She erupts into the Gent’s toilet pushing past me. The door ricochets off the wall and I hear the sound of Vicki emptying the contents of her stomach down the toilet bowl behind a partition.
“Morning sickness,” she mumbles, as she swills out her mouth with water, spitting into the basin. “The Gent’s was closer.”
She gives me an appraising stare, the kind reserved for over-ripe mangoes by canny shoppers in a supermarket. “Can you do me a favour?” She takes my silence for compliance and thrusts a whistle into my hand.
“Aqua aerobics class starts in five minutes.” She bolts back to the toilet to resume retching.
I am a weight trainer. Aqua aerobics is another planet, but I drag up the theory from my college course. I exchange the quiet grace of stretching arm muscles with weights, for a whistle, water and a dozen elderly ladies bobbing up and down like performing seals.
I stand on the edge of the pool, demonstrating moves, identifying the muscles we are working and describing what we should be feeling. The light reflected from the pool plays on my triceps. I throw out encouragement, “Well done!” and “Keep it up!” like fish thrown out of a bucket as a reward for their efforts. I think the ladies are missing Vicki. They seem distracted and I wonder if I am pushing them too hard.
* * * * * *
It is three weeks later. Vicky is still throwing up, and I am still covering her aqua aerobic classes. I question the wisdom of the management as many of my original ladies no longer attend. Maisie is in hospital with a suspected heart attack. I feel responsible. The ladies that attend the class are a much younger generation. I am not sure that what they wear could be classed as suitable. Waterproof mascara lives up to its claims.
“You have a very impressive overflow,” the receptionist informs me. It takes a while to realise that she is not talking about my anatomy, but the list of reserves for the aerobic class. “In fact, Anthony is thinking about an extra class on Wednesdays.” She reaches beneath the counter and deposits a bottle of baby oil an inch from my hand. “You might want to…”
“Pass it on to Vicky for when the baby arrives?” I supply the best ending I can come up with.
“It’s for you, silly. If you need help, I could lend a hand.” She looks at me, batting her eyelashes. “Anthony says we need to exploit the market.”
I am beginning to think that it’s more than the market that’s being exploited. Her hand disappears beneath the counter a second time, this time revealing a ridiculously small flash of material that claims to be swimming trunks. There’s barely enough there to cover my glutes.
“Oh, and here’s your mail,” she reaches behind to the pigeon holes. Usually, this system of communication remains unused, but one hole is bulging with scraps of paper, and pale pastel shades of envelopes. There is a hint of fragrance as a flimsy item of underwear flutters to the counter top. My pigeon hole is now empty.
A ripple of whispers undulates across the room. A giggle of girls is clustered at the serving counter of the café. Bold stares and arched eyebrows follow my progress as I make my escape into the Gent’s toilet.
* * * * * *
It is six weeks later. The Wednesday class is apparently very successful. The swimming trunks are not very comfortable and I think I am allergic to baby oil.
“I have a plan…a foolproof way to get them all off your back.” Jeremy is one of the cleaners. I mentally devise a weight lifting plan to improve his abs. I am hiding in the cleaning cupboard, avoiding people. He says nothing but winks at me.
I am standing at reception, leafing through my mail, when Jeremy deigns to share his plan with me. I doubt there could be more people milling around when he strokes me on the cheek, and plants a long intimate kiss on my lips.
“See you at home later, lover boy.”
* * * * * *
It is ten weeks later. Jeremy’s plan almost worked. The Wednesday aqua aerobics class continues to thrive. I still stand by the edge of the pool working my muscles. There are no women over fifty anymore. There are no women under fifty either. It would appear that aqua aerobics has taken off with the young male population.
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