Home > Open Season(13)

Open Season(13)
Author: Linda Howard

“I’ll take it,” she said aloud, the words sounding strange and faraway, as if someone else had said them.

Mrs. Phipps’s chubby pink face brightened. “You will? I didn’t—that is, you didn’t seem like the kind. . . This used to be a right nice street, but the neighborhood’s gone down, and...” She ran out of steam, unable to express her astonishment.

Daisy could sympathize. Only a week ago—goodness, even yesterday!—she couldn’t have imagined herself living here, either.

She might be desperate, but she wasn’t pathetic. She folded her arms and put on her best librarian’s face. “The front porch badly needs repairs. I’ll handle it for you, if you like, if you’ll take the amount of the repairs in lieu of the same amount of rent.”

Mrs. Phipps crossed her arms, too. “Why would I do that?”

“You’ll be out that amount of ready cash, true, but in the long run your property will be worth more and you’ll be able to charge more rent the next time.” Daisy hoped Mrs. Phipps was one who could see the long-term benefit, rather than thinking of only the rent money. Daisy had no idea how much the repairs would cost, but the rent was just a hundred and twenty dollars a month, so Mrs. Phipps could be looking at several months without any rent income.

“I don’t think I can go without the extra money for that long,” Mrs. Phipps said doubtfully.

Daisy thought quickly. “How about every other month? Could you handle that? I pay for the repairs now, then I pay no rent every other month until I recoup my money. Or you pay for the repairs and raise the rent a little.”

Mrs. Phipps shifted her weight. “I don’t have that kind of cash to throw around. Okay, we’ll do it your way. But I want it in writing. And I want the first month’s rent; then we’ll start that every-other-month thing. None of the utilities are included, either.”

For a hundred and twenty dollars a month, Daisy hadn’t assumed they were. She beamed and held out her hand. “It’s a deal,” she said, and they shook hands on it.

“Kinda small,” Aunt Jo commented early that evening as she and Daisy’s mother inspected Daisy’s new digs.

“It’ll do just fine,” Evelyn said stoutly. “A coat of paint and some nice curtains will work wonders. Anyway, it isn’t as if she’s going to live here for very long. She’ll find someone special in no time at all. Daisy, honey, if there’s anything in the attic you want, just take it.” She took another look around the little house. “Just what sort of decor do you have in mind?” she asked doubtfully, as if she couldn’t think of anything that would truly help the looks of the house.

“Cozy and comfortable,” Daisy said. “It’s too small to try for anything else. You know, overstuffed chairs with afghans thrown across them, that kind of thing.”

“Hmmph,” Aunt Jo said. “Only afghan I ever saw wouldn’t stay put unless you tied him down. Stupidest dog in the world.”

They all began giggling. Aunt Jo’s sense of humor tended to the absurd, and both Daisy and her mother greatly enjoyed the flights of fancy.

“You will need a dog,” Evelyn said suddenly, looking around. “Or burglar bars on the windows and an alarm system.”

Burglar bars and an alarm system would add another thousand to her growing expenses. Daisy said, “I’ll start looking for a dog.” Besides, a dog would be company. She had never lived alone, so a dog would help ease the transition. Having a pet again would be nice; it had been eight years—my goodness, that long!—since the last family pet had died of old age.

“When do you think you’ll move in?” Aunt Jo asked.

“I don’t know.” Doubtfully, Daisy looked around. “The utilities have to be turned on, but that won’t take long. I’ll have to buy kitchen appliances and have them delivered, shop for furniture and rugs, put up curtains. And paint. It definitely needs a new coat of paint.”

Evelyn sniffed. “A good landlady would have repainted after the last tenants left.”

“The rent is a hundred and twenty a month. Fresh paint doesn’t come with the deal.”

“I heard Buck Latham is taking paint jobs on the weekends for extra money,” said Aunt Jo. “I’ll call him tonight and see when he can do it.”

Daisy heard another cha-ching in her bank account. “I can do the painting myself.”

“No, you can’t,” Aunt Jo said firmly. “You’ll be busy.”

“Well, yes, but I’ll still have time—”

“No, you won’t. You’ll be busy.”

“What Jo means, dear, is that we’ve been thinking, and we think you need to see a fashion-and-beauty consultant.”

Daisy gaped at them, then smothered a laugh. “Where am I supposed to find one of those?” She didn’t think Wal-Mart had a fashion-and-beauty consultant on staff. “And why do I need someone to tell me how I want to look? I’ve already been thinking about that. I want Wilma to cut my hair, and maybe put in some highlights, and I’ll buy some makeup—”

Both Evelyn and Joella slowly shook their heads. “That won’t get it,” Aunt Jo said.

“Get what?”

Evelyn took over. “Dear, if you’re going to do this, then do it right. Yes, you can get a different hairstyle and start wearing some makeup, but what you need is style. You need to have a presence, something that will make people turn and look at you. It’s presentation as much as anything else, and you aren’t going to find that in the health and beauty section of the drugstore.”

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