Try Livin’ Again

By: Sahara

Date: 29th Jun 2021

Beads of sweat covered every inch of a somewhat familiar woman’s freckle flecked golden skin. Her dishwater blonde hair was tied back tightly into a ‘workout mode’ ponytail, as the energetic tones of Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ pumped into her ears. Like so many others, this was her routine. She ran like a hamster on a treadmill beneath high hung lights in a decent sized gymnasium, complete with life saving amenities like a protein bar and mirrors that made you look better than you actually looked. The clock ticked on, reading 54:52 … meaning there was only a few minutes left.

Which also meant it was time to fly.

Cranking the speed up to 10mph, she ran into overdrive, her feet pounding against the rubber roller until the clock finally reached 60:00.

Heaving out a breath of relief, she grabbed the handrails and jumped to the sides, slamming the enlarged ‘STOP’ button with her palm before falling to her knees.

Her heart pounded, practically trying to break free of her chest. She often reminded herself, you never know when your agent is gonna call, so you gotta stay in shape. She knelt there for a few minutes, catching her breath before she grabbed up her belongings. Making her way back to the shower room as she toweled the pouring seat from her face and neck, she dropped her reddish hued BCAA bottle and sweat soaked towel to the ground, before dropping back on a bench before a row of lockers to kick off her Nikes. She let out a sigh of relief as the cool ground felt good against her bare feet–

That’s when she noticed it.

A business card had been jammed into her locker door. Glancing to either side, there was nobody to be seen. This somehow didn’t stop her from turning around, knowing there was nothing behind her but another row of lockers. Yanking it free, she could already see the bold lettering stamped across the front.

THE UNKNOWN

Flipping the card, there was an address printed on the back, and someone scrawled a message in pen beneath the address, but it said nothing other than, ‘Try Livin’ Again’.

Curious.

Her brow furrowed as she stood up and stormed out of the shower room, approaching the front desk, holding the card up between her index and middle fingers.

”Hey! Hey, you see anyone strange goin’ into the locker room? Had to be within the last hour or so…”

The clerk looked up from his phone and shrugged, ”Not that I know of…and you have ta’ wear shoes out on the main floor, Miss! Now I’m gonna have to sanitize the floor where you’re steppin’.”

She looked down at her bare feet and rolled her eyes, ”Ah, right, how could I forget my covid infected feet? Go back to your Antisocial Media or whatever it is you’re doin’ there, you wouldn’t wanna be paying attention to who comes and goes around here, or yanno, have to sanitize the floor or anything!”

Turning back to the shower room, she glanced back at the card, as a sense of wonder washed over her.

300 W 57th St.
New York, NY 10019
‘Try Livin’ Again’

Try livin’ again?!

As she walked back into the locker room, she looked down row after row, wanting to see if the same card had been jammed into any other lockers.

But it hadn’t.

Which meant whoever left this card behind knew exactly who she was.

Opening her locker door, she caught a glimpse of her reflection and stopped. Flecks of silver had crept into her dishwater hair, and her bright blue eyes didn’t seem to sparkle as much as they once had. Freckles splashed her nose and tiny web-like lines had begun etching themselves into her face.

She sighed.

Nothing lasts forever.

Months ago she’d gotten rid of her bright platinum hair to ease people recognizing her on the street. Semi-successful stints at Netflix, HBO, and few wrestling organizations will do that to a person, especially when they sport signature hair that’s as bright as the sun. Of course, masking half her face most of the time helped, too.

She could hardly recognize herself these days, let alone others giving her a second look, yet whoever left this card did exactly that.

This had to be an audition. It had to be!

Whatever the case may be, she needed to look like herself again if she was gonna show up and land the role.

A crooked little smile formed on the former blonde’s face.

No rest for the weary…

Unlocking her phone, she held it to her ear–

”It’s me. Lauren. Yeah. Listen. I need a huuuuge Donald Trump sized favor! I’m talkin’ eeeuuuuge. I need my color back, and I’m talkin’ right now.”

She nodded.

”Yeah. Hell yeah I got an audition! Bitch,” she made a ‘muah’ like kissing noise, ”You are beautiful. I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes. I owe ya one!”

~~~~~

Nothing a few hours of hair and makeup can’t fix. The moment she exited the salon, some dipshit ran himself into a steel streetlamp glancing back at the now platinum blonde who looked head to Doc Marten Chelsea covered toes amazing. She may not have been one to sport thousand dollar boots, but her Marten’s were every bit of a signature as was her hair. The poor fella probably shoulda’ been paying attention to the girl on his arm, but can ya blame the guy?!

She felt like herself again for the first time in a long time.

Walking straight to her Uber, she nodded as the driver verified her destination, ”O’hare International?”

She didn’t look forward to flying to New York in the Covid era, considering half these dipshits are likely lying about being immunized, and wearing a mask in a confined space with recycled air gave her the shivvers. But looking like she did, she suddenly hated wearing a mask, when prior to that business card showing up in her locker, she loved the anonymity it brought. She was unrecognizable enough with her dishwater blonde hair, let alone half her face covered … but now she wanted people to see who the hell she was.

Vanity is the dopamine of the stars.

And this felt fucking amazing.

~~~~~

A few hours later…

The flight and car ride had been rather uneventful, though a few people in the airport did stop to ask if, “She was that blonde chick from that vampire show that used to be on Netflix”, which made her feel pretty good, even if they didn’t know her name.

Pulling up to a glass building with diamond shaped designs reaching toward the stars, she stepped out of her Uber just as her phone rang.

Finally, for fucks sake, my agent! ”It’s about damn time, I’ve been tryin’ to reach you for hours!”

Her brow furrowed as the other person spoke, only to have her call interrupted by a car that nearly hit her while standing on the edge of the curb.

Fucking New York cunts– ”Hang on a sec–“

”Yeah, fuck you, too … ya stupid jag!”, she screeched at the car as it sped away. That’s when she noticed a woman glaring at her as she waited at the street corner with her two little tykes. Lauren made a bit of an ‘oops’ face and quickly apologized for her language.

”No, not you…some douche almost hit me. Now … what were you sayin’? What do ya mean there is no audition? Then what the fuck am I in New York for?!”

The woman shot her a second look as she turned away and walked a few steps away from the curb.

”Seriously, are you messin’ with me?”

She heaved a sigh.

Great.

What started off as a pretty damn interesting day just took a decidedly shitty turn…

If this wasn’t for an audition, then what the hell is this place?

Looking up at the towering building, Lauren MacKay was as confused as when she first saw that stupid business card that somehow led her all the way to New York City for what she believed was an audition of some sort–

Quickly scurrying across the street, dodging New York traffic, she approached the front of the massive tower and gazed upward in bewilderment.

Stepping through the massive glass rotating doors, banners that read ‘Blood Money’ covered the windows of the lobby, and dangled from wires off the ceiling. People she’d never seen before scurried about, as she slowly turned, attempting to rein in the confusion that overcame her. The architecture of the building was a sight to behold, even for those that didn’t care about that sort of thing. Glass panels spanned the structure as high as the eye could see–

”Welcome to New York. We’ve been expecting you.”

Snapping out of a mass of confusion that had washed over the platinum blonde, she reached up and took her sunglasses down her nose a bit, staring at the strange woman that had just greeted her.

Leaning in, she whispered to the woman with a sense of wonder in her voice, ”What the hell is this place?!”

”Your new home. Welcome to FIGHT, Sahara.”

The receptionist handed her a shimmery badge, encased in hard laminate. There was something of a colorful holographic effect where the name Sahara was clearly printed across the front of it, along with a stock photo of her face.

”To wha–who?! I um, you don’t understand, I’m uh, most definitely not Sahara anymore–“

The receptionist took one look at the blonde’s well toned arms and let out a little laugh, ”That’s exactly who you are. I also recognize you from American Vampire,” The woman brought a hand to her mouth and whispered, ”I was a huge fan of that show, by the way, bummer it got canned. But anyway, good thing you kept in shape! That badge doubles as your room key and identification for entry/exit to and from the building. Keep it on you at all times. Your room comes fully stocked with a mini-bar, a kitchenette, a bed, bath–“

”Ho-hold on a second,” Sahara interjected, ”What the hell is going on here?! What is all this?”

The woman made a bit of a motion to one of the many signs hanging from the walls, ”Blood Money. It’s the kickoff FIGHT event that takes place on July the Tenth. There’s a contract waiting for your signature in your room–sign it, and we can have your personal effects shipped from your hometown, which I believe is still Chicago, Illinois, correct? In any case, a welcome packet is in your room as well, explaining all the details, or–“, the woman paused a moment while checking something on her phone.

”Or?!”, the blonde waited with bated anticipation.

”Or don’t sign it, feel free to stay the week, take in the sights of New York City, and fly back to whatever life you had. Oh, and feel free to expense the airfare back to us, it’ll be paid in full–“

”Hang on a sec,” Sahara finally removed her sunglasses as she moved closer to the woman and whispered, ”Why me?! Who the hell did all this?!”

”Well, most — but NOT all — emphasis on the not was mine, OPW alum were automatically invited with the red-carpet treatment for a tryout at the first event, but what you do from here is up to you. Obviously, someone up there believes in you, even if you don’t believe in yourself anymore–“, the woman jabbed her pen upward a few times, prompting Sahara to look up–

”In … heaven?!”

This caused the receptionist to let out a rather resounding giggle. ”No, ya silly blonde,” she jabbed her pen upward again, ”Up in the penthouse. Definitely NOT in heaven.”

”I–I’m sorry, I don’t know why I even asked that.” ”Relax, Sahara. I understand how overwhelming this is.” ”So can ya tell me who?!” ”Who what?!” ”Who the hell left me that damn business card?!” ”I’m afraid I don’t know that.”

”Anyway…” The woman made a bit of a sweeping gesture toward the turnstiles that blocked entry into the facility. ”Just swipe your badge there, and your room number is on the back of the card. I’m sure you’ll figure this all out with a bit of time, just relax a bit. Have some dinner, get some rest, and in the morning I’m sure you’ll be as right as rain. If you have any other questions, day or night, feel free to call the front desk and we’ll assist you.”

”I uh, I don’t even know anyone that’s a part of this–“

The woman let out a slight giggle again, ”Sure you do. Like I said, you’ll see some familiar OPW faces milling about, I’m sure. And do try not to fight anyone prior to the event in the case you happen to bump into them at some point in the building. Oh and Sahara?!”

The confused blonde stopped at the turnstiles and looked back at the woman at reception, ”Yea?”

”Welcome home.”

Stepping through the turnstile, that sense of wonder once again flooded her senses as she looked up, seeing elevators disappearing into the upper reaches of the building as a single thought rattled around in her brain–

What in the hell is going on here?!

~~~~~

I don’t know where I’m goin’
But I sure know where I’ve been
Hanging on the promises in songs of yesterday
An’ I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time
Here I go again…