It took a while to find the gym. I remembered seeing Sadler Street when I was riding around but didn't remember exactly how to get there. It turned out the gym was in a large strip mall. There were some businesses on one end with the gym taking up for or five store-fronts on the other end. I parked near the main entrance and went inside.
A guy at the front desk paged one of the trainers to give me a tour. The trainer introduced himself as Jack. He looked a few years older but was in decent shape. He said he went to a local college and worked part-time. I introduced myself and explained how I just moved to town.
The gym itself was pretty much what Chris described. There was one large room with weight machines and cardio equipment along with smaller rooms for aerobics classes, abs exercises, and basketball. There was also a small room with weight bags. The equipment seemed in good shape and there was plenty of it. I counted forty-two treadmills. Jack claimed there was never a problem using whatever piece of equipment I might want. He said it gets crowded when people get out of work but even then claimed there is plenty of equipment.
Chris was right that a lot of kids worked out there. I recognized quite a few faces from school. Jack said kids my age usually come after school while older guys show up after work. We walked back through the locker room on our way to the front desk and I noticed the shower area didn't have individual stalls. That really didn't bother me although I wasn't too keen taking showers with guys old enough to be my father. I really have no desire to see anyone that age naked or for them to see me for that matter. Oh well, I could live with it.
"Where do I sign up," I asked as we got back to the front lobby.
"I'll get the paper work. You can work out today if you have your stuff but you'll have to get your parent's signature before we give you your pass. If you want I can give you a complimentary training session. Do you want to sign up with a trainer?"
"I don't know. I haven't really thought about it. I'm pretty familiar with the equipment but could use some pointers on a program. I'll give it some thought."
"Okay, no problem. Here's the paperwork. Do you have your stuff? We can get started if you want."
"Yeah, it's in my jeep."
"Why don't you get ready and meet me on the floor in ten minutes."
"Sounds good," I said. "I'll be right back."
I was changed and on the main floor in less than ten minutes. Jack was at the trainer's desk.
"Let's do a quick assessment to get a baseline," he said. "Step on the scale so I can get your height and weight.
I felt good when I saw I weighed about the same as I did over the summer, right around 140 lbs. I hadn't grown much either since I was still 5' 10".
"Okay, said Jack. "I want to measure your percentage body fat. This thing isn't as accurate as some methods but it's good enough. Hold it at arms length and push the start button. It shoots a small current through your arms. Don't worry, you won't feel anything."
"Not bad," he said. "It looks like you're in pretty good shape, only 13% body fat. You probably don't want much less. Next I want to get a quick check of your flexibility and strength. I just want to get a sense of where you are so I can work out a program. Sit down on the floor and put your legs out straight. Then lean over as far as you can with your arms straight out. I want to measure your reach."
I smiled as I sat down. When I leaned over I put my forehead against my legs and my arms straight out. My hands were well past my feet.
"I guess flexibility isn't a problem," he laughed. "Let's check out strength. Show me how many push-ups you can do. Don't worry if you can't do that many."
I rolled over and began doing push-ups smiling to myself. Jack said to stop when I hit 75.
"Maybe you should be training me," he laughed. "Not many people walk in off the street and do that many."
I explained I was trying to get to 100 and told him about the web-site I found.
"I'm sure you'll get there soon. Are you familiar with most of the machines? We can walk around or I can think about some workout options and we can get back together."
"I've used most of them before. I belonged to a gym in Illinois. I used more weights but used machines too. Why don't we do it later. I'd like to do some cardio. I usually run in the mornings but it's getting too cold."
"We have plenty of treadmills and elipticals. They're slowly being replaced with new ones. Let's set something up for tomorrow. You can bring your paperwork back then too."
"Sounds good. I get out of school at 2:30 so any time after that is fine."
"How about 3:30? Just come find me on the floor. I'll work something up and we can go from there."
"I'll see you then."
"Have fun with your cardio. I'll see you tomorrow."
"I'm not sure fun is the right word. I do it because I don't feel right if I don't do it."
"Fair enough," he laughed. "See you tomorrow."
Fifty minutes and seven miles later I headed to the locker room. I wasn't going to take a shower but did want to change out of my sweaty running shirt. There were a couple of older guys walking back from the shower. Obviously they were trying to 'get back' in shape. I thought they should use a towel.
I changed into my boxer briefs and went over to stand on the scale. One forty two on that one, not too bad Chris and Ryan came in as I was standing there.
"Hey guys, all done at the mall?"
"Josh just had to pick something up and we dropped him off. He had to get home. I see you signed up."
"Yeah, it seems okay. I'm coming back tomorrow to meet with a trainer. You want to work out sometime?"
"Sure, one or both of us come at least three times a week."
I felt their eyes on me as I reached in my locker to get my jeans.
"Wimps, no wonder you two are out of shape," I laughed. I pulled on my jeans and adjusted my crotch while we talked. Okay, maybe I was playing with them but I couldn't resist. "I'm just joking guys."
"It will be cool to work out together as long as you can keep up," smiled Chris.
I smiled. I almost made some comment about not having any trouble keeping it up but decided against it. "Maybe we can do something after I meet with Jack tomorrow."
"Later," they said as I walked out.
"Wow," said Chris. "Poor Josh. You can't blame him but I don't see it happening. I certainly see what he sees in him though."
"Yeah, the same thing you see," said Ryan.. "You were practically raping him with your eyes."
"I was not. If I'm going to rape anyone it will be you and I won't be using my eyes."
"Yeah right. Good thing for me he's straight.
"Becky is definitely lucky."
Wednesday night was another restless night. I slept a little because I was tired from running but still didn't sleep that well. I wondered how long I could keep this up without people noticing. No sleep and not paying attention in school wasn't a good thing. Good thing the work had been pretty easy. so far
When I got to school Becky came up and said I looked like shit.
"Thanks," I said. "Just what I needed to hear. I haven't been sleeping very well. It's been a long week."
"Sorry Dan. Is something wrong?"
"Not that I really want to talk about. Sorry."
"You know can trust me. I'll help if I can."
"Thanks, I appreciate it but I doubt there is anything you can do. Life has kind of sucked for the last year and I'm having trouble dealing with some things. Don't worry, I'll be okay. I'm not suicidal or anything," I laughed. "All I need is some sleep."
"Well, the week is almost over. I'm a good listener if you want to talk about anything. Are we still on for the movies Saturday? If you don't want to go to the movies then we can go to a party."
"I don't know Becky. I'm not really into parties especially if people are drinking."
"We can decide later. A movie is fine too. I'm sure there is something we can agree on."
Chris and Ryan walked up as we were talking. Josh was with them but stayed a step in back.
"Morning guys, how was your workout yesterday?"
"It was good. You still going tonight?" asked Ryan.
"Yeah, Jack is giving me a complimentary session."
Josh just stood there but didn't say anything. I kind of nodded when our eyes met but then went back to talking with Chris and Ryan. I could feel him watching me.
"I'm sure it won't last that long. If you're going too maybe we can work out when I'm done."
"I have to get home after school," said Ryan. "My parents are going out and I have to watch my brother. Chris may be going though."
"Maybe, I don't know. I'm kind of tired," said Chris.
"Whatever, I'll be there," I said talking to Chris but glancing at Josh. He really did look good. Our eyes met again but we both quickly looked away.
"We better get to class," said Becky grabbing my arm. She let the others get ahead of us and then turned towards me.
"What's with you and Josh?" she asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I think he likes you."
"What?? Why do you think that?"
"Didn't you see him looking at you?"
"Not really. I wasn't paying much attention."
"Right, I saw you looking at him too," she said.
"Don't go there Becky. You're wrong. He doesn't like me and I don't like him, at least not like that. It wouldn't work. What makes you think he's gay? Just drop it, okay?"
"Sure Dan. I'm sorry, but I think you're wrong. Don't you guys have gaydar or something to tell you stuff like that."
I laughed. "What do you know about gaydar?"
"I know yours seems to be on the fritz."
She was probably right there. Fortunately we had to stop talking since the hall was getting crowded. Becky smiled and leaned against me. "Don't worry," she whispered. "I'll help you fix it."
I had to laugh. Becky definitely wasn't like the girls I knew in Illinois. She really was fun. Maybe it was because she used sarcastic humor too but underneath she really cared.
The day itself was a blur. I really didn't pay attention during classes. I knew I had to figure out how to deal with things and fast. Chris and Ryan were getting pissed. Becky wanted to fix my 'gaydar' and I'm sure my teachers would be saying something sooner or later, probably sooner..
I headed to the gym after school for my session with Jack. . I got there early since I didn't get lost like the day before. After changing I went out to the main floor to look for him. I thought if he wasn't busy he might be able to take me early. When I couldn't find him I decided to warm up on the cardio equipment. I jumped on a treadmill and set it to an easy eight minute pace. After about ten minutes I decided to go look for him again since it was almost three thirty.
I walked around and didn't see him on the main floor so I looked in some of the smaller rooms. I finally found him showing some guy how to do some basic kick-boxing with a weight bag. I stood at the door watching for a couple minutes before he saw me. He obviously had some training and was able to demonstrate basic moves. I assumed he could do more but wanted to keep it simple for the guy he was helping.
"Oh, hi Dan. We're just finishing up. Sorry you had to come find me. Sometimes I lose track of time when I'm doing this."
"No problem. I just warmed up."
"Have you ever done any martial arts? They're a good way to stay fit. They help you think too, at least they do me."
"I used to but I pretty much gave it up." I didn't really have a good reason why.
"Come on over here. Show me what you can do."
When I hesitated he said it's okay if I'm rusty. He'd help with some basic moves. I took a deep breath. I hadn't done anything with karate in over a year unless you count the simple moves I used on Phil the first day of school. I really had liked it and did kind of miss it.
'It's time' said a little voice in my head.
I was tentative when I walked towards the bag. "Let's see what you've got," said Jack. At first I just did a couple of tentative front kicks. "Not bad," said Jack. "Your form is good but put some power behind into it. Don't hold back."
I took a ready stance and did a couple more front kicks. This time I didn't hold back. I followed them up with a side kick and then a turn kick. It really felt good. I felt a surge of adrenalin shoot through me. For the next few minutes I went through a number of moves including some punches and some combinations. I pretty much forgot where I was for a while. I was having a good time.
Jack was watching me when I stopped.. "You say you gave it up? Why? You're good. How long did you take lessons?"
"Ten years. My best friend and I started when we were five."
"Ten years!!! Why did you stop? It's obvious you liked it. I saw it on your face."
I shrugged. "It stopped being fun."
"It looked like you were having a good time."
"Yeah, I guess. It did feel good. It's just not the same without Aaron. He and I used to practice together ."
"Did he give it up too?"
"If you count dying as giving it up then I guess yeah, he gave it up too," I said with obvious anger in my voice. I wasn't angry at Jack just at life in general. I knew I shouldn't have said. I felt bad as soon as I heard the words. "Sorry," I said. "I shouldn't have said that."
"It's okay Dan. It's hard to lose someone you care about. Especially when you're young. I know."
"My older brother was killed when I was about your age. He was more than a brother. He was like a best friend. I was pissed off at the world for a long time. My parents and friends tried to help but they didn't understand."
"How long did it take you to get over it? You seem okay now."
"I'm not sure you ever get over it. I still get depressed from time to time. Sometimes something will remind me of him, a date or something that happens but it does get better. It took a good two years though."
"I guess I've got a year to go then."
"It doesn't have to be that way. I'm sure people have said they're available to talk but if you want to talk to someone who has been there then I'm available. I'll tell you this though, talking never helped me. It just made me remember and feel worse. I do have an idea if you're interested."
"What's that?" I asked.
"I teach a beginners karate class for kids on Saturday mornings. The class is really too big for one person and I could use some help. It would get you involved in karate again and it should be fun. There's nothing like the energy level and enthusiasm of little kids."
"I can understand that. I have an eight year-old brother or at least he'll be eight soon. He's always smiling and he's full of energy."
"You can bring him along. He's younger than most kids in the class but he should have fun. Most kids are between ten and twelve. It's really more than I can handle by myself. There wouldn't be any pay but I think I could swing free training sessions."
"I had to teach kids at my old studio. It was part of advancing. It was fun."
"So you'll do it?"
I thought for a second. I did like working with young kids and Scott would have a good time. It would also give him something to do.
"I don't think you'd give up too easily if I said no"
"Probably not," he smiled.
"It's okay to bring Scott?"
"Your brother? Sure, no problem. You'd have to spend time with other kids too."
"Of course. I'll make sure he understands that."
"Then you'll do it?"
"Yeah, sure, what the heck. It could be fun. What time? I assume it's here?"
Jack gave me the details. A good looking blond walked in as we were talking.
"There you are," she said. "I've been looking for you."
"Hi," he smiled giving her a quick kiss. "Dan, this is Jill, my fiance. Jill, this is Dan. He's going to help me with the class this weekend."
I couldn't help it and started to laugh. "Jack and Jill? ... Sorry, but you have to really love each other to put up with the comments you must get."
"We're used to it," she said. "Nice to meet you.".
Jack smiled. "Meeting Jill helped me a lot too. We're getting married right after Christmas."
"That's great. Congratulations!!"
"Planning a wedding is a lot of work. We have one of those marriage classes tonight. Why don't we set up another session?. I really shouldn't count today since we didn't do much training. How about sometime next week?"
"Sure. I just do my own thing until then. All I need is help setting up a program."
"That shouldn't take long. We'll set something up for next week. Right now I have to run. I'll see you Saturday."
"I'll be here," wondering what I had gotten myself into. "I don't have to wear my gi or anything do I?"
He laughed. "You can if you want but workout clothes are fine. I'm not sure I want you showing me up."
"Okay, gym clothes it is. See you then."
After Jack left I spent some time on a few of the machines. I rotated between four or five machines before heading to the locker room.
At dinner I told my parents about helping out with the class . Needless to say they were happy I was doing something involving karate again, especially my father. Scott was excited when I told him he could come too if he wanted, not that there was ever any doubt about that.
Scott's birthday was coming up and I wanted to do something special. I'd already decided I'd take him to a nearby planetarium for a day since he really loved astronomy. I'm not sure how much he understood but he definitely liked looking at pictures of constellations. I wasn't really into it but thought it would be fun spending the day with him.
I also wanted to get him something else so after supper I told my parents I was going to the mall. Scott wanted to come too but I told him I was going to meet some friends. He was disappointed but got over it when my mother said she needed help baking cookies. Scott's job is usually to lick the batter off the spoon.
At first I thought I'd get a book on astronomy as well so I headed for the bookstore. The problem was all the kids books seemed too juvenile. I didn't think I'd have much luck but I decided to check the science section at the back of the store. Not many people went back there. Even so I was surprised when I turned the corner and saw two young boys � embracing. They looked two or three years younger than me, maybe thirteen or fourteen. They jumped and looked worried when they saw me.
I couldn't help but smile. "Relax guys. It's cool," I said. "It doesn't bother me. You should be more careful though. There are probably better places than in a bookstore. Some people might not be as easy going."
They both breathed a sigh of relief. "Yeah, sorry," one of them said. "We were just looking at books and fooling around. We didn't see anyone around."
"Not many people come back here. I need to get a present for my brother."
They still seemed nervous. "We should get going. Let's go Nick."
I smiled to myself. They were kind of cute. It reminded me of Aaron and me even though they seemed a little younger. We never hugged in a bookstore at that age though.
I couldn't find the right book so I decided on a safe fallback. I went into the nearest electronics store and picked out a video game. I knew the ones we had so it wasn't hard finding one he'd like. Mainly all I had to do was point. I ended up getting a copy of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games for Wii.
On the way out of the mall I swung by food court to get something to drink and to take a piss. When I got to the restroom I saw the two kids from the bookstore were there with two older boys. Nobody said anything as I stood by a urinal.
"Hi guys. Is everything okay?"
They looked at me with nervous looks and then looked at the older guys. One of the older guys glared at them while the other turned towards me.
"We're just talking to our friends here. What's it to you?" he asked abruptly.
"It's not," I said taking my piss. "I saw them in the bookstore and was just being friendly."
"Why don't you mind your own business and be friendly somewhere else."
I looked at Nick and his friend. "I'd rather hear them say everything is okay. Nick? Are these guys really your friends?" When he didn't say anything I asked if they wanted to leave.
"They're not going anywhere so get lost."
"Nick ... You and your friend should leave. These guys won't bother you."
"Like hell," one of them said as he charged me. It wasn't difficult to put him on his ass against the wall. Nick and his friend looked shocked while the other kid just stood there with his mouth open.
I looked at the guy on the floor. "Have you had enough? Nick .... Go."
That convinced him and his friend to head towards the exit. I looked at the other guys. "I'd suggest you two leave as well," I said and picked up Scott's present. "Don't bother them again."
I found Nick and his friend standing in the middle of the food court.
"Thanks," they said timidly.
"No problem," I smiled. "I told you to be careful."
"We didn't do anything. We were just waiting for our parents and they cornered us."
"It's okay. It's over. Let's get something to drink. I'll hang around to make sure they don't try anything else."
"My dad should be here soon. Danny's mother should be here too."
I smiled. "You're name's Dan?" I asked. "That's my name too. It's nice to meet you. Come on, let's get something to drink."
I bought a bottled water while Nick and Danny bought sodas and we sat down at an empty table.
"Thanks for helping us," said Nick. "I don't know what those guys would have done."
"Don't worry about it. I hate guys like that. Besides, you know the old saying 'birds of a feather'," I smiled. "We have to stick together."
They both looked at me with puzzled looks. "You? ...... You're like us?" Nick asked. "Cool."
I smiled. I don't know why I just outed myself to them like that. "What did you think? You're the only two?"
"Of course not," he blushed. "It's just we don't know anyone else."
"I take it nobody knows about you," I smiled.
"No way. My parents might understand but I don't want to tell them. Danny's parents definitely wouldn't. They make comments about gay people all the time. Saying they're sinners and are going to hell and all that. You won't tell anyone will you?"
"Of course not. My name's Dan Johnson. I'm new around here. We just moved in a few weeks ago.."
"I'm Nick Wade. My friends call me Nicky since my dad's name is Nick too. This is Danny Martin."
"Hi Danny. My brother calls me Danny sometimes, usually only when he's trying to be funny. Most people just call me Dan."
"Hi," he said softly.
"Did those guys do that to your face?" I asked Nick.
"They slapped me a couple of times. I'll be okay."
"You're going to have a bruise."
"I'll live," he smiled. "Do other people know about you?"
"My family does. My mother is okay with it but my father doesn't really believe it. Someday he might understand. It's not like we have a choice, right? It's how we're wired. Some friends where I used to live knew but only one person at school here knows. She figured me out," I smiled.
"Danny and I have known each other for a long time but we only found out about each other last summer. I've had a major crush on him for a while though."
"You have good taste. He's cute. You both are for that matter. You'll both be really hot in a couple of years. "
They both blushed. "Thanks," Nick said a little nervously.
"Relax," I smiled. "I was just making a comment. No offense but you're kind of young for me. Besides, you're already together."
"I'm sorry," Nick said. "I didn't really think ..."
"It's okay," I laughed. "You're what? Thirteen? Fourteen?"
"We're both fourteen. ..... Can I ask you something?"
"Sure, if I don't want to answer I'll tell you."
"Do you have, ahh � a boyfriend?"
"I did but not any more. That's how my parents found out," I laughed. "My mother caught us together."
"Oh wow. I'd die if my parents found out about me that way. Were you two ... ?"
"We were in my bed after school and she came home from work early."
"Nothing really. We were surprised. She just talked to us for a while. Told us to be careful."
"I don't know what my parents would do. What happened to your boyfriend? Is he back where you used to live?"
"No, it's a long story," I said. "Maybe some other time."
Just then a man came up to the table. "Nicky, you were supposed to be outside waiting for me. Who is this and what happened to your face?"
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