Chapter Two (Part One)
Trip strides into Gina’s health club, wearing a black leotard over black tights. She is swinging her ass just the tiniest bit as she saunters through the door held open by an accommodating fan. She is sure he’s watching her ass as he leaves, which is why she includes the extra twitch. Her hair is still pulled back in the simple ponytail, but she has added a touch of eyeliner, blush and lipstick to her face—she knows how the women in these uppity health clubs operate. For many of them, it’s more a meat market than a place to work out. Trip has small hoops in her pierced ears and a Berkeley sweatshirt over her leotard to ward off the chill. She is wearing her hundred-dollar Nikes, white with a black swoosh. She walks up to the desk where a tall, strapping young lad who looks just barely old enough to shave is manning the counter.
“May I help you?” The young man asks politely, his fingers opening and closing compulsively around the pen he’s holding. His white t-shirt shows off rippling biceps that bespeak of many hours in the weight room. The pimples sprouting on his chin coupled with his agitated manner whisper of steroid use.
“I certainly hope so,” Trip drawls, slipping a touch of Southern into her voice. “A little bird told me that I could try out the facilities for a day, a test run, you see.” Trip smiles and leans forward slightly.
“Sorry, Ma’am,” the man says woodenly, a tic jumping under his eye. “Someone told you wrong.” He turns back to the book he happens to be perusing which is on the benefits of weightlifting.
“Look, Mike,” Trip says after reading his name off his name tag. “I’m a friend of one Mr. Fenwick Harrington. You might have heard tell of him. He said to put it on his tab.” Trip proffers a note from her workout bag. It’s made up, of course, as Harrington had never been into this particular health club. “Here you go, darling. You certainly are nicely muscled, aren’t you?” By Trip’s calculations, Mike is two or three years younger than her and not her type at all, but she’s willing to flirt if it’ll get her what she wants. “You can call him if you’d like. His cell number is on the note.” Trip waits, her body erect. She learned early on that the more confidence you display, the more likely you are to get what you want. Mike reads the note twice, moving his lips. When he hesitates, Trip reaches one red-tipped finger and traces a line delicately on the back of Mike’s hand. He swallows hard and ushers her in.
“Here.” He hands her a guess pass. “Show this if anybody asks. Do you need a locker?” He holds out a key as well.
“Thanks, sugar,” Trip says, bestowing a wide grin on him. She sails past him, only to turn and ask, “By the way, where are the aerobics classes held?” Mike directs her with more accuracy than strictly needed; Trip nods and heads in that direction. Her lip curls in scorn. Some security! He doesn’t even take her name. She arrives to Gina’s high-intensity class three minutes before it’s slated to start.
Trip does some stretches, casing the room at the same time. Per usual, it’s filled with thin, toned, fake women who could be high-class hookers if they so choose. There is one man who is most likely gay, and he’s chatting with an anorexic woman with yellowed teeth who is a replica of her counterparts. The instructor is a thin, toned blond with impossibly perky boobs and thighs, buns, and abs of steel poured into a hot-pink leotard. Everyone in the damn room is wearing a thong leotard, including the guy. No way would Trip wear butt floss, not even for a job. Trip shakes her head silently as she stretches the hamstring on her left leg. She spots Gina who at least is a brunette instead of blond, even if she is wearing the ubiquitous thong leotard. There is a sameness to the people in the room which depresses Trip. Needless to say, she’s the only person of color in the room which is not unusual for the Nob Hill area.
“Hi! I’m Susie!” The instructor bounces over, dimples flashing everywhere. “I don’t think I’ve seen you before.”
“Hi, Susie, I’m Lyndsey Chang,” Trip says, holding out her hand. She likes that Susie gives her a hearty shake. “I just moved here from Alabama, and I was curious about your class.”
“Well, Lyndsey, this is a high-intensity class. Have you done aerobics before?” Susie asks seriously. “I wouldn’t want you to feel bad if you can’t keep up, or worse, hurt yourself!” She widens her eyes which are lightly rimmed with eyeliner in mock horror. Despite her artifice, there is something engaging about her.
“I’m more into weightlifting,” Trip says casually, flexing her biceps. The other girls are looking at Trip covertly, pretending not to do so. Trip shows no sign that she notices the glances even though she sees each one. “But I’ve been neglecting my cardio dreadfully so I just forced myself to take this here class.”
“Well, do what you can, but don’t push too hard, OK?” Susie pats Trip on the back of her hand before moving to the front of the class to get started. Trip finds a spot at the back of the room and continues stretching.
Trip has never taken an aerobics class; she’s only heard the horror stories. However, she runs five times a week, four miles at least each time and lifts three times a week as well. How hard can one aerobics class be? She quickly finds out that nothing she’s ever done has prepared her for the hell that is aerobics. Oh, and fucking Harrington neglected to tell her it’s step aerobics which adds another ring to the existing hell. Trip is grimly thankful that at least she’s in the back of the room so if she passes out or dies, she won’t completely embarrass herself. She watches in horrid fascination as Susie the Cheerleader becomes Susie the Nazi who barks out instructions at the top of her lungs. No one else in the room is having difficulty following her, though there are one or two red faces. Trip vows that she will not stop, no matter what. It’s a matter of pride that she outlasts these Marin cupcakes.
The hour drags on. A half hour into the class, Trip can no longer feel her thighs. Her heart is pounding double-time, and her legs are on autopilot. She is cursing herself for being in the class at all. She could have just waited until after then met up with Gina in the hot tub, but no, Trip had to be macho as usual and take the damn class to prove, at least to herself, that she isn’t a cream puff even though she knows she’s not. She could beat the crap out of every person in the room, cold comfort at best. I could walk out of this damn class right now, she thinks to herself, but doesn’t. Not even when she’s forced to get on all fours and do the dog-leg lift which is a most ignominious position. She just prays nobody she knows will see her, though that’s a very slim possibility. She marvels at the women—and one gay man—in the class who willingly put themselves through this torture on a consistent basis. She wants to scream, ‘Take a damn walk! Run around a lake or something!’ However, that would require breathing, which is something she’s not capable of doing, so she remains silent and struggles through the class. By the time it’s over, she’s more than ready for the hot tub.
“Wow, that was a tough class!” Gina chirps as she sinks her slim, toned body into the tub. She is naked, but not self-conscious about it.
“Certainly was,” Trip mumbles, lowering her aching body as well, but she is wearing a one-piece, black bathing suit. She is more muscled than Gina, but less svelte.
“I’m Gina Lattimore. I haven’t seen you before.” Gina’s eyes are warm and frank, but definitely not sexual, so Trip scotches that idea.
“Lyndsey Chang,” Trip says, nodding her head. “You probably won’t see me again, I swan!” She groans theatrically, though it’s not far off the mark. She’s feeling muscles she never knew she had.
“It’s not that bad once you get used to it,” Gina laughs. “Nice tattoo.” She nods at the yin-yang symbol designed like Dali’s melting clock that peeks out over the top of Trip’s bathing suit, left breast.
“Thanks,” Trip smiles, pulling down her bathing suit so Gina can get the full effect.
“I have one, too.” Gina points at her hip where there’s—what else—a red rose. Trip refrains from sighing—these Marin girls are so damn predictable. Cute little flowers or hearts usually in places that can’t readily be seen. Can’t one of them do something original for a change? “My friend, Jenny and I had them done at Lyle’s.” She looks smug at her own daring, which makes Trip want to smack her. “We went to another shop first, but some dumb bitch refused to do them.” Trip would be willing to bet that Gina and Jenny had waltzed into the shop liked they owned it, their snooty noses in the air, demanding to be serve. They were probably drunk on top of it. Trip wouldn’t have anything to do with this girl, either, if she didn’t have to work her.
“Nice ring,” Trip comments casually. Incredibly, Gina is wearing a diamond ring on her ring finger of her right hand. Trip would bet anything it’s one of the little gifts that Harrington had given her, and it has a rock the size of a golf ball. Gina has her hand draped casually outside the tub so she won’t get it wet. If it were Trip, she would have pawned that thing so fast, it wouldn’t have time to get comfortable on her finger.
“An ex gave it to me,” Gina giggles. “Isn’t it gorgeous?” In the time-honored female tradition, she waggles it in front of Trip’s face as Trip makes appreciative noises. “He dumped me, but insisted I kept the ring. I would have, anyway.” She giggles again, apparently not too broken-hearted over her break-up.
“I understand,” Trip says, lowering her voice conspiratorially. “Down home, I was seeing this one gentleman who was a bit older than me, but more than made up for it in other ways, if you know what I mean.” Trip and Gina laugh compatibly. “We single ladies have to look out for ourselves, don’t we?”
“Exactly!” Gina says eagerly. “I mean, love is nice and all, but it doesn’t pay the rent. It’s just as easy to date a rich man as a poor one.” It burns Trip that this woman most likely looks down her nose at working gals when she’s running essentially the same game herself. If she only knew how much like her sisters in the Tenderloin she sounded, she might not have said it so proudly.
“There’s nothing wrong if a gentleman wants to reward me for indulging in my womanly charms,” Trip agrees. She pauses a second before asking, “So, why did this gentleman stop being so generous if he enjoyed the pleasure of your company?” This is the tricky part as no woman wants to list the reasons she’s been dumped, even if she didn’t love the guy in the first place.
“It’s his damn bitch wife,” Gina says, making a face. “I’m sure she caught him and demanded that he dumped me. He was stupid enough to think that I’d go quietly. Ha! Men!” Trip laughs with Gina again, though she’s put off by the avarice in Gina’s face. If she went to Harvard, she probably has family money of her own—Compton be damned. This is pure greed and nothing more. “I have a little something tucked away; I certainly do. Gina Lattimore’s mama didn’t raise no fool.” She nods her head, very pleased with herself.
“I kept the monogrammed jockeys of my last gentleman caller,” Trip murmurs, not looking at Gina. “As well as some, shall we say, indiscreet memos? They came in most handy. A lady never knows when she may need a little insurance.”
“Exactly! I knew we were soul sisters from the minute I saw you!” Gina grabs Trip’s hand and squeezes it. “I gotta look after me, you know? I’m twenty-five; I’m not getting any younger. I don’t want to be working some shitty job all my life for some measly retirement benefits. No sir, not me.” She tilts her head determinedly, her nostrils flaring slightly. Twenty-five, not twenty-three as Harrington had told Trip. If Gina had lied about her age, who knows if anything she told Harrington had been true? Trip dismisses the thought from her mind as irrelevant and hones in on her prey.
“I hid my mementos in my freezer,” Trip confides, looking at Gina out of the corner of her eyes. Gina starts slightly, but Trip makes no mention of it. “I reckon it’s the last place someone would look for a bunch of incriminating evidence, you know?”
“That’s a good hiding place,” Gina says a bit nervously before quickly changing the subject. “Let me tell you about this guy I just met.” Trip allows Gina to do so, having received the information she needs. Trip feels the slightest bit proud of her deductive prowess, but acknowledges that the freezer is the logical hiding place given what it is Gina is hiding. Trip sinks further into the hot tub and closes her eyes; all the better to shut out Gina.