“If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same.”
– “If” by Rudyard Kipling
Craig felt like a failure. As he sat on his kitchen floor, Rose in his arms sobbing, he beat himself up internally. He’d been given one job in this world: to protect his daughter. He’d failed at that. He wanted to protect her from the pain she was experiencing. Years ago, he closed his heart and protected it from pain after his wife’s death.
She though had a scab around her heart. Every so often, it would be scratched, and he could see the pain, feel it for her.
That scab no longer existed. It’d been blown into pieces, and every particle tore through her heart as she violently cried into his arms. For all that he’d closed his heart off to, he felt this as intensely as she was.
He’d failed her just like he had failed her before.
His eyes closed, and he felt the floor under him begin to shift. He gritted his teeth, determined to stay here, but he had no control over it. Not in moments like this where the emotions were too hard for him to control.
Suddenly, it was twenty-two years earlier.
Each step felt heavy as the hospital floor met them. Craig’s head hung low as he walked, each step feeling like he was stepping into quicksand, threatening to swallow him whole. A fog surrounded him; he was uncertain of the time or what section of the hospital he was in.
Then he heard a voice. Her voice.
“Daddy? Where’s Mommy?”
Reality snapped back, hitting him squarely in the face. Her voice. The most crucial element of his life.
He looked down at Rose.
“Honey… ” was all he could get out, the pain too much. He knew how it would hit her. He knew what would happen. He couldn’t do this.
Her face looked up at his as he knelt before her. “I was brave, Daddy. Just like you told me to. I didn’t cry; I didn’t worry. I did everything you asked me to. Because you said, I’m your big girl.” He looked over and saw Johnny and Sam. They looked exhausted, their hearts almost as heavy as their eyes.
They could see the reality in Craig’s eyes, what he was about to tell his daughter, and shatter her world in the process.
“Yeah, you are,” he nodded. “And I need you to be a big girl now because I’m going to tell you something that’s going to hurt to hear. You know how Pop-Pop went bye-bye last year?”
She nodded solemnly. He watched as he bit her bottom lip. Her mind knew what was coming even if the rest of her didn’t.
“Well, Mommy went to go spend some time with Pop-Pop.”
The tears surfaced.
“Is she coming back?”
His throat went dry, his body fighting against him. “No, baby. She’s not,” he choked back the tears. This was not his moment to let the grief in; he needed to be strong for her for all the remaining days.
Tears slipped out of her precious eyes. “Why?”
The question stumped him. “I… it was just her time to go.”
She shook her head, refusing to believe this. “But, I was a big girl. I didn’t cry. I didn’t scream. I didn’t get scared. I did everything I was supposed to do.”
“I know, love. Just these things happen. Sometimes we don’t have any control over it. Something bad happened to her, and her body just couldn’t–” he managed to get out before she cut him off.
“What about the baby?”
He took a deep breath in. “I’m sorry, baby.”
“No, Daddy. No!” Fury exploded out of her, not willing to take another ounce of bad news, not accepting that the world as she knew it had exploded before her very eyes.
“I know, love. I know.”
“No! No! No!” Her tiny fists hit him in the chest repeatedly, the tears fully unleashed, the anger coming over her, and all he could do was hold her. To let her feel everything that she is feeling at the moment.
Then he’s gone.
Craig shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs in his mind. He’s not sure how much time has passed.
Rose cleared her throat. “We need to go. Now. We need to go now.”
“No one else is dying,” she started. “I refuse to let them die. I refuse.”
He felt the heat of her anger against his face. “Rose–,” he began.
“No. I refuse. Let’s go.”
Something took over her body, and she exploded from her slumped position to her feet. He looked up at her, seeing how resolute she was. He stood up, and she didn’t wait for him as she marched to the door, ready to defy God himself if that’s what it took.
He knew that feeling but also knew there was no fighting Him. He would do what He wanted, and we were all powerless when faced with that.
The following is an excerpt from the December 12th episode of the UndergroundCast.
Angelica Brooks: Lindsay Troy.
Craig Maloof: Yeah.
AB: Lindsay Troy.
AB: Lindsay Troy.
CM: I feel this will be a very dull interview if we keep doing this back and forth.
AB: I’m just trying to wrap my head around this… bombshell… announcement. She handed you a list of names. You rejected all of them.
CM: I remember. I was there.
AB: And you said you wanted her.
CM: Still, I was there.
AB: Why? Why Lindsay Troy?
CM: I think you know why.
AB: I mean, I do, but at the same time, I don’t. Whenever I think I have you two figured out, I realize I have no idea what the deal is with you two. So please explain it to me.
CM: Tony Gamble–
AB: Yeah, I get it. Tony Gamble, the man you wrestled the most in your career. Wade Elliott, one of the top matches in your career — hell, maybe one of the top matches in ReVolution history –. Nova, a legend and the man you strived to be. So, what is it about Lindsay Troy? Because people have been wondering for years why you two couldn’t figure out how to co-exist in the same room.
CM: Well, that’s a bit more complicated than we have time for in this interview. Lindsay, though, she’s the gold standard. She brought me back to PRIME. After Legacy of Champions, we didn’t speak for years, and then she asked me to come back.
CM: You always want to measure yourself against the best, Ang. She is a legend. She’s synonymous with PRIME.
AB: You two have faced off one-on-one three times in your careers. You have won once. She has won twice.
AB: Is this a pride issue? You don’t want to have a losing record against her?
CM: I hate losing, but it’s part of this business. You’re going to lose. Beating her is something that people count as some of their most significant accolades.
AB: So explain this, Craig, and don’t bullshit me. You two. What’s the deal? Why her for your final match?
CM: In this business, where people come and go, people, you’re not sure if you’re ever going to see, she’s been the only constant for these past fifteen years. If I’ve wrestled somewhere, she’s been there.
CM: So might as well close it out against one of the few people I consider a friend in this business.
AB: Does she consider you a friend?
CM: That, Angie, is the million-dollar question.
Rose and Craig sat in a set of uncomfortable chairs in the lobby of the hospital. Rose’s eyes hardened as they looked around while Craig tried to calm his nerves.
They’d been directed to the chairs and informed that a doctor would be with them soon. An hour later, though, Craig felt Rose was losing her patience with sitting here.
Her hands wrapped around the armrests on the chair, and she began to push herself out of the seat when a door opened. He wrapped his hand around hers and took a quick look at her. The doctor walked towards them, and Craig stood up as he looked at the young Black man, whose eyes belied a man who was older than he let on.
“Mrs. Griffin?” he inquired, his voice like silk.
“That’s me,” she nodded.
“I assume this is your father.”
“Correct,” Craig responded. “What can you tell us?”
“Well, let me start with your daughter, Adeline,” he began. “She came in with a fractured arm and deep lacerations. Once we started looking further, it looked like she had a few ribs broken. She began to crash–,” he continued before Craig felt his daughter’s hand tighten around his.
“No,” she breathed. Craig braced for the worse.
“She had some swelling in her brain. We just finished surgery, where we drilled a hole in her skull to help alleviate that pressure. We have her in a medically-induced coma to give her body some time to heal. She’s currently in an ICU room in the Children’s wing,” the doctor continued.
“Is she going to be okay?” Rose asked.
“I believe so. She’s showing some improvement already, but it will not be a short road we go down with her.”
“Thank you. What about my husband?”
The doctor took a deep breath in. Craig felt Rose steel himself for what was to come. “Yes, your husband’s injuries have been a bit more severe. He took the brunt of the hit. He’s got multiple ribs fracture, his left leg is shattered, and we are concerned about the lack of blood flow. He also had a collapsed lung and lacerations to the face.”
Rose opened her mouth to say something, but the look on her face was pained. She took a moment to gather her composure. “Where is he now?”
“We’ve done an initial surgery, but he will need more surgeries to get out of the woods. His prognosis isn’t good.”
The words hit Rose hard. Craig wrapped his arm around her and pulled her into him. “Thanks, Doc. Can we see one of them? Both of them?”
“We can allow that.”
Craig looked at Rose.
“Go sit with Brian. I’ll go sit with Adeline.”
She nodded. The doctor turned around, his eyes landing upon an older nurse at her station. She looked over at him, and he provided her with some instructions. Before Craig could say anything else, Rose followed the nurse down a corridor.
“I’ll take you to sit with Adeline.”
Craig followed behind the doctor, his mind racing with a million thoughts and emotions. He prepared himself for what he would see, knowing it would be difficult. As they rounded a corner, Craig took a deep breath in.
“Give it to me straight. What’s the likelihood for Adeline?”
“I think she’ll pull through. The brain swelling is the most concerning right now, but I think she’ll recover.”
“And my son-in-law?”
The doctor paused, and Craig knew the answer before the response came.
“I think that’s going to take a miracle, honestly.”
Craig paused, and the doctor looked at him, concerned. Craig slowly nodded and placed his hand on the doctor’s shoulder.
“Thanks for the honesty.”
“Of course. The nurse here will help get you ready. You’ll need to leave your cell phone and wear a gown.”
“I would walk through all the broken glass shards to be next to her.”
He then walked away as a nurse helped Craig prepare to enter the ICU room. As he walked to the door, he saw her lying there.
Nothing could prepare him for what he saw, however. More machines than he ever imagined were connected to her, cuts and gashes on her face and arms. His heart broke as he looked at her, just a little bit older than her mother was when her mother passed away. He wanted nothing more than to fix her at this moment, to give everything he had to cure her. He didn’t care what it meant for him as long as she was okay.
He closed his eyes, dropped his head, and gathered himself before he walked over and sat down next to her.
“Adie, it’s Grandpa. You’re going to be okay. I’m going to make sure of it.”
He then placed his hand over hers and began his watch.
The following is an excerpt from the December 12th episode of the UndergroundCast.
AB: So, we didn’t talk about this until now, and that’s because I figured it would be a fitting way to close out your career.
CM: Oh God, is this going to be about Cozen?
AB: No, unless you want it to be about Cozen?
CM: Let’s never mention it again.
AB: Fair enough. You will be walking into your match at Colossus as a PRIME wrestler and as a Hall of Famer. First off, congratulations. Second, how does that make you feel?
CM: Thanks. It came as a complete surprise to me. Never in a million years did I think that moment was coming. It means the world to me, however. I’ve had a week just to let that soak in, and it still feels surreal.
AB: You made PRIME your home.
CM: I did. I never wanted to go anywhere else. Of course, I wrestled in PTC, TEAM, SCCW, LoC, and so on, but this is where my heart always came back to. I was disappointed that I didn’t return for the last farewell.
AB: How do you think your legacy will be defined?
CM: I hope my legacy will be defined as someone who came in and gave everything I had from bell to bell. That I entertained, that I made people smile. I’m proof on some level that being one of the best in PRIME doesn’t have to mean capturing every championship, winning the Dual Halo, or beating every living legend in the ring. You will be rewarded simply because you gave it your all every night.
AB: Is there any person in PRIME today that you think will be a legend when this is all said and done?
CM: We’ve got young talent on top of young talent. You look at FLAMBERGE, Nate Colton, and Hayes Hanlon. Those three are the cream of the crop, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Ria Lockhart, Anna Daniels, or Adam Ellis be the Universal Champion and put their mark on this place.
AB: Well, Craig. It’s been real. I hope you’ve had a chance to enjoy this series we put together.
CM: Angie, thanks so much.
AB: I speak for just about everyone in PRIME, from those on-camera to those behind the scenes, that we’re going to miss having you around, but you’ve earned it.
CM: Angie, you’re the best. I hope we get to talk again soon one day.
He’d spent half an hour looking for Rose before finding her in the chapel. She sat in a pew, her head firmly pressed against the wood of the bench in front of her. Her shoulders continued to move up and down.
Craig walked towards her and placed his arm around her shoulders.
“This is the last place I expected to find you.”
She looked over at him, wiping the tears from her eyes. “I figured anything is worth it at this point.”
“I had to ask around to find you.”
“Did you describe me as the Hulk-like figure that kept demanding things?”
“That’s exactly how I described you; how did you know?”
They shared a small chuckle, a small ray of light in the darkness that enveloped them. Silence filled the space for a few moments before Rose looked at her father.
“Dad… I can’t do this without him. I just can’t.” He knew what the feeling felt like. Despair filled her much as it filled him in the same situation.
“You can. I didn’t think I could do it without your Mom.”
“Well, maybe you were right,” she paused for dramatic effect. “Just kidding.”
“Ha. Ha,” he spoke with a monotone voice. “Thanks for that.”
She smiled briefly before the tears began streaming down her face again. “I… he’s amazing with Adeline. He puts up with my craziness. I can’t imagine ever doing life without him. Do you know I made him sign a note that I can die before him?”
“Well, that’s sweet.”
“And he’s about to break that promise. I know I’m not supposed to think like that, but I know it. I can feel it.”
He brought her forehead into his chest and kissed the crown of her head. “You’re right; you’re not supposed to think like that. Nothing is over yet, Rose. He’s still in there fighting.”
“Mom fought, however. She tried to hold on, and she’s been going for twenty years now. Fighting isn’t enough. I remember standing there in the hospital and telling you I did everything I was supposed to do, and how did that work out for me?”
More silence filled the time between them.
“I’m so sorry for being shitty towards you,” she offered, her voice meek.
“I was. I lashed out at you, yelled at you, and now I know how you feel. Helpless. I understand why you have been the way you have been, why you’ve tried to protect me the way you have.”
He shook his head and looked his daughter in the eyes. “I was so broken when your mother died that I buried my heart with her. And I taught you to as well. I thought I was showing you how to move on, but I was showing you how to never open up to anybody.”
“Dad–,” she started, but then her body stiffened. Something didn’t feel right, he could tell. She slowly stood up, and he watched as she began to inch toward the chapel door. Each step was measured as if she knew she was approaching the inevitable end.
She opened the door and looked towards Brian’s room to the left. People were going in and out of his room, tension building as they did.
“No. No. No. No!” Her words started soft but quickly grew
She rushed out of the Chapel and down the hall. Craig promptly followed behind her before he heard the tone of a heart that was no longer beating. As he inched closer to the room, there were stern voices and hushed tones. Rose rushed in as a nurse tried to stop her, but she ran through her and to his bedside.
He looked on as the doctor locked eyes with him and shook his head.
Craig watched as Rose broke down in a flurry of tears that threatened to be the only thing she could ever do again.
His heart broke for her, knowing the same pain she was feeling at this moment.
Everywhere All At Once
Craig looked up and saw dozens of stars on top of each other. The dark blue sky invited him, but he knew better than to give it what he wanted.
A soft breeze brushed against his neck, and he smiled.
“You could have warned me,” he spoke, barely above a whisper. He felt her hand gently stroke his cheek.
“I did, if you remember,” Rebecca spoke. He locked eyes with her, and a smile appeared on his face.
“I do, but that was a rather vague warning.”
She smiled back. “Well, it’s not my fault that you thought it had to do with wrestling.” A small chuckle escaped her lips.
“I’m only walking away because of the stupid tumor.”
“I know,” her tone much more straightforward, one filled with her grief.
“The tumor that keeps making me relive memories I’d sometimes rather not relive.”
A quizzitive look appeared on her face. “Why? They defined who you are today.”
“The memory of your death? I’d rather it have not defined me.” Craig’s shoulders stiffen, and she looks at him with nothing but love as he brushes the strands of brown hair stuck to her face.
“You have no say in it, my love,” she began. “I was going to die regardless if you liked it or not. However, you have made the most of that situation and given our daughter the most precious life.”
He shook his head. “I couldn’t protect her from this.”
“You were never supposed to protect her from this, however. This is always where her story was going. You are powerless to stop that train, no matter how big your muscles are, how hard you try, and how many times you put yourself in front of that train.” Both of her hands wrap around his shoulders and pull him into her.
“But it’s Rose–”
Her eyes narrowed. “You don’t think I know that? Don’t you think I know how much you love her? I promise you, I love her just as much, and jealousy fills every ounce of my body, knowing I didn’t get to spend more time with her. I didn’t get to help her go from being a girl to a woman. I didn’t get to be there for her wedding. I didn’t get to be there the day she became a mother. It guts me. I literally would give anything for a different path in life.”
“But it wouldn’t have made you who you are today. The biggest defender of our little girl. She’s going to need you now more than ever. Because you get a chance to right your wrongs, to correct your mistakes. Don’t let her fall in the same holes you fell in.”
He sighed. “What about Adeline?”
“She will be fine. I promise you that.”
“You will look after Brian?”
She nodded as she walked around the space they found themselves in.
“Just like I’ve looked after Jameson all of these years.”
The silence filled the space between them.
She then grabbed his hand as they sat down and looked at the stars.
“That tumor of yours isn’t all bad, you know,” she cut into the silence, finally.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because at least we get to talk now.”
He smiled as she rested her head on his shoulder, wishing this moment never had to end.
Silence filled the room as Craig sat next to Adeline. He knew his daughter was beside herself with grief but knew she needed the space to process that grief and decide the next steps. In the meantime, he was determined to make sure Adeline didn’t wake up alone.
The doctors had weaned her off the drugs keeping her in the coma, and informed him that she could wake up at any moment.
He watched dutifully. Her brunette hair rested peacefully next to her. Her breathing was steady, his eyes never wavering.
“You can do this,” he whispered.
And then she squeezed his hand, reassuring him in the process.
It was going to be okay, he told himself. Even if life didn’t look like he’d imagined, everything would be OK in the end.
He braced himself, knowing this chapter, the final chapter, would be the most difficult. Instead of burying himself into the ring, he would give his last breaths to his daughter and granddaughter and help them pick up the pieces moving forward.
It was his wife’s final wish.
And thus, it would be his.