Thursday, December 17
The world-famous white beams and arches of O’Hare Airport’s Terminal 2 are fully decked in winter greenery that hug the metal poles like a warm Christmas hug. White lights wrap around the branches and impossibly large red bows hold them in place while, underneath, thousands of passers-by hustle and bustle along to their gates, or baggage claim, or to grab a quick snack or cup o’joe before their holiday flights take off to parts unknown.
Outside of Gate F9, a moderately tall, fresh-faced boy posts up against a pillar, one Nike-clad shoe resting against the column while the other taps the marble floor. He bobs his head to a tune playing from his Airpods, his jet black hair swaying as his head dips and lifts. Resting against the inside of his leg is a duffel bag stuffed nearly to the gills, and if his growing biceps weren’t visible against the fabric of his hoodie, one would think it’d be too much for him to carry.
Kaz’s flight got in early; surprising since they were delayed leaving Seattle due to fog. Favorable tailwinds over the Plains guided his Delta flight to O’Hare’s tarmac ahead of schedule, and now he waits, equal parts excited and impatient, for his sister Ami’s United flight to land from Boston’s Logan airport.
He hasn’t seen his sister since the summer, when the twins went with Lindsay to Seattle for her match training against Eric Dane. Although they talk via Google Duo several times a week, and text almost every day, it’s not the same as actually seeing someone face to face, and the young wrestler-in-training is not only eager to see his sister’s reaction when she sees him, but his mother’s as well.
The twins are in town ahead of schedule to surprise the Queen with a few extra days of family time over Christmas. Ami finished her exams ahead of schedule, and thanks to some understanding bosses at each of their jobs, they were able to reschedule their flights to Thursday instead of Monday. Even Sonny Silver, Kaz’s head trainer, didn’t give him too much shit for taking off early, which Kaz chalked up to Lindsay reading Silver the riot act after Sonny made it seem like Kaz left his training for good when he didn’t.
From Kaz’s peripheral vision, he sees the gate door open and people start to filter out. He lifts his head as the Bostonians deplane one by one, waiting for that familiar face and cheery grin to greet him.
He doesn’t have to wait but ten minutes.
“Kaz!” Ami’s chipper voice rings out over the din. She maneuvers around a family with a wayward toddler so her own duffel bag and backpack doesn’t hit someone and bolts over to her brother, wrapping him up in a hug.
“Oof.” Kaz jokes. “Good thing I’ve got a bolster here, cannonball, you’re gonna bowl me over.”
“Stop it. Oh my God, wait.” Ami pulls away from her much taller brother and pats his arms. “You have muscles now?”
He laughs, knowing that he refrained from showing off for his sister on their calls. “Yeah. Turns out that’s what happens when you hit the weights. It’s kinda sorta encouraged.”
“Knock it off. Smartass.” She smacks his arm and he feigns injury. “I’m happy you’re not a string bean anymore. Less chance of you getting hurt, I guess.”
“No, you’re the string bean now,” he replies, which earns him a scowl. “I’m still getting put through the ringer with every training session, but I’m picking things up quicker and everything’s coming easier.” He motions for her to follow him away from the seating area, and the two fall in line with a throng of people heading toward the airport’s lower level.
“When do you think you’ll be done training?”
“Nobody’s said. I’d love to be done by the time you’re done with school in the spring. It’d be great if we could graduate together and spend some time together in the summer before I sign with a company and you get a job somewhere.”
“I’d like that,” Ami says. “But if you’re still there, I’ll come visit you in Seattle. Or we can meet up here halfway. Mom would like that.”
“I know she would. She’s going to freak when we show up at the house. She has no idea, right?”
“Not that I know of,” Ami shakes her head. “But I’m glad things worked out that we were able to do this. She’s got that big match coming up on Saturday and now she won’t be here alone for it.”
Kaz nods as he and his sister step onto the escalator. “I know. And you know she probably won’t easily admit it, but I think she’ll be happy to have us physically present and giving her moral support, you know?”
“Yeah. It’s been a shitty year,” Ami steps off the elevator first. “First her and dad split, then everything with Uncle Dan and Cecilia. I don’t even think Aunt Alaina’s coming for Christmas.”
“No, mom said she wasn’t. Said something about her having other plans. Come on, the rideshare line’s this way.” Kaz walks to the left, reaching into his pocket for his phone and navigates to the Lyft app. The line’s about fifteen deep; not yet terrible for Illinois’ busiest airport. “I’ll get the ride to mom’s if you get the ride back.”
“Deal. And hey,” Ami squeezes Kaz’s forearm. “Me, you, and mom have got each other. Everything else is gonna figure itself out.”
40ish minutes later
“Ugh, fuck it, I’ll finish this when I get back.”
Lindsay Troy’s hauled out the holly, and put up the tree before her spirit fell again. She hasn’t yet filled the stockings, and she may be rushing things but she’ll be decking the halls again … as soon as she comes back from her afternoon training session.
Christmas cheer has exploded all over her living room, with the tree partially trimmed, stockings hung, and plastic plug-in candles in the front and side windows. If she didn’t have a prior engagement, it’s safe to say that she’d be fully prepared for Santa’s, and her kids’, arrival next week. But the life of a wrestler doesn’t stop for the holidays, and with a title to defend now, Lindsay’s been putting in extended, double sessions at EKF in the lead-up to ICONIC.
This is how much winning a title means to her. Not only does it make the Queen feel like she’s finally “made it,” but she feels like she’s considered an equal amongst her peers….even if her peers include Jatt Starr as a tag team champion.
She’s not content to rest on this laurel. Resting could lead to complacency, which could lead to losing the prize she just gained, and the last thing she wants to do is drop the belt that she worked so hard and so long to obtain.
Lindsay brushes her hands together, satisfied with a job well done for now, and moves toward the stairs to head up to her bedroom to change for her workout. She’s not halfway up the flight when she hears the lock turn and the door open.
“Mom?” Ami calls, walking through the door with Kaz right behind her. “Are you home?”
“What the…” Lindsay flies back down the stairs, not even bothering with the last three. “Oh my God, Ami! Kaz!”
The Queen wraps her children up in a gigantic hug, not even letting them fully get in the foyer or put their bags down. “I can’t believe it; what are you doing here?!”
“Surprise!” Kaz says, and plants a kiss on Lindsay’s cheek. “We’ve come bearing gifts and good luck for your big title defense.”
Lindsay smiles and hugs the twins tighter. “Well. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to prepare for yet another fight of my life than having you two here. I was just about to leave for the gym and I could use a cheering section.”
“Sounds like we made it just in time then,” Ami says, returning her mother’s grin, and closing the door behind them.