“It’s just not fair! It’s our senior year!” wailed Lola as she fell face-first onto the bed.
Jane, her best friend, giggled at her dramatics but sobered up, remembering this was a dire situation indeed. “Why can’t you just move in with me and my mom?” asked Jane, plopping down on the bed next to Lola.
Lola’s turned her head to respond so Jane could hear her. “The law says I have to live with a blood relative if I have one. And if I didn’t, I’d be put into a foster home . . .” Lola’s voice trailed off as the severity of the situation started to sink in. It was too much to bear, so she put her pillow over her head.
Jane grinned. Lola was such a goofball! She took the pillow off Jane’s head and tugged at her arm so she would sit up and they could talk like normal people. “But it’s not like you’re a kid, you’ll be sixteen over the summer. I know people who leave home at that age!” exclaimed Jane. “My cousin Sherry moved in with her boyfriend when she was just fourteen! Of course, she was trying to get away from aunt Myra’s lecherous new boyfriend, but still. Gavin was only sixteen. He quit school and got a job, she stayed in school and it all worked out in the end!”
Lola sat up and gave her friend a hopeless look. “Right, but they have jobs, money, a car . . . I have none of those things.”
Jane got up and started pacing back and forth on the purple shag carpet that had seen better days. She had that concentrated look she got when she’s problem solving or hatching a plan. She was tapping just above her lip and after a while, she asked, “But what about your inheritance? Surely you’ll get something?”
“Yes, of course. The first bit when I’m eighteen, then another when I’m twenty-one, and the final one when I’m thirty-five!” Lola cried out in response.
“Thirty-five! You’ll be ancient!” exclaimed Jane. She went over to her friend and gave her a big hug, then rested her head on her shoulder. “That sucks! I’ll miss you so much. Promise you’ll text me every day,” pleaded Jane.
“I will, but I’m not sure what will happen to my cell phone. All our accounts are being closed . . .” added Lola as she shrugged, unsure as to whether or not she was truly heading into the unknown, alone.
“Well, you’ll get another and you’ll send me your new number,” said Jane, trying to be chipper. “Or you’ll call, send an email, send an owl for God’s sake! Just make sure you keep in touch!” screeched Jane. The panic in Jane’s eyes made Lola realize how worried she was about her predicament.
“You don’t have to worry; I’d die without you. Of course, I’ll find a way.” She kissed Jane’s cheek and stroked her back soothingly.
Jane relaxed and got practical. “How long will the bus ride take, anyway?” she inquired, hoping there was a way they might still see each other regularly.
“It’s four hours from Baltimore to Williamsburg and about fifteen minutes to the house after that,” replied Lola.
“Bummer. It’s not like we can see each other every weekend,” Jane whined.
“Right, but maybe we can visit when there’s a long weekend or something, and of course over the summer,” said Lola, perking up.
Jane looked unsure. “Sure, that’ll work. But you know, I’ll be getting a job this summer to save for college. I guess I’ll let you know when I get my schedule. So, when do you leave exactly?”
Lola got up to look at her planner. “Final exams are on Thursday, June 20th. I’ll be on the 10 a.m. bus on the following Sunday. The new owners want the house ASAP to start their renovations,” replied Lola, turning back to Jane.
“Why doesn’t your aunt come to get you? Won’t you have a ton of stuff?” asked Jane.
“She doesn’t drive for some reason,” replied Lola, shrugging her shoulders. Jane waited for further details, but Lola just stood there.
“What, is she mentally retarded? In a wheelchair? Too old to drive? What’s her name, anyway?” quizzed Jane, unwilling to let it go.
“Her name is Phyllis. I think my mom said she has epilepsy. She’s not old, she’s only forty-six. And I’m pretty sure she knows how to drive, but I think her medication makes her sleepy or something,” Lola responded.
“Oh, that sucks. But then who’s going to pick you up you from the bus terminal? You don’t have to walk, do you? Because that would be beyond lame!”
Lola only had few details to share, but at least this taken care of. “Her neighbor, Jackson,” said Lola.
“Right. Do you need help packing?” asked Jane.
“Nah, I’m not bringing much. The executors sold off almost everything of value to pay off our debts. Simone, my mom’s best friend, will pack up the stuff that goes to goodwill. I’m just taking my clothes, my iPad, and a few mementos. It all fits in a backpack and this Rubbermaid bin. My aunt will have a room set up for me when I get there,” explained Lola.
Jane peered into the bin and exclaimed, “You travel light!” She grabbed Lola’s favorite book. “So, what’s she like, your aunt?”
Lola thought for a moment. “I don’t really remember my aunt. After my dad left, we didn’t see much of his side of the family and with the distance, we sort of lost touch,” she mused.
“It’s too bad your dad died too, you could have gone to live with him,” said Jane.
“I don’t think so. From what my mom said, he was always a bit of a flake and could barely take care of himself. That’s why he eventually moved back with his sister. And they both lived in their parents’ house; the house I’m about to move into,” Lola stated.
“They are either dirt poor or super-rich. They must be rich! Only rich people live in their houses with their adult family members. Maybe that’s how they get rich! If you never have to pay for housing, heating, electricity, the savings must add up! Is it a big house?” asked Jane.
“Yeah, I think it is,” Lola replied. “It’s a traditional Victorian House, according to the lawyer. I’ve never been there. But here, he gave me a picture. Look!”
Jane took the picture from Lola’s hand and peered at it. Her eyes widened instantly. “Creepy!”
Lola laughed, took the picture back and replied, “Only because it’s a black and white picture. It’s actually pink, if you can believe it! But I know what you mean. That is exactly how I felt when I first saw it.”
She stared down at the picture again. The house was huge; at least four stories high with a tall main section that looked just like a tower and two wings with turrets on each side. One side had a huge covered porch with ivy overhangs for privacy. Lola pointed at the porch. “They must use this area a lot—it seems to have more furniture in it than my entire house!” The other wing was similar but had floor to ceiling windows and resembled a sunroom. The lawyer called it a Conservatory. The front door was flanked by wide, frosted windows and had its own imposing porch and broad steps that led to a long walkway, met by a fountain of all things.
“Straight out of a Jane Austen novel!” exclaimed Jane.
Three other paths seemed to lead away from the fountain. “I wonder where these other paths lead to?” mused Lola.
Jane peered at the picture, then looked off into space, obviously trying to imagine it. “Maybe they’ll have a pool and a tennis court? Maybe one of them leads to a garage? We don’t see one on the picture, but surely they have one?”
Lola nodded and said, “Well, I guess I’ll find out soon enough.”