The door was locked, the lights were off—even the hallway light that we usually keep on—and it was freezing inside. I turned on the oil warmers and lit the candles in the lobby and in two of the rooms.
My first client wasn't until ten thirty. Elodie's wasn't scheduled until eleven thirty. She was still snoring when I left the house, which meant she'd rush through the door at ten past eleven and give her client a sweet smile and a quick apology in that cute little French accent of hers. Then she'd be on with her day.
Elodie was one of the few people in the world I'd do most anything for. That's especially true now that she's pregnant. She found out about the baby just two days after her husband's boots hit the dirt in Afghanistan. That kind of stuff is the norm around here. I saw it with my parents, with Elodie . . . pretty much everyone around these posts knew it was a possibility. Not just a possibility. More like the reality when you're married to the military.
I needed some music in here. I hated silence. I had recently convinced Mali to let me play more relevant music over the speakers while we worked. I couldn't handle another shift of "relaxing spa tunes" on repeat for hours. The sleepy sounds of waterfalls and waves got on my nerves like no other. Made me drowsy, too. I turned on the iPad and within seconds Banks was washing away the memory of all that soft dreamy babble. I walked to the front desk to switch the computer on. Not two minutes later Mali came in with a couple of big tote bags hanging from her little arms.
"What's wrong?" she asked as I took the bags from her.
"Uhm, nothing? No, hi? No, how's it going, Karina?" I laughed and made my way to the back room.
The food in those bags smelled so good. Mali made the best homemade Thai food I'd ever tasted and she always made extra for Elodie and me. She graced us with it at least five days a week. The little avocado—that's what Elodie called her baby bump—only wanted spicy drunken noodles. It was the basil leaves. Elodie had become obsessed with them since getting pregnant, to the point where she'd pick them out of her noodles and chew on them. Babies made you do the strangest things.
"Karina," Mali said, smiling. "How are you? You look sad."
That was Mali for you. What's wrong? You look sad. If it was on her mind, it came out of her mouth.
"Hey—I'm fine," I said. "I'm just not wearing makeup." I rolled my eyes and she poked my cheek.
"That's not it," she said.
No, that wasn't it. But I wasn't sad. And I didn't like that my mask had slipped enough for Mali to notice. I didn't like it one bit.