Home > Open Season(8)

Open Season(8)
Author: Linda Howard

“Hello?” Mrs. Simmons’s voice was as creaky as her knees.

“Hello, Mrs. Simmons. This is Daisy Minor. How are you today?”

“Just fine, dear. This rain makes my joints hurt, but we need it, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. How’s your mama, and your aunt Joella?”

“They’re fine, too. They’re busy canning tomatoes and okra from the garden.”

“I don’t do much canning anymore,” Mrs. Simmons creaked. “Last year Timmie”—Timmie was Varney’s wife—“brought me some pears and we made pear preserves, but I don’t even try to have a garden. My old knees just aren’t up to it.”

“You might think about knee-replacement surgery,” Daisy suggested. She felt honor-bound to try, though she knew Varney and Timmie had been making the same suggestion for years, to no avail.

“Why, Mertis Bainbridge had that done, and she said she’d never go through that again. She’s had nothing but trouble with it”

Mertis Bainbridge was a hypochondriac, and a general complainer to boot. If someone gave her a car, she’d complain about having to buy gas for it. Daisy refrained from pointing that out, because Mertis was one of Mrs. Simmons’s best friends.

“Everyone is different,” she said diplomatically. “You’re much tougher than Mertis, so you might have better results.” Mrs. Simmons liked being told how strong she was, to be able to endure such pain.

“Well, I’ll think about it.”

She wouldn’t do any such thing, but Daisy had satisfied the social requirements; she moved on to the purpose to her call. “The reason I called was to see about the apartment over your garage. Have you rented it yet?”

“Not yet, dear. Do you know someone who might be interested?”

“I’m interested for myself. Would it be all right if I came over at lunch and looked at it?”

“Why, I suppose. Let me just check with your mother. I’ll call you right back. You’re at work, aren’t you?”

Daisy blinked. Had she just heard what she thought she’d heard? “Excuse me?” she said politely. “Why do you need to check with my mother?”

“Why, to see if it’s okay with her, of course. I couldn’t let you rent my apartment without her permission.”

The words slapped her in the face. “Her permission?” she choked. “I’m thirty-four years old. I don’t need permission to live anywhere I choose.”

“You may have argued with her, dear, but I couldn’t hurt Evelyn’s feelings that way.”

“We didn’t argue,” Daisy protested. Her throat had grown so tight she could barely speak. My god, did the whole town consider her so hopeless that she couldn’t do anything without her mother’s permission? No wonder she never had any dates! Humiliation mingled with anger that Mrs. Simmons wouldn’t even think Daisy would be insulted. “On second thought, Mrs. Simmons, I don’t think the apartment would be right for me. I’m sorry to bother you.” It was rude, but she hung up without the usual good-byes. Mrs. Simmons would probably tell all her friends how abrupt Daisy had been and that she was having a disagreement with her mother, but she couldn’t help that. And Mrs. Simmons might not snoop in the apartment, but she would certainly monitor all of Daisy’s comings and goings and feel obligated to report them back to her mother. Not that Daisy intended to do anything bad, but still. . .!

The humiliation burned inside her. Was this how all their friends and acquaintances saw her, as someone incapable of making a decision on her own? She had always considered herself an intelligent, responsible, self-supporting woman, but Mrs. Simmons, who had known her all her life, certainly didn’t!

This move was way, way too late. She should have done it ten years ago. Back then, changing her image would have been easy. Now she felt as if she needed an act of Congress—and a permission slip from her mother!—to change the way people saw her.

Maybe it would work out better not to live in Mrs. Simmons’s garage apartment, anyway. She would be out of her mother’s house, yes, but still under “supervision.” If she wanted to change her image, she had to give the impression of complete freedom.

The ugly condos were looking better by the minute.

She dialed the number in the ad. Again, the phone rang and rang. She wondered if the condo manager had arthritic knees, too.

“Hello.” The voice was male, and sleepy.

“I’m sorry, did I wake you?” Daisy glanced at the clock over her desk; ten after nine. What kind of manager slept this late?

“S’ all right.”

“I’m calling about the rental listing—”

“Sorry. The last one was rented yesterday.” The man hung up.

Well, damn.

Frustrated, she stared down at the newspaper. She was left with the house on Lassiter Avenue, the duplex containing the Farrises, and the mobile home on the bad side of town. The duplex was unthinkable.

She couldn’t back down now, or she’d never be able to face herself in the mirror again. She had to see this through. Maybe the mobile home or the Lassiter Avenue house wouldn’t be too bad. She didn’t mind a run-down neighborhood, so long as it wasn’t dangerous, with drug dealers lurking on every corner and shots ringing out in the night.

She was pretty sure if there had been any shots ringing out in Hillsboro, night or day, she’d have heard about it.

The discreet little bell over the door rang as someone entered the library. Daisy got up and smoothed her skirt, not that the action would help its looks any. She was the only one working until noon, because they seldom had anyone in during the morning. Most of their traffic was in the afternoon, after school was out, though of course during the summer that pattern changed. The bulk of people still came in the afternoon, maybe because they were too busy doing other stuff during the relatively cool mornings. Kendra Owens came in at twelve and worked until the library closed at nine, plus Shannon Ivey worked part-time from five until nine, so Kendra was never alone there at night. The only one who was alone for any length of time was Daisy, but she figured the greater responsibility was hers.

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