Jenny's Blue Velvet
by Angela Carlie
All rights reserved
characterized by elegance or beauty of form, manner, movement, or speech; elegant
I can’t breathe.
My lungs collapse into the size of peas and are having a fit in my chest. I’m panting. Sweat drips from my face, probably the color of a beet. And the pain burns from deep within parts of my body I only learned about in cadaver lab while in college—part of my eight years of higher education, even though I never received a degree in anything. I’m still paying off student loans and have nothing to show for it. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I did get a certificate in the dental assistant profession, which was only a ten-month course. But after working that gig for a few years, my back protested from bending over patients all day and I couldn’t do it anymore.
A victim of an indecisive personality. One minute I want to be a nurse, the next a paralegal, a dental assistant and so on. And now? A runner. I must be crazy.
“You’re doing great, honey!” My always-looks-hot-especially-while-running husband, Jason, turns around for a brief break in his jog. I smile. What does he know? He’s not even out of breath. I’m dying here. This is a piece of cake for him. He’s so sweet to stick it out with me for my first ever 5K. What was I thinking? I wasn’t ready for this stupid race, and why the hell did I pick the Starlight Parade of all the runs in Portland to choose from? I’m sure there are plenty of races that don’t include an audience waiting for a parade to start along the entire route.
A group of skinny girls in tutus giggle by me. Jason’s head follows as they pass. I can’t blame him. Their skin isn’t purple and sweaty.
Did I mention my lungs are burning? And my legs? My thighs are probably chaffed from rubbing together.
I slow my pace on this hill. The crowd cheers the runners on. Tall buildings loom high above the narrow streets. The sun is setting, reflecting a mellow orange onto the runners ahead. A stuffed giraffe head bounces up and down along with all kinds of costumed people, celebrating the joy of running or something like that. I find no joy in this.
Two kids stick their hands out in front of me. I unenthusiastically tap them with my sweaty palm. Gross. “Right on! Keep it up!” they say. Whatever. I growl.
Step. Step. Step. My feet tap the concrete. Gentle. Keep my steps small. Just don’t stop. This pain will end soon. Deep breaths. Oh, crap, I can’t. Is that the finish line up there?
Jason gives me a thumbs up. Look at him, all supportive and gorgeous. His ass, bopping in front of me, is totally squeezable if only I could catch up with him. Strong shoulders and legs. With each lunge forward, his calves contract. His entire body is one lean bundle of muscle. How I ever got so lucky, I’ll never know.
We met when I was twenty-two and taking classes at the community college. That’s back when I wanted to be a nurse and took my prerequisites to get into the RN program. We were partners in a CPR class. Yeah, the instructor who paired us knew what he was doing. Six feet of raw athleticism paired with the short, chubby-luscious chick in the hippie skirt and Birkenstocks. The past is always a little fuzzy, but that’s how I remember it. Needless to say, it worked out well for me. Eighteen years, several careers—twenty-seven to be precise—and two kids later, here we are. More like, here I am. He’s way up there, trying to keep within reach to make sure I don’t stop.
You may be asking yourself why the hell I’m running in a 5K if I don’t enjoy running. Well, to answer that very good question, I shall shrug. I’m almost forty years old, and deep inside of me, I know there is a runner waiting to burst out. I’ve suppressed her my entire life and it’s time for her to emerge. To break through, bringing her vibrant, young, in-shape body with her.
My name is Jenny. J-E-N-N-Y. Plain and simple. Not Genevieve or Jennifer, but Jenny. When I was in high school, I played with various spellings to appear more eccentric, but only ended up confusing my teachers. Genni, Djeni, Zhenny. None of them worked very well, so I went back to my mother-given name. Jenny. It fits me. There’s nothing special about me. In my head, I’m tall and thin and have flowing, sunshine-blond hair and porcelain skin. In the mirror, which I try to avoid, I’m about five feet tall. Five feet and three-quarters of an inch, to be precise. Not thin, but not fat, either.
My hair is graying, but was once dirty blond. I’ve never really completed much that I’ve started. Well, to be precise, I’ve completed one thing. I wrote and published a novella. An erotic horror titled Still Nights. I was so utterly embarrassed that I used a pen name that I pulled from a hat, Angela Carlie. It’s sold one copy. To one Jenny Arthur’s Kindle. Mrs. Arthur liked it. That’s me, in case you didn’t catch the reference.
I’m going to write a romance novel. I’ve never really read one, but they seem to be selling like bonbons to housewives on a hot summer day. My romance novel is going to be a bestseller. Once I figure out what it’s going to be about.
Elvis passes me. Elvis! I’m slower than a dead dude. He’s lit up with small Christmas lights. I will finish this. I’m not going to quit. This time it’s all me.
The air is so sultry that if all these people weren’t here, I’d start tearing off my clothes. This sweatshirt tied around my waist would be the first to go. I’d be graceful about it too, like those girls in the tutus. A runner so good at what she does, it’s like she’s a dancer instead of a runner.
Something zips into my mouth, smashing against my tongue. I spit. I gag. I wipe the nasty from my tongue onto the back of my hand. I cough, my dry lungs wanting no more of the torture.
An old man sitting in a fold-up chair on the sidewalk smirks at me. I jog the two steps it takes to reach him and wipe the back of my hand on his white shorts, bug guts galore. He jerks away and says, “Hey!” but I’m already on my way toward the finish line, so I don’t see what he does next. It’s not like he can catch up with me; he’s old. Well, maybe he can.
Jason looks back at me with those gray eyes of his. “Almost there!” He points.
There it is. The finish line! It’s not what I pictured it should look like. Runners clog beneath the metal frame built over the road. There’s an electric clock ticking away overhead. We aren’t close enough to read the time, though. Just blurry, red numbers.
I turn up my iPod. Pitbull says, “Bon, bon, bon, bon,” and then some words I can’t understand. It puts a fire into my step. I catch up with Jason. He gives me a side glance and a half grin. How people can have articulate facial expressions and run at the same time is beyond me. I’m sure my expression is only a scowl, giving the impression that everyone should get the heck out of my way or else.
I wipe the sweat from my brow. I have to pee. I’m so freaking thirsty. A few more steps ... and we’re stopped. “Move!” I say to the halted runners in front of me. We slowly cross the finish line: 36:40.
“Great job!” Jason pats my back.
I’m trying to catch my breath. I whisper, “Thanks. You too.” My angry veil disappears as I realize I just ran three-point-one miles in a row! I’ve never done that before. I look up at Jason. “We just did that.”
“We did. Together.” He kisses my forehead and grabs my hand. “I’m so proud of you.”
We make our way through the tutus and the people of Elvis and the superheroes into the stadium to the portable potties. The line isn’t nearly as long as before the race.
“I’ll wait here.” Jason stands under a tree across from the tiny green houses.
I’m able to find an open one fairly quick. Upon walking in, I immediately understand why it’s still vacant. Oh, holy crap. I stick my head out, grab some clean air, and hold it in. I peel down my shorts, which is not an easy task as they are glued to my thighs. The fabric brushes against the raw portion where my legs rubbed together while running. I suck air through my teeth as it stings like hell.
I hover over the hole and start my tinkle. My iPod slips from the pocket of my sweatshirt. It lands on the disgusting plastic floor.
I lean forward to reach it. My forehead bonks the door, pushing me backward to land on the toilet seat. Gross! I jump up. The backs of my legs are wet. Sigh.
When I’m finished, I use toilet paper to wipe all the wetness away from my legs and my iPod.
Lucky for my hands that I’m able to squeeze a tiny bit of sanitizer out of the dispenser before exiting the nasty box.
I zigzag through the crowd. A few steps away from the tree where I left Jason, I notice he’s not alone.
I freeze. My chest constricts.
He laughs, which is a rare thing to see unless he’s watching Anchorman or is torturing an unsuspecting soul with flatulence.
She laughs. A pretty laugh too. Her long, thin legs shuffle. Platinum blond hair falls off her shoulder. Then they both look at me stopped in the middle of human traffic, all purple from running and swollen from running and parched from running.
Jason’s eyebrows come together.
I walk forward. “Hi,” I say and smile my fake-bitch smile.
Jason points out Superman and Batman wrestling a few feet away. “Isn’t that hysterical?” He laughs.
I don’t say anything because I can’t figure out why this woman is standing here. She eyes me.
“I’m gonna whiz. I’ll be right back.” Jason heads for the green houses.
I hold my hand out to the woman. “I’m Jason’s wife, Jenny. And you are?”
“Cassandra. Some people call me Candy.” Of course they do. That doesn’t even make sense. She shakes my hand with blue fingertips, and then wipes them on her nonexistent shorty-short-shorts. I blush, remembering the sanitizer still moist on my hands. Urine and sanitizer, to be precise. Her blue velvet sports bra covers her C cups and that’s about it. She’s got like a four-pack or something. Not a six, though. Like I’ve ever seen an any-pack in real life.
She looks down at my stubby legs. “You’ve got, uh ...” She points.
Oh, crap. I grab the toilet paper trailing from my shorts and drop it onto the ground. I look around.
“Um, you didn’t get it all.”
I try to turn to see what she’s talking about, but can’t.
“Here,” Jason says, jogging across from the green houses. “I’ll get it.” He bends over to peel the small pieces stuck to my leg. He drops them and grinds them into the dirt.
Cassandra gives Jason a big white toothy smile and then glances at me. “Well, it was nice to meet you.” Her smile vanishes, but then she winks at me. She waves and skips away. Really?
I look up at Jason and feel smaller than ever. “Who was that?”
“Who?” He looks around.
I sigh. “The blond who was just standing here.”
“I don’t know.” He takes the edge of his T-shirt and rubs my forehead. “You’ve got some dirt or something here.”
“Oh!” I push his shirt away. “Don’t.” Crap. Precisely.
“What is wrong with you?”
And then an idea for my shiny new novel pops into my head.
Jenny's Blue Velvet by Angela Carlie
is available now on Amazon Kindle and everywhere else tomorrow,
August 22, 2013