Even approaching midnight, the streets of New York - particularly downtown - remain busy. Years ago, a curious tic of the local music scene was that Thursday night was always much busier than Friday. You could hit up multiple local shows on a Thursday, and would usually see very little to begin the weekend. This was often explained away as many local musicians, DJs, promoters, etcetera - worked in the hospitality industry as well and needed to be waiting tables, tending bars, or working another tip-worthy job on Friday night.
At least, that’s what MJ Flair has always heard. Venues for local music are drying up quickly, but there is still enough life left for Thursdays to remain the night.
Probably for the best; it means anyone that might recognize her, or know her on a personal level is elsewhere, and not watching her walk down Avenue B with her head down and anger and frustration written all over her face.
MJ Flair is the exception to the rule that all women own at least one ‘little black dress.’ She has weightlifter thighs which are exacerbated by short, tight things, and prefers skirts or dresses that are looser and have some flow to them. At the moment, MJ’s calf - length dress swishes around her legs as she walks with purpose, her shiny black Doc Martens hitting the pavement with every step.
It’s nearly midnight. MJ is tired, annoyed, and, most of all… hungry. Having left the club unexpectedly and on foot, she’s actively looking for a change of scenery and a meal.
“The Last Resort.”
MJ stops and looks in the front window. Seems to be a nearly - empty bar, exactly what she’s looking for: a place where nobody knows her and nobody will want to speak with her. She opens the door and leans her head inside, getting the attention of the sole bartender who looks up from the limes she is cutting.
MJF: You guys do food here?
MJ walks all the way in, and takes a seat right in front of the bartender.
MJF: Double shot of stoli, please, and a menu.
The bartender hands MJ a menu while she retrieves two glasses and a nearly-full bottle of vodka. She sets them up and expertly pours them out.
MJF: And... wings. Thirty. Hottest you’ve got.
Bartender: You got it. Rough day?
MJF: Bad date.
The bartender gives a small, understanding smile.
Bartender: This one’s on me, just need to see your ID.
MJF: You’re serious, aren’t you?
Bartender: The law’s the law.
MJ drops her head and pushes the glass towards the bartender.
MJF: ...Just a sprite, then.
Now, the bartender’s grin widens, and she downs both shots.
Bartender: That’s illegal, you know.
MJF: Yeah… sorry. I’m used to being in my dad’s bar.
Bartender: It’s illegal for him, too. But I know how it goes. Bad date, huh? Asshole?
She puts the glass of sprite in front of MJ, who takes a sip, shaking her head.
MJF: Not even an asshole, just… Insecure.
“Well, I dunno… was he really insecure or were you just the same emasculating cunt you’ve always been?”
MJ whips her head around to the far corner of the bar, to its only other occupant at this time.
Bartender: Watch the mouth, Rog.
MJF: And tonight can’t get any worse.
MJ’s ex boyfriend Roger stands up and walks over to the women. He puts his empty pint glass on the bar and takes a seat two stools away.
Bartender: You want to leave the lady alone, buddy?
She thinks about it.
MJF: He can stay. Just don’t piss me off.
Roger: So, you went out on a few dates and now he can’t hang? Is that how it went?
MJF: I said you could stay, but I never said I wanted to hear your dumb voice.
Roger: Maybe you don’t want to, but you need to. I’m the only person that’s not gonna blow smoke up your ass. Ain’t no lie or truth I could tell you that’d make you tumble back into my bed to plow your ass one more time, so I’ve got no reason to tell you anything but the truth. Can you handle it?
This actually makes MJ momentarily speechless. Their relationship started nicely but ended terribly, and she has not seen him for literally months.
MJF: I can handle anything you throw at me, asshole.
Roger: And there’s your problem.
”This whole fuckin’ thing is a farce.”
“Ladies’ Night. Sure. The idea is sorely needed in professional wrestling: give us women our due. Make sure we’re not pushed to the side by the three hundred pound steroid monsters that think the sport is all about who hits the hardest.”
“It is needed in professional wrestling in general. It is not needed in the CWF.”
“Since this company’s reunion show in two thousand seventeen until right now, name the five most influential wrestlers in this company. Go ahead, I’ll wait.”
“Got ‘em? Great. If MJ Flair and Mia Rayne are not numbers one and two, your list is wrong.”
“Any order you want.”
“One level deeper? If MJ Flair, Mia Rayne, and Caledonia Highlander are not numbers one through three, your list is wrong.”
“Any order you want.”
“Women are not respected in this sport in the same way that men are; too many of ‘em don’t help matters by takin’ their clothes off and shakin’ their tits and asses around. To each their own, sure… but that kinda shit makes my life more complicated.”
“Except here in the CWF. I’m a serious competitor. Mia Rayne may not be serious about herself but she’s serious about her work. Autumn Raven. Nina. Serious work. Cassandra was a joke, but one that took herself perhaps a bit too seriously.
“Going even older school? Caledonia and Amber Ryan were both serious athletes. It’s one thing that the CWF is far and away better at than every other wrestling promotion in the world.”
“Did we ever have some talentless hack on the roster, whose only real gift was flaunting her body?”
“What’s Zara Knight up to these days, anyway?”
Roger: That’s sexy.
He’s drinking another beer, all the while staring at MJ Flair sucking the meat off a chicken wing, a residue of hot sauce on her lips. She drops the bone to her plate and flips Roger off, not even looking at him.
MJF: I seriously will shove this thing down your throat until you choke.
Roger: Thanks for reminding me why we broke up.
That gets MJ to turn to face him.
MJF: We broke up because you started an argument with me in front of my parents and punched my mother, asshole.
Roger: She hit me first.
MJ rolls her eyes and nods sarcastically.
MJF: Sure, because my five foot short mother who barely breaks a hundred pounds really damaged you. Face it, man - we broke up because we had nothing in common anymore, if we ever actually did, and you were pretty much just usin’ me to get into clubs and gigs.
Another wing is devoured, while Roger shrugs noncommittally.
Roger: When it got obvious that I was just there as window dressing, why not enjoy it?
MJF: You really believe that, don’t you?
Roger: Think about it for a minute, MJ. Really think about it. We had some good times before things went to shit… what did you really need me for?
MJF: Jesus fucking christ, man… I--
And she stops.
And she thinks about it. Why is this so hard?
Roger: Exactly. You even told me, that fucking guy you dated in when you started--
MJF: Russel. Do not shit talk him to me, or I will seriously beat the hell out of you.
Roger: Russel. Whatever. What happened, you broke up because you didn’t let him in when you started, and because, what was it… nothing he could make you feel compared to the rush of performance.
He leans back and drinks.
Roger: At least I knew that goin’ into it.
MJ looks down at her plate. As much as she hates to admit it, Roger is making some sense.
Roger: And now you’re dating a musician, or were trying to. Insecure by nature, is a VIP guest of one of his favorite bands, brings you there to impress you. You get let in without an issue by security and all of a sudden he’s your plus-1, not the other way around. Free food, free drinks, watching the gig from the stage.
He points at her hand.
Roger: Swollen knuckle. Did you punch him, too?
MJ looks down at her hand.
MJF: No, some guy grabbed my ass, and I punched him.
And she deflates. MJ looks down, picks up another wing, and points it at Roger.
MJF: Ash tried to step in but I beat him to it. Fuck.
Roger: You’re too self-sufficient for most guys to be happy with you. A man likes to be the man, and you pretty much blow that to shit every time you do anything. And when you’ve got a guy like me who’s cool with it and just moves along with the ride, you get annoyed that I’m ’expecting’ to get put on the list.
MJF: I just-- I want a guy who’s cool with me being me and enjoys spending time with me for me, not for what I can do.
Roger laughs out loud.
Roger: You want a dude that’ll be there every time you want him there, and to go the fuck away when they’re an inconvenience. It doesn’t work that way, kiddo.
He motions to the bartender that he would like to close his tab.
Roger: Believe me or don’t, MJ. I don’t care. I’m not welcome in my old clubs and bars, and my old friends don’t talk to me anymore because of the way things ended with us. I’ve got no reason to lie to you.
He turns to the bartender who hands him a receipt, and he points to MJ.
Roger: I’ll get her wings, too.
MJF: You don’t have to--
Roger: I know. But it’s nice to have some use.
Fighting with him over this would just cause a scene, and MJ refuses to give him the satisfaction.
Roger: Sure. Listen, you can’t make relationships work because you’re impossible to deal with after a while. But that’s also one of your strengths - it was a pain in the ass to deal with your mood swings but it was nice that I knew I’d never get the three AM call asking me where I saw this relationship going, or some shit. You just need to decide what matters most to you.
He gets his card back, signs his receipt, and moves to leave.
Roger: But we know what matters, don’t we.
And with that, he leaves the bar. MJ watches him go, then turns back to her plate. The bartender collects the receipt, and sees her sitting, immediately reading her mood.
Bartender: You okay, hun?
MJ looks at her and smiles.
MJF: The only thing worse, I think, then gettin’ your face rubbed in shit by your ex is when he’s actually making valid points.
The bartender laughs.
Bartender: Honey, you ain’t kidding.
”This is the match that we should’ve had all along, Mia. Two athletes, mutual respect, nothing but a competitive spirit.”
“If we’d had these matches from the start, we wouldn’t have gone to the extremes of barbed wire. Whether you would’ve beaten me or not, if you’d still beaten me for the CWF World Title it wouldn’t’ve been in the process’a putting me outta the ring for six months. And you wouldn’t’ve lost it to The Shadow by sittin’ in the corner in the midst of an identity crisis.”
“Lots of ifs in there. They’re fun to discuss sometimes, but they’re a waste’a time to really dwell on. Besides, who’s to say things would’ve been better?”
“Sometimes you need t’go through hell t’get to where you’re supposed ta be. And the point is, the journey we took over the past eight months is the reason why we are absolutely the only two in the CWF who’ve earned the right to headline a Women’s Only event.”
“Shoot. We’re two’a the only athletes still in this company where a match between us is a Main Event match, no matter the circumstances.”
“We’ve both got some baggage comin’ into this one, though. I’ve had a bit of a murky restart to my career, coupled with a temporary reassignment to Hostility. You were fired by the same jackass and came back, sorely missed, as a commentator.”“I’m tired of fighting wars, Mia. I’m particuarly tired’a fighting wars against people I respect. I’m glad that this one is gonna be a wrestling match.”
“Kitchen’s good, Lu. Can you pour me one for the road?”
MJ absent - mindedly looks at her phone, and panic sets in. A man who looks to be in his mid - twenties, wearing a white apron and bandanna, and sweating profusely has just entered the bar from the kitchen, smelling quite strongly of cleaning supplies.
MJF: Oh, shit… I’m so sorry!
The bartender - Luanne - waves her off.
Luanne: Don’t worry about it, hun. Look around.
She gestures to the bar, completely empty except for the three of them. At the same time, she pulls one glass from behind her, and the bottle of Patron Silver.
Luanne: This place is going down faster than a ten cent streetwalker. The boss is sorta draggin’ his heels on selling, but as long as the checks don’t bounce I’m gonna show up. ‘Sides, it’s been just us all night, I should thank you for keepin’ me company. Until Kevin’s done in the kitchen, it’s just me and the sound system.
Kevin takes a seat next to MJ and gratefully accepts his tequila. Luanne hands him a slice of lime on a napkin, akin to a gift from a high state official.
Luanne: I remembered, hun.
He smiles and takes a suck of the lime slice, holds up his glass, clinks it against the Brooklyn Lager that Luanne is holding, and the nearly-empty Sprite that still sits in front of MJ.
Kevin: To ya’ health.
Shot downed, lime wedge chewed. Kevin takes a look at MJ, still sitting there.
Luanne: Kevin, this is Mariella Flurstein; she’s had a night.
He holds out his hand, MJ shakes.
Kevin: You ordered the hot wings earlier; Lu said you wanted them ’nuclear.’
MJF: I did; nice to meet you.
Kevin: I hear someone insist on hot wings, I make ‘em suffer for it. Or at least, I try to. Respect.
Kevin: But, bad night?
MJ looks from Kevin to Luanne and back to Kevin again. Luanne laughs as she’s closing up her stations.
Luanne: He’s cool, hun.
MJF: Well, I went from a fight with this dude I’ve been dating, to storming out on him, to coming here, a place I’ve never even heard of before. Miss Upstanding Citizen there refuses to serve me my vodka, and the only other person in here was my ex boyfriend, who became my ex when we got into a literal fistfight.
She stops herself, probably a few seconds too late. MJ could feel herself unloading, not just her entire night but the past several months onto this man.
MJF: Wow. That was a big ball’a crazy. Sorry about that.
Kevin: Why did Lu refuse to serve you?
Her back to both of them, Luanne laughs.
Luanne: She’s got that cutest little baby face.
Kevin raises an eyebrow.
MJF: … Yeah, I’m nineteen.
Kevin: Wow. Yeah, that’s a bad night.
MJ shrugs. Luanne turns back to the two of them, holding a small bank bag.
Luanne: Allright, pals ‘n gals, I’m ready to get outta here. You working tomorrow, Kev?
Kevin: Same bat-time, same bat-channel.
He turns towards MJ.
Kevin: I’ve got my car, you need a ride anywhere?
MJ shakes her head and holds up her hands.
MJF: That’s cool, man. I appreciate it, but I don’t need…
And she stops. What was her plan tonight? Kevin gives her a knowing grin.
Kevin: Come on, can I give you a ride home?
That makes MJ laugh.
MJF: Dude, that’s cool but I live in Warwick.
Both Kevin and Luanne stop. You can almost see them doing the mental math on that one.
Kevin: Okay, yeah… I’m not driving you to Warwick. But I can’t just leave you to walk wherever.
MJ stands up and collects her things, shaking her head.
MJF: That’s cool, man. I’ve got a place I can stay in the Bronx, I’ll hop the subway.
And the other two share a look.
Luanne: Okay, now I need to step in, hun. We are not putting you on a subway at three thirty in the morning.
MJF: Seriously, it’s cool--
Kevin: Fuck that, pardon my language. That’s only about fifty blocks up from where I live. You let me know where to drop you and I’ll drop you.
Considering it, MJ looks at Luanne for confirmation.
Luanne: He’s cool, hun. Besides, if he tries anything you can take ‘em. Show ‘em the guns.
Luanne: Come on.
Kevin: Yeah, c’mon!
Her face flushed, MJ pushes the sleeves up on her top and flexes her bicep.
Kevin: Holy shit.
MJF: My dad insisted.
Kevin: Wow. Even if I had it in me to make a move I’m now far too terrified to do so.
MJF: Wow. Wuss.
She regretted the word even as she was saying it, but fortunately, Kevin laughs out loud.
Kevin: Hah! Guilty as charged. Shall we?
The three leave the bar in a line, Luanne picking up the rear and setting the alarm before closing the door and locking it.
Luanne: The wasteland survives, Kevin. Mariella, it was lovely to meet you.
She leans in and hugs MJ, and, despite her awkwardness, MJ reciprocates. Luanne also hugs Kevin, but follows that up with a fist bump and an explosion before she walks away from the bar.
MJF: She’s okay?
Kevin: Yeah, she lives like three blocks from here. I’m this way, Mariella.
They start to walk in the opposite direction as Luanne.
MJF: Hey man.
MJF: Call me MJ.
”Somewhere along the way, I lost myself.”
“I guess that’s the positive to being a hashtag-girlcharacter. If I get emotional about a thing, it’s cool. But it’s true, I lost myself.”
“I lost myself to revenge, just like Mia said. It wasn’t fair, either. I lost so much time to the damage that The Beast did to me, and when I came back, I wasn’t tryin’ to slay the beast for the CWF.”
“I was selfish.”
“I wanted to destroy Loki Synn to prove that I could do it, with no regard whatsoever to what that would do to Cheshire. Now, again, we can’t hinge on the what-ifs, because if I hadn’t done that to Cheshire, who’s to say Mia Rayne wouldn’t have come back out?”
“But that’s no excuse. That’s rationalization.”
“The fact’a the matter is, I needed ta stand across the ring from Loki Synn to find out that I didn’t need to Slay the Beast. I needed ta overcome that mental roadblock ta be able to do anything else in the CWF.”
“This match, Mia? At Evolution 50?”
“It’s a decadent spoonful’a Lemon Sorbet. It’s a palate cleanser.”
“It’s the match that should’ve happened four times already with the highest stakes possible.”
“It’s a match that’ll remind us both, who we are.”
“You’re Mia Rayne, sometimes goofy, always funny, always deadly.”
“I’m Mariella Jade Flair.”
“My father’s daughter.”
MJF: Right up here, man.
Kevin slows as he approaches the corner of TC’s Pub, and he looks at MJ in disbelief.
Kevin: Another bar, really?
MJF: Hey, my dad owns the place. I can crash on the second floor and get home tomorrow morning.
He puts the car in park and takes a breath.
Kevin: All right, well… It was really nice to meet you.
MJF: You too.
Kevin holds out his hand to shake, but MJ leans in and gives him a hug. He embraces her just the same, and when she lets go she lingers in the car.
MJF: What do you think you’re gonna do if the place shuts down?
Kevin: I guess I’ll need to find a job on a line somewhere.
MJF: That’s gotta be tough.
Kevin: It can be. But I’m fast enough when I need to be so I can definitely hold my own.
MJF: I have no doubt.
They sit in silence for a few seconds.
Kevin: All right, I hate to kick ya out but I need to go home and get some sleep.
MJF: Oh, shit. Yeah I’m sorry. Thank you so much for the ride.
She leans in and hugs him again, and almost absently moves to kiss his cheek. He senses this but gets the cheek wrong and turns his head, and their lips meet.
It’s awkward again for a moment, but MJ smiles.
MJF: Have a good night, man.
She leaves the car and walks to the front door of TC’s. Through the window she can see Cally and Val continuing their cleanup. MJ pulls her keys out of her bag and opens the door. As it swings closed behind her, she hears a car pull away.
The boy was waiting for her to physically be inside before he left.
It’s the little things.
”Here’s the bottom line, Mia.”
“We are the main event.”
“Not ‘for a girl,’ or ‘for a special event.’”
“We are the best that this company has right now. All respect to The Shadow, and Duce, and Mr. Ryan for holding the World Title in our absence from the scene, but if you had to narrow it down to one match for the rest’a the CWF’s existence… we’re the match that matters.”
“I plan ta prove it.”
“Make me proud.”
“Left slash, lowercase M, right slash.”