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Chapter Eight

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Sunday was much the same, with a trickle of people coming by to wish them well, happily staying do the workout with Bryan and the walk with Michelle. Amy and Chris both remarked as they said goodbye that they'd had fun and they'd like to come out again, but Michelle recognized the intonation: it was the "let's do this again! (in six months)" voice.

Still. It was only the second day.

Bryan's victories were measurable: he'd scored a deal with a closing martial arts club not only to get the blue gym mats—the kind that Velcro together that Michelle remembered from elementary school—but also a decent set of dumbbells and tiny kettlebells that took up space in the north-east corner. Mirrors were forthcoming through another bargain he'd hunted. He had several appointments to talk to potentials about personal training.

About a dozen people had so far enthusiastically forked over the cash for a month's membership. Michelle discovered from registration conversations with each new customer—friends of Bryan's—that it was a gesture of support, rather than actual intent.

Rent was paid, at least, but there were still the lines of credit to worry about and rebuilding savings. But they had six months to go.


No one showed for the Monday morning class.

Michelle came out of the bathroom just in time to see Bryan heading out the door. He didn't bother looking up from his phone. "Going to go drum up some business," he called, while walking and typing. That was the sum total of explanation, leaving Michelle to hold down the fort. The empty fort.

For about an hour she sat at the tiny reception desk/card table playing on her phone. The sun streamed in the bay door as a comforting square of light on the blue-grey concrete. But even phone games have their limit, and the card table chair grew uncomfortable.

Stretching, she decided that she might as well learn Bryan's routine. He'd written it out on a sheet of paper, taped it to the wall over the two little travel speakers. She peered at the list, eyebrows arching. He'd pared it to bare minimums. Each set was given a duration—instead of a rep count—so that people could exercise at their own pace, wrapping at the same time so that they proceeded as a group.

Two minute rounds, 7 different exercises, twice. A solid half hour followed by a brisk half-hour walk. Alternating all morning. If there was enough demand, it meant that people could drop in. Do the walk as a warm-up, or as a cool-down. A great compromise, and Michelle felt a warm glow that Bryan had actually listened to her and Dolores's concerns. Maybe he was starting to see the point of Creampuffs after all.

Then the warm glow settled into a unsettling guilt, as she realized how little she'd been expecting from him.

She pulled one of the new-old gym mats out of the corner and set it up in the sunshine to practice. She'd have to teach it eventually, so she had to get familiar with the routine and also figure out what "flutters" and "side jacks" were.

Luckily the area had good enough reception for YouTube.


This is so boring.

Michelle paused the count-down timer app that she'd been using with a sigh. She stretched and considered, and then opened her favourite podcast, queuing up the few episodes she'd missed before returning to the routine. So engaged in the podcast that when someone next to her cleared their throat she startled and fell over. She hadn't heard anyone enter—some receptionist!

A young woman stood off to the side, holding a duffel bag with both hands, already dressed in a long, drapey tee, leggings, and running shoes. She had the hunched shoulders of the chronically anxious, staring determinedly into the space over Michelle's head.

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