The pictures were damning to say the least. Marty recognized himself easily and Ronnie was perhaps even clearer. Tanner's PI was thorough. He winced as he flipped to the last photograph, there was absolutely no way he was going to let these pictures be leaked. He wouldn't let that happen, not to Ronnie and not to Kaylie.
"What is it you want?" he asked, eyes trained on the pictures, wondering where it all went wrong. Why he was arrogant enough to believe they wouldn't be caught eventually. His jaw twitched, wanting to reach over the desk and wipe that smug, satisfied expression off of Steve Tanner's face.
"Okay," Steve said, victory flashing in his eyes for a moment. "Just got off the phone with the Denver club," he said, his momentum building easily as he rose from his chair and smiled. "They are very interested in your services. And you won't be alone. You'll be taking Lauren, plus your fourth through seventh ranked girls. I've already talked to their parents they think it's a wonderful opportunity."
He paused to take a breath, building up the dramatic tension, obviously leading up to his exit, but Marty interrupted.
"And Emily," Marty said, more caught up in his own thoughts than what Tanner was spewing.
"Kmetko?" Steve said, with a condescending chuckle. "Marty, you seem to be missing the point."
Marty raised a hand. "Tanner, I'll be going to Denver, but I'll be taking Emily Kmetko with me. She has a scholarship contract with the NGO. She goes where I go."
"The girl who just beat out my daughter today, the reason all of this is happening in the first place, that's the one you want to take with you? Not Payson or," Steve hesitated before smiling wickedly, "Kaylie."
It took every ounce of will power Marty possessed to remain in his chair and not wring Steve Tanner's neck.
"It's not a matter of want," he bit out between clenched teeth. "The NGO has a contract with this girl. I agreed to coach her for the duration of her elite career. You're a lawyer, Steve, you know how these things work better than I do, so unless you want the NGO breathing down our necks at Denver…" Marty trailed off, finally getting his feet back under him. It was the truth. Emily's scholarship was contingent upon his coaching her and though he supposed she could try and find another coach to sponsor her scholarship, though that was highly unlikely.
Steve raised his hands in surrender. "She's not better than Lauren, you and I both know that."
"But she's a contender for the National team," Marty filled in, not wanting to get into a debate about who had the potential to be a better all around gymnast, "and will make the team surrounding Lauren that much stronger. You know how important that is."
"Done," Steve said, nodding in satisfaction, "But just so we're clear, at Denver, could you make sure Lauren goes in the top three?"
Marty looked away and closed his eyes, his stomach churning from what felt like agreeing to a deal with the devil.
"Thanks, pal," Steve said with a mocking grin and leaving the office.
His stomach lurched again and he took a slow deep breath to steady it. Marty looked back down at the pictures. They were explict, no doubt about that. It would be a national scandal, pop superstar Ronnie, wife of baseball player Alex Cruz has affair with daughter's gymnastics coach. It was a Lifetime movie waiting to happen. It would destroy Ronnie's marriage, whatever was left of it and worst of all, it would likely destroy Kaylie's career.
Leaving his girls just six weeks before Nationals would be horrible, but exposing them to that kind of scandal was unforgiveable. This was the lesser of two evils.
Emily would be just fine. He would drive her back and forth to Denver if he had to, though it was unlikely she'd let him. She'd be more likely to take the bus. If he'd learned anything about that girl in the forty-eight hours she trained at the Rock it was she was fiercely independent. Two days in Colorado and she would go from a virtual gymnastics nobody to the number one girl at Denver Elite. Despite her new forty-minute commute, he imagined that news might lessen the blow of changing gyms.
The world was a crazy place, made even crazier by Steve Tanner's inability to simply allow his daughter to succeed and fail on her own merit.
Lauren would remain under his guidance and hopefully he would be able to dissuade whatever instincts she had that would call this move a victory for her. She was a talented gymnast, but as a person she was approaching irretrievably spoiled. Hopefully he could push her towards the Olympic podium and instill some of the values her father failed too.
And Payson. That perhaps hurt the most. He convinced the Keelers two years ago to pick up their lives and move to Boulder, Colorado. Payson won the junior national championship in 2008, a year too young for Beijing, but all the gymnastics experts weren't thinking about Beijing, they were thinking about London. Now two years later she was the best gymnast in the country, poised to become National and likely World Champion. And now he was leaving her. Just before she would fulfill her potential.
Marty swallowed harshly, a fist clenching against his thigh. Payson would be okay. She was uncommonly strong with a level of mental toughness that amazed him on an hourly basis.
Mental toughness, however, was not Kaylie's strong suit. It was the mental game that kept her from reaching that next level as a gymnast and being abandoned by her coach, it might be too much for her.
He shook himself for being an idiot. Kaylie would be fine. He wasn't her father, no matter how many times he wished differently. And he was doing this for her. If he didn't leave, her family, her entire world, would crumble and her gymnastics career along with them and he would not allow that to happen.
With a sharp exhale, Marty stood from his desk, what would soon be someone else's desk and his eyes caught upon a photograph on the wall. It was taken at last year's nationals, Lauren, Kaylie and Payson, wearing their National team jackets, though it had little meaning in the year following an Olympics, with Payson's silver medal hanging around her neck. They were smiling widely, flush with the thrill of their first senior nationals.
Now, less than a year later, everything was different. He glanced around looking for a box to pack up some of his personal items, but then changed his mind. Steve Tanner engineered this insanity; he could come back and collect his things for him. He pulled on his jacket and left the office without looking back. His only thought was getting home and pouring himself a stiff drink or ten, then passing out.
Everything was going to change and he had no idea what would happen next.
A/N: Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like. It's a reboot of the entire series. No I'm not joking and yes, it might kill me. Despite this prologue being from Marty's point of view, after the prologue we will only be hearing from Payson and Sasha in alternating points of view. If you've read Lost and Found, you know what I mean, though in this case it will likely be both points of view in the same chapter, rather than every other chapter.
I have the first arc of the story, through Nationals, planned out for the most part and I'm really excited about it. So, what do you guys think is going to happen? Emily and Lauren at Denver Elite with Marty and Payson and Kaylie at the Rock, with no coach at all. Predictions? Frustrations? Hopes? Let me know what you think and settle in, this is going to be a bumpy ride.
And just to clarify, I'm not going to abandon, Chasing Glory. I've found I do better when I'm writing more than one story at a time. If I'm not inspired for one, I go write the other and then inspiration returns for the former.