Chapter Fourteen: “It was like what I imagine it would be like to take cross fit in hell”

Tallulah had been roped into working out with Melly. She suspected that Melly had asked Jacklyn first, but Jacklyn had somehow managed to evade it. She was very smug about the whole thing. Melly told Tallulah that she was trying to get back in shape after having the baby. As far as Tallulah could tell, Melly already was in shape. She was a very slender woman.

“I used to have abs, Tallulah,” Melly explained as they entered the gym together. She rolled her eyes like she thought Tallulah was being ridiculous.

“Technically you still do have abs,” Tallulah returned. “They’re just hiding.”

Melly rolled her eyes again.

As it turned out, Melly had already taken the liberty of signing them up for an aerobics class. Tallulah was immediately delighted. She assumed it would involve hot pink spandex unitards and a Richard Simmons or Jane Fonda type instructor in neon dolphin shorts or a lycra thong bodysuit. It was actually a class full of women who looked like they had trained in the Israeli army and an instructor with an Eastern-European accent and the intensity of a drill sergeant. The music was aggressive techno with baselines that Tallulah felt in her heart. She had been hoping for Olivia Newton-John and possibly some Britney Spears. This was much worse.

Ten minutes into the class, Tallulah’s entire body was sweating. She was sweating in places that she previously hadn’t thought it was possible to sweat. Beads of sweat were budding from her forearms. Sweat was running down her shins from her knees. In her sports bra, her boobs felt like they’d been submerged in water. She was red-faced and huffing for breath. Everybody else in the class was powering on, not even breaking a light sweat, as if it took no effort for them at all. Even Melly was fine. She was following along without any trouble at all, fresh-faced and dry. Tallulah wanted to kick her in the face, but it was beginning to seem less and less likely that she’d ever be able to raise her leg higher than a crisp twenty degree angle ever again.

After forty-five minutes, the class came to a stop. Tallulah, having previously been attempting push-ups, collapsed on the ground and waited for the sweet relief of death to grasp her tightly in its cold embrace. Beside her, Melly was sitting on the matt drinking casually from her water bottle. Tallulah hated her slightly. Her level of fitness was too high. She was supposed to have just had a baby. She’d clearly been doing secret exercise in her free time between complaining about Iggy to anybody who would listen.

“Isn’t this such a great workout?” Melly asked Tallulah, clearly unaware that Tallulah had died. Tallulah was never going to do another push-up again in her life. It felt like her arms were about to drop off, like if she lifted herself off the matt, they would just fall off.

“Nugh,” was Tallulah’s response.

“I feel so weightless,” Melly continued. Tallulah assumed that she felt weightless because she basically was weightless. She was a very small woman. She had the body mass of an Olsen twin. Tallulah, meanwhile, felt like each of her legs weighed three thousand pounds alone.

“I’m dying,” Tallulah said partly in response, but mostly because she felt that Melly may have somehow managed to overlook that fact.

“That’s just the toxins leaving your body,” Melly assured her.

“It feels more like I’m being drawn and quartered,” Tallulah replied. Melly snorted in response and patted her on the back, looking mildly disgusted when she pulled her hand away. Tallulah assumed it was due to the sweat. A small lake had begun to form in the small of her lower back. If she continued to sweat at the rate she was already sweating, it would turn into the sixth Great Lake. Also, she would shrivel up and die of extreme dehydration. At this point, Tallulah was beginning to think that might be something of a blessing.

“Come on,” Melly said, standing up. “We’ve got to get ready for the second half.”

“Second half?!” Tallulah repeated in outrage, managing to lift her head off the matt with the fuel from her horror.

“Yeah, Ola’s coming back in now,” Melly returned.

Tallulah hated Ola. She was mean and terrifying. Plus, she looked way to good in leggings. She had the thighs of an Olympic speedskater. It looked like she could crush someone’s head with her leg muscles alone. Tallulah was also fairly certain that Ola was trying to kill them all. Except she’d only succeed in killing Tallulah because everybody else was completely fine. There was a sixty year old woman next to Tallulah who was roughly half the size and twice as strong, which did not make Tallulah feel particularly great about herself.

The class went on for another forty-five minutes. By the end of it, Tallulah was genuinely concerned that she wouldn’t make it home. She had to walk there. She’d done approximately a million and one squats at the direction of a truly terrifying Ola and her legs felt like they were made of pudding. Her ten-minute walk took her thirty because she had to keep stopping to sit down on bus stop benches to give her legs a break. The sweat in her sports bra began to cool, which was both unpleasant and chilly.

“The next time Melly asks me to go to the gym with her, please remind me of this moment,” Tallulah said to Priscilla upon walking into their apartment. “And then kill me.”

Priscilla looked at her for a moment.

“So how was it?” She asked eventually, giving Tallulah a wry smile.

“Melly’s definitely been exercising in secret,” Tallulah explained, grabbing the water pitcher from the fridge to pour herself a glass and then twenty more. “She kept telling me she’s out of shape, which is false. I, meanwhile, feel like I may have strained some of my internal organs. I know you can pull muscles, but is it possible to pull your liver? Because if it is, I have done that for sure.”

“So it went well then,” Priscilla returned, looking smug again.

“We took an aerobics class,” Tallulah said. “I thought it would be like a Richard Simmons work out video. It was not. It was like what I imagine it would be like to take cross fit in hell.”

“You know, if you worked out more often, it would be easier,” Priscilla told her, as if Tallulah was somehow unaware of this fact.

“God, sure, but at what cost?” Tallulah replied.

Three days later, Melly tricked Tallulah into going to the gym again. It had taken Tallulah a full three days to recover from the last aerobics class they’d taken. She’d had a hell of time trying to walk down stairs. She’d seriously considered sliding down the building’s stair rails, but she got the impression that would be frowned upon. Trying to sit on toilets had also been a torturous exercise. The million squats Ola had forced on her under the pretense of being good for her had hindered more than they had helped. Apparently she was supposed to get a toned bum out of it, but she had nearly slid off a toilet to avoid standing up again so Tallulah wasn’t sure the trade off was worth it.

Melly convinced Tallulah to go back to the gym with her by promising that they could skip the aerobics class. Melly said they could take something gentle instead, like yoga. That had sounded nice to Tallulah. But then it had turned out to be hot yoga and it was significantly less great. It was like extremely strenuous stretching in an Easy-Bake Oven. She had thought the sweating had been bad in aerobics, but it was nothing compared to the sweating in hot yoga. She kept slipping off her matt because her knees were sweating so much. Plus, the room wasn’t very large and she was very close to the other people taking it, which meant that she was not only covered in her own sweat, but the sweat of strangers as well.

By the end of the class, Tallulah was so sweaty that she was actually slick. Her body didn’t have any traction anymore. She slipped through the doorway and into the blissfully cool hallway beyond. She needed water. More accurately, she needed all the water in the world. She was almost at a water fountain, a beautiful, glorious water fountain, when Melly grabbed her by the elbow and began dragging her off in the opposite direction. Tallulah tried to protest, but no sound came out. Her mouth was too dry.

“Now we have spin class,” Melly told her. Tallulah considered just running away. She’d be able to slip out of Melly’s grasp easily enough thanks to the sweat, but she definitely wouldn’t actually be able to run anywhere. At best, she’d be able to wobble away quite slowly. Melly would catch her again very easily and Tallulah would still end up longing for the cold clutches of death at spin class.

She allowed herself to be hauled off to spin class. Ola, the aerobics sadist, was the spin instructor as well. Tallulah nearly cried at first sight. Spin class was harder than aerobics, which she wouldn’t have thought possible three days prior. And yet it was true. Her thighs burned. Ola kept shouting aggressively at them in what was clearly meant to be an encouraging manner. It was a lot of “push” and “move” and “faster”. It made Tallulah feel like she was being marched to her death. She kept cycling faster, though mostly with the hope that if she peddled fast enough, the bike would actually take off and carry her far away from Ola and her scarily toned arms.

When the class ended, Tallulah stumbled off her bike, legs weak and shaking. Miraculously, she managed not to fall over, which she had felt was a certain inevitability. Next to her, Melly was completely fine. More than that, she was radiant. Tallulah didn’t believe for one second that she’d been “totally inactive” since having Madison as Melly had previously claimed. Tallulah was drenched with sweat and probably going to go into cardiac arrest at any second. Melly was relaxed and dewy. She was breathing normally, too. Tallulah sounded like a beached whale struggling for air.

“Wasn’t that so much fun?” Melly asked, grinning.

“Do you hate me?” Tallulah returned, huffing for breath. She couldn’t see it for herself, but she assumed her face was bright red. It felt like it was a million degrees. She could use her cheeks to cook toaster waffles.

“What? No, of course not!” Melly replied, laughing slightly.

“Then never bring me here again,” Tallulah said darkly.

“To the gym?”

“Yes. This place is my hell.”

And then Tallulah wobbled off to start making her way home. She’d learned her lesson from last time. She took a cab home.


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