Thirty-Two and a Half Complications Page 30

“No! It’s called being neighborly. It seems to me that you got pretty neighborly when he lived next door to you.”

I gasped, then demanded, “Just how neighborly are you two getting?”

“That is none of your business. Besides, like you said, you two broke up. He asked you to come back and you turned him down. Why would you care if he’s seeing someone else?”

“Not someone else, Violet. You. My own sister!”

“Since when did you care about my personal life?” she asked, her words dripping with contempt. “The minute Momma died, you became totally absorbed in your own little adventures and stopped caring about what was going on with my life. You don’t give a flipping wink about my feelings or what makes me happy.”

“That is not true!” I was parked at a stop sign and I shouted so loudly, the woman standing at the street corner walking her dog stared at me. “I started this nursery with you! It was all your idea! I couldn’t stand how unhappy you were when you separated from Mike, so I took my trust money from Dora and sank it into our business. All because you wanted to start the nursery.”

Deadly silence was her only answer for several long moments. “You said you wanted to be part of this too, Rose.”

“I did…but some days I don’t think we’re going to work out.”

“You and I aren’t going to work out?” she asked, her voice under tight control. “Or you and I working in the nursery together aren’t going to work out?”

“Honestly, Vi. Some days both.”

She released a short, bitter laugh. “Well, you just might get your wish.”

An oily feeling coated my gut. “What does that mean?”

“It means both insurance companies—our business’s and the bank’s—claim they aren’t required to pay the claim. Which means we’re out nine thousand dollars.”

“What?”

“Not that they’d cut a check in time to cover our losses anyway. They wouldn’t pay until Christmas at the earliest. Do you have any more jobs lined up after you wrap up at the Timberland’s place next week?”

I pulled into the church parking lot, my stomach tumbling like a washer at the Suds for Duds. “None of that will make up the difference after we pay for materials and Bruce Wayne’s labor.”

She was silent for a moment, and when she spoke, her words were soaked with guilt. “There’s something else you need to know.”

“What?”

“I’ve been doing a little…creative bookkeeping.”

My breath caught in my throat. “What does that mean?”

“It means we’ve been strapped for cash, and with all our plans for the expansion and the open house… I haven’t been making all the loans payments to the bank.”

I parked in the nearly empty church lot and shoved the gear shift into park. “What?” I asked in a daze.

“It’s not as bad as it sounds…or at least it wasn’t until a few days ago. I talked to Mr. Sullivan about it, and he told me not to worry. He said the Gardner Sisters Nursery was a great addition to the town and I could make a balloon payment after the open house.”

“The loan was in my name, Violet. How could you do something like that? Did you forge my signature?”

“No.” She cleared her throat. “It wasn’t anything official. Mr. Sullivan said my word was good enough.”

Comprehension washed through me. “But now Mr. Sullivan has disappeared.”

“That’s the problem.” Her voice sounded thin. “A little while back, I received notice that we had thirty days to pay or else, but when I talked to Mr. Sullivan, he told me it was a formality and not to worry about it. But yesterday, Mr. Burns, the bank manager, told me that we have to pay all the missed payments by next Friday or he’ll lock us out of the building.”

“Can he do that?”

“The bank owns the property and has the loan. And we received official notice.” Her voice broke. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

We held on in silence for several seconds before my shock gave way to my anger. “How many payments have we missed?”

“Three.”

“Three?” A quick calculation told me that three payments were just shy of five thousand dollars. We were worse off than I thought. “And you didn’t think to tell me? The loan’s in my name, Violet! It’s my credit you’re ruining!”

She choked on her words. “I’m sorry.”

“That’s not good enough!”

“It’s all I have right now!” she shouted back. “Instead of assigning blame, we need to figure out how to fix this mess.”

I wanted to cry, but if I gave into my tears, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to stop. “Is there a way to fix this mess? Or have you killed our business before it even had a chance to get off the ground? You couldn’t be happy with taking it slow. You had to expand immediately. You insisted on not only having a Holiday Open House, but one Fenton and all its neighboring counties would talk about for months to come. It just kept growing bigger and bigger.”

Her temper flared. “You were on board with all of this, every step of the way, so don’t you pretend to play innocent now.”

“That’s because you told me we could afford it!”

“And until Mr. Sullivan disappeared and those crooks took our money, we could! I can’t help it if the man decided to play Jesse James!”

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