I don’t remember it hurting this bad before.
I wince, the rope burn under my arms reminding me of its presence as I pull my suitcase from the top of the closet shelf. It felt like it’d all happened so fast. One minute, I’m sitting in my car waiting for the first day of school to let out to pick up my daughter, the next I’m on a Zoom interview with Matt Ward & Killean Sirrajin about whether or not they need an extra hand on site. Three days later, I’m flying to Las Vegas to put pen to paper.
Is this even a good idea?
I’d been convinced that the multitude of schools, academies and dojos that were tied to PRIME were all pretty much shored up in the trainer department, but they could use a new face or two for the upcoming season. I hesitated before booking my flight. I’d been out of in-ring competition for fourteen years. I hadn’t even stepped between the ropes in a training capacity in the last seven. Did they even know what they were getting into by offering to sign me?
They assured me that they had faith I could get back into in-ring shape in no time. When I got home from the signing, there were two people I needed to debrief before the news went public. My daughter Chelsea, who’d just called me from downstairs, and her father. My ex-husband. Begrudgingly, the person I was going to have to trust to get me back into ‘Supergirl’ shape.
I called back downstairs, laying open the suitcase on the end of my bed. It had been a long four months, nothing but chicken, rice and green beans for dinner every night as I tried to will my old physique back. I’d even gone so far as to dig out the box of gear I’d left sealed away in the attic, ready to just jump back into my old routine. The violet tops and black pants, looking like a mid-2000s time capsule, refused to sit right over my post-childbirth body and were sealed back from whence they came. As I headed downstairs, the burn in my thighs came back from yesterday’s workout like the warm embrace of an old friend. I’d have been lying if I said I didn’t miss the grind. It was never where my strength laid, I was always stronger working for someone elses’ benefit. I’d ushered three world champions to the top of the mountain, but I never scaled beyond the first or second base camp myself. Would now be any different? Fifteen years wiser, in amongst a sea of those who were coming into this season of PRIME without missing a beat?
I certainly hoped it would.
“You finish your homework?”
I asked, spooning rice from the bowl between us as Chelsea averts her eyes and quickly stuffs an eggroll into her mouth.
I warn, giving her a critical look as I take my portion of unsauced chicken for my plate. She sighs, finishing chewing her bite of eggroll before answering sheepishly.
“I mean, its done… I just haven’t turned it in yet.”
“So how does your teacher know its done if it isn’t turned in?”
She just shrugs as she serves up her own dinner, her chicken coated in a thick teriyaki glaze. I stab a piece of chicken on my own plate, pointing it in her direction.
“As soon as you’re done with dinner, you need to go log in and turn it in.”
“And I’ll be checking your homework from the road. I know your dad will be here, but he’s not exactly mister GPA.”
“Why can’t I just come with you, if all my homework is online anyway?”
She asks, putting her fork down with a huff. I finish chewing, a sigh escaping before I level my gaze to her across the table.
“We’ve been over this. We’re not changing up your school schedule this year. After this year is over, we’ll think about it. But I’m not qualified to homeschool you, and I know first hand how hard it can be to keep up with everything while you’re on the move. Besides, I don’t even know how long this is going to last. Two matches in, I might realize I’m in way over my head and that’ll be the end of it you know?”
“Dad said you c-”
“Your dad also hasn’t been in the business for a while either. The business evolves. Things change…”
My voice trails off, and Chelsea looks down at her plate and quietly takes another bite. I can feel myself frowning, watching the unease settle over her shoulders before I pierce my fork into my bowl.
“Look, I’ll be gone three.. Maybe four days at a time. I’m not going on the road and never coming home. I’m still gonna be here for our Tuesday night girls night. We’re still going to watch hockey together over Zoom if I’m gone during a game. We’ll work through this, okay?”
She nods, and I take a final bite of my dinner before standing to excuse myself.
“Now, I’ve got to finish packing. You finish dinner, then go turn in that homework.”
I pause, kissing the top of her head as I pass by before heading upstairs once again.
We’ll get through this…
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re approaching our destination here shortly. The current temperature in Tampa is 72 degrees. Please fasten your seatbelts, and return your trays to their upright position.”
I stared out the window, swaths of concrete and beach beneath me growing larger by the moment. It had been years since I’d been to Florida last, signing my official resignation in Miami back in 2016. Seven years later, I was flying down not to close the chapter on that part of my life… but to rewrite the ending. I tapped my Apple pencil against my iPad screen, staring at the news I’d been given a week ago. My return to the ring, opening up the entire show at ReVival 21, to kick off the tournament to crown a new Alias champion.
“Yea…. no pressure Lyds.”
I muttered to myself, staring at the blurb on screen. The words kept melting together, my eyes unable to focus on anything beyond the fact that this was becoming more and more real. The first twenty times I read through it, I barely made sense of it. All I could see was my name on the proverbial marquee. It had been Chelsea, reading over my shoulder one night who asked the important question.
“What’s the Alias title even mean?”
The notion wasn’t altogether lost on me, when I read through it with a clearer head. Premise seemed simple enough – win the championship, dictate what the championship would be. Ever since discovering what that could possibly mean, Chelsea spent the next three days dreaming up combinations, names, stipulations, anything she could think of that she thought would be cool to see. Or just sounded funny.
I, on the other hand, knew there were bigger issues to address first.
The plane lurched, a rougher landing than I anticipated as my hips strained against the seatbelt, brakes in full effect as we slowed our way to the gate.
Might wanna get used to that..
The voice in my head was bemused, my eyes drawing back to the graphic on the iPad in my lap. Mushigihara wasn’t a small man by any means. He had me by inches and pounds in spades. The force of hitting the seatbelt in the airplane would be nothing compared to what he would be able to do to me. I frowned, my nose scrunching as I closed the iPad case and stuffed it into the carry-on at my feet. I just had to take it one step at a time.
So I’m unranked, big deal right? Just because I’m new doesn’t mean I don’t have the experience to win at ReVival. And after that, it’s all about building momentum.
As the seatbelt sign dinged and dimmed, I stood from my seat and picked the bag up from my feet. I turned off airplane mode on my phone, slipping it back into my front pocket of my jeans before retrieving my bag with my gear from the overhead compartment.
Just like riding a bike. Get to my hotel room, get a quick workout in today, one in tomorrow, and get ready for the show. I’ve done this hundreds of times, right? Even when I wasn’t wrestling, I still stayed in shape while I took care of Lacey, or Scott. And they’ve got enough faith in me to open up the show and kick everything off with a bang. That’s gotta mean something..
I cross the threshold out of the plane, relishing in the warm Florida air as I make my way onto the jet bridge and toward the airport proper. In my pocket, my phone buzzes with missed notifications during my flight. As soon as I hit the air conditioned terminal, it goes off again and I check my wrist to see my daughter’s name flashing across the Apple Watch caller ID. Adjusting the backpack slung over my shoulder, I fish my phone from my pocket to answer.
“Hey, I just landed. Is everything okay?”
“Ohmygod, mom. I did it. I thought of the best thing EVER for the Alias title.”
Before I can protest, reminding her that I not only have to get through my match at ReVival but two, maybe even three more before the championship would even be on my radar, she blurts out excitedly.
“I saw this thing online about a CROCODILE DEATH MATCH!”
I sigh, dragging a hand down my face before shaking my head as I continue toward the exit.
“Yeah…. You should really ask your dad about how some of those types of things went in his day..”
“He said there was one in the swamp and it was… fine?”
“Tell that to your aunt Katie.”
I mused, memories of the night where Katherine had called me – desperate to know if I knew any kind of magic combination to remove the stench of everglade swamp water from her carpets after her boyfriend, a senior official for the company, had to wade through waist deep water to call a match. She presumed it had to smell at least something like a horrible diaper.
Who knows… maybe ‘mom skills’ will come in handy at ReVival?
“I gotta go and find my ride – and you’ve gotta get your homework done. By the time I get back from my workout, I’d better see your Pre-Algebra homework turned in.”
“…. Yes ma’am.”
“Alright. I’ll call you tonight. Love you!”
“Love you byeeeeeeeee”
As Chelsea hangs up, I chuckle and step out through the sliding doors to the shuttle bay. I look around, not seeing my ride before a car horn honks and a familiar BMW pulls to the loading zone.
A squeal erupts from the other side of the car, and Katie dashes around to throw her arms around me excitedly. She gives me a once over, looking at my backpack and plain carry-on, eyebrow quirked in question.
“Its only a few days. Besides, I’m sure if I need anything I’ll know where to find it.”
Katie grimaces, popping her trunk open and taking my suitcase from me.
“A lot has changed around here since you were last around.”
I look to the concrete columns, palm trees peeking out from around them as I frown to myself.
“You could say that again…”