The Monday after a big match was usually a hefty workout day for Craig. Since he’d announced he was going to retire (the first time, back in the Summer), Rose decided it would be good to join him and help prepare him mentally for putting the lid on the coffin that was his career.
She stepped onto the treadmill, pressed a few buttons, and felt the motor begin to move. She placed her feet one after the other for a few seconds before opening the door to the workout room in her father’s house.
Rose glanced over her left shoulder briefly, stumbling slightly in the process, and looked at her father. “What are you doing up this morning?”
“Tradition,” he muttered, a cup of black coffee in his right hand. He took a sip before placing it on a shelf by the door entrance.
“Yeah, but–,” she started before he cut her off.
“What, I shouldn’t work out anymore?”
“Well, if it were me, I would definitely feel free not to work out.”
A chuckle escaped from his lips, a laughter that warmed her heart. A laugh that was enough to push back the thoughts in her mind, the thoughts of what she’d seen in the medical documents in her father’s office a few weeks before. She hadn’t known how to confront him about them.
Behind her, she heard the sound of her father lifting weights and continued on her way with her morning run on the treadmill. Twenty or so minutes go by until the door opened again; this time, her daughter and her husband.
She paused the treadmill and hopped off before looking down at Adeline.
“Morning, Mommy. Morning Grandpa!” Adeline ran over and wrapped her arms tightly around him. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into the tightest embrace possible without popping the ribs of a young girl.
“You look all dressed up,” he said. “Where you off to?”
“Daddy date at Sea World!”
A smile appeared on Craig’s face as he looked over at Brian. “Well, that sounds like fun. Going to see the dolphins and whales?”
“I don’t think they do the whales’ thing much anymore, Dad,” Rose offered. Craig nodded as he looked back down at his granddaughter.
“Well, ensure you take plenty of pictures for me, okay?”
“Will do!” she yelled excitedly. Rose looked over at Brian and grabbed his hand.
“You two have fun, okay?”
He nodded his head. Craig sensed the iciness of the past couple of months between them, desperate to thaw it for them, knowing it was all his fault in the process. If he had walked away like he’d said he would after fighting Larry Tact, maybe none of this would be happening.
A sigh stuck in his throat as he looked at his daughter, tears threatening to escape as she looked at her husband, who refused to look back at her.
“All right,” she finally offered. “You two have fun and be safe, okay.”
Adeline ran over and hugged her mother before grabbing her father’s hand. “You two have fun! And Grandpa!” She then spun around and looked at him. “Don’t forget, Christmas is in six days!”
A smile appeared on his face. “I guess I better get your present then, shouldn’t I?”
“Yes, you should! And something big. Okay?”
He nodded his head. “Of course. If I remember.” He then winked at her, and she laughed her usual precocious laugh. A laugh that could thaw every heart in its vicinity.
Except for one. Brian and Adeline disappeared quickly as Craig stood there and looked at his daughter.
“I’m sorry if it helps any.”
She shakes her head. “It’s fine, Daddy. It’s not your fault.” She then takes a deep breath in. “So, what will you do now that you’re retired?”
“That’s a great question,” he responded as he walked over to the shelf and grabbed his phone, sitting next to his daughters. “I’ll give it a thought while I’m running some errands. You going back to your house?”
“Yeah, after I finish the rest of my run.”
He walked over and kissed her on the cheek. “Don’t work too hard.” She laughed.
“I’ll try, Dad.”
With that, he exited and left her in her thoughts.
Thoughts that threatened to swallow her whole if she wasn’t careful.
The following is an excerpt of the November 28th episode of the UndergroundCast.
Angelica Brooks: So, your final ReVival match will be against Nova. What does this match mean to you?
CM: You know, really, to help put this in perspective, I need to rewind a bit. Each match thus far has been part of me in some way. With Tony Gamble, this is the man I’ve faced most in my career. I mean, match after match we’ve had together. I know Tony will never admit this, but we both elevated one another. I will forever want to kick his face off, but I am not too proud to say that wrestling Tony made me a better wrestler.
With Wade, that was the match of my career in some respects. Talking about the match some fifteen years ago. That was a match that we both went into and just tore each other apart. Even our match at ReVival 19 was a match that still surpassed every expectation, and we gave everything we had and poured it into that match. Fifteen years ago, we loathed each other. Now though? Nothing but respect. Wade and I are two sides of the same coin, and that man is my brother now. Always and forever.
With Nova, though, with Vega, we’ve never had that chance to go and face each other one-on-one in a PRIME ring. PTC ring, sure. But here is the thing, and it’s something I’ve never talked about before. For me, Vega was and still is the measuring stick. Before I even joined PRIME, that’s the name you heard being talked about. This rookie sensation was taking the circuit by storm. When I joined PRIME, that’s whom I measured myself against. He was where I wanted to be, regardless of my accolades before joining PRIME.
You look at Vega’s accolades. Universal Champion. Two-time Five-Star Champion. Intense Champion. He’s held that Universal Championship the longest out of everyone. He’s successfully defended that championship against more people than anyone. PTC’s first-ever two-time Extreme Champion. PRIME Hall of Famer. He’s one of the best to do this, and I get my chance to step foot in the ring with him to see if I can recreate history one more time.
AB: As you mentioned, you two have previously stepped foot in a PTC ring with that Extreme Championship on the line. You managed to defeat him in that match. Is there anything you can take from that match and apply to your match at ReVival 20?
CM: Absolutely not. So much time has passed, and Vega and I are now two completely different people, athletes, and competitors. All I can do is look at our recent footage. For example, watching the Cancer Jiles match that I had and that he just had and seeing how I can capitalize on the mistakes Vega made in that match and ensure I’m covering up my mistakes.
AB: Walking into this match, where do you think it will rank in terms of your favorite matches?
CM: Top five, without question.
AB: This is your second Hall of Famer in your last three matches. Does that weigh on you any differently? Are you biting off a bit much?
CM: No part of me wants to coast to the finish line. And with all due respect, Wade should also be a Hall of Famer. So, three straight matches that will push me to the absolute extremes of my capabilities that’s how I want to leave this game.
AB: You have stepped foot in a PRIME ring with Nova before. Can you talk us through what that experience is like, being his tag partner?
CM: Nerve-rattling. When you’re stepping in the ring with one of the greats, you know that you’re immediately the weakest link, and you want nothing more than not to be the reason you lose.
Rose felt the water scald her back but closed her mind to it as she let the shower work through every ache and pain she felt.
Rose looked to her left, onto her bathroom counter, and saw her phone vibrating. She grabbed a towel from the hook on the shower door and quickly wrapped it around her before walking over to the phone. She answered it, not even looking at it.
There was silence on the other end.
“Hello?” she repeated herself.
“Oh, sorry, is this Rose? I wasn’t expecting you to answer your father’s phone.”
She quickly removed the phone from her ear and looked at the Caller ID screen to see that it said Dr. James Long.
“Dr. Long? I’m sorry, I think you called the wrong number.” Then something clicked in her brain. She didn’t have his number stored in her phone. “Wait, hold on.”
She then looked at the phone, particularly the case, and saw that it was a black rubber case instead of the dark blue one on hers. Rose swore under her breath.
“Ugh, sorry. We may have accidentally traded phones earlier.”
“Oh, no worries, Rose. If you can have your father call me back when he gets a chance, that would be greatly appreciated.”
A pause. “Yeah, definitely.”
“Have a good day, Rose.”
There’s another pause. “Yes?” the doctor said on the other end.
“If you have a moment, I have a few questions for you.” She bit her bottom lip, knowing she was potentially pushing too far, but she needed to get some answers immediately before they consumed her entirely.
“Sure, sure. Is it about Adeline?”
“No,” she began. “It’s about my father. I found some medical documents in his office a few weeks ago which had your name on them. I was hoping you could talk to me about them.”
She heard his heavy breathing but no response.
“You should talk to your father about them,” he responded.
“I would, I promise you, but you know my father. He’s painfully stubborn and will not want to discuss this. I looked at them, and there appears to be a mass on his–” she can’t bring herself to say the word.
“On his brain,” the doctor finished the sentence for her. “He has a brain tumor. A glioblastoma tumor, actually.”
She tried to speak, but the words became stuck in her throat.
“Your father needs rest. Stepping away from the ring is good for him ultimately. With his history of concussions and head injuries, mixed with the tumor, every time he stepped in the ring, he was risking an aneurysm.”
Rose felt the tears streaming down her face, the heat radiating from them.
“Does he need to have surgery?” she finally asked but was met with silence. “Doctor?”
“I’m so sorry, child. The tumor is inoperable.”
She felt the air leave her immediately. “No,” was all she managed to get out.
“He only has twelve to sixteen months to live. I know your father wouldn’t want you to know, but it is best you know. So you can enjoy this time with him. All of you.”
It took everything she had to keep the sobs in, not letting her emotions overcome her. “Thank you,” she responded. “Can you please send over your recommendations and the best ways to take care of him?”
“Of course, I will send them to your email address right away.” She then provided him with the email address and ended the call. The phone slipped out of her hand and fell on the floor; she stood there and felt her body sobbing at the cruel reality she’d just been handed.
The following is an excerpt of the November 28th episode of the UndergroundCast.
AB: So, after your match with Nova at Colossus, you’re left with your final match ever. I know you’re a couple of weeks away from that match and thus, you haven’t begun mentally preparing for it yet, but what do you feel when you think about that match?
CM: You know, the one thing I can tell you about Colossus is that I get to close my career in Madison Square Garden. It is something you can only imagine happening as you’re coming up in the business. It’s akin to Michael Jordan, game seven in the Mecca. It’s your chance to be in the spotlight and make the most of your once-in-a-lifetime shot. There are no do-overs, no repeats. You only get one chance at this, and I plan on making the most of it.
AB: Who is your opponent at Colossus?
CM: [chuckles] I honestly have no idea, Angie.
AB: LT hasn’t given you any indication of who it would be.
CM: LT isn’t usually in the mood to show her hand more than she has to.
AB: Fair enough. There does seem to be a theme with your recent opponents, however. Hell, even going back to Great American Nightmare, you may have had the most challenging gamut of opponents that anyone in PRIME may have faced, save for someone like Cancer Jiles. Phil Atken, who would go on to become Universal Champion.
CM: Don’t remind me. That one, I let slip through my fingers.
AB: Nate Colton, who may be the next Five-Star Champion after Colossus.
CM: That kid has possibly the brightest future of anyone in PRIME save for Hayes Hanlon if you ask me.
AB: Cancer Jiles, who went on to become the Universal Champion as well.
CM: I really thought I had him in that match, God’s truth.
AB: Tony Gamble, who may end up becoming a two-time Intense Champion at Colossus, whom we’ve talked about at length, as well as Wade Elliott, whom you’ve said should be in the PRIME Hall of Fame. Then there is Nova, who just lost to Cancer Jiles over the Universal Championship.
CM: I also thought Nova had that match in the bag there. You’ve said lots of names, Angie, but not asked me any questions.
AB: It stands to reason that your opponent will be someone of that caliber. And considering most of the current roster is spoken for at Colossus, it’s probably not someone in PRIME today. Tchu, Jason Snow, Killian Sirrajin, are any of those your potential opponents for Colossus?
CM: [whistles] I sure as hell hope not. Those are buzzsaws.
AB: Okay then, whom do you want your opponent to be at Colossus?
AB: [laughs] Okay, but seriously.
CM: Angie, I can only battle whoever is in front of me. Lindsay knows who that will be, and I’m sure she is taking great pleasure in keeping that name from me. Whomever it will be, I will be ready to fight and make it the memory that everyone walks away Colossus with.
AB: So, Madison Square Garden.
CM: Yeah. That’s one of the most surreal things for me. I’ve been able to wrestle in the Mecca just a few times in my life, but one of those times was my first-ever World Championship. It’s an opportunity for me to close my career in front of the most rabid, die-hard fans that you will ever find.
AB: You know, there is one person I didn’t mention.
CM: Let’s save that for next time, Angie.
AB: Fair enough.
Craig pulled into his home and saw Rose’s car parked there already. As he turned the key in the ignition, he felt his phone vibrating for the first time that day. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked to see that it was a dark blue case.
Confusion took over briefly as he realized this wasn’t his phone. He began to hit the button to ignore the call but realized it said Emergency Services on the Caller ID. He immediately answered the call.
“Is this Rose Griffin?” a stern voice on the other end answered.
“Sorry, no. This is her father.”
There is a pause. “What’s going on?” Craig inquired.
“There was an accident earlier tonight, sir. Involving her husband, Brian, and her daughter, Adeline.” Craig felt every inch of his body tense as the words hit his ear.
“Are they okay?”
There’s another pause on the other end, mixed with muffled voices. “A drunk driver crashed head-on into their vehicle just north of San Antonio. They’re…” his voice trails off. “It’s not good. If I’m being honest with you, sir, not good. They’ve been taken to North Central Baptist Hospital, and I recommend that you and your daughter come as quickly as possible. The paramedics said they have grave injuries.”
Cold steel runs down Craig’s spine and fills every inch of his intestines with dread and fear. A deja vu feeling washed over him.
Mr. Maloof, I’m Doctor Johnson. Your wife’s injuries were severe. We did everything we could…
Craig shook his head. “Thank you for letting me know. I just arrived home. Let me get my daughter, and we will be on our way immediately.”
He then ended the call and placed the phone in his jacket pocket. He sat there for a moment, his hands gripping the steering wheel as tight as he could. The dread he felt a moment before is instantly replaced with fury as he slams his hand into the steering wheel as hard as he can. Repeatedly.
Until his hand was numb.
He felt the cry in his chest and suppressed it. He looked up at his house and saw the light on in the kitchen.
This wasn’t a time to feel these emotions, he told himself. He needed to get out of the car, gather his daughter, and take her to the hospital. He needed to be strong for her.
Craig opened the door to his truck and exited. Each step felt heavy, and he wasn’t sure he would make it to his front door. He forced himself to keep moving forward, though, and grabbed the doorknob to his house, taking a deep breath before opening it.
As he opened the door and took a few steps in, he saw his daughter in the kitchen. Her eyes looked heavy, and he wondered if she somehow knew already. If someone from the hospital had called her.
“Hey,” his voice felt heavier than usual.
“Hey, Daddy,” she replied. Her tone is too bright; she doesn’t know the reality that is about to smash into her. He walked the remaining distance to the kitchen and saw a glass filled with bourbon waiting for him.
“What’s this for?” he looked at it and then over at Rose.
“We need to talk, Daddy.”
He nodded his head. “Yes, we do, love.”
He then told her the news he’d just learned himself.
Her jaw dropped from the shock of the news. He quickly moved around the island where the bourbon rested and grabbed her as her legs gave out underneath her. As he slid to the floor, holding her in his arms, he heard his wife’s voice in his head.
“You’re not done yet.”
And the reality of those words finally settled in.