“You’re going to wear that to meet my parents?” Danielle placed her hands on her hips and raised an eyebrow at her boyfriend, clad in a Red-Sox jersey and baggy shorts.
“What?!?” he asked, looking at his attire and then back at her. “What?”
“Lose the jersey, John,” she urged him. “Lose it… now.”
“I thought you liked the Sox?” he shot her an annoyed look. No one messed with his Red Sox.
“I like the Mets, John.”
“So?” he shrugged. “We share a common bond…” John added, gesturing to the framed picture of the BoSox’s 2004 ALCS celebration on his wall.
“My father’s a Yankees fan,” she cocked her head to the side and eyed him.
“Off it goes then.”
Six hours later, it was just past six PM and john pulled up to Danielle’s modest childhood home.
It was absolutely nothing like his. There were few trees, aside from the three evergreens and four taller trees at the end of the backyard, which was closely guarded by a while fence with thin slats.
Behind that ivory border lay a pool off to the side, a small shed in the back corner, and a wooden swing set about thirty feet directly behind the deck. Unlike the Cena house, the home sat on about ½ acre of land.
Danielle stared longingly out the windows at the white house with black shutters.
“It used to be light blue.”
John hadn’t been paying attention when she began to speak, but turned his attention towards her, “What?”
“The house…” she reminisced, “It used to be light blue. There were white shutters and we had a screen door. My favorite part about the house,” she continued her walk down memory lane as she got out of her Civic and closed the door behind her, “Were the rose bushes on the side of the house. There was a pink one and a red one.”
John joined her on the other side of the car and followed her gaze, “I don’t see any roses…”
“Dad cut them down when I was eight. I am allergic to bees,” Danielle informed him quietly and then turned back to the house. “It started attracting a lot of them and then my parents feared I’d get stung one day because I picked the flowers so often,” she recalled sadly. “I did build a garden in the backyard and it’s still there,” she smiled. “But Samantha takes care of it now…”
“Mom! Look who’s here!” a shrill voice called from inside the house, through the open door.
“Speak of the devil,” Danielle muttered. “Or rather, his spawn…”
“Your sister?” John nodded knowingly.
“My sister,” she mumbled some more and then quickly shifted tone, “Hey, Sam!”
Her sister was already making her way towards her and John.
“Hello,” her sister smiled deviously at John.
Danielle elbowed her sharply in her side, “Sam, this is John Cena,” she introduced her with an annoyed glare. “My boyfriend.”
“Ah, nice to meet you. Mike’s already told me so much about you,” she forced a smile, twirling a lock of brown hair around her index finger.
“Danielle!” her mother’s voice echoed through the mild spring air.
All three heads turned in the direction of the front door, where the girls’ mother stood. Danielle had a good three inches on her petite frame and looked nothing like her mother. Mrs. Landon had chocolate brown eyes and a highly-freckled face, with deep auburn, shoulder-length hair.
“Hi, Mom,” Danielle plastered on a smile and walked towards her mother with John in tow.
Her mother embraced her at the door and released her death grip on her daughter when she noticed John behind her.
“Oh! You must be John!” Mrs. Landon smiled brightly, throwing her arms up in the air.
“Yes, hello, Mrs. Landon,” he replied politely.
“Please, call me Susan,” she fanned her hand at him and hugged his towering frame. “So good to finally meet you.”
“You too, Susan,” he answered, catching Danielle’s eyes with a pleading look.
“Mom, why don’t we go inside?” Danielle offered in an attempt to peel her off of her boyfriend.
“Yes, yes,” she agreed. “Come in, come in.”
Samantha stepped in front of her mother and led everyone inside.
Danielle leaned in towards John and mumbled, “She’s talking doubles today. That means she’s stressed out as hell…”
Her father came into clear view and she quickly ran towards him.
“Daddy!” she beamed, throwing her arms around his neck.
“Hey, Princess,” her father replied cheerfully, returning her grin. “How are you? Behaving yourself?”
“Of course,” she laughed, turning towards John. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet, Dad,” she added, pulling him by the wrist to her father. “Dad, this is…”
“John Cena,” he nodded and shook his hand.
“Nice to meet you, sir,” John returned the shake firmly.
“David,” he stated simply. “You’re making me feel old.”
John took a good look at her father. David was two inches shorter than his son, with graying temples, however, his presence was powerful in the room. He was also definitely older than Susan by quite a few years, but it seemed as though his children and grandson kept him young.
“You are old, Dad,” Samantha smiled curtly at her father.
He barely gave Danielle’s little sister the time of day. She was spiteful and unnecessarily rude, something no seventeen year old should be. The girl was attractive for her age and John was sure that her striking emerald eyes grabbed her plenty of male attention. Then again, green was also the color of jealousy, something she certainly possessed when it came to her older sister.
“And you wonder, Sam, why I am going gray?” David shot back at his daughter. “Seventeen years of this.”
“Almost eighteen… in another month,” she corrected him, flipping her long brown locks out of her eyes.
“If you live that long…”
“Alright,” Susan attempted to cut through the awkwardness clearly hanging in the room. “I think we can sit down to dinner now…”
“Good idea,” Mike agreed and got up from the couch and nudged his youngest sister forward. “Let’s go, Sam…”
“So, John,” Susan Landon placed her fork down on her plate with a light clink and looked over at her daughter’s boyfriend. “Where did you go to school?”
“Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts,“ he replied before he took another forkful of pasta to his mouth.
“That’s nice,” she nodded. “What did you major in?”
“So you’re a gym rat like my daughter,” she mused, nonchalantly cutting at a piece of chicken on her plate.
Danielle dropped her knife and fork on the table with a loud, resonating thud and glared angrily at Susan, “Mom!”
It was no secret within the family that Susan Landon disapproved of her daughter’s time at the gym, sighting that a young woman should be worrying about other things. She didn’t mind her spending one or two days there, but the six days Danielle frequented the gym were too much for her liking.
“What time is it?” Justin’s voice broke through the tension in the room.
“It’s eight o’clock, sweetheart,” Rachel answered.
“Yay!” he exclaimed gleefully and ran towards the TV, clearly in view while in the family room.
“Sweetheart, what are you doing?” his mother asked confusedly.
“Turning on Smackdown!” he smiled brightly at her.
Danielle immediately gasped and subsequently swallowed some of her food whole. Her fork hit the plate with a loud clank and she began coughing in an attempt to catch some breaths of air.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen and on behalf of myself, Michael Cole, and my partner, Tazz, welcome to WWE Smackdown! Tonight, we are live from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a sold out crowd at the Wachovia Spectrum,” the voice of Smackdown announcer, Michael Cole, blared from the television screen.
“You still let him watch this?” Susan scowled in disapproval.
“Well, he sees his grandfather’s old tapes,” Rachel tried to explain, when Tazz’s voice cut in this time.
“Tonight is the night we’ve all been waiting for. JBL will take on WWE Champion John Cena in a rematch for the title… in a fifteen foot cage!”
Susan glanced at Danielle’s worried face and then at John.
“You’re doing what?!?”
John didn’t have the slightest notion of what to do. Her mother was clearly beyond a rational discussion and he was clearly the topic of interest.
He grabbed Justin and Mike to head outside for a football toss in an effort to drag himself out of the room.
Once outside, he completely lost all concentration. John knew that Danielle’s parents would have to find out sooner or later, but he never wanted it to happen this way. Susan would never be able to watch the gravity-defying acrobatics that Danielle would soon become known for on the rise.
Still lost in his thoughts, a hard hit to the stomach knocked him back into reality.
John looked at his feet and caught sight of the slightly dirt-speckled football.
“John!” Justin giggled. “You’re supposed to catch it!”
“Sorry, buddy,” he laughed. “I’ll concentrate this time,” he added half-heartedly, tossing him back the football.
But the truth was that John Cena could only concentrate on the yelling that was audible, even outside the house, beyond the front door.
“Yo, John,” Mike called to him, sending the pigskin his way. “It’s not your fault, man.”
“If it wasn’t for me…”
“She would be one lonely girl,” Mike finished for him. “Let me tell you something, John. She’s been so unhappy the past year and a half. She lost the love of her life to another woman and she missed out on tryouts a few years ago,” he treaded over the lush green grass and sat down in front of a tall birch tree, staring up at John. “Her heart’s not in school anymore… at all.”
“Don’t say that, Mike,” John shook his head sadly and settled in on another tree trunk beside him. “I feel like it’s my fault.”
Mike felt for the poor guy. The one girl he loved could never live a true existence and lies filled her reality. He had come into her life when she was on the rise, the most dangerous part of her existence. Danielle’s lies had finally caught up with her.
“Nah, man,” he assured him. “Her heart lies in wrestling… it was inevitable. More importantly, John, her heart lies with you.”
John bobbed his head up and down in understanding. Despite their volatile meeting, John Cena and Michael Landon had come to a common conclusion.
He slapped her brother on the shoulder in appreciation.
“No problem,” he answered honestly and smiled once again, catching the football his son had thrown at him.
The peace, however, was short lived as a rough door slam brought them back to their senses.
Danielle appeared in front of the door, steaming over the confrontation with her mother. She checked her pockets for her keys and the turned her gaze towards John.
“John! Let’s go,” she raged on, flipping him the keys. “Mike,” she approached her brother warily. “We’ve got to run, I’m sorry I can’t stay…”
“Danielle, I get it. It’s okay,” he hugged her tightly to his chest and then released her, “Go on… I’ll see you in OVW, alright?”
“Alright,” she obliged, “I’ll see you around.”
John unlocked the car from the ground and then chased after her to the Civic.
“Danielle…” he tried to soothe her anger, but she was too far gone. “Danielle, what happened?”
She whipped open the car door and stared at him over the roof of the car, “She knows, John. She knows.”
The pair slid into the car and John looked over at her, “What does she know?”
Danielle sighed heavily as she stared blankly out the windshield.