Saturday 6 April 2019

Hot Stones

by Pauline Howard

camomile tea

I grab the laundry bag which I sorted and put by the front door during one of my night-time forays. Harry Stubbs, the litigation partner, tells me there is an excellent shirt service right by the office. He uses it all the time. Apparently his second wife refused to do his shirts and he’s never looked back. Anyway, I can’t keep buying new, I must have over forty of them now.

I walk to the train station – one of the main reasons we picked this location to buy our first house – and my working day begins as I pull out my phone and scan through my emails.

‘I saw your Janey on my way in this morning, she had that just-laid smile. Didn’t even notice me until I got right in her face.’ A pair of glasses sitting on a bulbous nose in the middle of a bald dome and underlined by a moustache, peer at me through the open door – all other features are nondescript.

‘Not guilty, Charles.’ I try for flippant, ‘You may remember she’s not my Janey anymore.’

‘No, of course, but you know what I mean.’ He actually looks sheepish and quickly moves on. Idiot!

I sigh and rub my face. I had forgotten for a while. I was engrossed in this contract. Now graphic images of my ex and the arsehole fornicating are invading my concentration.

‘I’m going to get a coffee,’ I say to my assistant as I pass his desk, ‘can I get you anything?’

‘That would be great. And one of those iced doughnuts please.’ He digs into his trouser pocket and pulls out a little leather purse.

This irritates me today. ‘Don’t worry about that. You buy next time.’ I do not need a handful of change from this guy.

I lie on my back and stare at the ceiling. Street light filters through the silver birch that overhangs the back fence. I am hoping the ever-changing pattern will mesmerise me to sleep. I refuse to look at the clock. Reluctantly I swing my legs over the side of the bed and force myself up and downstairs. I am exhausted. I open and shut the fridge and kitchen cupboards looking for I don’t know what. I grab the TV remote and flick from channel to channel. I try the couch. I’m getting cold. Back to bed.
This has got to stop.

Harry Stubbs seems to be a mine of information, ‘You should get a hot stone massage, Max. It will soothe and relax. Make you sleep. Just make sure it is a male masseuse though otherwise …,’ he taps the side of his nose and winks, ‘Need I say more, eh?’ and he winks again adding a wicked, tooth baring smile. I have to chuckle, who would ever think that Harry knew about such things! But I can’t get away from the fact that he sometimes gets it right. So why not? Anything is worth a try.

I drop into the all-night store outside the station on my way home and scan the ad board. There must be something here. There, a small blue card, "Sam’s Studio – Thai and Hot Stone Massage". I tap the number into my phone and this woman excuses herself and takes down the card replacing it with one that says “Samantha’s Studio – Women only.”

‘Are you taking over from Sam?’ I look at her, finger still poised over my phone, ‘because if you are I would like to know where he’s gone.’

‘I am Sam.’ She glares at me. ‘I don’t do men.’ She looks me up and down and the corners of her mouth twitch, ‘However, for you I might make an exception,’ and she raises one very shapely, black eyebrow.

I am taken aback for a few seconds. Now I look her up and down and with my imagination running slightly wild I smile and say, ‘That would be great. Can you do this evening?’

I turn my shiny new key in the mortice lock and feel a quiet satisfaction at the sound and feel of the clunk. I open the door and the smell of paint and new furniture assails me. I sold everything along with the house. The forty-odd shirts went in the charity bag. I want nothing to remind me of those dreary days. And Jane wants her half of everything in cash, which suits me.

She broke up with the first chap in no time and I hear she has flitted from one to another ever since. I don’t want her to be unhappy but I am secretly wondering if she is getting her comeuppance.
I put the bags of shopping down in the kitchen. Tonight, I am cooking for Sam.

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