Valerie and I decided to end the workday by the pool. Lounging back as we finalize travel plans for the new year. Thomas’s schedule is going to be absolutely crazy with stops in Georgia, Vancouver, back to Cali for several interview stops, and off to New York. All trips, I’ve been instructed that I’m coming along. Even when I’m not needed. For most of the trip, the interviews will be done with Andrew and or Xayla. While one will be done with his co-star Martha Sinclair.
And rumors are circulating of their love affair.
Ha, he can’t even stand her. Too bad he can’t say that during the interviews. I know I said our relationship should be kept a secret but watching other women flirt and attempt to steal what isn’t theirs really boils my blood. And Martha and Thomas are no strangers. They’ve hooked up a time or two at one of his parties. One time, I even walked in on her givin’ him head.
I won’t lie, I wanted to pull her hair extensions from her head. But ending their little rendezvous was epic. Thomas was in a drunken-mortified state of frazzle-ness. And Martha, well, she was just pissed that she wasn’t getting pleased that night.
But it’s not like I can shout it to the world that we’re dating. Not with everything we’re dealing with. I want Thomas to focus on his sobriety, and I don’t want him worrying about the next headline that I may get stuck in. And then there is my family. I know they’ll be pissed I’ve kept this hidden. Max, he’s already pissed with me, and my mom - I think she’ll be heartbroken that I didn’t share my secret with her. After getting clean and out of rehab, I’ve been open with my mother, and I practically share almost everything with her now. I didn’t want to hide any more secrets from her. But I’m not openly ready to share this with the world. Not yet. I feel like something is missing, something I need to search for before I openly share any more of my personal life. Before Thomas and I become public.
But maybe I’m coming up with excuses left and right to avoid the drama that will unfold with my family. Or maybe, I’m making this a bigger deal than what is needed. I mean, Max will get over his sudden jealousy fit of rage. He has to. We’ve been friends for almost eight years, and we’ve had our fights, our quarrels. But why does this feel so different?
“Food for thought?”
Shielding my eyes from the sun, I look over to Valerie, who’s running her fingers through her hair as she studies me. She’s lounged back on one of the loungers, her laptop closed and at her feet. I can tell by her blues that she already has an idea where my mind wondered too, and I know she knows I have no idea what she was talking about before I left this world.
“Is it about Max? Did that Napoléon wanna-be call?”
I’m not sure when Valerie started calling Max Napoléon. It’s not like she’s ever met him. But according to her and the pictures she’s seen, he looks short. It may not help that I’m not tall by any means, and Max is maybe a few inches taller than me. But ever since her fight with him in New York, she has no interest in tiptoeing around what she calls his delicate ego of helping a damsel in distress.
I don’t think it’s fair for her to lump Max into a category when she doesn’t know him. But some of what she’s saying makes a little bit of sense. I mean, I needed help when I was in High School. I knew I needed help, and Max seemed to always be there when I was blacked out drunk or high. I leaned on him when I didn’t have anyone else, and I don’t think he’s come to terms with the fact I don’t need him in that aspect any longer.
“He doesn’t have a short fuse,” I say in a sad attempt at defending my friend. Though, I’m starting to question his even-keeled temper as a façade with how easily he’s been snapping here lately.
Valerie points a finger at me, “He does, and he’s short. Ry, did you talk to him, and you’re not telling me?”
Looking down at my laptop, I closed the top before setting it off to the side and down on the concrete patio below. I haven’t told Valerie I called Max the day I ran. I’ve kept it bottled and hidden from her. “I did,” I say on a whisper.
“When? The day you ran?”
Nodding my head, I start to spin my ring as I look back at her. Her eyes soften as she swings her legs over the lounger and plants them firmly on the concrete below, her elbows plop on her knees as she cups her face in her hands. Eagerly waiting for me to spill the beans. And in typical Valerie fashion, I know she’s not going to judge me for the words I’m about to speak.
“I called him,” I say slowly. “I just wanted a familiar voice. He was someone I always called to come and get me, and I guess, old habits die hard. I don’t know. Anyway, the call didn’t go well, and he hung up on me.”
Valerie frowns, “What do you mean it didn’t go well?”
“I mean, I told him about me seeing a therapist, and he pretty much dismissed me, again.”
“Again!” Valerie is now full-on enraged as she pulls her phone out. Scrambling out of my lounger, I lunge for her phone, only to have her pull it from my reach. I thought after her and Max’s little spat, she’d delete his number. Clearly, I was wrong. “Nice try, but you gotta be quicker than that.”
Straightening myself up, I huff out a breath. “Don’t call him, please.” I’m begging, and I’m not sure why. I shouldn’t care that Valerie wants to defend me. But I do, and I think it has more to do with the trouble it could cause. I don’t want Max to suspect that I don’t feel like I can fully trust him. And I don’t want him to know that I’m sharing our personal conversations with Valerie or Thomas. Because he’s never had to worry about it before, and I still need him to think that I’m clueless and still searching for answers or trying to make sense of my dreams. And in a way, I still very much am. Nothing is making sense, or maybe I don’t want it to.
The easy way out would be to take the medication my therapist wants to put me on. To help keep the dreams at bay when Thomas isn’t in bed with me. And any and all memories could possibly become re-suppressed again.
Do I want that? I have no fucking idea.
“Fine, I won’t call him,” Valerie states evenly. “But I can’t promise to keep it shut if I’m around for the next call. Or if I accidentally tell Xayla.”
Flopping back down on my lounger, I can’t help but laugh. “Shit, do that, I’m not sure what Max would think if the one and only Xayla Masterson threw a heel at him.”
“Gurl, you know she’ll do more than throw her damn shoe at him.”
She’s not wrong.
“Anyways, I don’t want to turn you against your best friend. He frustrates me, and I don’t trust him. I’m sorry Ry, but I’ll support you no matter what and help you. But I will not let him continue to bring you down.”
“He’s not,” My voice comes out defensive and more whiney than what I intended. And by the side-eye she’s giving me, my words aren’t convincing.
“Sure, and I’m a redhead,” she says dryly, as she flings her soft hair back over her shoulders. “Ryann, you’re going to more meetings. I’ve seen you struggling more, and I’m concern that you’ll slip. And no, I don’t think it has anything to do with Thomas or the stress of this life. But with what your dreams are holding. I don’t think you’ve fully prepared yourself for the truth that your mind holds. And I think you not telling Thomas about your recovery is also adding unneeded stress. If you tell him, he can help you. Just like you’re helping him cope.”
Biting the inside of my cheek, my finger starts spinning my ring as I suddenly start feeling both annoyed and riled. I want to tell him. I really do, but....I just can’t seem to find the right time. And when I do, it’s like something more crucial or essential takes the forefront.
“How?” My voice is small as I watch my hands twist within each other.
When I look up to Valerie, she’s studying me. Her head cocked to the side as she gives me a tight smile, “Well, you just tell him. I’m not sure what is holding you back. If you’re concern about his sobriety, I think you telling him about yours will only encourage him to continue on this path; with you.”
She cuts me off, “And don’t give me some BS about him getting pissed or forcing you out. We both know he wouldn’t throw you out of his life. He loves you.” My eyes go wide. Has Thomas talked with Valerie about his true feelings towards me?
“And I love him,” I whisper.
Valerie’s eyes light up, “I know you do. That’s always been evident. But like I’ve told you before, I think he’ll be more pissed off at himself for the temptations that he’s shoved under your nose. But you have to tell him. I think you’ll feel this weight on your shoulder lift.”
I know she’s right. I know everyone who’s told me that I need to tell Thomas; they’re all right. But that still doesn’t make the decision any easier. “I’ll tell him. But can I wait until after the holidays?”
Valerie goes to protest my suggestion but faulters. I watch as she chews on her lip before releasing it. “Probably not a bad idea, to be honest.” I watch her look down at her phone and back to me. “Ryann, have you heard from Thomas lately?”
I frown. Not since Thomas told me he was at his lawyer’s office and would be unavailable for a few hours. But Valerie’s tone and the question have me slightly worried.
“Erm...the last he texted me, he was at his lawyer’s and unavailable. Why?” Again, I watch her chew on her lip. Contemplating if she wants to say what she’s thinking. “Valerie, why?” I demand. My heart rate quickening as I start to fear the worst. “What’s going on?”
She shakes her head. Her blond hair falling over her dainty shoulders, “Call him.”
I hit his number on my phone and listening to it ring until Thomas’s voicemail picks up. I dial him again and again. Each time, I’m sent to voicemail. My nerves start to set in. Normally, Thomas will pick up after the second call. Especially if I don’t leave a voicemail. Sending him a text message: Thomas, please call me back <3
I stare at my phone, waiting to see those stupid ass little bubbles come up on my screen. Telling me that he’s seen my text and is about to respond. But nothing. And the longer I watch the quiet screen, the more my stomach starts to churn with fear.
Looking back up to Valerie, she’s watching me closely. Her eyes, darting from my phone and back to me, and she repeats this motion several painstaking times.
“Valerie,” I command as I snapped my fingers to draw her attention back to me. When her blues meet my eyes, I can tell that they’re starting to gloss over. “What the hell is going on?”
“Tomorrow is the eighteenth,” She whispers.
“Okay?” I’m confused. I don’t know the significance of the eighteenth, and Thomas hasn’t mentioned anything to me. He seemed distant this week, but I chucked that up to the drama of Pearl and the fact that I did another dramatic runaway. I asked Thomas multiple times if everything was okay, and he’d always told me yes. That he’s tired or that he just got off the phone with Andrew.
“Ryann, it’s the fifteenth anniversary of Helena’s death. She died three days after the car accident when they took her off life support.”