Helen was the first to step forward, of course. From the day I’d first met her, she did as she pleased, not caring what anyone thought of her, and I admired her for that. The strength of her grip on my arm belied her grey hair and wrinkled skin.
“You start stocking up food and water the moment you get home, girlie. I wouldn’t want to lose you when that killer storm cell comes along. You need to be prepared, because there isn’t anyone–” she paused, and looked around at us, her eyes lingering that much longer on Fred as her stern face softened “–there aren’t many people, who will be there for you.”
I thumped my chest. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure I’m ready to survive anything.”
Then it was Fred’s turn, and he enveloped me in a huge bear hug. “Thank you, Grace. If it weren’t for you, and everyone else…” He trailed off. “Come back to New York again, you hear? There’s always an ice cream waiting for you at my cart.”
Seeing the sparkle in his eye as he talked about his dream made the whole endeavour–embarrassing costumes and all–worth it.
“Take care of Helen, okay?” was my reply, and he nodded before letting me go.
Mike stood to one side, his arms held awkwardly behind his back as though he didn’t know what would be appropriate. I fixed that by leaping at him with arms outstretched, then planting a kiss on his cheek. Chaste enough for a kind-of-but-not-quite relationship.
He went bright red as everyone else snickered. “I’ll see you next week for the follow-up interview the newspaper got so many requests for another because they wanna know more about the real author Grace Greenwood that’s all it’s just an interview nothing else I swear–”
I cut him off with a kiss on the other cheek before his face turned too purple. “I can’t wait to see you again.”
He regained some composure–and punctuation–and said, “Take care, Grace.”
Last of all was Anna. Anna, who’d seen this so-called scandal through from the beginning, and helped me through everything. The best agent and friend anyone could have.
“You better have a manuscript ready before we meet in LA for WrestleFest next month,” she said. “Something ready to sell. You still owe me for accommodation, and tickets to the shows, not to mention all the trouble you caused the agency with that schizophrenic debacle. I don’t care if it’s a highbrow Grace Greenwood or a terribly mushy Sandra Reisling work, but I’m expecting a huge commission, understood?”
I still didn’t know what kind of novel I wanted to write. Wish-fulfillment romance was fun, but I could do better than what I’d churned out in the past. Whatever it was, however, it was going to be wholly me, not some image of me I wanted to portray.
“You got it. And that’s the damn truth…” I exchanged a grin with Anna, before we completed the catchphrase in a yell, “…because Rock Hard said so!”
Everyone in the lounge stared at us as though we’d gone mad. The old Grace would have cared; would have worried about what they were thinking, and berated herself for acting inappropriately. To my delight, this Grace shook it off like sweat on a pro-wrestler’s oil-covered body. I was genuinely enjoying myself, as were my friends, and that was good enough.
I continued blowing kisses as the flight attendant scanned my boarding pass, though I was already getting distracted. My mind was ticking over with new ideas, and I was itching to get to my seat and start writing again, for the first time since the whole mess started.
My name is Grace Greenwood, and I’m a wrestling-loving, clichéd-romance-writing, literary author-wannabe… and proud of it.