I received a free reading copy of this book and am voluntarily reading it.
Downstairs, I holler for George, and within a few seconds he emerges from his kitchen, looking somewhat bewildered.
“George! I need to borrow running shoes ASAP.”
“My shoes? You want to borrow my sh—”
“Yes, your shoes. Hurry up! Please!”
“Well, what in devils name has got into…”
“GEORGE! I have a job. I need to leave, please.”
He mumbles under his breath but disappears, thankfully, and materializes a moment later holding a hideous pair of worn, blue-and-white, no-name sneakers. I recoil at the thought of putting those even near my feet.
“Remember, beggars can’t be—”
“Yeah, yeah,” I snap, grabbing the ugly shoes and dashing outside to strap Rory into her stroller.
We arrive at Trafalgar and Second, and I park the stroller in front of a large colonial home. I slip the flats off, pull my socks on, and shove my feet into George’s shoes, which happen to be about four sizes too big. I pull the laces as tight as possible and hope to God my client won’t notice them.
Ooh, I have a client; I like the sounds of that.
Mounting the stairs in the massive shoes is a struggle, so I gingerly side step up. I ring the doorbell and await Jennifer Fairweather. With a name like that, I’m guessing, she’s middle-aged, maybe pudgy, and wanting to start a walking routine. I hear footsteps approaching, and the door swings open.
Oh God. The woman before me is perhaps middle aged, but she has got to have the most toned, athletic body I’ve ever seen.
“Can I help you?” she asks, giving me the once-over with a critical eye.
Shit, she definitely saw the shoes. I take a breath and assert myself. “I’m Lane Carson, your new personal trainer.”
Jennifer Fairweather frowns and then gives a little smirk. “Um, actually, you’re not my new personal trainer. I happen to already have one. But he’s out of town for three weeks, and your ad said you specialize in long distance running and triathlon, and I’m training for both.”
Shiiiiiit. I’m going to absolutely kill Billy.
“Great!” I squeak. I don’t even know how much I’m getting paid for this, but it better be freaking amazing.
After a slight hesitation, Jennifer sighs. “All right. Let me grab my water bottle and I’ll be right out.” She closes the door in my face, so I side step my way down the stairs and assume my position behind Rory’s stroller. Why didn’t I think to bring water and why did I have to drink that Venti Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks less than an hour ago to celebrate my first client? I need to pee.
Jennifer comes bounding down the front stairs, looking incredibly impressive in her sleek running gear. “Ready!” she says.
“Okay, let’s go,” I say, and I start running as fast as my oversized runners can carry me, all the while flexing my feet with each step so the shoes don’t fall off. Jennifer calls me and I turn around.
“Hey, slow down! What about stretching, I’m going to tear a ligament!” she calls after me.
Right, stretching, shit. How could I have forgotten? I turn Rory around and continue my awkward run back. It feels about as natural as running in flippers or clown shoes. Damn Denise for not packing proper shoes.
“Apologies, I’m eager to run. I love running,” I gush. I put my hands on my hips and start rotating them like my P.E. teachers used to do. Then I try to touch my toes. Crap, almost. I pull my knee up to my chest, and finally Jennifer stops gawking and starts stretching. My heart is pounding in my chest at this mess I’ve gotten myself into. Rory starts squawking from her stroller. Her squealing soon escalates to an angry little cry.
“Who’s the baby?”
“My niece,” I mumble. Yep.
“I’m done stretching,” Jennifer says after a good eight minutes or so. And this time, she takes off down the street, and I am left scrambling to reposition the stroller and race to catch up. The coffee in my stomach is swishing. I can feel it, but worse—I can hear it. It sounds like bloody Niagara Falls. What was I thinking? I catch up with Jennifer—miraculously—and struggle with all my might to keep up. She doesn’t speak but seems to slip into her own rhythm, which I sure as hell wish I could slip into too. My face feels hot, my eyes are watering, and the damn coffee in my stomach sloshes away. I know she must hear it too, and I would give anything for Rory to start crying right now to mask it. My legs are burning, my arms are burning, I feel like I can’t get enough air, and to make matters worse, I’m losing ground. Jennifer, in her comfortable jog, is four, then six, then ten feet in front of me. I have to stop, oh my God.
And this is when my shoe flies off, landing with a pitiful thud on the road.
“Sto-op,” I yell hysterically. Jennifer spins around and runs back. She jogs on the spot, eyeing me with a menacing glare and looking pissed to say the least.
“You’re wasting my time. What kind of bullshit ad was that anyway?”
I’m panting and gasping for air, ripping the other shoe off and reaching for my ballet flats from the stroller undercarriage. But I still have the fight in me. “Well, there are different levels of exercise, how the hell could I have known you’d turn out to be an iron woman?”
“Because, you airhead”—Did she really just say that?—“you posted a specialization in long-distance running!”
I feel mortified. I don’t know what to do, so I turn the stroller in the direction for home and start back.
“You’re a fraud, Lane Carson! Get a real job,” Jennifer yells after me. “Oh, and Jerry Seinfeld called. He wants his sneakers back!”
I mentally close my ears to that wretched woman and continue striding away, chin held high.
Except, I don’t feel proud. I feel pathetic, and there’s nothing more I’d like to do than wallow in a little self-pity; but I realize with a start, it’s already time to pick up Margo, and I really have to pee.