Quick Read: Love in a Time of COVID-19

Teaching yoga isn’t my dream. 

“Okay guys, give me camel,” I say to my live Zoom class. Twenty-three men and women lean as far back as they can into the pose. I try not to yawn, making sure their form’s right. Three weeks ago this would have been a class of sixty, easy, with others vying to get in. Now I worry about things like bandwidth and video pixelating if too many people are on a video call at once.

Fuck, I think I pulled something!”

I stifle a groan. Jennifer, a regular, always thinks she’s pulled something. 

“Take it easy Jen, come out of it slowly, then I want you guys in child’s pose for the finish.” I get on my knees, “I’ll do it with you.” I bend into child’s pose, reaching my arms forward to grab my phone. Benefits of video classes? They can’t see when I’m done giving a shit. 

“Five deep breaths,” I say, inhaling deeply as I swipe Instagram. I exhale and take another, about to tap like on Svenn the Otter’s latest post, when a bouncing green message alert pops up. 

Jason. A smile breaks and I have to remember what I’m doing. 

“Three more deep breaths guys, feel the work you put in,” I say to the class, clicking a C-Lyfe private chat box he’s created. 

                        Miss seeing you, up for a chat?

I can hear his British accent in my head and my smile widens. “Another deep breath and we’re done guys,” I say to the class. I peep to make sure everyone’s still in the pose. Satisfied they are, I tap a response.

                                    You’re cute… gimme a few minutes.

                      Here whenever you’re ready.

Still smiling, I push the phone away so I’m not distracted anymore. I sit back on my heels, “Alright everyone, that’s it.” Gradually they start coming out of the pose, still stretching well-worked limbs. Yoga might not be my dream, but I’m damn good at working the shit out of people with it. 

I press my hands together in bow, nodding with murmurs of, “Namaste,” as students begin to leave the Zoom call. One by one their screen boxes go black, until it’s just me and Jennifer left. Shit.

“My neck is a mess after that Ashlee,” Jennifer says, glaring at me. In her background, two poodles lay asleep on a fuchsia dog bed. 

“Sorry to hear that Jen,” I reply, “it’s been acting up an awful lot hasn’t it?” You whiny, ridiculous bitch. No, course I don’t say that.

“Maybe if you practiced yoga in a less strenuous way, I wouldn’t always have these aches and pains,” she says sweetly, rubbing her neck. 

I bite the inside of my lip, focusing on her poodles in all their cuteness to give me time to curb my annoyance. My eyes fall on other elements of Jennifer’s living room I’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the last weeks. Personality tells a lot about what someone’s house will be like. In Jennifer’s, pink and white accentuate her living room, falling from drapes, across floors, and on every surface. Totally expected. 

Before my virtual classes I’d never seen the inside of any of my students’ homes. Now they invited me in on a daily basis, I’d seldom been surprised at the decor.

“I’m sorry the class isn’t working for you,” I say finally, even though you’ve been taking it for four years, is what I don’t say. “You won’t be back on Friday then?” I ask, masking hope with fake concern.

Jennifer’s eyes widen, “Yes, I will Ashlee,” her high-pitched tone grates on my nerves. “Everyone else tells you what you want to hear, I’m the only one who’s really going to help your class get better.” Then she has the audacity to grin at me. A snarky, shit-eating grin, snaking from perfectly plump, pink-glossed lips. 

I force a smile. “You’re so right,” I manage. “Namaste Jen, I’ll see you soon.” I sign off, effectively ending the live. 

I take a deep breath, flushing Jennifer’s bullshit from my thoughts. Excitement floods me as I reach for my phone. Not bothering to get up, I use my selfie camera to make sure I’m ready for Jason. Pulling my hair out of its band, I let my texturised curls loose so they frame my face. Freckles scatter across my nose. They’re slightly darker than my honey-brown tone and thankfully hide a couple of tiny bumps that appeared overnight. 

Another deep breath, “Okay, let’s do this.” Before clicking our private conversation, I check the main room. Sixty-seven thousand users are online at the moment, some in the main C-Lyfe room, but most in private invite-only chatrooms. 

Social networking app COVYD-Lyfe had sprung up in the midst of the pandemic. What had started as a place to keep up with the latest, comfort those who lost loved ones, and find new friends in lockdown, had become a chat fest rivalling old school Yahoo and MSN chatrooms. 

I click on Misfits Den, a chatroom Jason had invited me to over a week ago for the first time. 

                         -OctaviaLux-   Thank gawd! Was a male box in here Ash!

I chuckle. Octavia’s always complaining about there being too many guys in our little chat. I tap a reply and click send. 

                         -AshestoAsh-   Aws, I’d save you any other time Tav, but can’t stay long rn. 

                        -Maximillian128-   Code for video sex with -Jasonville- heh.

I roll my eyes and ignore his comment. Max is probably my least favourite of the group, even though I’ve only known them all for a short time. 

                        -OctaviaLux-   Shut up Max, the only action I’m getting is from a purple rabbit, let Ash get hers!

I laugh, about to type a response, when a yellow and white notice asking me to accept Jason’s video call pops up. My stomach flops as I click answer. 

He’s sitting on the patio today, one of the two places he’s usually in when we have our chats. The other’s his bedroom, but hey, one thing at a time. 

“Well hi pretty,” he says in greeting. His dark-brown eyes pull me in.

I smile, “Hi yourself,” then, a bit nervous, “weather looks good there.” 

He nods, looking around briefly, at the sunny day, “Yea, better than it has been for a bit.”

I laugh, “Yea, England isn’t exactly known for it’s beach-worthy weather.”

He leans closer till his rose-pink lips nearly brush the screen. “Hope that won’t stop you visiting.” His tone’s deep and inviting.

I sigh, irrationally wanting to be with him right now. “You’re just saying that,” I reply softly.

He exhales heavily, leaning back, “Keep telling you Ashlee, I don’t just say anything.”

We’re quiet for a moment, me not knowing how to reply, and him looking at a place beyond the screen, no longer at me. But come on, we just met and though what I feel for him feels real, who knows what it’ll be like after this is all over. 

I clear my throat and change the subject, “What are your plans for today?”

He takes me in, “Hmm, talking to you?”

I black blush the shit out of my cheeks. “I’d like that, pretty sure I’ll have to charge my phone soon though, forgot to last night and–“

My front door slams, cutting me off. I jump up, heart beating hard in my chest.

Jason frowns, “What’s wrong? Everything okay?”

I cover my anxiety with a smile. “Yea, I’m good, am, Jase, lemme call you back okay?”

I don’t wait for him to answer. Ending the call just as footsteps thud closer to my workout room. I bend and grip the edges of my mat. Start to roll it up.

“Hey babe, got halfway to work and realised I forgot my keycard and everything.” 

I turn. My boyfriend Nils stands in the doorway, tall, blonde, and striking. 

He smiles at me, “A treat to see you again so soon though,” he says, his Swedish accent melodious over English words.

I smile back at him and walk over. He pulls me to him and kisses me deep.

Thanks for reading! I seldom write anything with heavy romance themes but have been fiddling with this idea, so would love to hear your thoughts. Here are a few questions to kick the comments off ^_^:

Were you expecting Nils?

What do you think of Ashlee so far?

Did your opinion of Ashlee change when you realised she was already in a relationship?

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