LOVE WEARS LEOTARDS, SLIGHTLY LARGE ONES! by Hillary Coombes

THE JOGGING CLUB

WEEK ONE

Monday
Overweight female joggers usually smile at me. The perfectly slim ones in impeccable jogging gear never do. 
Jogging is akin to joining a silent club, the sort of group that dog owners belong to automatically. I belong to the ‘slightly chubby’ jogging set, and you join me this morning as I try to lose excess pounds trotting along this beach. 
Uh-uh, here comes Miss Dior. She never smiles. I gave her this nickname because she’s perfectly shaped and the smell of a million roses wafts ahead of her, and these are expensive roses.
I always feel a certain happiness when one or other of the women puffing their away along the beachfront smile at me. It’s a heartening antidote to the antipathy of forcing my body to get out of bed early.
I know that within the hour the workers and holidaymakers will be up and about, and the thought of them watching my flab rise and fall fills me with dread. 
What’s this? 
A piece of paper has been thrust into my hand by a passing jogger. Probably it’s an advert for some restaurant or other. Doesn’t she know that jogging puffs me out? I can’t possibly read at the same time.

Tuesday
No jogging today, the dirty washing needs my attention. Oh I forgot about this piece of paper. It’s a bit screwed up and smells sweaty now though. 
OMG I must look very fat! It’s an invitation to help form a jogging club for the overweight.’

Wednesday
I’m still blushing. Do I really look fat? I always think of myself as slightly chubby. Well, perhaps a little more than slightly, but at least I am trying to do something about it. Why else would I get up at ridiculous hours to do something I hate?

Thursday
I have a befuddled mind at this early hour of the morning, but I’d swear that large lady is waving at me? 
Oh no. Another piece of paper. 
“Hello, my name is Sue. Did you read my note? Are you coming tonight?”
“Umm. Umm. Dunno.” I endeavour to stretch my extra-large tee shirt over the bump that is definitely not an unborn baby as I jog past. I don’t want to be thought overweight by the next jogger I meet.

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Well, what a day. I’m glad it’s over. I hate my work, and here I am again, Miss Lonely clicking through the TV channels. It’s nothing but doom and gloom, either that or cookery programmes and they always drive me to raid the kitchen cupboard for a packet of crisps. Reduced fat of course.
There’s always the Overweight Meeting tonight I suppose. I’ve got time to reach Sue’s house, just about; but oh what if I’m the largest person there? No, no, don’t be stupid, woman. Sue’s bigger than you isn’t she! Go on, get going or you’ll be late. It’ll be better than being lonely at home.’
So, here I am pressing Sue’s doorbell. Tell me I’m brave … please! 
There’s music and laughter coming from inside. It sounds more like a party than a meeting of the elephant brigade.
A large caftan clad lady is opening the door. ‘Come in. Come in, whoever you are. Come and join the club, we’re having a great time.’
And so they are. I am being greeted like a long lost friend. My ears are attacked by loud laughter, and the smell of bbq sausages assaults my nostrils. Some of the ladies I recognise from the morning smiles that have been exchanged and I notice a couple of men in the room. Overweight men I must add.

Friday
I enjoyed last night, and guess what I’m jogging this morning even though it’s not penciled as a jogging day in my diary. That’s progress for you. 
Last night we discussed how we could all become slim young things again, and we’ve called ourselves the OJ Club (an acronym for Overweight Joggers – shush, you’re sworn to secrecy on that). We’re going to meet once a week, discuss progress and be secretly weighed by Sue. Sound good to you?


WEEK TWO

Monday
Last night Sue got in touch with everyone in the OJ Club, and said she’d managed to persuade a psychologist friend to talk to the group, but it has to be tonight. Pity that, because it’s Eastenders on the telly, still I’ll just have to record it.

Tuesday
Last night Sue’s psychologist friend told the group not to get upset if we had a bad day, perhaps ate too much or hadn’t exercised. She said we should put it behind us and start again. Everyone nodded, but there was a sea of puzzled faces next when we were told to write down our dearest wish, suggesting this possibly might be to shed the excess fat cells. We were told to kiss the paper and put it under the pillow before going to sleep. I thought this was plain daft and obviously, Mark, who was sitting next to me, was of the same opinion if his screwed up face was anything to go by.
I felt really stupid kissing my folded piece of paper and thrusting it under my pillow and I wondered why I, a grown woman, was carrying out such hocus pocus rubbish.

Wednesday
I’m not sure if I’m getting thinner, but I’m definitely enjoying morning jogs more, and you’ll never guess what I do? Once I’m safely out of sight I incorporate a few exercises as I jog along. Nothing too strenuous you understand, I just fling my arms above my head or out to my side, that sort of thing.
I’ve started singing too. Abba’s my favourite. 

Thursday
You won’t believe this, but it’s seven o’clock in the morning, and I’ve had a little accident. I’m spread-eagled on the sand and I feel a complete twit. I blame it on Abba, they were thumping out ‘Dancing Queen’ through my earphones and I started swirling my arms around like crazy. Suddenly the irresistible force of my right arm, met a solid almost immovable object. 
The unexpected jolt caught me off-guard and the next thing I know here I am wriggling around on the sand as I try to keep some dignity, whilst struggling to turn over and see what I’ve hit. 
Poor woman, I wager you are thinking, but no, let me fully set the scene now that I’ve managed to turn over. Here I am, this still slightly chubby lady sprawled on the sand. However, there stood over me, are the legs of a man. Slightly chubby legs it must be said.
I awkwardly struggle to my knees, my back still bent over the sand; I can see that he is hopping from one foot to the other. 
I rescue my fallen earphones and straighten up my spine, but I’m still kneeling on the sand. I don’t know how best to stand without loosing all self-respect. I can sense that he is fruitlessly waving his arms about, wondering how to best help I suppose.
His outstretched arm has now made contact with my shoulder. “I am so sorry.”
I swivel my head to glimpse the source of speech, and I see a red, sweaty face. Such a picture of shock and concern. 
“Mark! It’s you.” I had just thumped slightly chubby, but solid built Mark. 
“I’m so sorry.” He repeated.
I was glad that the sand clung to my cheeks hiding their tomato red colour. “It’s not your fault, Mark. I shouldn’t have been flinging my arms around.”
“No. No. I shouldn’t have tried to overtake you.”
We two OJ Club members stood and looked at each other and then simultaneously broke into laughter. 
“Well, it’s a lucky escape that you weren’t really hurt,” Mark smiled. “Come on, let’s go for a diet coke.”

Friday
That’s how it all began. Over our drink we talked about diets and exercise, the people in the OJ Club, the psychologist speaker. In fact we chatted like long-time buddies, which was what we were about to become.
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TWO MONTHS LATER

You’ll be glad to know that I have now moved on and I’m no longer a member of the OJ Club, and neither am I lonely. Why should I be? 
I now have Mark beside me. He moved in last week. And you’ll never guess this next bit … when we revealed to each other what we had written on those pieces of paper that we had thrust under our pillows, well, we had written identical words and they had nothing to do with losing weight.
I don’t think you’ll be surprised when I say that our dearest wish has come true, for now we are as happy as two bugs in a rug. Two slightly chubby bugs it must be admitted, and when we go to sleep each night, we still keep our dearest wish papers side by side under the pillow.

In