"Wow, look at this place. It's beautiful!" Clara, the seventy-something owner of the Victorian-era home, walked into the dining room. Her eyes moved from floor to ceiling, taking in the draped pink and blue tulle and fairy lights. She turned a slow circle as she looked around. "Truly beautiful." She smiled at Ivy. "Now's a good time for me to talk if you have a moment."
Tegan mouthed, "Good luck."
"Sure." Ivy waved to Lily and Tegan and followed Clara into the kitchen. The second floor of the spacious old house had been converted into an apartment with two bedrooms, a full bath, and a kitchenette. Clara lived in part of the main floor. The tenants had full use of the big kitchen except when the beautiful dining room was rented out for special events like today's baby shower. Ivy's heart raced a few beats. Would Clara let Tegan and her move into the upstairs apartment? If Clara decided to post the vacancy, she'd definitely get other applicants who actually had things like credit and a job history that consisted of more than dairy farming and cleaning houses. Tegan had the credit and the job history, but she didn't have the money for the down payment without her parents' help. And Clara likely thought, as many Englisch did, that since Amish young people didn't have a credit score, credit card, or job history outside the Amish community, that renting to someone Amish was a risk.
Clara sat in a chair at the small round table in the kitchen's sunny breakfast nook and gestured for Ivy to join her. She folded her crinkly hands in front of her on the table. "I've been thinking about your offer. I do want you and Tegan to live here. I really do. You both would be wonderful tenants, and God is my witness that I'm ready for nice girls to share my home with me. But I have concerns."
Ivy nodded and leaned forward, trying to calm the butterflies in her stomach.
Clara gave a half smile. "With her good credit Tegan has met the prequalifications I require, and her parents paid her first and last months' rent. Of course you don't have all those things, and I'm okay with that. I understand. But Tegan's parents have said it's a sink-or-swim time for their daughter, and we both know she can't afford the apartment without you. What I need you to know is that I cannot live on half of what that apartment is worth. I need the money from paying tenants to cover my living expenses. Without that money it'll be a struggle to afford heat come winter."
She wouldn't let Clara down. "Yes, that makes sense. I promise that paying the rent won't be an issue. Our party business is small right now, in part because of all I can't do to help Tegan grow it while I'm living Amish. But once we're here, we'll be able to throw all our energy into expanding the business, and, if need be, I can supplement my income with my old, faithful job of cleaning houses."
"I'm glad to hear you say that. I thought you felt strongly about living here. I would be thrilled if you and Tegan moved into the upstairs apartment after the current tenants move out in October."
They are moving out in four months? Ivy struggled to take a breath. The last she'd heard, the tenants were staying through the first of the year.
Still, Clara was willing to accept Ivy as a tenant. A grin tugged at the corners of her mouth. "Really?"
"Of course, dear. You're such a bright spot in the day, and you always make people smile. I'd love to have you as part of this home."
Ivy's heart warmed. "That's great to hear. I brought my portion of the down payment."
Tegan was going to be so excited. She couldn't wait to get out of her not-so-safe neighborhood. They could live in this beautiful home and work on their business. And Ivy would be available to pop in and check on Clara if she needed her. She enjoyed the sweet woman's company.
Ivy looked at the delicate lace curtains adorning the window by the table. Mamm's windows at home would never be decorated like this. Mamm. She was going to be crushed. But their relationship could mend in time, couldn't it? For years they had worked side by side, whether cleaning homes or milking cows, talking long into the night, laughing until their sides hurt.
The nagging questions returned: Is it right to move into an Englisch home, even one as beautiful as this? Does my desire to do so make me ungrateful for the family and life I was given?
Ivy pushed the thoughts aside. She reached into her dress pocket and pulled out the envelope. She'd managed to put back a few dollars from every house-cleaning job for the last two years. Inside the envelope was one thousand dollars in cash. It was hard to let go of so much money when Mamm and she were barely making ends meet, but she had to be brave. Her dreams were worth it, right?