”I don’t think I asked for too much.”
“I said Johnny, Angry Johnny - give me a match that matters.”
“After over a year of carrying the CWF on my shoulders, that’s the least he can do. Did he?”
“There’s two possibilities for a mystery opponent at Evolution 48. Number one - Jon Stewart has no plan. He booked this match to buy himself some time to either impress me or disappoint me. Won’t speculate on what’s what.”
“Or two. He has a plan, and it’s so damn good he even wants me t’be surprised.”
“I hope it’s number two. Number one is too pitiful to contemplate.”
“Besides, if Angry Johnny gives me a loser that I can kill in five minutes. I’m gonna have to drag it out to give the fans their moneys’ worth, and then said loser certainly gets the sticky end’a the lollipop on that deal.”
MJF: I think I’m as done as I can be.
She steps back, looking at the canvas in front of her. It depicts a guitar, engulfed in flame, along with a bearded, long haired man evidently ignoring the pain of the flames to play said guitar. His hands are blackened and charred, and the caption shows ‘TRIFECTUM: FROM HELL’ in the upper left.
Next to MJ, Trifectum’s singer Ash Evans appears virtually speechless.
Ash: Dude. This is fucking awesome.
MJ smiles. One of the benefits of recording at Spyder Studios, the recording studio that her parents and her mom’s band jointly own (that happens to be in her home’s basement), is that, on occasion, deals can be made. Mariella Jade Flair has been drawing, painting, and creating all forms of art since she was five years old - and when asked, she has often created cover art for album releases.
Ash: I can’t thank you enough.
He leans in and hugs her, both as a sign of appreciation and a dangerous act of defiance. You see, since Spyder Studios is housed in the basement, one of the house rules has always been ‘Stay the heck away from the upstairs bedrooms, in particular, Mariella Jade’s.’ Her parents, fifteen time former world Champion Eli Flair, and nine time platinum selling musician Angel, have done their best to balance their public lives against MJ’s private.
As she’s gotten older, it’s gotten more difficult.
MJF No worry, man. This one was fun. I’m just glad I got to do the stuff for you.
Ash: Naaah, this is beyond that. I owe you one.
MJ feels a hand on the small of her back as Ash moves closer to her. She feels suddenly self - conscious in her typical artistic attire of sports bra and old athletic shorts.
She’s a sloppy painter, so why make a mess of nice clothing?
Fortunately, he steps back and sits on her bed, still staring at the canvas.
Ash: Well, at least let me show you a good time. You’re leaving for your gig tomorrow, right?
MJF: Short hop, Kansas City and back.
Ash: Great! We’re opening for Killcode on Thursday; I’ll put you on the list, give you a nice intro when we talk about the album, show you a good time. Deal?
He looks really impressed. MJ can’t bring herself to tell her she’s known the guys in Killcode since she was seven years old, and the gig is at Terminal 5, a place in which she is essentially a VIP for life.
MJF: That would be awesome, thanks!
Still, it’s the thought that counts.
She sits next to him, and they stare at her artwork.
MJF: Feels good to be painting again.
MJF: Feels good to be doing all the things again. Haven’t finished a piece until today in months, haven’t wrestled a match in weeks… remind me to bust out my guitar today.
Ash: By all means, you could probably show Joey a thing or two.
He says this while resting his hand on her knee, and the silence brings a tension that’s nearly broken as the two lean in to each other.
Instead, it’s broken by a loud knocking on the door.
“Ash, you’re up!”
He hangs his head.
Ash: Thanks, man. Appreciate it.
And he laughs. Time to sing. He looks at MJ and they share an awkward smile.
Ash: To be continued. Good luck out there.
He kisses her on the cheek and spins on his heels out of the room. MJ tracks him, feeling her cheeks flush, and closes the door behind him quickly.
Speaking of things she hasn’t done in a while…
”The mission is what matters.”
“My opponent is immaterial, except to the extent that I requested one that matters. If there’s justice in this world, my opponent will be someone that can take me down and pin my shoulders.”
“If I let him. Or her.”
“Because that’s what matters, right? The mission.”
“Some of us do this for money. Some do it for fame. Some do it for the competition.”
“I crave the competition; otherwise, why do this?”
“I am eager to lose every match I’m in; if you don’t risk that, why compete?”
“Whoever Angry Johnny throws at me, I’m ready.”
“I am fearless.”
“I am peerless.”
“And this is my second coming.”
“No pun intended.”