The car pulls up to the curb. Mia Rayne looks at the house, looks down at her phone with the address, and looks back at the house.
She turns off the headlights and kills the engine, and checks the address again.
There’s no sign of life. There’s a few lights on behind shades, but from what MJ Flair told her, she was expecting… what?
Some sort of party? Some sort of living, breathing entity in the shape of a house? There’s not even a car in the driveway.
Mia glances at all of the windows with lights behind them, but the shades betray no people.
It’s the front door, then. There’s some frosted glass on the front and she looks inside; a light is on at the opposite end of the house, and there appear to be some lights on past the staircase inside the door.
She checks her phone again, and starts to text MJ to let her know she’s at the front door.
And she flinches when the door opens behind her. She turns suddenly, and comes face to to face with history.
Mia Rayne: Hi, I--
‘Total Elimination’ Eli Flair. Legend. Fifteen time World Champion. King of Extreme.
Her partner’s dad.
He studies her for a moment, eyebrow raised.
Eli: Help you?
Mia Rayne: I’m… Mia. Is MJ home?
And he smiles.
Eli: Yeah, sure. C’mon in.
He backs up, walking with a slight limp in his step, Mia notices.
“E? Who is it?”
This is a really nice house. There’s a dining room to the right, a living room, family room, whatever you want to call it to the left. The light that Mia noticed outside is the glow of a television, paused on a shot of a large (and we mean LARGE) crowd of people. Mia steps into the room behind Eli and stops when she sees someone else sitting on the oversized wraparound sofa.
Her mind races back to the night that MJ gave her a CD titled ‘Fire Water’ by Valerian’s Garden. She listened to that album for three weeks straight, picking up every nuance and shred of emotion. Mia remembers the single line made her feel connected to the music.
“Don’t let them know you’re scared.”
And she’s now standing in front of the writer. MJ’s mother, Angel.
Angel: Hi sweetie, I’m Angel. You are…?
Mia Rayne: Mia. Mia Rayne, I’m sorry. It’s nice to meet you.
Mia takes Angel’s outstretched hand and they shake. Angel looks at her with big blue eyes and a small smile; she’s warm and inviting.
It feels like home.
Mia Rayne: MJ talks about you both all the time; I feel like I know you already.
And Angel’s smile grows. Mia looks back and forth between her partner’s parents; it’s a strange dichotomy in opposites. Eli looks nearly seven feet tall and probably approaching three hundred pounds; even now, almost a decade after his last match he still appears to be in ring shape. Angel, quite the contrary, seems to be about a foot shorter than Mia and is incredibly slight; she’d be surprised if Angel broke a hundred pounds.
Clearly, MJ got the best of both worlds from her parents. She got her pale skin and dark hair from her mother, and her ‘resting bitch face’ and physical determination from her father.
Eli: So, the kid was at the gym this afternoon; she got home just a bit ago and is prob’ly still in tha shower. You wanna hang out down here ‘til she’s done, that’s cool. You hungry? Thirsty?
Angel: If you wanna just go on up, up the stairs, hang right, and she’s the first door on the right.
Eli looks at his wife.
Eli: Babes. I know the look of a wrestler that’s been in a car for too many days. Kid needs something ta’ eat and ta’drink.
Mia’s eyes dart back and forth between them, and while she can’t help but smile at the disagreement, she does not dare to interject. Still, she takes a tentative step back as Angel puts her finger in her husband’s chest, then opens her hand and pushes him back a bit, Mia flinches slightly and tries to shrug it away. Angel walks to Mia with a motherly look on her ace.
Angel: Go on up, sweetie. If you need something, we’ll be right here.
She takes a relieved breath, and, with a slight nod of the head, Mia turns and starts up the stairs. Behind her, neither of them are shy about continuing their conversation.
Angel: You push, hun.
Eli: I’m not pushin’ shit, babes. I been where she’s been; takin’ a moment t’breathe is prob’ the best thing we could give ‘er.
Angel: Maybe. But I know the look of the introvert; she doesn’t need to sit with her friend’s parents for a long period of time. Let her and MJ talk; if they want to come down, they’ll come down on their own.
Eli: ...Y’know, it’s possible we’re both right.
Angel: Yeah, but I’m Mom - so I’m more right.
“That’s what they called me and Mia in the write up for this match. I think they’re missing the point.”
“The Beast was my enemy. The Beast was my nemesis. The Beast was my Everest.”
“Mia Rayne is an massively talented athlete, one whom I just want to give a hug and tell her everything is gonna work out in the end.”
“I trust Mia Rayne.”
“Jarvis King and Ataxia, on the other hand… their only relationship is one of ‘the enemy of mine enemy is apparently my friend,’ and I’d still give two to one odds against it.”
“Jarvis and I have beef. Mia and Tax have beef.”
“The difference is that Jarvis and Tax have no mutual understanding, respect, or coordination. They’re each waging a one man battle to win a fight that neither of ‘em even understand.”
“The difference is that Jarvis King is desperately trying to protect his legacy, Ataxia doesn’t know the meaning of the word.”
“And Mia and I… we don’t think about legacies.”
“Because those that leave their mark on this sport don’t need to tell other people about it.”
Following directions, Mia Rayne walks up the stairs, and takes a right, entering the first door on the right.
And she comes face to face with a cat.
Not just any cat; this one is all of the calico. Black and orange spots dot the cat’s entire body, overriding its white base. If Mia had to make an estimation, the cat was 40% white, 25% black, and 35% orange with paint splotches all over its face.
Mia Rayne: Hello, pretty kitty.
The cat gets up on its hind legs to bat at Mia’s face, before climbing up on her shoulders to better lick the back of her head. It’s at that moment that the door reopens, and Mia Rayne turns to see MJ Flair step in.
MJF: You should be flattered; Isis doesn’t even like my parents. It’s pretty much me, my cousin Shannon, and my uncle TJ.
She’s wearing a sports bra and boy shorts, continuing to dry her hair with a coarse towel. Mia picks the cat off her shoulder and holds it in her arms like an infant.
Mia Rayne: Oh, this one? This one is a dear.
MJ smiles as she drops the towel and steps into a pair of athletic shorts. She leans over her night table and looks at her phone.
MJF: Sorry I didn’t see your message; late night WOD getting ready for Murph. You have any trouble finding the place?
Mia Rayne: No, everything was fine. What’s a WOD? What’s Murph?
And MJ laughs out loud at the question.
MJF: Workout of the Day. ‘Murph’ is a thing that happens every Memorial day: it’s a mile run, a hundred pull ups, two hundred push ups, and three hundred squats, then another mile run.
Mia Rayne: Wow.
She is sort of absent - mindedly listening, her focus being on the cat. All of a sudden, however, her attention catches up to her.
Mia Rayne: Wait, you’re doing that before our match?
MJF: Oh, I’ll be ready. Let her down before she scratches you.
True to life, Isis begins to turn in Mia’s hands, and she lets the cat jump down to the floor. She leaves the room in a huff with both women watching her go. MJ sits on her bed, cross - legged, and leans back.
MJF: Besides, we’ve got this. You and me, we know each other a lot better than Jarvis and Tax. We’re more focused, and we’re certainly healthier.
Mia looks up with a smirk.
Mia Rayne: Well.
MJF: Oh no, no no no. We’ve got this better than them. Oh - that reminds me.
She gets up and closes the bedroom door as Mia sits down at MJ’s drawing table.
MJF: Mommy doesn’t know the specifics of… of before. She doesn’t like wrestling to begin with; anything regarding me or Daddy getting hurt back in the day. Daddy and I decided that as long as I’m all healed up, what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Izzat cool?
Mia holds up her hands.
Mia Rayne: I’m fine with that; the less we talk about last year at all, the better.
She starts to look around the room anxiously.
Mia Rayne: But it’s late; I shouldn’t have come so late. I’m sorry. I should go.
MJ takes both her hands as she starts to stand up.
MJF: Calm down, it’s cool. We have lots of room here.
Mia raises an eyebrow.
MJF: We’ve got room for like ten houseguests when bands are recording, but with the studio getting upgraded it’s just been the three of us. You wanna stay here, you can get a good night sleep and get fed tomorrow, we can talk the ish then.
Again, Mia looks around for an escape, but MJ’s gray eyes remain focused on her.
Mia Rayne: I don’t want to be a bother.
And MJ laughs out loud.
MJF: Seriously, chickie… I literally just told you that you’re not a bother.
She opens the door and walks to the top of the stairs.
MJF: Guys? You mind if Mia stays over one or two nights?
Angel: That’s fine, you girls have fun.
Eli: No problem, kiddo.
She turns back to Mia.
MJF: Your witness.
Mia Rayne: Okay… okay, I guess I’ll just try to stay out of the way.
Another smile from MJ.
MJF: I’m sure you’ll succeed with flying colors. But let’s get you settled and then we can talk shop; I’ve taken on both our opponents in the past two weeks, let’s fire up some video and see what we’ve got to work with.
Mia follows her down the hall to one of what she assumes is several spare bedrooms, and she feels something unfamiliar. Not altogether unpleasant, though.
She feels like she’s welcome.
“Do I still smell like a responsible adult?”
“I would assume so, at least, compared to you. What’s up with you this year, anyways? I won’t accuse you of splitting the Forsaken up; the Glass Ceiling pretty much did that when they put Mia into that coma.”
“But… betraying The Shadow? Why?”
“For that matter, what did it gain you?”
“You don’t have a title. You don’t have a posse ta’ watch your back. You didn’t get the girl.”
“Dude, she still loves you. What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“So you didn’t want to take things seriously at 52; that’s fine. You’re only delaying the inevitable.”
“Hell hath no fury and all that jazz, and you’ve certainly scorned the woman. When the time comes, Ataxia? I ain’t gonna hold her back.”
“Maybe you and Jarvis win this match; maybe you lose. But there’s no version’a things where you come out better than before.”
“That’s the only part that I regret on your behalf, ‘Tax.”
“None’a this shit was necessary.”
Well, it’s later than it was. It’s close to four AM. MJ Flair tiptoes down the stairs; she hears the television still on. She leans in and sees her mom sound asleep on the sofa with a blanket half on, half off. MJ walks in, a little bit faster now (as she is naturally as light on her feet as her mother), and tucks her in, kissing her on the forehead.
A noise from the kitchen draws her attention, and she follows it.
Eli: You’re up late. Your friend, she’s asleep?
MJ’s dad is leaning against the sink, drinking from a glass of water. Much like her, he doesn’t sleep very much.
MJF: Yeah, she’s out like a light. Thanks for letting her stay.
Eli: No sweat, kiddo. Long as she’s left her masks home.
Before MJ can respond to that, he holds up his hand.
Eli: Don’t. I won’t say anything to your mom, or to Mia. But I pay attention t’the sport, kiddo. I know who people are under their masks.
He takes a sip.
Eli: Tell me she’s good.
MJF: She’s good.
Eli: Tell me that’cha trust her.
MJF: I trust her.
There’s no hesitation in her voice. Eli smiles that famous smile of his and nods his head.
Eli: Good enough for me. Tomorrow, we’ll get you girls some breakfast and figure out some strategy. Your mom, though - she needs to get to bed herself.
He walks past her and gives her a hug, and a kiss on top of the head.
Eli: Good night, champ.
It takes MJ a moment to react.
MJF: Good night, Daddy.
Tomorrow is another day.
”Can I remind you’a something, Jarvis? Something significant, that you might’ve forgotten about in your rush ta declare yourself the Greatest of All Time?”
“You had two shots at me, and couldn’t close the deal either time.”
“But I will say this, that second time around you looked like a wrestler.”
“You certainly didn’t look like a man that couldn’t wrestle for ten minutes without injuring himself. At least, not until you couldn’t pin me and resorted to a chair to the face.”
“Except… again… you couldn’t close the deal.”
“Does it gnaw at you, Jarvis? Does it make you wonder if you really have lost it?”
“A close friend of mine said, a while back, that when a wrestler starts gettin’ up there in years and their physical gifts start ta deteriorate, and they wonder if they can still win when it matters, that it’s better to find out today that’cha can’t hack it, then not find out and spend the next decade wondering.”
“We’re still wondering about you, Jarvis. Can ya still hack it?”
“Or are you still concerned about your legacy? Cause I’ll tell you… you’re the only one.”
“I don’t care if you’re a twenty time Champ, or if you’ve just debuted at Evolution Fifty One. You’re the same ta’ me either way, when ya boil it down: my next opponent.”
“And you’re right when ya say you don’t talk about the legacy of a young competitor; cause we’re still writin’ it. See, nothing you do from now until ya hang up the boots for good can change the shit you did back in the day.”
“For me, today is still my own personal back in the day.”
“But I’m livin’ forward, Jarvis. You’re livin’ backwards.”
“What you do, Jarvis, is that’cha’ve built yourself up t’be the Greatest of All Time. But I know my history, man. I’m not your typical youngster in the sport that’s doin’ all the on-the-job trainin.’”
“I know my history.”
“And I know the people that did build this sport. I know the actual giants that shaped the industry.”
“If I’m standin’ on a stage that’s been built by those that came before me, Jarvis - it’s been built by athletes like Dan Ryan. Like Lindsay Troy.”
“Like my dad.”
“But I’ll tell ya something, Jarvis… just ‘tween us girls?”
“You didn’t build shit. I brought my own stage with me t’the CWF.”
“And maybe that’s why you’ve gotten so introspective about your legacy, Jarvis; about how spry you may or may not be at this late stage in your career.”
“Because athletes like myself, like Mia Rayne… we’re walkin’ out on a stage that we created. Because we made the opportunities happen for ourselves.”
“Because you, in the year two thousand nineteen… are the equivalent of the Oreo Bros.”
“Completely… and totally…”