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Your Footsteps Will Be Washed Away
« on: December 26, 2017, 11:36:07 PM »

“Alright...and that’s the last set, Ms. King.”

Natalie winced as the doctor removed the final row of stitches along the back of her shoulder. She ran her fingers along the faint remains of the scars that were littered across her forehead. All cuts from Zack’s fists. And his kicks. And him throwing glasses at her. All in all, it was a very shitty night back at the Old Whale for Natalie. But that wasn’t too uncommon for her. Just this time, she got to exit as the F2W Champion. Always needing to find some silver lining in it all.

Everything ached as she stood up from the table. She shook the doctor’s hand and felt like her arm was going to be pulled out of its socket. Natalie knew that all of her fighting was going to catch up to her, but not like this. Not this painful anyways. Even when she was dedicated to her MMA career, training nearly every day? Or even just her bar fighting. Nothing compared to what she was going through now. Granted, she wasn’t being thrown into glass often or actually fighting trained professionals.

“Thanks.”

Natalie needed a fix. One that wouldn’t come. Ever since last month, she’d been clean, but not of her own will. She had to lay low after nearly beating some random Joe to death in a nightclub bathroom. Joey wanted her--demanded her to stay out of there. At least for the month. And that killed her. How she managed to function for so long was a mystery to her. How the doctor hadn’t noticed anything was a mystery. Or maybe she did. Maybe it was just so obvious to everyone that they didn’t need to bring it up.

As she left the hospital, she wanted to turn back. Wanted to tell them what was wrong with her and beg for help. But there was no salvation to be found there. No amount of painkillers to dull the pain that existed far below the surface layer. And through the snowfall, she saw her devil just a few steps away from her. The silver SUV with the door opened, Joey standing to the side of it, and inside of it, Irving. A groan under her breath as she walked up to her ride; each step she wished she could just melt into the ground beneath her and vanish.

“You’re looking good, Nat.”

Joey’s emotionless compliment did no favors as Natalie sat in the car, wincing again, and the door slammed. Her eyes were glued to the back of the passenger side headrest and she didn’t want to look away.

“Glad you’ve healed up...champ.”

The pause was enough to send a chill up Natalie’s spine.

“We need you healed. Can’t have the face of our brand lookin’ so rugged, can we?”

He reaches out, pinching Natalie’s cheek, and she quickly pulls her head away. She wanted to turn over and drive her elbow into his skull. She wanted to open the car door and roll out, not caring what came next as long as she was able to escape; if only for a moment. But there was no escape. This was her life.

“Good to see your reflexes are still there. You’ll need them. Your next fight is lined up. That Alfie Tenner kid...you need to make an example of him, right? You’re too passive, Natalie. If you wanna keep workin’ for us, Nat? You gotta show people you ain’t fuckin’ soft.”

She nodded absentmindedly. Just enough to shut him up. But Alfie’s name triggered something in her. A smile, no matter how faint, it was there. He was a friend. At least, Natalie saw it that way and that was good enough for her. But that lasted for just a second as the rest of Irving’s words echoed through her mind. “Make an example of him”. “Too passive”. It made her sick to her stomach. Of course, it wasn’t that long ago she was taking a bath in broken glass because of Zack Fantana, but Alfie?

Alfie was a friend. She had no problem fighting him. No problem getting the absolute best out of him. But anything more than that? She couldn’t. She wouldn’t. But she felt Irving’s glare. She didn’t have an option. And that was the story of Natalie’s life. One without options. One with someone else controlling her every step. And there was no escape. She’d roll out of the SUV and someone would replace her. Because there’s always a line of fuck ups out there. Natalie just happened to be the most talented.

But that’d fade away. Her seemingly unpayable debt never would. She didn’t want to think what would happen if she lost the F2W Championship. All she had to do was stay low key, stay away from everything, but she couldn’t. She wanted wrestling to be her escape. She wanted to fight not because it came naturally during her drunken bouts, but because she wanted to prove her worth to the world. And she got to do that. With an asterisk next to her name.

“You’re not goin’ to disappoint us now, are you, Nat?”

“No…”

“I’m goin’ to have to ask you to speak up, Natalie.”

“No...I won’t disappoint.”

“That’s what I like to hear. You’re goin’ out there to that warehouse and you’re gonna make sure that Alfie ain’t walkin’ out of there with your...our championship.”

Again, another nod, but it didn’t mean anything more than to just please Irving. But it got the gears turning. An idea. What if she did lose it? What would happen then? Natalie was too high profile now. Or at least, she wanted to believe that was the case. What would happen if she just disappeared? There were far too many traces now. Too many connections. And Irving’s fingerprints wouldn’t be cleaned from the scene of the crime. And Alfie, he’d say something. And then it’d spread. One person after another, looking for Natalie King.

All it took was losing to Alfie. She knew it could be done. She knew that her reign started as a fix, so what better way than to end it as a fix? But deep down, Natalie knew.

She knew that she couldn’t.

Because when she’d go missing, when people started asking? They’d go missing too. And the cycle would never end. The people would look for Natalie King, but then they’d look for someone else. And she’d just be a name that people would look back on and wonder where she went simply as a bit of trivia. Natalie didn’t want to put anyone else in danger. She’d already done enough damage by trying to fight. Winning the F2W Championship was what sealed her fate. All she had to do was stay quiet, do whatever Irving asked of her, and maybe one day it’d all vanish.

“Take care, Natalie. Be seein’ you again real soon.”

Natalie was so lost in her thoughts that she hadn’t realized they pulled up to her apartment. The door opened and Joey helped Natalie out of the car as she stumbled. He kept her steady and looked her in the eyes.

“You going to be alright, Nat?”

She shrugged. Obviously far from it.

“Yeah...I’ll be fine.”

“Let me walk you up.”

It felt surreal almost. To hear what sounded like genuine concern in Joey’s normally cold voice. When they looked into one another’s eyes, she saw that same concern. A beacon of hope. No matter how small. Each step, she started to feel a little more confident. Started to feel like she could turn to Joey and cry out for help. And as they walked up the stairs, Natalie unlocked her door, and turned to him.

“Joey, I nee-”

“Oh, Nat, I’m gonna need you to pick up a few people tomorrow.”

And like that. The beacon died out.

“Sorry, were you going to say something?”

She shook her head. Joey nodded and walked back down as Natalie stared out into the night sky. The snow kept falling. And it would keep falling. It’d stop eventually, but only to resume again.

There was no escape.

And she couldn’t step off the gas pedal. As much as she respected Alfie and their friendship, she had to come out swinging. She had to push Alfie further than he’s ever gone. Further than she’s ever gone. All to prove a point to Irving. And what for? To keep her alive for just a few months more? Was there even a point to keep going? She turned back inside and slammed the door shut behind her; falling to her knees in the process. Her body had finally given out on her.

All the pain that was numb to came right back. And she crawled. Dragging herself to the living room and pulling herself up onto the couch. She wanted to scream out. She didn’t want to fight Alfie the way Irving wanted her to. Natalie didn’t even know if she had it in her.

Until her eyes rolled over to the coffee table. And there it was. A small note next to a clear bag. She mustered whatever was left in her to grab the note and read it.

“Just enough to keep you alive, Nat.”

Signed off by Joey. Natalie unzipped the bag and dumped the contents out on the table. She wanted to run away from this life, but it brought her right back in. And she wasn’t forced back in kicking and screaming. This was all on her own. That first line?

It brought her back. Everything became blurry. There was no more pain. No more moral compass telling her what she should and shouldn’t do. There was only a burning sensation. Standing up, she walked over to the chair where the F2W Championship lay and picked the belt up. While the rest of the world around her stayed blurry, the championship was the clearest thing in the room. No, it was the clearest thing in Natalie’s world.

And she wasn’t going to lose it.

Even if it meant she’d have to prove a point. Even if Alfie had to be made an example of.

Even if she had to break his neck.



Long after The Old Whale has come to a close, in the empty, dim lit parking lot, Natalie King can be found seated on the handrail leading up to the front doors. As the cameras roll up to her, she’s seen looking at the F2W Championship wrapped around her shoulder before lifting her head up toward the audience with a faint smile on her face.

“Look at how far we’ve come, Alfie. It’s almost like we’re stepping back in time to relive our first match here in F2W. Going to your warehouse, still unsure of what will happen, but knowing enough to have to prepare for the fight of my life. And sure enough, that’s what I got last time and I can’t imagine this go around being any different. I respect that, Alfie. Since then, we’ve gone down different paths, but I guess us crossing paths again was bound to happy. Honestly? I’m excited for it.”

Her smile widens at the idea, but wipes away once the full impact of her last memory against Alfie Tenner hits her. But she shrugs it off and regains that faint smile.

“Which...I know that’s a bit of an odd statement considering I couldn’t get rid of that smell after I fell into the tunnel of love for about a week after we fought. But that’s beside the point. Ever since we first crossed paths on that first Melee, I hadn’t quite felt the same fight that I got from you. Don’t get me wrong, Zack put up a hell of a fight, Blackstar and his goons, but you, Alfie? I don’t think it’s a secret that you took me to my limit and if you run that match back ten times, you’d get a new winner every time.”

“Because that’s who we are at our very core. Fighting is in our DNA. Of course, we took different paths getting to this point...but to me? That doesn’t change anything. I still go out there every single month giving it my all, ready to fight for this F2W Championship. And you? You go out there fighting to get to this point, clawing and scraping with everyone that gets in your way. And you earned your spot here. You earned your chance to fight for the F2W Championship. And I’m happy for you, I really am...but there’s just one issue with that all, Alfie.”

Natalie’s head hangs low for a bit, letting out a visible sigh with help from the cold air before looking back up at the camera. A hint of sadness rests on her face, knowing all too well what must come next.

“You’ve got to go through me. And to your credit, you nearly did last time, but as you know...time changes. Experience makes us better. And I can’t claim that I’m some legendary wrestler with a history of being this great champion...I’m not. I’m not even a year into my professional wrestling career. So what I’ve learned in my nearly four months here might not even matter a year from now. But it’s gotten me this far, right? I’m not trying to sound arrogant, believe me, but I must be doing something right if I can become the face of F2W with just four months under my belt.”

“If I can go undefeated and hold this…”

Unhooking the F2W Championship from her shoulder, Natalie holds it up high for a few seconds.

“If I can hold this after nearly every fight I’ve had? I’m feeling confident, Alfie.”

And that confidence is evident on her face as she puts on a smirk, resting the championship back on her shoulder.

“I’m confident not because I’ve beaten you before...but confident in knowing that I can do it again. I have to, Alfie. I have to do it again because this F2W Championship? It represents everything that I am. Everything that I stand for. I’ve fought to get to this point, I’ve won time and time again to get to this point...I can’t let go. Just because I respect you and I see you as a friend...I can’t bullshit you, Alfie. Just like last time, it’s going to be ugly. It’s going to hurt a hell of a lot...and only one of us can stand tall again.”

“But I know it won’t be a cakewalk. I know that if I go back and watch our first match? I know that’s a different Alfie Tenner. I know the Alfie Tenner I beat...he’s dead and gone. I can go back, study all that tape, but it won’t mean a damn thing. Because I know you’re going to do the same thing. You’re going to study every mistake you made and you’re going to fix it. And hell, Alfie, judging by your last few matches here...you’ve already fixed those mistakes.”

“So I don’t really know what to expect. And that’s only fair because you don’t either, Alfie. It’s just like our first encounter, isn’t it? All we know to expect is a war because all we are is gladiators. And that hasn’t changed. Only now...we’ve got the biggest prize of them all between us. And while last time there might have been some aura of respect between us...I don’t really expect that this time and that’s not a bad thing, Alfie. In fact, I kinda hope that’s the direction you take.”

A wide smile forms at the thought; as morbid as it was. It was just the life they lived.

“Because if you’re not doing everything in your ability to be the champion...you don’t deserve to be the champion. That’s what this is all about, right? Fighting to win. And to me? That means fighting dirty. That’s what I’ll respect out of you, Alfie. With this belt on my shoulders or around my waist, I’m doing whatever it takes to keep it there. I’m not going to let anyone pry this from me. They’ll have to kill me first!”

“And Alfie? I don’t plan on dying anytime soon.”

She smirks, standing up from the handrail before bursting out with energy.

“I’m not stopping until my heart gives out! This F2W Championship is the only thing I’ve got going for me. To let that slip out of my hands? I might as well be dead. So this is more than a fight over gold and glory...it’s a fight for my heart. The gold that pumps through my veins, the glory that keeps me alive! It might sound selfish, but it’s the truth. I wouldn’t lie to you, Alfie. You’re public enemy number one. I’ve got nothing to hide and everything to lose. I’m out here in the open, waiting for someone to take me down.”

“Part of me hopes it’s you...but I can’t let that happen, Alfie. I’ve worked too damn hard getting here to just let my personal feelings allow me to drop this championship. So when we meet up, when it’s time to throwdown in that warehouse...I’m taking you down. We’re going to paint that warehouse with our blood, sweat, and our tears! And when the dust settles, when all of the chaos has come to an end...the cameras will pick up on one sight.”

Stepping closer to the camera, walking in and out of the shadows provided by the lights in the parking lot.

“Climbing out of the debris, covered in blood, but...I’ll be there. I’ll be standing tall with the F2W Championship STILL above my head!”

And as she says it, Natalie holds the F2W Championship back up in the sky, her eyes piercing through the camera. Her breathing has picked up as her silent glare says it all, but that breaks away with a knowing grin.

“Let’s do...what we fucking do best.”

She clinks the faceplate of the F2W Championship against the camera lens before walking back into the shadows and the scene fades to black.