Nights Like Tonight

By: Noelle Rivers

Date: 2nd Sep 2021

When youíre young you think things are going to go differently for you. For me, I thought Iíd probably be dead by now and at least half of me still wishes I were. Iím not special, not anymore unique than anyone else who has a shit story and the scars to remind them, so donít get it twisted by thinking that I donít know that. On the contrary I know it more than anyone, itís a weight I feel behind my eyes when the world is quiet and there isnít anyone around to distract from it. Nights like tonight, nights that I donít like the quality of the light. Youíd think living in New York City with all the pollution that I wouldnít notice it as much but sometimes I can still feel the quality of light beyond all that smog pressing down into me like some gigantic hand looking to smash me into the garbage disposal of life. Like I said, nights like tonight.

Letís back up. When I was a little girl I had a lot of separation anxiety. Despite the fact that my parents were absolute fuck ups of the highest order and didnít particularly treat me very well or with any kindness at all really, I was entirely buttass crazy obsessed with them. Maybe that says something about me? They treated me like fuckiní shit yet the thought of not being by their side was excruciating to me and sent me into these panic filled episodes where I couldnít seem to calm myself the fuck down. Every now and then some well-meaning relative would try to take me in out of a sense of duty since clearly my own parents could not and did not want to give me the care that a child needed. At the time I didnít understand why they kept taking me away when I didnít want to go, it seemed to me that I should get to choose who I was with and I was choosing to stay with my parents no matter what atrocity was brought unto me. But when has what I want ever counted for anything, to anyone? Theyíd take me and I would fight and scream and cry and run away only to be picked up a few blocks later and drug back to whatever well-meaning beaver cleaver pleasantville family had gotten the wild thought to save me. Eventually the night would drag on and theyíd take themselves to their beds to sleep after leaving me on a blanket covered couch awash in the glow of whatever basic cable cartoon theyíd left on the television for me to try to comfort myself with. The routine was the same every time and with every family. It was then that I noticed how the night can slide down your throat to choke you before you ever even notice youíve opened your mouth.

My maternal grandparents were great ones for this and frequently picked me up and held me prisoner in their home. Check it, thatís not even me being dramatic or shit, I can count on two hands the times they locked me into a bedroom to keep me from escaping out and at least one time when my mother was trying to get to me by kicking out all the glass in the windows next to the front door. On that occasion my grandmother took me into her bedroom and started a tape in the radio, turning the volume as high as it could go before closing the door and locking it behind her. I guess they didnít want me to hear what was happening across the house as my mother tore her hands to shreds trying to climb through the jagged window. At the time I convinced myself that she had come to rescue me and everyone else keeping us apart was the big evil but now I wonder if her urgency at getting to me that day was because she wanted to free me or if she was trying to get to me for something else entirely. Guess Iíll never know. The song was “Elvira” by The Oakridge Boys, by the way.

There was a train track that went behind their house and later that night I laid there looking out the window into the night hearing the train roll on the line behind the house, the horn sounding like it was echoing off the walls of a cave but really was just being pressed down by the heavy cloud coverage in the sky that night. The street lights gave the darkness a strange warmth but when youíre small and alone and scared in the middle of the night that light seemed anything but warm to me. Now even as an adult there are nights that I look out the window and see that same quality of light seeping through the clouds to find me and I could swear I hear the train on the tracks. It reminds me of being alone and trapped. Like I said, nights like tonight.

The Womb (what we have grown to affectionately call our apartment here in FIGHT tower) was unusually quiet tonight. Martha had taken off to God knows where a few days ago and JJ had entered into some sort of weird depressive mood since sheíd left, leaving his room only long enough to use the bathroom or grab snacks when the munchies kicked in. Asher was AWOL, gone for hours to who knows where for who knew what. I was broke so I couldnít go anywhere and weíd already finished the newest video from the Good Doc yesterday so that was out too. All that was left was to lay here looking at that light breaking through the smog to beam into my bedroom window and wait for the train whistle to sound.

Probably I should train for the match at Venom but Iíd rather put a rusty nail in my eye than to voluntarily do any extra training sessions than what I was already doing. Eye dee kay even who this dude is I am supposed to be facing, nor could I remember the last time Iíd actually seen him on a show. Seems like a lot of energy to train for a guy who may or may not even show up to work, right? From what I gathered he was another spooky Halloween mask guy but not Brandom Moore or the Poptart or even that chick with the mask, Dollface. Oh yeah, donít think that wasnít wreaking absolute havoc around these parts. Apparently, the Doll chick was Vincentís sister or something which was like super duper fucked up. I heard from Asher that she had done something to their kid, Vincent and Vhodkaís – not Asher and Vincentís and everyone was wicked pissed about whatever it was. Iím not the biggest fan of Vhodka but she was on a whole different level after that Toxic Tag shit went down, legitimate warpath. Rumor had it sheíd trashed a few rooms looking for the Doll and had to be restrained by security. Who knows if that was even true or not, you know how rumors are.

The brain tumor Iíd eaten for breakfast must have been taking over all free will as that was the only explanation for finding myself outside of JJ Starfireís door. I didnít bother knocking as he probably wouldnít have let me the fuck in anyway, instead I twisted the knob and pushed the door open with more force than I had intended, scaling the room in a brisk stride to JJís bed where I plopped down on my back and stared up at the ceiling. JJ who had been sitting in the middle of the bed startled suddenly and scooted back away from me to sit on the corner as far as he could get without leaving the bed. JFC, it wasnít like I ate his puppy.

? Noelle Rivers ?
Iím bored. Come play with me.

I turned my head toward where JJ had moved on the bed which put my nose closer to the fabric of the pillows. There was the overwhelming scent of cannabis which was no surprise since dude had been blasted ever since Pixie dipped, but underneath the weed smell was a faint lingering hint of vanilla that I wasnít expecting. My eyes shifted upward to look at JJ who had literally the dumbest fucking expression Iíve ever seen on his face. It was almost like something about my being here bothered him.

? Noelle Rivers ?

The fuck? Spit it out.

? JJ Starfire ?
Youíre in my room.

? Noelle Rivers ?
And?

? JJ Starfire ?
You never come in my room.

? Noelle Rivers ?
First time for everything. Címon let’s do something.

? JJ Starfire ?
Man, IDK. Iím not really in any condition to be doing anything right about now.

? Noelle Rivers ?
Ugh. Useless!

? JJ Starfire ?
Sorry mate. Come by later if you want.

We stared at each other for a moment as the tension racked up at least three degrees. He didnít want me here, I could tell just by his general vibe which was totally out of character for him. JJ was a puppy, always wanting everyone to like him and get along. Here I was trying and he rebuffed me. Should have known it was all just an act. The bigger problem than JJís sudden shift in attitude was for some reason, I didnít want to leave. Jesus fuck, donít tell anyone I said that, okay? JJ turned his back, picking up a comic book off the bedside table and thumbing through it as if I had already left. As much as I didnít want to go it would have been fucking pathetic to stay so I swung my legs over the bed and stood, moving toward the bedroom door only half hoping he would call after me. He didnít.

As I stepped into the hallway there was a familiar buzzing in my pocket. My hand slipped inside to extract the iPhone already clicking the button to connect as I read James Issacís name off the screen.

? Noelle Rivers ?
Sup?

? James Issac ?
Youíre real fucking low, you know that Noelle?

His tone was hostile which was unexpected. I mean, shit yeah, he had an attitude but what the fuck was this about? These men were ragginí tonight.

? Noelle Rivers ?
What the fuck are you talking about?

? James Issac ?
Iím talking about your little boyfriend bringing his ass down here to threaten me.

Boyfriend? My mind went completely blank at the word. What the fuck was he talking about? Boyfriend? I didnít have any goddamn boyfriend. James was the closest thing to that and we were decidedly not in boyfriend territory at the moment.

? Noelle Rivers ?
What the fuck are you talking about, James?

? James Issac ?
What the fuck are you talking about, James?

His voice was high pitched. Mocking.

? James Issac ?
Iím talking about this smarmy British fuck standing in my hotel room. Youíre there two minutes and already fucking anything that moves while you want to get on your fucking high horse and preach to me about Val as if youíre any different.

ASHER. In the background I could faintly hear his voice as if he was standing across the room from where James was on the phone. James was drowning on about Val and I assumed something about me being a used cumsock but all I could do was stretch my ears to try to make out Asherís words in the background. Why the fuck would Asher go to Jamesí hotel? Heíd only met the guy for less than thirty seconds and Asher and I WERE NOT fucking. Christ, I donít even think weíd ever even voluntarily touched one another outside of training. None of this made sense.

? Noelle Rivers ?
Asher and I never fucked. I donít know what youíre even talking about right now. Put him on the phone.

? James Issac ?
You think I was born yesterday? You think I donít know you probably spread it the second you moved in there. Is it just him or the other one too? Youíre not all that picky after all are you?

? Noelle Rivers ?
Hey get fucked you motherfucker. I donít need your shit. Put Asher on the phone. NOW.

? James Issac ?
I thought we have established that you donít tell me what to do, Noelle and neither does this asshole. You should have warned him not to come down here.

Asher was closer to the phone now because his voice was clearer. He kept telling James that he needed to leave right now but James couldnít hear past his own anger or just didnít care. My mind was racing trying to understand situation I had walked into in the middle of.

? James Issac ?
Iím not going anywhere. Youíre going to get the fuck out of my hotel room.

Asher was right up in the receiver now obviously very close still trying to urgently tell James to leave. None of this made any sense. What did Asher care if James was staying in a hotel in town? How did he even know where to find him? Suddenly I could hear the rustling of cloth against the phone as James and Asher yelled at one another. There were several muffled sounds and then a solid thud followed by silence.

? Noelle Rivers ?
JAMES. ASHER. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON? Someone pick up the goddamn phone!

SHIT BITCH FUCK COCKSUCKING TITTY CUNT MOTHERFUCKER. Asher what the fuck are you doing? My heart was thudding out of my chest and my feet were already carrying my body through the front living room to the door when James came back on the line.

? James Issac ?
Come get your bitch, heíll be on the curb with the rest of the trash.

? Noelle Rivers ?
I swear to fuck if you hurt him Iím going to rip off your eyelids and piss in your sockets you human Tupperware container full of shit.

Someone was breathing on the other end of the line then suddenly it went dead in my ear. FUCK. I didnít know what the fuck had possessed Asher to go there but I knew I would burn that entire motherfucker to the ground if James had hurt him. Asher is a twat, heís a slimeball, heís quite possibly one of the most revolting human beings on this very planet. But he didnít deserve to get knocked around by some limpdicked motherfucker with more pubes than brains. It was one thing when he did it to me, thatís whatever. But itís something else entirely for him to smack around Asher. Besides, if anyone gets to smack around Asher it should surely be me. Iíve earned that much. At least those were the things I kept repeating in my head to quiet down the fear choking me out all the way to the shitty hotel I knew James and company were staying at while they were in town. I donít know what exactly I expected to do when I got there but thankfully I was saved from having to figure it out.

The hotel room was empty, there was no sign of Asher or James when I stepped through the door other than the quiet lingering war of their scents as if I had just missed them. The room was tidy, clean even, much cleaner than I knew that James actually was. I was almost half convinced I had gone to the wrong hotel until I noticed James’ jacket neatly hanging on the back of the room’s only chair. It felt like I sat there for hours waiting for one of them, anyone, to come back and explain what had happened even though the readout on my phone told me every painstakingly long minute was moving exactly as fast as it should. With my pulse in my throat I did the only other thing I could think to do. I went home hoping that when I arrived Asher would be there.

He wasnít. I stood in his doorway looking at his room trying to use the force of my own will to place his body in his bed but I couldnít fucking conjure him. His room was the direct opposite of the hotel room making it an impossible fucking task to decipher whether he had been there tonight or not. My feet carried me back to JJís room and I rested my head on his door mentally warring with myself about going back inside. I wanted to. But I couldnít. Shouldnít either. If I woke him we could find Asher, or at least he could wait up with me until he showed back up. I reached out and grabbed the knob but I did not turn it. Instead I went to my own room, pulling open the door and stepping inside.

Sitting in the middle of the floor was a book that hadnít been there when I left. My body folded down upon itself as I lifted it into my hands and opened the cover to find the money inside, three hundred dollars to be exact. The same amount I had given to James a week ago.

Nights like tonight.