"You have such nice, taught skin, Mrs Fischer."
"Why thank you, Pia, that’s very kind of you."
Mrs. Fischer loved the Nordic Light Spa. It was located in the recesses of The Grand Hotel in Stockholm, by the bay. A dark, suitably hidden oasis of peace at least six feet beneath the ground where water bubbled and churned, convincing replica of a Swedish Lapland stream, Tibetan monk music tinkled and scented candles adorned the walls, flickering, primordial fire in a cave.
"Is it the usual today?"
"Yes, the tailored facial – this old chicken needs to be freshened up for tonight."
"Right, your daughter’s fortieth!"
Alina Fischer simply loved coming to the Nordic Light Spa as it allowed her to relax and get away from it all. All being the endless hustle, bustle and hassle with Erika’s birthday, the drama with the grand children (Grandma, I want the rest of the candy, now! No, darling, you’ve had enough for – No I want it all! It’s mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. Screeching ensuing, repetitively), sprucing up her husband’s grave once a week (what colour tulips today), charity lunches, the ladies who lunch, cluck, gossip. Chickens in a coop, let out for the day. The Nordic Light Spa was heaven, proverbial light in the tunnel.
"Will you be going straight home after?"
"No dear, I shall meet some of the ladies for lunch first; then, pick up the presents, sort the balloons, check the caterer and pick up my shirt from dry cleaning."
This particular Tuesday morning was a bustling hub of activity at the spa, though you would not notice it as a client. Ordered to strictly stay behind the scenes, the staff had mastered the art of tiptoeing in soft flip flops, opening and closing doors and cupboards with the silent talent of a disappearing magician. Anaesthetized apple slices were chopped with surgical precision.
"Oh, sounds quite the handful. Now just relax Mrs Fischer, and close your eyes. I’m going to place some freshly cut cucumbers over them. Antioxidant. You let me know if you need anything, yes?"
"Of course, as always."
Alina Fischer relaxed into the soft womb of the massage bed, cocooned in terry cloth blanket with the heat generated from the bed leaving a warm, glowing feeling on her aching lowering back. Seventy-three years of supporting her body and dreams, the spine had recently started a belated protest.
Gently, Pia began her sermon: "Mrs. Fischer, I’m going to first apply our Rejuvenating Cleansing Gel, which has a botanical deep cleansing formula with rose oil that gently removes impurities and dirt on the skin that feels fresh and vibrant."
Pia peered at Mrs Fischer’s relaxed face with the cucumbers and white towel, a crown around her head, burrowed in the blanket with the left cucumber slice twitching slightly. She squirted some gel on her fingertips and applied it to the skin with a touch of lukewarm water in circular motions. Round and round. Up the cheekbones, down the chin, symmetrical. She then took a warm, wet towel, placed it on Mrs Fischer’s face in manner of an Ancient Egyptian mummy, embalmed, and gently patted the dirt off.
"Do you know, Mrs Fischer, Lars is coming over tonight for our three month anniversary."
"Oh, dear, has it really been three months since the last time I was here?"
"He promised he was going to make me paella – you know, as we met in Ibiza over the summer. Not sure how he is going to pull it off as he has no clue about cooking whatsoever. Couldn’t even boil an egg that one. He’ll probably look it up on Google but in any case, isn’t it sweet? Just the sweetest. Anyway, next up we have the Lavender Facial Scrub with Sea Salt particles – to wake you up."
Scrub rubbed on, micro-beads sloughing off dead skin cells – Pia, an archaeologist digging methodically for buried youth. One of the candles puffed out, smoke evoking childhood birthday candles – except nobody was blowing this time. Wet towel patted on, cleaning up the scrub, face fresh, relaxed. Both cucumbers still.
"Next up we have a Dead Sea Clay Mask, to better relax you with Mrs Fischer."
Pia took a small, wet brush and started painting Alina Fischer’s face, tribal war paint. The forehead was soon greyish brown, down the temples, each brush stroke cool and gloppy. Thick. Gently the nose was covered, soon the cheeks, the chin, neck. Buried. The Tibetan monks continued to chant. Fifteen minutes required for the mask to work its magic.
"Mrs Fischer, I literally cannot wait until this evening. I decided I would wear this white dress that I bought last year in the summer. It’s a bit tight around the edges, but what can you do after a Swedish winter. Lars really loves me in it, says I remind him of summer. And I suppose I will leave my hair down with sexy waves, the beach bleached look. Which reminds me I should get a new bronzer after work, my old one shattered in my bag. Such a mess. Anyway, sorry to keep talking so much! I will let you relax and enjoy the mud mask."
Pia turned on the steam in the room, to add a bit of moisture to the air. Artificial dew drops formed around Alina Fischer, dripping off the ends of her fingers, one hand had flopped over to the edge of the massage bed, expectantly waiting to hold something. Someone? Pia cleaned the brushes, her sorcerer pots, as she liked to think of them, and padded around the room, reorganizing the towels. The only movement was the steam swirling out of the machine and her feet softly touching the ground. Fifteen minutes done, timer bell.
Again, a fresh new warm wet towel gently wiped off the sluggish brown, hardened mask from a hardened face. Forehead wiped, temples, cheeks, and chin. Bridge of the nose, the sides. Top of the eyebrows. Underbelly of the chin, neck.
"And there we go; you’re all done now. Good thing you fell asleep Mrs Fischer, you must feel so much more relaxed now and ready to face the day."
Pia peered over Alina Fischer, admiring her work. The wrinkles looked smoother, the skin moulded to a perfect smoothness, pebble-like. Soggy, browning cucumbers removed. Alina Fischer, finally, was at peace.
"You have such nice, taught skin, Mrs Fischer."