Today, I’m working with a writing prompt that encouraged the writer to tell a story about what’s ‘behind the door.’ Of course, there are limitless possibilities but as I continue to learn, I am constantly reminded to ‘write what you know,’ so here is my latest effort at a not-too-short story. I hope you’ll enjoy it!
Behind the Door on Orchard Road
It was a house that looked like so many other houses; it was not too large or too small. Nor was it modern or historic. It was, like every other house, a home with a door and behind the door lived the story of one family’s life.
Driving by 223 Orchard Road, you would have thought a happy family lived inside. The birch tree in the yard almost eclipsed the size of the two-story home, having grown quickly to shield the occupants from prying eyes on the street. The chairs on the front porch looked welcoming and cheery clematis crawling up the trellis at the side beckoned you to come closer and smell their blossoms.
At the door
Once at the door, you could ring the bell or, as almost everyone did, just knock to announce your arrival. She would answer in time, cane helping her as she slowly made her way from her constant placement in the tub chair in the living room to the door to greet you. Prior to answering she would place the cigarette she held in her right hand into her mouth, to the side, and open the door. She would not smile, she rarely did. In fact, you might get a look of disapproving query as to why you would dare break her peace.
If you were visiting 223 Orchard Road you were one of three people. You were either the Priest from their Catholic Church (an unwelcome guest), you were the family-assigned social worker (also unwelcome), or her best and only friend (sometimes welcome). Regardless of which person you were, you would be escorted in with begrudging hospitality. Once inside, you would see the dated but expensive wallpaper coating the entrance hallway and up the stairs to the left. The bookcase under the stairway, filled with Funk & Wagnall encyclopedias would tell you that knowledge was valued in this home, or at least they wanted you to think it was.
The Family Crest
Straight ahead you would see the family crest, hanging proudly at the entry to the kitchen beyond but unless you were fluent in Latin you would likely be unaware of its fitting motto, “Wounded but not defeated.” These words applied to all members of the family at one time or another but at this moment, if you looked closely enough, you would see that your hostess embodied the crest more than any. If you looked closely enough, you would see the glimmer of happiness from her days hosting parties and attending dances. Back when her smile was warm, her body healthy, and her mind unencumbered by the choices she would eventually make that took it all away.
To your right, you would find the living room where she would have already sat down, her body weak and her legs unsteady. You could choose to sit either on the couch, tucked against the wall to her left, or on the matching chair to hers, diagonally across the room. If you were observant, you would see the chair was the place her husband occupied when home and wisely sit down on the sofa, below the large, landscape oil painting that was in so many homes in the ’70s.
Looking beyond her, you would see the dining room table peeking out from around the corner, bare and undressed. You would wonder if dinners were ever hosted there and unless you were the family Priest, you would never find out. An invitation would not be extended. The television would be left on during your stay, emphasizing your status as an interruption rather than a guest.
Your conversation would be brief and driven by you; any responses coming from her would be short and curt. You would not be offered any refreshments; they would imply a lengthy visit which was not the practice in this home. Her daughters would not appear; they would be out. Away. They would keep themselves busy in their own pursuits coming home for meals, sleep, Church, and little else. Her husband, too, would be away, at work staying hours after closing time leaving her alone, as she liked it. You would find, very quickly, that you had disrupted her life just as she now preferred it. She didn’t want your pity, nor your empathy. Just your absence.
And so, without further inspection, niceties, or conversation, you would take your leave. Once outside, you might look back at the house, at 223 Orchard Road, and marvel at how such a happy-looking façade became so clearly, just that.