My cousin opens the door and the smell hits me in the face like an old moldy jockstrap. I manage to not wrinkle my nose at the all too familiar aroma of sour sweat, musty socks and general B.O. God, if there is one thing I have not missed it is the stank of stale gym funk.
What the hell am I doing here? I wonder for the hundredth time. Am I seriously considering joining the ranks of this sideshow full of muscle bound, spandex clad, 'roid freaks and skinny skanks who looked like they couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag?
"Rave?" My cousin looks back at me with impatience; the furrows in his brow making him look more Neanderthal than usual. "Are you coming?"
Shit, as if I had a choice. "Yes, Hunter." I mutter as I dejectedly follow him into the gym.
My name is Raven Skyye. Don't ask me what the hell my parents were smoking when they came up with THAT handle but having a stripper name pretty much precluded me having a career as, say, an astrophysicist. Thanks Mom and Dad.
And I guess it's not quite as bad as my cousin who got stuck with the moniker "Hunter Hearst Helmsley", which may not sound so bad on the surface, but when you grow up in a three room doublewide, pretentious sounding shit like that earns you plenty of ass kickings in school.
Our parents were definitely smoking out of the same bowl when it came to naming their kids. After a while, Hunter decided he was tired of getting his face stomped in on a weekly basis. He joined the wrestling team, started lifting weights and began calling himself 'Triple H', which I still privately think is retarded, sounds like an energy drink, but if it makes him happy who am I to burst his bubble?
Eventually, he got big enough to fight back and by the summer he sent the nastiest bully, Rick Crawford, and three of his slack jawed buddies to the emergency room, he was built like a brick shithouse. No one ever made fun of his name after that, at least not to his face.
That's how I mostly remember Hunter when I was growing up. He's twelve years older than me and by the time I knew what was what he was this big, cool, cousin with giant muscles who took me under his wing, like a pet, and spoiled the crap out of me. When I was eight he'd take me out for ice cream and a movie. When I was ten he'd take me for roller skating and pizza and when I was fourteen he took me to the gym and taught me how to do takedowns and the proper way to throw a punch.
It wasn't always fun and games with Hunter, though. My social life as a teenager sucked. I almost didn't get asked to my senior prom because he scared the shit out of every boy who came near me. It didn't matter if they were just friends or, on the very rare occasion, a boy who was actually interested in me. Once Hunter got a hold of him he was afraid to come within 5 miles of our house. I never actually confirmed it but I once heard he told Justin Hudson, a boy whom I'd had a mad crush on in the 11th grade, that if he so much as laid a finger on me, Hunter would rip his balls off and shove them down his throat. So, yeah, life with Hunter had its ups and downs.
Right now, I couldn't exactly decide which it was. I mean, yes, I needed a job, desperately. The last job I'd had was as a receptionist at a used car dealership and that had been four months ago. My employment came to a sudden end after three weeks when I broke my boss's nose for grabbing my ass. He caused a huge fuss, claiming that he'd accidently brushed against me and threatening to press charges. My parents were pissed, not just that I'd fucked up yet another job but that now, after this assault, I'd be pretty much unemployable. I felt bad since they'd obviously thought this job was my ticket to the world of responsible adulthood and out of their basement but I also felt angrily justified. That was no accidental brush, I felt that bastard squeeze!
So, once again, my cousin came to the rescue. He visited my old boss and after just 10 minutes he convinced the old perv that he wasn't pressing charges, that in addition to accidently brushing against my ass, he also accidently ran into my fist. I was extremely grateful that Hunter had yet again gotten me out of a jam but not so much when he mentioned to my parents he could bring me with him when he went back to the WWE and get me a job.
Now, don't get me wrong, I have mad respect for Hunter and what he does. I've seen him hurt enough times to know that professional wrestling is as demanding a sport as any other, for the men at least.
What I did take offense to was that he thought I'd fit in well as a 'Diva'. I'd followed Hunter's career since the beginning, even got to go on the road with him a few times and the Diva's matches were always my cue to go get a beer, or a snack or take that piss I'd been holding for the last half hour. I've honestly never seen such a group of dumb cows in my life. 9 out of 10 of them were former 'models' or 'dancers' more interested in using their WWE exposure as a springboard to slut it up in Playboy than be actual fighters. On a bad day I could wipe the floor with them.
The few women who were actually respectable wrestlers I could count on one hand, and even they were usually tarted up like the baby hoes in Toddlers and Tiaras. Is this what Hunter saw for me?
"Just try it out. You might like it," he said. He looked at my expression and amended, "Well, you might learn to tolerate it."
So, that's how I ended up here, following him into a musty, smelly gym filled with sweaty, grunting men. Ugh, close your eyes and it sounds like a male orgy. Hunter thought it would be good to introduce his 'baby cousin' around. I wish he would stop doing me favors.
"Well, let's see who's in here today. Look there's The Big Show. You remember him, don't you?"
He leads me over to a bench where a huge, behemoth of a man is bench pressing a ridiculous amount of weight. I eyeball at least 500 pounds maybe more. With a giant grimace and grunting heave he manages to get the weight up and his spotters help guide the bar back on the rack. I wonder if he's trying to give himself a hernia.
He sits up and grabs a towel to vigorously mop the sweat off of his bald head. I flinch away from the little drops of perspiration that fly off of him, doing a little dance to avoid getting sweated on. I mean, yeah, I don't want to be rude to this enormous man but, sweat, eww, gross!
Hunter puts his hand in the small of my back and nudges me forward. "Show," he says, "I want to introduce you to someone."
The Big Show looks me up and down like he's a bear and I'm a giant honeycomb. A big, leery smile crosses his lips. God, why were all men the same? Am I gonna have to break this giant's nose my first day here? "Well, hello there." He says. He talks like he has a mouthful of spit.
"Hi," I say, giving him a thin smile, "We've actually met before, you know."
"Really?" He says, his eyes bouncing from my face to my chest and back again, "I think I'd remember if I ever met you."
Smooth, Show, real smooth.
"Yeah, "I say, "I must have been about 14. I was visiting Hunter, you took a picture with me sitting on your shoulder."
He freezes in the middle of feeling me up with his eyes and looks back at my face. "Wha-? Are you-"
"Yes," Hunter says, his voice kind of stiff, "This is my little cousin, Raven."
The Big Show's face blushes scarlet. I don't think I've ever seen a man turn so red. "Oh!" He sticks his hand out awkwardly. I gingerly reach out and shake it. His palm is damp and he's got fingers like bananas.
"Uh, of course I remember you!" He says, unable to meet my eyes. "You've…grown up." He muttered.
"Thanks for noticing," I tell him sweetly, enjoying his embarrassment. Maybe he wasn't all that bad. He was just being a guy and after all, weren't guys supposed to think about sex like every 8 seconds?
Before he could say anything else, someone grabs me around the waist from behind and slaps a hand over my eyes.
"Guess who?" says a voice that I'd recognize anywhere.
"Hmmmmm," I say, stalling to enjoy a few extra seconds of his arms around me,"could it be my boy toy?"
He laughs and spins me around, giving me a hug big enough to lift me off my feet. It's Shawn Michaels, Hunter's best friend and the guy I've crushed on since the first time I laid eyes on him.
I was 14 years old and had gone to hang out with Hunter for two weeks over the summer. He introduced me to this gorgeous guy with flowing honey blond hair, a cocky smile and the cutest ass I'd ever seen. No, seriously! I was only 14 and didn't know until then that a guy's ass could even be cute. Seeing Shawn's perky butt in those tight pants he always wore made me want to bounce quarters off of it. But he was almost twice my age and treated me like a kid sister while I cried into my pillow every night, just pining for him.
I went to visit Hunter during the summer for the next two years and each year it was the same. Shawn was very nice to me but saw me as nothing more than Hunter's little cousin. I have to admit that I developed a bit of an obsession with him. When I was sixteen I snuck a look at that Playgirl he posed naked for and then couldn't look him straight in the face for a month without blushing. Gradually, as I grew up and got to know him better, my obsession went away. I still liked him a lot but he was Hunter's friend and really, too old for me.
But damn, he's still a cutie! He's older, scruffier, a little worn, but still has that same cocky, don't-give-a-shit grin. Ah well, a girl never completely gets over her first love. Does she?
Shawn puts me back down and holds me out at arm's length,"It's been a long time, Raven! I hardly recognized you! Hunter tells me you're going to be working with us; you're going to be a Diva?"
I roll my eyes. I hate that word. What, were all the women wrestlers in this company supposed to be spoiled, demanding bitches?
"If you mean, am I here to try my hand at wrestling, then yes. Hunter says that I can try out and if Vince McMahon likes me, then I guess I'll be a.…diva."
"Honey, how can he not like you? You'll knock him out!" Shawn says. Aw, bless his cute little heart.
"Hopefully, not literally," Hunter says under his breath. His cell phone rings. The ringtone peals out Justin Bieber's 'Boyfriend'.
I give him a look that makes him drop his eyes and mutter something about Stephanie liking that song before he snaps the phone open and gruffly answers, "Hello?"
I grin and shake my head. From his taste in women, Chyna, to his extremely close friendship with Shawn this isn't the first time he's made me suspect he swings more ways than a barn door in a high wind. But he's my cousin and I love him.
"OK, we'll be right there." He snaps the phone shut. "That was Vince. He's ready to see us."
Shit, so soon? I feel the wild urge to make a break for it, go running out the gym door into the fresh air outside waving my arms and gibbering like a lunatic. But I can't do that to Hunter. He's no longer just a wrestler, he's also an executive for the company. He lucked out and married the boss's daughter and got himself a nice shiny office and use of the McMahon private jet. I can't make him look bad.
I nod. Damn you, Hunter, for putting me in this spot. He motioned toward the door with his head.
"C'mon. I've got a car waiting out front."
I follow him out the door like I'm going to my own execution.
Time to go beard the dragon.