Lesley Cox

Through four doors

She returns from work, weary and bewildered, her mind churning over the happenings of the day.  She closes the gate and moves down the path to the front door, the smell of the frangipani blossoms heady in the late afternoon air.  She is brought into the now by the whimpering and whiffling of Heidi, a tubby Miniature Schnauzer. The exuberant little dog dances on her back legs behind the half opened French doors.  She stoops to lift the bolt and comes closer to scrabbling paws, which scratch her wrist and forearm.  Heidi desperately wants to be patted and loved, assured that the loneliness of the day is over.

After calming the little animal with gentle words and strokes, she moves into the room, shedding bag, jacket and court shoes.  She heads towards the cloakroom, and quickly dons walking shoes and tracksuit for the obligatory early evening walk.

As Heidi bounds on ahead, she breathes in deeply the earth-toned air, sustenance after the stale city fug she has recently escaped.   A spaced-out feeling envelopes her in visions of deja vu.

She is half her present height, a quarter of her present age as she shoves the door closed behind her, shutting the adult world outside.   Her fleecy pink dressing gown catches between the door and jamb. She feels safe here. This is where her real world begins, a place where she can curl up in the rosy pink armchair, Teddy in her arms.  Here she can talk with the angels, fairies and unicorns.  She can’t do this on the other side of the door.

Shrill yapping brings her rudely out of her childhood.  Heidi is frantically trying to climb a tree after a squirrel.  She laughs aloud as squirrel and dog circle the tree.  Hind legs stretched to their limit, the dog hops, front paws scrabbling at the tree.  The squirrel, several feet higher, chitters its annoyance at the eager, furry face below.

They walk on through a leaf strewn lane, lined by oak trees centuries old cottages set back from walls of cobbled lichened stones. She looks through a Moon gate, with a circular wrought iron gate set into a time-worn wall. Weatherworn workmen, with gnarled hands built these walls, and a blacksmith beat out the complicated metalwork for the gate in a forge by the stables at the back of an imposing house. She walks through the circular gate, behind her the path leads from the kitchen garden, with its neat rows of vegetables and herbs, and ahead of her, through the gate lie formal gardens of sweeping lawns, Rhododendron hedges, standard rose trees and topiaried shrubs.  The gardens surround a stately home, turreted buttresses of soft beige-pink stone, deep in the heart of Wiltshire.  The smell of lilac dominates and the buzzing of portly bumble bees in the blossoms is soporific.

A wet nose on her ankle jolts her back.  Bright, button eyes look up at her, questioning.  Mouth open, pink tongue lolling through the gray beard.  “Why have we stopped?  Why are we standing still?”  She bends to pat the little dog, then picks up her pace, shivering, chilled from standing by the mossy wall. 

The springy leaf-mould under foot becomes the deep-pile of a lush carpeted passage, paneled with a wooden dado, smells of rich old splendor.  A hint of furniture polish and Brasso hangs in the air.  Her heart pounds with excitement, a strong pulse beats at the base of her throat.  A very neat secretary had directed her down this passage and she wades through the carpet to the door at its end. 

There it is, oak, with shiny brass finger-plate and door knob.  But it is the words, sand-etched into the opaque glass centre panel which make her breath catch and her heart do a fillip of joy – “Hodder and Stoughton”, and beneath them, “Publisher”. This is it.  She realises, all the hard work, over long, never-ending months, has been worth it.  She takes a deep breath, pushes the heavy door open and walks in to meet her editor.

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