”This is my family. I found it all on my own. It’s little and broken, but still good. Yeah. Still good.” – Lilo and Stitch
Some time after Refueled 37
A Lil Chat
“So, this is really happening again…”
Her voice is nearly whisper soft, even with the laptop’s premium speakers turned up high, and Lindsay knew this conversation wasn’t going to be a pleasant one even before she opened the screen and hit the Facetime app.
How could it be, given the current circumstances? A family split, once again, and all Dan Ryan’s doing. This time, though, it wasn’t Dan and Lindsay at odds with one another, at least not yet; it was Dan severing ties with Alaina, offering no explanation, and going off on a new path of wanton destruction….with their teenage daughter following suit.
As Lindsay sits on her living room couch, elbows on knees, fingers steepled in front of her mouth, she wishes this call wasn’t happening today. She should have canceled, made up an excuse, said they’d do it tomorrow or the next day. It would have delayed the inevitable, but it would have been a kindness. Instead, she stares back at the screen and watches Alaina run her fingers through her blonde hair, brown roots showing far too much growth than she ever would have let herself deal with had Dan not blindsided her months before. Cecilia was initially told to go with her mother, but she took off one afternoon to rejoin her father in Chicago, and Alaina hasn’t heard from either of them since, despite all her efforts.
The youngest Troy, from a college friend’s beach house on the West Coast, looks every bit as broken as Lindsay imagines she must have after she found out her own husband cheated last year. To see her sister in this state is a dagger to the heart every time they talk, and Lindsay knows, deep down, there isn’t anything she can do to ease her burden.
“Yes, it’s really happening again,” she replies, finally, dropping her hands to her lap. On the table next to the computer, a steamy mug of coffee rests on a coaster, begging to be sipped. “You must have heard the news. Dan and I for the ICON title at Alcatraz.”
The press release announcing her Number One Contendership dropped the day after No Remorse, with Lindsay confirming her intention to not only challenge her brother-in-law for his newly won belt, but to not back down from him either. “Alaina,” she continues, feeling her expression soften, “I told you it would be better if you didn’t watch the shows for awhile, though…”
“I know what you said.” Alaina’s answer carries a frosty tone with it. “It’s not as easy as you think.”
“I know it’s not. I’m not saying it is.”
A sigh escapes the estranged Mrs. Ryan’s lips. “I waver, every day, between finally accepting that my husband’s thrown our marriage away, and holding out hope that something, somewhere, will make him realize what a mistake he’s made. And I wonder if I’m an idiot for it.”
Lindsay’s fingers curl around the coffee mug and she takes a long, slow swig to buy herself some time. Between the two of them, Alaina’s always been the hopeful, optimistic one, and Lindsay the practical, realistic one. These traits of hers are two of many reasons why she and Dan got on so well right from the beginning, all those years ago. Two career-driven people with no friends to their names forming an unlikely rapport in a cutthroat business hellbent on thinning herds, breaking the weak, and elevating the strong.
They called themselves the Inner Circle because for the longest time, they were the only ones the other trusted so they only let each other in. Night after night, company after company, Dan Ryan and Lindsay Troy were thick as thieves and on top of the world. The bonds of friendship would eventually become the bonds of family, tested once four years ago, and eventually repaired.
Today, Lindsay finds herself in a precarious situation, walking a tightrope between wanting to support her sister and knowing that this is the risk Alaina took in dating and marrying someone “in the business,” not to mention that “someone” being Lindsay’s best friend. She tried to warn her, all those years ago, but in true Troy fashion Alaina was stubborn and wouldn’t listen. Now she’s paying the price.
“Lanni,” Lindsay starts, setting her coffee back down. “You’re not an idiot.” Another kindness, and it sours her stomach to think of it this way. “I don’t think you’re wrong for hoping for the best case scenario; that’s just how you are. But I don’t think there’s going to be a miraculous realization, and I’m sorry for that. I am.”
Alaina’s eyes go wide and an incredulous huff escapes her mouth. “So I should give up, then? Is that what you’re saying?”
“Alaina, I know you’re hurting, I do. I’m only…”
“I don’t want to give up on my marriage like you gave up on yours, Lindsay.”
Alaina may as well have physically reached through the screen and slapped her older sister, with the way Lindsay winces from the blow. For a moment, she says nothing, and Alaina’s chilly demeanor eventually starts to thaw once she realizes how deep her words cut.
“I’m sorry,” she says, defeated. “That was uncalled for.”
Lindsay offers a small nod. “It was. I’m not one to try and work things out with a man who’s disrespectful and not loyal. You know that.”
Alaina frowns. “I do.”
“And you threw that back in my face just because I don’t think there’s any hope of Dan coming around.” Lindsay can feel herself getting heated; an unintended consequence of her attempt to be supportive and seeing her own marital failures being used against her. “When’s the last time you talked to him? June?”
“If that’s not telling, Lanni, then I don’t know what is.”
“Have you talked to him?”
Lindsay shakes her head. “No. Not for awhile, and not much since I came back from Seattle. I’m in a tough spot, with me feeling that I need to prove to myself that I belong in GoD, so I haven’t talked a whole lot to anyone. If I were you, by this point, I’d get my affairs in order, get a lawyer, and try to move on. Don’t keep clinging to something that doesn’t want to be fixed.”
Alaina bites her lip and looks down at the floor. “Alright” she says. “I’ll think about it.” When she looks back up and sees her sister’s dubious gaze, she adds, “I will.”
It’s about as good an answer as Lindsay could have hoped for.
After Refueled 39
An Aunt’s Lament
She isn’t sure which hurts more: her gouged-out, bloody forehead from the Minister’s pen, her back from his multiple, vicious chairshots, or her shattered heart from her eighteen year old niece.
No… it’s her heart, for sure.
Lindsay sits on the floor of her locker room, tears silently tumbling down her cheeks, and stares morosely at the once-pristine picture of herself and Cecilia Ryan on the boardwalk by the white sandy beaches of Tampa. It’s been violently desecrated, with Ceese coloring over her aunt in a bloody red crayon: a harsh X over her face and the word TRAITOR scrawled in childlike lettering over the length of her body.
There are many things Lindsay doesn’t understand about this, the main one being why, and another being this apparent regression back to adolescence. Cecilia has always been mature for her age, and aunt and niece have always been close, even before Lindsay started training her to follow in her and Dan’s footsteps in “the family business.” Cecilia might as well be another one of her own kids, and there isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for her, which makes all of this so troubling.
If something was bothering Ceese, why didn’t she say something? This passive-aggressiveness is not like her, despite her teenage proclivities.
Lindsay thinks about shooting Cecilia a text and decides against it; sending something in the heat of the moment has never worked out well for her. She also considers reaching out to Dan, and thinks better of that too. Letting this breathe for a little bit might be the best course to take, and she opts to hold off for the moment.
One thing is for sure, she is definitely not telling her sister about this.
Not yet, anyway.
The end of September
After Refueled 40
And the busted bathroom mirror
In hindsight, putting her fist through the glass was an idiotic, impractical move, but in the moment it felt cathartic.
Lindsay picks the large pieces from between her knuckles and watches the blood spill into the white porcelain sink. It flows into the drain, disappearing into the black, and she concedes that maybe the time for hindsight is past her now.
In truth, it was past her a long time ago. It’s just taken her awhile to fully realize it.
A month and a half from now will mark one year since the wheels were put in motion by herself and Michael Lee Best for the implosion of the Industry and the rise of the Group of Death. It took a tag team title defense with Dan at Rumble at the Rock after Eric Dane bailed on her and HOW for it to happen. Since GoD’s formation, Lindsay’s stumbled more than she’s succeeded, living inside her own head instead of wholly returning to the killer nature of her youth, letting twinges of guilt and insecurity burrow deep in her mind.
Not only did opportunities slip through her grasp, but it left her ripe for the picking in War Games and vulnerable to an unsuspecting attack by a returning Eric Dane.
And while she would exact her revenge on the Only Star, there’s still so much she feels she has left to prove.
”You are the sum of your choices, whether you like it or not,” Dan told her in the spring while they were locked in a garage by Cecilia’s hand, and at the time she thought it was easy for him to say, because he is not a man who thinks much about the consequences of his actions on an actual human level. He simply isn’t wired that way, and whatever humanity of his she could once appeal to, it’s gone now.
There is no more being his moral compass or saving him from himself. Lindsay put herself in that position from the start and was more than willing to do it – even if Dan didn’t want her to a lot of the time – because that’s what friends do for each other. They’re there for one another, they take up these mantles, they have each other’s backs. But there is no more morality with Dan Ryan; whoever he is now, he’s too far gone from the brink to be pulled back.
Last year’s Rumble at the Rock may as well have been a lifetime ago. Her match with Dan at Alcatraz this year won’t be like it was in February during the LBI. Friendly competition doesn’t exist with him, especially when there’s a title on the line, and that title – the ICON title – was won by throwing Andy Murray off a balcony and decimating Cayle Murray with one shot to the head.
There’s no telling what’s in store for her at “Uncle Sam’s Devil’s Island” except the fight of her life, and she’ll need to do whatever needs to be done to survive and win.
Lindsay grabs a towel and holds it over her hand, applying pressure to stem the blood flow, and once it tapers she walks over to the linen closet to find some gauze and tape. One quick wrap job later and she’s down the stairs again, stopping at her gear bag to grab her phone and Cecilia’s “present,” then makes her way to her office. On the way, she dials Alaina, not caring much about the time difference this early in the morning; she’ll call multiple times if she has to.
On the third try, Lindsay gets her.
“Hey,” Alaina’s voice is groggy and unprepared for this conversation. “It’s 5AM. What’s up? Are you OK?”
Lindsay immediately switches the call to Facetime so her sister can see her. Alaina, shocked, shoots bolt upright in bed.
“Oh…oh my God. Your face! What happened?”
“You didn’t watch this week?”
“No, I haven’t been. I went out with some friends. Lindsay, what the hell?”
“Good. You listened.” There’s a hint of amusement in Lindsay’s response, her sister being so hesitant about taking her suggestions before. “What about the other things?”
“What is going on?” Alaina scowls. “This isn’t like you to call and not be straight with me.”
“You want to know what’s going on, Lanni?” Lindsay picks up on the deflection and slams the ruined picture of herself and Cecilia onto the desk. She turns the phone so the camera captures both it and herself for Alaina to view in full 12 megapixel clarity. “Do you see?”
Nothing from her sister except stunned stillness.
“Do you see what he’s done?” Lindsay points to her swollen features that really need an ice pack. “Do you see what your daughter did?” Now to the picture. “We know that he’s done far worse to me, but ’my face’ is what happened after I went to talk to him about Cecilia’s masterpiece that was left in my locker room. If this isn’t proof that everything you’ve known and loved is dead and gone then I don’t know what is.”
She puts the picture off to the corner; a reminder of how things are now, and where they are more than likely going.
“There is no ‘fixing’ this, Alaina, or ‘fixing’ him,” Lindsay continues, her voice becoming intense, more resolute. “You made a vow until death do you part, and the man you made that vow to may be physically alive but everything you knew about him is dead. I’m facing the man who’s replaced him, and you need to do what needs to be done if you haven’t already.”
There’s spittle on the phone, and she wipes it off with the sleeve of her long-sleeve tee. She glares at the screen, waiting for her sister to answer.
There’s hesitation and, to be fair, there’s a lot to take in here. Finally, Alaina replies. “I heard you.”
“…I’m working on it.”
“Don’t bullshit me.”
“I’m not. I met with someone this week.”
Lindsay pauses. Studies her sister’s face to see if she’s lying. “Fine. I’ll talk to you soon. I have my own things that I need to take care of.”
“Alright.” Alaina smiles softly. “Be careful.”
The time for cautiousness is about to pass, but this is nothing that the Queen’s little sister needs to know about. Instead, Lindsay simply returns the tender grin and says, “You too.”