Chapter 25

Jo turned in front of the mirror and paced and posed. “Jenny, before the other girls get here, I want you to know I have a friend who would loan me the money for the tax, and then some. It would take you forever to work it off.” She studied herself, drawing the collar around her face, “By the way, how did the interview go?”

Jenny laughed, “Do you know what you are saying?”

Jo whirled to face her. She knelt on the floor by the couch and looked up into her face. The dark eyes and olive skin were flawless except for the bruise on her cheek. “Jenny, I have never been more serious in my life. I’ll give you $15,000 for it. Name your price. I know I can get it. Do you know what I would give to have Gus look at me the same way he stared at you the night you showed the coat.” Her eyes bulged slightly and her neck protruded above the collar, emphasizing the length of it. “With that money you could pay the tax and still get something lovely for yourself. I want that coat,” she whispered fiercely. “I’ll do anything to save my marriage,” She began to cry quietly.

Jenny sat forward and patted her shoulder. “Jo, I’m so sorry. I didn’t take you seriously at first.”

Jo dried her eyes with the backs of her hands. “I wish you knew what I was going through. No, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Gus lusts after other women. I just wish he would love me half as much as I love him. How can you hide the fact that your husband hits you sometimes?”

Jenny drew a deep breath, her suspicions confirmed. Poor Jo. At least with all their arguing, Jim never hit her.

Jo took the coat off and laid it across the rocker. “My father agreed to buy it for me. We have never had divorce in our family. My father doesn’t want that disgrace.”

“If he beats you, is it really worth saving face?”

“It’s just that he has a temper. He just can’t help himself. Afterward he is so good and loving. I guess I nag him. It’s my fault as much as it is his.”

“Jo, I have this awful feeling that the coat is going to change all our lives.” Jenny looked like a frightened child, “It is almost an evil thing hanging in our midst. Pete was right about it. I did get the job, and thank you for that. The club owner was very nice about me choosing my hours so I can still be home to make supper. The diners at the club are usually a little later because of the entertainment.”

The doorbell rang and Jenny rose to answer it. Jo pulled her aside and almost whispered, “Please don’t tell the girls about the offer I made. When you’re ready to sell, I’ll tell them then.” Her last words came out in a harsh whisper. “You’ve got to help me save my marriage.”

Carol and Cass stood in the rain, protected only by the small awning above the front door.

“About time you let us drowned wretches in. Carol headed straight for the kitchen. “What have you been doing all morning? You usually have the coffee perking by this time.”

Carol looked at the coat slung across the rocking chair as she passed, “I wish I had some reason to borrow it, but the Christmas bazaar at the church doesn’t seem like the perfect place.”

Cass shook her head, “Me neither. I can’t come up with a single reason for borrowing the coat, I’m not the type. “Besides, we’ve even changed the way we’re eating in the Robinson household, tightening our belts and the coat would definitely be a distraction. No more junk food, cookies or candy. So a fur coat would really be a stretch.”

“Sounds like too much of a challenge for our cookie monsters.”Carol laughed. “The best thing Jenny could do is sell the coat and put the money on the mortgage. I have so many places to put the money we’d be having a shouting match at our place. It would like getting an unexpected inheritance. So much from the neighborhood lovelorn column. What Jenny is really going to do is work her fingers to the bone, trying to prove she can really keep it. Right, Jen?”

Her brown hair swung impishly.”You girls all have a different solution to my problem. I’m sure you all have your reasons for giving the advice you bestowed upon me”. She avoided Jo’s raised eye brows. Jenny’s smile turned into a frown as she sank into her own thoughts as the coffee hour went on around her.