Behind Closed Doors
Release Date, January 1997
Sample Excerpt Discussion Questions
What happens when a husband and wife appear to have the perfect life on the outside, when in reality, their marriage is practically falling apart behind closed doors?
Regina Moore and Karen Jackson have been best friends since they were six. And now at age thirty, they’ve obtained what most women only dream of-wonderful careers, gorgeous homes in an upper-echelon Chicago suburb, and loving husbands to complete the package. Of course, all good things must and usually do come to an end. Regina’s husband, Larry has been working too much overtime, and Karen’s husband John has started donating his paycheck to the local horse track on a regular basis.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS provides a wonderfully entertaining and thought-provoking look at relationships in the nineties as two African-American women struggle side by side to rebuild their seemingly perfect marriages and put their lives back into perspective.
Regina cruised the four-door, champagne-colored Maxima into the driveway of theirvanilla-colored, two-story, home and got tickled. The mere sight of Wesleyan Estates sent ice-cold chills through her entire body. Perfectly landscaped lawns, a nearby golf course, gorgeous homes occupied by wealthy residents. She’d been blessed. Blessed at the age of thirty with what most black people were never able to reap throughout an entire lifetime. And it had all transpired in such perfect order too, one splendid event right after another. Graduating from U of I with no preposterous student loan balances to repay, marrying a well-educated, highly paid, gorgeous-looking, black man named Larry, and then purchasing this immaculate home, located in a ninety-nine percent white, upper echelon subdivision. Simply put, they had it all. They’d obtained the American dream without even realizing it.
She crept past Larry’s pearl-white Lexus, parked next to the Cherokee inside the two-car garage, and frowned when she realized the door had been left wide open. She’d fussed at Larry no less than a thousand times for not closing that garage door, and still, he didn’t seem to be paying her the slightest bit of attention. Just didn’t seem to be worried, since they lived in this ritzy neighborhood. But then, he’d have a totally different attitude, once all of those expensive yard toys of his came up missing. That high-tech electric edger, top of the line snow thrower, and brand new, mulching lawn mower. It was so strange how men always had to learn everything the hard way. Just couldn’t tell them anything.
She removed the key from the ignition, stepped out of the car, forced the door shut, pressed the garage door control on the wall, and walked through the door leading to the hunter green, country-style kitchen and closed it. She spotted today’s mail stacked on the wooden, tiled-top table where Larry had left it and picked it up. Bills, bills, bills. Not a day seemed to pass by without one showing up. Nordstrom, Saks, Visa, Discover. She may as well have listed them as joint owners on her checking account with all the checks that were written out to each of them every month, she thought, tossing each of them back onto the table one by one. But at the bottom of the pile was an elegant picture of Oprah Winfrey displayed across the cover of Essence magazine. It was their twenty-fifth anniversary issue, and it appeared to be pretty interesting. She’d definitely have to make sure and find time to read this before the weekend was over.
As she climbed the winding stairway and entered the upstairs hallway, she heard the shower running. It was a bit early to be getting ready for a nine o’clock show, the one she and Larry usually took in every Friday night, but maybe he’d decided to take her to a real restaurant for a change and not one of those non-tasting fast food places. She was sick of eating generic seafood every Friday night. The Boston Sea Party was far more to her liking, and that’s where she prayed they were going.
Regina walked into the master bedroom, kicked off the Nine West, navy blue pumps, slipped out of the wool crepe, navy blue suit and carefully removed her pantyhose by Christian Dior. She’d torn a gigantic run in the ones she’d worn yesterday before the clock in her office had barely struck noon, and was planning to get at least one or two more wears out of this pair before having to simply pitch them in the wastebasket. She’d known for a long time that these things were way too expensive, but as far as she was concerned, the ones they sold in some of those discount stores never seemed to cut it.
She heard the water tapering off and the shower door slide open. “Hey, hon,” Regina said walking into the bathroom, shedding her underwear. “How was your day?”
Larry stepped out of the shower, sawing his back with a burgundy, velvet bath towel.
“It was okay. How was yours?”
Regina leaned over and pecked him on the lips. “It was a typical Friday, but I’m glad the weekend has finally gotten here. It was a long week.”
Larry finished drying himself off, moved in front of the double mirror, picked up his blue, plastic razor and began edging his mustache. “I know what you mean. It was a long week for me as well. I don’t know when I’ve had so many meetings and so many insurance claims to review. Oh, by the way, Ted and I are going out to his boss’ house again to play poker. Shouldn’t be gone too late though. I hope you don’t mind.”
Where did that shit come from? He hadn’t mentioned going anywhere when she’d spoken with him at work. She assumed this Friday evening would be no different than any other. They would go to dinner, see a movie, and make love like two wild animals when they returned home. He had gone to play cards each of the two previous Fridays, but this once every week thing was a little more than she was willing to put up with, and it was starting to piss her off.
Regina placed her right hand on her hip, the way black women do when they intend to get their point across. “And what am I supposed to do sitting here all by myself on a Friday evening? This is the third week in a row. Here I am thinking you’re about to take me out to a nice restaurant, and you’re in here getting ready to hang out with Ted. We haven’t gone anywhere together in two weeks, and I’m getting sick of this.”
“We can go to the movies tomorrow. Right?”
“Do I have a choice? It sounds to me like you’ve already made your plans for the evening anyway,” she said staring straight at him. Larry rinsed off the razor and then his face. “Look, Regina. Ever since we started dating three years ago, I’ve pretty much spent every single Friday evening with you, so why is it such a crime for me to go play cards one night a week? I don’t see why you’re making such a big deal out of this.”
Regina was puzzled, but had to admit that he was right. At least for the most part, because he had pretty much spent every Friday night with her since the day they’d gotten married. The only problem was, she didn’t see anything wrong with it continuing. They were married, and that’s what married people did. Spend time together. Not go their separate ways like two single individuals with no ties to each other. If he wanted to hang out with his unmarried friends and play the little bachelor role, then he should have never asked her to marry him. He’d had no problem with spending all of his time with her before, and she couldn’t help but wonder what was going on now. Come to think of it, he’d been canceling their lunch dates as well, claiming he had too much work to do and then working an unusual amount of overtime in the evenings and on the weekends. Maybe he was starting to feel caught up. Maybe he needed his freedom to do whatever he wanted. Maybe he longed to be with someone else. They’d only been married two years, but hell, he was acting like he already had the seven-year itch and needed a nice, long scratch. Hmmph. Right now, she felt like giving it to him.
But, Regina knew her imagination was working overtime, because with the exception of Larry lying his clothes around and leaving them for her to pick up, he was a good husband and a wonderful provider. She told herself he was only playing cards, and probably just wanted to do that male bonding thing that most men claimed they needed to do. Her secretary’s husband hooked up with his friends every Thursday for what he called a “guys night out”, so what was wrong with Larry wanting to go out every now and then with Ted? The answer was obvious: Absolutely nothing. She didn’t know why she was being so silly.
“I don’t see anything wrong with you going out every now and then, but it’s just that I’ve sat at home alone for two Friday nights straight, and I’m really disappointed. I just wish you had told me earlier, so I wouldn’t have gotten my heart set on spending some time with you.”
“We’ll do something tomorrow. I promise.” He dried his face and then kissed her on the forehead as he walked out of the bathroom.
Regina presented him with a bogus smile, stepped into the shower and turned it on. The soothing, hot water running across her body felt so relaxing that she stood there for five whole minutes with no display of movement. She wished it would never end, but could already feel the water slowly starting to cool down. There was only so much hot water available when she and Larry took long, steamy showers, one right after the other.
Regina shut off the water, and reached for her coral pink bath towel. She walked out into the bedroom, dried most of her body off, and saw Larry putting on his dark olive dress pants and silk, Claiborne sweater. Clothing that was perfect for springtime weather, but inappropriate and too dressy if all he was going to do was play poker. Still though, as much as she hated to admit it, he was looking especially fine tonight. But then why shouldn’t he? Whether it was a business suit for work or a pair of jeans for running around on the weekend, she always bought him the very best that their hard-earned money could buy. This man’s wardrobe had been a complete mess when they’d first gotten together, and it was obvious that he’d barely even heard of Marshall Fields, Saks, or Nordstrom’s, let alone purchased any clothing from either one of them. Back then, he’d been the cheapest man she’d met, and to tell the truth, he still was right now.
Larry had a high-yellow complexion, almost-black hair, grayish-brown eyes, and a perfect, athletic build. He was the ideal man for Regina, her being partial to light-skinned men and all, and by far the best looking man she’d ever laid eyes on. Simply put, the man was finer than expensive wine, and it was no wonder that when she’d first met him, there were at least a dozen, female vultures trying hard to sink their vicious claws into him and the reason why she’d gone to major extremes to make sure they hadn’t come close to succeeding at it.
“You look nice,” Regina said wrapping the towel around her body and securing both ends together at the point just above her breasts.
Regina sat down on the side of the bed and watched him spray what must have been the last of his Cool Water cologne, because just yesterday, he’d asked her to pick him up a new bottle the next time she went to the mall. She crossed her legs and leaned back with both of her palms pressed against the bed. “What time will you be back?”
“Probably around nine o’clock or so. I’ll call you if it gets to be later than that, though.”
Uh-oh. She didn’t like the sound of that. Last week, it had been after eleven when he’d finally remembered where home was, and she sure hoped he wasn’t planning to stay out that late again.
Larry walked over to Regina, drew her into his arms, kissed her, and looked her straight in her caramel brown eyes. “I love you, baby, and I promise, we’ll do whatever you want tomorrow.”
“Have a good time,” Regina said. She really didn’t mean it, but was trying to be sensible about this whole thing.
“I’ll see you when I get back,” Larry said and headed down the stairs. Regina was about to follow him when she heard the phone ring. She answered it.
There was no answer.
“Hello? Hello?” Regina slammed the receiver on the hook and grunted. Nothing angered her more than when someone called and hung up. If a person had the wrong number, the very least they could do was apologize before simply hanging up in someone’s face. Damn them.
“Who was that on the phone?” Larry yelled back up the stairs.
“Nobody important, I guess. They wouldn’t say anything.”
She heard him shut the kitchen door and not too long after, heard the garage door closing. She couldn’t believe it. He had actually remembered to shut it this time. Maybe there was hope for Larry Moore yet.
As Regina reached for the remote control to switch the solid oak, console TV to channel nine for the lottery results, the phone rang. She picked up the black, cordless phone in the family room and pressed the “talk” button. “Hello?”
There was still no response. Regina pursed her lips together, pressed the “talk” button again, and slung the phone across the navy blue, leather love seat. She was starting to get a little irritated with all of these hang-ups. They had become more and more frequent over the last month or so, and neither she nor Larry had the slightest idea who it could be. But this was finally it. She was calling Ameritech first thing Monday morning to order that Caller ID box, her best friend, Karen had made such a fuss over and purchased just a few months ago. She had practically begged Regina to order one back then, and right now, she could kick herself for not doing it. “You spend money on everything else, why not this,” Karen had said. Regina had known she was telling the truth, but usually when she bought things she didn’t need, they were personal items like clothing, jewelry, shoes, or cosmetics. Items for herself, and not the general household. But now though, this whole thing was getting out of hand, and she was starting to realize what a major relief it would be to find out who this unidentified caller was, and more importantly, why he or she was calling there in the first place.
The WGN announcer called out the Pick Four and Little Lotto numbers, and Regina jotted them down. 3-2-5-7 and 1-14-17-21-30. Whoever had made that phone call needed the crap beat out of them. Sister had missed the three digit, and nobody made her do that without hearing about it. Six months ago, Larry had yelled for her to come rinse out the relaxing creme from one of those wave curl kits he’d combed into his hair, explaining that it had been in for over twenty minutes and was slowly starting to burn his overly sensitive scalp. But Regina had ignored him and not moved one inch until the last of those lottery results had been flashed across the screen. By the time she’d made it down the stairs, Larry was already trying ferociously to wash it out himself. Although, unfortunately for him, it was too late. Larry’s baby-like scalp was on fire and within three days, sores had scattered throughout his entire head. Needless to say, he’d never interrupted Regina’s Illinois lottery results again.
She reached over the left arm of the love seat, picked up her tan trimmed, evergreen Dooney & Bourke shoulder bag and pulled out the numbers she’d played at the Seven Eleven right after work. She checked the numbers twice, but hadn’t matched one number. The outcome was no different than any of the other times she’d played, but as usual, her face was covered with a look of disappointment as soon as she realized her numbers were nowhere in the proximity of the ones that had been drawn. She gazed down at her watch and saw that it was nine-thirty. Larry still wasn’t back yet. Hadn’t even called for that matter. He was being inconsiderate again, and she didn’t appreciate this shit one bit. She was trying to understand, but damn, this man was trying her patience.
She stood up and walked toward the kitchen. She was hungry, but too lazy to cook and unwilling to drive to some fast food joint. The Chinese rice they’d picked up from Wong Wong last night was going to have to do. She pulled open the right door of the refrigerator, took out the small white box, emptied the rice onto a Tupperware plate, and centered it inside the microwave. She was never sure how long to set the timer for, but settled on four minutes.
When the buzzer sounded off, she removed the plate, took a fork from the drawer and went back into the family room. She took one mouthful and felt a burning sensation dash across her tongue. “Damn.” This shit was way too hot. She sat the plate down on the floor, to allow it some additional time to cool off.
After flipping through TV Guide and reading a few of the articles it contained, Regina checked to see if her food had finally cooled down, and it had. She picked up the remote control and scanned through the channels. As usual, nothing was on, so she pressed the power button. She finished the rice, which she couldn’t taste now that her tongue was numb, stood up, walked over to the floor lamp, turned it off, and left the family room. She wasn’t in the mood for washing any dishes, and two small items weren’t nearly enough to be loading into the dishwasher, so she went into the kitchen, placed the fork and plate in the sink, and headed upstairs.
When she entered the bedroom, she walked toward the paisley-colored chaise and lifted up the suit she’d laid there right before taking a shower. This one was her favorite. Partly because of the gold buttons lined down the front, but mainly because it was a size ten, and the waistband of the skirt no longer cut her circulation off. She was five foot six and not by far on the heavy side, but over the past two years, had put on five to six unwanted pounds straight through her mid-rib section. Blaming it on being happily married and settled down. But four months ago, when she was completely fed up and didn’t see any other way to shed this dreadful weight, she persuaded Karen and her other good friend, Marilyn to sign up for a Saturday morning aerobics class at the health club, and eventually persuaded them to start working out with the toning machines two nights during the week. That is, until about three weeks ago when Karen started missing the class and each of the weeknight toning sessions. Tomorrow, though, she was going to call her bright and early, because it was already mid-April, and she surely did not want to hear Karen complaining about all the weight she’d picked up over the winter and how hard it was going to be for her to lose it before the break of summer, which right now, was barely two months away. After hanging her suit, Regina left the walk-in closet and started toward the cherry-wood, king-size bed, and turned back the comforter. She sat down on the side of the bed and slipped off the Bulls T-shirt and black shorts she’d thrown on right after Larry had left. She debated as to whether she should slip on an everyday nightgown or take another shower and put on a sexy negligee. There was always the chance Larry would want to make love to her when he got home, and she wanted to be fresh. Of course, he hadn’t made any attempts the two previous Fridays when he’d finally arrived home, but it was better to be ready anyway, just in case he wanted her tonight.
When she stepped out of the shower, she dried off for the second time, sat on the edge of the tub and lotioned her body. That peach-scented shower gel by Victoria Secret smelled better than it had in the store, and she was going to make sure and stock up on it the next time she shopped at Woodfield Mall.
Regina was a beautiful woman. Her hair was perfectly cut in a short, faded style, similar to Anita Baker’s, but with a more wavier texture to it. The color was a sandy brown, which complimented her light complexion. A light complexion that was the cause of her being a bit color struck. She wasn’t consciously aware of it, but her subconscious was a whole different story. She was wholeheartedly convinced that being light-skinned proved she was just a little more attractive than any and every dark-skinned sister in existence. Celebrities, supermodels. It didn’t matter who they were or how gorgeous they looked. As far as she was concerned, the only competition she had when it came to beauty were other fair skinned black women or women that were white. Which is why it had always bothered her when men seemed to direct their attention toward Karen whenever they went out to a club. She was dark-skinned, and it just didn’t make any sense. They would consistently ask Karen if she wanted to dance, if they could give her a call, or if they could take her to dinner. It had been that way all through college and quite honestly, not much different now that they were married. For the life of her, she couldn’t understand it. She just couldn’t see it.
Regina walked back into the bedroom, slipped her black, silk, above-the-knee night gown on, climbed into bed and reached toward her nightstand to pick up Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale. She had already finished each of the latest contemporary novels by Connie Briscoe and BeBe Moore Campbell, but last week, had decided to read this one again. She, of course, didn’t have any problems with finding or keeping a man the way those women in that book did, but had still been thoroughly entertained by its entire content.
She leaned back on two, down-filled pillows, stretched her legs out under the covers and glanced over at the clock on the VCR. It was pushing close to eleven o’clock, and still, no Larry. Where the hell was he? This mess was getting out of hand, and she couldn’t help but wonder what tired excuse he was going to conjure up this time. Damn him.
1. Who were you rooting for the most in BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, Karen and John or Regina and Larry?
2. Do you believe Regina was a bit too concerned about having the finer things in life and wasn’t paying enough attention to her marriage?
3. Do you think that Karen was justified in asking John to move out?
4. Do you personally know someone who has a gambling problem?
5. Do you think Regina overreacted or underreacted when she arrived at Larry’s hotel room in Atlanta?
6. Have you in the past or are you currently dealing with a mother-in-law who is just like Karen’s?
7. Do you think John was right for standing up to his mother and making her understand that his wife came first?
8. Do you think it took Regina much too long to finally get over Larry or would this be an acceptable amount of time, given how much she really loved him?
9. Do you think Regina made the dark-skinned/light-skinned comments on purpose and that she really believed light-skinned people were more attractive or was this just the person she was but she didn’t really mean any harm?
10. Do you have any friends who are color-struck, meaning that they believe being light-skinned means you are better, both physically and in general, than someone who is dark?
11. Were you happy to see Karen and John work things out with each other?
12. Were you happy that Regina met someone like Malcolm?