Debbie can’t remember the last time she travelled anywhere on a bus.
For as long as she can remember, it had always been… her and Mark in a car. Or just Debbie, in her car. Or Debbie and Ruth, occasionally.
Less frequently, now.
When two people are in a car, someone has to concentrate on driving. Someone is in control, and if the conversation dries up, it is because the driver has to concentrate. There’s no pressure of communication, in a car.
If two people sit side by side on a bus however… well. Then it is either polite conversation, or an awkward silence, or a comfortable silence.
The only person on this bus that Debbie has ever shared a comfortable silence with is Ruth, although that shit sure hit the fan after Ruth fucked Mark, and then every other fucking thing that has happened since then.
Eventually, Debbie is going to have to concede that maybe she just isn’t a person who is easily comfortable with others. But that is not going to be today.
So she’ll sit here alone, thank you. Besides, it’s not as though she can actually talk at the moment without weeping about leaving Randy, so alone seems to be the best option for everyone.
Ruth is up front, sitting with Sam. They don’t appear to be talking much. Debbie wonders if they are comfortably silent or otherwise.
It will take five hours to drive to Vegas. That’s a long time to sit in an uncomfortable silence.
It’s also a long time to sit alone.
Three hours in, they have to stop because Rhonda suddenly requires a comfort break. She exits the bus with a rolling monologue against the perils of long journeys.
“Oh my god, in England no trip lasts more than three hours, I thought you guys would have planned in toilet breaks, you’re a bunch of sadists, stop laughing at me and my tiny bladder, this is workplace discrimination…”
They all end up getting off, because god knows how long it’ll be before Bash deposits them in the much vaunted hotel once they arrive in Las Vegas, and this gas station looks like it’ll sell food.
Ruth approaches her. It’s strange how… somehow, Debbie can feel her coming. Debbie can tell five minutes prior to Ruth even taking a step towards her that Ruth is mentally weighing up whether to approach her. Just from the way that she is scanning the corn chips with an absent-minded concentration.
And Debbie is…. well, Debbie is studying this trail mix packet with more deliberation than is really necessary, whilst she loiters and waits for Ruth to decide to come and speak to her.
She wonders if Ruth has the same insight into her decision making process as Debbie does into Ruth’s.
God, and she remembers so vividly the way that they’d dance together at discos, years ago, bumping into each other and loudly yelling the lyrics into each others faces without a second thought, as though the first thoughts didn’t matter (because they never did).
It was Ruth who broke it. Debbie holds onto that thought, because that one does matter. It is Ruth’s fault that things are like this.
“Hey… how are you doing?”
Debbie blinks at her, and wonders if she held onto the trail mix for too long, wonders if it looks like she is actually having a break down over which snack to pick. Ruth elaborates.
“About…leaving Randy? That can’t be easy…”
Oh. Debbie gulps, and then moves away towards the cashier, in a way that doesn’t totally uninvite Ruth to follow, and lord, it is exhausting trying to calculate every implication like this.
Ruth follows her.
“Yeah, it’s… Mark said some good things for once. It’s forty minutes by plane. I could be home to put him to bed if I put my mind to it. But that doesn’t stop me from…” There’s a lump in Debbie’s throat, and she fights it down. “I know he won’t even notice I’m gone, not in any tangible way, but I’m not… I’m going to go visit at least twice a week, once we’re settled and in a routine. So. I’ll be fine” she concludes, trying to sound surer than she is.
Ruth nods sympathetically, as Debbie pays for the world’s most considered trail mix.
“Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”
Debbie shrugs, because that’s the sort of thing people just say.
Outside, the other girls are slowly trouping back onto the bus. Sam is already in there, and looks to be talking loudly to the driver. Debbie heaves a sigh, and pulls up short for a moment. She doesn’t want to get back on yet, but there’s no plausible excuse she can think of.
Ruth gestures at the bus.
“Do you want me to come sit with you? We could, I don’t know, plan some more skits together? If you want distracting?”
And it is…tempting.
They’ve been in a better place, since the hospital. Something about the way that Ruth had yelled ‘bullshit’ at Debbie had helped Debbie understand that there was no point in pretending that Ruth had ruined Debbie’s perfect life. Because they both knew that it hadn’t been perfect.
But then Debbie remembers the other revelation of their shouting match in the hospital. That she’d been making Ruth feel like shit when all the time Debbie had thought they were good friends, friends that understood each other. But instead, it turns out that Debbie had just been absorbing all of Ruth’s support, and never asking the return question, never checking on how her friend was doing at the crucial moments.
So maybe she should be on her own. Just to feel sorry for herself (and make Ruth feel sorry for her as well).
She’s taking too long to answer a perfectly reasonable question. Debbie reaches for the nearest version of a non-answer she can find.
“No, I’m fine. Unless you want an excuse to not sit with Sam? In which case-”
Ruth shrugs. “Oh, no. I’m good sitting with Sam.”
Debbie can feel her jaw tighten, just at the thought of having to sit next to Sam for four hours. Debbie doesn’t have any strong feelings one way or another about Sam, but she’ll take him in ten minute chunks only. She’s still not really forgiven him for not turning up to eat the damn fondue.
“Oh, I’m sure he is quite the conversationalist.”
Ruth looks down at her shoes. “He is” she says, and why is there something weirdly hasty and defensive about how she is talking? “I don’t mind talking to him. I like talking to him.”
Debbie looks at the bus again. They are now the last ones to board. Sam is standing in the doorway, his hands on his hips, staring at them. He raises one hand in the air in a question. Debbie smiles blandly at him, and then turns back to Ruth. And now she has to continue this conversation, just to make the point that Sam doesn’t control when she gets back on the bus.
“What do you even talk about?”
Ruth glances quickly over her shoulder at Sam, and then shrugs.
“Oh, you know. This and that. Um. He’s a film nerd like me, so we do a lot of discussing which director makes the best choices, that sort of thing.”
Debbie feels her eyes widen, because she thinks she’d choose to walk to Vegas rather than have a five hour long conversation with Sam in which he blatantly fishes for compliments.
“Great, is that in between all the misogyny, or concurrently?”
“He’s not-” Ruth pauses, takes a breath, and then continues. “He’s not a misogynist. Well. He’s not as…. I mean.”
Debbie reads between the lines, because Ruth is too easy to read at times like this. A man has started to be nice to her? That means he must be A Great Guy.
“You mean, he’s not a misogynist to you anymore? That’s great.”
Ruth spreads her arms in a small gesture of incredulity, and then says “Well, none of us are as perfect as we could be, are we? We could all be better feminists.”
Debbie flushes hot at that, remembering the last time her and Ruth debated the concept of feminism. Ruth glances at her, as though trying to judge whether Debbie has anything else to say.
“Well, if you’re sure you don’t need company…” but it’s a cold sort of offer now, because somehow, once again, they’re in the opening stages of an argument.
Shrugging, Debbie tries to act like she doesn’t care.
“No, it’s fine. It’s not long now anyway…”
Ruth nods, and says “sure”, and walks away before Debbie has really even finished her sentence.
On the bus, as Debbie re-enters, Sam looks at her, eyebrows raised in some kind of enquiry. Next to him, Ruth doesn’t look at her at all.
At her seat, Debbie finds Sheila there. Sheila stands without a word, and lets Debbie retake her window seat. And then Sheila sits down next to her.
“I don’t plan on talking at all, by the way.”
After thirty minutes, Debbie realizes that she should have asked if Ruth was coping okay with leaving the camera guy (Russell?) That was the return question, and she missed it, yet again.
She sighs heavily, and leans her head on the window frame.
Sheila says nothing.
The bus pulls up outside the forbidding bulk of the Hotel Grandé. It’s a step up from the Dusty Spur, but that’s about all that can be said for it. The building looms like a nightmare in concrete.
They’re greeted in the foyer by Ray, who seems to Debbie as though he believes himself to be an international man of mystery, but the mystery is just too many late nights pizzas.
Sam assumes ownership of the conversation, in the way that he always does, even though she’s pretty sure that the role of director doesn’t cover the question of accommodation.
“So, they’re perfectly happy doubling up, it’s what they were doing before, helps with the team bond, you know?”
Debbie feels her guts twist, just from the way they’re being discussed as cattle, but thankfully Sheila’s there to complain so Debbie doesn’t keep having to be the ‘difficult one’.
“But that doesn’t mean we want to, some of us like personal space.”
“Yeah”, chips in Melrose, “or some of us might want the option of being able to entertain visitors without their room-mate four foot away.”
Sam blinks at all of them like the cattle just started talking back, but Ray cuts right across him.
“Not a problem, I figured for a double room each, so no one has to share unless they actively want to. They’re never fully booked here, so there’s a full corridor of rooms waiting for you on the less scenic side of the hotel. You could change room every other night and still have enough rooms. Obviously if the show flops then we might have to look at the budget, but for now…”
Bash claps his hands together, Mr Enthusiasm.
“Okay, excellent! So who wants to share?”
Cherry and Keith put up their name forward, but that’s the end of it. Debbie remembers that she wasn't sharing with anyone in the Dusty Spur either, so her relief seems entirely unnecessary.
“Though it doesn’t matter if we want to share a bed with each other, does it? We can still keep the extra room space?” Yolanda has her arm around Arthie’s shoulders, and Arthie rolls her eyes and tips her head to rest against Yolanda’s temple, briefly.
Bash looks baffled, and then clears his throat.
“Uh… sure, but, why?”
There are some stifled giggles, and then Yolanda gestures at Sam. “Like he said, for the team bond.” This earns some more giggles, but Bash suddenly looks like he’s just swallowed a frog.
“That… I mean, we’ll have to consider the- this is a family show…”
Debbie hears herself snort loudly.
“They’re not proposing to share a bed in the ring, Bash.”
“But, but….” Bash’s face suddenly clouds over, falls a little, and then recovers. “I’ll have to review the contract…”
Ray laughs easily at this.
“The contract says, ‘Turn up, wrestle.’ First show is in two weeks. I’ll draw something up for you to all sign in a few days, but the rooming arrangements aren’t going to feature. Follow me, I’ll show you your rooms.”
It’s a perfectly serviceable double room, with an en suite that doesn’t look as though someone died in it. Debbie puts down her bag with relief, checks the bed once to confirm it’s not several boxes covered with a sheet, and then returns to the corridor.
Ruth is rooming five doors down. Debbie doesn’t need this information, but her brain presents it to her anyway.
On one side of Debbie is Tammé, and on the other side, Sheila. Sheila is leaning on her door frame, watching Sam approach from down the corridor.
He also has to stay on this floor, Debbie realizes. And he does not look happy about it.
“Look, this isn’t ideal, and I’m going to talk to Ray and get myself put somewhere else, but while I am in this space with you, can we all just agree to a no nudity in the corridor, no loudly talking about tampons in the corridor, set of standards please?”
“So we can loudly talk about sanitary towels in the corridor?” Dawn asks cheekily, to general amusement.
“Can someone please show me which available room is the furthest away from you all as is physically possible?”
Ruth comes out of her room, and glances down the corridor. She meets Debbie’s eye briefly, and a flicker of amusement passes between them. Debbie clears her throat.
“Maybe if you are going to live with the wrestlers, you should be in the ring with us as well Sam…”
Sam mutters darkly at that, and Debbie is rewarded with a grin from Ruth.
This is going to be interesting.