Another warm December day in Florida had dawned and my life remained… unchanged.
Maybe it was the whole dying thing, maybe it was the annihilated heart, maybe it was a combination of everything that had gone wrong in my entire life, but I genuinely couldn’t have cared less about being alive.
I felt bad for even thinking that, given how hard people fought for me. Especially Nora. Sure, I was awake and conscious, but everything inside me felt dead. Maybe I was just broken forever. If someone else said to me that they honestly didn’t care one way or the other about living, I’d be scared for them. But I couldn’t decide if I should be afraid for myself or not.
I was existing in a surreal world of color and shape and none of it actually connected with me. I felt outside of it all. The media was camped on my lawn, but I hadn’t been outside to give them any photo ops. I hadn’t asked Nora yet if their presence had been good or bad for business, but every time I peered into the bar, I saw a full room of people, happy faces, I heard laughter, I saw couples dancing, kissing. It was life how I remembered it. I hadn’t brought myself to go inside again. I just watched from a distance like some deranged stalker.
Today was a rare occurrence. I’d ventured from my little room at the Rabbit and was headed someplace called The Venus Collective with my friend Gwil. He and I met ages ago, and he’s good friends with Jack, too. I’d decided to put all my energy into faking a good time, because I didn’t want to disappoint him, and I just wasn’t sure I could actually have a good time.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to come spring you.” Gwil turned his head and looked at me for a second before returning his eyes back to the road ahead of us.
“Please don’t be. I can’t take any more sorry people.” I was grumpy.
Maybe that was an improvement since it was something other than numb.
“Okay. I won’t be sorry.” He smiled.
~ 1 ~
Gwil always smiled. He had his problems like anyone else, but he always seemed to find the silver lining. And it always seemed so simple for him. I think if I had to describe him, I’d use the term sweetheart.
With perfect hair.
Like for real.
His reddish blond hair hung well past his shoulders and was perfectly wavy.
Of course, he kept it up in a manbun most of the time, but damn… he could make a girl jealous!
Especially this girl right now. My hair was in need of… something. An intervention maybe? It had been left to its own devices and Nora’s constant clips for the past four years, and now it was just sort of long, stringy, and more brown than blonde. It was nothing special.
“You’re going to love this place! It only opened a couple of months ago. The owner is Raquel Medrano. Her husband, Christian, is a city planner, they have two young kids and—” He looked at me over his sunglasses. “—they live in that big house kitty-corner to the Rabbit. How’s that for synchronicity?”
Gwil was exactly as I remembered him. He didn’t seem overly affected by my death. He didn’t seem overly concerned with my so-called recovery. I could live with this.
“How is that synchronicity, exactly?” I pushed my sunglasses up on my nose and leaned my head back against the headrest, already feeling exhausted and we’d been out for maybe twenty minutes.
Gwil drove an ultra done-up Mustang convertible.
I’m not a car person, so I don’t know the terms, but I’m sure you get what I mean when I say ultra done-up.
It was electric blue with white leather interior, and in that moment, the top was down, the sun was shining, and we were probably going a little too fast.
It was perfect.
~ 2 ~
“Well, if not synchronicity then irony?” Gwil shrugged and pulled into a parking lot.
We only drove about thirty minutes, but it felt like we’d gone to the other end of the Earth.
“Ta da! The Venus Collective Day Spa and Yoga Studio. You are going to love it here!” He climbed out of the car and came around to my side.
“So I hear.” I mumbled to myself as I unlatched my seatbelt.
Ordinarily, I’d have gotten out by the time he made it around to my door, but I was still moving slowly and each movement took way more out of me than it should have. I wanted to be all up for this day spa adventure, but honestly, I was already thinking of finding some place in the corner for a nap.
Gwil held my door for me and helped me up out of the car, but he did it so matter of fact, no pity, no concern. I could breathe around Gwil and I appreciated that.
“Now, I talked to Raquel about you and she knows we’re coming in today.” Gwil extended his arm.
I hesitated. Looked at his arm, then up at his face.
“What exactly did you tell her?” My stomach twisted into knots.
“Honey, everyone knows your name right now. Sabrina Roberts, the Christmas Miracle.”
I groaned and tried to get back into the car.
“No you don’t.” Gwil held me up. “So I didn’t have to really tell her anything.”
He took my arm and wrapped it with his and started to lead forward.
“Now let’s move before that paparazzi train figures out I ditched them back on Lemon Street.”
I held the groan out of respect, but I was also conflicted. I wanted to go home, back to my storage closet and just nap. He was right, though, so I leaned on him and let him lead me into the spa.
~ 3 ~
As we moved up the front walk, there was a beautiful fountain and lush gardens that created a seclusion from the view of the street. Once inside, there was soft music playing, a peach color scheme, or maybe it was salmon, I couldn’t tell in the soft lighting. There were walls of waterfalls, and pine boughs glittering with white twinkle lights accented the space. Everything was clean and simple and it caused a sensation of rest to sweep through me.
“Hi, Daphne. Raquel is expecting us.” Gwil stepped right up to one of the girls at the desk.
The other girl gave me a sad smile, and I wondered if my reputation would precede me for the rest of my life.
Sabrina Roberts the Christmas Miracle, indeed.
“Here you go.” Daphne handed Gwil a small allotment of things. I saw a key and some towels, for sure. “Go on back and I’ll let Raquel know you’re here.”
To the left of the front desk were more fountains dancing in a soft blue light. That area seemed open to a second floor, and to the right was a hallway. Gwil extended his arm, urging me to go in front of him down the hallway.
“That’s the juice bar, but it serves sandwiches and stuff, too.” Gwil spoke as we continued to navigate the short hallway.
The juice bar was to the right, lit in soft blues, and it seemed more like a jazz lounge, if I were to make a snap assessment. There were, again, more fountains inside. I saw a few small booths in the corner, but most of the space seemed to be at the bar itself. There was a woman wiping down the bar, but other than that, I saw no one else.
Once we passed that area, the hall opened up to a stair landing on the left, and I realized the same fountains I saw by the front desk area continued back here.
“The locker rooms are right back here.” Gwil led behind the staircase where there were two separate doors with the expected men and women figures on them. “You’ll find the lockers in there, and there”ll be robes inside.”
He used the key Daphne had given him to unlock each of the doors.
~ 4 ~
“The spa doesn’t officially open for another hour.” He explained.
“Oh.” That would explain the lack of people.
I stepped past him and pushed open the women’s locker room door.
He then handed me a small lock with a key.
“That’s for the locker. Once you’re changed, meet me upstairs. We’ll start with Chai tea and I’ll introduce you to Raquel.” Gwil was excited.
I tried to pretend I was, too. I gave him an exaggerated smile, then moved into the locker room. It was yet another beautiful space. Large, with sofas and ottomans, glazed windows letting in tons of light. The lockers were all covered in woodgrain, and for the Christmas season, each one held a red Christmas Stocking filled with candy. There was a long marble counter with fresh flowers, and a mirror that went all the way to the ceiling.
I reached into a locker and found the robe, then moved into the second section of the locker room and entered one of the private bathrooms. I discovered they not only had a toilet, but a private shower, as well. I slipped out of my clothes and into the robe, then put my clothes into the locker and locked it with the lock Gwil had given me and went to meet him.
The second level of the spa was just as beautiful as the first. The top of the stairs looked down over the fountains below. There was a sunny yoga room directly ahead, what looked like a sauna off to the right, and an open area with luxurious chairs right in the center.
Gwil was already sitting, luxuriously, in one, holding a white teacup.
“Sabrina, come over. This is Raquel.” Gwil waved at me.
Raquel was… interesting.
She was not a tall woman and was slight in frame, but she packed a punch with energy. Her hair was down to her waist, full of color, streaks of burgundy, blonde, and black, and she had it braided away from her face. She wore a long sundress swirled in the colors of amethyst and lapis, and I recognized sacred geometry symbols on it.
I was excited to recognize the symbols. I’d learned about sacred geometry after moving to Florida and opening up to God more.
~ 5 ~
But opening up to God had brought Rafe into my life, which left me unsure whether I wanted to continue to be open to God.
Raquel reached out her hand, and I wasn’t going to be rude, so I took it and smiled.
“Sabrina, thank you so much for trusting me. I appreciate your being here today. How can I best serve you?” Raquel said those words with heartfelt sincerity.
I wanted to say something rude or skeptical in return, but I couldn’t bring myself to embarrass Gwil.
“I think I’m just here for a massage and a steam.” I smiled, but the tension in my lips nearly gave me a headache. “Your dress is gorgeous by the way.”
“Thank you! And we can do so much better than a massage and a steam.” She put her hands on my shoulders and ran them down my arms while she looked from my head to my toes.
I hope she didn’t notice that I badly needed a pedicure.
“Start with this.” She handed me a teacup, white with purple flowers, steaming with a pale, clear liquid, and I could see the tea leaves already gathering at the bottom. “I brewed it special for you with water infused with rose quartz.”
I took the cup from her and she gently touched my head in a very maternal fashion. It should have weirded me out, but somehow it allowed me to breathe a little deeper and exhale a little longer.
“We’re going to start with mud baths for both of you. The room is private so clothing is optional, but if there is a modesty issue, I can arrange for bathing suits.” She offered, raising a brow and awaiting our responses.
“I have no modesty left.” I winced, but then smiled at Gwil. “It’s your call.”
“I’ll avert my eyes.” He raised his cup at me.
“Wonderful. Wait here and I’ll be back momentarily.” Raquel disappeared down another hallway.
I sat beside Gwil, wishing I was more into all this pampering than I was.
~ 6 ~
“This is a lovely gift, Gwil. Thank you.” I tried to sound grateful.
“Don’t thank me now. Wait until we’re done. Then you’ll actually want to thank me.” He nodded assuredly.
I relaxed a bit more in my seat and took a sip of the tea. It was a layered flavor, a bit sweet, with spice beneath.
“You see right through me, don’t you?” I didn’t look at him. I just continued to sip tea.
“I’m not looking to see something I want to see. I’m looking to see my friend. So, yeah, I guess I do.”
He didn’t offer any more, but I thought about his words. It was true that Nora and Charlotte wanted to see me be okay, but they needed me to be okay, and because of that, they put pressure on me to feel something I didn’t. Problem was, I felt like I was failing them every time I didn’t.
“Thank you.” That time I did mean it.
He shrugged, but didn’t look at me.
“I have no idea what you’re going through, but it’s your journey and my job as your friend is to walk with you if you let me, or wait for you if you don’t. I love you, Bri, and I’ll be here no matter what. No judgments. No advice.”
I had no response to that.
It was like I’d just seen a math equation that was way beyond my comprehension.
“Remember that day we met?” I asked him, thinking back.
“At that hokey wellness fair at the Hilton. Yeah, I remember.” He chuckled.
I turned to look him in the eye.
“I was in a new life. A life I’d started on the other side of the country after leaving an eighteen-year marriage. I was lost then, too, but I had hope and I was determined. I can’t find those things this time. And I’m worried I won’t.”
~ 7 ~
He turned to look at me. He was a handsome man who often disguised that with crazy clothing and glasses. But right now, it was spa Gwil and he was just him, looking thoughtful and maybe a bit perplexed.
“Life is weird and it takes you places you don’t plan to go. Don’t think you know what’s going to happen next, or how you may feel about it. Just be honest with everyone. We’re all here for you for the long haul. We’re just so glad you’re back with us, we don’t need anything from you but you.”
I was deep into appreciating Gwil when a woman with long purple hair, wearing a spa uniform, came around the corner. “Hi, you two. We have the mud baths ready.”
She smiled and motioned for us to step down the hallway with her.
Gwil stood and placed his teacup on the table, then reached for mine.
I took one more sip then gave it up.
He reached out and helped me up, letting me lean on him without making a big deal that I needed to.
“I’m really grateful for that hokey wellness fair, Bri.”
A tear slipped down my cheek from nowhere. I gasped and wiped it away. Despite my constant crap mood, I was clearly, deeply blessed.
~ 8 ~
Additional chapters can be found below.
The Memory of Magic
I think Raquel’s day spa is my dream day spa. As I was writing this chapter, I could hear the fountains, I pictured them like spheres sitting in shallow pools and I could see the soft blue lighting shimmer in the water as it pooled at the bottom.
I’m not very experienced in day spas, but it always seems like such a fun idea. I just decided to mix it up, having her go with one of her guy friends instead of what you’d expect.
I hope you enjoyed it and will continue this year long journey with Sabrina and her friends as they reevaluate the meaning of life, discover true friendship, and soul deep love.
This story is my gift to the world, to remind us all of hope and love and that even crazy dreams come true… if we have the courage to pursue them.
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Thank you for reading, it truly means the world to me! ~ Samantha