My Workout Buddy
My Workout Buddy12 mins 77 12 mins 77
It was a rainy evening in Albemarle Gardens at Gants Hill. The month of April had just begun and the trees and plants started to blossom. Michelle, totally cut off from all this beauty, was lying down on her bed. She got out of it only once since morning to have a cup of tea. The doorbell rang. Who is it now, she thought and took her time to go down the stairs to get the door. It was her friend Betsy."How are you doing today?", her friend asked."Nothing much has changed since yesterday", she replied.
Betsy folded her umbrella and stepped inside."It is raining cats and dogs, phew!!", Betsy exclaimed as she took off her coat. Michelle switched on the lights in her living room and both of them sat on the sofa. Betsy took out a box from her bag and placed it on the coffee table."I brought dinner. Did you eat anything at all?", she asked. Michelle shook her head."Let me make some tea", she said and started walking towards the kitchen. Betsy followed her."I am worried about you Michelle. It has been six months. You appeared to be a little better last week. What happened again?", she asked with concern. Michelle remained silent."You have to step out and start going back to your normal life slowly. I know it is difficult but you can't continue to live like this".
"I know, I am trying", Michelle said.
"Sorry, not getting out of your bed and not eating at all is not trying".
"What do you want me to do?"
"Look at you. When did you last shower? Or eat? Or get a good sleep? Start with grooming yourself. Let us go for a walk every day. Meet people"
Michelle remained silent. She knew that her best friend only wants her well being. Betsy checked on her almost every day for the past six months and even insisted on living with her for a few days. But Michelle strongly disagreed with it. She did everything she could to cheer up Michelle. Nothing seemed to be working on her.
Michelle was a 49-year-old widow. She met William during the first year of her college and they got married soon after finishing college. They don't have any children but they lived a very happy life. Both of them loved each other so dearly. William worked as an editor for Faber&Faber and Michelle was a teacher at Seven Kings School in Ilford. They took long vacations every year and traveled the world. They always had wonderful stories for their friends when they returned from vacation. All their friends adored them. Everything was extremely perfect with her life until one day William failed to get up from his sleep. It was a cardiac arrest. Michelle was sleeping very next to him but she didn't know. He didn't give her a chance to stop him or say goodbye. When she woke up, he was gone. For a couple of months, all her friends let her mourn, allowed her to find her way to cope up with the tragedy. But even after six months, she showed no signs of moving on, and it worried them. Betsy dropped by every other day, comforted her, tried to encourage her to step out of the house, cooked for her but nothing helped. Except to get some essentials for home, Michelle stopped going out. Sometimes she does get better but goes back into the shell very soon.
"I am asking you again, should we try a therapist? It might help you. I am not asking you to forget everything and have fun. But it is high time you get a hold of yourself, dear".
"No, I am not going to a therapist. I will be fine. I am thinking of going back to work starting next week. I called them yesterday. They have been very kind so far in extending my leaves."
"That is great news. Betsy hugged her"
"Will you help me clean the house?", asked Michelle.
"Sure, happy to help, when do we start?"
"Why don't you come over tomorrow afternoon?", said Michelle. She poured tea into two cups and gave one to her friend.
"How is Robert? Is he back", asked Michelle. Robert was Betsy's husband who travels a lot for his work.
"He is doing fine. He will be back next week".
"How are the others? What is happening in town? Rachel came by last week, dropped off some cookies. It should be still here".She went to look for them.
"They are all fine, just worried about you", said Betsy.
Sipping tea and munching cookies, they gossiped for a while. When Betsy left, Michelle decided to take a long bath and have dinner.
For the first time in several months, Michelle stepped out for a walk the next day. The weather was beautiful. She walked to Valentines Park near her house. Michelle and William had been living in this neighborhood for twenty years and every weekend both of them used to come to this park. Wherever she looked, it reminded her of him. She walked slowly around the park looking at children playing and couples walking. She started to miss him terribly. She sat down on one of the benches and prayed, 'God, please give me the strength to get through with this'.She sat there for a while thinking about him and then started back. She decided to go to Sainsbury's and get some things for home. There was nothing at home so she came back with two big bags of everything she could think of. She arranged everything, made eggs and coffee for breakfast, and sat down to watch TV. Bing bang theory was one of her favorites so when she saw that as she was changing channels she stopped to watch it. She dozed off watching a movie after that and woke up only when the doorbell rang. It was Betsy and Rachel."I brought her along. Hope it is OK", Betsy said."More than happy to have you Rach", Michelle said giving her a tight hug. They poured a glass of wine each and prepared lunch together. Michelle was having a good time. They set out to clean the house. There were so many memories of William and their life together in the house. She took all of William's things from the living room and bedroom and arranged it in his study. She left his clothes alone in the bedroom closet, she didn't feel like moving it. It was late evening by the time they finished. Rachel and Betsy decided to a sleepover. It was a fun night after so long. They had wine, talked and laughed a lot, watched their favorite movie Life is beautiful and crashed very late. By the time Michelle got up, both of them had left leaving her a note- 'Didn't want to disturb your sleep sweetheart. Gotta go. I will catch you later in the evening'.Michelle smiled. She had slept peacefully after so many days.
In the evening, Michelle decided to take her car and go to South Park in Ilford. She loved this place. The lake looked beautiful with swans and coots swimming leisurely in it. She sat on a bench and stared at the lake. Without her knowing, she had tears in her eyes. A man jogging past her noticed it and stopped to check on her, "Are you alright there?", he asked."Yes, Yes, Oh I am fine", she said ashamed wiping her tears."Are you sure?", he asked."Yes, I am", she smiled and got up and turned to leave."You take care", he shouted as she walked. She hurried to her car. She felt so bad about her behavior. She got a call from Betsy when she was driving back home."I will be there in less than two minutes", Michelle said picking up the call. Betsy was so happy to see her friend up and about again."So where were you off to?", she asked.
"I had gone to South Park", Michelle replied.
"That is nice", Betsy said smiling.
"So what did you get me today?", Michelle asked.
"You favorite fish and chips"
Two days later she again went to South Park in the evening. She was walking around the lake and saw the same guy who talked to her the last time come running in the opposite direction. She smiled at him. He stopped to say hello."How are you doing today ?, he asked.
"I am fine. I was kind of hoping to see you here today. I am so sorry for my behavior the other day. I got carried away with my thoughts and was so embarrassed when you
caught me crying"
"I get it. Don't worry about that. You live nearby? I haven't seen you here before"
"Yes, I live in Gants hill. I rarely come here and for the past several months I pretty much didn't go anywhere."
"Oh, I moved here from Manchester five months ago. I inherited a family home quite recently and thought I would spend my retired life here."
"Oh really? Why London? People generally prefer less crowded places for retirement"
"I grew up here, this is home"
"Oh, I grew up in York. My Mom lives there. I visit her sometimes"
"That is nice. I have been there once. It's a beautiful place. So you grew up hearing ghost stories and grim tales?", he laughed.
"Yea, I have heard some", she smiled.
"So when did you move to London?"
"I got married and moved here twenty years back"
"That is a long time. What does your husband do?"
"He", she paused."He passed away a few months back". It was the first time she said that to someone. She was sad but felt better at the same time. It was like
accepting the truth.
"I am so sorry, I didn't know. I am sorry"
"I understand", he said."I lost my wife a couple of years ago".
"Oh, I am sorry. So how did you get going?"
"It was difficult, very difficult initially. We were married for nineteen years. But then you get to a point where you don't have a choice but accept the reality of it and go on with life. I have a daughter. She helped a lot in the healing process. She was badly hurt too, of course, but she is a very strong woman, just like her
"Is she here with you?"
"No, she is in Cambridge, studying medicine."
"Oh that is wonderful"
"After she left, I kind of started feeling lonely. I do have a few friends there but the place was not the same without my wife and daughter. I have my family here. So I
decided to move."
Michelle didn't say anything. Both of them walked in silence for some time. It was getting late."I think I should be leaving", Michelle said.
"Yes, me too", he said."Hey, I don't know your name. I am Gavin", he held out his hand.
"I am Michelle", she shook his hand.
"So I will see you tomorrow evening?", he asked.
"Sure", she said.
Jogging with Gavin became a daily routine for Michelle. They met almost every evening. Sometimes they brought their cycles and rode together. They talked a lot, about their lives and interests. She joined school again. She still missed William badly, when she came home from work and he was not there to talk about the day, he was not there to eat what she cooked, he didn't wake her up in the middle of the night with his heavy snoring, she missed their Friday dances, weekend movies and much more. But she was slowly getting up on her feet and learning to lead a life without William's presence in it. She meets her friends Rachelle and Betsy every weekend. Their husbands joined sometimes. She also told them about Gavin and all about their workouts together. They were so happy to see Michelle fighting her grief with a smile on her face.
Betsy called one Wednesday evening."Hey, do you want to join me for some shopping? I am going to Westfield.", she asked.
"No you carry on, I am on the way to South Park", Michelle refused.
"Ooooh, Gavin must be waiting", she laughed.
"Don't make fun Betsy. He is a friend and that is all. I am thinking of asking him to join for dinner this weekend and introduce him to all of you"
"That would be great. Alright then see you, have fun".Betsy dropped off.
"You don't go to the gym?", Gavin asked when they were walking in the park.
"I have never liked it. William used to go. I used to go for him initially, later he asked me not to because I was not comfortable. I like the open air rather than staring at the walls and running at the same place without moving forward".Gavin laughed. Michelle realized she was able to talk about William without holding back now
."Hey, I can teach you Yoga some time, if you are interested. I am certified.", Michelle said with excitement.
"Wow, that is great. Sure I could try. Why not?"
"I take lessons at a health club near my place two days a week. I stopped it for a while but joined back last week"
"That is amazing Michelle. I will check it out. I hit the gym on weekends. I started jogging and running in the open only after I moved here. Otherwise, I usually go to the gym. But this is nice too, I am loving it".
"Do you have friends here?"
"Oh not many, I have a good neighbor. He is friendly and we hang out watching sports. I have my family here. My mother nad sister live nearby"
"That is nice. Do you mind joining me and my friends for dinner this Sunday?".
"Oh, thanks for the invitation. I am not sure though. Would that be OK with your friends?"
"Sure why not?".We go to Luigi's or Christina's or The Chequers. I will let you know."
"I hang out at The Chequers. It is a fine place"
"Yes, it is a cool place"
When they were about to leave that evening, Michelle said, "I will not be joining you for the next two days. I have some other work. But our plan for Saturday is still
"Yes, sure it is. I am looking forward to it".
"Alright see you then", she said bye.
Gavin thought about Michelle on his way back home. He felt really happy to have found a good friend in the city.
Saturday was so much fun. Both of them set off very early in the morning on their bicycles from Central London to Richmond Park, one of the countryside treasures in London. They took the perimeter loop on the Tamsin trial. They caught sight of stags and deers on their way. They stopped now and then to enjoy the exotic views and took pictures. The lakes were beautiful and the air smelled of fresh spring flowers. It hadn't rained which made the whole trip even more amazing. They enjoyed the Robins singing and the quietness of the dense woods. They had lunch at the Pembroke Lodge and later went for fishing at Pen Ponds. They had coffee at the Roehampton Cafe and started back home. They talked a lot, of their past, their plans for the future. Michelle and Gavin had a wonderful time together. The next day, all of them met at Luigi's for dinner. Gavin thought it would be odd, but Michelle and her friends made him very comfortable. He had a good time talking and getting to know all of them. Betsy called for a toast."To the new friend", she raised her glass."To the new friend", everyone joined. Michelle knew she had found not just a work out buddy but a wonderful friend for life.