Humor Fiction posted February 1, 2021 Chapters: 1 2 -3- 


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Max, her ex, is like Styrofoam.

A chapter in the book Tiramisu, Tube Tops & Trouble

The Groove

by Vanessa Newman

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.
The author has placed a warning on this post for sexual content.



Background
Tatiana is a cardio queen and personal trainer who has bad dates, a weakness for her ex's decadent desserts, and a pseudo career. She is determined to make it big.
I yawned, opened my eyes, and almost choked on my pillow when I remembered that there was a man in my living room on my not-so-comfortable pull-out sofa. The clock showed 7:30 am on a Sunday. It was a rare "free" day. Yet I could not go back to sleep with a semi-strange guy in my apartment. Bits and pieces of my evening popped back into my conscious mind like firecrackers hitting pavement.

What was the appropriate etiquette here? My usual morning look was probably not the best one to greet Roland, but I had to peek and confirm I wasn't delusional about what happened last evening. Drinking with a twist of drive-by tends to jumble up the brain and its associated memories. In search of answers, I carefully opened my bedroom door a smidgen and tip-toed through the hall to the living room. Roland lay peacefully asleep. For men, a couch was a soporific. Not for me. Worry kept me awake better than coffee these days.

I quietly closed the door, satisfied that the prior evening had occurred as remembered, and headed to the bathroom for a shower. The warm water flowed over my tense shoulders and I sighed. What an eventful evening it had been. I could have been a victim of a heinous life-altering crime and what did I have to show for all my years on earth? An annoying ex-husband, some faithful clients, and a crappy attitude. Upon further analysis, I concluded I was only a few events away from a Lifetime for Women movie. Depressing. So, with a renewed sense of panic, I cut the shower short. All the essential parts got soap and a rinse but no shampooing. I didn't want to miss Roland waking up.

As I finished getting dressed, the phone rang. Hallelujah!

I let it continue to ring three more times for Roland's benefit as I hurried into the living room again where he slept, and prayed the caller wasn't Max, my ex.

"Hello," I said with more enthusiasm and volume than usual.

Roland stirred.

"Hi Tatiana. It's Grace. I hate to do this to you, but I'm leaving town tomorrow evening and won't be able to make our appointment. Can we meet today instead?"
"Yes!"

I never turned down an opportunity and this one had the bonus of motivating sleeping beauty.

"How soon can you be at the club?" Grace asked.

I hesitated staring at Roland who was finally blinking fully awake.

"How about eleven o'clock?"
"Sounds good. Can we do that cardio boot camp thing again today?"

I would rather have been in a dentist chair than jumping around for cardio boot camp, but I said, "If you are up for it, so am I."

Well, so much for my day off, but opportunity had knocked ... sense into Roland who stretched and moved. Especially since Max, like a bloodhound, knew when another man was hanging around me. I expected to see or hear from him any minute.

"I take it that's my signal to get up," Roland said sarcastically. "Just like a woman to want me to be up when I want to go down."

His signals were like the burners on my stove - hot and cold without good reason - and I still did not know how I offended him last night.

"Well, I would love to hang out and chat about your ups and downs, but duty calls."
"All right then," Roland muttered under his breath and looked annoyed. "No chit chat and all business this morning," he added.

As he put on his shoes, he moved more slowly than I'd hoped. I mean I helped him out of a jam last night, after he gave me the cold shoulder, and he was aggravated with me? Some nerve!

Distracting myself in my tiny kitchen, I shoved a ripe piece of cantaloupe in my mouth and poured coffee in a to-go cup while Roland made a lame attempt to straighten the sofa. At first totally sloth-like, and then he sped up unexpectedly as I did, so we nearly bumped bodies. The result of the near miss was that my mouth ... opened ... widely ... and unexpectedly. And I sputtered coffee at the back of Roland's head, which he swiped at with disgust.

"Coffee and cantaloupe - not a good combination," I said as I made yuck noises and twisted my face up.

He certainly hadn't caught me at my finest moment.

The drive to Roland's house seemed uncomfortably long. I mean what could you say after the night we had and my recent spit-up mishap. There would be no second date. Roland yawned a lot and I turned up the music (yes, the Commodores) to drown him out. He then farted and chuckled to himself like a school boy. We were so done.

Upon arrival in front of Roland's house, he turned, and asked, "Now you aren't going to be one of those stalker types since you know where I live, are you?"

I wanted to remind him who asked who out and who got whose number from the roll call of a CPR class, but I didn't.

I just glared at him and finally said, "Have a nice life."

Men like Roland plodded along wondering why women seemed so mysterious when they were the ones who acted bizarrely. I released him into the wild where he belonged surprised that he hadn't asked me for money so he could fix his totaled car.

Oh yeah, that was Max's tactic.

Relieved to have ended one colossally bad date, I put in Salt n' Pepa's, "Pump up the Jam," and let Roland became a distant memory.

Grapevine, grapevine, L-step, repeat, V-step forward and back, turn...

My cell phone rang abruptly interrupting my 32-count. It had to be my mom. Don't answer, I told myself, but my sense of obligation won out.

"Hello?"
"I am cooking up a storm, doing laundry, dusting, and about to vacuum."

She always started out a conversation with what she had accomplished. She never said, "I am fine, how are you?"

Since I hadn't spoken yet, she continued, "I just wanted to let you know that I put together a package for you containing three articles from Oprah magazine and several recipes on how to make tofu taste like chocolate."
"That'll be the day," I commented sarcastically.
"It can be done with enough practice," she said.
"Well, thanks mom. I really should let you go while I'm driving."
"What the heck are you doing operating a motor vehicle and talking?" And then she made a tsking sound and hung up.

She was right, but she always wanted me to answer every time she called so there was a catch-22! And, on top of that, if I was not reporting that I'd saved baby seals or planted 100 trees that day, I was unproductive and my name was mud in her eyes.

Spurred on by mom's ridiculous expectations, I vowed to pick up a few more clients and set money aside for my exercise DVD. I had to start investing in my future somehow. What was the worst that could happen?

Wait.... Another idea was forming ... deep water salsa dancing. Synchronized swimming with naughtier moves and sexier costumes. The couples could be straight, bisexual, or gay. There might even be a mermaid maneuver. Could I pull that off without renting a pool?

Ironically, I saw a woman in a sausage dress walk across the parking lot. Her genetics and the bright yellow tube top body casing were working against her. I gave her a ton of credit for showing up in it proudly while I eased into a parking spot feeling blessed to have left my sausage dress in my closet.

Forget about DVDs, I told myself, and get psyched for boot camp hell with Grace. Her session meant I would be lifting heavy stuff over my head a lot. So, I took a few deep breaths and affirmed that I was strong and fit. Then, I got out of the car, not believing either.

Grace greeted me with a smile and, even better, payment for more sessions. I was suddenly a lot more motivated.

She asked, "How was your night?"
"If I told you, you might cry. Let's get ourselves warmed up with marching and jogging in place, and then maybe I can share how I mixed up dating with a drive by shooting."

She grimaced.

An hour later, my gluteus maximus twanged with aches from doing so many lunges and step-ups combined with a hangover on the side. Still tired from my last evening's adventures, I planned on laying low and watching a good movie with a sexy leading man tonight. Real men were just too much work at this point in my life and I had to teach a Pilates class in the morning anyway.

Grace promised to call me when she was back in town for more torture and we said our goodbyes. I thought about doing a quick work out for ten seconds before boldly walking through the front door.

The trip to Blockbuster only took a few minutes, but exiting the car was another story. During the short trip, my ass muscles had seized up. Not enough protein yesterday, I guess or too many alcoholic beverages. Getting out of the vehicle convinced me that my butt had betrayed me like my ex. Both, were a major pain in the ass.

Lumbering through the front door of the store, I smiled at the clerk and vowed to be hydrated before I attempted to work out with Grace again.

Ironically, I was soon in the exercise video section and saw the whole "Body parts of Metal" series (Buns of you know what). Then it hit me that I was in such a hurry to get out of the way of my guilt at the gym that I had completely forgotten to stretch. Even after I had given Grace a lecture on stretching only days earlier. What a hypocrite, I was! Not enough water and no stretching -- amateur move! Might as well bitch about the lame videos in front of me!

Damn gimmicks that encouraged clients obsessed with poochy stomachs or flabby arms to do excessive amounts of one exercise -- like arm circles or crunches. When you chew gum, does your face get skinny? I think not! If this worked, most men would brag that blow jobs were face thinners.

But TV won over logic and science most of the time. That is how Suzanne Somers sold the Thigh Master. She didn't even invent it (nor did Joshua Reynolds who took credit for doing so and ended up heir to the Reynolds Tobacco Company!) Hell, why not feel the burn while toking on a smoke?

See? Life is not fair. Swedish physical medicine intern, who later became Dr. Anne Marie Bennstrom, invented the "mood Ring." She should at least get credit. I realized that I might end up with the same fate if I did produce a successful fitness DVD. That's why it had to be a parody, just in case.

Finally, I spied "Chocolate" with Johnny Depp after circling the store like a woozy shark looking for my sexy prey. The delay might have something to do with the fact that the movie was alphabetized by lead actor, not title -- bizarre. As I pushed my ass cheeks up against the hard edge of the video rack in a lame attempt at loosening them up, I saw Mitzy out of the corner of my eye with her arm halfway around the waist of a big, husky type. He had a scar across his face making him an even rougher version of Mickey Rourke.

I held the DVD case in front of my face and ogled it, so I wouldn't have to meet one of the men that she may or may not have set on fire before climax. Luckily, they went into the "back" section and I waddled up front and paid. Crab-walking out of the store without being detected took effort and I winced my way through it. OK. Depp, you better fix everything!

Lifting my right leg up and over to get in the car made my opposite glut scream but I tried not to grimace. The left side was not any easier. My senior fitness group could do better, but I managed to drive home only cursing a little bit. I did the same routine upon exiting. The stairs to my abode mocked me when I stood in front of them and sighed, but I eventually prevailed.

Thirty minutes later, reclining on my couch with a bowl of popcorn at my side, I relaxed into the movie-watching zone. Proud of myself for using light popcorn, I had added some Parmesan cheese, but the package did say, "skinny popcorn, so I added butter too ...

I might even have dozed off and not eaten much because I was already seeing the mid-movie scene where Johnny says: "I just came back to get that squeak out of your door," to the leading lady, Juliette Binoche, while oozing sex appeal. Oh, how I loved his swagger. But now, thanks to innuendo and testosterone, I was over stimulated and couldn't go back to sleep.

My mind wandered to Max's swagger but that was an absolute unworthy topic to dwell on, so I focused on my upcoming Pilates class instead. "Plank pose into downward dog then back to plank and into a push-up..." The constant repetition was keeping my brain on high alert. Not helping!

I progressed to the cool-down section of class and that was doing the trick. I was almost in a trance when I heard the doorbell ring. The clock showed midnight. Could it be a Johnny Depp doppelganger at the door? Nope. There was only one possible culprit. Contemplating whether to have a face-to-face with Max, I was already up and walking toward the door. My hand opened it as if in charge, and Max stood there wearing a stained white chef coat and striped chef pants looking like a sexy thug. Why do chef pants look so much like prison gear? Is it because so many food service workers transition to a correctional facility eventually?

He looked good despite the outfit, and he smelled like spaghetti with fresh basil which made me hungry for him in unsavory ways.

Handsome, but more trouble than a three-time felon. That was Max. He was blue-eyed "sweet as pie" sometimes and a hungry bad boy ready to devour me down to my bones at others. Both were appealing. Tonight, he had a devilish twinkle in his eye. Spying the Styrofoam box in Max's left hand, I locked in on it.

"I see that you come bearing some edible temptation."
"Yes, I told you that I needed your opinion on this Black Forest cake," he said glibly.
"Max just because you bring me sinfully delicious desserts doesn't mean that you are absolved of all your sins with us." But, at this moment he might have been. Especially because I had my period, and I was craving chocolate like a kid banned from Hershey town.
"Come on Tatiana," he pleaded. "Can I come in or what?"

My body stepped out of the way on command and Max bounded in the door like an eager puppy. More like a hound in truth. As the Styrofoam box crossed my line of vision, I realized Max was exactly like this misleading material. Sturdy and solid on the outside, but with no real substance. The deception so masterful that I convinced myself he was substantial only to be disappointed again and again. How many times had I lied to myself interpreting his deep stare as indicative of the depth of his experience? I was gullible with unresolved feelings, and I needed him to leave me alone long enough to get through them.

"How are you Tatiana?" He asked coyly.
"I'm fine as always, Max. What brings you by at this late hour because I know that Black Forest Cake is simply the excuse?"
"I wanted to see you. No. I needed to see you. And you look amazing by the way."
"Yes. In a t-shirt and matching shorts, I am a real fashionista,"
"Well, you always look good to me no matter what you're wearing," he said while examining me from head to toe.

I grabbed the Styrofoam box out of his hand, brought it into the kitchen, and got a fork out. I stabbed the cake like a junkie who hadn't had her last fix in a while. There was something about Max that caused me to want to smoke cigarettes, write bad checks and stuff my face like an industrious pre-Winter squirrel. How did he hold so much power?

Max looked at me with his unnerving "stare." The one where I felt more like the dessert than the one I devoured.

"I still think that you're seeing someone. You've got to tell me. Who is he?" Max asked expecting to know everything about my life.
"Max I am not seeing anyone. I date; that's it."
"Why date? I want us back together. What else could you possibly want in a man?"
"There you go. It's always all about what you want or what you need. This is not even worth discussing."

Upon hearing this, Max strolled out onto my porch to smoke. I should never have let him in, but the cake was damn good, and I started to feel sleepy.

When Max returned, he brushed my side. I stepped back and he acted slighted enough to flip his alter ego.

"By the way, do you have any money?"
"What?"
"Well, you did eat the cake and if you had come into the restaurant, you would have paid $5.75 plus tip for that."
"Max. I do not care how delicious the cake was, I'm not paying for something that you brought to get back into my apartment and whatever else you hoped to."
"I noticed how you were looking at me like you wanted to eat me up." Then he added, "That will cost you too darling..."

I crowded Max toward the door and asked him to leave. He interpreted our close bodies as a signal to pounce. Seeing his arm raise, I grabbed it and moved it quickly away from my body.

He huffed past me, and said "I guess I shouldn't have brought the cake. You look like you're gaining a few extra pounds anyway. No one wants a fat exercise instructor or personal trainer. When you come to your senses, call me, but I won't wait long."

Then he sauntered toward the door to exit.

But he did not leave and instead began to beg.

"Tatiana, I know we had our issues, but let's try again. I need you. I have not been with any woman since we broke up. You are on my mind a lot. C'mon, can't we give it another try?"
"Max, you should not be with any woman right now."
"But I'm charming, and you want what we had," he retorted.
When I made no comment, Max huffed, "Well, I am entitled to more of an explanation from you. That's for sure. We were engaged, and you just broke it off."

The true Max had arrived just in time for me to want to kick his chef-pants-wearing-ass into the street. After deliberately slamming the door, I stood there, fuming. Why did I do this to myself? The "you are getting fat" card was invented by the very industry I represented. I'd probably spend the next three hours obsessed about what a jerk he was. Then tomorrow, I would pound out two hours on the treadmill to prove him wrong. Ugh! The only good thing about Max's visit was that ten minutes after he left, I passed out. I guess kicking out an asshole was my soporific -- great!

XXX

I slept but did not rise refreshed. More like bloated and disappointed because I let Max get the best of me again. I knew what he was doing, but he had this way of making me doubt myself even when I knew his plan. The amazing dimple on his right cheek made me amnesiac about details of our conversation. Then, I'd fantasize about our love life and think perhaps we could make it work because he had moments of complete charm.

With his feathered blonde hair that was too long to be considered short and too short to be hippie, he weakened me. He had a masculine jaw line too that was strong when he set it. I wanted to kiss him all over. He was the kind of yummy that made my stomach flutter and my legs act like a Gumby doll. What if I ignored all that came with his oh-so-fine package? Many women could. Yet, Max and I ended up in the same place again and again -- apart.

I flashed back to when we first met. In a bar. The scene quickly replayed in my mind.
"Hi, are you here with someone?" The blond hair blue-eyed tall man asked me with a mischievous smile.
"My friend is sitting over at the bar," I commented while still staring into his baby blue eyes...."
"She looks like the independent type, why don't you hang with me for a while," he offered.

Hours of joking, flirting and shooting pool, and the rest was history. Almost no one has a successful relationship with someone met in a bar and if they do, it's rarely everlasting. For me, the relationship started out as pure primal physical attraction. It was not supposed to continue. It did because of sugar and his membership to the long and thick penis club. You can see how maybe one would get caught up in that whole gig.

Max, had ensnared me with chocolate pecan pie -- the first dessert he ever made me. But our moral compasses did not point in the same directions. Following our break up, for three months, I had more sugar and desserts paraded under my nose by Max then he ever offered me in our entire relationship, but I barely gave in.... barely.

It had been almost a year since the big break up, and Max was still trying to tempt me back into a human grilled cheese sandwich, but I liked to think that my defenses were getting stronger. Fear of cellulite kept me strong. It also helped that my best friend Joni hated Max.

I wondered if my life was ever going to be more than a three-ring circus. Wait a minute...That was it! My flash of inspiration. My moment of divine insight! How about a flamboyant Cardio Circus routine for my exercise DVD? I could use lots of props and eye-catching costumes. We could pretend to be lion-tamers or tightrope walkers. The music might be a bit tough, but I liked challenges. I jotted down a few ideas, but the when I realized that I had no money to do it, my excitement waned.

My phone rang.

"Hi Mom."
"What are you up to, darling?" She asked right away.
"I have about 20 minutes and then I have to get ready for class," I explained.
I heard my Dad in the background and my mom shushing him.
"What did Dad say?"
"Oh, you know. He wants to know when you are going to make some money and take us on a riverboat cruise. He wants to go to New Orleans."
"Tell him not to hold his breath."
I heard my dad again in the background. He never talks to me directly.
"He says that you could make one of those famous Buns of Concrete DVDs."
"Tell him that buns of concrete mean you're dead."
"Alright darling but he does not hear well so that statement could lead to a bad session of the telephone game. Just call me later. I have a recipe for making cheesy mashed potatoes out of cauliflower."
"God help us all, mom."
And then I hung up. Mothers, men, and mashed potatoes, oh my!



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