A metallic ring softly gurgled on the opposite end of the phone line.

*Click*

"You have reached Steve Jason's phone. Sorry I'm not availible to take your call. Please leave your name, number and a brief message, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks."

*BEEP*

"..........................."

I couldn't find the words.

*Click*

"Shit."

I had hung up the phone deliberately, but tried making it seem like an accident to an empty room I sat in. I picked back up the reciever.

*Riiiiiiiiiiiiiing.........Riiiiiiiiiiiiiing.....*

*Click*

"You have reached Steve Jason's phone. Sorry I'm not availible to take your call. Please leave your name, number and a brief message, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks."

*BEEP*

".....................Stephen..... I doubt you are clueless as to whom is speaking.... I have had my eye on you, and you don't seem to grasp what I talked to you about previously........."

I heard my stomach rumble, the sign of sickness tearing apart my gut. I never felt well confronting Steve Jason.... mostly because of the previous mental state he had witnessed me in several times. It was embarrassing. Plus my throwing myself at him - then his mocking me about it. It was never easy breaking down for a man... and his mocking me sent my world behind a steel door, never to be opened again.

"...........I don't want to fight with you. I don't know where things went wrong. The me you knew before.. really wasn't me. And I'd like to start over. If you want to talk, reach me at 555-3867."

I hung up. My stomach ceased. I swallowed hard, pressing my fingers to my throbbing temples.

"You okay, momma?"

I turned my head to see Gabriel had padded her little feet upstairs, clutching her severed and dismembered barbie in her arms. She smiled a little at me, as I opened my arms, welcoming her.

"Come, darling."

Gabriel galloped to me, plopping onto my lap. I held her tightly, the fragrant shampoo smell of lillies and gardenia eminating from her freshly-washed hair. She wore a big t-shirt that had belonged to Cassanova, over her undergarments. Her smooth leg brushed against my arm as I held her, sending goosebumps down my spine. She was so fragile, yet so deadly. She was my little girl. Her giant eyes blinked at me, a question swelling behind them.

"What is it, love?"

Gabriel turned away, and shook her head.

"Nothing."

She sighed deeply, my instincts correct that something was bothering her.

"Baby?..... Tell mommy."

"...*SIGH*... Does daddy hate me?"

My eyebrow raised. She hadn't mentioned 'Daddy' since the negative encounter. But I had expected it, raising the answer wasn't going to be too hard of a brainbuster.

"You don't have a daddy, dear. We don't need men in our lives. Don't you think? I mean.. you like being with mommy, right?"

I looked at her. She quickly looked to me smiling.

"Oh, I love being with you, mommy. I jsut thought that tall man was my daddy. Because you said.... "

".. I said nothing of the sort. He is not your father. Not compatible with our wonderous lifestyle. We are so much better without a daddy, are we not?"

She nodded.

"We are."

"Good, then. No more crazy notions of fathers and happy families. They don't exist, you hear? Only in movies."

She nodded again. A small silence rose between us, before she quickly turned to me.

"HEY! Guess what!?"

My eyes lit up as bright as hers, her news an entrancing gift from her precious lips.

"I heard a Lapra was coming to town. I heard there is singing and dancing. You dress really pretty and watch people on a stage. Can we go? Can we?"

I smiled, shaking my head. Her mouth turned downward, her heart broken, thinking I had rejected her proposal.

"It is an 'Opera', darling. And of course we can go."

"YAY!"

She kissed me hard on the cheek, running off to her bedroom. I smiled as I watche her pitter away, her tired eyes ready for the night's rest. She was so precious to me. She was the apple of my eye. Not only had she been the best apprentice I had ever had.. but she was the only thing keeping my attatched to the mortal wrapper of my life.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

"Right here, miss."

The usher lead us to the right stage balcony, where Gabriel, Veronica and I had purchased seats for the Opera. Gabriel was in a deep purple gown, fitted with a large purple bow on top of her frizzy curls. Veronica wore a skimpy golden peice that looked like it had gone through a paper shredder, followed by a lawn mower. I admired her, though. Even though her outfit was extremely forbidden, catching the eyes of many distinguished people of the Operahouse, I was amazed that she actually found how to get in it. Knowing half the people I know, take for instance Clio Masters....couldn't find their way through an open door. I wore a single black piece, the wrapped around my body like a glove. Of course a bit of clevage poked from the dress.. maybe I'd find that daddy for Gabriel.... I chuckled to myself with that thought. My hair was finally long enough to french roll, little curls bobbing about my cheeks. I carried a Gucci purse at my side, a large black sash tied around my waist. We approached the edge of the balcony, taking our seats.

"What's that, momma?"

"Shhh.. lower your voice, darling."

Gabriel's outstretched fingers pointed to a pit in front of the stage. I knew what it was, as I smiled and handex her goggles. Gabriel fidgited with them, flipping them back and forth, back and forth. I smiled, putting the magifying goggles in the correct position. Gabriel gripped the lenses tightly, poking her little eyes into the eyepiece.

"Is that the band?"

"Yes, Gabby. Now please sit down."

Gabriel sat, sighing. I found her curiosity adorable, her contstant probing for information key to a successful life.

"When are they gonna start?"

"Momentarily. Have some patience."

Gabriel sighed once again, as I looked to Veronica. She wrung her hands, obviously under a bit of distress. She shifted in her seat, then looked nervously to me.

"What!?"

"You're distraught."

"I've never been to one of these before."

"I have. It is nothing to be so worked up about."

"But....."

"But what?"

"It is really high up.. and.... I... I.."

"You're afraid of heights?"

"Sorta and...and... I .. what the hell is an Opera anyhow?"

I laughed to myself, looking back to the stage. I leaned to her, whispering in her ear as the lights dimmed.

"The Opera has been around for centuries. Stories told through music... usually in Latin or French. It is truely beautiful. Some experience very different mood swings when seeing an Opera. Some fall instantly in love... the music intertwining with the mind and spirit of their everyday life. And some never attatch to it... the serenity never a part of their soul...."

The music started, Gabriel hopping straight up in her seat. It startled her, no doubt, as she clapped one hand to her chest in panic. She smiled though, and at that instant I knew she would be one who would love the Opera. I was unsure of Veronica, though. She was a tough cookie to chew on. But I had a good feeling about her.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

~~............" Calling Stephen probably was a bad idea. I can't get through to anyone anymore. It is sad to see that people who seemed so intelligent are just as smart as... Mungbean. Hell... that duck girl Nicole has an IQ at MAX of about 3..... and that qualifies her as one of the smartest people on the entire XWF roster. Of course... at the very BOTTOM of that list. I can't believe Steve and I are enemies. I have no idea why. He still corresponds me with Cyren. I haven't been around Cyren in about a week, and before that I had little to do with him. Cyren runs his own things. And in fact, I am very upset over the killing of Achroma. That was entirely out of line. Yet my objections are waived aside to make way for hate. People are naive. Jem Williams I doubt gave a damn I'm still alive. In fact.. I bet he was upset. It goes to show what kind of friends you really have. I'm glad Gibson choked me into submission. Perhaps it was one of the best things for me.

Steve Sayors has called me? Jesus. I thought I turned my cellphone off. At least it is on silent. He has called me non-stop since I got here. Well christ, he can just march up to Steve Jason for an interview. Apparently, Steve has more things to say about my return than I do.

Andrew Gibson had been a lot of talk, accusing me of cheating him out of his World Title belt. He deserved it. He deserves to lose everything he has. To be terrified, pissing his pants. I bet I could shove Clio Masters in front of him buck naked. That ought to traumatize him enough to drive him into an insane ward. But you know? I shouldn't bad mouth those whores.. I mean.. girls... I think they are girls. .... they are going up against Gibson after all. Finally turning their back on the bastard.. it was the smartest thing they have done their whole lives. Now the other thing they could do is leave the XWF.. or hell the United States forever so I never have to see their nasty asses again. Maybe that way I won't have to go to jail for causing the deaths of the two bitches who probably have no idea what the square route of 9 is.

I don't know anymore. I can't even keep focused. I'm SUPPOSED to be watching this Opera."...........~~

-=-=-=-=-==-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-==-

Gabriel's glittering eyes watched as Se' Landrea Du'Marc touched Derik Lar'Palm's face, her heartbroken song of pain whistling through the lips that circled in a perfect 'o'. It was the perfect Opera, "Le' muider Du'Marc se' amore', an Datrea' " (The Princess Du'Marc's Love Story) dated back in the time of prodominent French Monarchy. Se' Landrea had fallen for Derik all too late, close to her arranged wedding with the Prince of Spain. She was to leave that night, the night Derik had planned to propose. It was truely touching, and I was suprised to see Gabriel had understood it all. Expecially since it was all in French. I caught a glimpse of Veronica's eyes, the tears swelling above her saturated bottom eyelid. Her bottom lip trembled gently, as the music rose, Se' Landrea running off into the night, regretting ever ignoring his face at the market. That if she ahd known her love for him sooner, she would have stopped the arrangements before they were made.

They both loved the Opera. Which was beautiful. And I knew that they were both at peace. I knew that I could count on them both for comfort, and back-up. It would only be about 6 more years before Gabriel would be grown and tough. Maybe even sooner if puberty starts sooner for her.

I looked back to the stage finally, as the curtain fell, and the lights began to rise. I was upset with myself for not becoming more focused. Operas were not cheap. Neither were balcony seats. And the entire duration of the Opera I had bitched in my mind about people who didn't even matter to me. Well.. Steve Jason mattered. He had saved my life, and I had saved his. But I couldn't get over all of it. And it pissed me off that I had missed the entire Opera because of it. And it wasn't just that which pissed me off.... it meant that I couldn't find the peace to forget my troubles, and be one with the serenity of it all.

"You liked the Opera, mommy?"

"I love the Opera, dear, Did YOU like the Opera?"

Gabriel nodded, prancing away in her beautiful gown, tip-toe-ing down the stairs. She knew she looked elegant. Veronica was lost in her own thoughts.. her first Opera showing most likely the only one she would ever have. She was tender at heart, but a bitch at will. I didn't ask her a thing, I thought silence would be better at the time.

I still couldn't believe that I hadn't found peace in the Opera. That the XWF had become that big of an issue in my life. And from here on out, I will make sure it isn't the bggest impact in my life. The XWF isn't that important. Just like the belt shouldn't be so important to Steve Jason and Jem. OR Andrew Gibson for that matter. Just like outcasting ways and over-the-top whoring around shoudln't be the focus in the bulk of the Women's Division. Just like how Cyren should drop the trauma and try to live as 'normal'. It isn't too hard. Life is how you make it.

And finally, with that thought I found some peace.

That I hold a big chunk of clay in my hands, ready to make my life. And unsuprisingly, no one pays attention to grab that clay. So now, I am the only one with the clay of life while everyone else has ... Play-doh. I can bend the will of karma.... they can make... little creatures and hair on squeezy puppets?....