Behind Closed Doors

Shutterstock / Liya Graphics © A luxury home for Behind Closed Doors


In this uplifting short story, was this the life Kate could have had? But would she really have wanted it?

Kate loved every part of her job but had to admit that she particularly liked the moments when she got to take a peep into someone else’s life. As an estate agent, and the main partner in her firm, she was responsible for carrying out the valuations on the properties that clients asked them to sell, and she enjoyed being shown around houses and flats that people had lived in for years.

Kate had taken an unusual route into her career. Dropping out of university after two years of a degree in business studies, she’d taken the first job she was offered, working as a receptionist in a big estate agents in town. Much to her surprise, she had grown to love the job and so had applied for a vacancy as a trainee valuer and property agent, and had then thrived in this new career. Promotions and awards had followed before Kate decided to take the plunge and set up her own estate agency, and though the first year or so had been a struggle, her hard work and excellent professional reputation in the local area soon began to pay dividends.

It had taken her years to get to her current peak, during which time, Kate had married Dan, given birth to two children and even studied part-time at university to gain extra qualifications in surveying. It had been quite the adventure!

Now, she loved her job and looked forward to meeting every new client.

“Kate, are you doing that 2pm valuation out at Seacliff?” her partner Jo called across the office, where Kate sat lost in a brief daydream.

She straightened up and checked her phone. “Yep, I’m on it, Jo! I’ll leave in ten minutes.”

This was an important booking for the agency, their first valuation at Seacliff, an exclusive residential area just outside of town, the type of place that was all about keeping up with the Joneses, meaning if their agency could pitch a For Sale sign in one of the gardens, other neighbouring sellers would surely take note.

Kate packed her laptop, camera, notebook and measuring tape before grabbing her handbag and jacket.

Jo handed her a set of keys as she passed her desk. “It’s an empty viewing – the owners are away somewhere but a neighbour dropped the keys off,” she said. “That means you can take your time and get a good look around!”

“Ooh, my favourite kind!” Kate laughed. “I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

The drive only took thirty minutes from the office but as Kate turned into Seacliff, it was like a whole new world. Elegant detached mansions, lush green lawns, and tastefully landscaped gardens spread out in front of her and she saw the blue of the sea twinkling in the distance. You got what you paid for, she supposed.

Number six was easy to find and she pulled her car into the very spacious drive before lugging her equipment up to the front door. As she unlocked it, she fantasised about this stunning property being her home and wondered what it would be like to live here for real.

The interior of the house did not disappoint. Gleaming marble floors, a sweeping staircase, and mezzanine above the lounge were the first things that caught Kate’s professional eye. She mentally ticked off all the latest on-trend design features – feature fireplace, modern light fittings, bi-fold patio doors – and realised she was about to value her most expensive property ever. She did a little skip of joy, calculating the bumper commission. She was wondering if it would be enough to recruit another member of staff, when she suddenly saw him – or rather, a photo of him…
Jack Carter. The only man who had ever broken her heart.

He was in a large family photo on the mantlepiece, surrounded by his glamorous wife and pretty children, and although almost thirty years older than when she’d last seen him, he was just as handsome. Slim, muscular and tanned, he looked like a film star.

She’d dated him at university, dazzled by his wit, his charm and his handsome features, and at one time, she’d imagined they’d get married. However, after a crazy, whirlwind few months of romance, Jack’s head had been turned by Ellie Cuthbert, Kate’s tutorial partner and former friend.

They’d begun seeing each other in secret and had then ditched their respective partners to be together. This had left Kate so devastated and distraught, she had dropped out of university and fled back home. And now, here Jack was, living just outside her home town.

She held the photo in her hand and gazed at his face, as all those painful memories came rushing back, before moving her eyes over to his wife – Ellie Cuthbert. Or Ellie Carter, as she must be now. Dripping in expensive jewellery, she still looked blonde and stylish, as she always had done, and Kate could see now that she was no match for this woman.

Funny that they’d ended up back in this part of the country, although with property prices rocketing in the city, lots of families had moved in this direction, looking for bigger homes and better gardens.

Kate sighed, her earlier good mood punctured. She gazed around the palatial home and thought about what might have been. After all, if it hadn’t been for Ellie stealing Jack away from her, it might have been Kate living here… with Jack, who had been the man of her dreams.

She still thought of him occasionally, imagining what he might be up to and wondering whether they’d ever meet again. Their relationship had ended so suddenly, there had been a lack of closure, and it still niggled away at Kate all these years later. She shuddered and gave herself a shake. What was she thinking about? Why was she dreaming about Jack Carter when she had Dan and the kids at home? It was madness!

She put the framed photo down and got to work, taking pictures of the house from all the best angles and measuring room sizes and wardrobe space.

It was a stunning property and would undoubtedly sell quickly for a huge price, which was all that mattered to Kate really. But she couldn’t help wondering why they were selling up and moving on. How could anyone bear to leave this palace?

When she had all the photos and information she needed, she packed up, locked up, and headed back to the office, still dazed after seeing Jack again after all this time.

She told Jo about it, of course – she was her closest friend as well as her partner – and they looked at the pictures together and sighed about the house and the life that might have been Kate’s.

Jo hugged her.

But if you’d stayed with Jack, you wouldn’t have this amazing career, Kate, or your lovely family!

Kate smiled. “I know… I’m just being silly. Maybe it’s just to do with missing my youth.” She shrugged. “I can’t believe I turn fifty next month!”

A few days later, the two colleagues were working away at their desks when the shop door clattered open. An older woman came in, clutching her handbag and looking slightly wary.

“Can I help you, madam?” Jo asked.

The woman smiled nervously. “I’m looking for whoever did the valuation of my house at Seacliff – my name’s Ellie Carter,” she added.

Kate stopped typing and looked up.

No, it couldn’t be! Ellie was blonde and glamorous, whereas this woman was frumpy, overweight and going grey – not that Kate ever judged on appearances.

“Ellie?” she said, standing up. “It’s me – Kate Wilson…”

As Ellie’s face registered first confusion, then embarrassment, Jo ushered her into a seat at Kate’s desk and went to fetch her a coffee.

“Kate, I had no idea you worked here! You must have a different surname?” Ellie stammered, looking as though she wished she’d never walked through the door.

Kate maintained her professional poise and explained that she owned the business and that her name was Bingham now. “I love your house, Ellie…” she continued. “And you married Jack?”

At which point, Ellie burst into tears, much to the dismay of Jo and Kate, who grabbed tissues and a glass of water and patted the poor woman on the shoulder as she told them her story…

They were getting divorced. Even worse, Jack had met someone else – someone fifteen years younger! – and since the kids were now away working elsewhere, Ellie would be starting over, alone, at the age of fifty-one.

Kate was shocked. “I’m so sorry, Ellie,” she said sadly. “I thought you and Jack were perfect together – I can’t believe he cheated on you!”

Ellie sniffed and blew her nose.

Why not? After all, he cheated on you, didn’t he? With me. I should have known that a leopard doesn’t change its spots…

Tears began rolling down her cheeks again, and Kate couldn’t help but suddenly feel sorry for this woman that she’d spent years hating.

“Anyway, I just came in to say that I really liked the valuation and photos you did, Kate, so I’m happy for you to list the house.” She took a drink of water, wiped her eyes and stood up. “That’s me done with it now though. I’m moving back to my mum and dad’s for a while, then I’ll find myself a new place once the house is sold.”

Kate stood up as well. “Oh, Ellie, I’m so sorry it’s come to this.” She tried to focus on the business side of things. “So will we just handle any viewings ourselves?”

Ellie shook her head. “No, Jack will take care of that – he’s been working away for a bit but he’s back now. I’m sure you’ll meet him again soon…”

The two women looked at each other, now with a very different dynamic between them than they’d had at university: Kate, tall, bubbly and confident; Ellie miserable, nervous and awkward.

Unsure of what to do next, Kate acted on impulse and hugged the unhappy woman in front of her. Ellie hugged her back and then scuttled out of the shop.

Jo looked at her friend, wide-eyed and amazed by everything that had happened.

“So, does this mean I get to meet the famous Jack Carter, then?”

Kate frowned. “I guess so… though I’m not sure I want to see him again.”

They didn’t have long to wait. The house went on the market the following week and a day later, Jack Carter called the office to say he’d pop by to drop off his spare keys for viewings.

Kate actually felt quite sick at the thought of meeting him again. Even though Ellie had painted a pretty damning picture of her ex-husband, there was a tiny part of her that worried she might still have feelings for him. Especially if, unlike his wife, he looked exactly like he did in the family photo.

Which, it turned out, he did.

As Jack strode into the shop the next day, Kate could swear she heard Jo gasp aloud in amazement. He looked in her direction, recognised her and a slow smile crept across his face.

“Well, well, well… if it isn’t the lovely Kate Wilson, looking as stunning as ever!”

Which made Kate flush with embarrassment. He was so sleazy! And arrogant! And horrible! How could she ever have liked this man?

She thought quickly of Dan, her husband, who’d supported her through everything, looking after the kids and doing all the housework while she’d studied, then helping her set up the estate agency and build the business. Who’d been loving and loyal for twenty-five years and who had cared only for her.

Then she looked at Jack, and realised, with relief, that she finally had the closure she had needed all these years.

Kate didn’t need a big flashy house and fancy clothes and jewellery. Thankfully, her marriage was built on much stronger foundations.

More uplifting short stories:

Read A Lost Valentine, Sweet Delights, The Midnight Bakery, The Right Choice and A Winter’s Kiss now, plus many more in our archives.

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Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.