Behind Closed Doors

You never know what goes on behind closed doors.

     "You're a pig, Marty!" she yelled over her shoulder as she stormed out of the office.

     The disheveled woman stopped her angry march at the end of the hallway. She was a plus-sized woman who liked wearing clothes that showed off her ample assets, but she also liked to look neat and tidy in those clothes. What had just happened in that office had left her clothes and hair in disarray and her nerves rattled. She hastily tucked her blouse into her skirt and tried to smooth her hair. With a deep breath she squared off her shoulders and walked into the sun-filled lobby. The people there, all coworkers of hers, gave her looks filled with sympathy and commiseration.

     She kept walking, but as she passed the front counter she cried out, to no one in particular, "I quit. I can't stand it anymore. He grabbed my ass and tits this time. With both hands! I'm outta here." With that she shoved the front door open and left the dealership, stomping across the parking lot that was filled with used cars for sale.

     Those remaining in the front lobby simply shook their heads. Several people turned to look down the hall as a door slammed shut. Eyes rolled and the gossip began.

     "He is a pig," one woman agreed. "He used to stare at my legs all the time until I stopped wearing skirts and took to wearing these baggy pants. It was the only way to make him leave me alone." Another woman nodded her head in agreement.

     "It's no better if you're a man," said the taller of the two men in the office. "Except if you're a man, you're expected to ogle and grope the women right along with him. Try having to go to lunch with him. It's always at a nudie bar," he grimaced. "If you think his behavior is bad here, you should get a glimpse of him when he's really worked up."

     "I can deal with his leering and wandering hands," said the older woman seated at one of the desks behind the counter. She reached into a drawer and pulled out a long wooden ruler and smacked the palm of her hands with it, grinning as she did so. "It's his foul mouth I can't stand. And he talks like that in front of the customers. And not just with the men, but the families as well. No wonder sales are down."

     "I refuse to take his abuse any more," said the youngest woman in the office. "If he tries to grope me one more time or threatens to fire me again when I don't close a sale, I'm walking, too. No job is worth putting up with the crap Marty Cosellis dishes out."

     Everyone glanced back down the hall as a door opened. Each person turned back to what he or she had been doing before the interruption. A short thin man with graying hair and an overhanging paunch stalked into the lobby. He stood for a moment, hands on his hips, and gazed around the room. No one would make eye contact with him, keeping their heads averted.

     His voice was booming with a nasal twang to it. "Get back to work, you slackards," he barked. "I don't pay you to stand around and talk about me behind my back." He turned on his heels and stormed back into his office, slamming his door shut again. The room was silent except for the rustling of paper and an occasional snigger.


     It had been a long tiring day and it was late. Marty walked through the office, turned off the lights and locked the front door. He was still fuming over the loss of that car sale. Hummers always brought in a high premium. Ever since that cutthroat car dealership had opened up down the street, his sales had plummeted. He was losing a bundle to his competitor. 

     Damn, he needed to hire another car salesman. Someone who knew how to wheel and deal. Good thing they only worked on commission. He wasn't about to shell out good cash on an unproven commodity.

     On top of losing all that easy money today, he got rudely shot down by the new file clerk. He thought she would be a sure thing. She was divorced, fat and middle-aged. They usually put out. He'd fixated on those big bouncing buns of hers as she bent over the bottom file drawer, and he couldn’t resist a double-fisted grab. He didn’t mind her slapping him, he even got turned on by that. But when he'd grabbed her boobs, she'd kneed him right in the balls. That was bad enough, but the screeching tirade of threats that followed, and her sharp finger jabbing him again and again in the chest was a definite turn-off. What was her name? Was it Lola, no Lulu; hell, whatever. She was a spitfire and more woman than he was willing to handle, or is that manhandle, he thought, smirking to himself. 

     It was time to close up for the day and go home. Thinking of home, a soft smile spread across Marty’s face, an expression very few people ever got to see. He went out the back door of the office, climbed into his white Cadillac and drove home. 

     He pulled up in the wide driveway, and parked next to an older model Chevy Nova. He remembered selling the car to its present owner. He'd actually given her a good deal on it. He could see lights on in the kitchen and the living room. As he opened the front door, he heard the lilting strains of Tchaikovsky coming from the back studio. He smiled. Swan Lake was her favorite. It must have been a good day. 

     He found them just finishing their last dance moves as he walked into the studio. Audrey looked elegant with her long dark hair twisted into a loop at the nape of her neck. Nestled within her dark hair was a silver comb studded with dozens of seed pearls. Marty had given his wife the comb for their twentieth wedding anniversary last year. Audrey had worn it everyday since without fail. 

     She was dressed in a white leotard and matching puffy tutu, her ballet shoes wrapped with satin ties criss-crossing her ankles. She gracefully leaned forward and raised one leg straight out in back of her, performing an arabesque penché and then slowly raised her arms over her head, en couronne. Gail was standing off to the side, clapping and shouting “Brava, Odette, Brava” as the last notes of the music faded away. 

     Audrey looked up from her pose, and her face lit up as she saw Marty. Bursting into giggles, she glided lightly over the floor and flung herself into his open arms exclaiming, “Siegfried, mi amore.” 

     He treasured these brief moments when he could hold her tightly like this with her arms hugging him back. It never failed to amaze him that she could still remember everything about the ballet, including the name of her favorite male character in Swan Lake, when so much of her everyday life was now gone from her memories.

     Breaking away from Marty’s embrace, but sliding her hands down to grasp both of his, Audrey starting breathily telling him about her day, and how gloriously she had danced, even completing a difficult leap. She turned to Gail, her words tumbling out, “Tell Marty how well I did the grand jeté, and that I didn’t stumble and my arms were perfect and I landed well.”  She was smiling and giggling, her face flushed and glowing. 

     Marty laughed and swept her up in his arms, twirling her around before setting her back down.  She was still so beautiful, and he loved to hear her laugh. Not all days were like this. Gail came over and reiterated her praise of Audrey’s performance and reminded Marty she would be back, bright and early, at 7:30 tomorrow morning. She kissed Audrey on the cheek and squeezed Marty’s arm as she left the room and walked out to her Chevy Nova. 

     With their arms entwined around each other’s waist, Marty and Audrey walked slowly through the house to the kitchen. Dinner was waiting in the oven, thanks to Gail. As they ate, Audrey’s exuberant demeanor slowly faded, her face eventually taking on a blank look. Marty watched his wife slip away, knowing she was lost in the fog that was rapidly filling her damaged mind. He inwardly sighed, fixing a smile on his face as he rose and gathered the dishes. 

     “Audrey, it’s time to get ready for bed. Give me your hand, and we’ll go upstairs and brush our teeth.” She sat there, staring across the table at the far wall. Marty took her hand and guided her up the stairs to her bedroom. He got her into her flannel nightgown, loosely braided her hair, helped her brush her teeth and then washed her face, gently talking to her all the while about nothing in particular. 

     As he turned down her bed covers, she climbed in and pulled the covers up to her chin. Then her face screwed up and she started to whimper, “Lucy Goosy, where’s Lucy Goosy?” Marty quickly searched both sides of the bed, and finally found her beloved stuffed animal tucked between the bed and the nightstand. 

     He picked it up and brushed it off lightly, an unreadable expression flickering across his face.  The toy was getting threadbare in places. It wasn’t really a goose; it was actually a big yellow duck with orange webbed feet. He handed Audrey the stuffed animal and her face broke out in a smile. She talked softly to her old friend in a light girlish voice, “Hello, Lucy Goosy, it’s time for bed.” She kissed the tip of its fabric beak three times, always three times, and then hugged it tightly to her chest. 

    She looked up at Marty expectantly. He asked, “Sleeping Beauty or Little Princess?” She grinned and pointed to the book that was always on top of the nightstand. Marty settled himself on the side of her bed and began reading the fairy tale she so loved. 

     When he saw that she had fallen asleep, he leaned over, gently kissed her forehead and whispered, “Good night, my love. Please come back to me when you can. I miss you so much.” 

     He turned off the overhead light making sure the nightlight was on and walked down the hall, alone, to his bedroom. © Tanna Thornburg 2014