One hand holding his wine, the other on her knee, he looked at the screen, where an anonymous old movie about relationships and feelings was starting, then he heard Fran sniff and he looked over to see her fighting tears. She drained her glass, put it on the floor, then crossed her arms under her breasts – which were loose and full without the sports bra he usually saw her in. It was easy to forget how abundant her breasts were when she was in a sports bra.
“I’m okay.” She didn’t look at him, kept her eyes on the screen.
Fuck Charles. He squeezed her knee in sympathy, and she gave a little sigh. Good.
So he began massaging her calf with his free hand. She kept her eyes on the movie, but her breathing lost its tension and she blinked slowly. He put his glass down and started on the second calf, using both hands now. He worked his way down her ankle to her foot, deciding that a foot massage was the answer. He tugged off her slippers and set to work.
She sighed deeply from the other end of the couch, as he laced his fingers over the top of her foot to press his thumbs in circles along the arch. Then he tugged and rotated each individual toe, big to little, careful to massage the hidden undercurve and the tender inner edge of each.
From nowhere, the idea crossed his mind to put each freshly bathed toe in his mouth and suck, swirling his tongue around it, and he noticed suddenly how round and frankly cute her toes were. In the course of a long friendship with few barriers, they had of course talked extensively about their feet at various times – her year of plantar fasciitis when she transitioned to minimal shoes, his occasional athlete’s foot – but he had never before considered their appearance. Now he wondered how he had ever failed to notice her tidy, unpainted toenails, with their half-moon crescents and their slim white edges. He pushed his thumb gently backward over each cuticle, stroking from toe to ankle across the top of her foot. Fran grunted approvingly and nuzzled her cushion.
And then he turned his attention to the ball of her foot, pink and still a little wrinkled from the tub. He pressed circles into the flesh along its whole length and then pressed and tugged down its height, each toe bending with the downward pressure. When he reversed the process, pressing upward along the ball, from arch to big toe, Fran hummed a satisfied sigh, and he notice that she had closed her eyes. Turning his attention to her heel, he braced her ankle in one hand and massaged the flesh, rotating and flexing her ankle to stretch muscles and tendons loosened by their long soak.
He did it all again on her other foot – arch, toes, the dense network of bones, ligaments, and tendons across the top of her foot, the ball, the heel. And because she seemed at last to feel peaceful, and because her robe left her legs exposed to the knee, he kept going, up each leg from ankle to knee, attending to each line of muscle, digging deep to access the connective tissue. Her dense, strong runner’s legs seemed ripe for massaging, realigning and renewing all the muscle tissue. The harder he worked, the more she wriggled and grinned and murmured and sighed, so when he got to her knees, he massaged those too – pressing into the delicate curve at the back, brushing softly where the knee was bruised from a client’s ill-aimed medicine ball. On an impulse, he bent and pressed his lips to it, and she chuckled and shrugged her shoulders, to settle deeper into the couch.
He paused, then. The bottom of her robe seemed to create a line of demarcation: to here, and no farther. Yes, the flap opened slightly to offer a peak of one thigh, just a few inches, but –
Fran banged her calves on his thighs and grunted impatiently. Her eyes were on the screen again, and she was smiling, relaxed.
Who could say no to that? Mick thought.