Marcie was unable to come up with any of the November rent on time, but she promised that she would have it all the next week. It had been slow at work, but more people would be getting their hair done, with Thanksgiving coming up. It was an inconvenience, but Kayla had saved up enough money to take care of one month of the entire mortgage ahead of time. As long as Marcie paid it that month, it wouldn’t be a problem. She kept reminding herself that she had a job that paid whether the economy was slow or not. That wasn’t the case with Marcie.
The next week Marcie could only come up with half the rent money. She promised to pay the rest of it the next week.
Kayla was starting to get concerned. If Marcie continued to do this, she would gradually get so far behind that she would be a month late on her rent. She decided to talk to Marcie about it, but it was difficult catching her because she didn’t want to say anything in front of Stephanie. She expected Marcie to be embarrassed, but she was totally unprepared for the response she got.
“You were the one who talked me into this.”
Kayla stared at her. “But you’re paying less for rent now than you were before.”
Marcie looked like she was going to cry. “I can’t help it if I’m making less money. I didn’t have to pay the electric and gas bill at the old apartment. It was in with the rent.”
Kayla tried to stay calm. Maybe Marcie had a point. “Is your monthly expense higher here than at your other apartment?”
Marcie sniffed. “No, but my wages are less, and other expenses are higher. My auto insurance went up.”
Kayla was having trouble following her reasoning. “It would have been even worse if you stayed at the old apartment, wouldn’t it? You were paying more, and your insurance would still have gone up. You’re closer to where you work, so that’s fewer miles and less gasoline.”
“And the sitter is more now that I’m working longer hours. I can’t seem to get ahead.”
It sounded like getting ahead was unachievable for Marcie. She didn’t seem to be able to get current.
Marcie pouted. “What do you want me to do…get a second job? I hardly see Stephanie as it is.”
Kayla couldn’t afford to keep paying Marcie’s rent, and Marcie was in a no-win situation. If she worked more hours, she spent most of it on a sitter. Kayla could do something about that. She could be a sitter for Stephanie while Marcie worked late.
“I could pick Stephanie up at the sitter on my way home from work. I wouldn’t charge you, so you would be able to keep more of your wages.”
Marcie gave her a wry smile and her tone was sarcastic. “That way I could pay you more.”
Kayla didn’t know what to say or think. She certainly hadn’t thought of it that way. She was only trying to help. And yet, Marcie was right. It wasn’t as though she was helping her make more money so she could pay the draconian landlord. What Marcie needed was either a better income or lower rent. Unfortunately, she could provide neither.
“I’m sorry. I was trying to help, but I don’t know what I can do. When I determined what the rent would be on your apartment, I didn’t allow for any profit.”
“You said that you were paying less to buy the place than you were paying to rent it.”
“Yes, but that was for one side of the duplex. I couldn’t afford to rent both.”
Marcie sighed. “I wish I’d known that before I accepted your proposal.” She gave Kayla a level look. “You did talk me into this, you know, and now I’m stuck. If I go anywhere else, I’ll have to have two months’ rent and deposits.”
Kayla didn’t trust her mouth not to say what was on her mind, so she didn’t say anything. Marcie had been willing enough to let her talk the landlord out of a contract; and she had been willing enough to accept the idea of no deposit and lower rent from a friend. Was this the way she had treated Drake? Why didn’t he warn her? His words came to mind with new meaning. “Good riddance.” He had warned her. Her parents had warned her. She had simply refused to listen.
She lifted her chin. “Well, Marcie, I need the rent money on time. I can’t continue paying it for you or I’ll go into default. Then we’ll both lose a home.”
Marcie nodded and grimaced. “Better me than you? When you have hard times is when you discover who your friends really are.”
That much was certainly true. Marcie was no friend.
She had alienated the only person who might be able to give her some advice – Drake. In any case, she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of seeing her fail. Her parents might be able to give her some pointers, though they had never been landlords. They wouldn’t say I told you so, but she was still reluctant to tell them how right they had been. In any case, this wasn’t their problem. She got herself into it and she would have to get herself out – somehow.
As it turned out, Marcie was the one who found a solution to her own problem – a roommate. Kayla wasn’t pleased with her choice of roommates. Daniel was a short frail looking man who looked to be a good twenty years older than Marcie. He obviously wasn’t someone Marcie met at the hair salon. His dark hair was shoulder length and frizzy. He had a beard and mustache that merged flawlessly. In fact, Daniel was more how she had imagined Drake before she met him – especially in the eyes. Daniel’s eyes were almost black and lacked emotion. He said nothing to Kayla when Marcie introduced him.
There were only two bedrooms in Marcie’s apartment, so Kayla assumed that Stephanie would move into the room with her mother. When Daniel moved in with no furniture and only a few belongings, she tried to convince herself that it was none of her business. Marcie had all the December rent money on time.
Both Marcie and Daniel were cool toward Kayla. It looked like she was now the dragon landlord. While that did bother her to a degree, Kayla’s greatest concern was for Stephanie. She had become withdrawn again. Hopefully she hadn’t been forbidden to visit, but even that was small compared to the fact that she had lost her smile again.
When Kayla mentioned that fact to her mother, she had a different perspective.
“I suppose it’s natural that you would assume every landlord/tenant relationship would or should be like yours with Mrs. Langley, but you will learn to separate friendship from business. Children are resilient. Stephanie will be fine. Treat her as you would any other child. You love children and they reciprocate. You can’t change her situation at home. You can only provide a good example for her to follow and a shoulder to lean on, like you do with so many children.”
That was true. Stephanie wouldn’t be the first child to have an irresponsible parent. Whether she liked it or not, her relationship with Marcie had changed when she rented the apartment to her. Marcie’s solution to her problem might not be the best, but it was a solution. Hopefully she would find comfort and support with her new roommate.