Judith didn’t hesitate. “The deluxe package how it’s listed should be perfect. Massage first, I think.”
The hostess nodded, looking relieved. “Yes, right this way.” She led us into another waiting area. It was even more posh than the first one, with stone walls and opaque glass throughout. There was a tea bar, but before we could serve ourselves, the hostess introduced us to our own personalized attendants.
Mine was a delicately petite asian girl named Mina.
She seemed anxious and nervous as she asked me what I would like to drink. “I can get you literally anything, Ms. Karlsson. Please don’t hesitate to ask.”
It was an intimidating request. I would rather have just had a menu. “Tea, please.”
She named off ten different teas that the spa boasted. “I’ll take the youthberry oolong infused with lemongrass. Plain, thank you,” I told her.
She seemed relieved, as though she’d been worried I would request something more complicated. She brought a tea service tray to the table in front of me, and prepared my tea as though it were a ritual. I thought it was charming. I told her so.
She looked up, beaming at me. “I trained in Japan, when I was little. You should see my mother. Her tea service puts mine to shame.”
She finally poured the impressively prepared cup of tea, then left briefly, returning with trays of food.
There was fruit, vegetables, tiny sandwiches, hors d’oeuvres, and cheese and crackers. She brought tray after tray, and I took little samples from each.
All of my friends were getting the same treatment in comfortable seats around the stone lined room. It was almost like being inside of a luxurious cave, I mused.
I heard Judith telling the room at large that the cucumber sandwiches were divine. I ate the one I had grabbed. It was pretty tasty, I had to admit. And the tea was to die for, smooth without a hint of bitter.
Mina brought a tray of tiny muffins, truffles, and fruit tarts. I took one of the fruit tarts, thanking her. I ate lightly, sampling more than eating. I had a nervous stomach, since I didn’t know what to expect from the spa day, and surprises made me nervous. I was even bad at relaxing at a spa. The thought was somewhat disheartening.
After we had snacked and drank, we were escorted into a large massage room. It was another modern cavelike design, with frosted glass obscuring us from each other for the massage. We could talk, but we didn’t have to all get naked together. I was relieved.
Mina explained to me how I should prepare for the massage, then left me to it. I undressed, putting my clothes into the large locker provided in my massage nook. It felt wrong to take my jewelry off in public, and leave it in a locker, but I did it, not knowing exactly what we were in store for. I got quickly under the white sheet in only my thong, as Mina had instructed, lying on my stomach.
I saw white shoes approaching me from the hole in the table my face fit into.
“Ms. Karlsson, I’m Jen, I’ll be massaging you today,” a very soothing voice told me.
Jen went through all of the techniques she offered, and I requested the deep tissue. She set to work immediately. She was good. I’d never had a massage like that before, never had a professional of any kind, and it felt divine. Everyone must have been having a similar experience, because shortly after the service began, no one said a word, not even Marnie or Judith, who were notorious for never being able to shut up. There were some appreciative groans heard throughout the hour, but that was all.
We all wore matching plush terrycloth robes as we followed our respective spa attendants to the next service. We used separate rooms for that one. The facial also lasted an hour, and my face felt clean and fresh when it was finished.
All of the girls met up in a modern, stone-walled room that housed a collection of pools designed to look like a modern twist on a natural hot-spring. Stephan and Javier had to go to a separate pool, since the pools were not co-ed, though we were the only occupants of this one.
We soaked for a long time, and I mostly listened to the chatter with a half-smile.
“How cute are Javier and Stephan together?” Judith was asking the room.
I silently agreed. It wasn’t just that they were good-looking. The way they looked at each other, even casually, was good for my soul. I wanted so badly for them to work, I was almost afraid to hope for it.
“Do you approve, Bianca? Does Javier get your stamp of approval?” Marnie was asking me, snapping me out of my musings.
I wondered why everyone thought that I was Stephan’s keeper. The idea was bizarre to me. I would never tell him who to date. From my point of view, I always just wanted his dates to like me, and not mind me being around a lot, since that was usually how it went. “To be honest, anyone that Stephan wants gets my stamp of approval. I just want him to be happy.”
For some reason, that got soft ‘ahs’ all around. Then the topic moved to how cute Stephan and I were.
“You guys are related somehow, right?” Brenda asked. She was the one in the group that had known us the shortest amount of time. “Stephan told me you were family.”
I smiled. “Not by blood, but in every way that counts. He’s like a brother, and my best friend. If that’s not family, I don’t have a clue what is.”
Another round of ‘ahs’ made me smile. The talk soon turned to James, of course.
“Is it serious, Bianca? It seems really serious.” This came from Judith, who had no qualms about prying.
I had a hard time with girl talk, with opening up in general, but I wanted to try. “I don’t know. It feels that way, but it’s still so new.” I took a deep breath, continuing. “He wants me to move in with him.” I was surprised at myself for revealing that, but I wanted their opinions.
Every single one of them gasped, hands flying to their chests. It was comical.
“What did you say?” Jessa asked. She was the first one to recover, from the looks of the other ones.
I shrugged. “I told him we needed to spend more time together before I could consider something like that. He’s not easily deterred, though. He had a stylist, or dresser or whatever you call them, buy me a wardrobe for each of his houses, so he already has me kind of moved in, even though I never agreed to it.”
More comical gasping and some stuttering at that one.
“That’s crazy, right?” I asked, hoping to hear a sensible opinion.
I didn’t get one. Even sensible Brenda thought he was romantic, and hopelessly in love with me.
I didn’t tell them that he’d never said he loved me. It will hurt to say it out loud, I thought.
“You guys would have supermodel babies,” Judith said on a sigh, in fantasyland.
Jessa was watching me closely, and seemed to see something on my face at Judith’s words. “Oh, my, god, have you guys talked about having kids?”
I grimaced. “He mentioned it briefly. He dropped the issue when he saw that it made me want to run screaming. It’s all way too fast, right? It’s crazy to move so fast in a relationship, right?” I asked, again looking for a voice of sanity.
“Martin said he knew he was going to marry me on our very first date. He said he just knew, like something in his mind clicked. He said I was the missing piece in his life’s puzzle. He pursued me until I saw it, too. And that was twenty years and two kids ago, so it worked out for us.” Brenda smiled as her story got ‘ahs’ around the room.
Okay, even I could admit that story was pretty sweet.
“James strikes me as a man who knows what he wants,” Brenda continued. “I don’t see him changing his mind, either, not with the way he looks at you.”
Okay, I am not going to get any sobering advice from this crowd, I decided.
Next we moved on to manicures and pedicures, the guys joining us again. They weren’t a cute couple, I decided, watching them. They were beautiful, Stephan so muscular and golden, Javier so, well, pretty, and elegantly built.
“Me and Marnie are official losing it, guys,” Judith told us all.
“Did we ever even have it?” Marnie asked her, mock despair in her voice.
“What happened?” Jessa asked, laughing at the outrageous women. They were like a comedy duo, playing off of each other for an entertaining routine.
“We tried to get a guy to do a three-way with us, and he turned us down! ” Judith’s voice was bewildered.
I giggled a little. The unexpected turn of conversation had surprised it out of me.
“Captain Damien?” Stephan asked them sympathetically, but he couldn’t quite hold back his smile.
Marnie and Judith were in pedicure chairs next to each other, and they nodded at the same time, as though in sync.
“Don’t take it personal, girls, he’s hopelessly in love with Bianca,” Javier said, his first words in a while.
Stephan gave him a look, and Javier winced at me sympathetically.
My face flushed. I hoped he was joking, or at least mistaken.
“That’s not fair!” Judith told me. “You have Mr. Beautiful. Give us Damien!”
I wrinkled my nose. “Damien is just a friend. He’s not in love with me.” My voice was almost apologetic. I looked to Stephan for support. “You talk to him all the time, Stephan. Tell them he’s not into me.”
Stephan grimaced. “I’ve told him, over and over again, that you’re not interested in him like that, but he at least has a very enduring crush.”
“What do you mean by enduring?” I asked him, my eyes narrowed on him.
“Two years or so. And he stopped dating, and hooking up, at least six months ago, so that you would take him serious when he asked you out again. He thought that the fact that he’s a slut is what was keeping you from seeing him as more than a friend.”
I was shocked. All of this had been going on without my knowledge, and Stephan decided to tell me about it when we were getting our feet worked on by strangers, and in front of five of our friends. I gave him my best ‘WTF’ look.
It grew real quiet after that, the others sensing the sudden tension between Stephan and I. It was a good ten minutes before they all started chatting again, but I stayed silent, brooding.
I didn’t understand why Stephan had kept it from me, but I supposed it was an awkward thing to bring up, when he’d known how I clearly felt.
Stephan sat next to me when we got the manicures. He looked pretty cute, a big muscular guy in a soft robe, getting his nails done. I was smarter than to point it out, though.
He gave me a searching look. “I’m sorry. That came out at a bad time, but when you asked so directly, I couldn’t deny it. That was just the first time it came up, yanno?”
I could see his position, and I nodded. “Yeah, it’s just awkward. But it’s awkward for you, as well. I just don’t understand what I could have done to give Damien the wrong idea. It makes no sense.”
Stephan flushed a little, and I studied him, fascinated. “From what I’ve gleaned, your disinterest is just more of a turn on for him. I think he likes unreadable, mysterious women, and you’re the ultimate when it comes to that. The problem is, it’s because you genuinely aren’t interested in him. But that just doesn’t seem to faze him. He thinks he just needs to wait out your relationship with James, and that you’ll come around eventually.”