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She sat down on her couch with her coffee and dug into her bag for her phone to check her email. She took one sip and laughed at herself. Check her email, what was she thinking? If she knew her friends, and she did, she would have many text messages to respond to first.

Sure enough, Courtney had texted her and Dana early this morning.

Nik, I have your car, let me know if I can come pick you up this afternoon and get it back to you. Also DID YOU BANG CARLOS I AM BETTING THE ANSWER IS YES BUT I NEED TO KNOW IMMEDIATELY.

Then Dana:

Wait, what? I thought she was still being all wishy washy about it? What happened? I need details, how did I miss this?

Courtney filled Dana in, Dana responded with many exclamation points, the two of them had a nice long chat about her long before she was awake.

Good morning, friends. I’m around anytime today for a car exchange. Also, yes.

She couldn’t resist teasing them a little.

She hummed as she checked her email. Okay good, she’d gotten the go-ahead from the studio to do a profile of the up-and-coming black female director, her piece on that school teacher in Fresno who had taken in ten of his students as foster kids was going to run in the Times Sunday magazine in a few weeks, and the editor she hated working with was resigning and moving to New York for a magazine she also hated. What an excellent morning.

Yes? YES??? We get a hell of a lot more than fucking yes.

She laughed out loud at Courtney’s text.

Nik will give us the details as soon as she wants to give us the details.

Dana was always the nice one.

However. She had better want to give us the details within the next two minutes, or I’m never going to let her borrow my shoes again.

Not that nice. She’d better respond.

I don’t know why Courtney even asked the question, she orchestrated the whole thing! Don’t worry, you’ll get all the details tonight after class. Long story short: it was excellent, you both were right, he left a few hours ago, and I’m exhausted and very smug. I probably won’t get any work done this morning but I don’t care. I have no idea if I’ll ever see him again but it was still worth it. Happy?

She went to the kitchen for a refill on the coffee and heard numerous texts come in as she poured it.

From Dana: We have to go through an hour and a half class with you doing your “I Just Had Sex” face before we hear the details? I’m going to kill you.

From Courtney: Yessssssssssss. I think this is worth skipping class for, don’t you??? Wasn’t one class enough?

From Dana: No, we have to go, we already paid for the whole six weeks.

From Courtney: I hate you so much. Can’t we get the dish before class, then?

From Dana: I’m filming all afternoon and I won’t allow you to hear about this before I do.

From Courtney: Ugh fine fine, that’s a legit excuse, but still, I’m dying over here. And N: I would bet you’re going to see him again.

And, right as she read that one, another text jumped onto her screen:

I hope you got back to sleep this morning after I left. You going out of town for Memorial Day weekend, or are you free Friday night?

She took another sip of coffee with a big grin on her face and texted her girlfriends.

Apparently you’d win that bet. See you both tonight. She set her mug down on the coffee table, stood up, and danced in her living room for a full minute before texting Carlos back.

Friday night works for me!

Wait, no. Right before she pressed send, she deleted the exclamation point. She was all for being straightforward and not playing games with guys, but he didn’t need to know a text from him literally made her dance.

She also didn’t need to tell her friends how right they were that a rebound had been exactly what she needed. They would be sure to tell her that themselves.

When Nik walked into class that night, Courtney and Dana were both already there. And both glaring at her.

“I texted that I got out of work early and we could meet up before class. Why didn’t you answer?” Dana whispered.

Oops. She’d put her phone in lockdown mode this afternoon to get work done and had forgotten to take it off. She had gotten a ton of work done, so that was a positive. A negative was that her friends were going to kill her.

“Sorry, I was working, and my phone was off,” she said. Their expressions did not change. She couldn’t help but laugh, which just made them glare all the more. “Okay, I will tell you one small detail to get you even more excited for the full story: we didn’t even make it out of his car before we started kissing.”

Dana high-fived her.

“I’m still mad at you, but also, I’m thrilled at how unlike you that is.”

Dana was wearing a very cute hot pink sports bra, and that brand of workout leggings that looked amazing on tall, willowy people like her, but terrible on anyone else. Nik looked down at her own old Stanford T-shirt and comfortable yoga pants and sighed. She’d been paranoid for years after moving to L.A. that Dana would decide to ditch her and Courtney for other actress/model types. There was something about being in this city, where looks were so important, that made you doubt everything you’d been confident about, including your friends. Dana had never wavered, though. Now Nik was ashamed that she’d ever doubted her.

“Hi, class!” Natalie said. They all immediately switched their attention to the front of the room. Today her hair was up in an impossibly high topknot.

“I’m super excited about our class today! Today you all get to use . . . punching bags!”

The whole class applauded, even though the punching bags had been already hanging up throughout the room when they walked in, so it was kind of self-evident they were going to use punching bags today.

Carlos had seemed so surprised and pleased when she’d told him about this class. He was always cracking jokes, so she’d steeled herself for him to make fun of it, but he seemed almost proud of her.

“Remember, punching bags are pretty big and heavy, so you’re really going to feel it when you punch them. But before we get to the bags, let’s go over the form lessons we learned last week. Did you all practice like I told you to?”

There was faint applause from the class. Nik had definitely intended to practice. She’d gone home all hyped up and ready for it, and she’d thrown a few punches at imaginary people in her apartment that night. But then, she got sore. And busy. And after a few days of not practicing, the idea of practicing sounded intimidating, and it sounded much easier to not practice, so that’s what she did.

Dana was clapping with energy, though. Overachiever. She’d probably practiced every day.

“Not as many as I hoped, but that’s okay. Practicing by yourself can get a little scary, right? Don’t worry, we’ll get you guys over that hump today.” “Stronger” by Britney Spears blared out through the speakers. This woman was magic with the music. “Now, watch me.” She stood in the stance she’d taught them the week before and did a fierce one-two punch at the air. “Remember, that’s a jab. Now you guys do it. Make sure you’re a good distance away from each other, and I’ll walk around the room and check in on you.”

Nik imitated her and punched the air. OW. All of those hours of athletic sex made turning that way pretty painful. She wouldn’t give up a second of it, though. She grinned, stretched, and punched the air again.

“Good job, Nik!” Natalie was suddenly behind her. “Remember, elbows in and keep those feet planted, okay? You’ve got some real power behind that punch—keep it up!”

Why did she usually hate people who spoke like cheerleaders, but somehow when Natalie did it, it actually did inspire her to keep it up? Maybe because it actually seemed sincere coming from her.

“Excellent, Dana. I can tell how much you’ve been practicing. Keep that thumb secure. Great work!”

Nik turned around to make fun of Dana for being the teacher’s pet, but Dana was beaming so hard she didn’t have the heart to do it.

“Other side!” Natalie shouted to the class. They all turned and kept going as she finished her loop around the room.

“Okay, everyone! Great job. Now you all get boxing gloves. And look, I know that in a real situation you’re not going to be able to pull out your boxing gloves before you can defend yourself or a loved one. But we have to protect ourselves as we learn how to do this, don’t we? You learn how to punch these punching bags hard with these gloves on, and you’ll be able to break a man’s jaw with your bare fist. I guarantee it.”


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