I freaked the fuck out. Pearl, I know she’s blowing smoke. I don’t think she actually has anything on me, and if she does.....if she does, shit, it’s going to be bad. It’s gonna be SOOO bad.
I know there are photos. I know there is a video. Maybe two. I have a copy of them hidden in my old desk drawer back home. I stole the USB port when I was packing up my belongings from Jamie and I’s apartment. Max came with me and stood guard in the living room as I packed up my clothes. Jamie thought I was still in the hospital and had no clue what I was doing. Until it was too late.
It’s not like Jamie hid the evidence. He’d always openly brag about what he had. How he could ruin me if I ever talked again. He released one round of photos – I knew what he was fully capable of doing. And that terrified me.
I wanted to see the evidence for myself. I guess a part of me wanted to remember what I couldn’t. I wanted to know if the rumors that had circulated around school were true. I wanted to know that I wasn’t a whore. That in the end, what happened to me wasn’t my doing. That I’m not the only one to blame for what happened. And I wanted answers. I wanted to know why no one stopped Jamie, stopped the other men. I wanted to know if people could hear my screams. In my moment of haste, I wanted to know those answers. But too bad I chickened out and hid the drive in a secret compartment of my desk.
Where it’s stayed, untouched.
Jamie knew the USB port was gone the moment he stepped foot into our old apartment. He called me and left a voicemail telling me that if I uttered so much a word of what’s on the flash drive to anyone, he would release more photos to the public. And upload the videos to any and all streaming platforms.
What if Pearl has them? What if Jamie was able to make a hot buck at my expense, again. One last hurray on his part as karma bits me in the ass for my fucked-upness. I mean, is that even karma? I never considered myself a horrible person to deserve any of this. Hell, no one deserves that level of humiliation.
God, Carl, and my therapist are right. I need to tell Thomas. I need to tell him everything. The extent of the parties. The truth that I’m a recovering addict who celebrated her fourth year of sobriety in New York. An accomplishment I’m proud of.
Yea, breaking the news to Thomas when I get home tonight is going to start off great since I climbed out of the damn bedroom window and ran before anyone could be the wiser. I could hear Thomas and Pearl arguing from the hall, and I told Valerie I needed to go to the bathroom. What I really needed was some fresh air. And I knew if I locked myself in Thomas’s room, Valerie wouldn’t follow. I met a car service at the bottom of the drive and prayed that I wouldn’t get busted. Now, I’m walking barefooted on a beach with my heels in my hands. Lost with my thoughts. Trying to understand what the fuck happened.
Thomas took a huge step today. I knew why he called the meeting. He made sure to have me sign the new agreement to make sure I was protected. That I was covered. We both knew Pearl wouldn’t attack Valerie. She adores her even if she has an effed-up way of showing it. But I knew Pearl’s rage could be targeted towards me. I just wished I’d predicted the threat that would come my way.
Flopping down on a sandy hill, I dig my feet into the sand until my toes are covered. Pulling out my phone, I dial Max’s number. I need to hear a familiar voice, and I kinda feel bad for the road our relationship is heading. And I haven’t talked to him since our fight either. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. I mean, I should be calling my mom or Tereasa. Not Max.
I listen to the phone ring. Fully prepared for it to go to voicemail before he finally picked up, “Hey, Ry.” He greets into the phone. His tone no longer hurt but filled with happiness that is my best friend.
“Hey, how is the Hoosier life?”
There is a long pause on the line, “Ry, what’s wrong? And don’t say nothing.”
I want to tell Max everything. I want to tell him about Georgia, about running away to New York. About Thomas, and how he came to me to bring me back home to Cali. I want to tell him about the damn photos and videos that I’ve stolen. But I can’t. I can’t bring myself to tell him, and the scary part of it all....it’s because I don’t think I can trust him.
“Where are you? On a beach?”
The sound of the waves washing up on shore, along with the humming of the crowd, can’t be missed. Even on the phone. I’m not really sure how Max is even able to hear me with how loud it is.
“Yea, I had some free time and went on a hike. Ended up at the beach.” I tell him.
“Ahh, so something is bugging you. I don’t know you to go on a hike unless something is bothering you.” Max tells me. I can hear doors closing in the background, and I know he’s moving into another room or outside. “Tell me, Ry. What’s up? Mr. Hollywood still being a drunken ass?”
Rolling my eyes, “Don’t call him that.” I say quickly, jumping to Thomas’s defense. “And no, it’s Pearl. She’s just being Pearl, I guess.”
“Ry, maybe if she’s causing so much grief, you need to come back home. I mean, I’m sure Teresa will...”
Cutting him off, “I’m not coming back home, Max. And I’m seeking help here. I’m seeing a therapist now.”
The line goes silent for an agonizing moment. I’ve talked about the idea of seeing a therapist for over a year now. More so when my dreams and nightmares came back in random spurts. And with Max being the star of my dreams now, I want to try and understand them first before jumping to a final conclusion.
“Ry, why are you seeing a therapist? Are your dreams back?” I can hear the hesitation in his voice as he asked the question.
“Yes, they’re back.”
“And?” He questions.
I know why he’s asking. He’s wanting to know If I’m remembering anything. Anything new like last time, but when my dreams first started to accrue, it felt like I was blind. Everything was distorted, and the scenes around me were like looking into a blurry nightmare of a funhouse mirror.
My therapist thinks I need to confront Max about my dreams. To talk to him about what I’m feeling. And maybe Max would be more apt to talk to me this time, or he could at least provide some insight. An insight I know he won’t want to provide. I have a feeling Max will push the topic off to the side like he’s done in the past. I know he’ll dodge the questions I have.
“The therapist agrees with me. She believes they’re repressed memories.”
“Seriously, Ry? With this again. Why would you have repressed memories? I thought we already discussed this.” He whines into the phone. “You were high and drunk. I’m sure it’s your mind taking distorted images and merging them into some sort of dream that isn’t true.”
No, you made the decision the topic was done and over with for the both of us. And don’t lecture me on distorted images because they’re clearer now than they’ve ever been. “You don’t live with these nightmares.” I have to fight the urge from yelling, but the disdain in my tone isn’t lost. “I do. I live with memories I don’t remember. I’m livin’ with the all too familiar feeling of being trapped. And I’m unable to move because I’ve been drugged with something other than Oxy. You don’t know what it feels like to be with it mentally - know you’re not able to get away because you can’t move. Do you have any fuckin’ idea what it’s like to watch one of your classmates rip off your bra? Or takin’ turns and laughing because you’re crying?” Max doesn’t answer. Instead, all I can do is listen to him breathe. After a few minutes of him not answering, I fire back. “Do you have any fuckin’ idea how many times I actually tried to leave Jamie?”
“Wait...what? You never told me that.”
I never told anyone. Not mom. Not Teresa. No one.
“Would it have mattered?” I challenged. Because the answer is easy. No. Nothing would have changed had I told Max that I wanted to leave Jamie. The only thing that would have happened would have been the final nail in my coffin. Jamie would have released every single thing he had on me. Everything. It would have devasted my family further, and I don’t think my father nor my sister would have survived the complete horror of what I was upped to. But maybe then, they would have finally believed me.
“Yes, it matters to me. You didn’t tell me.” He cries, “Ry, you tell me everything, and lately, I feel like you’ve been pulling away. Withdrawing.”
Taking a deep breath, I count to ten. Trying to even out my thoughts before I answer, “Max, I’m in California. You are in Indiana. You are still my best friend, but sometimes, I need someone to talk to face to face. And I’ve made some amazing friends here. You should be happy for me. Not doing this whole jealousy thing that you’re doing. You have an amazing new wife. You should be devoted and enjoying your marriage with Jen. Not worrying about me.”
Max huffs with annoyance like I knew he would.
“Max, all I’m saying, I’m finally living my life. And I’m living it sober. You know Indiana was never home to me. You knew once I left, the only time I’d come back would be to visit. I’ve found my home. My new home.” I say softly.
I can practically see the sad anguish on Max’s face knowing my decision to not return back home is actually permeant. I knew he didn’t believe me when I mentioned this idea before flying out. But now that I’m saying it with all of the confidence I can possibly muster, it’s hitting him. Hard.
“I love you guys,” I tell him after the phone stays silent for longer than necessary. “But I don’t need your protection anymore. And you and Jen can focus on your lives now.” I say with encouragement.
“I need to go,” Max states.
“Max, wait!” I urge, but I’m met by dead silence and the sound of the call ending.
Great, just fuckin’ great. Just what I needed in my life is my best friend being butthurt because I’m finally doing something for me without him. Throwing my phone to the sand next to me, I pull my knees to my chest and wrap my arms around my legs as I watch the ocean waves wash up on the shore. Sending me into a trance of sorts.
Closing my eyes, I finally force my mind to ease. To shut down as I count to ten. Singing it over and over in my head. I feel more determined now to openly talk with Thomas. I just need to get home, but even I know with the time and rush hour, I won’t be making it home anytime soon.