Thursday, July 31, 2008


I sighed as I waited for my mother in the foyer. It was early—not even eight o'clock in the morning, but we were getting ready to leave for the spa. Normally, I would run away screaming at the idea of spending all day with my mother, but if things were normal I wouldn't have taken a red eye flight to Montreal.

"Ready?" my mother asked brightly as she bounced down the stairs. I nodded and followed her to the car. At least she was happy we were spending time together. Besides, a day at the spa may be just what I needed. Needless to say, I'd been exceptionally tense for quite some time and a professional massage might help me relax.

The spa was only a twenty minute drive from my parents' house, but it seemed much longer. I had to fight to stay awake. Last night I had only gotten a few hours of restless sleep. I woke up twice, thinking that I heard my cell ringing, only to remember that I left it in Pittsburgh. I didn't care how many calls or texts I missed while I was in Montreal. The only person I wanted to hear from would not be calling me anytime soon.

"This place is gorgeous," my mother purred as she pulled into the spa driveway. A valet approached the car and took her keys while another employee led us inside. From the outside, the spa looked like a massive hunting lodge, but the interior was not dingy or rustic. The walls were a peaceful light blue, and all the furniture was crisp, clean white. It felt like I was walking through the sky, the fluffy couches and chairs serving as clouds.

"Claudine Lemieux," my mother said to the receptionist. "My daughter and I have a reservation for massages."

"Ah, oui," the receptionist said after checking something on her computer screen. She directed us to a changing room, where my mother and I traded our clothes for fluffy white robes and slippers. We made our way into a dark room that had two long massage tables placed in the center. I slipped off my robe, wrapped myself in an equally plush white towel, and slid onto one of the tables to wait for my masseuse.

"I'm glad you wanted to come with me," my mother said, her voice slightly muffled by the table's thick padding.

"No problem," I muttered as the masseuses entered the room. They were both men, but I was slightly relieved to see that neither of them was very attractive. Being rubbed down by a stranger was awkward enough. I didn't need that stranger to be drop-dead gorgeous as well.

"I think we'll go visit Amélie after this," my mother said in a forcedly offhand tone.

"Why?" I grunted back.

My masseuse began gently kneading my shoulders. "My, my," he clucked quietly. "You are very tense, mademoiselle."

"Did you really think you were going to come to Montreal but not see your sister?" my mother replied.

I sighed. "Fine." Despite my edgy tone, the massage was beginning to work. As if the masseuse had hit a magic button, I felt all the muscles in my back relax simultaneously. I couldn't suppress a small, blissful sigh.

"You know, Karine, as much as we love having you, your father and I can't help but wonder why you're here," my mother said.

"Not now, Mom," I muttered.

"What's going on, Karine?" my mother pressed on. I rolled my eyes behind my closed lids—she had to ruin everything, didn't she?

"I just wanted to tell you about work," I replied.

"A phone call would have sufficed," she reluctantly admitted. "Your father and I know that you don't really like being here…that's why we bought you plane tickets, so you would come for Christmas. We weren't expecting to see you for quite some time. Then you show up unannounced at 6:30 in the morning, looking like the living dead. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that something is wrong, Karine. What is it? Is this about Sidney?"

"It's all about Sidney," I muttered. I really didn't want to discuss this, but I knew my mother wouldn't give up until I told her everything she wanted to know. "Mom, don't get mad at me, but I've known about this promotion for a while now."

"How long?"

"Since December 14th."

My mother was silent.

"I only just told Sidney on the 26th, and it was against my will…I wanted to wait until after the Winter Classic, but he started talking about wanting to buy a house together, and…it was just too much. He's really angry with me for keeping it from him." I felt hot tears run down my face and the masseur began kneading my back a little more forcefully. I hated myself for getting upset about this again, but every time I talked about Sidney I reacted the same way. There was too much pain there. I didn't know if I would ever learn to deal with it. "He has every right to be angry. He moved out, and he said we could still be friends, but I saw him last night and there was so much tension between us. It was horrible."

My mother was quiet for a few seconds. She digested everything I had just said, and cleared her throat. "You said he moved out. He's no longer living with Mario?"

I sighed. "No, Mom, he moved out of my apartment."

"You two were living together." Her voice was a flat, angry monotone.

"Mom, please. Just forget about it—it obviously doesn't matter anymore."

"Why didn't you tell us?" "I wasn't sure how you and Dad would react. Can we just please not talk about it?" My mother exhaled angrily. "Please, Mom. We're here to relax. Let's talk about something else."

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