Carol didn’t look up from her sewing when Jenny came in the back door. Pattern pieces were strewn about the cork board above the sewing machine, and beige threads and scraps of material clung to her black slacks. She acknowledged Jenny’s presence with a grunt.
“I thought you’d be over. We haven’ t seen much of you since the day the coat came.”
Susie, the youngest Driscoll, waddled up to Jenny, held up a block with ABC’s painted on the sides, then snatched it back with a playful giggle, and put it in her mouth. Blond wispy hair hung around her impish face and her big blue eyes stared at Jenny in expectation. She immediately picked her up and hugged her until she wiggled herself free.
Jenny perched on the nearby stool, “Carol, you’re so together. How do you do it?” Three kids, and a husband in night school. How do you survive? Don’t bother to answer, you’ve told me a million times.” She ticked them off on her fingers. “You’re on a tight budget, you get a little help from your in-laws, you’re a perfect genius, you have patience beyond the call of duty, you take one day at a time, but above all, you know that someday, everything is going to be rosy when Hank gets his law degree and the money comes rolling in.” Jenny ducked as Carol threw her empty pin cushion. “You know that this time will be remembered as ‘those difficult years.’” She held her brow and grimaced.
Carol laughed and put her hair behind her ears, “You are quite the funny lady. Think you really have me figured out? Well, you’re wrong. I was just sitting here crying, feeling very sorry for myself.” She got up and lighted the gas stove with a match and plunked the coffee pot on the burner.
She pulled a man size hanky out of her pocket and loudly blew her nose. Her eyes were red and puffy.
“Is this the neighborhood shrink I see? I can’t believe my eyes. Hey, it can’t be that bad. Tell me about it. It will take my mind off of the coat for a few minutes.”
Carol turned back to the stove. A sob shook her shoulders. “Let’s have a cup.”
Jenny complained. “How dare you have a problem, when I came over to unload on you?”
Carol turned in surprise, a smile spread across her handsome face. They both laughed and hugged. She brought two cups and saucers to the table. “Guess it’s just one of those days. Sorry.”
“How in the world are you going to solve my problem when you apparently have one of your own? Please, let me be the listener instead of the one always asking for advice.”
Carol poured the coffee and passed a plate of homemade cookies. “What’s your dilemma?” she asked, changing the subject.
“It’s the coat, of course. I wish Ted had never sent it to me. I need a job and can do absolutely nothing. Who would hire me?” Jim won’t let me touch one cent of our dismal savings. All he has on his mind these days is the foundry. He says we will need everything we have to survive. Oh, look, I’m not supposed to say anything but the foundry is going under. Please don’t tell anyone. Jim would be furious with me, more than he is already.” She sipped her coffee, knowing it was going to scald her tongue.
Carol arched her brows. “I wish you had never told me that. I think Hank’s law firm is trying to buy the foundry for a client. Oh, Jen, why did you have to tell me? I don’t know how I am going to keep from telling Hank. It would mean a lot for him to come up with that kind of information. He’s still doing grunt work at the firm, but this would be a big plus for him.”
“Surely someone else is aware of the situation. Oh, what have I done?” Jenny wiped the corner of her eye where a tear had escaped. “Oh, how can I keep the coat? I’m out of ideas.”
“Did you ever talk to anyone about selling it?” Carol put a rabbit shaped cookie into Susie’s outstretched hand. She was relieved to be done talking about the foundry.
Jenny nodded, “I took it to the furrier down town. He had the gall to offer five thousand for it. He would get the coat and I’d still have five thousand to pay, and no coat. It’s like a bad dream.” Jenny stifled a sob and looked earnestly at her friend. “Oh, Carol, here I am again. Going on about my own problems and I haven’t given you a chance to tell me yours.
With attention focused on her again, Carol’s chin began to quiver. She turned toward the window. The gloomy day had finally turned into a torrent of rain. She felt as though she was being pelted with the stinging drops.