Olivia let the warmth of the sand envelop her and tried to ignore the ticklish sensation as droplets of sweat rolled slowly over the contours of her body. It was hot and she liked it. A long way from home, where the weather forecast had been for ‘cold and dark’. The massage lady approached. Olivia squinted through pretend sleeping eyes. She didn’t want to give her interest away until she’d had a chance to check out her would-be torturer. Having heard stories about permanent neck damage, overly amorous masseurs and being generally unused to having strangers’ hands on her body, Olivia was understandably nervous about undergoing this Thai holiday ritual. But, she was here. She’d finally mustered up the courage to come alone. That took some doing. She hadn’t had much self-confidence since her marriage fell over so spectacularly. The massage lady had somehow sensed Olivia was watching her.
‘ Yes please,’ said Olivia in a forced, over-cheery voice.
And, she realised, too late, that she’d come up into Cobra, exposing her bare breasts to the rest of the tourists lazing on the beach. While her cheeks coloured a little, she remembered that she was far from home and knew no one on this beach – she’d patrolled it twice before dumping her stuff on her little patch of sand, just to be sure. The woman dropped her cushion at Olivia’s head and sat down.
‘300 Baht okay?’
Olivia quickly worked out the exchange rage and figured this equated to about ten Aussie dollars.
‘Okay’, she said, managing to hand over some well worn notes to the lady without further exposing herself.
How old was she? She looked ancient. Olivia didn’t get another look at the woman, as her face was pushed gently down into her towel. Olivia heard the flick of an opening bottle. Warm sticky oil pooled in the small of her back. The smell of coconut reached Olivia’s nose, reminding her of her teenage years back in Melbourne. She and her friends had slathered themselves in oil at the Ashburton Pool, trying to outdo each other in resembling a hazelnut by the end of summer. Reminiscences were cut short as surprisingly smooth hands started working the oil up and down the length of her torso. Olivia remembered to breathe. It had been a long time since anyone had touched her bare skin and she tried to suppress a shiver.
‘Yes,’ mumbled Olivia into the sand.
The smooth stroking turned into firm and then hard pressure along her back. The lady found the knots in Olivia’s shoulders and neck. She didn’t hold back, using thumbs, knuckles and even her elbows to knead and pummel Olivia’s muscles and fibres. The pain levels were increasing but Olivia resisted the urge to shout stop.
Stop it did, but then the woman rearranged herself and her hands, either side of Olivia’s head.
Olivia did as she was commanded with as much grace as she could muster, which wasn’t much, considering she held the untied strings of her bikini top in her right hand and was using her left elbow to try to gain some kind of traction in the subsiding sand. Finally she made it onto her back and straightened up the triangles affording a small degree of modesty to her boobs.
‘Okay,’ echoed Olivia, wondering what was coming next. The woman cradled Olivia’s head in her hands. She rocked it slowly side to side, like a baby. Olivia was lulled by the sensation and thought it reminded her of warm summer days sleeping in a hammock. Crack! Olivia’s neck popped audibly as the woman wrenched it first to the left and then to the right. Two more gentle movements and Olivia’s head was once again on the towel.
‘Fuck yes! GREAT, THANK YOU!’
Olivia was finding it hard to control her voice, which had gone all loud and squeaky. The lady beamed a smile around her broken teeth, nodded and stood up. She placed her hands together, bowed slightly and farewelled Olivia with a gentle khob-kun-Ka. As Olivia watched her disappear down the beach she realised she felt fantastic. Her body was loose, relaxed and calm. All those years of therapy hadn’t done a damned thing. Ten minutes in the hands of a stranger and she felt like a new woman. She felt released.