Blurb:One broken heart. One broken house. One broken neighborhood. One casserole dish to fix them all.
After a bitter divorce, house rehabber Lisa Bennigan needs a fresh start with her three kids. When she inherits a house in St. Louis, she soon discovers she's out of her depth. Will she be able to rehab the house on her own?
Read this award-winning women's fiction covering topics frequently facing women: pregnancy loss, divorce, infidelity, depression, and transition to retirement.
Excerpt:Who could she call for help? Coughing into her sleeve, Lisa Bennigan picked up her phone from a pile of bills. Each red line sent hot daggers toward her ex-husband.
Sitting on a moving box in her kitchen, surrounded by packing paper and unwashed dishes, Lisa gripped her phone. Flatware, packaged food, and cups littered the countertops ready to wrap and store. Several half-packed boxes clogged the floor with crumpled paper springing out like pale jack-in-the-boxes.
Holding the cell, she scrolled through her recent calls. Fifty of them. All to secure an apartment for the four of them within her budget in the Phoenix valley. Each one wanted an additional twelve-hundred-dollar pet deposit for Edith’s white schnauzer-mix, Missy. Twelve hundred dollars Lisa didn’t have.
Lisa clenched her jaw. Because of Keith, Edith already had to start first grade at a new school. Still, Edith cried for him at night. She couldn’t lose Missy, too. Could Lisa hock a kidney? Missy had to stay with the family. For Edith’s sake.
With a constricted chest, Lisa scrolled until names appeared on her recent call list and hoped for a sign of biblical proportions—pillars of fire over a number or trumpeting angels signaling aid. She needed a lifeline, a listening ear, or someone who could remove this boulder from her chest. And the stress of a looming deadline. She needed a miracle.
Coughing again, Lisa’s thumb hovered over her sister-in-law’s number. She should call Kate about the rose-print china, anyway. But Kate’s demanding court docket meant a likely voicemail answer. Lisa could at least leave a message or perhaps catch Kate at a late lunch. It was only one p.m. in Missouri. After a moment’s hesitation, she clicked on her number.
Tears leaked from her eyes, and relief flooded her when Kate’s groggy voice greeted her. “You’re lucky you caught me working from home today. Heather’s sick. Stomach flu. Isn’t that great? I stayed up all night cleaning pizza-laced vomit off bookshelves and stuffed animals. That kid has a projectile range any missile launcher would be proud of. But enough about my problems. How are you doing? It’s been a while.”
Lisa’s voice caught on a chord of gratitude. Just hearing Kate’s voice softened the ache in her shoulders. Then she coughed. “Do you want your mother’s wedding china?”
Kate blew air from her lips. “Who needs china? We don’t have time for ceramic. At dinner, we use legal briefs as paper plates to catch the crumbs as we inhale food.”
Lisa chuckled at the image and removed a plate from the careful packaging surrounding the delicate china. Oh, how she had admired the rose-print china when Keith claimed it after his mother’s death. How she loathed it now after the divorce. “Should I just shoot it for skeet practice, then?”
“Heh. Save it for Edith or—wait. Why are you asking?”
Lisa tucked back in the plate. “I’m just packing up.”
“Are you moving?”
“Nope,” she chirped. “I routinely pack the house just to see how many boxes I need.” Keith’s conviction flipped her life upside down. Her sanity and her sense of humor hung by a thread.
“Har, har. Didn’t the judge award you the house?”
“She did.” The truth flamed her cheeks and tore at her gut. How could she tell Kate what happened? She who never had a financial worry in her marriage. “But we can’t afford to live here anymore.” Lisa luckily limped through the bills until the house sold.
“But how is that?”
A wry smile pressed on her lips. “Despite my stellar skills, I can’t keep the rehabbing business together.” Coughing, Lisa held the phone away and thumped her chest. “Sorry about all my hacking,” she said when she returned to the phone. “I can’t get rid of this cough. It’s been plaguing me for months.”
“Sold.” Lisa wrapped two bowls in packing paper, but needing a fresh taped box, she left them on the cluttered counter. “Selling is the only way to pay the debts of the rehabbing business. And the court costs.”
Kate huffed slightly.
Kicking paper and extra bubble wrap on the floor, Lisa headed for the table. “But desperation rarely turns a profit. I’ll have a little money after the sale to pay debts. Selling is better than foreclosing.” A laugh-turned-cough gurgled from her throat. “Ironic, don’t you think? I used to help people by buying their foreclosures, and I almost foreclosed.”
“Keith’s a cad. I can say that because he’s my brother.”
“I can’t believe he’d be so selfish. Didn’t he think where his actions would leave him? Would leave us? And the neighborhood gossip is eating me alive.” Time for rest ended. The kids could walk through the door any minute. She tucked a stray hair into her bagel bun. “I don’t want my kids to know. So far, I’ve kept Keith’s sentencing from them.”
Silence expanded on the other end.
“You think that’s wrong?” Lisa picked up a black marker and labeled the contents on the box: Kitchen Junk To Sort Later.
“Transitions are hard. I won’t pass judgment.”
“The kids don’t deserve to be hurt by Keith’s actions.”
“I need a fresh start.” She set down the marker. “Or I could nanny for some rich family in London. Think they’d mind if I brought along a teenager, a ten-, and a six-year-old?”
“Funny you should say that.” Kate’s voice grew excited.
Hope sprung in Lisa’s heart. “Tell me you have a flat in London you’re not using.”
Kate chuckled. “No. I just had a brilliant idea. Six months ago, we moved Grandma Maybelle into a home near us for daily care.” She drew a breath. “But we never sold her house in St. Louis. Moving there could be the change you’re searching for.”
“St. Louis?” Lisa didn’t know anything about the city except it was famous for an arch.