And then it is the day of first show.
Debbie doesn’t know what kind of efforts Bash has been going through to get an audience in, but that must be why he looks so drained. The man looks positively exhausted, as he comes in to speak to Sam.
Ray had given him a promo budget to play with, and Debbie is pretty sure that Bash might be actually good at his job, because even Debbie couldn’t avoid the advertisements that had gone up all over Vegas.
She had run into a ten foot high poster of herself at the airport yesterday. That had been a heart stopper.
Debbie had been returning from LA, mind full of Randy and the weight of him still pulling on her chest and hands, when boom. Liberty Belle, right in front of her.
Debbie had stopped and stared.
The way she was smiling in the photo made her eyes look weird, and she was pretty sure that air traffic control needed notification of the wing span of her hair.
She’d told the cab driver all about it, as the poor man had nodded and observed with tiny glances the crazy crying lady in the back of his car. Debbie had felt ridiculous to be crying at this stranger, so she had then laid out the fact that she had a son who she couldn’t see because she was a professional wrestler, and maybe that was why she was this emotional.
This didn’t really help her attempt to convince the cab driver that she was sane, and Debbie lost sight of why she was even trying to convince him that she was sane.
And then, that night… there had been so much emotion sloshing around inside Debbie, she’d had to go and sit in the shower and cry, because otherwise she was going to start singing loudly, selling the hotel furniture, or knocking on Ruth’s door at half past midnight.
None of those were a good idea.
Besides, the nightmare of Ruth opening her door, but Sam is in her room as well… that hadn’t sat well with Debbie at all.
Tammé snaps her fingers in front of Debbie’s face. Debbie is dragged back into the here and now.
“Hey. You okay? You’ve been staring at Sam for the last ten minutes, and that’s something people don’t do willingly.”
Debbie nods, and musters a smile.
“Yeah… thanks. I’m okay. Just- god, nervous I guess. I didn’t sleep last night.”
Tammé hums an agreement, and sits down on the bench next to her, mumbling shit when it creaks loudly. Tammé is already in costume, although she’s not done hair and make up yet. Debbie briefly, ridiculously, feels a mess. She clamps down hard on the feeling, and gestures at Sam and Bash.
“What are they talking about?”
As she asks the question, something about Bash’s hand gestures make him look defensive. And Sam is leaning into the conversation, and they’re arguing, Debbie realises. But quietly, in an attempt to be subtle.
“Did you hear what they were talking about?”
Tammé dips her head to the side, and glances sidelong at Debbie.
“I took a slow walk past that particular corner of the gym, on my way over to you. Sounds like Bash hasn’t done too well on the pre-sales front. Sounds like we’re going to be way below half capacity.”
Bash covers up his eyes for a moment, and then looks up at the ceiling motionless, as Sam harangues, and harangues, and if Debbie didn’t know any better, she’d say that Bash was on the verge of…something.
Tammé clears her throat meaningfully. “You still a producer?”
“Oh, yes. I am. I had forgotten about that.”
Tammé snorts, and shakes her head, before gesturing towards the conversation.
“Do you think you could go over and inject a bit of class and decency into that damn conversation?”
Debbie draws herself up, nodding. “Yes, I think I will. Thank you Tammé.”
As she walks towards Sam and Bash, Sam eyes her like Debbie is every piece of bad news he has ever had at once. Which, she concedes, she very much hopes to be.
“Hello boys. What are we talking about?”
Bash blinks at her. Sam rolls his eyes.
“Nothing for you to be concerned with, can you just concentrate on the wrestling side of this, please?” The ‘please’ sounds like it was dragged from Sam’s teeth with great difficulty.
Debbie smiles. “As a producer, I think I have a right, and a responsibility, to be involved if there are any problems with the show.”
Sam mutters “ fuck, I need to get those contracts reviewed.” Bash rubs at his eyes, and stares blearily at her, clearly expecting Debbie to be angry at him as well.
“Ticket sales for tonight would only fill the arena by a quarter. We’ll take more on the door, but-”
Sam snorts loudly.
“How the hell are we supposed to get the necessary atmosphere if we are a quarter full? Three quarters empty? Everyone keeps telling me that the wrestlers feed off the energy, so now I’m supposed to whip up energy when people are spread out one person to every four seats? This was your responsibility Bash, and-”
Bash flings his arms out wide.
“Look, Vegas is a competitive market! There’s a dozen shows every night, there was no way I was going to manage a sell out crowd-”
“Sure, and we never will, because the word on the street is going to be that there was no audience, and those that were there fell asleep!”
Debbie clears her throat.
“Just close off the back rows of the seats. Make people sit close together. And send out the wrestlers who aren’t wrestling tonight to drum up passing trade in the half hour before the show. Send out Ruth, people will buy a ticket just to stop her talking about the architectural triumph of the Kremlin, or whatever. It’ll work. Give everyone a free beer. Men will sit through anything for a free beer.”
Sam eyes her suspiciously. “Close off the seats?”
“Yeah, just promote it as intimate. Just… why are you looking at me like that, it is a good idea? Go and ask Ruth if you need someone else’s opinion.”
Bash starts shaking his head.
“This is my fault, I over stretched, we should never have agreed to this size of arena.” Bash covers his eyes with his hands, and then keeps them there, still.
Debbie realizes that she doesn’t know where Bash is sleeping. He isn’t on the corridor with the rest of them.
She turns back to Sam.
“Look, just… tell the stage crew to cover up the unnecessary seats with something. Give everyone a beer. Play your videos. We’ll wrestle, they’ll yell, it’ll be fine.”
Sam pinches at the bridge of his nose, and then shrugs.
“Okay. Fine. We’ll do it your way. Ruth, Carmen and Rhonda aren’t wrestling, they can go out and yell at people.” He stalks off, muttering to himself. Debbie doesn’t know what alternative way Sam was considering, probably cancelling the show and setting the building on fire, but whatever. She finds she doesn’t mind Sam’s incomprehensible constant irritation with her, she can go round for round with him easily.
When she turns back to Bash, he looks glumly at her.
“Do you think it’ll work?”
Debbie smiles at him, and then shrugs with one shoulder.
“Bash, at our first show we played to about thirty people, of whom a solid twenty percent were either homeless or vampires. We’ll be okay. And if you’ve got any spare money left from the budget, put it behind the bar.”
Bash smiles weakly, and… he’s not looking okay.
“Bash- are you okay? Are you okay for tonight? Where are you staying?”
“Oh, you know…I booked a room at a hotel nearby. I stayed here for a couple of nights, but I just wanted a bit more, space, you know. Didn’t want to have to always be… me. For everyone.”
Debbie grimaces slightly at that, because boy does she recognise that impulse. Bash continues speaking.
“I’m fine for the show. I get caught up in it. It’s when… it’s all the other times, that I’m struggling with.”
Debbie doesn’t know what he is struggling with, but her heart goes out to him.
“Do you want to get a drink, after the show? We could both be someone else for the evening?”
Bash chews on the inside of his cheek, and then nods cautiously.
“Okay. Sure. Though can I just clarify that this is not a date?”
Debbie feels herself blanche in horror, and then laughs.
“Oh my god… no, Bash. It isn’t.”
“Okay, phew” Bash deadpans. He summons something like his usual smile. “Because I am a married man.”
Debbie raises her eyebrows. “Oh yeah. I keep forgetting about that.”
Bash sighs heavily, and shoves his hands into his pockets.
“Yeah. Me too.”
And then time blurs slightly, as Debbie’s nerves prowl in the pit of her stomach.
Her hair is…fine. Her make up is…fine. Her costume… still fits.
Debbie inspects herself in the changing room mirror, turning this way and that, taking in her profile that has caused her so many conflicting emotions throughout the years. Is it really necessary for her tits to be this big? Debbie feels she could have lived an entirely different life if she had smaller tits. She could have been an entirely different person.
When the door to the changing room opens and closes, Debbie can hear the crowd. It’s Cherry verses Melrose in the ring, and god knows what they’ve cooked up, but the crowd seem to be enjoying it.
Apparently the show is close to half full, but with half the seats out of commission, it looks like a full house. Near enough anyway. It’s certainly the biggest crowd Debbie has ever done ridiculous things in front of.
She looks at herself in the mirror, and then tries the Liberty Hell face that she has been practicing. It makes her look like a stoned psychopath; determined to do evil but only once she’s finished this edible.
Fuck she’s nervous.
The changing room door bangs again, and Ruth comes in. Five minutes ago she was riling up the crowd, Debbie could hear her over the loud speakers. Something… about a bear? Debbie had only been half listening. Debbie had heard the crowd reacting though, pantomime boos ringing out.
Five minutes ago… Ruth had probably spent those five minutes with Sam, talking footage and angles and whatever Sam likes to talk about at Ruth.
Debbie catches Ruth’s eye in the mirror, and coolly says “Zoya” in her stage voice. Ruth doesn’t miss a beat, just nods at her and greets her with a “Capitalist Scum, how are you being?”
Smiling, Debbie turns back to her own reflection, tugging at the edges of her costume slightly. Ruth comes to stand next to her after a moment. When she speaks, it’s in her normal voice.
“It’s going well. The crowd are really… into it, you know. Not like the LA punters who need winning over each time. This crowd were ready for ridiculous from the word go.”
Debbie grunts slightly, and bites her lip.
She suddenly remembers kissing Ruth. That had been… stupid.
Thank god they don’t seem to be dwelling on it.
Ruth clears her throat, and then half whispers, as if she’s worried about the rejection.
“You look great. You’ll be… great.”
Debbie smiles tightly, and meets Ruth’s eye.
“Thanks… I don’t know why I’m so… thanks. You sounded good as well. That bear stuff…”
Ruth shrugs, and then just murmurs “You’re nervous because you are doing a new character.”
Debbie sighs heavily, and then nods.
“I just… sometimes I remember how weird my life has gotten.”
From a distance, the crowd reaches a crescendo. Melrose must have won her match.
Debbie’s up next.
Ruth is watching her.
Fuck she’s nervous.
After a long moment, Ruth blinks, and then looks down at her feet.
“You’ll be great. And- I mean, I’d say break a leg, but-”
Debbie snorts abruptly, and feels some of the tension ease.
“Yeah, I’m bit of a risk with that particular platitude…”
Ruth grins at her, looking relieved that her joke hasn’t backfired. And why does Debbie always create that uncertainty in Ruth? She wish she knew how to…. oh, she wishes for a lot of things.
They stare at each other, but because the stare is bounced through a mirror, it feels a great deal safer than doing it face to face.
Debbie doesn’t know where her brain is going.
She clears her throat.
“Anyway. That’s my cue. I should… go and be insane.”
“Can’t wait to meet Liberty Hell.”
“Oh, she and Zoya are going to get on like a house on fire.”
“Sure, screams, people running for safety, irreparable damage, that sort of thing.”
Debbie snorts, and gestures Ruth away.
“Get away, you are ruining my focus.”
Ruth grins, and turns on her heel. “I’ll be watching…” she calls over her shoulder.
Debbie smiles at herself in the mirror.