Charlie woke that Saturday with anxious energy to burn, but no matter how nicely he inquired, or how much swag he offered in exchange, a free half-court was not to be had. So he asked Xander to join him for racquetball, in one of their gym’s little underground cells that had somehow survived the evolution of the fitness industry. Charlie wasn’t especially good at the game, although he’d played enough to know how effective it was when he felt like smashing something. Basketball satisfied his need to stay active, engage in a social pursuit that didn’t involve work or alcohol, and keep his reflexes sharp, but when he needed to out-and-out expunge demons from his system, nothing felt as cathartic as whacking a defenseless little ball against multiple surfaces. And unless Freddie or a client had other plans for him, Xander was an eager participant in anything that involved physical activity and the possibility of beating Charlie at something.
“Where’s tall, dark, and fictional this weekend?” Xander asked as he gave the ball a couple of bounces, preparing to serve.
They usually started with a few minutes of light warm-up, but when the little blue orb rebounded off the front wall, Charlie imagined a certain divorce lawyer’s face upon it. “With his kids,” he snapped out as he whipped the racquet across his body.
“Whoa there, Pete Sampras.” Xan took some of the velocity off the return. “So you don’t get to see him?”
Charlie met the ball a lot softer than he wanted to. “We text. We talk on the phone, sometimes.”
“Guess it’s better than nothing.” Xander grunted as he upped the speed.
Charlie nailed a fierce carom. For a while, Xander indulged him, and they said little. Their smashes, zings, and occasional laughter or good-natured insult as one or the other dove for a hard return and missed echoed around the cube. Too soon, though, their hour was up, and fifteen minutes later, hair still damp from the showers, they were downing the daily youth-preserving smoothie special in a mostly quiet corner of the club’s crowded juice bar.
“Feel better?” Xan asked.
“Yes.” Charlie sipped at the noxious concoction, which, for all he knew, was made from kale, grass clippings, and other things Liza would adore. “No.” He blew out a long, slow exhale and told Xander everything.
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