She wiped her brow, weary from the daily routine in the steamy environment. Soaping, scrubbing and kneading the varied body types day in and day out was not how she had envisaged her life. "My name is Feriha, which means unique, the only one. I don't feel unique or desired."
"What irony, his name means holiday!" Feriha muttered, exasperated. "Wait, I can't be pregnant after all, the timing's all wrong" resigned to her continued days in the steam hall.
Her concentration was not good that day. She kept thinking about what she had overhead earlier. The other girls had been talking and laughing in the alcove, but when she approached them, the twitter turned to silence. She only caught snippets, 'Kuala Lumpur' and 'next year'. She was one of the newer apprentices' and ranked low in the chain of experience. Perhaps that was the reason she was being excluded.
On better days, Feriha would amuse herself by fantasising about the bathers. What sort of lives did they lead? Where were they from? Americans, British, Australians, Germans and now the hoards of Russians and Chinese? Feriha found the Asians particularly interesting. Japanese women seemed confident about their bodies, their naked form, compared to other Asian women who were obviously uncomfortable to bare their bodies in public despite the camouflage of the smouldering hazy hall.
"I only know Konya, my home town; Bursa where I trained for the Hamam, and now Istanbul. Will I ever see the world?" Feriha wondered wistfully.
"Feriha, come here" called Melis, supervisor of the ladies section. Melis had a story of her own to tell. She had put in her years in the steam baths and had earned the right to supervisory status. Her name meant honey bee and she was indeed very sweet to the man boss.
"Yes Melis?" Feriha hoped she was not in trouble, daydreaming being her usual sin.
"You're not pregnant, are you?" Melis shot the question like an arrow.
"Er no. Not possible" stammered Feriha, glad she had just done the maths earlier.
"Good. You will be going to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to our new Hamam in three months' time. Tell your husband to meet the boss next week to discuss this matter", Melis instructed in a no nonsense manner.
"Yes Melis" said Feriha, numb inside despite the swirling steam around her.
"Me going to Kuaalaa Lumpuur?" finding it difficult to pronounce this unfamiliar name.