Liz takes the stairs when she has to go to Jack’s office. Yes, she used to take the elevator every time. Yes, it’s about eight flights up. Yes, sometimes she worries that she’s going to get trapped in the stairwell because all the exit doors are locked; she’ll scream and yell for a while but then she’ll become resigned to her fate, after cursing the fact that Tracy’s shenanigans -- and they are shenanigans – caused Frank to steal her cell phone off her desk in some bizarre scavenger hunt, therefore leaving her without her cell phone while she is stuck in the stairwell. Not that cell phones probably work in these god-forsaken stairwells, anyway, but the option would have been nice, especially since in this scenario she’s found four days later by Kenneth, getting ready to eat her sock from hunger. Just one sock, though. Still, Liz takes the stairs, fear of being trapped aside, for two reasons. One, Jenna told her two months ago that her ass was getting jiggly, and Liz hopes the stairs will do at least some toning. It’s not like she’s going to go to a gym. Two, the stairs give her a chance to contemplate whatever fresh hell Jack has in store for her now.
This morning, it’s a hell Liz has yet to even imagine.
“A spa?” She shouts so loudly this time that the doorknobs rattle.
“Yes, Lemon, a spa. Surely you’ve heard of them. People go, spend some time being pampered, relax. You do know how to relax, don’t you Lemon?”
“Are you saying I need to relax?”
“Are you having that fantasy where you get stuck in the stairwell again?”
“It’s not a fantasy,” Liz protests. Jack’s eyebrows go up.
“I see,” Jack says. “In any case, we’ll air an encore presentation of the show this week, and you can spend five days at an exclusive spa somewhere upstate.”
“You don’t even know where it is?” Liz sighs.
“I know where it is,” Jack says. “I just can’t say it aloud due to various state, federal and international laws.”
Liz sighs again. “Jack. I can’t afford a spa.”
“Oh, no Lemon, of course you can’t.” Jack’s matter-of-fact tone makes Liz’s head tilt five degrees to the right. “No, Sheinhardt will be taking care of the tab. Five days, all expenses paid, nothing to worry about except whether you want the salmon or the steak for dinner. Here at NBC, we feel our employees are most productive when they are at their most relaxed, able to come to their jobs with renewed energy, focus, and enthusiasm.”
“I don’t have to pay for anything.”
“No – a car will pick you up at your apartment at noon.”
“I can eat as much as I want.”
“We’re airing a re-run on Friday.”
“An encore presentation, yes.”
“What is the rest of the staff going to do?”
“Enjoy their time off, I’d expect.” Jack stops, his eyebrows knitting together for a moment. “Except for Frank. I might need him to wash my car.”
Liz opens her mouth, but decides to let it go. She nods, once. “Okay, I’m in.”
“That’s wonderful, Lemon. I was waiting for your buy-in now that it’s five minutes too late.”
Liz wrinkles her nose but otherwise doesn’t comment.
“You may go. You need to be packed and waiting for the car by the time it arrives. At noon.”
“I know when noon is, Jack.”
“It’s during the day.”
Jack smiles briefly, that smile he always flashes when he’s amused with himself. “Excellent. I’ll see you then.”
Liz steps back half a step, ready to leave the office when Jack’s words catch up with her. “You’ll see me then?” she repeats.
“Why yes, of course. You don’t think that I’ll just assume you took the car and spent five days away from the city, do you?”
“You’re coming, too?” Liz’s voice goes up at least an octave.
“Yes, Lemon, I thought that was apparent.”
“You’re going to supervise me?”
“Oh, no. No.” Jack laughs a little dismissively. “Aside from a few scheduled activities, your time will be your own.”
“All exclusive spa amenities. What do you think, that we’re going to have to do some sort of team building exercises designed to bring us closer together as colleagues?” Jack scoffs.
Liz flashes for a brief moment on a scene of her and Jack doing the trust exercise where one person has to catch the other, while the person falling closes their eyes. In her fantasy, she gets distracted by a donut and Jack drops to the floor like a stone.
Liz fakes a laugh. “Of course not, Jack.”
“Of course not, Lemon.”
Liz gestures over her shoulder toward the door. “Great. Right. Noon.”
“That’s during the day.”
Liz nods and gives Jack the thumbs up sign before making her escape out the door and into the stairwell. She’s kind of sorry this time when the doors open and close correctly.
Liz was a little surprised that they didn’t blindfold her on the way up to the spa, but considering she had no idea where they were going anyway, and that Jack spent the entire five hour ride pitching skit ideas (they mostly included dogs, alcohol, or dogs and alcohol, which were admittedly better than Tracy’s skits about the mutant woodpecker from Mars), it wasn’t as if she could give away her ultra-secret location. She didn’t even have time to collapse on the bed and eat her complimentary on-the-pillow chocolate before the front desk rang her to remind her of her first appointment of the trip – a facial. Liz is relieved that it’s a facial; at least she doesn’t have to be naked for that one. It’s hard to start out naked.
After a twenty minute search for the correct portion of the spa, and another ten fiddling with the far-too-big bathrobe they give her, Liz enters the room the nice lady receptionist shows her to and finds it blissfully empty.
“Oh, thank God,” she says, plopping down on the bed/lounge chair that looks remarkably like what she might find in the doctor’s office. Her bliss doesn’t last long, as Jack and a petite Latina woman enter the room. “Of . . . course,” Liz sighs. “Don’t you have something else to do, Jack?”
“Nothing is more important than assisting in the grooming of one of my finest employees,” Jack says, still dressed in his suit, which is somehow still impeccably pressed.
“Finest?” Liz questions.
“Most adequate?” Jack tries again.
Liz raises her left eyebrow.
The woman gestures for Liz to lie back on the bed, so Liz does. After she does, the woman sits down on the small stool next to the bed and turns on a small lamp that she shines directly onto Liz’s face. Liz screws her eyes shut as the woman takes off her glasses.
“Do you see what I mean about the sun damage?” Jack asks.
“Oh, yes,” the woman says. Liz can hear her move the stool closer.
“Sun damage?” Liz asks.
“Wow, that is even worse than I thought. What did you do in your twenties, Lemon, put on baby oil and lay in some grass by the Hudson river?”
Liz carefully opens one eye to see Jack’s face looming above hers. She looks over to the woman, and reads her nametag. “Louisa? That’s a pretty name,” she says.
“Thank you,” Louisa says, putting on some latex gloves with an ominous snap. “Look at that T-zone,” she adds, pointing to Liz’s forehead.
“God, it looks like she’s growing peppercorns out of her chin,” Jack says.
“What?” Liz tries to open the other eye and fails because of the bright light.
“And look at that mustache!” Liz can hear Louisa hum agreement with Jack’s words. “I didn’t know you were Italian.”
“I don’t have a mustache,” Liz protests, but Jack and Louisa seem to be ignoring her.
“That’s going to have to come off,” Jack continues.
“Hot wax?” Louisa suggests.
“Let’s try electrolysis. I think we’re going to need the heavy artillery.”
Liz can see Louisa nod even with only one eye open.
“Don’t I get a say here?” Liz starts, only to be interrupted by Louisa.
“I think we should start with a citrus wash.”
“Excellent,” Jack answers.
Liz tries to speak again, but finds it impossible once Louisa starts slathering cleanser on her cheeks.
Liz finds Jack in the upscale dining hall and drops into the chair opposite him.
He looks up briefly from his menu, and then back down, unconcerned. “The swelling will be gone by morning, Lemon.”
A waiter no older than Kenneth approaches. Before he can even ask, Liz says, “I want the surf ‘n turf, biggest steak and lobster you have. Seriously, if they’re as big as my head that’s not big enough. I want a double batch of fries and mashed potatoes on the side. You can skip the salad, but bring two bread baskets. And some red wine would be nice. Just bring the bottle and leave it here.”
The waiter waits for two full minutes to make sure Liz is done before he turns to Jack. “I’ll have the seven ounce filet, medium rare, asparagus on the side. Thank you.” The waiter nods and walks away.
Liz digs into the bread basket already on the table and rips into a roll with her teeth. Jack calmly takes another sip of his scotch and soda.
There’s silence for a moment until Liz hisses, “Do you know what the word extraction means?”
“I do speak English,” Jack replies.
“I do, too, and it does not mean what I thought it meant. Not anymore,” Liz says, biting into the roll again.
“It is all about context,” Jack agrees, tipping his scotch glass at Liz.
Liz only glares at him.
Liz’s massage is scheduled for eleven the next morning. She skips breakfast in the dining hall, opting for coffee and two muffins and a bagel from room service. She slept well; the bed is huge and soft and the sheets smell like lavender. As she goes down to the massage area, Liz ponders how she can get her sheets at home to smell like that. Is it just the laundry detergent or do they do something else? Maybe she’ll ask someone; it would be nice to wake up every morning to that wonderful fragrance. Maybe they crush up real flowers somehow, though that doesn’t seem practical.
Unfortunately, those thoughts come to a screeching halt the second Liz steps into the room the attendant showed her. There is soft music playing, the flickering glow of many candles – and Jack, standing in a bathrobe, barefoot.
“What has happened to my life?” Liz mutters.
“Ah, Lemon. Beautiful morning, isn’t it?” Jack looks happy. It’s disconcerting.
Liz sighs. “Jack, what are you doing here?”
“Why, getting a massage, of course.”
“We are scheduled for a couple’s massage, Lemon,” he says matter-of-factly.
“A couple’s massage?” Liz closes the neck of her robe with her left hand. “What is going on here?”
“I couldn’t schedule you alone now, could I? How could I be sure you’d show up?”
“You could try trusting me,” Liz hisses.
“Oh, Lemon, we both know I couldn’t do that,” Jack laughs. “Listen. It’s just the two of us in the same room getting a massage at the same time. There’s nothing remotely sexual about it, so put whatever Puritanical mid-western sensibility that’s all riled up now away and let’s be calm, rational adults.”
This, Liz thinks, is the problem. Jack makes it all sound so reasonable, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also usually inappropriate. Liz sighs again. “But you’re naked under that robe, aren’t you?”
“The therapists here are very discreet. You won’t see a thing.” Jack stops. “Unless you want to.”
Liz makes a face at him.
“Please, the human body is a wonderful, beautiful thing. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
“Aren’t you Catholic?” Liz asks.
“Catholics have selective memories. I’ve merely blocked out all the talk about how evil my body is and how I’m going to go to hell because of it. Also, I have had a lot of therapy. And a couple of threesomes in the seventies.”
“So no . . . happy endings, right?” Liz asks.
“Lemon, how plebeian.” Jack actually looks offended, which is a bit of a relief to Liz.
Then the massage therapists enter, and Liz can’t really argue anymore anyway. Maybe this won’t be so bad. Liz climbs up onto the table and puts her head in the special circle, face toward the floor. It’s true. She can’t really see anything from this angle anyway. She’s pretty sure she’s not disappointed.
Liz is passed out on her bed, on top of the covers napping when a persistent knocking on the door wakes her. She opens the door to find Jack on the other side, looking slightly peeved. It’s not a look Liz has ever really liked.
“We had a sea salt scrub and body wrap appointment at 3:30,” he says, stepping into the room around her.
Liz sighs, closes the door, and sits down heavily on the bed.
“I was sleeping, Jack,” she says.
“You can sleep any time, Lemon.”
“No, see Jack, here’s the thing – I can’t.” Liz can feel herself winding up, but she’s so used to it that she just cruises right past the warning light in her head. “I run a t.v. show. That has Tracy on it. And Josh, who is a good kid but who can barely see to read the cue cards if he doesn’t have his glasses on, which he won’t wear on the set because he thinks they make him look dorky, and he won’t wear his contacts because he says the lights are too bright and then his eyes water. Then there’s Jenna, who pouts every time we put her in a skit that doesn’t have her singing in it. And by pouts, I mean locks herself in her dressing room for six hours until we can coax her out with the promise of some great piece of wardrobe which inevitably blows my budget for the entire week. The writers need me to hand hold them, and Pete is still living with me, staying in my apartment, running up my long distance phone bill and snoring, which means on those nights when I get home before one in the morning I still can’t sleep because it’s like I have a freight train idling in my couch. And you, you – " Liz sputters. “You, you are trying to do what in your mind is probably a very nice thing for me, but you’re micromanaging every second of it like I’m three years old, which I’m not. My face still hurts from yesterday and while the massage was very nice I’m sore because the woman kept saying I carry my tension in my lower back, whatever that means, and God, she made it hurt so much I wanted to throw up a little bit after. So if I want to take a nap instead of getting wrapped up in some plant I wouldn’t even eat and possibly can’t pronounce, then that’s what I’m going to do. Probably.”
Jack comes and sits down next to Liz on the bed. “Are you finished?”
Liz nods. “Yes. Yes, I am.”
“Lemon, I’m not trying to herd you around like some Central American nanny with four kids in the middle of Stop ‘N Shop, keeping you from turning over the display of canned tomato soup or out of the candy aisle. I know you don’t get to rest very often and this spa vacation is supposed to help with that.”
“I know. It’s just . . . does everything have to be your way?”
“Yes,” Jack says smoothly.
Liz throws herself backwards onto the bed so her legs are dangling over the side.
“However, I might be willing to make some accommodations,” Jack adds.
“What accommodations?” Liz asks, turning her head toward him.
“What if you go to two spa services a day, and meet me for dinner each night?”
“How about one?”
“If I wanted to negotiate with you I would have started off with eight services, all three meals, an afternoon snack and a nightcap.”
“Two it is.”
“I still get to pick them,” Jack says.
“I get to choose,” Liz argues.
“I get to choose one, and you get to choose one,” Jack offers.
“That’s quite a compromise, Jack. I’m impressed.”
“Don’t push me, Lemon.”
“Right.” Liz pauses. “But no more couples massages.”
“I told you you wouldn’t see anything,” Jack says.
“I didn’t,” Liz says, too quickly. She covers her mouth with her hand, making it even worse.
“I’m going to pretend this last part of the conversation didn’t happen.”
“Okay,” Liz says around her hand. “That’s . . . good.” She moves her hand away. “How do you do that, just erase part of the conversation?”
Jack smiles. “What isn’t covered by being Catholic is taken care of by alcohol.”
“Ah. The Irish,” Liz says.
“May we continue to clog Massachusetts with our children.”
“Amen,” Liz says, and means it.