Heroes Restaurant & Pub – Warrensburg, Missouri- Sunday January 14th
The sun slowly descended, leaving the sky in a vibrant orange hue that contrasted beautifully against the brick building and its neon sign that flickered to life, illuminating the street and inviting people inside. Adam Ellis stood in front of the restaurant. His gaze took in every detail with a sense of nostalgia. It looked exactly the same as it did two years ago when he last visited… and back two years ago, it looked exactly the same as it did when Adam grew up. The same red bricks. Same font on the sign. Even the same smell of burgers, steak, and fries wafting through the cool Missouri air. Hand in hand with his wife Ginny Van Lear, he noticed the same ol’ familiar logos on the windows- one displaying a University of Central Missouri emblem while the other logo boasted “WARRENSBURG TIGERS PRIDE”.
Adam’s warm smile stretched across his face as he gently squeezed Ginny’s hand. Now two months pregnant with their first child, her vibrant red hair was pulled back in a neat bun, framing her glowing complexion and accentuating the slight bump that was beginning to show. She wore an oversized sweatshirt that masked her small but growing belly with a simple pair of blue jeans. Walking hand in hand with Adam, she radiated an aura of motherly beauty.
As the couple stepped inside the bustling restaurant, the lively atmosphere hit them like a wave – waitresses gracefully weaving through tables, the clinking of silverware and glasses mingling with joyful chatter and laughter filling every corner.
“Let’s go over there,” Adam said, pointing at one of the wooden tables by the window.
“Sounds good, darlin’”
Adam and Ginny settled into their seats and he gazed out at the busy street outside, watching as people hurried past on their way to who-knows-where, while others sat down for a quick meal before continuing their journey. This was his hometown – Warrensburg, Missouri. And tonight, he had returned for a reason. The town he had left behind for St. Louis and pro wrestling glory had gone through some changes over the past four to five years. But Warrensburg still held a special place in his heart. For starters, his parents still lived there in the house that Adam grew up in. And after relocating to outside St. Louis and then down to the Dallas Metroplex, Adam felt happy to be back where he belonged.
“This here’s a right nice spot, ain’t it Adam?” Ginny drawled, admiring the charming atmosphere.
“Yes it is, Gin.” Adam’s eyes scanned the menu, filled with delicious options that made his stomach growl in anticipation. He basked in the peaceful moment of being surrounded by good food but suddenly, his calm was shattered as he felt a pair of hands clasp his shoulders from behind.
“Adam!” The female voice, full of excitement and familiarity, exclaimed.
“Sounds like Jennie Oliver to me,” he said. He turned and confirmed that, indeed, it was Jennie Oliver standing behind him with her signature bright smile on her face.
“Jennie was one of my close friends from high school,” Adam explained to Ginny.
“Adam Ellis, it’s been a couple years,” Jennie said.
Adam stood up and hugged her. “Yeah, I’ve been a little busy.”
“It’s good to see you. And who is this beautiful lady?” Jennie asked, gesturing towards Ginny.
Proudly, Adam placed his arm around Ginny’s shoulder. “This is my lovely wife, Ginny.”
Jennie’s eyes widened in surprise before quickly recovering and shaking Ginny’s hand. “Oh wow, congratulations! It’s so great to meet you.”
Ginny returned the warm smile. “Likewise.”
“When did you get married?” Jennie asked.
“We got married last year,” Adam replied.
Jennie let out a small gasp. “Wow.”
“How have you been?” Adam asked Jennie.
“I’m doing well,” she replied with a shrug. “Still working here at the restaurant, as you can see.”
Adam couldn’t believe that Jennie was still working at this very same restaurant after all these years. He marveled at how much had changed since their high school days. But some things remained constant, like Jennie’s infectious laughter and genuine warmth.
“So what brings you back to town?” Jennie asked.
Adam looked at Ginny lovingly before answering, “We just moved back to Warrensburg from Texas.”
Ginny chimed in, “We’re fixin’ to rent a flat up at the Crestview Apartments on the north side. It’s a right nice place, with all them fancy amenities and such.”
“Oh, I know those apartments,” Jennie said. “They were built in 2019, right?”
Adam nodded. “Yeah, it’s a nice new place.”
“It ain’t a house,” Ginny added playfully, “but it’ll do.”
“Well,” Jennie said with a mischievous grin. “There’s some folks here to join you.”
Amidst the chaos, a booming voice called out, cutting through the noise.
Adam looked over and saw his old high school friends Charlie Kennedy and A.J. Phelps making their way towards his table. A smile spread across his face as he stood up to embrace them.
“It’s ‘bout time you guys got here,” Adam said, shaking their hands in turn.
“Mike McWilliams called and said he couldn’t get away,” Charlie said.
Mike’s working hard at MVW,” Adam said, not surprised that he could not make it to Warrensburg on that evening. He motioned to the two empty seats next to Ginny. “Please, have a seat.”
As they settled into their chairs, Ginny couldn’t help but notice how much time had passed since she last saw these men. She studied their faces, lined with age and experience, but still bearing the same mischievous gleam in their eyes.
“It’s an honor to finally meet you, Mrs. Ellis,” Charlie said with a wink. “We’ve heard so much about you.”
Ginny smiled warmly at him. “Y’all can call me Ginny. Adam’s showed me plenty of pictures of y’all in your wrasslin’ days.”
A.J. chuckled. “It seems like a lifetime ago.”
“And then some,” Charlie added.
“All right you guys,” Jennie stepped in. “I’ll make sure one of our waitresses takes good care of you. It’s so good to see you again, Adam.”
Adam smiled back. “You too, Jennie.”
Jennie placed her hand on Ginny’s shoulder. “And congratulations on your marriage.”
Ginny nodded. “Thank you.”
Jennie went back to the front as the bustling restaurant was filled with the sounds of clinking glasses and lively conversations.
The continued clang of silverware against plates and the hum of light-hearted conversations set the backdrop as Adam Ellis relaxed in the booth with his arm around Ginny and leaned forward to catch up on what his friends had been up to. He flashed a grin towards Charlie Kennedy’s direction- Charlie has the same easy smile he remembered from their high school days.
“Charlie, I’m glad you could come tonight. I know you’re a busy person since you’ve become the go-to guy for electronics…,” Adam said, raising his eyebrows with a playful smirk. “So I hear.”
“Yep,” Charlie replied, pushing his chair back a few inches to get more comfortable. “I work for the folks over at ElectroMart…”
“Right. On the east side of town,” Adam interjected.
“Yep, been there since graduation.” Charlie paused and took a sip from his glass of beer. “I know it’s not as glamorous as body-slamming opponents inside the ring,.. but it pays the bills.”
Laughter erupted from the table. Then A.J. chimed in, “And I just graduated from the University of Missouri at Kansas City last year and now I’m just a rookie accountant in Kansas City, crunching numbers for Donovan and Company.”
“Got to use that business degree, right?” Adam asked.
“You got that right.”
“Sounds like you both are living the dream,” Adam said, affectionate sarcasm in his tone of voice. He looked around the restaurant. It hadn’t changed all that much since the last time he’d been there- two years ago. The checkered tablecloths remained and there was the tantalizing smell of sizzling burgers wafting from the kitchen that brought back a rush of nostalgia of the days when Adam, Charlie, A.J. and Mike would sit and eat and talk for hours upon end.
“So why’d you move back to Warrensburg?” A.J. inquired.
Adam sighed contentedly. “I missed this place—missed home.”
Next to him, Ginny Van Lear sat quietly, her emerald eyes observing the exchange, a soft smile playing on her lips. Her red hair was a fiery cascade down her back, a stark contrast to the muted colors of the diner. She didn’t interrupt, letting Adam relish the reunion with his friends.
“There’s something about Warrensburg that just sticks with you, you know? It’s home.”
Charlie noticed Ginny sitting in silence and following the conversation. “So, Ginny,” he said, “we’ve heard a lot about you. Small-town girl turned wrestling manager?”
“Somethin’ like that, Ginny drawled in her thick Appalachian accent, a touch of twang coloring her words and making them dance with an almost musical quality. “Grew up in McDowell, Kentucky. ‘Bout the size of a peanut. My daddy, he was a preacher man…” She trailed off for a moment, looking towards the ceiling. “…miss you, Daddy… So it was all bible passages and preachin’ round them parts. But I had a hankerin’ for Mixed Martial Arts and even though Daddy didn’t approve, he let me take it up anyway.”
The table leaned in, hanging on her every word.
“Bet he wasn’t too thrilled about Mixed Martial Arts,” A.J. quipped, taking a sip of his drink.
“Thrilled? Ha! Y’all think scoldin’ me bout the ‘evils of violence’ was a dang thrill?” Ginny cackled, her giggle catching on like wildfire. “Daddy came around – or rather, gave in. I reckon he saw how much I loved it, even though it went against his grain.”
“From the octagon to the squared circle,” Charlie mused with a nod. “That’s quite the jump. How’d you end up in the wrestling world?”
“To make a long story short, my cousins Cletus an’ Enos got into MVW and they brought me along to be their manager… with Daddy’s blessin’ of course. An’ here I am now,” Ginny replied, her eyes flickering to Adam with warmth. “Met this lug after I set off a buck-bomb inside those snooty Kardoucheians in their fancy trailer and nearly ran him over gettin’ away.”
The table erupted into boisterous laughter once more. For a moment, the constant worries and stresses of the wrestling world faded into the background, replaced by the simple joy of being part of a tight-knit group. He soaked in the energy of the diner and his friends’ infectious laughter and leaned back in his chair, letting out a contented sigh. Adam took a deep breath and cleared his throat, drawing the attention of Charlie and A.J., who were sitting across from him.
“Guys,” he began, trying to contain his excitement, “I’ve got something big to share. I’m going to be a father.”
The announcement landed with the impact of a body slam, and for a split second, the table fell silent before Charlie and A.J.’s faces split into wide grins.
“We know!” they exclaimed in unison, their voices filled with genuine happiness.
“Know?” Adam blinked, nonplussed.
“Yeah, duh!” Charlie whipped out his phone and tapped on a video, the familiar PRIME logo flashing up on the screen.
“Check this out,” A.J. said, smirking as he slid closer to get a better view. The footage from Colossus night one backstage at the Caeser’s Superdome showed Ginny announcing her pregnancy, followed by Adam’s comical faint. Laughter erupted around the table once more at the memory.
“Man, you hit that floor harder than any opponent you’ve faced,” Charlie teased.
A.J. nodded sagely, adding, “He’s got a glass jaw when it comes to big news, huh?”
“Har-har,” Adam retorted good-naturedly, rubbing the spot on his head where he imagined he could still feel the canvas imprint. “Just wait ’til it’s your turn, fellas.”
Ginny laughed along with them, earning a playful shove from Adam.
As the raucous laughter faded into a comfortable silence, Adam’s expression turned contemplative. “You know, guys, I count myself lucky,” he said, his eyes shining with nostalgia. “I mean, how many people get to actually live out their childhood dreams? To be in the ring, performing for an audience and doing what they love?”
His friends nodded in agreement, knowing just how passionate Adam was about pro wrestling. They had all seen him put everything on the line during matches, and it was clear that this wasn’t just a job for him – it was a calling.
Adam took a long swig of his beer, the cold liquid soothing his parched throat. He leaned back in his chair, feeling the familiar comfort of his friends’ presence. They had been through everything together: high school graduations, first heartbreaks, and now, the cutthroat world of professional wrestling.
“But you know what?” Adam’s voice rose above the chatter of the crowded bar. “It’s not enough. I want to be better.” He met each of his friends’ eyes, determination blazing in his own. “I want to push myself to become the best wrestler I can be.”
“You’re already damn good, man,” one of his friends interjected, clapping him on the back.
Adam grinned gratefully but shook his head. “No, no, there’s always room for improvement.” He let out a wistful sigh. “That’s why I’ve decided to return to Missouri Valley Wrestling.”
His announcement was met with surprised glances and raised eyebrows from his friends. “But PRIME has been treating you well,” another friend pointed out.
“I know, I know,” Adam replied quickly. “PRIME has treated me real well.” A pang of guilt tugged at his chest as he thought about leaving behind all that PRIME had given him – fame, fortune, and respect in the wrestling world. “The wrestlers in PRIME are the best of the best. But MVW was where it all started for me, where I truly fell in love with wrestling and discovered my true passion. I get Kerry Kuroyama next week and that’s going to be a tough one.”
A.J. perked up. “Lindsay Troy is part of his group in Defiance Wrestling, right?”
“Defiance?” His friend Charlie spoke up, breaking through Adam’s reverie.
Adam nodded grimly. “Yeah. She’s part of Kerry Kuroyama’s group – Vae Victus.”
There was a collective groan from his friends as they exchanged knowing looks. Kerry Kuroyama was one of the most feared wrestlers in Defiance Wrestling, known for his brutal in-ring style and master of the Kuroyama Driver I and II. And everyone knew who Vae Victus was and who was in Vae Victus. LT… Kuroyama… Henry Keyes… Oscar Burns… all accomplished wrestlers.
“That’s a tough matchup,” A.J. chimed in, concern etched on his face.
Adam just shrugged nonchalantly as he took a swig of his beer. “I’ve faced some of the best wrestlers in the business during my time at PRIME. I’ve taken everyone’s best shots and learned from every experience.” He paused, a confident smirk playing on his lips. “Kerry Kuroyama is just another challenge, another step in the road to success.”
“But he’s no pushover,” A.J. interjected.
“Yeah, but I didn’t back down from Cecilworth Farthington either and I held my own,” Adam countered, determination burning in his eyes. “I may keep coming up short, but I know I’m getting closer to breaking through.” He clenched his fists, feeling a surge of adrenaline coursing through his veins. “I just need to keep trying… keep focusing… and keep pushing myself to be better than ever before.”
There was a collective understanding among his friends as they heard the unwavering determination in Adam’s voice. They knew he would stop at nothing to achieve his goals in the world of pro wrestling – even if it meant returning to where it all began, facing formidable opponents, and pushing himself to be better than ever before. And they were proud to call him their friend.
“You got this, man,” A.J. clapped him on the shoulder.
“We’re all rooting for you,” Charlie added with a grin.
Adam grinned back, grateful for the support of his friends. They were more like family to him after all these years. “Thanks, guys.” He finished his beer and continued, “Guys, I can’t help but feel grateful for this moment. Surrounded by my friends… with my wife and with a baby on the way, right now everything seems right in his world.” He paused as both Charlie and A.J. nodded back in acknowledgment. “I can’t wait to see what other surprises life has in store for me and Gin… in the ring and out.”
Charlie signaled the waitress. “Waitress, a round please… three beers and a water.
“Thanks,” Ginny said, a smile was as clear as the bell that started a wrestling match.
Once the waitress returned with the drinks, glasses were raised high, the future toasted to family, and to dreams bigger than the ring itself.
Ginny wiped a tear out of the corner of her eye, feeling the warmth of inclusion as if she’d been part of this crew all along.
“Thanks guys,” Adam said, pulling Ginny closer to him.
The deafening music and raucous laughter that had filled the air moments ago now faded into the background as a sharp yet hesitant voice cut through the revelry.
Startled, Adam’s head snapped up with wrestler’s reflexes, scanning the crowd until he spotted her.
“Kellie?” Adam’s voice trailed off, unable to hide the surprise and apprehension in his tone. Kellie Oliver, Jennie’s younger sister and a ghost from his past, stood at the edge of the party with an unfamiliar man at her side. She was a chapter in his life that he thought had been closed for good. Three years ago, he had made the difficult decision to pursue his pro wrestling career over their relationship, breaking off their engagement under pressure from his then-trainer John Sektor. It was a choice that had haunted him for a long time.
But here she was, looking just as beautiful but also different somehow. Stronger, more confident. He couldn’t help but feel a pang of regret at what could have been.
Kellie’s gaze softened as she looked between Adam and Ginny, who stood by his side. “Hey, Adam,” she greeted warmly, her hand finding her fiancé’s in a show of support.
Adam managed to nod at her, keeping a cautious eye on Ginny. He couldn’t shake off the feeling of unease at seeing Kellie again after all this time.
“Hey, Adam.” Kellie’s gaze softened even more as she glanced between him and Ginny. “This is Rob,” she gestured to the man beside her with obvious pride and love in her voice.
Adam took in Rob’s sturdy build and easy smile, trying not to let jealousy rear its ugly head. “Nice to meet you,” he managed, extending a hand to Rob while keeping an eye on Ginny, ready to tag her in if needed.
“Likewise,” Rob replied, his grip firm and friendly.
“We actually live in San Antonio now,” Kellie shared with a mix of pride and nostalgia in her voice. “And we’re getting married in about six months.”
“Wow, congratulations!” Adam found himself saying sincerely, feeling a genuine sense of happiness for her.
“Thank you, Adam.” Kellie’s eyes sparkled with joy as she turned to Ginny. “And congratulations to you both on the baby.”
Ginny smiled warmly, reaching for Adam’s hand as they shared a small moment of excitement at the reminder of their impending parenthood.
“It was great seeing you again, Adam,” Kellie said, her tone genuine and full of warmth. “Take care.”
Adam returned the sentiment before watching Kellie and Rob disappear into the crowd. He couldn’t help but feel a mix of emotions – nostalgia for what could have been, regret for how things ended between them, but also gladness that she seemed happy and had found love again.
As he turned back to Ginny and wrapped an arm around her protectively, Ginny’s hand slipped into his, bringing him back to the present and reminding him of the love and happiness he had found with her and giving him a sense of closure washing over him like the aftermath of a hard-won match. He knew then, with every fiber of his being, that his choice… to pursue wrestling… to marry Ginny… was the right choice. These were the hands he wanted in his corner, the partner he wanted in every tag team match life threw their way. He knew that despite whatever doubts or unease may arise from this unexpected reunion, he wouldn’t trade his life with her for anything else in the world.
“Ready to head out, champ?” Ginny asked softly, squeezing his hand under the table.
“Ready,” he replied, rising with a smile that matched hers, as they stepped out of the ring of their past and into the bright lights of their future.