The final steps are closer now; she wipes the back of her left arm across her forehead to absorb the sweat. Little beads have collected down her collarbone, her neck, the backs of her knees. Her heart pumps hard, sounds as if it’s resting in a hollow chest cavity. The pain is dull but present, so she shakes her head, focuses on her goal. Both calf muscles pull; her legs drag like dead weight. Only ten more feet.
Hands gripping fiercely to the arm rests, she watches the counter on the right. With every step the counter changes, slowly, almost desperately. Three-hundred forty five, she’s almost there. The image on the left shows progress: one-hundred fifty floors climbed, the height of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, wherever that is. Focus.
The seconds seem long, she breathes deep to push through it. 29:50. She has ten seconds left. The song running through her headphones is strong and steady so she focuses on the rhythm. With every drum beat she steps.
With a sigh of relief, she hits the cool down and breathes slowly, letting oxygen flow openly to aching calves and tired hamstrings. She made it. 350 calories, 150 flights, almost 1500ft. It’s not much but it’s a start. Her slow pace has regained the feeling in her legs; she can breathe easy now, drawing in full breaths and pausing before exhaling.
In the wall mirror to her left she admires her legs, the shape of her quads, the contours of her hamstrings. She’s learned long ago that to be skinny was to be beautiful, but she doesn’t believe that anymore. In her sweat-drenched skin, her dripping and flushed face, her soaked-through t-shirt, and smile, she is beautiful. Strong is the new sexy.