Sting (Part 2)

Price had never signed up for a gym membership before. But it seemed a lot of things were changing for him. He looks up at the big sign above the counter: WINDS.

Some oversized biceps in a polo shirt search for the paperwork. Glancing down, Price can tell this guy skips leg-day.

“Here you go sir. Just initial here, here, and sign at the bottom.”

Price takes the pen. A bell on the door chimes behind him. The girl with gray hair walks in, and goes straight to the locker rooms. He finishes signing, slings his backpack over his shoulder, and hurries to change.

When he comes out in basketball shorts, he stumbles around a little clueless. There are treadmills lined along the back wall, a gray ponytail swinging on one of them. A ponytail which ought to have a name attached to it, except he had been an idiot the other day and didn’t think to ask for it.

He gets on the machine next to her, and starts fiddling with the buttons.

She has earphones in, and eyes glued in anger at the blank wall in front of her. After another minute she presses the down arrow and comes to a walking pace, taking her music out of her ears and gasping for breath.

“Hi.” Smooth.

She looks over. He can’t tell if she’s shocked or washed out from the exercise.

“So, uh, we keep running into each other. Maybe I could convince you to let me buy you a cup of coffee?”

She stops her machine. “I don’t drink coffee.”

“Oh.” Price finds the button to make the belt move. His feet pound as he tries to keep up with it.

The girl steps onto the ground. “But I know a place with good whipped cream.”

He looks at her, hopeful, and almost tripping.

“I still need to lift, but I’ll meet you out front in thirty minutes?”

Price nods.

She walks off toward the free weights.

Price keeps running until he finds the off switch.

Outside, Price frowns at a group of kids skateboarding.

“You ready?” She’s got her gym bag over her shoulder again. He nods and follows her, looking at her instead of where they are going. She has blue eyes.

He’s never been to this coffee shop. It has a bookshelf in the corner, with a sign: Take one, leave one.

“Hey Winnie!” The girl taking their orders smiles.

“Hey Claire. I’ll do my usual.” Winnie looks at Price.

“Um, yeah, I’ll do the same.” He hands Claire his credit card.

“Alright, I’ll have those right out for you.” Claire swipes the card, lifting an eyebrow at Winnie.

“Thank you Claire.” Glaring. They sit down and she looks at him. “So do I get to know your name?”

“Oh, yeah, right, sorry. So your name is Winnie?”

“Winifred. And yours is?”

“Price. My name is Price.”

Claire arrives at the table with two cups, both heaping with whipped cream. The girls have another conversation with their eyes before she leaves.

“So, is there a liquid under here, or did I order a cup of whipped cream?” Price lifts his drink.

“It’s white hot chocolate. Hazelnut creamer. Extra whipped cream.” She takes a defiant sip and wipes away the consequent moustache.

He tries it. “And you don’t like coffee?”

“It gives me a headache. And it’s bitter. Why would I add more bitterness to my life? If I’m going to indulge, it will be in something sweet. And light.” She taps the tip of her nose.

He wipes his own, finding a white clump. He smirks.

A bee lands on the table between them. He crushes it with a napkin.

“Was that necessary?” Winifred frowns.

“Sorry, I just didn’t want it to sting either of us.”

They keep talking until the mugs are empty.

Winifred stares at hers, wiping her finger along the rim to pick up the left over fluff.

Price takes out his phone and snaps a photo.

She looks up. “Did you just take a picture of me?”

“Sorry. It’s just, if I’d asked first you would have posed.”

“Or I might have said no.”

“Or that. I just didn’t want you to move. It’s a good shot.” He shows it to her.

She looks at her mug again.

As he walks down the sidewalk, Price puts in his headphones.

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