LESSON ONE – No Friends

What is a hero?

If a child reads a fairy tale, it’s the handsome prince which saves the damsel in distress, and they all live happily ever after. If there’s a building on fire, it’s a courageous fireman who’ll make sure that no soul is left behind. If there’s a country in apartheid for nearly half a century, it is a man that resolves to combat poverty & inequality.

People look up to heroes. They admire the courage, the bravery, the will of heroes. To them, heroes are symbols. They are symbols of hope. Heroes are brave, courageous, strong-willed, and above all else, incorruptible.

I’m not the hero of this story…

——————————————————————————————

Superiority has come and gone. Another night, another successful title defense for Sean Taylor. Sitting on a bench, he gazes into the World Heavyweight Championship, remnants of sweat still dripping from his forehead. He knew Braden Kincaid was going to be hungry, because this was a one in a lifetime opportunity to shine on the grandest stage of them all. So he’d have to be hungrier, he’d have to want it more than anyone else, and especially Kincaid. Now that he’s retained the title, Taylor will live to fight another day while Kincaid will bounce back, because the heartbreak of losing on the first try will make him want it more. But that’s all for another day.

“Marvelous, isn’t it?”

Taylor looks up to see “The Commander” T. Waring enter the locker room area and sit himself down at the bench next to him. No longer the International Champion, this visit does pose quite a few questions. While he and Taylor aren’t adversaries, they don’t seem to be friends either.

“Yeah it is. Sorry about your match though…”

“Yes well, it won’t bother me long. Classy isn’t getting away with my title just this easily. Still though, congratulations on retaining the big one. Maybe someday though, you and I can finally have a chance to compete for that very same belt.”

“This isn’t a challenge, is it?”

 “Oh don’t get me wrong. I have had nothing but utmost respect for you since I joined the EUWC. In fact, you were one of the deciding factors for me when I signed the contract. Everything you’ve done, and every insurmountable challenge that you’ve overcome here is an inspiration to many young up-and-comers, myself included.”

 “I appreciate that…”

 “And yeah, it is a shame that we haven’t had a proper match, but do know that when given the chance, you can count on me bringing everything to the table. It is the World Title after all.”

 “You know what, I’d expect nothing less. And I’ll hold you to it.”

Both men shake on it, a mutual agreement between two colleagues if not friends.

 “Anyways”, Taylor gets up from his bench and opens his locker, “I’ve got something else that I need to take care of soon…”

As if on cue, a small blue box falls from Taylor’s locker and makes it way between the benches. The rolling causes the lid to prop open.

 “Oh whats this?” Waring says as he bends over to pick it up.

 “Oh it’s nothing…” Taylor replies, trying to grab it before Waring does but fails. Waring picks up the box and holds it up to Taylor, who looks flushed.

“Is this an engagement ring?”

No sooner as Waring holds up the box when a shadow falls between them. Both look to see Nero leaving with his gym bag, mouth agape at what he sees.

“No… more… purple pant jokes… and I’ll forget about this.” Nero manages to say before he turns around to leave.

“Whoa wait! It’s not what you think you moron!”

“Let him be,” Waring remarks coolly as Nero has left, “why waste your breath. Besides, what’s the worse he can do?”

Taylor calms down, “You’re right, it’s pointless.”

 “So, let me guess. A high school sweetheart? The love of your life?”

 “Actually,” Taylor replies as he takes back the box, “don’t mention this to anyone but it’s someone I’ve been working with for a long time now. I know we can’t stand each other, but it seems like the perfect thing for me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so strongly about something in my whole life.”

“Ah, I get it. Well congratulations again my friend. And don’t worry,” Waring gets off his bench, “my lips are sealed.”

“Thanks, I appreciate that too.”

Another handshake and Waring departs, as Taylor ponders. Friend, that’s one thing he doesn’t have too many of. Taylor smiles as he looks at the ring.

——————————————————————————————-

You’re a friend.

“What?” Waring replies, as he turns around, looking for the voice that called here in the shadows of the parking lot.

But what is a friend?

Waring puts his bag down next to his car while he looks around intently.

“This isn’t funny. Whoever you are, show yourself.”

You didn’t answer.

Waring turns towards his car when he faces him. A man nearly his height with short brown hair, dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans with black gloves. And the face of contempt.

What is a friend?

“What are you blabbering about? Who are you?”

I’ll tell you.

Waring gets a knee to the gut and the stranger punches him right in the face. Waring tries to fight back with a punch, but it’s effectively blocked.

A friend is someone to trust, someone to confide in.

Waring thrusts the stranger and shoves him to the ground, however the stranger rolls on his back and flips Waring away.

A friend watches your back, and helps you get up when you fall.

Waring appears dazed and almost blinded as he looks around for the stranger, who hits Waring with an elbow to the neck.

But that definition is flawed. Instead of picking one up from a fall, a friend should make one strong enough to keep standing.

Waring is whipped right into his car, causing a huge dent in the door and a scream of agony from “The Commander.” The stranger stands over the fallen Waring.

You’re a friend. You’re HIS friend. But you will not be by his side. You will not stop me. Sean Taylor will learn. I will teach him.

“Ttt—Taylor?” Waring slowly gets up against his car, trying to catch his breath, “I won’t… let you hurt… him…”

Hurt?

The stranger kicks Waring hard in the gut into the car, inflicting more pain on a bruised Commander.

I’m not going to hurt him.

The stranger opens the car door and puts Waring halfway inside.

I’m not going to hurt him at all!

With immense force, the stranger slams the door right at Waring’s ribs, with his back hitting the car pillar! The stranger does this again and finally for a third time till “the Commander falls, bleeding from the mouth.

I’m going to help him. I’m going to make him stronger.

Waring is unconscious, bleeding and breathing heavily but not moving at all. The stranger turns around to leave.

You won’t be there for him. You won’t be his friend. Lesson One is done. Time for Lesson Two…

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