PART II: Cuckoos Abroad
Alice returned home to the city and settled down to life with New Doug. He was a vast improvement on Old Doug. He was clean and tidy and showered regularly. He shaved every morning, and used products to smarten-up his hair. He listened when Alice spoke; he was sympathetic to her concerns, and took an interest in her passions. With a healthy diet and daily exercise, he slimmed down to a well-sculpted physique that he waxed of unsightly body hair; and regular use of a sun-bed turned his pasty skin to golden-brown. Last thing at night, he told Alice he loved her; first thing in the morning he woke her with the gentlest of kisses and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. As for the sex in between ... Alice didn't know where New Doug found the energy, but it was very good energy.
As a result, Alice's work life improved. She became more focused and determined than ever, while at the same time adopting a more relaxed attitude towards colleagues. She became popular in the office, helpful with advice, open to suggestions – even with the girl she did not like very much; the one who was younger than her, and perhaps a little prettier, too. With Old Doug gone, an improved Alice emerged, a less ruthless Alice. Her obvious people skills drew her to the attention of the bosses, who gave her that well-deserved promotion to manager. Alice's life had at long last reached a state of perfection, and she had West Spire to thank for it.
Only once did Alice and New Doug argue. It was a strange conflict of opinions that occurred one evening while he washed the dishes after dinner, and she read a magazine at the kitchen table.
Alice said, "We should go away this weekend. Just the two of us."
"Sure," said New Doug. He looked over his shoulder and gave his wife a smile of champions. "Sounds a fantastic idea."
"Where shall we go?"
"How about you decide?"
For Alice, her husband had made yet another excellent suggestion, and she pondered over a suitable location to spend a weekend. She clicked her fingers. "I know, what about Odd Place?"
By the sink, New Doug visibly stiffened. "What?"
"You know, Odd Place by the Sea. It's such a nice little town, but we hardly saw any of it last time."
"I said no!" New Doug smashed a plate on the kitchen floor to emphasise his refusal. "I can't go back there," he growled.
"Okay," Alice said slowly, startled. "It was only a thought."
New Doug's smile returned to his face. "That's great," he said as he cleaned up pieces of plate from the floor. "Why don't you find somewhere else? Go and have a think about it while I make you a cup of green tea."
And they never spoke of Odd Place by the Sea again.
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