This story traces the laughter, tears, and loves of four people as they wend their way through open doors seeking an illusive happiness.
Which door will Natalie Woods open? Her marriage of nine years ended when Damien left her for a younger woman. This is the end of her life as she knows it, and the beginning of all things new.
Which door will Diana Anderson open? Frank left their marriage because she forced an issue. Can the creative outlets she explores ultimately fill that void?
Which door will Damien Woods open? With his marriage to Natalie ended he can play out his fantasies with Carol. But is that what Carol wants?
Which door will Frank Anderson open? He has the freedom to do whatever he wishes. But what can stir his passions now that Diana is no longer in his life?
Do they all open a fresh door to find happiness or do they stay outside in the cold?
Diana Anderson sat on a bench stool in Natalie Woodsí kitchen. The view through the window painted a tranquil scene with the bright sun blazing overhead, light fluffy clouds skittering across the sky and rolling green hills filling the background. Inside the kitchen the atmosphere was anything but tranquil. Natalie sighed, tensely clutching the knives and forks she held in her hands. Around her mid-thirties, she dressed with a casual elegance; her faded jeans ironed, her shirt fresh and crisp, her dark hair, sleeked back and tied neatly.
"Well, what a state of affairs," Di said. "What do we do now? Here we are, two women without husbands, relatively little money and no means of supporting ourselves." She swiped stray hair from her face. "Its not your fault Damien turned out to be a first class heel! What rankles me is the fact that he left you for a younger girl...one, not much older than his own two sons. Not that my Frank turned out to be much better. That two-bit girl of Damienís fantasies, according to Frank, is called Carol. A lusty piece with a cute buttocks and big boobs!" She clicked her teeth in sheer frustration. "Damn, Frank, and his bid to prove his virility. I suppose heís done this to ward off the inevitable menopause. Do men suffer menopause? Of course they do."
"Itís not your fault either, Di. Although I have to admit, Frank seems a little too old and too stayed to be experiencing a seven year itch." A faint smile crept across her face.
"Ah, donít laugh," Di groaned. "Iíve no idea how long his philandering has been going on. Just because I found him out once, doesnít mean he hasnít been doing it for years." Di tossed her head to help ward off tears. "Iíll get over it. After all, I didnít throw away over twenty years of marriage. Frank did!" She wiped away a tear forming in her eye. "Have you heard from Damien?"
"Not one word. Despite his protestations of love, how he needed space, and how he would be back in touch to explainÖabsolutely nothing."
"Frank rang the day after I caught him out in an intimate liaison with that Danielle woman," Di said, gathering momentum for her own plight as if she had not been listening to Natalie. "Well, girl, I really did it. His smarmy words trickled down the phone line, bouncing like a flea in glee. I nearly stuffed up our marriage. I realize how much I love you and I need a chance to make it up to you," she mimicked Frank, her face animated. "What you did that nightÖyou were brave and I admire you for it. I didnít realize that I loved you so much until you found me out." She contorted her face, swiveling her eyes. "Will you have me back?" Di sniffed, looking directly at Natalie. "Have you ever heard such rot? I listened to him squirming like a worm sliding into a hole, feeling nothing. Honestly, I felt nothing for the worm," she repeated adamantly. "Not one tiny tingle of compassion did I experience...only an anger welling up inside. I was too hurt to be taken in by his ingratiating attitude. Frank was in a fix, one which he created and laboring under the illusion, I suspect, that good old Diana would pull him out of it."
Natalie pursed her lips, fully listening to her friends enfolding tale.
"Years ago I would have been so desperate to forgive, Frank. However, today, women do not have to put up with any kind of abuse, emotional or physical. It made me feel stronger to know I no longer had to be a cotton-picking dormouse. No longer submissive, bending to any manís needs and wants."
Diís face turned as red as her hair, her eyes blazing. Her bright auburn unmanageable hair had a mind of itís own. She tried as successfully as she could to shape it into doughnut type bun on the top of her head, held together by small hairpins. Strands cascaded over her face, causing her to keep wiping them from in front of her eyes. Her face displayed dotted freckles that went with the hair. The freckles she covered lightly with makeup, toning down her little girl look and highlighting her deep blue eyes.
Natalie shook her head from side to side in reaction to her friendís plight, her lips raising a small wry smile, a shiver of apprehension coursing her body. She had no idea how she might have reacted had she found Damien in a liaison.
"Our children are making their own lives. So I determined it was time to make mine. I surprised myself by saying to him, íNo! Take what belongs to you and get out of my life!í There was a secondís pause while I waited for him to reply. I could visualize his brain scanning madly like a computer, searching around for ideas. True to form, he would not give up. Quietly, almost chaste, he said, ĎDi, can we be adult about this and meet to talk?"í She flayed her arms, the color of red rushing to her face. "If heíd been near me I would have thrown something at him I was so mad. Nor did I trust myself to meet him. I knew he would turn on the charm and I would melt like an ice cream cone, so I bellowed down the phone, íNoí, and threw the receiver onto the cradle as if it were a hot potato."
"After Damien left all I did was cry," Natalie responded, rising off the chair, putting down the cutlery to walk over to fill the kettle. "I jumped every time the phone shrilled, listening for every car coming down the road, checking the mail every day and waitedÖmy self-esteem slowly diminishing." She took two mugs out of the cupboard, the coffee off the bench, and milk out of the fridge. "The first week I was filled with remorse, feeling sorry for myself for being the loser. I found it hard to stop the visions of Damien draped around a younger woman. Jealousy was somewhat entangled in my line of thinking. If I could have found his nubile nymph I would have scratched out her eyes, broken every bone in her body, contorting her like a rag doll, which you have to admit is not like me.í
Having finished preparing the cups of coffee she handed one to Di and then sat back on her chair.
"During the second week, waiting for an explanation from him, I grew angry, and then pity reared its ugly head. I spent my time wondering how I was going to cope with the garden, the car and house--all those mundane entities. Everything seemed larger than life and far too insurmountable. Honestly, Di, I reached my lowest ebb. This morning, waking up, I felt ashamed. After all this time I realized I had acted like a star-struck teenager, besotted by a man who no longer wanted me, hanging onto a dream that had turned into a nightmare. Iíve spent three weeks trying to work out where it all went wrong, but still I donít have any answers. Iím forced to face the inevitable. I was killing time, dithering around while pandering to my hurt feelings and my reluctance to face facts. I glanced out of the kitchen window to see for the first time in weeks the lovely tranquil scenery with birds twittering as they woke and parakeets screeching as they moved from tree to tree. There was my organized garden in front of me, flourishing in an array of color, chirping with life. I changed my style of thinking. Enough girl! Pick up the pieces of the jigsaw puzzles and jam them back in the box. This is one puzzle that you will never solveÖthe whys and wherefores. Itís happened. Get a life!"
Di nodded, smiling in a knowing way. "Letís eat and work out our strategy for your íget a lifeí campaign,í" she suggested, a trill in her voice. "Weíre in this together. Iíll be damned if weíre going to let them get away with discarding us so easily. What do you say?"
Both women rose and walked toward each other, flinging their arms around each otherís shoulders, clinging together to cement their bond and resolve to make moves that were more positive. Both cried, not through remorse, but more through relief. They had each other. That had to be half the burden.
"Prepare the sumptuous repast whilst I go to the bathroom to tidy this stupid hair."
Natalie smiled and picked up the cardboard box of food her friend brought with her, heating it in the microwave. She bustled around laying the table and they sat down to eat.
"Thereís a bottle of Moselle in the fridge we could open to celebrate our momentous decisions," Natalie shouted, after her friend.
Di came back into the kitchen, opened the fridge, a grin spreading across her face. "Yes, lets. Letís get a little tiddly and work out what we are going to do to resolve our situations."
Damien Woods sat slumped in a chair in Carolís small flat thinking about all the possessions left behind with Natalie in his marital home. He was over six feet tall, leanly built with a strong bone structure. Some women would classify him as handsome in a sturdy, rugged way. He certainly had a propensity to attract women like birds attracted to nectar. With his feet resting on the windowsill, a drink in his hand, he sipped his drink pensively waiting for Carolís return. His eyes swept down through the window overlooking red drab rooftops; the day cloudy and dismal, engendered in him a tight feeling of claustrophobia. That feeling crept over him in the small box of a flat that lacked garden color hemmed in by an urban landscape of buildings, roofs, and small gardens.
He groaned. How could he have given up the magnificent rural view from their marital house to come and live in this? Three weeks had passed since he left Natalie to live with Carol. This was the first time he had had time to think through his move.
Carol turned out to be so demanding, so controlled. Every minute of his day was taken up with work, and his nights--he licked his lips--with making endless love. Carol couldnít get enough of him. He ended his thoughts with a throaty chuckle. Carol made him feel young and virile once more. He could not even remember feeling so good as a teenager. He chuckled again. He was still not sure how he had fallen into this particular relationship. It all happened so fast; a happy, middle-aged married man falling for a much younger woman. Whatever possessed him to give up everything?
No, no, he could not go on like this. The first week was great. He buried his problems, oblivious of anything, but the lust and need for Carolís body. The second week he was so tired that he was not able to do his job properly. So many times he all but fell asleep over his desk. It was looking obvious that he was in no way young enough to keep up the marathon pace. His sexual proclivity was becoming the butt of jokes around of the office. This week, staying home to try to catch up on some of his work, Carol had been petulant and sulky. The thought crossed his mind that she was going to be even more so when he informed her that next weekís business would take him to the Gold Coast for a few days. How would she handle being without him?
He sighed, picking up his drink. He could never go back to explain to Natalie, as promised. He could not face her or tell her why he left. To be honest, he did not rightly know why. Carol had swept him of his feet, and he was not too sure where their relationship would lead.
The image of his two grown up boys flashed through his mind. Ugh...the boys. His thoughts dithered around in his head. Whatever were they going to think when he told them that he had left Natalie, especially for a girl not much older than they? Max might understand, but he doubted Chad would. They were after all this time only just accepting Natalie as their stepmother. Oh, what a bloody mess.
He rose from the chair to pour himself another liberal drink, the feeling of guilt riding over him. The implications of his situation filled him with dread. He was saved from further recrimination when he heard Carolís footsteps approaching the flat and her key turn in the lock.
Frank Anderson put down the phone after speaking to his wife, Diana. He rang her with the purpose of saying he was sorry, and then ask her if he could return home. The culpability of what he had done to his marriage, overwhelming. In his cheap hotel room, a dismal space without character, he strode into the bathroom to shave. While he brandished his razor around in the air he talked to his image in the shaving mirror. Talking to his reflection filled a silence; a method he employed since he began living on his own and not in a house full of people.