Laura looked at her watch as her heels clacked on the pavement. She nearly twisted her ankle twice trying to pace wider than she was used to, striding with a jogger’s gait more than a businesswoman’s. She looked at her watch again, almost willing it to turn back.
Shit shit shit.
She tried calling the spa a few times only to have them go unanswered, so when the phone in her hand vibrated, she swiped without looking.
“Hello? I’m so so sorry, I’ll be ri—oh. It’s you. Look, Dave. I don’t want to get into… No! I told you, I need some space to think things over. No, I can’t. Just leave me alone. Please. Please? Look, I’m busy, I got to go.”
Her ex had been trying to patch things up lately, but she wasn’t going to cater to his whims. She saw the look on his face when she told him she was pregnant. The expression he gave must’ve been an effective foreshadowing, because Laura wasn’t surprised when he left. It took a while before she started answering his calls, and she was sure there was a tinge of guilt in his voice every time they spoke, but if things carry on this way, maybe—just maybe—they could work things out and have a normal family.
But that had to wait. After all, she was only two months in. What happened today would totally change everything. She tried calling the spa again, so engrossed in juggling between the phone and her watch that she blindly crossed the street. A honk startled her back to the moment as a red Fiat screeched inches away from her. The sudden scare was so overwhelming that Laura actually felt physical pain.
“I almost killed you, you dumb bi—Hey! Come back here!”
Laura darted around the block before feeling out of breath. Weird, she thought. She sat down on the curb and kept an eye on the junction in case the mad motorist wasn’t done yelling at her. The car turned the other way and sped off, leaving Laura to breathe a sigh of relief. What a day it’s turning out to be. She got up and started her brisk walk again.
She finally made it to the spa and the doorbell rattled as she barged in. “I’m so sorry, I really am. Got caught up with some stuff. Is Tori still free?”
A silence blanketed the room, before the lone man at the counter broke it, “Tori’s went home.”
“Okay, is there anyone else who could do my appointment?”
“I’m the only one available today.”
“No I can’t. I mean, no offense, but I’m not used to men doing my sessions.”
“Then I’m afraid we’ll have to reschedule your appointment.”
“I can’t. I might not even be here to—” she sighed. “You know what? Fine. Just do it. I don’t need plucking, just the relaxing stuff will do.”
With a towel nestled over her eyes, Laura reflected on the day’s happenings.
And right on cue, the man said, “You seem really tense.”
Laura smiled, trying her best not to wrinkle her mask. “You can tell?”
“Of course. Is it work or love?”
Laura snorted. “Neither. Health. I’m not sure how everything’s going to turn out, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to give birth, or afford treatments, or have someone to be by my side at the end of the day. Well I guess there’s a little bit of love involved, but I wouldn’t trust him to be by my side. Especially now.”
“Everybody makes mistakes.” The man kneaded her neck with a blend of a firm grip and a gentle touch.
“I know,” Laura sighed. “Anyway, this is probably my last time indulging before my life turns to hell. And to think that I haven’t even started on my bucket list yet.”
“I don’t know. I always thought I’d get around to it. Now I realise how much I’ve been taking all this for granted.”
The man remained silent and continued massaging her for a few moments, then: “What if you had one wish? What would you wish for?”
“You mean right now? Wouldn’t that be a treat. I’d wish to be like this forever. To just relax, free from all the worries of the world.”
“But you’re still young. You’ve got so much ahead of you.”
“Young? Maybe. But I don’t think I’ve got much left ahead of me.”
“But wouldn’t you want to wake up? Face reality someday?”
The man lifted his hands off Laura’s face. “And this is what you really want?”
“Look. I just came here to relax, okay? These questions are weirding me out. Could we just keep quiet for a bit?”
“As you wish. I’ll leave you to your thoughts. Let me know when you’re ready to wake up.”
“Just give me a sign when you’re ready. I’ll be here. I love you.”
But there was no answer, and Laura shrugged it off as she drifted among the borders of slumber. I need this. I need to relax and forget about everything, just for a bit, and there she remained, within her different waves of reality.
But in another reality, one that would take her outside her mind, she would see an ambulance rushing away from a red Fiat, a puddle of blood in its wake; would see the mechanical intervals of a ventilator gushing in the background; would see a man sitting beside her bed, his hands holding hers; would hear him whispering, “Wouldn’t you want to wake up? You’re still so young.”
In that reality, time passed, wounds healed, but the soul remained trapped. In that room for two, one was awake, while the other slept. Both would be graying, the years visible in the crow’s feet around their eyes. One person whispering, “Just give me a sign, I’ll be here. I love you,” only to be greeted by the mechanical beeps of a heart monitor.