Chapter Eleven

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"Two weeks!" Ally pointed in horror at Michelle's well-swaddled ankle. "From a groundhog hole!"

"Less the hole and more the twisting when I fell." Michelle tried not to think about the purple-green bruising spreading up her leg over the top of her cast that morning. It was pretty gross.

Marietta shook her head, hands on her hips. She and Dolores both made indistinct middle-aged-women distress noises. "That's why I don't jog," the nona declared, finally, with a dismissive wave of the hand, the matter settled.

Heavy sighs of agreement from Dolores. "And in this heat."

Michelle wrinkled her nose. "Nothing's broken. I'll be fine. I just have to stay off it as much as I can, that's all."

"Who's going to lead the class then? Bryan? He goes way too fast." Ally reached out with a probing finger then realized what she was doing and yanked it back. "Does it hurt?"

"Nope," Michelle declared cheerfully.

Marietta gave her side-eye. "What'd they give you for it?" She caught Dolores' puzzled expression. "Our gym owner here is as high as a kite."

"That's not true." Michelle considered. "It's not mostly true. I was given painkillers—"

"Tee-twos or tee-threes?"

"Tylenol 3s, if you must know." Michelle gestured like a stage magician, to show how silly their concern was, thinking it would draw a laugh. "I'm fine! I'm peachy-keen and dancy. Dandy. I'm dandy." Instead the small crowd around her exchanged glances. She sighed. "I can't do the class but I can work the iPad."

"The three-year-old can work an iPad—" Marietta started, but Dolores gave a little shake of the head, her lips pursed, and the older woman trailed off, shrugging. "So what do I know about iPads? Anyway, where is your brother?"

"Working at Derek's today."

"So then, Miss Tee-Threes, who's leading the class?"

"Hello." Dolores hesitantly stepped onto the mat at the front of the room. "I'm Dolores." She gave a little wave. Ally waved back; no one else did; awkwardly the girl dropped her hands. "Ah, I know you're not used to me, but that's okay, we're going to have a good class." Dolores forced her frown into a smile. She clapped her hands together. "First, we stretch."

Even while stretching, she stayed stiff, and tense. Watching in sympathy from across the room, Michelle wanted to say something encouraging but each thought drifted by her without stopping, propelled along by a healthy dose of acetaminophen and codeine. Encouraging Dolores would be good. After all, it was just a small group of friendly regulars. A nap would be good too. But a nap was out of the question. Even though it would be so easy, just by leaning over the desk...

Dolores was bent over, trying to get the phone to play music. Bewildered, she looked up for assistance and Ally crouched down to help.

"Hey, Michelle, I think the speaker's bust."

Michelle rolled her eyes. They were shitty portable speakers that had lived in the back of Bryan's trunk for forever. Of course they'd busted. She was surprised they hadn't sooner. "Don't worry about it," she called back. "Just go on with the lesson."

"Right." Dolores sighed and straightened up. "Ah. Where were we?"

"Stretching," someone called out.

"Oh, right. Yes. Well, we should keep stretching—"

"We did it already, while you were fiddling with that thing," Marietta commented, waggling her fingers in the direction of the busted speaker set. "Don't worry so much, Dolores, we're just here to have a good time. Take a deep breath."

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