It’s three twenty three am. If Debbie falls asleep now, she’ll get three hours and thirty seven minutes sleep.
Debbie sighs into the darkness, sits up slightly to try and fluff up her pillow into something resembling comfort, and lies down on her other side, facing away from the digital clock.
“Sam” she’d said flatly “I really don’t care... Ruth, do you want me to stay?”
It was a weird question, although Sam is so dense that Debbie is pretty sure it bounced off his skull like a ping pong ball.
Ruth had bitten her lip, and then said “I dunno, are we good?” And Jesus, why is it always Debbie deciding whether things are fine or not? Why can’t Ruth just confront her for once? Call her out on the bullshit, and power through the ensuing argument, until they are fine again, but to Ruth’s schedule, not Debbie’s?
Instead Debbie is stuck with the patient Ruth, who avoids confrontation and just waits around like a sentient statue until Debbie is so bored of her own rage that it just dissipates into nothing, unfulfilled and unheeded and unresolved.
But of course, they were good, there was no way Debbie could claim anything else, and so Debbie had shrugged, and agreed, and departed. Left Ruth to get on with the next terrible mistake.
“We are whatever you want to be.” How pathetic.
Debbie readjusts her pillow again, and lies back down, sighing.
Of course, the problem isn’t the pillow, or the bed. It’s her own brain, refusing to let her sleep. And it would seem that she can’t readjust her brain.
She turns over.
Okay. If she falls asleep now, she’ll have three hours and twenty eight minutes before she has to wake up.
Debbie closes her eyes tightly, and tries to fill her mind with Randy.
That’s a different sort of ache, but at least it is one she is more used to dealing with.
The next morning, Debbie definitely doesn’t think about anything other than Randy.
Bash is waiting for her at the front of the hotel. He springs forwards to take her bag from her, and puts it into the cab’s trunk.
“Morning Debs, best get in, the driver has his meter running and doesn’t like me at all, can’t seem to charm him.”
Debbie smiles at him, and slides into the backseat, making sure to be extra beautiful in the direction of the greasy cab man in the hope that he doesn’t press a button to somehow charge them double.
At the end of their drinks together, Debbie had arranged for them to fly together, the next time she travelled back to LA. When he gets into the car Bash smiles brightly at her, in a brittle sort of way. Debbie smiles back gently, scared of fracturing him.
Bash looks away hurriedly, and suddenly delves into his bag.
“So, I have, um, a crossword book, and sweets, and, ooh and travel scrabble, I thought that might be fun, and if you want to listen to my walkman I have a Commodores tape-”
Debbie snorts slightly, and then smiles at him.
“Bash, it’s a forty minute flight. I was planning on mainly, you know. Napping.”
“Oh.” Bash deflates suddenly. Debbie feels her heart pang.
“But I would not be adverse to a crossword.”
“Oh! Excellent, excellent… oh wait, do you have a pen?”
Debbie doesn’t know much about grief.
She’s not known anyone die who wasn’t due to die, if that terrible sentiment makes any sense.
Both of her grandparents on her mom’s side passed away at a good age, when Debbie was in her early and mid twenties. She had never known her father, so that’s fewer people to mourn.
Her dog died suddenly, when she was fifteen. Hit by a car. That had broken her heart, but Debbie is aware that there might be further, more devastating ways for her heart to be broken, just over the horizon.
She’s lucky to have never felt real pain, not really.
In fact, if Debbie really considers it, the worst emotional pain she’s ever felt is when she discovered that Mark had cheated on her with Ruth. That Ruth had torched their friendship all for the lowly sake of Mark’s dick.
But Debbie isn’t completely insane, and so she doesn’t try and bond with Bash’s grief over that.
Bash is still speaking, having abandoned the crossword about two minutes into the flight. Debbie is letting him, because he’s talking about Florian.
“So, I was thinking about what you said, about finding someone to knew Florian, and then I had a brainwave: Gary! Birdie’s… man. In the house. Butler? I don’t know what his official title is, but whenever Florian at my house after school it was Gary who was feeding us carrot sticks, you know? So I got in touch with him and we’re going to have a great time. And we’ll have plenty of Florian things to talk about, like how, oh god you should have seen how Florian reacted to bees when he was younger, although not much has changed, he still completely freaks out-”
Bash lapses suddenly into silence. Debbie tries not to pay too much attention to the tenses.
“He was, I mean, I’ve already told you this, but he was really kind when I was at your house that time. Florian…. he let me talk to him for about five years on why Mark was a terrible husband, and then, when I’d drunk even more… I mean, I think I was pretty much ready to pick a fight with a tree, but I’m sure I was asking for Ruth as well, because Florian went to find Ruth and called a cab for me and made sure the cab driver had my address and…well. Looked after to me. He was a good guy, Bash.”
Bash nods, and gulps a couple of times, before looking away, out at the blank blueness of the sky. He doesn’t say anything for a long time.
Debbie is almost considering closing her eyes, taking a pretend rest just to give Bash some privacy. But then Bash speaks again, addressing the window.
“It’s just… all the things that will not happen, now. All the future that was supposed to be there, isn’t there, now that he… he isn’t here. I can’t get over the… maybes, you know?” Bash glances at her in enquiry, and his eyes are red.
Debbie remembers the way she felt, in the ring opposite Ruth for the first time. The way she had felt like Ruth had ruined everything, as though things would never be the same again, as though the one part of the future that Debbie had thought she could rely upon had been ripped away, all for the sake of Mark’s dick.
“Yeah. I think I understand.”
Bash nods a couple of times, although Debbie can tell that he doesn’t fully believe her. And then his mouth twists, and he looks away hurriedly, out of the window again.
Debbie places her hand over Bash’s. Bash takes hers after a moment, and holds on, tightly.
So yeah, Bash isn’t doing so well.
Debbie waves him off with a hug and a kiss to his cheek, because she really hopes that he finds something of what he needs at home, for these too few hours.
“I’ll see you on the plane tonight okay? Don’t do all the crosswords with Gary, save some for me.”
Bash smiles weakly at that, and waves forlornly once, before walking away.
It’s a long journey to Mark’s house from the airport. The traffic is conspiring against her.
But honestly, any journey time at all would be too long, she can’t wait to see Randy, she finds she’s literally aching all over in a way that has nothing to do with wrestling and everything to do with the way her son grins at her when he sees her face.
And god, Debbie has her own personal meltdown ready, because when she finally arrives she finds out that Mark has taught Randy a new trick.
“Look, look…Randy, Randy, you listening?” Mark starts singing to Randy in Debbie’s arms “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the river, if you see a polar bear, don’t forget to shiver”, and on the last word Mark does an exaggerated shiver, and Randy copies him, wiggling about in Debbie’s arms with a grin on his face.
“Oh, my god-” Debbie cuts off abruptly, because she’s caught between hysterical laughter and floods of tears.
“Yeeeaah, good boy Randy, showing mommy how clever you are, shall we do it again, row row row your boat gently down the river…” This time Mark doesn’t get further into the song before Randy starts wiggling around, waving his arms in the air as though he is having the best time.
Debbie feels her heart burst, and then she wonders if she is doing the right thing, if she really should be in Las Vegas wrestling for cheers when she is clearly missing every important thing in her life at home.
“Oh my god, Randy, who said you could be so smart, who said you could be so smart oh I’ve missed you so much.”
By the afternoon she’s on the verge of calling up Sam and just cancelling the whole thing.
“Hello, Sam? Yes, hi, it’s Debbie. So I’m not coming back, you’ll have to find a new Liberty Belle, you can FedEx my stuff back to me, good luck with the show, and whatever joy you are hoping to find with Ruth, no I’m not coming back ever again, my son has learnt how to wiggle on demand and I refuse to miss any more crucial milestones.”
She manages not to, and instead calls up Mark at work, weeping because Randy keeps on wiggling to try and make her laugh.
“Mark, I can’t… we have to figure out a way for me to see more of Randy, I can’t get back on the plane if he’s going to keep wiggling like this and I’m not going to be able to see him for another week at least, I’m going to call that asshole producer, I’m going to quit…”
Mark talks her down, in that way that he always was so good at, whenever Debbie exploded and had a meltdown over something inconsequential. She doesn’t know what she was so angry at, all those times.
“Hey, don’t be… look, you can if you really want to, but you know that you’ve got a quiet week coming up, after the next set of shows. You can come and spend a few days at home, have him all the time if you want… and Susan and I, we can take a look at spending a weekend out in Vegas, maybe come and see a show, you know… you can even have Randy stay the night in your hotel room, if that’s something you’d like?”
Debbie laughs, and dabs at her eyes with a tissue.
“Oh god, I would like that… I could get you into the show for free, if Sam says anything I’ll fucking kill him.”
Mark snorts at her, and then cautiously asks “Uh, everything okay with you and Sam? I thought you two were… working together without any problems, the last time I checked? You said he was listening to you, last we spoke about him.”
“Yeah, well” Debbie mutters darkly, fiddling with the phone cord whilst Randy gurgles at her “That was before he started… you know…”
Debbie doesn’t finish her sentence. Mark prods her along after a moment.
“He started what?”
Debbie sighs. “Oh, just… he’s controlling. I need to get over it. It’s nothing.”
Mark grunts. “Well, I mean. He is technically in charge, isn’t he? Surely he’s meant to be a bit controlling?”
“Yeah. I guess so. I just wish… I didn’t have to witness it.”
She doesn’t want to get on the plane.
But she manages it. Bash offers her his arm, and Debbie tucks her hand into the crook of his elbow. Bash sighs wistfully as they approach the check in desk.
“Nothing seems real in Las Vegas. It’s like a dream. But here… it’s all too real.”
Debbie bites the inside of her cheek, thoughtful.
“Maybe we could just stay on the plane then. Conduct a sit in. Just… boycott reality.”
“That sounds good.”
The woman on the desk looks worried as they approach.
“Um, Mr Howard, I’m afraid that the seating on the plane has filled up unexpectedly, and error in the booking, we are going to have to seat you and your girlfriend on separate aisles.”
“Oh, we’re not-”
“I’m his fianceé” Debbie says coolly, with zero hesitation. “We’re getting married tomorrow. Vegas. You know.”
The woman’s face barely rearranges itself, but Debbie can see that she isn’t believing her. Bash doesn’t help, he just coughs a couple of times, and then says in a falsely pitched voice “Yes, that’s right. Debbie is… my fianceé.”
Debbie gazes blankly at the woman, certain that she won’t have the guts to call Debbie out on the blatant lie. Her gaze flickers down to Debbie hand, to the conspicuous lack of an engagement ring, and then back to Debbie’s face. Debbie smiles blandly.
Eventually the woman looks away, and presses a button on her computer.
“Okay… I’ll see if I can find someone else to rearrange. And… congratulations.”
“Thank you so much” Debbie simpers, and then rolls her eyes the second they move away. Bash snorts at her, and then giggles slightly.
“Rhonda is going to be so upset when she hears.”
Debbie loses her grin for a moment, and then she squeezes Bash’s arm gently.
“Bash-” she says lowly “She really won’t be upset. You know she won’t be upset.”
“Yeah. I know. I should really…. I should do something about that.”
“…and it’s so weird, you know? Hearing your life from someone else’s point of view? Gary has been living it all with me, and I never even knew, never even noticed… we talked forever, you know? But he thinks-” Bash swallows abruptly, and holds his hand to his mouth for a moment, looking one hundred years old. Debbie waits.
“He thinks that Florian was in love with me.”
Debbie does her best to look surprised, does her best to look as though this was an angle that she’d never considered, but she’s pretty sure that it is a poor attempt she’s making of it.
“Oh?” she manages. Bash nods mournfully, toying with one of the plastic champagne glasses that they’d been presented with on seating to celebrate their upcoming nuptials.
“Gary said that he thinks Florian had always been in love with me. And I….jesus…” Bash opens his mouth a couple of times, but no sounds come out. Debbie takes his hand, and grips it tightly.
“You don’t need to do it all in one day Bash. You don’t need to get to the end of that sentence yet. There’s no rush.”
“Right. You’re right.” Bash nods, his mouth turned down and quivering. His voice is suddenly cracked. “Time is suddenly irrelevant. There’s no… finish line.”
Debbie can’t think of anything to say. Bash sighs, and tips his head back, to rest on the seat.
“What about you?” he asks after a long moment. “What reality are you trying to boycott?”
“Ah, we don’t need to talk about me-”
“No, please. I want to talk about someone other than, me, or Florian.”
Debbie bites her lip, and then sighs.
“I don’t know. I’m just… some days are fine, I’m doing a job I enjoy, I like the people I work with, I’m in a good place with the ex husband, my son brings me joy… but some days, I feel like… I could knock over a building, just through sheer rage. I’m so angry, even though it’s not my life, it’s nothing to do with me…”
Bash looks towards her, but thankfully doesn’t look at her face, instead just watches her hand on the arm rest.
Debbie rolls her eyes, and then holds up her empty glass in a sarcastic toast.
“To Ruth; somehow still fucking me up even when she’s finished fucking me over.”
Bash taps his glass against hers, and then sighs.
“But I thought you were friends again?”
“God-” Debbie pinches at the bridge of her nose briefly. “That’s what I want. That’s all I want, and when I do manage to not be a complete bitch to her we are friends, but I can never seem to make it last for more than two days before I get enraged about something that I have no right to be angry over, like who she sleeps with or why she’d be nice to Sam or-”
Debbie sighs, and bites her lip. Bash says nothing. Eventually Debbie starts filling the silence again.
“We used to be… so in sync, you know? Best friends. I miss it, I miss the closeness. But now… it’s never going to be that way ever again, and it’s her fault. I can’t seem to get past it, and now it is new betrayals, and…I want her to… see me. I want to be the important one. Not Russell, or Sam, I just want her to…”
Debbie cuts herself off, when she realises what category she is putting herself in.
Bash takes her hand, and squeezes once, before looking away from her, at the seat in front of him.
“We’re in Vegas for a while. It’s a long time. A lot of stuff can happen, change, you know. Don’t try and force it. And…you don’t need to get to the end of that sentence yet. There’s no rush.”