فصل 06

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فصل 06

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Chapter six

Massage and message

Marina sat looking at the letters on the fridge door. The letters clearly spelt out the word ‘London’ but she had no idea who had moved the letters around to make this word. She had not moved the letters, not since the day the Ironing Man came.

She had seen the word when she was talking to Tom, telling him about her day. Tom had not seemed very interested in the story of her day and had been very quiet as she had told him all about the Ironing Man and the butterfly. He had even looked away from her as she told the story. And then she had looked away from him and had seen the word ‘London’ on the fridge door. So, suddenly, she had told him she was going up to London to see a friend on Thursday. She had no idea where the idea came from, but even as she said it she got very excited about it.

Why did she say she was visiting someone called ‘Joanne’? She did not really know. Of course. Joanne was the name of their friend. When Tom said Joanne Searle’s name Marina had agreed with him. And that was it. Marina was going to London to see ‘Joanne’ on Thursday.

And now it was Thursday and Marina was sitting at home, looking at the fridge door with no idea of what she was going to do…

Marina was so excited about going up to London she had not slept well. It was only when she got up in the morning that she realised that she had no plans to go anywhere, that the idea of London had come from nowhere, and that nowhere was probably where she was going today.

She felt very empty now that the chance of getting away from the village, from the house and from the housework for a day had disappeared. She put her hands around the back of her neck. This made her feel a little better. When she had been a child her mother had always touched Marina’s back and neck when she was feeling sad. It always made her feel better. She loved to be touched. Even the touch of her own hands made her feel better, but someone else touching her, someone giving her a massage, oh, that was wonderful, that was the most wonderful thing in the world. Well, one of the most wonderful things in the world.

The door bell rang and Marina ran to answer it. She was hoping that the Ironing Man had come back, but it was a woman who stood there. A young woman, about her own age with blonde hair like her own, and a big smile.

‘I know you have no idea who I am,’ the woman said. ‘My name’s Tracy. I am a beauty consultant and masseuse. Your friend phoned me and asked me to come and give you a surprise massage.’

Marina laughed out loud.

‘You know who phoned me then?’ the woman asked.

‘I think so. Did he give a name?’ Marina asked.

‘The Ironing Man? I’m sure you know what that means,’ and she laughed again. ‘I like a man with a bit of iron in him too!’

They laughed together as they walked into the living room. Tracy quickly put up the massage table she had brought with her.

‘Is this table safe?’ asked Marina.

‘I haven’t killed anyone yet,’ Tracy laughed.

Tracy took some little candles from her bag and lit them. They gave off a sweet smell of flowers.

‘Would you like some music? I have some CDs with me, to help you relax.’

‘Please.’

Tracy found the CD player and soon the room was full of the sounds of Brazilian rain forests.

‘Better than travel,’ Tracy joked. ‘Well, cheaper anyway.’

The music, and the smell of the candles, and the light touch of Tracy worked their magic on Marina and she was soon travelling. Pictures of holiday places she had visited with Tom came back to her now… walks along the empty beaches on that small Greek island at sunset… the journey in Egypt over the hills on the backs of donkeys and down to the Valley of Kings… sitting on Croagh Patrick, the mountain in Ireland which looks over the Atlantic, where Saint Patrick had spent thirty days and nights alone…

The smells and the sounds in the room seemed to change as she travelled from place to place in her thoughts. She smiled to herself with eyes closed and was still smiling some time later when she realised that Tracy had finished her massage. Marina remembered where she was, but she did not want to open her eyes to see it. She wanted to hold on to the smells and sounds from other places, to the pictures of her and Tom in those beautiful places, and to the touch of Tom from other times.

Finally she opened her eyes and saw Tracy smiling down at her.

‘How was that?’ Tracy asked.

‘Wonderful,’ Marina replied.

‘Told you it was like travelling. Almost as good as sex,’ and Tracy laughed again.

They sat for a while over a cup of tea and Tracy gave Marina some of her life story.

‘Yeah, I was married for a while. You know, usual story. Boyfriend from school. The first and only boyfriend. I didn’t know any better, I thought love was all about giving. Giving flowers and chocolates and having time for each other and looking into each other’s eyes for hours and never looking at your watch.

‘So, anyway, we got married and went on holiday to the West Indies. That was good too, that was wonderful, but after that, it was never the same again. End of giving, end of having time only for each other. End of all the little surprises. He thought that after we were married he didn’t have to do that any more. He thought he didn’t have to work at it any more. No more surprises. The only surprise was when he actually listened to what I was saying, or when he didn’t look at his watch when I was trying to talk to him.

‘It’s like all those love stories you read, or see at the cinema, you know, they always seem to end when the man and woman finally get together. Those stories always stop the day they get married. I sometimes think it’s men who actually write those stories, not women, you know. And men don’t think about what happens after you get married. And maybe women don’t either. I didn’t. I had no idea what was going to happen next. And my man, he didn’t know what to do next, so he just did what his father had done. He went out, earned money, came home, watched television, went out again to the pub with his friends.

Suddenly his idea of a good time seemed to be any time he spent without me.’

Tracy looked sad and thoughtful for a moment, but then her smile and her laugh returned.

‘Anyway, I gave him the push after a while. I told him to leave. Best thing I ever did. And now I do things differently. I mean, one day I might find a man who understands you have to go on working on the love after you get married. I mean there must be men like that, somewhere, don’t you think? But at the moment what I do is this. I just keep them for a little while. I meet them, they love me, they think I’m wonderful, they think the sun shines out of my eyes, they give me their time and they give me wonderful presents. But, when I see they aren’t romantic anymore, then I just let them go. I mean, if men can’t take love seriously then why should we take them seriously? Just use them and lose them.’

She laughed again and Marina laughed with her. It was the kind of laugh that invited you to laugh with her.

‘I mean, the man I’ve got at the moment,’ Tracy continued. ‘He’s still in love with me. He brought me here this morning and he is picking me up later and taking me out for the day. For a day of surprises. He has taken the day off work to spend it with me. Can you believe it? No reason. He just wants to spend the day with me. Give him another few months and all the surprises will go. But he’ll go as well then. Life’s too short, love. Know what I mean?’

Marina nodded her head. Yes, she knew what Tracy meant.

‘Your Ironing Man is still romantic anyway, isn’t he? Enjoy it while it’s there, love,’ Tracy said.

The door bell rang. Tracy looked out the window. A man was standing beside a car.

‘It’s my boyfriend,’ Tracy said. ‘My day of surprises begins! Oh, he is lovely, though, isn’t he? Look at those shoulders, that bottom,’ Tracy said. ‘So strong! Just looking at him sometimes makes me shake, know what I mean? We can’t live without that, can we?’

Marina was not sure if Tracy was talking about sex or not. If she was, Marina was not so sure. It was certainly possible to live without sex for some time. Even for quite a long time. It was Tom’s birthday, wasn’t it? That was the last time. A month ago! Twenty-nine years old and she was having regular sex. Regular sex once a month! Maybe it was time she took a lover. The thought surprised her and so did Tracy when she spoke.

‘Oh my God, I almost forgot,’ Tracy said. ‘I have a message from the Ironing Man. Your man of iron. He says he’ll meet you in the National Gallery at two o’clock this afternoon. Where’s that then? In your favourite room, he said. You know what that means, do you? I don’t like paintings myself. Well, maybe paintings of men. With no clothes on, of course,’ and she laughed her laugh again. ‘You’d better hurry up, love, it’s almost twelve now!’

Tracy ran out the door and kissed her man. Then he came into the house and took Tracy’s bags to the car.

Marina smiled again and then looked at her watch. Tracy was right, she would have to hurry. She ran up the stairs, jumping two stairs at a time. She could not remember ever moving this fast in this house. She did not hear Tracy’s boyfriend drive off. She certainly did not hear the second car start and drive off after them.


The detective smiled to himself. ‘Good timing,’ he thought. He had arrived only ten minutes earlier. He had had trouble finding the house. Well, he did not need to tell Tom he had trouble. All these houses looked the same anyway. But he had time to check the number of the house, and the garden looked just the way Tom had described it - ‘like a young man’s beard’. The detective had parked his car a few houses away and turned on the little cassette recorder he had bought that morning. He spoke into it.

‘I am now outside the house at…’

He looked at the cassette. It was not moving. He hit it with his large hand. It still did not move. He wanted to look inside the recorder but his fingers were too thick and he could not open the back of the machine. He looked at it sadly. He never had any luck with machines. He looked at it again and then threw it onto the back seat of the car.

‘I’ll use a pen and paper,’ he said in a loud and angry voice, as if he was speaking to the cassette recorder.

He started to make notes but at that moment he saw that a car was stopping outside the house and, as he watched, a young, good-looking man got out.

‘No time to make notes now,’ he said to himself, throwing the pen and the notebook onto the back seat of the car to join the cassette recorder.

The detective watched the young woman come to the door. He remembered the notes he had made when he was talking to Tom. Where were they? Of course, in the notebook. He turned round in the car to get the notebook from the back seat. This was not easy because he was a big man and it was a small car. It took a little time and by the time he had got the book the woman was walking with the man towards their car. Carrying two bags. Interesting.

They stopped and the woman put her hand around the man’s head and pulled him into a long kiss. Very interesting. The detective looked at his notes again. Young, twenty-nine years old, slim, blonde. Yes, no mistake, this was Tom’s wife, this was Marina. The man put the bags into the car, the young woman turned and looked at the house and seemed to wave goodbye to it. Then she turned and kissed the man again as he helped her into the car.

‘Very, very interesting,’ thought the detective as he started the engine of his car and followed the car with Tom’s wife in it down the street.

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