By Tim Hayes

Julia’s hands hadn’t reached the point of the day where they became sore and tender, but she knew that moment wasn’t far off.

She understood that after delivering her fourth massage of the day, it would be time for a break – a light lunch and a half-hour at the indoor pool.  The miracle waters, fed from mineral springs in the nearby mountains, lived up to their name, re-energizing Julia’s muscles, her mind, her very spirit, so that the remaining clients received the same expert manual manipulations for their aching necks, backs, legs, and shoulders that she provided everyone.

Derek, the fellow at the pool who got guests drinks and snacks, and passed out and collected towels, always gave Julia a special smile and a little extra Coke or a few extra potato chips with her daily order.  Resort workers had to stick together, you know.

Day after day, week after week, convention after convention, the spa at the resort never seemed to run low or run out of guests seeking relief from Julia and her compatriots in the dimly lit, tinkling-watered, scented-oils-laden massage rooms.

She had learned her craft in the service, a fact most people took as a punch line, but it was true.  Stationed with the Air Force in Japan, Julia saw the benefits a good massage could have on morale and performance, and with her commanding officer’s blessing, learned how to do it properly and well – including academic studies of human anatomy and musculature – and received a special classification to provide the practice to U.S. service men and women in the Pacific.

Upon her discharge, she immediately found full-time employment at this luxury resort in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania, about as far from the exotic, mysterious Asian culture as you could get.  In this resort, she saw a lot of dull, doughy mid-lifers with a little bit of cash to spend come by on her assembly line massage table.  Mostly nice, normal, pleasant people.  The occasional overbearing, unreasonably demanding, ill-mannered ass, but it’s tough to avoid those humans entirely.

No, what Julia wanted more than anything would be for a smart, sexy, handsome, wealthy gentleman to turn the massage tables on her, so to speak, whisk her off her feet, give her sore hands a break, and take her away from here to someplace special.  Someplace else.  Someplace home, full of love and fun and respect and peace.

The next morning, as she flipped the calendar on the wall of her apartment’s kitchen to the new month of August, Julia’s heart felt a flutter.  There, during the first week of the month, she had circled four days – the annual Litigator’s State Conference, when about a thousand visitors from Pennsylvania’s top law firms descended on the resort for golf, spa service, and some serious hanky-panky.  They had some panel discussions and speakers going on too, but nobody took much notice of those.

And with the Litigators came Tristan.  A self-described successful attorney from Philadelphia who scheduled a massage all four days, and all with Julia.  They’d been flirting this way once a year for about four years.  She loved working on him, and he reciprocated that appreciation.  Instead of lying there silently or, worse, falling asleep as so many clients did, Tristan kept up a lively, teasingly suggestive patter during his massage, that Julia found thrilling and sensual.

The two of them never crossed the line into erotic activity, even though it would have been incredibly easy to do so.  But that didn’t mean that unspoken idea still wasn’t constantly sparking around the room.  Julia wondered whether this might be the year Tristan would make a move.  To start talking about maybe a future together.  She’d never heard him mention a wife or family, and he had never worn a wedding band that she could recall.  And, at 31, she sure wasn’t getting any younger.

That day at the pool, Derek brought around her sandwich, chips, and Coke as always with a little extra, and set it beside Julia.

“You okay, Miss Julia?” he asked.  “You look different today.  Everything all right?  Can I get you something else?”

“No, Derek, I’m fine,” she replied.  “Just a little nervous about a guest coming in this afternoon.”

“Well, you’re the best massage pro we’ve got, Miss Julia.”  And, as Derek made his rounds picking up wet towels and tips from guests, half-a-pool away, he whispered, “I think you’re the best, period.”

Tristan arrived for his 2 p.m. treatment and he and Julia danced their usual dance, oils getting rubbed into shoulders and back muscles, him shamelessly flirting, the sexual tension reaching a fever pitch – then the time came to pack up, get dressed, give a wave and a see-you-tomorrow.  This went on all week, until the Keystone State’s finest passel of litigators motored back to their law offices for another year.  And another year.  And another year.  And nothing ever changed for Julia and Tristan.

She finally had had enough of this teasing.  I mean, eight years of oiled-up foreplay is plenty.  She needed this guy to either pony up or bow out.  So she jumped in her car one fine morning and drove the Turnpike and the Schuylkill straight into downtown Philly.  She located Tristan’s law office online, and marched right up to the receptionist, demanding to see him immediately.  After getting past a lot of stalling and obfuscating, Julia eventually was led to Tristan’s office.

If it could be called that.

Turns out he was one of five paralegals sharing a common cluster of cubicles, deep in the bowels of the law office.  As Julia came through the door, he had his back to her, talking on the phone.  To his wife.  Who was reaming him out over some mistake he had made making one of the kids’ lunches that morning.

The look of complete mortification on his face when he turned around to see his fantasy massage mistress standing there, while getting a verbal pasting from his wife on the phone, would be an image Julia called to mind any time she needed a belly laugh for the rest of her life.  Well, there went that life plan.

On the drive back to the resort, Julia felt the scales fall from her eyes.  How could she have missed those signals all these years?  Tristan was a drip, so full of himself, for a paralegal especially.  But there was another guy at the resort – a guy who was there every day, year after year, not just one week once a year – a guy who took care of her with a little more effort, a little more attention, a little more sweetness.

Derek.  Derek loved her.  She could see that now.  At last.  They could get married right there at the resort.  How perfect.  It all fit together so beautifully.  The Turnpike never seemed so lengthy.  She couldn’t wait to get back and declare her love for Derek and make his life – their lives – complete.

Julia swung under the massive portico at the entrance to the resort, threw the car into park, and ran inside to the pool.  As she did so, she saw some pimply teenager manning the towels and taking lunch orders.

“Where’s Derek?  Where’s Derek!” she screamed at the kid, grabbing and shaking his skinny arms.

“Hey, Lady, take it easy, will ya?  This is my first day, I just started, all right?  Who’s Derek, anyway?”

The concierge finally told Julia the whole story.  Derek had, in fact, been in love with her for years, but had been scrimping and saving his salary and tips before approaching her to talk about a future together.  He had planned to do so that very day, but when he learned that Julia had gone to Philadelphia to be with some attorney, Derek, despondent, took up an offer from the pastry chef in the kitchen to elope.  Seems she had been eyeing up Derek for quite some time herself, and she could make a living anywhere.

So that’s where they went.  Anywhere else.

And if you’re planning on contacting Capt. Julia, you can find her today at Aitos Logistics Center Air Force Base, Lower Bulgaria, working on her military pension.  She has given up massage as a means of making a living.  Suddenly, it – and you saw this coming, didn’t you – really rubbed her the wrong way.

Copyright 2016 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting