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Seven

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"He hasn't called?"

Ashleigh whispered the question while holding herself perfectly still in crane pose--left leg planted on the yoga mat, right leg twisted completely around the left at the knee, crouching, arms pretzeled, fingers of the right hand pressed to the left palm. She wasn't even breaking a sweat.

"No," Liv whispered back, swaying back and forth like a tree in a strong wind...or a crane in a hurricane. Coming out of position before tipping over in a tangle, she placed her right foot on the floor to steady herself. "I should've known he was too good to be true."

"It's only been a couple of days. Maybe he's been busy at the hospital...uh-oh," Ashleigh said, trying not to move her lips. "Benson is staring at us." She dipped even lower at the knees and focused straight ahead toward the front of the class where their yoga guru calmly instructed the twenty students to contort their bodies in ways Liv swore were physiologically impossible.

Liv expelled her breath and tried to wrap her right leg around the left again. Today's mantra had been, "Today I will trust in the process." Liv tried. Muscles in her thighs quivered. Sweat dripped off the end of her nose. The soothing notes of flute and chimes did nothing to induce calm because the sensation of her body parts screaming at her overpowered the new age music. Plus her mind refused to focus on the exercise.

She wasn't very good at trusting any freakin' process.

"Let your body come out of this position," Benson's voice floated across the room. "Place the palms of your hands together in prayer pose. Reach up toward the sky. Swan dive down to touch your toes."

"Oh, thank god," Liv breathed as she collapsed over her knees.

She looked over at Ashleigh, whose blond ponytail was centered and un-mussed. How did her friend retain such perfect calm and poise throughout the class? It probably wasn't very Zen of her, but Liv sort of hoped that Ashleigh would wobble and fall on her perfect butt. Or fart. Or something, anything to get them laughing and distract Liv from her anxiety about Dr. Jasper Temple who was quickly becoming just another disappointment in the romance department.

Benson began wandering the room, helping students adjust into the positions. "Place your hands on the floor. Step back to plank. Come forward to cobra."

On the other hand, maybe Ashleigh was right. As a school counselor, she tended to give people the benefit of the doubt and had told Liv that nine times out of ten those people would live up to your expectations of them. "Tell a kid he is bad, and he will act out," she said. "Tell a kid he is smart, and he will finish most of his homework. We are hardwired to listen to our internal voice. We are highly susceptible creatures. Change the voice, change the behavior."

"Maybe I should call Jasper after all," Liv muttered under her breath. "Tell him he's reliable and then hang up."

"What?" Ashleigh said, glancing over and frowning.

"Nothing."

They came out of cobra, rolled onto their backs, lifted their legs into the air and then back over their heads to place toes on the floor. Liv focused on breathing. Plow pose always made her panicky. Something about the way her head was immobilized, trapped beneath her body, chin smooshed into her chest. It was hard to breathe. She felt powerless. For most of her life, Liv had hated enclosed places like closets, elevators, even restaurant booths.

One summer day when she was eight years old, she'd hidden from the housemaid by getting into a large hope chest and closing the lid. The lid got stuck. It took a couple of hours before the maid heard her yelling for help. Ever since then, she'd suffered from a mild case of claustrophobia. She carried a secret hope that yoga would help her work through the fear, but so far she hadn't noticed much improvement.

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