Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 5
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Two
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Three
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 4
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 5
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 6
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 7
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 8
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 9
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 10
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 12
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 11
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 13
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 14
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 17
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 15
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 16
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 18
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 19
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 20
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 21
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 22
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disaster at Age 40: Part 23
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 24
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 25
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Epilogue
Recently divorced Anna Waite is learning to appreciate life after first love. With the support of her best friend Kira, and a solid sense of humor, Anna tackles the world of dating. This is her coming of middle-age-story.
THE (NON) DATE WHERE I FIND MY FLIRT
The treadmill pushes me at a steady pace. Athletic shoes cover my feet, and the right bra harnesses the sisters in place—such a difference from my first visit to the gym. Now, after six weeks of consistent exercise, I see improvements in myself. Clothes fit better, my lungs don’t feel like boiling lava resides in my chest cavity, and the scale says ten pounds have vanished. I’m so proud of myself.
Jason, the terrible dater but great trainer, hovers nearby. “You’re looking comfortable there, Anna.”
“Comfortable?”Sweat cascades from my armpits in hurricane intensity, villages of skin cells swept away in gushing rivers. I glance in the mirror to see my pumping arms and fire engine face. Clearly, Jason mistakes my hard work for the throes of relaxation. I downgrade his great trainer status to mediocre.
“Let’s kick up your pace.” He touches the display, pushing the plus button a few times.
The belt accelerates, and he nods, satisfied with his efforts. I want to throw something at him. Or throat punch him. But I concentrate on propelling my legs into an unsustainable speed. “Jason,” I shout.
“You can do it,” he calls over his shoulder as he walks away. “Remember, no rise, no prize.”
What does that even mean? Fumbling to grip the handrail with one hand, I reach for the treadmill’s screen with the other. My arm bounces, a fish out of water flopping uncontrollably as my body struggles to keep up. Several beeping noises emit from the panel, none of them the stop or reduce speed button. Finally, I manage to hit the incline, and the motor whirs, the platform shifting to make me run uphill.
An ache pierces my side, and my breath wheezes. Darkness edges the corners of my vision. I compose my epitaph, preparing for my demise: Anna Waite, death by treadmill. Killed by Jason Polanski, crap trainer.
The toe of my shoe touches off the belt, landing on the foot rail. I stutter step, and windmill my arms, trying to correct my slip. But the treadmill moves too fast, and I fall. My life flashes before my eyes, visions of bad dates and off-limit breads dance in my head. A rubberized floor mat takes the brunt of the impact, and my hip takes the rest. The motor continues to spin, the mechanical music of “rise to the prize” failure.
“Anna!” Jason hustles over, skirting the weight sets to check on my damaged hip. And knee. And ego.
Before he reaches me, strong hands come from behind to wrap under my arms, helping me stand. I can’t decide what embarrasses me more, plunging to the floor or the ocean of sweat soaking my shirt. Hard call. At least it’s a stranger. Turning to offer my thanks, the words stop on my tongue. I know this guy.
“Deltoid Dan,” I squeak and hug myself to hide my sopping armpits. Although he already dipped in to lift me up. Gross. Which makes my decision easier; definitely more embarrassed about the sweat.
“Are you okay?” His eyebrows scrunch, and concern etches the corners of his mouth. He also looks confused, and then it hits me. I called him Deltoid Dan. If there is some benevolent higher power, the “name” faux pas will never be mentioned again. Ever. And the most embarrassing part of my day will be Jason’s fault for trying to kill me using the running torture machine.
“She’s totally fine, right?” Jason appears, giving me a gentle nudge and pulling the emergency stop cord on the attempted murder weapon.
“I’m uh, yeah, it’s…fine.” I clutch my arms, fully committing to the self-hug-sweat-concealment. “I’m fine.” Other than calling him, Deltoid Dan. To his face.
“See, nothing to worry about.” Another nudge from Jason.
Dan keeps his eyes on me. “I’d like to take you back to the office. Get you cleaned up.”
“No need. I’m good.” My smile could power an electric grid. Please, everyone, leave me alone to wallow in embarrassment like a pro, in solitude where I re-live each treadmill falling, sweat soaked, wrong name calling moment, and cringe.
“You’re bleeding.” He points to my knee, and I glance down, noticing the raw, abraded skin seeping red.
“Oh,” I manage before he takes my elbow and tugs me along.
Leading the way, he ushers me to an office near the front. The neutral color scheme of the gym continues into this space, beiges and off whites combining in a tranquil blend. Framed sepia posters of exercise positions hang on the walls. A row of chairs line one side, a desk splits the middle, and a lone chair sits on the other side.
“Have a seat.” He pulls a chair from the wall, closer to the desk, and I sit.
Being in this space with Deltoid Dan is surreal. For weeks, I wondered if I exaggerated his attractiveness, recreating an unachievable ideal in the form of hunky man flesh. But seeing him again and talking together makes me think I underestimated his appeal. I admire his not-quite blue eyes. More like gray, the shade of a weighted sky in the seconds before a storm. Beautiful and dangerous. Or maybe they’re just blue, and I’m a forty-year-old divorcee ogling a guy out of my league.
What do I have to offer someone like Deltoid Dan? My plushy, mom figure? A worry pokes the back of my brain, an inescapable anxiety that I wasted my best years on the ex-hole. Middle-aged fatigue shows in the cracks of my crow’s feet. Skepticism drapes like a shawl over my shoulders. I’m too old and too tired to chase after dream guys.
He rummages through a desk drawer, his deltoids bunch, his biceps flex. Not that he’s overly muscular. It’s a perfect combination of fit mixed with the ability to make me forget my age.
“Do you bring everyone in here who falls off a treadmill?” I release my clenched arms and relax in the chair, surrendering to the sweat stains.
“Only those I meet in men’s locker rooms.” His lips quirk, and he pulls a first aid kit from the desk.
“You remember me,” I say with a triumphant grin.
“Yeah. Of course, I do.” He sits in a chair next to me and opens the kit. His touch glances at the side of my knee as he examines the injury. “Jason is off his game. He’s one of my best trainers and knows better than to bump up the speed like that.”
Too many things to unpack in those sentences. He, of course, remembers meeting me (In the men’s locker room, no less. He’s going to think I’m a total disaster). Jason is one of his trainers. And he didn’t bring me in here to say he fell instantly in love and wants to get married. Yet.
“So, you work here?”
“You could say that.” He watches me, his chin lifted high, a knowing gleam in his steel gaze. “I own the gym.”
“Wow.” I look around with new eyes, appreciating what he’s accomplished. “You’re the mysterious man behind the curtain.”
“I don’t know about mysterious.” His expression shifts into one I would describe as mischievous. “Though you should know my name isn’t Deltoid Dan.”
Covering my face, I slide lower in the chair. A groan rumbles from my mouth, and heat climbs the column of my throat to brand my cheeks. I peek at him between my fingers. “Any chance we can forget I said that?”
“Absolutely not.” He moves my hands, giving them a soft squeeze, and revealing my cringing face. Humor teases at his smirk, and he bites the corner of his bottom lip. “My name’s Dylan.”
“Deltoid Dylan…I was so close.”
He laughs, and Holy Picasso, his smile is a work of art. Turning his attention to the minuscule wound on my knee, he swabs it clean. We both lean in to watch, our foreheads nearly touching. His gentle fingers swipe, warmth emanating from the contact. The process is quick, over in a blink, but my pulse beats faster. And I have a boiling lava in my chest cavity feeling, despite not currently exercising. What is happening?
Sticking a large band-aid on my knee, he smooths the edges down with a tender caress. I’m focused on ignoring the tremble in my tummy (totally blaming the visions of off-limit breads) and realize I never checked for a wedding band. But he stands, tucking his hands in the pockets of his athletic shorts. Kira is going to kill me for forgetting.
I take a grounding breath and smile. “Guess I’ll live to fall off the treadmill another day.”
“No more treadmill accidents.” He grimaces, his jawline sharp enough to open a letter. And not the wimpy envelope kind, but the reinforced Amazon bubble-mailer kind. “Also, I should introduce myself. Officially. Dylan Pound, owner of Pound’s Gym.” He sticks out his right hand.
“Your last name is actually Pound? That makes having a gym your birthright.” I stand and take the proffered limb, reading his signals. Does he hold longer than necessary? Brush a thumb over my knuckles. Yes, and yes. “Anna Waite.”
Before releasing me, his left hand joins and cups my hand between his. No ring. I repeat, no ring. Houston, we do not have a problem. The seconds linger, our palms adhered. My tummy tumbles, cartwheeling like it got a job with Cirque du Soliel. In the time it takes to watch all fourteen seasons of Heartland and bake a perfect souffle, he pulls away, clearing his throat.
“If Pound makes gym ownership my birthright,” he says, his gray eyes drifting over my face. “Your last name makes you….”
“Worth the wait.” I wink and walk from the office—his laugh echoes at my retreating back.
The flirtation takes me by surprise. Who knew I had it in me? A different woman might wait around for the follow-up, push the banter to the next level. But I hustle out, acting super cool. Not allowing him to see the shade of blush written on my face.
Am I sassy? I feel sassy. My sashay carries an extra sway, my ponytail bobbing in time to these hips that don’t lie. Grabbing my water bottle from the treadmill, I head out the front doors with a smile on my face. Wasted my best years on Mike? I think not. My frame might carry a little extra fluff, and dye might hide a few extra grays, but I am a fabulous woman. Hear me roar. Or, you know, hear me flirt.
Once hidden in the privacy of my car, I call Kira. Her hello barely escapes before I talk. “I flirted. Legit hair flipping, girlish giggling, eyelash batting skill at play.”
“Who is this?” she asks from her end.
“Ha ha. You know who it is. Your amazing friend who just left a sexy man wanting more.” As I walk away, I still hear his laugh, picturing the masterpiece smile.
“Hold on.” Kira shuffles around, the phone rumbling. “You had a date? I thought you went to the gym.”
“I was at the gym. And so was Deltoid Dan, now known as Deltoid Dylan.”
She gasps, the phone dropping before she picks it up again. “Did you look for a wedding band?”
“Empty left ring finger. Not even a tan line.”
“Anna,” her voice contains the type of reverence reserved for church and really good pizza. “I’m so excited for what might happen next.”
Me too, my friend. Me too.
Photo by Edu Lauton via Unsplash. Edited by Debbie Hibbert