I can’t remember a time that I actually enjoyed the holidays. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t wake up blackout drunk because I just wanted to forget the treasured memories. Sure, I’d go and celebrate the holidays with my grandparents, or they’d come over. But it wasn’t the same. That missing piece of my mom was gone; she was like the glue to our family. Between her and my grandma, they were always planning family gatherings or outings. And since my mom’s birthday was on the twenty-eighth of December, we used to go all out for her birthday and Christmas. It was a big affair with our family. We’d fly grandma and grandpa out, or we’d go out to them in Tennessee. Mom and grandma would sing Christmas songs while me and grandpa would play the piano.
Dad are in those memories too. Him and mom would dance around the piano, and I can remember the house filled with laughter that could lift the home from its foundation. But those memories are trumped by the negative. At what point is a marriage, a marriage when the bad memories begin to outweigh the good.
Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad. And my Dad was someone special – I can’t pinpoint when all of that changed. If I try and force myself to recollect – there were signs that no teen should have been able to pick up on. And my parents were good at keeping any disagreements and fights private.
Never fight around Thomas; that was rule number one with mom.
My memories are of a loving family. Of grandparents who loved and still love their daughter no matter her life decisions. And somehow, they still love me and continue to drop anything, and everything at a dimes notice when needed. And then there was my father. He knew how to make the world see what he wanted them to see. If you looked at family photos, we looked like a loving family. A family that had the world in their hands, but that couldn’t have been furthest from the truth. Maybe at first, we were the perfect family. But even then, what seemed perfect really wasn’t. It took me two years before my mother’s death to realize that there was something horribly wrong.
I could see the strain on their relationship with Dad taking me to audition after audition. Mom always argued with him and Pearl because she hated the idea of acting as a career path for me at a young age. Mom had even pulled me out of several deals that were promising, and that would have fast-tracked my career and make not only me wealthy but my family too.
“Helena, listen. This job opportunity will be great for Thomas. It will open up so many doors for him. You and Chad won’t ever have to worry about money. You’ll get to see and do things that people only dream of doing.” Pearl tried to convince mom from pulling me from the acting job I was offered. The money was never something my mom was interested in. Unlike Dad, all he saw was a way to make more money through me.
I remembered hiding at the end of the hall, sitting against the wall, and listened to mom and Pearl argue. Dad was in the office with them, and I knew he was sitting in his office chair – watching or on his computer and ignoring them.
Mom was pissed. I could hear the venom in her words as she spoke in a way I rarely heard. “You’re not Thomas’s mother. You will not dictate to me what is best for my son. He is not doing that job, end of story. He is a kid. He deserves to live his life as a teenager. Not some newest Hollywood’s hot and upcoming actor. If he wants to act when he turns eighteen, that is his decision to make.”
“Honey, don’t you think....” Dad attempted to calm mom down but failed. When Mom’s mind was made up, it was made up. There was no changing it, and there was no changing it when it came to acting.
There was loud snapping coming from fingers, ending my Dad’s attempt of soothing her, “Don’t honey me. You’ve lost that right long ago. The decision is made. He’s not acting. And you can show yourself out of this house.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Helena,” Dad stated, “Pearl is a family friend and my business partner. Thomas’s manager his publicists.”
“NO, she is NOT,” The sound of my mother yelling sent the house shivering like an earthquake. “She is a family friend of your family. Not of this family.” Mom grounded out, “And Thomas’s life is not a business opportunity.” I remembered hearing something crash in the office down to the floor. Causing me to jump up from my hiding spot in the hall. My only concern was for my mother. Dad’s behavior was becoming more erratic. I don’t think he’d ever laid a hand on mom, but during the last two years, I never put it past him to raise his voice towards her or throw something to the ground out of frustration.
I ran into Dad’s office; stopping in the doorway, I noticed a shattered vase on the ground. Dad stood next to Pearl, who looked slightly crazed. Mom had jumped back, and she was visibly scared but was not backing down. To this day, I have no idea who threw the vase to the floor.
Mom turned towards me. Her motherly intuition was always on point, and I watched the hardlines across her forehead soften as she took my hand. “Tommy, what’s wrong?”
“I-I, uh, heard a noise,” I said as I looked at everyone in the room. I felt like a stranger in my Dad’s study. The only person that was remotely familiar to me was my mom.
Mom wrapped me into a hug, “Honey, how about you go and pack a bag. We’re going to visit grandma and grandpa. Okay?”
I remembered looking past her and seeing a surprised look on my Dad’s face. That’s when I saw it, Pearl’s hand reaching for my Dad’s forearm in comfort, giving it a tender squeeze. The look in her eyes, not one of a concerned friend. I may have been fourteen, but I wasn’t stupid, and I knew how to read between the lines.
“Will you come and help?” I asked her because I didn’t want her to stay in the office alone.
She smiled, “I’ll be there in a minute, Tommy. Promise.” She stood slightly on her tiptoes as she placed a kiss to my forehead.
I didn’t go far. I found myself pressed against the same spot of the wall in the hall and continued to listen to the rest of the conversation.
“Helena, running off to Tennessee won’t solve anything,” Dad stated. He sounded annoyed and irritated, “You will be back. You always come back.”
The tone from my mom was one that I’ve never heard before. Her tone was filled with hatred and so much animosity, and I wasn’t sure if Mom I heard speaking. “It will give me time to think. And maybe you too. Hopefully, while we’re gone, you won’t forget to throw the fucking trash out.”
At the sound of my mother’s footsteps stomping down the hall, I bolted upstairs and into my room. I pulled out my suitcase from under the bed and started to pull clothes out of my closet and dresser. There was no rhyme or reason for the clothes I was pulling out, but as soon as Mom walked into my room, she knew I had heard every single word. Only because in my suitcase were clothes suitable for a California winter – not a Tennessee winter.
Christmas was only a week away that year; we ran away to Tennessee. I loved visiting my grandparents, and I loved Tennessee. I knew if mom could have had it her way, she’d moved back and raised me on the farm with grandpa. She loved the farm-living way of life, and I loved helping Grandpa out in the fields. Even if he’d never let me drive the tractors. But most of all, I loved seeing how happy my mom was away from Dad.
I know that thought is messed up on so many levels. Typically, kids want to see their parents stay together. The idea of divorce is scary for most, but for me, it was a welcomed idea and one I held onto hope for. I wanted Mom to be happy, and if that meant without Dad, I would have supported her. I should have told her that when we flew out to Tennessee. That it was okay for her to leave Dad and that I would go with her.
We stayed for three months in Tennessee and lived with my grandparents. I thought for sure we weren’t going back to California or Dad. I thought maybe, just maybe, we’d finally be living in Tennessee with Grandma and Grandpa, and Mom could finally find her happiness again. I was confident that Mom had read the agonizing worry in my eyes and knew that I would have supported her if she left Dad. It was an unspoken bond between my mother and me; she knew what I was thinking before I even knew.
So, why couldn’t she see that she had my support without me voicing it? God, I should have just fucking said something. Anything to her, but we were so consumed with the life of no drama, I just assumed.
Until Dad flew out and practically begged Mom for one last chance, to come back home to Cali, and he promised to never speak to Pearl again. He promised never to take me to another casting call. A lie he broke as soon as the wheels of the plane hit the fucking tarmac. But it seemed mom wanted to make things work, or at least give it one last try before officially ending their marriage. She didn’t want to admit to defeat. She never accepted defeat, not unless she’s ventured down every avenue to make it work.
But how many paths can you attempt to make when all have been demolished and destroyed. I think Mom was grasping at any and all straws to try and keep a family that was once happy together. She knew what she needed to do, but I think in her mind, she was destroying a family and taking a son away from his father.
Dad had no interest in keeping his empty promises either. He lied as soon as we stepped off the plane. I was at casting calls the very next day with Pearl, and my silence was forced with blackmail. Because if I talked, I would have been the cause of my parents’ latest fight. All I wanted was for my mom to be happy, and if that meant giving Dad another chance, I wanted to see it work out – not erupt into violent flames and burn her because of my words.
After Mom passed away, I’m not sure why I stuck it out with acting. I’m not sure why I continued to have Pearl in my life. Maybe because she was the constant from my life before it all went to shit, and as messed up as this sounds, I wanted some familiarity from my life before. Even if it meant keeping my Dad’s mistress in my life, she knew what roads and paths to take in Hollywood.
My grandparents were and are amazingly selfless. They dropped everything to move out here for me. I’m not sure why they didn’t just haul my ass back to Tennessee because I would have quickly gone without a fight. I’m not sure if they thought staying here would help the whole grieving process, or maybe because it was their way of grieving. Being in the last spot, their daughter was alive.
The drinking started when I was eighteen, maybe even seventeen. It was easy to get ahold of booze. It’s Hollywood. What I wanted, I got. I don’t think I was a drunk then. I just drank enough to take the edge off. To shut my mind off from the hurt and the pain. I wanted to numb every single fucking emotion and memory from my mind, and alcohol helped with that.
Pearl fueled my addiction, but I still managed to land role after role after role even with my drinking. My income was coming in hot and fast. Before I knew it, I had more money than I knew what to do with. I bought the property that I’m living on now and built not only my house but my grandparents’ too. I wanted out of my parents’ house. I wanted away from the remembrances: the good and the bad. I didn’t want to turn the corner of a hall or just stare at my bedroom door, waiting for my mom to come walking in or expecting to see her smiling face.
I guess the rest is history. I don’t have anyone to blame for my addiction besides me, and I know that I’ve allowed it to get out of hand. At first, I could go days without drinking; then it turned into daily drinking, and then it turned into just plain drunkenness. Val talked to me about getting help multiple times before. Travis has spoken to me about getting help, and my grandma hinted at her concerns about my health. Xayla and I were just a troubled pair of best friends who got into mischief when we wanted to have a good time. We both knew we had a problem. I’ve accepted mine.
I don’t think she’s accepted hers yet.
And then there is Ryann. I’m not sure who walked into who’s life. But I know that fate brought us where we needed to be that crucial day in Indy. I wasn’t drunk, but I wasn’t sober either that day. I’ve also never felt ashamed for the amount I drank, not until my eyes landed on the beautiful woman slinging muddy water from her hands.
I took one look into her angry, beautiful hazel eyes; the golden-brown hue around her pupils tapered off into the darker green color of her eyes. At times, the colors looked as if they had a marbleized appearance. Her eyes nearly knocked me to the ground when she finally acknowledged my existence.
I’ve never had to work so hard to get someone to pay attention to me before. It was a new and infuriating sensation that I oddly loved.
It’s hard to believe that same woman is lying naked in my bed now. I’ve never felt, so whole like the world is finally right. I need to fix so much in my life, and I have to get right this time around. And I know there is so much that I still need to know about Ryann. I just hope that she’ll find it in her someday to share whatever is bothering her with me. I’m not sure what else I can do to prove to her that I’m not going anywhere. That I will never and can never judge her or leave her. Andrew keeps telling me that I just need to let her come to me and not to pressure her to share something that she’s not ready to share.
And if he’s advising me to back off in asking her, it makes me wonder if he knows what’s going on. Which means she’s confided in him. I hate the idea that she confided in Andrew. I know now that there was never anything between them back in Georgia. However, it still doesn’t mean that I like the idea of her seeking his comfort and advice when she should be coming to me.
Leaning over Ryann, I place a soft kiss to her cheek and roll out of bed. We didn’t go to bed until late last night. I had to make sure that she got my birthday gift, and it involved us in almost every room in the house once everyone left. I’m not sure what time we ended up going to bed or the number of condoms we went through. At one point, we forgot all about the damn condom. We were so consumed by the moment; it just happened.
Pulling on my black sports shorts and a clean grey tee from my closet, I look back at the bed, and I stare at Ryann now sprawled out across the mattress. Smiling to myself, I closed the door behind me and make my way out to the kitchen to make breakfast.
Today, I need to do something, and I’m not confident it will go how I have planned.