It's Bunny who actually notices it first.
She's in the living room, sitting in front of the big picture window, chirping. Alicia strokes a hand down Bunny's back and peers out to see what has her attention - a squirrel or maybe one of those little lizards that live in the yard - and she freezes.
Every branch on the tree outside of the window is covered with bluebirds. There must be a couple hundred of them, with fluffy feathers and beady eyes, all staring at her. "Uh. . ."
Bunny looks up at her and lashes her tail.
"That's fucking creepy," Alicia says, and when she shifts her weight to her other foot, the birds shift on the branches. "Really fucking creepy."
"Mew," says Bunny, and Alicia slowly starts backing away from the window. She catches the tiniest wiggle of Bunny's butt before she jumps at the glass. Bunny's pretty smart; she judges the distance perfectly and draws up short, but the movement startles the bluebirds into flight. There's more of them than Alicia thought, and they swirl and flutter off into the sky.
"Must have been some weird flocking behavior," she mutters to Bunny, who starts grooming her whiskers after casting a disbelieving look at Alicia.
Practice is good that night, the best it's ever been. It's like everything the guys have been trying to teach her suddenly sinks in, and her body moves without thought: block, strike, roll, kick. She manages to powerslam Kev to the mat and locks him in a chokehold. The guys cheer her on, and in the end, Kev taps out.
It's the first time she's done that. All the training in the world doesn't change the fact that she's not as big, or as strong, as Kev and Josh and Turner. She's fast, though, and sneaky, and she uses that to her advantage.
The guys take her out for a beer afterward in celebration, and they spend the rest of the evening watching a series of steel cage elimination matches on the big screen. Alicia analyzes the wrestlers with a critical eye, while Kev and Josh whistle and cat-call. Someday, Alicia thinks to herself, that will be me in the ring.
Turner salutes her with his beer, like he knows what she's thinking.
Alicia has to run some errands in the morning, and she's coasting down the driveway in the Prius when she catches something out of the corner of her eye. She brakes in surprise.
The deer looks curious and doesn't seem to be afraid, so Alicia rolls down the window and leans her head out. "Ummm, ma'am, what are you doing?" Alicia keeps her voice soft and soothing, and the deer walks closer, flicking her ears. It lets Alicia touch, nudging at her hand to get scritches in the right spot, just like Bunny does.
After a bit, the deer wanders off into the brush and Alicia's reaching for her phone before she even realizes it. holy shit, she texts to Sarah, and Tweets about the deer.
Minutes later, when she's aggressively merging onto the freeway, the phone rings. "Girl, what is going on? First the bluebirds the other day, and now Bambi. Are you turning into a Disney Princess?"
Alicia can't help but laugh at Sarah's words. She's no one's idea of a princess. Too tall, too gawky, too nerdy, too awkward. "Maybe Princess of Goth, or Wrestling Princess."
"You're totally a kickass Wrestling Princess," Sarah says. "Though Princess of Goth has a nice ring to it."
"I love you, Dope. Why you gotta abandon me and Bunny? We're living the life here in Cali." Alicia knows the reasons, but she can't help but give Sarah flack about it. Some asshole in a shiny SUV tries to cut her off; she shuts him down and lays on the horn, throwing him the finger for good measure.
"You're such a bitch, Way. I don't know why I bother."
Alicia grins. "Because you love me."
Sarah sighs dramatically. "Yeah, I do. Anyway, gotta go, girl. Hot date tonight, so don't wait up."
That twinges a little, like the too-tight skin around a healing wound. "Be safe," Alicia says. "Bunny and I want all the details."
"Pervs," Sarah snorts, and hangs up.
Life goes on. Alicia believes that with all of her heart.
She keeps working hard at practice, and she is getting better. It's all coming together. She's weirdly proud of her growing strength, and sometimes she stands in front of the mirror and just stares at body. She's never been totally comfortable in her skin, but right now, she feels pretty damn good. When she goes out with her girls, they ooh and ahhh over the muscles in her arms.
Sometimes, weird things happen. A flock of ducks temporarily take over the pool in the backyard, and demand to be fed by quacking loudly and splashing water. A pair of rabbits follows her to the mailbox, then escorts her back to the house. Sarah just laughs, and one day Alicia get a package that contains a beautiful rhinestone tiara.
"I'm not really a Disney Princess, you know," she says, holding the tiara in her hand. "Not even a wrestling one."
"Girl, you can be whoever or whatever you want to be," Sarah says, and Bunny meows in agreement.
Alicia settles the tiara on her head. It feels like it belongs there.