I’m out of the car before Travis can come to a complete stop and fly up the front steps and fall into the house. The home is eerily quiet and sends an uneasy chill through my body. It feels like there is no one home when I know that’s furthest from the truth.
Walking down the hall towards our bedroom, I find the door slightly cracked, and I slowly open it as I step over the threshold. I find Ryann asleep in the middle of the bed with Xayla and Valerie on either side of her. The television is on and playing old episodes from Futurama.
Ryann is curled up under the covers with one of my black hoodies on, the hood up over her head with her hands shielding her face. I can feel Ryann’s pain even as she sleeps. The heartache and panic that she’s feeling, and I want to take it all away. I don’t want her to feel as if her world has imploded around her. I need her to know that no matter what, I will never leave her. That she is very much supported here.
I catch a slight movement from Xayla as she lifts her head from my pillow. She looks over at Ryann before slowly getting out of bed. Walking up to me, she urges me to follow her out of the room when she knows I just want to curl up next to the woman who needs me the most.
Instead, I follow Xayla out into the living room, where she flops down to the couch, and I take a seat next to her. I can tell something is weighing heavily on her mind, and she’s ready to spill the beans.
“Xayla, what happened?”
I watch her chest rise and fall with a deep breath, “God, Thomas, her ex is a giant fucking prick. I was ready to murder him in that god damn alleyway. I mean, Valerie pushed him.”
What? My head nearly cracks from my neck at that revelation. Valerie isn’t one to get physical. Verbal sure, physical, I’ve never seen that side of her even when we went to school together.
“I heard Ryann cursing. I knew it was her voice, and I thought you two were fighting or something. I mean, she’s never too far from you, but when I rounded the corner, my heart dropped. Jamie had her caged to a damn wall. He was saying all kinds of shit to her. He was trying to blackmail her to get her back home. And Ryann, god, I’m so proud of her. She was standing her ground. I could tell she was scared shitless, but she was standing her ground, trying to defend herself.” Xayla pauses as she starts to flick her perfectly red manicured nails with angst. “Thomas, he told Ryann that she’s just another number that would easily be lost in LA and not missed.”
“Are you telling me he threatened to kill her?” My tone is murderous, and I have to force it from rising too high and carrying through this massive house.
“That is how I took it, and that is how Ryann took it. I couldn’t get between him and Ryann, but Val was able to. Val told him that he needed to leave, and the cops had been called. He tried to intimidate Val by towering over her, but she shoved him and hard. When he heard the sirens, he got distracted, and we decided to get Ryann out of there. But he blocked our path, and that is when Travis tackled him and placed him in cuffs. I don’t know where the press came from. I tried to protect Ryann by covering her with my jacket, but they still captured photos of her. I’m sorry, Thomas, I really am. I tried – we tried.” Xayla’s voice starts to quiver, and I watch her quickly wipe away a lone tear that has fallen. “But people are giant assholes, and some uploaded the fight onto social media. When we got back to the house, Val took Ryann to your bedroom. When I got into the room, I saw Ryann’s phone on her side of the bed, and it was just blowing up from calls....”
Interrupting her, “Calls from who?”
“Max, her dad, and her mom.”
My brow crinkles, “Jen?”
Xayla shakes her head, “Before I turned her phone off, no. There were no missed calls from her sister.”
“Where is her phone now?” I demanded.
Xayla bites her lower lip, “I had Alice come by and pick it up. I didn’t want it in the house. I knew if Ryann saw all of those missed calls and I’m sure text messages and voicemails, she’d......Thomas Ryann is falling and fast.” Tears break free, and Xayla lets them fall, no longer carrying if I see her break down. “I’m afraid that....that...”
“What? Tell me, Xayla. What are you afraid of?”
Xayla takes in a long shaky breath, “I think Ryann needs a meeting.”
“Meeting? Like with her therapist?”
Xayla shakes her head, and I know my suspicions are confirmed. “No, and I think you’ve known for some time, or at least suspected.”
“Xayla, I’m not really in the mood to talk in code. What the hell are you talking about?”
“Ryann is a recovering addict. She’s...I think just over four years sober now.”
Xayla gages me with anxious energy, and with the words leaving her mouth, I’m not sure what to say now that everything is confirmed and out in the open. I’m pissed at myself for the temptations that I shoved under her nose. What the fuck was I thinking throwing those damn parties? Oh, I know, I did it because I wanted to get her attention. I wanted her to end those parties, and I wanted her help. But instead of just seeking her out, I acted like a fucking child. I could have caused her to relapse. How the hell has she not only been strong for me but for herself too?
“No, no, no,” Xayla suddenly panics, “I know what you’re thinking. And it’s why Ryann was scared to even tell you.”
“So, she thought about telling me?” My tone comes across as annoyed and hurt all at the same time. I knew Ryann was keeping something from me, but hearing the confirmation of what I knew, doesn’t make the news any easier to swallow.
“She’s been trying to work the nerve up for months. Since you guys got back from New York, she wanted to tell you, but she didn’t want you to blame yourself for anything or hinder your sobriety.”
“My sobriety?” I laugh, “What about hers?”
Xayla gives me a sad smile, “With today, I think hers is hanging in a very delicate balance, and she needs you. On the car ride over, she was crying, and I told her that I would call you. She said okay at first but changed her mind with the realization that this was going to get out, and she didn’t want you to get caught up in what happened when the police came.”
“You should have called me regardless of what she wanted.”
Xayla flinches from my demand, “I know. We both should have. I’m sorry, Thomas. But we were trying to keep her calm. Once the police left, Val and I found her in the bedroom curled up in one of your sweatshirts, and we laid with her. I’m scared for her, Thomas. I’ve never seen Ryann like this.”
Leaning back on the couch, I crane my head back to look up at the ceiling. I’m not sure what to do either. And if Xayla is right, maybe Ryann does need a meeting. But I have no idea who the hell her coach is or anything regarding her sobriety. Should I call Andrew to the house? Though, I feel like she’d prefer to have her coach here. And wait....I just realized something. Did Xayla just keep a secret from me?
“Do you know who her coach is?” I ask, turning my head towards Xayla. She’s chewing on the inside of her lip as she observes me, and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not blowing up at the news of Ryann’s sobriety or the fact that I’m calm. Well, on the exterior. Because I’m ready to find Jamie and beat him to a fucking pulp.
“His name is Carl, but I don’t have his number. I can ask Alice to get it from Ryann’s phone.” She says as she gets to her feet and heads off to the kitchen. Following her, I find her propped against the counter with her phone in her hand, and it’s there that I noticed another phone, I’m assuming Val’s. Xayla looks up from her device, “We didn’t want our phones in the room with us. We weren’t sure what was going to happen, and Ryann’s family has Val’s number, so we were a little worried that they would start calling her.”
Walking over to Val’s phone, I swipe it up to see all of the missed calls on her phone. Betty, Ryann’s mom, Max calling one too many times and a number from Indiana without a name assigned to it. That number has called about ten times before finally leaving a message.
Looking over my shoulder, I make sure that Val nor Ryann are coming down the hall and press the icon to listen to the message. Xayla gives me an inquisitive look, but I only ignore her as a soft and timid female’s voice rings in my ear.
Umm....I’m not sure if I have the correct number. I – uh, I’m looking for a Valerie. I think you work with my sister, Ry or Ryann.....Ryann Anderson. I’ve been trying to reach her today, and she’s not answering her phone. Can you please call me at this number? Only call this number. I really hope I have the right person. Please call me back. I....I just want to know my sister is okay.
Taking my phone out of my pocket, I enter Jen’s number into my phone. She’ll be getting a call later tonight, and I don’t care what the time difference may be. It could be three in the morning in the damn Hoosier state; she’s getting a call. And she’s giving me answers.
“I have Carl’s number,” Xayla announces as she shows me a text message Alice sent.
Typing the number into my phone, I dial Carl and pray he answers. I’m fully expecting the call to go to voicemail since he does not have my phone number.
“Hello? Carl speaking.”
Uhh, okay, now what? Hi, this is Thomas Copeland, and I’m Ryann’s boyfriend. Can you please come out to the house and have a private meeting with her after the shit show of a day that she had. One that she shouldn’t have had had I only listened to my damn instincts.
Clearing my throat, “Carl, this is Thomas, Thomas Copeland.” The line goes silent for a beat, “I, uhh....” Xayla gives me an amused look at my nervous stumbling attempt at a sentence. “I was hoping that you’d be able to come out to the house to talk with Ryann.”
“Is she okay?”
“No...I don’t know. I’m sure you’ve seen the media reports by now.”
“I have. I’ve been trying to reach her. Where is she now?”
Looking back over my shoulder again, I walk out of the kitchen and head out into the garage and sit on one of the steps leading down. “Xayla had her phone taken off the property. Her and Val didn’t want Ryann to see or deal with any calls or text messages. And she’s currently asleep. But no, I don’t think she’s okay. She went and saw her therapist today after an intense nightmare she had last night. She’s been distant and off since.”
Carl lets out a long and deep sigh, “But you know about her sobriety?”
Groaning out, I run a hand through my hair in exasperation, “Just recently found out, yes.”
“And how are you doing with that piece of information?”
Is he trying to coach me now? “I’ve had my suspicions for a few months now. But I’m not leaving her if that is your concern.”
“No, not a concern, just wanted to make sure you were doing well. I understand that you’ve found your sobriety here recently, and I wanted to make sure you were handling....”
“Listen,” I stop him from giving me any more of a damn prep talk. “I understand what you’re doing, but I have my own sobriety coach, and I plan on talking with him sometime tonight. But Ryann needs to talk, and I would really appreciate it if you could come out to the house and talk with her. I don’t care how long you stay or anything. I – I don’t want her sobriety to be ruined because of what happened today. What happened shouldn’t have even been a thought.”
Carl hums his understanding, “Send me your address, and I’ll be out in an hour or two. Will that be fine?”
“Uh, ya, ya, that will be perfect. Thank you. I’ll tell Travis you’re coming.”
Ending the call with Carl, I set my phone down beside me and collapse my head into my hands because I have no clue what the hell to do. I want to find a handle and just drown it. I want to obliterate the punching bag hanging from the garage ceiling until my hand is officially broken. And most of all, I want to whisk Ryann away from everything that’s taken place today.
I feel Xayla take a seat next to me and lay her head onto my shoulder as she takes my hand with hers. I flinch slightly as a dull aching pain shoots across my hand, “Thomas, what the hell did you do to your hand?”
Turning my head sideways, I watch Xayla examine my bruised and bloody knuckled hand. “Punched a wall at the studio,”
“Well, at least we’re both going out with a bang with Leisa. Are you okay?”
I want to lie and tell her that I’m fine, but I tell Xayla the truth instead. “No, I’m not okay.”
Xayla lets out a deep sigh before laying her head against my shoulder again. “Yea, neither am I. Do you think Ryann will be?”
I want to tell Xayla that Ryann will make it through this unscathed because I know she’s strong, but I’m terrified that this encounter may be her undoing.