Pauline put on her shiny nylons. When she’d pulled them halfway up she hesitated. Should she put them on, or leave them off? She never before had gotten a pedicure. It always seemed a frivolous thing she associated with spoiled wealthy woman. She herself came from the lower class and she had worked really hard to move upwards in the world and now she’d made it to the position of studio manager for a big marketing company.
She decided to put the nylons on. She shoved her feet in her heels and closed the straps. She straightened her pencil skirt, then she grabbed the voucher and put it in her bag. Last week when she celebrated her 34th birthday, her colleagues had all chipped in and gave her a pedicure relaxation treatment. That was nice of them. It had been Chantal’s idea, she later heard. Weird, she’d never really liked Chantal, she was a sly and backstabbing bitch, and she seemed to be gunning for Pauline’s job. Well maybe she’d misjudged Chantal the whole time. In the future she would try to be nicer.
Pauline got in the car and drove to the salon across town. It was somewhat secluded, the windows were blinded and she didn’t know whether she was at the right place. She rang the bell and a slender young woman answered the door. Her hair was raven black, she had a tattoo on her arm, and the black nail polish on her fingers had chipped in several places.
‘Pauline!’ she said warmly. ‘Welcome, we were expecting you. Chantal has told me all about you, come on in, come on in. I’m June. ’
Pauline stepped into the salon. There was a little waterfall next to the entrance, rushing water, marble, a fresh flowery smell. Soft harp music was playing in the background. There were several leather chairs but they were all empty now. June and Pauline seemed to be the only two people here. June pointed her a chair and Pauline climbed on in. She got the voucher out of her bag and handed it to June.
June brushed it away. ‘Don’t be silly,’ she said, ‘Chantal told me you work insanely hard and you could use some solid relaxation. And I’m the relaxation master.’ June laughed and pulled her backwards pushing Pauline’s shoulders into the soft padding of the chair. For a moment she massaged her neck and temples. Then she mumbled something about the tension, that Pauline was in worse shape than she’d thought.
‘Would you mind if I give you something to help your muscles relax?’ June asked. She got out a syringe, with a silvery white liquid in it.
‘What is it?’ Pauline asked reserved. She was just here for her birthday pedicure, not for some medical whatever.
‘Don’t be scared,’ June said. ‘It won’t hurt, it’ll be like acupuncture.’
Before Pauline had finished nodding the needle was plunged into her arm. It was a sharp sting, quite painful actually. She never had acupuncture, but if it would feel like this acupuncture surely wasn’t for her. A dull cloud filled her arm, it was expanding as the silvery white liquid was released into her muscle. It was cold and warm at the same time. Softly tingling. The dull feeling swiftly spread through her body. It was as if she was melting. She sank deeper into the leather chair, as if it was a soft leather cloud, cuddling her.
‘That’s quite nice, actually,’ she said.
‘I know,’ June replied smiling. Her smile seemed to say, silly silly girl, of course that’s nice that’s why people come here and pay me.
‘I’ve the voucher, the voucher says it’s just a pedicure I think, like, should I pay extra for that shot or… like should I get my shoes of for the pedicure now?’ It was as if her thoughts were hazy, rapidly spinning around, kind of confused she tried to focus on the situation again.
‘Should I take my heels of?’ She asked.
‘I can do that for you,’ June said. She sat down on a rolling stool and bend over Pauline’s feet. The top of her index finger stroked her shin and ankle and stopped on the clasp of the shoe. She pulled on the strap and the heel slipped of. She massaged the instep and toes for a little while.
Pauline’s whole body was feeling tingly now, her muscles were limp and heavy and at the same time she had the feeling she was floating. She yawned. Even her eyelids felt relaxed and heavy. She wanted to close them, but she didn’t want to be rude to June. So she forced herself to keep them open. June’s fingers massaging her ankle now. Her fingers were very strong, her rubbing was tender and firm at the same time.
‘Now you need to take your pantyhose of,’ June said.
Pauline opened her eyes. She hadn’t noticed that she’d closed them. June seemed to look at her expectantly.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, ‘What did you say. I seem to have missed that.’
‘You need to remove your pantyhose,’ June said there was a sadistic smile on her face.
Pauline didn’t understand why. Of course, she needed to remove her nylons, or else June couldn’t do anything to her feet. She tried to sit up straight, but her muscles were too weak to do so. She could barely even lift her hand anymore.
‘I see,’ June said, still with that same smile dancing around her lips. ‘I see the shot I gave you, kicked in, don’t worry. I’ll help you.’ June’s fingers tickled her knee, she ran her hands up the thighs and under the skirt. She pushed the pencil skirt upwards until Pauline’s panties were exposed. Then she hooked her fingers behind the nylons and the panties at the same time and she pulled them both down.
‘Wait,’ Pauline mumbled. Vaguely registering that she was all nude now. ‘Just… wait.’
‘Sshhh,’ June said. ‘Let me enjoy the view, while I work on your feet.’
She got a little cream out and rubbed it all over her legs. Starting at the toes moving all the way up to her thighs and the spot in between her legs. It made her skin glow up with warmth and tingles.
A phone rang. Pauline opened her eyes again. She tried to reach her bag but she still couldn’t move.
‘Can you help me,’ she asked June. Halfheartedly gesturing towards her bag. June reached over and got the phone out. Instead of handing the phone to Pauline she looked at the screen.
‘It’s your work,’ She said. Clicking her tongue and shaking her head. ‘You’re here to relax, not to work right?’ She said belittling, as if Pauline was a little girl that needed a good scolding.
Pauline tried to grab the phone but only with the greatest of effort she could lift her arms for a few inches. June held the phone just out of reach.
‘Chantal will handle it. Chantal is a very good friend of mine. I’ll know she’ll do an outstanding job.’
‘No,’ Pauline said, ‘What? What’s going on? Give me my phone.’
‘In a few hours you’ll get your phone back, sweety, now you just need to relax. You can either choose to lie down and enjoy your treatment, or if you’re going to protest and panic all the time I will give you a little bit of this or that to help you relax some more.’
Pauline stared at the girl in disbelief. She tried to grasp what was going on. With the waves of drowsiness flowing over her mind every now and again it was hard to puzzle the story together. This whole thing was a set-up, but how, why, what was going on at her work? Was Chantal stealing her job? She needed to go to the studio right now.
‘Let me go,’ she told June.
‘But sweety, you’re free to go whenever you want.’ June made a welcoming gesture towards the door. Expectantly she looked at Pauline, but of course Pauline couldn’t get up. She just lied there defeated.
‘Give me my phone,’ she ordered, ‘give me my phone right now.’
June was pouring some clear liquid onto a cloth. ‘Seeing how you’ve chosen to stay, I assume you still want to learn about the art of relaxation.’ She waved the cloth around and then held it a couple of inches in front of Pauline’s face. ‘I’m an artist,’ June said. ‘Chantal knows, Chantal loves it. Everyone who comes here loves it. Just take a deep breath and enjoy.’
The fumes prickled in her nose. It was sharp and her eyes watered up. June’s voice had a very tempting ring to it. If only she could. if only she could stop worrying about work, about Chantal stealing her job. If only she could just give in and drift away on the waves of drowsiness, that would be bliss. She was feeling lightheaded and dizzy. But life wasn’t like that, in life you had responsibilities and… and… and…
She’d lost her train of thought. Her vision was blurring now, the voice of June sticky and syrupy sweet, telling her she did good, telling her she was a good girl, that all would be well, all would be all right, just relax, just breath.
The cloth pressing against her face now. Wet and cold. The fumes even stronger. Her ears were ringing, her head slumping to the side, her eyes rolling up in to her head, she slipped into oblivion.