made to Be Bent…

Filed under: Suzie's House — aliceaudrey @ 12:37 am

Miranda balanced precariously in her wonderfully wild, high heel shoes as she crouched down to put an arm across her best friend’s shoulders.  She tuned out the homey kitchen, the smell of soup, and the ticking of the clock which marked the seconds until Suzie’s son came home from middle-school, claiming his mother’s full attention. 

“Face it Suzie-Woozie.  It’s take me in or lose the house.” 

She watched Suzie’s plain, make-up-deficient face for any sign of resignation.  As soon as Suzie bit her lip, Miranda knew she’d won. 

Yes!  She couldn’t wait to move in.  She looked around Suzie’s the bright, cozy kitchen with it’s yellow accents and polished-wood class and grinned. 

Everything she’d said to Suzie was true.  She liked the idea of being able to help Suzie keep the house while saving a little money.  Giving up the ratty little studio apartment in Shanks Corners would be no hardship.  She loved the idea of eating a good dinner every night without having to go to a restaurant for it.   

But best of all would be the chance to break down the barriers around the mysterious and delicious Andrew Banks.  With Marvelous Marvin’s help and the forced intimacy of living in close quarters together she had no doubt she’d get through to the man. 

Who knows?  Maybe this time her match making efforts between Suzie and Marvin would pay off. 

“All right.”  Suzie looked grim as she said it, as if she didn’t look forward to the kind of fun they’d  had together in college.  “You can rent one of my rooms.  But only as long as you follow my rules.” 

“Well of course.”  Miranda straightened.  It took her a minute to process what Suzie had said, beyond permission to move in.   “Rules?”  Her triumphant smile slipped.  “What rules?” 

“No men.” 

“But…” 

No men!” 

“You’re not being reasonable, Suzie.” 

“Miranda!  No!  Men!” 

All Miranda’s hopes and schemes ground to a halt.  Getting Andrew and Marvin to move into the other two bedrooms…  well it wasn’t a deal breaker.  Besides, she was sure to get Suzie to see reason once she’d moved in. 

“All right, all right.  No men.”  Suzie walked to the opposite end of the kitchen table and sat down.  “I don’t know why you have to get so worked up about it.” 

Suzie clamped her mouth shut mutinously.  The expression went nicely with sever hairstyle – plane brown hair pulled back into a ponytail.  It gave Suzie a strong, girl-next-door wholesome look that would be perfect for a “Got Milk” ad campaigne.  If only she would let Miranda touch her up with a little makeup and take some snapshots. 

Later.  At the moment she had bigger fish to fry. 

“Does the ban on all men include Marvin?  He’s your friend too.  Surely you could let him come by now and then.  I mean, he does anyway, doesn’t he?” 

Suzie groaned.  She rolled her eyes.  She gave a frustrated huff.  Then she gave in.  “I don’t suppose we could keep him away.  Vin can come.” 

“Why can’t you call him Marvin?” 

“He asked me to call him Vin, so I do.  What’s wrong with Vin?” 

“I just think Marvin is better.  Think about it .  ‘Marvelous Marvin’.  Doesn’t it roll of the tongue?”  Miranda waved her hand in the air, feeding the drama of the moment.   

Suzie wasn’t having any of it.  She got up and went to the stove, opened the door to the oven, and shoved in the loaf of bread dough she had shaped when Miranda arrived for their usual evening together.  Miranda gave her a moment before starting in on her again. 

“You know, Marvin’s lease has expired.  He had to move to a sublet.  When the student’s come back his sublet will run out.” 

Suzie slammed the oven closed.  She put her hand to her brow and sighed in exasperation.  “Don’t tell me.” 

“Why not?  You can charge him double what you charge me.  He won’t mind.  Besides, it’ll give you something to live on.  I mean what I pay will cover most of the mortgage so you won’t lose the house, but you still have to buy food and stuff, right?” 

“Tell me this isn’t happening.” 

“I don’t see why you have to be go glum about it.  You should be thanking me for solving all your problems.” 

Suzie laughed quietly.  “All my problems?  Not even close.”  She gave the soup a stir.  It smelled heavenly.   “But it would solve some.  Fine I’ll let Marvin rent one of my rooms, but no other men.  I don’t want my son to see you traipsing around with one man after another.  Marvin’s all right, but no other men.” 

“Right.  No other men,”   Miranda agreed.  “I’ll meet my dates elsewhere.  I won’t bring any home.”  Miranda mentally crossed her fingers.   Bringing Andrew into the house didn’t count, did it?  She didn’t intend to date him.  Just marry him. 

No need to say anything about it to Suzie now.  It could be months before Miranda could convince him to move out of the hotel room and into the house.  By then Suzie was sure to see reason.  Besides, if she pushed too hard Suzie wouldn’t let her have any of the soup. 

 

January 11, 2007

Suzie’s House 2: Friend or Roommate?

Filed under: Suzie's House — aliceaudrey @ 11:58 pm

“Um…  Miranda, you know I love you even better than my own sister, but I don’t think we should try to live together again.”  Suzie’s voice came out a little too tight and a little too controlled, which never worked well on Miranda.  She caught herself rubbing the pristine kitchen table as if to clean it and made herself stop. 

“Why not?”  Miranda pulled her head back enough to tell Suzie she had taken offense. Her bleached and pink-streaked hair caught in the pink feathers along the neckline of her halter top. “We got along great before.” 

No they hadn’t, but Suzie wasn’t going to tell her best friend she couldn’t stand living with her.  She shoved her chair back from the table, her head shaking in a tut-tut kind of refusal.  “I don’t think it’s a good idea.  That’s all.”  Suzie went to the stove, glancing sideways to see how Miranda would react. 

“Of course it’s a good idea.  It’s a great idea.  All my ideas are great.”  She held her hand out, looking at her nails critically. 

“Like the idea to let the Johnson twins crash on our floor?”  Suzie gave the stew a swift stir, not quite slopping over the top of the stockpot. 

“They needed a place to stay.” 

“Sure.  Fine.  But did that place have to be my bed?  I spent the whole night fighting them off.  Meanwhile you were over there in the other single snoring away as if there was nothing to worry about.” 

“They tried to get into bed with you?”  Miranda stopped messing with her nails and leveled a concerned look at her.  “Why didn’t you say anything?” 

“I did.  You weren’t listening.”  Under her breath Suzie muttered something about Miranda never listening.  She noticed the bread dough was puffing more on one side than the other because of the heat from the burner under the soup and turned the pan around. 

“Never mind.  That was years ago.”  Miranda waved her hands in the air, making the plastic bracelets on her arm jingle.  “Everything is different now.” 

“Are you saying you’ll never bring men into my house?” 

Miranda paused as if to give it serious consideration.  As if the question needed serious consideration.  “Well, no, actually.  I can’t promise that because I already know who your other two renters should be, and they’re both men.” 

“Lord,” Suzie muttered.  “This is worse than a blind date.” 

“No.  You’ll love them.  They aren’t like the Johnson twins.  Besides, that was ages ago.  These are grown, responsible men.” 

“Who have no home of their own.” 

“Yes, well…  divorce will do that to people.”  Miranda arched an eyebrow. 

Suzie pressed her lips together, refusing to acknowledge the hit. 

For a while after the divorce, Rob had claimed she had made him homeless.  He used it as an excuse for moving in with the other woman, and then grumbled even louder when the other woman threw him out.  Now, because of her inability to pay the mortgage on her own, Suzie was about to be homeless too. 

“This’ll be great.  I can save a few bucks compared to what I’m paying for that hideous little studio apartment and still give you enough to make the mortgage.  I’ll even throw in a deposit and extra month early like a real renter so you can catch up with the bank.” 

“I don’t know, Miranda.”  Suzie made her way to the table.  She ran the numbers through her head and realized that financially the idea was sound.  In fact, if she could rent out all three rooms constantly, she could have a comfortable living and still give her son, Ben, all the time he wanted.  Suzie shook her head, determined to get fanciful dreams out of the way.  “I’m sure I’d regret it.” 

“How long will the bank give you to decide?”  Miranda’s eyes narrowed. 

She had a good point.  Suzie refused to admit it.  If she admitted anything, Miranda would roll right over her. 

“I have plenty of cash right now.  I could move in this week end and all your problems would be over.”  Miranda got up from her chair and came around the table, her step confident in her precarious high heels.  “If you’re worried about me being around all the time, don’t.  I’ll be at the office all day.  I’m over here most evenings anyway so that’s nothing new.” 

Miranda had a point.  Her job at the advertising agency kept her busy all day and sometimes in the evening too.  Maybe it would be all right. 

Miranda slung an arm across Suzie’s shoulders as she bent down next to her.  “Face it Suzie-Woozie.  It’s take me in or lose the house.” 

Suzie looked at the cheerful tile backsplash she had installed herself, the antique ceiling lamp she had found at the second-hand fixtures warehouse, and the stained glass edging she had made to go around the windows, spending hours and hours at this very table.  Then she eyed the bits of pink feather that had accumulated at Miranda’s end of the table, the long hard nails tapping on the table next to her, and the wry expression twisting her old friend’s glossy pink lipstick. 

Lose the house, or gain a room mate.  Suzie bit her lip. 

 

January 5, 2007

Suzie’s House1: A Matter of Economics

Filed under: fiction, Suzie's House, writing, Writing Romance — aliceaudrey @ 12:27 am

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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