Phil glanced nervously at his watch. His appointment was at 7:30, it was now 7:25. Really, he could go in at any point. There was no problem with arriving early, and he had booked the whole night anyway. Also, he was already standing outside the building.
That building was a tall steel and glass structure right downtown where he lived. There were shops in the lower floors, as well as offices and apartments. Phil, a tall, well-built man in his twenties with dark brown hair, had taken the bus down to spend the night. It was a loose appointment, as long as he arrived at some point before midnight he was fine. That wasn’t the reason he was nervous.
The reason he was nervous was the he had never done anything like this before. He had found an add online, which said it was a sure fire way to reduce stress, but gave very little information. Apparently, it was part of a growing ‘cuddle for hire’ business, where people had special trained workers to cuddle with while you slept. Phil, a business intern hoping to someday become a manager, had plenty of stress in his life. He knew others in the same situation had been doing the same thing.
This one, however, seemed a bit strange. Their business’s website has described itself as a ‘Cuddle Club… With a Difference!’ but didn’t specify what that difference was. When he asked over the phone, the woman on the other end only giggled and said “oh… you’ll see!” Also, it didn’t have any pictures of the people who were there to cuddle, and the business’s page was strangely childish, with pictures of stuffed animals and descriptions written in very simple English. However, the reviews on it were excellent. Eventually he had decided to book a night.
He swallowed nervously. Finally, he picked up his duffle bag and headed into the building. He could always leave if he didn’t like it, he told himself. He walked across multi coloured tiles and past small stores towards a pair of steel elevator doors. He pushed the button, and waited. He looked again at a piece of paper in his pocket, which read “room 11-57, 530 pm.” He hit the button for floor 11, and waited.
He got off, and wandered through carpeted hallways until he found the right room. He paused and breathed deeply. Why was this so hard? He supposed it was because, in a way, he was admitting he needed help. Long work hours, little rest, and countless pages of work to get through had gotten to him. He tried to forget that he still was only competing for a position, and wasn’t even guaranteed a job after all this. Trying to get a good job in this economy would wear down anyone. He always had had problems dealing with stress, and at this point he just needed a break. He knew other people who had gone to similar places, but somehow he felt that if someone saw him he wouldn’t be able to face them again. Was he admitting defeat by getting help in such a strange way? He shook the idea out of his head, and knocked on the door.
“Come in,” a female voice said.
He opened the door, and found he was facing a desk in a large reception area. The walls were a deep red, decorated with a few pictures and two hall ways ran off to the sides. There were a few chairs along the walls, a coat rack and a small table covered with toys and colouring books. He looked at those questioningly. Who would bring their children here?
“Ahem,” the same voice said again, more sternly. He turned to face the woman at the desk, who was in her late 40s and small glasses and dark hair pulled back into a tight bun. She looked up from the paperwork on her desk and stared at him impatiently.
“Oh! Hi… uhhh sorry, I am here for a 5:30 appointment. If I am at the right place.”
“What is 'the right place?” she said, looking at him over the tops of her glasses.
“I… well, I think it’s here, I should have an appointment.” Phil didn’t want to admit where he was going if he was at the wrong place.
“You want the Carlesontown Cuddle Club?” she asked.
Phil blushed. “Yes.”
“You are Phil then?”
“Yes I am. Are you the receptionist?” Phil asked, hoping the stern looking woman wasn’t who he was going to cuddle with.
“I am the MANAGER, actually,” she said.
The woman looked at her watch. “It is no 5:37. You are late.”
“I know, I’m sorry,” he said.
The woman sighed. “I suppose that is fine. Alright. You are in room 3A, with Marie. Its right down the hallway to the left. You can leave your coat on that rack.” She pointed to the wall.
“Alright, thanks.” Phil took off his long overcoat, revealing a dark grey suit underneath, and hung it on the wall.
“That’s not what you are planning on wearing, is it?” she asked.
“No, I brought my pyjamas in my bag.” He held it up to show here. “Is there a place I can get changed?”
She paused a moment, then sighed again, more exasperated this time. “Yes, fine, just get changed in that room. Marie will show you where.” She turned back to the paperwork on her desk, indicating the discussion was over.
Phil headed down the hall. “3A… 3A…” he repeated to himself. He eventually found the room, and knocked.
The door opened slightly and a head popped out. He was relieved to see it was girl closer to his own age, perhaps mid-twenties, with a short bob of blond hair.
“Hello?” Phil said.
“Hi!” a voice answered excitedly. “Are you Phil?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“Yayyy! Come in come in come in!” she grabbed his hand and pulled him in. “Ummm… that’s not what you are going to wear, is it?” She pointed at his outfit.
“No I… what?” Phil had held out his bag to show her, but stopped dead in his tracks. His mouth hung agape. This was NOT what he had been expecting.
(This will be continued.
As always, comments and critiques are welcome.)