>You are Victoria Harshwhinny, though practically everyone in your life knows you by your surname only— the terror that stalks the halls of Canterlot high, an absolute SS officer of pre-calculus, the demon of detention
>If only they knew how pathetic your life actually is
>Today is a Monday, which means you’re up early in order to get to Canterlot High an hour before students start filtering in
>Your alarm wakes you from a warm, easy sleep, and you find yourself once again situated in your cold, dreary one-bedroom apartment
>The place is far from luxurious; the room is hardly big enough to fit the queen-sized bed you sleep on, and beyond the bedroom there's only a kitchenette, single bathroom, and a living room that feels cramped even when it's just you
>Even on a teacher's salary, you could easily afford a bigger place
>But you don't really want one
>Living in someplace so cramped makes it that much harder to realize how alone you
>You've been a Ms. your whole life, and at this point you've given up on any hope of finding a husband
>Which isn't to say you don't sometimes entertain feeble hopes; lying on your couch throwing back glass after glass of red wine at midnight on a Friday, you've often allowed yourself to imagine a single scene or two of moving into a new, bigger apartment with the love of your life
>Of course, you have no idea what he'd even look like
>At this point, you hardly care
>As long as it's *somebody*, you feel like you could fall for pretty much anyone who showed you a little warmth
>Once you reach the school, you sprint from your car to the building, holding your work bag over your head as rain lashes down on you
>The sky is a bleary gray, and you find your mood plummeting as you step into your homeroom, brush some water from your purple blazer, and slump down behind your desk,
"Bleh," you groan to yourself
>A voice from the corner of the room catches your attention
>You look up, surprised to find one of your students is already present
"Ms. Sparkle! You're even earlier than usual."
>Twilight is fidgeting with the pages of her textbook, flipping back and forth at random
>"I actually h-had a, um, question about our homework. Problem forty-seven."
"A question about the homework? I thought I set the due-date for Friday."
>"Y-you did. I just got bit of a head start. Never too early to start a new topic, heheh."
>Twilight fidgets with a lock of her hair, blushing
>Now that you have a student in the room, you're suddenly way more aware of how disheveled you must look after a sprint through the rain
>Reflexively, you straighten your posture and run your fingers through your hair, trying to fix it
"I certainly applaud your dedication. I can see why you're my top student."
>"Really? I-I am?"
>Twilight clenches her hands in front of her chest, beaming
"Oh, far and away. I'm surprised you need my help at all."
>"Oh, well, I just wanted to d-double check. Heheh. After all, you're so smart, and so confident, and it really seems like you're so p-passionate about mathematics..."
>*...and so hot ohmygod...*
"What was that?"
>"N-nothing! I just r-really like you. As a teacher.."
>You blink twice, stunned
"I... I see."
>You're really desperately trying to straighten out your outfit now, and a flustered look is creeping into your face
>How damnably unprofessional you must look
"That means a lot to me, Ms. Sparkle. You are one of my absolute favorite students as well, I hope you know."
>Twilight goes glassy eyed and falls silent
>She doesn't respond
"Ms. Sparkle, are you okay?"
>"H-huh? Oh, yes! Fine, very fine."
>She takes a deep breath and begins furiously twirling her stray lock of hair around her finger
>"So, um, that question... if... c-could I..."
"Absolutely! Apologies, I'm a bit distracted this morning."
>"Y-yeah, me too. A lot distracted, even."
>She stands up and walks over to your desk, swaying slightly as she does
>You run your eyes over your student, only realizing now just how strange she's acting
>As Twilight reaches your desk, you realize that a sheen of sweat is standing out along her forehead, and her hands tremble as she hands you her assignment
>"Could you m-maybe check my work on the problem first?"
"Certainly, give me a minute."
>You scan her work quickly
>For about a minute, the only sound in the room is that of rain drumming on the windowpanes and the slow, dull ticking of the room's clock
"Ms. Sparkle, this is... extremely inadequate."
"You've made three major mistakes in the first line alone. The derivative of x^2 + y^2 is not x + y, this is a basic property you should know by now. And you tried to divide by infinity on line six. And I think you drew your integrand backwards."
>"O-oh no. It sounds like I really m-m-messed up, didn't I?"
>You can hear the trembling in Twilight's voice
>When you look up, you find that your student has beads of sweat rolling down her face, and her breath is coming in short, nervous puffs
>A heavy red blush is spreading over her cheeks, and her hands are wringing the hem of her skirt between them
>"Please, you're not going to p-punish me... are you? Please don't make me s-sit with you all afternoon in detention. Please don't make me c-come to your house and mow your lawn, all day, out in the sun, j-just to earn enough extra c-credit to fix--"
"Ms. Sparkle, get ahold of yourself!"
>You slap the paper down onto your desk, making her jump
"This work is unacceptable, I must admit that. Especially from you. But you seem to have completed each other problem perfectly."
>You slowly raise a hand and place it on Twilight's shoulder
"Ms. Sparkle. If I can be perfectly honest, I think I see what's going on here."
>Twilight lets out a nervous squeak
"I do. And I want you to know, it's perfectly okay. I understand."
>Twilight's eyes are shimmering now
>"You do? You really do?"
"Of course. It's my job as an educator, after all."
"It's quite clear to me that you're suffering from an extreme case of test anxiety. It's made you unable to focus on your work."
>Twilight's face goes blank
"I've seen the symptoms before, but yours is clearly out of hand. This won't do, especially not for my star student."
>"W-wait. Um, actually, w-what I was trying to say is, well, you know how..."
"You don't have to worry around me, Ms. Sparkle. Here, I'll draft a referral to Ms. Hugger in the counselor's office. She'll provide you all the help you need."
>"I, but, n-no! This actually has nothing to do with anxiety at all."
>You tighten your grip on Twilight's shoulder and stare firmly into the watery purple depths of her eyes
"Ms. Sparkle. You can be honest with me. There is absolutely no weakness in admitting you have a problem."
>"I agree, but I--"
"Mental health issues can happen to any of us, Twilight. Even to our best and brightest."
>You try to give her a reassuring smile, but it ends up looking more like an encouraging grimace
>"Yes, b-but... but what I really wanted to say was, um... ah..."
>Twilight looks down at her feet, sighing
>She's deathly pale now; poor girl
>"I understand. Thank you, ma'am."
"No need to thank me. It's only what a professional would you."
>Wielding your pen with a sword master's grace, you scribble down a referral note and slide it across the desk to her
"It's okay to ask for help, Ms. Sparkle. I look forward to helping you in any way I can."
>Twilight takes the note glumly and slinks out of the room
>Her nerves must really be getting the best of her, you think to yourself
>You're glad you were able to help her
>Still, though, now that she's gone, your homeroom is awfully quiet...
>You sigh to yourself, and pull out a stack of papers you still need to grade
>The life of a proper, professional schoolteacher rarely offers a break, and besides, a bit of work is an excellent salve for creeping loneliness
>Most of your students would probably be surprised at how much contemporary slang you're able to keep up with
>You learn most of it from just listening to them; contrary to what they probably think, you hear a *lot* of what they say behind your back
>Lately, however, it's become completely impossible to keep up with the millennial lingo
>Maybe you're finally reaching that age where you can't help but be out-of-touch
>Are your 40's the point of no return?
>Or maybe it's that damned internet
>It seems like they have some new nonsense to spout practically every week
>Lately, Rainbow Dash has been muttering "bruh" every time you finish writing a new formula on the board
>It stopped getting laughs from the class a long time ago, but she persists in continuing
>You'd give her detention for it, but then Coach Spitfire would be on your case for making her miss practice
>The favoritism that Spitfire shows to that girl...
>How dreadfully unprofessional
>Anyway, it's been two days since you finally gave Twilight Sparkle the courage she needed to go to therapy
>Today's an average Wednesday, which means you're on lunchroom duty
>Easily the worst part of your job, it means patrolling the tables full of chattering students, making sure none of them are choking, getting into fights, or dealing drugs under the table
>As usual, you make sure your route takes you by Gilda's table as many times as possible
>In your life, you've only ever met two students who genuinely, physically terrified you
>Gilda is one of them
>Over six feet tall, swollen with muscle, dressed in patchy leather and torn jeans, and with a mean streak as wide as her sneering mouth, she's also the only student you haven't been able to successfully intimidate into staying in line
>Usually your presence and reputation at CHS's resident hardass are enough to cow even the toughest delinquents, but Gilda's responded to even your harshest threats with a smile and a wink
>Trying to give her detention is the one time you've felt faint from a student's presence alone
>Currently, you're just passing Gilda and Rainbow's table, facing away from the two girls but keeping a sharp ear tuned on their conversation
>You're ninety percent sure Gilda's water bottle is filled with vodka, but you don't have enough evidence to bust her for it yet
>And you're a bit scared to confront her...
>You wince at your own cowardice
>"Goddamn, what a unit," Gilda whispers just as you pass the two of them
>"Who?" Dash asks, her mouth half full of sandwich
>"Ol' Harshbooty over there," Gilda says
>You slow down, suddenly aware of both girls' eyes on your back
>However, you try your best to act like you haven't heard them
>After all, students talking about you behind your back is just part of the job, and you're not surprised to know they complain about you
>"Huh," Dash says. "Now that you mention it, she's pretty stacked. Especially in the back..."
>You feel heat rising in your face
>Complaining about your teaching is one thing, but are they...
>Are they insulting your body!?
>"Hell yeah," Gilda agrees. "It should be a crime, there's no way a teacher should be allowed to be that fuckin' thicc."
>You grit your teeth, surprised to find your eyes are starting to burn
>It's been a hard enough week, and now these two have to mock you just because you've gained a some pounds in the last few years?
>You half want to turn around and chew them out
>But that would require admitting that you heard them, and that they hurt you
>"Pretty great, yeah?" Gilda asks
>"Man, now I can't stop watching that ass..." Rainbow Dash sighs
>Something inside you snaps
>Your face flushes red and hot, and you make a beeline for the cafeteria exit
>Since the faculty lounge is most likely also full, you head instead for the third floor, where you know there's a bathroom that pretty much nobody uses
>When you get there, you lock yourself in a stall and leans against the wall, holding your face in your hands
>You lost the ability to really cry over a decade ago, and you haven't re-learned it since
>But still, you get out a few choked, dry sobs before you compose yourself
>You feel so humiliated
>Your own students, mocking your body
>As hard as you work for them, all they can do is laugh at you
>Is this your life?
>Alone, worked to the bone, the laughing-stock of your entire class?
>You slump down onto the toilet, resting your weight on your knees
>By your estimate, there's probably about twenty minutes before your next class starts
>Maybe you'll just stay here for a bit
>You could use some time to yourse--
>The bathroom door is kicked open with a bang
>Your heart nearly explodes in your chest, and you hold deathly still as two sets of feet tramp loudly into the place
>"You sure we'll be alone in here?" Rainbow Dash asks
>"Yeah man, nobody ever comes up here," Gilda answers
>The burning shame you felt earlier immediately turns to icy dread
>What are these two doing here!?
>They walk past the stall you're hiding in, not noticing you, and then you hear them stop at the far end of the room, next to the window
>The window clicks and then screeches as they unlock it and push it open
>Then you hear the snap of a lighter, followed by the faint, acrid scent of tobacco smoke
>Those two delinquents are smoking on school grounds!
>You place your hand on the stall's latch, but you hesitate
>"Maaaan, I can't wait until we get outta here," Rainbow complains
>"Don't even know why I bother showing up. It'll be a miracle if I graduate," Gilda responds
>"I know why I'm showing up tomorrow," Dash says, a snicker in her voice. "Gonna be watching Harsho *real* close in class."
>"Fuck yeah, dude."
>Both girls fistbump, and you hear Gilda exhale loudly
>"God, the things I want to do to her..." she says
>Your heart catches in your chest
>Is she *threatening* you now?
>This is absolutely going too far!
>You need to put a stop to this at once
>But your hand is still frozen near the latch, and a very real, intense fear holds you in place
>"You'd never even get the chance," she teases the other girl
>"You wanna bet? I bet you I could get her. And if I did? Man, I'd fucking *destroy* her, you have no idea..."
>Your entire body clenches in rage
>To be talked about like this by your own students
>Demeaning your body, mocking you, and now outright threats
>You throw the bathroom door open and stride out, turning to face the two girls
>Their mouths fall open, both of them containing a half-smoked Marlboro
>For the first time, you see real fear in Gilda's eyes
"Put those out," you say, your voice deathly flat
>Gilda tries to get words out, but you focus on her, letting all your humiliating and rage seep forth from your eyes like caustic radiation
>She looks away
>"W-whatever," she says
>Dash is still standing dumbstruck, so Gilda reaches up and yanks the cigarette out of her mouth, then tosses both into the toilet
"And the rest of the back."
>"C'mon, man..." Gilda tries to protest
>"Fine," she grumbles, and upends the rest of her cigarettes into the toilet
>You wait until she flushes them down, then you point towards the door
"Now, get yourselves to class. And if I *ever* catch you up here again, I'll make you wish I'd expelled you. Go!"
>Dash scrambles away, pulling Gilda along behind her
>Gilda looks over her shoulder, meets your eyes...
>...and you stare her down until she blinks
>Both girls disappear out the door, and you slump against the bathroom wall, sighing as the adrenaline rush fades away
>It felt good to finally put them in their place
>Seriously, how disrespectful do you have to be to mock an honest professional's appearance?
>Still... they might have a point
>Are you unattractive?
>It would explain how you've lived four decades without ever finding yourself a mate
>Maybe it's time to look into joining a gym...
>”A gym recommendation?”
>Spitfire looks at you confused, slowly sipping from her plastic water bottle
>”What do you need a gym for?”
>The two of you are sitting across from each other in the teacher’s lounge
>It’s the end of the day, and you’re still feeling a little raw inside from your confrontation yesterday
“I… want to lose a little weight,” you say, avoiding Spitfire’s gaze
>She lets out a loud, sharp laugh
>”You? Since when do you need to lose weight?”
>You feel your cheeks turning slightly pink
“I’ve heard some… unkind remarks made about me by my students.”
>Spitfire waves that away
>”Ah, they’re just dumb kids. Who was it? Because I can give them some serious hell for you, if it’ll make you feel better.”
“I don’t think that would be particularly professional. Or helpful.”
“I just think, at my age, I could stand to start practicing more personal fitness.”
>”Now you’re talking! I’m never one to suggest against fitness. But you don’t need to find a gym. We’ve got everything you need here!”
“I hardly think that would be appropriate.”
>”Why not? The school’s budget buys us all sorts of good stuff. Resistance machines, free weights, plenty of stationary bikes and treadmills…”
“I just, well…”
>The blush in your cheeks deepens
“I wouldn’t want to be seen working out, or whatever you might call it, near my students.”
>”Nah, no worries there. All of them get kicked out at four. Only the varsity athletes are allowed to stay, and that’s only on certain days. And even if they are there, they’re focused kids. They’re not gonna stare,” Spitfire says with a coy wink
“I still don’t feel very reassured.”
>”Hey, if you don’t like it here, I’ll pay your first month at a new place! But give our gym a try. I think you might like it.”
“Well, if you insist.”
>”I really, really do.”
>Spitfire wiggles her eyebrows
>Internally, you roll your eyes
>It’s so obvious what she’s playing at
>Spitfire wants you using the gym so she can make a case for an expanded budget next year
>Still, it would be nice to start working out someplace comfortable; you’d probably feel a little awkward in a normal gym anyway, just a regular middle-aged lady surrounded by hulking meatheads
“Can we start this afternoon?” you ask Spitfire
>”Now that’s the attitude I like to hear!” she cheers. “I’ll have the place cleared out for you by four, so be ready.”
>Since you’re Ms. Harshwhinny, you’re already heading to the school gym by 3:50
>As promised, there’s a steady stream of student athletes pouring from the changing rooms
>You try to act inconspicuous, but it’s hard not to notice the sweaty teenage girls flinching away from you as soon as you stride past them
>When you get to the locker room, you find it perfumed with the acrid smell of sweat, of cheap perfume, and of shampoo
>You head for the far-back corner of the room, picking a locker as secluded as you can find
>Being a public-school locker room, there aren’t exactly stalls to change in
>You’re meant to just…strip down, in front of God and everybody
>You were a student once too, of course, and it’s not like the concept is something that horrifies you
>But it was a lot easier when you were a youth surrounded by other youths
>Now you’re an adult, in a youth locker room
>That just makes you feel perverse, even though you’re one hundred percent certain you’re the only person in the room now
>The sounds of footsteps have all dwindled away, as students eagerly rush to get home
>So, you finally feel brave enough to plunk your gym bag on the bench and start unbuttoning your blazer…
>Even though you *know* you’re alone, you still feel so vulnerable, here in this open, echo-y concrete space
>You shut your eyes and try to imagine yourself at home
>Slowly, you peel off your work clothes layer by layer, folding your blazer, skirt, sweater, and undershirt neatly and storing them in the locker
>Standing in only your underwear, you slip your work shoes off your feet, peel away your pantyhose, then root through your bag for a pair of battered tennis shoes that you’ve probably owned since your thirties
>As far as work-out clothes go, everything you own comes from a brief fitness kick in your late twenties: old Nikes, a pair of high-cut basketball shorts, and a slightly embarrassing Reel Big Fish t-shirt
>Hey, it *was* your twenties
>You sigh, and bend over to pick up your shorts
>From behind you, you hear a sharp intake of breath
>You turn glance over your shoulder and immediately make eye contact with Gilda
>She’s standing at the far end of the row of lockers, sweat-slicked and wearing a shirtless muscle shirt
>Her eyes, though they meet yours briefly, are not staying on your face
>You straighten up, reflexively covering yourself, for whatever little good that does
“Isn’t the gym closed?” you ask, trying to lapse into your steely, scolding tones instead of letting the embarrassment show in your voice
>”It… it is,” Gilda says, her posture immediately straightening up
>She keeps trying to focus on her face, but her eyes drift downwards every time…
>”I had a set to finish, so they let me stay. Just gonna get my stuff real quick.”
>You’re actually surprised to notice that Gilda is blushing as hard as you are
>And, because of course it is, the locker she picked is right next to yours
>Feeling naked and raw, you scoot aside and let her pass you
>She slinks over to her spot, her posture drooped and showing an uncharacteristic lack of confidence
>Gilda keeps her eyes focused on the floor, though you see them trailing slowly up your legs and stopping suddenly, right around when they reach your thighs
>What’s she looking for?
>If she’s trying to mock your body to your face then she’s about to witness a level of wrath she won’t even be able to comprehend
>You step back, folding your hands over your chest and resigning yourself to just let your underwear-clad body all hang out
>Gilda fishes her school clothes out of her locker, stuffs them quickly into her bag, and then turns to head off, deliberately avoiding looking at you
>But just as she gets to the end of the section of lockers, she pauses
“Is there something wrong?” you ask, your voice having regained its edge, despite the fact that you’re standing around in a white-lace bra and matching panties
>”Nothing. You just look nice, whatever.”
>With that, she shoulders her bookbag and storms off
>You’re left stunned, and it’s nearly a fully minute before you remember that you need to dress yourself
>You quickly pull on your workout clothes, stumbling slightly on the cold concrete floor as you try to make sure you get everything on before any more errant students pass by
>The last thing you need is for your pupils to have all seen you in your underwear…
>Gilda’s words still flash through your head
>You look nice?
>Clearly she was just trying to avoid further punishment for being in the gym after hours
>You can’t deny, there’s something warm and bubbly building in your chest
>Though that warm feeling quickly extinguishes itself once you feel your body settling into your workout outfit
>Everything is too small
>Your shirt is achingly compressive around your chest
>And your shorts, well, they’re kinda just tight everywhere
>Mostly laterally, where the waistband digs into the squishy curves of your hips
>But they’re also embarrassingly tight across your butt, where the thin polyester is pulled taught across your buttocks, and rides up far too severely within your crack
>You place a hand to your face
“What in God’s name am I doing…” you ask yourself
>But, of course, a few wardrobe issues aren’t going to stop you
>You slip your feet into your old Nikes— those still fit, at least —and then you slink into the gym, feeling blobby and stupid in a young woman’s clothes
>In fact, as you think about them more, Gilda’s words are just starting to make you mad
>How dare she lie to you, just to get on your good side!
>You don’t look nice at all!
>You look like a tanned pear crammed into a teenager’s clothes, you’re a wreck!
>If she had any decency, she’d have told you what a hideous, bulbous wreck you really—
>”Hey! Vicky, you ready?”
>You bristle upon hearing your first name, then realize it’s just Coach Spitfire
>She’s strolling out of the athletics office, hands in her pockets and a weirdly relaxed posture for an educator
>You’ve always been suspicious of her, and the way she seems utterly unfazed by the hell that is education has only strengthened that suspicion
“I suppose. I didn’t realize I’d have a trainer.”
>”Of course! Somebody’s gotta show you the ropes!”
“I’m quite capable of finding them on my own…” you mutter
>Spitfire clearly didn’t hear you
>She strolls right up next to you and gestures towards the expanse of the gym
>The place is a high-ceilinged building which was once a basketball court, and now is dotted with complex, spidery workout equipment and platforms full of discs made out of absurdly dense metals
>”We got anything an aspiring badass could want for herself! Lemme guess, you’re feeling squats today, right?”
“I wasn’t feeling anything in particular, however…”
>”You know, something just tells me you’d really dig some squats. C’mon, follow me!”
>You try to protest, but you realize quickly that you actually have no idea what exercise you were hoping to do
>Maybe you should just trust Spitfire?
>After all, this is her job; if she’s at all professional, she should know exactly what direction to steer you in
>So, you follow along behind her and let her lead you to a platform equipped with a tall, rectangular steel rack
>There’s a metal bar at shoulder height, and Spitfire gives it a confident slap
>”Here ya go! Just pop this on your shoulders and start pounding out squats.”
“That… doesn’t quite seem like adequate instruction.”
>Spitfire saunters up to you, close enough that you can smell the mingling of sweat and cologne on her body
>She places on hand on the bar, and the other hand comes to rest on a friendly spot on your side
>”You want some help?”
“That… would be appreciated.”
>”Hey, don’t worry. I do this all day.”
>Spitfire winks at you
>You stiffen, and let her demonstrate proper squat posture
>”See? It’s not that hard,” she says, easily blasting out five squats with the bar
“Of course. The concept isn’t hard. It’s just the, um, weight I’m a little worried about.”
>”Nah, don’t worry!” Spitfire assures you. “I’ll be spotting you, so if anything happens, I can grab you.”
>”So go for it.”
>You step up to the bar and place it atop your shoulders
>Immediately your legs start to quake
>For an empty bar, this is kinda heavy!
>You follow Spitfire’s advice, and squat down slowly, sticking out your butt and letting all the weight settle on to your thighs and core
>Spitfire is standing somewhere behind you
>Even though you’re the one working out, she sure is breathing heavily…
>”Yeah, just like that,” she says
>You grunt and straighten back up
>Spitfire breathes out heavily
“Right. Correct me if my posture is wrong.”
>”Don’t worry. It’s perfect…”
>Spitfire sounds extremely out of breath now
>You figure she must have pushed herself hard during her training sessions with the varsity athletes; you feel a brief swelling of admiration inside your chest
>That’s extremely professional!
>You let that bubble of pride fill you up, and crank out three more squats
>Now it’s starting to get hard
>Your thighs are quaking, and beads of sweat are rolling down your forehead
“Am I done yet?” you groan
>”Nah, not yet. I want to see more.”
>Hmm, she’s a good coach
>She’s motivating you!
>You squat down again, this time feeling a tension in your butt that you didn’t expect
>Slowly, you straighten up again
>Sweat is pooling in some slightly embarrassing places along your body, staining spots in your shirt that you’d rather not have stained
>It’s also dripping down your legs, making your entire body seem to shimmer beneath the gym’s flourescent lights
>With a yelp of pain, you straighten back up and drop the bar back into its rack
“That’s… all.. I can… do…” you pant
>Spitfire slaps your back, leaving a wet handprint between your shoulder blades
>”Next, I’m thinking we should do, um…”
>She takes a quick moment to think
>”Some cardio, definitely. Burpees, that’s what we need to do.”
“I have no idea what that is.”
>”Oh, don’t worry. I’ll teach ya~”
>Spitfire’s voice has taken on a strange, girlish edge to it
>Her passion for exercise is impressive
>Mentally, you take notes; you definitely need to start trying to inject such a level of passion into your teaching of mathematics
>As it turns out, a burpee is just hell on earth
>You start by squatting to the ground— which already hurts your poor, tortured thighs —and then you kick your legs back into a pushup position, do a pushup, and then spring up and jump as high as you can
>Each one feels like it’ll kill you, and somehow you manage to do four out of five
>Each one makes your breasts slap painfully against your chest
>You never really thought they were that big, but this much movement is starting to really hurt them…
>You should buy a sports bra if you’re going to keep doing this
>Spitfire, ever the considerate coach, has her eyes right on your chest
>In fact, she hardly looks anywhere else
>She must be worried about you potentially injuring yourself, and you appreciate that greatly
>”And now, jump!
>You spring up to the ceiling, and your chest cries out in pain
>When you land, you sink to your knees, panting and slick with sweat
“I can’t… no more…”
>”It’s only been twenty minutes! C’mon, Vicky, you got more in you!”
“I really don’t… I think… we should wait…”
>”That doesn’t sound like a winner talking. Sounds like a loser.”
“Well, maybe I am—“
“…what’s our next exercise?”
>Spitfire leads you to an empty platform, with only a mat
“And what’s the purpose of this?”
>”Oh, it’s just a common lower-body exercise.”
“Haven’t I worked my lower body enough?”
>A gleam shines in Spitfire’s eye
“Well, I suppose I trust your judgement. But, if I’m to be perfectly honest—“
>You stumble as you step onto the platform
“I’m having a bit of trouble walking.”
>”That’s okay. I can help you back to the locker room, if you need it. Newbies always get sore after their first time.”
“That’s reassuring, I suppose.”
>You stand in the center of the platform and let Spitfire guide you
>With each command, you step forward, placing all your weight on your front leg and letting the burn spread through your poor buttocks
>This is torture!
>But, then again, this is weight loss
>Soon, none of your students will make fun of you again
>You’ll be a goddess of fitness, one who every student of yours will cower before and—
>The sound, in a gym full of only two people, is defening
>Those tight, ancient workout shorts finally give up, and your lunge stance is enough to split them right along your crack
>You gasp in unprofessional embarrassment and sink to one knee, trying to cover yourself
>The shorts only split further, your swollen thighs shredding what little bit tries to stay behind
>Spitfire raises a hand to her mouth, her cheeks slightly flushed
>”Everything I hoped for…” she whispers
>You try to stand up, but your thighs are shaking with fatigue, and you can only awkwardly flop onto the floor, unable to cover your now-exposed derrière
“Please…” you mumble, humiliated. “Help me up.”
>Spitfire certainly takes her time, however
>And you find it quite unprofessional how she pulled out her phone first
>Thankfully, she supports you and helps you back to the locker room
>You collapse onto the bench and tug at the badly torn remains of your workout shorts, still panting from the exertion
>Spitfire stays standing, running her eyes from your feet up to your sweat-slicked brow
>”So, I’m gonna see you again tomorrow, right?”
“I’ll be lucky if I can *ever* do that again, much less tomorrow.”
>”Hey, you just gotta stick to it! I’ll be here for ya, okay?”
>You can hardly find the wherewithal to answer her
>You’re sitting here in torn shorts, practically drenched in your own sweat, and you just made a fool of yourself in front of a fellow educator
>It’s hard to not feel like a failure
>Spitfire punches your shoulder
>”Hey, you did good today. It’s awesome to finally have someone I really want to work with. And you really do look *great.*”
>She winks at you
>Why do people keep saying that to you?
>Do you really look *that* desperate for some token compliments?
>”You know, I’ve only got one class tomorrow. You’re not too busy this evening, are you?”
“Actually, I’m extremely busy,” you say, telling the truth
>You scheduled an exam, and you need to prepare a study guide if you want to have even a quarter of your students pass
>A wry smile stretches Spitfire’s face
>”Makes sense. You work yourself really hard, Vicky.”
“The burden of being an educator.”
>”I guess. But hey, come back tomorrow, okay?”
“If I have the energy, I will.”
>You take that as the end of the conversation, and stand up to dress yourself
>After the embarrassment with Gilda earlier, you just keep your back to your fellow teacher this time, undressing yourself a forced nonchalance, and then pulling on your signature skirt and blazer with the same attitude
>She keeps her eyes on you the whole time
>Then she sighs, stretches, and heads out, the picture of chill
>But as soon as she’s outside of the locker room, she turns and punches the wall, wincing at the pain in her knuckles
>”Why can’t I just say the right thing to her…”
>You head out to your car, alone
>A grimy layer of salt still lingers on your skin, and you desperately want to get home to wash it off
>You wanted to wash it off at school, but the idea of being stark-naked in the same showers your students use is, frankly, terrifying beyond belief
>So you head home on your lonesome, listening to the nonchalant crackle of the radio
>This really is your life, huh?