THE WORST WAS OVER. Her 19-year-old functionally illiterate drywall-hanging nephew had gotten a 15-year-old high school dropout pregnant. I can deal with that, Louella resolved, scanning the anxious faces of her mother, father, and sister, who were protectively surrounding the hangdog Mason.
"So, whaddya think, Lou? Can they move in with you?" asked Candy, uncharacteristically solicitous.
"Well, first we have to look at whether he's going to be charged with statutory rape," snapped Louella.
"Whose side are you on?" grumped her father. "That part can be taken care of. There's lawyers, ya know. We've got the baby to think of and all-"
Her mother nodded. She was never one to say much, especially if it meant contradicting her husband. He'd only had to punch her the one time, and she'd behaved ever since. She and Candy had also been real good from then on.
My God, Louella suddenly realized, they're all looking forward to this baby! I guess it'll give them a focus, something to do with their time, since nobody's working but Mason.
"Well, I don't know if there's room," started Louella.
"No room! You have that whole house next door all to yourself, and it's the same as this one that's shared by four people, and you might not have room?" Her father's face was getting red.
"Well, what I mean is, I've got things set up for my writing and all, and I kind of need all the space."
Candy rolled her eyes. "Come on, Lou, how about letting them at least have the basement? I mean, Mason's used to sleeping in the basement."
"But that wouldn't be good for the baby!" her mother said. "The baby should be upstairs!"
But it's my house! Louella felt like yelling. I'm the one paying the mortgage and utilities! I've got it fixed how I like it! When I'm over there I want everybody to stay out! But aloud she said to Mason, "How much can you pay toward house upkeep?"
Mason thought about it. "Maybe two hunnert a month."
"Tell you what," said Louella impetuously. "For two hundred dollars a month you can rent the whole place. I'll find someplace else to live."
Everyone was stunned. "But Louella, you're only a cashier at the Giant! You can't afford to do that!"
You don't know what I can afford, she thought smugly, because you don't know about my secret stash. If Louella had her way, they'd never know about her million-dollar Lottery win that netted her $32,500 a year.
"Let me worry about that," she said. "I'm doing all right."
"I had no idea cashiers made that kind of money!" exclaimed Candy.
"Depends on the number of hours you work," said Louella. Turning to Mason, she asked, "When do you want to move in?"