As agreed, that weekend Katy and I went on that shopping trip. Never having done this with anyone but my mother, I was pleasantly surprised—Katy had a great eye for colors and she was fun to talk to. Of course, the conversation turned to my brother.
“So, Gerald is really planning to become a reporter, huh?” she asked.
“He does. I’ve seen his writing and it’s pretty good,” I replied.
“Oh, me too! Have you seen that sports anthology he’s been preparing? Something about the best home runs in history of baseball. The local newspapers would be idiots to pass him up!” the younger girl enthused. One could tell she was head over heels for my brother.
“I’ve seen it, yeah. He really pays attention to all the details. I think he’s already sent in examples of his writing to several newspapers around town,” I recalled. Gerald was very proactive about getting hired to a place where he would be appreciated.
“So, what do you think about this one?” Katy pointed out a leopard print skirt on a nearby rack.
“It’s cute, but I don’t think I could pull it off. You should totally try it though,” I urged her. A skirt of that shape was clearly for someone with more curves than I possessed.
“What about this shirt? It really goes with your eye color,” Katie offered.
“Hmm, I think this could work,” I agreed. It was so strange, having a girls’ day out like this. Not in a bad way, though.
Katy and I ended up spending hours at the stores. I wasn’t originally planning to buy much, but Katy really had a great taste in fashion and ended up not only talking me into buying several amazing shirts, but also causing me to buy a club dress that I would never have considered for myself previously. She ratified this by saying “You never know when you’ll need to go to a fancy party.”
Hours later, tired out from walking and hungry, we took a break at the local bistro.
“Whew, that was fun, we should do this more often,” Katy was still energetic despite having spent the same amount of time browsing stores with me! The girl sure had energy.
“I know, right? I’ve realized I’ve been coming of as standoffish to a lot of people, including you, and for that I apologize,” I admitted.
“Oh, don’t be! We know you’re more comfortable by yourself. Or with your boyfriend. How are things going with him, by the way?” she was curious.
“Pretty good. He’s asked me to move in with him and I’m probably going to do it. Gerald said he’s planning to stay at our house after graduation, so I don’t have to worry about our parents being alone after I move out,” I informed her.
“Oh, that’s nice. Your parents are pretty great. They’ve always treated me like a daughter, especially since Maya died. I’ve really appreciated it,” she smiled fondly.
“Yeah, there was no way Mom wouldn’t have gotten along with Maya’s kid. I think she’s been hoping ever since Maya adopted you that you and Gerald would get together. And you did!” We both giggled at the thought.
“So, are you and Micah planning to move any further than just moving in together?” Katy returned to the topic at hand.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you know. Rings, veils, flowers… Are you two planning to tie the knot?” she clarified.
“Oh, that. Well, we haven’t talked about it yet, to be honest. I don’t know if either of us is really ready for marriage yet,” I admitted.
“But you love each other. I mean, I saw how he looks at you,” she explained. “I think a proposal from him isn’t too far in the future.”
“Maybe, it’s going to be pretty crazy soon, though,” I shook my head. “His band is about to go on tours soon. And you know how it is; they’ll be going from city to city, performing. Sounds fun, but it’s super hectic and you barely have time to eat and sleep. I don’t know if we’ll have much communication at all when that happens.”
“That bothers you doesn’t it?” Katy understood.
“Yeah, somewhat. I mean, we’ll end up apart for months. I thought I’d be ok with it, but I’m really not. I guess I just have a jealous streak in me and the idea of him surrounded by all the fangirls makes me go crazy!” I admitted to both of us.
“Hey, it’s only understandable. Rock bands and their musicians sort of have a reputation,” she understood. “And Micah is a good-looking guy. But I don’t think he’d throw away what you two have for some groupie.”
“It’s good to hear that. I mean, I don’t think Mom ever had the same situation—she and Dad never had eyes for anyone else, but then neither of them had a reputation like Micah’s. Maybe I am being a bit overdramatic, though. Gerald tells me I have a tendency to focus on the negative sides of everything. I guess that’s also something I have to work on,” I realized.
“Or maybe you and Micah just need to talk about this situation. I mean, he’s in town, you’re in town. Better get the difficult parts out of the way and enjoy life,” Katy suggested.
She had a point. It was a good idea to admit to Micah how I felt about this. I wondered how he’ll react though. I didn’t want him to think that I didn’t support his dream. I did. I just had issues with some aspects of it, that’s all.
A movement outside the café caught my eye. It was a young man of about my age. I wasn’t sure why he caught my attention. Sure, he was definitely on the attractive side, but so were a lot of other people. Something about his expression just really drew me to him, and if he didn’t get into a cab and leave the very next moment, I probably would have gone over and introduced myself.
What’s wrong with you, Irene, I caught myself. That is completely unlike you. And remember, you have a boyfriend who you love very much. Seriously, what was wrong with me? This whole worry over the tour was getting to my brain.
“Everything alright?” Katy brought me back from my thoughts.
“Yeah, sorry, I drifted off, it happens to me sometimes. Anyway, what were we talking about? Oh yes, my relationship. I think I will talk with Micah about the things bothering me. You’re right, this isn’t something I need to be facing alone,” I assured her.
“That’s good. I wish you two luck. Well, this is my time to go. I’m supposed to be helping out at school in an hour. See you, soon Irene,” she took her leave and I was left outside the café wondering how to tell my boyfriend the decent way that I was freaking out about his upcoming tour.
Well, there was no time like today! We had a date this evening and I would try to bring up the conversation. This whole tour thing was really bothering me and I wanted, no needed Micah to reassure me that everything will be alright.
When I got to his house that evening, I have mentally built myself up for the tough conversation. I hated seeming like the clingy insecure girlfriend, but my relationship could not last if I let an issue like worry tear me up from the inside and turn me into a neurotic nightmare. Both Micah and I deserved better.
Of course, the plan for a serious conversation went out the window when I realized that Micah was leaving.
“Hey, I thought tonight was date night!” I asked.
He scowled “It was supposed to be, yeah. I’m so sorry, but our keyboard guy has just announced that he got his girlfriend pregnant and they are moving halfway across the country to be closer to his family. We’re supposed to go on tour in two months! Did he think to warn us beforehand? No! Did he think to find a replacement? Also no! So, guess what I’m likely to spend the entire next week doing?”
“Gosh, I’m so sorry,” I realized how much of an emergency this was for their band. Our conversation could wait. “You guys now have to find a decent pianist within, how long?”
“You’re the best, Irene,” he hugged me close. “Yeah, we’re on a deadline. I only hope there is someone decent enough in town to agree to play with us and go on tour in that short time. I promise I will make up date night to you, though,” he smiled wickedly and was on his way.
“Good luck!” I called after him.
Well, that left my evening surprisingly free. I honestly wasn’t sure what to do with myself—my parents and Gerald knew I was supposed to be on a date, I had no work from the office to look over, and I didn’t really have many other hobbies at the moment.
Ring, ring! My phone went off with an unfamiliar phone number. Somewhat suspicious, I answered, hoping this wasn’t another annoying telemarketer. “Who is this?”
“Girl! Don’t you recognize me? It’s me, Lana!” my coworker’s chipper voice rang in my handset.
“Oh, hi! I didn’t realize you had my number.” I generally didn’t give out my number to coworkers.
“Oh, I have all my coworkers’ numbers,” she chimed back. “Are you busy tonight?”
“No, not really.” This could be work-related and I was always up for whatever could get me closer to the top.
“Great, let’s hang out! Meet me at the gym!” She hung up before I could refuse. I never went to the gym. While I did like sports when I was younger, that was always more Gerald’s thing. He could spend hours exercising. I preferred less physically straining activities.
I almost called her back to say I couldn’t go. Almost. But then I remembered my reflection on how I didn’t really socialize with anyone at the office. I should go. After all, Lana was literally the friendliest person in our office and she would literally do most of the talking for me. I would just have to be present.
Meeting Lana at the gym, I was surprised at how prepared for a work-out she was. Wearing proper athletic attire and carrying a large water bottle and a towel, Lana looked like someone who spent hours at the gym. Suddenly, I felt, unprepared.
“Hey, where are your work-out clothes?” Lana asked surprised.
“Umm, I actually don’t really have any. I wasn’t home when you called,” I admitted sheepishly.
“That’s alright, you can borrow some of mine, or by something at the gym’s store, whichever you prefer,” she assured me. “But work out, we will!”
After I ended up buying some sporty clothes at the gym’s store (borrowing Lana’s just didn’t feel right), we ended up heading upstairs, where Lana shocked me by getting settled in on a weight machine that still had a few plates attached. I never imagined that my flirty feminine coworker could bench press such a weight. It was truly impressive.
“What are you waiting for?” she called. “Join in, this neighboring machine is available!”
I sat down on the machine, unsure where to start. I never have gone to a gym before! I didn’t know any proper work-out equipment safety regulations!
Clearly my confusion showed and Lana ended up explaining everything to me. She informed me not to lift too much since I was a beginner, to keep my breathing regular and steady, and to make sure I wasn’t pushing myself to exhaustion. “That way lie awful muscle cramps and joint pain; you won’t be able to move come Monday!”
“You’ve been working out regularly, I take it?” I asked. I was now sincerely curious: my coworker’s gym habit was totally not how I pictured her previously.
“Oh, yes! Ever since my ex unceremoniously dumped me for some chick very big boobs and the uncanny ability to hang on to his every word. He was a real jerk too, always said that women can’t do anything right. I only stayed with him as long as I did because he was my first serious boyfriend. I have to admit though, breaking up with me was the best thing he’s ever done for me. I can now bench press 70 pounds,” she finished smugly.
“That’s really impressive,” I admired. “How come you invited me over though? I definitely don’t look sporty at all.” It was true I was pretty skinny, but had absolutely no muscle and definitely did not have much athletic prowess.
“Oh, I know! I just thought you seemed stressed out and what is better stress relief than a good work-out? It’s done me heaps of good! And it’s healthy,” she reasoned. “Besides, I needed a gym buddy. My friend Jenna used to come with me, but she’s moving to another town this week and my current boyfriend is not at all into sports. Besides, we can have girl talk.”
“True enough,” I agreed. Well, here was my chance to be more sociable with people. “I was supposed to have date night with Micah, but he’s having an emergency band meeting since their keyboard player and his girlfriend are moving without any warning and they’re trying to find a new musician.”
“Oh, goodness gracious!” Lana laughed. “That must be my Jenna and her boy toy. Yep, he got her knocked up and her family is really traditional, so they’re moving to be closer with his relatives, who are much more chill. I agree, their timing wasn’t the best—her design firm director nearly lost his marbles when she announced out of the blue that she was leaving!”
“Wow, that’s a lot of drama for their respective workplaces and families!” I laughed as much as the exercise allowed me. “At least they’ve really got each other’s backs, it seems.”
“That they do,” agreed Lana. “Well, time for cardio.”
“Oh, the exercise isn’t over?” I half-heartedly asked.
“Not just yet, hun.” She led the way downstairs to a room that was likely used for dance practice and turning on the music, started out the muscle exercises. I tried my best to follow her lead.
“This is easier,” she explained. “Usually you need to stretch before and after a workout. But this will do for today, since it’s your first time.”
After a successful workout that left me completely juiced, Lana allowed us a break before heading home.
“You know, I never realized I would find this so satisfying,” I admitted. “You were right, I’m tired and my whole body is aching, but I feel like I’m getting stronger.”
“Told you so. It really helps stay energetic throughout the day. Oh, and don’t forget to drink plenty, that’s another thing I forgot to mention,” Lana pointed out.
“I’m really sorry. For being so unfriendly before, at work,” I apologized. “I’ve been somewhat ignoring the people at the office.”
“No big. I can tell you always have a lot on your mind,” she smiled. “You always look like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. It’s ok to give yourself a breather every once in a while. Exercise helps. Good friends help even more.”
“I’d like that. Us being friends, that is,” I smiled back. I never thought I’d say it, but Lana really seemed like a great person. Maybe if I wasn’t so caught up in my own personal bubble, I would have noticed that.
“Well, that sounds swell. To friendship,” she imitated toasting with her water bottle.
After she left the gym, I headed home myself. I needed a good shower and a soft bed, but despite being completely exhausted, I’ve realized that I didn’t feel so stressed out about my work or about my relationship. I would definitely be going back to the gym, with Lana or by myself, from now on.
Soon, it was time for Gerald’s birthday. Unfortunately, Katy couldn’t make it due to bad timing with her school appointments, but other friends made it. I even made sure to invite my two coworkers, Lana and Tia, who have also been pretty friendly at work. I mean, it can’t hurt to befriend people, right?
Micah showed up in a much better mood than I expected.
“You look chipper,” I pointed out as the guests were on their way.
“I sure am,” he smiled, pulling me into a kiss, “Would you believe it, we found a replacement in less than a week?”
“Wow, that’s great. Does that mean the tour is still on?” I asked, not sure how to feel about the whole thing.
“The tour is still on! And our new bandmate is actually better than Lance was! If anything, this whole situation has worked out great for the band!” Micah went on excitedly.
“Well, that’s great!” I agreed, half-heartedly. “I guess there’s no good without the bad.”
“That,” Micah nodded. “So, I guess I’ll see you soon? Date night is still on, especially now that I don’t have to worry about the band failing.”
“Date night is still on!” I agreed.
After he left, I slumped in my bed. I just couldn’t tell him I had worries about his upcoming tour. Not when he was so excited for it! I guess I’ll just have to soldier through his trip without losing my mind. And, after all, we’ve been a couple for years now. This was Micah. Yes, he was flirty as hell, but he wouldn’t just throw away what we had for some groupie—it wasn’t like he hadn’t had enough temptation even here in Hidden Springs, yet he was always loyal. This was baseless jealousy on my part and I had to kick it to the curb once and for all.