I lay there. My bare skin and soul sheltered beneath the thin throw over.
A chill creeps underneath the curtain and breathes along my spine.
It has gotten colder since I first moved here, or else I’ve climatized to the weather. They say that happens when you’ve lived abroad for over a year.
“Xin Chao?” Her footsteps follow her soft voice, spoken as if she shouldn’t have.
Though my eyes are against the headrest, there’s a ray of light caught in my peripheral. She lifts the garment with such delicate care, it’s as if it moves itself and settles on my waist, tucked neatly into my underwear.
Her hands press against my shoulder blades, like a caveman poking a bear to check if it’s still alive. Her fingers curl, fists flatten, and as she pushes, I exhale. Crack. She bends my back like a glow-stick, altering it after a day hunched over a desk staring at a screen of screaming children. The evening ends the same as always; sulking in my defeat as they refuse to listen. Retreating into myself.
She reaches for the plastic bottle and squeezes air until a slippery sound slides out and onto her skin. The rubbing of her palms stills my mind for a moment and flicks the stress away, knocking down cemented bricks and pulling me closer.
A man grunts in the other room.
“Too sore?” a soft voice responds.
He makes another noise that doesn’t really sound like anything at all, but can only be interpreted as encouragement for her to go on.
Her fingers test different areas around my back like a child identifying piano chops for the first time. Slowly, but with curiosity.
Then they begin to play.
Saoirse Rafferty is a twenty-five-year-old Irish writer who grew up in the tranquillity of the Burren, Co. Clare. She wrote for the student paper and co-hosted a radio show throughout her undergraduate degree in Journalism at NUI Galway. She then completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Limerick. She is currently teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam, writing any chance she can amidst the chaotic lifestyle.