Tuesdays at Jenny's

For the past nine Tuesdays, Libby had spent the afternoon at Jenny's Gymnastics Club, which was held in an old warehouse by the local dump. Jenny's was always too bright and too cold, and big box fans were needed in every corner to fight the smell of mold and sweaty feet. There was an old aluminum desk that guarded the front door, with "Jenny's Office" scrawled on it in Sharpie. A man that everyone called Sleazy Mike waited there to check the gymnasts in.
Libby didn't mind the feet smell at Jenny's, or the loud whirring fans that made everyone have to shout, or even Sleazy Mike. Libby loved gymnastics, and so Jenny's was her favorite place in town.
But it was the tenth Tuesday. Libby clutched her "10 Class Party Pack" card tight in her hand, fingering the nine star-shaped hole punches that were already on it. One punch left meant it was her last day of gymnastics.
Libby bounced her feet impatiently as her mom checked her makeup in the rearview mirror, then threw on another coat of cherry lipstick.
Libby offered up her hand, and her mom kissed it with a loud smack.
"Now we're ready."
Libby's mom strutted away from their old Honda Accord towards the warehouse door. Libby followed silently, trying to rub the scarlet outline of lips off her skin.
Sleazy Mike was outside the door with a glowing Marlboro Red. He growled appreciatively at the sight of Libby's mother, who was wearing her best pair of low rise jeans.
"Hello, Michael!"
Sleazy Mike dropped his still-lit cigarette onto the asphalt.
"Hi sugar, what can I do ya for?"
He laughed at his own joke, his smile exposing yellow teeth trapped in meaty jowls.
Libby's mom forced a giggle and tossed her stiff bleached hair.
Libby waited in her mother's shadow and thought about cartwheels.
"My daughter is here for her gymnastics class. Libby, sweetie, where are you, Michael needs to check you in."
Libby emerged from behind her mother's skinny jeans, placed her tattered card in Mike's outstretched paw, then darted inside. Then she took off her cotton pants and sweatshirt, revealing a teal leotard. Libby's leotard wasn't as fancy or feminine as the other girls, but she loved it anyway. She called it her mermaid skin.
The gymnasts were divided into groups, and Libby was assigned to Miss Lacy at balance beam. She fell into step with Marlee, a girl in a white leotard with diamonds on the front. Marlee had a party pack card, too. She was only allowed to do ten classes because her mom told her that girl gymnasts always end up with man shoulders and no boobs. But Marlee said that doing cool tricks seemed better than having "big ol' melons" anyways, and Libby agreed completely. They stuck together after that.
The girls flailed around on the balance beam, trying to perfect their somersaults. Libby only fell off once, compared to Marlee's twelve, and Marlee told her it was only because Libby was a skinny white girl. Then, for the thirteenth time, Marlee lurched face first into the floor.
The whistle blew twice, which meant it was time to tumble. Colorful leotard-clad bodies began to pinwheel across the mats. Libby did her handstands, her backbends, her cartwheels. She hit her roundoff perfectly, and Miss Lacy said that it was her best one ever. Libby looked proudly over to the parent chairs in the corner, but she didn't see her mom anywhere.
The whistle sounded for final stretches. Libby pulled her clothes back on, then noticed her mom by the door, tapping her wrist. Libby mouthed goodbye to Marlee and crept away from the stretching circle. She found her mom waiting in the car, engine running. After Libby was buckled, Libby's mom slapped a fresh Party Pack card onto the dash.
"That's a gift from Michael. He said that the best gymnasts get a second one free."
Libby's mom sighed shakily, then mussed up her daughter's unruly hair.
"I know you love it, Libs. But after this one, you're gonna have to be done. We just can't swing it."
Libby was too excited to say anything; she just stared at the card and nodded.
Once the car reached their apartment, Libby ran up to do her stretches and practice more handstands. Libby's mom stayed in the car for a while, fixing her runny mascara, reapplying red lipstick, and fighting off the lingering smell of Marlboro Reds.