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Through the DarknessA Hannah Ives Mystery
By Marcia Talley
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Marcia Talley
All right reserved.
Crickets. Twittering birds. The patter of rain, gentle as springtime, on a tin roof. Somewhere a violin, electronically enhanced, swooped and soared.
I melted, boneless, into the warm flannel sheets. "Ummmm."
Fingers, soft, smooth, and sure circled my breast--the good one--compressing here, releasing there. I suppressed an insane urge to giggle. "This feels weird," I said.
Garnelle continued working in silence, her fingers gently kneading, stroking, gradually converging on my nipple. As she worked, she'd glance at me from time to time through a waterfall of blunt-cut silver bangs. "This forces toxic fluids out through your lymph nodes."
"That feels so good, it should be illegal."
Garnelle grinned. "In some states, it is." She paused, let her fingers linger briefly against my skin, then raised them, gracefully, like a pianist from the keyboard as the last note of a Beethoven sonata faded away.
"Ah," I breathed.
Garnelle drew a corner of the flannel sheet up to cover my newly pink and tingling breast. "Now for the other one."
"Hah!" I snorted, shifting my buttocks, the only part of me that wasn't naked, into a more comfortable position on the massage table. "Fat lot of goodit'll do. It's a fake, you know. I haven't had a lymph node on that side since my mastectomy."
Through her bangs, Garnelle studied me as if I had two heads. "Haven't you heard of adhesions?" she asked. I lay still as she peeled the sheet away from my right shoulder, revealing my reconstructed breast in all its lopsided glory. "Regular massage can minimize adhesions."
She resumed work, using the same circular motion as before. "You should do this yourself, Hannah. Here." Garnelle extracted my hand from where it rested, warm and secure under the sheet, and guided it up to my pseudobreast, a flesh-covered mound bisected by a faint scar, with a nipple tattooed on top. "Feel that?"
"That tissue's mobile." She moved my fingers a centimeter closer to the scar. "That's not."
I was surprised I hadn't noticed the difference before, but when I did my monthly self-exam, I was looking for lumps, not adhesions.
"If you don't watch it, girl, that boob will get hard as a rock."
"Wouldn't want that," I said, tucking my arm back under the sheet. I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate as Garnelle instructed me on how to stroke, lift, and roll the scar. I wondered if Paul might like to volunteer to work on my adhesions. My husband was a pretty helpful guy.
"How long's it been?" Garnelle asked a few moments later as her hands began a slow cha-cha-cha along my upper arm.
"Six years, three months, and . . ." Beneath the sheet I tapped my fingers one by one against the leather. ". . . and seven days."
"But who's counting, right?"
I opened my eyes and grinned up at her. "Oh, but I do. Every day's a blessing."
"My aunt had breast cancer," Garnelle said, working my elbow. "Said chemo was the pits, what with the nausea and all."
"Can't say I'd recommend it, either," I muttered, "but if it puts her into the 'cured' category like me, then all the barfing will have been worth it."
"Three years out for her."
"That's so good," I moaned.
"What? My aunt's continuing good health, or the effleurage?"
I opened my mouth to answer, but by then Garnelle had turned her attention to my neck and head, her long fingers moving expertly along my scalp, drawing any thoughts I might have had completely out of my brain. "Ummmm."
Never let it be said that I don't know how to follow orders.
As Garnelle's gentle fingers moved along under my hair, I lay still, half listening to the new age music that drifted at low volume from speakers mounted flush into the walnut cabinets high on the wall. Something by Sayama, I guessed, having pawed through Garnelle's CD collection a while earlier, with flutes and gongs and tinkling temple bells. If I were wrong, though, and it turned out to be one of her other titles, like Time Temptress, or Spirit of the Wolf, I would be out of there the minute the panpipes kicked in.
Breathe in, breathe out. In. Out. Nothing existed for me but Garnelle Taylor's amazing hands and the calming scent of the essential oils she favored, a subtle mix of sandalwood and patchouli, with a touch of bergamot.
In. Out. Pachelbel's canon with the ocean crashing on a distant shore. Something by Enya, lyricless and soothing. I was so far away that they'd have to send out a search party to find me.
Then, out of the speakers, an acoustic flute sustained a note so high and impossibly long that if it had been produced by a human being rather than a synthesizer, the player would have passed out cold a long time ago.
"Nice trick," I sighed.
"You can do this yourself, too," Garnelle said, misinterpreting my remark. She cradled my head in both her hands and rocked it gently from side to side, stretching the muscles along each side of my neck.
"What?" I asked, still worrying about the poor flute player.
"Why would I want to," I asked, "as long as I have you?" My eyelids fluttered open. "Would you cut your own hair?"
"No, I wouldn't," she chuckled.
I chuckled, too, feeling stupid. Except for her bangs, Garnelle hadn't cut her hair in years. She wore it today as I suspected she always had, in a single long braid, brown and streaked with silver, down her back. A child of the Woodstock Nation, you might think, but you'd be wrong. Just under forty, Garnelle was far too young for Woodstock or the Summer of Love. If you quizzed her on it, she'd probably guess that Jefferson Airplane was an upstart, cut-rate airline. mine
Excerpted from Through the Darkness by Marcia Talley Copyright © 2006 by Marcia Talley. Excerpted by permission.
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