When she awoke, Fran stretch luxuriously in her bed, her muscles easy and energized.
And then she thought, “Woops.”
Opening her eyes for a surreptitious glance at the far side of the bed, she affirmed that she was alone. Phew. She had hauled herself half-asleep to her bed while Mick did the dishes, and he had apparently taken that as a hint.
Well, so her best friend made her come on her couch, while “It Happened One Night” played in the background. So it was a blinding, massive orgasm that blotted Charles entirely from her battered mind. Maybe that was what she needed. Maybe a little non-Charles sex was just the ticket.
Maybe she should do it again. Or anyway, do something.
She groped for her phone on the nightstand, then carried it to the bathroom to pee while she checked her email. One from Mick, sent just after 10 – right when he got home, probably.
just checking in. hope you slept ok. hope the thing that happened was ok. hope charles dies in a fire. m
Slept like a post-orgasmic log. The thing that happened was completely great and don’t worry I’m not pregnant. Charles still alive, to the best of my knowledge, but, absent any fire retardant coating, still prone to ignition and you never know your luck.
PS – Race tomorrow?
Coffee, the news, and her weekly tidy-up, along with a fair bit of aimless puttering, filled the rest of the morning. But mostly she was thinking about Charles. Charles and how he didn’t love her. Charles and how he didn’t know what he wanted. Charles and how he couldn’t let go of Sarah, when it was obvious that Sarah would never love him, would never appreciate him, would never deserve him. Charles who was too stupid to want what would make him happy, what was right in front of him!
Fran oscillated from sadness to rage and back again, mourning him and hating him and loving him all at the same time, certain that if she could just think of the right words, the light would come on in his confused little head and at last he’d see the world as it really is.
But the worst of it wasn’t Charles. The worst of it was the landmines, the sudden explosions of noise in her head that howled at her. FAT. BITCH. She hadn’t heard that for years. In her radical commitment to health and self-esteem, she had successfully locked that particular noise into a small box in an unlit corner of her mind, and there it had sat, silent. Until now.
She wanted to go for a run. She always felt calmer at the far end of a 5k. But it was a rest day; if she ran today, Mick would blast her tomorrow and no amount of Charles-related bullshit justified sabotaging the race. So instead she did core exercises on the living room floor until her abdominal muscles burned and she could barely lift herself off the floor. She lay, panting and sweating and aching, and finally she burst into tears, and that hurt her abs too. But at least it was pain she knew how to treat, pain that would heal and make her stronger.
She rolled to her side and waited for the wave of sadness to pass. In 15 months of dating Charles, she had learned that the sadness always passed. She always survived it. She always would. But it left behind a wound of self-doubt that had been building up in her heart, and now a deep bruise had formed, persistent and painful and all too familiar, and only now was she realizing how deep it went. So deep, it reached all the way back to the box. And unlatched it.
Hadn’t seven years as a professional athlete, as the most successful personal trainer in the state, as a bestselling author and sought-after expert on health at every size, hadn’t all of that made her immune to this kind of burning, crushing insecurity?
Fran dragged herself from the floor, shuffled to the bathroom, and started a bath. While the tub filled, she went to the bedroom to strip. She dropped her pajamas in the laundry basket, and then stopped to look at herself in the mirror.
She remembered when she couldn’t do this, even this simple thing. Look at herself naked. She looked now and thought, “I’m beautiful.” And she believed it. She knew it. Every curve, every fold, and every roll was beautiful. She was healthier than she’d ever been in her life. At 32 (her age matched her BMI, she realized), she ran an 8 minute mile, she could bench over 200 and deadlift almost 400, and she had abdominal tone that her caused her gynecologist to say in surprise, “You’ve got a deceptive frame.” Yes, doc, deceptively enough, fat chicks have muscles. Did they not teach you that in med school?
By every measure, she was healthy. Even her body fat percentage, her waist to hip ratio, and her sagittal abdominal girth, were all healthy by any evidence-based standard – not the bullshit, pharmaceutical industry-driven standard, but the science-based standards. Health is beauty, she reminded herself. It was the title of her goddamn book and the essence of her message for the world, of her life’s mission.
So how could it be that 15 months of Charles failing to love her could make her feel worthless again?
Easy. Blood chemistry and resting heart rate and pace-per-mile over a marathon were not what her mother had taught her, early and well, would get her a man who stayed. A woman deserved love when she was pretty and sweet and thin and nice. Pretty and sweet and thin and nice.
No, screw that! He hadn’t failed to fall in love with her because she was fat and blunt and stubborn (persistent, she corrected herself automatically). He failed to fall in love with her because he was an asshole. A stupid jerkface asshole who… oh, hell with it.
She got in the tub and stayed there until her fingers shriveled. Three hours later, she had a plan.