Story:The Upper Hand
The Upper Hand
Written by Shataivian
The break started early for Las Vegas. After their win in Montana everyone was joyfully ready to go their separate ways to enjoy the five days off. Some went home, others stayed to practice. Lisa, on the other hand, had nothing planned. It would have been spent lovingly with Damario, but after she overheard him talking with her father there was nothing in her mind to keep her from feeling unsure about him. Despite Damario’s explanations, despite his pleas, Lisa ended things with him that night, and Damario, unwilling to start a fight, respected her wish and the two had not spoken since then.
Lisa took an extra precaution after the breakup and moved in with her teammate, Crosby Sutters. The last time she told someone to stay out of her life, they continued to show up at her door. And that was with someone who lived over a thousand miles away. With Damario living right there in town, Lisa was not willing to take any chances. She grabbed some basic belongings, some books for school, and her cat, Bella, and left home if only for a while.
Crosby had proven to be a good trustworthy friend, but she knew she was infringing on his space. Eventually she would have to move out and find a more permanent place to stay, be it her old apartment or someplace new. But for now, it was time to kick back and catch a breath. She would need her strength in the coming days.
Crosby had left to work out and Lisa continued to laze about in her bed for a bit longer. It was still early in the day but later than what Lisa was used to while still being in bed. She laid face-first, melted into her mattress while Bella curled into a ball on her back. Her left arm dangled off the edge of the bed, holding her phone. She scrolled through different social media sites to see what was new within the last ten minutes from when she last checked. Nothing registered. The same videos, the same pictures, the same tweets would scroll by each time, but none of it stayed in her mind. It was the motion of scrolling, or really, doing anything, that kept her checking her phone. She wasn’t expecting anything. She wasn’t talking to anyone. The minutes ticked by with nothing to fill them with.
And then a chime.
A notification? A text? From whom? Damario.
“I need to speak to you. Please meet me at Ancient Grounds.”
No “hi?” No “I’m sorry?” No “I miss you?” A request. More than that, a demand. Damario knew what he was doing. He didn’t ask. He didn’t give her a chance to answer no. It was up to her to listen or not. It was good to see a text from him, but she expected something more loving, more heartfelt. Something warmer than this. Was this important? It had to be. Why else would he message her like that? Was it a trap? A trick? Was he still working for her father? What could he possibly want? Lisa continued to go through every possibility, none of them positive. Too many questions to find an answer for. There was one way she could figure out what he wanted.
Hair softly curled, slightly baggy grey shirt, freshly pressed holy jeans, large oat-colored scarf with fringes, and a brown beaded bracelet completed her meticulously coiffed look. So much effort for a meet up she didn’t know the purpose of. She added some finishing touches with a pair of sunglasses and a handbag perfectly hanging off her forearm.
Getting ready came easy. Leaving took some effort. But she finally got herself out and headed towards the coffee shop. The shop had large windows, so circling the building would be pointless. She had to walk straight in. Damario wasn’t hard to spot. He sat in the back on the couch against the far-right wall, sipping his drink. When he looked up to check for her, he nodded at her, signaling for her to come over. But Damario wasn’t the first person she saw. Who she wasn’t expecting to see sitting in the armchair situated perpendicular to the couch was Jason. Her father, she would have believed that. But Jason? Why was he here?
Jason was the one to get up and greet Lisa with a hug. The clamoring and chatter made it easy to “forget” to hug Damario. Damario let it go. He wasn’t expecting any kind of warmth from her. Once the two settled and Lisa took her seat, the meeting would start.
“I got in contact with Jason a couple of weeks ago,” Damario began. “It was about something David said to me. I thought he might have been lying about manipulating things between you and Jason, but it actually wouldn’t make sense if he hadn’t. Jason’s a doctor, right? So, how could he make such a simple mistake as confusing blood types and who’d be related to who?”
“Basically, after Damario called me I did some research,” Jason continued. “And he was right. All of it: the test results, the lawsuit. It was all faked. I’m not Cynthia’s father, Sharice’s lawyer was an actor, and yours was some hack who hasn’t even been successful in a single case.” Lisa shrugged. Why would any of this matter to her? “Your dad was behind it all.”
“I’m sorry?” This was certainly some information Lisa hadn’t known before, but what was she going to do with it? Why did the three of them need to meet up?
“Your dad wanted to get me out of the picture because I was on to him. Remember when I came here last year after that whole thing with your neck? You kicked us out because we were bickering. That’s when I told him I knew he was hiding things from you and claimed that he had cheated on his wife with that woman you were named after, and that she was your actual mother. He never actually said I was right or wrong. He just reiterated my question and threw it back at me. And then the next day, right after I decided to be with you, right after I told him that he’d be seeing more of me, things went downhill.”
“Yeah, ‘cause he called you out on things that were true,” Lisa reminded Jason. He shook his head.
“No. He made me doubt. He made you doubt. I was going through a rough time. I wanted to give my wife the benefit of the doubt and he played off of that.”
“And what, now you think you two can come tell me it’s all my dad’s fault and I’d feel better about being with one of you,” Lisa supposed.
“I want you to trust me again,” Damario spoke up. “I don’t want to fight. I just want things to go back to the way they were.”
“Listen,” Jason butted in. “You remember that day, right? Do you remember what changed your mind? How you came to change it?” Was this a trick question? This whole fight between Jason and Lisa was because of how unsure he was. Of course, she knew. But she stayed quiet and let him answer. “You ‘overheard’ us talking,” Jason said with air quotes. “And how did you learn that David was paying Damario? Again, you ‘overheard’ them talking.” Lisa soften her posture. “And the last person you dated. Jake? The son of the woman David was so in love with? Who suggested you two get together?” Lisa shifted her gaze and started adding everything up. “And when you broke up with him, how quick did David try to get you involved with his brother?”
“I didn’t realize just how bad it was until I spoke with Jason about this,” Damario said softly. “It’s more than just keeping secrets from you; David’s got a huge hold on you.”
“And I spoke to Eric. He told me he opened up a new lounge here in Vegas.”
“Well, not him. My dad owns the lounge,” Lisa clarified.
“Exactly! Your dad opened a lounge right here in Vegas. Where you live. Lisa, it’s a power move,” Jason said in a soft but concerned voice. “And the next guy you end up with will either get screwed or be cherry-picked for you.” Lisa twirled her hair in thought. “Lisa, I’m worried about you.”
“Thanks, but I can take care of myself.”
“But you don’t have to,” Damario said, finally making physical contact with Lisa by taking a hold of her hands. “I’m on your side. I’ve always been on your side. You can trust me.”
“And what if that’s what my dad told you to say,” Lisa asked, pulling her hands back. “How do I trust the guy my manipulative father trusted?”
“He fired me! I didn’t live up to his manipulative expectations and then he screwed me over. He knows how to play off your doubt and he pitted it against us. Love, I wanted nothing to do with his plans.”
“You took money from him,” Lisa said with a shaky voice.
“Out of spite. I kept turning him down but when he persisted, I figured he didn’t deserve to get his money back. Love. Please?” All the while Damario pleaded with Lisa, Jason was rolling his eyes. He held his arm out to separate the two and stop the conversation.
“We’re not here for ourselves,” Jason reminded Damario. “This is about Lisa. David screwed all three of us, but Lisa’s the most in danger here. He’s up to something and I don’t want him hurting her anymore. Isn’t that your goal, too?” Damario sat back in affirmation.
“I don’t know how I can trust either of you.”
“Okay. I don’t know about ‘Goliath,’ but you know me. Out of everyone, I’m one of the only people you chose to get to know on your own. Your dad didn’t choose me or anything like that. And we’ve known each other for over five years now. This past year has been rough, and you’ve really gotten see me at my worst, but you know me. I’m not here to fight for you. I’m here to fight with you.” Jason knew he got through to her when she wrapped her arms around his torso. “We need to figure out what he’s up to. We need to be the one in control this time. And I think I have a way to get the upper hand. But it’s going to have to involve you getting back on good terms with him, Lisa.”
“No,” Lisa shouted almost immediately. “I don’t… I can’t… I won’t.”
“Lisa, you can do this. Right now, the only thing he thinks he’s done wrong is keep secrets from you. It might actually be easier than you think to get him to believe you’ve forgiven him.” But when Lisa appeared to collapse into herself and shook her head, Damario and Jason both leaned in to try and understand Lisa’s apprehension. “Lisa?”
After Lisa’s talk with Crosby the night she fought with her father, her view on the situation has been shifting. She’s gone from being completely angry with him to being afraid of him. She hadn’t realized how much things had changed for her, but the mere thought of interacting with her father terrified her.
“I can’t. I can’t be near him. I can’t get hurt again.”
“I know David’s a dick, but you know what they say, keep your enemies close and all,” Jason tried to joke.
“No… I can’t let him put his hands on me again. I can’t…” Her breath trailed off.
The boys shouted “what” in unison and both rose to their feet.
“Put his hands on you,” Jason repeated.
“Lisa, did he hit you,” Damario asked. Lisa slowly nodded. “What?! I had no idea! Why didn’t you tell me?” Jason held his arm out again to stop Damario from making this about him. They remained quiet to give Lisa the chance to speak when she was ready.
“My… My dad’s been rough with me before. Like, when he’s mad, he’ll force me to look at him, or grab my arm to stop me from walking away. Sometimes he’ll throw me to the ground to get me to listen. But I’m used to it. I… made fun of him about cheating on his wife and he backhanded me… I honestly thought nothing of it. Even when he… Even when he…” As Lisa tried to form the next sentence, the words in her head sounded so absurd to her that she had to fight with everything she had to keep from crying. “Even when he grabbed me by my collar and lifted me up and threatened me… I don’t know. It was just another fight with him. But after talking with one of my teammates… And now saying that all out loud… I just can’t. I can’t go near him.”
As Lisa collapsed further into herself, Jason and Damario stood straight and exchanged angered glances. The anger wasn’t towards each other, but for a mutual fiery desire to put David in his place. Jason sat down beside Lisa and tried to softly comfort her.
“Listen,” Jason began. “We need to figure out his weakness. Gain the upper hand. Get your agent to get whatever information they can get on him and then… Get him to Seattle.”
“Planning to keep him for yourself,” Damario snarked.
“Hardly,” Jason said with a smirk. “But if anyone needs to get a good hit or two in, It’s Lisa. But first thing’s first. We need some information on him. Something he doesn’t want us or anyone else to know. Something that’ll hurt him.” When Jason looked back down at Lisa, she was sitting firmly in her seat.
“Lisa is there any chance he can move out here,” Damario asked.
“No. I don’t think so. It’s really expensive to live here and there’s no way he can afford it,” Lisa answered quietly, trying to regain her composure. “Plus, he still needs to get a bunch of repairs done on our apartment in New York. He can’t afford the fines if he doesn’t.”
“Doesn’t he own a chain of lounges? And he can’t afford to fix up an apartment to avoid the fines,” Jason asked. The thought had never crossed Lisa’s mind. She thought of her apartment back home. She thought of the rickety floors, and the closet that had never been fixed. She thought of the shoddy intercom that would sometimes stop working for no reason. She thought of the oven that had to be manually lit with a burning paper towel and constantly checked to make sure it was still on. She thought of the cabinets that were missing doors and the faucet that would leak from the base of it if you just looked at it funny. She thought of the mismatch furniture and the one table that only had two out of the four legs and two nails sticking out of the wall to help keep it from falling. This was her childhood home, and it has always been this way. How does a man wealthy enough to start and own multiple lounges live this way? Even Eric has a decent house in Seattle and he’s only the assistant manager of one lounge. It never crossed her mind, but none of this added up. Maybe this would be a great place to start. Either way, it was time for Lisa to hold all the cards.