One Day Fiance by Lauren Landish

Looking around the neighborhood, I feel that I got pretty lucky. I live in a townhome complex that’s quiet and cute, with little two- and three-bedroom places lining the street. Each place has a neatly manicured lawn in front, with plenty of parking and cute mailboxes that let you express your personality. It’s not a cul-de-sac, but there’s only one other street at the end of the block, and those are cul-de-sacs. The exit to the neighborhood’s the other way, and most days, you can go for a walk, jog, or bike ride in the middle of the street with no problem.

I didn’t realize it when I moved in, but it’s mostly a female residential area. There are few younger women like me who’ve bought their first place on their own, boss babe style, and quite a few divorced women who downsized after their split. I can understand that because there’s no maintenance, it’s safe, and it’s close to a nearby park for custody changes.

Or so Renee from four houses down tells me. She gets her kids two weeks a month, and they’re pretty good kids. Her son, Kyle, even offered to walk Nut and Juice last summer, and he did a good job, all things considered. Like Nut’s tendency to pull on the leash and Juice’s preference to lie down and not go anywhere, but they absolutely demand to stay together and not be walked separately.

There are also a few older women like my neighbor, Helen, who interrupts my daydream where J.A. Fox raves about my work at the workshop luncheon, telling me I remind her of herself when she started out.

“Watch where the hell you’re going with that thing, you blasted dingbat!”

At first, I think she’s talking to my dogs, but when I look, I see Nut doing a number two and Juice peeing on the round rock that I buried my spare house key under, so all’s normal there.

I turn to see who she’s yelling at and find my next-door neighbor, a single woman in her sixties, pointing at a truck. It appears as if she’s moving out, with moving men moving in and out of the house hastily. Helen’s a cranky old woman with the voice of a leather-lunged truck driver, but she’s always been nice to me and loves to gossip about the drama inside our complex. With a few tweaks, I’ve used her on several occasions as inspiration for some of the colorful women in my stories.

“Helen!” I gasp in surprise. “What’s happening, you’re moving? You never said anything.”

“Too fast to even scoot next door to share the news,” she says as she comes over, grinning. “You know how I went to visit my new grandbaby last month?”

I nod, remembering the hundreds of photos I flipped through with Helen of her new granddaughter, who is admittedly adorable, but newborn pictures all pretty much look the same. Squishy and puffy-eyed, sleeping, or screaming balls of limbs curled around a round, tiny belly. Cute, but . . . not, at the same time. At least, not when they’re unrelated to you. “Yeah.”

“Well, my daughter called last week. Told me there was a little house in her neighborhood for sale. It’s perfect for me—a little one-bedroom bungalow, walking distance to my baby . . . my daughter too. Big enough that I’m not banging off the walls, but not so big that I’ll tucker myself out cleaning it on a regular basis. So I snatched it up. Closed in one week and sold this place to an investment group. So, boom,” she says with a snap of her fingers, “I’m blowing this popsicle stand.”

Her comment hits me harder than I thought. I’ve always enjoyed talking with Helen and have always treasured her advice. But at the same time, I get it. She wants to be with her first grandchild, which she always wanted. So instead of saying anything bad, I just reach out and give her a hug.

“I’m happy for you, Helen. I’m gonna miss you, though. Do you know who’s moving in?” I ask, looking over. Her townhome’s one of the bigger units in the neighborhood, three bedrooms with plenty of space. It could attract a fast-moving single person, a work-from-homer like myself . . . or a family with kids.

I’m personally hoping the former. Or at the very least, no rowdy kids or partying young adults. I’m behind schedule already.

Even worse, the looks the husbands give me when they realize that the book they sneak-read and totally deny came from my mind. I even had one guy tell me he’d read his ex-girlfriend’s copy and that I obviously knew how to give killer blowjobs, so how about I practice with him?

Nope, don’t need either scenario. I want a nice, quiet neighbor who’ll make it easy to focus when it’s my writing time.