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True Lies
Ella


Alone.

Seems I feel that way quite a bit lately. But at least here, in my hotel room, I can relish in the silence, and the minibar. Earlier I was alone in a crowded room. The shared ladies dressing room. I wish to God I had my own dressing room sometimes. Then I could relax before the matches in a too big t-shirt and my cotton Victoria's Secret drawstring pants. 'How very tacky,' Mama would say. 'Appearances are everything, Debra. You should always dress as if the Governor were coming to tea.' What about comfort, Mama? She'd turn to me with that icy grey stare, 'Comfort, Debra? You are a Southern lady. Comfort is a luxury you cannot afford.' Right along with happiness, hunh Mama? 'Precisely.'

So I sit there in my white pinstriped, well-tailored suit and heels, all in the name of Southern grace. And the South is dead. Why couldn't I have been born a Yankee? Maybe then I'd have a happy life. 'You've got wealth and privilege. You are a proper Southern lady. Who needs happy?' I do. I need it like the cotton needs rain.

Oh, just hell. Jeff's coming. It must be time for his prematch ritual. It hasn't changed since Atlanta. He walks over, places his hands on my shoulders, and kisses my cheek. You look beautiful, he says. He doesn't mean it. Hell, he's not even talking to me. He's staring at his own reflection in my mirror. Thank you, I smile sweetly. Ugh.

Beautiful. He and half the men I've known wouldn't know beautiful if it walked up and kicked them in the balls.

Jeff leaves, his ritual completed. I glance back at the mirror and see Terri watching me. There is beautiful. Beautiful AND happy, with Dustin. Me, I'm a molded porcelain doll Mama created. 'Straighten those teeth! How do you expect her to win Junior Miss with crooked teeth?' I could've lived my whole life with crooked teeth. Really, who would have cared? Then maybe I wouldn't sound so damned poor pitiful me right now.

'Cursing? Southern ladies don't curse!' No, they just DISCUSS real loud. 'You'll never get a husband cursing. What good Southerner wants a wife with an outhouse mouth?' Like that matters, really. And I married a Texan, Mama. 'Practically a Yankee. No good carpetbagger.' Oh shut up.

Maybe staying cooped up in this beige nightmare wasn't such a good idea. But by now, the hotel bar has GOT to be closed. Then again, there's bound to be some wooden floored, beer and whiskey joint open somewhere. I throw on jeans and a top; pull my hair into a ponytail, and go.

I was right. This place is surprisingly upscale from what I was expecting to find open. Not that I'm complaining, they still have no questions and alcohol. It wasn't until after I had ordered an Absinthe that I wasn't the only sleepless wanderer. Terri's sitting at a table opposite from mine. She spots me and promptly moves to my table.

What are you doing out this late? I ask her, Won't Dustin be missing you? Even though it's unintentional I can hear the jealousy tinge my words.

He's out with a friend. Someone who needed an ear, she replies smoothly. I flinch, but mask it. I know whom she's talking about. And I also know it is my fault that he needs Dustin to lend an ear. I've only seen him a few times since that night, and I know he's upset by what I did. He's not as buoyant as he usually is. In fact, he was downright somber when I saw him last. He had headphones stuck in his ears, lying on a bench backstage with his eyes closed.

I wanted right then and there to tell him how sorry I was. I couldn't. All I could hear was Mama saying, 'It never should have happened, so just forget it. Act as if it hasn't happened. Everything will be fine then.' She's wrong and I know it, but I pretend anyway. And for the second time, leave him.

He had been so honest, selfless, that night. Made me think I could spend every night with him. And hell, even be happy there, with him. But no, I had to be the jackass and bolt. He would have found out eventually that it was a mistake. I just beat him to the door, right?

He would have discovered all my flaws and insecurities. Believe me there are plenty. I could keep five or six therapists in business with all my neurosis. I would have driven him up a wall. And then there's the whole beauty issue. He would have come to realise why I don't like being told I'm beautiful. Because I'm not. I'm a fake . . . a dull, fading Southern debutante, with an odd-looking nose and this ridiculous forehead that thank God I've convinced the stylist to cover with bangs.

No. Leaving was the best thing I could have done. It saved us both a world of hurt.

But that's not really true is it? I didn't save us from everything, did I? I'm haunted by my stupidity and he's out getting blitzed with Dustin. And if that's being SAVED from a world of hurt, I hate to know what a world of hurt is like then.

How do I fix this? Or should I even try? Terri's watching me over the rim of her glass. What? I ask, more tired than annoyed.

How can you not think you are beautiful? she says. She's looking at me with a look combined with confusion and some less-readable statement. Oh hell, did I just say all that out loud? She must know what I'm thinking because she nods her head yes.

FUCK.

I need a drink, bad. And if I go up to the bar, I won't have to see Terri's questioning gaze. Just as I move to stand, I change my mind. Maybe another drink is a bad idea. After all, how much more would I spill if I keep drinking? No, I should go back to the hotel. Put on my best 'Everything's fine' face and get the hell out of here.

I seem to be doing that a lot lately.

I stand and go, leaving Terri utterly lost. Before I get to the door, I turn to her. How can I think I'm beautiful, dear? With someone like you running around? I ask, in response to her earlier question. She blinks in disbelief, but before I can hear her answer, or even allow her to give it, I'm out the door.

There I go again, doing the ONE thing I do best. Getting the fuck out, so I don't have to deal with what I've said or done.

I saw him today. He and I were walking down the same empty corridor in the arena. He was on his way down to the ring; I was heading to the dressing room, having just arrived at the arena with Jeff.

I should correct myself. We did more than see each other. We ran smack into each other. Neither one of us paying attention to obstacles in our paths. I almost fell back, but his hand grabbed mine to steady me.

The moment he touched me, I felt it again. That current that runs under his skin, igniting everything he touches. I could have stayed there for hours, under the scrutiny of his dark eyes. But he had to go, and Jeff the Jackass was sure to be following behind me at any moment.

I pulled my hand back, but he didn't let go. Instead he turned it over and kissed my palm very softly. I couldn't resist, I laid my hand on his cheek, reveling in the feel of his skin under mine.

You're not a fake. You're very true and honest, whether you know it or not, he said. He spoke so quietly that I wasn't even sure he had said anything. He smiled down at me and then hurried off to his match. Left me standing there gaping and dumbfounded.

How can one man be so . . . hell, I don't know how to explain it. I just know that I've never met a man like him. I wished I had long ago, before I came so false and resigned to my life.

Damn him.

Damn him straight to hell for making me feel like this. I was perfectly fine before he came along and screwed my head all up. And what the fuck was that all about? 'True and honest,' my ass. I was quite happy being the obnoxious, fading Southern belle. Yeah, I pissed plenty of people off, but DAMNIT, I enjoyed it!

He thinks he's got any fucking right to walk into MY life and offer opinions about me because of one night of fucking great sex? I don't GODDAMNED think so!

Oh, just hell.

It's not his fault. It really isn't. I was moving toward this uncomfort and indecision of my life long before he showed up. I can't place the blame on him. I'd be telling my own true lies if I could honestly say I was happy pretending to like the person I was.

Christ, I must be going insane. What the hell is wrong with me?

What IS wrong? I know. I really do, I just haven't wanted to admit it. I've been listening to everyone else's bullshit so damned long I've forgotten how to listen to myself. First Mama, then Mongo, now Jeff. And I'm tired of it.

I'm tired of Mama's past lessons on life and how proper Southern ladies act. The South is dead, Mama.

I'm tired of worrying what that overprotective oaf of an ex-husband of mine is going to think about something I've done. He's not my problem to bother with anymore.

I'm just plain sick of Jeff. He doesn't only spout all of his own bullshit, but he believes every word that comes out of his annoying mouth.

I'm tired of hearing ALL their true lies.

I think I'm LONG overdue for making and following my own choices and wants. And damn anyone who tries to stop me.

Oh yay. Here comes Jeff for the prematch ritual. Can you feel my excitement? I thought so.

"You look beautiful." And there's the kiss.

"Jeff?" I ask. He looks as if he's amazed I have a voice with which to speak. "Could you do me a favor?"

"Sure, Debs. What?"

"Could you, shut the hell up!"

"Debs, is there something the matter?"

"Well, there's you. Isn't that enough?" I'm not looking right at him, but holding his gaze in the mirror. It's easier not to laugh at his facial statements this way. Although seeing Terri and Joanie attempting to hide their giggles doesn't make it any easier for me.

"Uh . . . but I've been doing this since--"

"Atlanta. And it annoyed the living piss out of me then, too. Now go away." He starts to leave, in a state of complete shock. "Oh, one more thing." He stops. "My name is Debra, D-E-B-R-A. Not Debs."

"Um, okay." He leaves then, and our entire dressing room erupts into laughter.

"Just how long have you been holding that in?" Terri asks me when the laughter has died down.

"Too damn long. Damn that felt good." I feel giddy. Goddamned giddy. Now I can't wipe the smile off my face. I wonder what he'll think of if when he finds out.