I checked my watch and shook my head. Becca had exactly three minutes to get downstairs, or I was leaving for class without her. The elevator chimed. I popped up on my toes and waited for the doors to open. No Becca. Letting out a sigh, I rocked back on my heels, took a swig of water from my silver S’well Bottle and thumped it down on the building’s reception desk. The night doorman jerked his head up and leaned over the white Formica counter.
“Waiting on Miss Jarvis?” he asked.
He lowered his voice. “You didn’t hear it from me, but she just got home an hour ago.”
“She was out ’til 3:00 a.m.? On a Tuesday night? I didn’t realize that’s how she rolled.”
The doorman held up his hands and took a step back from the desk. He’d already broken doorman code by telling me what time Becca came home. The agreement between doorman and tenant wasn’t quite as sacred as attorney and client, but in New York City, it came pretty close. I flashed him a smile and pulled out my phone to shoot off a text to Becca—I was giving her a five-minute warning. It was 4:15 am, and Benji locked the gym doors promptly at 5:00. There was no way I was getting another strike because of Becca. Benji’s Bridal Boot Camp had a strict policy—three strikes and you’re out. I suppose, with a year-long waiting list, they could afford to be sticklers.
Benji’s Bridal Boot Camp was the class for women looking to tone up and slim down before the big day. They promised to get you into a sample size wedding gown in less than six months, or your money back. Lucky for Becca and me, the Private Equity firm our fiancés worked for was a big investor in Benji’s Fitness Studios, and her fiancé, Evan, had been able to pull a few strings to get us both into the full class.
A few seconds later the elevator chimed again, and this time, when the door’s opened Becca stepped out into the lobby, pulling her sunglasses down over her eyes.
I scanned her up and down. “Are you okay? You look beat-up from the feet up.”
“I didn’t sleep very well last night,” she mumbled.
Tony snickered from behind his desk, and Becca shot him a look.
“If you’re not feeling well, I can go to class on my own.”
“After everything Evan did to get me into Benji’s Boot Camp, he’d kill me if I got kicked out. I’ll go. I’ll get through it, somehow,” she said in the most dramatic fashion possible.
I glanced back down at my watch. “We should get going if we’re going to make it in time.” I looked up and into Becca’s pale and obviously hungover face. “Are you really sure you’re up to going?”
She nodded. “Can we take a cab there, though?”
“Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose?”
Becca leaned back on the doorman’s counter to steady herself.
“Sure, let’s take a cab.” I conceded.
We stepped out of her building and hailed a taxi heading uptown. It let us out on the corner, and we ran up Spring Street to the studio just as the big metal doors were being closed. One of Benji’s trainers reluctantly reopened it for us.
“Ladies, another minute and I would’ve called this a strike,” the trainer said.
“I’m so sorry,” I said.
“Sorry,” Becca mumbled.
He pointed to the far side of the gym. “Get in line. We’re hitting the obstacle course first.”
Becca leaned into me. “Remind me again why we are paying for this torture session?”
“Think about all the money you’ll save when you’re able to fit into a sample size wedding gown. You’ll be able to buy right off the racks.”
Becca rolled her eyes and bent down to tighten her shoelaces. When she finished, we shuffled over to where half a dozen girls in full makeup and Lululemon workout clothes were waiting to tackle the military-inspired obstacle course complete with a ten-foot rope climb, twelve-foot cargo net climb, eight-foot incline wall obstacle, monkey bar challenge, hurdles, and push-up contest.
I took a swig from my S’well Bottle and passed it over to Becca, who had forgotten her water. She chugged what was left of it and tossed it onto the ground. The trainer blew his whistle, and we got down on our mark. He blew it again, and I sprang up and over to my first challenge, the rope climb.
Benji, a handsome guy with a shaved head, cleft chin, and bulging muscles, stepped out onto the gym floor and started screaming words of encouragement, followed by a barrage of insults meant to both inspire and provoke us. Unlike the other trainers, Benji didn’t use a body mic. Even without it, his booming voice echoed all around the gym.
Eager to stop him from using that booming voice to chastise me, I dove at the rope and used all my upper body strength to get to the top, where I triumphantly rang the bell. I scaled back down and passed the rope to Becca, who looked like she was seconds away from puking. She made it about halfway up the rope before sliding back down to the mat, hitting the floor hard with her rear-end.
When she stood up, Benji was standing less than an inch from her face.
“Becca, you didn’t ring the bell,” he said.
Becca was panting, her hands rubbed raw from the rope.
“You didn’t ring the bell, which means you didn’t get to the top,” Benji repeated.
“I-I don’t have the best upper body strength,” Becca stammered.
“I don’t have the best upper body strength,” he echoed in a sing-songy voice meant to sound like her. “How do you think you get upper body strength? By standing here whining? Do you want to wear a strapless gown to your wedding or have no choice but to cover those flabby arms?”
I glanced over at Becca’s arms, which were by no means toned, but certainly not what anyone would call flabby.
“Now, get moving to the hurdles. You know what I always say, if you’re not sweating for your wedding, then you don’t deserve one. Go!”
After the obstacle course, we did thirty minutes of weight training with kettle bells, followed by fifteen minutes of Pilates for toning. I glanced at my reflection in the mirror. I was down almost ten pounds and starting to see a real change to my figure. My stomach was flatter and my muscle tone more defined. I lifted my white cotton tank and could see the beginning outline of a six-pack under my spandex.
Benji walked to the center of the gym and blew his whistle to get the room’s attention.
“Today, we had one standout performance,” Benji said, scanning the room. “Joanna, nice work.”
My head shot up. This was the very first class Benji had recognized me by name. One of the trainers passed me a towel that had the words Buff Bride embroidered on the front.
I leaned into Becca and whispered, “I’ve been waiting weeks for one of these.”
She grabbed the towel from my hands without a word and wiped off her sweaty forehead before passing it back to me.
“Umm, thanks,” I muttered.
Benji climbed up on a chair. “As for the rest of you, repeat after me: I’m not through ’til I say ‘I do.’”
“I’m not through ’til I say I do,” the exhausted room mumbled.
“Louder!” Benji shouted.
“I’m not through ’til I say ‘I do,’” we repeated.
“I can’t hear you.”
“I’M NOT THROUGH ’TIL I SAY ‘I DO,’” I screamed.
Benji climbed down from his chair and blew his whistle. “See all of you disappointments on Friday.”
Benji patted me on the shoulder before Becca and I limped out of the studio.
“Wanna grab a coffee?” she asked, looking desperate.
I looked down at my watch. “I was hoping to spend a few minutes with Sam before he leaves for work.”
“Come on, you have enough time to grab a quick one and then a quick one, if you know what I mean,” she said, winking at me.
I laughed. “Forget sex. Sam’s been working so much these last few weeks I’m just hoping to see him long enough to give him a good morning kiss.”
Sam worked with Becca’s fiancé, Evan. She and I met at their work Christmas party a few years back. We weren’t particularly close, but she was one of the few people who understood what it was like to be a work widow. Sam and Evan easily worked sixteen-hour days, and we were lucky to see them a few hours a week.
We ducked into a small coffee house between the gym and our apartments. There was already a line out the door. Finally, we got up to the counter and ordered. A few minutes later, they called our names, and we took our steaming mugs to a small table in the corner.
“Evan said Sam’s off the next couple of days,” Becca said between sips of her cappuccino.
“My sister’s in town with my new nephew. Sam and I couldn’t get out to California when he was born, so she and her wife are here making the rounds. I begged Sam to give me one day, and he surprised me by taking a whole two days off. So, we’ll spend tomorrow with my sister and the baby, and then Friday, we’re having a yes date.”
“A yes date?”
“We used to have them all the time. On a yes date, one of us is responsible for planning an entire date, and the other person has to be completely open to whatever’s on the agenda.”
“What’s on tomorrow’s agenda?”
“Sam even proposed on a yes date, so figured I had to go big for mine. We’re going to start outside the city with breakfast at a cool roadside pancake place I read about, followed by strawberry picking. Then, we’ll head back into the city. It wasn’t easy, but I scored us Candytopia tickets.”
Becca scrunched her nose. “Candytopia?”
“It’s kind of like a pop-up museum, where all the exhibits are made of candy. They even have a pool filled entirely with marshmallows you can dive into.”
“If Sam is anything like Evan, he’ll hate that.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Exactly, but he has no choice but to go along with it. Yes date. After that, we’ll clean up, then head back out for a drink at the Café Carlyle, followed by Sleep No More, that immersive show based on Macbeth at the McKittrick Hotel.”
“Sounds like a really special day.”
“Honestly, we could do nothing, and it would be a special day because I’m spending it with Sam.”
Becca leaned in on her elbows. “You two are really that much in love, huh?”
“High school sweethearts.”
She set down her mug. “I didn’t know you two met in high school.”
“He was a senior when I was a freshman. We were both in the marching band. He played the trumpet, and I played the flute. Our high school was picked to play in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, and we got to spend a whole week in New York City before the show. We were in rehearsals most of the time but got a couple of hours on our own. Sam asked me if I wanted to go to the Museum of Modern Art with him. He’d never said a single word to me before that day. Not one. I wasn’t even sure he knew my name.”
A knowing smile tiptoed across Becca’s face. “I guess he knew your name?”
“He knew my name, my favorite flower, and that I was a Matisse fan.”
I nodded my head. “Very.”
“So that was that? From then on you were a dynamic duo?”
“Pretty much. We both knew we wanted to live in New York, so he applied to Columbia, and a few years later, I applied to NYU. We kept on dating through college and then afterward.” I held up my left hand and twisted my engagement ring around on my finger.
“And as they say, the rest is history.”
“And in all that time you two never took a break? Used a hall pass? Nothing?”
“I never wanted to. There’s nobody I could imagine being any more perfect for me than Sam.”
Becca squinted at me with a look of skepticism. “But how do you know that’s true? You never gave yourself the chance to find out.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I just know.”
She slumped back into her chair. “If you say so. Evan and I have taken at least three breaks from our relationship, and that’s just this month.”
“Then why are you torturing yourself with Benji’s Bridal Boot Camp?”
“I figure it’s a win-win. If we make it down the aisle, I’ll look like a million bucks, and if we don’t, I’ll be ready for swimsuit season and online dating again.”
I shook my head and laughed. “That’s incredibly pragmatic of you.”
“Oh, honey, when you’ve been single in New York City as long as I was, you always have a plan B.”