“Had to go to work. See you Friday. M”
Fran shook her head and read the note again.
In the last 48 hours, they had had a quickie blowjob at a wedding reception, she had had a mega-meltdown, and they had had easily the most intense marathon of sex in her life. And she could have sworn there was something growing between them, some kind of connection, some change. And now this? He had to go to work and she’d see him Friday?
What?! What happened to “How will I get enough of you?” What happened to the dark whispering and the urgent, gentle hands?
Fran strapped herself into her most supportive sports bra, tugged on her shoes, and started running. She had to go to work too, and she had a training schedule to keep, and she had a life and a career to manage. Fuck all the men. All the boys.
Mick was unfailingly there for her. He supported her, pushed her to work hard, inspired her. And when she was running on empty or when the landmines wouldn’t stop, he stayed with her until she could go on her own again. Hadn’t he, after their first marathon – her first marathon – walked her, limping, to a tent, gotten her a mylar blanket, and kept her walking? When she couldn’t stop crying and she couldn’t stop laughing, hadn’t he forced water into her, bit by bit, he made her stretch, though she cried and laughed the whole time? Fran remembered the way his arms had slid over her sweaty skin. Remembered how his eyes had met hers, how they had shone on her.
Her heart stopped as the thought of it, and suddenly she couldn’t breathe. She stopped dead in the middle of the bike path, put her head between her knees, and wrapped her arms over her head.
“Are you okay?”
She felt a small hand on her back. She was standing with her head between her knees and realized with a jolt that she must look nuts. She stood up too fast, so that her head rushed dizzyingly, and she saw a woman with a dachshund on a leash looking at her with concern. Fran said, “Yes I’m fine, I think I’m just having an epiphany. It happens sometimes – a little like low blood sugar.Thanks for asking.”
“Okay, if you’re -” The woman’s face changed suddenly and she said, “Are you Francine Dolan? Oh my gosh, I heard you lived around here! Your book changed my life!”
Fran burst out laughing, on the edge of tears. (Why did the two so often go together?) Could the timing be more perfect? Could the gratitude and joy in this woman’s eyes be a better mirror of her own feelings for Mick? “Oh, can I hug you?” she said.
“Well sure!” the woman looked bemused but opened her arms.
“You have made my day!” Fran told her, giving the woman a warm squeeze and then stepped back. “Tell me your name, dog walker who made my day.”
“Janet Morris – and this is Paulie.” Paulie was sniffing in the grass.
“Well, Janet Morris and Paulie. I am having a complicated day, to put it mildly, and you have just made it much, much simpler. Here’s what you should do: when you get home email me – do you know my blog?”
“Go to the blog and email me your contact info and I’ll send you a signed copy of the book. Would you like that?”
“That would be amazing! Oh I can’t wait to tell people. Oh that would be so great!” Janet continued along this vein for some little time, inserting important tidbits about her own battle against the cultural thin ideal. Fran listened with deep compassion until the woman had run down.
“Listen, Janet, I have to finish my run. But don’t forget to email me!”
“I won’t! Oh, thank you Francine!”
Fran turned on the path and made her way back the way she came, feeling new in her heart. Because she owed Mick this, too, she remembered now. That noisy, hard-fought win, that screaming, oddball finish of their marathon, had gotten her her first media attention. And from that moment, she wasn’t just Frannie the fat chick personal trainer, she was fancy, famous Francine Dolan, plus size fitness guru, advocate for fat chicks everywhere, and future cover girl.
But more than that – much, much more. That hard-fought win had been the last she had heard of the noise in the box. There had been no more landmines. Until Charles.
And it was thanks to Mick. As she ran, Fran meditated, quieting her mind and to summon little box where she kept the noise, the landmines.
It was gone.
Gone. Not shut tight, just… gone. Utterly.
“Oh my god,” she panted.
Because she knew now. She was in love with him. She’d been in love with him from the day of that first marathon when he had coaxed her and supported her and eased her though the aftercare of the run.
All this time.
In an instant, five years of loving hit her like a fist.
Five years, and she’d never realized – never even considered it as a possibility. And she had felt self-righteous about showing Charles he was hung up on Sarah. The irony smacked her like a skillet on the back of the head.
She’d been adrift in a lifeboat for five years, paddling toward shore, and her best hope for rescue had been sitting right next to her the whole time.
Unfortunately, her shipmate appeared to have gone overboard this morning.
Well. She’d just have to drag him back on board somehow.