Back By (Un)Popular Demand

By: Kasey Winterborn

Date: 30th Jul 2021

They were all around her. Hands, outstretched. Reaching, clawing. Everywhere she turned, there was no escaping. Fingers long and clawlike, contorted into grotesque angles. Coloured black as pitch. And then there were the voices. Never more than whispers, but loud enough to hear every word crystal clear. ”Pathetic.” ”Loser.” ”Trash.” ”Inferior.” ”Mediocre.” She pressed her hands over her ears, but the voices were in her head, echoing their cruel sentiments over and over until she sunk to her knees. A sob bubbled up in her throat, growing and growing until it unleashed itself as a primal scream… Kaseyís big brown eyes flew open, and for a moment she felt sheer panic as the darkness enveloped her senses, but the comforting feel of the warm body behind her helped to calm her racing heart as she slowly remembered where she was. Turning her head slightly, she could just make out Shawnís sleeping form behind her, and she smiled softly before gently lifting his arm from across her waist and sliding out of the bed. She paused a moment, making sure that he was still asleep before padding over to the bedroom door. Picking up her discarded robe from the floor, she slid it over her shoulders and tied the ribbon around her slender waist as she crossed the kitchen area and walked out of the bungalow onto the soft white sand of their private beach. The moonlight sparkled off the waves of the gulf as she sank down to sit in the sand, wrapping her arms around her legs and bringing her knees up to rest her chin on them. She let out a long, heavy sigh, brushing back a few loose tendrils of hair. Of course it would happen now, she thought to herself bitterly. It had been quite some time since she had had a dream like that. Almost a year ago, as a matter of fact. She knew what it meant, and it terrified her. She was just glad that this time she didnít actually scream herself awake like she had all the other times. She didnít want to worry Shawn needlessly. On the other hand, it had been quite some time since she had someone that she could confide in. And just last week he had been the one to lay his heart bare before her with his own struggles… She was so caught up in her own thoughts, she didnít hear the footsteps approaching her from behind (though the soft sand probably helped significantly). So when she felt a hand rest gently on her shoulder, she startled slightly, but relaxed and smiled up at Shawn.

Everything OK?” he asked, a slight look of concern in his eyes. He sat down behind her, cradling her body in the space between his legs as his arms wrapped around her to pull her back into his chest.

For a moment, she toyed with the idea of telling him everything was fine, but she knew that heíd more than likely see through her flimsy lie. So she took a deep breath, leaning her head back to rest on his shoulder. “Mostly.

Mostly?

JustÖgetting too far into my own head. Itís probably just the nerves. Yunno, first time back in almost two months and all.” She tried to laugh, but it came out as a weak chuckle.

She felt Shawnís arms squeeze tighter around her, as his chin came down to rest on her shoulder. “Alright, my turn to be the sounding board. Letís have it, dump that brain out.

She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “Iím scared. Not just scared…terrified. Itís been so long since so many good things have happened to me, and Iím just afraid that none of it is real and itís all just some cosmic joke that the universe is playing on me and itíll all come crashing down to burn at my feet.

There was a moment of silence, broken only by the lapping of the waves on the shore. “Well, that was a lot to unpack,” Shawn said slowly.

But now that she was on a roll, Kasey continued on, her face taking on a thousand yard stare as she gazed out across the water. “I walked away from the biggest high my career has ever been on, and while I donít regret it for a second, I canít help feeling like Iíll never have that kind of success ever again. Now Iím starting in a brand-new company, again, wondering if Iíll be good enough for them. On top of that, I get someone I donít even know calling me her best friend, and all I can think of is Ďwhat if this is just some kind of trick?í Not to mention that my very first match for the company is against this new bestie of mine, which isnít helping to quell that thoughtÖ

As she spoke, dark clouds began forming across the night sky, blotting out the moon and stars while thunder rumbled ominously and lightning flashed between the clouds. But Kasey paid it no heed as her rambling continued. “And then thereís us. Donít get me wrong, Iím the happiest Iíve been in a long time with you. But my stupid brain keeps trying to convince me that youíre just toying with me and some kind of public humiliation is looming on the horizon –

Before she could get another word out, Shawn had turned her face toward him and silenced her by pressing a kiss to her lips, almost aggressively. She was caught off-guard for a moment, but soon relaxed and returned the kiss. After a few moments, they parted and pressed their foreheads together.

Your brain is a dirty, rotten liar,” he said, giving her a warm, sincere smile as he reached up to tuck a loose tendril of hair behind her ear. “You are going to do amazing in Fight, Ophelia really seems to like you, and I am absolutely crazy about you.” He emphasized his point by giving her another kiss, this one softer and sweeter than the previous one. “I know itís hard to keep the voices in your head quiet, but I just want you to remember that youíve got people that you can lean on now. You donít have to go it alone anymore. You were there for me last week. Now itís my turn, OK?

She blinked back a few tears and smiled, nodding before turning back to look out across the water. The storm clouds that had seemed to appear out of nowhere had disappeared just as quickly, and the moonlight shone down across the water once again. Maybe, just maybeÖ.everything will be OK. ——————– Well, here we go for the hundredth timeÖ Sorry to swipe your song, James, but it just seemed appropriate. Promise Iíll make it up to you once weíre stateside. It literally does seem like the hundredth time Iíve made a debut in a company. Not to say that I jump around a lot, but I just donít seem to have the greatest luck when it comes to staying in one spot for any length of time. Of course, anyone who saw my latest run this past year in Project Honor is probably screaming “LIAR!” right now, and…well, yeah, I guess that was probably the best run Iíve ever had in a company since I started this whole crazy adventure some ten or so years ago. And yes, I did leave the company of my own choice, for reasons I wonít divulge at this time, but I will say that it was an amicable departure and I wish the company nothing but the best. But thatís not why weíre here today. Iím sure that by now you all have heard the news that Iím off my self-imposed hiatus and back by unpopular demand. Ba dum tss. All joking aside, Iíve finally put pen to paper and inked a new contract with an up and coming company based out of New York, called Fight NYC. I mean, you canít get much more “does what it says on the tin” than that. And in my debut match, I drew a girl who, upon my introduction tweet by said company, claimed me as her new bestie. Without ever having met me face to face. I can honestly say that has never happened to me before. ”So then Kasey,” I hear you say to yourself, “how is that going to affect your gameplan walking into this match then? Knowing that your opponent across the ring considers you her best friend?” Oh, you sweet summer child. You clearly donít understand the wrestling world, if youíre asking an inane question like that. Sure, Ophelia and I – for all intents and purposes – are newfound besties. Which is kind of a rare thing in our line of work. At least it is in my case. But we both know that whatever happens in that ring is strictly business. Sure, weíre both going to walk in there with the ultimate goal of victory on our minds, and weíre going to pull out all the stops to attain that by any means necessary. But after the bell rings, and the victory is awarded, weíll toast to each other, no matter the outcome. But spoilers – Itís gonna be my hand raised in the air. Thatís not to say that I donít think Ophelia has what it takes. I know for a fact that sheís gonna give me one hell of a welcoming party in that ring come Venom. But the fact is, I want this more. I need this more. I was riding the biggest wave of my career two months ago…and I walked away. My reasons are my own, but that feeling is still pulsing in my veins. It never really went away. I may not have a shiny gold belt anymore, but I know how it felt to hold one in my hands. And Iím ready to do whatever it takes to get one again. And if that means having to beat down my new bestie to start that journey? A girlís gotta do what a girlís gotta do. But Iíll tell you what, Pheels – first roundís on me afterwards. Iíll even spring for mozzarella sticks.