The next day, everything is exactly the same.
That’s one of the good things about having a steady job, Ruth tells herself. She mustgo and train, and Debbie must be there, hangover or not. There’s no question of accidentally ignoring each other, or avoiding each other for a month or more. They live on the same corridor. They work together. Debbie kissed her last night, but she was drunk, and it didn’t mean anything.
This happens to other people all the time.
Nevertheless, Ruth does admit to being slightly relieved, for the first time since they arrived in Vegas, that she isn’t scripted to fight with Debbie for the first show. Ruth doesn’t think that her chances of being completely normal with Debbie would be all that high, if she had to go straight to butts and armpits with her this morning.
Instead she does butts and armpits with Cherry, who has become an incredible wrestler, and Ruth thinks that their scheduled match for the following week might be pretty fucking epic as long as she can think of a valid reason for them to fighting in the first place.
Cherry leans on the ropes, breathing hard.
“I mean, it could be heel against heel. Just make the crowd pick a side? Or… we could have a face come in at the end, like Debbie did when you and Jenny fought at the end of the pilot show?”
Ruth tries not to look at Debbie at the mention of her name, and besides, Debbie is on the other side of the gym, stretching out her legs with Melrose and a number of the other girls for company.
Ruth doesn’t think she’s made eye contact with Debbie once this morning.
“Uh. Yeah. I don’t know. Maybe Tammé could… or Carmen? It needs to make sense, in the story line. Maybe… somehow could we be fighting for who has control of Liberty Belle?”
Cherry grins. “Evil Liberty Belle? Maybe. Maybe we could be fighting over her… her cape, or whatever she wears.”
Ruth shrugs, and Cherry turns on the ropes, calling out to Debbie.
“This season is just going to end up with all of the heels fighting over you, you know.”
Debbie puts her hand to her temple briefly, and then drawls in her character voice “Well I do like to be the centre of attention…
Ruth snorts slightly at that, and then comes to lean on the ropes next to Cherry, and so what if she is using a professional, group conversation to start talking to Debbie this morning? It’s just how things have turned out.
“We might have a face shortage though, if we have Evil Liberty Belle running throughout the season. If the faces are supposed to save Liberty Belle, they need to have a valid team.”
Melrose starts counting on her fingers.
“Okay faces, we’ve got… me, I’m a face most of the time. Rhonda. Machu. Uh. Welfare Queen is pretty damn popular, Tammé could be a face. Uh. Yo yo? Yolanda, are you a face?”
“I’m whatever. I guess so. But I’m not…I’m still catching up with you guys, wrestling wise.”
Ruth bites her lip, thoughtful.
“That’s not a lot of faces, though. And there’s no obvious ‘hero’ figure, you know?”
Debbie tips her head to one side, but she’s looking at Cherry, not Ruth, not really.
“It doesn’t have to… it can be against the odds. Better that way, if things are mismatched. And Evil Liberty Belle can be- oh jesus, I really need a better name than ‘evil Liberty Belle’, that’s ridiculous…”
There’s a pause, as everyone tunes their brain to the issue.
Suddenly, from behind a bleacher where she had been lying out of sight, Sheila sits up. She doesn’t look at anyone, just stares straight ahead.
“Got it. Liberty Hell.”
Everyone turns to look at Debbie.
Debbie pauses, and then points directly at Sheila.
“Sheila. You’re a fucking genius.”
Sheila looks back at her, face completely devoid of expression.
“Don’t ever make me drink tequila again.”
Debbie salutes. Sheila lies down again.
After some further training, it becomes inevitable that she has to speak to Debbie, leaving things any longer would start to make it look like there is an issue, which that one hundred percent isn’t.
Ruth is just calculating the best way to casually go over and talk to Debbie without indicating any kind of internal crisis (because there isn’t anything like that going on here, just to be clear), when Debbie comes marching over to her as though she has been ordered there.
Ruth is standing in front of the drinks stand. She concentrates on not fumbling every cup.
Debbie clears her throat before speaking.
“Hey.” And Ruth hates her voice, hates the way she decides to half sing this word for zero reason.
Debbie says nothing for the moment, and they both just stare at the drinks as though bottled water really is that interesting.
Debbie clears her throat again, and half turns towards Ruth, before seeming to think better of it and turning away again, back to the drinks.
“I meant to… I was going to speak to you before, but you were with Cherry, and then with other people…and I wanted to catch you in a quiet moment-”
Ruth shrugs, because lord knows she’s been carefully monitoring exactly who Debbie is speaking to in each moment.
Debbie shifts her weight from foot to foot, and then picks up a bottle of water, in a way that looks to be a lot to do with having something to occupy her hands. She untwists the cap, and takes a gulp, swallowing hastily.
“So. Look. I…I was drunk, and-”
Ruth instantly doesn’t want to hear the end of the sentence, doesn’t want to know how ridiculous the entire thing is.
“Debbie, it’s fine, it was nothing. I know it is nothing.”
Debbie nods, and manages to look at Ruth for the first time.
“Yeah? Well. Um. God, I’m so embarrassed, I clearly need to never drink tequila again, from now on I am teetotal.” Debbie offers up a half laugh, as though recognising the weakness of that pledge. Ruth smiles, forcing her face to remember how to look normal.
“Honestly? It’s fine. I don’t….I’m pretty sure we’ve kissed before once, ages ago at some party when we were both drunk, I have this, a kind of half memory-“
Debbie is suddenly watching her, rather than just looking at her. Ruth runs a hand through her hair self consciously, because she doesn’t really know why she brought that up, surely now is not the time to be mentioning that? Debbie replies slowly, as though rehearsing the upcoming sentence in her head first.
“Uh. Yeah. I guess, I have a half memory of that as well- had someone dared us?”
Ruth shrugs, because it doesn't really matter.
“Probably. We were young. Anyway, it’s nothing. We didn’t…have any problems afterwards. So, you don’t need to be…we won’t have any problems this time. Nothing is different.”
“Okay.” Debbie rolls her shoulders, and then nods. “Okay. I just didn’t want you to think I was being… I didn’t want anything to be weird.”
Ruth allows herself a genuine smile at that. “Weirder than usual?”
Debbie snorts, and then takes another swig of water, smiling at her and then looking away, towards the ring.
“Yes. Okay. Normal levels of weird are allowed.”
Ruth needs to be somewhere else.
“Okay then. Well. I’m going to…Sam needs us in full hair and make up this afternoon, he’s filming the pre match intros, so I need to go check the running order of that with him.”
Debbie’s voice is as smooth as steel, unwavering.
“Sure. I’ll catch you later.”
Ruth does have a half memory of a time before. When she and Debbie had kissed.
In fact, in the immediate aftermath, Ruth had turned the half memory over in her mind so frequently that she is no longer entirely sure which bits happened, and which parts are details created by her brain to help understand the scenario.
They had been at a party. Some kind of theatre school…get together. Ruth doesn’t remember the occasion, but it was definitely before either Debbie or Ruth had properly entered the industry, and it was long before Debbie had encountered her successes and Ruth had encountered her failures.
And Debbie had been flirting with some guy. Some guy who she’d wanted to sleep with for a while, but he wasn’t interested (Ruth can’t remember why… did he have a girlfriend out of town? Oh the irony).
Jed. His name was Jed.
And so, Debbie had been in full Debbie mode, and Jed wasn’t stupid, and Ruth had just been drinking and watching because yeah, back then sometimes she did find her kicks in watching Debbie make guys want her. And she knows that it was fucked up, but they were young, they were all so young that it didn’t matter.
Back then, she’d been surprised every god damn day at how attractive Debbie was. Ruth couldn’t even imagine what that must be like.
But Jed was playing it cool, even as Debbie pretty much draped herself across his lap. And then, and here are the parts of the memory that Ruth is less sure about, but Jed somehow suggested that he would be more interested if Debbie would be into a threesome.
Ruth remembers half choking on an ice cube when she heard that. And she definitely remembers the way that Debbie looked at her, pinned her to her couch with a look that said don’t you dare fuck this up for me.
And Ruth does remember the way that Debbie had sat on top of her, warm and heavy and real, and kissed her with an open mouth and a tongue that tasted of tequila and cigarettes.
And she does remember about a half a dozen dudes in the background cheering and whooping, as Ruth had tried to keep up with Debbie, because she didn’t dare fuck this up for her.
And she does remember how Debbie’s fingertips had traced over the skin of Ruth’s cheeks, and how Debbie had gasped slightly, and then kissed her again, in a different way, in a slower way.
Ruth doesn’t remember whether she had touched Debbie at all, but she thinks she might have done, she thinks she might have rested her hands on her hips and accidentally slipped her fingertips underneath her top, because holy shit this is what it was like to kiss Debbie Eagan? This is what it was like to have all of Debbie’s want directed at you?
She doesn’t remember if Debbie had moaned; that memory felt slightly too invented to be real.
And she doesn’t remember what Jed says to get Debbie off her lap.
But suddenly Debbie is getting up, and she’s laughing. And Jed takes one of Debbie’s hands, and they’re disappearing into another room. There’s no mention of the threesome, and Ruth has served her purpose.
She does remember the look Debbie gives her, as she leaves with Jed. It’s half gratitude, half amusement, and here’s where the math breaks down, because it was half something else as well.
Ruth hasn’t thought about that look in in a long time, but she hadn’t been able to find any real meaning to it in the immediate aftermath either.
So yeah, Ruth does have a half memory.
Although she thinks it might have slid into a three quarters memory without her noticing.