I look out at the sunrise as it comes in, my weathered hands resting upon the granite counter, my fingers mindlessly tapping. This life is different than it used to be, no more hitting up the bars, no more bringing home random girls, no more waking up in the middle of the day with a bottle of Jack lying upon my chest. I went from David Noble, wrestler and life of the party to David Noble, father who wakes up at 7am in the morning. The fans would be bitterly disappointed in me, I’m certain of it, but considering where life could be, I’m not going to complain about it.
As I watch the sunrise, I think about the events that have changed over the past six weeks, from ICONIC to now. I’m unable to spend much time thinking about this though as I hear footsteps and my thoughts are invaded by the serene voice of my daughter, Lorelai.
‘Morning Dad,’ she yawns at me.
I turn around and smile at her.
She shrugs. ‘That mattress is a bit old.’
Put that one on the list for today: Get Lorelai a new mattress.
‘Sorry about that,’ I offer.
She shakes her head at me. ‘No need. I’m surprised at how quickly you were able to buy a house and get it furnished.’
Her words send me back to my previous thoughts of the past six weeks. Watching Zion as he climbed up and grabbed the briefcase. It should’ve destroyed me. It should’ve forced me into the gym for weeks on end and beating my body up until I came to terms with the defeat. Except, it didn’t. I watched as he grabbed it and instead of feeling defeat, I felt… peace. Not because I didn’t want to win, I definitely did, but because it no longer was the difference between life or death for me.
I had other things that took precedence, like getting back to the states, buying a home, and getting everything together for my daughter’s life.
My daughter’s life.
I look at her as she sits down at the counter and I turn around, grab a white ceramic mug, pour coffee into it, and place it before her.
‘Now this,’ she begins before taking a cautious sip of it. ‘I could get used to.’
She takes another sip before slowly nodding her head. Some of that time has been spent upon getting to know Lorelai and one of the things I’ve learned is that she likes coffee in the morning. Not certain where that particular trait came from, but I’ve also noticed that if she doesn’t get coffee in the morning, a real chance exists of the mailman being found murdered and it being on the evening news.
I kneel down, in front of a cabinet, and pull out a frying pan before heading to the refrigerator and pulling out a carton of eggs. Before too long, I’ve managed to whip up some scrambled eggs and toast, putting it on a plate, and handing it to her. She eats in silence as I turn my attention back to the sunrise, watching as it comes up. Finding a home that provided a view was one of the things that Lorelai had on her list and since she was going to be home most of the time while I was on the road, I figured what she wanted was a bit more important. Thus, found a house on some land in the middle of Texas and the past few weeks have been focused upon setting up life so she could return to school.
I look over at her. ‘Ready for your first day at your new school?’
She gives me an odd look. ‘Yes, father. I can’t wait to meet hundreds of new people who will probably think I look funny, I talk funny, I must have something wrong in my brain, and shun me from now until eternity.’
‘Well, at least you’re optimistic about it.’
She groans as she takes a bite of her food. ‘It’s going to be what it’s going to be, I guess.’
‘That’s the spirit.’
I duck as she throws her toast at me. ‘Drink more coffee.’
‘I don’t know,’ she responds. ‘It’s going to be different. You sure I can’t just do the homeschool or virtual learning thing and just travel with you.’
I think about this for a moment before I shake my head. ‘I don’t travel that much during the week so it would just be us, doing this.’
She smiles as she devours another bite of her eggs. ‘I think our show is almost ready to take on the road.’
‘Well, I think the general federal government frowns upon those kinds of things and prefers you to get your education.’
‘The same federal government that thought it was okay to make Black people slaves?’ she retorts. I’ve learned that somewhere in that noggin of hers is a fiercely sarcastic girl with a tongue that she must have received from me.
‘Exactly, who better to teach you?’
She rolls her eyes as she finishes off her eggs.
‘Fine, I’ll go get ready, but just know I’m doing it in protest.’
I grab her plates and place them in the sink. ‘See, you’re ready for college already.’ I hear her mutter underneath her breathe and pretty positive she tells me to fuck off, but I choose to ignore it.
This life is different than the one I originally chose, but it was better than the life I was living. I begin to wash the dishes, thinking to myself that after I drop her off at school that I can get a workout in and start setting up my travel dates.
On the island sits my cell phone, buzzing unbeknownst to me, as I let my thoughts drift to other things.
The caller ID screen reads Eliza.
* * *
Losing to Darin Zion should classify as hitting rock bottom, but for me, it was a chance to wash myself of middling with the Hollywood/Zion/Azula’s of HOW. The briefcase would’ve awarded me with a match against JJR for the HOtv championship. I’ve fought JJR before and somehow lived to tell the tale of it. I’m not ready for JJR, not yet. Not when he’s on the streak that he is on.
There are all sorts of feelings I should be, but at the end of the day, you don’t get to dictate your place in a ladder match with multiple others in it. It’s not the equivalent of a one-on-one match where your wrestling skills and abilities are what determine if you succeed or not. I’ve beaten Darin Zion before. I can beat Azusa and Hollywood any day of the week. They know that as well. While disappointed, I know what the past eight weeks have been all about.
Now, the time has come for the tag team invitational and the march to the next line in the sand. For some, this is an opportunity. For others, this is a death note. The reality is I don’t normally work well with other people, but after eight weeks, I find myself still needing to carve out my space, my spot, my legacy. Partnering with Doozer, someone I know very little about could pose a problem in all reality. Can I trust someone like him in the ring? To have my back when the going gets tough?
I started my career as a tag wrestler alongside Mary-Lynn Mayweather. She and I were the new incarnation of Team VIAGRA and being a tag wrestler allowed me to cut my teeth, figure out about myself while also being able to learn from someone who had a different skill set than I do. The reality is that Doozer can mask my weaknesses and vice versa if we take it one step at a time, understand who stands across the ring from us, and have each other’s backs. I knew Mary-Lynn had my back for better or worse. I can’t say the same about Doozer.
There are two ways to go about this. I can either trust Doozer implicitly until he proves me otherwise. That means I just go out there and have faith that he will have my back, that he will fight the battles alongside me, and not seek his first opportunity to stab me in the back. The other option is that I don’t trust Doozer, I look at him sideways simply waiting for him to strike, being on my guard and ready to place that dagger in between his shoulder blades before he can do the same to me. That way though is exhausting, draining, and simply gets to the same conclusion; at each other’s throats and blaming the other one for what happened.
The latter option doesn’t help me in my goals, my ambition, and that’s to cement my place in HOW. I purposefully signed a shorter-length contract because I want to bet on myself, on what I can accomplish in the ring, and in turn, if I can do those things, I can turn that into a larger contract for myself, for my family. I need Doozer to be completely committed to this or else it will be all for naught, another disappointing mark to put on the record.
The other half of the equation are the people on the other side of the ring. Harrison and Kostoff. Looking at film of them, they’re big motherfuckers who take great pleasure in hitting people as hard as humanly possible or utilizing every skill they have to outwrestle their opponent. The competition is stiff, not going to lie about that. All four of us in a ring together, fireworks are going to go off, and it’s going to come down to who can put it the best together within those four posts.
The reality is, I don’t doubt what I can bring to the ring, but the rust that I’m still working off has proven to be difficult. I could come out here and run down Harrison and Kostoff, but the reality is that I’m tired of letting my words speak for me. Instead, I’d rather let my actions shine for once. So, it comes down to this. Madison Square Garden and the two of you stepping into the ring with Doozer and me. Let’s see what we’re all made of and let the results lay on the mat for the proof of who truly is better.
Am I ready? Without a fucking doubt.
* * *
I emerge from his makeshift gym in his garage, grab a cotton towel, and wipe it across my face. The towel catches the beads of sweat across my brow, and I throw it into a basket near the garage door before taking a look at the time and realizing it is growing closer to the time that Lorelei should be arriving home from school. Without thought, I bound up the stairs to the second story of the house, turn on the water to the hottest temperature possible, and jump in to take a shower. As the blistering hot water touches my skin, I feel a shiver run up my spine. My mind is elsewhere, thinking back to the various text messages and phone calls I’ve received from my family in recent weeks.
My father’s called me three times. I’m certain it is to remind me that he blames me for the death of my father. Each one of my five sisters has called me and while they’ve all left voicemails, I’ve decided it’s not worth listening to them. I know what I have on my plate, I know the dangers ahead of me with a teenage girl going through puberty day in and day out. Between that, training, and actually competing, no part of me is mentally or physically capable of shouldering a larger load on the family front.
Seconds quickly turn into minutes and I dart out of the shower, dry off, and throw on a fresh pair of gym shorts and a white sleeveless tank top. As I start heading down the stairs, I hear the school bus pull up outside of the house and within moments, the front door opens to reveal Lorelai coming in, headphones on, and zoned out to the music.
‘Hey,’ I greet her, but she is tuned out on the music. I wonder what she is listening to, but I know that can quickly put me in the parent penalty box if I try to connect with her on that level. She looks up and smiles before pulling down the headphones.
‘Sorry, wasn’t even thinking. Wore these so I don’t have to listen to any of the kids on the bus.’
I smile back at her before I head into the kitchen, pulling out a cold water bottle and tossing her a second one while I start to down the one in my hands. ‘Not wanting to make any friends on the first day?’
‘You know it,’ she responds before taking a sip of her own water. ‘Can’t play up the role of an outcast if I’m friendly with everyone.’
I tap my right index finger against my temple. ‘That’s some smart thinking right there.’ My phone, which I placed on the kitchen island begins to vibrate. I ignore it.
‘So,’ I continue. ‘Good first day of school? Manage to find yourself around alright.’
Lorelai nods her head. ‘Yeah, pretty straightforward. Found out what seats to sit in and which ones not to sit in.’ She then looks over at my phone. ‘You sure you don’t want to answer this?’
I look bat at her. ‘Depends, who is it?’
‘Eliza? Is that one of your sisters?’
I nod. ‘The easiest of them.’
‘You don’t want to talk to her?’
I shrug my shoulders. ‘Look, it’s been a few years at least since I last saw my sisters. They’re nice and all, well, except for Andrea. Andrea is like a mother hen that doesn’t approve of anything that I do. Naturally, she takes after our dad.’
‘I can’t believe you have sisters.’
I chuckle. ‘Sometimes I forget about them.’
‘Oh, that’s sad.’
I laugh a bit more. ‘You haven’t met them yet. Hold onto that thought until you’ve been through a Thanksgiving Dinner or Christmas.’
‘Well, I always wanted brothers and sisters. Just wasn’t in the cards I guess.’
I take a long look at Lorelai, watching as her face changes gradually while she takes another sip of water. Each time she reflects on her past, I notice these slight changes in her demeanor, and she happens to wear her emotions on her face. I don’t pry, though a million questions desperately pound against the door, eager to get out.
‘When do you think I will meet them?’ she asks for a few quiet moments.
‘Really couldn’t put a finger on it. It’s not like I’m eager to go see them.’
As if on cue, I hear three hard knocks on the front door. Lorelai and I look at them confused.
‘I wonder who is banging like they’re the police,” I mutter out loud while walking over to the door, yanking it open to reveal the back of a blonde head, tied into a tight bun. Dressed in a red pantsuit, the young woman turns around, pulling down her sunglasses. I feel the words in my mouth get stuck as I look at her. She smiles at me and decides to let herself in.
‘You know, Eliza’s been calling you like crazy,” her tone is serious, her pace is frantic at best. ‘We assumed you would answer her calls since you obviously like her the most, but you know, nope.’ She places a black Coach purse on the counter, her eyes never leaving me.
Lorelai looks around, utterly confused. ‘Um, who is this?’
Finally, the words get unstuck in my throat.
‘Andrea,” I mutter.