The lights seemed awfully bright when I made my way from the newly remodeled entrance at the Edmond Jazzercise to the classroom hallway. Members’ log sheets, marking the latest promo efforts, covered soft yellow painted walls. Unnaturally loud laughter saturated the air. Things didn’t look so different as much as felt so different. I rounded the corner and worked my way through a throng of people, not registering the horror on their faces.
You see, this was Wednesday, four-thirty p.m.—almost time for my regular Muscles and Music class. I was incredibly stiff from Monday’s tortuous session. Who knew what devious affliction Linda Sharo had in store for us today. Whatever it was, it was sure to be utter misery. Yet, every Monday and Wednesday afternoon, I martyred myself by showing up. And, every Monday and Wednesday, she saw fit to harass my fifty something year old body….
Yes, I said it—I’m over fifty! That’s okay. I told myself, the agony, the ache, the excruciating pain she puts me through—well, I do look damn good for over fifty.
I pressed through the crowd, anxious to get to class—get it over with, more like. The congregation of members grew denser as I passed the changing rooms, the lockers, finally reaching the narrowed space near stacked benches used for the now rare step class. But I made the final push through.
A gasp of horror stopped me in my tracks.
That gasp came from me. Somehow, I recognized a degree of varying faces. Faces that looked out of context—not because they didn’t belong to Jazzercise, but because seeing them in the light of day, rather than the cloak of darkness (there were early morning students who should have been home taking a nap), Sally, Cathy, Suzanne, Teresa, Alicia…
I exhaled a rush of breath seeing Alicia. Her occasional presence in the afternoon class was not so unusual. Relief sagged through me; maybe things weren’t so out of whack. A cool wind touched my cheeks and I realized the glass door to the parking lot stood open. A drop of premonition swept through me. A small cramp that pinched my gut; a whispered chill that pricked my skin.
It was then I noticed other instructors mingled throughout the crowd. Wendi’s hot pink cami was drenched with perspiration, having just finished leading the three-thirty class aerobics. Brandi’s hand clamped over her mouth, blue-eyes, widened in shock, set for teaching the four-thirty. Lyndsey’s palms covered her pregnant belly; Stephanie, in streets clothes was holding a Walmart bag full of cleaning supplies, Mary Kay make-up, perfect of course, but for the black tracks of mascara streaking her cheeks.
The crowd in the second dance space parted near the elongated mirrored wall. There, in a symmetrical circuit, was one red tube, a medicine ball, a wood plank and … a mullet Halloween wig Linda had sported just two weeks prior—and two bloodied 12 lb dumbbells. In the center, lying in a pool of dark blood lay Linda Sharo—our perky Personal Trainer. Around her neck was a thin elastic yellow band. Fitting, I thought, as she’d forced the red ones on us Monday, saving the lightest, easiest for herself, laughing maniacally all the while.
I knew she’d end up dead one day. I should never doubt my premonitions.
I swallowed hard. “B-but h-how? W-why?” I stuttered. Of course I knew why. I had to be a prime suspect. After all, I’d threatened her with murder for months. But I never thought anyone would actually kill her. Well, that’s not completely true. I, personally, suspected the six a.m. class would eventually do her in. Linda’s overtly cheerful mien that early in the morning … well, who could blame them?
I glanced across the room where Stacy leaned, her back, and one foot, flat against the wall, head buried in her hands. Stacy was the owner of the facility and this would not be good for business. I must admit my amazement at how perfect her hair always appeared, never a strand out of place, whether straightened or just pulled back in a pony-tail. Mine, of course, crap—on top of my head, off my neck in a jiggling top-knot after working all day. But I digress. I narrowed my eyes on Stacy and considered the scene before me. The only red she wore was on her newly painted nails.
The murderess was smart. She’d (the only he had vacated the country in late August with his wife Carol), and unless they’d hired the kill …not likely, I thought … She was smart. She’d used a weapon anyone in Linda’s class could lift. Take me for example, if the murderess had used a 15 lb weight I would be exonerated, just because I couldn’t lift the damned thing. 12 lbs, however was much more reasonable.
Just Monday, hadn’t Stacy complained about Linda’s diabolical counting scheme?
“Two,” she called out. “Two. Two … I’m stuck on two …”
And now, she was dead!
Some part of me felt … relieved … vindicated. I’d told Linda. But had she listened? No! I wanted to shout.
Our torture can surely end now. We have the power. I looked up, met Allie’s eyes. Yes, she felt it too. No more—we were free. Free from aching muscles, creaking knees, sore arms, until we got … old. Free from—
“Ya-ay,” I heard a familiar voice.
Oh, no. This was not happening. Fascinated, morbidly so, I watched Linda rise from her bloody pool on the floor and make her way up the bench step onto the stage, to the sound system. She placed the headset behind her ears, dialed up the music on her Nano ipod. Occupants scattered like startled rabbits, leaving Melissa, Janice, Stacy, Allie, me and, Linda’s newest torture victim, Susan.
“Welcome to Hell, Susan.” But the words never made it past my clogged throat. I was too stunned.
“It feels good, doesn’t it?” Linda chirped. Chirped, mind you. No wonder she’d been offed.
I felt the weights in my hands, pulling my arms from their sockets. I looked down, stunned. 15 lbs.
“You can do it, Kathy, I know you can go heavier. Ya-ay,” she chirped again.
I groaned. I would never get out of muscles class.
Linda-the-Zombie would never quit pushing.
Well, at least we had great parties, I grunted in silence, trying to lift the 15 pound weights in a hammer-curl.
This story is a repost for warning purposes to my new friend, Jake Swartz. Just this morning, I began a new exercise regiment, and I fear, (as Linda can attest) will suffer his due as a taskmaster. Truly, its the only way I can deal. I mean, really, 6 am?
I’m hoping Jake is as a great sport as Linda certainly proved herself to be!
I do miss my Jazzercize family I was a part of for a good nine years. If you are ever in Edmond, Oklahoma, be sure to visit the Edmond Jazzercise. I’ve included the link for more information.
Kathy L Wheeler