A river of crimson and emerald green streamed across his face and down his chest, soaking a brand new, white Pearl Jam tee with hair dye and blood. He raised the gold, his belated reward, above his head, with Matt at his side, and a beautiful girl in the front row of the audience, the way it was always supposed to be. As the spotlights illuminated his sweat and thousands of camera flashes burned his eyes through the smoky air, the smile and joy never left his expression. Just as a roaring "Hardy" chant began, the buzzer on the table next to him started to scream in his ear; first eliminating the chant, then the cameras and fans. When the obnoxious, constant ringing wouldn't stop, Jeff opened his eyes to just another Saturday morning in the beige room where the walls where covered in Indy wrestling flyers and snapshots of Will O' The Wisp and Jushin Liger from magazines.
With a groan and a long stretch, hair all amuss, he clicked off the rainbow, color-changing alarm clock that rested to his right, and threw the sheets to his feet. The digital red numbers read 7:28 AM. The Ninja Turtle, queen sized bed covering clashed with his summery red flannels and jaw length electric blue locks. Ignoring the temperature of the ice-cold, hard wood floor on his bare feet, Jeff headed to the shower to prepare for another squared circle adventure.
"Hey," Jeff jumped up on the side of their homemade wrestling ring and slid under the bottom rope, which was actually an old garden hose wrapped with neon duct tape, "Sorry I'm late."
There was a glower of allure all around, though nobody made a motion for this apology because Jeff was not one to wear his heart on his sleeve. An apology saying that something was out of place was the most abnormal gesture and the only thing they were going to get from him.
"Hey, you going to pool tonight?" Shane, in full superhero costume, broke in with a question to shift the silence as he adjusted his black and white checkered elbow pads.
"Yea. I have to." Jeff shrugged, "We have to smack you two around Hardy style." He demanded with a bit of an arrogant edge, in his deep southern accent, brushing a couple of blue strands from his oval, clean-shaven face. He pulled on a set of knee pads beneath his cotton, white, workout pants.
"Good." In compliance with Shane's response, Shannon expressed his own by leaping onto Jeff's fishnet clad back, and officially began the wrestling stint.
Jeff stood at a full six foot two, two-hundred and eighteen pounds, just a bit lighter than his brother. Born Jeffrey Nero Hardy, he paraded a white diamond navel ring in each ear and dragon and tiger tattoos on his arms. His eyes shimmered grey-green, and his finger nails, silver and metallic blue. Matt equaled his baby brother, save for the body modifications, his chocolate hair and eyes, his nails were left unpainted, and his birth certificate read Matthew Moore Hardy. Shannon, with his baby doll face and blonde mohawk was shy of both Matt and Jeff, and of Shane with his hunter green-dyed spikes and lime braces; by a mere four inches, and less than fifty pounds.
They played out a few matches, roughed each other up for most of the day, and kept their dreams of professional wrestling in sight, until pool time came almost twelve hours later, at eight.
Jeff, clad in his usual black Kik-Wear cargos and an over-sized band shirt with neon green print to match his new dreds, and Shane rocking an "Anti-Hardyz" tank and homemade superhero cape; met Shannon and Matt in their usual corner of The Horizon to let the games begin. Shane and Shannon wore matching outfits, not caring how they appeared to the public, to take on the brothers in a couple hours of their almost nightly pool sessions.
"Alright." Matt loaded the pool table with two dollars worth of quarters and pointed a chalked up cue stick in Shannon's direction, "This time, I'm going to beat your ass," he assured.
After four rounds beneath the poor fluorescent lighting and neon signs, and a tie game, Shane's attention was straying. He'd noticed this girl across the room, scribbling into a notebook after looking around her every few moments. He'd been intrigued by her since she'd first shown up, ink pen in one hand, thick-rimmed glasses in the other. Upon walking through the double oak doors of the local hang out, she'd been hit with a rush of tainted cigarette smoke and Metallica screaming though a juke box near the entrance. Focused on her goal, she had ignored her surroundings and found a sufficient spot in a far, well lit corner; where she could stay out of the way, but still be able to see what she was putting down on paper. Shane was always open to befriend a co-writer, as she appeared to be. It didn't hurt that the slender, long blonde haired girl of about five foot five, clad in blue jeans and black Nightmare Before Christmas attire that covered a nice beach tan, wasn't hard on the eyes by any means.
It was apparent that she had never been to The Horizon before. Her gestures were a bit shy, and her walk, slightly nervous; however, she had complete confidence in venturing into something new. Shane decided to take it upon himself to make acquaintances with her. He made his way across the floor to her table, as the boys separated for fresh drinks and a short break.
"Hey." He grabbed her attention, "I'm Shane, mind if I sit?"
"Not at all." She gazed up at his green hair, diligently.
He pulled out a metal chair. Shane was dumbfounded and bewildered when she spoke, for her somber, calm and swaying voice contradicted, greatly, her clamorous, motley appearance.
"Jacoby." She gave her name and offered her hand with its excessive jewelry and Halloween orange nails.
"You write." He nodded towards the notebook, shaking a dainty left hand of many silver bands, her ring finger being the only one bare.
"So I do. And you play some mean pool." She acknowledged with a grin.
"Well I'm glad to hear you're so interested in me." He shot.
"Don't sell yourself short now. I have to write an article about…" She thought for a moment, choosing her words carefully, "Local weekend activities. For our paper." She explained.
"U.N.C.?" Shane, with his ridiculous green hair, questioned, curiously, "You look like a college journalism girl."
"You're good. But how'd you know?"
He pointed to the pen in her hand that read University of North Carolina Raleigh in indigo. "Lucky guess."
"Right." Jacoby sized him up with an ice blue gaze before he interrupted her stare.
"Wanna come hang out?" He gestured towards the area where he had been previously, "We'll be your test subjects, you can ask anything you like."
She contemplated the offer intently since she didn't know the man sitting before her. She decided there are enough people around, so I guess rape... all that is very unlikely to happen. "Sounds good." She gathered her writing utensils and Jack Skellington messenger bag and joined Shane and his friends.
He introduced the guys while he and Jacoby made their way across the room. "That's Matt." He pointed to the tall guy with long dark hair pulled back into a ponytail and red cheetah print pants that he had thieved from his brother's closet. "Shannon's the one with the mohawk." He pointed to Matt's right. "And the quiet one," he stated as they reached the pool table, "is Jeff." He had the attention of all three of them, "Guys, this is Jacoby. She's gonna chill with us for her story." Shane announced.
"That's cool." Matt made his way around to the other side of the pool table to shake her hand and move his jean jacket from the small, fake wood side table beside them so she could take a seat in an old folding chair, the only chairs that the place had for use.
The entertainment went on until one in the morning, when The Horizon closed. However, not much interviewing got done for her article. Throughout the matches, Jeff spent most of his time at the table with Jacoby when it wasn't his shot, discussing music, poetry and other writings for most of the night. Everyone, Jeff included, was surprised at his willingness to be so open with someone so new.
"You're writing about what people do for entertainment around here, right?" Matt asked as the five of them made their way to the parking lot.
"What would you say to checking out some local professional wrestling, if you want something out of the ordinary for your story?" he inquired. "That's what we really do for fun."
"Professional wrestling? Like the stuff my little brother watches on T.V.?" She questioned.
"Yep, like what you see on T.V. What do you say?"
"Well… it is pretty fascinating… where at?" She decided it was a profitable idea, and Matt told her to meet him at the bridge over the Southern Pines creek about half a mile from their house, because the Hardy land was difficult to find. He informed her that he would be there at eight in the morning.
The next day, since the creek was only a mile from her apartment, Jacoby decided to walk. It was a crisp morning. Not too cold, not too hot. The sky was brilliant blue, the sun was starting to peak around the clouds, and there was just a comfortable feeling in the air. She was a little uneasy about her decision as she walked the gravel road. Jacoby, nevertheless, hastily concluded that the tiny town of Cameron, North Carolina, that didn't even exist on a map, was a great town with about two recorded crimes per every three years.
Matt knew his brother, nearly better than he knew himself, and little did Jeff or Jacoby know, the whole thing was a devious plan set up by Matt and Shane. They both knew that Jeff was, for some reason that was beyond him, automatically smitten with the girl they had met the night before. Instead of Matt greeting her at the bridge, she got there to find someone with intense green hair, and a bigger soul than anyone she'd ever met before, staring out into the morning sky. Shane had had an "emergency" with his car and needed Matt to pick him up for their wrestling, so he sent Jeff in his place.
She walked up and simply stood next to him, "Whatcha lookin at?"
He didn't even glance down at her, "I just love the country sky. It's beautiful." He replied, "Ready?" looking down at her.
"All set." She held up her notebook in response.
Jeff had walked, as well, and led her on a shortcut to their ring, down the dead end gravel road and through a small patch of trees. For the most part, it was a predominantly quiet journey, with an inadequate amount of conversation among the two of them.
"Welcome to the Hardy land." He proclaimed only five minutes later.
They walked around the left side of a rust red barn to find a wrestling ring vacant of human life. In their place was a fleece blanket over the mat, with a crystal vase of rainbow carnations and a picnic basket on top. A navy and silver portable CD player radio playing a disk of Pearl Jam and other 1980's love songs, and Jeff's guitar lay to the side of the ring.
The voice of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder broke through the boom box speakers with, "Sheets of empty canvas, untouched sheets of clay were laid spread out before me as her body once did", the beginning of their song "Black".
Immediately figuring everything out, Jeff lowered his head and shook it slightly, a few strands of hair fell in front of his eyes, and he let out an amused "Ha". He browsed the trees for his brother and cousin. Spotting no signs of them, he gave into their conspiracy, climbed over the bottom rope and helped Jacoby in.
"Wow" was the only comment she could muster.
"Well, I hope you're hungry." He caught himself spellbound, studying her eyes.
"I've never had breakfast in a wrestling ring." She smiled, enthralled by the atmosphere, "I am." She rejoiced.
Matt and Shane watched with delight from a tiny window in the barn as their mastermind scheme unfolded and materialized perfectly. They were rather proud of themselves, for they had initiated the process of finding and replacing "the missing piece of Jeff's puzzle" as he would have put it. They had assisted in putting back into place, what was amiss.
Jeff and Jacoby sat in the ring, side-by-side, talking for hours on end, as their favorite band played them all the way into a cotton candy colored sunset.