Thursday, December 17
Richardson Christmas Tree Farm
Spring Grove, IL
“Dude, I heard he set half the woods on fire.”
“Dude, I heard there was nothing left of him except his bowler hat.”
“Dude, *I* heard…”
Four and a half miles from the Illinois/Wisconsin border, somewhere amongst 75 acres of sugary snow-dusted firs, spruces, and pines just waiting for their perfect home, Lindsay Troy wishes the earth would open up underneath her feet and swallow her whole.
It’s her own fault, really, for waiting this long to get a Christmas tree. The Big Day is eight days away, and under normal circumstances this errand would have been completed the weekend after Thanksgiving. Certainly no later than the first weekend in December. But this year hasn’t been a normal year for the current LSD Champion, and even with the elation she felt after finally accomplishing her goal of attaining HOW singles gold, the feeling didn’t last.
December is tough. Has been for several years. The yammering from Jatt Starr and Steve Harrison about the state of her fertility isn’t simply more bad guy shit meant to draw nuclear heat for HOW’s biggest pay-per-view of the year. There is truth to it, not that it’s ever been much of a secret.
While on a break from PRIME to take care of her ailing uncle, the man that raised her and her sister after their parents died, Lindsay became pregnant but ultimately lost the baby. She and Tyler Rayne were devastated. The Troy Family History is one of complicated pregnancies – the girls’ mother died in childbirth and their aunt could never conceive. Rather than hide her devastation, she was open about it, hoping to help dispel the stigma around miscarriages and stillbirths for other women who may live and suffer in silence.
Her body, always strong, always powerful, always successful in an industry that often objectifies women before ever rewarding them, failed her then. But the Queen knew she was strong enough to heal from the trauma, and resilient enough to handle the jabs and jokes thrown her way from ne’er-do-wells looking to tear her down, to make her believe she was less-than a woman.
It took several months of healing, processing, and refocusing, but when Lindsay returned to the ring, she returned with a vengeance.
Isn’t it amazing what a body can do?
And right now, glomping her way through the snow and the trees, her body is doing its very best to ignore the apparent High Octane fans who have been standing at a distance and contemplating the fate of Hughie Freeman without making it seem like they’re low-key following her.
“I should have gotten a fake tree,” she mutters. One gloved hand pulls her hat down further over her ears, while the other curls around the handle of the bow saw she borrowed from one of her neighbors, who made it a point to chuckle when she asked if they had one the day before.
”Kinda late to be getting a tree, huh?” was his casual reply as he handed over the tool with a grin. She gave him a thin-lipped smile in return before turning her back to head into the house, rolling her eyes as she did.
There’s something about living in a cold weather climate that says “real tree” to Lindsay, though. When she was still married and living in Florida, she, Tyler, and the kids had an artificial tree; appropriate, as last Christmas felt manufactured to her. She already knew about her husband’s infidelity, but kept it to herself and kept up appearances through the holidays for the sake of the kids. When she and Tyler split, she left the tree but took the decorations and keepsakes, knowing that she’d want to make things feel like home when Ami and Kaz came for the holidays during their respective school breaks.
A fake tree would have been easier, but it just wouldn’t do. Her first Christmas without Rayne deserves something real.
Lindsay ducks down a row of trees just slightly shorter than she is and begins inspecting them, shaking off the snow from the branches, looking for large gaps between the boughs, testing the weight of the shoots. The first few are pine trees; not what she wants. To her left are some Fraser firs, but the first one she looks at has a hole on the side. There are plenty still to choose from, so she leaves it be.
Eventually, towards the end of the row, the perfect one appears. Straight as an arrow, lush, shiny and full, with ample space between the branches, but not so much that it’s see-through. The Lady of the Hour smiles brightly as she steps forward to test the needles and, satisfied that they won’t fall off, she stoops down to begin sawing the trunk.
“So, do you think he did it?”
She gets three cuts in before the voice chimes in, interrupting her flow.
Lindsay looks up to see the three kids, who can’t be much older than her own, standing a few feet away.
“Do I think who did what?” she asks, playing dumb for the moment, knowing this won’t get her very far but will at least allow her to keep sawing, and gets back to her task.
“Yeah,” another kid says. “Do you think he…you know…”
She looks up again, just as the second boy pantomimes putting a gun to his mouth, pulling the trigger, and convulsing. His friends titter, but the performance elicits a frown from the LSD champion and she shakes her head.
“No, I don’t,” Lindsay answers, not stopping what she’s doing. “I don’t believe that the Hughie Freeman I’ve watched and listened to the past few months would do that instead of beating a man he considers pretentious to a pulp, or trying to regain a prize he lost.”
She stops, switches hands, and keeps going. “He’s proud, yes, and he’s also resilient. You don’t survive months in Alcatraz being gaslit by HOW management and come out unscathed, but the Pikey’s not the kind of man who’d let it warp his mind and consume his soul to the point of wanting off this earth. He’s a tough bastard that comes from hard stock.”
The tree starts to lean over and the boys spring forward to help support it as Lindsay finishes cutting the trunk. She gives them a smile as she stands up, and wraps a hand around the top of the tree to relieve them of their charity.
“Thanks,” she says. “I’m not expecting to sing a dirge at an Irish wake for Hughie. I think he’ll be there Saturday. Otherwise, a ring-rusty Jonny O’Dell is going to be in for a world of pain.”
The saying goes that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
But what do I say to you, Hughie, the man who wants no friends and who lives for making enemies?
I’m not quite sure you’re that person anymore, but I’m also not quite sure that you’re a person who knows what to do when you’ve made a friend. You’ve felt betrayed, and you’ve felt used, and you feel like you can only trust your family.
Believe me, I know that feeling. I’ve been both the betrayer and the betrayed this year; ridden highs and sunk to lows, and now I’m riding high again.
You and I have something in common, Hughie, and I’m not talking about being LSD title holders. Jatt’s done that too, back in the time when Han shot first. I’m not even talking about our mutual distaste for the Milk Man. No, I’m talking about the target that’s been painted on our backs by GOD and Sheep, Lee and Scotty, and I know that doesn’t sit well with you, just as it doesn’t sit well with me.
You and I have a fighting respect for each other, that much is true, but where you’re wrong is where you think that I’m some pet of the HOW establishment. Don’t get it twisted, Lee Best takes as much pleasure in my failings as does every two-bit shitlord in this place, whether they’re in the Best Alliance or not.
I’m no apple of GOD’s eye, but I’d love to be the poison that resides in it.
I’ve got a plan, Hughie. Make it out of ICONIC with this belt still around my waist, make it past whoever Lee throws at me next, and then get after the man himself. And I’d be willing to bet you may not think that’s such a bad idea either.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and you might do well to make one or two.
I have every intention of beating the kong shit out of Jatt and Harrison, then continuing what you and I started at Refueled 46 so I can prove to you, and to any lingering doubters, that my LSD championship win was no fluke. Every minute of struggle, every second of doubt, every second-guess I had led up to that moment….once I felt the breath leave your throat and your body go limp, I knew, I knew, that it was worth it.
You may not have said I Quit, but you gave up. And I’m more than ready to go punch for punch, scrap for scrap, with you one more time. The current and the former LSD champions going hard nose, full out, may the best person win.
And when my hand is raised and my first defense is successful, you and I should set our sights on felling a GOD.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
If you say it enough times, Hughie, you might just start believing it.