Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1706752-Housing-Project
by Jeff
Rated: ASR · Short Story · Home/Garden · #1706752
Sr. Mod 10th Birthday Contest - Prompt 9 - Current home
To call Lena Sorensen's current home a disaster area would be a severe understatement. She was living in a house provided by the State of California as an incentive for teaching in lower-income areas. She originally received the house when working at the inner city school with Principal McKenna, but had been allowed to keep it since she continued to make the payments on time and it was less than an hour away from her new school in the suburbs. And there were plenty of other abandoned houses in the neighborhood that the government had access to for other teachers, so it wasn't like she was taking someone's spot. As far as they were concerned, a punctual, paying homeowner was fine by them.

On the first visit to her new house, the front doorknob had fallen off when Lena grabbed it. The entire termite-ridden door proceeded to collapse in on itself, making its replacement jump to the very top of Lena's to-do list; a to-do list that, over the next two hours, would grow exponentially longer.

Lena was surprised the place hadn't been condemned yet. The wood floors were torn up, the cabinets defaced ... there was water damage behind the wallpaper and across the ceiling of nearly every room in the house. She was hard-pressed to find a window that wasn't broken, and it looked as if squatters at some point had used the master bedroom as the site for a campfire of some kind. Other than the front door needing to be replaced, though, it looked like some modest (if not downright bare-bones) security features had been added, mostly consisting of bars over the first-floor windows, and a chain for each door.

When she thought back to the house in which she had grown up, and everything that she had given up to come out to California and become a teacher, Lena wondered if maybe she had made a mistake when she traded in a comfortable life for the one in which she now found herself. But the quality of the house and its maintenance notwithstanding, this was her first house; it was the first place she could legitimately call her own, and she was determined to make the most of it.

Over the summer, Lena worked tirelessly to revitalize the house. Brand new windows and doors with double deadbolts were installed, the floors were patched up as best as could be, and she began moving in her things. It was a surprisingly spacious house, with four bedrooms and two and a half baths; once everything had been repaired or replaced, the house would actually be a pretty decent home for her. There was more than enough square footage for her, enough to expand if and when she met the right guy, and the location wasn't terrible. The neighborhood was lower income, but crime wasn't rampant and amenities like the grocery store, pharmacy, and a few good restaurants were all within close proximity.

Wendell had never been a fan of the house. Having grown up in the suburbs where things were a little newer and a little nicer, he never seemed comfortable when he came over to spend time with her. She supposed that's what struck her as the strangest thing about his decision to enter the Teachers Without Borders program; very few places in the world had the comforts and amenities of a California suburb. Regardless of what he – or anyone else – thought, though, Lena was happy that she had a place of her own. One that she didn't have to share if she didn't want to, and one she was able to secure without any help from her family.

In a way, Lena was kind of happy that her house required a lot of work. She didn't like being bored, and home improvements were a way to take up any free time she had that wasn't dedicated to teaching. This was of particular help when trying to avoid thinking about Wendell and lamenting her decision not to follow him on his educational journey around the world. Instead, she poured herself into her house, redoing the wallpaper, refinishing the floors, and updating all the aging fixtures.

Before the end of the school year, Lena had a finished house. There were still some larger problems that would need to be fixed eventually (new roof in the next couple years, electrical would need updating pretty soon, etc.), the house – as far as quality of living updates – was complete. The rooms were fixed up and furnished; the house was hers both in terms of ownership and taste. There wasn't a single room that didn't have her stylistic touch to it.

The cosmetic improvements on the outside of the house took even less time to complete. With a fresh coat of paint, a trip to Home Depot for some landscaping materials, and a fresh set of street numbers featured on the front porch, the house was complete.

Lena would often return from work and just walk out to the sidewalk in front of the house, admiring her first place.

It wasn't just a house anymore. It was her home.

(858 words)
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