March 25, 2022
Craig looks into the refrigerator, foreign to him simply because it is not his refrigerator. Instead, tonight he is in his daughter’s house and looking for lemon juice. As his eyes scan the refrigerator, he hears a sizzle to his left and looks over to see he needs to flip the chicken breast cooking. He leaves the door open as he moves over and flips the chicken before checking on another pot, this one full of boiling water and noodles, taking a ladle and ensuring the noodles get soft enough.
After settling everything down on the stove, he moves back to the refrigerator, pulls out a half-empty bottle of apple juice, and finds a small yellow plastic container he is looking for. He grabs it and places the juice back in the refrigerator before closing the door and puts a splash of lemon juice in a plastic measuring cup. He leaves the cup where it is, his eyes shifting over slightly to see it is a few minutes after nine o’clock, and looks behind him to see the moon, but no car approaching.
The words from Brian about Rose gnawed away at Craig for weeks and as the days grow closer and closer, to the day of her mother’s passing, a worrying thought had bloomed into moments of anxiety and depression. Knowing she is at a bar, heading home soon enough, and not expecting her father to be there is enough to put a pause to his plan, to discuss this issue with his daughter on this particular evening. A topic they’ve never delved into for a multitude of reasons.
Craig sighs as he opens a drawer and moves a few items around, looking for a utensil, but not finding what he is needing. He opens a second drawer but fails to find what he is looking for there as well. He finally opens the third drawer and begins to look through it only to find a pendant sitting in the front of the drawer. He grabs it, places it in the palm of his hand, and studies it for some time.
He remembers the day his wife sketched out this pendant, Rose was merely a thought, a conversation. She wanted to find something that Rose could look at and remember her mother no matter what. Rebecca didn’t know what was coming down the path, but she knew there would be tough times for her daughter as she grew older when she would be faced with insurmountable odds and crushing burdens, that she was never alone in her battles.
Craig wonders to himself how it got to this drawer, why Rose didn’t carry it with her anymore. As he looks at the pendant, he sees the clasp seems to be broken and proceeds to place it in his pocket. He remembers the day still that brought upon the purchase of the pendant, a day he hadn’t thought about in quite some time.
* * *
November 19, 1996
‘How you liking the name so far?’
Craig’s eyes slowly fluttered open and he looked over at his fiancee, a smile on her face. Covers covered their nearly-naked bodies inside of the motel room they shared. Her brown hair rested comfortably on her shoulders and her hazel eyes seemed to be full of life that he could never quite understand, yet intrigued him enough to try. His right arm folds behind the back of his head as he looks over at her.
‘I don’t know. Dusk? Just seems… meh.’
She chuckles. ‘Yeah, but at least it will remind you of me forever.’
He shakes his head. ‘I’ll be reminded of the bar we met at, that’s all.’
A pillow came flying at his head as he chuckled, ducking just in the nick of time.
‘Asshole,’ she chided him. Before he knew it, she rolled over on top of him, pulling the covers up around them and planting a kiss on his lips. Craig wasted no time as his fingers quickly moved to her rib cage and began tickling her. An infectious laugh explodes out of her lips as she struggles to fight away from him.
‘Stop, stop!’ she manages to get out between laughs. His muscular arms wrap around her and pull her into him and he kisses her this time. She peers into his eyes, shaking her head in the process.
‘I can’t believe it sometimes, you know?’
He shakes his head.
‘Just that we found each other. In this world where it’s nigh impossible to find someone that you are truly compatible with, happy with.’
‘Ah,’ Craig offers. ‘Well, you know, it takes a lot of work on my part.’
She slams the palm of her hand against his chest as hard as she can muster, causing a bit of a sting, but playful enough for Craig to roll on top of her, putting his weight on her.
‘Asshole!’ she screams and laughs all at the same time. A few moments pass, her legs wrapped around his lower back as he kisses her on the neck.
‘You know, eventually, we’re going to have to stop pretending to be married and actually do it.’
Craig pops up and looks at her. ‘Name the date and place, and I will be there.’
Craig pauses for a moment, Rebecca’s eyes growing large before he nods his head.
‘And kids? We need to have kids.’
At those words, Craig rolls back onto his side of the bed and groans. ‘You serious about this?’
‘A hundred percent.’
Craig slowly nods his head. ‘Alright, I guess if anyone could convince me to have kids, it would be you.’
She sits up. ‘Are you serious? Because every other time I’ve brought this up, you normally shut me down. Something about being on the road all of the time, not being able to raise a child, all those things. I need you to know that I’m serious about this. I want a family with you. I want a life with you. Not just on the road, traveling from town to town. A real life. Our life.’
Craig sits up as he looks at his bride-to-be and cups her cheek in the palm of his hand. ‘I promise you, whatever life you want, I will make it come true. Do you believe me?’
‘More than anything,’ she beams before she rolls over and grabs a pen off the nightstand, and takes Craig’s palm. As she begins to draw, he looks at her, confused.
‘Is this a blood pact?’
She shakes her head. ‘No, stupid. Just hush.’
Minutes tick away as she casually traces an image on the palm of his calloused hand. Eventually, the image comes into shape.
‘I want to give this to our first child. Something to remember me by.’
He looks at it and then back at her. ‘And why would they need that?’
She didn’t answer him. Silence just lingered between them. ‘I think our first child will be a daughter. What do you think?’
‘How would I even know?’
She shakes her head, pulling her knees up to her chest. ‘Yeah, a daughter. I think her name will be Rose.’
He looks at her quizzically before leaning back into the bed, pulling her on top of him.
‘Whatever you say, my love.’
He then kisses her as she melts into him, happiness she’s never experienced at the idea of what tomorrow could bring.
* * *
March 25, 2022
Craig puts the finishing touches on dinner when he hears a car pull into the driveway and a door slam shut. Craig takes the plate of food to the table and sits down at the table while the front door opens.
‘Babe, sorry I’m late. Just a long day at work,’ she starts.
‘I think he’ll be good tonight.’
Rose spins around and sees her father sitting at her dining room table.
‘What the hell are you doing here?’
‘What,’ Craig shrugs. ‘Too much to have dinner with my daughter?’
Rose rolls her eyes as she makes her way to the dining table, the tension of unresolved issues sitting in between them. They’d never really spoken about the fight they had at the MGM Grand last month, instead choosing to ignore it.
‘No, that’s fine. Just wasn’t expecting you is all.’
Craig nods his head as he grabs a bottle of wine and begins to pour his daughter a glass. She walks over, kissing the top of her father’s head, and graciously accepts the glass. No more than three seconds pass before her lips are pressed against the lip of the glass and she is emptying the contents down her throat.
‘Well then,’ Craig starts as Rose lowers the glass and looks at her father.
‘Well, then what? I think you know damn well where I learned to drink.’
Craig nods his head.
‘So I don’t need you judging me because I need a glass after a long day of work.’
Craig takes a long look at her. ‘Judging by your eyes, that’s not your first glass.’
Rose opens her mouth and promptly shuts it, placing the glass on her table.
‘You can go home, Daddy. I don’t know what Brian has told you, but I’m fine.’
Craig rises from his chair and follows his daughter out of the room. ‘I don’t know, seems like a good reason to be concerned. Brian isn’t the kind of guy to bring problems to me, so I figured I should take it pretty seriously when he does.’
‘Yeah, well, he was mistaken.’
‘Tell me why when I came through town, I had some of the bar owners stop me and ask me about you. They tell me they’ve seen you just about every day this month. Starting fights—‘
‘I didn’t start any fights. They started it with me.’
Craig glares at her daughter. ‘I’m sure you had something smart to say.’
‘I mean, if telling someone to close their damn mouth because their thoughts are showing how much of a dumbass they are, is something smart then I guess you’re right.’
He reaches out to his daughter, but she shuns his approach. ‘I don’t need you. I’ve never needed you. Not during this month. You moved on just fine.’
‘I did? Well, that’s news to me.’
She throws her hands into the air. ‘Because you’ve ever shown me how you mourn mom’s death? How you can’t live without her?’
‘I don’t need to give you a performance every year. From what I gather, you do more than enough of that for the both of us.’
The slap comes fast and furious across his face. While it doesn’t hurt, the sting lasts far longer than it should.
‘I’ve had to grow up without a mother and having a father like you, on the road and unable to connect with me at the level I need it, wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for me. I’ve had to internalize all of my feelings because you never wanted to discuss it, never wanted to work through it.’
Craig shakes his head. ‘I’ve done exactly in this life what I’ve known to do. You’re not without, Rose. You had a good upbringing, everything you could’ve asked for.’
‘With nannies watching me while you were on the road? That’s a childhood for someone? All I wanted was my parents and when Mom died, I lost you too.’
The words cut deep as Rose turns and storms off, leaving Craig alone in the hallway as she went into her bedroom.
* * *
April 6th, 2022
Craig walks briskly through the halls of the backstage area of a convention center, with a cell phone firmly pressed against his ear, and a pair of dark black sunglasses on his face.
‘You’re good, Adeline. You’re not bothering me.’ He pauses to listen to the other end of the conversation while turning a corner and nearly runs over a woman in her mid-thirties, brown hair tied into a ponytail, and wearing a business suit.
She looks over at Craig and smiles before holding up a finger. He simply nods his head and holds up his phone, to which she nods back and inches away to give him some space.
‘Yes, baby, you can sit front row. I’ve got seats for you and your parents.’ He pauses to listen a bit longer. ‘Your mother will be okay. Just give her a couple of hugs and she’ll feel better.’
He knew it was a lie. She’d stumbled back to the hotel suite he rented around three in the morning and looked like she’d drank a bottle of tequila, including the worm. Still, he couldn’t tell her that. There was a lot of ground to still make up with his daughter and today wouldn’t be the day to resolve it.
‘Oh yeah? Well, I hope you have fun at the pool. Tell your Daddy to take lots of pictures for Grandpa, okay?’ He pauses for a moment. ‘Love you too, angel.’ Then he takes his cell phone and places it in his pocket before looking over at his handler.
‘Technology is crazy these days. I wish I had a phone when my little girl was growing up. I’d have a few thousand pictures.’
The handler smiles at Craig. ‘Oh, I imagine. I have tons of photos of my nephews. I can’t get enough of it.’
‘No kids yourself?’
She shakes her head. ‘I’m more than happy to be an aunt, to be honest. Well, if I’m being really honest—‘
Before she can finish, someone comes through the doors and looks around before his eyes land upon Craig.
‘Ah, there you are! Let’s do this.’
Craig nods, sliding his hands into his light blue linen pants, and looks at the woman, his eyes locking in on her name badge. ‘Thanks, Isabella. Hope we can finish our conversation another time.’ Her brown eyes land upon Craig and he can see her blush slightly as he rounds the corner and takes in the scene.
Thousands of fans have filled a room in the convention center. On stage is a moderator and he takes the glasses off his face and clips him to his white linen shirt before making his way on stage.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, the Lost Soul himself, Dusk!’
The fans immediately begin to clap their hands as he walks on stage, running his fingers through his white hair. He makes his way over to the podium.
‘Remember the rules, we only have a few minutes for live fan questions. How about we kick it off with the gentleman down in the front row who has his hand raised? The one in the Dusk shirt.’
Craig positions himself behind the podium and looks out at the fan, smiling at him.
‘Thanks for being here today, sir,’ the fan begins. ‘How would you rate your comeback thus far in PRIME?’
Craig nods his head. ‘Good question. I thought it got off to a strong start. Hasn’t quite gone the way I would’ve liked. If I had it my way, I would be competing for the Universal Title against Brandon Youngblood or be in the match to decide the 5-Star Championship. Still, this run is early.’
The fan nods, sitting down, before handing it over to a middle-aged woman behind him.
‘My question for you is, what are your thoughts on your upcoming match against Tapioca Puddings?’
‘Thanks for the question,’ Craig begins. ‘You know, a match against Tapioca Puddings is not where I thought the evening would go in all honestly. Still, it’s a match at Culture Shock and I’m excited to be on the show. Tapioca seems like a good kid from the time I’ve spent with him. Helped him with some merchandise issues he had and bought him a hot dog. He’s got potential, but he needs people actually looking out at him.’
The woman smiles, before handing the microphone off to someone next to her, a large male.
‘Has the thought of retiring crossed your mind since coming back to PRIME?’
‘Yeah. I would be lying if I said it hasn’t crossed my mind. That first match was absolutely brutal and I ended up winning it. The weeks since though haven’t been nearly as bad. My body felt good after the match with Hayes Hanlon and Garbage Bag Johnny, so I don’t think I’m going anywhere for a while.’
Then another question comes at him.
‘Any predictions in the Universal Title match? Or the 5-Star match?’
He takes a moment to think about this. ‘Brandon Youngblood for sure in the Universal Title match. I’d love to see Rezin win the 5-Star title just so I can take it off of him, but in all reality, I think it comes down to JCH or Cecilia Ryan in that match.’
Craig then scans the room. ‘I’ve got time for one more question.’
A woman in the back stands up and is handed a microphone. ‘What’s next for you? What are your plans after Culture Shock?’
He notices it is Isabella and he smiles. He knows what she means, but he decides to take it at face value. ‘Right now, I’m just focused on Tapioca Puddings. Each match since I’ve been back has been unique. Bobby Dean. John Kennedy Ryoko Jr. A four-way match. Now Tapioca. He’s a kid that’s simply lost and needs guidance. He’s going to challenge me in a unique way, simply because he’s got nothing to lose. This is a kid who wants to make a name for himself and there are few options better than doing it at the expense of me. Can’t let that happen. His sister needs to make sure she stays out of my way, but this match against Puddings will shock many people and set the tone of the night. I’ll just have to make sure I’m the one coming out on top.’
Craig pauses for a moment as Isabella smiles at him before handing off her microphone. He then waves at the fans and walks down the stairs, exiting the same way he came in as the fans cheer him on.
He pauses for a moment, before pulling out his phone, and sees pictures from Brian of Adeline playing in the pool. A smile appears on his face as he walks down the hallway until he receives a text message. This one is from Rose.
We need to talk.
Craig sighs, as he puts his phone back in his pocket, and disappears down the hallway.