VI. Samson Saltair and Mae Ashby Are Raging Inside Me EPILOGUE | Puppets
The following contains mature and sensitive subjects. We, as the writers of this piece, feel we have done our best to present them with the gravity and sensitivity they warrant. It is not our intention to trigger or offend anyone, and we believe we have been careful to not cross any lines with which we ourselves would not be comfortable. We have been careful to ensure the finished piece does not make light of or exploit any of the themes and subjects addressed. That said, we feel this disclaimer and caution is prudent.
It’s a story about two damaged, isolated girls who couldn’t be any more different, but found themselves a common thread that would tie them together forever.
It was a boy.
He was a saint; always looking for the good in people. Always giving someone the benefit of the doubt, even if their intentions weren’t the most pure. Even when someone was scoping the scene for an easy mark, even when someone was looking to manipulate the surroundings to get themselves ahead; he thought there wasn’t a single person in the world who wasn’t beyond redemption.
People might’ve called him naive, but his heart was virtuous; not hardened. Not blackened. He wanted the best for everyone; not just those who worshipped him. Not just those who depended on him.
He wanted the best for me.
He wanted to see me thrive. He wanted to see me succeed. He wanted to see me take on all challenges and, win or lose, find the greater good. There were lessons to be learned, and messages to receive - even in failure. He never wanted to see me bury my head in the sand after my worst disappointments; instead? He wanted me to bloom. He wanted me to flourish. He never wanted me to stop learning, to stop growing, to stop fighting. He knew that I took the ridicule to heart, but that I was always my own harshest critic. The scars remain on my arms, my legs, my abdomen - the hurt lingers in my heart, my mind, my soul - but even that self-hatred couldn’t be buried under the fact that he would forever be my biggest fan.
And he wanted the best for you.
He knew everything about you, Adelaide. He knew how much baggage you carried. He knew what crews you used to run with. He knew about Neveah, and how you wanted to correct your biggest failure. The abandonment. The selfishness. He knew how much you hated yourself for it, but could never find the fucking courage to admit it. He knew that there was a bounty on your head, and he felt it his duty to absorb your target. People wanted your head on a fucking pike, and he was so selfless and so brave to push you out of the way and take your fucking punishment himself.
And he would never admit it. He would never hold you responsible. He would never let the resentment fester and fester, growing in the pit of your stomach like an inoperable tumor, poisoning every organ until you’re hovered over the shitter seeing your own reflection swirling in piss and tears and acid and bile.
But I do.
We loved him, together. We cherished him, together. We buried him, together.
And in the year since, I’ve tried to find myself, my purpose, and my salvation without him for the first time in my life. And it hasn’t been easy; my struggles are well-documented. I’ve got cameras tracking my movements every time I step outside, just hoping and praying they’ll catch me in momentary collapse. The promises I’ve made to myself, and to my sponsors, and to Robbie - everyone else wants to see me fail. And I’ve needed people to steer me in the right direction, to help me keep my eyes on my goals. When things are just beyond my fingertips, I’ve always harnessed that extra bit of fight until I reached them. Whether it was the briefcase, or the World Championship, or the United States Championship - I snatched them for myself when it appeared I never could. And when I was shackled to the hospital bed with needles prodding every vein - when I was living in primal paradise, running on the clouds with him - he gave me back to you. To Action Wrestling. I snatched my life back from the jaws of death; meanwhile, you were penning my fucking eulogy.
I survived in spite of you.
You don’t get to hold a grip over me anymore, Adelaide. I don’t have to answer to you, or explain anything to you, or justify myself to you, because you haven’t done a fucking thing to earn it. You did the one thing you’re best at - abandoning your responsibilities, and when you’ve decided you’re ready, you throw yourself back in to be the fucking savior.
A year ago, I needed my sister, and she was nowhere to be found. And there was a group of people who felt I was worth saving, and they invested their time and resources into me, and look where I am now. I’m on the top of the fucking game, again, because this is where I’m meant to be. This is where I will always be, and it’s somewhere you’ll never be without me - and I think there’s that cancerous resentment again, growing inside the pit of your stomach, leaving no room for a fucking baby.
I know all of your secrets too, Addy, just as you knew all of mine. I let you in, I gave you permission to get closer, to be a part of my inner circle. I watched Robbie fall for you, even against my initial apprehension, and your love blossomed until his brains were scrambled on a Las Vegas sidewalk. A box of some gruesome polaroids and a revolver might’ve been enough for me to forgive your vindication, but they will never be enough to make me forget your fucking culpability.
And here you are, just shocked that I have the audacity to feel hurt, to feel betrayed, to feel anger that the reason you haven’t been here when I needed you was because you’re satisfied being his fucking groupie instead. This punk, this pseudo-hipster loser man-child shows you a little love and you forget everyone who was there with you for the hurt.
You sent me to voicemail on his fucking anniversary, you miserable cunt.
It doesn’t feel good to hurt the ones you love.
And I do still have love for you, Addy.
I always will.
We’re the fucking Swallowing, remember? We defied the odds, cast aside our differences, and formed the greatest tag team in the history of Action Wrestling. We changed the course of the division, breaking records, winning awards, beating Hall of Famers. We had all of our biggest fans in the crowd, screaming our name - none louder than Robbie.
It wasn’t you, Johnny.
You don’t get to take that away from him.
What we were to you was an idea. An escape. A fantasy. You weren’t our biggest fan just because you say you are. Just how it isn’t easy to put hands on the ones you love, it’s just as difficult to tear down your idols.
So why does it come so easy for you, John?
I dismissed you, months ago, and that’s all it took. You were this hanger-on hanging on to my hanger-on, never getting the personal invitation but still feeling like you were entitled to anything. I gave you a nod, a photo-op, a hug where you probably had to hide your dick in your belt-buckle, but when I treated you as what you were - a fan - you felt disrespected. Even if you hadn’t done a damn thing to be treated any differently, that tainted this image of me you had.
And you’ve been on a mission to discredit me, to humiliate me ever since. Even before you’d proven yourself a budding star in this industry, you needed to manufacture a rivalry with me to get yourself on the map. You fucking hypocrite; every time you’ve ever denounced someone who’s just trying to get to know me, who’s just trying to seek some professional guidance from someone who’s done everything in this fucking industry, and from anyone who’s just opening their heart so they could get into mine - you’ve poisoned the well. You’ve called them clout-demons, and snakes; you won’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maybe, they are actually interested in me, and aren’t only interested in what they can get from me.
But that’s not your fucking role, Johnny.
I never asked you to fill the void of what I’ve lost.
I’ve never wanted you to.
Especially not from some pathetic, pompous imp who’s everything he accuses others of being. Take a look in the fucking mirror, John, and tell me what you see. Is that someone you’re proud of? After every match where you wow the crowd with your fearlessness, your tenacity, your toughness; are you wiping off the blood from your wounds with a shirt embroidered with my fucking face on it?
What did I mean to you, John? Be fucking honest, for the first time in your life. What did I represent to you? If I was the big inspiration for you like you claim, than why would you feel so inclined to hold on to the past? Yeah, it’s true - I was the top of the fucking industry when I was winning two World Championships. When I was one-half of the most groundbreaking tag teams in the history of this company.
But I was also a lost girl, with fresh cuts over my body, with a heart so hurt that before I could remedy it, I had to punish it. That’s when you found me the most inspirational? That’s the Lissie fuckin' Hope you’ve been clamoring for? I’m better now; my conscious is clear, my goals are within reach, I have the support I've always needed. And you have the fucking gall to say I’ve changed?
No fucking shit, Bacchus.
I’ve changed, because I needed to change. And if it’s my fans who want me to stay in the fucking gutter - then they, and you, should accept the fucking responsibility when I'm lying in it again. You were the motherfuckers who put me on the pedestal to begin with, and you’re the first ones to kick the fucking leg out from under me.
It’s time you understand your own culpability, John. You, and the people like you. You demanded greatness, and when I couldn’t live up to your expectations, you lead the charge for everyone who’s ever tried to tear me down. You try to save-face, distancing yourself when people like Max Daemon and J.C. Keeton would go too far, but behind the fucking keyboard you’re just relieved that someone else went there before you did. You want to keep this idea of yourself uncompromised; this benevolent do-gooder sitting in an ivory tower who’s too pure to play in the dirt. But this is your empire, John. You are no better than me, than them, than anyone.
I see you for what you really are.
I see you for what you don’t want anyone else to see.
You’re not brave for waging war with Philidor Holdings.
If we wanted to swat away the irritating vulture sucking the blood from our necks, we would rid ourselves of the nuisance without a second thought. But you’re fun, John. This is fun for me. I saw how wide your eyes got when you realized you stepped into some shit you’re not equipped to handle. You thought you would outsmart me, and manipulate me easily because you think I’m an easy mark - but you almost got yourself into something you couldn’t charm your way out of.
Post by Lissie Hope on Oct 5, 2021 11:11:08 GMT -5
I. Brick ft. Addy A & Johnny Bacchus
FRIDAY | 10:00 AM Planned Parenthood Des Moines, Iowa
I sat in the backseat of the Uber, the driver was getting impatient. I could hear Johnny telling him to calm down, but the black clouds floating around in my head left me with an inability to process the words as anything but white noise. It seemed the more the driver raised his voice the more Johnny tried to keep him calm. As I peered out the tinted glass of the back window, I could see the gathered mob of small-minded pro-life morons, blinded by a deliberate misinterpretation of the Bible. I felt Johnny’s reassuring hand on my thigh.
I’m pretty sure he said it was time to go, whatever he said only translated into an elegant buzz in my mind. I reached for the door handle, the click of the internal mechanisms echoed around my skull like it was an echo chamber. I stepped out of the car, Johnny slid across the leather and stepped out beside me, as soon as he shut the door the Uber was gone. His arm wrapped around my shoulders.
“Now or never.” His words were a juxtaposed mixture of unsettling and comforting. At the fog and noise clouding my brain was fading away allowing me to think a little clearer. This was something I wanted to do. Something I knew I needed to do. But, fuck me, I can’t see I was looking forward to it. It was something I had to do. Next to me, Johnny could sense the tension in my body - I could tell he was as worried as I was, but he was doing his best to hide it from me to keep me at peace, he pulled my head into his clavicle. I breathed peacefully for a moment and looked up into his eyes and he looked down into mine.
“Once more unto the breach…” I smiled. It was good to have him by my side for this. He looked at me strangely at that moment. I wondered if it was my choice of phrasing.
“Hang on, Saint Christopher.”
We started to walk, hand in hand towards the clinic. The crowd of the unenlightened had noticed our approach and started turning their direct attention to us. We paused our footsteps. “Bacchycat. I’m gonna break the first fuckin’ nose that gets in me face.” He blinked, and stared at me to check if I was serious or just messing around. I was deadly serious and he saw that in my face.
“You sure that’s a good idea?”
“Not so good ideas got me ‘ere.” I laugh, to distract myself as much as anything else. “Why stop now?”
Johnny smiles at me, there’s something behind his eyes. He rubs my shoulders affectionately.
We continue on.
I saw her first. Placard in hand, chanting some bullshit about murder. That blonde bob, the overly caked-on makeup lathered across her face. This bitch ain’t ever worked a day in her life. Doubt she even changed her own kids' shitty arse. She was storming over to Johnny and Me like she was going to give me, us, a piece of her mind. Her mouth opened and before she could even finish the first syllable of spewed hate, my left fist was landing on her nose. I felt the cartilage crack under my knuckles. She dropped to the ground, blood pouring out of her once pristine face.
Her little sycophants surrounded me and Johnny. Some brunette bitch was the first to speak up after witnessing me turning the little leader into a blubbering mess on the sidewalk.
“You should be ashamed of yourself.” The stammer in her voice was comical, she was trying to be a strong Karen but was a petrified little toddler inside. I feigned a punch and she flinched much further than she should have.
“Why?” I pretend to be ignorant as Johnny stood there looking like he was desperate for something to say.
“Abortion is murder,” she recites the pamphlet rhetoric at me.
I ignore her. Honestly, I couldn’t be bothered getting into this argument right now and I’ve probably used all my favours up to get off the inevitable assault charges I would rack up as threw left hands through this crowd. The dumb blonde Karen on the ground ain’t going to say shit she’s too embarassed by the whole incident.
I walk on, but notice that our brave brunette has grabbed Johnny’s arm that stutters his step, I pause in my tracks and turn around. “Convince her to do the right thing - it’s your baby too.” Johnny gives a coy smirk- I feel this is the moment he’s been waiting for:
“I’m getting one, too. We got a BOGO coupon for voting for Biden four times.”
Fucking Johnny. I love him. I could tell he’d been saving that one up. Her jaw is resting on the floor. Johnny wraps his arms around my shoulders and we walk into the clinic. I whisper in his ear, “Ya know I didn’t even vote. Bernie or bust.” We snicker to release the tension.
Pressing the buzzer, it sends a jolt through my body, Johnny senses it and pulls me in closer to give me… (us?) comfort. The faint smell of mangos fills my nose, smells like home in the summer.
A metallic click. He pushes the door open for me and holds it open like a gentleman as I take a deep breath and step into the abyss. Well that’s an exaggeration in my own thought processes but this is heavy on my head and heavy on my heart. Johnny knows this, he keeps me strong right now. As I step across the void he squeezes me tight. My heartbeat quickens as I walk to the counter. The receptionist looks at me with sympathetic eyes, she’s seen many faces pass through these doors under many different circumstances - she is not judgmental.
“Adelaide Ainsworth. I have an appointment.” I had been tough as nails until that moment. Without control, without thought I began to cry, the salty tears streamed down my face, guess I’m glad I didn't wear mascara now. Johnny wraps his arms around me and pulls me tightly into his chest to let me get it all out.
“When she gets a moment she’ll need to fill this out.” I hear the receptionist tell Johnny through my blubbering. I feel him take something from her, “Sure.” I hear him say, being patient with me he squeezes just a little tighter with his free arm.
“Are you her support person?” the receptionist asks him.
“Yes.” I feel him nod.
“There’s a bit at the bottom for your details in the event of an emergency.” she tells him. I didn’t want to hear that. My crying had been calming under the pleasantness of his aroma, but now, those salty streams were gushing like Niagra Falls once more as he pulls me in as close as he possibly could and waits for me to settle. His shirt bears my stains.
“Sorry.” I hear the receptionist whisper, though I’m not sure how over my blubbering. Maybe I imagined it. Johnny releases me just a little as I start to calm. “Are you the father?” I definitely hear her ask him the question.
“No.” Johnny says, leading me to somewhere more comfortable.
It was to be a celebratory night in Manitoba. After their success in Tokyo, Johnny had flown with Addy back to Venice, and in her home city, they’d partied like it was the end of the world. Days before their dramatic arrival to Clash, both were dripping in gold, and the festivities were far from over. Bonnie and Clyde – Thelma and Louise – Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Two hellraisers on the run, winning on their terms along the way.
A case of champagne was stacked beside the hotel room dresser. Their bags lay at the foot of the king bed, with their belongs strewn haphazardly upon the unmade bed. On the table, a set of rental keys to a big Cadillac out in the parking lot sat beside two lines of the finest Colombian snow they could score and smuggle across the border. A felony destined to land them in jail if caught? Undoubtedly. But Johnny and Addy were known for nothing if not the thrill. Johnny had withdrawn his library card, diligently at work chopping and prepping the lines – on the hotel behind him, Addy regarded him with quiet amusement.
They hadn’t gotten down in Tokyo – he’d fallen asleep in the poolside lounge chair as they were coming down for their trip. On the flight home, he turned down her offer to sneak into the bathroom and join the Mile High Club – a protest she hadn’t pushed. Back in Venice, he got so drunk he passed out in the bathroom, wearing her underwear as part of an earlier drag routine – a sight sweet little Neveah would discover in the morning. All of those were somewhat understandable. But then last night, during the drive, he insisted he’d done too much blow to power himself through and would never get it up. If Adelaide Ainsworth was anything, patient was not one of them.
She stirred from the bed, creeping behind him like a lioness stalking a gazelle. He wore a loose white tank, and as it hung from his body, she could see the ripples, definition, and tone in his back and arms. Since they’d been traveling and bunking together, she’d seen almost every inch of him – his chest and stomach when he pulled his shirt off and jumped in the pool, his legs as he sashayed around her bedroom lip syncing Cardi B songs in her bra and thong, his ass when he mooned a passing car that cut them off. Almost every inch of him… with one glaring omission. And she wanted it.
She came behind him, pressing her chest to his back and snaking her arm around his waist to cup him through his pants and give a squeeze. Johnny immediately tensed up, no longer leaning forward over the drugs and dropping the library card on the desk.
“What are you doing?”
Addy stood up on the balls of her feet, getting her mouth as close to his ear as she could. “Ya ain’t never doin’ anythin’,” she purred into his ear, “so I’m takin’ something I want.”
She gave another, firmer squeeze before he pulled away, turning to face her. She was already in the process of unzipping the front of her blouse, exposing herself to him.
“Woah. Um –“
“S’okay ta be nervous, Bacchycat. I don’t bite. Often,” she giggled, still advancing on him, “an’ I won’t leave marks, less ya like that.”
His hands came up, placing them on her now bare shoulders. His eyes darted between her chest and her face, his nervousness palpable. After taking a deep breath, he spoke. “Okay,” he began, “do I want to? Yes, of course. Am I going to? Like, you’re practically my hero. I can’t fuck my hero. Morality aside, what if I was too nervous and it sucked?”
Adelaide paused to consider. “Well… that’d be fuckin’ embarassin’ for ya.” A hungry grin spread over her face, her voice dropping down to a husky growl. “But I’ll forgive ya. Once.”
She lunged again, her hands going to his belt as she craned up to press her lips to his. This time, Johnny was more firm in his denial, tilting his head back and bracing her shoulders from closing in on him. “Babygirl,” he began with hesitation, “you can tell I want to. Like, move your hands a smidge south and that much is obvious. But I can’t.” He let out a long, almost disappointed sigh. “You’re so sexy – so fuckin’ sexy. And I know you’d rock my world and have me seein’ stars… but I can’t.”
Johnny’s eyes stayed down. Addy tilted her head, first in confusion but then in realization.
“S’her ain’t it? The little blonde one ya was knockin’ boots with that went AWOL.”
Johnny looked up to make eye contact with her. A bashful smile crossed his face. “I found her,” he said, his eyes twinkling, “Flew all the way to Johannesburg after Evo to see her. She’s gonna meet me in Germany before XIII, and go to Oslo with me.”
Addy’s mouth curled down into a bratty pout, but the corners of her lips fought to twist up. It was a weird feeling for her, one she wasn’t quite familiar with. It wasn’t often she didn’t get her way, let alone with men – and it was never that she felt such a sense of happiness for the man turning her down. Her hands fell from his belt, but the coy pout remained.
“Well… tell ya what,” she said, her hand now coming up to his shoulder, “I was willing ta make an exception an go down on ya first in Japan – was gonna give ya another an’ let ya have a warm up round ‘fore ya real evaluation – I s’pose I can give ya one now and not toss ya out the door.”
They locked eyes. His eyes darted down once more and back to her face. The pout became a grin. “But I ain’t gettin’ decent again, case ya change ya mind.”
“Perfectly fine, I’ll probably go in the bathroom later and jerk off thinking about it.”
She pulled him in, and they hugged. He smelled good – the feeling of his body pressed against hers was comforting. But it wasn’t like the embrace of a lover, and that was oddly okay with Addy. The embrace of her best friend was more than enough.
I was tired. Overwhelmingly so, the fluorescent lights felt far brighter than they actually were, more than likely the side effect of coming out from the anesthesia. I sit up on the bed and notice the nurse turn around and look at me.
“Oh you’re awake.” She smiles out of habit.
“Don’t feel like it.” I slurred through the effects of the anesthetic come-down.
“I’ll get you some water,” she says this as much out of genuine kindness as the obligation of doing her job.
“I’d rather me some vodka, eh?” I plead.
“That would be a bad idea,” she says sternly, clearly not a fan of my attempt at humour. I can’t blame her. I won’t tell her but the very first fucking moment I have the chance: I’m racking up some lines and straight sculling a bottle of vodka to wash the memory of this away as quickly as possible.
I laugh, “I seem to be full of those.” She stifles a chuckle.
“Do you have a support person outside?”
Johnny.“He’s probably voting for Biden at the next election.” She looks at me really strangely, not understanding what I’ve just said, “Sorry, just a personal joke we have.”
“Oh?” the confusion rife across her face and fills her voice.
“Can he come in?” I asked.
“Sure,” she says, leaving me alone in the sterile room.
It allows my thoughts to wander. I found myself wondering how good of a big sister, Neveah would be. I hadn’t exactly been a good mother to her. She spent years living with my own messed up mother, and in the time she has been with me, I’ve left her in the care of Savannah so much. I really should be more of a stay-at-home mother, but I don’t know how. I love the time with my daughter. I wouldn’t change it for the world. But I don’t want more. I guess I’m a real cunt. The clattering of metal on the ceramic floor shakes me away from the self-reflection for the briefest of moments. But as the silence returns so do those wandering trails of thought, it’s the pregnancy that has me thinking now. I wonder if I was pregnant this time last year would I be in a place like this? Truth is probably not. I would be jumping for joy. I knew Neveah was coming home and I hadn’t yet realised the obligations of parenthood. A baby then would have had a wonderful father in Robbie. He would’ve doted on that little Hopeling. A baby would've given Hope to an Aunt, maybe even cured a black heart. A baby then? It would’ve been perfect. I would’ve taken my time - kept in contact with the ring, but I would’ve been a proper mother and I would’ve had Robbie.
It would’ve been so much better than now.
I hear the off-key singing of Johnny getting closer, as he butchers each single note of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” by Bob Dylan, the nurse had obviously been true to her word and collected him to give me some company. Thankfully, she would be unaware of what chaos this could bring - my brief survey of the room tells me there are no drugs readily available for a quick redistribution to the needy (me and Bacchycat, of course). I just now realise that my ass is cold.
Fucking Bacchycat. I love him.
Johnny finally gets to my bedside and there he is holding a bunch of flowers (How thoughtful). Of course, he brings me balloons, (so cliche). But Johnny is Johnny, he has hastily defaced the wonderful blue ‘It’s a boy’ inflatable only to make it read ‘It’s a boyrted’. I suppress the laughter but my insides shake, painfully.
“Ya an idiot.” I shake my head as he sits down next to me, giving me a gentle kiss on the top of my head.
“Takes one to know one.” We chuckle.
Sitting next to me in blissful silence, it feels like time stands still. Eventually we chat, the words just mesh together - it’s just bullshittin’ and I can’t even remember the words that I say the instant they roll off my tongue. I don’t even process the words that Johnny says back, we splice them occasionally with laughter. It’s not the conversation that’s important, it’s the comfort of being with my best friend in one of my lowest moments. It makes me feel like I should be a better friend to others. A better person.
“You can go when you’re ready,” the nurse's voice breaks through our little circle of trust.
“Thanks," I nod.
I stand up and drop the robe, as Johnny half-jokingly covers his eyes. “Ain’t nothin’ ya ain’t seen before.” I chuckle, standing there naked, white hospital gown around my ankles, all of my bits exposed jiggling with my ridiculous laughter.
Post by Lissie Hope on Oct 6, 2021 11:11:09 GMT -5
II. Every Perfect Summer Is Eating Me Alive ft. Lissie Hope & Cassidy Adler
FRIDAY | 6:00 PM Proof Restaurant Des Moines, Iowa
“Right this way, madame, your party has been expecting you.”
Cassidy, dressed in tight jeans, white Jordan’s, and an oversized Champion t-shirt walked confidently ahead as I adjusted my leather skirt stretched taut over my thighs. A flannel long-sleeve shirt cuffed to the inside of my elbow exposed just enough of the tight brassiere underneath. The maitre’d, dressed in a fitted suit, led us towards our table - we were severely underdressed for the setting. We passed high-roller patrons who eyed us with contempt, despite our public stature that they were likely unaware of. I was very perceptive of their looks, but Cassidy didn’t seem to care. Sometimes I wish I had his attitude.
“Why would they choose this place?” I asked Cassidy quietly, under my breath. He shrugged and wrapped his arm around my shoulder.
“It’s all good, baby,” he said, giving me a kiss on the cheek. “She’s probably using Dad’s credit card.”
We arrived at the table where Olive Adler sat, nibbling on a crouton. Her boyfriend, Jared Holmes, rose from his seat and offered a polite handshake. Olive didn’t bother with the formalities; her expression never wavered as she nodded at me, but her glare at her brother spoke volumes.
“Nice to meet you, finally,” I said, shaking Jared’s hand. He cupped the top of my skin intently, his smile warm.
“And you must be Cass,” Jared said, diverting his attention to him. “Olive has spoken of you.”
“Highly, right?” he said with a grin. Cass lifted onto the balls of his feet to appear a couple of inches taller.
“Something like that.”
We sat across from Olive and Jared, who had already been downing martinis. Olive pulled the garnish out of the glass and slid it in her mouth.
“Went through all the trouble to pick out a fancy place like this, and you’re still shovelling shit in your mouth like a neanderthal.” Cassidy said with a tone that was light but offered a challenge toward Olive, who didn’t respond. Her mind seemed elsewhere. My eyes ricocheted between them before I jumped in.
“This is…” I began, looking around at my uncomfortable surroundings. “...a really nice place.”
“‘Proof’ is the most appropriate place in Des Moines for an occasion like this,” Jared replied, looking over at Olive with a smile. “The executive chef is a two-time James Beard finalist, and…” he paused, his arrogance floating in the air. “...a close personal friend of mine.”
“This boujee-ass place where she can feel some importance,” Cass delivered, a hint of castigation in his tone. “That makes sense.” Cass looked down at his outfit - maybe this was bothering him more than he let on.
I look down at at my sweatshirt and can feel my lips tightening into a thin line, before my eyes drift up toward the two fuckin’ losers sitting across from me. Why’d I even agree to this shit in the first place? To try get the one up on them? I can’t remember. Agreeing to shit when you’re drunk and high out of your mind usually doesn’t end up well.
Of course she knew something like this would piss me off. Or maybe it wasn’t her, judging by the fact she looks xanned out of her mind, and it was instead the sleazeball standing beside her. I never understood the comparisons between me and this self-important runt. ‘A close personal friend of mine.’ What, another person you were ready to stab in the back the first chance you got? Or was he not high enough up the food chain for that?
Unwillingly, my eyes drift over toward Olive, and then back at the shark-toothed boy.
Suddenly, I feel a flush of embarrassment.
Olive didn’t respond - her eyes were empty, spaced out. I’d seen that look before. I’d worn that look many times. “Are you good?” I asked, and she looked over at me, nodding lightly. The waiter arrived with four wine glasses, placing them in front of each of us. The cork popped like a sound of a gun, and I immediately shook, closing my eyes, breathing deeply. “This is the Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon 2016,” he said, before Jared procured the bottle from him. “A splendid choice, Mr. Holmes.”
Jared poured the first taste in Cass’s glass, then the one before me. “Oh, how thoughtless of me, my mistake!” Jared exclaimed, removing the glass from in front of me to bring it before him. “She’ll have a San Pellegrino,” he said to the waiter. “How’s your sobriety coming along, Miss Hope?” Jared said, smiling at me. His grin felt like that of a shark.
“I’m going on ten months now,” I responded with hesitance, pulling my sobriety chip out of my handbag. “Haven’t touched alcohol since January.”
Cassidy’s eyes met mine but he quickly looked away. “You couldn’t wait for us before you ordered this for the table?”
“Well, you’re late,” Jared replied, that wry grin still across his lips.
“The valet was giving her shit,” Cass challenged.
“She drove?” Jared replied with a smile, further belittling him with his tone. The waiter finally arrived with my mineral water.
“How is that tasting, Mr. Holmes?” he asked, and Jared didn’t answer verbally. There was tension from across the table as Jared and Cass stared at each other, but Olive broke the silence by pushing her barely-touched wine glass to the middle of the table. “I’ll have an O’Doul’s,” she said, the waiter somewhat confused. She smiled at me from across the table. “You know,” she continued, raising her fist in the air. “Solidarity.”
Cassidy smirked and grabbed the drink menu. He was eyeing the high-dollar cocktails, visible shock and apprehension in his eyes. “Get whatever you want,” Jared interrupted. “It’s on me.”
Cassidy kept reading the top shelf options before closing the menu, his eyes darting towards Jared on the opposite side. With a smile, and with his eyes never leaving Jared, he made his order.
“I’ll have Hypnotq,” he said. Olive chortled, unable to keep it in. Covering my eyes in embarrassment, I heard him clarify. “On the rocks.” The waiter looked on haplessly. “Unfortunately, sir, we don’t carry Hypnotq. Perhaps a selection from our cocktail menu would –”
My mind wandered. Not a day goes by when I can’t think about who I used to be, and far I’ve come. It wasn’t long ago when I would’ve indulged, without a care in the world - this man had just ordered a six-hundred dollar bottle of wine for the table, and even if I’d swallowed it through clenched teeth, even if the burn of the alcohol tore through my altered mind, I would’ve obliged - happily or hesitantly, the result would still be the same.
But sometimes recovery brings you to a crossroads - the perfect summer doesn’t last forever, after all - and you need to decide if you’d rather jump right into the deep blue, or wade comfortably in the shallow end. Do you take the chance, risking everything? Your reputation. Your pride. Your health. Your body. The rough exterior that I’ve spent so much time and discipline crafting is a mirage; merely a blackout curtain draped over a delicate frame - we are all flesh and bone, after all.
But underneath the skeleton is a heart that beats, a heart that feels. Everyone still wants to feel acceptance. And love. Nobody wants to be perpetually alone - and indulging in a social setting like this? It’s nice. It’s nice not to feel alone.
Cass had turned to Jared, staring angrily at him. “How tall are you?”
“6’2”,” replied our host, who had now leaned back in his chair and seemed positively pleased with himself.
“My fuckin’ ass you’re 6’2”. Stand up – shoes off so I know your manlet-ass without the lifts.”
The room was staring. Our host was no longer grinning, a quiet anger overtaking his face with a stare like pure ice. Wordlessly, he rose, kicking his shoes off. Cass had risen himself, now roughly taller than Jared. He whooped with delight, the entire room now staring at us. Jared growled, “Yours, too.” Cass hesitated, then obliged. He immediately became an inch shorter than Jared. The man’s smile returned, his voice hissing out like a serpent, “Are you satisfied?”
“Are you guys done?” I asked, embarrassed by the commotion.
Jared sat. Cass stayed standing before sitting down in a huff.
My focus shifted from their petty dick-measuring contest to the fancy bar-top, the tower of crisp glasses, the granite counter glittering under the dim lighting. The liquor shelves were illuminated with LED lights, and the sharply-dressed bartender was pouring five or six ingredients into a mixer, no doubt crafting a concoction much more elegant than my standard Tito’s-and-soda, or Cass’s insistence on tropical-flavored liqueurs.
The food wasn’t any less pretentious - one by one, we were given sampler plates, with more time spent in preparation and presentation than actual flavor. Olive, I noticed, didn’t eat much - she just poked at the food and swirled it over the plate in between glances at her iPhone.
I tried to get her attention during the course of the night, several times, but it was if I was staring into the eyes of a ghost.
“Are you fucking stupid?!” Cass said mockingly across the table, the dynamic of the conversation having seemingly shifted in his favor, “you seriously think that mid-grade-ass verse from JaynohyphenZ is better than DaBaby? The biggest artist in the fuckin’ world right now who isn’t my boy Drizzy Drake?”
“I said,” Jared replied through clenched teeth, “that featuring a verse by Jay-Z, who does have the hyphen in his name again, better sense the tone for the redemptive themes of the album, whereas the inclusion of DaBaby and Manson undercuts them. Not to mention the significance of the Throne reuni–”
“Oh my fucking god,” Cass interupted, “literally nobody cares about the Throne besides late Millennials. How fucking old are you, like 36?”
“And you probably wondered why people were referring to the features on Keep My Spirit Alive as Griselda. Nobody could care less about what Kim K and Beyonce’s husbands are doing in their spare time now that they’re irrelevant. Have you ever heard of Griselda?”
“I know who Griseld–”
“I’ll save you a Google: that’s Conway and Gunn’s record label.”
Jared had reached over for his steak knife and was clutching it white-knuckled. I wasn’t sure if Cass had noticed; he was tipsy.
I’ve always wondered if ‘ghosts’ exist - if all around us, the heartbeats of our past are floating among us. Every instance of smelling Marlboro Red on a man’s shirt-collar, or seeing someone’s teeth and fingertips stained brown, I’m reminded of my dad. Every time I hear the sounds of jazz music, it reminds me of my brother, and how we visited every club in New Orleans.
Sometimes, at night when I can’t sleep, I can swear I can hear Robbie through the walls. I wonder if he’s made amends with dad, if he’s forgiven him for the things that I don’t think I could ever forgive him for. I hold onto resentment far harder than he ever did, and maybe that’s to my detriment. Maybe that’s why I always found it easier to escape - because the reality of it all was far too difficult to endure. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to escape. For wanting to be invisible.
Because even when things appear perfect, it can still eat you alive. I can’t blame anyone for wanting consistency, for being complacent. For not wanting to live with the risk. Here in Des Moines, we’re four hours from Omaha - and I can’t stop thinking about Howa--
“Nah, you think I’m really concerned about these bitches?” Cass remarked as I snapped back to the present.
“Whackus is a non-factor, legit. No man with self-respect would ever throw away all his dignity to simp over a female wrestler.” He glanced over to me, with a sheepish grin. “Sorry, babe. You’re sexy and all, but c’mon, dude’s a fuckin’ joke."
“Dude’s got a hero complex, through and through. He thinks he’s here to save people, to be the good guy, to do the right thing, but if he had the chance? Fuck, he’d leap at the opportunity to be someone like me. Someone who actually draws something from that crowd. Someone that actually does what he wants and doesn’t have to think about the ‘repercussions’ or the impact it could have on his marketability and the way the people see him."
“He thinks this is some type of redemption arc or some shit. Like he can reach deep into my girl’s soul and pull out whatever’s troubling her like some kinda fuckin’ crystal healer. I know the guy looks like a queen, but to stay that commited to the role? Jesus fuckin’ christ man, you just gotta laugh at that point. Right, babe?”
I could feel that he had glanced over to me, but I couldn’t help but notice the look on Jared’s face, as though his eyes were boring through me. The smile remained as a permanent tint across his lips, hardly there, but noticeable enough to make me feel unwelcome in my own skin.
“Is there something troubling you still, Lissie?” Jared said, but Cass waved him off.
“Hey, I wasn’t done talking about Lackus. Give me a sec before you start talking about all the boring shit, yeah?”
For once, his crassness actually brought me a small bit of comfort. My eyes finally slid over to look at him, now leaning over the table, both elbows propped up on it as though he were a king speaking down to his subjects, as he continued on his tirade about Johnny.
“To be real with you guys? It’s pathetic,” he said, the disgust in his words evident as he spat them out. “When I got here, I didn’t give a damn what the people thought, and I fuckin’ fought my way up being hated by everyone. That’s competition, baby. Fuck friends, love, gold. How much can you make someone hate you?”
He wasn’t making sense anymore, his words beginning to slur.
“Because that’s what this shit is really about, and Johnny hasn’t got a clue. But I see it when he looks at me, the way his fists clench and the daggers in his eyes. I know he wants nothing more than to fuckin’ drop me. To leave me for dead on the side of some backwater, probably the same place he grew up, even.
He looks at me, and then at Olive.
“That proves I’ve already won.”
He grins, leaning back in his seat. I can tell he’s proud of himself, he always gets the same look whenever he is.
“And Addy? Bruh, let’s not kid ourselves. We all know the reason she’s here.
“Did you know after I decked Olive, she was one of the first people I went up against in a singles match? I remember it ‘till this day because it was at a shitty fuckin’ house show where the nerds who shelled out money were probably putting out a week’s wages to afford it. Because who in their right mind actually cares enough to go to a house show, am I right?
“So those poor fuckers are lined up in the thousands, waiting to get a look at the yung gawd. That being me, of course. And I see Addy backstage, and she’s like… full-on determined, right? Like this is the biggest match of her life. And can you blame her? She’s going up against the hottest star in the business at this point. The guy with the best ongoing storyline, the best looks, the best athlete…”
He continues this line of thought for at least a minute, and I think everyone at the table drowns him out just like I do. I look around and see looks of frustration and agitation cast toward him from the other tables, including the waiting staff. Only now do I realize that Cass’ voice is echoing across the place, loud and proud. I sink further into my seat, flushing.
“But yeah, point is… she’s a fuckin’ tryhard, man. This house show was like a world title match to her, and I mean, I guess in a sense it was, because she was going up against me. And let me tell you guys a secret about Addy real quick…
“She’s a fuckin’ leech. I know them when I see them. Growing up the way I-” he pauses, glancing toward Olive, “We did, you get the eye for them, ya know? Someone who wants to suck you dry for everything you’re worth. And if my line of thinking is correct, which it usually is…
“I reckon this bitch is just back for a pay day. She’s using Lissie to fly back up into relevance. Any of you know what the fuck she was doing besides getting shitty sex from Craphus before she came back all high and mighty to try and ‘help’ Lissie? Geez, man. It’s so fuckin’ cringe. It actually makes me sick to my stomach looking at these two.
“Clout chasers, man. Especially Addy. You don’t call someone a sister and then pull some shit like this. Taking that skinny discord mods side like he’s actually got a point or something. Get a grip. Maybe after we’re done feeding her her own teeth, she can go back to Australia and get an actual education so she can learn how to string a proper sentence together, fuckin’ stupid whore.”
I twitched and prickled on instinct at his words. I was angry at Addy, that was true. I’d probably thought things just like he was saying. But he wasn’t me. And for some reason hearing him saying them didn’t encourage me, they made me angry. I couldn’t explain it or rationalize it, but I wanted him to shut his mouth.
“But I’ve been smacking bitches down all year. Started this year off with a bang by owning that redneck midget, and now I’ll finish it off.”
Jared’s eyes flashed. His lips twisted back up into a grin as he spoke. “You’re referring to Howard Black?”
“Yeah, that fucking pussboi,” Cass said with a snort, taking another sip of his cocktail as he smirked with satisfaction, “Imagine coming back from retirement to absolutely nobody giving a shit. Repeatedly tripping over your own shoelaces and showing everyone that you should’ve stayed gone. I can’t think of a bigger waste of fuckin’ time then that goofy getting chance after chance and failing to get over the hump. It felt good kicking his stupid ass and pissing on his parade time and time again; watching it get in his head as he fucked around like an idiot after that trying to get the spark back. I’m surprised he didn’t run off crying right then and there.”
He turned to grin at me and slap me on the shoulder, “I’m just glad you finished the job and put that bitch in his place, babe. That was really when he finally learned to give up and fuck off back to existence so a yung stallion can get the shine he was hogging. Good fucking riddance.”
I’d had enough. I slid the chair back, releasing myself from the table, glaring over at Cass.
“You see? Got me all hyped up and now you’ve pissed off my girl!” Cass said, following me to his feet. “C’mon babe, you ready to go?”
I stood next to Cass, my fists balled up, my jaw clenched. I turned to Cassidy, and he reached for his glass, getting one final sip of the expensive wine for the road. But I couldn’t say anything; my throat tightened, my mouth frozen in place. I needed to warm it up.
I walked over to the bar I’d been eyeing since the start of the night and took a seat at the counter. The bartender quickly scurried over to me, seeing I was in distress, holding in a mountain of tears.
“What can I get you?” he asked, a calming tone in his voice. My eyes immediately veered to the whiskey shelf. Over the loudspeakers, the brass began, until I was serenaded by the unmistakeable voice of Billie Holliday. I sat in silence for a moment, swaying in my seat, feeling the spirit of Robbie wash over me. With a grin on my face, and my eyes closed, I felt warm.
Pausing, I felt a wave of emotion rush over me. I shook out the nerves, but my vision was so blurred that I couldn't even see my contacts as I scrolled through them.
"Hey Siri, call Addy."
Fucking Addy. She probably wasn’t going to answer. There was a time when she stopped answering. I almost didn't notice it, until that night when I wanted to talk about Robbie. After the third ring, finally to my surprise, I heard her voice on the other end.
My phone rang, it was Lissie. I hadn’t answered so many of her calls, her voicemails were wildly divergent from each other. I escaped to a quiet space on the porch; I really hoped she couldn't hear the sounds through the walls.
“Oh. It’s about god-damn time you answered me.”
“It’s late, Lissie. What’s up?”
“What’s up? Is that all you’ve for to say? We used to stay up all night! Can’t I call my 'sister' whenever I want?”
“Of course ya can. But why would ya wanna after Clash? Tha hate ya been spittin’ didn’t think I was sister anymore.”
“And who’s fault is that? That's how you wanted it when you chose him!”
“I chose my friend. The one ya’ve doesn’t deserve tha shit ya putting ‘im through. Ya doin ok babe? Probs time ta step, eh? Maybe it’s best ya find a pillow?
“What? You’ve got nothing to fucking say to your sister? You can talk tough when HE is there with you, but now when it's just you and me you have nothing to say. Fucking typical you couldn’t talk to me on the anniversary.”
“Come on, Lis, It ain’t like that an’ ya know it. Ya know that day is as ‘ard fah me as it fah ya. It was jus’ tough ya know. I missed ya call. I didn’t know what ta say."
“Ya a mouthy bitch when ya wanna be, but when it comes to something that really matters you’ve got nothing to say. You’re a coward, Addy. You can’t even choose your family when your fucking plaything spends his days running me down for the world to see. You selfish fucking bitch.”
“Lissie, it’s not like that. I didn’t… I don’t wanna see you treat Johnny like shit. He don’t deserve ya know an’ ya were just bein’ mean, Lissie. Way over tha top. I don’t want to fight ya. I never ‘ave, but sometimes ya ain’t gonna be stopped until ya stopped. Johnny is me friend. Ya me friend too. But ya just caught in ya own little world right now, it ain’t good. Right now right or fuckin’ wrong I ain’t know any other way ta snap ya outta it.”
“My fucking world? YOU killed my fucking world when you got Robbie killed. I loved him Addy! He was my brother! He was my rock! He was our rock! And YOU fucking killed him. Every bit as if it was your own hand. I know you got your revenge but that I was your revenge.Not mine. You should be dead. Not him. I loved him!”
“I love Robbie too, Lis. Ain’t no past tense for me on that one. I’m never going to stop loving him an’ I ain’t ever gonna stop carryin’ his weight on me shoulders tha rest’a me days. Ya gotta know that. But right now, Lis. This ain’t who ya are. Please just listen ta me. I’m pretty sure ta’night’s ya -- goin through things -- but it’s more than that babe. Someone has ta slap some sense in ta ya. It’s better me than anyone else.”
“Slap some sense into me?! You’re the dumb bitch whose wrestling pregnant! It’s fucking selfish. All YOU are doing is thinking about yourself and how YOU can make yourself better than me. Like you always wanted to be.”
“Lissie. Stop. I was ‘opin’ ya wouldn’t go that low but had ta didn’t ya. Well if ya must know. That’s been sorted.”
“Oh? You killed your baby just like you killed Robbie. How does your baby daddy feel about that?”
“He ain’t even know.”
“Typical Addy full of fucking secrets.”
“We all ‘ave our burdens ta bear, Lissie. This is mine.”
“You wish it was me that you killed ain’t it? You would’ve had Robbie all to yourself. That’s what you always wanted, wasn’t it?”
“No. Lissie. It ain’t wanted. An’ I ever gonna get what I wanted. But I gotta move forward.”
“That’s fucking right. Forgot about Robbie.Forgot about The Swallowing. Forgot about me.”
“I’ll never forget Robbie.”
“Glad I meant soooo much to you.”
“That ain’t what an’ ya know it. I love ya Lissie. Ya best sister any girl can have. But I don’t love this Lissie. This Lissie is the Lissie wants its to be all about her an’ ain’t give a shit ‘bout anyone else.Tha Lissie I love give a shit ‘bout everyone, too much so. Tha Lissie I love puts weight into what people think’a her. Too much so. I want that Lissie. ”
“Well I want the Adelaide Ainsworth that has my fucking back no matter what.I want the Addy that’s my ride or fucking die. I want tha Addy that didn’t kill my brother. I want that Addy and YOU aren’t going to give me that are you? Are you!?”
“FUCK OFF ADDY!”
CALL ENDED | 11:07 PM
I felt Cassidy Adler's awkward presence in the room as I hung the phone up, sliding it into my back pocket. I felt like crying into his chest, but I'd cried enough to last a lifetime. There wasn't any more hurt left to release. I always wanted to see the good in him; what other people failed to see. But he didn't make it easy. I hoped he saw that I needed his comfort, and that he would cheer me up. But deep down, even if I couldn't admit it, I knew that wasn't who he was, and that wasn't who he could ever be.
He waited for a moment for me to catch my breath.
"Babe, you ready?"
I only needed one thing tonight, and Cassidy Adler couldn't give it to me.
The Wild Turkey 101 shot-bottles floated in the the remaining unmelted ice in the bucket, sitting on the bedside table. I'd thought about picking up the messy room before I left, but what was the point? I felt the crack of the top twist open, and I raised the bottle to my nose, smelling the aroma. And when it hit my lips, I remembered how he tasted.
When Cassidy got an alert on his phone, he got a hop in his step as Siri spoke to him.
Post by Lissie Hope on Oct 7, 2021 11:11:16 GMT -5
IV. Heaven and Hell is on Earth ft. Addy A & Johnny Bacchus, Lissie Hope & Cassidy Adler
SATURDAY | 1:00 AM
The shot glasses clinked together and hit the bar before Johnny and Addy tilted them back and emptied them. It was their first of the evening, two pints of full beer awaiting them. Johnny followed the shot by chasing it with a gulp, letting out of a long “ah” before setting the glass back down. “This,” he began, “has been a long fuckin’ day.”
“No shit,Sherlock,” Addy replied, guzzling almost half the beer off the bat before letting out a belch. Placing it down, she paused to look into her reflection in the top of the liquid, before looping her arm with his and nuzzling against his shoulder. His arm came up and around to tussle her hair, as he pulled her in and planted a kiss on the top of her head.
“You’re the strongest bitch I know.”
She smiled, giving his arm a squeeze before she let go and reached for the beer once more. “I ain’t tryin’ ta kill the mood. Ain’t want that - I need a good night.”
He raised his glass in mock toast and made eye-contact with her. “Let’s have a good night.”
They clinked their glasses and then interlinked their arms before taking a sip. They giggled in unison at the silliness of their tableau before placing their glasses back on the bar, paying no mind to the occasional eye on them from around the bar. Were people gossiping and assuming? Probably. They’d done that since the moment Addy A was first spotted arm-in-arm with him. But none of their speculation bothered her, nor did it change anything. She’d never doubt him as her ride-or-die after today.
“You ready for Monday?”
“Told’ya I wanted a good night, didn't I? An’ ya gotta mix business wit’ pleasure.”
Johnny gave a reluctant shrug. “Just feels pertinent to mention. S’not far away at this point.”
“Ya…” Addy said, looking down at her glass. “Bacchz…” she trailed before looking up at him, “...ya know this ain’t tha Lissie I know, right? An’ I know ya were prolly doin’ ya make-up back then like her an’ lookin’ up to her an’ me, an’ I just wanted ya ta know…”
Addy trailed off again, looking down at her beer once more as she processed her thoughts. “...that’s tha Lissie I know. That Lissie. Not this one; this ain’t her. An’ I jus’ hate ya gotta see her like this. I jus’ hope she wakes the fuck up an’ gets that. You’da really liked her. We wouldn’t be doin’ this.”
Johnny reached over and placed a hand on her shoulder. Her eyes went up to his face, a comforting smile on his face. “Babygirl… I know. This isn’t lost on me, I promise. Like, I’ve heard from not just you…”
Addy smiles and gives him a little slug in the shoulder.
“Hope ya called that girl tonight.”
“Gonna when we get back and I know she’s awake. Bless her for thinkin’ I’m cute when I drunkenly slur about how I miss her.”
Addy reached over to pinch his cheek. “Cuz ya are cute. Least now I know what ya do when ya go for them walks at night.”
“Well,” he offered, “not all the time. I just like to think and clear my head. Like, I’m not always happy-go-lucky. I gotta have my time to decompress everything.”
“I know,” she said, now returning the favor with a comforting shoulder rub of her own, “Ya the strongest bitch I know, too.”
They smiled at one another. Johnny picked up his beer, and they clinked them together once more before finishing them off and pounding the glasses on the bar to signal the desire for another round. No sooner had they received the beers, when the sound of the bar door banging open resonated through the room and a familiar voice rang out.
“Are you fuckin’ kidding me?!”
The two turned to look towards the entrance – the voice was unmistakable. Standing a mere fifteen feet away from them was Lissie Hope and Cass Adler, the former with her arm slung around his waist and leaning into him as the latter instinctively sneered at them. Lissie looked up to Cass, her head lolling shakily. “Baby, let’s go somewhere else. Fuck this place – I don’t wanna see them.”
“No way,” replied Cass sternly, “this the hot joint, and shit’s cheap here.” He turned to look back to Johnny and Addy. “You two get the hell outta here. Let them have some real stars giving them business.”
Addy stood immediately, the stool tilting over and clattering on the ground as she clenched her fists. Johnny rose soon after, getting between the two. “Absolutely not. We’re not doin’ this shit here – save it for Monday.”
“C’mon Bacchycat, jus’ a couple’a seconds. S’all I need.”
“Yeah, go on, Cuckus, let your bitch stick up for you again.”
Addy lunged, but Johnny’s arm caught her. His expression remained calm.
“There’s plenty of room – we’ll go to some corner booth so you can be the star or whatever at the bar. I’m not doin’ this here.”
“Oh look at Jan Egeland here trying to play broker.”
“I can’t even believe you know who that is.”
“Cass, baby,” Lissie slurred as she looked up at him, “fuck this place. F’they’re serving these two, we don’t wanna be here, and I’m tired. Let’s just go back to the room.”
Cass looked down at the woman clinging to him, a look of insult on his face. “Are you kidding?” he responded, “I’m still trying to vibe. They can leave.”
“But I’m tired…” Lissie muttered as her body swayed, her hands losing grip on his shirt. Her legs buckling beneath her, she fell forward, the timely reflexes of Johnny catching her before she impacted the floor. Instinctively, her hands came to his shirt and clutched onto them with half-closed eyes. Addy rushed to his side, her hand on Lissie’s cheek, before she looked up angrily at Cass.
“How much she been drinkin’?!”
“Yo, she’s a big girl! She can make her own choices!” he responded with irritation, crossing over to them. The bartender had begun to regard the scene before him. “Hey, man,” the barman yelled over the noise of the crowd, “she can’t be in here like this.”
Cass looked to him in frustration and exasperation. “Do you know who this is? Do you know who I am?!”
“Cass…” Lissie muttered, still supported by Bacchus, “I wanna go home.”
Johnny’s head snapped up, though Cass had already gone over to the bar to protest. “Y’know what? Fuck it. I’ll get her home.”
“Bacchy,” Addy protested, “that ain’tcha job. Make the bastard do it.”
“He won’t,” Johnny replied, “he’ll just take her somewhere divey that won’t give a shit.”
“At least let me come witcha.”
Johnny placed a reassuring hand on Addy’s shoulder. “You’ve had a long day. Go have some fun. I’ll text you when I got her there safe, and I’ll come back out. Okay?”
Addy nodded. “Kay,” she said before leaning forward to plant a kiss on his cheek, “You’re a mensch.”
“Just doin’ my duty, ma’am,” he said as he hoisted Lissie to her feet and turned to reassure her, “C’mon, chica, let’s get you home.”
Lissie nodded, her eyes mostly closed. She smiled. “Home… I wanna go home.”
Soon the two were gone out the door, leaving Addy alone at the bar. The exit of Lissie Hope seemed to have placated the bartender, as he was in the process of pouring Cass a shot of Hypnotiq.
Addy stood staring at the door for a few moments longer than necessary, almost as if she was waiting for Johnny and Lissie to walk back through the door. When it became evident that it wasn't going to happen, she turned her attention back to the bar. Of course, the gall of Cass Adler has seen him sit upon her stool.
She shoved him in the back of the head with the palm of her left hand. “That’s me fuckin’ spot.” She glared daggers at him.
“Is it?” Cass smirked, paying more attention to his liquor than to her, “Seems to be that I’m sitting here so it must be mine.” he finished while motioning for another shot to be poured by the bartender.
“Ya a real fuckin…” Addy started to spray spittle as she spoke.
“...Catch.” Cass interrupted before downing his shot. “Yeh. Lissie tells me all the time.” He smiled maliciously.
“...Piece’a shit.” Addy finished.
“Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. That’s not nice.” Cass frowned insincerely. “I’m just trying to have a quiet drink here. Now you’re trying to get all upset like a groupie - Addy, there’s no chance I’m going to give a good time to Whackus’ sloppy seconds.” He motioned for a third shot in quick succession, only half paying attention to Addy.
The bartender carefully watched the situation in front of him, as he watched Addy’s left hand grip the empty glass pitcher of beer with her left hand. The colour in her face rose to an ephemeral beetroot red as the corners of his mouth curled into a callous grin.
“Why?” he interrupted again. “You don’t have anything interesting to say.”
Her face burned. “I should…”
He cut her off again “...Fuck me?”
She lifted the glass pitcher off the top of the counter, but the bartender’s hand grabbed her arm before she could swing. He gave her nod knowingly letting the almost incident slide but that he wouldn’t allow an escalation.
“Nah. You’re too sloppy.”
“...Shut tha fuck up!” Her raised voice briefly draws the attention of those around her. She sighed heavily to hold back her desire to cut Cass’ tongue from his mouth and shove up his arse. She jabbed her index finger into his temple. “Adler. Ya pathetic simp. A second-rate human pussboi. I really, really fuckin’ want to smash this fuckin’ glass over ya face. I want to.” Cass is now staring at her with a dumb look on his face, his eyes seem to flicking back and forth between her face and breasts. “But… I won’t. I’m gonna it fah Monday night an’ I’m gonna kick ya fuckin’ head in. Unless ya wanna hide behind, Lissie like tha little fuckin’ bitch ya are.” Addy poked him in the chest.
Cass did nothing but smirk at Addy, as if he was enjoying this wild rant.
“Ya sit there with that dumb fuckin’ smirk on ya face like ya got some big grand plans wit’ ya life. But lemme be real wit’ ya, Cass. Ya nothin’ more than parasitic scum floatin’ ‘round tha ether lookin’ fah host ta feed off. Ya done did it ta ya family. Ya done did it ta ya sister. Ya’ve gone an’ done ta who knows how many sycophantic li’l whores. All’a’em thinkin’ ya gonna make ‘em somethin’ ‘cause ya got easy access ta fast drugs an’ industry connections.”
“Fuck that Cassidy. An’ fuck YOU. I love tha fact ya still starin’ at me like I’m tha dumb bitch right now. While every other dumb blonde ya slummed ‘round wit’ has been heart broken when ya got bored an’ moved on. Lissie ain’t them. If ya had half a clue ‘bout her ya’d realise that ya gonna be the one kicked to tha curb when SHE decides. Sage. Sierra. Spencer all booted by her an’ ya still grinnin’ like a Cheshire Cat thinkin’ ya tha one that’s caught a prize an’ ya gonna toss once it’s used up.”
“Fuck ya dumb. Ya just another toy for Lissie. An’ ya might be okay wit’ that now but we both know that ya gonna break like a porcelain doll when ya kicks ya outta her bed. Not ‘cause ya actually give a shit ‘bout tha girl, ‘cause it’s plain as tha tits on me chest that Cassidy Adler only gives a shit ‘bout Cassidy Adler. But ‘cause she one-upped ya. She tossed ya and she will. Sure in all ya bullshit bravado ya’ll brag ta ya fuckin’ mates ya tossed her. But it’ll be bullshit an’ ya’ll probably get ya’self a barely legal root from some little wannabe ‘cause we know ya can’t sustain a real woman without drugs and liquor.”
“But, Cass - front as much as you want at the end this thing ya got with Lissie - ya’ll have been tossed in the trash like a used condom.”
Cass went to open his mouth.
“Oh ya got somethin’ ta say - tell ya fah tha first time in ya life ya can let the women finish first. I get it Adler, I’m just tellin’ ya Lissie is better than ya. She is. But it’s not the end’a tha world ta ya is it - move on an’ find ya’self some gutterslut with small lips ta make ya small dick feel big. That’s how cunts like ya work - find the ones with a need, exploit ‘em fah ya own gain. Well, when ya do it to my friend - I give a shit. So Monday, on Clash - I’m gonna take great fuckin’ pleasure in rippin’ ya dick off an’ makin’ ya choke on it. Wouldn’t be surprised if ya like that. Stupid fuck.”
“Today is not tha day fa ya bullshit.”
Addy stepped closer to Cass, so that she was right up inside his personal space, her breath filled his nostrils.
“How’s ya fuckin’ hoodie?”
Addy shoved him off the stool and Cassidy stumbled to the floor with all the elegance of a baby giraffe.
“An’ this is MY fuckin’ stool.”
Addy sat down and looked down at Cassidy sitting on his arse on the floor looking up at her, like he had nothing to say.
She went in and out of consciousness, her head nuzzled into my shoulder, for most of the ride. When the Uber arrived, the sniveling little college dipshit initially protested the state she was in (and made a few intonations at me), but with a little bit of waving around our IDs, pointing at the arena, and using my B-level celebrity status to bull him, he relented. It was the first time in my life I’d ever uttered the phrase “do you know who I am” – and not even five minutes after it came out of that smug nitwit’s mouth in the bar – but I just wasn’t in the mood to footsie with shit anymore. Not at the end of a day this long.
If someone would’ve told me a year ago that I’d be in a Des Moines cab with Lissie Hope snuggling against me, I’d have been over the moon. And if you’d told me a week ago, I’d have laughed in your face. But here we were, a solemn and surreal tableau. I wasn’t sure how aware of her surroundings she was, or her reaction to the situation in a more sober state of mind. I don’t particularly care – I just wanted her to be safe. The irony can be litigated at a later date.
She looked up from me, rummaging around in her purse. The shooters followed her phone in its displacement, and they clattered to the floorboard of the car, soon accompanied by the cracked phone which slipped from her hand.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five.
That’s a fair amount for someone sober for nine months. And Wild Turkey, too – jesus.
I flinched at the memory. God, that was cruel of me to say. I was angry, hurt, whatever – but it was still cruel.
“Did you drink all these?”
She nodded, a smile on her face and her eyes closed.
“He doesn’t like them, but I do.”
I collected them discretely before the driver could throw a fit about liabilities and open container laws. And as I carried Lissie up the elevator and down the hallway to her room, I reminded myself to return the call I missed from Mae.
Post by Lissie Hope on Oct 8, 2021 11:11:07 GMT -5
V. Reel Around the Fountain ft. Johnny Bacchus & Lissie Hope
"It's time the tale were told
Of how you took a child
And you made him old"
'Reel Around the Fountain' - The Smiths
SATURDAY | HILTON DOWNTOWN
With a gag and a heave, the contents of Lissie’s stomach flowed from her mouth into the water of the toilet before her. The sickly sweet smell of mixed drinks cut with acidic sharpness filled the air. It wasn’t the first – the second gag followed shortly after, heralding an even stronger stream as tears from the cramping trickled from the corners of her eyes and down her cheeks. Her head was raw and foggy, and the bathroom light was far, far too bright.
“I don’t want it to get in my hair,” Lissie choked out, and she felt the hand around her neck grip her hair to keep it from falling into the avalanche. She felt the pressure in her belly as she tried one big heave. “Thank you, Cass.”
But it wasn’t Cass who was behind her, kneeled dutifully beside her and holding her hair from her face and comfortingly rubbing her upper back. Johnny Bacchus understood the state of inebriation Lissie was in far too well and didn’t bother to correct her. “Think you got more, or is that everything?”
The unexpected voice cut through the silence of the bathroom, and Lissie turned to face her adversary, unable to process why it was Johnny in the room with her, and not her boyfriend. His expression was concerned, his eyes locked intently on her, a quiet sadness behind their bright hazel irises.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, already knowing the answer. But still, she needed to hear it from him. Johnny reached over to the sink, running a cloth under the faucet and handing it to her so she could wipe her eyes. After removing the mess from her mouth, she stared at Johnny, embarrassed.
“You were pretty fucked up, so I got you an Uber and took you back. S’your hotel room – you told me which one, and I asked the front desk for the number.”
He rose from his kneeling position, exiting the bathroom into the main bedroom. “Lemme get you a glass of water or that’ll fuck your teeth.”
The glasses were sitting on the dresser, beside the television. In the ice bucket, a pool of melted water sloshed around. The glass was used. A sniff detected a hint of Coca Cola and something else, likely the empty shot bottle of Wild Turkey 101 on the nightstand by the bed.
This place looks like a fucking flop house. The spills on the comforter – the clothes just piled on the chair. I expected something like this of Cass – strikes me as the guy who still has mommy doing his laundry in his 20’s. I didn’t expect this of her. What am I supposed to make of her bra just sitting there in the open? The ripped condom wrapper on the nightstand? The dirty socks on the floor?
Lissie stumbled back into the main bedroom and noticed Johnny observing the mess in the living space. She held herself up with the dresser, trying in vain to pick up some of the mess. “What are you going to tell everyone?” Lissie asked, starting to tear up again. Johnny walked past her to the bathroom, calling out over his shoulder as he started the sink and washed the glass.
“Nothing. Nobody’s business.” Giving the glass a second sniff and satisfied with the lack of odor, he filled it with water and walked back out into the main room. He extended it out to her.
“That’s never stopped anyone before,” Lissie said sharp-toothed. “Everyone knows my fucking business and you’ve lead the charge.” Lissie took a sip of the water and gently took a seat in the leather lounge chair.
“You sure you’re done? Last thing we want is to have to call housekeeping. No shame in it.”
She curled up into a ball, bringing her knees to her chest. “Yeah,” she said, pulling her nine month sobriety chip from her handbag and setting it on the table. "I'm done."
It was an uncomfortable sight to behold; Johnny turned unable to linger on it, once again crossing back into the bathroom. The smell of vomit was thick in the air, and it sat floating in the bowl looking up at him. There was some food – maybe a light dinner? – but the overwhelming contents were liquid. He pressed down on the handle to flush them away, ridding himself of the sight and smell. When he came back into the room, he kept his eyes from the table and the curled Lissie Hope.
“You can trust me and Addy, we’re not telling a soul.”
Lissie rolled her eyes and took another, longer slug of the water. “I can’t trust anyone anymore.” Even from the tap, it cleansed the inside of her mouth, but the thought of swallowing some of the remnants made her gag again. Johnny rushed across the room, picking the trashcan up along the way to position before her.
He placed a hand gently on her back, the other hand still gripping the rim of the can he held in front of her. “Easy there,” he coaxed, gently and reassuringly, “its okay if you got more – just aim for right here.”
“Why…” she began, choking out words through guttural heaves, “...why are you doing this?”
Johnny didn’t acknowledge the question, his eyes darting back and forth between her face and the receptacle. He removed his hand from her shoulder, bracing the cane from beneath in anticipation.
“It’s okay, get the poison out. No shame.”
"Fifteen minutes with you
Well, I wouldn't say no
Oh, people said that you were virtually dead
And they were so wrong"
The second wave came, Lissie leaning forward to once again project into the waiting can. As her balance faltered, she slumped forward, catching the front of Johnny’s shirt as she collapsed against him. Bracing herself against his chest and shoulder, she readjusted her head, feeling one of his hands come underneath her and push her up by the shoulder. It was a brutally painful contraction of the abs and diaphragm as the final remnants of her stomach emptied and the heaves slipped away to a brief sob.
With puke already down the front of his shirt, Johnny didn’t feel the need to carefully angle the trash can. He placed it on the ground and wrapped his now free arm around her, letting her tears soak the shoulder of his shirt. His hand ran up and down her back, low and slow shushes coming from his lips to her ear for comfort. As the sobs were replaced by a hiccup and a few snorts, Johnny got to his feet and helped Lissie back into the chair. She returned to the curled fetal position.
As she reached for the glass of water, he went back to the bathroom. Once inside, he pulled the soiled shirt off and started the sink.
I should steal one of that nitwit’s Champion pullovers.. Or just use it to clean off this one. Fuck, man, this is white, too. People are gonna think I did this shit. And I got a whole fucking Uber ride, if they even let me in the cab. May just make my ass walk. God fucking damnit.
Grabbing the miniature bar of soap from the counter, Johnny went to work running the shirt under the faucet and scrubbing away. The debris and slime residue were easy enough to purge, but his suspicions about the discoloration were soon confirmed. He turned the faucet temperature to high, steam curling up around him as his hands turned pink from the scalding water as he rinsed, scrubbed, and wrung it out several times in succession. There was no sound from the main room, or at least none that he could hear. Satisfied as he felt possible, he gave it another hard wring into the sink and walked out into the main room.
Lissie was finishing the last of the glass of water when he returned. “Where’s Cass?” she said softly, the sadness and defeat palpable in her voice. Her eyes left the glass to look over at the man in her room, standing before her bare-chested, with the damp t-shirt in his hand. The venom dripped from his voice as he spoke, the disgust hardly concealed.
“He stayed at the bar.”
I can’t believe he would be so thoughtless, that he wouldn’t understand that he’s falling into what everyone warned me he would be. I’ve been his loyal girlfriend, taking his side when people told me otherwise, but when I needed him the most -- I can't even. it’s fucking enraging. And this kid taking me home? Holding my fucking hair back, cleaning my puke - I’m indebted to Johnny now. And I don’t want to be. And maybe I’m just sad - maybe, I’m angry - lonely? But I’ve never seen him this exposed before - and I don’t hate it. Do I indulge his pubescent fantasy? That’s what he’s here for, isn’t it?
Mae always said he had a good dick – let’s see if she was talking him up.
"Fifteen minutes with you Oh, well, I wouldn't say no Oh, people said that you were easily led And they were half-right"
Unraveling the shirt, Johnny began to pull it back on. Silently, Lissie’s eyes traced down the contour of his chest – his abs, which debunked her assumption he never spent more than an hour in the gym a week – the tattoo that ran down his left side and curled down the V of his hip and below the waistline of his jeans.
Lissie stood from the chair - perhaps, a little too quickly as her knees buckled underneath her. Johnny instinctively offered an arm for her to catch herself on, and he helped her steady to her feet. Lissie pulled herself closer, and teasing a finger along his exposed abdomen, looking up into his eyes. “I’m gonna go clean myself up,” she said, stumbling back towards the bathroom, shutting the door behind her.
She turned the faucet, watching the water circle the drain before feeling the cold sensation on her palms. Cupping a handful, she washed her face, scrubbing the crusted residue of puke and spit and tears from her skin. After spreading a line of toothpaste on the bristle, she jabbed the inside of her mouth, nearly tearing her gums with the intensity, prodding the back of her own throat so badly she gagged. After a spray of perfume, she looked in the mirror.
Her memories began to wash over her.
Standing in the middle of the boardroom, signing her contract with Philidor Holdings, and all of the representatives faces morphing into the moon-colored masks.
And she remembered the recital at her Initiation, and her spinning and twirling with the orchestral music, handed off from man to man until she arrived in the shadow of the Dark Man.
And she remembered the catatonic face of Mae Ashby as she sat in the passenger seat of her Camaro, emotionless and expressionless and unable to speak of Sensitivity Training.
And she remembered Jill Park being confronted at the PHitgym, her video footage confiscated, wondering what she'd caught on camera and why they were so quick to obtain it.
And she remembered being lost in the Garden, looking for her mother, feeling abandoned and alone.
And she remembered the painting on the mantle, the gift from Peter Garvey, and how the hues of the collage reminded her of the blood that spilled from her own self-inflicted wounds.
And finally, she remembered staring at her reflection in the mirror of her childhood home, as the Dark Man slithered in the depths behind her.
Out in the bedroom, Johnny was shirtless again. The soiled white shirt was slung into the trashcan, and in his hands he held a black Supreme t-shirt. After giving a sniff to check for cleanliness, he pulled it over his head. He turned to look at Lissie as she reentered before his eyes darted to the clock. “Feelin’ any better?” he remarked, looking back at her.
“Do I look any better?” Lissie said, feigning confidence. Her voice may not have wavered, but her eyes were still hiding embarrassment. She ran her fingers through her hair, tying her hair up into a bun.
“Yeah, but you should probably go to bed.”
Lissie smirked, nodding her head in acquiescence. She took a deep breath to try and be more convincing that she was sober enough, but her knees still rattled after the first step. With a light giggle, she made it, sitting on the edge of the mattress. “And I suppose you’re expecting an invitation?” she asked, cutting through the silence. Only the overhead fan circulating vibrated the old lightbulb. She reached over and flipped the switch, dimming the lights. “That’s why you did this, isn’t it?”
The young man looked back at her, stunned. “What are you talking about?”
“Let’s stop playing these games, John,” she answered. “Come - you can sit,” she patted the mattress next to her.
He didn’t sit – he stood rooted in place, his eyes darting between her and the place on the bed. When he spoke, his voice was shaky. “I-i think you got the wrong idea.”
“You don’t gotta be nervous,” she said with a mocking tone. “You don’t need my permission anymore. We’re way beyond Battlefield now.”
“Woah. Um…” Johnny threw his hands up before him defensively, pausing to take a deep breath before continuing, “You’re really drunk right now.”
“I’m not,” she said unconvincingly. “I was… and you helped me - remember?” She reached for his hand. “Nobody does kind things without expecting something in return.” As he pulled his hand away, her eyes fell to the floor for a second, before her steely demeanor changed instantly. “So come on, stop being a pussy,” she said more aggressively. “This is what you want. It’s what you’ve always wanted.”
Johnny stepped back, his body noticeably shaking. His words were slow and deliberate. “This was not my intention.”
Lissie turned her face from Johnny, unable to look in his direction for a moment. “You’re a fucking liar,” she said angrily. She stood from the bed and jabbed her finger into his chest. “You mean to tell me that this pedestal you’ve put me on - this shrine of me in your bedroom you’ve probably fucked yourself to for a year - that all of this chasing me down and obsessive interest you’ve had in me led you right here - to this moment…” a pause. “ ...and you’re not going to jump at it? Are you fucking kidding me? Am I suddenly not good enough for ‘Mr. Hardcore’ now, is that it?”
“Lissie, that’s not –”
She cut him off with another push into his chest, this time more forceful.
“And you toyed with the heart of the only girl who could get you close to me, didn’t you?”
Johnny’s voice rose, his eyes flashing, though it never broke into a yell, “That is not what happened at all.”
“And I’m the fucking manipulator?” she said, her voice cracking. “Look in the fucking mirror.”
Johnny’s mouth fell open, his hands tightening into fists. He raised a shaky finger and jabbed it in her direction. “Screw you.”
“You won’t, pussy,” she said with a dagger. “Did you cry when Addy opened her legs for you? Or Mae?” She stood face to face with Johnny, her aggression increasing. “Mae built herself in my fucking image, and you were more than happy to smash my clone. So what is it, John? What is it about me?” Lissie backed up a step, and ripped the shirt from her chest, the buttons scattering on the floor. With tears in her eyes, she continued, her body exposed. “Are you scared or something? Grow some fucking balls. Fuck me.”
And in his eyes, Lissie could almost see something come over Johnny. The nervousness washed away, replaced by a steeled intensity. He took a step forward, raising an arm over her and planting his hand forcefully on the wall behind to pin her between it and himself. She shivered as their bodies met, but Johnny’s voice had no air of seduction. It was blunt – it was powerful.
“Is this what you want?”
She didn’t answer verbally at first. She nodded her head and reached down for his buckle. They were practically nose-to-nose, their eyes locked. She spoke with defiance, her teeth clenched. A single tear slid down her cheek.
“Yeah. I fuckin’ want it.”
He leaned forward, his head curling around hers. She could feel his breath on her neck and ear, eliciting a soft moan from her.
"Fifteen minutes with you
Oh, I wouldn't say no
Oh, people see no worth in you
Oh, I, oh, I do"
What could be made of a moment like this? What the fuck did it mean – did it even mean anything at all? It was the edge of the chasm, the final threshold, the point of no return. The bridge was on fire, and it wasn’t going to stop.
I didn’t say a silent prayer to Saint Christopher. There was no god in this room.
His aroma of tequila and mango vape reminded me of the stories she told. This is the John I’d begged to see - the boy becoming the fucking man.
It would mean nothing, other than another notch on his belt. The trifecta he’d been dreaming of. Who gives a shit?
And despite everything, it’ll still feel good.
He removed his hand and took a step back. They stood in silence, staring at one another. And then the quiet was broken by the first of Lissie’s sobs.
She slid down the wall, coming to a seated position, the crying making her body shake as she wrapped her arms around her legs and buried her face in her knees. The Hardcore Champion stood over her, his face grim and stoic, as he watched. And after a moment, he turned and walked to the hotel room door.
With the audible click of the lock, Lissie’s head snapped up, the tears streaking her face. She looked across the room at him on the precipice of leaving, the door already ajar. She reached out in vain for the man far out of her reach, and through her sobs, she choked out her words.
“Please don’t go, I don’t want to be alone anymore.”
For a moment, Johnny hesitated. His voice was low and quiet.
“Good night, Elisabeth.”
And then he closed the door behind him as he left.
Post by Johnny Bacchus on Oct 8, 2021 23:11:09 GMT -5
VI. Samson Saltair and Mae Ashby are Raging Inside Me ft. Johnny Bacchus & Cassidy Adler
SATURDAY | HILTON DOWNTOWN
Halfway down the hallway, Johnny stopped. He couldn’t hear Lissie’s sobbing anymore – he allowed himself to lean against the wall and close his eyes. His stomach hurt, and was head was spinning. He’d hardly even started the night with Addy before having to come to Lissie’s aid, but he had no mood to go back out. He could barely process what had just happened.
Instead, he allowed himself to simply exist, the muscles in his body tense but his legs feeling like jelly. The wall supported him. The wall was there for him. He took a long, deep breath. As he slowly exhaled, he allowed his lungs to linger empty for three seconds – it did not calm him down. Instead of repeating the process, he opened his eyes and pushed up from the wall, continuing down the hall towards the elevators.
Rounding the corner before him was Cass Adler. The wiry man walked with a stagger – no doubt the added time out was well utilized. As they came face-to-face in the hotel hall, the two stopped before one another. Looking down at Bacchus, Cass tilted his head up to point his nose further in the air. He regarded the man across from his with the same expression of smug amusement as per usual, an expression not returned by the young Hardcore Champion. The two stood in silence.
There was nothing to be said – Johnny simply stepped forward and shoved Cass with everything he had. The CBS X Champion fell back against the hallway wall, a loud thud echoing down the corridor. Johnny continued on to the elevators, not paying any attention to the man behind him or the shrill screams and accusations of assault and battery (or the realization of t-shirt theft) coming from his mouth. He didn’t even pay mind to the aftermath of Cass’s return to the room and what would transpire. His only concern was to go home.
At the elevator, Johnny pressed the button and lingered. The elevator took a moment, but after what felt like a restless eternity, a bell signalled its arrival. The door opened for Johnny Bacchus.
And Samson Saltair awaited him inside.
The Hardcore Champion and the Dark Man’s eyes met. With deliberation, Saltair reached out to place his finger on the “Door Open” button and held it in place. His expression was grim and dark – it was the same quiet foreboding and sense of tempered malice that seemed permanently etched on his face. Nonetheless, if he was growing impatient with Johnny’s hesitance, he did not express it. He simply remained with his finger on the button, wordlessly beckoning Johnny in.
Perhaps Johnny could’ve turned around and taken the stairs – perhaps he could’ve returned to the hotel room and faced the scene there. But the latter was out of the question, and the former would only delay what he suspected to be an inevitable confrontation. He stepped over the threshold and into the elevator.
As Saltair removed his hand from the button, Johnny looked at the panel to notice it was already selected. As the doors closed behind him, trapping him in the elevator with the Dark Man, his eyes remained forward on the portal through which he’d come and his back turned to his cohabitor. The elevator began its descent, taking Johnny and Samson Saltair down together.
The two men stood in silence. As minutes passed, Johnny’s eyes went up to the digital display: a red glowing number nine. Movement in the metal elevator was noticeable – the machine was moving down. But the number did not change, even as another minute passed.
It was the Dark Man who broke the silence, his voice low and stern with no discernible accent, but with a voice cold and monotonous. “We’ve given you repeated warnings.”
Johnny scoffed, his eyes going from the door down to the floor. “I don’t listen very well,” he muttered in reply, no coy grin accompanying the remark.
“Perhaps we weren’t explicit, Mr. Backus. This is your final warning.”
“Or else what?” the young man replied, his voice ticking up in frustration and anger. Every nerve in Johnny’s body seemed electrocharged, and even instinct in his stomach screamed with the raw sensation of a Fight or Flight drive at maximum power.
“I’ll kill your friends,” the Dark Man’s voice echoed, as if coming from all angles of the elevator, its tone deliberate, “And your family. Everyone you’ve ever loved…”
Each came punctuated, like a bullet from a gun with the rhythmic and steady pulling of the trigger. The words lingered, swirling around Johnny’s head, the weight of the threat more direct than it had ever been. As Samson delivered the finale, that monotone broke for the first time, replaced by a demonic, mirthful hiss.
It was then something broke. The Hardcore Champion’s instincts took over, his rage bursting from within him as he turned on his heel to face his captor. Through numb, terror-blind brazenness, he jabbed a finger at the Dark Man’s face.
“Oh, leave me with nothing to lose! I’m sure that wouldn’t make me escalate at all!” he yelled, his arms flailing wildly into the air, “Considering you’re so fuckin’ scared you’ve locked me in this box with you for a chat!”
The elevator stopped and shook wildly, as though conducting the rage and insult of the Dark Man. The lights flickered and flashed, the buttons on the panel lighting in quick succession as they flashed esoteric patterns and sigils. In a flicker, the Dark Man was still staring at Johnny.
In the next flicker, the Dark Man was c̶̢̱̫̈̈́͌̕o̸̤̭͂́͆̀̈́̇̈͆n̸̢̡̪̱̹͖̈́̇͐̔̊̐̀s̷̢͍̤̺̄̆̿u̸̡̠̯͍̠͙̪̎̿̓̈́̈́͐m̶̢̘̤̓̎̑e̵̠͎͉̯̐͌̈́̀̀̕d̷̡͎͕͇͚̀́͑̇̍̈́̆͘ ̷̢̨̠̥̤̉́͛̏͝ŵ̴̱i̶̦̱̝͓̓̋͗̔̽́̈́t̷͉̼̻̣̙̗̲͑h̶͓͕̺̦͗͜͝ ̵̖̤̏̍̕͘s̶̨͖̈́̓̂͒͐̍̕͠ḩ̸͎̳͍̳̝̽͛͗̌à̸̧̘̳̖̠͎̱̗̽͐̊d̴͖̙̖͊̍o̴͓̣̎͒w̵̺̏̉̽̀͊̕͝s̷̡̖̻̬̤̙̜̪̾̇͌̇, only his eyes seeming to pierce the tenebrous blackness which surrounded him. Another flicker, and the Dark Man was staring at Johnny once more. Another flicker, and through the abyssal cloak, Johnny could see g̸̮̘̺̝͛̌ĺ̷̟͆ȉ̴̛̻̳͚̬̽͜͝t̸̨̯̔̈́̎̈́̕ț̶̛͈̥̝̂̀͑͗͒e̴̥͌̌̈̂̚̚ŕ̴̭̞̄̒̕̕i̷͈̙̬͖̗̬̲̭̾ͅn̸̺̺̜̙͕͐̈̉̊́̽͝ͅg̶̨̅͌͐̋̈͠͠͝͝ ̴̢̧̙̱̩͕̰͎̋̅͗̒͠͝t̷̡̺̙͚͖̼͒̾̇̍̃̐̑͑͜e̴̪͚̹͑̏́ĕ̴̖̱̗͈̭̜̟̉̀̃̈́͂̏̕͠t̸̹͒̒ḣ̶̢̢̉̀̌̈́͊͌̚͝ ̶̨̙̙̜̤̖̪̼͚͐̈́̓̏̐̍͊͘l̴̬͔̰͙̗͍̝̤͚͒͌̑̈́̚̕í̵͚̼̺̘̝̀̂̔k̴̭͕̭̝̻̜̖̙̇̕e̷̹͂̈́ ̶̨̞̭͚̺̲̭̝̓̿͊̈́̋͘͝ṙ̴̨̫͍͐̊a̴̧͉̩̬̬̟̣̾̄͊͝z̴̬̬̫͖͂o̵͔̥̙̣̗͙̟̰͂̀̈́̎̅̉̕͘r̵͈̽s̷̹̔̋̉̀͒͋͋͐ line the inside of multiple mouths, hooked talons the size of a man’s rib protruding from limbs like a spider from a great g̷̨̯͈̳̫̮͓̰̗̲͖̜̤̅͊́͂̍͜r̶̥͔̫̣̭͈͚͈̺͉̽͊̌̿̓̆̄͌͐̈́̌̑͜ẻ̸̢̢̖̥͙̩̰̤̱͕̤̰̤͎͑̑̌̿̍͒͘͜a̷̪̬̤̮͈̤͍̟̦͙͛͆̓͌̎̈̒̊͜͜͝͠t̷̨̡̟̮̦͈͋́͊̓ ̵̡͓͙̬̠͔̝̞͇̹̲̲̫̦̮̥̊͑̈̒̄̾̃̂͒͜ǧ̵̪̫̩̹̻̺͓͌͝e̶̠̼̪͇̫̖̳̗͒͊͐͋͑͑̾͊̔̽̽ͅl̵̨͙͙̩̮̲̳̟̰̩̥̘̍͛ä̸̭͍͚̺̖̯͔̳̙̯͊̐͐t̶͎͓͇̩̰̣͍̘̠̎̑̉͊͜ĭ̴̧̛̬̳̣̼͙̮̯̓̑̽̄̂̓̅̔̉͒́̿͘n̵̻͛̈́͛̇͛͆ơ̷̠̼͓̐̀́̊̏͒͗̎̒̈̕ú̸͎̬͇͈̲̑̌̾̀͊̑̎̂̀̋͘s̵͉͖̬̠̟̥̰̩̞̬͇̫̻̖̹̉̈́̀̍̄͗̂̌͂ͅ ̸̭͇̪̩̮͚͔͚͚̠͍͈̯͉̜͔̀̓̓̇́m̸̛̛͎̤̽̑̽̐͊̈́̍͊͛̈́͘a̶̘͇̹̰͖̟̲̺̼̩͉͕͔͍̳̻͛̄͗̐̏͐͛͜ş̵͚̦̺̩̤͔͉̈́͛̿̉͗̒̑̂̐͑̈́̚s̷̨͈̦̭̗̤͐̿̌̀̍̂̿̑́͑̄̌̒͑̕͠͝ of putrid black mire, and ḩ̶̠̩͌̆̊̎̀̑͆͝ǘ̸̥͓͈̱̩̑̊̇̀̿͋́ͅn̶͈̣͈̬̰̓́̆ͅḑ̸̡̢̠̩̹̈͜r̴͓̖͍̠̗͚̖̫̹̍̅͐̓̒̈̃e̴̡͚̦̟̫̝͐͐ḑ̷̛͔͉̭̼͑́̓͠s̵̛̗͍̮͔̽̅ ̸͎̳͉̺͔̗̉̏́͜o̷̧͎̣̫̦͇̖̍̍̉f̵̪͔̥̫̭̼͒ͅ ̵̛̝̣͓̹͒̀ẹ̸̥͙̲͙͉̍́̈́́͗y̵̢̺̖̩̘̹̎̾ḛ̵̼̦̽s̵̨͙͔͔̐ that burned with an ancient and unknowable hate. As the Hardcore Champion squeezed his eyes closed, his mind flooded with images of dark caverns at the deepest recesses of the Earth and a cold cement basement with a single, empty wooden chair and cruel leather restrains dangling loosely from it, he clenched his jaw to prevent himself from letting out a scream.
The light returned, and the Dark Man stood as perceived once more before Johnny. The young man’s mind and body felt cold and empty. As the elevator commenced downward once more, his eyes opened and traveled to a distant corner of the elevator. His eyes traveled up to meet Saltair’s once more. “You’re a dog on a leash, aren’t you? And that’s why you’re not doing it right now.”
The Dark Man’s arm extended, his hand clutching Bacchus by the throat. Though his grip was firm, it did not constrict the young man’s windpipe, instead simply lingering in place. Beneath the Dark Man’s skin was movement, like thousands of spiders or wasps. The Hardcore Champion did not react; he simply continued in a low and candid voice.
“Or maybe I’m nothing more than an insect to you, something you wouldn’t bother expending the effort to squash because I’m merely amusing. And maybe this is just the grand ambitions of an arrogant little insect…” the Hardcore Champion lingered, before a resolve took him and his eyes remained locked with his assailant, “...but if there’s a way I’ll figure it out.”
The Dark Man withdrew his hand. A loud ping filled the elevator, as the doors slid open to reveal the lobby. Johnny Bacchus stepped out of the elevator and away from the Dark Man, but before he left, he looked back one last time.
Post by Johnny Bacchus on Oct 9, 2021 11:11:01 GMT -5
I know a guy with a rockstar life,
But he still don’t fly, so he’s mad at the sky
This was inevitable, wasn’t it? I used to watch you on television less than a year ago. I cheered for you. You were proud and powerful – you were spunky and carefree. You wore your heart on your sleeves – you bore your demons like a badge of honor. You kicked in the door of a sport dominated by a boy’s club mentality, and you burned like a beacon of hope for every person that wasn’t a Corey Black or a Spencer Adams – that one day, maybe they, too, could climb to the top of the company, defy the odds, and be atop the entire world. Your failings, falters, and disaffection with the twists and turns of a successful career may still live rent-free in your head as evident by how everyone trots out the “huhuhu seven day champ” bullshit, but it’s time you understood that nobody in your corner held them against you.
The BlackHeart wouldn’t stay down. The BlackHeart would not be tamed. The BlackHeart could not be broken. She was a warrior – a firebrand – a symbol of perseverance to anyone who’s ever struggled in their life. The BlackHeart was a survivor.
And I admired her.
I followed your downward spiral at the end of last year. I watched the two most incredible women I’ve ever seen come to blows. I read the news about your overdose, and I cried on the front porch of my apartment. I sent a Get Well Soon card while you were in the hospital. I cried again while shopping at a CostCo when the news that you’d recovered and were returning to Action Wrestling pinged on my phone. And when I was offered a slate of matches at Action Wrestling, I only hoped that I could have the shot at the only match I wanted: the one with you. Your biggest fan? No. Those are your words – not mine. I’m just a fan. But every fan matters, right?
I can’t find any satisfaction in this moment.
They say never meet your idols, and – well – maybe that goes both ways. Maybe you shouldn’t meet your fans, either. Now that I’ve been in this company for over half a year, I have a little more appreciation for the mindset of the people who step between those ropes and find success in this industry. There’s a fine line balancing the expectations of your career and the reality of it – balancing the audience you hope to appeal to and those you didn’t but do. I saw it in your eyes the first night we met: who the fuck is this guy?
I don’t blame you. I’m unorthodox.
You’re not a large scale thinker, Lissie, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You’ve always seen yourself as a niche, probably because you feel in one yourself: the most successful woman in a male-dominated sport who had to work twice as hard to climb the ranks and triple that to be taken seriously. And if you’re being honest, you feel like you still aren’t. You’ve always said first and foremost that you hope to be an inspiration for little girls and young women worldwide – girls like Priscilla and women like Mae. It’s admirable, especially with how self-centered the overwhelming number of our coworkers are, and I won’t even throw around terms like “pretentious” or “grandiose”. There’s nothing wrong with being higher-minded. But you can be higher-minded while still being limited in the scope of your sensibilities, so I can completely understand why when Mae dragged someone into your dressing room for a meet-and-greet, you’d have been taken aback by the punky queer guy she brought in rather than a six-year-old girl or college roommate. And in that respect, you’re correct:
Who the fuck is this guy?
But that’s the nature of the game, and you have to play. You can’t pick your fans – you can never perfectly control who will or won’t like you, as you learned the hard way in Tokyo. While there’s no way I can look good in this comparison, we all know “My Little Pony” wasn’t rebooted with the intention of creating a subculture of gangly teenager and young adult men worshipping it. Hell, Judy Garland didn’t try to be a gay icon. It always comes down to how you roll with the punches and how you can adapt in stride. Hell, I’ve spent the past half year rolling with the punches and figuring things out on the fly. But that’s the real contrast between us: I improvise, and you maintain course.
If we’re being honest, it’s a burden to have fans. When you step into the limelight and make yourself something greater than yourself, you effectively cede control of your identity. You’re no longer “Elisabeth Hope” or “Johnathan Backus” until you go home, take your face off, and turn on Netflix – now every moment in the public eye, you’re Lissie Hope and Johnny Bacchus. At Starbucks? On stage. The McDonald’s drive-thru? On stage. At the gym? On stage.
But this was a voluntary contract. You sign it the moment you pick up a microphone and speak to the audience. You sign it the moment you say “this is for all of you.” And when you break that contract, there are consequences. You can’t have it both ways.
No, Lissie, I’m not a six-year-old girl – a college student getting her degree to empower the next generation of women – a peer thirsting in the replies on Twitter. But I was a fan.
And you let me down when you signed on to Philidor Holdings.
Gossip, judgement, ethics,
Let’s all exploit all this excess
Then you can feel how he feels
To walk around town lookin’ down from them tall heels
I can forgive personal failings because nobody is perfect. The world is full of basically good people who do bad things – after all, we’re only human. We cheat – we lie – we steal – we hurt one another. But almost anything can be wiped clean. It's the failures of character I’m far less forgiving of: prejudice, malice, greed, arrogance, treachery. Is ignorance one? No. But I do think willful ignorance is. And that’s why we’re here.
We need to talk about Mae.
I don’t know how much you actually know Mae, Lissie, because if we’re being honest, you never seemed to listen to her very much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you liked Mae, but any feelings of sisterly affection began at her being your Fan Club President and ended at her being your personal assistant. I won’t criticize you for dragging down Mae along with you (down is a different matter entirely, but we aren't there yet) – you felt like you owed her acknowledgement for the thankless advocacy work she’d done on your behalf, so you rewarded her in the best way you could think: offering her a spot by your side. You were ignorant and naive in your understanding of the devils you’d signed a deal with; she was too.
Of course, I’ve been close enough to your orbit now I think I have a fairly good read on you. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned and come to loathe about you, there’s no better example than this: you are a fucking narcissist.
Of course Mae was deserving of your favor – look at all she did for you!
Of course your gratitude towards Mae would be pulling her down with you as you drowned – what better reward than to hang out all the time with Lissie Hope!
Of course we should think you cared about Mae – look at all you did for her!
And that narcissism is also why you left her to die. She trusted you, and when she got in your car after your employers tortured her and she needed your help, you dropped her off alone at the hotel to have a fuckingbusiness meeting with her tormentors and didn’t bother bringing it up. Because you can't be wrong, and it can never be your fault. Not this time.
You, Lissie, have blood on your hands from shaking theirs.
You, Lissie, have your friend’s blood on your hands that you’ll never wash out.
You, Lissie, sold out someone I love.
And I am coming to extract my pound of flesh.
Let me get something out of the way really quickly, because after I’m done burying you and washing your sponsors out to sea, you’re going to look at the castle of sand you once had and wonder how you could be so deceived. And you’re going to look around and wonder who’s deserving of blame.
·Is it the dickriders and the yes-men like Meghan Strader you surrounded yourself with, who’d never say a thing out of line because they just want in your circle and between your sheets? Partially. ·Is it the career clout seekers and divas like Atara Themis, or even the rookie ones like Cain and CVO, who only seek association for prestige or entry-level clout? Partially.
·Is it the weak-willed, largely apathetic and uninvested acquaintances like Betsy Granger whose concern for your predicament and contempt for your attitude will dissipate in a week and go back to kvetching with you about something else? Partially.
·Is it the insufferable rats like Lochlyn Cade or the cruel bullies like Dandy DiVito who’ll kick you while your down for their own benefit? Partially.
·Is it the liars and the abusers of trust like Ash Blake and Carter Shaw who’ve used you for their own benefit? Partially.
But there is no one more to blame than you: Elisabeth Hope.
Go ahead and get mad at God,
Point your fingers at your Dad and at Santa Claus
Listen, all of y’all, it’s a sabotage
Wouldn’t look so bad with the bandage off
You can’t accept that because your self esteem is already so tenuous that you can’t admit you were wrong. Through all the dumb bullshit you beat yourself up about, the only person who holds anything against Lissie Hope is just Lissie Hope. But even acknowledging that yourself would crumple your entire persona and kill the victim complex you use to buoy your career. If Lissie Hope had come back from her recovery awake and unafraid, standing on her own two feet, she’d be the biggest fucking hero in this company. But Lissie Hope showed us she isn’t a hero – Lissie Hope is a coward. You don’t need the smug, ironic theme song: you are a bad guy. But the central paradox at the heart of you is that it’s only okay if it’s you saying it about yourself: you can’t have that validated by others.
A lot of pressure in the middle of those shoulders,
And we ain’t gettin’ nothing but older
You want to be the bad guy who is cheered. You want to be Draco in Leather Pants. You want to be the Anti-Villain who everyone secretly sympathizes for.
But you’re not. Not to anyone who's paying attention.
You can be a victim and villain. That’s why I’m willing to call you out on your bullshit, but I’ll just as soon be the only one standing up for you when Corey Black wants to score some cheap heat and your “friends” all go smash the like button for him (the same friends you’re unwilling to cut out, in spite of their overt two-faced nature because you’re too insecure to stay out of the good graces of “the beautiful people”). The point of all this that you’re so fucking insecure, you need to have it both ways. You need to be right, otherwise you’re nothing – just a seven day title reign.
And that’s pathetic, Lis. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
These aren’t friends, they’re parasites. Do you think Jason Cain wants to see you pick your nose or sniff your armpits to check your BO before going out? Did Hakeem Mack ever talk art and indie music with you? You’ve watched Lilian Rae turn on a dime and go Rat Mode. Hell, do you think Miss “I Stan Lissie Hope” gives a shit about your career enough to know who ended your infamous seven day reign? Has Ash ever invited you to lunch for anything other than talking business? Does Atara even know your brother’s name?
So here’s your litmus test: if this person would go down to the liquor store and buy the beer for you so you can save face, they’re not your friend, they’re your enabler. And that goes as much for character as it does addiction. I think deep down you do know this, you’re simply too craven to admit it. But just like a junkie relapsing, you’ll make all the excuses in the world and try to dismiss yourself of any wrongdoing. And that’s why you hate me. Because the truth fucking sucks. You project all your insecurity and self-loathing onto me because you don’t want to admit the fact that you’ve become a monster, surrounded only by the most vapid and cynical yes-men who can tell you’re too insecure and self-absorbed to see through them. And when you bounce and end up back in the hospital – and you will at this rate – they’ll pick your bones before flying off to next year’s girl.
How long does it take your tears to fall from the balcony to hit the crowd beneath you? Still haven’t apparently. After all – it’s such a long way down.
Just don’t say I didn’t warn you – I’ve done it a million times and haven’t been wrong once.
If you want to actually be the good guy, you have to do the good thing. You need to actually stand for something beyond verbal platitudes and cheap ass kissing. You need to be willing to be unpopular and say things people might not like because it’s the right thing to do. You need to not let your groupies and cohorts off the hook because the reality hurts and you may have to start over. Starting over is hard, and being good is hard, but it’s still the right thing to do. It isn’t sexy, nor is it glamorous, but it’s the only way to do it, BoJack Hopesman.
And I would know. Not that you’ve ever given a shit about who I am beyond the strawman you’ve created in your mind (the same one that motivated you to attempt to egregiously violate the trust of someone who looked up to you), but I know personally how easy it is to coast by in life. The difference between us is that one of us has grown up and realized they need to put in the effort themselves to actually be the person they want to be.
Can you look me in the eye and say I’m talking about you? How about into the mirror?
You’re a big girl, and at the end of the day, you’re the only one who can make the choices for your life. Those choices have consequences. I’m not Jason Cain: I’m not terribly interested in failing to get through to you. At the end of the day, the only one who can get through to you is you.
Howard Black couldn’t save you – Jason Cain can’t.
Bonnie Blue wouldn’t save you – Atara won’t.
Addy couldn’t save you – Betsy can’t.
Spencer Adams wouldn’t save you – Cassidy Adler won’t
Robbie couldn’t save you.
I know I shouldn’t go there. I know now that I’ve gone there, you probably won’t listen. But I’m going to say it because – fuck – somebody has to. Somebody needs to take the bullet, and it’s not like there’s any love to lose at this point.
I can’t watch you put up the memories of others to shield yourself from your consequences anymore. I can’t stomach watching you slide the blade into someone’s gut and then pivot to stare at the moon and cry in loneliness. I don’t want to hear you demand the worship of fans and then say you don’t fucking owe them anything!
People have put themselveson the line for you. And in every selfish choice, you spit on them.
Howard Black took a fucking beating for you, and you kissed him on the cheek like Judas before putting him down. Addy has had your back and you endorsed that monster who’s tormented her these past months. Betsy Granger tried to talk some sense into you, and you crawled to Atara Themis for a sympathy fuck. Mae Ashby trusted you, and you still sleep with the wolves who devoured her.
What the fuckwould Robbie say if he saw how you “honor” his memory?
What the fuckwould Robbie think of the person you are?
What the fuck would Mae say if she saw you Friday Night?
I’m ready to move forward from this chapter. And that’s all it is now – just those feelings of anger and disgust so intense you get numb to them. You’re not going to listen to me – none of the coattail riders and hanger-ons will do any self-reflection – your “friends” will be aghast I have the nerve to call them on their bullshit – a whole peanut gallery will tisk me for “being mean” to you. I don’t even think I’ll get any catharsis.
But I’ll have closure. And that’s enough now.
So I'll end on this note: you keep Addy's name out of your mouth when you're gonna speak evil of me. That venom is exclusively mine. The difference between Adelaide and you is that she put a bullet in the malefactors against her loved one – you swore fucking fealty to them.
Is there anything left to say? Fuck, man.
Ain’t nothin’ changed but the day we run from,
But nobody knows it better than you, huh?
The news was wrong. Lissie Hope did die on 11/11/20. Or maybe it was 2/28/21. Who fucking cares. You’re not reborn – you’re a reanimated husk of everything you stood for, cooked up and corrupted by all the anger and bitterness and evil in you as though Philidor Holdings had Herbert West on payroll. I suppose it’s time to rip the band-aid off and put you down. And I won’t hesitate to smash that pedestal – I wouldn’t have erected it for this Lissie Hope in the first place.
But I do dedicate this one to the memory of the BlackHeart.