Saturday, August 21, 2010

Massage Therapy, Chapter 2

From the Desk of Bella Swan
Friday, July 16, 2010

Holy Crow, Mom…I think I’m in trouble.

Not the kind you think. I’m fine, really. I think. I’m still too light-headed to know for sure.

No, I’m talking about that nervous-but-excited feeling you get after they strap you into your car on the Space Mountain rollercoaster at Disney World and all the lights suddenly go out. Your stomach drops as the car surges forward and starts to climb, and you can’t see a damned thing ahead of you because it’s pitch black all around, but you know you’d better hang on tight because you’re in for a hell of a ride.

The day started in its usual mundane way. I worked most of it, helping Rose sift through dozens of demos, organizing and filing the ones worth a second listen. She seems to value my opinion, which is pretty cool considering she’s been doing this awhile, and I’m just her assistant. She let me leave early so I could go to my back appointment and then come home to rest.

I was kind of nervous going to Cullen and Cullen, PC, because you know what happened the last time I went to one of those sadists operating under the innocuous title of “chiropractor.” I couldn’t move for days and swore I’d never subject myself to that quackery again. But Dr. Cullen said that chiropractics have made a lot of advances in recent years, and he really thought his son could help me. I guess the x-rays showed that I have a couple of vertebrae out of alignment. (So what else is new?)

Emmett Cullen’s office was neat and modern, with simple furnishings in shades of pale gray, blue and cream. The receptionist, Jessica, was bubbly and helpful as I filled out all the requisite patient information. I didn’t have time to be nervous, because as soon as I was done with the paperwork, she ushered me down the hall and into a room containing both an electronic massage chair and massage table. She had me lie down on the table, which had a rolling mechanism built underneath its vinyl covering. It worked up and down my back, gently rolling and vibrating from neck to tailbone in order to loosen up my muscles. I was actually starting to relax a bit by the time the timer went off, and Jessica returned to escort me to the exam room.

Dr. Carlisle Cullen’s son came in after a couple of minutes, and he put my fears to rest right away with his easy smile. You always said the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and he was proof. He’s at least as handsome as his father, with curly hair the color of burnished walnut and eyes like the sky over Puget Sound on a sunny day. Still, I began to quake nervously as I took in his tall, hulking form--he’s built like a brick shithouse. I wasn’t sure I wanted this guy anywhere near my precarious spine, no matter how nice he was.

He picked up my patient form and studied it for a moment.

“Isabella Swan,” he said, his eyes twinkling pleasantly as he glanced up at me.

“Just ‘Bella’ is fine, Dr. Cullen,” I quickly corrected him.

“Okay then, Bella. You can call me Emmett,” he grinned amiably. “It looks like you’ve been having some problems with a recurring injury. Would you like to tell me what happened?”

No, I really wouldn’t, I thought with chagrin. “I was bent over, doing some housecleaning, and it just seized up,” I offered lamely. There. I essentially told him the truth.

Emmett clucked his tongue and launched into a warning about the evils of twisting and turning with the vacuum cleaner, like I haven’t heard that a dozen times before. I promised him I’d be more careful in the future.

He had me stand up after that so that he could check the alignment of my hips and spine. He made me walk a little so he could assess my gait. He didn't even ask me to remove any clothes--he said he could easily see what my “issues” were, and that it would probably take a series of minor adjustments to get me back to “normal.” I tried not to laugh snidely at the word. He said he wanted to work on me gradually so as not to cause any further trauma to my back while it was healing from the last bout of muscle spasms. I’m glad that my insurance will cover the visits, since it sounds like this could take awhile.

He had me stand on a metal plate attached to the foot of a vertical hydraulic table, which slowly began to wheeze and grind as it lowered me, face-down, to a horizontal position. He checked the alignment of my feet and ankles, and then began working gently but firmly on my lower back, pressing and pushing my tailbone into the place it ought to be. He repeated the maneuvers up my back, adjusting me where necessary; and the hydraulic table gave way beneath me with a loud ker-rang in response each time Dr. Cullen pressed sharply on my back. He also pushed his thumb, hard, into various pressure points up and down my hips and back, seeming to will my muscles and nerves to give way where they were tight. The adjustments were merely uncomfortable--nothing like my last chiropractic experience, and most certainly nothing as painful as the pinched nerve that laid me low last weekend. I was pleasantly surprised at how gentle Emmett Cullen was, considering his size.

“There. That wasn’t too bad, was it?” he asked expectantly as he set the table in motion to return me to an upright position. He looked pretty confident that I’d tell him it wasn’t, so I merely shook my head in agreement as I stepped back off the metal plate.  He had me walk around a bit, studying my movements and asking if I was okay. I nodded and told him I felt pretty good, surprisingly enough.

He smiled in a rather self-satisfied way and continued, “I really think you could benefit from myofascial release therapy in addition to chiropractics. Do you have time yet this afternoon for a treatment?”

I gave him a puzzled look and repeated, “My-oh-what-all?”

He laughed and explained that “myofascial release” is just a fancy name for a gentle form of deep tissue and muscle massage designed to help relieve chronic or recurring pain like I have. I told him I’d try anything that might keep last weekend’s fiasco from happening again, so he led me down the hall to another room.

This room was entirely different from the austere exam area. A dark antique desk supported a single ornate amber lamp, which bathed the room in an ambient glow. A large massage table commanded the center of the room, and consisted of a thick flannel-covered mattress with a matching sheet over the top. At the far end, a padded donut-shaped protrusion provided a place to rest one’s face, and underneath it sat a wheeled stool. The faint sounds of ocean waves permeated the room, and I soon saw that an iPod and docking station were situated at the other end of the desk. I almost giggled at the cheesiness of a sound machine cranking fake beach noises into the air, but I had to admit that the room had a much more tranquil, soothing aura than the clinical exam room I’d just left.

“You’ll need to undress to your underwear, then lie face-down on the table. There’s a small pillow there that you can rest under your hips if you need it. I don’t want you arching your lower back and pinching that nerve again,” Emmett warned.

I nodded in response, biting my lip in apprehension. I’d never had a professional massage before, especially from such a handsome guy. The only time my college boyfriend Mike had ever rubbed my back was when he was trying to get me to have sex with him. After I did, the massages stopped.

“Don’t worry, Bella,” Emmett assured me, apparently sensing my apprehension. “I think you’ll find it very relaxing and helpful for your condition. I’ll leave you to get ready.”

He gave me the easy smile again and I tried to return it. When the door closed behind him, I looked around the room. There was a wicker chair next to the desk, and on the other side, a small end table with a bouquet of fresh flowers and a rather elegant goblet of water. I undressed and laid my jeans and t-shirt on the chair, then stood deliberating about my bra. Surely I would need to remove it if he was going to work on my back, right? I bit my lip again, then shrugged out of my barely-B-cups, figuring that there wasn’t much to see anyway.

I crawled carefully onto the raised massage table, positioning the pillow under my abdomen to help support my back before I lowered myself slowly down. I pulled the sheet up over my rump, rested my chin on my hands and waited. The rhythmic repetition of the ocean tide coming from the iPod filled my ears, and I concentrated on slowing the rapid thumping of my heart to match it.

There was a gentle knock on the door, followed by the sound of it opening a crack.

“Are you ready, Miss Swan?”

“Sure, come on in,” I replied, my voice oddly high-pitched. I pulled the sheet up over my back a little. Why did I suddenly feel shy? Even more shy than usual. Lord knows my non-existent boobs were well concealed beneath me.

I heard the door close behind me and soft-soled footsteps approached. I caught a glimpse of white lab coat and charcoal slacks out of the corner of my eye as he hovered near my waist.

“Are you comfortable lying on your stomach, Miss Swan?” his low, velvety voice met my ears. A shiver ran down my spine at the intimate sound of it in this cozy, dimly lit room. Wow, this must be Emmett’s soothing Masseur Voice, I thought. And what’s with the formality all of a sudden--’Miss Swan‘?

“I’m fine,” I assured him, settling my face into the donut hole at the head of the table. “The pillow under my stomach is helping.”

“That’s good,” he replied in the molasses tone. “If at any time you begin to feel stress or pain around your injury, I want you to tell me immediately. I can easily treat you while you lie on your back instead.”

“Okay,” I agreed, letting my arms relax over the end of the table and placing my hands on the round stool beneath. The sound machine continued to evoke a day at the beach, the swooshing sound of the waves beginning to relax me in spite of my trepidation.

“I’m going to begin by checking you over to get a general feel for how your muscles and tissues are behaving. Then I’ll begin working on any problem areas I find,” he said softly.

“Oh, I’m pretty sure my entire back is misbehaving like a naughty schoolgirl,” I mumbled through the donut hole. His answering chuckle was warm and husky. It was amazing how much sexier he sounded in the womb-like room, accompanied by the soothing sea sounds.

“Well, let’s find out, shall we?” he said, the sound of a smile lingering in his voice.

And then, his warm fingers were on me, slowly working over my shoulder blades and up toward my neck. Whoa…his touch was as silken as his Masseur Voice. Tiny shivers traveled unbidden down my spine as he slowly pushed at my flesh, examining every muscle and bone with gentle but thorough probing as he worked his way down my back. By the time reached my tender tailbone, I could feel several erogenous zones beginning to stir and awaken within me. Holy crap… he hadn’t even started the actual massage yet.

“Are you cold? I can raise the temperature in the room if you like,” he offered.

“No, I’m fine. Why do you ask?”

“You have goose bumps,” he answered simply. Geezus. What was I supposed to say to that? I was pretty sure this myo-whatever therapy was supposed to relax me, not turn me on.

“This is my first massage,” I answered in muffled explanation. It was a little difficult to talk with my face squished through the donut hole.

“Well, what I’m going to do today is very different from what people think of as traditional massage,” he began. He walked around to the head of the table so that he was standing in front of me. All I could see was the bottom of his white coat, his long gray slacks and black suede shoes. Suede in July? Huh. I hadn’t noticed that before. And then his firm, long fingers were on my neck, and all thought stopped.

“Myofascial release is designed to loosen the constricted tissues and muscles that are pulling your spine out of alignment,” he explained, his hands trailing as slow as tree sap over the base of my neck. They were heading in different directions…one hand pulling up to the right, the other pushing down to the left. The feeling was…odd.

“’Myo’ stands for ‘muscle’; ‘fascial’ pertains to the fascia,” he went on in the velvet voice. “The fascia are the connective tissues surrounding every organ, muscle and bone in your body. They run in ‘sheets’ from head to toe, and when they’re healthy, they slide easily over one another and around your body parts to allow you freedom of movement.”

His fingers were moving up into my hair now at the base of my neck, inexorably yet gently pulling, pulling, pulling…while his other hand continued to gently push, push, push in opposition. I began to feel as if my head was being twisted in a circle, even though my face was still stuck straight ahead, peering at his shoelaces out of the donut hole. One of the laces had come undone.

“The fascia are made up of millions of tiny collagen and elastin fibers, much like a sponge. When they become constricted by repetitive stress--or, in your case, injury--they can compress, twist and harden,” he explained in dulcet tones. How the heck was he making a boring anatomy lesson sound so… erotic? “The distorted fascial tissue can constrict the muscles and keep them from working to their full capacity. Imagine if your muscles were tightly bound in cellophane, and were struggling to do their job in spite of it,” he offered by way of example.

“Wow,” was all I could manage. Though he was still working on my neck, my head was spinning, and I could feel a pulling sensation through my back and chest. “Why do I feel this in so many places other than where you’re working?” I asked him, slightly incredulous. It was as if parts of my body I didn’t even know existed were stirring to life beneath his expert touch.

“Because the fascia stretch in contiguous networks from the top of you head to the tip of your toes,” he repeated gently, sounding slightly as if he were explaining how to add one plus one to a first-grader. “Your lower back problem actually stems from right here--your neck, shoulders and chest.” He moved his magic fingers down over my shoulders as he spoke, pulling gently upward. I could feel it in my chest in the front, and my shoulder blades in the back. Even my jaws were affected by the gentle pressure of his hands on my skin.

“That’s amazing,” I mumbled. I was beginning to succumb to the inexorable pull of his hands and the hypnotic tenor of his voice. The ocean sounds from the iPod were slowly morphing into an exotic Eastern melody, lulling me into a trance. I said nothing more as he moved to the side of the table, his hands working their way slowly down my back, gently and then more firmly massaging my tender flesh. I could sense myself expanding like taffy under the masterful manipulation of his fingers. I literally felt the pull throughout my torso and legs, and all skepticism about this myo-fantastical stuff faded from my increasingly calm mind. He was right about the tissues being connected from head to toe. His hands never left my back, but every other part of my body vibrated in response to the stimulation. I felt like a violin or cello, strings reverberating and resonating deeply under his expert ministrations. I was his instrument, and he played me like a maestro. Who knew that deceptively easy-going Emmett Cullen had such sensual skills lurking within him? Or that my body would become a symphony in response?

I was still trying to absorb the sensations flowing through me when he finally broke my silent reverie.

“So, Miss Swan…would you like to tell me how you injured yourself last weekend?” he murmured as his hands moved closer to the danger zone, my tailbone.

Ugh, he just wasn’t going to let this go, was he? I don’t know whether it was due to my deeply relaxed state or my inborn aversion to lying, but I decided I might as well tell the truth.

“I was trying to change our toilet seat,” I admitted sheepishly through the donut hole.

Silence. He was probably trying like hell to hold in his hilarity.

Finally, he spoke. “Would you care to elaborate?”

I sighed in resignation. “I just moved into a new apartment with my best friend, Angela. It’s kind of an old two-story gingerbread house with these prehistoric appliances and porcelain sinks and tubs. Well, the toilet-seat was all chipped and cracked, and I kept thinking we needed a new one. So when Jacob Black finally asked me out, I decided that it was time for an upgrade. You know, in case he needed to use the bathroom or something…I didn’t want to be embarrassed.” Too late, Swan, I thought as my cheeks grew hot. I was glad my face was exposed only to Emmett Cullen’s suede-covered feet.

“Ah. You must like this Jacob then, if he warrants a new toilet seat.” His voice was brimming with barely-concealed mirth.

“Well, I thought I did. But he hasn’t called me since I cancelled our date after my back went out. He probably doesn’t believe me,” I sighed.

“That’s his loss then, clearly,” Emmett replied in a Silken Sex Voice. Another involuntary shiver shot through me. He ignored my goose bumps and continued, “But that still doesn’t explain how you threw your back out. What did you do? Toilet seat replacement is generally a pretty easy task.”

“Well, it is if you know what you’re doing,” I agreed. I paused for a moment while he pushed gently, then more firmly, at the edge of my ribcage under my armpits. Wow…I’m really tight there. Hmmm.

I cleared my head and continued. “I’ve never replaced one before. I unscrewed those giant plastic bolts from the top of the old toilet seat with a screw-driver, but I neglected to check under the porcelain to see that there were nuts screwed onto the backside. I couldn’t figure out why the bolts wouldn’t come out, and I got frustrated and started yanking on the toilet seat, trying to pull it out…not knowing that a huge pair of nuts underneath were keeping it hooked into the stool,” I admitted guiltily. And there it was…my ignorance and stupidity on display, in the womb room with the hot chiropractor and his magic hands.

“Aaaah,” he responded in understanding. “A huge pair of nuts can definitely be hard to handle.” The humor in his voice was unmistakable now, and I could just picture his mirthful blue eyes crinkling in accompaniment.

My face burned with humiliation when I realized my gaffe. As if my story wasn’t mortifying enough, I had to go and add some unintentional sexual innuendo to the mix.

“Ha-ha,” I replied dismally, thankful that it was impossible for Emmett Cullen to see the embarrassment etched in pink across my cheeks.

He let out a blessedly short laugh. “In all seriousness, I’m glad you told me what happened,” he said soberly. “It explains a lot of what’s going on here. You stressed your upper back too much by bending over and pulling too hard, until your weak spot, down here--” he fingered my tailbone briefly, making me gasp--”finally gave out. And I'm sure all that screwing--I mean, unscrewing--beforehand didn‘t help.”

Oh no, he did NOT just go there! My face had to be ten shades of scarlet by now.

“Thanks for the recap,” I grumbled.

“Sorry,” he said with another chuckle. “You just made that one way too easy.”

“I know. Trust me, you don’t need to remind me what an idiot I am. When I realized that all I had to do was remove the nuts under the seat, I wanted to kick myself. I mean, how dumb can a person be? Don’t answer that,” I finished with a mutter.

He laughed softly. “Don’t beat yourself up over it. Your body already did that for you. Just concentrate on healing now.” When he ordered this in the buttery Massage Voice, with the ethereal, now-Celtic-inspired music pouring from the iPod in accompaniment, I obeyed without question. His hands were working along my spine now, and it felt as if he was reaching right inside me and stretching my muscles like warm Silly Putty. His fingers were a panacea to my pain, and I relaxed completely under his touch. I was beginning to believe that if anyone could heal me, he could.

Between the music and the magic fingers, I was falling into a kind of numb stupor. It felt like he was unwinding years of twisted tension from my back as he worked… releasing years of pent-up pain. Part of me never wanted him to stop. The other part began to feel a vague unease as prickles started to swirl along part of my spine. He had judiciously avoided my lower back, but I began to feel a tautness there, and queasiness spread through my belly. My face felt hot and clammy, and I was considering warning him that I needed to get it out of this donut hole, and soon.

Emmett’s intuition must have kicked in, because he announced, “I think that’s enough for this session. It’s been an hour already. You’ve done extremely well, Miss Swan.” He ran his hands gently up my back and down again, sending another wave of goose bumps through my skin. He pulled the sheet up over my back and added, “I’ll give you a few minutes to get dressed, and then I’ll be back to discuss your prognosis and treatment. Can you get up by yourself, or do you need some help?”

I shook my head vigorously and insisted I could do it myself. No way was I letting him see my boobs, even if he was technically a doctor. I waited until I heard the door close, then slowly pulled myself up into a kneeling position. My head spun dangerously for a moment and my stomach lurched. What the hell did he do to me?

I took a few deep breaths and turned my body to the side, gingerly lowering one foot to the floor, then the other. Whoa… head rush. Another wave of nausea followed. I gripped the mattress for a moment, then staggered to the wicker chair and sat down. I took several deep breaths and grabbed the crystal water goblet, downing half the contents in big, greedy gulps. I sat still for several minutes, breathing deeply. Once I began to get my bearings, I dressed as quickly as possible, then sat down and finished the glass of water. I wasn’t so sure about this myo-what's-it-called stuff anymore. Was it supposed to make me feel this discombobulated?

A tap at the door met my foggy ears, followed by the unmistakable Sex Voice. “Are you decent, Miss Swan?”

I would have made a joke about being quite indecent when the occasion warranted it; but I felt too sick. “Yeah, come in,” I conceded.

He opened the door and made his way around the massage table, pulling out the desk chair and spinning it around to face me. As he sat down, I looked up into the concerned face of a man who was unequivocally--and quite startlingly--NOT Emmett Cullen.

I gaped at him, stunned, as my addled brain tried to work out what was going on here. I felt like the poster child for “Dazed and Confused.”

“Are you feeling all right? You look a little pale,” he said worriedly. His voice was unmistakably the same honey-tongued Masseur Voice that had seduced my ears for the past hour. But his appearance was nothing like Emmett Cullen’s. In fact, the only characteristic he shared with the chiropractor was his superior height. But where Emmett’s face was all-American boyish charm, this man’s was hauntingly handsome, his chiseled bones and commanding brows incongruously contained beneath a pair of elegant, rectangular wire-rimmed glasses. The big eyes lurking behind those lenses were a luminous, anxious green as they bored into mine. His dirty-brown mane of hair was resplendent with reddish-gold sun streaks. As he ran his hand nervously through it, cowlicks sprang up from his head in leonine defiance of the starched white collar encircling his neck below. The five-o’clock shadow overtaking his square jaw was in on the hirsute coup as well, giving him the overall appearance of a barely-tamed lion, pacing in anticipation of being released from his cage.

He was quite possibly the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen.

“Who are you?” I finally managed to croak in bewilderment.

His eyes grew round, and his thick eyebrows arched upward in surprise before furrowing in dismay. “What do you mean?” he asked. “I’m Edward Cullen… the massage therapist who just worked on you.” He sounded a bit like he was talking to a first-grader again. “Are you okay, Miss Swan? You really do look a little green around the gills.”

Edward Cullen? Had I lost my mind? “Where’s Emmett?” I wondered weakly. Had I made him up? I was so light-headed that I was beginning to think anything was possible, including the notion that I might actually be delusional.

“He’s treating another patient,” the gorgeous stranger replied. “He’s the chiropractor, I’m the massage therapist--the other Cullen in ‘Cullen and Cullen, PC.’ Didn’t he explain that to you? He told me he had prepped you beforehand.” A tiny bit of anger, or at least irritation, had crept into his tone.

I frowned and rubbed my forehead, trying to absorb what this Edward Cullen was telling me. “He explained all about the my-oh-whatever-you-call-it treatment… but I just assumed he’d be the one doing it,” I said woozily. “I thought the two Cullens were Carlisle and Emmett.”

The caged lion shook his tousled locks, his flawless face darkening. Yep, he was definitely angry now. “I can’t believe he didn’t tell you--and then I didn’t even introduce myself….” His muttering dissolved into a short string of expletives mumbled under his breath, reminding me of Yosemite Sam on those old Looney Tunes re-runs that I loved when I was a kid. Well, a really hot, tall Yosemite Sam.

The lion pushed his glasses up his nose and composed himself. “I am so sorry, Miss Swan. That was completely unprofessional of both me and my brother. I hope it won’t keep you from coming back to see us again, because I really think I can help you.”

Brother, eh? Interesting. “You mean you can keep this from happening again?” I asked him in disbelief. I had stopped daring to think that I could live my life pain-free.

He nodded confidently. “Your body responded very well to the treatment,” he began. Oh, you have no idea, Edward Cullen. “I was able to make a lot of progress today, but getting you where you need to be won’t happen overnight. Your muscles and fascia have ‘memory,’ so to speak, and they’ll want to go back to what they’re used to doing, even if it’s not the most efficient way for your body to run smoothly. We need to re-train your body so that it wants to do what’s healthiest for you. If you’re willing to do the work and see me on a regular basis, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.”

I simply gazed at him and nodded feebly. He wants to see me regularly. That sounded too good to be true, but I was definitely on board. Anything that would bring me in proximity of his handsome face and masterful hands was already at the top of my list of priorities. He wants to re-train my body. That sounded… intriguing. And far too titillating. I was reasonably sure I would be putty in his hands, no matter what he wanted to do to me. He thinks he can fix me. That sounded… impossible. No one had been able to accomplish that since that fateful day six years ago. I desperately wanted to believe that he might be The One who could do this, more than he could ever know.

“So what do I need to do?”

“I’d like to see you this time every week, if possible. If you can’t get off work, I can see you on Saturday mornings. And if your insurance won’t pay for it, we might be able to classify this as a chiropractic appointment since those are usually covered.  I'm sure you'll need to see Emmett a few more times, anyway,” he said with a lopsided grin.

Wow…he was willing to see me on weekends, and fudge insurance claims for me? Why would he go out of his way to help me like this? I gawked at him, dumbfounded. It almost felt like I’d won the lottery. What was the catch?

“Well, I’ll talk to my boss about the schedule and see what she says,” I answered. “I can’t believe you’d see me on weekends--that’s really above and beyond.” My cheeks grew warm as I smiled shyly up at him. He was so beautiful, I was almost able to ignore the nausea that still gnawed at the edges of my belly.

“I see several clients on Saturdays. I usually take an afternoon off during the week in exchange,” he informed me, and my face went from warm to hot in humiliation.

“Of course,” I mumbled.

“Why don’t I schedule an appointment for next Saturday, and in the meantime, you can talk to your boss,” he suggested helpfully. I nodded in agreement.

Suddenly, he reached out to me, and I felt the back of his hand on my forehead. I gasped in surprise at the contact of his warm skin on mine.

“Miss Swan, your skin is very pale and clammy. Do you feel ill?” he asked again, more insistently this time. Weird…I felt more flushed than anything. His hand brushed my cheek briefly, his fingers threading ever so lightly through my hair and sweeping it back from my face before he rested his hand back on his thigh. Tremors shook me in response to this most gentle of gestures. I was beginning to wonder at the power he seemed to have over me in so short a time.

I nodded finally in answer to his question, this time feeling guilty for some reason. “I got kind of queasy and light-headed toward the end of the massage,” I admitted. “I still feel a little…strange.”

Edward frowned at me, his perfect pink lips pursed and green eyes scolding. “If you ever feel at all uncomfortable, you need to tell me immediately, do you understand?” he asked sternly.

I nodded yet again, sufficiently chastised by his concerned yet commanding tone. He sighed a bit and ran his hand through his thick hair again. I could already tell that I would be mesmerized continually by this simple act, no matter how habitually he repeated it.

“The last area I was working on was very close to your lymphatic system,” he explained. “Everything is attached to the spine, as I’m sure you know. You have a very pronounced twist throughout your torso, and it’s going to take some time to unwind it. I know that sounds strange, but that’s essentially what I was doing…loosening the tissues that are bound and twisted throughout your back. In doing that, I also stimulated your lymphatic system, which helps your body eliminate a lot of toxins. That’s probably why you’re nauseous and dizzy now--I basically just stirred up your entire immune system. The next time you even begin to feel this way, you have to tell me so I can stop before it gets to this point. Do you understand me?”

Ugh, again with the grade school talk. “Yes,” I promised. “Don’t worry, I’d prefer not to feel like this again if at all possible.”

He sighed again and rose from his seat, announcing that he was going to get me another glass of water. When he returned, I gratefully gulped down the cool liquid as he advised me to drink plenty of fluids when I got home, and to make some peppermint tea to help settle my stomach. He also gave me a list of things he wanted me to do in the coming week, including some simple exercises to stretch my back and chest, and vitamin and dietary supplements to take. He sounded annoyingly like every doctor I’d ever had by the end of his spiel.

I felt a lot better after my second glass of water, and when I finally got up, I was much steadier on my feet. I looked up at Edward Cullen and realized just how tall he really was--definitely over six feet, towering over my tiny 5’5” frame. His build was lean, the opposite of his sturdy brother; and his torso seemed to go on forever before it reached his legs.

“I made an appointment for you next Saturday at ten a.m., if that will work,” he smiled, his eyebrows raising questioningly. “And this time you’ll be lying on your back, so you shouldn’t get nauseous,” he assured me.

“Ten o’clock? That's fine,” I agreed. How the heck will he work on my back if I’m lying on it? I wondered. Surely he wouldn’t be massaging my front, would he? Holy crow. There’d be no way to relax with him touching me like that. And then looking up at his stunning face hovering over me while he’s doing it…? I’ll be toast. Plain and simple.

Edward escorted me to the front door, probably still afraid that I might keel over at any moment. Emmett appeared shortly after, apologizing profusely for failing to properly explain how things work at Cullen and Cullen. The brothers glared at each other for a moment, though they tried to hide it with smooth smiles at me afterward. I was pretty sure an argument would be breaking out about thirty seconds after I was out the door and no longer within earshot. Even though I’m an only child, I can imagine how those love/hate sibling relationships probably work.

I came home and made some peppermint tea like Edward suggested, and it did help me feel better. He told me I’d have some soreness, and I do; but what’s odd is that it keeps moving around to various parts of my body. My upper back was achy for about thirty minutes, but then it moved down a bit, and suddenly the right side of my leg was throbbing for awhile. I have to admit that this total-body connection thing must be the real deal. I’ve never felt so many odd sensations making their way through so many parts of my body before.

But the best development by far is this: for the first time since that horrible day, I feel hope. I’d pretty much given up on that. But the thought of Edward Cullen, and what he might be able to do for me, makes me more excited than I’ve felt about anything in a long time. I’m a little afraid to expect too much, of course. I’m trying not to expect anything at all. I figure that even if he can’t help me, at least the scenery will be lovely while he’s trying.

You can’t imagine what he looks like, Mom... like a man from another era. I keep picturing him as my favorite anti-hero, Heathcliff, riding a stallion on the wily, windy English moors; his unkempt hair, rugged jaw and pink cheeks like poetry in motion as he gazes intensely at his lover and riding companion, Catherine. Make that Isabella, since this is my fantasy.

And that’s why I think I’m in trouble. I’m in danger of falling for my massage therapist. Hard. Why does that sound so tawdry? Hmmm, maybe because I’m paying the guy to touch me all over?

I’m going to stop over-thinking this right now. Que sera, sera, etc. Angela is out renting us some movies and Ben’s coming over tonight, so I’m going to relax with a big bowl of popcorn and several hours of TV escapism. I need to take it easy so I feel okay tomorrow night. Ange agreed to come with me to Billy’s Brew Pub while I check out the yahoos playing on open mic night. A lot of times there’s no one a cut above what you'd hear in your average karaoke bar, but occasionally you can find some real diamonds in the rough at these things. I admire anyone who can get up onstage with only a guitar to hide behind and just let it all hang out. I gave up on the idea of being able to do it myself a long time ago. I know what you must think about that, Mom. But at least I can still enjoy that talent in other people when I hear it. And with Rose’s help, sometimes they can go on to do great things. I like to think that I might have a hand in someone else’s success and happiness someday. It helps lessen the pain of what might have been, you know?

Wish me luck with everything, Mom. I’ll let you know how it goes.




  1. Leann..... what can I say? I love it, the mistaken identity is genius. Are you going to alternate between POV's?

  2. Going good so far. I love all the details. You're so lucky you have back problems that inspire such creativity. By the end of this fic, you'll be thanking the good lord for it, won't you? Won't you? No?

    "It helps lessen the pain of what might have been, you know?"

    Aha! A mystery waiting to be told. I'm useless at figuring these things out, though.

    Looking forward to chsp. 3

  3. Thanks for reading as always, my lovelies! I wish I could take credit for the mistaken identity thingy, but that was Roblivious' genius idea...just to add a little element of surprise!

    Well, I supposed I can look at my recent back troubles as divine providence sent to inspire me, since I've been borrowing heavily from real life for that part. I'll remind myself of that the next time it freaks out on me. ;p

    The rest of the story is pure imagination, though...and yes, there is a bit of mystery to figure out. Both Bella and Edward have a big skeleton or two in their closets that need to be brought out into the light and dealt with. How they help each other do that is what this story is all about. :)

  4. You've done it again Leann! Hooked me lickedy split. I love the letter format for the storytelling...and your descriptions of Rob, um, I mean Edward are just delicious. Bella's toilet seat tale had me in stitches, as did her inner dialogue "And there it was…my ignorance and stupidity on display, in the womb room with the hot chiropractor and his magic hands."

    Can't wait for more my friend!

  5. Hi. Loving it so far now that I can see it. I feel like I found nirvana when I can see your blog!

  6. Thank you all BBs! So glad you could get in, Kathy! Hope you all like Edward's POV in the next chapter. :)