Scene: Chinese Walk-In Massage Service, Back Room. Dim Lighting.
She: “I would like a foot rub please”
He: “$55 for a foot spa, head and shoulders.”
She: “How long will that take?”
He: “35 minutes”
She looked at her baby wriggling in her husband’s arms and mentally clocked how long it had been since she last fed her.
She: “Um, can I just get my feet rubbed.”
He: “Twenty minutes. $35?”
She: “Yes thanks – that will be great.”
Husband: “Come on Honey. Let’s leave Mummy to it.”
The baby , less squirmy, left in the arms of her father.
She placed her things in a basket under the bed, switched off her phone and kicked off her sandals.
She placed them under the bed carefully, wondering if they should go in the basket too.
She lay down on the bed and propped herself up with the provided pillows.
“Closer” he said.
She shuffled down the bed, now fully reclined.
The room was quiet.
The door was closed.
And he began.
Systematic pressure, long deep strokes.
Directional and deeper still.
She could hear the fan.
The clock ticked.
She shifted uncomfortably, wondering how she could bear staring at a strange man for twenty minutes.
He had only just started…
He looked up, frowned a little.
Amused, he returned his attention to the task.
She closed her eyes.
She felt the space on her hip, the space at her hand.
Nobody needed her.
He kneaded her.
The music played softly in layers.
First the soft syrupy flute in the room ,then underneath the louder and familiar pop thumps of the mall.
She sank further into the bed.
“Ah, that’s tender” he said.
“Yes” she said.
He didn’t speak.
Neither did she.
The space between them softened.
Edges of the world were smoothed.
She was in an apartment, in a different life, she had dumplings and chopsticks and pretty porcelain.
She had cute slippers.
She had a cat.
There were quiet evenings and arguments over where to place the new green lamp.
And, high up in their apartment away from everywhere, they could tune in to the sky quietly buzzing.
“Finished” he said.
“Thank you!” she said.
“Next time get a soak to soften the skin” he said.
Embarrassed, she paid her bill and divorced him.
I don’t often write in the romance genre. Based on a partly true story, those moments of freedom are so few and far between that anything can happen…
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