I fought with the late afternoon traffic while making my way from the south side of Fort Wayne to the north, where 24/7 Fitness was located. In a few miles, I could get onto I-69 and zip up to Dupont Road.
But crawling along during the rush hour on Spy Run Avenue, which followed the same curve as the Saint Joseph river, made me think about what was going on in my life. Trevor and Blake. Two total opposites. The honeymoon period had worn off with Trevor. I felt like I was still working on our relationship, while he wasn’t. I wanted some romance, and I hated that I had to initiate date night, and pay for it. True, I did make more money, but couldn’t he have saved a few bucks each week for a once-every-six-weeks-adventure outside of his house? All through the dinner and the movie, Trevor would sit silently, as if enduring the tedious burden of free food and entertainment. I remembered the anniversary of our first date, and bought him a gift and a card. He just sat on the receiving end unimpressed, while I felt like a plate spinner, frantically trying to keep the Corelle Dinnerware (or similar) from crashing to the floor while Katchaturian’s “Sabre Dance” played in the background. I remember the very early days of our relationship when he made an effort.
Then there was Blake, totally out of my league. But he seemed interested—or was he? I’d been burned so many times, and experienced so many weird behaviors from men, that I never knew what to think anymore. My man radar was totally off. When guys were interested in me, I’d think that they weren’t. Then, when I thought a guy was interested in me, he wasn’t. Did Blake really care, or what he just out to get what he could? And was I horrible for craving our workouts?
The traffic thinned out, and I was on I-69 north, speeding to Blake. I was starting to obsess over him, which is what happens when a guy pays attention to me. I tried to rein myself in—if I managed to lose weight and tone up with these “workouts”, then it was all well and good. But that’s all it might be. I tried not to get overly excited about him, but how could I not? Blake smelled good. He dressed in workout gear which actually fit him. He had enough hair on his head, not too short, not too long. He seemed sympathetic. He also seemed worldly, gentlemanly, but with a pinch of naughtiness to him. And I trusted him. Strange as it may sound, I trusted him. Maybe most importantly, he was nice to me. Not that desperate kind of nice, like so many guys attempted, but ended up making them seem wimpy, but a comfortable, confident nice.
Then there was Trevor, with his skin-tight Pillsbury Dough Boy t-shirt that fit him 40 pounds ago. Trevor, who once stood in front of me and asked if he smelled bad. I couldn’t detect anything particularly rank, but asked him why he asked. He said it was because he couldn’t remember the last time he took a shower. Trevor, who practically shaved his head bald, to save money on shampoo. Trevor, with his robot-like approach to the world and spot-on ability to say the least appropriate thing at the worst possible time. Trevor, who washed cashmere for Christ’s sake. I pushed him out of my mind as I saw the exit for Dupont Road. Hopefully Blake would be there. Was that last workout just a dream? I parked my car and walked towards the entrance, the butterflies fluttering in my stomach.
* * *
I used my electric key fob to open the door. The gym was starting to fill up with day-shifters. I looked around, but I didn't see him. Big Shoulders was in the office and didn’t look up. I put my stuff in a cubbyhole. The gym had cable, and the treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bicycles had television screens. I chose an elliptical, and plugged my earbuds in. This was a treat for me, because I didn't have cable. I worked too much to waste money on it. Mom and I had it years ago, but I cancelled it soon after she died. I had enough money to continue it, but it brought back painful memories as I tried to do everything I could to keep her from dying. She knew she was dying, and she was probably okay with it, but naïve old me had that same childhood hope that she’d pull through. I knew damn well if I continued cable, I’d tune into VH-1’s I Love the 90s marathon starting at noon and commence crying. All I’d get from that is a stopped up nose and wondering why it was dark outside.
I flipped through the channels until I saw Clean House. It was one of my favorites. I also liked Hoarders, because I could always think, my house doesn't look like that. At least, not yet. And yeah, there was underwear on my coffee table, but at least it was in a pile and clean.
I was deep into the episode when all of a sudden …
“Oh! Hi!” I squeaked.
“Haven't seen you in a while,” he said, looking at me in a rather concerned way.
I was so excited, I forgot I was on the treadmill. In seconds, I was speeding backwards, my earbuds popping loose from my ears, and as I grabbed the cord, it popped out of the jack before I went sprawling ass first on the carpet. Smooth. I looked up at him. “I’ve been klutzy—er, busy.”
Blake bent over and offered me a hand. He easily pulled me to my feet. “You okay?”
“Uh, yeah.” Great. Not only was I fat, I was clumsy too.
“So what do you do for a living? Blake asked. “I guess either I didn’t ask, or you told me and I forgot.”
“I told you. Two jobs. I work retail, doing delivery for High’s, the home improvement store, and I teach at Oaks Community College.
“Wow. You are busy.”
“Yeah, and to make things worse, my schedule at High's is all over the place. I told them I needed to open two days a week on the days I have class, but of course, they will have me close the night before. On my days off from High’s, I usually grade papers.”
“That sounds insane. As well as completely unhealthy,” said Blake. He paused. “I was wondering,” Blake said. “It's been weeks. I thought maybe, well ... maybe I'd scared you off.”
So it really DID happen! I seemed to get involved in situations where something so wild, so unbelievable had happened, I often just stood in shock, wondering if that customer had really said how women shouldn't work outside the home, or if that toddler had really head-butted me right above the back of my left knee. Working retail was a lesson in humiliation. No matter how much education you had, or how smart you were, if you wore a smock or vest, you were a servant.
“No. Well, maybe a little. I mean … it was uh, a different experience. And I really have been busy and tired. And I've not been well, either. Work is frustrating, and I, uh, I cry a lot and I've been throwing up and my, um, periods really hurt.”
“You've lost weight too, haven't you?” said Blake.
I looked down at my still protruding stomach. “About 30 pounds. Um, well, actually I've lost additional weight since dropping the 30 ... I think it's an extra 15 pounds or so.”
“Have you called the doctor?” he asked.
“Yes. Twice. Both of them. They said, 'it's not uncommon, especially after surgery.'”
Blake really looked concerned now. “Keep an eye on that. If it gets worse, call them. I mean it.” He looked right into my eyes.
"Have you kept up with your core exercises?”
“Kind of. I've been in a lot of pain … my periods are making me miserable. Sometimes, I'm in so much pain, I can't move. I've been downing Aleve and Midol. That's the only way I can make it through my twelve-hour days.”
“So … what about this pain you've been having? Did the doctors really blow you off?”
“So … what about this pain you've been having? Did the doctors really blow you off?”
“Yup. Both of them. So I guess I just keep going until I can't go anymore.”
“Please don’t do that,” he said. “Keep bugging the doctors. Aside from everything else, have you gained any strength in your core? I know you said the pain is bad, but ...”
“I think I've gotten a little stronger.” "I can do more reps, and despite the menstrual cramps and pain, I feel different. Of course, that could be the tumor breaking up. “So in that sense, the operation did work. But as for my periods, they're pretty much worse than ever.”
“That’s not good. Don’t let that go too long.” He looked at me, concerned. “So, are you up to a workout today? I'm assuming you are, at least to some extent.”
“Oh yes,” I said. “I took plenty of Midol. I’m temporarily pain-free and completely wired on caffeine. Are you planning to 'motivate' me?”
“I thought you'd never ask. Well, come on, then.”
I started walking back toward the room (it was all I could do not to skip with glee) but Blake went to the front office, and spoke a few words to Mr. Shoulders. I paused in the open office that led to the back hallway. Blake appeared a few seconds later.
“Sorry. I just wanted to tell Jim that I wouldn't be available for a few minutes. It's 4:15 p.m. now; I've got someone in for a training session at 4:30 p.m. I'll need to keep an eye on the time, but we can get some activity in. Better a little, than none at all,” Blake smiled wickedly. He walked to the back office and unlocked it.
I was pretty well worked up, and we hadn't even started yet. I couldn't help but compare this gym with Curves, the all-women gym I'd previously been a member of. It was nice and all, but there weren't any trainers that looked like Blake, that was for damn sure. And there were about twenty stations with workout equipment in a circle. The idea was to work out at each one for two minutes, then move on to the next one. I'm sure the premise was to keep from being bored with the workout. With Blake, there sure wasn't any danger of that.
He brought in a small mat and took out the paddle. “Okay,” he said. “Lie down on the mat on your back. Slide your sweatpants off.”
Awkwardly, I got down on the mat and slipped my shoes off, then my sweats. Thank goodness I put on something resembling lingerie today, instead of my usual ancient, shredded white cotton bikinis. I laid on my back.
Blake observed me for a moment, then grinned. “I like the undies.”
“Thought you would,” I smiled back.
“Okay then, legs together, up in the air.”
I raised my legs. From my point of view, my feet looked like I was hovering over the ceiling tiles.
“Okay, I want you to put your hands behind your head. Bend up as far as you can, then go back down. I'd like to see thirty reps.”
I crunched up as far as I could go, then back down. I settled into a rhythm, but because of my belly, it was hard for me to articulate the effort of each crunch. It was also hard to breathe. I tried to squeeze in a breath when I eased back down, but it wasn't easy. Exhale on the way up, inhale on the way back down, I told myself. I hoped I wouldn't cramp up. I thought I'd read somewhere that breathing deeply helped avoid muscle cramps. I fought through it, and got to fifty. I eased back down and smiled.
“I'm impressed,” smiled Blake. “You've gotten stronger, that's for sure.”
“Yes, I can feel it. But I don't think I've gotten any smaller in my torso. I've lost nearly fifteen pounds, so I can feel it in my pants, especially. I had to start wearing a belt with some of my jeans.”
“Okay, take a break for a couple of minutes. Then, bend your legs. Keep your knees close to your chest. Hands behind your head. Then, crunch up, but do it diagonally. Not straight, but angle to the left. Try to touch your right elbow to your left knee. Twenty reps.”
I knew this would be harder. I looked at the clock on the wall. After the second hand had swept around twice, I took a couple of breaths and started. It was even harder to breathe, doing the crunches diagonally. But when I looked in the mirror sideways this morning, I was horrified. When I stood normally, I looked pregnant. My belly stuck out even more than my breasts, and I was rocking a 38D bra. Gritting my teeth, I curled as far to the left as I could. My right elbow barely touched my left knee. After the tenth rep, I could feel sweat on my forehead. At the fifteenth rep, I was starting to ache. At the seventeenth, the cramp hit. “Ow!” I whimpered. “Oh God, it hurts.”
“Okay, on your stomach,” said Blake. “Stretch your arms out.”
I rolled over, and took deep breaths. The cramp felt one percent better. Then, a smack on my behind. It wasn't hard, just enough to get my attention.
“So you did eighteen crunches, here come eighteen spanks." Blake just flicked his wrist, instead of putting a full, arm-length swing behind it. The first one was square on my behind, then the second one was lower, on the bottom of my butt. Then, the rest of the smacks made the full tour around my bottom. And the intensity varied. Here was a tap, there was a hit with a little heat on it, the next one was a bit restrained. Oh. My. God. This was beyond hot. The last five were hard—several seconds between each whack—and each one in a different spot. Blake finished, then said, “okay, on your back again. You need just two more reps, and you'll be done.”
I got into position, then completed my two reps. “I'm sorry I wasn't able to do them all at once.”
“I'm not,” Blake grinned.
I laughed. “Yeah, I didn't think you were sorry.”
The clock read 4:25. “Twenty reps on the other side. And hurry it up. I've got a client at 4:30.”
“Getting pushy, are we? So what will you do if I can't do them all at once?”
“If I tell you, it ruins the surprise. The only reason I mentioned it that first time I ‘motivated’ you was to see if you'd take off. You didn't, so I figured if you came back, I could surprise you.”
I thought about this. My bottom was tingling, I was sweaty, and I couldn't really understand why I was so turned on. Was it because it felt forbidden? Couldn't Blake get in trouble for this? Was he taking advantage of me and I was too dumb to realize it? Or did he have a radar for women with lousy sex lives?
I made it through, keeping an eye on the clock the entire time. After I was done, I collapsed. “Two minutes to spare. And I got through all the reps. Aren't you impressed with me?”
Blake smiled. “Yes and no. I didn't get to spank you that time. So I'm glad you're getting stronger, but I was really hoping to work you over.”
“Maybe next time,” I smiled back. “And I'm going to work on the core stuff at home more. You're supposed to push me, remember? You were the one who offered to help.”
Blake's face became serious. “That I did.”
“And there's something else I'm doing, that I want to show you. But it's a surprise,” I said.
He glanced at the clock. “Too bad we're out of time. I would have tickled and spanked that surprise right out of you.”
My stomach flip-flopped. “Really?”
“Yes, really. Be careful when you say stuff like that. Remember, I'm here during the day. I want to see you here more often.”
“My schedule is all over the place. Sometimes I'm working seven days a week.”
“Yes. And I also remember you saying sometimes you were scheduled 7-4, and then you close. You can come in after work, and you can come in before. I expect to see you at least once a week.”
“Well, I do want to show you something. I want to, well ... I guess I want someone's opinion, and I don't want to show Trevor.”
"He's my um … boyfriend."
Blake and I looked at each other for a moment.
“Now I'm really curious; but it will have to wait. Come on, we have to get out of here, and I have to lock this office.”
I went for the door, and Blake put the paddle away. He joined me, opening the door and leading me out. He grabbed the doorknob and unlocked it.
“I’ll go out first, then you follow in a minute or so, okay? See you soon,” he grinned.
“See ya,” I said.
I waited for Blake to walk out into the gym, then I followed. I found I couldn't keep my eyes off him, but I managed to get a drink of water before I resumed my solo workout.
But my eyes fixed on Blake again as I made my way to the front of the gym where the elliptical machines were. His client had indeed showed up. All the good, sexy feelings I had vanished as if I had been shoved into an ice-cold shower.
His client was Stephanie Zoslukova. An acquaintance of mine. I couldn't really call her a friend, because friends don't insult you in front of other friends, or let loose with condescending remarks. Stephanie always needed an audience, especially when she was putting me down. Stephanie, who made every gathering with my group of friends a minefield, was talking to Blake. That five-foot tall, three-hundred-and-fifty-pound total narcissist, all-around self-centered bitch was flirting with Blake (as she did with every man) and I went from horny to furious in a nanosecond.
Furious, and jealous.