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In the bustling noise of a mid-day gym full of customers, Tariq finishes up his last personal training session with a client before changing into his own workout clothes and having his own private session at his work. Though it’s certainly true that maintaining a solid physique is something his job demands of him, he’s trained guys and gals with all different body types and goals, so his desire to make time for his own fitness is more for his own aspirations than any sense of obligation. Opting to go with a classic isometric routine, Tariq does a standard free weight workout before doing light cardio on a few of the machines, and soothing his muscles in the spa for a while. It was after he briskly towels off – paying special attention to his soft, golden fur and saber-toothed, feline snout, that he puts on his casual clothes, ties his boot laces and gets a swift ping from his phone. He puts on the last of his gold accessories before he pulls the phone out of his gym bag.

Sophia: Hey Tariq.

Tariq: Hey babe.

Sophia: Are you available later?

Tariq: Yeah. What’s up?

Sophia: Eugene and Magid want to meet at the park later. Are you down?

Tariq: Absolutely. I’m just finishing up my workout. Can you pick me up?

Sophia: Sure sweetie. I’ll see you soon.

Sometime later, after Sophia picks up Tariq in her sedan, the cat couple turn into the parking lot of a small, cozy public park inside a quiet, quaint residential neighborhood across town from the Lotus bookstore. The car gently comes to a stop as Sophia makes sure she’s neatly in the lines and both Tariq and Sophia take some time to enjoy the calming atmosphere of this little spot – reminding them a lot of fun outings as children.

“Are you ready?” Sophia says to Tariq – turning over to him.

“Yeah. I’ll get the bocce set from out of the back.” Tariq says quietly as he unbuckles and makes his way over to the game lying in the back seat of her sedan.

Sophia makes her way out of the front seat and closes her door shortly after Tariq is done in the back. She stretches a little bit and looks around the park. Just as she does, she sees her enthusiastic boar friends Magid and Eugene make their way towards her and Tariq.

“You know I’m gonna beat you at that game, Tariq” Magid says with playful boastfulness.

“We’ll see, Magid.” Tariq replies back. “I’m sore from the gym, but I’m still a force to be reckoned with on a grass field.”

“Are you gonna join us, Eugene?” Magid says inquisitively.

“No, that’s okay. You go on ahead.” Eugene says calmly.

Eugene and Sophia watch Tariq and Magid as they search for an open stretch of grass to play bocce ball before Eugene turns towards Sophia, saying, “How are you and Tariq doing, Sophia?”

“Tariq has been my rock since the incident” Sophia replies.

“I know it’s difficult dealing with people who claim to be spiritual but really are more about ego than sharing any kind of wisdom” Eugene remarks. “That’s the kind of negativity I hope to prevent through Wellspring and the Lotus bookstore.”

“You’ve done a tremendous job” Sophia says. “But Tariq encouraging me to confront those witches was something a guy has never done for me. So many other guys would have tried to be a white night and solve my problems for me.”

“It took a lot of bravery for you to confront them” Eugene says. “They were trying to convince young girls like you to hate men and perform some pretty awful curses against men them deemed to be worthy of their ire.”

“I’ve never hated men” Sophia interjects. “I just want to be respected like anyone else. I don’t hate those girls either. I just think they have a lot of pain they need to work through.”

“Cultivating respect is easier said than done” Eugene says. “Hopefully through the Wellspring temple fellowship we can encourage a bit more of that respect in Rancho Duna.”

“I’m just glad that I can be a part of that” Sophia says. “Perhaps in time we can convince more people like the girls in that coven – even if those two are a lost cause. It’s a shame really.”

The two of them pause and enjoy a bit of the bocce ball show out on the grass – chuckling to themselves when they see the two men being so animated about such a simple game.

Eugene turns back to Sophia and says, “So I wanted to ask you something.”

“What’s that?” Sophia replies.

“You’re a really good diviner. I think you’d be an excellent addition to Lotus” Eugene says excitedly. “You could set your own hours and do readings in a small table on the main floor whenever you’d like.”

“Tariq and I could definitely use a little extra money” Sophia replies. “We’ve been saving up for a few things around the house.” Sophia looks back at Tariq for a moment and says, “I’d also like to get him some workout equipment so he doesn’t have to always use his work gym.”

“So, what do you say?” Eugene asks.

“I’m definitely interested” Sophia says. “Just let me know what I need to do.”

“No problem” Eugene replies. “I’ll fill you in later.”

Magid and Tariq approach Eugene and Sophia after finishing up their last game.

Magid says, “Me and Tariq would like to do a couples game. Come join us you two!”

In the waning hours of the afternoon, the four of them play bocce ball and the voices of delightful, lighthearted competition fill the air – punctuated by the sounds of wooden spheres knocking against each other as they slide around the cool grass.

After a few more games of bocce ball, the two couples walk over to their cars and exchange both warm hugs and farewells amongst themselves. They all take a moment to appreciate the beautiful sunset colors that blanket the sky before ending their time at the park with each other.