Buskers and waistcoats

Alaur walked out of Bai’s bathroom.  “Where do you keep your toothpaste?”

“Oh yeah.  I’m out, aren’t I?”

“I can run to the store and get you some.”

“Great.  If you’re going, then I’ve got a list of stuff to get.”  Bai patted Lee’s back.  “I’ll be right back.”

During the few minutes that Bai conferred with Alaur, Lee tried to listen to the show on the tellie.  He heard a portion of an argument about going after a killer and decided the plot was as old as time — revenge — reduced down to a 22-minute screenplay, a morality tale for mass consumption, and Lee wasn’t going to learn much about life from the show, just about the imaginations of screenwriters and the acting/directing skills of the ensemble.

“I’ll be back soon!”

“Take your time.  I’m going to have to spend at least another thirty minutes on Lee.”

“Okay.”

“Bye, Alaur!”

“Bye, Lee.  Have fun!”

Bai set her right knee on the massage table pressed into the nape of Lee’s neck, her thigh parallel with the top of his shoulder.

She laid one hand on his shoulder blade and held it there, almost motionless.

Lee knew what it meant — Bai was texting someone.

She had told Lee she had attention deficit syndrome and needed a lot of distractions for her when she was massaging someone — the TV, the phone, the laptop computer, even someone else in the room to talk with — in order for her to concentrate.

She let go of Lee with her hand and pressed her kneecap into his neck, causing Lee to turn his head.  He looked up to see Bai tuck her smartphone into her bra.

Bai saw him looking up.  “What do you think?”

“About what?”

“Do I really look thinner?”

“Yes.”

“I’m wearing a girdle.”

“Really?”

“Yes, you know I want to wear a corset but a friend told me to practice with a girdle first, so I get used to how it rearranges your organs.  Then, she’ll show me how to put on a corset that I can lace in the back and tie in the front.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You really like the way I look?”

“Yes.”

“Great.  Cause the first time I put it on — wow!  Talk about pushing my organs around!  You don’t care if I take if off, do you?”

Lee, his head turned, Bai’s knee pushing against his Adam’s apple, tried to gulp.

“Oh, dear, I’m sorry.  I’m not choking you again, am I?”  Bai pulled her knee off the table.  “I’ll be right back.”

Lee raised his arms that were dangling down both side of the table and placed the palms of his hands on the mat, pushing himself up and breathing, catching a glimpse of his dance partner walking from the dining area, past the kitchen and into the bathroom.

Lee performed a few situps before Bai returned.

“That feels much better!”

Lee glanced at Bai as she walked toward him, her hips at eye level.  She had slipped on a charcoal-gray fleece hoodie and a pair of matching gray sweatpants with the letters H E R stamped across the backside he saw when she turned to get the smartphone off the sofa.  He couldn’t tell if her stomach pooched out a little or it was the pocket on the front of the hoodie — either way, she looked grand.

“Where were we?”

“You were loosening up my other shoulder.”

“Oh, yeah.  Hey, did you really buy me that scarf?”

“Yep.”

“What gave you the idea?”

“You really want to know?”

“‘Yep.'”

“Well, it’ll sound strange, you know.”

“But, of course.  I wouldn’t expect anything else from you!”

“Okay, here goes.  I wanted to give you something special…”

Lee lost his breath as Bai climbed on the table and pressed all her weight on Lee’s left shoulder.  “And…?”

Lee raised his feet in the air, unable to squirm with Bai using her body to put point pressure on him.  “Uh…unh…”

“Wow, Lee!  I felt that pop!  You feel better?”

“Maybe.”

“Your spine is getting straighter.  It’s almost disappeared between your shoulder blades!”

Lee voluntarily took a breath before Bai demanded that he did.

“Ooh, that’s good.  Take another deep breath.  Breathe!  Breathe!  That’s it.  Wow, I can feel your shoulder getting looser!”

Lee closed his eyelids as tight as he could, gripping his hands into fists until the coldness in his fingers chilled his palms.

“So, why did you buy the scarf?  You’re not getting away with not telling me just because I’m working on you!”

“Unh…okay.  Oof!  That hurts!”

Bai laughed.  “Good.  It’s supposed to hurt.  It shows I’m doing my job.  Now, go on.”

“I’d love to get you a piece of jewelery to wear.  I like seeing women wearing jewelery I’ve bought them.  Janeil doesn’t wear jewelery very much.”

“I see.  And you didn’t because…?  I mean, I love the scarf and all but…”

“Who says I didn’t?”

“Uh-huh.  Ooh.  I felt another pop.  How does that feel?”

Lee sighed.  He took two breaths.  Pain was washing over him again.  “Okay.”

“And you gave me two scarves, instead, because…?”

“Do you think jewelery is too personal?”

“Depends.”

“I thought so.  I…I wanted…ouch.  Woof!  Did you feel that one?”

“Sure did.  You’re doing great.  Your shoulders will be almost straight this time when I’m finished.  So the scarves aren’t personal?”

“They are.  I picked them out just for you.”

“And why did you do that?”

“The first one reminded me of the ones you showed us you’d made.  I could imagine you wearing it.”

“Imagine me wearing it in what way?”

“Around your neck?”

Bai worked on a knot just underneath Lee’s left shoulder blade, old scar tissue from the wreck he was in when he was sixteen years old.

Lee grunted loudly, like a bear.  “That…really…hurts!”

Bai stepped off the table and rubbed his shoulder blade for a few seconds.  “You need to take a break.”  She walked over to the dinner table and swallowed a couple of pills, part of a supplement package made by a company named Advocare that she believed was helping her lose weight.  “I’ll get both of us a drink of water.  You need to sit up and stretch again.”

Lee pushed himself up and rolled over, raising his torso up like a straight, stiff board, not wanting to move his back or shoulders until the throbbing pain subsided.

Bai handed him the measuring cup again and looked coyly in his eyes.

“I don’t think the scarves go with this outfit but there might be something in my closet it goes with.  How are you doing?  Do you need to rest a little longer?”

Lee nodded his head.

“Okay, then.  Let’s see what your scarves will go with, if you don’t mind.”

She took both their cups and motioned him toward her bedroom.

To be continued…

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