$2900 a Month

“Two bedrooms,” Tiffy mumbled as she paced over the worn carpet in the living room, each of her long, purposeful strides evoking a groan from the floor.

“Uh huh,” Laura grunted, hands on her hips.  They were wider than she wanted.

In two weeks she’d be attending Homecoming back at Michigan, her seventh homecoming since graduation.  No baton twirler before had ever returned and performed more than twice.  She’d been practicing an hour a day and was shocked by how out of shape she was.  Last year she dropped the baton four times.  In one game!  It wouldn’t have happened that often during the full season when she was in school.  She peered at the reflection of her butt over her shoulder, smacking it with the palm of her hand.  Starvation for two weeks…

“I can’t believe they want $2900 a month,” Tiffy sighed as she spun around the room.  She had always envied Laura’s height, and her hair.  Flaxen, natural blonde hair would look good on her.  She pulled on her own mousey brown locks and mimicked Laura’s stance, but quickly dropped her hands – cringing at the handful of flab.  She could lose the extra weight when they moved in – at $2900 a month there would be no money for drinking.

“Damn,” Laura grunted as she walked to the galley kitchen.  “These pink cabinets will have to be repainted.  And this linoleum will have to be stripped a number of times to get rid of this brown wax build up.  Cranking the cold-water faucet brought a high-pitch squeal before water rushed from it, followed by a banging from the pipes.

“But, two blocks from the water!” Tiffy reminded her.  “It’ll be a wild summer – and it will just be the two of us.”

They had shared a beach house the summer before with eight other women.  Four bedrooms and two bathrooms for ten women, not to mention dozens of different visiting men, made for crowded quarters.  It was Tiffy’s idea to hang the scoreboard on the refrigerator.  She ended up with the most stars.

At least there would be a wall between them.

Laura sighed, “I’m going to have to find a job closer to here.  The drive will kill me if I stay where I am.”

“That’s good, right?  You’ve been there two years.  They say never stay at a job for more than two years.”

“But $2900 a month?  What happens if one of us gets fired or something?”

“But think of the guys we can attract.  Let them buy the booze.  We provide the room and board, so to speak.”

“Let’s think about it for awhile.”

“Okay.  Let’s get a drink.”

She followed Tiffy.  They never went in one car.

She hadn’t heard from Jack in a week, but couldn’t gather the nerve to call him.  She was always procrastinating, pushing the envelope, and hoping things would get better.  Like the time she waited to call the gynecologist to see why it burned so badly when she peed.  That was her first bladder infection.

Belmar was a summer resort town on the ocean.  As she pulled up to Billy’s Tap and parked the car, she was stirred by the memory of leaving with Tommy.  When was that?  She hadn’t thought of Tommy for a long time.

Tiffy tapped on her windshield.  “Wake up in there!  I’m going inside before I freeze to death.”

Stiff off the ocean, the wind howled, swallowing all other sounds.  Even the streetlamps had a more muted glow than in the summer. There was only one car parked along the street.  Finding a parking spot was nearly impossible during high season, but was being able to walk to the boardwalk enough justification for spending the $2900 a month?

Rolling down her window, she called, “I’ve got to hit the ATM.  Go on in.”  The icy breeze stiffened her long, thick fingers.  She had her father’s hands.  Shivering, hunched against the wind, she punched in her code.  G-R-E-G.  He was her boyfriend when she got the card two years before.  She dumped him when she found him entwined tightly with a small brunette in a back booth at Billy’s.  She smiled at the bills dropping into the holder in cadence.  Fifty would be enough for gas and drinks.  Spending $2900 a month on rent meant these trips would be far and few in between.

Her parents didn’t charge her rent, which had allowed her to share the summerhouse last season. $2900 a month!
Maybe Jack had been traveling.  She ducked into the entryway and pulled out her cell phone.  He met most of her requirements.  At six foot three he was four inches taller than she was, and though he hadn’t been a football player, he could pass for one.  She even brought up marriage the last time she was with him and he didn’t change the subject.  Maybe he was angry because she hadn’t invited him to the homecoming.  That was it!  Why hadn’t she thought of that before?  She pulled him up on her contact list and punched the send button.

“Hello?”  A woman.

“I’m sorry, I must have the wrong number.  I was calling Jack Graves.”

“He’s in the shower.  Can I take a message?”

Tiffy burst through the door hanging on an older man’s arm.  She just winked silently.  Laura watched wistfully as they climbed into a Jeep.  The freshman quarterback she dated when she was a senior drove a Jeep.  She really liked that Jeep.

“No.  No message.”  $2900 probably would be worth it.

by C.W. Bigelow

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