Hey, guys. I’m feeling bold this morning, so I posted the first chapter of A Year with Geno. Please enjoy! All comments welcome. Thanks for reading.
The eviction notice arrived the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
Caroline read it as she walked home from the mailbox, careful not to slip on the snow-covered street. To her right, the sun set behind the Chugach Mountains. Caroline guessed it might have been a pretty sunset, were it not for the gray of the Alaskan winter.
Back inside her cozy home, she called the property manager. The woman’s perkiness riled her.
“The owner wants to move back in. The house belongs to her, not you.”
“But it’s the middle of the school year. Can’t she wait until spring, or at least Christmas break?”
“Look, Caroline, you have to be professional about these things. Don’t take it personally.”
“You’re kicking my family out of our house. How do I not take that personally?”
“It’s not your house, Caroline. I’ll talk to the owner and see if she can give you more time. That’s all I can do,” she said before hanging up.
Caroline slid to the floor and hugged her body. She wanted to cry, but she couldn’t. She felt fear grow inside of her, putting pressure on that place she couldn’t name. She struggled to breathe.
The front door burst open, and from the kitchen, she heard the excited voices of her two sons. They stomped the snow off their boots as she had told them to do so many times.
“Ask her. Go on. Ask her,” Charlie said.
“I will. Don’t rush me,” Bobby said.
They walked into the kitchen and saw her sitting on the floor, the cordless telephone next to her.
“Whatcha doing down there?” Bobby asked.
Caroline’s mind drew a blank. “Uh, I thought I saw a mouse.”
“Cool! I’ll help you catch it,” said Charlie.
“Thanks, but I think it slipped outside. Is there something you two want to ask me?”
“Go on,” Charlie prompted, “You’re the oldest.”
Bobby stood up straight and looked his mother in the eye.
“Mom, Charlie and me want a dog. You said we could have one when we were older. Now we’re older, and we want one. A girl brought her new puppy to school today to show everybody. We don’t have to have a puppy, but we want a dog. So for Christmas, can we have one?”
A sigh escaped before Caroline could stop it. She held out her hands to her boys. “Here, guys, help me up.” They did, and she in turn helped them take off the layers of coats, hats, gloves and scarves that Alaskan winter required.
She got out the chocolate chip cookies she’d made the night before and a gallon of milk from the fridge. Pouring three glasses, she and the boys sat down at the kitchen table, a wooden table with one shorter leg propped up on the Anchorage phone book. Charlie and Bobby took big bites of the thick cookies. Caroline sorted through her mind, trying to decide what to tell them. With the cookies disappearing and milk mustaches appearing, their eyes fixed on their mother.
Another sigh escaped. “You two know we’ve been renting this house since the change, since I left your dad. Someone owns it, and we pay that person money to live here. Right?”
They both nodded, still eating.
“Today, I got a letter from that person, and she wants to move back in. That means we have to find a new place to rent or maybe to buy. Either way, we have to move.”
The boys chewed the cookies and slurped their milk.
“I’m not saying no to a dog forever, but until we know where we’re going to live, I have to say no for now.”
“Are we going to move back in with Dad?” Charlie asked.
“No, stupid. He lives with his girlfriend.”
Caroline shot Bobby a reprimanding look and turned to face Charlie.
“Even if your dad didn’t have a girlfriend, we aren’t moving back in with him. Your dad and I disagree on too many things. I think it’s best if we just live on our own. We’ve been doing pretty good here, right?”
“Except for getting kicked out of our house,” Bobby mumbled.
Caroline turned to face her oldest son. “Look, I was blindsided by this too.” She stopped, surprised at the fierceness of her response. She told herself to slow down, to speak softer.
“Let’s see how we can make lemonade out of this lemon. I know someone at the bank. Maybe we can buy a house, and if that’s the case, we can have all the dogs we want. We can make something good out of this. I mean, it’s not like this house was perfect for us.”
Caroline looked around the little kitchen. The boys’ school artwork covered every wall. Her favorite drawing was a watercolor painted by Bobby in the fourth grade. The painting showed the three of them in the top bench of the Ferris wheel during the Fur Rondy carnival; fireworks exploded in the dark night behind them. The canister set from her grandmother’s farmhouse in Iowa sat beside the well-used coffee pot. Looking into the living room, she saw two small recliner chairs she’d purchased for the boys at a garage sale. They didn’t get used much. The boys preferred to snuggle next to her on their new couch, the first and only piece of furniture she’d bought after her marriage ended.
These four walls had been her refuge, her sanctuary, while the bitter divorce and custody battle raged on around her. She loved this house. It was her home. Now, it was gone.