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|“Why do you need a gym membership? It’s a waste of money. You’re fit, you look fine!”
Now it really was Saturday. Feeling a bit better, I stood in Stuart’s kitchen, watching him persuade his mother to fill out the form. My dad was still in the hospital. This morning they phoned again. Ofcourse, I was still in bed. They told me his condition was stable, and that he’d come home on Sunday. His concussion was more severe than they initially thought, but now he was fine again. I started liking being home alone, though. I was going to miss that.
“But I’ll pay for it myself, and it’s my money. I’ve got a job!” Stuart protested.
A sigh escaped his mother’s mouth. “I still don’t see why you need this. Cian, what did your parents say about this?”
Before I could speak, Stuart told her that she usually wouldn’t take ‘but all my friends’ parents are alright with it’ as an excuse either, and now she was trying to use it the other way around. His mother made the most typical mother-like comeback with “I just want to know, maybe they have good reasons”. Ofcourse I told her that my dad agreed. I even showed her the form he had ‘signed’.
We didn’t go to the gym that afternoon though. It was Marc’s – a good friend of Stuart’s – birthday, and we were doing this together. I wouldn’t go alone. I’d feel strange and out of the place anyway. Having the seemingly ever-confident Stuart with me would give me a necessary boost.
“Hey, maybe you can come with me to Marc’s, sure he won’t mind.”
“But... he probably doesn’t even know my name”, I protested.
“Half the school’s coming. It’s not like he really knows all of them”.
Why would you invite people you hardly know to something as personal as your birthday? To get to know them? And what a stupid time for a birthday party is 3 PM?
Lost in my thoughts again, I failed to notice that Stuart was already phoning his friend to inform him.
“Nah, he’s cool. Alright. See you!”, Stuart concluded. “You were right. Marc hardly knows you. He didn’t know you were cool, for instance.”
“You’re making my fly...”, I replied in a sarcastic tone. “I guess I’ll come down from my pedestal to get him a present. What does he like?”
“Anything related to music; he’s the bassist in our band. Oh, and he’s addicted to marshmellows.”
Marshmellows? Was I supposed to turn up with a bag of marshmellows?
“I’m off to the shopping centre then”, I told him.
“Right. You coming back here afterwards? We can go there together, ‘cause you don’t know where he lives and all...”
In a whim of creativity I bought a tin and stuffed marshmellows and a birthday card in it. He’d probably get better things from his friends. When Stu and I reached a house, which was a few minutes outside the town, he slowed down.
“We’re a bit early. The party’s at 5, but I promised him to come sooner to help him with a couple of things. You don’t mind, do you?”
It wasn’t like I had anything better to do. Marc’s house was made of wood, which blended well with the environs: he lived in the forest. The Summer sun shone through the fresh green leaves of the dense trees. Further down the road, where the tarmac turned into gravel, I could see the shore of a clear lake.
“Nice place, huh? We have band practice here too, ‘cause it’s pretty remote”, Stuart informed.
I was still standing with my mouth open, stunned by the scene. Amazing, the things you miss when you stay inside all day. Another one of my opinions about the world down the drain.
“Hey Marc, so this is Cian”, Stu introduced.
Marc’s eyes scrutinized me thoroughly. “Yeah, I’ve seen you before. Hi, I’m Marc”, he said, replacing his inspecting frown with a friendly smile. “Come in!”
The house wasn’t big, but it seemed spacious in this soft, cream-coloured white. His parents definately had a good taste.
“The only thing we still have to do is setting up everything to play with the band. Yeah, and we have to pick some music to play in the background. Maybe you can do that, Cian. Want a drink, by the way?”. I nodded. “And after that, we can swim in the lake or something. It’s a nice day. Coke?”, he continued.
“I don’t have any swimming trunks, though!” I exclaimed.
“Nor do we. There’s no one else to see you there, you know...”
That was not what I had in mind.
After skimming through a neverending load of CDs and vilyls – everything from Barry White (“It was my aunt’s Christmas present for my dad!”) to some obscure rock bands – there was a little pile on my left. I didn’t know all that much about music, so I hoped I didn’t choose anything that shouldn’t be played on a party.
“Let’s go to the lake then. We’ve got an hour and a half left”, Marc announced.
It really was a beautiful place. You’d expect this to be more touristic. Maybe the people were waiting for the holidays. Hopefully they were. I was expected to swim naked.
Marc was already in the water. “I know what you’re thinking. Two Summers ago we wanted to go swimming, but we realised none of us had swimming trunks. We were on a holiday. Then we all realised we had the same kind of thing in our undies, so we said: ‘whatever, let’s go swimming’”.
Just when I thought it wasn’t possible to learn any more in a week, I realised that some taboos were indeed pretty stupid.
“What... what happened to you?”, Marc stammered with his eyes open wide, staring at my bruised torso.
I always try to forget pain, so I wasn’t really thinking of this when I undressed. Now I had another person to share my story with. Like I wanted that...
The rest of the day was great, though. We forgot the time when we were by the lake, and returned to the house to find out that the party had started without the birthday boy. At the party, the band played (and they gave me a guitar again to play the chords Stu had taught me, to play a song together). They were very nice people, Stu’s friends.
Sunday, however, was horrible. I came home late in the morning and saw my dad was back. I didn’t know what to expect; a hug, another beat up, him ignoring me...?
“Can you tell me what this is about?”, he said calmly, with a slightly shaky voice that gave away the fact that he was surpressing his anger. In his hand was a letter from the gym.
“Yeah, I got a membership. Is that a problem?”, I replied with an innocent face.
“I’m not crazy, Cian. I know you need approval from a parent for that. You went through my personal belongings to fake my signature”. His head was turning read. I was prepared for another round of punches.
“Give me your timetable”, he urged.
“My timetable, why...”
“Give me your timetable”, he repeated.
I ran upstairs to get my school diary, and ran back down in confusion to show it to him.
“You’ll be home within half an hour after your last class, every day until the Summer holidays”, he said in a stern voice.
“Does that mean I’m grounded? But I payed for that!”, I protested.
I said no more when I saw the reaction on his face.
When I saw Stuart the next day at school, he couldn’t believe the news. “How can he just... it’s not fair! How did he find out?”.
“He saw the letter from the gym, knew I needed permission, and found his papers in a mess. It was easy enough to make a connection.”
“Why did they send a letter?!”
“Confirmation... Look, you just go to the gym this afternoon, or Tim will get worried...”, I grinned.
“No way. This was our plan, so we’re going together, or not at all.”
“I insist. I’ve got dumbbells at home. I’ll keep up with you.”
Alright... it was nearly four. Tim should be around somewhere.
“Oh hi, it’s you! Where’s your friend?”, a big hand landed on my shoulder.
It was Tim. Was it a habit of his, showing up from behind when you are thinking of him?
“He can’t come. His dad wouldn’t let him”, I replied.
“Too bad, it would’ve been great to train with a friend. You can motivate eachother. And be jealous of eachother’s gains, haha.”
Tim seemed to be even bigger than before. That was probably my imagination. How old would he be? Maybe twenty? That means he started at the same age as I am starting!
I tried to imagine myself with such a body. Ofcourse, I was much shorter than Tim. He was about six feet. I was never going to reach that hight, but I didn’t care. Being short isn’t too bad.
“Do you help newcomers more often?”, I asked.
He scratched his head, which caused his bicep to flex underneath his long-sleeved shirt. “Well, no... I just felt some kind of connection to you two when you came in. So... shall we get going?”
“Alright. Let’s see. It’s important that you only train one muscle group a day, otherwise your body can’t focus properly on growing them”, Tim continued.
“But... you were doing your chest when we came in last Friday, and when we went, you started doing your legs!”
“Err... yeah. We might get to that later. Now, let’s make this an arm day.”
We walked to a rack with free weights. Despite his baggy clothes, Tim couldn’t hide his incredible mass. The fabric of his trousers stretched around back of his massive thighs as he walked. What a priviledge to have a personal trainer like that!
“Now, it’s important to do your reps properly. It’s best to start with a lighter weight, so you can get the movement right. If you start too heavy, you’ll automatically try to catch the weight with the rest of your body, and then the workout will have little effect.”
“So you’re taking over the gym soon then, Tim?”, a man laughed.
“Just showing the kid around, Pete. You get paid for it anyway”
After a pretty long workout – both Tim and I were very motivated, and everytime I thought I wouldn’t be able to do another rep, I just had to glance at him to get some extra energy – my arms felt really strange and light.
“Eat well, I’m sure you’ll have more appetite now. Your muscles need energy to recover. Oh, and no sleep deprivation! It all happens overnight...!”, he winked. I hated winks, but it seemed appropriate.
Cian was really disappointed when I told him (again) how great Tim was.
“After such an eventful week, the days seem to take forever. I can’t wait till the holidays start”, he said.
I could really start to see some change in my body. I could feel muscles I never knew the existance of (Tim’s workouts weren’t easy), and I was actually a bit more muscular. I still had a hard time imagining myself with a body like Tim’s. Maybe the best remedy was to just get it as quickly as possible. I probably needed a miracle for that though.
Sometimes miracles are more than a just a dream…
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