Ethan parked the car, inhaled deeply, already regretting his decision.
But no backing out now. Nick was right. He should not just run away crying just because he struck out with Blythe. She clearly was a nice girl. Once he had worked out a few times, he’d go and see if she would want to spend time with him. A movie or dinner. Then he’d work his way up from there.
He entered and a young woman smiled at him from the front desk.
“Welcome to Zenergy – Total Mind and Body. May I interest you in our current promotions?”
“Uh … I would like a personal trainer.”
“Oh, sure! Let me see which one of our trainers is available. You can browse our club merchandise till I am back.” the attendant chirped.
“I can contain myself.” Ethan mumbled to himself, while eyeing the overpriced and brightly colored items.
A few minutes later a female voice from behind him said.
“Hi, I am Alanna, you can call me Lana. Welcome to Zenergy where we strive to get your mind and body on the fast track to well-being. Let’s talk about your goals. “
My goal is to change Blythe’s mind about me and make my ex-wife regret that she just left me. Ethan thought, but told Lana
“Just want to build muscle, buff up some. Be stronger and look more … mature.”
“Great! I can definitely help you with that. Let’s go take a seat over there, I’ll have you fill out a few forms and we’ll discuss options.”
She began to ask questions about his health and fitness history, then showed him to the lockers to change for a trial workout.
Lana patiently explained each exercise and all the equipment as she made him do a few repetitions.
Ethan pressed for more, asking her to really work him.
He wanted to get to where he wanted to go fast. The quicker there was noticeable change, the sooner he could approach Blythe again.
He left the gym walking on clouds.
The adrenaline of the workout, the praises by Lana and the prospect of new hope to win Blythe over put a spring in his step.
That did not go unnoticed when he arrived back at the office.
“How did it go?” Grace asked.
“Great! I feel fantastic. Worked out like a berzerk, totally impressed my trainer.” he briefly told Grace about his extreme workout.
“OK, here are some water and pain pills.” Grace explained as she placed both on the ledge of her desk for him.
“I don’t need any. I feel fine.”
“Now you do. But you will thank me later.”
“I am not an old man, Grace. I am fine.”
“Just trust me, the first week is the hardest, you will …”
“Stop it already! I am not your grandmother, Grace. No pills!” his tone was impatient, earning him a look by Grace, but she only said
“Grace, I am sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you. The past week or two have been really weird. Work, my ex-wife, Blake got a stomach bug, that awful date and then that night with … oh.” Ethan had not realized his TMI mishap.
“Sounds like you’ve been a busy boy.”
“No worries, your secrets are always safe with me. I include accidental personal TMI spills in that policy as well. Besides, that kinda works out well for me, because now I can stop feeling iffy about that card I put on your desk.”
“You got me a card?”
“Indirectly. My grandmother did. It will be her birthday this weekend. We don’t really have anybody anymore, I don’t get out much since I take care of her when I am not at work and she does not get out – period. So it would basically be just the three of us, a dinner with cake.”
“I can handle that. Count me in.”
“Thank you, Ethan. It will mean a lot to nana.”
He went to his desk to work and let her continue hers.
About two hours later she heard odd noises and went to check on Ethan, finding him hunched oddly on the sofa, looking pitiful and moaning oddly.
“Are you … okay?” she asked worried.
“Nooooo!” he groaned pitifully.
“What’s wrong? Where does it hurt?” she was genuinely concerned, wondering whether to call an ambulance.
“Everywhere!” he whimpered.
Her worried expression changed to a grin when she realized what was going on.
“Why .. oh, wait. Let me guess: sore muscles?” she asked, trying not to laugh.
“I think I am dying.” he whined.
“If only someone had recommended you’d take some pain pills ahead of the pain. I will go ponder that across the street over lunch and a cup of coffee. See you later.”
“You cannot leave me now!”
“Can and will. FYI – there are pain pills in my desk, bottom drawer, just in case anybody comes by who needs any.”
“Bottom? I cannot bend down that far! If I even make it up into standing, I don’t think I can. I may have to crawl everywhere. But that hurts too … ” he whined.
“Aww. Well, good thing you don’t need any. Actually, if you do crawl around the floor, they would be in easy reach for you. See you later.”
“You are cruel! Heartless and cruel!”
“That just reminded me of the new coffee cake they offer. I will be in seventh heaven across the street. If you need me, don’t call. It’s my lunch hour.”
“Why do all women just have to be cruel to me? Lunch, coffee and cake sounds divine. I am famished. Why does everyone with a set of tits just HATE me?!”
“Wow, dial it back some, you drama queen.”
“No more torture please … just let me die.” Ethan whimpered.
“You’re not gonna die, you ninny! Lucky for you does this one with a quote/unquote ‘set of tits’ not hate you, for reasons unbeknownst to me, but I just can’t bring myself to leave you for real. I was so gonna prove a point, let you simmer in your arrogance, but apparently am a giant pushover. Here, sit up, I’ll get the pills and I’ll massage you. Helps my grandma when she has muscle aches and spasms”
“Thank you Grace.”
“Yeah, the things we do for our ungrateful bosses.”
“I am not ungrateful. I am the most grateful boss there is.”
She got the pills and water, he downed all of it greedily, then she began to gently massage his shoulders and back.
“How does this feel?”
“Painful and like heaven at the same time. I think I am gonna cry.”
“Try not to. I beg you.”
After the massage and the pills kicked in Ethan began to look and sound more like himself again.
“Can I take you out to a late lunch as a thank you?” he asked her.
“No time. We have the meeting at 3, we won’t make it back in time, especially not in your current condition you super-athlete. I have some leftovers I brought in, I’ll be happy to share with you. And I’ll throw in some water, no coffee. You need to stay hydrated if you want to keep that extreme workout schedule up.”
“What about dinner?”
“I can’t do dinner. Grandma, remember?”
“Oh, right. We could pick up and eat at your home!”
“Ethan, that is very sweet but will have to be a no. Grandma is pretty set in her ways, she does not eat the – quote “modern stuff” unquote – and there are a lot of things she cannot have. I am just not the type that can just go out. But I appreciate the offer.”
Ethan felt sad for her. She was about his age and in a similar spot, caring for someone she loved dearly, but without the great support system Ethan had so it limited her freedom tremendously.
Again he felt this strange sense of safety with Grace. Like he could tell her everything, like a friend. Even though he realized that he knew nothing about her.
“Grace, how old are you, if you do not mind me asking.”
“Why would I mind, all you have to do is pull my personnel file? I am 25, like you.”
“I thought you would be. You seem very mature for your age.”
“As you would know, taking care of a human being who depends on you does that to you.”
“Evidently didn’t work for me.”
“I was recently called something along the lines of immature babyfaced high school boy and therewith not her type. Not exactly an ego booster.”
“So you pissed off some girl and now are taking her ammunition to heart?”
“That would be the prime example of something to tell a guy you want to push away. Equal to insulting his sexual abilities or kicking him in the groin. Or all three.”
“Oh. So no babyface … immature … high school kid?”
“Well, you are on the slender side, but I can see that runs in the family, looking at your grandpa, mother and sister. Not much you can do about that and it suits you. The babyface .. well, maybe a matter of taste. I would call you handsome if asked. And you are no immature kid. Ethan, you run this company with your mom. Had to since you got out of college, when your uncle left so unexpectedly. And you are raising a child. All you did for your family and friends. Come on now. You really do not need me to tell you all this. Whoever said that to you, isn’t worth all the heartbreak.”
“You are wrong Grace! She is worth it. She has been hurt too, so she overreacted. I was too blind to see it then. But I will change my appearance a bit and then approach her more calmly and subtle.”
“Ethan, if she does not want you how you are now, how you really are, it’s not worth changing to gain her acceptance. You already are a great guy …”
“Please, not that great guy spiel again. So sick of it! I have heard it too many times. Always followed by “but,…” and then you get kicked to the curb. My question being, if I am such a great guy, why do I keep getting the walking papers? On that note, I am going to that meeting, it’s probably gonna run late, you can go home early, we have my mother’s assistant to help if need be. See you tomorrow!”
Ethan got up as fast as he could and limped away, leaving Grace sitting there.
Thirty minutes into the meeting, his guilt had reached new heights so he snuck out to find Grace and apologize.
Her desk was empty and clearly she had gone home, like he told her to.
When he limped to his desk he found a post it note.
“Holy fucking shitballs – NO!” Ethan moaned as he was reading it.
Ethan balled up the note and tossed it before returning to a meeting he barely remembered afterwards.
Over the next few weeks his work-out plans progressed well, and he earned loads of praise from Lana. The following soreness became more and more bearable, especially since he had learned to anticipate the pain and take pain pills beforehand.
And then it suddenly happened, Ethan was working out under the watchful eye of Lana, who gave him pointers, and corrected his position, just like she always had. Just this time things went a bit different.
At first Ethan just thought she didn’t realize the placement of her hand.
But that said hand reached into his gym shorts and not long after, her head was in his lap. Ethan was stiff with shock, surprise and … other reasons.
Suddenly she just went for it, and he let her.
It was the first of several times like that, different locations, always started in the midst of a session when he least expected it. And he never stopped her.
After the dented ego, this felt amazing to him. A confirmation that he was on the right track. If such a fit and gorgeous woman like Lana just couldn’t seem to contain her feelings even at her work, he couldn’t be too much of a dud. And then there was also Daphne, to confirm that theory.
When he was too sore, Lana would give him a sports massage.
At least that how they started … the ending was usually a little more … unconventional.
Ethan began to think there could be more. Love, not just lust. He certainly had butterflies whenever he saw her coming towards him at the beginning of their sessions.
Sometimes she would just randomly kiss him and it made his day. Along with the other stuff, of course.
Lana was great. Funny, determined, obviously very fit and active. A true powerhouse. And she definitely liked him just as much as he liked her. Or more …
After his shower, he went to ask her out to dinner.
He found her making out with some guy, when she noticed him, she introduced him as her ‘boyfriend of two years’.
And Ethan was introduced plainly as “client”. For some reason he felt devalued and dismissed.
Ethan had to contain himself from not running out of the gym.
He felt like the biggest failure. How did all this happen? Why did he let it happen?! He was becoming one of those guys … and sleeping with a woman in a relationship? Even if he didn’t know she was, he should have asked, not assumed. Had he asked and she had lied, it would have been on her. Now it was on him. At least in his book.
And he still had not lived down Daphne’s phone message. Ever since he had a hard time looking Grace in the eyes. He felt so humiliated.
So that was it then. He would go and talk to Daphne about never calling him again.
He drove to the hotel, went to her room and ….