All About Me

I knew who I was.

Chere Adams, big, beautiful, black and damn proud of it. So what was I doing at a step aerobics class at this hour when I should be in bed?

As I huffed, puffed and stared out of the big picture windows wondering when this torture would end, outside the Florida sun began to rise. In my head I pictured pork chops, scrambled eggs and grits washed down by a gallon of sweet tea. I should be wolfing down breakfast not sweating off a meal I hadn't had.

"Pick it up, ladies. Work it!"

The instructor's voice through that amplified microphone was already hurting my head. And the rap music at this hour of the morning threatened to blow an eardrum.

"One, two, three, four, five, pump those arms. Work it! Sashay to the right and pick up the pace, ladies. One...two..."

"That woman wants to seriously hurt me," I muttered to the lumbering, huffing woman next to me. "If I hear work it one more time I'm going to do something to that mic."

"Yeah, but it might well kill us to look like her," my companion in crime said between pants.

We misfits were huddled in the back of the room, bouncing up and down and pretty much falling all over ourselves.

Why I allowed myself to be talked into this class, and at such a crazy hour, was all because of Quen Abrahams, my personal trainer. I was already thinking if this was the warm-up I'd be dead by the time they started stepping. Forty-five minutes of climbing up and down steps just wasn't going to agree with Chere Adams.

I exhaled on a loud whistling breath, and tried to keep up with the dry-looking women in the front of the room making it look effortless.

Here I was, five foot six, and 225 pounds of sweating, quivering flesh trying to hold my own with women half my size. In my red sweats I looked like a raging bull, snorting and lumbering along.

"I might just have a heart attack," I wheezed.

"Tell me you don't feel like your chest is on fire."

"I have a stitch in my side," my companion whined.

I had to keep reminding myself that my incentive was the eighty pounds of flesh I planned on getting rid of, and the man whose attention I wanted to get. Losing that weight would bring me down to a respectable 145 pounds. Then look out world, here comes Chere Adams.

I wanted to look just like the yellow-skinned woman in the black leotard or the brunette upfront with the fake boobs. Well not exactly like the brunette in the sports bra with her rubber hard stomach and sparkly belly button ring. She had a nonexistent butt and I liked mine, there was a helluva lot more to hold on to. But she'd gotten the attention of the muscle men in the outer room which is something I couldn't do. Actually there was only one muscle man whose attention I wanted. Quen Abrahams.

A group of awed males had their noses pressed to the Plexiglass divider and were actually drooling. I wanted to tie a bib around their necks to stop the spit, and not the kind you got at Red Lobster, either. Food was all I could think about. What was it about the woman's nonexistent jiggle that turned them on? Must be the big boobs, it just had to be the boobs.

Mine were even bigger—40 size triple D and not full of saline either. My booty I'd been lugging around since I was twelve, and damn proudly, too. It got men's attention usually. But I had this spare tire and a couple of double chins I wanted to get rid of. That was the real reason I was here. I was sick and tired of hearing how beautiful I could be if I would only lose weight.

"It takes work, sugar!" Quentin Abrahams, my personal trainer, constantly reminded me. "Work and watching every calorie that goes into your mouth."

Easy for him to say. The man didn't know what it was like to be fat. He was built like a brick house. All muscle and sinew. And hotter than any man should be. He set me on fire.

"Okay, folks, now that our warm-up is over, time to get some real work done," the small, dark-skinned instructor chirped, bringing me back to earth. There wasn't even the slightest hitch in her breath. "Witch!"

I wanted to kill her. Well maybe murder was a bit strong. I wanted to slap her perfect face. Here I was huffing and puffing like Farmer Jones's prize cow and there wasn't even a glimmer of moisture on

"Missy Fitness's" forehead.

"What! Is she kidding?" the blonde on the other side of me groaned. "I'm done."

"Yeah, me, too," I agreed. "But looks like girlfriend wants to work us some more."

The woman I'd been speaking to earlier suddenly stopped midstep. Her breath came in great big gusts. "The treadmill's starting to look better and better." With that she left.

I looked at the wall clock. Forty three minutes of agony before the class was over.

The back of the room was slowly beginning to clear out, making big people like me with ungainly belly rolls more noticeable. The skinny minnies, dressed in pastel Lycra, sports bras and expensive jewelry were up front and center.

I should never have let Quen talk me into trying this "Step and Sculpt" class. Seven o'clock in the morning was usually when I hit the snooze button for the second or third time.

Quen said the class would be a breeze. And he expected me to go at least three days a week. The man was doing drugs. Mind you that was over and above the sessions he and I had scheduled.

Heaving, I clutched my side. I had a stitch and wanted a drink of water badly. As I slowed down, marching in place, the class continued on, the show-offs straddling steps that had a minimum of two risers.

"This is getting old," I muttered.

The woman next to me sighed. "I hear that."

I at least had the smarts to pass on the risers. It was hard enough for me to clamber up one step much less do half hops and "V" steps. I had no clue what the instructor even meant by that. As for a sashay and mambo that was a foreign language—Spanish to me.

By some major miracle I made it through the rest of the class without collapsing. Afterward I hobbled behind several sweating women and headed for the showers.

"Looking good, Chere," Quen called after me. The deep timbre of his voice gave me chills. It figured Quen Abrahams of all people would have to see me like this, hauling my sorry ass toward the showers. I rolled my eyes and snorted something under my breath. This had all been his idea.And I was going along with the plan because I wanted him bad.

No man deserved to look like he did at this ungodly hour. Quen was wearing a monogrammed blue short-sleeved polo shirt that stretched across his broad chest, and showed off his muscular arms to an advantage. Where the shirt V-ed there was a patch of dark hair. His khaki shorts skimmed midthigh giving me a-to-die for view of runners' legs. The same dark hairs curled over them. And his sneakers, well girlfriend, they had to be at a minimum a fourteen and they looked brand new. It was his hands that had me. They were large hands with long, nimble fingers, the nails neatly trimmed.

I wanted those hands on me. All over me. I dreamed about them.

"Must have been some workout," Quen said, preparing to move along. "You keep showing up three times a week, sugar, and we'll have you slimmed down in no time."

An hour later, my body aching, I flopped behind my desk at the Flamingo Beach Chronicle and began opening Dear Jenna's mail. It was more of the same whining and I quickly got bored. I began daydreaming of scrambled eggs, bacon and home fries. Soon it became pork chops and chicken legs. I was that hungry.

"Hey, Chere," Jen St. George, my boss greeted as she flew in. Girlfriend was turned out as usual. She had a certain style about her that I'd tried copying but couldn't pull off. Jen's eyes were overly bright. There was a bounce to her step that made me want to strangle her. Came from sleeping with one of Flamingo Beach's hottest guys. Jen had hooked up with wisecracking radio personality, Tre Monroe. His radio audience called him D'Dawg.

"You're early," Jen said, sounding astounded. "Is something wrong?"

"Good morning to you to, missy, and no, there ain't—isn't—anything wrong."

She was right; I was always at least half an hour late. Mornings were rough on me. They made me hungry and grumpy. I was what you called a night person.