May 15, 2023
“So, he comes at me with this broken beer bottle–”
David stood in his bedroom, his face animated as he looked down at his girlfriend lying in bed. Her chest pressed against a pillow, the contours of her naked back exposed.
“You told me this story already,” Tasha playfully reminded him.
“And then he mutters to me–” her words finally caught up with him. “Wait, I did?”
She nodded. “Yeah. He muttered to you, ‘Do you bleed like everyone else?’ as if wrestlers don’t bleed or some dumb inebriated bullshit that only made sense in his mind.”
He stood there, deflated a bit, as his foot tapped unconsciously. “When did I tell you that story? Shit, I love telling that story.”
“I think the first night I was here?” Her eyes caught his, lost in thought of those vivid, cherished memories, her lips on his collarbone, his body pressed against hers. “We were drinking at the tavern and could barely stand up straight because you hadn’t had a drink in nine months.”
“Shit,” David leaned against his dresser.
“Yeah, and it was only one drink.”
He shot her a look, making her smile. “The fuck it was.”
“No lie,” she responded. “One drink, maybe two.”
“Yeah, but they were absinthe, right? Wasn’t that that night?”
“That’s true. And the girl in the booth next to us watched as you took the glass and downed it in one go. She lost her fucking mind.”
David chuckled. “That’s right.”
“So you ordered a second one and then drank it even faster just to fuck with her.”
David, drawn to her body, sat beside her. Tasha wrapped her arm around his torso, eliciting a smile from him.
“I showed her, didn’t I?” asking in a way that it wasn’t a question.
Tasha snorted into the pillow. “No, no, you didn’t. Because twenty minutes later, you couldn’t stand up, and I had to help you to your car and drive you home.”
“Shit, that’s embarrassing. At least you took advantage of me that evening.”
Her eyes rolled into the back of her head. “Sure, if you call your wildly inappropriate hip thrusts me taking advantage of you.”
“I think I will, thank you very much, and there’s no proof that even happened.”
Tasha suppressed her laughter as best as she could. “Lorelai recorded it.”
He turned and looked at her, surprised. “She did?”
“Haven’t you wondered what she keeps laughing about whenever she comes home?”
“I just figured it was weird lesbian shit that I wouldn’t be able to figure out if I tried.”
“No, it’s–” she started before his words caught up to her. “What weird lesbian shit would there be that you wouldn’t be able to figure out? I would love to hear this.
“I–,” he stammered. “I don’t know. Periods?”
“You are legit dumber than a box of rocks. I can’t believe I let you have sex with me.”
“Stop changing the subject. So, Lorelai has a video of me hip-thrusting at you? You let her even watch me do this?”
Tasha readjusted herself before pressing her lips into his lower back. “It’s not just a video; you did it on the front lawn for everyone to see if they wanted to.”
“Wait, what do you mean?”
“The front lawn of your house. When we came back here–”
“No, no,” he interrupted her. “I get the front lawn. When you said it wasn’t a video, what the hell is it? A hologram?”
“No, it was a Tik-Tok.”
David spun around far quicker than she anticipated. “A fucking what? No, no. Where is she? I need to talk to her. I can’t have that out in the public.”
But he’s not listening to her in that moment. He walked over to the door and flung it open, only to reveal his daughter, with her light brown curly hair in a ponytail, there. She jumped with surprise at the door opening suddenly.
“How did you do that?” he inquired. “Were you listening to our conversation?”
“What?” she sounded indignant, waving his phone at him. “No, weirdo. Your phone has been vibrating for the last twenty minutes. You left it in the kitchen.”
“Oh,” he remarked, taken aback as she handed it over. He looked at the screen briefly before looking back at her. “You weren’t just standing out there ready to try and scare me or any of those weird prank videos you like to watch, right?”
“Would that be on the same level of the weird lesbian shit that you think I have going on?”
“What, no–,” he started before his eyes met hers. “Hey, you were eavesdropping!”
“Focus. Phone,” she responded. The phone vibrated with life as the screen lit up before his eyes. His mind, at seeing the name, went back to another time.
“Right,” he whispered.
Lorelai looked at him, confused, before she moved her head around his body and smiled at Tasha.
Tasha smiled back at her as she contorted her body into an uncomfortable position. “Hey, love.”
“Sorry about my Dad.”
“I’m sorry about your Dad too. Mind if I put my shirt back on without you watching me? I don’t want things to get weird.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Lorelai started. “Sorry, didn’t mean to intrude on your weird heterosexual shit.”
David continued to look at the phone, a million scenarios playing out in his mind in real-time. “We don’t do weird heterosexual stuff,” he muttered.
Lorelai shook her head as she looked at her father. “Are you going to answer the phone?”
“Yeah,” his response pre-occupied. He barely heard Lorelai as he tapped the green button on his phone and placed it against his ear. “Hello?”
Lorelai heard the gravelly and sharp voice on the other line as she stood there.
“Hey David, long time no talk,” came out of the earpiece.
“Yeah, it has been.”
“Look, there’s no easy way to talk about this. I’m dying, David, and I need your help. Can you help me?”
It’s funny how words can stop people in their tracks. When David regained his senses, he nodded to the phone and then to his confused daughter.
“Yeah, I got you. Send me the address, and we’ll be there soon.”
“Thanks,” came from the earpiece, and then the call ended as quickly as it began. He began to digest the phone call as he placed the phone on the dresser. He stood amongst familiar company and yet on unfamiliar footing. He nibbled his bottom lip, processing everything.
His eyes flashed towards Lor. “Pack your bag; we’ve got somewhere to be.”
“Wait, what? We’re going?”
Her words disappeared into the air as he moved towards Tasha. “Sorry about this.”
She looked at him with concern. “Everything okay?”
He was already past Lorelai and down the hallway as the two looked at each other, dumbfounded.
“What the hell?”
She walked to the phone before navigating to his recent calls log. She looked at the most recent call and then at Tasha before her eyes shot to the door threshold.
“Hey, who the hell is Dusk?!”
Hey, Garry. Or do you prefer Ray-Ray?
You probably don’t know much about me. I’ve been out of the game for a minute. I guess it’s been over a year now, right?
If it makes you feel better, I didn’t know much about you either. I looked you up, though—Garry Ray-Ray Nelson, now Garry Ray-Ray Bolamba. Slap Fighting Champion of Nelson County to boot. That’s impressive.
I never thought I would step back into the ring, Gary. Not shitting you, this wasn’t one of the wrestler ‘retirements’ where someone walks away with a wink towards the audience that knows they’ll be back someday.
You see, I finally figured out my life. That was the knock on me. I was a fuck up in the worst way possible. Whenever I had a good thing, I would ruin it. Self-sabotage, you see. Wrestling? Yep. I had a good thing in DEFIANCE at one point, fucked that up. Did the same in PRIME.
Love? Yep. Shit, I could write you several novels worth it, honestly.
You see, my daughter was kept from me most of her life. Her mother died, though, and I had to step up and be a dad to her. It’s tough to do that when she’s halfway done with school and looking toward college in a few years.
Still, she grounded me. I wanted to be there for her and help her with her life so she didn’t make the same mistakes that I did.
Life, though, has a funny way of putting you in situations you think you’re done with and making you confront the shit you need to figure out.
Me back in the ring? That’s life’s funny way of making me face my demons.
Well, my demons and a favor I made that I need to see through; I hope you understand. It’s nothing personal against you, though, Gary. You’re probably a solid guy.
It’s just that… I haven’t always been. And I want to be this time.
I really do.
September 24, 2023
San Diego, CA
Lorelai sat at the kitchen table, her AirPods in her ear, when David entered the house. His bag thudded to the ground before he took care of what was most important: hugging his daughter. She squeezed his large hand as it rested on her thin shoulder.
“Hey, kiddo,” he started, disconnecting the AirPods.
“Hey, Dad. Didn’t hear you come in.” She studied his eyes. “My phone has been blowing up the last twenty-four hours, by the way.”
“Oh yeah?” as he pulled away and moved to the kitchen. “Anything interesting?”
The response froze his hand on the refrigerator door before he opened it and snatched a water bottle. He leaned on the counter and carefully watched her.
“Lots of people are confused. People on Twitter are wondering why you’re back. Others wonder why you’re aligned with Rose and beating up a guy like TAL.”
“Ah,” was all he offered. He cracked the seal on the water bottle and took a few sips. “You know, fuck Twitter, right?’
“Yeah, but that doesn’t eliminate the question of why you’re beating up a guy like TAL, you know?”
David nodded. “What do you know about a guy like TAL?”
“Not much,” she responded. “I’ve seen him on TV once or twice when flipping through the channels.”
“Then that’s your homework. Read up on him, and then we can talk about it.”
“Fair enough. He’s not like a baby eater, is he?”
He shook his head. He had a rough idea of why Tom was on her list, but only Rose knew the real reason. David walked to the kitchen table and sat beside her, taking another sip of his water.
“Adeline doing okay?” David inquired, referring to the daughter of Rose.
“Yeah, she’s great. I have no idea how this kiddo just moves forward like the force of nature that she is. If I had been dealt her cards in life, losing her father, about to lose her grandfather, I would fold it in. I would just sit in the corner, lost in my thoughts.”
David understood the sentiment far too well, losing his parents when he was younger. Death had a funny way of changing a person, sometimes for the better, others for the worse.
“You were dealt similar cards, Lor, and you did well for yourself. But it’s our job to make sure that happens, alright? Rose is still putting all of the pieces of her life back together. She’s just not ready yet. So, we must do what we must.”
Lorelai nodded her head. “As we always do, Dad.”
He rose from his chair, smiled, and tussled her curly hair before kissing her gently on the crown of her head.
“I’m going to get some sleep. You staying up long?” he asked, feeling something foreign against his skin. Something felt wrong as he glanced around the room.
“Nah, I was just waiting for you to get home. I showered after Adeline went to sleep and was ready for bed. Glad you got home when you did.”
“Alright, kiddo. Sleep well.”
“You too,” she responded, squeezing his hand as he walked by her toward his bedroom. He stopped at the threshold of his darkened room and, after hearing Lor shut her door behind her, entered as his finger stopped at the light switch.
“When were you going to tell me?”
The source of the voice sat in the dark, and David understood why the hairs on his neck had stood on end. David finally flicked the light switch, and though concerned about the form in the corner, he wasn’t surprised.
“Hey Craig, I didn’t take you for the lurk in the shadows kind of person.”
Craig slowly nodded. He looked older than he was, the lines on his face more pronounced than usual. He could see the exhaustion and wear the last months had taken on him. “Yeah, well, I’ve been sitting here for a minute.”
“Sorry to make you wait,” David responded.
“Sure,” Craig coughed. “When were you going to tell me?”
David knew the question was coming. “Wasn’t for me to tell.”
“Bullshit,” the response was so quick it slapped David in the face.
“Don’t hide behind that,” his voice rose with fury. “She didn’t just magically devise this plan to bring Cory, Shawn, Jamaal, and you to PRIME without help.”
“You’d be surprised at what she’s capable of.”
Craig grimaced and chewed on the words. “…no, I wouldn’t.”
“Then you know she is fully capable of doing all of this on her own, that she didn’t need any of us.”
“Yeah, but a contract to PRIME? How?”
“That I don’t know. You should ask her about it, though.”
“Fine, then tell me what you know.”
David didn’t want to be in the middle of the two of them, a position he’d found himself in far too many times these past few months. “You don’t want to ask her yourself?”
“I’ve got very little time left, David, and I don’t want to spend it fighting with my daughter. She’s keeping secrets from me. All this is going to do is–”
“I get it,” David cut him off. He took a moment to gather his thoughts before speaking with renewed vigor. “She’s been planning this for a minute. Since the week I came out here, I think? I don’t know; she has a fire in her. Like she finally has a purpose.”
“Misguided purpose, if you ask me.”
“Very possible. She started with getting Jamaal and Cory enough recognition–”
“Yeah, that was pretty smart of her to get them into that tag tournament. I’m sure she couldn’t have planned for it to be against Jared and Justine, though.”
David didn’t respond. Craig looked at his face and shook his head.
“Seriously? She did? Fuck. She knows exactly what she’s doing.”
“I told you. She’s thought this through. She knew how to go about getting everyone in PRIME without suspicion. Until two weeks ago, I don’t think Lindsay knew what was happening.”
“Then she’s not going to be happy. Not going to be happy to see your face.”
David snorted. “Yeah, when has she ever been happy when it comes to either of us.”
Craig smiled in return. “How far is she going to take this?”
“And why is Tom her first target?”
David shrugged his shoulders.
“Well, I think you’re holding back there. I heard your words. Targeting those who think they’re ‘good,’ but their actions are the opposite of that.”
“…yeah,” was all David could muster.
David looked at his mentor. “You going to talk to her?”
“Soon, not tonight, though. She knows I know; there’s no way she doesn’t. But it’ll be like all the other things we don’t discuss. Up on a shelf, out of sight, out of mind.”
“I don’t think–”
“I know, David. I know.”
Craig grabbed the cane next to his chair and used it to help him get up. David watched as his mentor struggled with each step, his body betraying him when he needed it the most.
“Just make me one promise,” Craig said, standing beside David.
“What is that?”
“Don’t let her step foot into that ring. Don’t let her become… me.”
“Craig–” David resisted against the impossible promise.
“I need that promise. I never wanted her to be a wrestler. Please, don’t let her be that. She can chase this dream, but that’s as far as it goes, you got it?
“Craig.” One single word, loaded with a million unsaid things.
He sighed. “Fine.”
Craig looked at David before he opened the door and exited, closing the door behind him. Craig sat on the edge of his body and just shook his head.
I need your help, Garry. Being away from the ring this long has made me soft in ways. It’s been a minute since I’ve felt a fist against my face.
There’s something big that I have to do, and it requires me to be the very best of myself.
The thing about it is that I also need you to be your best. I need you to push me out of my comfort zone. Make me fight, scrap, and overcome.
I may not be able to win this match, but I need to get everything I can out of it. You can do this for me.
Just know I’m giving you everything I’ve got because I need to get to the Finals if possible.
Even if I can’t, I must be my best for everyone around me.
I can’t wait to see you in the ring, Garry.
September 25, 2023
San Diego, CA
David stepped foot into the darkened gym, the gym Craig had bought and renovated in the past six months, a project for him to channel his energies into. Somehow, he’d found Cory and Jamaal wrestling in random rooms in San Diego and brought them into his fold. Shawn was still a mystery to him, but he’d taken to the ring like a fish in water, a natural.
A voice cut through the silence as the door closed behind him.
“I didn’t think you were going to show.”
He looked up and saw Rose in the ring, more determined than he’d seen her as if Saturday evening had unlocked something inside her. It scared him a bit.
“I haven’t let you down yet,” he responded.
“Yeah, well, I’ve learned to expect the worst from life. Not just from you, but from everyone.”
“Yeah, and I told you you should get therapy for that.”
She moved around the ring coyly. “I go to therapy. Seven nights a week.”
“The bar isn’t therapy, Rose.”
“Says you. Because I know I’ve heard plenty of stories of your therapy sessions in bars.”
David wasn’t going to win this argument and let it drop. He began walking towards the ring.
“I talked to your Dad about… everything.”
“Everything?” she inquired, her tone defensive and ready to strike.
“Well, he showed up in my house. Wanted to know specifics. I shared with him what I could but told him he needed to talk to you.”
She chuckled. “Well, he’s going to hold off on that talk as long as possible.”
“He thinks that if he doesn’t talk about it, that it keeps the peace.”
“That’s not it, Rose,” David responded as he walked up the steel steps. “He doesn’t want to waste his last days fighting with you.”
She moved away from him, pressing her body against the ring ropes.
“Should I talk to him?”
“I would,” he responded.
“And we’re still good to do what we must in this ring?”
She quickly cut him off. “You have a match at ReVival 36. I need you to win that match. I need you to do what we agreed to.”
She looked at him with the saddest eyes he’d ever seen. He didn’t know if she was manipulating him or not. “Can you do that for me?”
“…yeah, I can do it. To the best of my abilities.”
“I’m not asking you for anything other than that. If you lose, you lose. We knew that option was always there, but we need to take every opportunity possible to get to the finish line.
“And what exactly is the finish line?”
“Come on, get in the ring; let’s do this.”
He simply nodded his head before stepping through the ropes. She doesn’t hesitate in the least bit as she enters a collar-and-elbow tie-up that she quickly turns into a side headlock.
“Ready?” she asked him.
The palm of his right hand pressed into her lower back.