Part one can be found here.
When I called the number on the "For Rent" sign, a friendly male voice answered. I asked the three most important questions, in this order: how many bedrooms, do you allow dogs, and how much per month? Answers: 4, yes, and a little more than I had budgeted. But, I still had that feeling, so I set up a time to go take a look-see.
I got my tour of the house the very next day. I'll call the owner "Dan" here, I'm still a little fuzzy on the ethical/legal issue of naming people. Dan was a tiny guy, with one of the kindest, most open faces I have ever seen. He was still working on the house, getting it ready after the last residents, but was very agreeable to showing me around.
It was perfect. Not going to be in Better Homes and Gardens any time soon, but it was absolutely perfect for the kids and I. There was a "wing" with a huge master bedroom, bathroom and two smaller bedrooms; the kitchen was a good size with a window over the sink (never had that, always wanted that); a screened in porch, a cozy living room with a fireplace and tons, I mean TONS of closet/storage space. But the feature that hooked me in? There was a MANCAVE.
In the house we'd been in, there was no basement...finished or otherwise. The "downstairs" consisted of two small bedrooms and a closet-sized bathroom. Further downstairs was what I referred to as the Silence of The Lambs basement. It was where I did laundry, and where spiders bred in quiet, damp bliss. The kind of basement that gives kids nightmares. All that was missing was a pit with a kidnapped girl yelling "Mister? Hey Mister!". Seriously.
Dan told me that this house used to be owned by a guy in the music biz. This huge mancave/basement area had, at one time, served as a recording studio. Now it had a big family room area with a fireplace, a giant bedroom (the bedroom alone was the size of my Lambs basement), a bright and clean laundry room and a big bathroom. Plus more storage closets.
To sort of quote my lady Tina Fey: "I wanted to go to there." Badly.
My friend Michelle had seen the rent sign earlier that week and had thought about me...when I called her and told her that I was going in to take a look, she insisted on stopping by. She is a character worthy of her own damn blog, but for now I will say that this girl has been a key player in my life and in several other lives here in Mayberry (that's what I call our little city, because everyone knows everyone). Michelle kept giving me the googly eyes, mouthing "Oh MY GOD. It's PERFECT". Normally I like to keep my shameful business to myself but I was thankful to have her with me.
Dan said that he'd be open to letting the new residents move in anytime, as long as they didn't mind him finishing up his projects (painting, redoing the downstairs bath, etc). I tried to not look excited or too eager, but this was perfect. Then came the hard part.
I told Dan a recap of what had been happening over the past year or so, I was very honest about everything. I told him that I had to get out of my house, that I was a good, trustworthy person who just needed a chance for a fresh start. I also warned him that my credit report was not going to be fun reading. He listened, sympathetically, and told me, "Well, why don't we give it try and see what happens.." and handed me the rental application. I went home, filled it out and returned it the next day.
The next Saturday the angels were with Big Daddy and I was home by myself. I was making a big pot of chili when the doorbell rang. Dan was standing on my front steps, his face looked a little less open and friendly. He was holding a small stack of papers in his hands, which turned out to be not the rough-draft of a novel but my horrible, awful, very bad credit report.
Dan was kind. He handed me the report and said that as much as he'd like to help, this was his livelihood and he couldn't take such a big risk. He said, "I know you said it would be bad, but this is really bad. I talked to my attorney and he said absolutely no on this one." I felt the tiny sprig of hope that had been growing inside my heart wilt. All week I had been trying to stay optimistic, tried to do the whole positive imaging thing. And here it was. My old friend, Rejection, standing on my front steps with tangible proof that I was ruined financially.
I did what I think a lot of women in my tired, beaten down shoes would have done. I started crying. Through my pathetic tears I asked if there was any way, any way at all that this could be done...a co-signer, maybe? A few month's rent in advance? Anything. He looked at me the way a mom looks at her kid when they're begging for a bag of Skittles at the Target checkout after a particularly harrowing shopping trip. He said, "I don't know...I'll ask my lawyer but I just don't think so, Jenny." So I thanked him. I thanked him for being kind enough to come to me personally with this bad news, and I told him that I would probably do the same thing if our situations were reversed. He left. I went upstairs to my bedroom and cried for the rest of the weekend.
Long story slightly longer? I begged my mom to co-sign the lease. Mom has rescued my ass many times, probably more often than most moms would and definitely more times than she thought she'd be doing this late in the game. She agreed to co-sign. Dan, who I am convinced is an earthbound angel, agreed. We moved out of the house of horrors on March 1st, with the help of Amazing Michelle and some of the most generous, kindest friends a girl could ask for (you know who you are!). As far as the higher than anticipated rent? Well, I have always been a resourceful person. You'd be surprised at how much fat there is even in the sparsest of budgets. I trimmed everything from snacks to garbage service (we now have a garbage can that looks like it belongs in Barbie's Dream House, but dammit I make it work). So far so good.
You know what I love most about this story? It proves my theory that this world still has good people in it. Dan just sort of brushes me off when I try to thank him, to this day, but I hope he knows just how much he did for not only me, but for my kids as well. We have a non-leaking roof over our heads. Some of my kid's best friends live within 100 feet of our back door. All that changed for them was their address and their bus numbers. I am not ashamed to let anyone in now...I don't have to explain the rotting, missing shingles on the roof or the huge, moldy holes in the living room ceiling. My boys have a cavernous room to play video games in and hang out with their friends. Molly and I have a bathroom with a urine-free seat (well, most of the time).
Like Blanche DuBois, I relied on the kindness of a stranger. And it worked out.