Author Notes: Thank you to aigooism for the beta!
Richard huffed and puffed as he tried his best to catch up with Hyacinth who was powering along ahead of him in her bright pink tracksuit. It was ridiculously early; the sun had just risen. Richard could have sworn that he saw a couple of sleepy birds blink at him from their cosy, little nests. He wished that he was back in bed curled up under the sheets. "Tell me again, dear," he managed to get out in between gasps. "Why are we doing this?"
Without breaking her stride, Hyacinth looked at him over her shoulder. "Power walking, Richard!" she exclaimed. "It's the latest form of exercise!"
"Ah." Richard wished that she'd picked something more low impact. Elizabeth was trying yoga. That sounded more like his type of thing.
"We must exercise, Richard!" Hyacinth told him as she slowed down slightly. "It will make us healthier so we can live longer." She beamed at him. "That way, we'll still have decades together."
"Wonderful," Richard muttered as he fell into pace beside Hyacinth. Just what he wanted. A few more decades with Hyacinth. His calves hurt. His thighs hurt. Every muscle in his body seemed to hurt. Even his arms hurt. Who would have thought that power walking required so much effort from his arms? He looked over at Hyacinth. There were beads of sweat forming at her temples, but her mouth was set in a stubborn line.
Richard sighed. He recognised that look. It meant that they were going to be doing this power walking thing for a while.
"Richard!" Hyacinth leaned over and pulled the earphones out of his ears.
Richard stumbled and almost fell over into a hedgerow. An insect landed on his ear and Richard swatted it off.
"Do be careful, Richard," Hyacinth told him sharply. "You mustn't go around damaging other people's property like that."
"The hedge's fine," Richard said grumpily. He wasn't quite sure about himself though. That little run in with the hedgerow had given him scratches down his arms and probably produced bruises. Reaching down, he tucked the dangling earphones of his iPod into his belt.
"It's unseemly to listen to music during these exercises," Hyacinth said. "You were humming." She gave him a scandalised look. "What would Mrs Councillor Nugent think if she saw you doing that?"
"That I enjoyed Beethoven?" Richard suggested.
"Don't be difficult, Richard."
Richard didn't think that listening to Beethoven was being difficult, but he didn't put his earphones back in his ears. Looking around, Richard noticed that the only other people out at this hour were in their early twenties. They were all listening to music and most of them were jogging. Richard shuddered and hoped that Hyacinth wouldn't decide that they needed to take up jogging too. His limbs hurt enough from power walking. He didn't want to think about how sore his muscles would be after jogging.
"Mind the woman, Richard!"
Automatically, Richard looked around for a woman, but the only person he could see was more than half a block away. She was running towards them wearing something that looked very skin-tight. "That woman?"
"Don't stare, Richard," Hyacinth admonished. "That's rude."
Obediently, Richard looked down at the ground. He wasn't sure how he was supposed to mind the woman and not look at her at the same time, but that was a problem for Hyacinth to figure out.
They'd been doing this walking thing for a few days now, and Richard wasn't sure but he thought that it might have been getting easier. He wasn't sweating nearly as much. Plus, his legs didn't feel like they were about to fall out of their sockets. That was definitely a plus. He wasn't entirely sure that Hyacinth was enjoying it as much as she claimed to be though. That morning, she had let out a rather unseemly groan when she sat up in bed.
"Time for our morning power walk," Richard said cheerily as he tied up his runners. There was something to be said for all this walking. It helped him work up an appetite. His bacon and eggs tasted much better afterwards. He'd had an extra helping of both yesterday.
Hyacinth was silent as they left the house. She seemed to be missing her usual enthusiasm as they walked down the block.
"Perhaps a little rest is in order?" Richard suggested.
"Definitely not, Richard," Hyacinth told him. "It is not necessary to rest. We must power ahead! That is the goal of power walking! Power!"
Richard tried hard to pretend that he was invisible. The joggers who were running towards them had stared at Hyacinth before crossing the street. He tried again, "But the books mentioned that we should stretch before the walking." The book had mentioned that stretching was especially important for older people, but Richard decided to avoid mentioning that.
"Nonsense," Hyacinth declared. "I will not stretch out in the street in front of everybody."
"But we could do it in the house before we leave," Richard pointed out.
"Richard," Hyacinth said, giving him a pitying look. "Do not worry, we won't injure ourselves power walking. Only the lower classes do that."
"Richard," Hyacinth said heavily as she put her foot up on the chair. "I do not believe that I will be able to do our usual power walk this morning."
"What a pity," Richard remarked. He was careful to keep his voice even.
"I believe that I may have a touch of gout," Hyacinth told him as she rubbed her swollen ankle.
Richard's eyes widened. "I see."
"You will have to go on without me," Hyacinth said. "I cannot go on like this."
"Probably not," Richard agreed carefully. "Not with your... gout, anyway."
As he walked down the block without Hyacinth, Richard realised something. He was actually enjoying himself. The brisk morning breeze ruffled his hair and the ladies he walked past nodded cheerily to him. He put his earphones in and heard the soft music of Beethoven piping through the device.
"I believe that I might enjoy power walking after all," Richard exclaimed in surprise.