Eva Rogers, “A Woman Of Undetermined Age,” is an attractive woman who put her life on hold when she married Walter, and tried to be what her husband and society expected of her.
Five years later she's dumped by her insipid husband for a trashy, heavily made-up floozy.
Walter didn't pay his bills, and he didn't pay Eva's bills. What he did do was leave Eva impoverished. She can scarcely afford to pay the rent on her tiny efficiency apartment, and before long that won't even be possible. Bill collectors are hot on her heels.
Something dreadfully tragic happens to Walter, and at the same time, it is remarkably fortuitous for Eva. It changes her life forever.
Eva finds new interest in life when she buys a small vacation lodge in the north and enters into business for herself. She forges new friendships, and enjoys sexy men, and finally learns to savor the moment.
Eva's new business brings with it an exciting mystery, but plunges her into mortal danger!
It turnes out that Walter was a man of more than one mystery.
First, let me assure you of this: I considered for many days, struggled even, deciding if I should tell my personal stories, my adventures; to complete strangers. I wondered, will I be judged as naive? Will some find my actions inappropriate? For a while I thought, no, don't tell. My life should be private. How many people will understand a woman of undetermined age leading a dangerous and exciting life? Can strangers, like you, relate?
I think I'm a normal woman.
But will some find my actions unseemly? Will I appear to be unladylike? Am I outrageously out of character for one my age and position in society, which is unremarkable, given that I'm everyday, born to an everyday family, living an everyday life?
Even I have trouble believing that I'm someone who attracts danger, intrigue, and nefarious characters posing as upstanding citizens. But I do.
All I ask is that you don't judge me.
A solid core of danger–loving recklessness rocks through me that I can't alwaysignore. That, and a strange capacity to sense things that others cannot. I don't give credence to that. It isn't precise. I don't know how I came by it. I don't want it, but it insists on being.
My stories will acquaint you with the real me, a woman who is sometimes misinterpreted by my family, and by those inside my own social class, and with the new friends who share my misadventures. I've changed the names of my friends, and mine, as well as places, dates, events and the timing of them, to protect our identities. Therefore, this is a work of fiction.
Walter is gone.
Oh, I suppose I thought something just might be wrong. Okay, okay, I'll get real here. I knew it, and for a long time. On those rare occasions when I tell myself the unvarnished truth, I felt something bad coming on.
Sometimes I know things that other people don't know. I employ the word know here, because it describes this phenomenon for me in the only way I can process it. It happens in my mind, without permission from my free will.
For the most part I try to ignore those messages from that mystical source, but no matter how hard I try to disregard it, I'm burdened sometimes with the knowing. It intrudes on my day–to–day life. It's usually annoying, the messages are often flawed, and I never know for certain.
My intuitive abilities aren't precise. I can't cause them to come. I can't control their coming. I haven't told anyone. I'm afraid people will think me odd, or that I'm lying. I haven't decided whether knowing is an ability or a defect.
To be honest, I didn't need a vision or prediction to tell me that my marriage to Walter was a failure. It was was predestined.
Getting married seemed the thing to do at the time, so I did it. But for the next five years I was, mentally, on the outside looking in at our life together and I often wondered at what precise moment the marriage would go to pieces.
I watched Walter's progressive detachment from me. I watched with that kind of fascination one associates with the perverse excitement some people experience when viewing a murder prepare for mayhem in horror movies. The audience knows it's going to happen. The question is, when? What day? What hour?
I don't fault Walter for running off with Miss Tantalizing Titties. I didn't try to stop him. I didn't try to compete with her, or even to protest. The truth is, I didn't want him.
If I had cared one bit I wouldn't have felt relief, such profound relief, that day when I came home and discovered Walter's closet empty, and the new toaster gone. But even I couldn't have predicted such outrageous behavior.
One important thing I should mention here. My unique abilities to sense and foresee don't warn me of a powerful attraction to the wrong kind of man. It's how I ended up with Walter. He looked good to me at first, so how was I to know he would turn out to be a zero on the emotional and sexual excitement meter?
Tonight when I came home from work I found a note from Mrs. Walford. She lives down the hall in 5–D.
The note is written on the cardboard back torn from a small notebook, bonded to my door with rubber cement, the stuff teachers are fond of using in their classrooms. I peeled the note from the door, and peeled the stretchy smear from the cardboard.
Mrs. Walford is a retired schoolteacher. She taught high school in affluent neighborhoods to the adolescent offspring of wealthy parents.
I suppose she made many friends during her career, and probably does lunch with them often. I suppose she shops the best stores and attends interesting lectures, and does fun things, while I'm stuck all day in a dull office performing menial clerical tasks for a mere pittance.
It's plain to see that Mrs. Walford lives comfortably.
Our building manager once told me, as I was writing my rent check in his office, that, thanks to her retirement benefits and proceeds from investments made by her father when she was still a child, Mrs. Walford won't ever be in danger of running out of cash.
Mrs. Walford's note says she accepted registered mail for me. I assume it's another late payment notice. I've had a great many of those. I won't pick it up. I don't have money to pay Walter's old bills.
I leave the note on the small table by my door.
After he left me Walter often stopped by, in fact he came by almost weekly, to observe my devastation from his abandonment. I was devastated. I still am. It's a pride thing. I should have been the one to leave him.
After Walter was satisfied that he'd been missed, he left, going out my door with a superior air about him. Those visits were when I finally realized that Walter is a cruel man.
Walter doesn't really like me. He feels threatened by my knowledge. By my intelligence. He wanted someone less then him, and I'm more.
I was often hurt and angry because of his rejection of me. I sometimes tried to wring a bit of emotion from Walter, and when he had nothing to give, I'd begin a conversation about a subject I'm well versed in, tried to get him involved, and when he was foolish enough to respond, baited him with facts and figures I'd gleaned from books, or from what I know because of the excellent education I received.
He asked me, more than once, “Eva, why do you always have to be the smartest one in the room?”
I didn't have an answer for him. I still don't.
Then he'd be out the door, going someplace by himself. I don't know where. I wasn't invited along.
I haven’t heard from him now in more than two months, and the bill collectors are yapping at my heels. It's just a matter of time before one of them discovers where I work. The wage garnishments will start rolling in then. I’m certainly not going to volunteer the information.
Yes, the registered mail can wait until morning. Or until hell freezes over, whichever takes longer.
I've just finished washing my few dishes and the one cooking pot when I hear a snappy little knock on my door. I know it's Mrs. Walford, but I look through the peep hole. I live alone and I put my safety first.
It is. Mrs. Walford. She’s a sweet lady, really. Likable, but so intent on doing the right thing.
I open the door a crack. I can't justify hurting Mrs. Walford's feelings, so I paste a bright smile on my face, and lie through my clenched, straight, white teeth.
“Hello, Mrs. Walford,” I say, determined to sound cheerful for her. “I was just coming to find you. I was caught up in a television show and lost track of time. You shouldn’t have bothered. I’m sorry.”
“It’s just that this looks so important, dear,” she says, thrusting a thick tan packet at me. “It’s registered, and a signature was required. I knew you’d want it right away. I've saved you a trip downtown to the post office tomorrow.”
She sounds proud of this.
I grasp the envelope, feel something from it. The feeling is, I think, bad. But what kind of bad it is, isn't clear. That's not unusual. I often sense something from common objects, but just as often I can't zero in on what it is I'm sensing.
I feign interest in the return address. The envelope is from a law firm unfamiliar to me. That means nothing. I've already had a few of those.
“Thank you! Yes, it does look important, doesn’t it? My! Very official!”
“I was turning in for the night, when I remembered your packet. So there, you have it. Good night, dear.”
“Good night. And thank you!”
I watch the helpful Mrs. Walford scoot lightly down the hall from my door to hers. To her big, beautiful, roomy, apartment. I hear her door snap, the deadbolt clunk. I pitch the important–looking envelope onto the short dining counter that visually divides kitchenette from living area.
I wonder again what rationale caused me to incase myself in this efficiency apartment. I eat, sit, and sleep, in little more than three hundred square feet of fifth floor, nondescript, four walls. Plus bath.
I recall thinking, when I signed the rental agreement, an efficiency apartment will be sufficient for my needs. Sufficient, yes, but just. Living in this cramped cage drives me wild. Still, I'm grateful for safe shelter.
I often have almost paralyzing fear that I won't be able to pay my modest rent if I'm forced to take on Walter's bills. That fear washes over me now. I barely have enough from my low–paying job to keep myself in food, I have no savings to fall back on, and I'll soon slip below the poverty line.
But for now, for right now, I'm grateful for that small number I write on the rent check each month.
I fix a pot of herb tea and wonder if I should open the envelope. I think not. The envelope can lay there until morning. It won't be going anywhere, and I'll be rested in the morning. Tonight I'll relax with that steamy romance novel I bought at the used book store down the street from the office, and with my herb tea.
As I pass by the little counter again, I glance at the envelope. Divorce papers, that's what's in there. I'm certain of it. Walter will have hired an attorney.
It's been almost a year since Walter left me and I shouldn't be surprised. This should have happened much sooner. It's better this way. Closure. It's what I need to happen so I can move forward. It's going to be final. Walter is doing me a favor.
I could find a much better job if I move to the city, but I'm in a catch 22 situation. I can't raise enough money to leave. I'm trapped here in small town middle America.
I've started a meager savings account at the bank where our family has done business since Father and Mother were first married. They remember my parents, and because of that, everyone knows me there. I deposit a few dollars in my account when I cash my miserable paycheck twice each month.
I'm going to move north when I've saved enough. I'll live in the area where our family vacationed so long ago.
I still cherish that cool, green, forested place where Father and Mother took us children on our one and only, very special vacation. I was nine and Lisa was twelve.
We took rooms in a rustic little three–season lodge. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, included. During the hot afternoons, Lisa and I played in the sand by the little lake, just yards from the wide back porch. In the evening we sat there with Father and Mother. We talked long into the night, watched the birds settle down, and soon the fireflies began to flit about, their little lights marking swirling paths, disappearing, then reappearing, often on one of us.
The nights at the lake were short, but the days seemed to contain double hours.
Come September, the month that Father allotted for our vacation ended. Lisa and I went back to school, Father left for his job each morning, and Mother went back to the kitchen.
I often daydreamed about a permanent vacation at the lodge. I saw it as the most perfect place on earth, and wanted to live there forever.
I know now that those daydreams aren't how things really were. Not in the lives of grown–ups, at any rate. But to me, a child, it seemed entirely possible. Our parents raised an invisible safety net shielding our family. Father and Mother made certain that Lisa and I didn't experience life's struggles, or even hear about them. Everything always turned out right.
Father and Mother are gone now, and Lisa has been married for what seems forever. She’s the happy wife of James, and the mother of her own two girls.
As for me, I couldn’t be more alone if I were picked up by some passing eagle, and set down at the top of a tree in that fantasy forest of my childhood.
I miss my family, especially my mother. I can almost hear her gently scolding me now, “Eva, you are always feeling, oh, so very sorry for yourself!”