I’ve been locked out of the bedroom for the past three hours while Ryann and Carl talk. Ryann has refused to leave the room, and she’s refused to even look at me or speak to me. I can tell she’s ashamed of today’s events, but more so because I told her I called Carl. It was then that Ryann knew I knew. I wanted her to talk to me, but she shut down, and I know pushing her at this point will only cause her to spiral further into the black hole she feels like she’s trapped in or possibly run.
I told Val and Xayla to go home and thanked them for everything that they’ve done today. I’ve also asked Val to release a PR statement about the events that transpired. We both agreed a statement needed to be made, especially with Jamie talking to any and all press that will give him the time of day. Allison has agreed to air our statement as soon as she goes on tonight. Making it her focal breaking news report followed by the information she’s dug up on Jamie. She’s encouraged me to watch tonight, but I don’t think I can bring myself to do it. So, Val and Xayla have tasked themselves with watching Allison’s coverage tonight.
All I have to say is, I hope Ryann realizes how loved and protected she is here. That she’s surrounded by people who love her and believe her and won’t allow this asshole of a privileged small-town-star wannabe who seems to not be able to let go of the past, bring her down.
I talked to Andrew, primarily to pass the time while Ryann talks with Carl, but also because I needed to speak with him. He needed to know that I knew about Ryann’s sobriety, and he confirmed what I suspected. He found out about Ryann’s little secret back at the hospital in Georgia. He claims that she never told him, but he called her out on what he concluded and tried to persuade her to stay and talked to me when I arrived back at the hotel. I told him I was more accepting of the idea of Ryann’s sobriety. Still, I’m not too fond of the idea of her feeling ashamed of her success because I now know. Andrew instructed me to give her time and allow her to come to me when she’s ready to talk and not to push her.
But I think that’s easier said than done, once again. Because I took Andrew’s advice last time, and we’ve seen how that’s played out. I’m not going to allow Ryann to continue to give me the silent treatment either. A part of me was afraid that she was ready to leave, to break everything off. But then I looked down at her hand and saw my mother’s ring still laying where it belongs. I knew that even though Ryann is scared and unsure of what to do, she’s not planning on going anywhere.
At least, I hope.
Looking down at my laptop, a blank email document stares back at me. I need to email Leisa and the production team that, as of now, I will not be at the studio unless I’m absolutely needed. I’m not doing this whole being on set when I’m not required. Not when I’m needed at home. I’ve also taken it upon myself to cancel the first interview and reservations in Georgia and instructed the Movie Entertainment executives that I’ll be conducting the interview by remote access. That is their only option if they want to interview me for the movie. Fuck contracts and the agreed-upon stipulations. Plus, I’m technically not violating any part of my agreement. Nowhere in the document does it state that I have to conduct the interviews in person.
They can take it or leave it. At this point, I really don’t care.
Slamming the laptop shut, I pull up my phone. It’s nearly nine in the evening here, which means it’s what? Midnight? One in the morning back in Indiana.
It doesn’t matter. I hit the number I programmed in my phone and dial Jen’s number. I listen to the phone ring and ring and ring until a groggery voice greets my ears. Getting up from my office chair, I walk to the door and close it.
The last thing I need is for Ryann to overhear this conversation.
“Ry? Is that you? Can you please answer me? I promise I’m not calling to be a bitch or anything. I saw.....”
“This isn’t your sister,” I state evenly into the phone, causing Jen to stop her rambling.
“Oh, where is my sister?”
“Talking with her sobriety coach.”
The sound of doors closing in the background of the phone tells me Jen is trying to find someplace quiet and private to talk, “Who is this?” She practically demands.
“Who sent Jamie?” I fire back.
“Wha-what? No one sent Jamie. I don’t know why he’s there because I don’t talk to him. I never talked to him.”
I can feel her defenses falling into place. She’s ready to attack, but I’m not sure her anger is placed towards me. I’m wondering if Miss. Jennifer knows more than she’s letting on.
“Someone does because he was able to find your sister down to the damn block, Jennifer. So, tell me. Who the hell in your damn family still talks to that bastard. I don’t have the patience for all of this bullshit lying.” I demand with an unknown force.
“I-I don’t know,” she panics into the phone. “I’m trying to find that out. He’s not supposed to be there.”
“Your dad gave Jamie Ryann’s number a few months back. Does he....”
“No,” Jen interjects, “Don’t you dare blame our father for sending Jamie Ry’s way. He doesn’t even know where she lives out in California. He’s still convinced she’s living in a tent on the beach.”
What a lovely man. I can’t wait to have words with her father. To tell him that his fucked-up views on his daughter are wrong and how no father who truly loves their daughter would ever turn their backs on them when they’re needed the most. I can’t imagine the struggles Ryann went through, knowing she didn’t have support or approval from her father. Nor can I imagine the constant internal battle of constantly feeling like she needed to please her father when she was secretly crying out for help.
“How nice,” the sarcasm is strong in my tone.
“Don’t judge us; you don’t know what....”
“What?” I bark into the phone. “What you’ve been through? What Ryann put you and your family through? How about your sister? Have you ever once asked that question with the thought of Ryann in mind? What she’s been through.” The harsh breaths from Jen are the only thing I can hear as she remains quiet. “Have you, Jennifer, taken the time to listen to your sister before jumping to a judgment-based second-hand knowledge? Because the last I heard, that wasn’t the case.”
“Who the hell is this?” Jen orders as her voice rises. “Because my sister doesn’t just tell anyone her past. She’s barely told me.”
“But she told you some form of her past, and you still find it in your heart to judge her and ridicule her and make her life a living hell. For what? Shits and giggles?” The fact Jen has yet to figure out who’s she’s talking to is starting to cause her to become frazzled, and I have no intentions of telling her who I am unless I need to. “I’m not dumb, Jennifer. I’ve heard the fights, I’ve seen what it does to your sister, and I don’t think you care.”
“Thomas?” She questions, “Is this Thomas Copeland?”
Laughing a deep and dark laugh, “The one and only. And he’s enraged beyond belief.”
“Wha-what! I haven’t done anything.”
“Lie,” I spit, “You’ve done plenty. But I’m more enraged that someone within that family has lead Jamie to Ryann. I’m pissed because I’m watching a woman who has accomplished four years of sobriety tinker on the ledge. I’m angry because Ryann was attacked today, and I’m beyond furious because someone she trusts has betrayed her. So tell me, Jennifer, who in the damn family has been talking to Jamie.”
“Wha-what do you mean her sobriety is in danger? Did she use today? Oh, my, god, plea-please tell me she didn’t OD’d. Thomas, plea-please tell me that Ryann is okay. I love my sister. I really do.” Jen cries into the phone. “I know I’ve been a bitch to her, but I’m trying to fix that. I-I want to change. I-I can’t lose her.”
Sighing, I feel the weight of Jen’s words fall around me. “No, your sister hasn’t relapsed, or OD’d.” And I have a lot of questions surrounding that is the first thing she asked me. Because it wasn’t, did my sister relapse, it was, did my sister OD’d. “But she’s not handling this well on an emotional level. Jamie is in jail....”
“I know,” Jen interrupts as she sniffles into the line. “I saw Allison Drake’s report and the statement your team released. Thank you for doing that. I know my sister is just an employee, but we really appreciate that you’re looking out for her.” If only Jen knew the truth, “Um...Allison’s story has also broken open a scandal here in Colfax. Other women are coming forward. Women after Ryann.”
“There is rumor of him being extradited back to Indiana. His family is currently fighting with the California legal system to get him released and sent back home. But my friend on the police force said that with the new allegations, they’re now holding him until....well, he doesn’t know when. But he said that the claims are credible and there’s proof.” Jen tells me in a barely audible whisper.
“As long as he’s out of Ryann’s life, I don’t give two fucks where he goes.” There is a firm yet soft knock on the door. “Come in.” I watch Carl walk in, close the door behind him, and take a seat in one of the armchairs opposite my desk. “This conversation isn’t over, and I hope for your sake, what you’re telling me is the truth.” I kill the call before Jen has time to answer and set my phone aside.
Carl follows my movements closely, almost as if he can already tell what I’ve done. “Did you call someone within her family?”
“If I did?”
“Does Ryann know?” I shake my head which causes Carl to let out a deep sigh and slouch into the chair. “Thomas, she may not be close with some members of her family, but she will defend them like a freakin’ badger. She shouldn’t, but she will.”
I know she will, but I’m counting on the pressure I just put on Jen to be enough to crack whoever sent Jamie our way. And if it doesn’t, well, that’s why Travis is looking into Ryann’s so-called best friend.
Carl arches a brow, “Then why call her family at all? I know you two are an item.” I give him a disbelieving look which sends him sliding forward in the armchair and pointing a finger towards me, “Don’t give me that look. I’m her damn coach. I knew the moment you two flew back that something was going on. Ryann finally told me in November.”
“And you’re what? Gonna tell me you disapprove or something?”
Carl gets up from the chair, shaking his head, “No, but if you hurt her, I’ll kick your ass.”
Chuckling, “Get at the back of the line. There are about five other people in front of you.”
“And don’t let her forget that. Ryann is....she’s tryin’ to deal with what’s happened today. I don’t think she’ll relapse, but today has taken a toll on her emotionally. While I don’t think she has a desire to go out into the night for some pills, it doesn’t mean she won’t. Anything is possible, and Ryann’s progress has been unique within itself.”
Arching a brow, I get to my feet and make my way closer to Carl, “What do you mean?”
“I called her old sobriety coach and closed family friend, Teresa, to find out more about Jamie. Teresa told me Ryann’s story. Do you know it?”
Running a hand through my hair, “Kinda.” Carl gives me an incredulous look. “Listen, I know about Jamie and the shit he’s done. I know about her family. And the sobriety thing, that’s all-new, in a way.”
“Hmm, I see. Well, I feel like Ryann should be the one to tell you her story and how she got sober. Not me. I just needed Teresa’s guidance since she’s dealt with Jamie before. But Ryann wants to talk to you and tell you everything. She just wishes it didn’t come to this.” Carl gives my shoulder a slight pat, “You have my number. Let me know if there is anything else you two need, and I know you guys are about to travel...”
“No, no, I just canceled the Georgia trip and will be working from home unless I absolutely need to go to the studio.”
“Goodman. Watch over her and watch over yourself. Have you talked to Andrew?”
“Ya, I called him while you were talking with Ryann. I’m good, man. Promise.”
I watch Carl twists his lips off to the side, “But you had urges today, didn’t you?”
Sighing, “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think of drowning a handle. But I didn’t act on it.”
Again, Carl gives my shoulder a solid pat, “Call me if you need me. I’ll see my way out.” Carl says as he opens the office door, “And Thomas.”
“You did the right thing, calling me. She may not say it right away, but Ryann is thankful.”
Giving Carl a smile, I watch him walk out of my office and disappear down the hall. It’s not until I hear the front door shut that I dart out of my office and into our bedroom. The bed is empty, and all of the lights in the room are on. “Ryann?” I’m met with silence. Walking into the bathroom, I find her clothes and my sweatshirt discarded on the floor.
Did she run again?
Rushing into our closet, I search for her suitcase and duffle bags, and they’re still on the shelves. Letting out a deep breath, I sink to the floor, resting my back against the dresser, and bang my head against the solid wood as I look up. It’s then that I see one of the drawers partially open.
Rushing to my feet, I know where she went.