This former bedroom of the converted villa has been turned into a small business office. It shows signs of the buildings recent renovations, as the walls are still unpainted and the furniture is clearly second- or third-hand. Two wooden desks hug the walls to either side of the rooms single window, which is partially obscured by a dilapidated filing cabinet, while two extra chairs are available for visitors.
It's amazing how bad things so often follow a good thing. The gym opened, and all seemed to be well … and then the news came. Aisha had to return home to deal with a few issues. Then Calli's trade deal encountered a few snags and she had to head to Abu Dhabi to sort it out. To make matters even worse, Aaron, who finally asked Anisa out on an official date, had to cancel to make sure Calli stayed out of trouble. So, now he's gone too. This has left Anisa scrambling to keep the gym functioning without her partners. The first day or so after everyone had left Anisa found had to interview for a temporary secretary to fill in for Aisha until she returned. The candidates were less than stellar for the most part, but the Lapi ended up selecting a Naga named Jasmine; she seemed to have decent business sense and some ability to manage the books. Now it's three days later and Anisa may be wondering what other horrors are waiting to strike … and that's when she gets a knock at the door.
Anisa sits at her desk, her elbows propped up on the top with her cheeks in her palms, staring red-eyed at the general ledger sitting in front of her. How in Dagh's name did Aisha make sense of all this, she thinks, Its all so… mathematical… With a start, the doe bolts up from her accounting work, and turns to the door. "Its open," she says loudly. "C'mon in!"
The door opens a bit. "Miss Snowshoe ma'am?" comes the voice of Jasmine, followed by her green scaled head peering around the door, tongue flicking nervously. "Sorry to bother you, I know you're very busy what with all the bills to sort out so I can get the payments off … and I know I should be dealing with clients instead of letting them talk to you directly … but this one insisted she must speak to the, well, 'woman in charge'. Should I send her away or let her in?"
Rubbing her eyes, the Lapi places her pencil back on the desk, and cants her ears sideways. "No, no, I could use a break. Who is it? Not one of those guys from the equipment place again, is it? I told them, we send out payments on the fifteenth!"
"No, ma'am. It's a Gallee. She says her name is Bambi and says she has an offer that will bring is lots of new, and well, better customers," the Naga replies and wrings her hands together. "She's very insistent."
Anisa looks at the Naga quizzically. "Better customers?" The doe leans back in her swivel chair and scratches an ear. "Well, let her in I guess. I could use all the leads I can get."
The Naga rolls her head a bit in the equivalent of a shrug. "It's what she said, Ma'am. I'll send her in," Jasmine says, then disappears out the doorway.
The rabbit stretches with a yawn, popping her back against the chair. Swiveling back to her desk, she takes a sip of tea from her mug, then quickly fixes her ear fur with a brush lying in an open drawer.
"Daaaahhling, it is wonderful to meet you," drawls a very prim and proper white poodle. Agewise, she's probably between twenty-five, maybe thirty at the oldest. Not a curl or tuft of fur is out of place and there isn't a speck of first on her sky blue business dress. She reaches up and lifts off her velveteen sun hat and looks for a hat rack. Finding none, she just sets it on the Lapi's desk instead. Quickly she inspects the one of the visitor's chairs and after picking off some tufts of lint, settles down and folds her hands in her lap. "I'm Bambi Fehruintine," she says and smiles an amazingly white set of teeth at the doe. "May I ask your name?"
Anisa quickly stashes her brush back into her desk, and offers her paw to the Gallee with a smile. "Anisa Snowshoe, owner and proprietor of the gym, it's apleasure to meet you." Compared to the poodle, the doe looks downright pedestrian, wearing a plain pair of blue workout pants and a green tank top.
The Gallee takes the offered paw between two fingers and shakes it rather daintily. As the poodle shakes, she glances down at Anisa's hand, then seemingly notes something. "A pleasure, Miss Snowshoe," she says, still all smiles. "Why, today is the luckiest day of your life! And forgive me for saying so, but your office does suggest you could use a turn of good luck."
The doe tilts an ear sideways in confusion. "My lucky day? Are you from the Bazaar lottery commission or something?" She chuckles, leaning back in her chair, hiding her confusion at the inflection in Bambi's voice.
"Oh, of course not. I represent a rather elite social club. We only allow in the creme de la creme of Rephidim's society of ladies, you see. We have found ourselves in the most dire need of a new club to host our meetings and events at," the poodle drawls on as she folds her hands back into her lap. "Our last club canceled our contract after our fitness instructor, Klaus … had a bit of a misunderstanding with the owners. Some called it a snit, but that's exaggerating it a bit if you ask me. They even had the nerve to say we would never find another place. But then the fates smiled upon us as they always do and I happened to catch a glimpse of one of your flyers that my manicurist was using as a blotter. I thought to myself, this place is just perfect."
"Well, we're always happy to help out ladies who are in need of a workout space," Anisa replies to the poodle, "although both men and women are welcome here. Most of our clientele consists of women, however I think most men balk at the idea of being trained by a woman." The Lapi laughs. "We even have rooms you could rent, if you'd prefer to have your own trainer Klaus was it?"
The Gallee looks aghast. "You haven't heard of Klaus?" she says and puts her hand over her heart. "Why, you poor dear. That explains so much! He is the absolute best fitness instructor in the city. Why, all the most beautiful women sculpt their form under his care."
Anisa leans back further in her chair, furrowing her brow a bit. "What does he specialize in? Ab workouts? Cross training? I've never had a trainer myself I'm self-taught."
"He's one of the finest aerobics instructors in the world, daaaahling. There isn't a muscle in the body that he cannot develop a routine for to strengthen and tone," Bambi explains, still all smiles. "True, he may be a bit temperamental, but if you need to lose fifteen pounds in a week for the social event of the year, why, he's your man! Why don't you join us for a workout tonight? We try to meet at least three times a week. You could meet some of the other ladies and I'll introduce you to him."
The Lapine's instincts scream at her from inside her head something about this seems… off. Still, as she looks at all of the paperwork on her desk, another voice this one much more familiar tells her that now is the time for fun. "Okay, I think I will. We need a good male trainer for the gym anyway, maybe I can interest him in a position here. Where do you plan on meeting at?"
"Why not here, daaahling?" Bambi offers. "It would give the ladies time to see the gym. Why, just think of it, daaahling, the elite of the city … in your gym. Think of the prestige! You will be the envy of the city!"
Anisa scratches her chin in contemplation, then nods. "Sounds good to me, never hurts to network. Or at least that's what Aisha always said." The doe smiles, "Okay, meet here later tonight with your group. I'll have one of the rooms cleared out so we can use it, and tonight's session is on the house."
"Excellent!" Bambi says and claps her hands together loudly. "I'll send Miss Hargett, our head of the social committee, over to make sure everything is arranged properly. You won't be disappointed, daaahling! Why, in a few weeks you'll be in such shape you'll have the men of the city dropping at your feet!"
Anisa already in much better shape than most people in Rephidim just nods slowly at this, keeping up her blank smile. "Yes, well, I look forward to it!" The rabbit gets up from her chair, and offers her paw to the poodle once more. "It was a pleasure speaking with you today, Ms. Fehruintine, and I look forward to meeting Ms. Hargett."
The Gallee stands and shakes the offered hand again by grasping it lightly with two fingers. "Oh, you are in for a night you won't forget, Miss Snowshoe!" she says, beaming, "It was a pleasure doing business with you today." And with that, the poodle retrieves her hat and heads out of the office.
Anisa waits for Bambi to take her leave, then begins to make her way out from the office. "Well, that was indeed interesting. Hey Jasmine! Looks like we're going to have some guests tonight. Do you know where Naomi and Meg are?"
"I'm right here, Anisa," Naomi says, looking out from the doorway to the Nurse's Station. "Is somebody hurt? Meg went off to meet her husband for something."
Jasmine sticks her head in Anisa's door, then at hearing Naomi, slips right back out again to return to her desk.
The Lapi shakes her head. "Nope! But I may need you to stay later than normal tonight. We just booked a workout group of some sort pretty high-shekel crowd at that!" She then sighs, and her ears wilt. "Of course, tonight their space is comped, but hopefully it'll lead to more business." She looks over her should to Jasmine as she starts to walk towards Naomi. "Hey Jas? A Miss Hargett should be here sometime later let me know when she arrives."
"Oh, is it some sort of party then?" the Rath'ani nurse asks.
"Something like that," Anisa replies, leaning on the doorframe to the raccoon's station. "Supposedly they have their own trainer they meet with, and they're bringing him along tonight. Ever hear of someone named 'Klaus'? He seems to be popular with them."
"Oh, of course Ma'am," Jasmine says with a bob of her head. "Also, while you two were talking, we had a delivery of laundered towels. I made sure to count them and I'm afraid we're missing two from what our invoice said we sent out. Just to let you know, of course. I'll deal with the laundry service and get them returned."
Naomi just shrugs at the name. "What does he train them to do?" she asks.
Anisa's ears lean forward in irritation at the missing towels, but she smiles at the young Naga. "Thanks Jas, I appreciate it." The Lapi turns her attention back to Naomi. "Aerobics, I guess," she shrugs. "She said he got into a spat with the owners of their previous workout space, which is why they're looking for a new one. I wonder what it was about?"
"I didn't know there were other workout spaces," Naomi notes. Then she seems to remember something, and says, "Oh, I'm afraid your brother sprained his wrist on the sand-filled sack thing. He was hitting it way too hard, I suppose."
"The Punching Bag, you mean?" Anisa grins at the raccoon. "I didn't even know one of them had come over. Who was it Royce? I thought he had today off."
"No, the younger one. Benjamin?" Naomi says, looking towards the ceiling. "You have so many brothers, I really should come up with a song to remember them all with… "
"Ben's here?" The doe stands up from the doorframe, and starts to head over to the main workout area. "I didn't even here him come in!" Rounding the corner, she peers out into the gym floor.
"I sent him out to the garden," Naomi offers. "Until the painkillers wear off."
"Oh! I guess that makes sense. I wonder what made him work the bag so hard?" Shaking her head, Anisa walks over to the door leading out into the garden, and opens it. "Ben? You out here?"
A familiar looking Lapi is sitting next to the fountain, with a wrapped and splinted right hand in his lap and the end of a sugar-stick in his mouth. He looks over to Anisa and just nods.
The doe paces over to her brother, and sits down next to him. "Hey baby boy what'd you do to your hand? Naomi says you were going at the punching bag pretty heavily." Gently, she picks up her brother's paw, and examines it.
The hand doesn't look swollen, but the bandages and short splint effectively immobilize the wrist. "I was just… Spring Meadow came by and gave me a message to deliver, but it just got me upset. Sorry, Sis," he says, looking down.
Placing the buck's paw back in his lap, Anisa turns her attention to his ears, gently smoothing them back. "How come? What did it say?" She looks at her brother sideways a bit. "It wasn't about Calligenia, was it?"
The boy nods, and explains, "It was delivered to the old College by some sort of Shadow spell. Calligenia, Aaron and Aisha are going to Amazonia to get a new batch of wool. No telling when they'll be back. It was for you… no mention of me at all."
"Amazonia? They're going all the way there too? Dagh… looks like I'll need to keep Jasmine on for a bit longer." Remembering Ben's current distress, the doe breaks her personal musings and focuses her attention back on him. "I'm sorry, kiddo. I tried to get Daddy to let you go with them." She puts an arm around her brother's shoulders. "But after all, they did leave through the Darkside, and I can't blame mom and dad for not letting you go there. Even I wouldn't go there."
"Still, I guess I'm just tired of always being the one left behind, you know?" Ben says, looking into his sister's face. "You never sent me any letters when you ran off before with Royce. Everyone just forgets about me."
Anisa leans her head sideways, exaggerating the effect with her ears. "Well, I wasn't really in a position to write to you from there… " She fidgets nervously, "but we won't go into that. I thought of you all the time though! Besides, just look at the condition Royce was in when we got back!" She hugs Ben a bit. "And you know better than that, anyway. You and I have always stuck together! Remember when Ranit used to try and give you swirlies? Who was it that stopped him?"
"You," Ben admits. "But now you always want to see Petal and Coal when you spend time at home."
Anisa's face softens as she begins to pick bits of fluff off of Ben's ears. "That's just because Quinn and Ranit need my help from time to time especially Ranit. You know, Coal looks up to you, especially now that I'm gone. You're practically his hero." She smiles at the buck.
Ben's ears blush a bit, and fends off the fluff-picking fingers before standing up. "Well, I'd better get back to the restaurant then. But there is one little favor you could do for me, sis… " He smiles hopefully.
"What's that?" The doe stands, smirking at her brother's distaste of grooming.
"Could you hook me up with a nice girl?" Ben asks quickly. "Someone cute and fun and not a Lapi?"
Anisa's expression melts, replaced by a look of puzzlement. "'Hook you up'? What about Calli?" She scratches her head. "Just a few minutes ago you were acting like it was the end of the world because she left!" She stops, and looks even more confused. "And why not a Lapi?"
"Because I want to have fun while I'm still young," Ben says. "My first girlfriend and Calli just broke my heart. I don't want to go through that again anytime soon, and a fling with a cute girl is just the thing according to Tyson. No worries, no chance of it turning 'serious' or anything. You know… oh, wait, you don't know… uh… forget I just said that! But don't tell Mom or Dad, okay? You know how they are."
Anisa just stares at her little brother, then glares at him. "Tyson told you all this, huh? Figures! You know better than to listen to what he has to say! Don't you remember all the trouble he went through? Do you wanna end up like that too?" She crosses her arms in annoyance.
"I'm way too smart to end up like him," Ben says in his defense. "But I don't want to be all alone until I'm grown up and working and then not have the time to find someone!"
Anisa sighs, placing a paw to her forehead. "Benjamin, you're just a teenager! You have plenty of time to find someone, trust me." She shakes her head. "But when you say 'fling', that Dagh well better just mean 'date', and not what it means to Tyson. Figures he would suggest you date non-Lapis… "
"What's the difference?" Ben asks. "I mean, what do you do on dates?"
"Well, we go out to eat, go dancing, maybe talk a bit and tell some jokes, sometimes we go to a play we just have fun!" She tweaks Ben's ear. "And I know what you're implying, and in ANY case, you're too young for that! Look at what happened to Ranit."
"That's why Tyson said to find a Khatta or a Skeek girl," Ben says, looking downcast again. "I'm just feeling a bit like a loser lately, and don't want to end up like Light- err… just need some cheering up! You get all sorts of girls in here, can't you find one that'd at least want me for a friend?"
"You're not a loser, Ben." Anisa sighs, "And in any case, the girls come to my gym to get in shape and feel better about themselves, not to be scoped out as date material. That's what they have the Bazaar for." She stares at her little brother, then relaxes a bit. "But for what its worth, I'll keep my ears open. But only and I mean only if you promise that any resulting dates remain just that: dates. No Tyson-style shenanigans."
Ben's face lights up, and he says, "Sure thing, 'Nisa! You're the best!" He gives his big sis a quick hug, then jogs off, waving, before she can change her mind.
With a smirk to herself, Anisa heads back into the Gym, shaking her head. "Boys… I swear they're all a little bit crazy." Swatting the small punching bag as she crosses the main floor, the Lapi makes for her office.
"Ma,am?" Jasmine calls from her desk as Anisa heads into her office. "Miss Hargett is here to see you. She's waiting in your office for you."
"Oh! Good. Thanks Jaz." The rabbit quickens her pace as she crosses the office floor, and opens the door to her office. "Hello? Miss Hargett?"
The Gallee woman who sits inside the office looks very much like Bambi on first glance she seems to be in her mid-twenties, is very slim of build, and has perfectly coifed white fur. However, Anisa determines very quickly that her most outstanding feature is that she is extremely color-coordinated. Her stylish dress, handbag, and earrings are all the same shocking shade of daisy yellow. Even the bow tied daintily behind one ear is the same color as all the rest. The only anomaly is her neatly trimmed nails, which have been painted glossy pink. Upon seeing the Lapi, she gives her a bright smile and rises from her seat. "You must be Miss Snowshoe! Bambi has told me so much about you already. I'm Tammie Sue Hargett, from our little club's social committee." She walks over to Anisa and noisily kisses the air near her cheeks. Then she surveys the Lapi with another winning if somewhat vacant smile. "Well, aren't you cute as a button! Sugah, we are going to get along famously, I can just feel it!"
Anisa is startled by the kissing motions, going stiff as a board until the canine finishes. "Well, ah… thanks! Its nice to meet you too!" The Lapi starts to offer her paw in greeting, but then awkwardly retrieves it when she realizes the kiss was the greeting. "I'm glad to hear you look forward to working with us!" She walks to her chair, and waits for the poodle to sit before she does. "I like your outfit!"
Tammie sinks back into her own chair, then looks down at her dress with a pleased expression at Anisa's compliment. "Why, aren't you sweet! Thank you, deah." Then she draws out a little notebook (the cover of which is also yellow) and pencil from her handbag and glances at the Lapi. "I understand from Bambi that you are going to offer us a complimentary workout space for this evening. She sent me along to take a look at it and make any suggestions for things that we might need. Is it all right if we inspect it together?"
"Certainly," Anisa replies, folding her hands together on the desktop. "Although, we should be more than prepared for any workout your ladies should encounter. All of our equipment is in tip-top shape, and we have plenty of open space for aerobics."
Tammie places her handbag on the floor, then sets the notebook and pencil on one corner of the desk. She looks at the Lapi with a rather concerned expression on her face. "Of course, I'm sure that everything's just lovely, but-" Here the Gallee hesitates, then continues with, "Uh… Miss Fehruintine did mention that it was Klaus who would be leading our workouts, yes?" She puts a particular emphasis on that name for some reason.
Anisa pauses briefly, then nods. "Yes, she did, and I told her that it was fine. We rent space out to trainers as well as use it for our own." She cocks her head at the Gallee. "Is there something about Klaus I should know?"
Tammie stares back at Anisa, wide-eyed, with one hand over her heart. "Oh my goodness, Bambi didn't mention… ?" Then she sighs and pulls her chair closer to the desk, apparently so that they can talk more confidentially. "I suppose Miss Fehruintine did tell you that Klaus is one of the absolute best in his field, but like any artist, he is somewhat… high-strung." She lowers her voice and asks conspiratorially, "Did she even say why we were banned from our last exercise facility?"
The doe frowns, leaning forward on her desk. "She mentioned the banning, but didn't say why exactly. She said it was a misunderstanding."
Tammie leans forward, too, and almost whispers to Anisa, "Well, I wasn't there to witness this so I only heard what happened from another one of our members. Anyway, it seems that when Klaus arrived early to prepare for our last session, he found that the towels for us ladies were not only stacked one inch too high on the left-hand side, but they were also blue instead of white." She pauses here for dramatic effect, then explains, "You have to understand, Klaus is the most dreadful perfectionist when it comes to these little details! Anyway, he had words about this with the manager, and when he refused to correct the error, there was some… shouting involved. Some of which included Klaus saying several vulgar thing's about the manager's, er, manhood, if you take my meaning!"
Leaning back in her chair, Anisa stares at the Gallee. "Seriously? You're kidding, right?" She scratches an ear in thought. "And this guy is coming here tonight? I mean, I don't have to worry about him insulting my manhood or anything, but… " She shakes her head, then looks at the poodle once again with a confused expression. "Why do you use this guy then?"
Tammie shakes her head sadly. "I wish I were joking, sugah, but this is the absolute truth well, according to Bitsy Wannamaker, anyway!" At Anisa's question, she gives a tinkly little laugh and replies, "Temperamental he may be, but our club recognizes talent when we see it and Klaus is the best trainer in the city! I mean, I was just as thick as the trunk of a hundred-year-old tree when I began training with him and look at me now! He even recommends the most amazing diet regimens. The last one he put me on included nothing but carrot juice and brown rice! I thought it was plain awful at first, but the pounds just melted right off!" After a moment, she adds thoughtfully, "Of course, the diet went so much better when I found that you weren't supposed to cook the rice in the carrot juice… "
"Yeah… awful… " The Lapi adds no comment to this. "So I take it you're here to help me avoid Klaus' wrath? What do we need to do?"
Tammie picks up her notebook and pencil again and says, "Just take me to the room you have reserved for our workout and I'll go over his requirements with you. Then you can put everything in order before we arrive!"
Getting up from her chair, the Lapi nods and motions for the Gallee to follow her. "Hopefully we'll have plenty of time before your ladies arrive. Our spaces are kept pretty clean." Walking out of the office, she leads Tammie across the main gym floor, and over to one of the side rooms.
It takes some time, but at last Tammie Sue and Anisa complete their inspection of the room. While they went over every inch of the space, Tammie made voluminous notes in her yellow notebook, then afterward tore out the pages and handed them to the Lapi for reference. The completed list of Klaus' "requirements" amounted to three pages and fifteen items - everything from "wash the floor with a mixture of bleach and water" to "open the windows to air the space out fifteen minutes before the exercise time" to the more expected one of "make two stacks of five white towels each, with one no higher than the other."
After the entire space is gone over from top to bottom with Anisa double and triple checking Tammie's lists the Lapi bids the Gallee farewell. Well, she was nice enough, the doe thinks to herself, I hope the others are the same or I at least hope this Klaus guy isn't as crazy as he seems. Walking over to the supply closet, Anisa pulls out two mops and a pair of buckets, and starts to fill them from the sink. "Jasmine! Naomi! Looks like you're both getting overtime tonight! Let's get to work."