By Diane Craver
“Danielle, I’m almost ready to leave work, so I should be able to pick you up in about thirty minutes,” Jeremy said. “I have a surprise for you.”
“I need a surprise today, that’s for sure.” Danielle kicked her high heeled shoes off, thinking how the added height to her five four was helpful around the taller students. Holding her cordless phone, she sat on her flowered sofa.
“You sound tired. Were the students rebellious again?”
Danielle sighed, remembering how her high school seniors had voiced their opinions about the homework she had assigned. She loved teaching, but it was so draining when she had to justify on a daily basis why English was a necessary subject for them. “They don’t want to do the final paper I assigned weeks ago. I told them, no paper, no graduation. And of course, they think I’m bluffing. I can’t wait until this school year is over.”
“You’ll get a vacation from overbearing teenagers soon, but then you’ll have a husband to put up with.”
“Marrying you in five weeks is the only thing keeping me going right now.” She wished with her whole heart that they were already married and she was Mrs. Jeremy Hartman. “I love you, honey.”
“I love you too. And I hope you love the surprise I have for you.”
“Give me a hint.”
She thought for a moment, twisting her brown hair around her finger. Of course, he must have purchased a king-size bed. “A new bed.”
“No, it’s not a bed. We can use mine or yours.”
She was disappointed since neither one of them had anything bigger than a full-size. Jeremy gave a few more hints, but she couldn’t guess the surprise. “Well, I’ll let you finish your work so that I’ll see you soon. Bye,” she said.
* * *
An hour later Danielle and Jeremy stood outside of a rundown old house that no longer had any paint on it anywhere. Why was he showing her this dump? It was the most depressing thing she’d ever seen, she thought.
Jeremy was dressed in his business suit since he had come straight from work, but Danielle had changed from her school clothes into jeans and a T-shirt. Her long hair was pulled back in a ponytail.
“This is your surprise,” Jeremy said as he unlocked the front door.
“I can’t believe they bother locking this up,” Danielle muttered. “Who owns it?”
“Joe Greene. He’s anxious to sell. It’s been vacant for several years. He inherited the house and was going to fix it up himself, but decided not to now. I think we should buy it. We’d have something to show for our money instead of paying rent for your apartment.”
Since Jeremy lived with another accountant, they planned on living in her apartment after the wedding. She grabbed his hand, looking at his face to see if it was possible that Jeremy was actually serious about buying it and realized he was. “I don’t want to buy it. Just look at it. We’d be spending all our time trying to fix it up.”
She stared at the warped and slanted floor in the foyer before looking at the cracks in the ceiling. The walls had horrible cheap paneling. When Jeremy pulled her into the kitchen, she saw that the painted cupboard doors were off their hinges. The red and gray linoleum was either very dirty or stained.
Jeremy smiled. “Just think how much fun we’ll have working on it together.”
She shrugged. “I don’t see how it will be fun when we won’t have any time for remodeling. I’m busy grading papers in my spare time, and I already signed a contract for next school year to direct two major plays.”
“But soon you’ll be out of school, so we’ll have this summer and weekends.”
“I don’t want to spend my summer working on this house. It’ll take too much work.” She raised her eyebrows. “We already made plans to live in my apartment.”
“Sorry. I didn’t make myself clear. We can stay the remainder of the lease at your apartment while we start making the house more livable.”
Danielle crossed her arms. “I want to renew my lease.”
“You have to see the upstairs. There are so many possibilities with all the rooms.”
She hated the upstairs. Instead of paneling on the walls, she saw ugly wallpaper and water spots on the high ceilings. “This place is a dump. I don’t want to live here. I don’t understand why you would think I’d want to.”
Jeremy gave her a frustrated look. “We can buy this house for a good price, fix it up, and make a lot of money to buy another house eventually. Just think about it.”
“I don’t believe this.” Danielle paced angrily in front of a huge window. “You’re just like my dad. Always thinking about saving money. Look at our first date. We had to go to an early movie to save money.”
“But I didn’t save money, did I? You couldn’t be ready in time, so we ended up going out to eat, and then I paid more for the movie.”
“I know. Right from the beginning you didn’t want to spend money on me,” she said.
He frowned. “That’s not true. I have no problem spending money on you, but I don’t like to waste money. You told me how impressed you were that I was frugal. I guess you lied.”
She nodded. “I thought it was cute at first, but now that we’re getting married, half of our conversations involve how to save money.” She sighed. “And it takes precedence over everything, like comfort. Instead of us getting a queen or king-size bed, you insist on using one of our full-size beds so we can be thrifty.”
“Well, it’s a good thing one of us is practical,” he said, glaring at her. “You spend money like you have your own mint.”
“You don’t have to spend your precious money on me for dinner. I’m not hungry.” She paused. “In fact, I might be saving you lots of money in the future.”
Jeremy’s eyes widened. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m having second thoughts about marrying you. My parents had a lot of arguments about finances. We both need some time apart to think about our money differences.”
He stared hard at her for a long moment. “I think you’re right. I love you but I’m having second thoughts, too.”
* * *
The following day Danielle gave the wrong test to the honors class. She was relieved when the day was over except then it was upsetting to go home without any contact with Jeremy.
She didn’t regret voicing her opinion about the old house and wished buying it wasn’t important to him. As she graded papers at the kitchen table, she kept seeing his face. She liked the way he always smiled at her and made her feel that she was the most important woman in his life. Although his money pinching ways got on her nerves, there were times when she appreciated his interference. In grocery shopping he’d showed her what cheaper cuts of meat to buy without the quality of taste suffering. And he did the oil changes and other minor maintenance work on her car so that she didn’t have to pay a mechanic.
By the third day Danielle came to the conclusion that she loved him enough to compromise on how to spend their money. She also had a plan in mind to make them both happy. While driving home after school, she decided to call him that evening. When she pulled into the apartment’s parking lot, she saw that Jeremy was there and he looked happy to see her.
After she got out of her silver Honda, he handed her a dozen beautiful red roses.
“Jeremy, you didn’t need to spend all this money on roses.”
“Yes, I did.” He gave her a tender kiss. “I decided you’re right about Mr. Greene’s house. It needs too much work for us to pour hours into remodeling it. I don’t want to lose you. You’re more important to me than buying that house.”
Danielle nodded. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, too, about buying instead of renting. It’s silly to pay out rent so in a few months when my lease expires, there’s a starter house we can buy. My grandmother’s moving in a nursing home, and she wants to sell her small house.”
“I like her house and it has a nice yard.”
She grinned. “And we’ll save realtor’s fees if we buy from her.”
“Sounds like a good deal to me.”
Danielle looked up into his eyes and realized that they were both ready to stop discussing houses. “And now we have that settled, how about a second kiss?”
About the Author: As the youngest in the family, growing up on a farm in Findlay, Ohio, Diane often acted out characters from her own stories in the backyard. In high school she was the student sitting in class with a novel hidden in front of her propped up textbook. Her passion for reading novels had to be put on hold during her college years at Ohio State University due to working part-time on campus and being a full-time student. Before embarking on her writing career, Diane was a school teacher and play director. She enjoys her life with her very supportive husband and six awesome children in southwestern Ohio. She writes contemporary romance, inspirational mainstream and chick-lit mystery. Learn more about Diane Craver and her books at her website and her blog.