Chapter Eighteen - Reasonable Pastiche
There’s a strange tension in the air, the next day.
Show number four is happening tomorrow. Ruth and Debbie should be finishing the show, should be finalising their routine, should be confirming their cues with each other…
Instead they’re sitting on a bench, watching everyone else. Ruth half heartedly suggests doing some strength training, but Debbie shrugs, and that seems to be that.
It’s not quite a protest, but it is a….something. Cherry, who would normally encourage the side tracked to re-focus, just leaves them to it.
Sam hasn’t arrived yet. Ruth wonders where he is.
“Do you think we should tell Sam we’re going ahead with his plan?”
Debbie juts out her chin for a moment, and then sniffs slightly.
“Nope. He can come and talk to us, if he wants to confirm the position.”
“Okay, but I’m pretty sure that Sam would prefer to crawl over lava than-”
“Good” says Debbie shortly. Ruth snorts. Debbie relaxes after a moment, glances at Ruth with a smile, and then rolls her eyes, looking exasperated with something.
“Come on…” she says lightly, “you can’t deny me all the fun in making Sam uncomfortable.”
Ruth rests her hand on her chin, and tips her head to one side, watching Debbie for a moment. And… she feels happy, Ruth realizes. She doesn’t know where this emotion has come from, but it has swung for her out of nowhere, near knocking her for six with joy. And the wrestling… doesn’t feel like it matters so much, any more.
She tries to pull herself back to her responsibilities.
“Okay, but we should do some planning for the show, use this time to figure out some storylines…”
Debbie nods simply, and stands up.
“I’ll go find some paper.”
It’s the afternoon, before Sam approaches them.
Ruth does feel… bad for him. Because she can tell, now, that he regrets his public announcement that Debbie and Ruth couldn’t wrestle. And he’s looking for a way to walk it back without losing too much face.
But, they’re in the middle of planning out later shows, and things are flowing, and Ruth really doesn’t want Sam to interrupt with his usual ten layers of face saving caution.
Jesus, Ruth remembers all over again that she’s had sex with him. That’s… embarrassing.
Sam clears his throat, and then, when Debbie doesn’t look up from the page in front of her, awkwardly says “Knock knock” into thin air. Ruth smiles weakly at him. Debbie holds a finger in the air, and says “hang on-”. She finishes her sentence, and puts the cap back on the pen, and then looks at him, her face entirely blank.
After a second, Sam takes his glasses off his face, and starts cleaning them with the edge of his sweater. When he does speak, it’s mainly to the glasses.
“So… things got a little heated yesterday-”
“Did they?” Debbie asks. Sam glances at her, and then rolls his eyes.
“Yes. They did. I regret it, it’d be great if you could manage to say you regret it as well Debbie, but that’d be impossible for you as it would appear you don’t regret anything so-”
“Sam” Ruth mutters, placating. Sam sighs, and shrugs, replacing his glasses on his nose.
“Okay. Okay. Whilst I recognise that… we are not in an ideal situation, on an interpersonal level-”
“Are we not?” asks Debbie, blandly. And once again, Ruth is playing peace keeper, glaring at Debbie until she holds up a hand in almost sincere apology. Sam continues.
“But, my job is to make a success of the show, and I’d have to be blind to not see that the fight you two have been planning out is pretty fucking epic, so. You know. I’ve decided you can fight tomorrow. Just, don’t get high Debbie.”
Debbie rolls her neck slightly, and then glances at Ruth. Ruth nods, perfectly happy with things to go as they had just been discussing, and turns to Sam.
“Actually, Sam, we’re going to skip this week. Build it up for next week, you know?”
Sam blinks, and then says “what?” Debbie smiles an empty smile at him.
“We think you are right, and I should take another week off to get all the chemicals out of my system. So Ruth and I are going to sit this one out, play along with your vision, you know… and then we’ve decided we’ll fight next week.”
“You have?” Sam says, flatly. Debbie nods.
“Yep. Rhonda is going to fight Dawn and Stacey at the end of this show, it’s all planned out. And we will be busy writing the rest of the show for future weeks, seeing as you don’t seem too keen to take that responsibility back from us.”
After a long second, Sam takes a step back, and puts his hands on his hips, looking both petulant and lost.
“So, wait… you’re refusing to fight?”
Ruth shrugs. “Not refusing. Just delaying. It’ll make things more dramatic when we do.”
“You aren’t going to fight.” Sam repeats, clearly struggling to figure out his next move. Debbie stands up, and gathers up the papers in front of her.
“You know what Sam? We aren’t even going to watch.”
They do end up watching the first show, of course. But this time they buy tickets, and sneak into the arena feeling like kids rebelling against the curfew on a school trip.
Debbie gets a message to Tammé, so all the girls know that Debbie and Ruth are there, watching. Ruth can tell that the message has been passed along successfully because in every fight the girls take particular care to spend a great deal of time yelling towards the section of seating Debbie and Ruth are hiding in.
In between matches, Debbie leans into her and says “admit it, you’re annoyed that no one here has recognised that Zoya is sitting with them.”
Ruth snorts abruptly, and then says “no, I am not, how dare you… besides, we are in our normal clothes, people would only recognise us in our wrestling outfits.”
“In Soviet Union” Debbie says, in a reasonable pastiche of a Russian accent “wrestling outfit is normal clothing…”
Ruth presses her lips together to prevent her from laughing too loudly, and then gestures at Debbie with her bottle.
“Terrible. Really bad accent.”
“It’s better than yours” Debbie says with a grin. Ruth gasps, and then puts her hand to her chest in mock hurt.
“How can you even claim… is this you trying to find motivation for the next wrestling match, because there is no way that your Russian accent is better than mine?”
Debbie gestures dismissively, continuing with her accent.
“No, you are wrong, your accent is too…what is phrase…. washy wishy.”
Ruth does laugh that time, and Debbie cracks after a second as well, and they both end up giggling.
Ruth can’t remember the last time she felt like this with Debbie. As though she could do anything, say anything, and it would be okay.
After the show, they leave the hotel, and head for a different bar.
Ruth remembers bumping into Debbie and Bash outside this bar. It’s a moment that feels a lifetime ago, but she can’t help dwelling on it.
Debbie’s oddly quiet as well, but for some strange reason, for the first time in what feels like forever, Ruth isn’t panicking that Debbie’s quietness is about to transform into anger. They’re somehow past that.
Ruth breathes out slowly, and starts toying with her straw.
“So… I mean, do you still need a valium and an hour’s for warning if I ask you for advice on my personal life?”
Debbie allows herself a small smile, and then says “No. You… go for it.”
Ruth clears her throat, nodding. “Okay. Cool. Um…. I think I should probably break it off with Russell.”
Debbie goes still for a second, and then adjusts the line of her shoulders, clearly trying to relax.
“Yeah?” she says. “For Sam?”
Ruth flinches, and then sits back in her chair, shaking her head.
“No, that’d…no. But… I think I should feel worse, about cheating on Russell, than I do. It’s like… he exists in a whole separate part of my brain, one which doesn’t count in Vegas. I should be… traumatised and guilt ridden the whole time, but I’m not, I’m mainly just feeling awkward and embarrassed around Sam.”
Debbie bites at the inside of her cheek, and then takes a sip of her drink.
“You know, if you break up with Russell, and Sam finds out, Sam is going to think you’ve broken things off in order to take things more seriously with Sam.”
“Yeah… I know. It’s, uh. That’s tricky.” Ruth sighs, and then looks down at the table. She can feel Debbie watching her.
“Anyway, are you sure that you want to break it off with Russell? I thought… what did you say? That he’s - fun. And easy. And he likes you… it’s not weird. You know where you stand.”
Ruth looks at her, surprised that Debbie paid that much attention to her words. Debbie looks away, blushing. Ruth smiles at the gesture, and then says “But I thought you didn’t like him?” Debbie rolls her eyes slightly.
“Well, I mean. He was making you happy. I still think you are way too good for all the men you end up sleeping with, Mark included, and that annoys me, but… if he is making you happy then why throw it all away?”
Ruth doesn’t know what to do with the awkward compliment Debbie has just given her, even at the same time that she references Ruth sleeping with Debbie’s husband. It gives her a strange feeling inside. She takes a sip of her drink to buy some thinking time.
“Well…maybe I’m going to try and aim for better. Feel something, I don’t know. A little more than ‘fun’, and ‘easy’.”
Debbie shrugs, and then glances at Ruth as if trying to judge where she is going with this.
“That doesn’t sound much like Sam.”
Ruth pulls a face involuntarily, and then says “God no, I don’t know how I thought that was a good idea… it’s like a huge problem, just lurking over the horizon, waiting to explode.”
Debbie snorts at that.
They head back to the hotel, eventually.
Ruth isn’t drunk, in fact she doesn’t think she’s drunk that much at all, or at least what she has drunk has been over such a slow rate that there’s hardly been any impact at all.
But she is feeling… odd. Like she wants more, some how. This is the most relaxed and friendly that Debbie has been to Ruth in what feels like a million years, and yet Ruth still somehow feels unsatisfied. Unfulfilled? She feels as though, if she’d just had a couple more drinks, she would ask Debbie for a hug, some kind of physical sign that they were fine, rather than all these words, because words can mean nothing sometimes, especially when they’re between Ruth and Debbie.
In the elevator, Debbie clears her throat.
“Look, I was planning to go and visit Randy, in a couple of days. Once we’d finished planning out the next series of matches. I thought… I don’t know, if you wanted to go and see Russell, maybe have some face time with him before you made any big decisions, I thought we could travel together? That’d… I’d like that.”
Ruth smiles at her.
“Could I see Randy?”
Debbie shrugs, smiling back. “Of course. And he’s way cuter than Russell, just to clarify that.”
Ruth smiles, and… she wants to say something else, something bigger than just ‘I’d like that too’, but she can’t find the words in time.
“Yeah. Okay. I’d like that too. Not the Russell part, necessarily, but the… stuff with you. And Randy.”
“Okay” says Debbie, looking relieved and somehow exhausted.
The elevator pings.
It’s late, later than Ruth had really realised. The corridor is quiet, and they end up sneaking down it on instinct, aware that everyone else seems to be asleep.
Debbie unlocks her door slowly, and then seems to hesitate. Ruth is…waiting, mainly because she can’t figure out how to say bye, or if she even wants to. Debbie glances at her, and then smiles.
“I had a really good time” she whispers. Ruth nods, and then nods some more. “Yeah” she replies in kind, “Me too. I don’t… I don’t want to go to sleep in case we forget how to do this again tomorrow.”
Debbie lets out a little half sigh, and then nods. “Me neither. I worry about that too.”
Ruth says nothing, but she’s just looking at Debbie now. Just looking because it makes her feel….
Debbie looks back at her, and then leans on the door frame, and is still just looking at her.
Ruth can’t breathe. And her room feels so far away…
Debbie laughs after a second, a small, hopeless laugh, and then glances into her room.
“Jesus, Ruth…. take a hint, would you?”
It helps Ruth snap out of it. She backs away slightly.
“Sure, I’m sorry, it’s late. I’m going. Thanks for this, I had fun.”
Debbie stands still for a moment, and then nods, stepping further into her room.
“Yeah. Me too. I’ll see you tomorrow…”
Ruth’s room is only five doors away.
She counts every step.