The personal trainer, Ambrus, leaned back in the seat opposite me and gave me a speculative look. “What you need to decide before we start making you thinner is exactly what you want to achieve.”
“Don’t be hasty,” he said, raising his hand. “These are important matters and I want you to be sure you’ve thought this through properly. I see people come here every year, men and women, who half some half-hearted desire to lose weight. They are feeling guilty about all the food and wine and think the odd hour here and there of exercise will make it all okay.” He shook his head, smiling. “Are you one of those people?”
My cheeks coloured a little. It all sounded so serious and he was applying a certain amount of pressure. “No. I’m not one of those.”
“Then tell me.” He relaxed, leaning against the arm of his chair. “What do you want to achieve here. I’m told you are staying here at the hotel long term.”
“Yes. For at least a couple of months,” I said. “Which gives me a good long time to get started on losing weight.”
“How much weight do you hope to lose?” he asked.
I thought about the question, picturing Dahlia, then I looked at him very earnestly and said, “All of it.”
He laughed. “Ambitious eh?”
“Yes. Really. I want to be thin.”
He was still chuckling.
“Can you help me or not?” The question was blunt enough to knock the humour from his lips.
He gave me another one of those speculative looks and I actually got the impression that I had impressed him. He might even have been goading me to see how I would react. Despite the spark of irritation I’d felt I found myself warming to him.
“I can help you achieve what you want if you are prepared to put the time and effort in,” he said. “Losing weight is simple. It requires the determined application of concentrated effort. If you put the discipline in then you will achieve results. How great those results are will be proportional to how much discipline. If you plan to do a bit of exercise here and there and then spend your evenings getting drunk and eating large then I am here to tell you that you will be wasting your time. Yes, you won’t put on as much weight as you might otherwise have done but you’re unlikely to lose any.”
“That’s fine,” I replied, feeling an icy determination start to form. This had been a good idea. This was what I needed. This guy was going to challenge me and keep on challenging me. I think I liked it. I am determined. I do want to lose a lot of weight.”
“All of it,” he said, smiling wryly.
“Yes,” I replied, equally bluntly. “All of it. Is that possible?”
“Anything is possible if enough time and, er... money is available.”
“I want to do it quickly,” I said.
“As quickly as possible. And money is no object.”
He frowned, trying, I guessed, to work out exactly how serious I was and what my expectations were. My guess was that people didn’t come to this kind of resort to enter a high level fitness regime. He must have been trying to decide if I was for real.
“I suppose, if you were serious about it...”
“... then it would be possible to work to a strict regime of diet and exercise. We could get you shaping up quite quickly if you remain committed.”
“I’ve been thinking about liposuction,” I said. “What if I combined the exercise and dieting with that to enhance the results. Money really is no object. I want to get somewhere quickly.”
He seemed doubtful and possibly suspicious. I was being intense but I was also clearly honest and driven, maybe even potentially obsessional.
“Let me ask you a question,” he said. He paused, trying to find the best words to frame it. His English was outstanding but it wasn’t perfect. “What is your motivation? What makes you think that you can be as driven as you are suggesting. You are telling me you want to make your life about getting to the shape you want to be. What are you going to hold in your mind to make that happen. When I’m shouting at you and making you work harder than you ever have before, what will you picture in your mind to keep yourself going?”
I put the last piece of fruit in my mouth off my bowl and looked out over the pool, trying to find the answer to that. It came to me quickly and as it entered my mind I smiled grimly.
In the lounge at Summertop, Dahlia’s mansion back home in Nockton Vale, on the high wall was a bigger than life portrait of Dahlia. She was at the height of her modelling career and she looked slim and beautiful in a way that had always been impossibly out of my reach. Picturing it evoked a flash of all the bitterness and envy I had felt all the years I’d worked for her. It filled my mind with anger and... yes, hatred. I hadn’t realised until now. It hadn’t been clear to me just how much I hated her.
I wanted to be that slim. I wanted to be that beautiful. I wanted to do anything I could to hurl her into the life I had led, to encourage her to be every bit as fat as I was, and I wanted to take the shape she had had.
I wanted this more than I’d ever wanted anything. I wanted to beat her. I wanted to humiliate her. I wanted to posses everything she had and leave her with the pitiful things I had had.
I looked at Ambrus. He looked back at me.
“I have my picture,” I said.
“What is it?” he asked.
I smiled. “My little secret. But you can believe me when I tell you that it will give me all the motivation I need to go all the way on this.”