The House with the Blue Door Short story by Diane E. Tatum & Florence Witkop
Photo: Brooklyn by Tamara Yurovsky, NYTimes
Avery only loosened her grip on the leash for a moment as she looked into a knit store window. That’s all it took for Brooklyn, a brown and white wire-haired fox terrier, to slip the leash from her hand and take off. She knew exactly where Brooklyn was headed. Avery had adopted Brooklyn with her then-fiancé, Ian. That’s exactly where Brooklyn would go, to the house with the blue door they had bought before the wedding that never happened. Avery texted Ian, “She’s done it again. Check your front porch.” In seconds, his reply arrived, “Got her. She’s safe and inside lapping water. Should I take her back to your place? Or do you want to come here?” She answered back, “I’m not far away. I’ll come and get her.” Avery was the one who had canceled the wedding. During the rehearsal, she had caught Ian kissing her best friend and maid of honor, Eva. Then Eva said that Ian was the one who had initiated the kiss. Ian said Eva had thrown herself at him. He said he was innocent and still loved her. Avery had canceled the wedding. She’d got custody of Brooklyn. She’d got Brooklyn, but Ian had got to live in the house even though it was in both of their names. How that would work in the future, she didn’t know but for now all that mattered was that Brooklyn was there. Brooklyn loved that house. She sighed. Why didn’t life work out the way it should? When she arrived at the house with the blue door, she noticed a small, sporty yellow convertible in front. Not Ian’s type, he never cared for small cars. She wondered who it belonged to. Ian answered on the first knock, beckoning her inside. Brooklyn was there, wagging his tail happily and sniffing everywhere. When he saw her, he came to her and head butted her knees, something he did a lot. She grabbed his leash that Ian had removed and hung over a chair. When she bent down to snap it onto his collar she smelled perfume. A flowery scent and definitely feminine. Ire boiled inside of her. Ian could do whatever he wanted now that they were no longer a couple, but he certainly hadn’t wasted much time moving on. Not much time at all. So had there ever been anything real between them? She hid her anger as she got the leash attached and started towards the door, head down so she didn’t have to look at Ian or let him see her because she was sure she couldn’t hide her feelings. Before she reached the door a well-dressed blonde came from the kitchen carrying a clipboard. She looked at Avery. Then at Ian. Then she asked, “Is that her?” Avery hurried, thinking only that she had to get outside before exploding, but the blonde called to her. “Wait. You can’t leave until the papers are signed.” The blonde turned to Ian. “That is her, isn’t it? Avery?” Then back to Avery. “You are here about the house, aren’t you?” “The house?” Avery managed two words. Couldn’t have said more but she got those out. “To sell it so you two can get on with your lives. It’s in both of your names so you have to agree on price and everything and sign the listing agreement.” The blonde hesitated and looked from one of them to the other again. “That is why you’re here, isn’t it?” “You’re selling our house?” Avery’s heart broke. She loved the house, from the blue door to the back porch. Brooklyn clearly loved the house. “You deserve your share of the proceeds.” Ian crossed his arms and leaned against the butcher block island. “It’s not fair for me to live here when it also belongs to you.” The blonde stuck her nose in once again. “You could buy Ian out. Then you would have the house for yourself.” Ian shook his head. “She can’t do that.” “He’s right. I don’t make enough money as a writer to pay the house paymentt.” Her emotions were twisted inside her. Sell our house? To someone else? Sell our fairy tale? “Perhaps I should go.” The blonde finally said something that made sense. “I’ll contact you later, Ian, about the contract.” “Yes, you should.” Both of them answered in unison. The blonde stretched her hand out to pet Brooklyn. Normally friendly with everyone, he growled at her, then snapped. “Okay then. I’m gone.” She tip tapped on her stilleto heels to the blue door and left. “Ian, selling our dream?” “You gave up on our dream, remember? And you gave up on me.” Ian slid into a chair at the kitchen table. “I’m trying to get your savings back that you put into the house. You need to be … okay.” “Why don’t you just say what you mean, Ian? You’re trying to take care of me. But it’s not your job to do so.” Avery sat at the table across from him. “You chose to cancel the wedding.” Ian gave her a look of incredulity. “You are the one who canceled the wedding, darling.” “You were the one kissing Eva.” “No, I was the one assaulted by your hormone-crazed maid of honor best friend.” Avery crossed her arms. What was left to say? “I should get Brooklyn home.” Brooklyn was curled up on the rag rug at the back door. “Don’t you realize he already is home? So are you, Avery. Can’t we resolve all this?” Avery grabbed Brooklyn’s leash – again – and tugged. The dog looked at her with wide, pleading eyes. Brooklyn wanted to stay in the house with the blue door. If she was honest, so did Avery. It was her dream house. Had been her dream house until she walked in on Ian and her best friend in each other’s arms. Actually, now that she thought back on it, they weren’t exactly in each other’s arms. Close but not quite. She frowned, trying to remember exactly what she’d seen. She discovered that she didn’t want to remember it. Maybe that was why she couldn’t seem to know whose arms were around whom. Could Ian be right? Had her best friend since they were pushed around town in strollers together actually gone after her fiancé? No. She wasn’t wrong, and if she was, it didn’t matter. They were embracing and that was all that mattered. She grabbed Brooklyn even harder and pulled her across the floor. Brooklyn, stubborn dog, ended up sliding on the polished wood she and Ian had fallen in love with when they were looking at houses. She frowned. Moaned. Wished she wasn’t here, that Brooklyn was a bit more sympathetic. Ian watched, trying not to show emotion and failing completely, a trait she loved. Had loved before they broke up. “What say Brooklyn visits with me for a while? You can always come get her. Or I can bring her back to you.”
Every time Ian saw Avery walk away his instinct was to hurry after her and envelop her in his arms. Then his cooler head won out. She didn’t want him anymore. At least that’s what she said. And everytime he opened that blue front door, he hoped she’d be there with open arms. And everytime his heart broke just a little bit more. That’s when the anger crept in. How could she believe he would seek out Eva of all people to kiss? How could she believe Eva over him? He loved only Avery, for the rest of his life. There would never be another. She had thrown away their ‘forever after’ in a second-long encounter with Eva. He no longer knew what to think. He’d hoped the thought of selling the house might jog them out of this rut of anger and hurt and refocus them on what was more important, their future. It may have done the opposite. There had to be something he could do to fix this. He grabbed his coat and keys. Brooklyn yipped and followed on his heels. They got in his JEEP and headed down the street until they found Avery sitting on the curb, head in her hands. “Get in the car, Avery.” Ian tried not to sound authoritative because that just made her more stubborn. Brooklyn barked. “No, I can’t.” Avery pulled a tissue from what he called her Mary Poppins/Hermione bag. You never knew what she was going to pull out of that purse. “Yes, you can. Please.” Ian didn’t want to beg, but they had to finish this one way or the other. Neither of them could take much more heartbreak. He parked the car and sat on the curb beside her. “Talk to me. I’m your best friend, remember? Come, get into the car with us.” Brooklyn barked twice. “Where are we going?” She sniffled. “Not sure. Somewhere we can talk.” Ian put his arm around her shoulders. She made a half-hearted attempt to shrug him off. “I’m not letting go, Avery. Get in the car.” Brooklyn barked three times.
She’d get in the car. Didn’t want to. Knew it was a mistake even bigger than going into the house with the blue door had been. Because, once inside that house, the tug on her heart that happened every time she was near Ian had become more than a tug. More like a hard pull. So what would she feel if she was in a car with him? After all, they’d met in a car. Well, not a car, actually, more a bus because she was new to the city and wasn’t sure she could find the publisher’s offices. Ian had been on it because his car was in the repair shop. They’d laughed about the fact that two people with perfectly good automobiles were taking the bus. Then they’d kept on talking. And talking. And talking. Until they’d both realized they’d missed their stops. Then the talk had turned to laughter and when the bus reached a park, they’d agreed without words to get off, find a hot dog stand, and enjoy the day before taking another bus back to where they should have gone in the first place. It had turned out to be the part of the park reserved for dogs and their families. They’d felt out of place without a dog, but the conversation had naturally become a dog kind of conversation. They both loved dogs. Had had dogs all their lives until recently. Wanted dogs. Agreed that rescue dogs were the best kind. And so on. It had been amazing how in sync they were. And now she was sitting in her own car with their joint rescue dog in the back seat of his car woofing softly and wondering why her humans weren’t happy because it was clear they weren’t. Brooklyn barked again and stuck her head out the window. Ian petted her. Leaned close and hugged his second favorite female, Avery being his first favorite, of course. Avery sighed and took the key out of the ignition. She exited her car to join Brooklyn in Ian’s JEEP.
Avery allowed Ian to lead her to the passenger seat and close her door. Brooklyn jumped up into her lap and gave her doggie kisses. Ian didn’t speak. He just drove up into the mountains until he reached the ridge they often visited. It was also the place where Ian had proposed on bended knee. It was their special place. “Ian…” “Avery, just let me speak. Then you can make up your own mind.” She nodded. They both got out of the car and sat on the bench overlooking the valley. The very bench that Ian had carved their initials underneath, so no one knew they were there but them. Avery was already crying, and Ian hadn’t even said anything. “Avery, you know I love only you. I would never cheat on you with another woman, especially not Eva.” Ian took her hand. “I will always tell you the truth. I will always love you. Can’t we find a way through this back to each other?” He reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a crumpled, official-looking document. “It seems these things are valid for thirty days. This one still has two or three days left. We could still use it.”
A marriage license. He handed it to her. Then he pulled out the velvet box he’d offered to her at this place a year ago. He got down on one knee and waited. When she stopped staring at the marriage license, she looked into his eyes-his beautiful blue eyes. These were the eyes that she knew would always be true to her. Why had she stopped believing in him? Why had Eva allowed her to believe a lie? She reached for him. He dodged her grasp and opened the box. The diamond ring she’d returned to him was there with the matching wedding band. “Marry me today, Avery. Marry us and come live in the house with the blue door with us.” Avery realized he was trembling. She knelt before him. “Marry me today, Ian. I want us all to live in the house with the blue door together.” He slipped both rings on her finger, for safekeeping. She reached into her marvelous bag and produced a similar velvet box. She opened it and placed the band on his finger. Then they headed to the church to find the pastor and his wife.