Where There's Hope(8)

By: Marianne Rice

“We’ll have to see what the rental agreement says first.”

“Cool. If we can, I want teal and gray. To match my comforter.”

“I figured.” Hope smiled. Her daughter was predictable, that was for sure. While she may spend every waking moment in dance class or at gymnastics, she wasn’t a pink tutu type of girl. She was an athletic dancer who loved to hunt with her grandfather and ride four wheelers in the summer with Ty and Mia.

She pulled in the narrow parking lot next to an old Victorian home and prayed Melissa would have something affordable for them.

Delaney practically jumped out of the car and beat Hope to the front steps. “Can we live on the ocean? That would be cool. Or a farm. I always wanted a dog. And a horse.”

“Easy there, sunshine. We won’t be able to be too picky. Stage one is to find something to get us through the winter. Maybe by next summer we’ll be able to look for something more permanent.”

“Why not look for permanent now?” Delaney unzipped her coat and opened the front door. Shy, she was not.

“I’d rather look around for a while first.” She didn’t need to tell her daughter how tight finances were. Even living with her parents, Hope didn’t have a lot of extra cash to spare. She had a portion of her paycheck automatically deposited into a savings account for Delaney, and a good chunk of change went to dance and gymnastics.

Delaney had worked her way up the competition ladder and now traveled throughout Maine, and sometimes New Hampshire and Massachusetts in dance competitions. Between competition costs, uniforms, and hotels, there wasn’t much leftover at the end of the month.

Competition season lasted from January through May, which were Hope’s slower months at the restaurant. Which was good and bad. Good, she didn’t have to miss many performances. Bad, there was less money coming in.

They stepped into a stunning foyer. The wide-planked floors were a deep red and the walls painted a rich emerald. The curved staircase lead to what appeared to be an open seating area.

“Dang. This place is fancy.” Delaney swirled around, her eyes big and round, taking in the antiques.

“Don’t touch anything,” Hope whispered. If she hadn’t known the Buttons, she wouldn’t have come out here. Just the office space alone was a clue she couldn’t afford the lifestyle.

“Hope. Lovely to see you again.” Melissa rounded the corner, her hair done up in its usual poofy yet elegant up-do. “And you brought Delaney. I can’t tell you how excited I am to get you two into your own place.”

Great. The whole town must think she’s a loser for mooching off her parents for so long.

“I can’t wait to see what’s available.”

“Come. Follow me.” Melissa led them down the hall to a posh office. It wasn’t like the townsfolk were making her lots of money. They were all middle-low class; it was the summer people, the tourists who rented a small three-room bungalow on the beach for $5,000 a week that lined the Buttons pockets. They were good people, never letting the size of their bank account—or house—interfere with their personalities.

Delaney chose an uncomfortable looking antique chaise lounge to sit on, leaning back and resting her sneakers on the end.

“Feet down,” Hope whispered to her.

“Oh, that’s fine. It’s not an original Queen Anne. I found the chaise at a yard sale a few years back and had it reupholstered and stained to look like one. There’s cookies on the sideboard if you’d like one, dear.” Melissa pointed to another fancy looking piece of furniture behind them.

Not needing another prodding, Delaney jumped up and took an enormous chocolate chip cookie. “These are huge, Mrs. Button. Thanks.”

“Help yourself,” she said and turned to Hope. “Now, I’ve taken the liberty to scope out a handful of places I think would be wonderful for you and your daughter. We can go through the paperwork and pictures first to save you time, and then drive out to the ones you like best.”

“Sure.” Part of Hope was excited, the other part nervous that the only housing in her budget would be near-condemned places. Not that she’d seen many around town.

Delaney returned to her spot on the chaise while Hope settled into an elegant burgundy colored chair across from Melissa.

“Be honest about your thoughts. You and Delaney are the ones who will be living here, not me. And an unhappy customer doesn’t bode well for my reputation.”

Hope picked up the files and flipped through the pictures and descriptions of each rental. None had the price on them, and she was surprised at the variety. The closer to the beach, the smaller the home, and there were a few only a mile inland that would be perfect for them. But she hadn’t planned on renting an entire house.