Dinner was served in a small room, off to the side. I arrived first, as I usually do, but the rest of my family trickled in as time went on, with my dad coming in last. We sat at a circular table covered in a white cloth. Everyone looked a bit happier than they had prior to coming here, which made me feel a bit better about the fact I took them with me… I just couldn’t leave them behind, I guess. The second my father sat down, a waiter bolted up to our table.
“What would you all like to order,” he asked.
“I would love a grilled chicken breast with a side of broccoli, please,” I started, “thank y-”
Before I could even get the words out, Jim boomed, “Ignore her. She has always seemed to have a flair for the plain stuff. If that’s what she wants to get she isn’t going to get anything at all. I, on the other hand, would like to have an 10-ounce steak, the ribs, the loaded baked potato… oh and the chocolate cake.” He then shoved his menu into the waiter’s stomach. I tried not to wince.
The waiter turned to Marie. “What would you like sweetie?” he said sweetly.
Marie blushed and then rushed through her order. “I would like a hamburger with double fries and a cheese pizza and the ice cream with fudge and some red velvet cake please.”
The waiter quickly wrote it down. I was surprised he could keep up with it considering she talked so fast, but I guess that’s why he’s good at his job. I did notice Diane wink at him, but the rest of the family was much too invested in themselves to pay attention. Everyone else finished ordering and we were suddenly plunged into icy silence. I spoke up.
“So how did everyone like their rooms?”
“Mine is absolutely amazing,” Alexander quipped in, “It has a huge television, 800-thread-count bedding, my own personal pool, a computer for me to continue my research on, and of course, a huge mirror.”
Diane and Marie rolled their eyes. My mom gave him a disbelieving look but didn’t say anything; my dad just sat there staring at his plate. I decided to try to get him into the conversation. “What about you, Dad?”
“The room is fine.”
“Yes. Just fine.” He then went back to looking at his plate. I smiled the best I could and turned to look at Jim. He had bruises on his knuckles, again. I assumed it was from the time he had already spent in his room, but I was much too nervous to pry.
“What?” he jeered, “See something you like?”
I froze. I knew never to egg him on. “Of course sweetie. You are my husband after all,” I answered.
He scoffed, pushing his chair back and putting his feet on the table. “Well, some wife you are. Aren’t you supposed to be waiting on me… not that dumb kid taking our order.”
“You know we took this vacation so I could take a break from doing those wonderful activities.”
“This vacation is stupid then.”
I felt my heart start to beat faster, as if it was running a marathon. I had been in this situation plenty of times before, but each time was just as difficult. I knew he would make me regret it later, but I had to get out of the room.
“I’ll just be a second,” I stammered, leaping to my feet and darting out the door. I thought Jim would be quick to follow, but when I turned around, a few feet away from the door, I was surprised to find Cassius there. I smiled.
“Hey Cas. You didn’t have to come out here”
“Yes I did,” he replied tartly, “he was mean to you.”
I sighed and motioned for him to follow me to a bench nearby. When we sat, I looked at him. Really looked at him. My brother was a handsome man; I had always wondered why he never settled down, much less had a girlfriend. He always seemed to have his focus elsewhere.
“Why are you still with him?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“You do.” Cassius shot up and started pacing along the hallway. “He treats you like you’re the last person he ever wants to be around. He constantly belittles you in front of your kids. He manipulates you into doing everything he asks. He got you fired from your amazing job at the school so you would be at home… and don’t you dare act like I don’t know about the bruises and scars. The only reason I even agreed to go to the stupid spa was so I could be able to see you! He keeps you isolated from everyone!”
By the end, Cassius’ voice was raw from yelling and he was kneeling on the floor in front of me. I didn’t know what to say. I knew Cassius was not fond of my husband, but I didn’t know that dislike was way deeper than that.
“I appreciate that you care,” I answered, “I truly do… but I could never divorce him. What about Diane, Marie, and Alexander? I couldn’t do that to them… I just couldn’t”
Cassius ran his hands through his hair, his green eyes distressed.
“Car, there are so many better men out there. Ones that could treat you better than that piece of trash!”
Cassius paused, taken aback. He looked as if he was about to say something, but then stopped. He stood, anger radiating.
“Well… I’ll leave you and your terrible husband alone then.”
Then he left.
As I watched him walk away, I felt the tears begin to fall down my cheeks. Cassius and I never fought. Never. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I immediately relaxed and turned to face my visitor.
“Claire dear… what is the matter?” Galton asked.
I wiped my eyes and got up from the bench. “Nothing Galton. Thank you for asking, though.”
“Of course.” He looked at his watch. “It is nearly time for your first round. I suppose you could get an early start… follow me.”
I followed him. We walked in silence, which I was grateful for. I didn’t want to talk about Jim- or Cassius. I didn’t want to talk about anyone, really. I just started at the floor as I watched the hardwood stretch out into infinity.
My head shot up; we were in front of an ornate door. It was just as simple as the rest of the spa, but rather was covered in varying symbols and foreign letters. I ran my hands down it. It was so worn down I couldn’t decipher much, but I couldn’t help but notice the huge K in the center of the door. Well, it looked like a K, up until the right bottom leg, which curved down forming a sort of half circle. Before I could look at the door more, Galton pushed the door open and led me inside.
“The staff will take great care of you. I promise.”
He lightly pushed me through the door and almost automatically I began to become dizzy from the aromatic smells that filled the room. The room began to spin, the various colors on the wall blending together. I couldn’t even tell what I was looking at anymore. I felt myself begin to fall, but Galton was quick to catch me.
“Don’t worry,” he laughed, “The staff will take great care of you. I promise.”
Then everything went black.
I woke up back in my room, the bright light of the morning beaming in from the windows. I started to panic and immediately darted to the small mirror in my bathroom. I breathed a sigh of relief. I looked the exact same. What happened? The last thing I remembered was Galton bringing me to that room after dinner. I did feel more relaxed, though. I was satisfied that nothing had happened until I looked down at my hands. The scars were gone. Completely gone. I quickly pulled off my shirt and gasped. Everything was gone: the bruises, the cuts, the whip marks… all gone. The room began to feel a lot warmer and smaller than it had been the second before. I needed to get out. I rushed out the side door leading to the pool. I didn’t even take the time to put my shirt back on, all I knew was that I had to get away from the confines of my room.
All of a sudden I crashed into something, knocking the wind out of my lungs and causing me to fly backward onto the ground.
“Claire sweetie! Are you okay?”
I looked up at the sound of the voice. It was Jim. I immediately started to shake, I knew he was going to get mad at me. It was my fault I bumped into him; I wasn’t looking. Seconds passed. He didn’t yell. He didn’t even look remotely mad. Rather, he bent down and helped me up.
“Baby, I am so sorry. I wasn’t looking where I was going. Here, let’s head to the pool, I saw they had some ice. I don’t want you getting hurt,” he added.
I nodded my head and followed him. The entire walk there his hand was on my waist, massaging it slightly. Was this my Jim? It couldn’t be. Jim hated me, even though I didn’t like to acknowledge it. What happened to him? We got to the pool, and my jaw dropped yet again, momentarily forgetting all about my curiosity surrounding Jim. It was irregularly shaped, forming all sorts of patterns. The glistening water looked just as blue as the beaches I always saw on television. The tiling underneath was just as beautiful as it glinted in the sun. Jim noticed my shock.
“Nice right? Here, let’s go see the kids.”
I walked up to my three children and was just as shocked when I saw them as when I was when I saw the pool. Marie looked like a completely different girl. She was smiling and eating a salad. A salad! I had never seen her eat anything that was remotely green, even if it was candy. She looked like she had lost 60 pounds. Diane looked just as different. I don’t even know where she found the bathing suit she was wearing, but I’m so happy she did. All of the suits she had packed had been a bit too revealing, but like I always told her, she looked more beautiful covered up a bit more. She rushed up and gave me a hug.
“Hi mom, Look at my new suit!” she exclaimed spinning in a circle, “Galton gave it to me after I told him I didn’t like the other ones I brought with me. They were too scandalous. I’m much happier in this.”
“That’s amazing sweetie. Did you find any friends while I was gone?”
“Nope! Well… there was that really cute waiter who asked me to hang out, but I said no. I would rather spend time with my family.”
Alexander came up behind her and ruffled her hair. I had never seen him do that. He had always said he was above being touchy.
“It was so funny when she turned him down,” Alexander chimed, “His face got all red! I’m proud of you sis.”
I smiled and turned away from them for a second, looking at the pool again. The beautiful blue water looked so inviting. My dad had the same thought, I presume, because he winked at me and jumped in.
“Come on guys! Let’s play a game!”
Marie, Diane, and Alexander beamed, held hands, and jumped into the pool.
“Frederika… you too! You’ve been relaxing much too long on that chair… and Cassius! Get in!”
My mom rolled her eyes but grinned as she jumped into the water as well. Cassius came up to me and grabbed my hand. It seemed as if the argument yesterday never even happened.
“Jim!” he called, “come join us.”
Jim raced over and grabbed onto my other hand.
“Ready?” he asked me.
“Always,” I responded happily, and for the first time, I was.