This moment called for some whiskey.
I pulled out the bottle of Two James Grass Widow Bourbon I kept stashed in my bottom desk drawer and poured myself two fingers. It was only three o’clock, but it was Friday and I had no clients coming in this afternoon, so I took a sip for courage and crunched the numbers.
Sixty-two thousand dollars. That’s what I needed if I wanted to put twenty percent down on the house and get a mortgage payment I had a prayer of making. Fuck. I took another sip.
Thirty-one thousand dollars.
That’s what I needed if I wanted to put ten percent down and struggle each month. Goodbye lattes, La Mer, and Laphroaig.
Then there were closing costs, bank fees, taxes, and moving expenses. Plus the arm, leg, breast, eyeball, elbow, and ass cheek it was going to cost me to renovate the hundred-year-old place.
I took a third glug of bourbon and propped my forehead in one hand.
That’s what I needed to buy a hammer at Sears and pound my head in, which was going to happen if I didn’t get out of my parents’ house soon. I’d moved back home eight months ago to save some money for a down payment, but living with your parents and Lebanese grandmother at age twenty-eight is a special kind of torture. They were perfectly nice people, but they had an opinion about everything, from my wardrobe to my hair color to my love life, and they weren’t shy about sharing it.
That skirt length isn’t really right for you, is it?
Why is your hair blue at the bottom? Was there an accident at the salon?
Don’t worry, habibi. Plenty of girls don’t get married. In my day we call them old maids, but I bet there is nicer name now.
I cracked open the whiskey a little early that day too.
Tucking one side of my bottom lip between my teeth, I checked my savings account balance. The crazy thing was this flutter of hope I had in my belly, as if maybe it had grown overnight on its own, magic beanstalk style.
Nope—less than fifteen grand.
I released the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding, my shoulders slumping in defeat. There was no way I could afford this house. And yet there was no way I could let go of the idea of living there, either. It was my house, dammit. I knew it the moment I walked in, even if it did smell like cat pee circa the Kennedy administration.
Twisting my brown hair with blue tips (not an accident, thank you very much) into a knot at the top of my head, I stuck two pencils through it and looked again at the numbers I’d scribbled on my note pad. My real estate agent had just called to tell me someone else was going to make an offer on the house. If I wanted it, she said I’d have to act fast, as if indecision was my problem. I was totally willing to act fast. When it came to something I wanted, waiting around was not my style.
But act fast and do what? Get a second job? Rob a bank? Sell my eggs?
Don’t think I wasn’t considering it.
I took a bigger swallow of booze and contemplated asking my parents for the other seventeen thousand I needed to put ten percent down, which is what my agent thought I should do. They had plenty of money, and they probably wouldn’t even make me pay it back, at least not right away. But they’d think offering their financial help meant they got A Say in what I bought, and I could just imagine all the arguments we’d have over my buying a hundred-year old, five thousand square foot fixer-upper by myself.
Redo the kitchen? That’s absurd. You’ve never even picked up a hammer!
A yard? Don’t be silly. You don’t know how to mow a lawn.
A house like that needs a man.
I slugged the last of my Two James and eyed the bottle, seriously considering pouring another, even though the numbers I’d scribbled were beginning to swim a bit.
“I’m heading home.” Mia poked her head into my office and grinned. “Gotta start packing my bags.”
Grateful for the distraction, I popped up from my chair and rushed over to embrace her. “Eek! This is so exciting! I wish I were going with you!” Mia was leaving on Tuesday for France, where she would be married two and a half weeks later. Erin and I would fly over six days before the wedding.
Mia let me squeeze her slender frame and laughed when I didn’t let her go. “Me too. There’s so much to get done before the eighteenth. And I wish I spoke French; it would make things so much easier.”
She sniffed. “Have you been drinking?”
Releasing her, I put one hand in front of my mouth. “Just a little.” But then I couldn’t resist taking her by the shoulders, shaking her gently. “God, Mia. I can’t believe you’re getting married in two weeks—to Lucas! At a villa! In Provence!” Both of us jumped up and down a few times.
“I know!” She bit her lip. “But don’t jinx me, Coco. I don’t want anything to go wrong this time.”
Mia had been engaged once before, but her asshole fiancé had called off the wedding a week before it was supposed to happen.
“Stop it.” I squeezed her upper arms. “Nothing is going to go wrong this time. This is totally different. You and Lucas are made for each other, the wedding is going to be the most beautiful thing we’ve ever planned, and every little detail will be perfect.”
Mia closed her eyes, as if saying a quick prayer.
“I hope you’re right.”
“I am. Want me to come over and help you pack?”
She shook her head. “It’s OK. I’ve got my lists made already.”
“Of course you do.”