If Nate Colton has learned anything recently, it’s that necessity is the mother of invention.
Well…it’s a mother, anyway.
“Just five more…four…three…two…one…all right, great job! Towel off, grab some water, whatever you need.”
Nate Colton slowly lowered himself onto a yoga mat, and padded the light sweat from his brow. He’d only just grabbed his water bottle when he had to toss it away again, because the trainer was giving new instructions.
“Now, I want you to get into a plank position…”
Nate followed the orders, as if the trainer were actually in his living room and not on his TV screen. The program was from a DVD set and well out of date, but it did the job and only cost him a few bucks.
He’d spent the last few weeks scrounging thrift stores and garage sales for exercise equipment. A lot could be done with resistance bands and a pull-up bar, and he caught a lucky break with some adjustable dumbbells. A stationary bike, for bad weather days. He found a good deal on a treadmill but passed; that could be replaced with road work if he started before sunrise.
It was nowhere near as good as the Asylum or TCS. But since he’d burned his bridges with both of those places…
Missed Call: Timo Bolamba Jul 29
Missed Call: Alex Creed Jun 24
…he had to improvise.
It’s fine, a lot of guys train exactly like this. Okay, no one in PRIME, but…
Nate twisted himself around at the trainer’s pre-recorded behest, and did his best to put the events of the last month out of his mind.
What a fucking disaster
Failing, of course. But still trying.
“Now I want you to bring your left hand forward and take your right leg back, we’re going into Broken Table…”
ReV32 had been, to put it mildly, a complete nightmare. ReV33 took that nightmare, rolled it into a shitshow, and tossed the whole thing into a dumpster fire.
The locker room had turned against him. So had the fans. His own sister was dragging him on television. As much as he believed, or wanted to believe, he was doing the right thing…
Missed Call: Mom July 29
Missed Call: Justine Calvin July 29
Missed Call: Tom Battaglia (TAL) July 29
…nobody else saw it that way.
Of course they wouldn’t understand. How could they? They didn’t know the whole story. They didn’t, couldn’t possibly know that he was trying to protect someone who he’d already caused enough grief.
You could always tell them, idiot
He could do that. Hell, he wanted to. But he was still reeling after the last two ReVivals, and when you get too defensive…
Missed Call: Dad Aug 17
Missed Call: Dad Aug 15
Missed Call: Dad Aug 13 (7)
Missed Call: Dad Aug 12 (3)
Missed Call: Dad Aug 10
…everything feels like an attack.
They can say what they want, Nate thought. Savannah can write what she wants. I did what I had to do.
Nate tried to cling to that, but hindsight crept in, as it often does.
Could have been a lot smarter about it, though. You could have told them what was coming, given people some kind of warning. But you were too wrapped up in your own shit to think about that, weren’t you? Jesus Christ, how can you be so smart in the ring but so goddamn stupid out of it–
“No,” he whispered, and paused his workout program. Just as well; he’d missed about a minute of it during his latest spiral. Nate needed to recenter himself, so he reached for the only thing that worked.
Moments later, he was looking at Skye again. Like his training regimen, pictures on a rectangular screen were a poor substitute for the real thing, but…
hey can u come pick me up from the show (Jun 23)
…he had to work with what he had.
The folder was mostly pictures from their distant past, but there were plenty from their latest go-around as well. Pictures of Skye on stage, in front of famous city landmarks…even a few racy ones she sent him…but Nate swiped past all those, in favor of the ones with them together.
He settled on his favorite, a shot of them holding each other in front of the fountains at the Bellagio. They’d asked a street performer dressed like Spider-Man to take the shot, and it came out so well that Nate half-believed it really was Peter Parker under that mask.
The shot was perfect, framing the pair under the fountain’s display. She was perfect, her eyes more dazzling than all the lights on the Las Vegas Strip. He was…
Nate stared at the young man in the picture, trying to make sense of it. Every day, that version of Nate Colton became harder to recognize.
He swiped through the pictures for another ten minutes or so, until the flood of bitter thoughts subsided. It wasn’t a healthy way to cope, but it was the only way he’d found to stop himself from feeling bad.
A shame that they couldn’t make him feel good…but, one miracle at a time.
# # #
The last month had been full of miracles. More than enough reason to celebrate.
Savannah Scandal rarely drank. This fact ran counter to her public persona, where she was usually seen at social gatherings with a champagne flute in her hand. She’d learned years ago that with enough stumbling and giggling, nobody noticed that she carried around the same glass all night.
This, however, was a special occasion. A sly smile curled around her lips as she filled the glass with a sweet red; a splash of color in an otherwise gray office.
ReV32 had been an absolute gold mine. It sparked her most successful column ever, bringing record clicks and revenue. The piece was so popular, Tanner Quest delayed their usual e-mail about “factual inaccuracies” by two days.
As if that wasn’t enough, she also made two very valuable contacts while she was there. Quinn Fleetwood was an aggressively stupid little boy–Savannah’s favorite kind–and she knew she could bat an eyelash and the kid would feed her peeled grapes and all the drama from Gray’s Academy. Plus, his dad was a lawyer. She could always use more of those.
The other “friend” Savannah made that night? None other than PRETTY PINK© herself, Vickie Hall. Savannah was in the middle of her third or fourth ambush interview when her phone started buzzing like a hornet’s nest, and she saw a flurry of heart reactions on her social media posts from multiple Love Convoy-themed accounts. She slid into Vickie’s DMs immediately, and before long they were swapping gossip.
Information AND engagement? I think I found my new bestie.
If that show had been like finding gold on her property, then ReV33 was like striking oil right next to it. She must have watched Nate Colton get exiled from the locker room a dozen times already, and it never stopped being funny. In fact…
Savannah clicked on a browser tab, bringing up the video in question. Another click restarted the footage, and she brought the wine to her lips as she watched.
Both were absolutely delicious.
The sight of PRIME’s golden boy moping through the halls, only to have the Love Convoy swoop in and pick up the pieces? That was even sweeter than the cherry cheesecake Vickie brought to their little reception.
It was Skye Reeves’ favorite dessert. According to her sources, they always split a piece when they went out together…a fact that Savannah was more than happy to pass along to her new bestie.
The video ended, and as much as she would have loved to watch it again, it was time to get back to work. With another mouse click she switched to a different application, one that served as her primary source of inspiration for PRIME rumors.
It was a wonderful place. So many wrestlers treated it like the locker room, talking about their daily lives and saying things that could be spun in any direction. She loved how careless the PRIME roster acted on the application.
She also loved how lax the company was about account maintenance. No one seemed to notice that Muriel Puddings had been logged in for the last year; any activity was scrubbed by a helpful IT worker with a pill habit he didn’t want made public.
“Let’s see what you have for me today,” she muttered, scrolling through the last few days of activity.
A lot of it was the usual fare: Jared Sykes being an idiot (she’d have to find a new attack on Justine Calvin; that should keep him too busy to talk,) Ria Lockhart’s new attitude (who should be her love slave, Richard Parker or Matt Mills?) and Eddie Cross…being Eddie Cross (oh, you were hanging out with Anna Daniels and Kohime Mori? Definitely a threesome.)
A few other nuggets held more promise. She could have a lot of fun with Ivan Stanislav’s “tum tum pain,” but she didn’t want to go after the enormous Russian just yet…not until she figured out how to crack Alexei Ruslan. Game recognize game.
Tony Gamble made fun of Jennifer Colton’s weight again; that would start appearing in columns soon. I bet I can give her an eating disorder. Three months, six at the most.
Juicy stuff, but she needed something more. Something she could use to break open the floodgates and bury that guileless clod under a mountain of shit so big he’d never see the sun again.
When that happened…she could really get started.
The cousins would be easy; she’d had bullets loaded up for months, just waiting for the right time. The daughter would take longer, but a steady barrage of fat- and slut-shaming usually did the trick. She probably didn’t even need to write anything about the youngest, but she still would.
By year’s end, the family’s reputation would be in tatters. Their precious name, smeared with unspeakable filth forever. When that happened, she could finally take that self-righteous, push him down into that same filth, and rub his nose in it.
Finally, she would have her revenge against Jake Colton.
Now, that would be sweet.
# # #
It looks so sweet. I can’t wait to taste it.
But first, a toast was in order.
Three friends sat together at a table, held their plastic cups aloft, and clinked them together. The group’s self-appointed leader gave a hearty cheer.
“Fuck Nate Colton!”
The shout got a lot of confused and annoyed looks from the other patrons, but the young woman who shouted those words stood by them. One of her friends nodded enthusiastically, the other turned bright red and hid her face from view.
“Brandi!” she whispered sharply. “Keep it down! It’s embarrassing!”
“You’re not the one who should be embarrassed, Jojo,” Brandi said. “That guy shouldn’t be allowed to show his face around here.”
Josie Ramos shook her head. “I don’t think he’d come back anyway, B.” This tea shop had been one of her favorite spots until she brought Nate Colton there on a mini-date five months ago. She hadn’t been back since, until her friends dragged her along, stating the need to “reclaim it.”
“Hardly going anywhere these days,” Chayden–the third of their number–added. He’d been addicted to the Scandal Sheet ever since Josie’s name–just her first name, thank God–popped up. “Hey, did you know Cecilworth Farthington keeps an army of clones on hand for his drug-fueled orgies and polo tournaments?”
“Who’s Cecilworth Farthington?” Brandi asked, drawing a shrug from her friend. “Never mind. I’m happy to drag that two-timing, ghosting, lying fuck anywhere, any time. If he can’t recognize you as the best thing that ever happened to him, he deserves all the suffering there is. Right?”
“Well…” Josie trailed off. Did she really want Nate to be miserable forever?
Yes, of course. Josie wanted him to feel everything he put her through–the shame of waiting for a date that would never come, the betrayal of seeing him out in public with someone taller, skinnier, prettier on his arm. She also wanted him to fall into a pit of snakes that were trained to bite a man’s testicles, and may or may not have written several short stories about such an event.
But more than that? What Josie Ramos really wanted?
She wanted this to be over.
Josie longed for the day when she could put this whole ordeal behind her, and forget that she ever met Nate Colton. But her friends, well-intentioned as they were, kept pushing it farther away.
“Oh, wow. For two hundred bucks, you can stand in the corner of a room while Ria Lockhart ignores you,” Chayden said, still engrossed in Savannah Scandal’s disgraceful column.
Brandi snapped her fingers between Chayden’s face and his phone. “Need you in the moment, Chay. We’re here for our girl.”
“Right! Sorry,” he said, and put his phone down. “Just wish I could get some of that action. I’ve been ignoring patrons for free this whole time.”
“I just don’t need everyone to know,” Josie muttered, slinking down into her chair.
Brandi grabbed Josie’s hand and squeezed. “Baby girl, you have been so strong this year, and your comeback was inspirational. Even when you felt your worst, you were out here performing miracles.”
“Mira–what are you talking about?” Josie asked. She was already confused when Brandi took her hand; it only got worse when Chayden grabbed the other one.
“That day he came into the library and Chuck bawled him out for you,” Brandi said. “That definitely counts.”
“It’s already a holiday,” Chayden added. “Added to the staff calendar and everything. Years from now, people who never met him will still celebrate the day Chuck Gave a Fuck.”
“And how many shifts have you missed since CGAF Day?” Brandi asked.
“Well…none,” Josie said. “But I was late the one time! And…” She felt a twinge of guilt as she remembered events from the recent past. “And before then, I missed a bunch.”
“We don’t talk about the Dark Ages!” Brandi shouted, again drawing strange looks from nearby patrons. Most of them went back to their own business, but not all. Josie noticed a few people who only looked away when she made eye contact–the frat bro in a UNLV sweater (a sweater, for God’s sake, why) at the next table, the brunette girl with a lanyard waiting on a to-go order, the weird dude who was always there “working on his thesis.” Thesis guy actually looked back for an awkward moment before turning his eyes back to his “work.”
Chayden followed, ‘That’s two miracles right there. AND! You went out with that guy last week and you didn’t compare him to Colton at all! That’s enough to make you a saint.”
Josie grimaced. “Not really a miracle, Chay. That other guy sucked on his own merits.”
“I’m the pope here, and I’ll saintify whoever I want.”
“That’s not a word…”
Chayden continued unabated, adding a very poor attempt at a sign of the cross. “Josie, patron saint of books, late fees, boba tea, and women who deserve better.”
Brandi raised her strawberry pineapple green tea again in toast. “To Saint Josie!”
Chayden joined in with his lychee slush; begrudgingly, Josie brought her almond milk tea up as well.
“Thanks, you guys,” she said, as a smile grew on her face. Maybe the day she forgot about Nate Colton was coming soon.
It couldn’t have come at a better time.
# # #
This match couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Cecilworth Farthington, the guy who tore apart the only person in PRIME who tore him apart. The Five Star Title, the first belt Nate Colton ever held as a professional wrestler, on the line. He’d need to be in peak condition–physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The first of those was also the least of them. He’d still be pretty sharp by show time, and even though he wouldn’t be working with his usual partner, he’d taken a few bookings from local promotions to keep him in the game.
The other two? He couldn’t see those peaks with that new space telescope.
Stop that, you’ve lost too much time today thinking about her
Nate tried to push his recent troubles out of his mind and focus on his television, which was showing clips of Farthington’s victory at Tropical Turmoil.
This was his third time through the match, and so far he’d only picked up that Farthington was a technical savant, which he already knew. It didn’t help that he could only find YouTube highlights. He’d have been much better served with PRIME’s tape library, but he couldn’t use that, because…
Missed Call: Alexa Van Horn Aug 17
Missed Call: Lindsay Troy Aug 16 (2)
With his limited resources he couldn’t find a crack in the Financier’s armor, especially with FLAMBERGE–Intense Champion, riding an insane winning streak, and would never miss a chance to ruin Colton’s day–in his corner. Nate buried his face in his hands, growling in frustration.
He felt an idea, teasing the edge of his mind like a laser pointer to a cat. What was the problem he could “solve,” if not Farthington
Missed Call: Blake Aug 15
Missed Call: Mom Aug 15
Missed Call: Zoe Clark Aug 14
Missed Call: Brandon Youngblood Aug 14
Missed Call: Melissa Talamantez Aug 14
So it’s me, huh. That figures.
He searched for his own matches, pulling up some options from the last few months. He skipped past his last few outings–two wins he didn’t deserve and an ass-kicking he absolutely did–and settled on some of his fights from earlier in the year. Back when he was on top of the world, and held everything he’d ever wanted.
Back when he was worth a damn.
Nate chose the highlights from his loss to Coral Avalon. The first thing he…
Missed Call: Coral Av–
The first thing he noticed was how different that version of Nate Colton seemed. He looked like the same man in that picture at the Bellagio. No surprise, since there picture was taken about a week before this fight.
The Nate Colton on the screen looked determined, but excited. A man who relished a challenge, and was ready to accept any that came his way. He’d never hide from the world like some kind of goddamn coward, just because…
The Nate Colton in the apartment looked over at his right hand, as if it were reaching for his phone on its own.
Later. Need to focus. I’m almost there.
He drew his hand back, and focused on his past self.
Where did that guy go? How do I find him again?
What had changed since that match? Easy. First he lost the title, then he lost Skye. That’s when everything fell apart.
Getting her back would be better, but it also wasn’t worth thinking about. Not that it stopped him, but he’d wasted a thousand falling stars on that wish already.
The other link to his happier days, the Five Star Title…reclaiming that was at least possible. It wouldn’t be the lifeline that he needed, but it was something he could hold on to. A respite from the drowning sensation he’d felt since Skye walked out.
The video ended with Avalon holding the belt, and Nate felt a sense of loss that he hadn’t at the time. How could he let go of it so easily
Easy, you hadn’t lost everything yet
Despair fell on him again as he took stock of what the last few months had cost him. His championship, his love, the respect of his friends and family…
Missed Call: Kyle Nguyen Today
Missed Call: Samantha (MGM Grand) Yesterday
Missed Call: Mom Yesterday (2)
Missed Call: Frank M (scout) Yesterday
…but he could get those things back. Starting with Cecil Farthington and the Five Star Title, he’d get them all back.
Once all the lost pieces were gathered, he could put them all together and finally feel like himself again.
He couldn’t believe how much he’d missed it.
# # #
She couldn’t believe she almost missed it. That was an insane tea spill, and she was there. All because her supervisor wanted to save funds by not using DoorDash.
When the tea barista called her name, the young girl with the blue lanyard picked up the tray and walked briskly out of the building, the comments she’d heard still burning in her ears. She practically knocked over another patron on her way out, narrowly missing a tea spill of her own.
She set the tray on the hood of the company car and reached into her purse. The keys jingled against her hand as she brushed them aside, instead grabbing her phone.
With a few quick taps she was on her preferred social media site, because her head might explode if she didn’t get this fresh gossip out right now.
Hiiiiii it’s meeeeeee