Description: Sometimes, when life hands you lemons, you just throw them away. You just forget them. And Jezebel... Jezebel was a real lemon. Sent to a mental hospital after her failed suicide attempt, there was nobody there to help her. Nobody except... a man from a very special organization, dedicated to reaching out to people like herself, lead by a man named Vega...
"Let’s talk about how you feel, Jezebel."
The ruddy-cheeked counselor peers over her tea-frame glasses across the circle. Seven men and women join her in the therapy circle within one of the several common rooms within the Gateways Hospital & Mental Health Center in Los Angeles. There were tables set up in the room, and a shelf filled with board games and cards. Two orderlies stand by, keeping an eye around with a neutral expression. But right now, the center of the room was cleared out in order for the eight chairs to be set up for the therapy circle. Sitting there, fifth chair clockwise from the counselor, was Jezebel Failblesse. There was no bright smile on her lips, no rosy cheeks, no spirit. Just dark circles under her eyes, and a cool, clammy texture to her face and skin. She just stares at the floor, dressed in grey sweatpants and a modest t-shirt, blue crocs on her feet. She doesn't even look at the counselor, as she answers.
"I feel nothing."
"That's not true Jezebel." The counselor replies. She leans forward, a gentle but firm smile on her face. Jezebel doesn't even look up. The actress grabs her own forearm with a hand, still staring at the floor. "I feel... thirsty. I need a drink." She forces a hollow laugh, hoping the others would join her. They don't. "Not of liquor I hope, Jezebel. You're better than that." The counselor speaks with a curt, stern tone.
Tears begin to flow from Jezebel's face.
"I'm... not..." The actress begins to make heaving sobs. The other members of the circle fix their eyes on her as the former Lightning Spangles falls apart before their eyes. Jezebel balls herself up on the chair, her fingers clawing into her hair as she bawls. The counselor stands up, walking across the circle briefly as the orderlies take a step closer. But the woman shakes her head, and pats the actress on her shoulder. "It's okay to cry Jezebel. You are amongst good people here. You need to cry. You need to let all those feelings out. But just remember."
"You are better than that."
Cracker Jack pulls into the hospital's parking lot, driving a fire engine red '67 Ford Mustang, modified with a hot rod engine that juts out of an opening on the hood. He's driven here from Las Vegas, on the desert highway linking Nevada and California. As he cruises through the parking lot, looking for a space, there's a mild frown on his face, before he finds a spot and pulls right in. He shifts into park and cuts the engine, looking at himself in the mirror. He's wearing his typical leisure suit and salmon covered hat, of course, minus the typical baseball bat. He climbs out of the car and softly slams the door shut, grimacing a little at the high California sun. He strolls through the parking lot, towards the hospital's reception area.
As he enters the hospital, Jack pans his head left and right, before moving up to the receptionist's desk. He's showed up right before visiting hours begin, his timing a matter of life and death in some situations his work finds him in. So it's always sharp. "I'm here to visit Jezebel Fairblesse," he says to the woman working the desk, pulling out a Nevada driver's license and showing it to her. It reads 'Jackson Carruthers'. Whether or not it's real, or just an alias, is up to debate, but Cracker Jack tells no secrets.
The receptionist was just a little wary, but not afraid.
The receptionist was a dark-skinned woman, a little too round, with bright red lipstick. She was sitting, and as Cracker Jack comes up to the desk, he seemed polite. Rolling her eyes a bit, she takes the license, and looks at it closely, squinting her eyes. Pulling out a pair of reading glasses, she puts them on, looking from the ID, to 'Jackson,' to back to the ID. Finally, she settles on going back to Cracker Jack.
"I'm sorry, but Jezebel is currently in group therapy right now in the common area. She will be out in an hour or so; if you like, you can wait here, and we can give you an update on when she is done."
She waits for Cracker Jack's response, looking a bit impatient as she points to a nearby row of chairs.
Cracker Jack grimaces at this news. "I'll be back in about forty-five minutes," he says. You can do everything right on schedule, but there's always some failure on the other end. He slips his driver's license back into his slim wallet and slides it away in his pants pocket, before he turns around and steps out of the hospital. He saw an In-and-Out Burger on his drive here. He decides to go for a walk, and kill some time that way.
In time, the therapy session ends.
Jezebel felt... empty. She felt nothing at the beginning. And once again, she felt nothing. She cried for an entire hour, and now? She still felt like garbage. She wanted to go back in her room, with the lights off, and just... rot. Just be forgotten. Unwanted. Unneeded. Just existing. She began to return in the direction of her room, when an orderly stops her. "Huh?" She mutters out, looking up at the man. But the orderly smiles. "Word from the receptionist. Someone has come to visit you!" Jezebel blinks dully, trying to understand. And then, a light seems to come over her.
She rushes past the orderly, running to the reception area. It had to be Johnny Cage. He came to rescue her. He was her knight in shining armor. With a movie offer. She didn't have to be Lightning Spangles. She could be Johnny's leading lady. She had a purpose again. She had a meaning. The actress runs faster, a croc slipping from her foot as she bolts into the reception area. Eyes wide. A smile finally on her face again.
Looking for her Johnny.
And when Jezebel comes running into the reception area, there's Cracker Jack waiting for her, rising from his chair and sliding the magazine into the receptable on the wall, with all the others. He was reading 'Popular Mechanics', from the looks of it, not entirely unexpected from a man that spends a decent portion of his ill-gotten income on muscle cars. He looks Jezebel up and down. Those wide eyes. That big smile. That missing shoe.
But still, he knows what he must have looked like when Bison recruited him. Bleeding from the mouth and smoking a spliff, his belt missing from using it to slap a rowdy customer across the face, holding his pants up with his free hand. So he knows what a potential Shadaloo recruit looks like.
"Fairblesse," is all he says, hands on his hips, looking at her with a pleased grin.
The sheer force of disappointment that comes to Jezebel's face stops her cold. The smile fades. A stunned, dazed look comes over her, like a cow about to be slaughtered. It wasn't her Johnny. She wasn't being saved by him. But... but the man looked... nice. As he puts his hands to his hips, she doesn't even correct him on the name. She narrows her eyes, unable to approach him, just... afraid.
And then she realizes who he is.
"Y-You're... I know you, you are the cowboy who... who beat me, and took my belt." The actress's mind was a rush, a blur of instincts, of desperations. "Are... are you challenging me? Am I challenging you? Are we rivals?" Her eyes brighten up, but they aren't warm. They stare in the distance, as she continues to speak. "Jezebel and... and Jack? I can't remember. We can be rivals. I can fight you, and be... be the hero again." She rubs her arm, looking to the floor.
"Do I have a career again?"
"Yeah, I lost the belt on my first challenge," Jack says with an uncaring shrug, apparently not very attached to the belt. "I just came here to talk." He tucks in his lower lip, looking sidelong at the wall, before his head slowly turns back to regard Jezebel. "You remind me of myself in highschool. And I thought I could help." He turns and walks over to one of the visiting room chairs, taking a seat with ponderous care, and then resting his left hand on his thigh as he removes his hat and props it up on his knee, so Jez can see his eyes. "Sit," he says, gesturing at a chair facing perpendicular to him.
Jezebel should have turned around.
She's been down this road before. Just like with Frank. A well-dressed man shows up in her life, and offers to help. Offers to just talk. And then, he takes you for a ride, and you end up hating yourself forever and ever, a scar on your soul that never fades. Jezebel should have turned around.
But Jezebel obeys.
She liked this, being treated like a person. Someone showing... empathy for her, instead of pitied. She liked this attention. Just like with Frank. She reminded him of himself. She can't help but smile at that, looking him squarely in the eyes, blushing as she turns away. She takes her seat in front of him. "I... I need help... I've screwed everything up..." She runs her hands on her face, staring back at him.
"I've really screwed things up, Jack."
"Yup," is all Cracker Jack replies, offering her a grin and leaning back in his chair, relaxing.
"Your problem is your core values. You're equating success with fans, money, the support of the powers that be, etc. That works for some people. Johnny Cage, for example." Jack's done his research, and he's about to display more of it. "But Johnny Cage wasn't from the wrong side of the tracks. Not like us. My mother was a stripper, and my father was a welterweight boxer that got his right hand shattered by the Mob so he couldn't punch. I grew up in a trailer in Vegas, watching rich kids like Johnny Cage get all the women. I used to be bitter about people like him." He pauses, to let this sit in, reaching into his suit pocket and pulling out a little tin of Penguin Mints, opening it and popping one into his mouth. "Caffeinated candy," he explains quietly, so the receptionist can't hear, he states as he offers Jezebel the little metal box.
"But it's not right to be bitter," he says, moving back to conversation. "If I went into acting, I'd be just like you. Miserable. Because you're living a lie, Jezebel. You can never be a star. But what the stars don't understand? Is primal passion. That's what makes you a star, Jez, not any set of acting classes, or some hokey kid's brand, or all that stuff around you that you secretly hated. So far, everyone in your life has treated you like, well, a whore, but you're not."
He looks dead in her eyes, squinting. "You're a fighter."
The box is offered to her, and she accepts. Taking one of the mints, she pops it into her mouth as well. It was the same story as before. Almost like Frank. She felt in her heart, she had another Frank. But the details were... Jack was... was different. He was from nearly the same rough life. But Jezebel had a break. She broke away from that. She almost became like all the normal people, she even became better than them for a while. But Jack tells her something Frank didn't. He told her not to be bitter. As she sucks on the mint, she finally responses.
"I've... I've never hated it." She confesses.
"I liked being Lightning Spangles. I would be Lightning Spangles forever if I could. I like inspiring people. I like... I liked people wanting me. But I never wanted to be a... a... wh-whore. I hated that. They made me that in Hong Kong, they used me. I just wanted... I just wanted people to be proud of me. Like a celebrity, a star..." She trails off.
A light comes over her.
"My momma, she... my daddy said that she did heroin. I promised him I would never do that. But I remember, when I was a very little girl, momma would have me help her. Would help her with the needle, and cooking, and... and then daddy found out. And he was so mad, he was mad at her more, but I was crying and... and then we left her. I remember, we left Montreal. I asked where momma was, I kept asking, but daddy didn't tell me what happened until I was older. We just moved to the united States, and we... we lived. Daddy drank a lot, but he loved me, and I loved him, and..."
Jezebel trails off for a moment, stunned at what was coming out.
"... Before we left momma, he had me learn Tae Kwon Do. Momma never saw me, but daddy did. He was proud of me, and I was proud of myself. I... I always was proud of my Tae Kwon Do. My... I became a star from Tae Kwon Do. I'm...." Her eyes go wide.
"Jack, am I really a fighter?"
Jack listens quietly, looking at the floor as he listens, a faint movement of his throat indicating real empathy, even if the Shadaloo enforcer has suppressed it as deeply as possible his entire life. "Yes, Jezebel," he says softly, before he clears his throat. "You're a fighter. Your father knew one thing, Jez. That fighting can save anyone. It's not the discipline, the self-respect, the confidence. That's just from people that don't understand it." He looks back at her again, closing the tin with a click and sliding it back in his pocket.
"It's the primitive instinct. You know what our society is about? A nice house, a nice car, a steady job, the acclaim of others, and yes, inspiring others. That's all how we've been programmed, since day one. But you know what's not natural? The individualism. The selfish notion that you are more important than everyone else. That's what you did wrong, Jez. You built up this ivory tower around yourself, with all those agents and handlers and that fake role and all those gimmicks and copyrights and restraint. But fighting doesn't have any of that. Not real fighting."
Cracker Jack lowers his voice, his eyes taking a deadly, hungry look, as he is mentally transported to another place in his mind, with a faraway quality in his voice. "When you fight in its purest form, you're not thinking. You're not considering a book deal, or what's on the stove at home, or what the crowd thinks. A good fighter can think about these things. Even a winning fighter. But not a /great/ fighter. Do you know what my father told me about a great fighter?" He taps his chest, over his heart. "A great fighter is only concerned with his heart. It's about seizing everything in your life that made it what you are, and putting it on the end of your fist, and then into the other guy's face. It's a pleasure that all these trappings of modern life cannot understand, but any animal in a zoo can."
Jezebel was feeling lighter and lighter.
Jack was speaking something directly to Jezebel's heart, that her years of therapy and doctors and 'friends' never did. They never talked to Jezebel like she was a martial artist, like she was a fighter. She was always an actress to them, a broken actress. Her mind cuts through everything like a knife, her entire past seemed incredibly clear now. She never was given that belt. She... she earned it. Lightning Spangles would have never gotten that belt, if it wasn't for her.
And Jack even humbles her from there.
The invididualism. Jezebel WAS being selfish. She was making herself seem better, but with what? Through handlers, through people gushing at her. She fed off that attention, but alone? She hated herself. But there was a time when she didn't. When she was alone and... and training. Jack was speaking so true, about the nature of fighting. It was freedom, it was power. It was.... it was pure. As Jack touches his heart, Jezebel mimicks him. To be... free. Natural. The words that come, are the first words that ever
"... I could take back Lightning Spangles, couldn't I Jack?"
"I could take her back. I could rip it away from them. Because they don't own her, not really. I own her. I could just take it from everyone. She isn't owned by anybody but myself. I... I could be her forever. I could have always been her forever. I don't need other people. I don't need anybody in my way Jack. I'm... your right. I don't NEED that, I just need to FIGHT for what's mine!"
Jezebel stands up, as the receptionist... begins to look at the pair with a very concerned look on her face.
Cracker Jack raises his hand. "You don't want Lightning Spangles, Jezebel Faiblesse. You want the armor the role gives you. As Jezebel, you're being yourself. All your love, hate, passion, ideals - your real ideals - and your grief, is shown to everyone watching. It's being naked. But as Lightning Spangles, you're somebody else. You represent America, children, family, humor, adventure, bravery. And those are all things that are noble enough." He looks up at her, frowning.
"But be honest, Jezebel. Is that you, or is that just what you want to be you?"
Jezebel halts, the weight coming back.
It was like Jack just shot her in the heart. He was right, of course. It was not about Jezebel being Jezebel. It was about Jezebel being Lightning Spangles, to wear a mask. So when everyone judges her, they are just judging Lightning Spangles. No pain. And all Jezebel's true ideals embodied in a persona that would never be hurt. Hurt. The woman sinks back down into her seat.
"I can't be Jezebel all the time Jack."
She sighs, sounding weak. "It hurts too much. When I'm Lightning Spangles, I never have to feel pain. I don't want to feel pain any more. I don't want to hurt inside. I just... I just don't know if I can be strong enough." She feels the spirit leaving her. "I know I can't be. I'm not a fighter. I'm not an actress. I'm just... I'm just a loser Jack." She sniffles a bit.
"This has to be a waste of time for you."
"It's not a waste of time," Jack says quietly, reaching up to his hair with an ungloved hand and brushing his bangs out of his eyes, mostly a self-conscious gesture. "Listen. I did six months in juvenile hall when I was seventeen, after I got raging hammered and punched the captain of the football team at my highschool. First time I ever hit anyone. I knocked him out, and broke his jaw. But that was nothing compared to juvvy in Nevada. I fought every day. That's where I learned to fight. And then, I dropped out of highschool, got kicked out of my house, and crashed on my friend's house while I worked Strip dive bars as I worked as a two-bit bouncer for fifty bucks a night. And I was drunk through most of that. I thought I could be a prize fighter some day, and I was trying, trying hard. Get a limosuine, a private airplane, women, merchandising deals, all that. But it wasn't who I was. I was where you are now. And then, one night, working in a high class bar in Vegas, I took on a heavyweight boxer, and pummmelled him unconscious, and I ended up in the hospital. But do you know who saw that fight, and visited me while I was recovering?"
"Former heavyweight champion Mike Bison. And we had this same conversation."
"He... he was... I thought he was..." Banned from boxing from biting a man's ear off. "... He saved you." She said bluntly. "And now you're here to save me." Jezebel gets a distant look in her eyes. "You... you had a harder life than me, Jack. But you... you are doing great for yourself. You are doing better than me." She gives a fake chuckle, before bending forward, burying her face in her own lap, hands over her head.
"... I trust you Jack."
Those were the words from her heart. "Everything is just so confused for me. I can't... I can't even think straight right now. I haven't been able to think straight for my entire life. I am afraid and confused and don't know where I can go." She slowly uncovers her head, and sits up, looking into Jack.
"What did he want you to do, Jack?"
"You don't have to trust me, Faiblesse. You need to listen to me, and make your decisions on your own. Remember that fight? You knocked me up into the air, kicked me, full force, across the ring and into the ropes, without a moment's hesitation. If I wasn't as strong as I was, that might've killed me. That type of manuever isn't just show, Jez. That is a real, honest attempt, to severely injure someone. If I had come down from that toss differently, you could've kicked me in the head and broken my neck. Bam, no more Cracker Jack. I'd be dead or in a wheelchair for the rest of my life."
Jack looks at Jezebel, crossing his right leg over his left knee and resting his right elbow on the chair beside him, forearm dangling down as he gets more casual. "Do you think you could kill someone, Jezebel? Really, honestly kill somebody? Or at least fight with the intent to kill?"
Could have killed him.
Jezebel trembles now. "I..." she blurts out, before going silent. This is where Jack was taking her. She thought about it. Killing somebody. This wasn't posing in hot pants or wearing a cowboy vest without anything underneath. This was murder. Fighting with the intent to murder. Just like... just like the accidents Jezebel had. The actress realized just how powerful she was. That's why... that's why the child died. Why her opponents were broken. And then the words come out, cold as ice.
"I could kill if I didn't think about it."
Jezebel falls silent for a moment, as the receptionist begins to pick up the phone.
"And I'm good at not thinking about things."
"That's how you do it at first," Jack says, glancing at the receptionist with a frown, watching her instead of Jezebel. "It's ancient, older than us, happening since the first amoeba jiggled through the muck. It's instinct. Every time you eat a burger, there's a dead animal. Every time you put on a designer t-shirt, there are sweatshop workers. Every time you vote for a President, there's the people that his military kills, in one way or another. It's not for everyone."
He lowers his arm to rest on the seat, then moves it to his leg. A business card is left on the chair, with a black skull with wings, and a cellphone number. That's all. Then, quietly but with deadly seriousness, "If you want to learn what it's like to be an animal and not an idea in your own mind, call this number. Within twenty-four hours, we'll pick you up. Then, we fly you to Thailand, and we began your new life. You won't be Lightning Spangles, but you won't be Jezebel, either. You'll be a warrior." He stands up, turns around, and without another word, walks out of the hospital, the sliding doors parting for him to step through them. He puts his hat back on, and swaggers out towards his two seater hot rod.
Jezebel takes the card, and just like that Jack leaves.
She just stares at it. The receptionist was calling the orderlies, but CJ's instincts were keen. By the time they come around, he was long gone. But Jezebel was just sitting there, staring at the card, her thoughts swimming. The mint was still in her mouth. Kill people. Don't think about it. Jack was so happy, was... was what Jezebel wanted. And all she had to do is not think about it. This was... this was the key to a new life. What was her future now? She would eventually leave here. She would eventually have nothing, but trashy softcore porn movies overseas. She would grow older, no one would touch her except perverts. Her future was like her past now; to be used. But maybe... maybe this was the way out. It was scary. It was dangerous. By the time the orderlies got her back to her room, the mint was dissolved away. The orderlies close the door behind her, as Jezebel sits on her bed.
She doesn't wait five seconds, before she is on the phone for her new life.
Log created on 16:16:38 12/17/2015 by Jezebel, and last modified on 15:15:47 12/19/2015.