Still trying to catch her breath and barely able to put one heavy foot in front of the other, Abby shuffled her way into the women’s locker room. Feeling twice her actual age, she eased herself down onto the only unoccupied bench and gazed blankly around the steamy room as women in various stages of undress—with firm, sleek, healthy bodies—paraded themselves around as if they were trying to rub it in.
Lowering her eyes in defeat she stared down at her pudgy white thighs and suddenly found herself craving cottage cheese. Without a doubt, she had lost her ever-loving mind. Why else would she have allowed Janie and Caroline to talk her into this? And why would she have bragged to Paul about her grandiose plan to join the fitness club. “I’m starting tomorrow,” she’d boasted last night. “After I become a member, I’ll start of by taking—what’s it called—a circuit something class, I think that’s what Caroline said.”
“You’re starting with a circuit training class?” he frowned at her. “You sure you want to do that?”
“Janie and Caroline said it’s really fun. A bunch of women in one class with upbeat music working out. It’s probably like aerobic dance. I loved doing that back when the girls were little.”
His mouth twisted to one side. “Yeah, but circuit training is hard work, Abby.”
“Are you saying I can’t do it?”
He shook his head. “I’m saying you should start with something easier. When I joined the club, I started with a trainer and a special—”
“Yeah, well, you were recovering from a heart attack, Paul. I’m in a lot better shape than you were.”
He looked skeptical.
“I’ve been walking three or four times a week. I’ve even lost a little weight this fall.”
“Yeah…but starting out with circuit training—”
“Why do you always have to rain on my parade?”
“Because I know you, Abby.”
“Meaning if you start out with something too tough, you’ll give up.”
“I will not!”
“I’ll be you don’t last a week.”
“I will!” she insisted. “You’ll see. I’m going to join the club and take that class. And maybe I’ll go in five days a week at first, to jump start things. I could swim on Tuesdays and Thursdays and—”
“Why don’t you just use that a free one week coupon I gave you,” he suggested. “Just to make sure you know what you’re getting into before you plunk down all that dough.”
“I know what I’m getting into. Janie and Caroline swear by that class. They go three times a week—and love it.”
He looked like he wanted to say something, but stopped himself. “All I’m saying is that the club is pretty expensive, Abby, and I think—”
“You think I’m not worth it?” She shook her fist at him. “Sure, it’s fine for you to belong to the club, but poor old Abby doesn’t deserve—”
“That’s not what I’m saying.” His brow creased. “You’re worth it. I just don’t want to see you pay all that money up front and then change your mind.” And, of course, this was his opportunity to start listing all the activities Abby had started but never finished. But instead of falling for that old bait and getting into a ridiculous fight, Abby had taken their counselor’s advice and the high road.
“If you love me,” she calmly informed him, “you will support me in this. I’m making a healthy decision for my life and you should respect that, Paul.”
He held up his hands in a surrender position. “Fine. Just take it easy, okay? Don’t kill yourself on the first day. Remember slow and steady wins the race. Pace yourself.”
“That’s exactly what I plan to do.”
But like mice and men, Abby’s plan had fallen by the wayside today. It wasn’t so much that she was trying to impress anyone in the circuit training class. She knew better than that. But going from station to station, attempting to figure out the confusing machines and realistic weight amounts and form was more than she’d bargained for when she’d joined the club and paid her membership fees this morning. And trying to stay one step ahead of the perky energetic woman who followed Abby in the circuit had been no picnic either. The petite blond kept nipping at Abby’s heels. “You know there’s a special class for people who don’t know how to properly use the equipment,” she sniped as Abby untangled herself from one of the machines.
As she tried to hurry along, Abby decided to call this snippy woman Trixie (after an ill-tempered Chihuahua the girls had begged her to get for them long ago—fortunately Paul got fed up and found the feisty dog another home).
“Maybe you should try out the pool aerobics,” Trixie said in a snarky tone. “I hear the older ladies really enjoy the slower pace.” She folded her toned arms across her flat front, leaning against a pole and scowling darkly as she waited for Abby to move to the next machine.
The last straw came about midway through the class. Abby knew it was midway because she kept one eye on the lethargic clock the entire time—she’d never seen a minute hand move so slowly. But when Trixie laughed loudly to discover that Abby had been using the biceps machine with no weights actually plugged into it, it was just too much.
“You gotta be kidding,” Trixie said in a deriding tone. “You’ll never get into shape doing that.”
Fed up and worn out, Abby had released the handle, letting the bar slam loudly back into the machine, which she knew was a no-no. Then glaring at Trixie, she’d turned on the heel of her frumpy walking shoes and stormed out of there. No doubt, Trixie had been hugely relieved. Right now, she was probably telling everyone how hopeless and out-of-shape Abby was—and how fat old women like her should be banned from circuit training and maybe the whole fitness club altogether. So humiliating.
At least Caroline and Janie, stuck in a bank appointment regarding Caroline’s mother’s estate, hadn’t been there to witness her embarrassment. That was something to be thankful for. What had made her think could pull off something like this? She felt like crying. Paul had been right—she had wasted their money. She really was a failure.
As she slowly stood, searching the room for some sort of a stall or private area where she could discretely disrobe, she wondered how hard it would be to convince the club to refund her membership fee. Maybe there was some sort of 24 hour cancellation clause. She would have to find out. But first she needed to find a place to change.
“Excuse me,” she asked one of the only women with clothes on. “Where are the changing rooms?”
The woman laughed, waving her hand around the open area. “This is it.”
“Oh.” Abby nodded stiffly. “Yes…okay…I’m new here.” Wondering why she hadn’t noticed this insane lack of privacy when she’d been given the tour of the club this morning, Abby picked up a white towel from the neat stack and sniffed it. At least it smelled clean. And it was actually rather soft and thick. Nice. As were many of the other amenities that had distracted Abby from noticing the absence of dressing stalls earlier.
It figured that she’d been too busy checking out things like attractive tile designs and chic light fixtures and rain shower heads, too distracted by fluff to be concerned with function. And, she reminded herself, she’d arrived here in her workout clothing (workout clothing that, like her, was out of style and out of shape) but consequently she’d had no need for a changing room then. And, really, she should just get over herself and strip down and not worry about what anyone else thought. That’s probably what Caroline and Janie did when they were here—why couldn’t Abby?
“Janie and I have so much fun at the club,” Caroline had told Abby and Marley last week at the Clifden Coffee House. The four Lindas had been discussing their upcoming cruise, talking about things like spray-on tans, waist-trimming swimsuits, and how they only had six weeks to get into shape. Motivation was high. Especially with the holidays upon them. And, for Abby, the initial thrill of winning her Mexican cruise for four was quickly turning into high anxiety. She hadn’t purchased a new swimsuit since her girls were small. And the sorry threadbare thing she wore in the hot tub was not fit for public viewing. Neither was her body!
“You and Marley really should come try out the club,” Caroline urged Abby. “We can get you free passes.”
“I know,” Abby said, “Paul’s always telling me that.”
“But if you guys joined, we could do classes together,” Janie said. “We could encourage each other to get fit.”
“And the club’s running a special until the end of the year,” Caroline told them. “If two people sign up, the second one is half off. You guys could split it.”
“I don’t know.” Marley shook her head with a doubtful expression. “I’ve never really been a fitness club sort of girl. I think I’d rather do yoga or pilates.”
“They have those classes too,” Janie told her.