(“Dear God, why me?”)
Kathy stormed out of the station, before she gave in to the temptation to strangle the boss. She threw herself in her car and drove. When tyres screeched as she left the car park, she checked her temper. She knew better than to drive like a lunatic. She was trained to drive better than an idiot, the sort of idiot she dealt with every day.
(“How dare they?”)
It wasn’t unusual for Kathy to talk to herself. Living alone, she frequently had conversations with her car (who was her best friend), the fridge (which usually yawned back empty, except for possibly a jar of pickled eggs and a carton of orange juice), or the television on the very rare occasion she found time to turn it on (it was oddly satisfying to argue with newsreaders).
(“What do they think I am? A fucking beauty queen?”)
When she’d intimidated an unsuspecting Chinese man, barking her takeaway order at him, apologised to the delivery driver for her behaviour with an extra-large tip, and burnt her tongue after re-heating her duck with chilli and garlic in the microwave (because she got side-tracked with work), she took a shower to calm down, letting the power nozzle wash the stresses and frustrations off her.
While her anger at the assignment she’d been handed receded as the water pounded her, the stinging spray woke different frustrations. Mid-cycle, she always turned sensitive all over. Quickly and clinically, she washed herself without paying attention to her swollen breasts or throbbing genitals. Clad in utilitarian knickers and a plain t-shirt, she went back to work.
Kathy was not particularly enjoying herself but she had seen that there were several women in the relaxation lounge, which would be a perfect opportunity to probe and observe.
“I’ve been coming for years. At least every other week. It’s so relaxing. It’s me-time. I completely pamper myself. Sauna and then a massage,” a rather large woman enthused between sips from her water bottle. “What about you?”
“It’s the first time. I’m not quite sure if it’s for me. It was a present,” Kathy confessed.
“Oh, dearie, give it a chance. Do you have a busy job? Yes? Then you should afford yourself something special to relax. I look after my grandchildren and I always find them so much easier to deal with when I’ve been here.”
“I usually relax in the gym, or swimming.”
“I like exercise, too,” another woman contributed. She was as scrawny as the other woman was big, and at least 10 years younger, so closer to Kathy in age. “But nothing compares to a good massage. Karl is an absolute genius. He can find knots in my muscles that I don’t even know are there. Like Jean, I spoil myself.”
“What do you like about massage? All that touchy-feely stuff. Isn’t it… a bit… invasive?” Kathy asked, proud of her act.
“What do you mean? Sexual? No. Not at all. That’s not what it’s about. The therapists here are very professional. They know what they are doing and make you feel confident with yourself.”
“But what if someone is not and oversteps the mark. What then?”
“I, for one, cannot imagine that happening,” Jean countered. “It’s discreet here, and it’s about making you feel good, as a woman.”
“But not sexually,” the other woman quickly added. “I’ve never heard anyone complain.”
“You hate shopping malls.”
“I’m trying to compromise. They do and I want to meet them. I have the day off. I’m even writing everything down, including my shifts, so I know what my plans are. See?”
She let go of his hand to show him her phone diary, then felt stupid when he laughed.
“Who are you and where’s the real Kathy?”
“Don’t mock,” she muttered, grabbing his hand again. “What do you want to do?”
They had by now returned to the bridge where they’d started after walking round the block.
“To kiss you.”
It was a light and happy contact. Smiling, Rob pecked her lips repeatedly until she joined in on the game. Then he dropped several kisses on her cheeks, and her forehead. When he targeted the top of her head, Kathy opened the top button of his shirt and dusted his neck with little nips.
“I want to do that all over,” she mumbled just loud enough for him to hear.
Rob’s reaction was instantaneous, and he clamped her to him, pressing his erection against her.
“Shhh!” he cut her off.
He held her tight and unmoving until Kathy was burning with awareness. Gradually she felt him relax. As his turgidity subsided, his grip lightened.
“Enough,” he declared. “Now I’m hungry. Where to?”
Kathy counted ringtones, her heart sinking further with each one.
(“… four… five… si…”)
Rob picked up, but said nothing.
Kathy’s tongue felt stuck to the roof of her mouth.
“Rob?” she whispered.
“Who else were you expecting?”
“Are you sitting comfortably?” she asked.
“I’m sitting in bed.”
She heard his intake of breath.
(“I’ve got his imagination going.”)
Feeling a little more confident, she continued.
“What are you wearing?”
“T-shirt and pyjama bottoms.”
“Mmh. I’m wearing a baby doll.”
Her attempt at sounding sultry was ruined when she giggled.
“I didn’t even know this existed, but I went shopping for you.”
She paused, but Rob said nothing.
“It’s a little, frilly nighty. I chose one in purple. I think it looks good on me. It’s fitted tight across my breasts.”
(“This is tougher than I thought, but he hasn’t hung up.”)
“Then it flares out in a froth of see-through material. It barely reaches my bottom. Do you like it?”
She paused for a reply, but could still just hear him breathing.
“My nipples can feel the material. They feel tight. I flick across them and they’re as hard as pebbles. They’re tingling. I imagine my hands are yours. I can feel the touch all the way to my centre. I’m getting quite warm. I wish you were here to take them into your mouth and suck hard. I need that. Do you want to suck my breasts?”
“Take your t-shirt off.”
Rob’s voice was husky.
It was day three and Kathy woke up relaxed and rested. No residual feeling of anger gnawed at her, no impatience to get up and get onto the streets to validate her existence.
(“But my job’s important.”)
Of course it was important, and she was looking forward to getting back in her squad car the following Monday, but at that moment, after waking but before planning the day, she didn’t feel driven.
She moved and the crisp sheets teased her body. She remembered her nightdress was lying folded somewhere by the foot of her bed.
(“Does one orgasm have the power to change me?”)
She blushed when she remembered that it had been more than one. The first little one had overwhelmed her out of the blue, but the second, she’d actively sought, teased out of her highly-strung body.
In the end it was embarrassment that drove her out of bed and into her gym clothes. For the first time in very long, she found it hard to get started. Every stretch during her warm-up routine was a chore. Then, on the treadmill, every step was haunted by the need to sit down and relax, to take time out. She increased the speed a little. Knowledge of her routine did that, not the joy of anticipation. Every muscle felt heavy. Sheer strength of will made her speed up again.
When her breathing changed, memories of the night overtook her lethargy.
(“I needed it.”)
Looking about her, Kathy didn’t see anyone she recognised from earlier in the day. Jean and Laura, she knew, only came for the day once in a while. There were only four other tables and Kathy found herself speculating about the other women.
Were any here vulnerable enough to be enticed into prostitution? Sonya had talked to her about sex. Was that the way to grooming women? But Sonya had spoken about women having control, taking responsibility, which doesn’t sound like abusing vulnerability.
The two women at the far table, she reckoned, knew each other. Best friends. They looked like a pair of birds chattering away over each other, although she couldn’t hear their conversation.
She then looked closely at a table of three and realised she did recognise the three women from yesterday. After only a day, their demeanour had changed. Freya looked more relaxed, less starchy, Lilac was sitting straight-backed and looked at the other two women when she spoke. She must have found her voice as neither other woman was leaning forward to try and hear her. Freya smiled at a comment made and looked quite pretty. Heather wasn’t talking like a waterfall. Her hands occasionally flapped until she caught them, placed them on the table, took a deep breath, and spoke briefly.
“During that time, I’d like you to behave as if you’re on holiday with nowhere in particular to go. You can go to a museum, to a café, you can sit and do some people-watching. Chat to someone about nothing of consequence. Take time out, in other words. In the real world. Can you do that?”
(“Shit, can I?”)
“I don’t know. 5 hours of doing nothing? Seems like such a waste of time. Can I go to the gym?”
“Hmm, no. Complete your morning programme here. Do your gym session in the morning. My staff love you,” Sonya chuckles. “You’re first one in, so they have to wake up for you. Won’t do them any harm. Anyway, remember that this is an extreme exercise. It’s meant to be challenging. When you go back to work next week, you’ll put the two extremes together to complete, or at least continue, the work on your work/life balance.”
(“I still don’t know.”)
“No one will follow you, no one will check up on you. It’s entirely up to you. You’re the owner of the challenge. I set it, but you own it. You control what you do. You’re in charge of yourself. So the challenge is set. We’ll talk on Friday to see what you’ve done about it. OK?”
(“My challenge. My control. My decision. So I could go to the station and report in.”)
The realisation that, whatever Sonya suggested, the execution and outcome were hers, Kathy’s, to control, dissolved her need to rebel.
(“Empowerment. I think I get it.”)
They crossed the water and Kathy left the path, struggled through some undergrowth and pushed them through a broken fence.
“What are you planning?”
This time, she shushed him and turned him to lean against the wall of a small brick building on the edge of the field.
“Keep your eyes closed. Just feel.”
“Bit of necking in the woods, maybe? How old do you think we are?”
Amusement was obvious in Rob’s voice, giving Kathy confidence to continue playing.
“About 17. Now, shh! Just feel.”
(“How do I start this?”)
Kathy decided to lean against him for a kiss, first of all. Both kisses, yesterday and today, could have gone out of control, so it was a good place to start. However, she wanted to maintain control and make him lose it.
Every time Rob tried to speak again, she kissed him quiet, so in the end he just relaxed and let her have control.
Kathy was sure that if she got it wrong, he’d take over.
(“What will keep his attention?”)
Kathy shrugged off her top and put it in one of his jacket pockets. She then put her bra in the other pocket.
“Hold on to those, will you?”
Again she kissed him, hoping he’d be able to feel her breasts through his shirt. Small as they were, her tight nipples were prominent enough to make an impression.
(“Silly! It’s a shirt!”)
She proceeded to unbutton it, all thumbs, but eventually, she drew the two halves apart.
The sky was clear, there was a multitude of stars, but the moon was only a sliver, so she couldn’t see much, yet enough to almost forget that this wasn’t for her, but for Rob. Instead of kissing and playing with his chest, she leaned back into him.
His sharp intake of breath told her he now knew what she’d put in his pockets.
Again, she kissed him into submission, then picked up his hands and brought them up to the sides of her breasts pressed against him. She guided his caress and couldn’t suppress a moan when his thumbs pushed between them and flicked over her nipples.
Before she could stop him, he opened his eyes and lifted her. Instinctively, her legs gripped him round the middle. Rob dipped his head to suck first one, then the other nipple into his hot mouth. Sensations overwhelmed Kathy. Sharp tendrils of hunger flicked through her. He was so good. Her breasts were on fire from his touch, rough through passion but not painful. Just arousing. He hummed as his tongue flicked a nipple and Kathy came close to losing it.
Then he spoke.
“You witch. You bloody, beautiful witch.”