Private: Matt Ward
“Wanna do this again?” Matt pulled a diamond ring from the inside pocket of his charcoal suit jacket and held it over the center of the small table where they were seated in a cozy corner of The Ocean Club.
“Sure.” The lack of enthusiasm in her word choice was betrayed by the smile that spread across her face, outshining the romantic low-lighting of the restaurant. Mary held out her hand and allowed her ex-husband to slip the ring on her finger. “I’d been expecting this for the last couple of months.”
“You’re not a difficult book to read.”
“Predictability can be a good thing”
“Sure.” She smiled again.
“Sorry it took so long to do this.” Matt picked up his glass of Lagavulin 16 and took a healthy sip as he lost himself in Mary’s ease. “I was trying to think of some fancy, convoluted way to pop the question and finally figured that fancy and convoluted wasn’t either of our style.
“And probably wildly unnecessary for a second go-around.”
“Probably. Plus, wanted to make sure we were at a spot where you would definitely say ‘yes’.”
“Amusing for a guy who hasn’t exactly played it safe and lived a risk-averse life.”
“That stuff is way in the past.”
“Matthew,” Mary took a quick, yet deep breath as she grabbed a piece of pretzel bread and began tearing off a chunk. “I’m sorry. I was wrong not to be more supportive of your career.”
“No, you weren’t.”
“Yes.” She dropped the first piece of bread on her plate and started feathering off another that she had no intention of eating. “I’m not saying I didn’t have a right to worry. I’m not saying that it didn’t get the best of ya sometimes, but I put a pressure on you that couldn’t have helped anything much. I didn’t have to love what you did, but I didn’t have to give you all the hell you caught. I spent a lot of time after the divorce… after you retired… just realizing how much it probably hurt you to always push against something you loved.”
“I made a lot of money, but that shit wrecked me. I appreciate it, babe. I really do. But you don’t need to apologize or explain anything. It’s done. I’m done. I just want to get back to being a husband and dad.”
“Oh, speaking of which…” Her nerves had turned the pretzel bread into a pile of fluffy confetti on her plate. Mary held up her left hand and flashed the diamond, “…since we’re on the theme of giving things another go… I wanna have a baby.”
Matt chuckled, not giving the comment much actual thought. “We’re almost 40.”
“You’re almost 40. I just turned 39.”
“Wait…” Matt narrowed his gaze in concentration and confusion. “You’re being serious?”
“A hundred percent.”
“Jesus, Mary. At this age? There’s fairly high odds of complications and…”
“C’mon. Take one more chance. Like the good ol’ days. This one won’t even concuss you.”
“I dunno about that.” Matt picked up his scotch and polished off the glass, not even concerning himself with how much of his $40 pour was left. “Think Georgie was three, four maybe, when she did that cartwheel on the couch and caught me right in the corner of the eye.”
“She was three,” Mary laughed as the memory played out in her mind, “and you survived.”
“Matthew,” Mary leaned across the table and grabbed his hand, interlocking her fingers around his and squeezing. “I mean it. I don’t care who’s 40. Let’s do this.”
Matt reached over with his free hand and plucked a chunk of pretzel bread from Mary’s plate, and as he popped it in his mouth, he gave her a wink.
December 16th, 2022
Prior to Colossus Night One
Lindsay Troy rapped her knuckles against the door, right next to the placard that read ‘Matt Ward – EVP, Talent’, and waited for an answer. The building was beginning to buzz as the backstage sprang to life in anticipation of the night’s big show. Most of the talent was yet to arrive, but they’d start trickling in over the next hour or so. She wanted to talk before they were all wanting her attention.
“Hey, Boss.” The door opened and Matt gave a grin as Troy rolled her eyes.
“Better enjoy the office, big guy. Last weekend for that perk.”
“It’s alright. Smells kinda funny in there to be honest. Old building I guess.”
Lindsay laughed at that. “Don’t think the locker room is gonna solve that problem.”
“Speaking of career changes, guys in the truck just showed me the teaser video you put together for tonight.” Lindsay cocked an eyebrow as she continued. “Seems like you’re calling out a certain Tower of Babel.”
“Not too subtle, huh?”
“Why are you trying to get yourself killed right out of the gate?” Troy shook her head and chuckled. “It’s been a decade, Matty. Maybe ease back into things a bit, hm?”
“Ease back in?” Matt looked down, staring at his legs for a moment before turning his eyes back to his long-time friend. “I don’t know what the shelf life is on these wheels, but when they go for good, they’re gone for good. Might as well jump in head first.”
“And Brand’s the shark you want to swim with.”
“I’m not crazy. Or I dunno… maybe I am, Lindz. But I want the guy who bulldozed his way through this era. I want Youngblood.”
Lindsay sighed, knowing Matt wouldn’t move off of it. “Fine. You can have him.”
“While we’re at it, can I have a shot at number four?” Matt cocked an eyebrow of his own, though he could give a solid guess at the answer that was coming.
“Ha. When I say so. Or you can win the big battle royal at Culture Shock.” She grinned and gave Matt a reassuring squeeze of the arm. “Go enjoy your last night in a suit and tie. I’ve got things to take care of.”
The Queen headed down the hall. Before she disappeared from his view, she threw one last comment over her shoulder. “By the way, we’ll talk later about the watermelon you brought with you.”
“Think you’ll be medically cleared in time for Culture Shock?” George rolled an empty water bottle between her hands, the rippling noise of the plastic grating at her father’s ears as she sat at the kitchen island. And that was the point.
“Meet with the doctor’s in a couple days. Should get the green-light, but can’t say for sure.” Matt grabbed a Monster energy drink from the fridge, and held it out towards his eldest daughter, but she shook it off, so Matt popped it open for himself. “And would you please stop crunching up that bottle.
“Will you train me to wrestle?”
“Then ditto.” George squeezed harder, upping the volume of the plastic as she shot a sarcastic look at her father.
“Georgie, you can ask me a hundred times, a thousand… the answer isn’t gonna change.”
“What if Uncle Scott trains me?”
“No.” Matt leaned on the cold quartz, across from his daughter, and locked eyes with her for the first time during their conversation. “Uncle Scotty helps out from time to time at the school, but he’s retired. Has been for years. And I don’t need you trying to drag my brother into things and pit us against each other.”
“It’s not bullshit, Pumpkin. No matter what it seems like on the surface. And you need to leave family out of this.”
“K.” George offered up just the lone letter of the alphabet as she spun the empty bottle across the island toward her father and left the room.
Matt grabbed the bottle and walked over to the pantry, tossing the trash in a small recycling bin in the corner. With a sigh, he stepped back over to the island and picked up his energy drink, staring at the large chrome ‘M’ against the bold orange of the can. Monster.