Angela Del Carlo had just crested a hill – the one she’d nicknamed Coronary Peak – and heaved a sigh of satisfaction. From this point on, the terrain was mostly flat to gradual downhill, making the final four miles of her twenty mile route a little easier. She hadn’t been pushing too hard today since she had a tough 50-kilometer trail race scheduled for next weekend, and didn’t want to toe the starting line on tired legs.
She took a swig from her handheld water bottle, always careful about maintaining her hydration levels during these long runs, even when the weather was cold and blustery like today. Winters in San Francisco were relatively mild when compared to most of the country, but out here on the bluffs of the Marin Headlands the winds could be fiercely biting. She’d dressed accordingly in Lycra leggings, a long-sleeved windshirt, gloves and a knit cap, but the cold still permeated her ultra-thin frame. Angela was almost always chilled, regardless of the weather, a condition that wasn’t surprising considering how skinny she’d become and with almost nonexistent body fat. But food had lost its appeal a long time ago, right around the same time her entire world had been shattered and she’d been cruelly left to try and pick up the pieces alone.
More recently, however, she’d finally begun to start picking up those bits of her life, albeit at a very slow pace and never more than one jagged section at a time. But for the first time for as long as she could recall, Angela was feeling –
. She wasn’t quite sure what that something was – hope, optimism, or God help her, maybe even happiness – but all she knew was that she didn’t feel quite as dead inside as she had for almost four years. She also didn’t know if this newfound sense of hope was because of the new man in her life, or whether it was simply her own sense of survival that had finally kicked in. Whatever the reason, she was gradually getting to a point in her day to day life where she didn’t have to drink herself to sleep every night, and where she didn’t wake up each morning dreading the hollow emptiness that her life had become.
She gave a brief nod to the two mountain bikers who were headed up the trail in the opposite direction, ignoring the admiring glances they sent her way. It figured, she thought ironically, that most of the runners and cyclists she had met on her runs or at races didn’t seem to think she was too skinny, unlike nearly every other person in her life did. Her mother and sisters, of course, never failed to make some sort of deprecating comment about her shrinking form every time they saw her – which was intentionally not very often at all these days. Her best friends – the McKinnon twins– also nagged her about the drastic weight loss, though Julia was kinder and more subtle about it than ballsy, in-your-face Lauren. And Cara – Angela’s loyal, hardworking PA – seemed to be constantly trying to entice her to eat something – a candy bar, a piece of birthday cake, an egg roll.
Her fellow athletes, though, were nearly all as thin – or even thinner, in a few cases – than she was and didn’t seem to think there was anything in the least bit unusual about her tall, emaciated body. It was one of the reasons she’d embraced the sport of ultrarunning in recent years, not having been content to merely run marathons or shorter distances. One of the reasons, but certainly not the only one. No, that would be the peace she seemed to find, the solace, from running these long, lonely distances. She would spend hours out on the roads and trails, running ten or twenty or more miles at a crack, and letting her sorrow, her despair, disappear for a time. The only other method she’d successfully employed to block out her brokenness involved drinking copious amounts of vodka, and usually waking up with a nasty hangover as a result.
Lately, though, she’d been laying off the booze. Whether that was due to Dwayne’s influence, or just herself growing weary of waking up with a pounding headache and roiling tummy, it didn’t really matter. Angela knew that drinking in excess like she’d done for so long wasn’t healthy – mentally, physically or emotionally – and that its numbing effects were only short term at best. In the long run, nothing really seemed to work for any length of time.
She still had a couple of miles to go when it started raining. As it was, she’d been lucky to run this far without getting wet, given that the weather had been inclement for the past week. The trails she’d run on had been riddled with sections of thick, sucking mud, and she was glad she’d worn her sturdiest trail running shoes this morning.
Angela was soaked by the time she reached the parking lot, shivering from a combination of being wet and cold and a lack of calories in her system. Once inside her sporty Toyota 4Runner, she toweled herself off briskly before reaching for a pre-mixed recovery drink. She grimaced at the slightly chalky taste of the vanilla flavored beverage but forced herself to finish it, knowing she needed to replenish all the calories she’d just burned during her nearly four hour workout. Dwayne had given her a case of the drinks, along with a variety of protein bars, nutritional supplements, and other freebies he’d received from several of his sponsors. He’d claimed he had more of the stuff than he could ever use, and insisted she was doing him a favor by taking some of it off his hands. Angela gave a wry little smile, fully aware that this was Dwayne’s own sweet, subtle way of getting her to eat more.
She cranked up the heater as she began the drive across the Golden Gate Bridge back into San Francisco, thankful that the traffic was light this morning. She was beginning to shiver and needed to get into a hot shower quickly. She’d come perilously close more than once now to full-blown hypothermia, and had been careful ever since the last near miss to watch for the signs. Maybe that was another indication that she was slowly returning to the land of the living. It had been a long time since she’d given a damn about her health or safety, not seeming to care very much about the potential consequences of not taking better care of herself.
The rain was coming down a little harder as she pulled inside the garage, and she found herself wishing yet again that there was an inside staircase leading to her flat upstairs. Instead, the only entrance to the flats was via the outside staircase, which meant she was going to get soaked again.
Angela had been thinking for a while now about moving, perhaps even buying a condo of her own. She made a healthy six-figure salary as a stockbroker, and had socked away a lot of money these past few years. Even with the outrageous cost of real estate in San Francisco these days, she could easily afford to buy a place. But she had never really liked making changes, especially the major one that moving would entail, and continued to procrastinate on making a decision. And since Julia had recently announced her intention to stay in the downstairs flat until her lease expired next January, Angela wasn’t in a big hurry to move out. She would never admit it out loud, but it made her feel secure to know that one of her best friends lived close by. Or at least most of the time. Julia spent part of the week sleeping over at her fiancée’s condo, but she and Nathan were almost always here at the Lower Pacific Heights flat at least three or four nights a week. They were currently building a custom dream home across the Golden Gate Bridge in Tiburon, and were keeping their fingers crossed it would be completed by the New Year.
As if on cue, Julia’s brand-new silver BMW – an extremely generous Christmas gift from Nathan – pulled inside the two-car garage. Angela gave a wry smile as her almost perpetually perky friend alighted from the car, her face glowing. From her attire, it was obvious that Julia had just come from one of her daily yoga classes, and Angela thought it all a bit unfair that while she was a sodden, sweaty and mud-splattered mess, Julia looked as chic and put together as she always did.
“Hey, Angie. Looks like the heavens opened up on you during your run. This is why I prefer indoor exercise,” said Julia as she began to unload several re-usable grocery bags from the trunk.
Angela shrugged. “It wasn’t too bad, at least not until the last couple of miles. And it still beats running on a treadmill at some noisy, crowded gym. And, sorry, I know you’ve got this big love affair going on with yoga, but it’s never really been my thing.”
“I know. You and Lauren have always been these jock-girls,” teased Julia. “Oh, thanks,” she added, as Angela took two of the bags from her.
“Let’s make a dash for it. Thank God you’ve got sensible shoes on for a change,” commented Angela, glancing down at the vivid pink and orange athletic shoes on Julia’s feet. It was an extremely rare occasion when she wasn’t shod in four-inch heels.
Julia wrinkled her pert little nose. “I’m really not a sensible shoe kind of girl, you know. But I admit it would look weird to wear Jimmy Choo’s to yoga. And at least these are cute.”
Angela rolled her eyes as she closed the garage door and they dashed up the outside staircase to the landing. “Sweetie, I don’t think anyone pays much attention to your footwear when you’re wearing skintight yoga clothes.”
Julia – and her identical twin Lauren – were both on the petite side but with curves in all the right places – boobs, hips, ass. Julia was wearing a cute little pink rain slicker over her yoga attire, but Angela knew that beneath it Julia’s close-fitting pants and top would be clinging to every one of those eye-popping curves. And while Angela’s running gear was equally as clingy – especially since it was soaked from the rain – whatever curves she might have had at one time had disappeared along with the twenty plus pounds she’d lost. Everything about her five foot eleven inch frame was flat now – breasts, stomach, butt. Her arms and legs were stick thin, her narrow hipbones protruding sharply, her cheekbones starkly pronounced.