From Prams and Poison
Chapter Three Continued
“And there’s quite a permitting process,” she said, “but we’ll want
to work with an architect to make sure we’re preserving the structural
integrity. I know just the woman for the job. She’s a whiz at getting
permits. I think she must know someone at the city, or something.”
I snorted and left them behind to peek into the dining room.
There was a round oak table inside, covered with books.
Must belong to the tenant. I skimmed over the books—a number of
older novels: Jane Eyre, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Hound of the
Baskervilles. And then there was nonfiction: a few productivity-type
books, but also a lot of heavy philosophy. It was mostly from the nine‐
teenth century, but a few volumes were more recent—I groaned when
I saw a thick volume of the work of Derrida and Saussure. I’d spent a
solid week of freshman philosophy class in college muttering, “I
I peeked through the bay window blinds at the slivers of Alamo
Square Park visible through the leafy greenery of the tree planted out
Paula and Glenn came into the room, and Paula gestured to the
bay window. “We’ll want to restore that for sure. Perhaps with some
white trim and a beautiful white window seat beneath?”
We walked together into the kitchen. Now this room was an
Paula whistled. “Who on earth had the audacity to cover up these
beautiful wood floors with linoleum?”
“People did crazy things in the 1960s,” I said, tracing a finger over
the hideous plastic-looking countertop. The cabinets had originally
been white, which was something, but were now faded and discol‐
ored, showing a lifetime’s worth of stains. A handful of the cabinet
doors were flat-out broken, and the outlets were missing their cover‐
ings, showing off the wiring within.
We climbed the stairs to the second floor, which boasted two
bedrooms at the back. Sure enough—the orange shag carpet was as
ridiculous as Glenn had said.
But with every room we looked at, I saw nothing but potential.
What would it be like to have enough money to buy a place like this,
once renovations were over?
Hey, a girl could dream, right?
At the front of the house was a living room that opened up onto a
veranda overlooking the park. I stared out at the view. I could get used
to this view every day.
“The fireplace could use some restoration,” said Paula, jolting my
attention back to the living room.
I hadn’t even noticed the fireplace behind the tenant’s ratty old
couch! What do these houses go for, anyway?
More than we could afford, undoubtedly.
“Two more bedrooms upstairs,” said Glenn.
Four bedrooms! Enough for each of the kids to have their own
room! Or, if the twins wanted to share, Jim and I could have a space
for a dedicated office.
As we climbed the staircase to the third floor, Glenn added, “We’re
budgeting three million dollars for the renovation, so we have some
I gripped the handrail until my knuckles turned white. Three
million dollars just for the renovation?
And I’d winced at writing the check for our garage-turnednursery renovation.
We reached the top floor, and I wandered toward the front of the
house while Paula and Glenn started at the back. In the front room—a
sort of attic that could be converted into a bedroom, I thought—there
was an odd little half-door off to the left.
Was that a closet or an attic space? Then I realized there was a
pull-down attic door in the ceiling. Odd. There couldn’t possibly be
much crawlspace up there—we were really at the very top of the
house. I decided to check it out. Humming one of Laurie’s favorite
lullabies under my breath, I stood on my tiptoes and pulled at the attic
At first, nothing happened. I tugged harder. Satisfaction swelled in
me as the door came loose—and then all of a sudden, something
heavy and fabric-covered fell from the ceiling and landed on me. I
staggered backward, extricating myself from the thing, and it fell to
I stared down at it—a soiled, graying wedding gown and . . . bones?
I let out a shrill scream.
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