The Harpy

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“Lift and squeeze. Lift and tuck. Lift and squeeze. Squeeze hold.” Darcy moved in and out among her 4:15 pm class, the most sparsely attended of all the days’ classes, adjusting positions of already-thin women to make sure they were working the right areas, banishing fat that lived only in their broken minds. There were only five of them in the class, if she was going to stay in business there had to be far more.

The problem was this town was unwilling to forgive her. She had married their golden boy, and worse, she had stayed on when he left her, some pathetic hanger-on who should have known better. Should have known that as soon as the divorce was final, she should have slinked out with her gold-digging tail between her legs, back to the city, to free the women of their memory of her. The memory that their shining star had chosen someone else. She had broken all the rules by staying, but she was comfortable here, had gotten too comfortable here, hadn’t she? It was why he left her in the first place.

This was a town where first marriages stuck. Where, against all odds, people stayed together. People remained loyal to their spouses. Remained desired by their spouses. They just didn’t know what to do with her. They might have pitied her if she hadn’t been such a bitch.

The truth was, she wasn’t a bitch. She liked people. Liked watching them, wondering about them, learning about them. Like knowing, or at least knowing of, so many of the people she crossed in the small downtown area. It was not a true small-town, they were too close to a Metroplex for that, but they weren’t close enough to really be considered a suburb. Still, many of them, including her ex, were commuters. Many of them were wealthy enough to support stay-at-home spouses, many of them were telecommuters. It should have been the perfect place to set up a barre studio. Business should have been booming. Darcy was just breaking even, but only because the divorce settlement had been generous enough that she was able to buy the building outright, in cash, and she wasn’t paying rent. And it was only since she had added a morning yoga class to appeal to the area’s hippies that the studio did not look like a dead zone. She disliked yoga, resented it, now. It was the passion of her youth but she had outgrown the faux-spiritualism that often accompanied the practice, hated pretending to find her intention. Her body did not understand intention. Anymore, all her body understood was pain. It understood sweat and trembling muscles and relentless aches.

The real saving grace for her studio had been her partnership with a popular athletic-wear brand. Business was booming among women who came in reluctantly on days she received new shipments of tight leggings and low-cut tops designed for the show-off’s workout. How she hated the brand with it’s pretentiousness, hated selling overpriced gear as status symbols to women it seemed to matter a great deal to; women whose clothes were manufactured on the cheap in China, just like everybody else’s. And if the brand had a corporate store within 40 miles she had no doubt that’s where her customers would be shopping.

She knew, of course, that she should have moved, back to California where she met Derek in the first place, she teaching yoga and taking on massive student loans to get a business degree she was only now, years later, actually using; he on a baseball scholarship with no need for a scholarship. She also knew she never could leave, that despite being almost universally ignored here as trash someone forgot to take out, that these rolling hills were home. And she had some friends, managed to even keep a couple friends she’d met through Derek, Julie and Devon (wives of friends), though he took the rest with him. There was plenty of room, but no place in this town for dual loyalties. Especially when Derek was back on the market.

“Ten more seconds,” She promised the ladies around her. Class was almost over. There was a 5:30 class that would have next to no one in attendance (yesterday she had one student), despite the rave reviews and her ability to keep those customers that had deigned to try a class with Derek’s harpy ex-wife, which was, from what she heard, how many people referred to her. As an introvert, she understood it, how she could have been considered unfriendly all those years. She was not the first reserved person to be misunderstood, and she would not be the last.

She had managed to avoid Derek fairly well, seeing him still bothered her. She had, she thought, been a good wife. A devoted wife. A loving wife. Her divorce had torn her apart just as much as the year before her divorce, when Derek was frustrated and short-tempered, had torn her apart. She had thought they could make it through, that whatever frustrations he had with her would pass, that if she just kept her head down, adjusted what she could and fought back a little less that things would calm down. She had been broken after the divorce, had bought a small single-story house and, strangely, bahis firmaları found herself in the possession of some chickens on a whim one day, which only added to her mystery to the locals. Derek’s harpy ex-wife-the one with the chickens. She was an anomaly in a town of successful people with ten-year plans that did not include divorce or farm animals.

“And release. All done, ladies, thank you for coming. Please remember this month’s promo is a free class. Buy 5 classes get 1 free, buy 10 get 2 free and so on…” They weren’t listening. Hearing the word release they had all collapsed on the floor, a few of them groaning dramatically. It was just as well, her 4:15 class were her devotees, and primarily bought the monthly unlimited plan. Everyone could have paid the $175 for the monthly unlimited plans and never noticed the money drain. They could also buy $100 leggings without blinking an eye.

Shelly, a doctor married to a doctor and mother of three who putzed around town in a Porsche SUV said, “Ouch. That was worse than usual. You in a bad mood today?” This got a few laughs from Shelly’s ass-kissers and staff members’ at the OB clinic where Shelly worked with her father, also an OB. Darcy smiled, “Spring has sprung, have to get a head start on bikini body season. “

How to get a bikini body: put a bikini on your body, the feminist in her chanted. She shushed her internal monologue. There was no place for feminism when you were trying to make a living off of body-dismorphoic disorders. Which is not to say Darcy didn’t believe in what she did- she had stopped doing yoga early on in her marriage (no studios close to her new almost-rural home) and her fitness level had dropped. She had gained some weight during that time, only taking up running and barre after the divorce, coming on two years ago. No, she recognized what she was doing as a positive, her own exercise schedule had allowed for a significant decrease in her anti-depressant dosages, but she also recognized some of her 7-day-a-weekers could have probably been okay on 4 days a week.

“Does Derek take the 5:30 class?” another student, this one a paralegal rumored to be sleeping with her attorney boss and gaining no small amount of material goods out of the deal, asked casually. This one-Vicki- had gone to high school with Derek, had, if Derek could be believed, jerked him off under the desk in their 9th grade science class.

Darcy felt a familiar sharp pain at the sound of Derek’s name being spoken aloud, she tried to keep her face neutral, “No, why?” She doubted this to be true. While he kept their martial home, she assumed simply because he didn’t want her to have it, he also owned a condo in the city and typically only came back to town for weekends. She had heard rumors of him helping coach his brother’s kids’ baseball team, but knowing his devotion to long hours at the office doubted this story just as much as she doubted the contention that Vicki actually had a fee scale for the sexual favors she provided.

“Because he’s in the lobby.”

And he was. He was absolutely in the lobby. But it wasn’t just him, the lobby was full of women in skin-tight workout gear standing around Derek, who was obviously in the middle of a story. Her heart seemed to jump enough to collide with her ribs, certainly her pulse raced, her body tensed. She recognized a fight or flight response, and she was definitely leaning toward flight though she recognized the ridiculousness of it.

“Oh.” Her voice sounded small.

They should have all been setting up in the classroom next door, but she didn’t recognize any regulars so of course they didn’t know to. Friday nights were notoriously slow, even with the shoppers, and it didn’t make sense to keep a receptionist at the front desk after 4:30.

As she stepped out into the lobby the cooler air hit her. Normally it was a relief, but today it just reminded her that she was one of the scantily clad women. She herself was wearing the brand she hated, her cropped leggings were white, of all things, with black stripes (an older pattern from her yoga days) and she wore a tight spaghetti-strapped low-cut tank top with not much support, though she didn’t require much support. During her marriage she didn’t require support for small-B cups, today she could have used a little more support to keep her full-Cs in place but she recognized her body, svelte from working out multiple times a day, was aspirational. She knew how to sell classes when she could actually get people in the door, and she knew how to sell clothes. Sex sold it all. Her impants had been the talk of the town, but after the divorce she went on a bit of a treat-herself binge and it had been one of the more reasonable decisions she made, when you consider the chickens.

She recognized the story as a baseball story, and she saw that he was in shorts and a sweat-wicking t-shirt. He was clearly intending to work out, though whether he intended to take class was unclear to her. She moved behind the desk and some of kaçak iddaa the crowd followed her, asking about how to sign up if they want to take the 5:30 class. There had to be twenty women in the room, all of them attuned to Derek, even the ones who were playing it cool and had migrated over to Darcy.

“Hi Derek,” she heard Vicki say, and it was said in a way that made Darcy think there might be something to the hand-job story after all. Vicki was a beautiful woman, though she was beautiful in a way that Derek often implied was slightly dirty, the very-sexual way that people like Megan Fox and Kat Von D could be considered beautiful. “What brings you to the barre? Come here often?” If Darcy were feeling dramatic she might have thrown up in her mouth at that one.

“I’m here to get a workout. I hear it’s a doozey and I could use a little core strength.” Darcy tried not to show any reaction, though she could feel the heavily-made up eyes flitting her way. She could not hold the make-up against them, as she had on a full face of make-up. She had started wearing it daily after the divorce, straining for some glamour in a ruined life, and now she suddenly felt silly, fake and shallow. She did not doubt that he was here to humiliate her, to remind her he was still in control, that this was still his town. And Vicki? It was easy to hate her, mostly because there was no way Vicki had remembered to wipe down her mat and put away her equipment (two sets of weights, a ball, a stretching band, there is no way she had time- she had clearly rushed out of the room to make sure she didn’t miss speaking with Derek.

Darcy handed out paperwork to the customers that were lining up, trying not to feel giddy as woman after woman ignored her monthly promo and committed to packages. Monthly unlimited, three and six month commitments. One paid a year up-front, this would not solve all her issues, but if these women brought their friends… she was practically giddy. Was it only this week after book club when she had cried to Julie about being a failure, about putting her all into this business and knowing she would be so much more successful if she had just chosen a different town. Any town. That maybe she would be able to pay herself a salary, could pay other teachers, if people would just walk into the classroom and try it.

But of course-she’d told Julie. Of course Derek was here, she had obviously told her husband, word had obviously traveled to Derek. He’d come to witness her fail again, this time on her own, without him. Why? To prove their failed marriage was her fault, all over again?

Derek made his way over to the desk. “Is there a friends and family discount?” he asked, smiling, charming, delightful Derek.

“We’re not family,” she reminded him. She had to work not to be baited, as hard as she worked not to be baited every month of that last year, their third together as a married couple.

“Friends, then,” he said. They had an audience and he knew it.

“I do have a promotion going- buy 5 classes get one free. That’s a deal.” She wanted to save face, but she hated to encourage him to come back. She was having trouble seeing him once, could not imagine going through it six times. “But since you haven’t tried it, maybe you just want to buy one class?”

After a moment of silence, of searching her face, he nodded. “Okay, put me down for one, then.” And of course, she was disappointed, because- why wouldn’t she be?

Ignoring the paperwork he had filled out she entered his information into the computer, plugging in her old address from memory, picturing the tall ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at a view of the lake.

Women wandered into the classroom to get set up as the last of her 4:15ers wandered out, unable to delay any longer without being obvious. They were alone in the lobby. “You look good.” His eyes lingered on her breasts, so prominently on display, and the first inklings of heat teased her body, a tickle in her arms, a blush in her cheeks.

“I have to get into the classroom,” she said. “And you should get set up.” Not waiting for an answer, she walked away.

Luckily one of her regulars, a fifty-something woman named Suzanne, who had only recently moved to the area, was in class and had provided instructions to the new arrivals. The room had never been so crowded, and it occurred to her now that they were probably at least three people over a good class-size. They were not quite packed in like sardines but it was close. It was hard not to be aware of Derek, as he took up quite a bit of the room’s space, and was the focus of so much of the room’s attention. Everyone who was not sneaking direct peeks at him laying out his mat on the bamboo flooring was peeking at him via the mirrored walls.

Everyone, save for Suzanne, struggled through the warm-up and the initial weight-workout, though Derek struggled the most. The women, at least, had exposure to choreographed group-exercises at the big box-gym in town. It was only when they came kaçak bahis down to the mat for tricep dips, push-ups and planks that Derek seemed to find his footing. Even now, class typically made Darcy sweaty, but the added nerves of a new audience made her feel like she’d sprung a leak. When a particularly suggestive P!nk song came on, she regretted forgetting to navigate away from her more risque (and explicit) Friday music playlist.

Once thighs started, she had to focus on helping adjust postures in addition to demonstrating, and she could feel all eyes in the room on her. As a result, she felt underdressed and overexposed. Everyone’s position was terrible, and she had to walk around making adjustments. Derek was closest, so she got him out of the way first.

“Tuck,” she instructed, putting a hand on his lower back.

“That doesn’t mean anything to me. Tuck what?”

“Heavy hips, tailbone down.” Everyone was having the same difficulties that Derek was so she kept her microphone on, let them hear her corrections.

“What?” he didn’t need a microphone. He was practically yelling to be heard over P!nk. There were giggles around the room.

“Squeeze your butt cheeks together and thrust your hips forward. If you had a tail it’d be pointing down at the ground right now.” She pushed on his lower back, unwilling to send her hand to his butt, which is precisely where she usually put it when pushing a student into a tuck. She looked around the room, watching as the women adjusted. She was not the only one with breast enhancements, they made up about 50% of the room.

Derek got a close approximation of the position and she moved on to those women who hadn’t quite gotten it, making adjustments.

The rest of the class went in much the same manner, Derek sweaty and frustrated and requiring so many adjustments that Darcy started to suspect he was messing up for the added attention of the females in the room, reminding them he was still there. Exhausted and watching to room stretch through their cool down as she passed around antibacterial wipes for the mats, she was suddenly happy her Fridays weren’t busy enough to require a late class. She wanted to go home and have a drink (or two) and a long shower.

“That was such a good workout,” women gushed to her as they exited the studio, smiling warm smiles and gathering around the desk to grab copies of the schedule. She suddenly felt like the popular girl as she answered questions and accepted praise. Derek hung out drinking water from the cooler she’d set up and snacking on the almonds she’d put out. “These are unsalted,” he told her, as if she didn’t know.

“Yes.”

“That class was pretty hard. I probably shouldn’t have gone biking right beforehand.”

“Yes, I’m sure that’s why it was hard.” She could feel eyes on her but she just couldn’t bring herself to be nice to him no matter who was in their audience. He smiled at her as if they shared some kind of secret, and still she didn’t know what had happened today, why he was here, why she suddenly had a multitude of new students crowded into her lobby, chatting amongst themselves and watching her.

The awkwardness of their lingering became overwhelming enough that people started to leave, many of them saying, “thanks” to her and “bye Coach” to him, and it occurred to her now that she had probably heard right, he probably was coaching kids’ ball, and of course he had an entourage of baseball moms. But none of that really explained why he was here, bothering her.

“I should get going, too,” Derek said. He gave her a look she couldn’t quite make sense of and with him the last of the stragglers left. She locked the door behind them and, knowing how soon morning yoga would come, set about mopping the studio floors and finishing getting all of her new clients into the computer. It was work she should’ve left for Janelle, her receptionist, but she was not quite ready to leave the studio, because today, finally, it promised the hint of success.

The roads were quiet on her drive home and gave her mind a chance to wander. She still wasn’t entirely sure what had happened, but it was clear that Derek had done something. She resolved to check out his latest activities on Facebook (she had not unfriended or blocked him during the divorce, choosing instead to pretend it hadn’t occurred to her to worry about it, and instead has simply hid his posts from her feed. She’d done it so she would never see him on accident, so she might avoid the pang of pain that, to this day, still sometimes hit her when she heard his name or saw his car (technically her car, she’d taken his truck when he wouldn’t give her the dog) parked in town.

She showered and grabbed a bottle of stout before she sat down at her computer, navigating to first her newsfeed and then, heart racing, to Derek’s feed. And there is was, her explanation, in a post from 2pm, “Trying a new workout today, going to work out with Darcy at Barre Boutique at the 5:30 class tonight- who’s coming?” The post had 38 likes, mostly women, and about 15 comments, many from women she’d seen at class, lot of “see you there!” and “me too!”, responses that suggested they had been planning to go before his post or were regular attendees.

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