Since being in New York, I’ve searched out a therapist while continuing to go to meetings. The nightmares are coming back worse than before. Ranging from being back at High School and watching the line of men growing, one that I’ve had several times. Then there are new ones where it’s not Jamie collecting the money but Max. Or Max is taking money from Jamie. But those dreams feel so real. At least with my nightmares, I know I’m dreaming. But the ones with Max, they feel so lifelike that I wake in the dead of night with a cold sweat and my heart racing. Or Valerie is waking me. I’m confused. So confused. I don’t know what’s the truth and what’s a lie. I can’t tell if the memories that are resurfacing are even real.
What if all of these nightmares and new memories are from the one question Thomas asked me, Didn’t Max?
It’s a truth I know the answer to. I think. And one that I don’t want to know the answer to. Because the truth is one that I’m not sure I can face. Not alone. Not without Thomas. Maybe that’s why I’ve sought a professional. So I wouldn’t have to rely on Thomas because I don’t know if he’ll be there when I’m ready to confront Max.
Walking down the crowded New York street. The weather is starting to turn from fall into winter. It’s a brisk sunny day. The wind is softly blowing the city smell around me. At times, smelling of food from the street vendors that I pass. Other times, it smells like I’ve just walked past a slew of overspilling port-a-potties. Welcome to New York. A city, not only filled will beautiful and cultural sights, but the smells are unlimited and unforgiven at times too.
Zipping my jacket up, I shove my hands into my pockets as I cross the crosswalk with the flow of foot traffic. People around me buzzing with chatter as I try and focus on the songs blaring in my ears. My song choice for the last five weeks has been a lot of heartbreaking, depressing songs with a mix of fuck-off songs. It feels like my emotions can’t decide how I should feel. I’m confused. I’m hurt. I have so many questions that I left unresolved when I left Thomas. His voice, playing over and over in my head when he was begging me to stay. To wait for him. Not to mention his voicemails. He’s determined. I’ll give him that.
Ryann, I know I fucked up. I’m really sorry. What Xayla said...I should have said something. I should have defended you. I just froze, and I know that’s not an excuse. But it’s what happened. I was pissed and couldn’t figure.....Anyway, I’m not going to stop calling until you call me back. I need to know that you’re safe. That you’re okay. I know you haven’t gone back home. I promise that I’ll find you. You may have run away, Ryann. But I promise you, I will find you. I miss you.
I miss you. His voice was soft and quick and felt like a dream. I imagined him sitting on one of the couches or in his bedroom, pacing his room as he left this voicemail. His hand occasionally running through the soft strands of his hair as he spoke. To try and calm his nerves. I pictured his green eyes bright and soft as he spoke. Trying to convey the emotions he was feeling without telling me those emotions. And he...he misses me. With each voicemail he leaves, I’m breaking my own heart by not returning his calls.
I’m not sure what I’m waiting for. For him to make a grand gesture? A grand gesture for him would be telling me that he’s seeking help. That he’s been sober since I left. That’s the wish. If he’s done it, I don’t know.
Pulling open the café door, I find Valerie tucked away at a table in the corner. She smiles and waves. Making my way through the packed café, I take the vacant seat at the table with her as she slides over my coffee. Taking a long, long drink, I hum my appreciation.
When I decided to leave employment with Thomas, Valerie was the first person I called. I told her that I needed to get away from all the noise. And that included my family. Who still don’t have my new number. I finally had to break down and call my mom from Valerie’s cell. Coming up with an excuse that I’m having issues with the press getting hold of my number, and I’ve had to change it three different times in the last four weeks. According to Valerie, the lie was believed. But I’m not sure mom or Max bought the lie. I’ve had to answer for the photos that have been leaked to the press. I thought about lying. But in the end, I told them the truth. Telling them that Xayla was given a spiked drink and passed out and couldn’t get her to come to. Then there is a photo that I haven’t seen. One of me and Thomas holding hands.
Ya, that one was a little harder to cover up. I ended up telling mom and Max that he doesn’t do hospitals for personal reasons, and with how Xayla was, he was scared. Part truth. I just left out the fact that he wanted me to come with him and the fact that I’ve fallen for my boss. And that I ran away, and I’m in New York, going through my savings like there’s no tomorrow.
God, if I’d told them that I was in New York and why. They would have demanded that I come home. I know they would have. Mom ended up telling me that I needed to call Teresa and that she’s been trying to reach me. I’m not really looking forward to that conversation because she can see through my bullshit. She’ll know I’m lying as soon as I say, how are you doing?
“Thank god you’re here. People kept trying to steal your seat and flirt with me.” She says as she tries to look exasperated. I know she loves flirting. She can deny it all she wants.
“Oh, are you telling me that I need to move?” I joke.
She smirks as she pushes her long blonde hair behind her shoulder, “Nah, told them I was waiting for my date to arrive.”
Laughing and nearly choking on my coffee, “Funny. I’m sure you ruined several men’s day today.”
She smirks, “Oh, I know I did. But I couldn’t help myself. Their faces were priceless.”
Shaking my head on a laugh, I unzip my jacket. The café is crammed pack with people, and the sun is starting to shine through the window. Making me hot. “How long have you been waiting? Not long, I hope.”
“About ten minutes. How was therapy today?” She asks.
“Erm...good. She still thinks that I need to go home and confront dad and Jen. And question Max.” The hesitation is evident in my voice.
“And you still don’t?” Shaking my head as an answer. “It will give you the answers that you want. Or at least, you’ll be face to face, and you’ll be able to tell if someone is lying.”
“But I’m still not sure I want the truth. Maybe I’ll just keep turning a blind eye to it. Never accept it.”
Valerie frowns with the coffee cup to her lips. I watch her slowly sit it down, “That is a shit idea. Ry, I’ve had to wake you from your dreams more than once. I hear you screaming. Yelling for help. Yelling for Max to end it. Then you’re yelling for Thomas.” I look away from her piercing blue eyes. She’s not judging me. Just telling me a truth that I don’t want to hear. “How many dreams have you had that Thomas woke you from? Or you wished Thomas were there?”
Biting my lip, I start to spin the ring on my finger. My free hand is cupping my coffee travel cup as a finger taps against the paper like the material of the cup. The warm liquid forming to the beat my finger is creating. Valerie suddenly reaches across the table, taking my hand and forcing my finger to stop spinning my ring. Looking into her eyes, they’re sympathetic, “I’m not saying this to be a bitch or anything.”
“I know,” I tell her.
Squeezing my hand. “I can tell you’re hurting Ryann, and I don’t think it has anything to do with your past you’re trying to deal with or your secret sobriety that you’re keeping from him. You’re hurting yourself by denying your heart what it wants. What you want.”
“I don’t even know what I want,” I lie.
Valerie twists her lips off to the side, “And that’s a load of crock. You know what you want. The sooner you admit it. The better you’ll feel. I mean, I can cheer it for you if ya like!”
The fact that she’s extremely cheerful with that statement is making me slightly nervous. When I first met Valerie, I thought she was shy. She’d always hide behind her notepad or her laptop during tense and awkward situations. It’s not that she’s not shy-she doesn’t do conflict. She has no problem being loud and drawing attention to herself. I remember her telling me that’s probably the only reason why she made her school’s cheerleading team because of how loud she could scream and her over-the-top pep. Though she swears, that has toned down the older she’s gotten.
“Don’t you dare,” I warn, as my eyes start to dart around the café.
“Admit,” She challenges as she sits back in her chair. Sucking my lips between my teeth, I just stare at her. Suddenly she shrugs a shoulder and gets to her feet before jumping onto her chair. Oh, my god. “Ladies and gentlemen of this fine establishment!” She yells.
My face immediately heats as everyone in the café suddenly turns their attention towards us, “Valerie, get down.” I hiss.
She beams to me, “Are you going to admit it?”
Throwing my hands in the air, “Fine, now will you get down?”
Holding a finger to me, “You, hotty by the sugar packs.” Turning my head towards the counter with the creamers and sugars, I find a confused man in a business suit, his hair jet black and slicked back, and he’s trimmed and looks overly proper. He’s cute, but he’s not my type, but I don’t think Valerie really has a type. Just any man who she deems hot, “Yes, you. Want my number?”
He nods his head with a confused smile, and I watch Valerie hop down from the chair and make her way to the man she randomly picked out of the crowd to cover up what she was really doing. I watch her for a beat. Talking and laughing with Mr. Business Suite before she hands him a napkin with her number or a fake number.
“Real or fake?” I ask her as she takes her seat.
Taking a sip of her coffee, she smiles, “Real. Though I did tell him that I’m only in New York for a short time. We’re having dinner tonight.”
“Dinner or sex?”
“Hey, a girl has needs that masturbating can’t meet.” She says, amused by her statement as she throws herself into a fit of laughter. “Okay, enough sex talk. Now admit. Come on. I have alllllll day!” She cajoles.
Groaning out, I lay my head across my arms, shielding myself from her prying eyes, “I like Thomas.”
Laughing, “Oh, Ryann. No, no. I thought you didn’t like him. That he was a cocky American celebrity who probably has a shit libido and is terrible in bed.”
I glare up at her, “I was pissed when I said that.”
“Oh, I know. When did he not piss you off.” When he was Thomas and not the Thomas that he’s become. “Did you guys ever....you know?” She winks.
My cheeks flush as I hide my face again, “No. But there were a few close moments.”
“How many close moments are we talking about here?”
Sitting up, I take a deep breath and push my hair away from my face and over a shoulder, “Umm, there was the first trip to New York. The time we laid on the lawn. Umm....when I stepped on the glass, and he took me to his bathroom.” With each example, I’m counting them on my fingers. Valerie’s eyes grow as her mouth hangs partially open, “Then there was the car incident. Then there was the after-party thing on the couch.”
Valerie starts waving her hands in front of me frantically, “Whoa, wait. What after-party thing? Are you talking about the party incident with Ralph?”
Nodding my head, “I couldn’t sleep. And found myself on the couch. I asked Thomas to lay with me until I fell asleep. I think he kissed the top of my head.”
“And you’re just now telling me all of this?” Shrugging my shoulders, I sit back in my chair as I grab my coffee. Nearly chugging it at my sudden parch-ness. “Any other romantic thing he’s done for you?”
Uhh, she knows about him buying new clothes and shoes, “He put music on my new phone.” Music that I’ve found every single song that he’s added and created a playlist to listen for when I want to feel him around me. Giving me a false sense of comfort.
“He doesn’t listen to music,” She tells me. I just shrug my shoulders at her statement. “Hmm, What is it going to take for you to go back to California? To Thomas?”
I deflate on a sigh, “I know you’re talking to him.” She doesn’t flinch at my statement. Just impassive, “What has he told you?”
She shakes her head, “I’m not being the mail carrier.” She tells me, “Call him. Talk to him. He’ll tell you. He wants to tell you.”
I arch a brow, “Tell me what?”
She shrugs her shoulder before feigning confusion, “That the sky is blue and the weather is turning to shit here. Are you ready? My legs are starting to cramp. Need to get to walking. Burn off all of these extra cals I’m eating. Plus date night tonight.”
Finishing my coffee, I throw the cup in the trash and follow Valerie out of the café. Linking her arm with mine, she leads the way towards Time Square. Our favorite place to sit, walk, and people watch. Everywhere you look, there is almost always something entertaining to watch.