Chapter Nineteen

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Bryan pushed his finished cup away from him, sliding it across the cafe table, and rubbed his face. "I means exactly what I said: no."

All Michelle could do was sit, speechless, mouth agape. In all of her imaginings of how the conversation would go—the various tacks she would try, the arguments for and against, the plans and contingencies—she had not once considered that Bryan simply wasn't interested.

He crossed his arms over his chest. "Look, I know you think you can convince me, but I've been giving this a lot of thought."

"I—" Michelle's brain refused to relay the rest of the sentence.

He shifted awkwardly in his seat, arms still crossed, avoiding her eyes. "I mean, when we first—" He stopped, and reordered himself. "The morning after that whole incident with Jimmy, I opened my eyes and... you know what? I felt relief. I felt lighter, M, like this weight had been taken of my shoulders that I didn't even know I'd been carrying. I don't need to worry about the gym any more."

"Of course we do." Her voice squeaked, but worked.

"No, we don't." He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. Time for True Facts. "They're going to have the warehouse for a long, long time. They'll probably seize it. That happens. It's gone."

"We can start a new one."

"I don't want to start a new one."

And there she was, right back to where she'd started, mouth agape.

Bryan continued, playing with the spoon on the side of the saucer: "I'm going back to Derek's. He says he can give me the regular hours back. I can probably keep most of my clients. I can start climbing out of debt, pay off that stupid line of credit. Start living a regular life again. You can too. Go back to Pixelimited like Dolores or look somewhere else, I don't care."

"I don't want to go back to Pixelimited, ever."

"Whatever."

"Whatever?!"

He sighed. "Look, we can talk about this later—Mom wants us over for dinner."

"No."

"What, you don't want dinner?"

"No, I want to discuss this. Now. You're talking about our gym—"

Bryan stood, his face slack with disappointment, flushing to anger, then disappointment again. When he spoke his voice was quiet. "No, we're not. You're talking about your gym."

Michelle stood too, her face heating. "What are you talking about? It's ours. We started it together—"

"I wanted to start a gym because I was sick and tired of Mom and Dad giving me grief every day about working for someone else." His voice remained restrained; intense, but not loud to draw attention. His mother's son. "But all this time to think has made me realize how much I don't want to run my own place. I hate paperwork and cleaning. I like spending time on my clients, not worrying about replacing toilet paper. I like being able to show up for my shift and then leave again." He jabbed a finger towards her. "I brought you in to take care of all that shit, and instead you start in with mission plans and ideas about teaching classes and all the rest and I got sidelined. Creampuffs, for Christ's sake! Creampuffs. That's not a gym. No one takes us seriously."

"And people take Douchebag Derek's seriously?" Michelle didn't know what hurt more: that she'd been "brought on" to do menial labour or that Bryan had lied this whole time, hating her ideas, hating the gym. She'd thought she was a equal partner.

She'd thought they were in it together.

"Don't call it—" Bryan twitched, then stopped, digging into his wallet to pull out a ten. He let it flutter to the table. "Coffee's on me. It's time to grow up, M. Summer camp is done. Creampuffs was a stupid idea, and I should never have let you talk me into it in the first place."

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