We’re walking down Sunset Blvd. Window shopping and doing what Valerie and I do best, talk. Yoga class was what I needed. Something to distract myself while working out.
During my therapy session, I had to tell my therapist about my latest nightmare. Normally, after I wake from one, I’m able to recover fairly quickly, and they don’t leave an ever-lasting effect on my body. But that was not the case with this one. This nightmare left me shaking and terrified that if I closed my eyes, I’d wake from a coma from overdosing or something and still be stuck in Indiana. I don’t understand why my dreams are progressing and becoming more violent, more....more traumatizing. Maybe not remembering every aspect of my lost memories was for the best.
I try and stay up until Thomas comes to bed with me. So, I can fall asleep knowing that I’m safe and loved. But I had to go home early from the studio to help Valerie with the final preparations for the press tour. One of the hotel confirmations somehow fell through, and with a lot of persuasion, as in yelling on Valerie’s end and talking with the hotel manager, we finally got everything settled and finalized.
Valerie insisted on staying with me until Thomas got home, but she got a call from her mom, who made a surprise visit to Valerie’s apartment. I, of course, couldn’t ask her to stay. I mean, Thomas was due to be home in two hours. Even though I was tired, I knew I could stay up until he arrived home. Or so I thought.
I left Thomas’s office to change into my pajamas, and the next thing I knew, I’m stuck in a basement tied to a bed. I was screaming for help. Hoping someone would come and release me. That someone would save me. But no one came. At least, to rescue me.
I woke to Thomas shaking me. I was sobbing, screaming, and trying to get out of his hold. Thomas had to wrap his arms around my midsection to keep me from harming myself or him. When I came to, I was so disgusted with what I had dreamt. It felt like I still had the drugs and alcohol in my system that I ran to the bathroom and heaved up nothing but stomach acid into the porcelain bowl.
My entire body was trembling with fear; my sobriety had been tarnished, and I would have to start all over. I knew deep down that I had taken nothing, but that didn’t stop my mind from sending signals to my body to get rid of the toxic combination I was forced.
Thomas held me in his arms as I cried into his chest. I know he wanted the answers to the questions he asked and what my dream held, but I couldn’t. Not when I didn’t understand it myself.
Until I talked with my therapist today.
“Hey, you okay?” Valerie asks as she bumps into me.
Forcing my attention from the sidewalk passing under my feet, I see an inquisitive and very concerned pair of blue eyes looking at me, “I’m fine. Sorry. What were you saying?”
“I wasn’t. Just noticed you off in la-la land. Did you have another dream?”
Shaking my head, “I don’t want to talk about it. Not yet.”
“Okay, but if you’re not going to open up to me about it, you should talk to Thomas.”
Flipping both sets of rings around my finger, besides Thomas’s grandparents, Valerie was the first person to notice the new addition on my finger. She nearly burst into tears. “I know. I told him I would talk to him tonight when he gets home.”
“About everything?” Since the first of the year, she’s also been pressuring me to talk with Thomas and come clean.
I crane my neck to the sky with aggravation. I’m over this whole talk to Thomas about your sobriety, and he’ll understand shit. I’ll tell him when I fucking tell him.
“Ry, you do know you talk when you’re woken from those dreams, right?” What? I can practically feel my face draining of any and all color. Why is she waiting until NOW to tell me? “I’m sorry. I know I probably should have said something sooner, but he may already know and isn’t saying anything.”
Fuck, I can’t breathe. Why can’t I breathe?
“Shit, come on, let’s sit.” Valerie guides me to an empty table outside of a little café shop and forces me to sit down. “Breathe, Ryann. Deep breaths in and out.”
Fuck that shit. I need to know what she means. I can breathe later. “Wh-what do you mean I talk when I’m woken?” I gasp out. A waiter hurries over, taking notice of the distressed woman nearly ready to pass out. I watch him set a bottle of water in front of me before turning to Valerie.
His name tag reads Don, and he is a middle-aged man with a speckling of grey in his black hair and seems genuinely concerned with what he is seeing. “Is she okay? Do you need me to call an ambulance?” He asks Valerie.
“I think we’re good. She just got some news she wasn’t expecting. Can we sit here for a few minutes?”
“Of course,” Don says. “If you need anything, I’ll be at the front counter.”
“Thank you,” Valerie flashes him a sweet smile and waits for him to disappear back into the café before returning her attention back to me. “I’m not sure if or what you say when Thomas wakes you. He’s never mentioned anything to me.” I collapse my head into my hands with sheer horror, “When I woke you one time, you kept telling me to make them stop, and at one point, you were talking about Oxy.”
“Oh, my god. He knows. He fucking knows.” I’m mortified and pissed at the thought. Valerie should have told me. Thomas should have said something to me. Oh my fucking god. What am I going to do?
“Hey, is it so bad that he knows? I mean, he’s still with you?” I glare at Valerie. If this is her attempt of trying to be encouraging, it’s not helping. “All I’m saying, he’s probably going to take it better than you think.”
“Thanks. And I think I need a fucking meeting now.”
Valerie frowns, “And talk with Thomas tonight, right?”
I shrug a shoulder, “I don’t know if I want to go home.”
“Don’t do that. Please don’t do that to him again. Thomas is really trying here. You can’t just leave him without any warning, Ryann. That’s not fair to him, and you know it. Listen, I get that you’re scared and mad, but you have to tell him. It’s time that you tell him. Even you said......”
“Don’t lecture me,” I warn. With everything weighing heavily on my mind, I’m done with it all. All of it, and the one person I want, I shouldn’t because he’s the one I’m hiding from. “You don’t live with the constant fear of your past just fucking showing up and blowing your new life to smithereens. I’m walking around Cali with this fear that Pearl will release some photos of me being raped or guys with my clothes like their trophies or prizes that they won. Or that the videos will be uploaded.”
I watch Valerie deflate slightly, “I’m sorry, Ry, I really am. But Thomas won’t let that happen....”
Before she can continue, I suddenly stand up, knocking the chair I’m sitting in over. “He can’t make that promise.” I nearly scream. “None of you can. All you guys are doing are making empty promises.”
Without a second thought, because old habits die hard, I take off running. Leaving a scrambling Valerie attempting to catch up with me, only to trip over our workout bag in an attempt to grab my arm. I need to get away. I need a breather away from everything. I’m starting to feel claustrophobic and like someone is slowly smothering me with my fucked-up past.
“Ryann, where are you going?” Valerie calls after me. “Ryann, stop, or I’m calling Thomas.”
Even with her threat, I keep booking it down the sidewalk until I’ve put enough distance between me and what I hoped was a new life for me. Now all I can think about is hopping on the next flight out of here and getting away. Space, all I need is space. Only for a few minutes, hours, days. Who knows.
As I turn the corner, I hear someone let out a high-pitched whistle causing my steps to falter slightly. Then, without warning, my wrist is grabbed, and I’m pulled into a well-traveled alleyway and pinned against a wall. When I make eye contact with who I’m expecting to be, Thomas or Travis, I’m greeted by a familiar set of dark brown eyes and that famous head of golden hair.
He flashes me his famous pearly whites that could swoon any woman. “Missed me, baby? Because I’ve missed you.”
I’m frozen. I feel so frozen and stuck. It’s like a floodgate has been breached, and all memories are rushing to spill from every fucking pore of my body. People walking past me can see me, the real me. The whore I was....that I am. And I know not a single one of them will stop and intervene. Instead, they’ll carry on with their daily agenda and keep telling themselves that this is a form of my repentance.
Attempting to push past Jamie, he immediately slams me back into the wall as a shooting pain radiates across my shoulder. “And where do you think you’re going? I believe you owe me.”
“I don’t owe you shit,” I spit. “Get the fuck away from me before I call the police.” I’m trying to muster all the confidence that I can find, but him and I both know this is all an act. I’m terrified, and I know I’m alone. But, once again, I’m alone.
He snorts out in laughter before leaning down to my ear, “Oh, baby, you owe me. If I remembered correctly, you cost me money when you flushed my stash and then some. Now it’s time to pay up.”
“In your damn dreams.” My voice is beginning to waver as fear starts to prickle along the back of my neck. The same fear that I had with Ralph, and it’s the same god damn warning that I got each and every time I stepped into one of those house parties or when Jamie and I went out on a date.
Jamie pulls away slightly, an evil smile graces his face. A smile that causes the bile in my stomach to start to fizzle and bubble and spill out onto the ground below. “And I heard I’m still haunting your dreams. Are you on meds yet for them, baby? Or are you afraid that you’ll relapse?” I looked at him in complete and horrible shock. How does he know that? “I’m surprised that you’ve been able to stay sober for this long. Though, I think if I was smart, I should have turned your mom and that bitch, Teresa, against you. Then you’d still be with me. Because baby, I’m the best you ever had.”
“Fuck you,” I scream again, hoping to draw some attention my way, but once again, I get the occasional side glance, but no one comes to help. “You’re the poison I rid myself of. Now go back to Indiana and leave me the fuck alone.”
Jamie clicks his tongue to the roof of his mouth before slamming his palms to the building’s brick exterior next to my head. I force my body not to flinch when, out of instinct, that is what it wants to do. “Oh, no, no, no. That’s not how this works. You ignored my phone calls and changed your number. Now, what you’re going to do is, put your notice into your job and fly back home with me. Your family misses you, and it’s time for you to fulfill what you promised me. You’re done here in Hollywood.”
I turn my face off to the side with each inch he draws closer. If he’s referring to the time I told him I’d married him, he must be off his fucking rocker. I was high. I was drunk, and I thought I was madly in love with Jamie. Not to mention, we were still in the damn honeymoon phase of our relationship where I would have done anything and everything Jamie had asked of me.
“Fine, if you won’t go with me, you’ll be left with no choice. Did you really think running away you’d be getting rid of me? We’ve both have had our fun; now it’s time to get back to the real world, to our lives. Together.”
No, no, no, I can’t go back with Jamie, I can’t...I don’t want a life with him. If I step off this path I’ve set myself on, that’s it. I’ll be toast, and all of my hard work would be for not. “I’m not going with you.” Find your strength Ryann, and don’t allow Jamie to see the vulnerable and weak side because all he’ll do is extort it. Jamie has all the information he wants and needs to ruin my life, and him being here now is just proof of the control he’s attempting to continue to hold over me.
I watch his lips turn off to the side as his eyes become hooded with pure evil, “Wanna try that again?”
“I’M NOT GOING WITH YOU!” I scream and draw more attention to us from onlookers passing by.
I watch him hesitate slightly before regaining his composure because the woman standing in front of him isn’t the same Ryann he once knew. The Ryann he knew would have caved by now and not continue to put up a fight. Jamie would have offered me some pills, and I would have obeyed as my next high was just given to me. What a way to buy a woman, just fuel her addiction, and she’ll abide by any rule you wish.
“That’s where you’re wrong, baby. Did you think you could make a new home here in LA?” Jamie’s question is laced with bile and a sinister laugh. “You’re sadly mistaken Ryann, this is LA, and you are nothing more than just a lost and uncounted number. No one will care or noticed that you’re gone.” My stomach churns as Jamie’s fingers trace up my arm before taking my chin between his fingers as he forces me to look at him. His face shadowed with evil, the same evil I saw for so long but was too afraid to leave.
But it’s like I’m back in High School. That I’m this scared and timid teenager who has no idea what to do or is too ashamed to ask for help. My mind is screaming at my body to move. To just nail Jamie in the balls like I did with Ralph and run. Run far, far away, but my body won’t respond. The flight and fight response severed as I remain paralyzed where I stand.
I hear a familiar cocky-back the fuck off laugh come from behind Jamie. “I’d beg to differ, and I suggest unless you want a heel lodged in your fuckin’ head, you step the fuck away from her.”
Jamie turns around slowly and sees an enrage Xayla with her arms crossed across her torso and a black high-heeled foot tapping on the uneven pavement. With her sudden involvement, more people are starting to notice the scene around them, and with more bystanders stopping, the more people I see with their phones out filming.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Jamie says sweetly, turning his good-boy charm on. “But I don’t think....”
Xayla storms up to him, towering over him in her six-inch stilettos, “Oh, but I do know. Your Ryann’s ex, Jamie. You were her abusive boyfriend of a drug dealer, and I swear to god if you don’t back the fuck off her, I have no problem making a damn scene. The question you have to ask yourself, are you willing to go toe to toe with me. Because you won’t win.”
Watching Jamie’s back, I watch his shoulder muscles tense before relaxing suddenly, “I think there’s been a misunderstanding Miss. Masterson. Ryann is sick, she’s delusional, and she fled her treatment back home. I’m here to bring her back home so she can receive the help that she needs.”
Oh, my, god. How is it physically possible for him to still sound so convincing? I know he has some of the onlookers convinced that I’m some sort of mental case who’s probably broken out of an inpatient hospital, but that can’t be furthest from the truth. I’m fighting from falling to the ground and breaking down. I can’t have him brainwashing the few friends that I have. They’re my family. I shouldn’t have run from Valerie. This is what I get for running.
“And I think it’s you who needs help!” Valerie seethes as she marches into the alleyway and puts herself between Jamie and me. She’s on the defense, and I’ve never seen her so ready to pounce before.
Jamie lets out a crackle of a chuckle as he rolls his neck from side to side, “How cute. What is this?” Jamie asks as he looks around Valerie and at me. “Did you finally find yourself some friends? Do they know you? The true you? Or are they just as brainwashed as your employer is? Maybe I should talk to Pearl and inform her of who she’s hired on to run the day and nights of Hollywood’s Thomas Copeland.”
“You’re done, and you need to leave and never come back,” Valerie warns. “The police have been called.”
“Let them come,” Jamie challenges as he opens his arms to turn back towards Valerie and me. “I’m sure they’d love a recount of what’s happened. How I was ganged up on, and how I was assaulted by Miss. Masterson and her shoe.”
I can feel my tears starting to break as guilt takes over. This is the last thing I want, for my friends to be dragged into the drama and mess that is my life, “Jamie, please stop. You can take all my money. Just, please, I’m begging you, just leave.”
“Ha, bitch, I don’t want your fucking money. You know what you owe me. That is what I’m after.”
I watch him take a step closer, only to be shoved back by Valerie. “Don’t fucking come near her.” She shouts with pure revulsion as Jamie stumbles back and quickly regains his composure. His eyes are flashing with something filled purely with evil. He’s now and officially uncaged and dangerous. There is no telling what Jamie will do next. “I’m not afraid of you.” Valerie challenges his motives. “You’re like any other man with a god damn complex. You will be brought down, and when you are, it will be epic, and there will be a line of your victims coming for you.”
With the sound of sirens in the near distance, Jamie is distracted enough for Valerie and Xayla to come to my side. Still shielding me from Jamie, they attempt to get me out of the damn alleyway and away from the horror blast from the past standing right in front of me. But our path is blocked by a mincing Jamie, and I watch as Valerie pushes me behind her and prevents Jamie from reaching me. I can see the evil in his eyes, the same evil that is eager to scheme and do anything and everything if you stand in his way.
That is until he’s bulldozed by Travis and thrown down to the ground and restrained in handcuffs as Travis forces Jamie’s hands behind his back. Jamie growls out as he attempts to buck Travis and his knee from his back.
“Xayla, get Ryann back home.” He demands.
Before I have time to object, I’m whisked away by both Valerie and Xayla to an awaiting black sedan. Valerie leading the way in front of Xayla and me as Xayla holds me close to her side. The crowd around us is now vast and loud. And with the number of people trying to shove their phones and cameras in our faces, I’m afraid that we will be separated.
Bright flashes flood our path as paparazzi attempt to scream out their questions, trying to get the juicy gossip-worthy details of what happened. Xayla immediately takes her leather jacket off, placing it over my head and denying the press from obtaining any more photos. I’m quickly shoved into the back of the car as Xayla slides in next to me. I watch as Valerie pushes past a group of men, shoving cameras into her face, and darts into the front seat of the car, slamming the door behind her.
Collapsing my head into the front seat, I break down. My two worlds have officially crashed and obliterated one another. I’m officially drowning.