I've become tired of stories of simpering females being rescued by manly hunks, so this is my variation on that theme. I know there are different federations out there, I just lumped them all together and called them MMA. Enjoy the story.
He rolled his eyes and wrinkled his nose. He was in a gym, more specifically a gym dedicated to training fighters, with the smell of stale sweat, blood, and other things he wasn't too keen on discovering.
They were everywhere, punching bags, lifting weights, jumping rope, and sparring. The place resonated with grunts, squeals, and curses, along with trainers yelling instructions. He stood just inside the door, allowing his eyes to adjust to the semi darkness. A man of late middle age approached him, with a look of boredom on his face.
"Another pretty boy in a suit", he thought, taking the guy in, "banker, lawyer, somebody trying to make money off the sweat of the fighters". Still they were a necessary evil, and he tolerated them if they could make their lives better.
"Looking for somebody?"
Mark looked at the guy, fiftyish, iron grey hair, sharp brown eyes, not aggressive but not friendly. He acted as if he wanted him there as badly as he didn't want to be. He fished out a card.
"Mark Stewart, Stewart Financial Systems. I'm here to see a" he paused, looking at some papers,
"Miss Bettina Burke."
"Betty Bang Bang? What for?"
"I've been asked by her manager to help her set up a financial plan. Seems there may be big money in her future and he wants to make sure she keeps it."
The man thawed visibly.
"Great. I'll tell Manny you're here. Come on in, look around, I'll get him."
He did look around. Not surprisingly, half the fighters were women, the gym was getting a reputation for producing some of the top ranked women MMA fighters in the Southeast. He didn't follow the sport, but admired their fitness and determined attitudes, prima donnas didn't last long here.
Manny Torres was short, thick, with a rugged face and a nose that had been broken at least once. A former welter weight boxer, he had risen to number four in the world, losing title matches twice. He made decent money, but managed to waste it all. Not overly educated, he was intelligent enough to go with his stengths. He had a keen and analytic eye, could tell if a fighter had talent, and even more importantly, if they had heart.
He had managed and trained a few boxers, all good but none were ever able to make it to the top. His reputation was well earned, if a fighter broke training or got caught doing something illegal, he was within contractual rights to drop them. He did several times, usually after exhausting all other options. He had gotten more than one fighter help, whether he trained them or not.
He started managing women in the MMA world by accident, helping train and managing a younger sister of a friend and former boxer. She had heart but not a lot of talent. He got her several matches, carefully chosen opponents with the same skill level. He knew better than anyone you could destroy a fighters will and future by overmatching them.
She won three out of four and was getting plenty of notice. Deciding she had outgrown Manny, she signed with another manager, one in it just for the money. Manny gave her some advice she didn't take before she left. Her new manager was anxious to get her name out even more, and booked a fight with the number six ranked woman in her weight class. He never told her, but he knew she couldn't win, but he thought it would be great exposure.
The woman destroyed her, breaking her nose, then grappling her to the floor into a submission hold. The girl wouldn't yield, and the other fighter, who had a bit of a sadistic streak, broke her arm. It was legal, it happened occasionally, but it was frowned upon. She never recovered, losing three more bouts before retiring.
Manny came over, looking at the guy like he did everyone, analyzing him as a fighter.
Tall, slender, he would bet money he was more muscled than he looked in that suit. Moved good, too, admiring the way he wove through the boxers, dodging suddenly as a novice got tangled in her jump rope, even catching the girl before she hit the floor. Great reflexes. Yeah, he could definitely train this guy.
Manny liked his grip, strong without being overpowering, the shake of a man confident in his own abilities.
"Come into the office, Mr. Stewart, let me explain what I need."
They went into a surprisingly neat but cluttered office. Posters adorned the walls, mostly of fighters in the gym. He pointed to one.
A tall blond in fighting attire, holding her fist up and glowering. The logo read: Bettina "Betty Bang Bang" Burke. He wondered what she looked like when she smiled.
"That's her. She's got a lot of talent, will probably make it to the top, if I can get her to control her temper. We're working on that. She's got a bout coming up with the number eight fighter. I think she'll win."
"What's her rank?"
"Right now, she's unranked. If she wins, she'll probably get ranked. Ten, maybe even nine. She's done really well in her regional fights."
"Seven and two. Two on points, three by knockout, two by submission."
"What about the two she lost?"
"The first loss was her very first fight, and nerves knocked her off her game plan. The second she should have won, but she got mad and lost her concentration. Why the questions about her fighting ability?"
"You're asking me to assist her in managing her money. I invest a lot of time in my clients, that's why I charge more. I'm very successful at what I do, so I can pick and choose. Most of the people I work with already have wealth, they want me to grow it. With her, I'm starting from ground zero. I want to know if I'm wasting my time."
"Then why are you here if you think it might be a waste of time?"
"Once upon a time there was a businessman who worked in New York City. There was also a cop who worked there. On September 11 one year, something bad happened. This particular cop saved that particular businessman, carrying him down four flights of stairs to safety. The cop was named Burke, the businessman was named Stewart. The cop had three sons and a daughter named Bettina. The businessman had a son and a daughter. The son's name was Mark. The Stewart family owes the Burke family, Mr. Torres, more than money. Even if she sucks, I'm going to do the best I can for her."
Manny was stunned. Then Mark smiled.
"Of course, it would be better for everybody if she was really talented and makes a boatload of money. Can I talk to her now?"
She came in the office five minutes later, glowering. Still in exercise gear, sweating heavily from sparring. Plus, she lost her concentration when the guy in the suit walked by, and her sparring partner gave her a good shot to the mouth. She could already feel it swelling.
"What a prissy looking man" she thought, taking in the crisp suit and highly polished shoes. Damn, not a hair out of place.
"Miss Burke, I'm Mark Stewart."
She stuck her sweaty hand into his, enjoying the slight frown as he withdrew. She bet it took everything in his power not to whip out a hanky and wipe his hand off.
"Call me Betty. What are you gonna do to make my life better?"
"My purpose is to advise you how to grow your money. I assume you have a career plan after your fighting days are over. It's my job to make sure you're financially secure to pursue it."
"What's in it for you?"
He seemed surprised at the question.
"Why, money of course. I charge for my services."
"I hear you charge more than most. Why?"
She's smarter than she looks, he thought, actually did a little home work.
"Because you get just me. Let me explain. Say you go with one of the big houses. They'll probably do a good job for you. They'll assign you a financial manager. He'll be handling you and countless others. He won't have time to watch over you personally, most likely dump your money in some mutual fund plans, maybe a few bonds as a security blanket. The norm is five funds. Every fund has a manager, and that manager gets his fee whether he makes you money or not. Your manager gets his fee. At the end of the quarter, if you make money, great. If you don't, your manager and every fund manager he has you in still gets their fees."
"I don't do that. No mutual funds. I'll investigate a stock and determine its' viability before I suggest you invest. And I don't make decisions for you. I give you the facts and let you make your own decisions. If I think you're about to do something foolish, I advise against it, but the ultimate decision is yours."
"And don't get me wrong. I'm not a one man show. I have a partner and several assistants who do research for me, but ultimately I make the decisions to recommend something to the client. If it flops, the blame is mine."
He paused, grinning.
"Of course, if it takes off and you make a bundle, I take all the credit."
"This was just a meet and greet, Miss Burke, to see if we can work together. If you want to establish a relationship with my company, call and set up an appointment. The receptionist will tell you what to bring for the first consultation.
Good luck to you, Miss Burke, I hope your career is a successful one. Here's my card."
He rose to leave. As he was leaving, he looked over his shoulder.
"Oh, and to prove I do my homework, watch your next opponent's left leg. It not as weak as she leads everyone to think."
Manny and Betty watched him go.
"Is what he said true?"
"About the money or your next fight?"
Manny was smiling. It was the first time he had ever seen a man come close to impressing her.
"The money side, yes, he's supposed to be one of the best. On Cindy, I don't know, but you can bet I'll be checking."
Cindy Smith, the 'Memphis Temptress", her next opponent, was reported to have a very weak left leg. All the fight films they had reviewed seemed to confirm this.
The night of the fight she was a bundle of nerves. It happened every time, she knew she would settle down as soon as the bell rung.
She had trained hard and was in the best physical condition of her life, one hundred forty pounds of pure muscle. She reviewed tapes of her opponent endlessly, gathered all the information she could about her in and out of the ring. It had gotten to the point where she could just about say with certainty what she would have for breakfast every morning.
Manny made her review her own fights, pointing out weaknesses and lecturing her about her temper.
"Bang Bang, if you can't think, you can't fight. And when you get pissed, you stop thinking."
They were the last on the undercard before the main event. She heard the announcer call her name, and she came in bouncing, trying to stay loose. Waiting in the ring for them to announce her opponent, the higher ranked always came in last, she looked across the crowd, and saw him.
Mark Stewart, dressed immaculately, of course. Seated beside him was one of the most beautiful women she had ever seen. Her whole body screamed "Class!" at the top of it's lungs. They made a very attractive couple.
The Memphis Temptress strutted in. Damn, every thing was a production for her, but she had to admit, she brought the crowd to its feet.
They got their instructions, tapped gloves, and retired to their corners.
The first round was spent feeling each other out, looking for weaknesses. The crowd booed, wanting action. The second round was a little more heated as they both pressed for advantage.
Betty had a black belt in Judo, was an excellent boxer, thanks to Manny, and was very flexible, thanks to her gymnast background.
Cindy was more of a grappler, with Brazilian martial arts and wrestling in her background. She even spent time studying sumo wrestling.
They pitted style against style, Betty dancing in and out delivering kicks and blows, while Cindy tried to gain advantage by pushing her against the fence in an attempt to take her down. Betty got in a couple good head and body shots, but Cindy shook them off and succeeded in wrestling her down once. It was a close call, she almost got a submission hold. Betty barely wriggled out.
They were even going in to round four, then Betty got a couple of good head shots in, splitting a lip and hitting her left eye enough to cause swelling. Cindy knew by experience it would be black in the morning.
Then Cindy surprised Betty and the crowd by doing a sweep with her left leg. She would have had her then but the bell saved her.
Manny talked to her while the corner crew checked her out.
"You two are dead even so far. This is the last round so it's now or never. Time to get down and dirty. Stop trying to stay out of her reach. Tap a few times and then go in on her. She won't expect it, get her down and make her submit. Everybody knows you don't like to win by submission. Make it work for you, girl."
Betty danced out and started jabbing. Cindy had gone mostly flat footed, barreling straight ahead, trying to reduce ring space. The right hook seemed to come out of nowhere and she went tumbling, but was on her feet before Cindy could press the advantage.
Cindy rushed in, determined to end it. Something in her eyes made Betty think 'left leg', and sure enough, she saw the sweep coming. Instead of backing up she did a complete front flip over the leg, landing right in front of her as she came round. She never saw the straight right to her nose coming, and was on her ass and had her arm locked into a submission hold before she could clear the cobwebs from her brain. She had no choice, she pounded the canvas and acknowledged submission to the referee.
The crowd was on their feet cheering. It was a brilliant finish to a mediocre performance.
Betty came to the center of the ring, hugged her opponent, and let the announcer raise her hand in victory.
She was surprised when Manny brought Mark Stewart into her dressing room. The woman wasn't with him.
He offered her hand.
"Well fought, Miss Burke."
She shook it.
"Thank you, Mr. Steward. Thanks for the scouting report. How did you know?"
"I watched her in the gym, reviewed her fights.
I do this with all my clients. How they perform in their professions determine how well they'll be able to invest. Now, a word of advice."
"Be gracious, smile a lot when you do your interview. Give credit to your trainer and manager. Praise your opponent for a good fight, thank the referee for a good job."
"Why would I do that?"
"Because it's good business. I've seen a few of your interviews, when you win you come off arrogant, when you lose you come off sulky.
That doesn't endear you to the fans, and a good fan base is an asset. It'll also make the interviewers spend a little more time with you, and exposure is exposure."
"Well, good night. I have someone waiting. Again, congratulations."
"Going home with little miss rich bitch,"she thought, "I bet they don't even sweat when they fuck."
The next Wednesday found Betty and Manny sitting in the offices of Stewart Financial, holding the requested papers.
They were shown into a large office and Mark came in right behind them. He shook hands.
"Thanks for coming. Again, congratulations. What do you have lined up next?"
"We have a tentative bout scheduled in four months time, we want to make sure we're ready. She's ranked nine now, looks like it'll be against the number seven contender."
Manny said this with a great deal of satisfaction.
"Is number seven any good?"
Betty spoke up with a little pride.
"Anybody that's ranked is good."
"Really? How good are you, Miss Bang Bang? And where did that nick name come from?"
Betty blushed a bit.
"I had older brothers, so we played a lot of cowboys and Indians, dad would limit out TV and game time. I had the only two shooter in the universe when I was about five. All I ever said was 'bang bang' when I pretended to shoot, so that was the nickname my brothers gave me."
"Then when I got into MMA, every time I practiced a two punch combo, I would yell BANG BANG, to build up lung capacity. Manny heard me, and all fighters have nicknames, so he stuck me with it."
"Good story. You should tell it in interviews. Still didn't answer my question, Miss Burke. Are you good?"
She held his gaze.
"Yeah, I'm good. Really good. I could be champion. Not now, but soon."
"Good, show me your paperwork, please."
He looked over her folder. Making a note here or there.
He sat back and regarded them for a moment.
"Miss Burke, truth here, you've $25,000 earned from fighting. The sad fact is, most women MMA fighters, even the top ranked, make between a half to two thirds less than their male counterparts. Not fair, just a fact. Realistically, if you become champion in your weight class, and manage to hold onto it for two or three years, you MIGHT make a million two to a million five. Good money, and if you retire by thirty, which most do, you might make another million. Good money, but not enough to last for the rest of your life."
It seemed like a lot for Betty, raised on the disability and retirement pension of a cop. But she saw the wisdom in his words.
"What do I need to do?"
"First, we need to look at a manager for you. Not for fighting, Manny here is well qualified for that, but a personal manager, someone who can get you branded with a shoe or sports apparel manufacturer, get you live appearances, TV spots, calenders, that sort of thing. There's good money there, and you don't have to get hit to make it."
He took in her jeans and sweatshirt.
"Miss Burke, do you ever smile? Do you own a dress?"
She was offended, her face getting red.
"Yes, I smile, with my friends or when something amuses me. I own a few, but have little occasion to wear them. And I am NOT taking my clothes off for a calender."
He held up his hands in a placating gesture.
"I said nothing about removing your clothes, in fact I advise against it, it would probably affect you adversely. I was talking about something like this."
He pulled out a Women Of The MMA calendar.
"I admit some of the ladies are a bit risque, but none of them are nude. As for the dresses, when you start getting close to the top, you stop being a person and start being a commodity. In fact, when it reaches that point, you probably need to incorporate. That's in the future.
But the point I'm trying to make, Miss Burke, is the commodity is you, and any good ad man will tell you, attractive packaging is half the product."
"That's it. I'm not going to invest this money right now, you need to make a few upgrades. Don't think of it as spending money, more as investing in the future. If you're interested, there are some standard forms for you with the receptionist.
Have your lawyer look them over, it just outlines what is expected by both parties when it comes to your money."
He rose to shake their hands, the consultation over.
"How do you know all this stuff?" asked Betty.
"Research, Miss Burke, never underestimate research. If your schedule is clear, there is someone I'd like you to spend some time with. Mr. Torres, I'll make sure she gets home, if she agrees."
She nodded uncertainly, Manny hugged her and left.
Mark excused himself and left, bringing back the woman she had seen at the fight.
"Miss Burke, this is Ms Johnson."
She stood and shook, and to her surprise Ms Johnson asked her to remain standing as she circled her slowly. She turned to Mark.
"Good, Miss Burke, Ms Johnson will escort you home. Have a pleasant evening."
"Come with me, please."
She led her out of the building and into a waiting cab. They rode for about twenty minutes before they stopped outside an upscale shopping center.
"Miss Burke, are you willing to listen to Mark and follow his advice?"
"I guess so. What are we doing here?"
She smiled, it turned her into a whole different person.
"Packaging the commodity. Come on, lots to do.
You are free for the rest of the day, aren't you?"
They were taking a week off before resuming training, so she had time.
The walked into a large department store, and went to the cosmetic department. Ms Johnson asked her to call her Alice, saying she hoped they could be friends.
"What are we doing here, Alice?"
"New paint" said Alice cryptically.
For the next forty minutes her face was made up, washed off, and done over until the consultant and Alice agreed it was as close to perfect as they could get. Betty wasn't allowed to look until they were done, and was stunned at the woman staring back from the mirror. She was ... pretty ... no. She was more than pretty.
The woman packaged the purchases, and Betty was shocked at the price. She looked at Alice.
"Investment, Betty. Mark said you could afford it."
She paid the lady. Instead of leaving, they went into the dress department. Another hour with a consultant, she had the perfect dress for showcasing her athletic body. Tight but not clingy, allowing her muscles to ripple seductively underneath.
Alice said it was perfect and then laughed. She left for just a second, coming back with a satin thong.
"You need this. Turn around and you'll see why."
Betty turned and look over her shoulder. You could practically read the brand name on her full cut panties. It ruined the look completely.
She blushed when she took the thong, she had little experience with anything but 'functional', and said so to Alice.
"Honey, for dresses like this, it is functional underwear. Besides, you've got the tightest butt I've ever seen. That bottom was made to be displayed."
Betty blushed furiously and the salesgirl giggled.
Alice insisted she keep the dress on.
The next stop was for shoes. Again, Betty had little need for high heels, but Alice bullied her into a pair of two inch heels, telling her as soon as she got used to them they would go up an inch.
Next was the hairdresser.
"I'm not cutting my hair!"
Alice calmed her.
"I wouldn't think of it. This is just a trim, maybe put a highlight or two in. You have beautiful hair, you just need to showcase it."
They took down her trademark french braid. It was even longer than Alice first thought, hanging down to the middle of her back. The hairdresser was practically drooling. Alice laughed.
"Be careful dear, the girl is a professional fighter, wouldn't do to make her angry."
Soon the whole shop was clustered around her, asking questions. She had to promise a poster to them.
Alice immediately started working the owner.
"You know, Betty wasn't satisfied with her last salon. I brought her here because I trust you, but the ultimate decision is hers. She's going places, most likely in another year or two she'll be champion. It would be a feather in your cap if she stayed with you."
Before she knew what was happening, Betty was getting a manicure and pedicure, on the house.
Shrewdly, Alice promised a picture of her after the trim, poster size, to be placed beside the fight poster, in exchange for full salon care for the next six months. Betty shook hands with the owner, and entered into her first endorsement contract.
Betty couldn't believe the creation she had become. Men and women alike turned heads, and Alice assured her it would be commonplace.
Alice insisted in treating her to dinner for putting up with her, and they went into the nicest restaurant she had ever seen.
The meal was delicious, but she was nervous.
"What's wrong, Betty?"
"I feel like everybody is staring at me."
Alice gave her assurances.
"Well, I'd like to think some of the looks are for me, but it's not your imagination. Not to be arrogant, but we're the hottest women in here, we're going to get looks. They know me, but everyone is trying to figure out who you are.
Heiress, lawyer, businesswoman? They can't place you, and it's got them wondering. Let's have some fun, come on!"
They left the restaurant and adjourned to the bar. Almost immediately, they were surrounded by men, buying drinks, making conversation, jockeying for attention. Betty didn't drink, so Alice got her a mineral water with a twist of lemon, and a white wine, making sure the bartender knew that was all they were drinking.
Inexperienced with the flirting and the innuendo, Betty said little, letting Alice deflect the advances.
One man was particularly aggressive, making Betty uncomfortable. Alice finally put a stop to it.
"Ben, do you what field Betty is in? I thought not. She's a professional fighter, ranked number nine in the world. I'd be a little more polite if I were you."
Ben looked at her, trying to imagine her as a fighter, before laughing.
"This baby doll, no way! I don't know much about fighting, but I'd be glad to teach you about horizontal wrestling. I'm sure I could show you a thing or two."
Betty hopped off the stool, angry, fists balled.
Ben had more alcohol than sense in him.
"You gonna make me, little girl?"
Betty was just about to swing when a hand enclosed hers.
"There you are girls. I thought I missed you."
Mark held her hand as tightly as possible, then shocked her when he kissed her cheek.
The look he gave Ben was cold.
"Ben, I think you owe this lady an apology. Now."
Ben immediately apologized, saying it was just a joke, he meant no harm. Betty thought he looked scared.
"Betty, accept his apology."
For some reason her anger was gone, and her cheek seemed to tingle where he kissed it.
Mark smiled, his white teeth seemed to glow.
"Well, now that that's settled, let's grab a table."
When they settled at the table Mark immediately launched into a lecture.
"Save the fighting for the ring, Betty. How you behave in public has a direct impact on your image."
"I could have taken him! I had it handled."
"Think about it, Betty" Mark said impatiently, "do you really want to read about how a trained fighter kicked the ass of a harmless drunk in a bar? Plus the lawsuits, you could be broke before you make any money. Temper, Betty, temper."
Her good feeling was gone. Damn, he treated her like a child.
Alice saw her frown and jumped in.
"Don't get angry, hon, remember, we're here to look out for your best interests. We've GOT to get you a manager."
"Why can't you do it?"
Betty said, looking at Alice.
Alice looked stricken for just a second, before Mark jumped in.
"Yes, Ms Johnson, I think that's an excellent idea. Please consider it."
He turned to Betty.
"Before she made a career change and moved here, she was a top publicist in California. Still has a contact or two, no doubt."
He turned to Alice.
"Please consider it. I can do without you in the office for a little while. It might be fun."
Alice considered it.
"All right, but there will be rules. You listen to me completely. Don't question my decisions, at least until you catch on to what I do. I won't need to spend much time with you right now, that will come later as you become more into the public eye. And I insist on a two year contract, it will take me that long to make you, understand?"
Her voice had gone all business, the friendly tone gone.
Betty said meekly "Yes ma'am."
"Good. Now, I have to get home. Clear tomorrow afternoon, I'll text you when and where to meet. Mark, will you escort Betty home? All right, kisses."
She air kissed them and strode off.
Mark smiled at Betty.
"You don't know what you're in for. That's the most focused woman I've ever seen. She can be downright brutal when she needs to be. You're in for a wild ride. Now, shall we?"
The ride to her home was quiet. It was on the lower end of middle class. She still lived at home. She said nothing as they parked.
"Goodnight, Miss Burke."
"Mark, would you walk me to the door? My dad is old fashioned, if he thought you just dumped me out it would change how he views you. He's not too keen on letting someone else get hold of my money as it is."
His smile was downright warm.
"Your father sounds like a good man. I'd like to meet him. I apologize, I should walk you to the door, my mind was elsewhere for just a second. Shall we?"
He opened the door and escorted her to her house. She held out her hand to shake.He took both her hands in his, reached down and gave her a light kiss on the cheek.
"Good night, Miss Burke. I hope you sleep well."
He turned to walk away, before stopping to look back.
"I almost forgot. You look stunning, Miss Burke, quite stunning indeed."
He drove away smiling, and Betty realized she was still stroking the cheek he kissed her on five minutes later.
Her dad was in the living room when she walked in.
"Who was that? Why didn't he come ... WOW!"
He had just noticed her makeover.
"John, Harry, get in here and look at this!"
Just great she thought, two of her brothers were here. She had three, all married, none far from home.
They came in a rush, thinking something was wrong.
Harry froze, and John ran into him.
"Harry, what the hell, you made me spill my beer.
What's the problem?"
He managed to get around Harry and beheld Betty.
"WHAT THE FUCK! Who is this hot woman, and what did she do with our little tomboy sister? Damn girl, you look HOT!"
Betty was blushing furiously under the inspection.
Her dad came over and gave her a hug.
"Don't get embarrassed, we just noticed our baby is a full grown woman for the first time, and as John said, you definitely look 'hot'."
They praised her look, calming her down, until John took a picture and sent it to Terry, her oldest brother. He showed it to his wife, she sent it to the other two wives, and in forty minutes they were all in the living room, admiring her.
"What happened? How did it happen?" the wives all clamored.
"Well, I met a man and..."
That was as far as she got before the men in the room went into protective mood.
"Who is he? Did he talk you into this? What does he do, is he a good man, how long have you known him."
She started out wrong again.
"I've only met him twice, he seems a good man, for someone who wants to make money off me. He..."
That was as far as she got before her dad went into cop mode.
"Define making money off you, and it better be good."
She had finally had enough.
"Damn it, Daddy! He's the guy you sent me to for money advice, Mark Stewart, remember? I'm dressed this way because he got me a publicist, and she's trying to polish my image. We had a dinner meeting, all three of us, and he was courteous enough to escort me home. Any more questions?"
Terry's teen age daughter had tagged along to see the new look, Betty was kind of her hero. At the name, she had hit her grandfather's computer, googling him. She spoke up.
"I got one. Is he as good looking in person as he is in his photographs?"
Betty got bright red as the family gathered around the screen to look for themselves.
There were oohs and ahhs from the women, a few "You go, girl!" and other comments that kept her glowing.
Jane, Johns' wife stood back, smirking.
"He's pretty. But as good as he looks, you know what would look better on him than that suit?
Of course everyone fell for it, wanting to know.
That was the last straw, Betty fled to her room.
The girls came in and soothed her, praising her look. They did admit he was handsome, and Betty should make the most of her time with him. Her dad came in after everyone left.
"Jane's right, baby, to a point. You would look damn good on his arm, the women would hate you, and the men would hate him."
"Don't worry about the rest. They were just teasing you. Everyone went on about how beautiful you were. I always knew the swan was in there somewhere. Is this the beginning of the end? Are you growing up, leaving your poor old dad in the dust?"
Her hand grasped his. "No! Daddy, I would never leave...
He shushed her.
"Yes you will baby, it's the way of life. You'll find someone, maybe like this guy, and you'll be gone, making your own life. I don't begrudge it, actually I'm looking forward to it. I could use a fresh set of grandkids, and a little privacy. It won't mean you or I love each other any less, and I know your mom would be proud."
Her eyes misted, thinking of her mom. She had passed when Betty was eleven, of cancer. She was her baby and only girl, so she was closer to her than her brothers. The whole family took it hard. That was one of the reasons they had moved South, to get away from the memories.
She said goodnight, and strangely, the last face in her mind before she drifted off was Mark Stewart.
She woke in a good mood the next day and did four miles, no need to get too far out of shape before beginning training in earnest.
Alice sent her a text, telling her to come to her office. The meeting consisted mostly of lectures about her need to maintain a clean, proper image, how to detect and avoid gold diggers and users, people who like to hang on the coat tails of successful people. She also set up etiquette lessons so not to embarrass her in upper class company. Image, Image, Image, was burned into her head.
She helped her pick out two more dresses, some nice casual clothes, two bikinis, and arranged a
photo shoot. Then she had a website designed to showcase her and posted a bio, schedule of fights, and photos of her in and out of the ring.
Between training and lessons she kept extremely busy. She saw Mark occasionally, and he was always pleasant. Once he took her to lunch, but disappointed her by talking money and about her career. She did manage to get a peck on the lips.
It made the gossip section of the paper the next day.
The logo read: "Nationally ranked fighter beating notorious bachelor and financier into submission? Ninth ranked and up and coming MMA fighter Bettina "Bang Bang' Burke was spotted with financial wizard Mark Stewart at lunch in Cafe Wa."
Alice called her.
"Did you see it?"
"The paper, you and Mark are in it. Free publicity is priceless."
Betty was suddenly suspicious.
"Did you set this up?"
"Of course sweetie, that's what you pay me for, remember."
"Did Mark know?"
She heard her laugh.
"Of course not. He's already called and chewed me out. It'll do him good, maybe now the gold diggers will stop chasing him. Did you know he's ranked the fifth most eligible bachelor in town?
Gotta go. Good luck Saturday. Mark and I will be in the front row."
It was a sold out venue. The top billing was two males, lightweights, for a vacant belt. Her fight was scheduled two bouts before, the highest ranking woman present.
Alice was there with a bag, waiting in the dressing room. She had talked Candy, her new hairdresser, into being there, just in case.
She gave her a few words of encouragement before going back to her seat.
She and Mark were ringside, right behind her corner. She had managed to get a bunch of under priviliged kids free tickets, and had them wearing
"BANG BANG, THE BEAST AND THE BEAUTY, ROLLED IN TO ONE" T shirts, with a picture of Betty on the front in her ring wear and holding up her fists, and a picture of her in her prettiest dress on the back. They were screaming her name when she entered the ring. She waved to them as she bounced around.
Her opponent, number seven in the world, entered with an entourage and her own theme music.
Manny had her work extra hard on her hand and kick speed, and had her working with a former fighter with jui jitsu experience, to improve her submission techniques. The woman was heavier and taller, increasing her endurance.
It was a slaughter. The other woman had badly underestimated Betty and didn't have the same commitment to her training regimen.
Betty knocked her down twice the first round, the second round was even, the third she almost got her to submit but she was saved by the bell.
The fourth round, knowing she was losing on points, she threw her fight plan to the winds and came straight at her, hitting mostly empty air as Betty wove and bobbed. She over committed, and Betty hit her with a straight front kick to the midsection. She bounced off the fence, wind knocked out of her, hands down, and Betty knocked her out with a left uppercut. She was counted out as the crowd screamed.
She retired to her corner, came out and let the announcer hold her up in victory, hugged her opponent, and left the ring.
Alice was beside her as she left the ring, shoving a marker in her hand. She shook hands, received pats on the back. The kids appeared in front of her in the shirts, and she signed every one of them.
When she got back to the dressing room she hugged Manny as he twirled her around.
"Good job, baby, good job. Now, I'm going to get out of the way, you have to get ready for your interview."
Candy and Alice swarmed her, shoving a BANG BANG t shirt on her and working her hair into a swirl of curl and highlights. The dryer felt like a blast furnace on her sweaty hair. They didn't try makeup. Just a swipe of muted lipstick, and they were out the door.
Alice watched the interview closely. Manny sat at her left, and she started out by thanking him, saying she was his creation, and kissing his cheek. Manny turned bright red and stuttered. They ate it up.
Then she thanked her opponent for a good fight, acting like it was much closer than it was, hugging her again.
The woman returned the favor by honestly saying
she kicked her ass, then promising to be a lot more careful the next time. The crowd ate it up, watching and listening on the big screen while the main event was being set up.