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  • The Door at the End of the Hallway
  • Alexi Zentner (bio)

After ten years of marriage, they had become rooted in their childlessness, so Salina waited until she was sure that she was pregnant before she told Blue.

Blue was a predictable man, orderly and analytical, a lawyer with his own practice, which is how they had met, when Blue helped Salina leave the bruises and broken bones of her first marriage behind. Dull, some of Salina's friends said about Blue, but Salina said that at twenty-three, she had already had enough surprises, and in her experience dull meant predictable, and when predictable meant that he was good to her, then dull was not so bad.

"A new house," he said, "we need something bigger than this." He smiled at her and took her in his arms. "I'm going to build you a house. He," Blue paused and then pulled away slightly so that he could pat Salina's belly, "or she, will need a bigger home than this."

It was true, Salina thought, that the small, run-down apartment they had lived in for the past decade was too small to include a child, but she had not expected this largess. Blue was thoughtful, never forgetting her birthday, and he was not cheap, at least not with her, buying her diamond earrings, flowers, never questioning her when she brought home new clothes, flying with her to the coast to visit her parents, even taking her to Italy for three weeks for their tenth anniversary, but he did not spend money that he had not planned to spend, and for anything other than Salina, he held on to his wallet very tightly. He was not the sort of man to impetuously decide to build a house, and she realized that he must have already known, he must have already been planning for this eventuality.

They could easily afford a house, Salina knew. Blue's practice had done well, and he had brought two associate lawyers on board. Salina herself earned a pittance working four days a week at the county library, but even her small contribution was enough to cover their current rent. She had never minded their apartment before, had been happy in the constancy, but immediately she thrilled to the idea of a house, and though she knew that he never spoke without deliberation, she was terrified that he would pull the sparkling gift away from her. [End Page 451]

"Are you sure?"

"Let me do this for you," Blue said, "for us. I want to build us a house." His smile grew and his eyes narrowed, and it took Salina a moment to realize that he wore a look of mischievousness, something she had never seen on his face before. "I want it to be a surprise. I'll take care of everything. I want it to be perfect. It will be perfect. Can you do that? Can you let me do this for you? Do you trust me?"

Salina nodded. She trusted him. She knew him. He was predictable. She could already see the house that he would build for her. He would paint it white, to keep out the heat, and trim it in yellow, her favorite color. Salina knew that he would build a deep, shaded porch like the one on her parents' house that she loved, and that he would hang a swing for her, just beside the front door. She looked at Blue and saw that he was already planning for another baby, and that on the second story of the house, down the hall from their bedroom, across from the baby's room, there would be another bedroom waiting for a brother or sister. He would build this house for her, and it would be, just as he said, perfect.

Blue bought thirty acres less than five minutes from the edge of town, the land terribly inexpensive in an area where land was already terribly inexpensive, and one morning he brought Salina out to show her where the house would sit, on the rise overlooking the woods and the small stream-fed pond, the water cool and fresh...


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pp. 451-467
Launched on MUSE
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