The pounding of her feet on the treadmill was almost mesmerizing. Keece focused her attention on making the sound of each footstep exactly the same, in perfect rhythm. She could adjust it ever-so-slightly by the way she rolled her toes and each part of her foot on the tread.
“How are you doing Keece?”
The familiar voice startled her. She almost faltered, coming out of her semi-trance. Her cardiologist, Doctor Coleman Janson, was young and handsome, his smile warm and bright against his dark skin, his demeanor comforting, naturally inspiring trust. Beneath his lab coat, she suspected he was in great shape, strong and compact; more inspiration for her to perform well on her heart fitness test.
Keece, a little breathy, replied, “I’m okay. Starting to feel a little winded.”
Cole watched her, musing to himself that she hardly looked winded, and her performance was already in the 95th percentile, the equivalent of an Olympic athlete. He had not seen results this strong in a long time, but he kept his face expressionless. He knew better than to influence a patient’s results, and he could tell simply by watching her that she had a competitive nature that would kick in if she could assess how she was doing. But, none-the-less, he was impressed.
As he left, he told her, “Okay. See how long you can keep going. We’ll gradually increase the intensity, and then stop when your heart rate gets to 160.”
She slid back into her semi-trance, trying to make every step perfectly even, her short blonde ponytail swishing rhythmically across her strong shoulders. She had always been in shape, but not overly fit like the gym-rat bodybuilder types. She had come in for the test because her mom had a heart irregularity. Mom was still healthy in her early seventies, but they monitored her carefully. Keece’s general physician had suggested the test as a precaution.
Several minutes later, Cole returned. “Okay Keece, start to ease up. We’ll start to slow it down.”
As the pace eased up, she stepped off gingerly, holding the rails so as not to slip back as the track continued turning. She’d witnessed that kind of dismount and it never ended well. She turned to the doctor and asked, “How did I do?”
Cole smiled warmly, “Very good. Okay, if we run a few more tests?”
“Sure, fine,” she agreed, ignoring the faint tingle of apprehension at the back of her neck, more tests sounded like they may not be sure she did “very well.”
She was so outstanding on the heart test that Cole was interested to see if she was also as strong in other areas. He tested her coordination, reflexes, ability to jump, everything he could without raising too much suspicion. He could see by her slightly perplexed look that she wondered what the tests had to do with her heart, but at the same time, she seemed to enjoy the challenges.
Cole, mused, it always surprised him what people would do simply because their doctor asked them to. He could see how a bad physician could easily take advantage of a patient. Maybe he was a bit guilty of that himself in this case, but he needed the data on her other abilities to determine if she might be the right match. He knew his friend Radi would want a full report. He briskly moved through several more tests, including collecting a DNA sample, hoping to get through them before she started asking questions.
After testing as much as he could without making things awkward, Cole stated, “So, you’re in really good shape.”
She replied, a little surprised, “Thanks. That’s good to hear. I gather that means my heart is okay?”
Cole smiled, realizing he had forgotten to mention that. “Yes, your heart’s in excellent condition.”
Keece, relieved, replied, “Well, staying in shape is sort of a job requirement. I have a business that creates and sells virtual reality games for fitness.”
Cole laughed. “Ah, I get it. Makes sense that that’s a requirement. If only all my clients had that kind of motivation.”
After a pause, he continued measuredly, “So is that your workout, doing your games?”
“Actually, I mostly do yoga or a Pilates type workout on my own, and then I play polo,” her eyes brightened as she mentioned polo, clearly showing her enthusiasm for the sport.
Cole surprised, replied, “Polo? Real polo? As in on a horse?”
She laughed. “Yah, the real thing. I started playing a few years ago and now I’m completely hooked. It’s funny how people have become so much more aware of it thanks to the Patron Polo VR game,” she said, imitating the distinctive game announcer voice as she said the name. “When I talked about polo before, people would always ask if it was water polo.”
Cole replied enthusiastically, “Oh man, I play Patron Polo all the time with my friends. We love that game! But I can’t imagine what it’s like to play the real game. That is so cool!”
“I love it. The strategy, the team, the horse…and it keeps you in great shape. The only drawback is that it’s not good for the wallet,” Keece replied with a guilty grin.
Cole smiled at her self-indulgence. “Sometimes, you just gotta do what you love.”
After a slight pause, he continued with curiosity, “Do you have kids?”
Keece a little surprised by the abrupt subject change and personal questions, “No, I never got married. I almost did once. I guess that’s not a pre-requisite for having kids these days, but I never really wanted to do it alone, without a partner.”
“So, no boyfriend?” Cole sounded surprised but tried to ask casually, trying to confirm her status without seeming too interested.
Keece, wondering slightly if he was hitting on her, replied, “I do kind of have a boyfriend.” The doctor did not really seem like he was interested, but why would he ask about her personal life?
Cole pressed her, “Kind of?” Giving her a teasing, questioning look.
Keece looked slightly uncomfortable but smiled a little guiltily as she answered, “I shouldn’t say ‘kind of,’ we’ve been dating for a year now, but he’s much younger, too young for me to take too seriously.”
Cole gave her a questioning look. “Too young. Is that possible? I thought you ladies liked a young stud.”
“He’s in his late 20s. Really young!” she said emphatically and with a big engaging grin. “Fortunately, he looks and acts older, but I know one day he wants to have a family, and by then, I’ll probably be 60,” she said with a giggle.
Cole marveled to himself, wow she has such a beautiful smile, this guy probably thinks he’s a very lucky guy. Cole was pretty sure there were a lot of younger guys who would be interested in dating a woman like Keece.
Cole responded supportively, “Good for you!” To himself, he thought not so good for our experiment, but it sounds like a hurdle that might be surmountable.
He then asked, “Do you want a family?”
Keece shook her head, “It’s not that I don’t, or I should say, didn’t want a family, but I’m probably too old now. And I don’t think he’s planning on kids anytime soon.”
Cole trying not to show he was relieved to hear she would be open to having a family asked another question, “How’d you two meet?”
Keece looking a bit sheepish, knowing her answer sounded cliché. “He’s my polo instructor. He’s a pro from Argentina. He taught me for over a year before I realized he was interested. Even then, I had to be convinced, but we have a lot of fun together. He’s a good guy.”
Cole, despite his own ideas, replied encouragingly, “Well, I think you go with it. Life is short. If you’re havin’ fun, enjoy the ride.” Then to himself he added, at least until we find you a better option.
They both smirked a little at the riding reference. Then Cole wrapped up their appointment, telling her they would have her official results in a few days, but that she seemed to be in great health, nothing to worry about.
She thanked him and then added, “You should try real polo sometime. Or at least come and watch a real match. They have them every Sunday in Del Mar over the summer.”
Cole paused and then smiled warmly, replying as he left the room, “Thanks. I might just do that.”