Ch 6 Tequila Sunset

Reiko watched as the sun dipped towards the horizon. A rich golden light flooded across the prairie, glinting copper in her hair, making her pale skin glow, glimmering from the surface of the nearby pool. She had changed into her favourite red bikini with white polka dots, and was reclining on a sun bed, a glass of chilled tequila close at hand.

Reiko felt relaxed, her body fulfilled and at ease. She gave a sigh of contentment, and sipped her drink, looking through half-closed eyes to where Dixie was sunning herself next to her. The Texan was wearing a one-piece black swimsuit which hugged tight to her body curves. She yawned lazily, reached for her own glass, and raised it.

"Here's to you looking good, Reiko darlin'."

"Thank you. I feel good." Reiko had one leg stretched out, the other bent flirtatiously. She enjoyed the sensation of being looked at like this.

Dixie observed, smiling, "You know, when I first saw ya, you was skittery as a spooked mule. Now y'all look calm and peaceful like."

Reiko sighed again. "I guess, I feel ... happy." After a pause, she added, "It seems like a long time since I've been so happy." Then she frowned slightly, as if to contradict herself.

Dixie stroked her chin. "And you're feeling guilty about it, ain't you?"

Not for the first time, Reiko was surprised by the Texan's perceptiveness. I suppose I ought to expect it by now. Aloud she said, "Why d'you say that?"

In reply Dixie recited gently: "Every night I look at the sky. Call your name, and wonder where you are. Baby miss you, won't you come back?" She leant across, to tweak aside a strand of Reiko's hair. "That's a sad song to choose for your entrance. I think you've been yearning after someone that's not around anymore, right? Your mom, maybe?"

Reiko turned her body slightly, allowing the older woman to caress her face. She said. "I do miss her, of course. But I know she's not coming back. Its my sister, Fujiko. I haven't seen her in a long time."

Dixie paused in her stroking. "Sorry if I'm upsetting you again. I just 'bin wondering if you're blaming yourself for her going. Did you quarrel?"

"Yes ... no ... well, yes, in a way." Reiko gently took hold of the Texan's hand, moved it away a little. She rolled onto her stomach, staring off into the distance. "We were always close. Then, after Mom died, she changed. Became almost a different person."

Dixie shifted herself so she could massage Reiko's left shoulder. "Somebody dying can do that to ya."

"Yes. I told myself to give her time. But she couldn't seem to let go. She was obsessed with the idea ... " Reiko hesitated."She thought Mom had been murdered."

Dixie continued to kneed between Reiko's shoulder blades. "So? You reckon there was anything in it?"

"Not at the time, no. There was nothing in the autopsy to suggest it. Nothing to explain her death, either. One moment she was wrestling, the next her heart just stopped."

"Sure sounds mysterious."

"Fujiko thought so. She would go on and on about it. Then one day, she just took off. Left a note saying she was going to America to investigate the tournament. For a while I heard nothing."

"And then?"

"Just one phone call. She rung really excited, saying she'd found out that Mom's body had disappeared for some hours prior to the autopsy. She said she was on the point of finding where it went."

"What did you say?"

"I told her to forget about it. To come back home. She became very angry. Then she hung up."

Dixie said, "I understand now. You're afraid that something's happened to her. And you think its your fault because you didn't persuade her to come home." She patted Reiko's back. "Honey, you did your best. And maybe nothing bad did happen."

Reiko whispered, "I wish I could believe that."

Dixie hugged her shoulders. "Come on. Don't give up. She could be closer than you think."

"I hope so." Reiko turned and lightly kissed the Texan's cheek. "Thanks, Dixie."

"I only wish I could help more. All I can say is, I'll put the word around to look out for her. I got a heap of contacts in the Rumble Roses organisation. In the police too."

"I appreciate that." In an attempt to steer the conversation away from sad things, she continued, brightly. "This is a beautiful sunset. We ought to stay and watch it."

"Yeah, for a little bit longer, eh? If you've got nothing else on your mind." Dixie nudged Reiko knowingly. The Japanese girl giggled and blushed.

They watched for a while in silence as the sun was drawn downwards, until only a small slice of the reddening disc remained, surrounded by little fluffy clouds, flecked with orange. The stillness seemed to spread outwards to cover the whole vast plain, in which thoughts uninterrupted might almost be heard.

"Dixie." One word spoken by Reiko seemed to carry so much weight, that to say more seemed almost overwhelming

"What is it, Reiko?" The Texan looked seriously across at her companion. "Something else troubling you?" Reiko gave the faintest of nods. "You kin tell me if you want." When silence followed, "Is it something to do with me?" Another nod. "You think it'll upset me, don't you?"

"Yes ... it might." Reiko was still staring into the sunset. Dixie now gently turned her face towards her.

"Look, if its that important, its better if ya tell me." Suddenly, with humour, she added "I'll git more angry if ya don't!" She chucked Reiko under the chin, coaxing her into a smile.

"Ok. Alright." Reiko collected her thoughts. Then she said, "Remember what I said about Fujiko, how she changed."

"Yup, I bin gettin' a little forgitful in ma old age, but not that much." Dixie still spoke lightly, but Reiko could see she had her full attention.

"When you ... when we fought ... " Reiko stopped. Then she carried on hesitantly. "You were really mean to me, said some very hurtful things. How could you do that, when you ... well, when you felt like you say you did? Was it just pretending? It seemed like you meant it. So, how ...?"

"...d'ya know that this is the real me now? How d'ya know I ain't gonna change again? Is that what ya sayin''?" Dixie's voice was soft, sympathetic. "Oh, darlin', I'm telling you, this is one-hundred percent genuine Dixie from now on. Don't get yourself all worked up over nuthin."

But Reiko wasn't finished. She said, "I guess that's what you want to believe."

Dixie said quietly, her own face now towards the sunset "I'm not sure I'm understanding ya right, sugar."

"I think, maybe you do, deep down." Reiko turned to examine the Texan's profile. Her expression was unreadable. Reiko continued, "But perhaps I shouldn't offend you anymore."

"I ain't offended - yet." Dixie still wasn't looking at Reiko. Watching the last red slit of the sun, she spoke in the same low tones. "Reckon this is a free country, and folks should be able to speak their minds. Say what you gotta."

"Very well." Reiko drew a deep breath. "When you were, acting mean, didn't you feel ..." She stopped again. "Feel something possessing you? Something powerful." She spoke now with great reluctance. "Something that was almost not you. And then ..." She was unable to meet Dixie's eyes. "You began to enjoy it. The strength. The strength of the - of the badness."

Finally she summoned the courage to look at her companion. And now Reiko was sure she had given great offence, because for once the Texan said nothing at all. The sun had gone down, and a sudden chill breeze followed the twilight across the prairie. Reiko shivered, and drew a towel across her shoulders. Time passed slowly.

"We-el," Dixie said eventually. "Sounds to me you knows what you're talking about. What makes you think I know anything about it?"

"I don't know," Reiko replied simply. "I'm asking you because you spoke before about there being a thin line, remember? Between love and hate, you said, and between good and evil. I thought you would understand because that's what I was feeling. I became so angry with you. And it seemed as if I passed a point where I became like a different person. Someone who could hate so much they wanted to crush everyone who stood in their way. And yet that person was still me."

Lights were beginning to come on around the pool, but Dixie's face was now in shadow, obscuring any clue to her thoughts. She said, "You know, when momma died, I felt like picking up that badge, and that pistol, and blowing away the varmint that took her away from me. But I didn't. Supposing, and I'm saying just supposing, I do understand. What then?"

"If there's a line, Dixie, and we can cross it, what happens if, one day, we go across and can't come back? What will become of us?" Reiko caught a sob. "Will we be like lost souls?" She reached out for Dixie's hand, held it tight.

"Oh darlin', I don't know." The tenderness returned to Dixie's voice. "Maybe that never will happen. But if it does, I know one thing. However much I may change, wherever I go, I'll still be a wrestler. You too. Rumble Roses is in our blood, girl, and its what we are. You jest hold on to that, if you ain't got anything else to cling to."

"I've got you too, Dixie." Reiko wiped away a tear. "You're right; you'll always be a Rose By Any Other Name."

"Is it you that's quoting poetry now?" Dixie smiled. "Come on its getting cold, but the pool's heated. How about a swim?" Impishly she added, "Ya ever tried that kissing underwater thing?"

Reiko surfaced rapidly, gasping and blinking water from her eyes, drops spraying around as she shook her dark curls. She looked across to where Dixie was bobbing on her back, supported by an inflatable ring. The older woman's eyes were closed.

Reiko lay back, and allowed herself to float, gazing upwards to where the early stars were coming out, cold fires in the blackness of the southern sky. Words and images sleeted unbidden through her mind.

Feeling sad and lonely
Cause I can't find you
Call your telephone
And there's never no answer
Said you love me
Kissed me
We were in heaven
Said I'm sorry
Love you, want you forever

Every night I look at the sky
Call your name
And wonder where you are
Every night I look at the sky
Baby, miss you
Won't you come back.

A vision swam up of Dixie, her blonde hair streaming upwards like a mermaid's, blurred by the water depth. She reached out to pull Reiko close to her, sealing their lips together in a kiss.

It was the closest she'd felt to the Texan. Except when they'd wrestled. Nothing could quite match that ultimate sharing. I want it to carry on for ever. But that's not the real world.

Her thoughts were interrupted by suddenly being pulled under the water by strong arms. She blew out bubbles, panicking momentarily, then the same grip lifted her back to her surface. She spluttered and laughed.

"Caught you napping there." Reiko relaxed, enjoying the feeling of Dixie holding her.

After a moment, Dixie said, "I plum forgot the other reason I called you out here."

With a smile in her voice, Reiko said, "You mean apart from beating me up, freaking me out and seducing me?"

"Yeah, apart from that. See, Rumble Roses has a tag team competition. And it so happens I'm without a partner at the moment."

Pointing to her chest, Reiko said in a voice of mock wonder. "And you want … can you be asking … me … to be on your team?"

"I surely am, darlin'." Dixie joined in the joke by appearing to take Reiko's modesty seriously. "As long as we're compatible of course." She pressed her cheek next to Reiko's. "I'm looking forward to finding out."

"Me too. Who was your previous partner, then?"

"Aisha." Something in Dixie's voice, made Reiko twist slightly to look at her. Her expression appeared bland however.

"The pop singer? How exciting! I'm a huge fan of hers. So why did you two split up?" Reiko asked curiously.

"Huh? Oh, it were nuthin' really. What you could call, 'artistic differences'."

"Like what?"

"On account of her being a huge diva, is what I mean."

"Really?" Reiko laughed. "You must have had a clue about that before you picked her."

"Hmm, pshaw." Dixie went back to floating with the ring. "True, she was always that way inclined, even when we were school mates."

"You must have been close." Reiko was beginning to wonder a little about the nature of the relationship.

Dixie looked meditative. "We were. But she could never accept being anything but number one. At everything. The thought that I might be a better wrestler kept eating at her. Never mind she had a stack of platinum albums and a big mansion. So she did a number of things to wind me up, to show she didn't need me. In the end, I got sick of it. The jealousy."

"What – kind of things did she do?" Reiko was sure there was more to this.

"Nothing that need concern us now. I'm sure we won't have any issues like that. If you're signing up, of course?"

Reiko considered asking Dixie more questions about Aisha, but decided to let it go for now. She filed it in her memory as another of the mysteries concerning her companion, and the Rumble Roses tournament.

"Well, of course, I'll have to weigh up my options very carefully."

"Of course."

"Wouldn't want to rush into anything, would I?"


"Ok, then." Reiko paused dramatically. "I've thought about it and – I accept!"

"Yeehaw!" Dixie exploded from beneath the inflatable, performed a high five with Reiko in the water. "Well, this definitely calls for a celebration!" Swimming to the edge of the pool, she hauled herself out, and toweling off vigorously, headed for the drinks cooler. Reiko followed her, drying her hair.

"So," Dixie said, occupied with mixing a drink. "What should we call this new operation of ours?"

"We-el, that's tricky. I suppose it should have something to do with us being different but together at the same time. Like in harmony, I suppose."

"Tequila Sunrise?"

"Eh? Oh, no, everyone would laugh at that!"

"No, dumbo!" Dixie raised the glass she was holding to eye level. "I was just offering you another drink." Frowning she added, "Come to think of it though … nah! You're right. It would be a darn ridiculous name."

For those who enjoyed this, the good news is I'm already working on the sequel, though I probably won't publish anything until its nearly finished. Thanks for reading this far, and now is the time to get in your reviews of the whole story.