CW: references to alcohol, mild swearing, and infidelity
We all have matching yoga mats, gifted by mom’s ex-husband. Marie rolls hers out, laboriously straightening the rectangular foam to make sure its edges are perfectly flat. Her blocks are stacked right beside it, a tower that would make the parent of any toddler proud. Mine is curled up at the back, and I can’t help but want to kick it a little to the left so that the space between hers and mine is uneven along the length of them. Katie won’t be here until the sessions at least ten minutes underway.
“Did you leave him, or what?” I ask, sitting cross legged while Marie does her pre-stretch stretching.
“Why are you all saying that?” she says, hissing slightly, and then taking a deep inhalation.
“You told us, Marie.” I want her to stop using exercise as a reason to avoid my eyes. After last night, I didn’t even think she’d be here. I only came to make sure that Katie and I were on the same page before we confronted her. Now, it’s down to me. Typical.
“Class starts in one minute,” Marie says.
“I don’t care.”
She lays down, closing her eyes, flipping her palms to face upward.
The door slams, rattling the glass of the wall length windows decorated with white decals of Lotus flowers and water motifs. We’re three of only five women. All white. But even Marie, the oldest of us, is at least twenty years younger than the other two ladies in the room. The teacher is black, and I wonder if she resents us for appropriating not just the yogic culture, but her weekend morning, too.
“Sorry I’m late,” Katie whispers as the instructor begins with the usual introductions.
“You’re not,” I say, angling to look at the clock above the door to the lobby.
“Yes, you are,” corrects Marie. Her eyes are still closed, and she’s looking especially peaceful for someone who just admitted what she did last night.
Katie sticks her tongue out at Marie and unrolls her mat. I bet she’s hung over. I’m kind of hung over. We start with a sun salutation that doesn’t do much to dissuade me from the idea.
“Do you need to come stay with me?” Katie whispers past me to Marie.
I switch my half-moon early to bend towards Marie. She pretends she doesn’t hear, puffing up her chest, and releasing it, like an accordion of distracted breathing.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I say, stretching back towards Katie. “You live in a studio apartment. At least I’ve got a guest room.”
“Let’s please be mindful that this space is being used for others’ meditative escape,” the teacher says, warning.
“Sorry,” I say.
“Sorry,” Katie parrots.
Marie bends into forward fold, dangling herself as if the precipice she’s facing is of little or no consequence. Damn her ability to compartmentalize. I’m not going to make it through this class. We should have gone to brunch.
I need more than the one cup of coffee I managed this morning. And pancakes. A whole stack of them, dripping with syrup. Katie groans beside me. “I don’t think I should be bending over like this,” she says.
“I hear you,” I whisper back.
“Shhh,” Marie insists.
“Downward dog,” the teacher says.
My heels touch the floor, and I can’t help but feel smug over this. Marie’s always do. Katie’s probably do too, but it’s not worth the possible insult to my pride to check.
Marie sniffles, and I drop my shoulders angling my body towards hers to check on her. “Are you okay?”
She nods her head, but her cheeks are shiny, and the mat is wet.
Katie drops down onto all fours. “Okay,” she says, “we’re not doing this right now. We need to talk.”
“Then I suggest you ladies make your way back to the locker room,” the teacher says, twisting herself into cobra pose. The curve of her spine isn’t matched by her straight-lipped glare, and I nod.
We roll our mats and hustle out of the room, each stopping by the door to bow. “Namaste,” we repeat, one right after the other.
Katie’s laughing as we walk-run past the check-in desk to the changing rooms. Marie is sobbing openly, hanging back a few feet from us. I feel as caught in the middle of the two as always. Something about still saying ‘namaste,’ has me ready to double over. But listening to Marie is making my eyes and nose begin to burn, too.
Hand over mouth, Katie says, “I’m not laughing at you, I swear. You know this is how I process fear.”
“What are you afraid of,” I ask her, narrowing my eyes to avoid letting Marie see they’re filling. It would be like Katie to make Marie’s worst nightmare all about her. I can’t do that to her as well. I blink, raising my eyebrows as if to distribute the buildup of tears better, and remain focused on Katie.
“Well, if Marie’s life is a total disaster, what chance do the rest of us have?”
“Her name is Annabelle,” Marie says, wiping her nose with her forearm and pulling on a sweatshirt.
I resist the urge to say, ‘cute’. It is a cute name, though. I can already imagine the bouncy curls and fat, dimpled knuckles.
“How old is she?” asks Katie wisely. Or maybe not. Who knows which questions are okay? This is no man’s land.
“Two,” Marie says.
“What are you going to do?” I ask.
“I don’t know.”
Katie chews on the edge of her thumbnail, and I weigh asking them about going out for breakfast. I don’t want Marie to think I’m not taking her problems seriously, but I really need another cup of coffee. Maybe a Bloody Mary, too.
“Do you want to get something to eat?” I ask.
Marie’s twisting her pearl stud earring round and round, looking into the distance.
“Omelets?” I try again.
“Do you remember when I thought there was a ghost named Craig living in our house?” Marie asks, taking her hand off her ear and instead, needling her engagement ring. The diamond goes round and round her finger like it’s on a Ferris Wheel ride. Marriage up, marriage down.
“Yeah,” Katie snorts. “Leave it to you to make a ghost story boring, too.”
“He told me this would happen,” Marie says, ignoring Katie. “He told me that I’d have to learn to love the thing that scares me most, someday.”
“I think your ghost was just giving you sage career advice,” I say, frustrated that Craig is still haunting us. Marie scared the shit out of me with Craig for a long time. I still feel like I’m being watched whenever I pee. “You know, the best things in life come from the greatest risks, and all that.”
“Ending up like mom is what scares me most,” says Marie.
“You’re not like mom,” I say. She’s the opposite.
“But Katie’s got a different dad, too,” she says.
The door bangs open, and the two other women from the class bustle in. They give us dirty looks as if the interruption from fifteen minutes ago matters. They’re the intruders. Just like Annabelle. But not like Katie. Never Katie.
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Interesting story. Your characters are well written.