Table of Contents
Jan woke up exhausted. She faced her usual morning struggle: motivating herself to get out of bed when she felt like she was trapped in quicksand. She tried telling herself that she was looking forward to finally taking a positive step in doing something good for herself. Despite her past delays, today she was going to work out.
As soon as she ate breakfast, called Nichole, did her laundry, bought some cute workout outfits, cleaned up her apartment, went grocery shopping, and took her car to the car-wash, that is. Oh, and got a pedicure. Those country clubbers could sense things like un-pedicured toes. Mere fabric could not hide the existence of untamed cuticles and dead skin cells.
“Maybe I'll just stop by Starbucks for a caramel macchiato first,” Jan mused, instantly feeling strong enough to break free of her imaginary restraints. She carefully folded her sheets and comforter down to the end of her bed and gingerly removed her feet out from under them. Once she was satisfied that nothing could trip her up, Jan leaped into the air with visions of Starbucks dancing in her head. Her leap was a little too enthusiastic for her feet however, which didn't quite have time to catch up with her eagerness. She landed unsteadily on the balls of her feet, threw her weight backwards to avoid face planting into the floor, her arms flailing madly at her sides trying to compensate for her lack of balance, and fell on her ass.
“Dammit!” she screamed and punched the floor with both fists. That hurt. She grabbed her pillow off the bed and strangled it. She then proceed to beat it on the ground left and right before burying her face in it and screaming, “Ahh!”
After regaining her composure, she tossed her pillow back on her bed and used the edge of the mattress to pull herself up. While rubbing her sore rear end, Jan thought about what to do next. She'd already had her Tic Tac: wintergreen. And checked her phone: no calls. It was only 11 a.m. though. That's pretty early for someone to be calling, even on a Sunday, Jan thought. She'd better wait a little while before trying Nichole to figure out where they wanted to meet up for shopping. Jan was relying on Nichole to tell her where to find cute workout clothes.
While waiting to consult her friend, Jan decided a shower was a good way to begin her day. Falling on her ass didn’t count as an appropriate beginning.
After she had finished her shower and dried off, she blew her hair dry and then checked her cell just in case Nichole had called. She tried to look on the bright side when she didn't see a message indicator, at least her mother hadn't called again.
With her towel snugly in place around her and her cell hanging from a strap on her wrist, Jan sprinted a few feet into her closet. She put on a nice pair of pants and a white blouse and went into the living room. It was only 11:37 a.m. Still too early to call anyone.
To pass the time, Jan ate a “healthy” sesame bagel with enough low-fat cream cheese on it that she couldn’t taste the disgusting bagel, and flipped on her computer. She stared at it hopefully, though she was beginning to wonder if all her chat friends had blocked her. No one ever seemed to be online anymore. She briefly considered creating a new, unknown screen name and checking if anyone from her buddy list showed up then. This was a surefire way to tell if anyone online has blocked you. She ultimately decided it wasn't worth the effort. Did she really want to know, anyway? Nah.
She gave up and signed off. It was 11:51 a.m., which was practically noon, which was no longer morning; therefore, it was okay to call Nichole.
She tried her cell but it went straight to voicemail. Jan hung up and tried Nichole's landline at her apartment. The line was busy.
An annoyed Jan flopped onto her couch and turned on the TV. As usual, there was nothing good to watch.
She waited around for about an hour—rotating between checking her email, flipping through her TV channels, and thinking up elaborate ways to torture Nichole—before acknowledging that she had been ditched again.
I'll just ask Lisa where to go, she decided morosely. I'm sure she's not doing anything important. Jan got up to grab her running shoes and a bottle of Smart water from the twenty-pack in the fridge before heading out the door. She didn't want Lisa to come with her, but figured that she was a frequent gym-goer, Lisa would know where people bought workout gear. Jan would invite her but didn't want to deal with Lisa's asinine suggestions, like buying bargain-brand clothes or wearing old sweats and a T-shirt.
Bang, bang, bang. Jan knocked loudly, taking out her anger on the door.
Immediately, the door swung open.
“Hi,” said not-Lisa.
“Hi there... Becki,” replied Jan in surprise. She checked the apartment number on the door. Hmm, definitely Lisa's. Jan tried to imagine why Becki would be at Lisa’s. She could not imagine the two becoming friends behind her back.
“Hey,” Lisa said as she materialized next to Becki. “Are you okay? You look pale.”
“I'm fine,” Jan snapped. “Are you okay?” She asked nodding her head slightly to indicate Becki.
“Yeah. Becki and I were just studying.”
Jan wasn’t sure she believed her. Becki did not seem like a studier.
“Okay, well I was on my way to buy workout clothes and I wondered…”
“I can't go,” Lisa interrupted her. “We've got tons of work left to do and then we're heading to a movie.”
Jan's mouth dropped open. She could believe that Lisa might be tutoring Becki but was dumbfounded that Lisa would voluntarily socialize with someone so… cheerful.
“Actually,” Jan began haughtily, drawing herself up to her full height so she towered over the two brunettes, “Nichole and I were wondering if you knew of any stores that were having a sale on fitness apparel. She’s coming by soon to help me.” Ha. I wasn't going to invite you and I’m being thrifty.
“That's great, Jan. So, you're taking my advice and joining a gym?”
Jan readied a good sneer and was just about to correct Lisa that it had been her dad's idea when Jan remembered that actually Lisa had been the one to suggest it first.
“Yes, well. I thought it was time, you know. My massage training is progressing to some pretty demanding stuff, physically, and my teacher suggested we all try to get in the best shape possible.” Sounds plausible.
Lisa congratulated Jan and gave her the names of some nearby sporting goods stores with reasonable prices. There was actually a Big 5 right down the street on College Avenue.
Jan thanked Lisa, wished them both luck studying, and headed to her car.
As Jan walked out of the front entrance to her building she realized that neither of the girls had commented on her hair. The style must be too progressive for them to appreciate.
She should actually take it as a compliment. Reluctantly, she admitted it still hurt.
The first thing Jan noticed as she walked into Big 5 was that it wasn't very big. She was thinking warehouse or department store size. It was called Big 5, not Average 5.
The second thing Jan noticed was a sales guy leering at her. He looked about eighteen. She grimaced back. He started strutting toward her; walking was just not the right word.
“Hey there, wild thing,” he began in a cocky, deep voice that Jan guessed was about two octaves lower than his normal speaking one.
Wild thing? Oh right, my hair. I need a new hat.
“What can I help you with, missy?” Jan wanted to tell him that he could help her best by getting lost, but remembered her dumb guys’ theory and put on her happy, nonplussed smile.
“Actually, could you just tell me where the workout apparel is, please? It's my first time in the store.”
“The workout clothes are to the right. All the way in the back,” said Mr. Helpful. Jan glanced at the back of the store. It was blocked by a giant shelf stacked with medicine balls and yoga mats.
Jan glanced at the boy’s name tag. It said Ricky. Certainly Richard had other nicknames that suited him better.
“Thanks,” Jan said and turned right. “I'm sure I'll be fine from here.” Now go away.
“Oh, I'd better come with you in case you want to try something on. I'm one of the only two people here with a key to the dressing room.” Ricky puffed out his chest with pride.
Hmm, so all I have to do is find whoever has the other key.
“The manager on duty has the other key, but she's busy training the new cashier.”
Are you still here? Jan thought as she glanced up from a cute blue and gray T-shirt and shorts combination she was admiring.
“She's going to be training a new salesman soon because I'm moving on to bigger and better things.”
“Is that so, Ricky?” said a well-dressed, no-nonsense twenty-something woman with a big assistant manager name tag. She had appeared across from them on the other side of the rack. “Well then, I'll be happy to send your notice up to corporate for you. It won't go out until tomorrow, but why don't you go on to the back office and start the paperwork. I'll finish helping your customer.”
Ricky began to stammer. Jan caught something like “sorry” and “it's not definite.” The woman had come around to stand between Jan and Ricky and was already talking about how to select the appropriate material for individual fitness needs. The different options for strength and breathability were much more interesting to Jan than a flustered salesman.
Once Jan had selected her fourth or fifth outfit, Ricky finally gave up and walked away, presumably to the back room. Jan felt more than saw him leave as her shoulders relaxed and her skin stopped crawling.
“Thanks a lot,” Jan glanced at the woman's name tag, “Lorie. And not just for the clothing advice.”
Lorie gave her a knowing look. “No problem. Let me show you where the dressing room is,” Lorie took out a gigantic key ring and started flipping through the various options, “and you can try those on.”
Jan followed her to the other side of the store where the dressing room was located.
“I'll be up front at the register if you need anything else.” Lorie opened the door for her and Jan walked in, arms laden with close to twenty items. “Just leave whatever you don't want on the bench, okay?”
Jan nodded agreement and dropped the clothes on the floor.
After fifteen minutes, Jan had rejected everything white and an all-pink Nike ensemble that looked cute on the rack but was painful to look at on a person. Separately, the tank top and shorts looked pretty cute, but together they overwhelmed the senses.
Jan ended up with three outfits, including three pairs of socks and a black Adidas workout bag that matched her running shoes. The three outfits comprised the original blue and gray outfit she’d first seen, plus two more Adidas T-shirts and matching shorts. One combination was gray with green stripes, and the other was black with a white logo. She took them up to the register and handed over her Amex card.
Once her purchases had been paid for and bagged up, Jan thanked the cashier and was about to leave when the Ricky Martin-wannabe showed up and offered to help her to her car. He snatched up her two bags before she could decline and walked outside.
Jan had no choice but to hurry after him.
“Hey,” she called and jogged to catch up. “I got it, okay?” She tried to take her bags back but the boy had a death grip on them.
“It's the gentlemanly thing to do,” he said as he stopped to let her lead him to the car.
Her Jeep was straight ahead. Jan never parked far away. She unlocked the doors with her key ring remote and held her hands out for her bags.
Ricky gave her what he must have thought was a charming grin and gently placed her bags in her hands. “A gentleman also walks a lady to her car.”
Jan gagged. Gross.
“So, what do you say to dinner Friday night?”
Jan wondered if he thought she was impressed by his smooth performance with Lorie. But then again, a dinner date would be more fun then what she had planned for Friday: nothing.
She couldn't believe that she’d just thought that. The guy was an idiot. Accepting a date just to have something to do Friday was sad.
Well, okay, maybe she could believe it.
“No, thanks,” she replied. The words felt weird in her mouth. “I have a minimum age requirement for accepting a date. You're about ten years too young.”
“I'm eighteen,” he said in a high-pitched whine.
“Right, but I was speaking in terms of maturity and I'm not sure you've even hit double digits.” She jumped in her car and slammed the door shut before she could hear his witty comeback.
At least now she had some frustration to burn off at the gym. Maybe she should drive back over there and thank him. Or maybe just drive over him.
She lowered her eyes to the road. Ooh, Starbucks. Jan swerved into a parking lot. Starbucks never lets me down, she thought, envisioning the sweet and sour taste of green tea lemonade cascading over her tongue. Now I'll have some calories to burn off too. Read Chapter 6