Authors: Zuri Day
As she neared the end of the third set of ten lifts, thoughts of Night’s butt had been replaced by those of the pain in her muscles. She wondered if she’d ever used these particular butt and leg muscles before.
“…nine, ten. Okay, good. Turn over.”
“Ooh,” D’Andra said as she sat up. “That hurt.”
“No pain, no gain, doll,” Night answered, even after he reached down and kneaded D’Andra’s lower legs. He resisted kneading the other area he guessed was hurting.
“Come on, let’s work those quads.”
They did three sets of leg lifts on D’Andra’s quads, followed by sets on a leg sled, inner/outer thigh machine and lat, for her arms. By the time they got to D’Andra’s stomach, one of the areas she wanted most to firm up, she was exhausted.
“Night, I’m tired. I don’t know if I can do the rest.”
know you can do it. Now let’s go. Get down there and give me twenty sit ups.”
“Twenty?! At the gym I only did ten.”
“Yeah, but that was two days ago. Let’s push it.”
“No,” D’Andra answered softly.
“No, what do you mean no? You are remembering to do these every day, right?”
“What do you mean you forgot?”
The truth of the matter was after getting laughed at by her mother, sister and her sister’s kids when she tried sit-ups at home, D’Andra abandoned the effort. She knew their mocking was no excuse and that she could have gone to the gym, but she’d chickened out.
“Look, let’s get something straight right now, D’Andra. My normal personal training sessions are a hundred dollars an hour, minimum. My time is too precious to waste on someone who isn’t serious about what I’m doing. This isn’t extracurricular for me; this is my job.”
Night was normally cool under pressure but being fit was the one area where he didn’t mess around. Though his voice was soft, his seriousness was unmistakable.
“I offered my services to you because you seemed to have the determination needed to make real change in your life. If I was wrong about that, let’s stop this right here, right now. I’m putting one hundred and ten percent into your workout; I expect no less from you. Now give me twenty, let’s go!”
Night’s chiding caught D’Andra unexpectedly and immediately pissed her off. Who was he to have expectations of what she should and shouldn’t do? And who was he to talk to her like that? She took it from her family, and she’d taken it from Charles. This fool didn’t even know her. She couldn’t get off the floor fast enough.
“Look, nobody asked you to take your precious time to teach me anything! I was minding my own business when you stepped up to
at the gym.” She snatched her towel and water bottle off the nearby bench press, brushed past him and headed toward the steps.
“Damn, that’s as fast as you’ve moved all day,” Night said from his position behind her. “Looks like you’ve had plenty practice running away.”
D’Andra kept moving.
I don’t need this asshole trying to get in my business! He doesn’t even know me!
She rushed up the steps and to his front door and slammed it behind her. She was almost to her car before she realized she’d left her keys on the coffee table in the living room.
“Damn,” D’Andra said, busted.
What am I going to do now?
She had an extra car key but it was on top of her dresser at home. She would have taken a cab to go get it rather than look at Night’s face again tonight but her purse was locked in her trunk.
She crossed her arms in a huff and leaned against the car. “Come on out with my keys and the smirk on your face,” she said to Night’s closed front door.
He’d come up the steps behind her and couldn’t possibly have missed seeing her large key ring with a rubber Betty Boop decked in fluorescent yellow, pink and green. D’Andra stomped her feet even as she consciously kept her breathing slow. “This fool ain’t worth my pressure rising,” she warned herself.
D’Andra checked her watch, waited a couple minutes, and then checked it again. She looked up and down the street for who knew what, and then inside her car, as if the keys would magically appear in the ignition. Even if they did, her car was locked. As chagrined as she was, there was no delaying the inevitable. She had no choice but to add an encore to her dramatic exit. She had to go back and get her keys.
“I knew you had too much heart to stay away,” Night said with a smile as he opened the door. “I’m going to add ten more minutes to your workout though since your heart rate has probably slowed some.” He paused when she made no move to enter the house. “Then again, maybe not.”
“I left my keys on your coffee table.”
“Oh, and you think I’m going to give them to you before you finish your workout.”
“I’m through working out; at least with you. Look Night, this was obviously a bad idea. I’m too lazy for your workout and too old for games.”
“Who said you were lazy?”
“If you’ll just get me my keys, please, I’ll make sure not to take up any more of your
Night made no move to get her keys or move away from the door so she could get them. Instead, he incensed her further by leaning casually against his door frame and casting his famous megawatt smile.
“I’m not going to let you quit on me.”
“Give me my keys, Night.”
“Give me ten minutes.”
“Look, I’m not playing; give me my damn keys or I’ll call the police.”
“And I’ll tell them I don’t know who you are or what you’re talking about; not until you give me ten.”
“Ooh, I can’t believe this,” D’Andra yelled. Now she was mad for real. “What business is it of yours if I work out or not?”
“You made it my business when you agreed to let me be your personal trainer. I’ve started this job and I’m going to finish it. Good health should be a habit, not a hobby!”
“Look, Mister Know-It-All, you’re not the only one who’s trying to be healthy. I’ve decided to get in shape and I’m going to do it. I don’t need you preaching to me, and I don’t need you to reach my goals. I know you wish you’d been able to save your aunt but she’s dead and gone; helping me won’t bring her back!”
Anybody watching would have sworn that time stood still in this moment. The pain that slowly made its way across Night’s face was palpable enough to touch. He slowly backed away from the door, turned his back and waited for her to get her keys and leave.
D’Andra wished the floor could have swallowed her up. She regretted the words before they were fully out of her mouth. But it was too late to change them and too late to take them back. She rushed up behind him.
“Night, I’m so sorry; I didn’t mean that. Night?” she said, placing a hand on his shoulder.
He reacted as if her flesh was fire. “Get your shit and get out.”
“Night, please, I’m really, really sorry. That was way out of line and I…I don’t know what possessed me to say something so mean.”
Before she knew it months of pain, encased in tears, began spilling out all over Night’s hardwood floor.
“I’m not trying to excuse what I said, Night, but I am truly sorry. I should be the last person in the world to say something to hurt somebody else. Words have been used against me all my life.”
Night was as still as a statue. D’Andra figured that as long as he wasn’t talking he wasn’t kicking her out. She went on in a voice barely above a whisper.
“I’m more like your aunt than I want to admit. A couple weeks ago, I, well, I ended up in the emergency room at MLK Medical. I’ve had Type II diabetes for almost two years now and some family drama’s been going down that caused my blood pressure to shoot sky high. It was borderline high anyway…guess it didn’t take much to send my numbers into the stratosphere.”
Night’s only movement was to cross his arms, his back still toward her. He didn’t say a word.
D’Andra slowly walked over and retrieved her keys, then over to the front door. But she couldn’t leave, not without trying once more to make him understand her pain.
“That’s not the half of it though, the reason for my anger. My ex-boyfriend was a real asshole, Night—”
“I’m not your ex-boyfriend. I thought we were becoming
.” He finally turned to face her.
“We are, at least I hope we still are after the horrible way I’ve acted. But I took all kinds of crazy shit from him and now I’m taking it from my family and I guess your snapping at me…it just caught me wrong, that’s all. I know you don’t understand. I can imagine things have always gone well for you. You probably have no idea what it’s like to—”
“To what?” Night asked, fixing D’Andra with a penetrating stare. “To get pissed off? To be mistreated? To not be liked? To get dogged? You think you’ve cornered the market on feeling bad, D’Andra? You think when you cut me I don’t bleed?”
He fired these questions at her as he walked to within inches of her face.
D’Andra was at the door and couldn’t back up. For the first time since this argument started, she tried to lighten the mood.
“Come on, Night, you can probably count the times on one hand that someone’s treated you badly. I mean, look at you. You probably can get almost anything you want.”
Night looked at D’Andra for what seemed an endless moment. She wanted to flee but couldn’t, frozen as much by his probing gaze as by the door’s proximity. Suddenly she was aware of everything about him: the heat that seemed to radiate from his body, the curl of his thick lashes, the small dimple on the left side of his mouth, the beginnings of a five o’clock shadow on his chin. She licked her lips subconsciously, barely daring to breathe.
Night followed the flick of D’Andra’s tongue as it moistened her generous lips. He took in the subtle floral scent from her clothes that threatened to intoxicate him, the dilated pupils surrounded by hazel irises, the soft glow of sweat that still clung to her neck and down her generous cleavage, the slow rise and fall of her breasts as she awaited his response.
“Anything I want, huh?” he asked breathlessly.
D’Andra nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
“Well then get down those stairs and give me twenty
ten extra minutes.” He moved in closer still, his hard chest grazing her chest. “Let’s go!” he said softly, daring her to not obey his command.
For the next ten minutes, the only words spoken were Night’s resolute directives:
push, tighter, higher, one more
. D’Andra’s only sound was moderate and sometimes heavy breathing as she did sit-ups, squats and work with straps and an exercise ball. She was determined to finish the workout if it killed her; even as the reason for her doing so was because she wanted to live.
Finally he indicated they were ready for the cool down. “I knew you could do it,” he said, his first gentle verbiage. “It may sound like I’m being hard on you but it’s not personal I assure you; it’s all for your good.”
“I know,” D’Andra said.
Night directed her to the mat on the other side of the room. “We’re going to cool down with light stretches. Remember stretching after the workout is as important as stretching before. You want to keep your muscles long and supple; make your body line fluid and tight. He joined her on the floor, his legs in a v-shape in front of him.
“Spread your legs as wide as you can and grab my hands,” he instructed.
“Your legs are so long.” D’Andra became self-conscious again as she worked to widen her legs that refused to spread. “That’s as far as I can stretch them.”
Night placed a foot just inside each of her knees, leaned forward, grabbed her hands and began to push gently. “Trust me, D’Andra; I’m not going to push you too hard.” He applied slightly more pressure. D’Andra’s legs parted another inch on each side.
“Ooh, Night, that hurts.”
“Hurts so good, doesn’t it?”
“So tell me about this ex that had you biting my head off.” He spoke conversationally as he continued to coax her legs farther apart.
“There’s nothing to tell. He cheated on me with another woman and is out of my life. I’m better off without him.”
“Good job,” Night said. “No, you stay down, and lie back. I’m going to finish stretching you.” Night took D’Andra’s leg and pressed it gently up and over her head. “What was so bad about him?”
“Everything. I really don’t want to talk about him. I’m trying to put the past behind me, focus on myself. It’s all about me right now.”
Night chuckled. “I hear ya.”
“Yeah, I bet you do.” D’Andra’s words were tempered by a smile.
“Oh, so it’s like that; you think I’m one of those conceited, self-centered jocks with a BlackBerry full of numbers and ice running in my veins.”
They both laughed at that one; D’Andra didn’t really believe it even though with his looks it could be totally true.
“Well, Ms. Smalls, once again, you’d be wrong.” He switched to the other leg and continued stretching her muscles. “Like you, I’m trying to focus. It’s all about me right now; me and opening my gym.”
D’Andra knew she shouldn’t venture down intimate avenue but couldn’t resist. “Well, I know your woman is in your corner. She must be very proud of you.”
Night smiled at D’Andra’s obvious probe. “Yeah, my woman is very proud of me.”
D’Andra didn’t know why the information bothered her. She knew he had somebody, probably several somebodies.
“That’s good,” she said, and tried to sound like she meant it.
Night reached for D’Andra’s hand and helped her up. “But mothers are like that when it comes to their sons…proud.”
A thrill shot through her heart as she hid a smile.
Am I to believe this man is unattached?
She immediately berated herself for the thought and the feeling. Who he had was none of her business. If she wasn’t careful, her muscles weren’t the only ache he’d leave her with.
“Make sure to take a hot shower when you get home; even better if you can soak in a Jacuzzi,” Night said, as they made their second, and much more peaceful, ascent up the stairs. “Good work today.”