When I Own a Yoga Studio
Giulia Mastrantoni (Monash University, Australia)
My dead body is in the backseat, and I am sitting next to Clive, in the front. I am disappointed to notice that I have no idea where we are going. I thought that dead people knew everything?
It goes against my yogic philosophy, but I close my eyes and follow the ‘ifs’ and ‘could-have-beens’ that pop up in my mind. If the ravioli hadn’t been poisoned for good, my performance as the victim would now be over. If I had never started our murder mystery dinner business with Clive, I would still be alive. If I had discovered yoga earlier on, I would probably already be a studio owner.
The mansion where I lost my life disappears in the rearview mirror, and I think of how proud Clive has always been of our startup.
“My fucking father can fucking fuck himself,” Clive said when he scrolled through our bank statement two months after we had started the murder mystery dinner business. “Look how much money we made this fortnight.”
I looked over his shoulder; that was good money.
“You should ring him, you know?” I suggested.
Clive looked at me, then he turned back to the screen and logged into our superannuation account.
“He would only ask for money, the bastard,” he said after a pause. “I know him, Kat.”
I only knew Robert through what Clive had shared with me: Robert had been an alcoholic for decades, he had borrowed money from Clive ever since he was sixteen, and he had laughed when Clive announced he wanted to become an actor.
I had long planned to get in touch with Robert to help him clear the air with his son. Clive wouldn’t want me to, but my yogic philosophy urged me to work to mend fences.
When I found yoga, two years ago, my life changed completely. I became more aware, and I decided I would make a difference in other people’s lives. I also decided I would open a yoga studio to spread the good yoga vibes.
Tomorrow would be the completion of my yoga teacher training, actually, and Tamara and I were planning to go somewhere to celebrate. Of all of her trainees, I was her favourite.
We met when I started practising yoga at her studio last year.
“And do you have any injury I should know about?” She asked me when I introduced myself.
I shook my head.
“Sweet. Now, you can –”
At that moment, a woman slipped on the floor; her knee landed in a very unnatural position.
“Oh God,” Tamara gasped, her face pale.
“Stay still, I’ll take care of it,” I said to the woman.
And I did. Having a doctor as a father means you learn everything about first aid, whether you like it or not.
That night, after things had been settled, Tamara came to me.
“I don’t know what I would have done without you,” she said. “I have done trainings and all, but… I really freak out when I see joints doing – what her knee did.”
“It’s nothing, really,” I smiled.
“How long have you been practising yoga for, again?”
She enrolled me in her next teacher training course with the promise that she would give me a job upon completion. That day, I felt that my life suddenly had a purpose.
I introduced Tamara to Clive the day after, and she introduced me to Paul, her now ex-boyfriend. Clive disliked Tamara right away, and complained constantly about how much time I spent with her, when I should have been rehearsing our next murder.
“Business is going well, Clive! Relax,” I used to say. “In a few years, when I have my own yoga studio, we will have even more money. Just breathe, will you?”
The thought of more wealth seemed to cheer Clive up every time. I imagined having to lend money to his father since he was sixteen must have affected his relationship with material possessions. I could understand that, yet sometimes Clive was difficult to put up with.
Three months ago, for example, Clive’s obsession with money really got on my nerves.
“So, now that you will be a yoga teacher, perhaps you could just sell your share of the business? So you can focus on your own studio?” Clive asked during dinner.
I stared at him: “What?”
“I am just saying,” Clive went on, “if I become the sole owner of the murder mystery dinner business, then you can have more time to do your yoga thing.”
I shook my head: “What are you talking about? We are co-owners of the murder mystery dinner business. The yoga studio is my on-the-side project, and it has nothing to do with the mystery dinners.”
“I think you should sell your share to me,” Clive said, his voice more decisive.
“Why?” I asked.
He sighed: “You want me to spell it out? We must have fully committed people in our team, else the whole project is going to suffer. We must make sure it’s solid, that it brings us revenue. You are not suitable to work with us anymore.”
“Us?” I asked. “We are co-owners, Clive. I am us. ”
We ended up fighting about money and the possibility of losing everything we had. I told Clive he was being irrational, that we had plenty of money, and that my studio would do well. Clive took his wallet and headed out, slamming the door behind him.
He turns left, and I look at him. He seems at peace with what he has done. Fifty people, our customers, saw me breathe for the last time, and none of them even guessed that I was truly dying, that I wasn’t acting anymore. I died in plain sight, and yet my death was invisible to them.
When he finally stops the car, I look out the open window. Trees everywhere.
Clive gets out and prepares to dispose of my body. I close my eyes; I don’t want to see this. I inhale deeply, expecting the scent of the bush to overwhelm me. When it doesn’t, the reality of what happened hits me – I will never breathe again. I will never be a yoga teacher. I will never own a studio. I am dead, and Clive killed me.
I cross my legs on the car seat, close my eyes, and try inhaling the fresh air in. I smell nothing. I try again, and again, and again. All of a sudden, I am desperate. I am dead. I need someone to know this very moment that Clive killed me.
I must tell Tamara, I think. We have meditated so many times together, just the two of us, that I am sure she would be able to hear my thoughts. I start focusing on her. I clear up my mind, think of what I want to tell her, and try to convey as much as I can.
Clive gets back in the car and drives away, but I barely notice it. I am too busy trying to tell Tamara what happened.
When we get home, Clive sits on the couch. He throws his head back and opens his arms, as if he is relaxing after a very long day at work. I wonder if he is experiencing that type of rewarding tiredness that I used to experience after a yoga class. The tiredness I will never experience again.
I sit on the rug. I need Tamara to hear me now.
There is a soft knock on the door. Clive lifts his head; there is a second knock. He gets up, walks to the front door, and opens it. Tamara. I smile. She looks like she just got out of bed.
“What are you doing here?” Clive asks.
She throws her arms around his neck and kisses him. I freeze.
“I couldn’t wait any longer,” she says. “I wanted to see you.”
They keep kissing for a few seconds, then Clive looks at her.
“I love you,” he whispers. “I will always take care of you.”
She kisses him again: “So it’s done?”
Clive nods: “I am the sole owner of Murder Mystery Dinners Fun.”
She claps her hands: “We will make a fortune together!”
“You will never have to worry about unpaid studio bills again,” Clive says.
“And you will never have to worry about a business partner who doesn’t appreciate you.”
They hold hands as they walk to the bedroom.
I close my eyes, then I lay on the rug; it’s time for my eternal savasana .
Giulia Mastrantoni is currently completing a PhD at Monash University. Her research investigates how to better represent sexual violence in fiction, nonfiction, and creative nonfiction. She is co-editor-in-chief of Colloquy, a committee member for the Victorian Postgraduate Criminology Conference, and a published author. Giulia’s fiction in Italian has been featured on a number of literary blogs, and it has eventually won the international prize Napoli Cultural Classic (2015), whereas Giulia’s fiction in English has been featured on SWAMP (2019) and on Litinfinite (2020). Giulia presented her work at Falling Walls Lab (Melbourne 2019) and at NeMLA (Boston 2020).