Peace/Paranoia/Insignificant Withdrawals

By: Shawn Warstein

Date: 23rd Jul 2021

Peace: Part 1

The evening started off like any other. Clothes strewn about the room, Iím talking like way more clothes than youíre imagining right now.

“What about this one?” Kasey held up a sparkling black and white dress over the front of her body.

“Iím telling you, youíre putting too much thought into this. Itís just James and Betsy.” I sat up from the bed and hung my legs over the edge. “I honestly donít know what youíre so worried about.”

“Worried? Me?” Kasey takes a moment because clearly she was slightly worried and didnít like that I had called it out.

I pat the mattress and invite her to sit down. “Relax. Itís just dinner. Itís not like they are going to grill you on every little thing.”

“Easy for you to sayÖ” As she sits down I drape an arm over her shoulder. “Youíve known James for basically forever.”

“Yeah, so?” I can feel the tension in her shoulders. I begin to gently massage them. She rolls them and allows her head to dip backwards, eyes closed and steadying her breathing.

Suddenly her eyes shoot open, but not in a scared or worried manner. It was more of a thought provoking glare. “What if they donítÖ”

“Oh quiet, youíve already met them. This isnít any different.” I give her a slight playful shake. A smile wide across my face.

“Iím being serious.” In a huff she spins around and wraps her legs around my waist.

“Yeah, I am too.” My typical nonchalant look plastered over my face.

“This is totally different.” Kasey adjusts herself atop of me. “This is the first time we are going out, together, as us.” She uses her hands to emphasize her point.

I grab her hands and pull them together, holding them against my chest. “I know. Do I look worried?”

“Shawn, you never look worried.” She rolls her eyes and tilts her head. “Itís probably the bourbon or the weed.” A point of contention between the two of us, not the bourbon, but the marijuana usage.

“Hey now, youíve got to give me some credit. Iíve cut back significantly because I know that you donít care for it.”

“I didnít ask you to.”She really didnít but what kind of boyfriend, itís still weird saying that, would I be if I didnít take her considerations into mind. If sheís someone I want to spend my time with then Iím willing to do what needs to be done to make sure sheís as comfortable with me as I am with her.

“I know, but I wanted to.”

“You know what I want?” A devious look on her face as she shoves me backwards onto the bed. My arms sprawl to the side as she hovers over me.

“No, why donít you tell meÖ”
As if you couldnít imagine the shit eating grin on my face.

“I want you to get dressed so we arenít running behind when they get here.”
A double pat on my cheek as she pulls herself up.

“Orrrr hear me outÖ”
Before she could dismount I sat up and swung her around laying her on the bed. Her hair falling around her head like a crimson halo. The touch of her lips to mineÖ. Itís the thing people only dream about, yet here I was experiencing it. At this moment, I have everything. Nothing else matters. Not a match. Nothing. I am hers, and she isÖ

**DING DONG!!**

 

However not everything is perfect as it seems. Itís always something even if we both knew this was going to happen. “SeeÖ” I roll over next to her on the bed. Staring at the ceiling fan. Absolutely furious and my blood boiling. “This is what Iím talking about.”

“Well go answer the door, Iíve got to get dressed.” Kasey slaps me on the chest and marches over to the bathroom door.

“I could just, NOT, answer the door.”
I said while resting my head on my hand, trying in vain to catch a glimpse. “It wouldnít be the first time I stood up Raven and Betsy.”

“Shawn.” Kasey walks out of the bathroom. “Thatís not the first impression I want them to have of us.”

“Well technically speakingÖ.”

“Just get the door. Iíll be down there in a minute.” Kasey points towards the door. As I stood up I looked at the door and then back to her. I approached the bathroom doorway where she was standing and cop a quick feel. She smacks my hand away and points towards the exit. “Door.”

Like a scolded child I hang my head, but as I turn around I feel a playful slap on my rear end. “Go.”

Each step down the stairs echoed in the hallway, as the doorbell rings again. “Knock it off Raven. Jesus Christ Iím coming.”

My hand falls on the doorknob and slowly turns. As the door opens on the other side stands the happy couple. James Raven and Betsy Granger. Both of them dressed to the nines. They both take one look at me, hoodie and a pair of black jeans.

“Glad to see you dressed up for the occasion. I see you broke out your fancy hoodie.”
James smiles and walks in patting me on the shoulder.

“Donít be rude James.”
Betsy gives me a half reassuring smile. “Iím sure brother mine was waiting for us to arrive before changing. Right?”

Thereís something about Betsy that gets to me. Sheís almost too much. I have never wanted anyoneís approval but itís different with her. While sheís learned a lot from me about controlling her emotions in the ring, Iíve learned from her that maybeÖ.emotions should be there.

“Hey dick head.”
James shouts from the wet bar in the dining room. “Whereís all the bourbon?” He walks into the foyer waving an empty bottle. “If I go to Warsteinís house I expect Grade A quality stuff. Your cabinets are barren.”

“Yeah. I know. Weíve been in town for a day and Dru felt it necessary to rearrange things.”

“Did she find my present?” James asked with a devilish grin.

“What present?”
A worried expression falls on my face.

“I left it on your nightstandÖWell Noah did but thatís only because he had the key.”
No sooner than James finished his statement Kasey came walking down the stairs.

A shimmering black strapless dress with an ornate belt cinched around her waist. Her stilettos clack on the hardwood floors with every step. My eyes mustíve been bulging out of my head. “Not bad brother mine.” Besty elbows me in the ribs.

“Donít you look absolutely stunning dear.”
Betsy grabs Kasey by the hand and spins her around. “Now only if we could get him to clean up for once.”

“Hey now, Raven said this was my fancy hoodie.” I point to James who shrugs.

“I lied.”
James smiles widely. “Thereís no such thing as a fancy hoodie.”

“But this is a Gucci..” I said pleading my case.

“Still a hoodie man.”
He responds while grabbing the front kanga pocket.

“I grabbed something for him, all he said was. ĎItís just Raven and Betsy, they wonít mind.í I guess we all know who was right.”
Kasey not only nails a spot on impression of me, but also wins the minor argument in one quick comment. “Just go get changed.”

“UghÖ. Fine.” I begin to ascend the stairs stopping midway up. “Donít talk shit about me. I really like this one.” I disappeared upstairs leaving the three of them in the foyer.

“What does he mean, this one?”
Kasey asked Betsy.

“If you know anything about ShawnÖ.”
Betsy tries to reassure Kasey but was cut off by Raven.

“He was slaying left and right in here. Iím talking about Atty..”
Raven holds out hand and holds a finger up. “Sloane.” He raises another. “Adi. Alice. Eden.” And raises a finger with each name.

“IÖ I didnít knowÖ”
The Kasey that was usually always smiles seemed positively downtrodden.

“Dammit James!”
With the palm of her hand Betsy smacks Raven on the shoulder before she turns her attention to Kasey. “Donít listen to him. Thatís one of those nasty habits he picked up from Shawn.”

“Nasty habits?”

“You know how Shawn likes to stir the pot. Cause trouble where there is none?” Betsy holds a hand and presents Raven like a trophy. “My beloved has picked up that particular trait.”

“Those women? I mean I still see him talk to most of them.” Kasey scrunched her nose and had a look of hope.

“All friends dear. Adi, Eden, Alice, Sloane are just friends of his. Well maybe not Eden.”
Betsy looks to Raven for confirmation but is met with a smooth as silk shrug. “And well we all know about Atty.”

“Yeah we do. Hell the whole world knows about them two.” Raven uses his hand to mimic a Rollercoaster, and then mimics a crash and explosion. “Pretty sure you never have to worry about her, like ever again.”

“Okay. So your an ass.” Kasey said while pointing to James, and he smiled while nodding. “And youíre the trustworthy one I should actually listen to?” Betsy nods.

“Kasey. Listen, I know Shawn. On the outside heís very, how do I put this nicelyÖ.”
As Betsy struggles to find the words James couldnít help himself.

“Arrogant? Dickish? Rough around the Edges? Troubled? Come on Bets, one of those has to be close.”

“Thank you babe, but not what I was going for. Heís very secluded.” Betsy places an arm around Kasey. “Sure trouble seems to find him. And yes maybe he goes looking for it too, but the real Shawn. The one that youíre getting to knowÖ”

“He is still a dick.” James pipes in.

“Yes. But also extremely loyal. Almost to a fault. The stories of him abandoning people areÖ.”

“Actually, maybe, slightly, possibly exaggerated a bit.” With that they could sense Kasey relaxing a bit. “He does have a reputation to uphold in this industry.”

“However, wrong him and send him down the wrong path againÖ.” An unassuming smile comes across Betsyís face. “Itís not him youíll have to worry about.”

“Itís definitely not my intention.”

“I know.”

I come briskly walking down the stairs with a picture frame in my hand. Once I reach the landing I toss it towards James as it slaps him in the chest. James holds it up for Betsy to see.

“Dammit James.”
Betsy snatched the picture from him and tossed it haphazardly into her purse. “That was from my personal collection.”

“Ready to go?” I said while clapping my hands together. The three of them nod, as I grab Kaseyís coat and help her put it on. “So where to, Betsy?”

“I was thinking we would stay in New York.”

“Cool. What year?”

“This year.”

“You feeling okay Sister Mine? Normally you wouldnít hesitate to show off our time machine.”

“Our? Since when is this communist Russia?” Betsy said with a slight snarl.

“Well you didÖ.”
I was cut off by an elbow from James.

“Doesnít matter. I know a great steak house that Aiden told me about.”

“Great. Lead the way.”

With that we left the brownstone and headed out towards the street. James fired up his Uber app, and we waited outside. Kasey and I stealing glances at one another in an overtly flirtatious ways, while James and Betsy cuddle. Eventually the Uber pulls up and we are on our way.

The dinner went exactly how you thought it wouldíve. Betsy and James didnít grill Kasey as she was expecting. The four of us had a wonderful evening and everything went smoothly. We arrived back at the brownstone in the late evening. Wishing James and Betsy a fond farewell and they were gone.

Kasey quickly made her way inside the house, as I stood on the street staring at the skyline. When something, or better yet someone catches my eye. A man standing across the street. Dressed in all black and normally I wouldnít pay him any attention but he was glaring right at me. His concentration is unbreaking. I take a step to the left, he mirrors my movements.

Paranoia: Part 2

After staring down a complete stranger for what seemed like an eternity, I shake my head and head up to the front door. Opening the door I see Kasey sitting in the foyer taking off her heels.

“What were you doing out there for so long?”

“Nothing. Thought I saw something or someone.” I said while shutting the door and peering through the peephole. The man was still standing there. His gaze was burning a hole right through me. I jump slightly as Kasey places a hand on my shoulder.

“Relax babe. Itís just me.”
She pushes me to the side and looks through the peephole. “I donít know what youíre talking about. Thereís nothing out there.”

“What?” In a frantic state I brush her aside and look. She was taken aback and huffed slightly. “I swear there was a guy out there. I swear I saw him at the restaurant as well.”

Maybe Iím just going crazy. Maybe itís the stress of my first match solo in Fight. I was set to Main Event Venom #2, against Graham CrackerÖ. Wait, that’s not right. Graham Clausen or whatever. If Iím really going to be honest with myself. I donít have a single care about that guy. Why would I even concern myself with someone who couldnít crack the top five of Blood Money. Sure I could say that heís a hell of a competitor but I was always taught not to lie.

“Fuck.”
I said softly. “Kasey something isnít right.”

“What do you mean?” She caressed my cheek and pulled my face to meet hers. “Tell me whatís going on.”

“Fine. Just hear me out. And when Iím done, I wonít hold it against you.”

“Hold what against me?” She said with a slight tremble in her voice.

“I told you I was always going to tell you the truth. No matter what it was. You need to understand something about me, and maybe I wasnít completely honest. Itís more of an omission.”
I grabbed her hand and led her towards the living room. We sat down on the couch. We sat there quietly for a few moments.

“I want you to understand why I do some of the things I do.”
I said while finally breaking the silence. “Or why I act the way that I do. Or how I treat certain people. What Iím about to say is a reflection on you, I promise that wholeheartedly.”

“Oóokay.” She hesitated for a second and then took a deep breath. “Just get it over with then.”

“Get what over with?” I said confusedly.

“Youíre breaking up with me, just rip the bandaid offÖ”

“What!?!? NoÖ why would I do that?” I immediately fired back.

“I donít know.”

“Listen. Thereís a reason why I drink and smoke.”

“I know. We have stressful careers. I get it Shawn.” She said reassuringly. “You donít need to stop.”

“It has nothing to do with the stress.” I tap my temple a few times with a finger. “In here. Inside my brain is a battle. A war going on for who Iím supposed to be. Thereís the Shawn you see, and then thereís Him.”

“FuÖ.” I quickly place a hand over her mouth.

“Donít say it. I thought those were the reasons he was at bay. Turns outÖ. Itís you.”

“Wha?”

“Yeah.” I said while nodding slowly. “With them I was able to control it, by self medicatingÖ. With you I donít need to.”

“But what aboutÖ. Just now?” She said while pointing towards the door.

“Last acts of a desperate man.”

“Shawn. Itís going to be okay.” She pulled me in close and we laid there on the couch for hours.

Insignificant Withdrawals: Part 3

Every so often my eyes would catch a glimpse of something moving behind us.At first it was off in the distance, but with each subsequent glimpse it was closer.

Closer still.

Closer again.

“Go away.”
I said into the blackness that hovered behind us like a cloud. “Youíre not needed anymore. You were never needed. I can do this without you.”

The room fell cold, as an icy chill engulfed my entire body. A voice called for me. “No you canít.”

Seething as I grit my teeth. I took a deep breath. “I already have.”

The voice, raspy and soft. “You will fail. You always fail. Destined for an early grave with a needle in your arm. Itís why everyone abandons you for something better.”†I can feel the voice getting closer, as it continues. “Your father. Your mother. Everyone eventually sees you for what you really are.”

I try in vain to open my eyes but itís as if they are sewn shut. “Legacy will see it soon enough. Atty was smart enough to abandon ship, and soon so will Kasey. Shawn you are nothing without me. You will always be nothing so long as Iím not around.”

I was shaken and started by Kasey hovering over me. Grasping both my shoulders. “Shawn. Shawn?”

“Whaó” I couldnít form words in the half asleep mind I was in.

“Are you okay?”
A look of dread on her face. “You were talking in your sleep.”

“What? Oh itís nothingÖ. Itís a sign of withdrawal.” I rub my eyes and sit up on the couch.

“Are you going to be okay?”

“Yeah. Just go upstairs and get some sleep. I have a feeling itís going to be a long night.” I give her a kiss on the cheek, but she does something I didnít expect. She curled up and laid down on the couch next to me. Wrapping an arm around me and pulling me in close.

“Well then it looks like we are both in for a long night. Grab the remote, thereís bound to be something we can bingeÖ”†
We both lay there cuddled up under a warm blanket. Soon she was sleeping and I was left staring at the ceiling fan. Alone with my thoughts.

And thatís really the point in all of this. No matter how small or insignificant you think something is or isnít. It can always make a lasting impact. For most people the act of cutting out a recreational drug wouldnít be the end of the world. Hell most people drop it by the time they become adults.

For me it was always something else. It was an escape from my past. It was a barrier built to keep me safe.

Hell it was a barrier to keep everyone around me safe. Everyone knows what happens when Iím not me anymore. When heís not around I have empathy. I care about people. I show them who I really am.

And who is that?

Iím someone who is willing to fight and die for what he believes in. To die for someone I believe in. I thought I had that before and it turned out to be a Grimm Fairy tale. All the shock and awe for the world, but little to no substance. The only thing learned from it was thereís no harm in trying again.

So something so little as for me to stop smoking weed, might seem insignificant to most. For me itís a step forward. Itís a step out of the grand shadow that I cast upon myself. It is allowing me to pull the cloak back and finally have something to stand for. Something to give me purpose.

And thatís not a good thing for anyone other than myself and those I care about.

Last time I set him aside, gold followedÖ. In droves. Last time I didnít have to worry about him I was able to take over and dominate over three different companies. One I left to pursue greater pastures. Another that I ran with Legacy until itís final breath. And the last one forced me out because they didnít and still have no one that can touch me. Now Iím here in Fight.

Graham I need you to listen very very closely.

This is going to be a fantastic repeat of Blood Money. You know they match where I took you out. The match where I shattered your dreams of climbing out of the shadows. I didnít have anything to fight for then. It was a hope and a dream, but now? Now my goal is firmly set and you are just the first, of what Iím going to assume is many people to fall to my feet. This isnít going to be a fun ride for you.

I didnít expect you to think that it would be either. What else would I expect from someone who once ran with Madman. We have all heard the stories. We all witnessed firsthand the atrocities. Itís my goal, no, my mission to bury you deeper than him. So that way you can always be looking up at him and by contrast always be looking up at me.

The difference is, Iíll continue to ascend, and you be down there gasping for air until you eventually succumb. No one will remember you. No one will care to find you. Youíll become a faded memory from this planet. They will only talk about you as if you were a myth. A mere figment of their imagination.

You have only revenge to fight for.

I have so much more.

Sheís here now.

And thatís not good for anyone that stands in my way.

Iím going to put you out of your misery like a cashed out blunt. Iím going to drive you into the mat until that final flame you have deep in your soul is extinguished. Until you are nothing more than a smoke cloud dancing in the air only to fade from sight.

I wish I could say that youíre going to be a great challenge. Or that Iím going to have to push myself to my limits. I was taught never to lie.

I wonít lie to you.

Iíll just keep quiet.

Fade To Black