Chapter XXIV: A Confession in the Rain
Batista didn't find out if he was welcome back into the poker group or not. Ric Flair made out that he was but he couldn't go. Ric was being good to him, making an effort to act as if nothing happened. He simply mentioned that the affair was over, Dave knew it was wrong, and they had to move on. Flair didn't feel it was his business what happened between Orianne and Dave. He was surprised at first but he could easily see how it had happened. She was a pretty young woman who needed companionship and he was the lonely but handsome man who paid her the attention she deserved. But that didn't make it right. The two of them knew that it was over and everybody needed to move on, especially Dave. That was one of the main reasons Ric encouraged him to come back.
Before their poker nights, Dave was never really friends with the rest of the guys anyhow and it didn't seem right to stay. Instead, he hung out with Carlito, Edge, and Lita, just as he had done before Gabrielle broke up with him. His friendship with Randy Orton was probably destroyed forever. When women tried to buy him drinks or ask him to dance, he politely declined. On occasion he would sit and chat with one but he had already perfected the art of letting them down. Mainly, he just enjoyed people watching. So much drama in such a small space could be entertaining. He attended the next inter-brand social and watched the doors for Orianne until he realized how stupid he was being—if she showed up, Sloan would undoubtedly be by her side based on the gossip about how he wasn't letting her out of his sight when she was on the road.
The Batista family never knew what happened. He didn't bring Orianne up again and neither did they. His mother and sister assumed that he had heeded their advice. He spent more time with them, particularly making an effort to take his niece and nephews out more. Dana and Hea wondered if there was something more going on in his life because he seemed so tired and sad. They tried to drag it out of him but he blamed it on not getting his vacation when he needed it. He had absolutely no intention of sullying Orianne's name or making himself look bad by telling them the truth. He definitely did not want to hear, 'I told you so.'
The rest of his time Dave spent planning his gym. Since he hadn't been able to take the time off to work on it and he wasn't sleeping anyhow, he did it in increments, sketching designs, calling the appropriate people for the lease and the equipment, and planning advertisements. If it wasn't for the hollow feeling in his chest and the insomnia, he could get used to this life. It suited him well, he thought, trying to numb himself to thoughts of Orianne. Within a couple of months, no one else had said a direct word to him about the affair and the stares and murmurs had dissipated.
He hadn't seen Orianne again outside of the arena or backstage. She disappeared for a month; some of the gossip said she was fired for the affair or quit and some said she was suspended. Dave was putting himself through a massive guilt trip over the possibilities. Her career in the WWE was over because of him. If he had just had some self discipline, this would never have happened. When he could stand it no longer, he called Jennifer McNay in human resources. Even though she couldn't release employment information, he begged her to tell him what happened to Orianne. He had his speech ready about his culpability in the situation but Jennifer asked why he would be so concerned when she had been granted an early vacation for her extra work with the diva shoots and the FanFoto program.
When Orianne returned, so did Sloan. Edge would warn Dave when her husband was backstage and the wrestler stayed away. While he was in the ring, he concentrated on his match. Out of the corner of his eye he would notice her but she seemed to just be doing her job. He made the mistake of asking Cara Whitfield how she was doing about a month after her return from vacation. "She's putting on a good front but I worry about her," the blonde had said. When he asked what she meant, she replied, "I just think she's miserable underneath it all but she won't talk to me about it. I've felt so bad about it I haven't even told her that Cedarius and I got engaged last week." Cara had a flair for dramatics and could be taking it all out of context. Eventually life would go on for the both of them, he decided and tried to make himself believe in that statement despite his lonely misery and this huge gaping hole in his life.
Two and a half months had passed since Sloan had caught Orianne and Dave together. Her husband agreed to reside in Stamford and allow her to continue to work with the WWE if she proved he could trust her. Accompanying trips were the start of that after her "vacation." They were also in couple's therapy. While she felt he had driven her to the affair, all of the blame was placed on her and she made the mistake of caving and agreeing. They would have to work on her before she could convince them to get around to her issues with Sloan.
Orianne wanted to make her marriage work because Sloan gave up his career for her. She should have been whooping for joy but he was acting like a martyr. It mattered little that he had agreed to do that right after they were engaged. He hadn't physically touched her yet. At this point, she couldn't have handled his touch. They slept in the same bed together but that was the extent of their intimacy. After an entire of night of yelling at each other when she caught back up with him when he discovered the truth, Orianne was tired of fighting and she nodded her head and did everything the couple's counselor said. But it suddenly came to a head.
"I think we should move back to Alabama," Sloan stated out of nowhere.
"I can work that. I have the dark room in the house. I'll just process everything there," she replied, wondering how she would handle her mother's new condescending tone every time they spoke.
Telling her family was quite possibly one of the hardest things she had ever done. She had put it off until Sloan threatened to tell them himself. They would see it written all over them the first time they visited, so she might as well admit it upfront. Her second week off from WWE, she and Sloan returned home. She felt even worse seeing their 'welcome home' banner in the front yard. Given Orianne's status in the small town, Sloan was immediately adopted as one of their own and he was somewhat of a hometown hero to Prescott as he was their only active soldier. They didn't have to know anything but her family did. She had never seen such disappointment in their eyes, not even when she announced that she was going into photography rather than family business.
Her mother didn't speak to her at all that week and now she only spoke to her when she had to. Her father only expressed his disappointment that she did not come to him like he had asked but supported her and Sloan's decision to make the marriage work. It was his looks of pity that she couldn't stand. Orrin treated her like nothing had happened but she could see it in his eyes—hurting Sloan was like hurting the brother Orrin never had. Olivia was the only one who seemed to accept her. Her little sister was having a hard time of dealing with her break-up with Randy but she was slowly getting better day by day and would be over him and the embarrassment in no time. She had grown closer to Orianne, needing her older sister's wisdom and company. But she had needed her as well, finding Olivia the only one she could confide in.
"I called around," Sloan stated, coming to stand before Orianne where she was seated on the couch arranging photos to be turned in for possible magazine covers. "The University of Alabama would like for you to teach classes for them this summer. If they like you, they'll hire you for the fall. You'd see Olivia all the time."
"But I would have to quit the WWE. Jennifer just told me that they want me to do all the diva shoots. The girls actually requested me."
"Yes, I know, but it's for the better. He's always there and I can't travel with you every single weekend. I have to get a job."
"What about Dr. Warren going on about trust and you agreeing to let me stay?"
"I don't trust him," he pointedly stated, indicating Batista. Orianne couldn't hide the scoff that rose up in her. "One move and you could be back where we started."
"So I'm not strong enough to handle seeing him?"
"That's not what I said," Sloan replied, folding his arms across his chest. "You're going to quit working for the WWE and that's final. You have to get away from there so you can move on."
"I will not be told what to do," she seethed, jumping up from where she sat.
"I found us a place near the campus and the movers are coming in three days," he replied, ignoring her statement.
"Three days?" she practically shouted.
"I have some boxes in the car. I thought you might want to pack up your personal items instead of letting them do it."
"My person—" She suddenly stopped. "I can't do this right now."
"Orianne, what are you doing?"
"I have to get out," she ground out, slinging her purse across her shoulders and grabbing her keys.
"Don't worry. It's not to him," she shouted, slamming the door behind her. The woman drove around town for a couple of hours and then stopped for lunch when her stomach reminded her that she hadn't eaten breakfast.
Browsing through the stores of a strip mall, Orianne finally found herself calm enough to return home. She had thought over what Sloan had said. This wasn't giving in to him but simply taking what he had said in stride. She had liked teaching before, so that would do fine. Plus, he was right that she would never move on when she saw Dave Batista day in and day out and processed the many pictures of his matches. Still she held a place in her heart for him, a place that ached deeply, and it was never going to go away. Every so often, she could still hear his deep voice telling her that he loved her and asking her to stay. Right now, she was so frustrated and tired that she wanted nothing more to leave Sloan and show up on Dave's doorstep. But, no, she was bound to her marriage and, if Dave was forever out of her sight, maybe she could just numb that place over and become deaf to the echoes of his voice. Plus, it would be nice to be away from the glares she still received from certain people. They all still thought that she had cheated on Sloan with his own family member, an even greater sin, and, once her husband found out that part of the lie as well, neither bothered to correct anyone—it was too much trouble. Apparently Dave hadn't bothered either. How she and Dave had ever managed to pull that story off was beyond her. Orianne and Sloan had only admitted the truth to Shawn Michaels and he had agreed that they should not bother with it as it would only make the situation worse.
The gossip had hurt to begin with and she did her best to figuratively hide behind her camera. She knew that Cara was picking up on how miserable she was at work. However, no one had had anything to say to her with Sloan around but the whispering and stares told her otherwise. Not to mention that she felt like Shawn Michaels was treating her differently. He was offering Sloan much support but suddenly he was asking the two of them out to dinner with his family and inviting them to his ranch outside of San Antonio and to a marriage workshop that his church was organizing. Privately, Shawn only encouraged her to stay away from Batista and to set things right with Sloan. Maybe it was all in her mind but she felt like the wrestler was now looking at her with cold eyes.
What irked Orianne the most about Sloan going behind her back and making plans was being told what to do. If Sloan had simply said that he thought it might be good if they moved back to Alabama, wanted her opinion, and offered to make calls for her, things might have gone smoother. However, if she wanted to keep her marriage together, she would have to make this move.
Orianne was so tense from the stress, she had to grip the railing and take the steps slowly. The ache in her leg weighed her down but her spirit drew her down even further. She opened the door to the apartment to find several moving boxes in the living room that were already packed. In the bedroom, she found Sloan with her small cedar chest, which safeguarded her keepsakes and was kept in her lingerie drawer…and was always locked. The contents were spread across the bed. Her high school and college class rings were there, her sorority pin, both of her tassels from graduation, a couple of pictures of her and her best friends from high school and college, a picture of her astride Aramis for the first time since the accident. What was not on the bed was what Sloan held in his hands—the ruby necklace from Dave and three pictures of her and Dave, two of them in which they were embracing and grinning like fools and one where he had stolen her camera and snapped an awkward picture while they were kissing. She closed her eyes, leaned back against the wall, and sank to the floor. She shouldn't have kept them but she couldn't get rid of them either.
"Do you love him?" Sloan asked, staring at the pictures.
"Yes," she whispered, admitting it out loud for the first time.
"Then I'll never be able to trust you," he defeatedly replied.
"That doesn't mean that I don't love you," she quickly added. "Give me credit for being honest. I could have lied."
"I don't know if I can trust you again," he stated, dropping the pictures on the bed. Orianne rose to her feet as Sloan pulled his military issue duffel bag out from underneath the bed and began stuffing clothing inside.
"What are you doing?"
"I can't stay here tonight. We might want to think about a trial separation," he replied, opening another drawer of the dresser and shoving apparel in the bag.
"A trial separation?" Orianne angrily asked. "What the hell do you think our entire marriage has been? A practice separation for the trial separation?" When he didn't respond, she grabbed him by the arm and jerked him around to face her. "Let me tell you something. We have spent half of our marriage separated and not by my choice. Oh, you think you're so chivalrous by deciding now, seven years later, that you chose me over your career. I waited on you all that time, terrified that you'd never return home, that I'd be going to your funeral. I packed up every time we moved, put my dreams on hold, and faithfully followed you around this damn country. I followed you, doing everything within in my power to be the dutiful wife because I loved you."
"Faithful? Dutiful? Don't act so innocent—" he began but she cut him off, poking a finger in his chest.
"Listen here, Buster," Orianne started again, slowly backing him across the bedroom floor with each word. "I know I'm not innocent and I don't pretend to be, unlike you. I know I contributed to the failure of this damn marriage before I ever met Dave Batista. I pretended like we had the perfect marriage even though all the while it was falling apart. I didn't stand up for it and I didn't stand up for myself. Guess what, Sloan?" He turned the corner at the bed, still walking backward as she angrily but evenly lectured. He was so baffled at the woman before him, her eyes blazing with rage. The man didn't know what to do with her and could only retreat as she advanced, never having heard her curse before.
"I'm standing up for myself now. I admitted my guilt and I have bent over backward since you returned, doing every damn thing that you and that counselor asked of me. I came back here to tell you that I was willing to move back to Alabama and quit working for the WWE. After all that, do I think I'm innocent? Hell, no. But let me tell you something about innocence. You aren't the innocent you make yourself out to be," Orianne sternly stated as her husband's back hit the door of the closet. He had to listen to her as he had nowhere else to hide. "You cheated on me as well. I think those vows about remaining faithful didn't say whether or not that involved a warm body. You cheated on me with your career long before I cheated on you." He opened his mouth for a retort but she knew what was coming and put her finger in his face. "Don't you dare give me that bullshit about protecting me and our family. When did you decide for me that we were going to have children anyhow? I guess when you decided everything else for me like I was a little child. You are just as responsible for the failure of our marriage as I am." She finally stepped back and took a deep breath before continuing. "It's over and I want you to get out of my apartment."
Sloan blinked at her for a moment and Orianne let him absorb all she had said. He finally responded, "If I walk out that door, then I'm gone forever."
If he wasn't going to fight for her or their marriage now, then she could play this game. His wife raised one eyebrow and pursed her lips as if to say, 'oh, really?' She turned on her heel, walked over to his half full duffel back, and began stuffing in the rest of his clothing from the last drawer that held his things. She jerked his shoes out from under the bed and stuffed in the several pairs. Sloan could only watch in amazement, blown away by what she was doing. He couldn't find the use of his limbs or his tongue.
Orianne stalked back over to the closet where he still stood and bellowed, "Move!" He stepped out of her way and she jerked the door open before scooping up his three suits and pushing them into his arms. She then pulled the rest of his clothing off the hangers and took them back to the bed, shoving them into the duffel bag as well. After a few moments of pushing and packing, she barely got the thing zipped up. "I mean it, Ori. If I walk out that door, I'm never coming back."
The black-haired woman turned a stoic face to him, her chin lifted, before she picked up the duffel bag, struggling to lift it onto her shoulder. Finally, she dropped it to the floor and dragged it through the living room and to the front door. The woman opened it and forcefully kicked the green bag out into the hall. She reached for his keys by the door and began unwinding his apartment key from the ring.
"Orianne, stop it," he said, over the suits in his arms. Her reply was to whip her car key off the chain and toss the rest of the keys, his wallet, and his cellphone onto the bag. "I am not joking—"
"Get out," she gritted through clenched teeth. Sloan jutted his chin forward and kept his eyes forward as he stalked out the open door. She slammed it behind him and let out a deep breath. The tirade had not been planned, not one word of it. The woman had no idea from where it came or from where she found the resolve but, when he said he couldn't trust her and there he was holding her keepsake box that he had managed to find the key to and lecturing her about trust, she finally snapped.
Orianne quickly locked the doorknob and then turned the deadbolt. Her hands were trembling so much she barely slid the chainlock into place. Her shaking then began to move throughout her body and nausea gripped her stomach. She rushed for the bathroom and barely made it to the toilet before lunch ejected itself. She would not cry. Orianne Isabelle Thomas never shed a tear through her arduous and painful recovery. She never cried each time that Sloan was sent out on assignment. With the exception of a few tears, she did not cry over the incident with Randy Orton and when she and Dave parted ways. She was strong. She had broken down only a handful of times. She would not cry.
Her body was still quivering as she wet a washcloth and wiped her face and her mouth. She then filled up the glass beside the basin and had to use both hands to raise the water to her lips. As she began to set it down, her body shuddered and the glass fell to the sink and shattered across the basin and the floor. Everything that had just happened hit her full force and recognition dawned on her. The woman sank to the floor, collapsing on her side and staring at the broken shards littering the floor. This time she was not strong and the cool tiles caught her hot tears. She cried for her broken marriage, for the guilt of having destroyed that, for losing both her husband and Dave Batista, and for putting herself and Dave through all this grief when she could and should have stayed with him when he asked. Her marriage was over long before Sloan found the pictures of her and Dave and she knew that and the woman grieved over her husband not fighting one bit for that marriage. She cried until there were no more tears, until her eyes were almost swollen shut, and her nose was stopped up. Finally, she picked her tired body up and stumbled into the bedroom. She couldn't go to her family because they would never understand; only Olivia would but her little sister was in school this very moment. She was taking her last exam of her junior year tomorrow morning. No, Orianne had only one place she could go and needed to go. If the door of his heart wasn't still open, she would accept the consequences of her stupidity.
Dave had spent a late night puttering about the property he had purchased last week for his gym. He had contractors coming in the morning and he wanted to make sure everything was perfect. Plus, he couldn't help dreaming about how it would all look. He wished Orianne was here to see it. When he mentioned that he wanted to open a gym, she had whole-heartedly encouraged him, even though he had expressed doubt that he could pull it off successfully. Surveying the space again, he made a few more adjustments to the sketched lay-out of equipment, which was still a couple of weeks away from arriving. He made a note to call Randy Orton when he got home and make sure the younger wrestler had cleared his calendar to be present for the opening weekend, an incentive to bring in customers.
His relationship with Randy was an interesting story. The tension in the lockerroom had gotten so bad that Edge and Carlito had locked the two of them in there alone after one RAW. Yelling at them through the door, Edge told them to straighten it out by talking or fighting but when they walked out, it had better be settled, period. Orton immediately backed off for fear of being suspended and subsequently fired. It was the opening Dave needed, admitting that he had really messed up. He told Orton everything, from beginning to end, as if he could find absolution in his confession. The younger wrestler's face remained impassive until Batista finally finished speaking and a silence had developed between them. "I'm sorry. That sucks, man," was all he said to begin with but then he corrected what Dave thought had happened between he and Olivia and Randy spilled his own confession. It didn't heal the rift between them but they walked out that door with a tentative friendship in place. As an olive branch, the new entrepreneur asked Orton if he would attend his grand opening and the younger man had agreed.
Calling it a night, Dave locked the door behind him, dashed through the rain to his Lexus, and carefully pulled out onto the road. It had been raining for hours now and he was grateful for the respite from the heat and humidity. Pulling into the driveway, the wrestler noticed something was moving on his stoop. He couldn't see exactly what it was as he slowed the car to a stop before the garage doors. The wrestler reached behind his seat for the baseball bat that he purposefully kept in his car for this reason. Getting out of the vehicle, he could now tell that it was a person as he—or she—uncurled himself where he sat on the top step leading to the front door. Keeping the bat to his side as he approached so as not to give the weapon away, he called, "What do you want?"
"Dave," the tiny voice replied.
"Orianne?" He dropped the bat on the lawn and dashed up the steps. She was soaked from head to toe, her mid-calf skirt clinging to her legs, the denim jacket drenched, and the leather sandals curling up. Her black hair was plastered to her head and her eyes and nose were slightly swollen and her cheeks red. "Are you okay?" he asked, wanting to rub the dark circles from her underneath her eyes, but he somehow held himself back from touching her at all.
She replied in a hoarse voice, "He left me." The woman then shook her head and, with a small laugh, added, "No, that's not true. I kicked him out."
He could only stand there, water dripping off him, and try to digest her words. Was she here for a sympathetic ear? Did she need a place to stay? Was he now her default choice? "Why are you here?"
"I left him because I made the biggest mistake of my life leaving you. Because I love you, Dave. I admitted it, we had a fight, and I told him to get out…permanently. I'm here because I should never have left you in the first place." When she had sobbed all the grief from her body earlier, a rush of relief came over. For the entire plane ride and the time she had sat on his stoop, she had only felt peace. She had done everything she thought she was supposed to do to make her marriage work and she would always love Sloan but not in the way she loved Dave Batista. Trying to make it work was an injustice to herself and Sloan. She should have initiated a divorce immediately after his return. "We shouldn't have done what we did and we both know it. There are no excuses for us. But it happened and my mistake wasn't in having a relationship with you—my mistake was not loving you when I should have."
"Oh, Ori," he sighed and pulled her to him. It hardly mattered that she was soaking wet; he was now as well. Dave remembered the longing in her eyes and the look that passed over her face when he offered himself to her. Her words now proved to him what he knew she was thinking and feeling then. Her confession was enough to convince him that he was her first choice in her heart. In that one moment, neither could care about the difficulties that lay ahead for them; they would deal with those as they came. The two were together and that's all that mattered.
"I'm sorry," she whispered and tried to bite back the tears, savoring the feel of his body against hers. It was as if it was a dream that she was finally here and he was holding her. "I knew I was wrong when I walked out that hotel door but I made a vow. I thought I had to…" she trailed off. "I was so wrong." He shushed her by covering her mouth with his, and every moment, every feeling they had shared came rushing back.
What began in the rain ended in the rain. "You're home now. Let's go inside."
Author's Notes: We have sadly come to the end of this story. I regret to say that I do not have a sequel planned or in the works, although it is a possibility.
I want to thank my awesome first reader who I bounced ideas off of and who has read several drafts of different parts of this story: WandaXmaximoff (ID: 747588). A wonderful person and writer.
Last but certainly not least, I'd like to thank all of my reviewers: MutantXHottie, Poetic Hellfire, WandaXmaximoff, MissPhilippinesSuperStar, MiChElLe05, losingmymind2, IMissPadfoot, punkydiva17, Lil'MissCena, OTHlover04, LeelooJinn, our-goodbye, andyeascrewyou, Cinna, Queen of Kaos, cenasgrl, agonyzpuppy, shannygoat, ASPIRING ACTRESS, X.x.XJodzterX.x.X, Tanya50801, Mistress of the Night, NikMick, and Mrs.Jeff.Hardy. (If I left anybody off, let me know—I'm very sorry if I did) You guys are the bestest ever in the whole wide world! ;)
For those of you who are fans of my character Samia Carlsen and "Where Loyalty Lies" and "Loyalty of Friendship", I have posted an extended epilogue to the last chapter of "Loyalty of Friendship" detailing my plans for a sequel. I'm taking suggestions! Be on the look-out for the third part in my Loyalty series titled "Loyalty Comes First" in the upcoming months (Batista will be in it!).
For those of you who are fans of "Blessed, Not Unlucky," Cheryl and Dave are in WandaXmaximoff's "A Fine Line Between Love and Hate" and then in her upcoming sequel "When Love and Hate Collide." There is also now an epilogue to "Blessed" that you might enjoy.
Thanks again, everyone! Lots of love!