(First, stop right there! Did you read Chapter 7 of our South Boston romance novella yet? If not, read this first! )
TAKING THE cardio dance class at the new fitness studio was not an accident. It was deliberate and calculated. Olivia’s workout of choice was more of a running around Castle Island type of workout. Maybe an occasional Boxer’s Conditioning class at Peter Welch’s Gym. But here she was, lacing up her sneakers and waiting for this 45 minute cardio dance class to start.
She looked at herself in the mirrored wall and adjusted her pony tail. She decided she looked fit in her black high waisted leggings. She wore a plain white t-shirt knotted at the waist. Just a glimpse of her stomach. The other women in class were proudly displaying flat and toned abs. Some even wearing Flash Dance style leg warmers as they stretched out before class using the barre along the wall. Hardcore. Maybe this class wan’t the best idea, thought Olivia.
Olivia was standing in the safety of the back of the studio. She wasn’t there to show off her dance moves, she was there to observe the instructor. She wanted to see up close Dana Mitchell. She was beautiful and successful on Instagram but anyone can be so on social media. Smoke and mirrors.
The studio was bright and clean and the mirrors were adjusted to make you appear taller and thinner. Although it was an illusion, it was good for the self esteem. She gave herself a small smile at her reflection through the crowd. Justin Bieber was playing on hidden speakers. Olivia felt the energy growing in the crowded studio. Everyone in attendance was ready to dance. Dance away a wild weekend of regret, a bad day at the office, a fit with a partner, to fit in the skinny jeans, to release the endorphins that changed your brain and created the euphoria of happiness.
The glass door to the studio opened silently and in walked Dana. She was taller than expected. Her dark black hair pulled up into sleek bun. She was wearing a matching bright orange leggings and bra top combo. Her lips were pursed into a smile that became wider and more animated as she greeted the class with “Hello, everyone!” She was electric. A knot tightened in Olivia’s stomach as she watched Dana slip the microphone belt around her tiny waist and place on a head set. “Who’s ready to dance?”
FRESHMAN YEAR, Olivia tried out for her high school cheerleading team. She had danced a few years at Miss Linda’s School of Dance – she had four years of tap, jazz and ballet under her belt. She also cheered for pee-wee football in her town. This was at the start of fifth grade when her mother noticed that Olivia was starting to become more of a loaner. The differences between her and her friends from grammar school were starting to emerged. They were into cutoff denim short shorts and mid-drift tops. Sparkly lipgloss and small backpacks. Olivia preferred sweats and hoodies and she hated the feel of lipgloss.
She found herself retreating to the confines of her room, safely tucked beneath her down comforter, watching the Disney Channel or reading the Babysitter’s Club series. Occasionally, she would emerge to seek snacks from the kitchen like string cheese or Triscuits. She would eat them in bed not caring about crumbs in her sheets. She would just brush them on the floor later and invite Smokey – the family’s 9 year old Labrador – inside to eat the evidence.
Sometimes Olivia’s mother would be in the kitchen and would silently observe her as she looked for something to eat. The judgment hung above Olivia like a cloud as she opened the refrigerator door.
“There’s fruit on the dining room table,” her mother suggested.
Reluctantly, Olivia would take a banana or an apple and take a bite in front of her.
“What’s on the agenda,” her mother would ask as if Olivia kept a schedule of appointments and responsibilities.
“Nothing,” said Olivia taking another bite of apple.
“Where have Darcy and Hannah been?” asked her mother.
Olivia shrugged. Darcy and Hannah were now the popular girls that sat at different lunch table. “Maybe I’ll walk down the Murphy’s and see Stoopy,” added Olivia.
Her mother frowned. “You’re gonna visit that horse again? You should call the girls and do something fun,” suggested her mother. “It’s good for girls to have friends and to be outdoors having fun – especially in the summer,” she added.
That summer, it became obvious to Olivia that transforming into a pretty, popular girl who liked to have fun was expected if not mandatory. So she went along for the ride. She went to the mall bought the denim cutoffs and applied the lipgloss. She cheered that fall and all the way through junior high. When she tried out for the high school team, she was cut the first round. Girls with developing bodies on display, confidently danced and tumbled. While Olivia struggled to keep up and felt herself trying to disappear – embarrassed by the leggings and t-shirt she wore for tryouts – juvenile and out of place. When she walked the hallways to class, she would come across cheer team members and the feeling would wash over her all over again. “You weren’t good enough.”
THE NIGHT Paul told Olivia about his new relationship on his stoop, she didn’t stay for all the details. Just the initial introduction. He’d met her at L Street Tavern. She was originally from Pittsburg. She bought him a beer. They hit it off. They’ve been dating for two months.
She was speechless and motionless as he spoke. A wave of sickening jealousy passed over her. A feeling she had recently forgotten but it came back strong and almost violently – causing her to jump to her feet and scream in Paul’s face, “I fucking hate you.”
With swift feet, she took turns between fast walking and running the four blocks to her apartment on M Street. She wanted to leap into her bed, underneath the shelter of her comforter and go to sleep. Sitting on her stoop drinking beers were Billy and Peter from the second floor apartment. “Have a beer with us,” called Billy as Olivia brushed past them.
When she opened her apartment door, she was greeted by Maddy and Jimmy sitting side by side – like two bugs in a rug- on the sofa. The TV was on and they were drinking White Claws. They both sat up a little straighter when Olivia appeared in the doorway.
“Where have you been?” Maddy asked conjuring up a tone of concern.
Jimmy sat there, looking slightly sheepish.
“I see you,” said Olivia locking eyes with them. Then she walked to her bedroom slamming the door behind her. After removing her shoes, she slipped into bed, pulled the covers up to her chin and fell into a deep sleep. When she woke up early the next day, she called out sick, and then went back to sleep until 5pm. She rolled over and instinctually looked at her phone. 5 texts from Maddy. A missed call from her mother. And text from a number she didn’t recognize.
Why did you leave you should have stayed
She knew immediately it was her landlord Steve. Although, she was slightly annoyed by his boldness, there was something about the text that made an unexpected warmth rise to her cheeks.
There was no call or text from Paul pushing her further into a hole. She thought of reaching out to to him. But knew it would just spiral into a dark, obsessive craziness that he would most likely not engage in and she didn’t have that type of energy to expend. So instead she made herself a strong cup of coffee and took to Instagram. First to Paul’s page, then to Dana Mitchell’s.
For two weeks, she kept a close eye on Dana’s page. First starting at the beginning when her hair was much shorter and her style very trendy. Dana morphed from someone who once wore feathers in her hair into a more assured and chic version of herself. Daily she would look for updates to Dana’s story and feed. Sometimes Paul would make an appearance and it would take all her strength not to text him.
NOW HERE she was, following choreographed dance moves designed to make you sweat. Dana commanded the class. She was upbeat and confident. Olivia’s body fumbled and struggled through three songs trying to master the steps. Dana reminded the class to “not worry about the choreography and just keep moving!” Judging by the participants, Dana was directing the message at Olivia and confirmed her suspicious by making eye contact and giving Olivia a smile.
An embarrassed rage surge inside her, Olivia could feel the heat on her face as she walked out of the studio. Megan the Stallion was still ringing in her ears, as she grabbed her jacket from the locker room and exited through the back door.
She wasn’t sure what the point of signing up for the dance class was . But if feeling inadequate, insecure and angry were the goals, then mission accomplished. She walked the two miles home from the fitness studio without earbuds or looking at her phone. With each step, she felt the frustration dissipate and then a mild sadness replace it. Who are you? She thought over and over.
After returning home to an empty apartment, she took a hot shower, poured herself a glass of red wine and retreated into her bedroom closing the door behind her. Olivia had not spoken to Maddy since the night she found her on the sofa with Jimmy. Maddy tried to apologize through the closed bedroom door and numerous texts. But Olivia heard Jimmy leaving the apartment the following morning. And Olivia suspected they were seeing it other. She knew she would have to have it out with Maddy eventually but for now Olivia removed herself from the situation.
She drank her wine and put on Netflix. Picking up her phone, she could see there was two missed texts from Steve the landlord. Give it a rest, pal, she thought. A quick run through twitter. Then over to Instagram to begin scrolling through the feed. She told herself she wouldn’t creep. She wouldn’t creep. She wouldn’t creep.
She found herself on Paul’s page. The last photo posted was a selfie with Dana. Their heads close together. Smiling. They are on Coppersmith’s rooftop deck. The city skyline behind them. He had always had an Instagram account even when they were dating but he never posted. His page just read “No Posts Yet.” She insisted he download the app. “It’s not really my thing,” he would say whenever she lamented about the fact he didn’t share any photos.
Evidently, it’s now his thing she said looking at the photo.
She continued to scroll on the feed. Photos of cocktails, cupcakes, dogs, a woman talking into the camera about what type of lipstick she uses. She check out the stories. Workouts. Apartments to rents. New dishes and cocktails to try. The Southie Turkey.
Olivia is alerted that she received a message. She checks and it’s from Dana. I know that was you in class.
Her stomach flipped and her heart felt like was in her throat. She didn’t know how to respond to this. For the moment she would ignore it.
Olivia finished her glass of wine in one large gulp and walked down the hallway to the kitchen to pour another glass of wine. As she headed back to her bedroom, she stopped dead in her tracks at the sound of her doorbell ringing.
Okay, we need your help! Who is ringing Olivia’s doorbell? Is it Dana? Is it Steve the Landlord? Or is it Billy, from the second floor apartment? Go to our Instagram story to vote!
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