7th of February – Season 3
Penny Potgieter stared at the mirror with tears welling in her eyes. The doctors had only recently taken her bandages off, having told her, thankfully, that she would not be losing her eyesight. Of course, she'd figured this out a week ago when she'd taken the bandages off prematurely so that she could watch a travesty unfold before her burnt eyes on last week's episode of Monday Night Fuel.
Penny had been forced to watch the show go on without her as Moodswing had announced a gauntlet race for the feature race of the Valentine's Day pay-per-view now called 'Love 'n War' (a slight change from the advertised 'Love and War'). Penny knew in her heart that she should have been in that race. Penny's thoughts were interrupted when a nurse came into her room. The nurse was young and quite attractive. She was also curious and chatty and most importantly, a fan of Formula-X.
"I see someone's up," said Sister Masuku. "I usually come in here and have to wake you up for supper."
"It's Monday night, Sister," said Penny getting back in bed. "There's no way I was going to miss Fuel. But I'm sure you knew that already."
She smiled. "Yes, I did. So what's the latest? Every night, I've come in here and seen you on social media. The Formulary, you once called it?"
Penny nodded, but refrained from spilling the tea. "I'll tell you what, Sister. You tell me yours and I'll tell you mine." The Sister gave Penny a confused look. "Don't look at me like that. These walls are thin, Sister. When the TV's off, I can everything that happens in the next room. I hear you flirting with the guy in there."
"Well, actually it's him who flirts with me. But it's not what you think." Penny's accusing look forced her to explain. "I'm not interested in him. That's another sister." Silence.
"And?" More silence. "Is there a hospital romance going on here that I don't know about?"
"Oh, you have no idea." Sister Masuku went on to surrender all the drama and Penny realized that the Fuel Speedway wasn't the only 'high school playground'. The Sister explained that there was barely anyone working in the hospital that hasn't slept with someone at the hospital. She explained the power struggle between the doctors to become Head of Department and how other doctors treat their healed patients as notches on their belts in achieving their own professional goals.
"Wow. And I thought Formula-X was a soap opera."
"I'd say they're on the same level except over here, there's a lot more romance. A lot of drama is catalysed between the sheets. I don't think you can say the same for Formula-X."
She had a point. "Still, that doesn't stop Moodswing from trying. That's the entire point of Love 'n War. I've already read so many articles about who's taking whom to the Valentine's Day Costume Party."
"Oh, do tell."
Now it was Penny's turn. She told the sister about Touch Mkhize taking Plain Jane Deyi which made sense following their kiss back in December. She told the sister about the spell-casters – Blackcat Mathunzi and Fiona – going together albeit platonically. Then there was what was being called the 'Koeksister Love Pact' where text messages between the three Koeks were posted where it had them joking about who could go the furthest with the dates at the dance This had earned a yelp from the Sister since she already knew that they were Catholic. She then told her about the rumor about Savana and her mysterious plus one. The nurse picked up on the venom in Penny's mouth when she said Savana's name.
"Sounds like there's tension between you two. Care to share?"
"She stole something that belonged to me. They all did. Her, Devì and Brenda Koek. They stole from me and now I'm ugly." Penny began to cry but the nurse consoled her.
"You're not ugly and you know what else? They didn't take anything from you that you can't take back." These words lit up Penny's eyes. The nurse continued. "Now, I'm not the doctor but I genuinely believe that you will be able to race again and show all those girls why they called you the 'Face of the Women's Dynasty'.
LATER THAT NIGHT
Sister Masuku decided to stay with Penny as they watched Monday Night Fuel while she ate. Despite preferring to be in the action, Penny found herself entertained from the word go as the episode opened with a good old-fashioned PPV title race press conference. Except that it was anything but ordinary with four women up on the stage, each trying to talk over the other save for the Queen who was only watching her challengers squabble. Each claimed that they would be the one to break the gauntlet which had now been named: Gauntlet V: Queen's Gambit.
Penny was surprised when soon after the press conference, her phone buzzed with a Formulary notification with a post from Devì mid-show. It was a video which showed Devì in the paddock. "So, Queen Stevie, you think that we're a joke, do you? You think that what's about to happen at Love 'n War is a joke? Well, it's not. You should understand what's about to happen. In six days, you're going to lose your Crown. I'm going to break the gauntlet and I'm going to take back what's mine."
Sister Masuku turned to Penny having seen the video too. "Yessus man. Is everyone that aggressive?" Penny affirmed with a simple raise of her eyebrows which had proved to be a mistake as they were still sore. "Well, they should learn to make love, not war."
"Like your collegues?" said Penny, now gingerly massaging her eyebrows.
The nurse laughed. "Nice one. Now, let me go see if I can get you anything for your wounds. We might have to bandage them again."
Penny was secretly glad that the nurse had left because it gave Penny a chance to be alone. As she watched the show go on with useless squabbling over the results of the Scramble Race and relay races that tied into the Valentine's Day theme, Penny thought about the nurse's words about one day returning. If she was going to do that, then she would have to remain relevent. Fortunately, Miss Honeycomb and Captain Khumalo had help kick-start her mission by kicking off last week's episode with a grim-feeling recap of the events of the Scramble Race. They made it feel like a real tragedy. Penny had given them her blessing to talk about the event but Moodswing, in typical fashion, had marketed the segment online and in the newsletters by calling it: The Night Penny Got Burned.
Well, this time, she was going to shape the narrative and she was going to do it right in the middle of the show. Believing she was the only one with the balls to interrupt the whole show to do it, Penny video-called Sherry Detwiler, a resident F-X reporter who was notorious for chasing scandals. Sherry answered by asking all the inane questions about how she was feeling but Penny let her know exactly why she was calling. Sherry didn't waste time getting the attention of the production team and acquiring immediate airtime on the show.
Penny had planned to show her face, scarred up and all in the long-distance video interview but at the last second, switched off her bedside table, shrouding most of her face in shadow. Sherry officially opened the interview by announcing it as breaking news. Sherry's first question was about why Penny wanted the interview. "After what happened, I can imagine that a lot of people are worried; others are scared and I just want them to know that I'm alright."
Sherry went on to recap the accident and asked if she held Formula-X responsible.
"No, Sherry. I don't hold F-X responsible. In fact, Moodswing even came by and offered to have Formula-X pay for all my medical bills. But mostly, I'm just thankful that I wasn't more hurt." When Sherry asked about the extent of her injuries, Penny explained but made sure not to show them. "The burned area is in the immediate area around my eyes. Doctor said I was fortunate not to lose my eyes." Sherry asked about the safety factor and whether others should be worried. "I got burned because my visor cracked. Otherwise, my helmet would have protected me the way it protected the rest of my head."
Sherry eventually graduated from Penny's injuries to her career. "Do you see yourself ever getting back in a Formula-X racecar?"
There was a long pause before Penny answered. "At the moment, I’m not thinking about racing. To be honest, I’m just waiting for someone to give me a mirror," she joked. "But if there's any answer to your question, it's this: I’m disfigured, not disabled." The interview wrapped up soon after that. Penny was happy to see that it had been broadcast just before the feature race. In fact, it had the forced the main event of the night to be delayed by a few minutes.
Excellent, thought Penny. If I can still affect the feature race, then I'm still relevent. It was only sweeter that the feature race that she'd interfered with was a return race between Solo Magubane and Thawn Oberhauser: the biggest names in the series. By the time Sister Masuku returned, she was surprised to find Penny in better spirits.
"Must be a good race if it put a smile on your face. Who are you rooting for?"
Penny decided not to correct the nurse's assumption. "Well I always had a thing for rooting for the bad guy," she said suggesting her money was on 'The Impaler'. Unfortunately, the man also known as 'The Box Office' would go on to win and show his arrogance in the Winner's Circle, making Penny seem morally bankrupt for rooting for him.
"This just goes to show that it always should have been me against Stevie at The Scramble. If it had been, then I would be King right now." A question about Gaunlet V only triggered him more. "I really couldn't care less. It’s a farce because it doesn’t have me. But they can go ahead and have their gauntlet race. Me, I’ll be right here, dominating Monday nights like I’ve been doing all season.”
"Wow, you were rooting for that guy?"
Penny managed to avoid the question by taking notice of what the nurse was doing. Since re-entering the room, Sister Masuku had been treating some bandages, preparing them for dressing. "What are those for?"
"Well, the doctor recommends that we wrap these around your scars again. We won't have to wrap your whole head this time, just around your eyes."
"That bad, huh?"
"Actually, it isn't as bad as all that. For one thing, you'll be able to see right through the bandages so it's not like you'll be blind until they come off. They're also easy to dress so you should manage to do it yourself."
"Myself? What does that mean?"
"It means tomorrow, you'll be free to go. You'll need to come in every week but otherwise, you don't have to stay in this bed anymore. It's like I was saying before, your injuries are not going to be the end of you."
Penny suddenly felt hope. While she knew that this didn't mean that she'd been cleared, it was a sign of hope. Of course, this sign only meant hope for her physical wound. She had yet to find out how much damage had been done to her psychologically. She'd have to find out fast because if she didn't, then racers like Savana would pick up the slack and become the face of her Dynasty.