I pulled out the old armour and gave it the once over. Tragically out of date now of course but still serviceable - a bit frayed at the edges. A few minor repairs and it'll be right. Field stripped & cleaned weapons, checked the sighting & range. Checked and reloaded ammunition. After all - I was here to slay demons.
Gear up - load- check your safety - deep breath - step in.
I saw them straight away and walked over. Of course they recognised me - we knew each other very well a long time ago. Or we thought we did. After hugs, kisses and re-introductions we all sat down to catch up. Families, careers, lives.
Then someone says:
"The girls had it pretty hard".
"I never realised until I had daughters."
And a third:
"I don't much like the person I was back then."
Then one of the demons I was here to slay arrived.
For me it was one of those hair trigger moments when I had no idea how I was going to react. A wounded and scarred young woman wanted to march up to him and smack him in the teeth. An older, battle tested woman smiled, kissed, hugged and waited her opportunity.
On the beach with a few friends the next day and I find him quietly standing next to me. We started to talk. I hit him with everything I had. Fusillade, enfilade, small arms, main armament - salvo after salvo - barrels hot until I only had one round left.
He stood there and he quietly took it all - every single shot. My last round was his undoing.
"I forgive you."
The biggest demon deflated into an ordinary man and then we really started to communicate - quite possibly for the first time ever. If you haven't worked it out by now I am talking about the culture we were both a part of in training. We were both members of the unit that had the well deserved reputation of being the most anti female of them all.
Turns out I'm not the only one who still has nightmares. Turns out I'm not the only one who could grow, mature and change. Turns out I'm not the only one who can try to make amends. Turns out I'm not the only one with scars.
Do not make the mistake of thinking I am some kind of saint without my own regrets.
Do not make the mistake of thinking I am some kind of saint who forgives everything - some things are unforgiveable.
To those who have nothing to regret - thank you.
To those who committed the unforgiveable or are unrepentant - go to hell.
To those who don't like the man they used to be - you are forgiven.
Maybe - just maybe - one day you will be able to forgive yourself.