This story I wrote was used as an example for ‘The Hero’s Journey’ template.
Standing with my future daughter-in law at the entrance to the church, I knew we had come a long way. She looks beautiful and I couldn’t be more proud she had asked me to give her away. Flory’s father and brother were killed along with her fiancé, my son. He had been the younger of my two sons, the funniest, cheekiest and most caring. Yet here, five years later she is marrying my eldest son. The music starts, I look ahead proud to have this incredibly brave woman as part of my family. My son Adam turns around, the half-smile says it all. He is a lucky man, but a scared one. I knew he was having painful flashbacks, we all were. Adam having more than the rest of us, not surprising as he had killed them all.
Flory and Adam had known each other since primary school, they were inseparable and were like brother and sister in those early childhood days. In and out of each other’s houses or down the park. In their teenage years they grew even closer, they did everything together, their first drink, cigarette and kiss. We assumed they would be together forever. However, at 18 they decided on different paths, Adam chose the Army. Flory chose University to study media. They were bound to meet other people, so we thought. I learned they were in contact every day by email or phone and met up whenever he was home. Our family always felt complete when Flory and Adam were home. Laughter around the table and games of charades or twister would have us in stitches.
It was the last year of Flory’s studies that things took a dramatic change. My youngest son Jason, came home from his travels. He had always been a jack the lad, girls were like a magnet to him, something my wife and I had always noticed and this time it appeared Flory noticed too. Gone was Adam’s younger brother, in his place was an incredibly handsome man, blonde unkempt hair, twinkling eyes and cheeky grin. He had spent two years traveling through South America, teaching the street kids English and football. Flory was mesmerized by him. I remember watching them together, this was different to how she behaved with Adam and it scared me. This would destroy Adam.
Within three months of Jason returning from South America he had asked Flory to marry him. They were besotted with each other. Flory broke the news to Adam. He got the next plane home. We didn’t even get a hello as he banged open the door heading straight upstairs to his brother’s room. The first crack heard was horrific. We flew upstairs to find Adam punching the life out of his brother.
Jason spent five days in hospital, a broken jaw, and deep cuts to his face. He didn’t press charges. But the rift within our family was immense. Flory was torn, Adam had always been there for her since they were young. She knew she had betrayed him but her love for Jason was intense and beautiful. It couldn’t be matched.
Flory received her degree and secured a position in South America to work alongside a team crew filming the street kids that Jason felt so drawn to. It was the perfect solution for them. Not for us, a void was left behind. Adam was devastated, he felt he would never get over losing her to his brother. He started to drink heavily, to numb the pain. Within a year of them leaving he was discharged from the army for drunken and violent behavior. It was heart breaking to watch our once courageous and confident son become so unhappy and so out of control of his life. One morning I went to his room to find him asleep, I could tell immediately this was no ordinary sleep, he was pale and his eyes were half opened. An empty bottle of vodka and pills lay next to him. Please don’t let him be dead I thought. My son the soldier, shaven hair, rugged looks, lying there wanting to die.
Adam’s stomach was pumped he was lucky to be alive. I approached his bed, my heart racing trying hard to not shout at him, to tell him how selfish he was, how could he do this to us? The mixed emotions were horrendous, do I phone Jason and Flory? My son opened his eyes – he looked away, ashamed. His first words were “do not tell Flory, give me your word”. He didn’t mention his brother. I sat and held his hand and promised I wouldn’t, I also promised everything would be ok.
It took nearly two years for Adam to come out of his dark hole. He missed Flory and his brother, he missed his career but at long last he started to make the steps to rebuild his life. With his Army experience he secured a position with British Aerospace in Kuwait. This was what he needed. The chance to start again. Jason and Flory emailed him to congratulate him, it was quickly deleted.
We continually looked forward to Jason and Flory’s visits home. Lots of family gatherings. I got on well with her father and twin brother especially as they were Manchester United fans. All that was missing was Adam. The last time they were due back, Flory said they had a surprise and couldn’t wait to see us. Both families agreed to meet at the airport to greet them and find out first-hand what the surprise was. They took my breath away as they came through customs, both looking so happy. In between them, was a little girl, aged about six? She was very pretty with long black hair. Flory and Jason held her hand firmly and then Jason bent down to point us all out. Her face lit up, a mini version of Penelope Cruz! Here was our surprise.
We had an amazing four weeks to get to know our granddaughter. The adoption was almost complete. There had been no parents or family and so the red tape had been cut quickly and the only stumbling block was they had to be married. They had been engaged all this time but never felt they could get married because of the rift with Adam. However, they had now decided they had done everything they could to make amends with him, their daughter had to come first now and so a date was set.
They wanted to get married in South America, it was their home now. Flory didn’t want a big fuss, just close family and friends. Our flights were booked and the wedding was to take place in a small, traditional Brazilian chapel. An intermit dinner to follow at their favorite restaurant. Natasha couldn’t wait to be bridesmaid and be part of her parent’s special day. At only six years old she had experienced fear and loneliness on the streets and had asked several times if her Uncle Adam felt lonely as he had no family near him. She had heard a lot about him, and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t coming to the wedding. She asked her mummy if she could send him a photo of her. Flory didn’t have the heart to tell her she had sent millions already, instead she showed her how to upload a photo and send it by email.
Adam had settled well into the ex-pat life in Kuwait, he was experiencing that close knit feeling like he had in the army. The sunshine was great along with the social scene and the money. One morning as he was opening his emails he saw another email from Flory, his heart always missed a beat when he saw them. She had previously described how life was for them and that they were in the final steps of adopting their daughter. Flory was getting married to Jason, they needed to in order for the adoption to be finalised. She asked for his blessing. He missed her still after all this time and couldn’t find the words to reply.
This email was different. “Dear Uncle Adam, I can’t wait to meet you at mummy and daddy’s wedding, here is my photo so you will know me when you see me. I am so excited. See you in two weeks. Luv Natasha xxxxx”. The photo was cute, and made his heart melt. Ok he thought maybe it was time to finally put the past behind him. He replied, saying she looked beautiful and he too was excited at meeting her. He emailed Flory to say he would be there.
Adam was met at the airport by Flory and Jason, Natasha ran to him, recognising him instantly from the photo he had sent her. As he reached them, they both instinctively put their arms round him, and hugged him, tears flowing from all three. Natasha hugging their legs, grinning.
The night of the stag party had been planned, Manchester United were playing at the only English bar in town. Perfect. Adam said there was no need to hire a taxi as he had hired a car and because he didn’t drink anymore he offered to drive. They never reached the bar, a drunken 16 year old had stolen a car and ploughed straight into them. Flory’s father and brother were killed instantly as they were in the back seats where the car had hit first crushing them. Jason died three hours later on the operating table. Adam escaped with only cuts to his hands as he had tried to shield his brother from the glass and impact.
Five years on, Flory and Adam are due to marry, they would not have got through those terrible years of guilt and fear without each other. Times ahead will be difficult, but he has already proven to be an amazing father to Natasha and the twins, Jason’s daughters, born eight months after the accident.
My attention is brought back to the present, my granddaughters all saying “grandpa grandpa hurry up – daddy is waiting”. Smiling, I lead Flory down the aisle to give her away to my son.