Second Chances – Chapter 2

not completely sold on the start of this chapter as it relates to the close of the previous one.  should I better specify the later day or is it clear enough by their activity?  not sure.  guess I’ll see if anyone has qualms about how it starts (or anything else, for that matter…)  AND I think it needs a better title, but then – I’m never happy with my own work…

2 ~ Gym Life ~

It only took ninety minutes before I was a jumbled mass of tired, aching muscles.  I finished with the stair climber and headed across the room to find Jared at the free weights bench.  He had stripped off his shirt, sweat glistened like dew on his chest and abs.  I admired his regulated breathing, the pulse of his arm muscles as he raised and lowered the bar.  The man had always taken good care of himself from the days of college when we were on the rugby team.  Other than the slight greying of his temples, you would never guess him to be in his early forties.

Jared smiled as I approached and slipped the bar back into its holder.  He grabbed his towel from beside him and mopped up his face.  “You ready to swim?”

“Actually I’m done in.  How ‘bout we just put the pool off ‘till next time?  Besides, I forgot to pack a suit.”

He sat up and shook his head, madly throwing sweat from his dark hair.  “If you’re sure.  We could just hit the whirlpool if you prefer.”

“Earth to Jer… I didn’t bring a suit.”

“Right.”  He laughed and stood, dabbing his chest with the towel.  “Then let’s just call it.”  He stretched before wiping down the bench.  He shot me a grin then snagged his water bottle and started back to the locker room.  “Thanks for coming, Paul.  I hope it didn’t traumatize you too much.”

I laughed and snapped my towel at him in jest.  “Wasn’t that bad, considering I was across the room most of the time and didn’t have to listen to you grunt and groan.”

He smirked.  “And I was free of hearing your joints creak.”   He tossed his towel on the bench in front of his locker before placing one foot on the top and leaning down to untie the shoe.  He stood straight and stretched backwards, rubbing his lower back.   “I don’t remember workouts bothering me so much twenty years ago.”

“Twenty years ago we were both on the field practically each day.”  I dropped shoes and socks into my bag and continued stripping down.  “And as I remember, we counted new bruises about that often as well.

He laughed.  “That is true.  Damn, but we seemed to be more black and blue than not those days.”

“And now we’re old and tired.  Not sure which is worse.”

Jared stood to follow me into the showers.  “Hey, you’re the old one, remember?  I’m younger.”

“Right – by two years.  At our age I’m not sure two years matters.”  I adjusted the water and stepped under the hot spray, enjoying the pressure and heat against my shoulders.

Jared grabbed the shower beside me.   “Speaking of which, what are we doing for our birthday this year?  We haven’t done a combined for a while now.”

I considered his question in silence while rinsing my hair.  While it was our mutual date of birth that had drawn us into being friends in the first place, I wasn’t sure I was ready for Jared’s outgoing, adventure-seeking attitude for celebrating.  I must have paused too long, for he spoke up before I had a chance to answer.

“It’s not that hard of a question, Paul.  I think we should do something major this year, you’ll be forty-five and it’s the first year we don’t have to clear with someone else.”  He must have caught the pain register in my face because he jumped in to continue.  “I’m sorry, that probably hurts, but it’s true.  Come on.  Go out with me.  If you don’t want to celebrate your birthday, then at least help me celebrate mine.”

I shut off my shower and looked at him.  “If you promise not to go crazy, ok, sure.  Let’s plan on it.”

He likewise turned off his shower and reached for his towel.  “When have I ever ‘gone crazy’?  Ok, you don’t need to answer that.  You have my word, nothing too wild.”

Although I caught his qualification of ‘too wild’, I let it slide.  Jared was the one person I had always been able to count on to sense what where I was; I owed him my trust.

“Alright.  Why not?  You are my best friend; we’ll do it.”  I finished drying myself and wrapped the towel around my waist before I headed back to my clothes.  The locker door swung open and another member walked in.  We nodded in passing; he turned and said hello to Jared.   I glanced at him from my locker then turned to my friend.  “Who’s he?”

“Garret Sunderson.”

“As in the ‘Devore Avenue’ Sundersons?”  They were the owners of the five bowling alleys in town.

“One in the same.  Met him on the hand ball courts last summer.  Married, four kids, and boringly straight.”

I shook my head.  “You would know that.”

“I’ve never asked, it’s just the way he handles himself, you can tell.”

“You’ve watched him ‘handle himself’?”  I shot Jared a look of mock horror.

“Yeah, right.  Of course not, though from what I’ve noticed in the shower he doesn’t have that much to handle.”

“So did you win?”

“Huh?”

“Hand ball.  Did you beat him?”

“Oh.  We didn’t play, I had just finished practicing – he and another guy were taking the room.”  He paused to give Sunderson a glance before turning his eyes back to me.  “Good thing too, the guy’s a monster on the court.”

I ran both hands through my damp hair to push the mop behind my ears.  Many of the waves fell forward again.  Jared looked at me and grinned.

“What?”

“I’d kill for that hair.  Why is it there is not one grey strand in yours and yet that color is taking mine over?”

“I hear many of the ladies like the distinguished look.”

His grin turned to a full-on smile.  “There is that.”

Once dressed we grabbed our bags and headed for the door.  Sunderson was just heading back from the showers, towel around his waist.  Jared shot a wave and I repeated our earlier nod, then we stepped out into the hall.  When we reached the foyer to sign out, Tommy looked up from his computer screen.

“How were the work-outs, gentlemen, or did you just swim today?”

“Maybe next time, uh … Tommy.  Today was enough just getting back into the swing of exercise.”

Jared initialed the line for his name and handed me the pen.  “It’s a shame you can’t join us, kid.  Show us old farts how it’s done.”

I chuckled.  “Not sure I need to be shown up by a young stud, Jer.”

To my surprise, Tommy blushed.  “I don’t think I could keep up with you two.”

I laid the pen on the pad and shot him one of my best smiles.  “I bet you’d do fine.  Come to think of it, does the club still do the ‘staff celebration’ weekend?  You could pace us then.”

The youth picked up the pen and spun it in his fingers.  “It’s next month, Mr. Veroll, but I had thought of volunteering to work instead.”

“Nonsense,” Jared interjected.  “Someone needs to show Paul here what a true athlete can do.”

“Definitely.” I added.  “It’s certain Jared doesn’t know.”

Tommy looked at me, the intense blue of his eyes twinkling with interest.  “If you say so, Mr. Veroll.”

“Excellent.”  I turned and headed for the door.  “I look forward to seeing you.”

As we got into the car, Jared started laughing.

“Now what’s so funny?”

“Didn’t take you long to get on the make.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You – hitting on Tommy.”

I was aghast.  “I did no such thing.”

Jared paused after sliding his key into the ignition.  “I don’t think the boy saw it that way.”

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