HOA

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*Author’s note: I recently met a female veterinarian I took to be around 40 who was not just polite but actually ‘sweet’ in the best possible way. I also found her very attractive, so the vet in this story ‘looks’ just like the one I met—short, petite, great smile, and as friendly as could be.

I also have a good friend who’s a single mom who lives in a development governed by an HOA. Two years ago she was forced to resod her front yard then a year later was told she couldn’t have a basketball backboard attached to her house even though it was for her son’s use.

This story folds both events into the lead female character. I hope you enjoy it.

*****

As she pulled into the driveway after a trip to the grocery store following another long, exhausting day at work, Valerie Eimann realized she hadn’t heard a word her 9-year old son, Jayden, had said during the ride home. Her entire focus was on her financial situation, and she was finally at the point where she would be debt-free again after this upcoming payday. Except, of course, for the mortgage on her home and her car payment, but she didn’t consider that debt the way she did things like credit cards or a signature loan from the bank.

Valerie was a veterinarian with a practice in the town of Green Cove Springs, Florida, which was located about 35 miles south of Jacksonville. She was a solo practitioner who had been slowly building her business since moving there from Jacksonville five years earlier to avoid having to send Jayden to school in the Duval County district where the big city was located. She’d heard too many stories about schools being ‘war zones’, and there was no way she was sending her son to war.

She’d slowly tunneled her way out of the pile of bills that had accumulated beginning with a trip to the ER after Jayden fractured his elbow when he ran over something and fell off his bike when he was six years old. He hit his left arm hard on the pavement and the elbow took the brunt of the fall, sustaining fractures to the humorous and the ulna.

If that wasn’t bad enough, she’d been involved in a fender bender six weeks later that cost a $1,000 to get repaired even with collision coverage. She’d chosen a higher deductible to save money, and until this one claim wiped out the last five years of savings, she’d thought it was a great idea.

But the worst of the worst came two years ago when her Homeowners Association began sending letters informing her the grass in her yard had a ‘ratio of grass-to-weeds’ it considered unacceptable. She ignored them until a letter came via registered mail in which she learned she was been fined for ‘failure to maintain HOA standards’.

The letter cited some obscure paragraph in the HOA’s Covenants and Restrictions document, something she’d never even seen let alone read. It further informed her she would be fined each month until she corrected the situation, and adding insult to injury, the fines would be used in the form of a lien against her property. That meant she couldn’t even sell her home until the fines, with interest, were paid in full.

Panicked, she’d contacted a local landscaping company to come out and dig up her yard, which really was in bad shape, remove the tilled-up mess, then resod it. Since only the front yard was visible, the HOA had ‘graciously’ let her get by with only resodding that portion of her lawn. Even so, it had cost her just over $3,200 to have them do all of the work.

Had she had the time to do it herself, she could have bought a rear-drive rototiller and turned the yard over for about $500. She’d have also had to rent a dumpster to haul away the tilled-up soil, but that would have only run about $150. The sod itself was $200 a pallet so for another $800, she’d have been done with it. And $1,450 was still a lot of money, it was a whole lot better than $3,200.

But being a single mother with a full-time job, doing it herself wasn’t an option. The yard work would have been hard, but at 43, she was still in very good shape thanks to a lifetime of running and bicycling. As of late, however, those were things she’d been unable to do very often because she was working all the extra hours she could in order to get out of debt. Once she made a final payment on her credit card in another week, she would finally be free and clear and able to go back to ‘only’ working 40 hours a week.

Financially, her practice was doing reasonably well, but never well enough to put much money away, so she was working late and making house calls on the weekend to make enough extra income to pay off these unexpected expenses.

“Jayden? Will you please get the mail for us?” she said as she stopped the car in the driveway while the garage door went up.

“You weren’t even listening, were you, Mom?” her son said as he hopped out and walked back to the mailbox.

Valerie hadn’t been listening, and it hurt her to have her son point it out, but at nine, he was way too young to understand the kind of pressure money could place on a family, especially casino şirketleri after having been abandoned by his father who, three years ago, suddenly decided he ‘needed his freedom’. He’d been a big-time beer drinker for as long as she could remember, and a part of her was relieved when he left.

He paid child support, but it came on a very hit-or-miss basis. Valerie’s only choice was to deal with it or go to the police and have her son’s father put in jail. That, in turn, would only cause him to blame his mother, because she knew her ‘ex’ would badmouth her to no end in his smooth-talking, convincing way.

In spite of all of that, Valerie really loved her subdivision, and she especially loved the location of her home. She had the very last lot in the development, and her property was bordered by trees to the north and the west, and there were woods and a manmade lake in front of the house. She had neighbors on her east side, but they were a quiet, older couple she rarely saw and never heard. There was also a river less than 50 yards from her house through the woods to her north, and that meant no one would ever be able to build on that side of her.

One of her biggest joys was putting corn outside the master bedroom window each morning which attracted deer, geese, turkeys, ducks, and squirrels. She loved sitting in her recliner and watching them as she sipped a cup of coffee before getting ready to go to work.

During those times, the world around her was silent except for the quiet pecking sounds until the geese arrive. Even then, things were fine until another group arrived, and that’s when the noise began in earnest. ‘Clan’ members postured and hissed at the other to establish dominance to see who’d eat first. It unfailingly made her laugh when they would stop hissing and lower their long necks and charge a goose from another group. And then a third group would come in and let the first group have it as the second group stood around watching while the deer and turkeys pecked away, oblivious to the battle. All the while, a dozen or so squirrels stuffed their cheeks then ran up a tree to do whatever squirrels did.

Life was easy and simple at those moments, and she wished with all her heart they could last forever. But the old-fashioned ticking clock hanging on the wall in front of her reminded her each and every day that time really did stand still for no one. So once her coffee cup was empty, Valerie would get up, shower, and get ready for work before getting her son up for school.

They would eat breakfast together, hurry out of the house and head to school where she would drop him off then head to work, and grind out another day in order to pay the bills so she could continue living there and do it all over again the following day.

As Jayden got the mail, his mom pulled into the garage and shut off the engine. She grabbed her purse then got out only to have Jayden hand her a huge stack of…stuff…90% of which was junk she would toss as soon as she got to the kitchen trash can.

However, it was the 10% that scared her, and when she saw a letter from the HOA, her heart sank.

“What now?” she wondered as she threw all of the ‘circulars’ and ‘shoppers’ and…stuff…into the garbage.

She slid a nail under the back flap then held her breath.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” she said out loud.

“What’s wrong, Mom?” Jayden asked, already over her having not listened to him on the ride home.

He had his basketball in hand, and Valerie thought she might start crying when she read the letter.

“Honey? I am so sorry, but we have to take down the basketball hoop your father put up for you.”

“Why?” he said, instantly on the verge of crying.

That started shortly after his father moved out after making all kinds of promises about how he’d be there for his son, and that they’d do stuff together all the time. Because he’d never done that even when he lived at home, Valerie knew it was all empty promises, but she refused to tell the truth about her husband while he routinely lied about her.

This backboard and hoop was the one luxury she’d spent money on as she tried playing catch up, and although it took her ex nearly a month to find the time in his ‘busy schedule’, he did eventually come over and put it up. He was a painter who rarely found work, so the idea he was too busy was laughable on its face.

And now she was being told she couldn’t even have it because it was attached to her home. It didn’t matter that it was over the driveway or that it blended in well with the house. It was evidently another rule she didn’t know about, and if she didn’t remove it within ten days, she would be fined for that, too.

“This ALWAYS happens to me!” Jayden said bitterly.

“I’m sorry, honey. I don’t make the…”

When she saw he was crying again, it broke her heart. She didn’t believe in babying her son, but she realized he was still a boy; a young boy whose father had bailed on him. He was too young to understood casino firmaları money concerns, and they were a lot easier than family dynamics like this.

“We don’t have to take it down right now. So…let me get changed, then I’ll go out and play HORSE with you, okay?”

“Really?” he said, as the tears suddenly stopped, and a smile appeared.

Valerie loved aerobic activity, but she’d never cared much for team sports. She stunk at all of them, and basketball was one of the sports she stunk at the most. But because she was now both mother and father to her son, she quite often did things she didn’t enjoy. Like playing the basketball game called HORSE when a player had to precisely mimic the other person’s shot if he or she made it.

Jayden had never played on a team, but from what little Valerie knew about the game, he seemed to be able to dribble the ball pretty well, and he was also a decent shot. Fortunately for her, when they played HORSE, he would take goofy, unmakeable shots she rarely had to take because he almost never made one.

But none of that was important. What was, was doing things with her son, so she dutifully shot baskets, played catch, fished in the river, and spent time on the couch playing some video game she was no more interested in than basketball. And as much as she hated the games themselves, there was nothing she would rather do than spend time with her son, so she made the best of it and tried to have fun.

An hour and a whole lot of laughing later, they came back inside to wash up before dinner. The trash was nearly full, and Jayden was in the bathroom so Valerie grabbed the trash bag and took it out back to toss it in the large plastic trash can on the patio.

To her surprise, her neighbor, Herb Swanson, was doing the same thing.

He waved to her and she said, “Hi, Herb! How you been?”

“Oh, pretty good,” the 89-year old man called back in his weak voice.

He shuffled her way a few feet then said, “I got one them letters today.”

“What letters?” Valerie asked as she walked over to his yard before stopping just short of his property line.

“You know. Like you got. About the grass.”

“Oh, my. Herb, I’m so sorry. It doesn’t look that bad to me,” she told him.

“Well, they got their rules, you know. So I guess me and Martha’s gonna have to have it resodded. Do you mind me askin’ who did your yard?”

“No. Of course not. I’ll go get the name and phone number for you and I’ll be right back, okay? Or you’re welcome to come in if you’d like.”

“Well, I suppose I could follow you inside. I haven’t seen that young man of yours in quite some time.”

“He’s growing like a weed,” Valerie told him as she waited.

Herb was bent over and could barely walk, but he was doing better than his wife who was unable to leave the house. She’d fallen and broken her hip a year ago, and she was still essentially bedridden.

As they went inside, Valerie said, “It won’t make you feel any better, but I got another one of those letters today myself.”

“Oh? I didn’t know that. Is your grass lookin’ bad again?” Herb asked.

“I’d say ‘no’, but that seems to be up to them to decide. But this notice was on the basketball hoop we had put up.”

“Oh. So that’s a problem, too, huh?”

“Evidently. I have ten days to take it down or they’ll start fining me—again.”

“Huh. That’s a real shame,” he replied.

“Hold on, Herb. I’ll get you that information. Can I get you anything to drink?”

“Oh, no. I’m fine,” he said cheerfully just as Jayden came out.

“Hello there, young man,” Herb said with a smile that was mostly yellow and barely visible.

“Hi, sir,” Jayden said as his mom quickly explained why they had company.

“Say, do you know anything about that internet?” Herb asked him.

“Sure. I know a lot about it. Why do you ask?”

“Well, my grandson, well, my oldest—he’s um…32 now…he told me they have a…a newsletter or some such thing on the line on that there internet.”

“What kind of newsletter?” Valerie asked as she handed him a piece of paper on which the information was written in large, black letters.

He thanked her then said, “Well, I hear tell it’s from the HOA. People in the neighborhood do posters on it.”

“Do you mean ‘posts’?” Jayden asked without sounding disrespectful.

“Oh. Well, I suppose that’s the right word. Folks can write whatever they want and either let people know they’re sellin’ somethin’ or upset about what the HOA is doin’ or even put up a picture of a lost dog. You know, in case folks see it around the development.”

Jayden was young, but he was old enough to understand that people Herb’s age didn’t always understand technology so he didn’t smirk when the elderly man got something wrong or used an awkward phrase.

“Hold on. I can find it right now,” Jayden said. “If there is one, it’ll be easy to find.”

He walked over to their desktop, brought up Google, then typed in, “Whispering Oaks HOA” and güvenilir casino hit ‘enter’.

“Here it is,” Jayden announced seconds later.

Herb knew he wouldn’t be able to see it without his glasses so he didn’t walk over. But he did say something to Valerie.

“You might be able to find out if there’s any way to keep ’em from making you take down that basket. Or if you see anything about lawns, maybe you could let me know?”

“Yes. Of course we will, Herb,” she told him.

“Well, I should get back over to the house. I don’t like leavin’ Delores by herself too long, you know.”

“Yes. Of course. And please tell her ‘hello’ for both of us, will you?” Valerie told him.

“Right-o!” he said with a feeble sort of wave as he turned around and shuffled back across the lawn to his house.

“Keep that site up, would you, honey?” she asked her son.

“Yeah. Sure. And I’ll bookmark for you just in case.”

After dinner, Valerie sat down and started scrolling through it. Herb had explained it reasonably well. There was a ‘For Sale’ section, a kind of classified ads area where people asked or offered help and/or looked for jobs, and then she saw what she was looking for. It was a section devoted to the HOA.

When she clicked on it, she could tell she wasn’t the only member who was angry. In fact, there were scores of posts where people were venting about decisions made by the Homeowners Association similar to the ones she’d been on the receiving end of.

The first one she read seemed pretty benign, but the next one she looked at caused her jaw to drop and her eyes to open wide from the kind of language this person used to express their feelings about the HOA.

“Oh, my,” Valerie said out loud as she read the original post along with the 30 or so replies from other neighbors.

Sadly, she didn’t know a single one of them even after having lived there for over five years. But she sympathized with this person immediately even though he, like Valerie, was in violation of the rules. The fact that they didn’t know about them didn’t excuse them, and that’s why Valerie had her yard redone without complaint.

Still, the way these rules were enforced seemed pretty arbitrary, and after spending over an hour reading various posts, that seemed to be the case across the board. Some residents were fined. Others only got warnings for the same thing while others got taken to court. Just the thought of that happening to her cause Valerie’s blood to run cold.

“That’s all I need is a legal battle and a bunch of new bills on top of everything else.”

After Jayden went to bed, Valerie came back to the site and reread several posts then decided to create one of her own. In order to do so, she first had to sign up and become a member, and that meant providing some personal information. Doing so made her laugh thinking about what someone called ‘the HOA Nazis’ watching her every move through hidden malware or maybe even cameras on her property. A photo was optional, but most of her development neighbors had one, so she went through the pictures of herself on her computer and selected the best one she had.

Valerie was a natural dishwater blonde whose hair was largely blonde but darker than what most people thought of when they heard the word ‘blonde’. It was almost shoulder length, and she wore it pulled back in a ponytail at work and anytime she was able to get out for a run.

She was considered petite, but didn’t care for the word because, to her, it implied weak, and although she was only 5’2″, and just over a hundred pounds, she was anything but weak.

She’d worn braces as a young girl, and ever since had been the beneficiary of a very pretty smile framed by a pair of soft, full lips and a rather pretty face. She’d never been called ‘gorgeous’, but she’d been referred to as ‘pretty’ or even ‘beautiful’ many times over the years.

Her hazel eyes were also pretty but otherwise unremarkable while her small frame was still very fit and nicely toned. And because she was…vertically challenged, she was grateful her boobs had stopped ‘blooming’ before they reached C-cup status. They were close to that size, but not so big that they looked too large on a woman her height. On those rare times when that even came to mind, Valerie thought they were pretty much perfect for her build, and grateful they weren’t any bigger.

The pic she chose was a year old, but this wasn’t a dating site where someone might complain about not having the most current photo possible.Then again, she’d been so busy working the last couple of years that dating was little more than a far-off concept other people encouraged her to embrace. Her hair was up in the photo, and Valerie thought her smile looked nice, so that’s the one she went with.

Once she was able to post, she shared her story about having to resod, the most recent letter about removing the backboard and hoop, and her heartfelt belief that it was her responsibility to know the rules. She made it clear she wasn’t happy about what had happened, but didn’t blame the HOA.

She reread it, then made a decision to anonymously mention someone ‘in the development’ who was on the verge of being fined until he replaced his sod, too.

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