Anita S. Linker

It was not unusual for daughters to be named for jewelry, not in Opal's family anyway. She had two sisters, Ruby and Sapphire, back home. Her father always said, "Guard your body carefully, like it's a precious jewel. Your body is a gift from God." Opal believed this and was at all times careful to follow this advice--eat right, think loving thoughts. The formula had never failed her.
She glanced at her watch. Another fifteen minutes and she'd go in. Meanwhile she hummed to herself while straightening up one of the vacant massage rooms; covering the table with a clean cotton sheet, setting out the soft terrycloth towels, the warm mineral oil. She loved how everything was always so fresh and clean here; even cleaner than Buckman Hospital back home, where she'd worked after school as a physical therapy assistant. The only unclean thing in this place was Patty Lundquist, the other masseuse. She smoked constantly and left smoldering cigarettes--ugh!--in the ashtray in the lobby. With Patty attending to a client in another room, Opal forced open the window to let out the smoke, despite the forty-degree temperature outside. She then rinsed the metal ashtray thoroughly with soap and hot water, wondering how Patty could take such deadly toxins into her body. Not only that, but she was a complainer--never had a good word to say about anything. Patty reminded Opal of the girls back home. Pregnant right out of high school--married with another kid on the way a year later; their whole lives over at twenty-one. Opal had wanted to be different. With her own money, and the money her parents had given her at graduation, she took off for San Francisco. And here she was--with a new job only a week after getting here. She'd written her parents to tell them she was staying indefinitely, and was working as a physical therapist. Which was true, in a way.
She stared at the cash the client had given her in advance. A hundred dollar bill! She'd never held Ben Franklin's face in her hand before. She'd followed the usual routine: Led the client to a vacant massage room, closed the door behind them, smiled and asked if there was anything "special" he would like this afternoon--was there a certain "body part" that he would like to have massaged? You had to make them tell you, otherwise it was soliciting. He'd told her what he wanted and now she was waiting for him to get undressed and comfortable before going in. Luckily, Patty had not seen the big tipper first, but after all Opal had burned a green candle the night before, to ask for prosperity.
Opal admired herself in the small, cracked mirror in the bathroom. You couldn't see much in it but she knew she looked good. Her silk shorts clung to her hips and her blouse revealed just the right amount of cleavage. This job was so safe; you weren't out on the streets with all those filthy perverts who wanted to rape you--or worse. Pleasing clients was easy; it never took longer than sewing on a button. You didn't have to worry about diseases--all you had to do was wash your hands afterwards. If she could make one hundred dollars a day--three or four days a week--she'd have it made.
Opal glanced at her watch again. Time to take care of the client. It was good to make them wait--just a little to heighten the excitement. But not so long as to frustrate the poor guy. She smoothed her long, dark hair, smiled, and slowly walked down the hall towards the room.

First published: July 1996
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