Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sunday has become a sacred day, the only day of the week on which she doesn’t work. A day in which every second is precious and planned for.

It is her policy to change the bedclothes on Saturday night, directly after her bath. In this way, when she wakes on the Sunday morning, the quilt is still lightly scented with the Jasmine fabric softener she uses. Lying with her eyes closed, one hand out on the hushed alarm, she breathes in the aroma and allows her thoughts to clear. Rebecca wakes as early on Sunday as she does on a workday but instead of the hurried breakfast, the shower, rummaging for clothes, dashing for the train, she has a different routine, one she has perfected over the last year.

First she makes a pot of coffee and lets it strengthen while she eats her breakfast, standing beside the steel sink in her thick, white bathrobe. A good, sugar-free Museli topped off with blueberries. Then she washes down a vitamin pill with a glass of filtered tap water, takes a glass of ice-cold orange juice and the freshly poured coffee on a small tray into the living room. She sits down at the table next to the window, sips the juice as the steaming coffee cools, gazing out from the seventeenth floor.

She lives alone now, a flat of her own at last, and has for a year or so. Even now, after so many years of living with other people in shared households, at moments she feels the same sense of excitement and relief as that first Sunday.
The flat was very different then. Rebecca has spent any spare time she has during the week renovating the place, determined to keep Sundays purely for relaxation, for herself. The old, striped carpets have been stripped out, the paper steamed and scraped from the walls. Everything is painted white in order to make the flat seem larger, mirrors hung strategically, shelves raised high in the alcoves to save floor-space. It is a small flat but it is hers, and besides, she is small herself and has learned how to live in limited space, how best to organize life in order to maximize it.

Before she takes her first sip of coffee she puts the radio on then turns back, picks up the cup with both hands as though it’s a bowl, lowers her face to it, allowing the last of the steam to dampen her nose and cheeks before she takes a drink. In a few minutes she will take a shower, the water piping hot, scrubbing herself with the coarse-grained Pine exfoliating gel, washing her hair in Lychee and Vanilla shampoo, conditioning it with Lilac-scented hair milk, each glittering green, honey-coloured and light-purple dollop portioned precisely out into her palm. Six months on, still eking out the Body Shop gift box she was given at Christmas.

She will shower again in the gym, after Yoga, her shower cap on. Use the cheaper Simple All Over Body Wash and then moisturize in front of the mirror, the towel tucked tight over her breasts, looking old in the changing room’s hard light. There’s grey in her hair that she is unsure what to do with. In three week’s time she will be forty.

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