Ashley Massaro pushed the button to her left and the car window wound down slowly. The blast of cold, fresh air hit her face like a sharp slap and she was happy for the wake up. Normally she didn't drive straight after a show, but tonight she just wanted to get on the road alone, to give her mind the chance to wander.
As she focused her attention on the empty road ahead of her, Ashley began to think about her time at the WWE. She had joined the company through the Diva Search, which had amounted to little more than a T&A fest. Obsessed with wrestling from a young age, Ashley had initially thought such a route into the industry's leading company was degrading, but she changed her mind when she came to the realisation that it was the only chance she had of making it.
A pair of headlights appeared in the distance, breaking Ashley from her thoughts. She didn't resume them until the truck had passed her and there was once again nothing but darkness beyond her own headlights.
Little did I know that I was selling my soul to the Devil, she thought, feeling a small pang of anger. Instantly, she pushed it back down, forcing her emotion back under the surface.
When she had first walked into her first arena for her first show she had been practically glowing. All of the preceding week she had sat with her father and brother talking about what she could do with her time at the WWE, the storylines she would be given and the people she would be working with. Her brother had even given her an autograph book with the implicit instruction to get the signature of every person on the roster and all of the bookers.
Her father had wished her luck and looking deep into her eyes, past the twinkle of excitement embedded in them and said, "stay who you are because you are a beautiful person".
A tear formed in her eye as she remembered her father's words and her response: "No chance they can bring a Massaro down, Daddy."
Unfortunately they had.
Her mind back in her Corvette, Ashley turned the stereo up, desperate to drown out the thoughts banging around her brain. But it seemed as though she had opened a floodgate and they would not leave her alone.
It had taken a turn for the worse a month or so in. Mr McMahon had set up a meeting with her to discuss "her future in the company". For the two days leading up to the meeting she had an ominous feeling of foreboding; she was convinced she was going to be fired.
However, once in the meeting she had realised that Vince had a totally different idea of how to utilise their new Diva.
"We want to sex you up," he had told her. "You will be doing various photoshoots, including one for Playboy. You will also participant in a number of matches where you will forfeit your clothes."
She sat in silence listening to Vince rattling off the number of ways they were going to turn her into a whore. She had known getting into the game that she would be eye candy, but she was hoping to get the chance to also prove herself as an athlete and a decent wrestler.
This isn't what we signed on for, a voice in her head had hissed at the time. Tell this dickhead where he can shove Playboy.
Life in the locker room also wasn't easy for the diva. Aside from Trish Stratus, who Ashley had bonded with during the time they were paired up together and who travelled to and from shows together, the rest of the women were catty, bitchy and made every effort to show her up, particularly in front of the guys on the roster. Ashley soon realised that the women saw her as competition for the men – who she wasn't interested in – and they were determined to show them how awful the new diva was.
In a matter of months, Ashley had begun a downward spiral, becoming withdrawn, isolated and angry. As a result, her performances started to falter and she made silly mistakes, including ones where she injured herself or her fellow performers, although sometimes she felt a wicked vindication when that happened.
Ashley's eyes glanced up to her rearview mirror and she looked deep in the reflection.
They know how to break all the girls like you, her internal voice told her. And they rob the souls of the girls like you. And they break the hearts of the girls.
She sighed loudly. She didn't know what to do. Over time things had improved slightly, but she knew it was only a matter of time before she lost who she really was.
Her short-lived relationship with Matt Hardy hadn't helped matters. When the divas and the other wrestlers realised that her and the elder Hardy brother had been spending a lot of time together, their treatment of her became even worse. They didn't bother waiting until she left the locker room before they started bitching about how she was "sleeping her way to the top" and how she was whoring herself around. She took to getting changed in her car to try and avoid the negative atmosphere, and began to pray with fervour.
Trish left the company soon after her relationship with Matt ended, and for the first time, Ashley had felt totally alone. For years, the WWE had been her world but she was beginning to think it would be the death of her.
Bringing herself back to the present, Ashley swerved to avoid a dead rabbit on the road.
I could just not take the next turn, she told herself. I could just keep going straight ahead and plough into the banking.
She pulled the car safely into the side of the road and buried her head in her hands. A year earlier she never would have thought about deliberately ending her life. It just seemed as though the WWE had swallowed her whole and she was struggling to breathe.
As she sat in her car, weeping, Ashley remembered the time that Shawn Michaels had knocked on the window of the driver door of her car in the parking lot at RAW. When she had rolled it down, he had asked her what she was doing outside and not in the arena.
"I'm just out here for a bit of peace and quiet," she'd lied, trying to flash him a convincing grin. "Got to get into work mode."
But Shawn hadn't bought her lame excuse and after some gentle nudging, she had spilled her heart out to the older Texan, who seemed only too happy to play confidante and advisor.
"Ashley, this is part of your paying your dues," he had told her. "You had a perfect version of the WWE and now you feel like you are selling out for nothing. And yes, they do incorporate you. But let me tell you, it gets better.
"Those women in there are just angry because they have been here, floundering and doing practically nothing for years and in you come and shake things up because as well as being gorgeous you can actually wrestle. And they hate that. It sounds trite, but they are just plain jealous."
Back in her car, Ashley straightened up and wiped the tears from her cheeks. Looking in her rearview mirror at herself, she said, "I'm punk and I'm perfect."
Starting the car's engine she resumed her journey, spurred on by the memory of Shawn's word and a determination to not let those bitches get the best of her and to make her experience in the WWE beautiful and the way she wanted it.