"Finding My Happy Pace"
One of my favorite reviews for "Finding My Happy Pace", by Chick Lit Plus: "Sometimes it got difficult to read about Megan constantly being treated like nothing by her friend Amanda (and James -ugh- what a character!) and it could almost cross the line into her being too whiny. But this is where Wardell's superb writing skills come in, and she helps readers understand why Megan lets herself be treated bad. I highly enjoyed watching Megan grow as a person, and this is another 5 star referral for Heather Wardell from me!"
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Chapter OneAmanda's call woke me from a sound sleep. "Do you know what he said?"
Struggling to regain consciousness, I said, "What? Who?"
"I told him I thought I might be pregnant, just to see what he'd say, and he laughed and said he'd never marry somebody stupid enough to get knocked up without meaning to."
Obnoxious on his part, and of course it took two to "get knocked up", but I felt sure James had known she was trying to trap him and had done a surprisingly neat job of sidestepping. I wouldn't have thought he had it in him.
Her sharp voice startled me. "What? I'm here."
"Good. Stunned, right? I know, he's such a jerk. That's why I need your help tomorrow afternoon. He's going to his parents at three for his cousin's birthday and I want to have his stuff on the street when he gets back. I won't stay with a guy who wouldn't support me and my baby."
The non-existent baby she'd only have conceived to snare said guy. My stomach twisting, I sat up and rubbed my eyes until they could focus on the clock. Seven-fifty. I'd set my alarm for eight. How did she always manage to do that? "Amanda, I can't. Tomorrow's my race. I'm running 26.2 miles tomorrow starting at seven in the morning. Even by three, I won't be in any kind of shape to move his stuff."
She didn't speak, and I sank back into bed feeling proud of myself. I'd told her clearly and without fuss that I couldn't help and why. I'd tried so many times and now I'd finally managed it. She would understand and everything would be--
"But I need you," she said, her voice full of tears. "I finally see it this time. He'll never be who I want him to be. Come on, I need you. I can't do it alone and I don't know anyone else who'll help me."
I shut my eyes, wishing I hadn't answered the phone.
I'd truly thought I was ready to confidently take care of my own needs.
The sincerity and passion in her voice told me she truly thought she was permanently ending her relationship.
No doubt we were both wrong.
When I didn't speak, because the battle raging within me still had no winner, she said, "Megan, please. I get how unhealthy this is now and I won't let him come back."
She had said almost exactly those words at least three times before. Each time she'd welcomed him back into her life. But what if this time she really meant it? "Amanda, I can't," I said, then winced at the indecision in my voice.
She heard it too, no doubt, because she told me again and again that she appreciated everything I'd done before and that this time would be different.
I held out as long as I could, but I'd grown up never refusing, the consummate yes girl, and though over the last few months I'd realized I caved in far too often eventually I said the one thing I knew I shouldn't.
"Okay. I'll be there."
"Thanks. You're the greatest."
The greatest sucker.
I spent the morning reading and packing up my gear for the next day, including shower stuff and a change of clothes so I could go help Amanda, while regretting over and over that I'd agreed. Once I was ready, I had a carb-heavy pasta lunch then headed out into the crisp October air to pick up my race kit with my running buddies, leaving a little early in the hopes I might get to see Andrew alone.
At the subway station, though, I lost that extra time to a long and barely moving line to buy tokens. I read my latest book-club novel on my phone as I waited, trying to lose myself in it to tune out the grumbling people around me. Did they think their complaining would help? It couldn't make the wait any shorter or less annoying for them but it was annoying the stuffing out of me. Not even my book could distract me from--
Someone tapped me on the shoulder.
I looked over, and a man who looked rather like my grandfather smiled at me and said in a befuddled voice, "Is this the line to buy tokens?"
I nodded, and he said, "Thank you, dear."
I smiled and went back to my book, but before I could get into the story I noticed the man didn't leave. Instead, he took a tiny step forward, so he was still partly beside me but also inching in to cut in front of me, and stood still.
"The line starts back there," I said before I thought about it.
"What?" The sweetly confused tone vanished from his voice in just that one word.
I looked back and pointed at the end of the line, easily ten people away. "That's where the line starts."
He gave a disgusted huff and stomped off to join the line properly.
I tried again to lose myself in my book, but the mutterings of my fellow line-dwellers and my aggravation over Amanda made it impossible. Eventually I got my tokens and before long I stood with Jeanine in the lobby of the hotel hosting the race expo. When Andrew arrived a minute after me, he smiled, his blue eyes warm but something in them telling me he wasn't any clearer about what had happened between us the night before than I was, and said, "Well, ladies, it's race weekend. Are you excited?"
"Ecstatic." Jeanine yawned. "Exhausted. Let's get our kits."
We followed her to the appropriate lineup, and soon we'd each picked up a reusable shopping bag with the race logo emblazoned on it and settled down in a quiet corner where we could check out our loot, especially the three most important items in the bag.
First, the plastic chip we'd each lace onto a shoe to time our progress through the race. Second, our official race bibs, rectangles of thick waxy paper printed with our race numbers and first names we had to wear on our shirts to prove we were registered. Third, and most exciting, our black race t-shirts.
"No wearing this shirt before the race, or during it." Jeanine shook her finger at me. "Most people consider it bad luck."
Andrew had told me that during one of our long runs alone. "No worries, I'm wearing my 'happy pace' shirt anyhow." A wave of warmth, nearly melting the cold discomfort of my frustration over Amanda, hit me at how sweet Andrew had been to get the special shirts with his 'find your happy pace' motto emblazoned front and back and how cute he'd been when he'd handed them to us last weekend so we could try them out before the race.
"Me too," Andrew said. "Jeanine's the odd one out. Big shock there." She swatted him, smiling and trying to hide it in a mock frown, and he laughed and added, "Of course, if you have a lucky shirt you have to wear it for the race. Then you can wear your happy pace one when the race is finished."
She nodded. "At which point my pace will be passed out on the couch. Sounds happy to me."
They smiled at each other, but fear filled me at the thought of the challenge to come. So much further than I'd run before. Could I really do it?
I'd come apart so badly that morning with Amanda, after all. I hadn't changed enough to stand up to her. Could I have changed enough in the last seven months to survive a marathon?