The Lily or the Sword

The adventures and misadventures of Jay Capistrano.

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The Lily or the Sword

Post by Capistrano » Sun Apr 12, 2015 11:41 pm

The gates opened and Jameak’s black nondescript town car pulled down the bumpy cobblestone drive towards the private home tucked away from the world in the heart of New Haven luxury. It was mostly obscured from the street by the leafy cover of grand old trees but as the car stopped at the rounded arch of the circular drive, the exterior of the home was revealed. It was large, particularly considering the fact that the man and woman who owned it had grown up in shoebox apartments in which one would not need to raise their voice to talk to someone in the opposite end. However, it was not the ostentatious show of wealth that one might expect, considering it was nouveau riche athletes.

The house was a rough hewn gray local stone with sharp white trim. Stately, elegant. Water twinkled merrily from the fountain in the center of the island created by the drive.

Unlike when he normally drove, Jameak had obeyed the speed limit going through New Haven, and he pulled the car to a smooth stop in the drive. No squealing tires, and he kept his music down to a level that didn't escape the sedan. Once he had parked, he hopped out of the vehicle, opened the back driver's side door to retrieve the crutches Jay had stacked back there, and then brought them passenger-side. Jay opened his own door, took the crutches with a small smile and murmured "thanks" for the half-orc. Jameak just grunted and shrugged his shoulders as he walked back over to the driver's side and leaned against the side of the vehicle. He watched carefully as Jay hobbled up the drive and approached the rounded front steps.

The crutches made it harder for him to get up and under the awning above the front door, leaving him grimacing and a little out of breath once he finally made it. He pressed the doorbell and resisted the urge to lean against the door while waiting to be let in.

He barely had time to ring the doorbell. Given that visitors at the gate had to be buzzed in through the intercom system it was typically no surprise when someone arrived at the front door. The door swung open and the nine year old little girl that was suddenly grinning up at Jay was a familiar face. "You are busted up!" Adie said, opening the door wider to invite him in.

Jay couldn't help but laugh at the spot-on description of his current condition. He would have held a fist out for Adie to bump, but his hands were wrapped tightly around the handles of his crutches. "I totally am. How've you been? I haven't seen you in a while."

"Good. Only 40 more days of school before summer. Ma said she's been working out with you in the mornings. I figured you'd come over for cookies eventually," Adie said sagely as she closed the door once Jay was inside. Arches transitioned one room to the next in the open floor plan. There were coffered ceilings, detailed mouldings, and more space than she knew what to do with. The hardwood floors had plenty of character, aged by both time and wear. Adie's bare feet padded against them as she slowly led Jay towards the kitchen.

"Then you gotta do summer school, right?" he asked, as he followed her into the kitchen. It was good-natured teasing, the likes of which he had rarely engaged in until he had joined the Crew. One learned how take a joke -- and hand out a good ribbing -- after spending some time with the Grazianos and the rest of the Crew. "I keep getting offered cookies everywhere I go and I'm gonna end up like your uncle." Jay would have rubbed his belly, if his hands were free.

Adie giggled girlishly as they entered the kitchen. It was the safest bet on where Maria might be in her home at any given moment. She loved cooking and had put the time and energy into the kitchen to make it her own. It was welcoming and lively with a neutral beige on the wall spliced with flashes of brilliant blues and teracotta. The rustic Tuscan feel made it feel warm and homey despite the elegant touches. And, because this was a house of small children, there was a clear view into the living room where Brooklyn was building block towers and Maria's youngest -- a handsome little boy of five months -- was asleep in a swing.

Cookies were laid out on cooling racks and Maria stepped away from the bowl she was washing in the sink. "Hey, Jay," she said warmly as she crossed to give him a one-armed squeeze. She'd heard about the injury but hadn't yet seen him since it.

"Yo." Jay took a moment to take in the family scene, his eyes darting from child to child but never lingering long. "Mind if I take a seat?" he asked, after Maria hugged him.

"Go for it," she replied, nodding to one of the bar stools before turning to Adie to motion her towards her younger sister. Jay would have just talked to her at the facility if the topic didn't need a degree of privacy. Once Adie was headed off into the other room, she moved to ease onto a bar stool. "What's up, Jay?"

He set the two crutches leaning against the counter, before gingerly pulling himself onto a stool. He tried to smooth out the wrinkles on the khakis he so rarely wore as a way to buy some time to ease into the conversation. He knew he couldn't just stall with pleasantries and small talk. However, he couldn't bear to strike right at the heart of the matter. "I have a problem. And not an injured leg problem, or the fact that I'm getting my ass kicked all across the Outback and Arena problem."

"You're already in much better shape than you came back in. Just keep at it. You'll work your way through it," she reassured on his second issue.

"After a couple of weeks," he said, tapping his right leg. "That's obviously not why I'm here, though." Jay breathed out a quiet sigh, looking up at the ceiling. "It's personal, and it's professional, and it's...complicated. You've seen my Tweeter account, right?"

"Yeah, I keep an eye on it," she replied with a steady nod.

"They're using it to put me out there as this...heart throb." They most likely meant David Ballard, one of the Crew's PR flacks. "Like, there's all these messages out there about keeping me single, talking about me as a 'bae', whatever that means...stuff where they talk about how happy they are that Sami and I aren't together anymore. And...please don't get me wrong. I owe you guys so much. I don't mind the signings or promo stuff. But I can't do that anymore." His shoulders rolled forward after he finally finished speaking.

"You know what Tical taught me? You are a brand. That's a hard concept. It's hard to figure out how to package yourself up and present yourself to the world but that's the job. That's how we secure our future and our kids' futures. You've got to decide on your packaging. You've got to decide your brand. I'm the heel. It's my thing. It's where I'm comfortable. You consult with the marketing team and put together something you're comfortable with. They work for you."

"It was just so easy starting out to go with that. I didn't have to really speak much, you know? And people didn't seem to mind it when I first joined, when they knew I was in a long-term relationship. But now that they think I'm not..." Jay tried to bury the lede, the admission he had come to Maria's house to make. He balled his hands into a fist, lifted them over his head, and spread out his fingers. "Boom. I spent almost two years away, no press, no nothing, and it's even bigger than before."

Now that they thought he wasn't.... She didn't miss the line and concern slid across her expression. "Jay, are you and Sami back together?"

"Yeah. About three weeks now." A smile crept across his face, as he finally admitted it. though it was beaten back quickly when he saw the look on Maria's face.

At first, when Jay and Sami broke up and Jay had started going to school, Maria had considered the break-up a good thing. Jay was finally following his dreams. But then he had slid away from them and she had started to wonder. That wonder was confirmed by the state he returned to them in. For as long as she knew Jay, Sami had been there. She drew in a breath, releasing it heavily. "Well, we'll fix this. It's not a big deal. The two of you have been together forever. Your target audience freaks over those sorts of love stories. We'll package it right. I know she's never much been for the spotlight and we'll keep her out of it. This is good. I'm happy for you."

He had begun to set his jaw, narrowing his eyes slightly in preparation for a determined defense of his relationship. Instead, Maria stood up for it. A quick breath escaped his lungs, and he glanced down at the tops of his hands. His left knee moved up and down involuntarily, until he forced it still, pressing a palm down onto his thigh. A moment later, he looked back up at her with his earlier smile back on his face, before he remembered the second part of his dilemma. The thornier part. Convincing the PR people to spin him a different way in the public's eye was never really a concern for him. This, however, would be much more difficult...

"It's gonna be a little more complicated than that. You remember how I was after we broke up..." It was half-question, half-statement. The grin was gone, and he began scratching at his knuckles.

There was a crash of blocks behind them but no one was crying so Maria kept her brown eyes steady on Jay. "Yeah," she said with a gentleness she usually only saved for her kids and Tical. "I remember."

"It was, like, a hundred times worse for her. I...can't go into details, really, but Stick sent her away. She got a job with, like, some mercenary group or private army or something. I guess it was real rough. But when she joined...she used my last name. Said it helped keep her going."

It took a couple moments of blinking at Jay before the whole weight of just how bad that was came crashing down on her. "Oh God, Jay. She's using your name? We're lucky that the press haven't already found out. They're going to find out and when they do they're going to ask you if you're married. If you say no, there's no way in hell they believe you. And if you say yes... I'm guessing there is a couple girls that can give interviews that could paint you out to be a total cheating asshole."

"More than a couple," he murmured, although the expression on his face stayed neutral. In his mind, those dalliances were past, unchangeable, and therefore not worth dwelling on. There was no reason to regret it because he could not alter what he had done. All he could do was learn and move forward. Still, those old one-night stands and abortive relationships made things awfully tricky at the moment... "You're the first person I've told that we're back together. Sami's only told one of her closest friends. That's it."

Her eyes lingered on him for a moment but this was over her head. It was totally over her head. And there was only one thing to do when she met up with a PR issue that was over her head. "I have a friend. Johanna Hayes. I'm going to get you in touch with her. The Crew will foot the bill but... she'll only take your case if you listen to her completely. Okay?"

Jay laughed, shaking his head slowly. "I don't really have a choice, do I? I'll do it."

"Now have a cookie and catch me up on what's going on among the titleholders in the Arena."
The future lies on some horizon
So many times I had to say farewell
I know it turns out fine, following the exit sign
At least that's what I tell myself
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Post by Samiyah Zayn » Mon Apr 13, 2015 7:25 am

The story of the Gilmyn Factory situated on the now fashionable Middlemass Drive was the story of New Haven itself. Mr. Gilmyn had built it to house his biscuit factory several centuries before. An amateur architect, he could not afford to build the factory of his dreams in the Old City so he had it built just north of the old walls in what was just starting to be called New Haven.

At the time it was far from an upscale address but, instead, considered too far from the city’s center to be a prime location for business. With the lower cost of real estate, Mr. Gilmyn’s architect, John Menier, was able to create a lovely piece of architecture that satisfied his client’s wishes. Taking up the length of the block, the three-story building of sandstone had a pair of twin 100 foot towers in its center that originally had served as a fire escape and water storage in the case of fire. But now, those towers like much of the building’s original charm, was only decorative.

Mr. Gilmyn’s grandsons had driven the business into the ground and the factory on Middlemass Drive had fallen into disrepair. A shoe factory and then a candy maker had tried to move in but they both quickly shut their doors soon after. It wasn’t until the city’s elite moved into New Haven building large, luxurious homes and renovating the brownstones that had held apartments into grand single family homes that buildings like the Gilmyn Factory were purchased by developers and repurposed for business space and residential lofts. The days that biscuits were made within those sandstone walls had long since passed. The building was now a fashionable address with the vogue distinction of being a restoration building rather than ‘post-boom’ construction built since the rise of New Haven over the last half century. The Gilmyn Factory was now portioned out and divided up between lawyers, financial planners, designers, event planners -- all the services that the wealthy could need. The spaces were modern with exposed brick and making good use of the grand arched windows that Mr. Gilmyn had insisted upon and which now sported views of the one of the most trendy blocks in the city.

Samiyah Zayn felt completely out of place sitting at a long conference table within one of those floors of converted office space that housed ‘Hayes and Associates’. She leaned in slightly to set her shoulder against Jay’s shoulder to remind herself he was there. A secretary had placed glasses of water in front of them in heavy glass tumblers but, as dry as her mouth felt, Sami couldn’t force herself to reach out for one of them.

The woman sitting across the conference table from them was the ‘Hayes’ behind the ‘Hayes and Associates’. Johanna Hayes had flawless sepia brown skin and was dressed in a crisp charcoal gray suit that probably cost what Sami made in a week. The Wrecking Crew was footing the bill for this one-on-one time with RhyDin’s most sought after ‘fixer’ but the thought of what that bill might be made Sam a little light-headed.

Johanna placed clasped hands over top of the folder she'd put together on the rather complicated relationship of Samiyah Zayn and Jay Capistrano. "So... congratulations. The two of you are now married... or at least as married as anyone ever is in this city."

Jay nudged Sami's shoulder softly, before allowing her to rest against it. His eyes dropped down towards the folder on the desk covered by Johanna's hands. Rather than worry about the contents too much, he picked up the glass of water that had been left for him and drank some. "Yeah..." It was all a little overwhelming for him, and his nostrils twitched at odd intervals as the Wolf tried to figure out what was going on.

With Sami stunned into silence and Jay seemingly accepting the statement, Johanna continued, "The story is that you got married in the spring of 2013. March 20th. Based on Jay's schedule at the time, the two of you were on a vacation in the Grewhar Mountains. You eloped and were married at the resort before spending the rest of your honeymoon snowed into a lovely little cabin. Neither of you has been a saint during your time apart so we will acknowledge that there was a break-up in the fall of 2013. Rough spots happen. But you never divorced. You never could bring yourself to finalizing it. Sami comes around on your second wedding anniversary and the chemistry is undeniable once again. Think you can hold to the story?"

Jay allowed himself a quiet chuckle and a soft shake of his head. So much of the public story of their relationship was a fabrication -- what was one more lie on top of that? "I think I got it. Sami?"

They had dreamed that whole winter two years ago of clean, pristine snow. Finally, she had begged Jay to clear his schedule before they missed their chance for the year. A travel agent friend of Myria’s had suggested the resort. There had been no television, no internet, no phone service and, yet, it had been the best vacation of her life. Jay dropping her name tore her from the memory. "Yeah," she murmured. "Yeah, I've got it."

"Good," Johanna replied as she reached into the folder to pull out a catalog from a New Haven jeweler. "Wedding bands. Pick them out. We're paying the jeweler handsomely to say that they were purchased two years ago. And then we need to discuss the legal documents. The Crew is suggesting a pre-nup backdated. I think it's a good idea to--"

It was the pictures of wedding bands pushed across the table at them that made Sami hear her heart pounding in her ears. "Wait. Wait, wait, wait. There has to be some other way. This can't be the only way. I made the decision. I don't want Jay to have to go through this."

"If I say I'm not married, they're not gonna believe me, and they're gonna wonder what I'm hiding. But if there isn't a good story, people are going to go to R.A.S.C. and start asking around. And there's a couple of skeletons in the closet there." Jay jerked a thumb in Johanna's direction, echoing what Maria had told him earlier. "We have to do exactly what she says, or we don't do any of it. And I don't think that's an option."

"You do have two options, Jay. I can spin this either way you want," Johanna replied to him evenly before letting her eyes slide back over to Sami. “You’re a priestess, right?”

Sami nodded warily and uneasily at the mention. “I’m a Maraharan priestess.”

“So do you know the concept of the lily and the sword?”

It was the sort of spiritual cluelessness that wasn’t all that uncommon in RhyDin. So many people lumped the faithful in a big heaping bag, assuming that one faith was just like any other. Sami’s expression twisted but she nodded. “It’s a Christian theory but, yeah, I’m--”

Johanna explained it for Jay’s benefit, her brown eyes dancing between the couple in front of her. “Jesus is sitting on his throne and on one side is the sword and on the other side is the lily. The lily represents new life, resurrection, hope. The sword represents God’s almighty hand descending to level His destructive might. Jesus offers you either the sword or the lily.”

“In this case, I am Jesus. I am offering you the lily. The lily is marriage to Jay. You get to be Samiyah Capistrano just like you have been for the last two years. You two can walk down the street holding hands. Girls will pretend to be you. You will be offered the best designer dresses and be on his arm at all the best events, acting as a friendly buffer to cover for the fact that small talk is not Jay’s strong suit. Every once in a while Jay will get asked in fluff interviews about his fairytale romance to the girl he’s been dating for practically forever.”

“The sword…? We bury Sami,” Johanna said merciless, eyes landed firmly on Jay as she gave him the option. “We write her off as a lovesick desperate girl who you dumped a year and a half ago and she cannot get over the heartache. There is no longer a romantic relationship and there hasn’t been one in over a year. She stole your name without your knowledge because she has it wrapped up in her head that there is something more there than there actually is.”

And Sami hated being in the spotlight. The press would chew her up and spit her out. She felt mildly nauseous but she knew if she were Jay’s manager, if she were doing what was truly best for him, she would suggest that he take the second option. He should take the sword. It was far closer to the truth. It was exactly what she deserved for breaking up with him, for screwing up both their lives, for stealing his name. She couldn’t even look Jay’s way.

Johanna let the choice hang in the air before she asked her question of Jay. “The sword or the lily, Jay?”
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Post by Capistrano » Tue Apr 14, 2015 10:08 pm

The following press release was issued on April 14th, 2015 by Wrecking Crew Enterprises

Fans, I have a confession to make. I haven't been honest with you the past few weeks about the nature of the relationship between myself and Samiyah Zayn. On Tweeter, during public appearances, and in my dealings with the press, I have said or suggested that the two of us were no longer together, and had not been together for some time. I have also kept things secret that I should not have, and I am sorry if I have mislead you in any way.

Shortly after I came to RhyDin, in the spring of 2008, I met Sami. I was sitting in Radical Ray's coffee shop in the Old Market, a short time after I'd lost my Madness duel. Even though I had headphones on, and even though I was reading a magazine, she plopped herself down in the seat across from me, covered the pages with her hands, and waited for me to remove my earbuds. When I finally did, she asked me for my autograph. She was the first person who ever did. I remember signing the back of her receipt, because it was the only piece of paper she had with her, with a pen she had to borrow from a barista. She folded it up, placed it in her pocket, and began to walk away. I called her back to my table, asked for the receipt back again. I remember watching my hand shake as I wrote my phone number underneath my signature. I still don't know how she could read it.

We were soon inseparable, even when the world tried to separate us. Harris and Stick didn't like me much, this new, young, tattooed and blue-haired duelist climbing up the ranks. I had difficulties with debtors, got spirited away from RhyDin by the Nexus for much longer than I'd intended. Sami moved to Icecrest for work and training. None of it mattered. We called when we could, wrote letters when we couldn't, and when she finally returned to the city, and when I finally settled in as a Wrecking Crew duelist, everything seemed to have fallen into place.

We had been together just under five years when we decided to take a trip to the Grewhar Mountains, late in the spring of 2013. The snow season was almost over, and Sami had wanted to squeeze the trip in before it was too late. On our way to the cabin, we passed by the local justice of the peace's office. We saw it, and we knew what we had to do. On March 20, 2013, Samiyah Zayn and I were married. We spent the rest of the week snowed in our cabin.

Young love is powerful, but it is also combustible. And marriage isn't a cure-all for underlying issues in a relationship. When you're young, sometimes you don't know how to handle all the things that crop up in life. Work schedules, financial burdens, living arrangements, family planning? A ring doesn't just magically solve those problems. Sometimes, it makes them worse.

We separated in the fall of 2013. She took a job out of the city. I began attending classes at the RhyDin Arts and Sciences College. For a year and a half, we didn't see each other. We each dated other people, moved on with our lives. Yet we could never bring ourselves to finalize things, put pen to paper and officially divorce.

A few weeks ago, on our second wedding anniversary, I found out why. Sami had heard I had returned to dueling and rejoined the Crew, and went to visit me in the Annex. You know how they say lightning never strikes twice in the same place? Wrong. I could feel myself shaking, just the same as the day we first met.

We reconciled, but I decided not to make the knowledge public at first. It was wrong for me to do this, to deceive you all in this way. The Crew and I made the mistake of putting the image we had spent years developing ahead of honesty and the feelings of my wife. I hope you will forgive me for this. I also hope that you will continue to cheer for me and support me as much as before.

I'll see you in the rings.

Jay Capistrano
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