By: Jennie Fenix
Writing Prompt: No
Date: 24th Dec 2021
Jennie was inside of the FIGHT! Tower training center with a pair of wireless Beats cushioned over her ears; she could not hear anyone else enter the training center while she was lost in thought and music. Her hands were wrapped with tape, and then covered with MMA style gloves. Her face twisted and contorted with each punch that she threw at the punching bag.
Why can’t you be more like her? Jennie thought to herself in a mocking tone. She scrunched up her face while she focused in on the bag, and threw out a left hook that hit its mark causing the bag to sway back and forth; she followed up with a right jab aimed at her eye-level, then a second to her waist level in an uppercut fashion.
She’s so much better than you! And prettier! You’ve got a big head… BIG HEAD! Jennie gritted her teeth while connecting with another combination against the bag before closing it out with another hook that forced the bag to sway back and forth frantically. She could hear the mocking voices of Atara and Jason Cashe as she thought of the “big head” comment that they constantly ridiculed her for, and she instinctively raised her hands to her head feeling around her scalp. It’s not too big. Is it? It’s average. It’s a good size. That’s what she said! Jennie thought again and nodded with acceptance of her physical appearance; she was happy with who she was both inside and out, and knew that she couldn’t let anyone else get to her.
Jennie let out a heavy sigh, trying to control her breathing throughout the workout routine that she had gotten herself accustomed to. Without taking a glance around the room, she moved toward one of the medicine balls and brought it to herself before balancing herself on it with her arms and beginning to use the mountain climber exercise.
You can do better than this, girl! You can be better! I mean, come on, think about it; you had one hell of a match with Warstein… You had a hell of a match with Joe. Jennie couldn’t keep herself from growling under her breath as she thought about Joe, and how Tara had brought herself into the situation by demanding to have the match with him in an attempt to avenge her own name. Stupid Joe… stupid Tara… Jennie thought again and her pace picked up.
You don’t have to protect me! You don’t have to fight for me! I can do this. I’m ready. Let me make my mistakes! Jennie thought as she visualized herself standing in front of Tara; she had her finger pressed against Tara’s collarbone in this vision and just smiled while thinking of everything that she wanted to say to her if she had the opportunity…and the courage. Again, Jennie grumbled under her breath while coming to a realization that she knew she would never say anything quite disrespectful to her older sister, even if the opportunity had presented itself. She was much too grateful for Tara taking her in as a teenager, and helping raise her; getting to know her. Tara didn’t have to do that. Tara could have just pretended that she never existed.
Jennie finally stood up from that exercise and took the medicine ball with her; she held it to her abs and committed to doing a squat before standing up and throwing the ball into the air. She would catch it, and continue the rhythm for as long as she could. The rest of her workout routine had been much of the same; Jennie still lost in thought about everything that she wished she could say, and everything that she wished she could be. She wanted to be better. She wanted to be recognized; she wanted to be respected, but it seemed no matter how hard she fought, and how hard she tried, she didn’t get it. She was just the lesser sister. She was overshadowed, and what could she really do to step out of her shadow?
Jennie was exhausted. It was still early in the morning, but already she felt like she wanted to crawl back into her bed and get at least an hour more of sleep, but then someone caught her eye as she seemed ready to leave but she drew in a deep breath and walked over to Ricky who hadn’t seemed to notice that she was there.
Strange, she thought to herself while tilting her head to the side. He didn’t say hello! Kinda rude… Jennie continued in her own thoughts before walking up to Ricky and finally reaching out to grab his shoulder; Ricky jumped from the gentle graze from her fingernails against his shoulder.
“Oh shit! Jennie! Hey!”
There was something a little bit off about him. Why did he jump? Jennie’s lip curled at one side giving an expression that she was wondering how she had startled him as she did. Jennie shifted her expression into a wry smile as she began rubbing her eyes and stretched her arms over her head afterward and let out a bellowing yawn.
“Heeey, Ricky!” That yawn came out of nowhere, but I suppose I had hit the gym pretty hard…so I guess a nap should be in order, but it wouldn’t hurt to see how he’s doing, “How are you?” I asked him while slumping against the front of the cycle and I felt a little jittery so started tapping my fingers a bit rapidly.
“Hey Jenniee~” I retained my own smile and saw him smile back, but…there was still something off. I could just hear it in his voice. He shrugged at me while slowing his own pace. “I’m okay enough, I think. How ‘bout you?”
He was still off, but I couldn’t keep myself from letting out another groan after the workout I’ve had! I just wanted to lie down for a moment. Just a moment. I couldn’t keep my head up and laid it against the front of the cycle. “Soooo tired!” I sighed, and thought about everything going on between Tara, Sabin, Angel, and everybody, “Everything is a mess.” I grumbled and just stared blankly in front of me for what felt like forever, but was only just a few seconds before straightening myself out and looking at Ricky. He was still staring back at me. “How long have you been up? I thought I’d be the first!”
“I’ve been up for a…while. Hadda…weird…dream and couldn’t sleep very well at all last night.” He let off a laugh that still struck me as he was more nervous and he tilted his head at me. “But whatchyu mean by everythin’s a mess? Are you good?”
I could tell that he was genuinely concerned for me, but I knew that he had his own problems and didn’t want him to worry about mine. He stepped off of the cycle, but I tried to dismiss him from persisting but tapped my hand against the front a few more times.
“Oh it’s no biggy really, we’ll deal with that! What was the dream about? Was it like…zombie apocalypse?” I couldn’t stop myself from leaning forward. I’ve had recurring dreams about the zombie apocalypse that I haven’t told anyone about; I didn’t want to frighten them! Ricky’s eyes widened when I asked him that, and I resisted the urge to laugh from the look on his face, but he shook his head.
“Nah, nothin’ bad like that at all. It was a great dream really, just kinda shook me up a lil’ bit.” He nodded at me.
“Oohhh…was it about puppies?” The anticipation was killing me! I had to know what his dream was about! It had to be something important if it kept him awake. But puppies are so cute…I couldn’t help but get into my own fantasy about being at one of Tara’s shelters where she would let us play with the puppies at any time. I still could! “I had a dream about puppies one time! They were aliens and started eating everything but they were too cute so we just let it happen.” My eyes widened as I nodded my head. Ricky seemed stunned by the dream, but then he laughed which eased me up a bit…it’s still good to see him be able to laugh when I know he’s got something bothering him.
“We’d be totally screwed if that happened. How do you defend against that kinda cuteness?” He continued to laugh while trying to say that, and I tilted my head slightly while still thinking of the cute puppies. “Scary as hell just thinkin ‘bout it.”
My mind was still locked but I finally shook my head. I gave him my undivided attention, and smiled; my curiosity still had to be answered. “Tell me about yours, though!”
“Mine? Oh…uhh…” He reached back and was rubbing his head. “‘It was after the match at Countdown with Toddy and it was really nice…but different?” I just nodded my head wanting him to continue without interruption, but when he had delayed, I had no choice.
“How so? Was it like…the future? I mean of course it’s the future, but like further in the future!” Silly question, of course. The future. If it was about Countdown, of course it was in the future! Silly, Jennie. I could see that smile come back to his face, though, but he had his own dazed look in his eyes as if he weren’t fully here. I’m sure he was thinking back on the dream because I still had to know.
“Nah, it was like…the match itself. Me and Toddy tore it up…and I won. I actually won. And when I got to the back, you were there.”
At that mention, I giggled, “Total premonition! Of course you won, and of course I’m gonna be there after you win!” I nodded again. I was certain that Ricky was going to win this time around, but I still bit down on my tongue afterward to keep myself quiet.
“Well yeah, you’re gonna be there. But like, in the dream, you weren’t just there, you were there.” I was…there? I didn’t fully comprehend. “Things were different in the dream than they are here and you were sayin’ the nicest things and bein’ so supportive and just…” I could see him starting to hesitate, and shook his head. I noticed that he had blushed just a little and it finally clicked for me.
I mouthed out an “O” and was taken aback. “Oh…oh!” I finally said aloud. I couldn’t help but blush a little; it was flattering. I couldn’t help but feel flattered by him having that sort of dream, I mean…I haven’t told him about my dreams. Yeah, sure, I’m celibate, but I keep trying to make it clear to everyone: that doesn’t mean that I don’t have the same urges, or the same fantasies… And it was just a dream, right? I’d be lying to myself if I said I didn’t have my own, even about Ricky, but I knew…now was not the time. It didn’t matter anyway. It was just a dream. “Umm! Nothing wrong with that… it was just a dream after all!” I assured him, and assured myself, and nodded.
Following her time at the gym, Jennie had trumped her way back to her own apartment; she jiggled her keys while they were in the lock a few times before swinging the door open and just as the door opened, she saw her eldest nephew, Sabin, walking into the kitchen wearing red flannel pajama bottoms and no shirt; he glanced over as he walked by.
Sabin was also in the business, known to the industry by the name Wraith, and had recently had a war with who was his former stepfather; it was a strange situation that he and Jennie were in when Tara had revealed that her and Angel had been seeing each other. Neither Sabin nor Jennie were big fans of him. Tara had still reached out to her in hopes that she could get him to go home for Christmas. The whole family was supposed to be there.
“Oh, hey!” Sabin called out to her but didn’t break his stride toward the kitchen.
“Good morning!” Jennie called back while walking into her apartment and closing the door behind her, “I was up before you!”
“Yeah,” Sabin said while opening the refrigerator door, and pulling out a Body Armor drink; he twisted the cap and walked back out so that the two weren’t shouting across the apartment at each other, and Jennie was setting her bag down on the couch, “I noticed when you weren’t here.” He had that same mocking tone that his mother was pretty famous for having. Jennie rolled her eyes at him.
“I just went down to the gym…you know it’s open for you, too, if you need to go?” Jennie suggested.
“I’ll probably hit it up later,” he said while taking a sip, “But you know where I stand on your training…we can go play some paintball later.”
Jennie’s face lit up and she clapped her hands together a few times, “That sounds like a plan! Should we invite Lauren and Ricky?”
Sabin gave a nonchalant shrug before answering, “Yeah, sure. Why not?”
Jennie plopped down on the couch, still in her workout clothes, and Sabin moved forward with a spring in his step before sitting down on the opposite end of the couch. He took up the remote control and turned the television on…it was already running Dragon Ball Z, which caused them both to pay close attention since it had earned their entertainment. The silence ensued for two minutes before Sabin finally broke it, “Are you ready for this match with Ashlynn?” He asked without turning his head from the television and took another sip from his drink.
Jennie had her head resting against her head as she mouthed the word, “Kame–” in sync with Goku in the beginning phase of his Kamehameha on the show. She didn’t even seem to hear Sabin’s question until he finally did turn his head toward her, and she just seemed puzzled; it could be the grogginess, it could be the distraction by the television, it could even be her mind racing through some of what Ricky had told her, but she finally questioned, “Huh?”
“Your match with Ashlynn, Tláak’w,” Sabin said in a raised tone reverting to the Tlingit language from the tribe that he had been part of from his father’s side in Alaska, “Are you ready for it?” he repeated.
“I mean,” Jennie began but stuttered momentarily, “yeah, I guess.”
“Damn it! You can’t just guess about this! You need to tell me you’re ready. Are you ready? Because if you’re not ready, then I’m going to turn the TV off right now until you find that motivation. You don’t have to get rid of that belt for my mom, for our name, or anyone except you, okay? And I know you want to get rid of that belt. The only way you’re going to do that is by beating Ashlynn at this pay-per-view.” Sabin spoke in such a way that Jennie felt like she was talking to her sister.
“Okay! Yes, Sabin, I’m ready.” Jennie said while rolling her eyes. That did not go unnoticed by Sabin, and he hit the button on the remote again to turn the television off. Jennie kind of slumped forward, “Oh, come on! It was getting to the good part!” Jennie shouted as she started trying to fumble for the remote, but Sabin reached it away from her with one arm while holding her back with his other.
“Ah ah ah!” Sabin said in a stern tone, “I’m not going to say that it’s a bad thing, but you are being too nice to some of these people. The moment that bell rings, you need to start seeing them for what they are: your opponent. So I want you to pretend that you’re in the ring with Ashlynn right now, and I want you to tell me what you’d be thinking to make you want to just hit her.”
Jennie scowled, but seemed to struggle as she went back to her side of the couch and crossed her arms. “I don’t know,” she pouted, “I guess I would tell her that she doesn’t have to be mean to me just because we’re fighting each other…”
“Okay, okay, so you want there to be mutual respect between you and your opponent, but she’s not letting it go that way. What kind of things is she saying to get under your skin?” Sabin continued.
“She’s saying–” Jennie scrunched her face momentarily, letting a little bit of her “grr” shine through, “She’s saying that Ricky and I are fucking, and it’s nothing like that! She’s saying that I’m doing some shit behind Sahara’s back, and you know me– you know I would never do that!” Jennie shouted, “We are just friends and that seems to confuse everybody else, and I just don’t get it…I don’t get why… Why can’t we be friends? Why does it have to be something more?”
Sabin nodded his head a few times; he had enjoyed seeing some of the anger coming out of his aunt in regards to the match and he had gestured for her to keep rolling with the thoughts that were flooding her mind.
“She doesn’t have a damn clue what she’s talking about! She doesn’t seem to understand the concept that just because she would do something, doesn’t mean that I would…” Jennie continued, but Sabin held his hand up as if to ask her to pause.
“She is a current champion, so that’s something that you need to keep in mind. She’s been sharing the ring with some people that have a lot of history, which has brought her a lot of attention…” Sabin said with his head tilted to the side; his bright blue eyes stared a hole right through her and questioned her further without him having to verbally do so. The look in his eyes suggested that he had wanted to ask if understood the task ahead of her, and if she was up for the challenge.
“Yeah, yeah, she’s a champion at some place but she’s not going to be the first person that I’ve fought that is a champion, and not even the most talented! No doubt, she’s good. No doubt, we’re going to have a battle on our hands. But, y’know what? I know what I can do just as well! People don’t want to admit, Sabin, but I know that ever since I had that match against Shawn there have been more people kind of eyeing me and seeing where I go from here…I’ve lost a few of those eyes because it’s just been loss, after loss,” Jennie grumbled and clenched her fist, “after loss!” she finally pounded her fist against the armrest, “But y’know what? That means I’m due! I still think that I could’ve beaten Shawn that night… I’m still pissed the fuck off that Tara decided she had to somehow avenge me, and how she keeps saying it’s for me, or it’s for the family name, but it’s not! It’s for her! Like…don’t get me wrong, I know that she wants to protect us but that’s her problem: she thinks that we’re helpless! We’re not! She thinks that we’re her responsibility! We’re not!”
Jennie shook her head in frustration and pointed at the Queens Championship which she still held despite it being nothing more than a constant reminder of the shame she felt just by having that accolade in her history, “You’re right! I want to get rid of that belt! I wish that it had never come to me, and there is a part of me that wants to have another go at Joe Montuori myself just to prove to Tara that I don’t need her to fight my damn battles! That’s part of the reason that I know I need to defeat Ashlynn this week; I don’t want to have Tara trying to get herself into the ring with Ashlynn in another delusional escapade to avenge me! I don’t want Tara to try to get into it…I want her to just be proud of me. I want her to believe in me.” Jennie took a deep breath as those words escaped her mouth.
That’s what Ricky feels like… I knew that we were similar in our thoughts; his on Sahara, and mine on Tara, but I didn’t know that it was this exact.
Jennie threw herself backward and slouched into the couch with her arms still crossed. She sat there for several moments in silence before finally speaking again, but in a calmer tone, “By the way…” Sabin groaned as if he knew the spiel that was coming, “It would mean a lot to her if you would go home. She’s been texting and calling me everyday to see how you’re doing, and saying how she was looking forward to just having a Christmas dinner with the whole family finally together again. You, Edward, me–” Jennie gulped, “Angel…”
The mere mention of his name caused Sabin to sneer, but he managed to regain his composure rather quickly without so much as muttering a word.
“Your grandparents are flying in from Scotland. It’s literally going to be everyone…and, if you ask me, I don’t think that we should miss it. I know that you’re still mad at Angel, but come on…your mom has never been the type of person to give people a second chance, but something clicked for her with Angel and she decided to. Maybe we should, too?” Jennie said and shrugged her shoulders.
Sabin let out a heavy sigh; he stared toward Jennie, but not at her, just processing everything that she had said. He seemed to be struggling for a moment while shaking his head, but he gritted his teeth and finally answered, “I’ll go.” He then leaned forward and pointed a finger at her, “But if he makes me doubt him at all, I’m dropping him!” Sabin said in a threatening tone.
“If he gives me any reason to doubt, I’ll lose another good shoe just for you.” Jennie said as both nephew and aunt were now slouching on the couch. Sabin turned the television back on just in time to catch Goku at the end of his Kamehameha.
“Is it ‘cause I’m your favorite nephew?” Sabin asked.
“It’s ‘cause you’re my favorite nephew.” Jennie replied.
The two bumped fists as a gesture of the bond that the two had shared. Jennie had lived with Tara when Sabin was still incredibly young, so she had often had to babysit him which is what had created their strong bond. The two were gaming buddies after all these years.
… The next day …
Jennie was sitting in her own row on the jet that was provided for their travel by Thaddeus Duke. They were at their cruising altitude. She had her Beats headphones on and was just minding her business and lost in the music when there came a sudden tap on her shoulder and she looked up to see Sahara standing over her with her hand on the back of Jennie’s chair, and Jennie instantly lit up upon the sight of one person she had considered to be her best friend.
“Hiii! Why aren’t you sitting with Ricky?” Jennie asked as she pulled the headphones from her ears and let it fall around her neck; she moved over one seat so that Sahara was more than welcome to sit beside her and even took an extra measure to pat the seat beside her to invite Sahara to have a seat. Sahara accepted the invitation and sat next to Jennie, and Jennie rested her head against Sahara’s shoulder while looking toward the window with nothing outside of it except for the open sky.
“I just wanted to come chat with you for a minute,” Sahara replied, as she looked around the ridiculously empty cabin.
“What’s on your mind?” Jennie asked without moving from her shoulder. Sahara looked at her with something of a sigh, but pressed on with her intended business.
“Lemme ask you something. Why do you do this? Wrestling I mean?”
Jennie rolled her eyes back to contemplate the answer, accompanied with a, “Hmm…” but she took a couple extra seconds before answering, “It was just something that made me feel closer with my brother and sister, and…well, there was someone else. I’ve just been having fun! All the nice people that I’ve been able to meet, people like you, y’know? All the people sharing their stories, and I didn’t wanna say anything, but I actually have gotten quite a bit of fan mail from young girls saying how I inspired them. It makes me feel good.” Jennie said with a smile and a nod.
“You know who doesn’t send me fan mail? Young girls.” Sahara laughed at the thought. “I live and die with the male demo. Jesus Christ why does everything gotta be an after school special with you?” Turning toward her, Sahara looked at Jennie, but continued before she could respond. “That wasn’t an actual question. Shhhh. Just listen to me for a sec. When you’re out there next time, I want you to think of those little girls you inspire. Think of them and think of how inspired you’ll make ‘em when you win.”
As Jennie opened her mouth Sahara raised a finger, “Not if you win. When. Don’t let ‘em down like I did.”
Jennie nodded excitedly at the thought of her finally getting another win, and being rid of the Queens Championship, but she shifted her focus on the last thing Sahara said. “You didn’t let anybody down…” she said reassuringly, “At least you didn’t let me down.”
Sahara snickered, “Yea I have. But that’s sweet of you to say.” She paused for a second. “Listen Jennie, I know we’re like oil and water, but I … I don’t know why, but I like you. So stop letting ‘em laugh at you. That title you carry? That’s them laughing’. Do yourself a favor and make ‘em laugh at someone else. I love Ashlynn, you know that. We may have a bit of an … interesting relationship, but she’s one of us. So I’m torn with this match. You’re both my girls. But I’m tired of seein’ you and Ricky lose all the time cuz you have some sorta misplaced respect and admiration of, well … basically everyone. Your opponents hate you. So hate them back.”
Jennie’s bottom lip quivered as she considered what Sahara was telling her, but Jennie did give an uneasy smile and shrugged one shoulder. “I don’t want to keep losing, y’know? I don’t go out there and say: Hey, you know what sounds fun? Losing! I’m going to go out there and lose!“ Jennie insisted while grumbling under her breath. She snapped her fingers together in a mocking fashion as if pretending it were an actual good idea. She straightened herself up before finally leaning toward the window. “I don’t know what you see in Ashlynn…that you don’t see in me and Ricky…” Jennie sighed. “You believe in us…don’t you?” Jennie turned her head toward Sahara and gave her a glare with the puppy dog look.
Sahara sighed. She was never good at this sympathy thing. Growing up the way she did hardened her steely exterior, despite it’s rather pretty packaging. Jennie, however, had an exterior made of marshmallow fluff. “You’re asking the wrong question, Jennie. It doesn’t matter if I believe in Ashlynn. It doesn’t matter if I believe in Ricky. And it doesn’t matter if I believe in you. Just like it didn’t matter when nobody believed in me. Some may still deny it, but they all believe in me now, whether they like it or not.” Sahara slowly shook her head. “Wrong question, Jennie. You need to learn to believe in you. Then you won’t have to ask that question ever again.”
Jennie sighed as it felt to her that Sahara had blown off her question. Jennie had a blank stare, and seemed to be wrestling with her own thoughts as she wasn’t sure whether to persist with the question, or to change the subject. She gave a short nervous chuckle when her mind was set, “I do believe in me. Like…I know that between me and my siblings, we’re all first-generation stars, but I feel like this is what our family was born to do. So…that doesn’t bother me…” Jennie muttered before raising her head, “It still matters to me. I want to know if you believe in me.”
Sahara bobbed her head back against the headrest and sighed. It was obvious Jennie hadn’t gotten the message she was trying to send. She was so … innocent. Innocent to a fault. And that’s what worried her. “I worry about ya, Jennie. I believe in your optimism. I really do. When I look at you I see hope. And I don’t mean that in some cliche movie way that gives ya the happy ending you’re looking for. I actually mean it. But if there’s one certainty in this business it’s that people are gonna use that against you if you let them.”
As Jennie looked down, Sahara shifted closer to her in her seat, her voice growing a little more stern. “Hey, look at me. Jennie. Look at me!” As the little doe-eyed Jennie finally looked back at her, she smiled. “Do I believe in you? Yeah. Of course I do. You’re in FIGHT. You don’t get to this level by sucking. You made it to the major leagues and stayed. I’ve already seen plenty come and go cuz they couldn’t hang with the pressure this place comes with. You may not have the best record, but you’re still here. You’re a survivor. Nobody at this level is undefeated forever. Nobody. Which means on any given Monday–”
Jennie continued looking down, but her lips curled more into a smile when Sahara had told her that she did believe in her. It wasn’t the traditional sense of motivation that she needed to hear, but still motivational. She let out a sigh when she thought of what she might have to do, “I’ll win, Sahara…I’m just sorry that I have to put this on Ashlynn.” Jennie said while looking back up at Sahara and leaning back against her shoulder.