The Undertaker, real name Mark Calaway, drove along the slick country roads in a burgandy rental car. His green eyes squinted, his head looming closer towards the front window. He hated driving in the rain. He knew that he needed glasses to drive these days; his eyesight hadn't been what it used to be in years. But he was too stubborn to tell his girlfriend Michelle that she was right and he was wrong. It was a Texan thing... at least, that was his excuse. He was just being hardheaded.
The windshield wipers weren't doing a damn thing against the torrent of rain that fell, pelting the car with hard drops of water. It was like a monsoon out there. He was almost thankful the windshield wipers were working at all. The rental car was a tin deathtrap. He reminded himself never to book through the online company again.
His eyes shifted a little bit to the left to see her sitting in silence, her head leaned against the cool glass, watching the rain fall. It was an emergency, she had said. He had dropped everything without a moment's hesitation and drove to the directions she gave him in the middle of a rainstorm. He hadn't heard from her since high school, so many years before. Years ago, they were both into sports, but he had graduated years before she had come into the high school. Along with meeting in his senior year of high school, they both also worked at a local restaurant, where she was a waitress and he was a dishwasher. She couldn't have been more than thirteen at the time. They had been close, never lovers or anything, but close friends, almost a fraternal relationship. But once he had gotten into the wrestling industry, staying in touch with her had been a real chore.
"You wanna talk about it, Celina?" His voice cut into the thick silence. Her blue, bloodshot eyes turned towards him and she shook her head before turning her gaze back out to the glass.
She had hit a rough patch after high school, he knew. He still talked to some people who talked to her, and he had always kept up with her. There was something about her that made him want to protect her like a little sister. But her innocence was long gone. From the stories he had heard, things hadn't been too particularly easy for her since she had struck out on her own.
He had heard she was dating another WWE guy. Not an actual active roster Superstar, but one of the guys who were still stuck in the developmental territory, hoping to hell that they would claim a spot on the active roster. She had packed up all her belongings in the back of her car after high school and driven to New York. Why, he didn't know. He never had the opportunity to ask her. He thought that moment would give him a chance to ask, but one look on her swollen face told him that it was better not to ask.
She was a writer. A freelance writer. She had a few articles on the benefits of sex written in Cosmopolitan magazine, and a few other sports articles for Sports Illustrated under her belt. He assumed it was why she had moved so much, to cover story after story. She even did a huge article on the impact of Quentin Tarantino's films in Rolling Stone magazine. She was a talented writer, he had all of her articles. He never bought the Cosmo ones though. Michelle read them. She knew about Celina Cooper, and any time she found an article, she handed it to him. She did that on the road one time and his friend John Layfield, another loudmouth Texan, had found it. He still got ribbed about it all the time. It usually took a squint of his eyes to let John know he was crossing the line, and he'd back off, chuckling sardonically as he made his way off to wherever he needed to be.
Along the way, he had heard from Mark Henry that she had worked as a stripper in Atlanta. He would know. Mark even wrote a chapter in their travel story anthology book how he frequented strip clubs all over the United States. He had wanted to go to her then and help her out. Mark had told him on a plane about a beautiful brunette dancer who danced under the name Celina. He had been naive, and hadn't wanted to believe it was her, but Mark had told him that she had a blue butterfly tattoo on her ankle. He knew it was her. He remembered her showing him the tattoo just after she got it at seventeen, and laughing that her parents hadn't noticed yet. He was wrestling in the independents at that time, under that awful name of "Mean Mark Callous". He smirked at the memory.
"Celina, it's been a lot of years," he drawled, "what made you call me?"
Her head fell back against the passengers seat, and she stared vacantly out the window. "I don't know," she confessed. "Over the years whenever something bad's happened, I just...I always think to call Mark." Their eyes met and he gave her a comforting smile and a pat on her denim clad knee. Her jeans were raggedy, stitched with peace signs and butterflies. She used to do that to her clothing all the time in high school. She loved designing her own clothes.
"Celina, have you eaten yet?"
She thought about it for a minute. "I don't really remember," she answered, running a hand through her shoulder length brown hair. "I don't remember much of anything right now, Mark. I'm sorry."
"We'll hit up a drive through on the way out to the freeway. My treat."
She shot him a grateful smile. "Thanks, Mark. Where are we going anyway?"
"I've got to drive out to Orlando. Luckily for you, I've got a small cottage up in that area. Timeshare I do with a few of the guys. You can stay there and take care of yourself. Get your head straightened out a little bit." She nodded.
"That would be great," she answered. Her tone was soft, serene. "So, when do I get to meet Michelle? I didn't get to meet Jodi or Sara."
He sighed. "I guess it depends if you come on the road with us," he replied. "But you sure as hell aren't coming out on the road right now. Not looking like the way you're looking."
She contemplated his statement for a minute. "Did you just say I'm ugly, Mark?" she inquired, her face taking on an appalled expression.
"Good God, no!" he insisted. "Christ, you women are all alike. Michelle pulls that shit on me, too." He took a deep breath. "Your eyes are swollen and you probably got a whole hell of a lot of crying and shit to be doing. I'm not going to drag you from state to state with you crying so much."
She nodded. She understood. It was a Texan mentality. They were tough. She had lost sight of that years ago when she had left for New York, hoping to make it as a bestselling author. Since then, she had been to so many different states, so many different cities, had danced in a lot of them to earn her way through to the next state. But she couldn't go back to Texas and admit that she had failed to her family. Failure was not an option.
They stopped by a drive-through Subway. Celina felt like she had been out of the loop forever; since when had Subway started with a drive through? But she knew the truth. That the thought was irrational. But she was doing anything to take her mind off of Reid.
There was something she couldn't tell Mark about the situation. It would make things awkward at work. She had been in the relationship for a few years, and had just moved in with him. She had given up working as a stripper a year before at Reid's insistence and had managed to get herself a job as a receptionist at a hotel. She had been feeling a little under the weather and had decided to go home early.
She remembered as she walked into the house and heard noises from the living room. She had thought about calling out to Reid, but decided it was better to surprise him. She almost wished she hadn't. What fucking nerve, she thought, staring out the window again. How could he bring some bitch into my house and fuck her on my couch while I'm at work? The thought made her sick. The worst part about it was that Reid was the son of a wrestling Hall of Famer. In fact, at one point, he had been one of the Undertaker's opponents. She took a deep breath. Reid Fliehr was a jerk.
"So, how long were you dating this scumsucker, Celina?" he asked. Her heart leapt into her throat.
"Three years, Mark," she replied. "I met him when I was in North Carolina."
"North Carolina, huh?" he mused. He took a deep breath. It dawned on him; a developmental wrestler from North Carolina. "It's not who I think it is, is it?"
"Who are you thinking?" He took one stare at her and his eyes rolled.
"Oh, hell fucking no!" he exclaimed. "Good God, Celina, you were dating Ric's son?" He laughed, a full-hearted laugh. The rain was starting to let up, gone from a torrent to a light drizzle. "Shit...I doubt Ric's going to give you any hell, but for God's sakes, Ric's kid? How did you meet him?"
"I met him at a club," she answered, her tone withdrawn.
"You danced in North Carolina?"
She took a deep breath. He knew about her working as a stripper. "You disgusted with me?"
"God, no," he assured her. "You have your own life. I'm not your father."
"How'd you find out?"
"My buddy Mark Henry saw you in Georgia."
"Big black guy. About four hundred pounds. Probably a huge tipper."
She thought about it for a second. She remembered him. He had offered her dinner with him on the job to talk. He had tipped huge because her boss had gotten pissed. "Yeah. He told me he knew you."
"He told me about your tattoo." She laughed. "For God's sakes, Celina, what made you decide to do that for a living?"
"It was the first job I could get. And I made some good money doing it."
"But it's dangerous. How many men came after you, attacked you? How many friends did you lose?" She thought about it for a second, and realized she had been incredibly lucky over the years.
"I didn't. We had a good security system everywhere. And the girls always left together." She stared at him oddly. "And how do you know so much about strippers, Mark? Did your wives know about this?"
"Oh, for..." He bit the inside of his cheek and took a deep breath. "Celina, I'm a guy. And I was young once. I've been to a lot of clubs. Hell, when I was young, I mean real young enough to have issues distinguishing myself from my gimmick, I was one of those freaky customers. I scared the hell out of a stripper who later became America's favorite porn star, for God's sakes."
"You? Which one?"
"It's not important." He realized he had said way too much. But Celina wasn't about to let up on him.
He took a deep breath and smiled at the memory. "Jenna Jameson." He stole a glance at her. Her face was incredulous.
"No fucking way."
"I totally did. She thought I was gonna kidnap her or some shit, and she got real scared. Tried to sink some bodyguard or some shit on me as she escaped through a fire exit." They both laughed. "I told Vince about it once. I think it gave him the inspiration for me to kidnap his daughter a few years back." They laughed harder. He turned onto a sideroad. The cottage was at the top of the hill.
"Do you still go see strippers, Mark?"
"Me? No. I get together with Shane McMahon and the two of us go see UFC fights. Most women aren't good with their husbands being on the road three hundred days a year, let alone seeing strippers for like two hundred and fifty of them." She nodded. She understood the logic; she was always wondering what Reid was doing when he wasn't there...obviously, he was doing a lot. Celina recognized her; her name was Melissa Thompson and she wrestled under the name Majestic. The thought of her made Celina tremble with rage.
He pulled the car into the driveway. She had a duffel bag in the trunk. She remembered Reid trying to talk her out of what she was doing as she slammed random clothing into the duffel bag and zipped it shut.
"Come on," he told her, "we'll get you settled in and then I'm going to have to get on the road. I have an all night drive ahead and I still have to go pick up Bradshaw at the hotel." She nodded and unbuckled her seatbelt, getting out of the car. He popped open the trunk and she retrieved her bag while he made his way to the front door and opened up the house for her. He had gone in on the timeshare with Randy Orton, Shelton Benjamin and Chris Jericho, who brought the wife and kids every summer for a month or so.
The inside of the house was pretty spacious. There was a spiral staircase leading up to the second story. The inside of the house had wooden walls and a hardwood floor. He assumed Celina would be comfortable there until she got herself sorted out. He'd rent out a house to her when he got back from the road. For now this would have to do. He had to hurry and get back on the road.
Celina was behind him, her bag slung over her shoulder. "This is a nice place," she said. It was a lot nicer than some of the places she had stayed at.
"Well, this will do for now. We'll get your figured out when I get back from Texas in a few days. I'll see you then, okay?"
She nodded. "Thanks for everything, Mark." She gave him a kiss on the cheek and a hug, and with that, he walked out the door. She locked the door behind him and turned, her back to the door, to admire the house. She'd have to think about getting some things tomorrow. But she was exhausted, and she was thankful that Mark was in the area to help her.
She placed her bag on the couch and opened it up, pulling out a pair of drawstring black pants and a tank top. She just wanted to go to bed and get some sleep. The tears began to burn the back of her eyelids, but she held back her tears as she made her way up the stairs.
The bedroom she found at the top of the stairs was nice; she knew there had to be several bedrooms there. Mark had four kids; she knew that. She had always tried to keep up with him, and whatever he was doing. They had lost contact so many years ago. It was just out of desperation that she had called the cell phone, hoping it was still the same number. To her relief, it had been. He had been her savior tonight. And she'd never forget it.