Tossing the empty takeout boxes in the trash, Yumiko picked up the fortune cookie she had left on the counter. Maybe it would say she had won the lottery, or that she was really a lost princess. Then again, it could very well say she was fired or that she was going to die tomorrow. Only one way to know for sure. Opening it, she pulled out the slip of paper within and snorted at the words which awaited her.
"Make that which you envy yours tonight," she said aloud, her tone puzzled. "What's that supposed to mean? Is this some kind of 'emulate those around you' advice? Oh, sure, if being successful at work was as easy as being envious of my boss' type-a personality, I'd be a software VP for a bank already, and not working myself to the bone doing IT odd jobs."
Flipping the fortune over to see what the numbers were, Yumiko missed her beaten loveseat becoming a nice sectional sofa behind her. She also did not notice how her apartment changed with it. The single studio room stretched out and up, the brick unfolding like an accordion. The threadbare carpet repaired itself. The few dingy panes of glass warped and merged into a floor-to-ceiling window with a breathtaking view of the city. In an instant, she went from having a tiny studio in the Bronx to a slightly larger loft in Brooklyn.
Reading the fortune again, Yumiko rolled her eyes. Emulating the habits of successful people around her was the young professional's strong suit. She had always been a social chameleon with how she could adapt to the situation around her. Even so, she could never shake the nebulous feeling that she could do better. Despite being a technologist successful beyond her twenty-seven years, there was an ever-present voice in her head pushing her to stay at the office just a little longer each night.
Her therapist told her it was an internalization of her parents' towering expectations of their American-born daughter. She said that Yumiko had, in effect, been programmed by them to never be content, no matter how hard she tried. It was only nights like this, when she turned off her phone, as well as her laptop, and got to be alone with a book that she could relax.
Regardless of how she felt about the fortune, its words stuck with her. They clung to her awareness like a frost when she picked up the junk mail and noticed an ad for one of the gyms in the area. When Yumiko opened her mouth to express the wish that she had the will to leave work early once in a while to hit the gym, she started to feel dizzy. Catching herself on the counter, the young professional did not seem to notice her casual, over-sized t-shirt and shorts becoming conservative, but well-fitting athleisure wear.
The sense of disorientation passed as quick as it had come and was replaced by a mixture of anticipation and trepidation at her gym night lining up with one of the bigger classes. There were going to be so many women in the locker room! Just the thought of how crowded it would be made her queasy. She had never gotten over getting caught while making out with her best friend. The guilt inflicted upon her with the lectures that followed still fettered her sense of sexuality to this day. In college, she tried dating guys to appease her parents, but there was never someone that grabbed her heart the same way a woman could.
Not one of them tried to get to know her. Not one of them showed any interest in her beyond that she was a "Triple-A woman"--athletic, available, and Asian. It was not long before her social life became a cycle. She would date a guy for a week or two, they would have sex a few times, but she could not grow attached to them probably because there was nothing else to their relationships besides her willingness to give head. Soon enough, she would start to resent them just using her for easy sex, taking and taking from her without giving anything back, which is why they would break up with her when she eventually stopped putting out. Instead of trying, they would offer some flimsy excuse to cover being upset that the pussy train had left the station. A few were less amicable than that. One had even required police intervention.
Even with the understanding guys, however, the downward spiral part of the cycle never got easier. Even though she knew it was far from her fault that the relationship had dissolved, dealing with the fallout was hard. There were so many expectations and to escape them for just a moment, Yumiko would go out, get drunk and have a one-night stand with another woman, and then flee in the morning. After that, the cycle would begin again.
Added to that roiling sea of emotion was all the angst she felt about having traded away her fitness for success at work. Years of sixty hour weeks had made her career grow as if it were bamboo, sure, but she was in nowhere near the same shape she had been while on the track and field team in college. How her coworker managed the same hours while also doing yoga three times a week was beyond her.
The moment the envious thought crossed her mind, the kitchen began to change behind her. The smell of chicken and garlic sizzling in olive oil and sake demanded her attention. One second she was confused, and the next, she was breaking up a head of lettuce to put into her lunch containers like she always did on Sunday nights. Once that done, she pulled on her sneakers, zipped up a windbreaker, and headed out the door to the gym.
Upon arrival, Yumiko was surprised to find the locker room was not packed. The only person in the room aside her was a very athletic, very tall black woman with short, thick braids. The near-Amazon was naked save for a pair of high-waisted briefs and plain ankle socks, but there was not a trace of embarrassment on her face as she turned to see who had entered.
Yumiko raised a hand in a tentative greeting and the woman smiled.
"Sorry, I thought everyone had already shown up for classes, ya know. Just give me a second..." Her voice was soft but resonant and her Caribbean accent was quite charming.
Impressed with the woman's grace at handling the situation, Yumiko found herself at a loss as to why she had been embarrassed in the first place. Sure, she was going to be less in shape than some of the other girls in the locker room but, she had been at this for a year now and was damn proud of her progress. Further, yes, she was grappling with her sexuality but, liking women as much as men was not that big a deal anymore, right? Besides, she was an adult for fuck's sake. She could make her own damn decisions.
Hoping to work off her frustration, she changed quickly, stuffing her clothes into the locker below the other woman's and went for the treadmill. As she started up the machine on her typical setting, she happened to glance over at the woman running next to her. Yumiko wondered what she did to get her legs and ass so well defined, and wished she could look like that again, even as her own lower half began to thicken and bulge. Her Spandex capri pants rose and tightened into hip-hugging biking shorts. Her track jacket morphed into a fitted halter top that she remembered buying the week before.
She glanced back to the panel and was confused why she had picked such a slow speed. After all, the charity 5K was only a couple days away and this was no time to be taking it easy. Pushing the pace up to her usual level, she matched the woman next to her step for step. Soon her breathing began to quicken, and the familiar catabolic burn started to seep into glutes, quads, and calves toned and sculpted by years of steady effort. People wondered how she did it. She was at the gym twice a day and still managed to put in more hours at the office than most people.
The life-long runner lost herself in the cycling sensations of her feet hitting the belt. Breathe in, heel-toe. Breathe out, heel-toe. After a moment, her gaze wandered, looking for the woman she had seen in the locker room. Which is when she noticed the flyer taped to a nearby pillar. It looked to be an announcement that Hashiki Kimulwa, a local MMA pro, was volunteering her time to teach Tai Chi and Kickboxing as Aerobics classes.
Yumiko regretted missing the class--until she remembered that Hashiki was an acquaintance. They had been seeing each other around for months now. Their usual lockers were near each other, so they had been topless around each other a few times while chatting after their sessions. It made sense, then, why she was not embarrassed earlier. Besides, it was impossible to deny that she was smitten with the woman from Kenya, so interactions like that were the highlights of her day. However, Yumiko was also convinced the fighter was out of her league. She was so tall, so built, and probably not into women anyway.
Still thinking about Hashiki's body, her gaze passed over a gal doing the bicep curl across the room. She was crushing reps with a weight of at least eighty and the amateur athlete was impressed for a moment before she realized--as her upper body surged larger and larger--that her normal was easily another twenty pounds heavier. Sure, the other woman’s arms were amazing, but they had nothing on Yumiko’s guns built from a lifetime of martial arts training.
By the time she was warmed up, Yumiko's past was one of a judo prodigy. From a young age, she had been a girl strong enough to compete with the boys, and her parents sent her to live in Japan with her grandparents so her talents could be developed. The drive to succeed instilled into her by Tamaki-Sensei meant Yumiko attacked the national rankings head-on and, more often than not, she had won her bouts. Between seasons, she kept up with her local rivals and eventually built a website for the region for them to coordinate meets. Her aptitude for technology had eventually lead to her developing a love of web design. Nowadays, her web skills are great enough that she can get by on freelance work while training for her next fight.
That was why she was here tonight, to spar with Hashiki. They smiled at each other as they got into the ring to do some fundamentals and it was not even five minutes later that the light welterweight champion of the world had her knees around the throat of her wife and trainer.
“I think it’s time to go up a weight class, love,” Hashiki said to Yumiko as they towled off and walked towards the locker room.
“Oh, I could never do that,” Yumiko replied even as her gaze wandered to the fight on TV and her figure swelled once more… (1903)