Chapter Fifteen

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Fluffy white clouds rolled and drifted across Saturday morning's blue skies. The railways exploded with thriving vegetation, and the walk club spread out, some into clumps of slower strolls and conversation, while others briskly marched ahead, swinging their arms.

Dolores took lungfuls of air, releasing them as big sighs.

"Missed our walks, huh?" Michelle hopped over a rail tie worked loose by erosion. Or ruffians.

Dolores proclaimed her agreement with a vigorous nod. "It has been hard to readjust to being in an office. I got used to my own schedule, lots of fresh air, exercise."

"Except you hate exercise." They both laughed.

"True. I still don't like the jumping jacks. Or, what are those horrible—"

"Burpees," Michelle finished in a flash. She knew; it was always burpees. But Bryan had insisted on them for the intermediate and advanced beginners. "I hate them. I suspect Bryan hates them."

Dolores sighed. "I miss..." She trailed off, deep in thought, but didn't finish, instead kicking at some gravel before continuing on, swinging her arms and breathing deeply.

Michelle didn't pry. Knowing what Dolores missed most would make that much harder to avoid throwing herself at Dolores's knees and crying: "Come back and keep me compannnyyyyy" like a weepy child. She knew how shitty it felt to lie awake at night worrying about money. Creampuffs was her own business; she'd sink or swim under her own efforts. Dolores didn't have that comfort, so Michelle resolved to keep her feelings to herself.

They startled a bird from the grass that erupted in a burst of feathered flight. Catching sight of each other's surprise, they giggled. "At least we can still go for walks on Saturdays," Michelle said. "While the weather's nice, anyway."

"What are you going to do when it turns cold?"

She shrugged. "Probably close up Walking Club and offer additional classes instead. We haven't really made a decision on that yet. Maybe laps around the warehouse? That doesn't really fit our style, though."

"No," Dolores admitted.

"Probably don't have to figure it out until October," Michelle continued, musing out loud. "When it gets really rainy? And usually November's mucky... yeah."

"And then only two months to go. Until the warehouse is for sale."

"True." She stopped, hands on hips, viewing the scenery as though for the first time. Ahead, the marchers—Michelle tried very hard not to think of them 'keeners' or at least not say it out loud—were climbing through the fence already, while the slower 'amblers' pulled away from Michelle and Dolores. "But in the spring we'll have the new gym set up... somewhere. Hopefully nearby."

"I hope in the same neighbourhood," Dolores agreed, pulling on her friend's elbow. "Then it's easy to come out on a Saturday." She gave a sly smile. "And then go to the matinee after."

"Aha!" Michelle grinned. "So we're just 'on the way', is that it?"

Dolores waved it away. "I said, I missed the walking."

"Me too."

"I can pay now, because I'm working," Dolores said, suddenly, sternly. "I will buy a membership."

"No, absolutely not." Michelle shook her head. "You've done so much. You're free to come out, always. Here or wherever we end up."

"Ay," Dolores said, to herself softly, as though Michelle was wildly irrational. Then: "I tried to pay at the movies, too."

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