Authors: A.M. Anderson
No Such Thing as True Love
By A. M. Anderson
Copyright © 2013 Blue Ribbon Books
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
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,” Markus wrote on the first line of his brand new journal, “
Your ideal woman is out there. You just have to find her. Think of it as going on a treasure hunt, an adventure, or…
” His thoughts trailed off at the ominous feeling that someone was looking over his shoulder. He should have known better than to try his first journal entry at work, but it seemed to be the place where he felt most familiar with himself. Markus stretched his lanky arms over his head and ran his pen through his wavy, brown hair. A quick scan of the office floor revealed that no one was paying any attention to him at all. He shrugged his shoulders to shake off the self-conscious plague of paranoia, and looked down at the words he had written. It took all of his energy not to rip the page out and start over, but that was against one of his rules for the ‘Journal Keeping Mission’, as he called it.
For his thirty-fifth birthday, his mom had given him a book that revolved around happiness and the process of reaching personal goals. At first, he had been a bit offended, and the book sat on a shelf collecting dust for ages before he finally felt a need to pick it up. When he did, the tip on keeping a journal was the only thing that popped out at him. It seemed simple, but the eight-week-process to get to those first few words was almost enough to make him forget the mission all together. Markus twirled the pen between his fingers like a drumstick, and took a bite of the lasagna he was eating for lunch. After a few chews, he picked his thought back up and let the ink roll onto his paper.
Look, the bottom line is that you don’t want to grow old all alone. Nobody does. You want a companion whom you can talk to, someone who won’t care about the things that you don’t care about, someone who wants to travel and actually do more than stay in hotels. You want someone who doesn’t care that you can’t dance, even if she can dance. You want her to dance with you anyway, and not care how absurd she looks dancing with someone who can’t dance. Perhaps you want someone who can’t dance, either…”
Markus stopped again when he realized he never went dancing, and really didn’t ever have the urge to do so. Even at weddings, the open bar typically started when the dancing started, and there was always a better place for him to be than on a dance floor. There had been a lot of weddings lately, too. He shook his head, and tried even harder not to rip the page out. Maybe the whole journaling strategy of writing a letter to yourself wasn’t the best way for him to go. If his current self was a rambling idiot, why in the world would his future self take him seriously? Frustrated, Markus turned his attention back to his lasagna. He had a couple more bites then popped the lid back onto his plastic container. He wiped his mouth with a paper napkin, and picked the pen back up from the desk. In the middle of the page, in script quite larger than his original print, he wrote:
Screw dancing. And screw journaling. I’m going to the gym.”
Within minutes, Markus was out of his office building and crossing the street to catch a bus towards the fitness club he had recently joined. A short, crowded, hot, and bumpy ride landed him just half a block from the club’s front doors, and he trotted into the locker room, confident and motivated. All the blogs and self-help books Markus had read always advised readers to take time as one gets comfortable with a new fitness regimen. Also, one was supposed to have a planned out fitness regimen. Markus had skipped those parts, and trudged straight towards an open rowing machine like a warrior marching towards a combatant.
He turned the machine to a medium setting, pretended to stretch and climbed on. He ignored the moans and groans from his body, and forced himself to pay attention to the flat screen TV in the wall as he rowed. It mostly displayed tips on how to properly use the equipment. He saw the words ‘warm up first’ enough to start feeling guilty about having just jumped in. It wasn’t long before Markus felt exhausted. He looked down at the time monitor on the machine and was disappointed to read that only twelve minutes had gone by. He stopped to give himself a break, and looked back up at the TV. A message scrolled across about personal training sessions. The ad said that their trainers could help you ‘exceed your fitness goals’ and went on to say that ‘achievement would radiate out into the rest of your life’. Convinced by the ad, and defeated by the rowing machine, Markus went to the front desk to sign up for some help.
The petite blonde at the counter was happy to hand him a clipboard of paperwork, which took him only a couple of minutes to fill out. She brought the clipboard into an office, and emerged a moment later to ask if he had time for a consultation. Markus nodded his head and followed her back to the office. It was better that he spend the rest of his lunch break at the gym, than it would be to return early to his office; his co-workers already doubted his resolve. He, too, was in doubt as he walked into a meticulously decorated office. Behind a glass desk adorned with a small laptop, nameplate and paper with pens, sat a beautiful woman. She was dressed in jeans and a simple black shirt that sported the club’s logo and made her silhouette stand out against the light blue wall behind her. Her hair was tied by a black ribbon at the front of her right shoulder. Cascades of auburn waves framed the curves along her side. Markus felt momentarily paralyzed when she stood and extended her arm out to shake his hand.
He composed himself quickly, but not quickly enough for the redhead to miss his initial surprise. She smiled, and sat back down as she gestured for him to take a seat. “Hello, Markus. My name is Maritess,” she said. “So, what type of fitness goals do you have in mind for personal training?”
Markus rambled on for a few minutes about building muscle and climbing mountains. Before long, Maritess was blankly nodding her head. He stopped his rambling, and gave her a shrug with a smile. She leaned forward over the glass desk and said, “Well, okay then, Markus. I’ll set you up with a trainer and get you started on that mountain climb you have planned. How often would you like to train, and when are you free?” Soon, he had a two-hour session scheduled for three days a week. He left the gym feeling refreshed and even more motivated than when he had arrived. The rest of the day at work went by like a breeze, and he was at home, cooking dinner by six.
Markus shared his simple meal with his simple cat in his simple apartment, and couldn’t help but think of Miss Maritess from the gym. The nameplate on her desk displayed the title of Owner and General Manager. She no doubt looked like she had the discipline to run such a business. Markus had spent thirteen years working at his law firm, and had only just recently gotten one of the larger office areas, which is the fancy term the firm had for cubicles with shorter dividing walls. Unlike Maritess’, his office was crammed with paper work, file folders and contact information sheets for witnesses. As he munched on his dinner, he imagined that she was out at a restaurant, surrounded by other successful business owners and had plans to return late to her townhouse on the east side of the river after an evening of drinks and stimulating conversation.
Markus’ fantasy could not have been farther from the truth. In fact, that evening, Maritess had made her own simple dinner, and was quietly sharing it with her simple dog in her own simple apartment that happened to be just a few blocks away from his. Her long, red hair was let loose across her back, and she had changed into a set of sweats. The chill from the fall air breezing through her windows was enough to keep her apartment comfortably cool, which was perfect since she loved bundling up in warm clothes. There was a stack of work at her elbow, which she was consciously ignoring. The laptop in front of her played the latest episode of her favorite crime drama, and she absent-mindedly tossed bites of steak to the loyal mixed mutt that sat at a respectful distance from her feet.
After her show was over, she closed the laptop, and started reconciling a stack of invoices. The homework took her about an hour, and she was soon relaxing in suds of a bubble bath. Her thoughts wandered to her newest client. She had decided that she was the best trainer on her staff to take on the tall, skinny lawyer, and was already scheming about all the ways she would torture him into building muscle. Guys like that were difficult to bulk up. Their metabolisms just ran way too fast. What had really gotten her attention about him was his answer to one of their questions on the new client questionnaire that everyone filled out. When he was asked what his personal goals were that would stem from better fitness, he wrote ‘love and happiness’. That was odd for a man to write. Women would write that all the time, but rarely men. She wondered if he was gay, but he had been much too enamored with her for that to be logical.
He was a man who was looking for love and happiness. The thought made her laugh out loud to the bubbles in her bath. If his pursuit had brought him to her gym, then he was probably just looking for
and happiness, not love. She wondered what type of love he was looking for, or if he knew that there was a difference. Love was something that Maritess cared little for. She loved her family, she loved her friends and she loved her dog, but romantic love was something that she always felt she could do without. She found no truth in love at first sight, or finding ‘the one’. She thought matrimony was a joke. Maritess had actually made it a habit to send as a wedding gift her business card with certificates for free personal training when the time should come for the happily wedded couple to end their marital bliss and get back in shape for the meat market. As such, Maritess was rarely invited to weddings. She had, however, gained a few clients through that method.
She surfed the internet for an hour or so before bed. Catching up on her distant friends was a favorite thing of hers to do. Running the club left little time for any type of social life. Maritess was more of a loner, anyway. Through her online page, she had her fill writing witty comments and quips to her pals whenever she was interested to do so. It was just enough interaction to remain connected, but not enough to intrude upon the solitude Maritess so greatly valued. A high school buddy finally tied the knot. She browsed through the pictures they posted of the ceremony and reception. Below, the list of comments was a slew of oohs and aahs. One poor schlep wrote about her own wish for such a beautiful wedding. Maritess wrinkled her nose. Not a twinge of envy ran through her as she looked at the pictures; only amusement lightly sprinkled with pity.
That was precisely the same emotion Maritess felt as she watched Markus try to stretch at his early morning training session the next day. The expression on her face matched the one that was reflected in her laptop screen the night before. He could barely grab his ankles or touch his toes. His shoulders were stiff, and his back was almost immobile. Having skipped her coffee that morning to accommodate his scheduling, she was less than thrilled at the immediate frustration of having to teach the basics of stretching when the man wanted to eventually climb a mountain. Maritess decided that the frustration he caused her was well worth the look of shock on his face when she was the trainer who met him in the gym that morning. He had walked up to her in a friendly way, but was expecting someone else to work with him. When she offered to replace herself with a male counterpart, he stammered an apology. He said he was surprised, but completely fine with her choice to be his trainer. She didn’t give him a chance to recant, and now they were standing in front of a mirrored wall, practicing stretches.