“You did what?” Kira's look of stunned amazement at the news she had just been given made Keeley smile. It had been awhile since she'd found anything amusing, and it felt good.
“I bought a house. A beautiful, Victorian house,” Keeley repeated, the smile on her face becoming more animated. “And it will be even more spectacular once it’s fixed up.”
Kira was speechless for perhaps the only time in her life to date. It took a minute or two before she was able to get past her shock enough to fashion words into a question. “You didn’t get the job, but you bought a place there anyway?”
“Yes. You have to see this house. It’s absolutely gorgeous. It has a wrap around veranda, beautiful original hardwood floors, elegant crown molding, and two fireplaces, one in the master bedroom. It even has a turret. Isn't that awesome?”
“Keeley, I’m usually the impulsive one. You’re the logical, rational, careful person who thinks everything through at least two or three times before proceeding. This isn’t like you at all.”
“I know, right? Oh God, Kira. Do you think I made a huge mistake?”
Well, duh, Kira wanted to say, but instead, she hugged her friend, and said she didn’t know what to think. The doubt in her voice gave away her feelings.
“I could get out of it,” Keeley said despondently. “I made the offer subject to a building inspection, and I could probably find something in the inspection that would allow me to back out of the deal. The house was built in 1899, so there’s sure to be some issues with it. But I don’t want to get out of it! I love that house. I want that house. Remember that lovely Victorian I wanted to buy, before Mark talked me into the townhouse instead? This is even more beautiful than that one.”
“Then you probably should go through with the purchase,” Kira said, but she couldn’t help feeling apprehensive. Keeley had been through so much these past few months, and she was entitled to some irrational behaviour. However, to buy a house, one that furthermore needed a lot of work, in a town where she knew no one, and didn’t even have a job, well that was totally out of character for the friend she had known since high school. She really hoped Keeley wouldn’t regret this move. One more thing to lay at Mark’s door, she thought bitterly.
Keeley could tell that Kira was worried, and truthfully, she felt a little worried herself. Okay, make that more than a little worried, but life was all about taking chances, wasn’t it? True, it had been an impulsive decision, and she normally wasn’t an impulsive person. She didn’t even buy a new outfit without weighing the pros and cons, and yet she had made an offer on a house after looking at it just once. Still, she’d spent her whole life doing the safe thing, what other people thought was best for her, and just look where that had gotten her. She took a deep breath for courage, and poured out the rest of her plan. “I’m going to open a yoga studio. There’s a room in the house that would be perfect for it, so I will be able to work for myself instead of being someone else’s employee.”
“I think you need to be a certified yoga teacher to open a studio,” Kira said, quite calmly, considering what she thought of the plan.
“I’m going to get the training, and in the meantime, I’ll hire someone who is certified. I’ve had a lot of time to think about things since Mom died, and Mark and I broke up. I really need to make some changes in my life. The old way isn’t working anymore. Actually, I guess it never really worked. I just didn’t realize it until everything fell completely apart.”
“Mark really did a number on you, that bas…” Kira began but Keeley held up a hand to cut her off.
“Aren’t you the one who’s always saying not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die?” She smiled sadly. “It wasn’t totally his fault, you know. Looking back, I can see that the situation wasn’t that easy for him, either. I spent a lot of time taking care of Mom, and I was just too wrapped up in other things to give as much as I should have to our marriage.”
“I know I say that, and it is true, but it’s a lot harder to practice when you’re really furious with someone. He should have been more supportive of you, helped you instead of making things harder for you. It wasn’t your fault your mom was sick and needed you.”
“He kept asking why it always had to be me to go, and questioning why Erin and Aiden couldn’t pick up some of the slack.”
“Well, I have to agree with him there. Those two barely lifted a finger to help. But that still doesn’t excuse him having an affair with your work colleague, and getting her pregnant.”
“No, it doesn’t. The way he ended it, and especially the timing, so soon after Mom died, really sucked. It was hurtful, and humiliating, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that we really didn’t have the kind of marriage that I always dreamed of having. I was shocked and angry at his betrayal, but I’ve come to realize that it was mostly my ego, and not my heart that was damaged. I haven’t been able to figure out if I even truly loved him when we got married, or if I just convinced myself I did because I wanted to get away from home, you know? Maybe subconsciously I was worried no one else would ever ask me to marry them, so I latched on to the sure thing, and convinced myself he was my one true love.”
Kira nodded sympathetically. "After your dad died, you basically took over all the responsibility for the entire family. You went from being a teenager, practically a child actually, to more or less parenting the rest of the family, including your mother."
"Yeah. Poor Mom, she really fell apart. She never did get over his accident. She couldn't even get out of bed for months. Erin was twelve, and Aiden barely nine. They needed somebody, and I was the only one left."
"That was too much responsibility to put on a fourteen year old. I know it was hard on your mom, but she left you to pick up the pieces. You had to go from child to adult overnight. It wasn't fair. You never got to do anything for fun, and your social life was practically non-existent. If you did marry Mark so that you could finally have a life, you deserved it."
"I probably wouldn't have had much of a social life anyway," Keeley laughed. "The boys weren't exactly lining up to ask me out. Mark was the first serious boyfriend I had. I don't know what the rush to get married was about, though. If I had known Erin would leave home when she did, I would have waited for Aiden's sake. Or maybe not. It was a tough time for all of us, but especially Aiden I think."
"You gave up your dream to become an interior designer in order to look after Erin and Aiden. You don't need to feel guilty about anything. You did more than either of them would have done." Kira knew Keeley had always felt guilty, as if she had deserted her brother in his time of need. This was a ridiculous notion in Kira’s opinion, but Keeley was an inveterate people pleaser who took what she considered to be her responsibilities very seriously. Which made her latest action all the more difficult to understand since it was so completely out of character.
"Well, I couldn't have done it without your help, that's for sure" Keeley went on. "You spent a lot of your time in those years helping me, instead of doing the usual teenage stuff."
Kira scoffed. "I was an outcast. I wouldn't have had any friends if you hadn't taken me under your wing. And I liked being at your house a lot more than where I lived."
Keeley smiled understandingly, and then laughed. "I think you were the first experience any of us had ever had with goth. Nobody was quite sure what to think when you showed up at school that first day. You definitely broadened our horizons." Keeley had always been on the side of the underdog, and she had seen behind the belligerent attitude to the scared and lonely young girl, so she had made a point of befriending the newcomer. Kira had ended up becoming her best friend and confidant, and truly had been of enormous help to Keeley over the years.
Neither of them particularly wanted to remember those early times, so by tacit agreement they changed the subject.