Authors: Maddie Cochere
He nodded again and said, “That sounds like a good idea.” He paused for a moment and looked around the apartment again. “Susan, let me crash on your sofa tonight. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be alone right now, and I’ll feel better watching over you. Is that ok with you?”
“It sure is,” I said nodding my head vigorously and breathing a sigh of relief. “I was going to ask you if you wouldn’t mind staying.” My st
omach rumbled reminding me
it could use a little food every now and then. “I haven’t eaten anything all day. Want to order a pizza and watch some
for a while?”
“Sounds good to me,” he said getting up from the sofa.
“You order,” I to
ld him. “I’m going to put on pajamas
and get comfortable for the evening.” I stood up and practically had to drag myself to move toward the bedroom. I felt like I had a terrible weight holding me back.
said stopping me
. “Don’t let this get you down too much. All of the right people know about this, and they’ll know what to do. They’ll take care of everything.”
“I know,” I told him with a smile, but my gut didn’t believe it for a minute.
The next morning, I showered, dressed for work, and slipped out of the apartment leaving Darby asleep on the sofa. I
soundly, but I did
sleep for a few hours
and didn’t feel as weak and miserable as I had the night before.
It wasn’t going to be a rainy day, but it was still gloomy, and definitely cooler than it had been. I was almost to Slimmers when I made a U-turn, a legal U-turn, and drove over to the racquetball club. I sat in my car and called Angela at the center.
She answered on the first ring, “Slimmers Weight Loss. This is Angela. How may I help you?”
“Hi, Angela. It’s Susan,” I said.
“Good morning, Susan,” she said cheerfully.
“Angela, I need to take the rest of the week off,” I told her. “Will you double-check
the schedule and make sure
you have enough help for the week
Mark my time off as vacation time.”
“Ok. I’ll take care of everything,” she said. “Is th
ere anything in particular
you want us to do for the rest of the week?”
“The membership drive is still on,” I reminded her. “Ask the girls to talk to all of our regular customers
see if they have any friends to recommend, and give
each of them
phone time this week to offer free 10-pound programs.”
“Consider it done,” she said even more cheerfully.
“Thanks, Angela,” I said. “
I’ll talk to you later.” I hung up. It was nice to have employees who could be counted on. On one hand, I knew Angela would
be upset when she learned
I would be leaving the center
but on the other hand, I would be recommending her to take over as the manager, and I knew that would make her happy.
I walked into the club and looked around. It
like ages since I’d been on the court or worked behind the front desk. There were quite a few guys milling around, and I didn’t know any of them. This was a men’s league, and all of the guys worked on afternoons
so they played weekday mornings. Connie was working behind the desk.
“Hi, Connie,” I said
giving her a smile
. “Can I get a couple of towels?”
surprised to see me. “Hi, Susan. Not working today?” she asked.
“No, I needed some time off,” I told her. I looked around at
four courts bordering the lobby
. “And I need to
off some frustration. Are any of the courts open?”
“Just number t
en in the back,” she said
pointing in the general direction of the court.
“I’ll take it,” I told her. She handed the towels to me, and I headed back to
the locker room. The guys
on the courts
had been playing in this
league for quite a while, so maybe I could get a
or two with one of them.
I opened my locker
I would have enough gear to be able to play. All of my regular equipment was in my Nike bag back at the apartment. The locker produced two outfits, one white and one black, and a pair of white shoes with pink laces. I smiled. The shoes had o
bviously been in the locker for quite
a while. There was one racquet and one glove, but no safety glasses
balls. I would have to buy a pair of glasses and a can of balls at the desk.
I dressed in the black outfit. It fit my mood. Black shorts and a black tee. It was cute, but there was nothing fancy about it. White socks and the shoes with the pink laces, barrettes to hold my hair back from my face, and I was ready to go.
I walked back out to the front desk and p
on a stool. Connie was taking care of a membership, and I would have to wait until she was finished to purchase my items. I turned to watch a match in progress on one of the glass courts. The two guys were playing hard, and they were pretty good. I must have caught them on their last point
because they shook hands and exited the court.
glanced my way
, but only one of the guys walked over. “You’re the famous Susan Hunter, a
ren’t you?” he asked with a big
I gave him a weak smile back and said, “I don’t know about famous, but I am Susan Hunter.”
“I’m Bob Morris
,” he said
“I heard you took
first place down at State. Good job.”
“Thank you,” I said with genuine appreciation for the compliment.
“Listen, Susan, we never get a chance
to play any of you hotshots who
play at night. How about giving us
some time on the court?
” he asked. “
One game each. You can let us know when you’ve had enough of us.”
“Ok,” I said with a much bigger smile. “I can do that. Let me grab a couple of things and warm up first.”
Connie was still busy, so I went around the counter and helped myself to
glasses and a can of balls. I held
them up for her to see and
wrote them down on the notepad
he could add them to my bill later.
I stepped onto court number four where the guys had just finished playing, and instantly felt some of the tension leave my body. I loved being on the court, and just the anticipation of playing was exciting to me. I looked out the Plexiglas
wall and sa
Bob was rounding up the guys in the league.
I went through my normal routin
e of warming up - e
asy shots first, working up to more difficult shots, hitting the ball harder, and finishing with kill shot attempts to the front wall. After two kill shots, Bob stepped onto the court and said, “Ok, that’s enough of that.” He was laughing as he picked up the rolling ball. “Geez, Susan, where’d you get that backhand kill shot?”
“Husky,” I told him. “Do you guys ever get a chance to play with him? He’s a great coach.”
“Nope,” he said regretfully. “All the good players in this club play at night or on the weekends. Most of us
afternoons can only get in here on weekday mornings.”
“Before I leave today,” I told him, “I’ll show you how to improve your backhand. You’ll be
at how easy it really is.”
“I doubt that,” he said. “B
ut I’ll take any help I can
get.” He tossed the ball to me. “
Go ahead and serve first. I’ll defer to your greatness.” He pretended to bow, and I couldn’t help
I had come to the club to work off frustration, and I needed the exercise; I’d had so little lately.
Three hours later, I had played games with every
one of the guys – twice. I
won every game and had only been hit by a racquet once. It was alm
ost unfair to them. I knew
I was playing at a level above them, but rather than to give them any breaks at all, I was driven - driven to hit the ball as hard as I could and make every shot count. It was brutal. The back of my shirt and the hair against my neck were soaked with perspiration.
When Eric and I walked off the c
ourt, all of the guys jeered
. He had been th
eir last hope to take a game from me, and he had gone down to defeat.
Before heading to the l
ocker room, I said
, “Ok guys, before I go, I promised Bob I’d show him how to improve his backhand. Anybody who wants a fast lesson, get back on the court.”
stepped onto the court,
and all eight of the guys followed me. I lined them up along the wall and then showed them how positioning was most important. Most people don’t turn their body far enough, or pull their racquet back far enough, to hit an effective backhand shot. I always felt the rhythm and movement of going up to the ball and coming down with it before striking. I showed the move to the guys while hitting several shots. I
had each of them try it several times by throwing balls into the back wall and making the
the way I had shown them. Several of the guys picked up on the small changes right away and made some great shots. I left to a chorus of cheerful “
” and “
take off work more often
By the time I showered and paid Connie, it was nearly 3:00 in the afternoon. I felt
much better and decided to
go home and relax until it was time to call Mom.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
At 6:00, I walked into the living room and picked up my phone to call my mother.
Darby was, of course, gone when I
home from the racquetball club. I rarely spent time in the second bedroom of my apartment, but I had just spent most of
the late afternoon
curled up in a chair
. The room was set up as a sitting room. There was one deep, comfortable chair, a floor lamp, and wall-to-wall bookcases filled with mostly cookbooks and fiction. I tried to read
Transfer of Power
by Vince Flynn. I usually enjoyed political thrillers, and Vince Flynn was one of my favorite authors, but my mind wouldn’t let me concentrate, and I found myself reading the same paragraph over and over again.
I finally grabbed a couple of cookbooks and passed the time perusing
. Lobster Mac and Cheese was all the rage right now,
and I was surprised to see
one of my oldest cookbooks had the recipe using Gruyere and extra-sharp Cheddar. I slipped a bookmark into the book with the intention of trying it soon with Darby. We could use some good comfort food.
Phone in hand, I walked back into my sitting room, sat down in the comfy chair again, and flipped my phone open. Before I could hit Mom’s speed dial number, the phone rang in my hand, and it was her! What were the odds? Mom almost never called me
. We generally stayed in touch through
email a couple of times each month. It was one of those weird synchronicity moments.
“Hi, Mom!” I tried to sound cheerful and upbeat.
,” she said
Your dad told me not to call and bother you, but I just needed to hear your
voice and know
Uh-oh. What had she heard? Was Martin calling Dad with stories again?
“I’m fine, Mom,” I told her.
“I’m sitting here in my spare room
going through cookbooks. How does Lobster Mac and Cheese sound? And how was your trip? Did you have fun?” I wanted to di
stract her from anything she might
have heard and keep the conversation light.
“We had a very nice time, and
Tom and Bitsy
said to tell you, “
ut, honey, your dad and I just got home, and someone broke into the house while we were
.” Her voice couldn’t hide her distress.
I sat bolt upright in my chair. “What?! Was anything damaged? What did they steal? Are you and Dad ok?” My heart was racing. Could this have anything to do with my sending the necklace to her? Did the thieves know and ransack their house looking for it?