The last full day in Pittsburgh before flying into Philadelphia for ReVival 42. There were a variety of ways RIA could have chosen to make use of these limited hours. The decision made was a fairly humble one, a choice any number of people would make; RIA wanted to visit her mommy.
Gina Bauman. 46 years old. Single. Mother of three, with RIA being the oldest. Gina was a mere 5’2”, with a slight but moderately curvy frame. In addition, the woman could be mistaken for 10 years younger than the age listed on her driver’s license. She had struggled through life, both as a mother and in searching for that special partner. RIA’s father had been MIA since before she was potty trained. While RIA bore her last name, Gina had gone back to her maiden name. There had been a man that was a stepfather for many years to RIA and her younger siblings, but that can of worms will have to be opened another day. Currently, Gina was still dating but not actively pursuing anything serious.
The sun would be peeking at its highest point when RIA and Kohime Mori arrived at Gina’s house, if not for the time of year. RIA’s sister, 22 year old Brittney, had made it a priority to clear this day of any activity so she could enjoy the company of her older sister. When the two arrived, Kohime stepped forward, looking to knock on the door or ring the bell to flag their arrival. Before she could do so, however, RIA smoothly slipped in front of her friend and casually opened the front door.
“Hi honey!” A voice politely rang out from the kitchen.
“Hey mom.” RIA answered, as if the moments since they last saw each other had only spanned a day or two instead of the months it had been. “Brought a friend with me.”
No one would accuse RIA’s current incarnation of having the manners of a socialite, nor would they say her memory was an airtight fortress from which no thoughts could escape. Even then, RIA had at least enough respect for her mother to have warned her ahead of time that she would be plus one on this visit.
“RIA!!!” A voice rang out from the other room before a figure approached with a dash, enveloping the Psychoberry in a tight squeeze. Brittney Bauman was even shorter than her mother, barely breaking the 5 foot barrier. The young woman made it a point to visit the gym often, perhaps in defiance of her vertical handicap. That meant this hug was more of a clamp than a tender embrace.
“Nice to see you too, Britt.” The words sputtered out of RIA’s mouth. She may have faced bear hugs from stronger individuals or ones with far more ill intent, but nothing could best the embrace of a little sister that missed her oldest sibling. As Brittney lovingly turned RIA’s ribs into various serving sizes, Kohime dutifully stepped forward towards Gina.
“Hello, ma’am.” Kohime began with the courtesy one would expect if they knew her. “I’m Kohime Mori. Thank you for allowing me into your home.”
Mori was clutching a brown paper bag in her hands. It did little to deter her from bowing deeply, as is custom in her culture. Stifling a giggle wasn’t an option for Gina in this situation. Such manners weren’t exactly commonplace in southwest Pennsylvania.
“Well aren’t you polite? It’s nice to meet you, honey. I’m Gina, Ria’s mother.” Already, it was obvious where RIA got her liberal use of pet names from. Gina made an attempt at bowing. Earnest as it may have been, the gesture ended up being an odd hybrid of both a bow and a curtsey. The brightest of neon lights could try to outshine the smile Kohime wore after Gina’s take on Mori’s Japanese learnings. They wouldn’t stand a chance. Kohime wasn’t one to expect others to adapt the mannerisms and practices of her home country. To even put forth an honest effort meant a good deal to her.
“Oh!” The Moé Monster’s mind shifted to the package in her grip. She raised it up joyously. “We got you a present!”
Gina carried the bag to the kitchen, setting it on the counter before unveiling what lay inside; strawberry Moscato, 1.5 liters of it, courtesy of Barefoot. Not exactly a top shelf vino, but it wasn’t money spent that mattered to Ms. Bauman. The consideration to even bring a gift had far more value in her eyes.
“I’ll go ahead and throw this in the freezer so we can have some in a bit.” Gina casually pulled the top door of the refrigerator open, sliding the large bottle into an unoccupied space. She cocked her head sideways towards the living room. “Ria, wanna go out and have a smoke?”
Salvation. As much as RIA adored her sister’s company, breathing was also a thing she enjoyed.
“Yep!” RIA called out. “Hey ‘Hime, come entertain Britt while we’re out!”
The Psychoberry strode into the kitchen with haste, bringing her mother’s winter jacket with her. Mori, in turn, swapped over to the living room. Another cordial greeting from Kohime was met with an incredibly casual wave from Brittney. Though there was high interest on RIA’s part to see how the dynamic between her eccentric sister and the jubilant Mori would play out, the sliding glass door migrated to the left as mother and daughter stepped out onto the deck. Ria scraped her jacket covered arm along the wooden railing that ran along the outline of the porch, sending lines of snow cascading carelessly to the ground. RIA leaned her back against the (mostly) snow free banister, popping a cigarette between her lips while Gina did the same. The flame of their lighters flickered like premature fireflies against the grey sky of the frosty Pittsburgh afternoon. A drag, followed by smoke billowing from their mouths like the old steel mills that once were the area’s claim to fame.
“Sorry your brother couldn’t be here. Couldn’t get the time off from work.” Gina stated genuinely. An understanding nod from RIA. “Your friend’s nice. Seems a bit young though.”
It took her a moment. Implication can be a powerful tool. Even with her mental impairments, the Psychoberry had a keen eye for reading between the lines. Maybe she had just been away from home for too long. When the gear finally clicked into place, RIA’s eyes were akin to a rapidly blooming flower.
“No no no!” RIA quickly corrected her mother. “She really is just a friend.”
The sharpness in her tone led to a relaxing of the mother’s shoulders.
“Oh good.” Gina responded calmly. “I’m not saying things couldn’t work with someone younger, but…”
The sneaky little fucker that is implication didn’t catch her off-guard a second time. She knew exactly what her mother wanted to say, words unnecessary. RIA’s thoughts drifted to him. She secretly thanked whatever higher power might be up there that Gina didn’t put her daughter’s occupation under a magnifying glass. The PRIME website wasn’t exactly hard to find. The mother could easily discover he was the same age as Kohime. On the plus side, his list of nicknames might tire Gina out well before her focus moved to his date of birth.
“Do you have a match?” How can words spoken so softly cause a soul such heaviness? RIA was well aware at this point in her career that her mother didn’t watch wrestling, let alone RIA’s matches. Wrestling had never appealed to Gina. It wasn’t as simple as not wanting to view her daughter’s matches… She couldn’t. Seeing her baby in pain, in danger? Bauman couldn’t handle that. There was enough of that in RIA’s teenage years. Discouraging RIA’s career choice was rather pointless thirteen years after the fact. Being a rain cloud on her child’s dreams? That wasn’t happening either.
“No match, just gonna do an interview.” Lightening the load on RIA’s spirit and reassuring her worried mother. The bow on this package was practically perfect.
“Just… Please be safe, honey.” Out the window the package went. Of a speeding car. Crushed under the wheels of a semi. Never had a chance.
“I will, mom.” RIA’s words were honest. But unlike the snow that permeated the frozen terrain, facts wouldn’t just melt away. Between her in-ring style, a devil may care attitude towards her own well being and the callousness of some roster members, safety was going to be in short supply for RIA. Gina slid over into her daughter’s personal space, arms wrapping around the younger woman. This hug didn’t threaten to turn RIA into a human set of bagpipes like her sister’s had. Warm, tender, motherly… It was a feeling she missed. RIA wanted to cherish this, because there was no telling when she’d have the chance to share this paternal affection again.
It had been awhile since RIA had been in Philadelphia. While antagonizing residents of the area was a unique bit of joy she couldn’t seem to replicate in any other way, the Psychoberry didn’t actually hate the area. ReVival 42 would be taking place the next night in the Wells Fargo Center. On one hotel bed sat RIA, flipping through TV channels as if she’d get a piece of cheese if she passed enough of them. On another bed to the right was Kohime Mori. A person could be forgiven for thinking the former Lockhart had smuggled a chainsaw into the room that she couldn’t quite pull start. Kohime napping was quite the experience. Having little luck in scrolling through the various cable offerings, RIA’s attention drifted to her phone. A few taps with her thumb and a swipe or two left her on the contacts page, a name highlighted. She meandered into the bathroom, taking a seat on the side of the bathtub. RIA gazed at the screen, breathe quickening ever so slightly. Her eyes slowly closed. An erratic inhale, succeeded by a steadier exhale. She pressed the phone icon situated next to the contact after popping a set of Bluetooth earbuds in. One ring. Two rings. Three ri- Call answered.
“Hey.” RIA greeted cooly, her crossed bouncing leg and left hand clutching her right bicep betraying her tone.
“Hey.” The voice on the other end smoldered. Yes, it’s the one and only Powerbomb guru, Sid Phillips. Despite the two casual greetings, silence quickly grabbed the conversation and slapped on a chinlock. Off to a great start.
“So…” Hope spot from RIA. “You have any idea why I called you?”
“Not a clue, sorry.” Came the reply from Sid. Back to the mat, bitch. While the phone call was absolutely random on the Psychoberry’s part, she felt her face sag. He didn’t sound happy or excited to hear from her. Granted, this was Sid. As she had said to Kohime before, you had to be willing to put the work in to get the best out of him.
“So I’ve been through some shit. There’s stuff I remember, along with things and people I’ve kinda forgotten. One person I didn’t forget was you…” RIA took the cap off the bottle of her emotions and began pouring. “I remember our date. I remember dancing with you at the Halloween party.”
No response. Was he surprised to hear this? Indifferent? A little bit hungry? Almost definitely on that one. Regardless, pour more out.
“I… I think about you a lot. More than I should. I daydream about you; walking on a beach together, having a romantic dinner, curling up on a couch with you and putting on some crappy movie that neither one of us wants to watch but it doesn’t matter cuz I’m with you.” The bottle is pretty empty now.
“I’m not sure I follow?” Sid powerbombed the shit outta that bottle! RIA couldn’t help but rub her temples. She just needed to push through the frustration.
“Fuck it, might as well bite the bullet.” The Psychoberry said. “I really like you, Sid. I want you to be my boyfriend.”
“Oh.” Not encouraging.
“Ohhh.” Getting there.
“OH.” Lightbulb on?
“Okay. Sure!” Success! The sigh of relief that came from RIA’s body might make you think she’s pushed every once of oxygen she had left out into the atmosphere.
“So would you wanna go grab dinner after the show?” Her tone has shifted, rivaling the finest down pillow in its softness.
“Would I ever! It’d be nice.”
“Great! I’ll meet you after. See ya soon.” RIA tapped the red button to end the call. She bit her lip as a smile a mile wide took up residence on her face. Pure jubilation. There was no other way to describe it. RIA was on Cloud 9 and she planned to ride that high as long as she could.
Two paper cups, one filled with a caramel macchiato while the other held hot chocolate. Dunkin Donuts wouldn’t be confused with the highest class of caffeine peddling companies, but neither RIA nor Kohime Mori belonged to the elite of this world. RIA grabbed her cup, blowing into the hole in the plastic lid. She could feel the heat of the fairly fresh beverage from the air that expelled back onto her lips. She took a tentative sip, taking as much care as she could not to burn her tongue. Getting thrown into barbwire was one thing, but nobody likes having a scalded tongue. Mori, in turn, discarded her lid and took her own small gulp of the macchiato, letting out a satisfied sigh as the liquid traveled through her body.
“Hey ‘Hime,” RIA’s eyes were squinted, curious gaze focused on her friend. “why do you take the lid off your coffee like some kind of mad woman?”
Kohime was hunched up, about to take another sip. Like a masterfully prepared souffle, Kohime slowly rose up, taking care not to spill her beverage.
“I dunno, I guess I’m just impatient?” A deliberating Kohime did her best to explain the thought process. “The lid kinda just gets in the way of the caramely goodness.”
RIA rolled her eyes before making an attempt at getting comfortable in the metal chair in which she was seated. A fairly futile endeavor. Another sip. She had seen the upcoming card for ReVival 42. No match, but that didn’t matter. RIA would be in New York, making a nuisance of herself in some form or fashion. Maybe she’d annoy catering? She could bitch that there’s only diet Coke, then the next show bitch that there’s only diet Pepsi. When they caught on and got both, she could bitch that there’s too much diet pop. Have a moan, it helps get your way.
She considered going back to annoying Wade Elliott, but that ship had probably already burned to a hollow husk at this point. Besides, no need to infringe on Ami’s territory. There was PRIME’s head of security, Dam… Big and intimidating while being able to kick you out of the building? RIA might be thick, but it’s not between the ears. Sure, Wade could do that too but that would be giving the brat the attention she wanted. Probably just be better for her to show up and see where the night took her. She could always approach the STEEL DOOR OF DOOM, but once it became obvious RIA was just gallivanting, that thing would slam shut quicker than if her last name was Best. Sticking to annoying her fellow grapplers seemed to be the best option.
“So are you excited about going to New York, Miss Ria?!” Kohime’s nearly cracking voice made it obvious at least one of them was. The shoulders of indifference belonged to RIA. A quick shrug said it all.
“I honestly don’t get super excited for places on the east coast. Been here, done that. Yeah, the venues are bigger, but the people are mostly the same.” RIA explained. “Shit, when I was home last, Gonorrhea Gems stole a win after I had Bobby Dean out.”
“Daytona Diamonds.” Kohime corrected her friend.
“Chlamydia Crystals.” RIA counters.
“Nope.” A shake of the head from Kohime.
“Herpes Hematite.” RIA insisted. One can only guess if she’s being disingenuous.
“Please stop.” A plea of rationality came from Mori.
“Sauerkraut Sausage!” The Psychoberry stated confidently.
“Wait, what?” An appropriate response from the Moé Monster.
“Dude, I really don’t like sauerkraut. Anyway, I don’t have a match. I’m sure I can find some mischief to stick my grubby little fingers in, though.” If RIA aimed any higher with her goals, she might headshot an ant.
“Oh I know why you’re going…” That tone. There’s pipe organs out there that spill out less dread and foreboding than Kohime’s words. RIA’s eyes narrowed in response while her tongue quickly glided between her suddenly parched upper and lower lip. As far as RIA knew, Kohime was too young to be a part of PTC from back in the day, so her spy skills were suspect. She also didn’t see her pack a hat, sunglasses and trenchcoat, essential spy tools. Yet the Psychoberry was still weary.
“That so, Miss Knows Everything So Don’t Ask Cuz She Already Knows?!” Challenge, assert dominance. RIA knew what she was doing. “Why don’t you spill the tea then, hmmm?!”
Kohime grinned brightly while swaying back and forth with her hands in her lap, caffeine now on the table. The cutest, buffest metronome you’ll ever see.
“Miss Ria has a boyfriend!” The sing songy reveal from the Japanese woman murdered the confidence RIA had.
“What the hell?!” RIA spat out indignantly. “You were knocked out harder than I am after half a bottle of vodka! Who told?! Was it Mr. Cuddles?! That snitching piece of sh-”
“No!” Kohime was quick to cut off the expletive. “I heard Mr. Sid at the door after your date.”
RIA’s cheeks shifted in color to pink, a shade lighter than her hair color. It wasn’t that she was embarrassed by her new relationship. Quite the opposite, she was over the moon. It was the act of being caught. Mommy Kohime had found little RIA with her hand in the cookie jar. Kohime braced against the table, body forward, smile grown even larger.
“This is great!” She squealed. RIA had an idea where this was going. Karma. She was about to get every ounce of teasing about Nate Colton fired back at her. She had no defense for the oncoming RPG. “I’m so happy for you both!”
A twist, one the Psychoberry should have seen coming. For all her faults, the one thing consistent about Mori was her kindness. If RIA was going to be a beacon, Kohime would certainly be an amazing source of inspiration to fuel her. A bashful smile formed on her face while her grateful heart pumped further physical proof of her feelings to her cheeks.
“Thanks ‘Hime.” School girls did a better job of hiding their infatuation than this. It didn’t matter to RIA. Mori took the Psychoberry’s hands into her own while the two exchanged glowing smiles. Things were looking up for RIA. She didn’t plan on letting that change any time soon.
(Thank you to Renner for providing Sid’s dialog!)