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.I could feel a little cloud of anxiety starting to rise through the center of my chest, so I changed the subject.“Okay,” I said.“Getting back to structure.I was thinking maybe we could commit to walking at the same time every day….”“Isn’t that what we’re doing?” Rosie said.“Well, yeah,” I said.“But what if there were a prize at the end? You know, a certain number of hours walked or pounds lost by a certain time.”“Not another diet,” Tess said.“I am so over diets.You starve yourself, lose ten pounds, enjoy it for a week, then gain back twenty-two.I rebel against the whole concept.And I’m never going to have plastic surgery either, so don’t even bring that up.Somebody has to look old, you know?”“No offense,” Rosie said.“But I have to say I agree.”“Fine,” I said.I bent down to pick up a piece of sea glass and let the other two walk ahead.Tess turned around.“Don’t pout,” she said.“It’s not becoming.”I stood up.“I’m not pouting.I just wanted something to look forward to.”Tess and Rosie stopped walking.I threw the sea glass, and it disappeared into the water.“I could use something to look forward to,” Rosie said.“At school,” Tess said, “the P.E.teachers give us these big maps for our classroom wall.The kids keep track of their mileage with these little tokens they earn and wear on their sneaker laces, and we plot the classroom mileage totals and pretend to travel across the country.Math skills, geography skills, history tie-ins, plus it really gets them moving.”“That’s a great idea,” I said.“Okay, what if we say that whatever mileage the three of us can accumulate in one month, we get to go somewhere that’s the same distance away for real.”We started walking again.“What do the tokens look like?” Rosie asked.“Young,” Tess said.“Okay, here’s the problem.Say we each walk five miles a day, seven days a week.” Her voice clicked into teacher mode.“Thirty-five miles times three would be….”I closed my eyes to do the math.“A hundred and five,” Rosie said.Tess nodded.“Good job.And times four weeks…”“Four hundred and twenty,” I said as fast as I could.Not to be competitive, but I completely blew Rosie out of the water on that one.“Great,” Tess said.“Which would probably get us to, where, East Wesipisipp? I think if we’re going to do this, we need to up the ante.”“Is there really an East Wesipisipp?” I asked.Maybe I would have had better luck there than in Marshbury.“Of course, there is,” Tess said.“It has the biggest population of golden retrievers per square acre in the state.”“And don’t forget that tennis tournament,” Rosie said.“The Wesipisipp Cup.”“Good one,” Tess said.“Thanks,” Rosie said.“You, too.”We reached the far end of the beach and started crossing the parking lot to get back out to the road.Just the thought of upping the ante had caused us to pick up speed.“Moving on,” Rosie said.“What if we made it six months?” Every so often Rosie had to take a little hop and a skip to keep up with our longer legs.“I don’t know,” Tess said.“I’m not sure delayed gratification is the way to go.I’d kind of like to get out of here as soon as possible.Plus, summer’s the best time for me to go away.”“Maybe,” I said, “we can count other things, like strength training, or even gardening.Come up with a formula to convert them to miles.”“As long as we don’t count calories,” Tess said.“I’m fine with eating healthy, but I’m not keeping a food diary, and I am so not giving up wine.”“We could recruit people to donate miles to us,” Rosie said.“What? ‘Help send these poor women to camp’?” Tess stopped walking and put her hands on her hips.“You know, that might just work.My whole family would probably donate.”Day 107144 stepsAS SOON AS I REACHED THE PARKING LOT, I STARTED THINKING about Michael again.It was like I could feel his presence once I broke through the Balancing Act force field.Even though close to a thousand employees worked—in Balancing Act lingo—“on campus,” I had such a strong feeling I was going to run into him at some point, as if fate wouldn’t be able to resist crashing us together again.I wasn’t even sure I believed in fate, but just in case, I’d dressed extra carefully.I was wearing a subdued but flirty periwinkle and white sundress in a contemporary floral print, a complete departure from my usual professional casual work attire, which consisted mostly of pants and jackets in neutral solids.It actually felt good to wear a dress for a change, and when I’d looked in the mirror before I left the house, I’d thought I looked pretty good for a redundant woman of a certain age without a certain someone/certain job/ounce of certainty in her life.The periwinkle brought out the mossy green in my eyes, and my chin-length brown hair was still at that good place between touch-ups when the graying roots hadn’t even started to emerge yet.The dress had a V-neck and a touch of ruching that gave me the illusion of a long, lean silhouette.My upper arms weren’t great, but I didn’t think there was any serious wiggling going on yet.I pulled into the exact same spot in front of the Balancing Act Employee Store I’d parked in last time.I’d flipped through my buyout papers last night and couldn’t find anything about the expiration of my employee discount, so I’d have to take my chances.Balancing Act employees had two open weeks before Christmas and one in August when they were allowed to buy for family and friends, but the rest of the year, we were only supposed to buy shoes in our own size.With luck, my feet looked smaller in sandals.As soon as I entered the store, I walked quickly over to the Walk On By display.I scooped up a box labeled 6½ with my free hand and headed right for the register.“Hi,” I said to the same woman who’d waited on me last time [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]