Been a minute! I missed being here!
“You’re just lazy! You’re going with me tomorrow morning.”
Maria wagged a forefinger with a well manicured ruby red nail at me. Her other hand pulled the towel hanging round her neck to wipe her face.
From where I was seated across the room, I could smell her citrusy scent mixed with sweat. I wrinkled my nose and then, snuggled deeper into the beanbag on the floor, tucking the woolly blanket under my knees. I reached out lazily for the TV remote and switched the TV on.
“Next month. I’ll go.”
“That’s what you said last month…and the month before that. You’re on leave from work for the next three weeks. You have no excuse. I will drag you there tomorrow. “
She stood with her hands on her wide hips. Maria was one of those people who looked very cute when they were angry. I looked at her trying so hard to maintain a frown and stern look on her face and I burst into laughter. Within seconds, her whole frame began to shake with laughter like mine.
” Keep laughing o! I will drag you there by the hair in the morning, just wait and see. Anyway, I’m going to make a smoothie. Want some?”
I made a face.
“Nooo! I don’t want to lose my love handles.” I tried to keep a straight face and I said this whilst grabbing the folds of my tummy and jiggling them as I spoke.
She shook her head and went smiling towards the kitchen. I watched as she bounced away. Yes, bounced. She had this way of walking on the balls of her feet as it were. She was very agile for someone of her size and very active too. She carried herself with such grace and elegance. You know, one of those women who make being plus-sized look so sexy. And unlike me, thanks to her new fitness addiction, she now had a visible waist!
I pinched the folds of flesh where my waist was supposed to be. An old friend of mine used to grab my folds and say “if I can pinch an inch, then, tut tut tut, it has to go!” as she shook her head.
Maybe this gym thing isn’t such a bad idea. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to go back, right? Ehen!
The next morning, I laced my trainers, and hopped into the passenger seat of Maria’s car. We lip-synched and danced the Party Rock Anthem all the way to the gym. I was all fired up.
Once we got inside, Maria joined a small group of people doing some warm up exercises.
“I’ll pass.” I waved at her. “I’ll wait for the trainer to get here before I start. Let me exercise my eyes first.”
“Okay. No sweat.”
I sat on the floor facing the mirror wall, watching them. I popped the gum in my mouth noisily and Maria shot me a stern warning look. I took my phone out and was about to start tweeting about how bored I was when Olamide’s First of all started blaring over the gym’s loudspeakers. As if on cue, the gym trainer walked in.
Backpack in hand, he took giant strides towards the group. I swear, the song started playing in slow motion (like in the movies) as he walked.
I don’t care if you don’t believe me.
He hi-fived some and hugged some and fist- bumped the others. And then he headed straight for me. I swallowed. Hard. I hadn’t been exercising but I could feel beads of sweat forming on my nose and chin.
Heyyy! God certainly took his time when he made this brother!
“Hi. I don’t think I’ve seen this face around here before. Am I your first…?”
“Oh no. I’ve been with several.” I blurted out before realising that came out all wrong. “I mean, I’ve been to several gyms.”
“Oh, cool. You’ll fit right in then.”
“Yeah. I guess.”
He turned to the group and calling everyone together, he started the day’s routines. Everyone else seemed to be keeping up quite easily even the man at the far end who was almost thrice my size. I wondered why I was panting and sweating so hard.
You would keep up if you concentrate and stop letting your mind wander. A voice in my head chastised.
Why would he wear a leotard that makes him look more naked than clothed? It’s distracting. I argued, petulant.
He came over to me a few times to straighten out a knee or arm and each time he touched me, I felt this sweet, warm, tingling sensation. It was kind of ironic that his touch was soft and gentle despite his strong, muscular arms. His palms were soft like a baby’s bottom. My overactive imagination was working overtime already.
I shut my eyes tightly and tried to focus on the side plank he had us on for the past three minutes. The strain on my abdominal muscles was killing me, but I wasn’t about to buckle over and make a fool of myself in front of this delicious looking chunk of masculinity that was my gym trainer.
Aaargh! Focus, Chichi, focus!
“Doing great, guys! Well done! Recess! Five minutes. Rehydrate and we’ll get on the cycles.” He said, clapping his hands.
There were oohs and aahs of relief round the group. Maria came up to me and hugged me tightly, sweat and all.
“See! I knew you’d love it.”
“Love it? My whole body aches!”
“Aha! Means that it’s working.”
“The exercise, na! I need to use the restroom. Be back in a blink.” She bounced away before I could think up a response.
I turned away, wiping the sweat off my face and arms with a towel and scared to look in the mirror because I just really I had left home without putting any makeup on. Just then, I felt a presence near me. I spun round sharply and there he was, hands on hips, staring at me with a funny smile playing at the corners of his lips. He stood with his feet slightly apart and it was all I could do to avoid looking at a certain aspect of his anatomy that was just…..erm…obvious.
“I know you!” His smile had morphed into a laugh, making the cleft in his chin more visible.
“I don’t recall.”
“Look at me. And try to remember…from way back.”
My brows knit together, confused. “Way back?”
I thought there was something familiar about him, but I had searched all the files in my head and come up empty.
“I’m sorry, I can’t recall.”
He laughed again.
“Primary school, class 5. You used to beat me up and take my lunch almost every day!”
“I… I… I…” I stuttered as the file I had been searching for in the head suddenly dropped in my lap. I remembered every single detail.
“B..b..but you were…”
“Stanley. Skinny. Small. Short. Scared.”
“Well, those were not the words I was looking for but…”
“You were a bully. But….thank you.”
“Yeah. Thank you. You taught me how not to be scared of pain. And, um, this might not make much sense but, I used to think you were really beautiful when you were angry. So I honestly didn’t mind that you took my lunch.”
“Huh?” My eyes nearly popped out of my head while my heart was threatening to rip my brassiere in two and jump right out.
Smiling, he stretched forth his hand.
“Looks like we have a lot of catching up to do Chidinma Ijeh. Let’s do dinner. Tonight?”
I panicked, turned and ran to the ladies’ restroom, almost knocking Maria down as I did.