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This Time Around – scene

This is a scene from my manuscript This Time Around – a work in progress. It may or may not make it in the final version of the manuscript.

“You ready? It’s nearly 6:30. Get a move on.” Janine  steps into my office, bouncing on the balls of her feet, gym bag slung over her shoulder.

“I’m coming, I’m coming. Just give me two minutes,” I say, without looking up from my computer screen.

“Make it fast, your two minutes is more like twenty.”

“If you shut up, I’ll get this last sentence done.” Two seconds later I hit send. “I can’t believe we’re doing this.”

“Marlene, over in HR said it was a total blast,” Janine says.

“Oh, well now that’s a ringing endorsement. Marlene has no life, anything would be a blast for her.” I shut my computer down and reach under my desk hauling out my gym bag.”

“Don’t be cruel.” Janine grabs my arm, ushering me out of my office. “Did you remember to bring your swimming costume?”

“Yes, I have my bathing suit,” I say, emphasizing the words in an effort to remind Janine that as cute as her British accent is the only time Americans wear a costume is on Halloween. “But just so we’re clear,” I continue, “the idea of a spin class under water strikes me as a little unsanitary.”

“Unsanitary? How so?” Janine asks.

” I just think public pools in general lack the necessary amount of chlorine to kill the kind of germs they’re up against. I mean just think about it, a bunch of people in the water, pedaling hard, on heavy machinery, and sweating their brains out. It’s a little gross if you ask me.”

Janine tugs me toward the elevators. “We’re going to have fun. Trust me.”

“Yeah, that’s what you said last week about the meditative yoga class. There wasn’t anything calming about twisting into a pretzel and practically pulling my shoulder out of its socket.”

“Okay, so that may not have been the best choice.”

I scoff.

“No wait a minute.” Janine punches the elevator but with her palm. “I have a strong feeling about this. I think this is going to do the trick and you’re going to sleep like a baby tonight.”

“Why do I not believe you?”

“Because you’re jaded, and a little lazy,” Janine says, never one to mince words.

“I’m not lazy.”

“Oh please. You’re a cliché. Your idea of exercise is shoveling a spoon full of ice cream into your mouth.”

“It works the biceps,” I say.

Janine rolls her eyes.“Every cloud has a silver lining.”

“That’s a non-sequitur,” I say.

“Not really. What I mean is, in five years I haven’t once been able to get you to take an exercise class of any kind. But in the last two months, since you’ve starting having those awful dreams, well…look, we’ve gone to…” Janine counts silently, “ten different classes.”

“Exactly, and none have worked,” I say, with a little triumph in my voice, although I don’t know why. She’s only trying to help and I love her for it.

Janine picks up the pace as we step out onto the street and head toward Central Park West where the class is being held. “I refuse to give up. I just want to help. I hate seeing you so miserable.”

“I know. I know, and I really don’t mean to sound ungrateful. It’s just that I’m not feeling very hopeful,” I say, breathing heavily because Janine is practically race walking.

“Come on, hurry it up, we still need to register before the class starts, they won’t let us in if we’re late.”

I can no longer speak as we are now jogging in earnest while holding my purse and my gym bag. It’s a workout and I’m not sure I’ll have anything left once we hit the pool.

When we finally arrive to 60th Street and Central Park West, we take the elevator to the roof. The ascent is silent and the doors slide open to a stylish, gleaming white reception area. Suddenly, I’m not nearly as skeeved out as I thought I would be.

As we complete the registration form that clearly indicates we are responsible for our own deaths should we over exert ourselves, a perky young woman, who looks like she eats lettuce for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, bounces over, pony tail swinging.

“Hi, I’m Crystal. Ready?”

We both nod, and I find myself staring at her enormous smile wondering how she gets her teeth so white.

“Great, I’ll show you to the lockers.” She gives us quick instructions on how to work the locker combinations and the importance of taking a shower before entering the pool. With that last instruction, I forgive her bouncy, too energetic style, and I no longer what to lift her up and throw her into the used towel bin. Clearly, she understands the importance of hygiene.

“If you need anything, just pick up that phone on the wall and dial zero,” Miss Energetic Perky says.

Janine and I smile and nod.

“Well, this is awfully chic. Will you look at the towels, they’re like fluffy cotton balls. The expensive kind,” Janine says.

Yes, the locker room looks clean and modern with its blonde wood benches and matching lockers. There’s a wall of sinks, with every kind of designer soap, shampoo, and lotion you could want. There’s even a row of blow dryers and hair spray. “They make it convenient, I’ll give them that,” I say.

It doesn’t appear to be crowded, there’s only one other woman in the locker room, and she looks as if she’s spent the last ten years sucked into the grooves of her couch while eating copious amounts of over processed snacks. I should talk, as I struggle out of my girdle.

Once I release my flesh from the spandex holding it in, it’s evident that I’m not exactly guiltless. All those weekends lounging around, eating double chocolate chocolate chip and watching movies. I’m disgusted with myself for not being disciplined. Maybe this exercise thing, if it doesn’t rid me of my bad dreams, will aid me in the battle for a waistline.

“You ready?” Janine asks.

She’s wearing a red two piece, and it’s evident she’s not been spending her time stuffing her face with cheetos. But with all the baggy clothes she wears, you’d never know that underneath is one helluva body. I mean I’d date her. Her arms are toned, but not too chiseled. Her abs are ironing board flat. Her thighs, hamstrings and calves are muscular, but not like a body builder, just like someone who takes care of herself.

“Wow, Janine, you look amazing.”

She blushes and looks down at her body. “I like to work out. Helps get rid of stress.”

We take a quick shower and make our way to the pool area. Instantly I see why the locker room was so empty. There are about fifty bikes in the water, nearly all filled with what looks like people in a race, because they’re pedaling like mad.

“Has the class started already?” I ask Janine as we hang our towels on a hook and slip out of our flip flops.

“No, it looks as if they’re just warming up.”

“That looks like more than just a warm up. That looks serious,” And I point to one guy whose veins are bulging at his temples, “he must be going at least forty miles an hour.”

Janine just shrugs and jumps in the pool making her way over to an empty bike.

With that single leap into the pool, I admire her fearlessness. I’m not the kind of person who can tolerate extreme temperature shock.

Walking over to the step ladder, I begin to slowly lower myself inch by inch. My ankles are fully submerged when I hear a loud shrill whistle and the sound of thumping bass.

I look up and see our instructor jump into the pool and swim toward the lone bike facing us.

“Woo Hoo! Are you ready to take it to the max!” says the overzealous voice of our incredibly energetic and super toned instructor. As she gets ready to mount her bike, she fastens on her head set. We now hear her encouraging words coming through the loud speakers mounted on the front corners of the room, the sound amplified in the Olympic size pool area.

My shoulders tense and I silently wish I’d brought a pair of ear plugs. It all seems too loud, too in your face.

Janine gets my attention and motions me over mouthing the words, hurry up. Not wanting to be the straggler that interferes with other riders, I jump in. I shout out a curse as the cold water makes contact with my entire body. With the music now up to full throttle, I have no choice but to swim over and take the bike next to Janine.

The other riders give me a look as Janine screams over the music giving me instructions on how to adjust my bike.

When I situate myself as best as I can, I begin pedaling. It’s slow going and I’m surprised at the amount of friction the water offers. I feel as if I’m stuck in a jar of molasses and I’m pushing the entire weight of my body, all one-hundred-and-fifty- five pounds of me up a hill with a lead weight on my back.

I manage to look around and I find the other riders actually look as if they’re having fun. Seriously, they make it look easy. But, I can assure you this is so far from fun that I feel tears spring to my eyes. My heart feels as if it will explode, my thighs are on burning as if someone were holding a blow torch to them –  and this is just the freaking warm up.

I wonder what in the world I’ve gotten myself into, and how do I get out of this self-inflicted agony?

Looking at the overhead clock I can see three whole minutes have passed. The over enthusiastic instructor raises her voice yet another octave, “Okay, second position, one, two, one, two…”

As I gasp for breath, a vision streaks across my minds, of ripping the mic off her head and telling her to shut up.


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