Starter House A Novel

Starter House A Novel by Sonja Condit Read Free Book Online

Book: Starter House A Novel by Sonja Condit Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sonja Condit
paused at the foot of the stairs. Something had moved in the living room. She closed her eyes against the gray wash of panic and forced herself to look straight into the room. Her mother, who had refused to spend a winter in a comfortable house because it felt unfriendly, had entered 571 Forrester with a smile two weeks ago, telling Lacey she had never felt a home so glad to be lived in. There was nothing wrong. There could be nothing wrong.
    The thing in the chair was Bibbits, turning and clawing the red leather seat, nesting in the shredded remnants of a green and gold brocade cushion. Relief made Lacey furious. “Down!” she shouted. “Off! Bad dog.” A thing her mother had forbidden her ever to say, because all dogs were naturally good. The fringe of the cushion hung from either side of Bibbits’s mouth in an extravagant green mustache. “ Bad, ” she said, and swept him off the chair with her hand.
    He landed hard, with a yelp of more surprise than pain, and instead of bouncing to his feet, he jerked backward as if something had struck him and shrieked aloud.
    “Bibbits?” Ella Dane rushed into the room with her hands full of letters and catalogs and scooped him up. “What’s wrong, baby love?”
    In Ella Dane’s arms, Bibbits bared his teeth at Lacey. His body twitched, and he stretched his lips and began to cough, dry and deep. Ella Dane pulled a brown glass vial from her pocket and squirted a dropperful of something into Bibbits’s mouth. His cough eased, though he still panted.
    “He fell,” Lacey said. She couldn’t admit having hit him. She hadn’t hurt him; something else had made him shriek. The red leather was clawed and the cushion ruined beyond repair. “Keep him off the furniture, please,” she said, hoping she sounded patient and reasonable, and not like a whining child. She picked up the mail and went upstairs.
    Lacey had been thirteen when Ella Dane picked Bibbits up from the side of the road. His vet bills used up Lacey’s birthday present, all the money Grandpa Merritt sent—it was one of those times when Ella Dane was in grudging contact with her father, though she wouldn’t let Lacey talk with him—and for years Ella Dane maintained the fiction that Bibbits was Lacey’s dog. How many friends’ houses, garage apartments, basements, and motel rooms had the Kendalls been evicted from, because of Bibbits. . . . That dog had made her life miserable.
    Ella Dane loved him. Lacey went upstairs, carefully, two feet on each step, gripping the banister hard. Downstairs, Bibbits began to cough again.


    Chapter Seven
    ERIC SAT AT HIS DESK looking at his lunch. It was the most depressing sandwich he had ever seen. Nobody else at Moranis Miszlak brought their lunch to work, but whenever he went to a restaurant, the money he’d spent over the last month sprang up and seized his throat. They had good reasons for every cent, and yet the more reasons he thought of, the weaker they seemed. He felt like the criminal defendant who wouldn’t stop explaining why he walked into the drugstore with a gun. Because his girlfriend’s ex was threatening him. He forgot it was in his pocket. He was going to the pawnshop to sell it and only stopped for a Coke. It wasn’t even his gun, he’d never seen it before.
    So Eric bought furniture because it was on sale, and they needed all those things anyway, and a pregnant woman on bed rest couldn’t sleep on a futon, and it was all delivered for one fee, and, and, and.
    Because. Because Lacey looked so small in the hospital bed. Because of the long, long ten seconds before the doctor found the baby’s heartbeat. Seven thousand dollars on the Discover Card. Because he walked into the house and it was empty except for the bloody footprints, and one small handprint, still sticky, on the lowest step.
    He bought the furniture so the house would never be so empty again.
    Seven thousand dollars, and then the hospital bill. Eric’s uncle created this job for him

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