Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
Vickie reached back into the attic of her memory for the year of ballet she took to overcome a young girl’s coltish awkwardness.
‘I’ll show him what stretching can do, ’ she
thought with a trace of malice. She moved quickly through the first series of
exercises she learned so long ago and stole a glance at Cliff.
‘Not that I’m
here to impress him. Certainly not.’ She began the second set of
exercises, heel set on the barre. She
stretched, feeling tendons pop.
might appreciate the effort.
’ She switched legs,
sneaking another peek at Cliff. ‘Is he
really that rapt over selecting the weight for the bench press? Or is
he pretending that he’s
not looking? ’ A trickle of sweat (I sweat, he perspires. I thought I was a
lady. Phoo!) down
her spine told her she was warmed up enough to tackle the gym.
Cliff looked up, for all the world as if just noticing her presence. “Ready to go to it?”
“Yup. I’ll hit the stair machine
next, then a short
round of weights.”
“That sounds like a good combination,” said
Cliff. “Mind if I tag along?”
“Not at all
, if[MH1] you think you can
stand the pace.”
They mounted the machines and waited for the computers to reset. “I thought you weighed one‑twelve,” Cliff remarked as Vickie entered a one‑one‑six onto the flat keypad of the stair machine.
“Who asked you to peek?” she said with a touch more acid.
“Besides, I’ve been working my tail off for you; who has time to diet
with Overseer Cliff around?”
“Have you really been working that tail off?” he said with an air of innocence. Vickie could almost see him mentally putting on a (tarnished) halo.
“Never mind my tail. Let’s get going.” Exasperation mingled with a tingly realization that Cliff had almost certainly been watching her warm‑up.
The stair machines beeped almost simultaneously and they began the treading on the pedals
that quickly became[MH2] a steady rhythm. Vickie looked over to Cliff’s read‑out
and saw that he had picked the Herculean heavy‑training level routine. ‘Macho
creep ,’ she
muttered to herself. ‘I’ll
show this bucket of testosterone how it’s done !’ Vickie re‑entered her training routine to
“Hey, watch it
,” Cliff warned.
overdo this, either. Nobody profits if you get injured.”
“This? This is my normal, take‑it‑easy workout pace,” she replied, curling her lip.
took quick inventory of her body. Knees beginning to complain. Breath becoming shorter. Thighs tightening up. She told her body to relax and buckle in, and summoned all her Irish stubbornness. Her breath began coming harder, gulping oxygen in response to demands made on her legs. Beside her, Cliff was
sounding[MH3] like a Porsche in its element.
“Tired, yet?” panted Cliff.
“Not a…bit of it,” she gasped out.
Cliff’s muscles writhed as he hunched his shoulders like a huge bear. He put his head down between his shoulders and began charging like a linebacker, pushing the stair machine beyond its programming. Vickie put her face up, straining to match and exceed his pace. Her legs felt on fire and her arms felt like lead from gripping the rails.
Cliff stopped, panting hoarsely. The pedals slowly sank to the floor as he tottered to the bench nearby. He sat with his head down, gulping great quantities of air. Vickie stopped, too, riding the pedals down
. Suddenly, she felt very wobbly. She walked tentatively to the bench and
plopped down beside Cliff, mopping at her brow and feebly brushing her hair back out
of her face.
“Well, that was certainly fun,” Cliff said after he could breathe a little more normally.
“Exhilarating. Wouldn’t have missed it for anything,” Vickie replied.
Vickie sat on the bench next to Cliff and couldn’t think of a word to say. It was frustrating, really. One minute she wanted to kiss him and the next she wanted to
him. Ron had never affected her this way.
Oh, sure, Ron had been fun, when things were going well.
She had enjoyed
going to movies with him, and out to bars, and the usual things you did on
But Cliff, well, Cliff was different. Vickie smiled to
her self. Yes,
Cliff was very different. She enjoyed just being with Cliff, whether they were
talking shop, or competing, or…other things.
Vickie sighed. If only she could be the model corporate lover. If only she didn’t really care.
How about I drive you home?”
the disappointment in his voice?
He walked her
all the way out to her car. He hadn’t
done this before,
and Vickie eyed at him strangely.
the glance. “I just want to make sure
you get off okay.”
“I’ll be fine, Cliff.”
“Do you want me to follow you home?”
at him carefully. The parking
lot lights flooded the area, casting
a shadow over his face. She couldn’t be certain. “No thanks ,
I’m sure I’ll be okay. See you tomorrow.”
See you tomorrow,
then.” He was still standing there when she pulled out onto the street.
The two men sat companionably in the restaurant’s private room. One grinned at the other and asked, “Have you told her yet?”
The other scowled. “No.”
Apparently that was all he wanted to say, but the first one knew how to pry. “Well, I can see why. She scares the crap out of me, too.”
The other man shook his head. “I’m just not sure how she’ll take it.”
The first man was suddenly sober.
it so important?”
The first man sat back in his chair, smiling
and nodding mentally.
He knew why.
[MH1]This popped into my head as I was editing. But it's a good idea! Vickie has a redhead's temper, which is a bit of a stereotype. If you can make any important aspect of a character more concrete, it's good. Giving Vickie a grandma or aunt who is/was a redhead and whom Vickie admired, would go a long way to make Vickie's own temperment clearer. I need to think about this more but I may go back and weave that element in.
[MH3]Sounded, looked, felt--all these are OPPORTUNITIES to come up with a better, more descriptive word. Purring is a bit overdone but I think in this case it's better than sounding.
[MH4]One of the things I had to work hard on especially at the start was skipping steps. Cliff stood. Vickie gasped. In my head, the reason she's gasping is because he's flexing muscles like crazy and his lips are kissable and...you get the picture. But in the original--he stood, she gasped--the reader really didn't get the picture.
Don't get me wrong. Sometimes steps can be skipped, and are actually even more exiting when left to the reader's imagination. There's a zing when I read and my brain synapses leap the gap. But here isn't one of them.