Read Balancing Acts Online

Authors: Zoe Fishman

Balancing Acts

BOOK: Balancing Acts
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Dedication

For Ronen,
my eternal subway crush

Contents

Dedication

Epigraph

Part I

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Part II

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Part III

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Part IV

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Three Month Later

An Excerpt From
Driving Lessons

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Credits

Copyright

About the Publisher

Epigraph
PRANAYAMA

(Sanskrit: pranayama)

lengthening of the breath

Comprised of four parts:

P
URAKA:
inhalation

A
NTARA
K
UMBHAKA:
retention (lungs full)

R
ECHAKA:
exhalation

B
AHYA
K
UMBHAKA:
retention (lungs empty)

Part I
Puraka

I
n one swift, graceful movement, Charlie was up from the floor—following behind her students, adjusting the pile of blankets and neatening the mound of blocks. She smiled to herself as she watched them zip themselves back into their jackets and prepare for the frigid blast of winter, happily noting the contrast between their newly relaxed faces and the tense, jaw-clenched bunch that began her class just an hour ago.

She never stopped marveling at the restorative powers of yoga. She loved opening up her students' hearts and weary, New York–trodden minds with each stretch and flow. Turning to face the wall of windows overlooking the bustling Brooklyn street below, she surveyed the now empty studio and smiled.

To think that this belonged to her, that she was truly the captain of her own destiny. . .it was something. Sometimes she still had to pinch herself. She turned out the light and glanced at the clock on the front wall.

Five fifteen! Damn it!
she thought. She had only forty-five minutes to make it into midtown, and she was in the far-out Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick.
Please let the train be in a good mood today.
With no time to shower, she gave her underarms a quick sniff and surmised that a spritz of her perfume would have to do the trick.

“Classy!” she heard behind her. She turned around, smirking already.

“What, you've never seen someone inspect their pits, Julian?”

“Yeah, gorillas do it all the time.” He looked up from behind his post at the front-desk computer and gave Charlie a grin. “Do you pass inspection?”

“As fresh as a mountain spring! What's cooking on the Web?”

“In today's news, another former teen star has checked herself into the psych ward and Scientology has claimed another closeted leading man,” answered Julian, shaking his head as he scrolled through his favorite gossip website. “I swear, I think the bad weaves are to blame.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Charlie, as she changed clothes in the adjoining bathroom. She pulled her favorite red sweater out from her gym bag and gave it a shake.

“All of these teen starlets, losing their minds. . .I think it's the toxic glue from these rat-nest weaves seeping into their skulls. Maybe we should develop our own line of weaves and organic glue. I'm sure Felicity has a formula to share. We could sell them here and make billions of dollars!”

“Oh yeah, that makes perfect sense. Yoga and weaves. We might as well offer Botox, too,” she said as she pulled her boots on over her jeans.

Julian laughed and got up from his chair. He stretched toward the ceiling. “I think we might be on to something here. A yoga studio for the new millennium!” He glanced at Charlie as she pulled her honey-colored hair into a huge bun on top of her slightly sweaty head. “Where you goin', hot stuff?” he asked.

Charlie paused as she pulled out her lip balm. “Why, to my pseudo ten-year college reunion, of course,” she responded.

“Say what?” asked Julian. “You lookin' for an old boyfriend to reignite the passion? To carry your books and hold your hair while you puke? Honey, you know Big Man on Campus is now balding and married to some hooker with three kids. Oh, and his pants are pleated.” Charlie cringed at the thought. “Wait, why is this a pseudo reunion and not a real one?” asked Julian. “Are you too cool for name tags and a catered dinner of iceberg lettuce wedges and Hamburger Helper? Maybe a Jell-O dessert and a little dancing to Black Sheep and Biggie Smalls at the end of the night?”

Charlie laughed. “Good Lord, Black Sheep? That's a blast from the past. No, it's not that I'm too cool at all, I just think that the alumni association wanted to do a little something in New York, since a lot of the Boston University graduates live here now, especially the old ones. Ten years out. I can't believe it, actually.” She paused to reflect.
A decade. Damn
. “All I know is, I got an e-mail, and I decided to go. I have zero interest in rekindling any sort of long, burned-out flame, by the way. I only have one goal in mind for tonight.”

“To show off your yoga abs?” asked Julian.

“Um, no. I'm going to spread the word about Prana Yoga. Surely, some of these people are looking to make good on their New Year's ‘get in shape' resolution. The timing couldn't be better.”

“That's not a bad idea, Lil' Miss Business Sense,” answered Julian. “But show off your abs anyway. A little eye candy always works.”

“What are you, my pimp?” asked Charlie with a snort. “That's rich. Seriously though, we all have to start pounding the pavement to get our memberships up. Including you, mister.”

“Hello, earth to Charlie! Duh.”

Charlie, Julian, and Felicity were co-owners of Prana, and since their opening two months ago, they had been on a serious mission to pack classes. Guerilla marketing had so far proved mildly successful, but they were still far from target. Running a business was not an easy gig, even if said business was based on Zen principles and faith in the universe. All of the
om
s in the world couldn't pay their electricity, mortgage, and heating bills. Not to mention gas and water.

They had all realized this coming in, of course—Charlie was a former Wall Street wiz, Julian had made a small fortune in the real estate market, and Felicity had even owned her own yoga studio at one point. Still, with all the brain power and know-how between them, it was a struggle to keep their dream afloat.

“Where have you been spreading the word?” asked Charlie.

“I've been hitting all the coffee shops and holier-than-thou hipster boutiques in Williamsburg and Carroll Gardens,” Julian replied. “Handing out flyers and posting them on bulletin boards. I hit Flatbush Avenue this morning before I came in. And then, of course, there's my ultimate marketing coup,” he pointed to the dog's bed behind the desk. George and Michael, the much-adored pugs of Julian and his partner, Scott, looked up at Charlie warily. Their tight little tummies and haunches were bound in Prana Yoga onesies—one in orange and the other in baby blue. Charlie laughed.

“Those poor little nuggets!” she exclaimed, walking over to give them a love pat.

“Are you kidding me, they love dressing up! Don't you, babies? Seriously Charlie, people on the street are constantly oohing and ahhing over these guys, so I figured, why not make them walking billboards?”

“Pretty genius. Although they don't look entirely enchanted by their wardrobes, I have to say.”

“Oh, that's just George and Michael. Being fabulous is a way of life for them. Expressing any sort of enthusiasm for anything is so bourgeois.”

Charlie laughed again as she zipped her jacket. “Okay, I'm off to midtown!” she announced, as she slung her bag over her shoulder.

“Oh gawd, you poor thing.” He hopped up to hug her. “Good luck and try not to come back with a washed-up frat boy clutching your ankles.”

“Will do,” she replied as she breezed out the door and down the stairs. The cold air smacked her in the face. She inhaled sharply and pulled her hood up around her hair.

She wondered who would be there tonight. She had lost touch with almost everyone since college. She shook her head with a slight grin as she imagined what they would make of the “new” Charlie.

She was a far cry from the money-hungry, raging type-A tycoon of yesteryear. While all of her peers had been smoking pot out of downy tubes and laminating their fake IDs, she had been color-coding her note cards and watching C-SPAN.

She had been bound and determined to make it in New York among the other cash sharks, and knew that her humble beginnings would make her journey that much harder. But as her wise Pops had always said, “It's all about the journey, baby.” That little pearl of wisdom had never been truer than it was right now, considering her imminent return to her past. Thank goodness it was only for one hour.

Okay, two hours!
Charlie reminded herself begrudgingly. A trip into midtown warranted at least a two-hour stay, as that would probably equal her travel time on the godforsaken subway. Charlie swiped her fare card and eased through the turnstile.

Making her way down the damp platform, she was surprised by the nervousness she felt.
Who would be there?
She mentally Rolodexed her very short list of college paramours. She rarely had made time for them, but occasionally she had broken her stoic reserve and engaged in the typical two-to three-week dating ritual. She marveled at the length of those entanglements, but three weeks in college seems like four years—or at least they always did to her. Especially if the guy was a total dufus, which they almost always were.

As the train approached, Charlie laughed to herself, remembering Russ, the strapping football player with a penis the size of a jujube. Said jujube was a steroided mess, and even after rolling out her tried and true tricks, that candy was just never going to unwrap. After surrendering and submitting herself to an awkward snuggle, Russ had made no mention of the “incident” and had instead asked her which kind of sports car was her favorite. The next day, Charlie was back in the business school library, plotting her eventual world takeover. If Russ was any indication of what was out there in terms of distraction, she was all too happy to maintain her focus.

Charlie switched to the 6 train at Broadway-Lafayette. She thought about what it would feel like to explain herself to these people she knew once upon a time. She had run into the occasional person from her Wall Street past and just shrugged off the noticeable difference.

“Where did you go?” a former colleague had asked incredulously during an awkward Saturday Starbucks run-in. “One day you were there, and the next day—poof! No one had any clue what had happened to you.” She had adjusted the strap of her Birkin bag as she said this, one hand juggling her nonfat, nonsugar mocha grande and the other nervously smoothing her Japanese-straightened and lowlighted hair.

“Oh, I just had a—” Charlie frantically searched for an explanation that would reveal just enough, while at the same time, slam the door shut on any further questions. “I had a quarter-life crisis, you know? It was just time.” Charlie tried to look dramatic and mysterious. The woman, whose name Charlie couldn't remember for the life of her (Sasha? Natasha? Nicole?), nodded her head as if she understood, the whole time thinking (Charlie was sure),
Bankrupt lesbian chops up her bodega guy and stores him in the fridge. The full story at eleven.

“Got it,” she whispered, obviously uncomfortable. “Well, glad to see that you're still alive!” she said, making her way away from Charlie and into her afternoon of Bergdorf and ball-busting.

Charlie smiled, remembering. She looked up.
Oh shit! How are we at Forty-second Street already?!
She rushed out of the car—her canvas shoulder bag just barely escaping the jaws of the closing door. The crowd surged forward and Charlie was more or less carried up the stairs and planted above ground, right in the thick of New York City mania. She took a deep breath as she began heading toward the bar.

Here goes nothin',
she thought.

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