Spa Tour by Stefanie Freele

ÂÂTwo women try to talk Elise into staying. The lovely view, exquisite food, the care, the attention, the dramatic change she'll feel after 30 days. Merely 20k for the month. Perfect place for a woman - who has been left by a crappy husband - to rest.

But, the buildings are so used, rusty, finger-marked, so steel, Elise points.

ÂÂYou should see inside! One woman pulls up a piece of sodden plywood to expose a musty mattress. See, this one isn't so bad. The wind whips. Both have on blue jean shirts, carefree hair, smiles. We're back to do it again. You'll never regret it.

Elise observes their clear skin and plump lips. She thinks she will call Pam. Pam will escort her to Puget Sound, where Elise will empty the savings and start over. They'll house-search for a cabin, fill it with wooden furniture and a wool rug. There'll be a fireplace-- she'll chop wood of course, an old bathtub, a bedroom with ocean-facing windows.

Thank you, she says, I must think about this. Although, to mend in thirty days seems wonderful, I need to try it on my own first.

ÂÂThe women look disappointed and tough-- at least look inside, you can cut through the building to escape the weather.

ÂÂElise is reluctant to leave understanding and positive women. Women who make decisions without men, an unusual phenomenon.

They enter a dank room, like the furnace-basement of a grade school, she thinks. Noises, creaks, pipes along the ceiling. Cold wet.

It's wonderful, isn't it. She laughs.

ÂÂÂEmpty-eyed women emptying clothing into plastic bags. Who are these people? We're going below the jail.

ÂÂShe thinks she should have mentioned to someone where she was, even him. Here you go!

ÂÂHere I go?

They point to the corridor, marred, gray, lined with bent-up metal lockers. A door opens. Engine roar.

She has never been so grateful for fresh air. Stepping out into the twilight, Elise finds herself on the beach. A horizon sun-sliver below dark clouds.

ÂÂBut, the sand is solid, and the solid extends a few feet until it greets lapping black waves of the ocean.

Behind her is the locked steel door, part of a ship she's on. Her voice dissolves in the engine din. She shivers against the ship as waves encroach upon her diminishing platform, soon to soak her shoes, lap against her calf.


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