Everything In Its Wrong Place

By: JJ Starfire

Date: 25th Aug 2021

Manhattan is busy. The sky is blue, the sidewalk is worn and grey, the sun is beating down and the masses of people that swarm through it like locust are all moving with a purpose. Tell us something we donít already know.

Two people were moving against the flow, because it seemed that much like the road, pedestrians tended to walk in one direction and the opposite direction on the other side of the street. But JJ Starfire was pushing through people who were walking toward him, with the sole objective of catching up to the smaller and more nimble best friend that he was tailing.

Martha wasnít looking over her shoulder. Frankly, she hadnít cared whether JJ was following her. She wasnít walking away from him. She was walking away from everything. Toward something different entirely. But our protagonist didnít want to hear of that, because to him, everything was a misunderstanding and if only he could grab her by the wrist, spin her around in dramatic fashion, and explain in all the ways that she had misunderstood what was happening, things could go back to normal. Right?

Maybe it didnít matter what he said, what sheíd understood. Because the damage was already done. For her, it was about that time where sheíd outstayed her welcome and she had to rebuild her life over again. Nothing new. Every so often, things would crumble and the people around her that she gave everything to would turn out to be the same as all the others.

JJ Starfire
Stop! Marf! Please…

But she pulled away from his grasp, her slender ebony tipped digits slithering between his fingertips. She didnít even look over her shoulder, she just jutted to the right and continued, before darting into an alley away from her pursuer.

Luckily – for him, not her – he noticed the side street, and better yet he knew a shortcut. He missed the turn and she must have thought that sheíd lost him, but he was a street urchin almost all his life, it was in his DNA to figure out the tricks and what-have-you. Three turns and he found himself in front of her, backing her into a corner.

Pixie Sloane
Get out of my way. Now.

Her tone is terse, she doesnít cower, she looks more assertive that JJ Starfire in this moment, but he stands his ground too.

JJ Starfire
Marf, you donít get it..

Pixie Sloane
No. You donít get it. If I have to cross paths with you again, Iím just plain old Pixie to you. We donít know each other. Never did. But Iím leaving New York, Iím leaving FIGHT! and if any of you follow me..

JJ Starfire
Marf.. Pix.. ie.. why? What did I do? Even if Vhodka did fuck you over man, why you think Iím on her side for? After everything weíve been through?

Pixie Sloane
You ARE on her side. You couldnít wait to fucking apologize for her, you couldnít wait to INVALIDATE my feelings, and Iím over it. Iím done. Now get out of my way before I move you out of my way. Iím not fucking joking.

?? What could I do? Like for real this is my best friend in the world and she doesnít want to hear it. If I force her, that makes me just as bad as everyone else, right? But if I let her go, will I ever see her again? My eyes flooded with emotion and I tried with everything to bite it back and not let her see me like this.

Through all the years, there was so much unsaid between Martha La Verratti and me. Everything lived on this periphery level and we left it there and we liked it there, we never delved into the depths of our feels and really explored it. When things were shit, we played video games, we ignored it, did something fun.

She used to take me to the junkyard to smash things with golf clubs, or go to a club and make friends with whoever the first person we found sitting by themselves. Stuff like that. Anything to avoid wallowing in it. But she didnít want to go to the junkyard, or play Call of Duty, or make fun of the drunk lonely weirdos.

A lot of people think I am stupid, or naive, or emotionally immature. Iím not. But I donít correct them because when you come from where I came from, it is everything to be able to disappear from reality for a bit. Otherwise, you donít survive. So thatís what we did. And we never talked to each other about real shit.

But I always thought, you know, that we had this unspoken bond, that we know what the other one is thinking and we donít need to say it. We automatically pick each other up when we need to, we always have each otherís six. Thatís what Marf always used to say. Now she was turning her six on me.

I watched her walk past me. She didnít look back, not even once. But as turn the corner to watch her leave, I notice a familiar spritely looking figure dart off. Was Asher listening to us? ??

As the scene fades, Pixie continues walking through the freeze frame, away from JJ and then we pick up again in the apartment inside of FIGHT! Tower that JJ shares with Asher Jules and Noelle Rivers.

JJ Starfire is scrolling through his phone, with headphones on, knees up on his mattress. Aimlessly up and down his Twitter feed.

JJ Starfire
Social media, man. Everyone is either posting their latest perfect selfie that took 15 takes and they like “so casual yknow man yeah”, or they tryina cut down another person just because the day ends in Y and yknow, they hate their own life so they gotta tryn make someone else hate theirs too. Why canít people just be normal, man?

JJ throws his phone down on the bed in frustration, but he spends less than a minute staring at the wall before he picks it up agan and starts scrolling once more. Boredom has taken hold.

?? Iím not sure who Iím ranting to, or what about. But I know Asher, whoís in the room next to me, is probably listening to everything Iím saying. Iím not sure why but heís seemed particularly interested recently. But not saying much. Iím not sure what he is up to. Iím not sure what to do about anything. Like, what do I even do now? Go hang out with those guys? I thought about going to play some Xbox, but somehow it doesnít feel right to go in there without Martha anymore, it feels like Iím there without her blessing. So Iím just sticking around here.

But this was a thing we did together, this was our way out from under Tonyís shadow. And now Iím questioning everything. Did I fuck up? Is this really Vhodkaís fault? Did we trade a doofus who fucked us over because he didnít know better for a pair of assholes who took advantage of us and really did know better?

Some people may make fun of Vhodka Marie for being a bit slow at times, you might say she lacks smarts in certain areas, whatever. Sometimes things pass her by, but people say that about me too. And like I said.. Sometimes it is just easier to let people be, let them show themselves. I donít think sheís stupid anymore than I donít think that Iím naive.

But now Iím starting to question everything. Because Pixie.. Martha… she wouldnít do this over nothing. Whatever happened, it wrecked everything, and even though she wonít talk to me, I have to believe that thereís something in it.

Tony would know what to do, and the urge to call him feels overwhelming. He always knew how to bring me around and see sense, even if he had a Jersey way of doing it, with homophobic and sometimes borderline race-insensitive phrases and idioms.

Thing is, I do know what it is that I have to do. I have to wait it out, keep my head down and let the board pieces move. This isnít my story, I canít make it about me. I just need to make sure Martha knows that no matter what, I have got her six. ??

JJ reaches forward, grabbing a joint from the top drawer of his dresser. He hesitates momentarily, then wraps a towel around a device which he is certain is a smoke detector (it is not a smoke detector) and then lays another towel across the bottom of the door to prevent smells escaping the room.

In his left hand, he thumbs the lid of a silver Zippo lighter. Itís engraved on one side with a mononym – X, and on the other side there are three skulls. This belonged to Xavier Wolf, and he was given it by LA Johnny Stylez when he won the OPW Immortal Championship at Stairway To Heaven. When Stephen Stratford and Xavier Wolf locked horns in FIGHT! Tower, Xavier made sure that the “torch”, metaphorically speaking, was given to the one that he thought would be the one to follow in his footsteps.

Each time JJ put the flame to the end of a joint, he thought about that. Why Xavier Wolf would pick him, of all the people heíd come across, to pass the torch to. He never explained himself. The thing is, every time JJ thought about it, he was halfway to baked already and he usually got distracted.

JJ Starfire
I donít want to let people down. The people that believe in me, you know? Sometimes I wonder if itís worth it. But when I get in the ring, things happen and I feel free. I feel like it makes sense again. Iím happy that my shoulder is finally healed enough that I can take to the ring, at least. And the Manhattan Championship eliminator is something that Iím looking forward to, because thatís Joe Montuoriís belt. And heís a nice guy. I mean everyone is nice, right? Because when youíre young in the business, you look up to these people.. And I have these mentors, right? Vincent and Vhodka Black, so most of the vets are cool with us on account of them.

Anyway, itíd be an honor to fight him. But Iím getting ahead of myself, because I have a different fight to deal with first. Four people at the same time, kinda daunting. I havenít really had a match like that, apart from Blood Money obviously, and I ended up separating my shoulder there. At least maybe I can lay low and take potshots at the opportune time. I donít have to worry about first pinfall to the finish, itís elimination, so long as I stay whole, we gucci.

I heard Valkyrie has an injured hand too, so Iím not the only one going in banged up. And she was around in Fade 2 Black, where Vhodka and Vincent were for a while. I saw her do her best work there. In FIGHT sheís struggled to maintain the standard expected of her I guess, but that doesnít mean she isnít a threat. Could be that she turns the heat right up, you know what they say about wounded animals backed against the wall and all? Sharp teeth, not afraid to use them. Literally. She might have what it takes to be the difference maker or the kingmaker, so to speak. She could even take all the glory for herself. Iíve known her to pull out a big performance when the chips are down. Ice in her veins, so Iím gonna steer clear from her as best as possible.

Also, donít know about anyone else but did you guys see what happened before? She was like, idk, sorta like a werewolf and shit. Idk man, I kinda wanna just tie her to the ring or something. Then go to the other side of the ring.

Todrick is another one that came from there, but more importantly heís been a sensation in FIGHT!, he was in the top 5 I think during Blood Money, he nailed it. Until he got nailed obviously. Real shocker for the odds makers I guess. Then everyone thought he was gonna be a revelation and start kickin it with the big dogs but he kept forfeiting and what a disappointment. He could show up and show out, perhaps. But my money is on no, I figure heís a hot and cold kinda athlete and my expectation is that his hot streak is over for a while. Itís gonna take some hardwork to get that back and it feels like his priorities are elsewhere for now. Heís got so much going on, its no wonder that his focused feels drifted. I could be in for a long night, but I think he is the weak link and the one that I should go for and try to catch him off guard.

Then new girl. Kasey Winterborn. Sheís exciting to me, tbh. Like, firstly, Iím a big fan of the hair. And sheís got some momentum behind her, apart from losing to Michelleís goon which isnít even fair anyway. She beat Ricky, she beat Pheely. I mean, I beat Pheely in my debut.. I love that lady. And now I think sheís knocked up. Like, probably. No other reason sheíd be married in two weeks. But thatís her life, I respect it. I learned long time back not to say bad things about a womanís choice. It always ends in an argument and I never win. Anyway, Kasey. She was kicking up a storm in Project Honor, when I watched Pixie learn the ropes, Kasey was one of the ones that always caught my eye. Sheíd dope af. She can move, she can work a ring, she knows the psychology of the whole thing. Way more advanced than me. But hereís the thing. Iím gifted, thatís what everyone tells me, and somehow I luck my way into fortunate circumstances that usually mean I come off better. Iíve also been trying really hard lately to turn luck into intention. And like, yeah, idk man. Iím kinda hoping Valkyrie bites her and she has to forfeit her spot for rabies or whatever. I mean, not that Iíd wish that on her or something, but basically, Valkyrieís kinda scary weird, and Kaseyís kinda scary good and Iíd rather just let that play itself out.

And when it is said and done? Well, if thereís anything left of Joe Montuori to pick the bones of, Iíll do that. Because I think Iíd be a pretty good champion of Manhattan. Yeah. Iím starting to like the Big City, the Bright Lights. And I think it likes me back.

Iíll see you at the top! Toodle pip motherfuckers.

About a good while later…

(IYKYK..)

In the doorway of his room, again, she shoved the door which was stifled by the towel, to open far enough for her to get in. And as she laid in the center of the carpet, pointing a laser pen at the ceiling and following it as it danced to the beat of his hand movement in wonder, she cleared her throat. He acknowledged her, barely.

Vhodka Marie
Whatís your problem?

JJ Starfire
What? Iím sleepy.

Vhodka Marie
Iím not an idiot. Youíre not sleepy in a room that smells like beer or sage at 4 in the afternoon. But enough stoner talk. Jay, Pix is gone.

JJ Starfire
I know. She left earlier.

Vhodka Marie
Why didnít you get me?

JJ Starfire
Whatís the use? She didnít even want to talk to me.

Vhodka Marie
Vin just told me that she thinks we did something to her dad.

JJ sits bolt upright, like the freakin Undertaker, and stares at Vhodka Marie, trying to make sense of her silhouette. She was wearing something strange to be sure, but also his eyes were very blurry.

JJ Starfire
Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit. No. Please tell me youíre lying. No. No no no no no.

Vhodka Marie
What? JJ, what is it?

JJ Starfire
Did you do it?

Vhodka Marie
I promise you, I didnít do anything. I didnít tell anybody, either. Whatever has happened..

JJ Starfire
She will never forgive this. Anything but this.

Vhodka Marie
What do you mean?

JJ Starfire
What did she tell you about him?

Vhodka Marie
He was turning up at Project Honor every time she was scheduled. Even when they swapped her onto the opposite brand, he was stalking her.

JJ Starfire
Did she tell you about her childhood? Who that man really was? Every time we talked about parents, sheíd drain of color and change the topic… that man did something for cert. If something happened, Vhodka.. We might have lost her for good.

Neither JJ nor Vhodka saw it because it took place in the next room, but Asher dropped a headphone from his ear and punched his wall. The ricochet was heard by JJ and Vhodka, however, and the following “FOOK!” as he exclaimed his anger.

When they went running, they asked him what he was going crazy about.

Asher Jules
Oh, nuffin, just seen that Dru is tellin everyone about my tattoo and Iím fookin fuming.

But that wasnít at all the reason he was angry.