You Lit/Linguistics/Rhet-comp people, I want the same thing, but more: I want to know if the setting makes you feel you are in Fort Wayne, that there is enough detail, what you do like, what you don't like, grammar mistakes, unclear passages, yadda, yadda, yadda.
There are eight chapters. I just need 100 pages for the thesis, but I'd like to get the novel done before I graduate. The thesis is due before March.
Here's chapter one of Spanked! Have at it!
“For God’s sake!”
I looked at myself sideways in the mirror. I looked like I swallowed a watermelon. My belly was as round as my butt. What the hell, at least they were proportional. But still. My torso looked like Homer Fucking Simpson. And that’s why I was at the gym. So I wouldn’t turn into Peter Fucking Griffin. I’d lost thirty pounds, but something told me I’d still have that bulge. Even when I was a stick-thin teenager, I’d still had a bit of a belly. I got my dad’s legs, but my mom’s torso. With a lot of effort, I might thin down a bit more, but something told me my Guess Jeans days were way behind me.
I scowled at myself in the mirror. My body sucked and the rest of my life wasn’t great either. I worked two jobs, I was trying to lose my gut, and really needed to break up with my boyfriend. I thought about all this when I was in the women’s restroom of 24/7 Fitness up on Dupont Road, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. You know—that town that gets voted “fattest” and “dumbest” every year. I’d worked out at Curves, but thanks to my crazy work schedule of a full-time job and one part-time job, I needed a gym that was open past dinnertime. And bedtime.
It didn’t help that I was a stress eater. And I had a stressful job. My main gig was driving a delivery truck for High’s, the home improvement warehouse. I can’t believe I slogged through trucking school twice only to end up shuttling appliances, Trex Deck, drywall and plywood around northern Indiana. Some days, we didn’t get a chance to stop and have a proper lunch. So I learned to pack foods I could eat while I was riding along, or while I was driving. Other times, we stopped at fast food places, but I was trying to wean myself off that crap.
Today was my day “off” from High’s. However, I still had papers to look at for the English classes I taught at Oaks Community College. But I needed to get into some sort of exercise routine. So here I was in an old t-shirt and even older sweat pants. I knew I wasn’t very fashionable, but I really didn’t care.
I washed my hands and left the bathroom. I walked out into the main room, where the gym was chock-full of stereotypes: pumped up men who looked like they regularly downed 32-ounce steroid shakes, There were a couple of chunky people soaking in sweat. And one anorexic woman (if she wasn’t, she certainly looked the part) who was going at a full-out run on a treadmill, and thin, toned women who were lucky enough to not have to work, thanks to their super-successful husbands. If these women had jobs, it was to look as good as possible. I’d delivered plenty of appliances to those types. The gym was on the north side of Fort Wayne, in a moneyed part of town. I’m deep in debt and my 15-year-old Neon looks woefully out of place in a lot full of Escalades and BMWs. Come to think of it, my body was woefully out of place. It was as if you didn’t belong at the gym until you were thin enough—but you weren’t allowed to work out there in order to get the body you needed to hang out there. Curves limited hours didn’t work with my insane schedule. It had someone sitting at the desk who said a friendly “hello” whenever I stopped in, but 24/7 didn’t have anyone like that. There was an office to the left of the entrance, but the big-shouldered guy sitting in there was too busy to greet anyone. And in the three months since I’d joined, I’d yet to say anything to anyone. The last time I’d talked to anyone here was someone I’d nicknamed “Mr. Shoulders” because he seemed about three feet wide and completely frightening.
I sighed, then opened up the bathroom door. There were anti-bacterial wipe dispensers all over the place. The customers were expected to wipe down the equipment. Well, I guess it was cheaper than hiring a cleaning crew. I grabbed a few of the clammy things and headed over to some contraption that was at a 45-degree angle to the floor. I decided to get the core work out of the way. I hated doing it because there seemed like there wasn’t any point. I could do a thousand stomach crunches a day, and I don’t think it would make a difference. But I owed it to myself to try. I started in with the side crunches. I’d get those over with, then start in on the other stuff.
Twenty minutes later, I was writhing on the floor, crying. I’d managed to do 400 stomach crunches (not all at once), and despite trying to breathe deeply, I had muscle cramps. I stretched, I arched my back, I was desperate to make the pain go away. But it made me wonder: if they make a device to make muscles cramp, sort of like a toned-down combination Taser/cattle prod, it could make a great torture tool. The pain continued, and I pulled myself onto one of the loveseats near the entrance. I took deep breaths. After I felt better, I’d get on the treadmill.
“Are you okay?”
I jumped. I turned toward the voice. I looked into the face of one of the trainers, those guys who floated around the gym offering assistance, and to those who paid, specialized training. This guy was in shape, but not one of the pumped-up steroid freaks. He had just enough muscle tone to make you want to touch him. He had good coloring, just tan enough. He had medium-brown hair with just the slightest bit of red in it, and blue eyes. The boy-next-door type. And totally out of my league. Handsome, but not so perfect-looking that he scared me to death. I knew those types and loathed them.
I was actually scared of men in general. That was the result of way too much bullying in high school. I felt like I never really blossomed, while the other girls did. If I had blossomed, it was brief, and I never realized it. Eventually, the boys stopped bullying me for the way I looked and just ignored me. I went from a verbal (and sometimes physical punching bag) to nothing. So when a guy was nice to me, it got my attention.
Plus, there was something about this man. He wasn’t overly pumped up. He was masculine, but not macho. His cologne was fresh and clean. I wasn’t sure why, but I felt comfortable with this man. Gut feeling? Or maybe my mandar (Guydar? Gentlemandar?) was really off and he was a cannibal/serial killer/rapist. Knowing my luck, it wouldn’t surprise me. This guy had a really nice smile. I managed to smile back.
“Yeah. I just had some bad muscle cramps, or maybe a spasm. I’m trying to recover.”
“Take deep breaths. Try to stretch away from the pain.”
Stretch away from the pain? The pain was right in my core. How do you stretch away from the center of your body? But I inhaled and exhaled as slowly as I could. I sat up straight. While I was doing all this, the trainer came around and sat down next to me. I turned and looked back at the vast room. There were six other people working out. I turned back to him. He was still smiling at me. Men don’t normally do that. If they look at me, the expression on their face is a cross between “we’ll appeal the decision” and “the cancer is terminal.”
“I gotta ask you something,” I said, rather abruptly.
“Fire away,” he said.
“Body types. Are they inevitable? I mean, my father had slender legs, and I’ve got them. My mother had this ball for a stomach, and it looks like I’ve got it too. Is this something I’ll have to deal with forever? I’ve always been doing stomach crunches, for decades, and nothing seems to work.”
He paused. “Body type is hereditary,” he said. “It doesn’t exactly mean you’re doomed, but, say, for instance, you can aim for a flatter stomach, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a flat stomach. What was your body type as a teenager?”
“Skinny,” I said, defeated. “I was able to eat anything I wanted. I didn’t weigh 120 pounds when I graduated high school. I think I might have been 110, tops.”
“Uh huh,” he said. “So, you were really thin. What about your stomach? Was it perfectly flat?”
“I guess not. I mean, it wasn’t huge, like it is now, but it seemed like I always had a belly.”
“Okay. I’m going to tell you something. Even though I’m a trainer, there’s no such thing as a perfect body. I try to tell the people here that, especially the women. I want people to be healthy. I don’t like seeing starved women, and even some guys do weird things to try and lose weight. What I can help you do is maybe give you a little push. We can measure your belly, and aim for a reduction. That way, you see some progress, your pants fit a little better and you can see a little bit of change.”
“You really think it’s possible?”
“I know people promise all sorts of things; you see all those ‘lose your gut’ things on television. Believe me, they are fanatical about selecting the models they want in those commercials. Even a slender woman might have perfect BMI, and have toned arms and legs and glutes, but if she has the tiniest bit of a belly, she won’t get the commercial.”
“If I can just take maybe two inches off, that would be something, at least.”
We looked at each other for a few seconds. He was so attractive. Despite his eyes being blue, there was a steadiness about them, an intensity, a sort of “don’t worry, I know what I’m doing” sort of vibe that was oddly reassuring. I was soaking in sweat, and my shame lingered around me like a particularly pungent fart. I didn’t normally find blue-eyed men appealing, but there was something about him. He seemed nice, and sympathetic.
“Okay, let’s measure the spot you want to work on.” He took a tape measure out of his pocket. “Pull up your shirt.”
I pulled up. “Now, pull down your sweats.”
Ugh. I pulled them down.
He leaned in to me, and his cologne got stronger. He pulled the tape around my back and centered it over my belly button. I looked over his shoulder. He was uncomfortably close. “Forty-seven inches.” He measured my waist. “Forty-one inches.” He stepped back.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuckety fuck. I didn’t know it was THAT bad. The belly/waist ratio was part of the reason finding jeans to fit was so hard, and why I never bought them online.
“You know, I don’t even know your name,” I said, sticking out my hand. “I’m Connie. Connie Hatcher.”
“Blake, Blake McGill,” he said, taking my hand. His was warm and just a little bit rough. I couldn’t help thinking of my boyfriend, Trevor, who had such smooth hands—like a woman. I wondered how often he actually washed them—and if the softness was just a coating of dirt, bacteria and God knows what else.
I looked into Blake’s eyes. We were still holding—er I mean, shaking hands. He squeezed my hand, then slowly released it.
“I can show you some things that can help with toning. And I’ve got a couple of incentives that I think will be fun.”
“Really? When do we start?”
“Now,” said Blake. “Follow me.”
Blake leaned off the loveseat, and started walking to the back of the gym. I should have been wary. Any other woman would have, but when you’ve been ignored by men for the last sixteen years or so, you figure you’re safe. I decided the motivation was probably something typical; some super-positive-thinking-Tony-Robbins-unleash-the-God-within nonsense. I followed him to the back of the gym. I tried not to look at his ass. So I looked at his waist, then his back. He was wearing a dark blue polo shirt, and black crinkly nylon workout pants. We walked through a doorway into an office without doors, then through another doorway down a short, darkened hallway. Blake stopped outside a door, then reached inside his pants pocket and took out a ring of keys. He inserted a key in the doorknob, and turned it. He reached inside the room and the florescent light snapped on, revealing gray walls, a desk, a chair, and a filing cabinet. I followed him in and he shut the door. In one corner of the small office was an assortment of those big exercise balls. Those reminded me of the Hoppity Hops I’d always wanted as a kid, but never got. Another corner held racks of free weights. There were a few yoga mats leaning against the wall. I noticed that there weren’t any security cameras, but why would there be? In the main workout room, they were all over. With the gym being opened 24/7, it meant that if anything weird happened, there would be a record of it, even at three in the morning. I wondered what the incentive was. Boxes of Hershey bars? But no. Yummy motivators, but wouldn’t they defeat the purpose?
“Grab a mat, and lay down, and we’ll get started.”
I went over and grabbed one, and slowly unrolled it. While I spread it out on the floor, Blake unlocked one of the desk drawers. He took something out, but I was distracted by my torso. Years of wearing pants with unyielding waistbands had morphed my stomach into what looked like a pillow with a string tied around it. In layman’s terms, it was called “muffin top.” Ironic, since I tried to avoid baked goods.
Blake turned around and was holding a thin leather paddle and a feather. I looked at him, puzzled. He smiled. It was … naughty.
“This is the incentive I was telling you about. You’re going to do some core exercises … but you’re going to do them my way.”
Huh. I was used to strange things happening when it came to men: seemingly innocent coffee dates that crumbled into shouting matches, insults about the way I looked that I didn’t get right away, but got later, my now former mechanic who sent me a dick picture along with the update on my car. Well, if it would flatten—excuse me, help make my stomach a bit flatter, my stomach why not? At this point, I was willing to try anything.
“First I want you to put your arms behind your head. Then, curl up towards your legs, which you’ll keep bent, then back down, then curl up again. Do that twenty times.”
I curled up, then relaxed, then curled up, then relaxed. On the tenth curl, it was starting to get difficult. On the fifteenth one, I had to rest for a few minutes. “Just for a little while, okay?”
Blake didn’t look happy. “Raise your legs up in the air. Make them straight.”
I did. Suddenly there was a quick, smart slap on my bottom. “Ow! What was that for?”
“Honey, that was your incentive. There’s a time limit for these exercises. You have to execute them, and do it well.”
After a few seconds of disbelief, I managed a few more crunches, then collapsed back on the mat.
“Okay, now for some more crunches. I want you to bend your legs, feet together. Then, extend your arms straight out. I want a hundred of these, and I want you to move a half inch forward, and a half inch back. Slowly.” Blake got down beside me on the floor to demonstrate. I began doing them, but I was doing them too fast. “Legs up again,” Blake said. He administered another couple of slaps with the leather paddle. Just some quick flicks of the wrist, really. I was noticing a pleasant warmth spreading over my bottom. Damn. This was kinda hot. Blake, who looked so boy-next-doorish in the gym was looking, well, commanding and sexy and in charge. Suddenly, I felt embarrassed for being so fat, so lazy. If this man could literally beat me into shape, I would be forever grateful. Granted, it was an unorthodox method, but if it worked …
“Slowly, he said. We’re trying to work certain muscle groups.” I breathed deeply, then started in on some excruciatingly slow stomach crunches. On number 58, I laid back down. “I’m sorry, I have to rest a bit.”
I lay there, looking up at the lights. The uncomfortable silence stretched. After a while, I started in again. “Wait,” Blake said. “You took a couple minutes to relax. Every second you take for a breather is going to count against you. He produced the feather. You just laid there for 120 seconds. So, for that, I’m going to tickle you with this feather 120 times.”
Blake looked very serious. “Yes. I told you I could give you some incentive if you wanted a flatter stomach. This is the incentive. His voice lowered to a husky tone. If you don’t do the exercises like I tell you to, or take too much time, this is your punishment.” I felt both panic and excitement. I barely knew this guy, and being with him was ten times more exciting than being with my boyfriend Trevor. I’d tried to convince him light touches were the only thing that excited me. But no matter how many times I told him, he continued to grab my breasts roughly whenever we made love. When I first met him, the sex was exciting, but now it was like making love to a robot. A robot with dirty hands.
Blake gently eased up my t-shirt and pulled down the waistband of my leggings. My torso was soon on display. “I want you to stay very still. That’s extra punishment. If you flinch, I’ll spank you.” These last words were delivered in a whisper. My heart was pounding. This probably wasn’t proper trainer/client behavior, but I really didn’t care anymore. “Put your arms over your head.” I did.
Blake counted off each stroke of the feather, counting down my punishment. They were short strokes at first, right below the strap of my bra. Then, he began moving downward, and the strokes got slower, and longer. I took deep breaths. Soon, he began tracing long figure eights, with the “strokes” lasing several seconds. Oh God, this was torture, and this was ecstasy, and so very, very exciting. He lifted up the feather, and gazed down at me, wondering where to strike next. He lingered around my ribcage, then a lightning flash down my side. I flinched.
“On your knees,” he said. I flipped over and put my hands flat on the floor. The paddle cracked a little harder this time. Right square in the bottom. Then, firm flicks over all of my bottom. It didn’t hurt, at least not yet. Slowly, he pulled my leggings over my bottom and down my thighs. Starting at the backs of my knees, he stroked the backs of my thighs gently, then the insides, gradually moving to long strokes, endless circles, and figure eights.
My heart was now pounding. I was very wet. The flesh between my legs had a mind of its own. Oh my God. I wanted to squirm, but I told myself, staystillstaystillstaystill. What the hell was going on?!
Finally, Blake reached stroke 120. “We’ll work on your sides, this time. Back on the mat. Lay on a side; it doesn’t matter which.” I rolled over on my right side. He straddled my legs, and I tried not to realize that my Blake, er rather, Blake the trainer, was extremely well-endowed—and hard. “Now, what you’re going to do, is bend up towards me,” he said. “You’ll do fifty of these, in one-second intervals. Arms out to the side. And curl up as much as you can. I started in, afraid I’d have another muscle cramp. I breathed deeply, and tried to keep up with the pace. My mind was a non-stop chant of keepgoingkeepgoindkeepgoingkeepgoing. I smelled the trainer’s cologne, and that added to my excitement. A cute guy who smells good? Yeah, I’ll do anything you want. When was the last time Trevor smelled this good? Three years ago, on our first date. He’d stopped trying since then. I was able to get through the fifty reps without incident. “That was good!” Blake said. “Now, the other side.”
I got through those as well. Blake unstraddled me and got one of those big exercise balls down off a rack. “This is your last exercise. I don’t want you cramping up, and eventually, you’ll be able to do more reps. Put your feet on here. No, like this.” My heels were resting on the top of the ball, my legs straight and angled up. Blake was holding the tops of my feet so they wouldn’t slide off. “Now, curl up as much as you can, and when you get to where you can’t curl anymore, move back a half inch, and continue to move back and forth just a half inch.” I took a couple of deep breaths. “How many reps?”
“One hundred total; fifty at a time. Take a break after the first fifty. I won’t do anything. Just take a break.”
I found I was sore, but I felt a little stronger. I got through the first fifty with no real agony. I laid back down and breathed deeply.
“One thing you’re not doing is breathing,” Blake said. “You need to breathe as normally as you can while you’re doing these.”
Fat chance of that, I thought. It was hard to breathe normally when I was curled up and fighting gravity plus my belly fat, plus my tits falling into my face. Still, the exercises felt different somehow. I summoned up enough energy for the second round of fifty reps. “Okay,” Blake said, “now I want you to stretch.”
We left the little office/storage room, and went to the main part of the gym. “Let’s go over here,” he said. He led me over to a weird-looking machine with a bar at the top. I stepped up and reached for the bar. “Stay there for as long as you can,” Blake said. I dropped after only a few seconds. “Again,” he said. I stretched for a fraction of a second. “Okay, now lay down on the floor, arms spread to the sides.” I lay down, looking up at him. “Just lay that way for a minute or so,” he said. “Take deep breaths.”
I breathed deeply for a couple of minutes.
“Tell me Connie, what sort of problems do you have with food?”
“I like it too much,” I snapped. “Isn’t that obvious? And I don’t exercise enough. And my metabolism shut down at the age of 22, I swear.”
He looked at me. “Do you self-medicate with food?”
I sat up quickly. “Yes. I work two jobs, and my main job is super-frustrating, and it seems like every time I make a vow to eat healthier, something bad happens at work and I think ‘fuck it, I’m going to have a candy bar.’ Or I go to a fast food place, even though I have something healthy packed for my lunch.”
Blake nodded. “Lay back down. You need to relax. Breathe deep. You’re not alone.” He sat down on the floor beside me. There were a couple other people who had entered the gym and walked to the back wall to stow their jackets in the storage bins. “I think that’s a big part of people being overweight. They get bored, and they eat. They have nothing else to do but sit down and put a movie in the DVD player and eat. Or, like you, they have jobs that are stressful, and instead of smoking, or drinking, or doing drugs, they eat. It’s really common. Here, let's do some more stretching. Legs together, then bend over and grab your feet.”
I complied. Gently, Blake pushed on my shoulders. “I’ve had this problem for a long time. I just plain like food.” I started to cry. “I don’t know what to do. I can’t just starve. And if I never get back to my high school weight, I’d be okay, I just don’t want to … be so fat.”
“Does that hurt?” He pushed down further.
“I feel a little tight, but it's not bad.”
Blake held his position. “It’s hard. Were your parents overweight?”
“Yes, they were.”
“I won’t say you’re doomed to your weight. I think you can lose some weight, but getting back to your high school weight might not be possible with the lifestyle you have now. Two jobs, wow. That’s quite a load.”
Blake released the pressure on her shoulders. “Now, what I want you to do is to spread your legs out as far as you can. I'll push down, little by little. When you've reached your limit, tell me.”
I felt the muscles in my hips as I spread my legs and bent forward. Blake pushed on my shoulders as my face got closer to the floor. “If I could find just one job that paid as much as my two jobs did, not that they pay a lot, but it’s enough for me to live on and for me to be able to save a little, I’d get that job. I work an uneven schedule, and I just barely have time to walk my dog, and I’m so tired all the time.”
“Again, you’re not alone. It’s really not surprising to me that most of my clients who are in great shape are either retired, or they have jobs where they have set schedules, or they can really be flexible with their time.”
“So I can get better, but I can't get perfect, right? Ow. I think that's as far as I can go.”
Blake removed his hands from my shoulders and suddenly flopped down beside me. “I said earlier there's no such thing as a perfect body. Everyone has a different definition. Talk to ten different people, five women, five men, and you'll get ten different answers. With you, you're concerned with your torso. I do think that diet plays a factor. Try, I mean really try to cut out the bad stuff. More fruits and vegetables. No more junk food. If you've eaten it for a long time, your body is probably toxic. Have you had any recent health problems?”
I sighed. “Yeah. For a long time, I've had problems with my period. About ten years ago I was diagnosed with endomitriosis. Then, I developed fibroid tumors. And then, in the past few years, I get nauseated when my period is starting. I'm bloated and sore. I just had an operation about seven weeks ago, something called a uterine artery embolization.” I stopped right there. Usually people didn't want to hear any more.
“The operation was a success, I guess. The operation was supposed to kill off the tumor by cutting off the blood supply. And it’s, um, working, but I don't understand why I still feel nauseated though, especially in the morning. I still have my period, and I'm in a lot of pain when I get it. I had an MRI before the operation and the tumor was huge. The doctors couldn't say why I developed it. But when I got the films for the MRI, the tumor was so big it was curling around my spine.”
“And the doctors didn't know why the tumor developed?” Blake asked.
“No, but I suspect it was maybe all the junk food I've consumed. I mean, I don't smoke, I've never smoked. I've never done drugs. I'm thinking it's a build-up of all the chemicals and sugar and stuff.”
Blake looked serious. “It could be.”
“No. And I asked both the surgeon and the Ob/gyn. Twice. They said no one knows why women develop fibroid tumors.”
He looked at me. “I'm not really a nutritionist, but the more natural the food you eat, the better off you are. Really good food is expensive. Like, free-range meat, and organic fruits and vegetables, things like that. I mean, look at Madonna. She has a better body than most women half her age. She works out a lot, of course, but being a vegetarian and not eating junk has a lot to do with it. She's disciplined. But to be fair to you, she doesn't work two jobs, and doesn't really have to answer to anyone, except herself,” Blake said, with a little bit of a smile.
“And she has plenty of money to buy really healthy food, and she's got a home gym, and can afford a really good trainer.” I looked at Blake. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean anything by that. It's just--”
“No, it's okay. I know what you meant. But I don't think that Bob Parr gets to spank and tickle Madonna,” he grinned wickedly. “Our little secret.”
“And remember what I said about food. No more fast-food. If you need to gradually cut back, do it. I'd recommend cold turkey though. Harder, but sometimes it works better. If you don't have a tape measure, get one. Note your measurements on the three areas of your torso you want to tone up. We'll work on reducing those areas.”
“Okay. Well, thanks for the incentive.”
Blake grinned. “No problem. I'm here during the day from eight to five. I'd better see you soon.”
I smiled, and rolled onto my knees and got on my feet before my face started burning again. “I'm going to stop at the restroom before I leave. I'll see you later,” I said, over my shoulder.
I went back to the cubbyhole where my work clothes, purse and jacket were. I gathered them, then went to the bathroom. What the fuck just happened? I pulled down my leggings and underwear, and saw they were damp. The tickling and the spanking was the most excited I’d ever been. Like, really excited. Even the first time I’d had sex with Trevor didn't compare to what had just transpired in that back storage room. And Trevor didn't listen to me like Blake did.
I drove over to the adjunct work room at Oaks. I graded papers, and there were lots of mistakes. Years ago, I was professional proofreader, and that meant my students’ papers looked like a murder scene, but all of that nitpicking would pay off during final exam time. The mistakes were good. They helped keep my mind off Blake.
When I got home, I jogged for a half hour. Then, I took my dog Taffy for a walk. When we got back, I got a garbage bag and soon, the bag was full of packaged food, chips, cereal and the last remnants of ice cream. I took it out to the garbage can, and tossed it in. Then I got online and researched core exercises. After doing another 500 stomach crunches (not all at once), I drank some water and got ready for bed. I thought about my encounter with Blake and how wrong it seemed.
And how good it felt.