Surely he could feel the peeling, dead skin on her heels.
His hands, wide and thick, had never reached for her feet before and, to her, the nearly thirty minutes of gentle massage seemed out of character; generally self absorbed, he would more typically nestle, head in her lap, whenever they would share the couch.
His sofa was leather, and lacking in any spinal support; hers, much cheaper kettlecloth, had the firmest foam rubber money could buy – a lesson from the faux suede Oxford grey which had slept herself and so many from ’86 to ’99, its cushions heavenly soft until morning told the aching tale.
She was surprised the old faux grey had remained, after the divorce. Its presence had become a nagging reminder, not of waking lower back pain but of the curious ritual which would stain it thereafter.
Her mother in law’s visit, while uninvited, had been endured as part of a special delivery; she’d found them the perfect dining room table with six cained chairs and completed the compulsion by dismantling and packing the entire set, piece by piece, into the back of the Isuzu for the nearly eight hour trip from Vermont in time for her son’s birthday. Their inextricable bond was soon confirmed when, hardly twenty minutes after unload and assembly, the two of them settled onto the sofa for what had become a familiar session of mutual foot rubbing. Baring their feet, each took turns providing the other massage, oblivious of the intrusive third party who actually owned the house and all furnishings already found therein.
Decades hence, the old grey’s frame moved to the curb and only a cushion or two salvaged for floor seating in the loft, its Carolinian love seat substitute since replaced by her current, scarlet red she’d learned to recognize ritual behavior. Now, her own feet in the hands of one living out his own subconscious fantasy, she’d felt like an object – not of affection, but of surrogate need. The same one with whom he so vitally had to meet earlier that very day, herself worthy of his deceit, had been described by another, who knew, to enjoy end of day, hour long foot massage; as such, he’d spent the beginning of his first hours of official retirement in search of her company. Only a global viral pandemic could stand between his hands and her feet. The one already exposed would have to serve, instead.
No more romancing, real or imagined, in this house. Self preservation was Job #1.
She was by herself, at home today. Leaning forward on the firm foam rubber, she stood. The house had plenty to say, were walls and hardwood floors to talk. Time for her lone, bare feet to add their prints to the story.
© 3/26/20 Ruth Ann Scanzillo All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in part or whole or reconstituted alteration, allowed. Sharing permitted only by permission of the author. Thank you for respecting original material.