A poor woman lives next door to a rich woman she despises for her lifestyle until a tragedy forces them to live together in the same house.
Gina Romanski hated her neighbor. The woman was stuck-up and nosy and RICH and she got on Gina's nerves. Even the way she did her hair, all blond and bouncy and young when she was at least sixty irritated her.
If Gina could have afforded it, she'd move, but she couldn't. She had inherited the house from her uncle, and she would never find anything half as nice. So she was stuck with Hazel Gorman as a neighbor, for life!
The row of houses Gina lived in backed onto the woods. | Source: Unsplash
It all started on the day Gina moved in. The doorbell rang and there Hazel stood on her porch bouncing that stupid hair, with a big smile on her face and a pie in her hands.
"Hello!" she cried when Gina opened the door. "I'm Hazel, and I live next door and I wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood!"
"Thank you," Gina said in her abrupt way. She took the pie and was turning to go back inside, but Hazel was in a talkative mood.
"This is a sweet little fixer-upper," she said. "I'm sure it will be a beauty when you finish restoring it."
Sometimes a disaster can open the door to a new life.
Gina looked at her blankly. "Restoring it?" she asked. "What for? If it ain't broken don't fix it, my dad always said."
"Oh!" Hazel cast a quick look at the peeling paint. "Of course! How silly of me..." She edged back off the porch, said goodbye, and vanished back into her perfect house with the immaculate garden.
"I'm Hazel, and I live next door." | Source: Unsplash
Gina saw Hazel again two months later at the local grocery store. "Hi!" Hazel said. "So how are you settling in?"
Gina sighed. "Fine thank you," she said coldly.
"I've been meaning to ask you..." Hazel said. "You have a tree in your backyard that's growing over into mine. It's a black locust, you know, and I have grandchildren."
"So what?" asked Gina who had grown up in Queens.
"Well, the black locust leaves are poisonous," Hazel explained.
"Your grandkids are in the habit of eating leaves off trees?" Gina asked, sarcasm edging her tone.
Hazel thought Gina should paint her house. | Source: Pexels
"No!" Hazel blushed. "But with kids, rather safe than sorry! I can recommend a tree surgeon to come and cut it for you."
"And how much would it cost?" Gina asked.
"Around $200, I should think," Hazel said.
"In that case, think again!" Gina snapped. "I can't afford a $25 haircut let alone $200 for some idiot to come cut some branches!" She turned around and stomped off.
That afternoon, Gina went outside and took a look at the tree. It was a handsome tree with lovely clusters of flowers and leaves that seemed to shimmer in the breeze.
At the back of the property, just yards away, the woods began. Gina had grown up in New York her whole life and was more at ease with pavements and taxi cabs than nature, but this was so peaceful!
Hazel asked Gina to cut back her black locust tree. | Source: Pexels
She fell in love with the wildness of it all, and accordingly, allowed her garden to run wild too. And this brought another visit from Hazel.
"Hi," Hazel said awkwardly.
By now she knew what to expect from Gina. "The neighborhood committee asked me to pop in and have a word with you about your garden?"
"What about my garden?" asked Gina.
"Well, the lawn is not mowed," Hazel said timidly. "The bushes and the hedges need trimming and it gives the whole neighborhood a...a...disheveled look."
"A what?" asked Gina.
The neighbors wanted Gina to mow her lawn. | Source: Pexels
Hazel hesitated. "It makes it look untidy," she explained.
Gina took a deep breath. "If you think I'm going to worry about what you and some namby-pamby committee think, you've got another thing coming!" she shouted. "Go away and go trim your hedges or count your diamonds or something useful!"
Hazel went and she never came back. Gina was enjoying her life. She'd discovered that there were three crab apple trees in her backyard, and she became an avid jam maker.
She was up a ladder picking crab apples one afternoon when she smelled smoke. Far off in the distance, she saw smoke rising into the air. "Is that a fire?" she asked herself.
Gina went inside and called the fire department. "Ma'am," the woman at the fire department said. "We do have a situation south of you, but it is under control."
Gina was picking apples when she smelled the smoke. | Source: Unsplash
Gina went back to the crab apples, but the smoke seemed denser and closer. She heard movement in the woods and saw some small creatures scurrying along.
The smoke got thicker and thicker and now Gina could actually hear the snapping and popping of the fire as it consumed living trees. She ran back inside and called the fire department again.
This time the woman told her to get out. The firemen were in the area, but it was safest to leave her house, leave the neighborhood, and head North.
Gina packed a small bag with her valuables and her photo albums and ran to her car. Then she saw her neighbor sitting on her porch. "Hey!" Gina cried. "Hey, you, Hazel! You have to get out!"
Hazel came out. "What's going on?" she asked.
"The woods at the back of our houses are burning," Gina told her. "We have to go!"
The woods behind Gina's house were on fire. | Source: Pexels
"Burning?" asked Hazel, turning pale. "Oh no..."
That was when the firemen arrived, sirens blaring, and at the same time, a huge tree crashed onto Gina's property. It was on fire, and the flames spread with unbelievable speed and were soon licking up the side of Gina's house.
The firemen leaped into action, directing jets of water at the flames, but then another burning tree fell and crashed right through Gina's roof.
Gina cried out and pressed her hands to her mouth. Everything she had was gone! The firemen continued trying to douse the flames, but Gina said: "Save the other house! Mine is gone."
"NO!" Hazel cried. "That's all she has! You can't let it burn!"
"It's OK," Gina said. "I never had nothing before. I'm used to it." She started crying and Hazel put an arm around her shoulders. For the next three hours, the fire department fought the flames, and eventually, they won.
The firemen tried to save Gina's house. | Source: Unsplash
The only house that was lost was Gina's. "Ma'am," the captain said. "We will take you into town. There will be accommodation for you..."
"No," Hazel said firmly. "Gina will stay with me. She saved my house, and maybe even my life. None of us would have noticed the fire was so close until it was too late."
That night, Gina slept in Hazel's guest bedroom. "What are you going to do now?" Hazel asked her the next day.
Gina shrugged. "I'll have to go live with my son," she said. "It's not going to be easy. My daughter-in-law and I don't get along."
"Could you rebuild?" asked Hazel. "The insurance..."
Gina shook her head and started crying. "I couldn't afford the insurance, so I don't have any."
Gina was left with nothing. | Source: Pexels
"You could stay with me," Hazel said. "It's a huge house, we don't even have to see each other..."
"I couldn't!" Gina said. "I just couldn't."
"Of course, you could!" Hazel said. "And since you can't afford to rebuild, you can transform your plot into an orchard, plant some fruit trees. Peach and cherry. and apples..."
"I could!" Gina's face lit up. "I'd love that. But...are you sure?"
Hazel sighed. "My daughter doesn't visit. I only see my grandchildren at Christmas. I'm alone, and you're alone," she explained. "But maybe together we could almost be a family."
"I don't know if I like you that much!" Gina warned.
Hazel invited Gina to stay with her. | Source: Unsplash
Hazel grinned. "Then we'll be EXACTLY like a family!"
The two women became best friends, and Gina often remembered how she'd misjudged Hazel when they had first met.
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