“And then what?”
It’s three days later. Cherry stares at her over the coffee, looking as shocked as Ruth has ever seen her look.
Ruth shrugs, looking down at her own coffee.
“And then we… well. We fell asleep. And then we slept for far too long, and nearly missed our plane back… and what with, you know, all the rushing, we just kind of, didn’t talk about it? Um, I felt weird, mentioning it.”
Cherry holds up her hands, and then places her fingers to her temple, rubbing small circles.
“Okay, I’m going to need a hell of a lot more context if you are seriously expecting me to give you some kind of guidance on this…”
Ruth sighs. She feels like she needs a hell of a lot more context too.
“So, it was like this…”
They’d woken up. Or, Debbie had woken up, and sworn a couple of times. That had woken Ruth up, and then Debbie had poked her in the side, which had woken Ruth up more, and then Debbie had mumbled “We’re going to miss the plane”.
And that had woken Ruth up fully.
And then they’d… well shit, they’d been rushing, and Ruth had dragged on her clothes and scampered back to her room. She’d changed into something different, thrown everything into her bag, and then Debbie was knocking on her door, calling through that their taxi would be here in two minutes.
And then they were in the taxi, and even though an enforced stillness had reigned, they certainly couldn’t talk about last night in front of the taxi driver, so they’d kind of just sat there, in silence.
Cherry interrupts her at this point.
“I’m sorry, I refuse to believe you guys didn’t acknowledge it at all, you must have… like, given each other a look or something, people don’t just sleep with each other and then collectively suffer amnesia the next day…”
Ruth sighs, and sits back in her chair.
“I think you are underestimating the levels of non-communication Debbie and I can reach, if we really put our minds to it. We are practically professional compartmentalisers.”
Cherry snorts, shakes her head, and motions for Ruth to continue.
And then they’d been on the plane, flying back to Vegas.
Ruth had sworn that Debbie originally had planned to go and visit Randy again, in the morning before they had caught this midday plane.
And Debbie was probably annoyed that she’d missed that, because they’d slept in, because they’d accidentally, um, fucked each other last night.
Ruth had blushed hard at the thought, and then the memory (just the memory) of the way Debbie had moaned when she came made Ruth wet all over again, and none of this was a helpful response.
But it had felt like too much time had elapsed between the night before and the plane journey, Ruth couldn’t just start referencing it there and then. And besides, they are on a plane. Surrounded by people.
And so Ruth had been too shy, and what if Debbie was annoyed at her, and what if, what if…
And so they hadn’t mentioned it.
Cherry covers her eyes with her hands.
“I mean… there aren’t enough relationship therapists in the world… and when you guys got back to the hotel?”
Ruth sighs, and motions helplessly with her hands.
“Well, we’d booked that plane because it arrived in time for us to attend the team meeting about the week five show. So… we went to the meeting, you saw.”
“Holy shit but you didn’t say anything to each other before the meeting?”
“Uhhh, no. We…. um. We were running late” Ruth finishes lamely.
Cherry drags her palms down her face, and then laughs abruptly, shaking her head at Ruth.
“How on earth did you guys ever manage to operate as friends? This is too much.”
Ruth feels herself pull a face. “Um. Not very well, to be honest. We were… I’m not sure if we were ever being completely truthful with each other.”
“Shit, you think?” Cherry laughs loudly now, and slaps her palm to her thigh, not caring how the people in this diner turn to look at her. Ruth snorts, and grins despite herself.
“Okay, I was hoping for a more supportive response…”
Cherry wipes underneath her eyes, motioning helplessly at Ruth. “Yeah, sure, I’m sorry, just… give me a second, this is too much for me…” Cherry sucks in a deep breath, and breaths slowly out, before biting her lip to fight against a grin. She shakes her head, and then tries to look seriously at Ruth.
“Please tell me you guys have managed to reference the sex since. Please tell me that you have managed that.”
“Nope!” says Ruth, polishing her defeat with cheery brightness. Cherry’s mouth falls open.
“But the show is tonight?”
“You are wrestling Debbie tonight.”
Ruth nods slowly, looking away from Cherry and tapping her fingers on the table.
“Yeah…. why do you think that might be awkward?”
Cherry snorts, and then laughs again. “Yeah” she says, “maybe?”
Ruth sighs, and then sobers slightly, because there is a bigger issue at hand, somehow.
“Actually, I was hoping to talk to you about, um, a different problem…”
By the time Ruth has finished explaining the whole Sam situation to Cherry, Cherry is looking far more serious.
Cherry doesn’t speak, for what feels like an ominous amount of time afterward. Ruth sighs heavily, and stirs an idle spoon through her coffee.
“Yeah, I know… that this makes it worse.”
Cherry grunts once in agreement, and then rests her chin on her hand.
“You know that I slept with Sam once? That’s why you came to me?”
Guilty, Ruth holds up a hand. “Yeah…. I’m sorry. Melrose mentioned it. Um. A lot. It was early days. But, I thought… I don’t know, my other option was speaking to Rhonda…” Ruth trails off into a shrug, and Cherry nods, easily.
“That would be a different conversation.”
Ruth raises her eyebrows in agreement. After a moment, Cherry speaks again.
“Look, me and Sam. It wasn’t a thing. Keith was there. We were… I don’t know. It was three adults, who all knew that this wasn’t going anywhere. Just a moment of… fuck it, you know? No follow up. Whereas what you have been doing with Sam… you’ll have convinced him that you actually like him. Enough for him to be hoping for follow up.”
Ruth looks away, worrying at her lip. “I do like him. I mean, enough? I wanted him to feel liked. And I wanted… to prove to him, that I was… oh I don’t know. I was flattered, I guess. He’d been so down on me when we were first training for the show, it felt good to have his attention like that.”
Cherry stares at her. Ruth looks down at her coffee after a moment, mournful.
“I know that makes me sound…”
“It doesn’t. We all have our… we all make not great choices sometimes. Was the sex good?”
Ruth colours, and then shrugs. “It- it wasn’t bad, I guess. It wasn’t a disaster. I went back for more, because…. I’m stupid.”
Cherry shrugs one shoulder, no commenting on the concept of Ruth’s stupidity, and then asks another question.
“Where is Russell, in all of this?”
Ruth feels her heart clench in panic, at the mention of Russell.
“Oh god, I really need to… I’m going to break it off with him, I was planning to do it when I was in LA, I just got sidetracked, but… it was bad enough that I had slept with Sam, but now? I’m just- oh god I hate confrontation, I’m so bad at it. But I have to call him, I tell myself I’m going to call him but then I always put it off…”
“Yeah, you can’t just avoid that forever, he doesn’t deserve-
“I know, I know.” Ruth puts her head in her hands, hiding from herself. Cherry changes the subject after a moment.
“And… see, the thing about Sam is that he is a child, basically. He’s desperate for validation, someone to care about him, someone to put up with him… you can’t sleep with him a couple of times and expect him to not… you know. Catch feelings. And it was different with Rhonda, because I’m pretty sure that Sam was convinced Rhonda was only sleeping with him for the career path, but with you-”
“Yeah, I know” Ruth says wearily. Cherry carries on, voicing the thought anyway.
“You are too professional to do anything like that. He’ll think that you’ve slept with him despite all the reasons not to, because you just couldn’t help yourself. He’ll be building it up into some burning romance in his head.”
Ruth groans, and then she says “Okay, so I tell him that it was a mistake, it’s never happening again.”
Cherry smiles with half her mouth “What, using all of your excellent confrontational skills?”
Ruth rolls her eyes. “Yes. I guess. Then what does he do?”
“Pitches a fit. Gets black out drunk. Probably fires Debbie.”
Ruth gapes at her.
“What? Why would he… fire Debbie? Can he fire Debbie?”
“He’d find a way. Or make Debbie quit somehow, they’re not in a good place at all. Because he thinks that she’s been warning you off him, which, huh, I guess she has. And Sam has spotted that. And he’ll think that without Debbie around, then…”
Ruth has her head in her hands again, because why does she always end up in situations like this?
“Okay, what if… I tell Sam I’m ending it because I want to make a serious go of things with Russell? And pretend to still be seeing Russell?”
“Messy. But sure, that’d… he wouldn’t fire Debbie. But then you’re left with Sam waiting around, thinking that you are eventually going to come back to him, because you didn’t care that much about Russell in the first place. And… where does that leave Debbie? You going to try and convince her that you are making a go of it with Russell, or involve her in your web of mystery?”
“Oh god… why is every single second of my life like this?”
Cherry snorts, but then reaches out, and pats one of Ruth’s hands compassionately.
“Hey, at least you figured out one thing; you and Debbie have a fucked up friendship because it turns out you are mad compatible in bed and hadn’t acted on it yet. Sexual frustration.”
Ruth blushes, and then bites her lip.
“I didn’t say we were…”
Cherry looks at her, and then says “Seriously? You saying that all that wrestling chemistry doesn’t transfer into the bedroom? I’m surprised you didn’t get noise complaints.”
“Shut…. up” says Ruth, but she can’t help the smile, it’s too big to be contained. Cherry laughs at her for a moment, and then sighs.
“Oh man, this wrestling gig… it really messes with your professional boundaries, doesn’t it? I’d have never talked about shit like this with any of my past co-workers.”
Ruth grins at her fondly.
“It’s a lot, isn’t it?”
She really does need to speak to Debbie.
It’s just…. whenever Ruth thinks about speaking to Debbie, or sees Debbie, or thinks about Debbie at all, she’s suddenly blushing bright red, and remembering, oh god how she remembers…
Clearly, they’d both lost their heads. In some kind of shared moment of… how had Cherry described her moment with Sam and Keith? Fuck it. A shared moment of ‘fuck it’, with no follow up.
It had been so good though, jesus-
Ruth has spent the last three days not looking at Debbie. Because if she looks at Debbie, if they make eye contact once, then it is going to be obvious, painfully obvious, how Ruth is feeling.
(Like she’ll never be able to recover.)
And obviously Debbie is… Ruth cannot find an end to that thought.
Debbie is…. embarrassed? Hoping that if she never mentions it then maybe Ruth will convince herself it was a dream? Utterly oblivious to Ruth’s inner turmoil? Maybe this sort of thing happens all the time in Debbie’s life, Ruth realizes that she knows so little about huge swathes of Debbie’s life, ever since she fucked Mark it has been different, everything is different.
However, they do have to be able to talk. They have to be able to wrestle each other, but the first hurdle is talking.
It’s with Cherry’s encouragement ringing in her ears that Ruth musters the courage to approach Debbie, and if she’s looking like she’s burning up then Ruth is just going to have to blame it on the faulty air conditioning.
They’ve not practiced the routine in over a week. They’re meant to be debuting the routine in…five hours. They have to run through it at least once, Cherry had looked like she was on the verge of passing out when Ruth had half heartedly suggested that she and Debbie could do the routine without a refresher.
Debbie is talking to Bash. That helps Ruth approach, because Bash is definitely a friend.
Debbie drops her conversation with Bash abruptly, when it becomes obvious that Ruth isn’t going to veer away at the last moment. She eyes Ruth as though Ruth has lost her head, which is entirely possible, Ruth concedes.
“Hi” she manages. Bash smiles at her.
“Hi Ruth, are you ready? I am pumped, I can’t wait to see you guys go at it in the ring, you know? All the girls have been saying that the routine looks incredible.”
“Yeah, it was about that I was coming to talk about, actually… uh. Debbie. We should probably… Cherry noticed that we hadn’t practiced since we- since we got back from LA, so, I was wondering if you’d have time to go through the routine, this afternoon. Just once” she adds hurriedly, “-we probably won’t need to spend more time on it than that.”
Debbie’s face, usually so expressive, seems to have shut down completely, and this is agony, Ruth can’t believe they’ve managed to destroy all the rebuilt trust in one impulsive evening.
“Sure” Debbie says, blandly, and then looks at Bash, as though he’s easier to talk to. “Sure. I’ve just been… yeah, we can do a run through. I’m just… I’m going to warm up. Okay?”
Ruth nods several times, biting the inside of her cheek just because this is all so difficult.
“Okay. I’m going to…. I’m going to do that as well.”
Debbie glances at her, and then nods.
And then…. well, what else is she supposed to do?
Ruth walks away.