He put a foot on the first of the steps, satisfied it held his weight without sagging. “How much does she know about rehabbing a house?”
“I watch a whole lot of HGTV,” a prim voice said.
He glanced up and Sera was standing in the doorway, that clipboard in her hand and Shep sitting at her side, tail thumping.
“You’re serious about fixing this place up?”
“Yes,” she replied. “I have to fix it up or I don’t get to keep it. It’s in the will. My aunt wanted me to take the money she left and turn it into a home again. I know it would make a great B and B, but I don’t have enough to take it to that level. I’ve got to make a profit off this place.”
“You don’t want to live in it?” He’d seen the way she’d looked at the house. She’d definitely looked at it with love in her eyes. He wouldn’t be surprised to find out she’d spent time here when she was growing up. Childhood memories were powerful things.
She stepped back on the porch and let Sylvie join her. “I don’t think I can afford to keep it. I have to put everything my aunt left me into the house. Maybe that gets it habitable, but I would have to pay taxes and insurance, and the upkeep on a place like this is pretty steep. I don’t think the pittance I bring in cutting hair would be enough. Besides, it’s a big old house for me and my son.”
Yes, her son. She had a kid. That didn’t scare him off at all, but he found it interesting that she obviously wasn’t thinking past the next few months or years. She was a young woman. She was beautiful. She would get married and have more kids at some point. Unless she absolutely didn’t want to.
He finally hit a stair that buckled. Yeah, it looked like they’d been replacing them as needed rather than redoing the whole staircase like he would have. Uniformity was very important in some cases. He bounced the step a bit. It held but it likely wouldn’t when they started bringing heavy equipment in. “This one needs to be replaced. And you’re going to have to paint the whole thing.”
She frowned. “It seemed fine when I was on it.”
“You don’t weigh what I do,” he pointed out. “And if you’re going to fix this place up, you’ll have a lot of big guys coming in and out. You want to make sure they can actually get inside the house to work.”
She wrote something down in her book. “All right, then. Porch stairs.”
“Those won’t be too hard.” Sylvie was walking around the big porch, taking it in. She glanced at the wood furniture and obviously decided not to try to sit. “We might need to update some of the décor.”
Sera shook her head. “I don’t think I can afford that. Maybe I could go to a garage sale.”
“Nah, I can fix these.” He reached the top step and moved to the rocker. It was beautifully done, just a bit worn. “I can refinish and repaint. You can get some new cushions for cheap and it’ll look good as new.”
“Really?” Sera asked, her eyes wide. “You can . . . I mean, that seems like a good idea. I will consider that. If I can sell the place furnished, that would be good. Well, except for the owls. I’ll probably lose the owls.”
He liked when she got distracted. She forgot to put up her walls, and she let him see a hint of the woman under her protective gear. She didn’t like owls. It was good to know. Luckily he wasn’t partial to owls. He glanced up and saw that the ceiling was painted a soft bluish green. Or it had been at one point in time. It was a pretty color, but odd for exterior paint. “Huh. I’ve seen a couple of porch ceilings painted like that around here. Is it a tradition?”
Sera looked up. “It’s called haint blue. It didn’t start here in Louisiana.”
“It’s a tradition among the Gullah,” Sylvie explained. “When they were brought over as slaves, they brought their traditions, too. They believed this color would hold off the haints, or haunts as you would call them. Painting your porch a color like this would protect the whole house. It started in South Carolina and Georgia, and now it’s kind of a Southern tradition. You’ll see it all over town. My momma tells the story to anyone who moves in. Don’t believe her. She gets a kickback from Gil at the hardware store.”
“Momma told me they stopped doing that,” Sera said with a frown.
“They never stop,” Sylvie replied with a shake of her head. “Those two are going to be the terror of the nursing home one day. Sorry, Harry, Sera’s mom and mine are kind of the bane of the town. My mother runs a successful salon and Delphine’s family has the best restaurant in Papillon, but they’re not happy unless one of them is convincing a tourist she’s a voodoo priestess who put a whammy on him and the other is charging fifty bucks to take it off.”