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Chapter Six

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Leo waited in his SUV, feet up on the dash, reading a book.

Michelle had no way to let him know what time she'd arrive each morning as he had not offered his phone number or email or asked after hers and she had a distinct impression he preferred it that way. But he'd been showing up every morning, so at least his presence didn't come as a surprise.

But he wasn't the only one waiting. Dolores glanced up from her phone at the sound of Michelle's approach, and beamed. "Hello, my friend! Good morning!"

"Hey!" Michelle rasped back; she'd been walking very briskly for several blocks and her lungs felt tight. "I didn't know you'd be here, I would have come earlier—"

Dolores waved it away, stowing her phone in her small purse, before getting to her feet, stretching. She was dressed like Michelle in an old paint-splattered tee and ratty jeans. Michelle beamed and impulsively threw out her arms for a hug, which Dolores, surprised, returned.

"I was expecting to see the other people," she said, "but it's just Leo and me."

"You two know each other?"

Dolores nodded. "We go to the same church."

Michelle glanced over at the SUV, where Leo was pulling his tools out of the back seat. She giggled. "I wouldn't think he was the church-going type."

"Oh, he doesn't come to often. But his sister, every week." Dolores peered over Michelle's shoulder. "No one else is coming? Where is your brother?"

"Bryan's got appointments this morning and everybody else I asked works during the day." Michelle pulled the lanyard with the warehouse's keys off her neck. "But people been really helpful! My friend Chris donated an old iPad—we can use it for front-desk computer and customer databases and stuff like that. And Amy says she's going to start spreading the word and help put up posters. Jen L wants to come out on the weekend after the painters finish... And you're here... it's all coming together, Lola—" She stopped, appalled. She'd privately thought of Dolores as Lola ever since that evening outside of the pizza place, but she hadn't yet said it to her friend's face.

But Dolores was smiling.

"Omg, I didn't mean..."

"It's all right. After the other day, when you told me about the new gym, I spent a lot of time thinking. I always avoided exercising, you know, getting all sweaty, I don't like it. When I was young, it doesn't matter. But I'm not so young any more, and I want to carry all my groceries or... run for the bus... and not feel awful." She patted her ample tummy. "I'm not going to get skinny, but I don't care about that. So I think, maybe this gym is for me after all."

"I did—your story—that's sort of the idea." Michelle fumbled for words.

"Ay, I know! So. If it's also my idea, I should help." Dolores beamed. "As for being Lola... Maybe it would be nice to be Lola again, sometimes."

"It's a very cute nickname."

"It is, and I'm a cute person." Dolores tried to keep a serious face. "And my brothers and my cousins are all back in Brasil, so who cares? They aren't here to laugh."

"No one's going to laugh," Michelle replied with fervour. "We're all in this together. If anyone laughs we're gonna kick 'em out."


Dolores tried to keep her giggles to herself. "Of course. I show up to work on bathroom day." Michelle tried to offer some sort of consolation but only managed murmurs and strangled vowels.

Together they surveyed the single bathroom, complete with a sink and both a toilet and urinal; ugly 70s floral tiles in mustard yellow, sienna, and burnt orange—a combination Michelle assumed chosen by a person picking swatches at random—and decades of neglect and stains.

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