“Ryann, will you tell me what happened?” Thomas asks.
We’ve been laying in bed, naked for most of the day. After our little excursion out in the garage, we grabbed some food from the kitchen and came straight back into the bedroom with only one thing in mind—more sex. I mean, there is absolutely no way of resisting a body like Thomas’s or his bright green eyes. Eyes that seem to know me better than I know myself.
Thomas is my drug, and I’m fully addicted to him.
Lifting my head from his chest, I turn to meet his imploring and hopeful eyes. “What do you want to know?”
Thomas’s hand begins to trail a hypnotic and soothing line along the curvature of my spine, making my fluttering nerves simmer. “Everything,” he tells me softly. “Your sister said....” Thomas suddenly trails off as he puckers his lips off to the side at the realization of his slip-up.
Scrambling from his chest, I sit up in bed. I’m slightly confused as to why in the hell Thomas would have talked with Jen, and when did he speak with her? “What? You talked to Jen. When? Why?” The rise in my voice shows my disapproval. He shouldn’t have done that. Thomas should not have called anyone within my family. If he were truly concern, he wouldn’t have called them. Shit, Jen and Dad are probably running wild with all of this damn gossip and drama.
I watch Thomas prop himself against the headboard of the bed, his hand running through his unruly sex bedhead. “Because she was calling Val’s number. Val didn’t want to deal with any phone calls from your family at the moment, so I....”
“You want?” I ask as my voice kicks up a few octaves. “Just wanted to add in a little extra drama to the shit show that’s happening currently?” Thomas frowns, his annoyance. “You shouldn’t have talked to her.”
Thomas reaches for my arms and pulls me closer to him. His touch encouraging and surging a sudden calmness through my veins. A serenity I’m fighting against, but at the same time, I want to welcome. “I talked to her calmly,” He starts out, and I immediately huffed out an annoyed laugh. The only way Thomas would talk to anyone calmly after what had happened is if hell froze over. “Okay, fine. I may have been a little firm with her.”
Groaning out, “Urgh, Thomas.....”
Thomas places a finger to my lips, silencing me. “She called to check in on you.”
Again I laugh in utter disbelieve. “That’s funny. You’re telling me that Jen called to check in on me?” Thomas nods his head slowly, and I shake my head. “No, you’re just trying to make me feel better....or guilty.”
I watch Thomas’s lips thin, “Now, why would I want to make you feel guilty?” I shrug my shoulders like a child without an answer. “Babydoll, your sister was genuinely worried. She was crying on the phone.”
Okay, now he’s lying. Jen doesn’t cry. She didn’t even shed a tear during her wedding. “So, hell froze over then?” I ask sarcastically because now I think he’s saying this just to make me feel better.
“If it has to involve your sister crying, then yes. Ryann, she was scared that you overdosed.” I can feel my face practically fall from the look of concern on Thomas’s face. “I’m going to say it’s safe to assume that you’ve OD’d before?”
It’s hitting me hard, at the level of knowledge Thomas now knows that wasn’t told by me. I know he’s hurt, and I know he’s pissed, and he has every right to be because I fucking screwed up. Big time.
Crawling towards Thomas, I sit next to him and lean into his side. Thomas wraps an arm around me and holds me close as he drapes the blanket over the lower half of our bodies. I want to look into Thomas’s eyes as I tell him my tale, but at the same time, I don’t. The memories are hard enough to live with, and I find it easier to distract myself by staring off, or in this case, twirling the material of the blanket in my hands.
Taking a deep breath in, “I started using when I was in High School. I think it was the end of Freshman year or the beginning of my Sophomore year. I had high expectations that I had to meet, and I met them my Freshman year, but the continual pressure was starting to break me. And that is how I met Jamie. Not that I didn’t already know who he was. Everyone in school knew who Jamie Maddox was.”
Just the mention of his name, I can feel Thomas tense as his breathing becomes ragged with rage.
“He found me coming out of the girls’ bathroom, crying. I thought I had failed an exam, and I didn’t want to go home to deal with the consequences until I got the results back. That is when Jamie offered me something to help calm me down. To take the edge off. That’s the first time I took Oxy.”
The shame in my voice is apparent because, if I could, I would go back in time to talk some sense into my younger self. To build her self-worth and confidence up. To tell her that she does not need to rely on a man to make it through life and that the world has so much in store for her.
“After that, Jamie and I started dating, and everything kinda started to spiral. Looking back on it now, the warning signs were there from the start, but I thought I was in love, and I didn’t care. Jamie had what he wanted from the beginning, and he fueled my addiction, and I brought in revenue for him. It wasn’t until the summer of our senior year that I wanted to stop everything. I didn’t want to go to parties anymore, I wanted help, but Jamie knew what to say to keep me in check. He made sure from the beginning that he had means to control me, and he did.” And Jamie never let me forget it.
“The flash drive?” Thomas asks with venom.
My head instinctively nods against his chest as my fingers continue to toy with the edge of the comforter. “Ya, he would always brag about the damn thing with his friends. Telling them that if they pay him, he’d allowed them to look at the photos and for an extra fee, they could watch the videos.”
“Ryann,” Thomas whispers, and I can tell that he’s attempting to keep his tone down. “Do you remember him recording any videos?”
I can feel the tears starting to build in my eyes from the panic and pure shame. Because I don’t. I was so drugged and high that I couldn’t tell which way was up or down most of the time at parties. “No. I don’t. When Jamie started forcing spiked drinks down my throat with lord knows what, all I know is I couldn’t move. I felt paralyzed most of the time. Even when I willed my body to move, I couldn’t fucking move.” My tears break as my hand comes down on the blanket with pure anger. “I can remember bits and pieces of calling out for help. Begging whoever to stop. But help never came, and the asshole never stopped. No one came. Thomas. No one.”
I clamp my eyes closed as I force myself to count to ten to regulate my breathing and my emotions. And then a flash dances across my mind. It’s like my nightmare that I had the other day, and it causes a shiver to run across my body as the hair at the nape of my neck stands on end. But this time it’s different. Instead of reliving the horrid scene that is about to take place, I’m hidden away at the head of the bed like a fly on the wall. But like my nightmares, I can’t move. I’m stuck watching a terrified me scream for help.
I’m tied to a bed, and I know by the torn, dirty sheets that it’s a bedroom I’ve been in before. My words are slurring as I scream out for help. I’m trying to will my body to move, but I’m helpless—three blurry shadows standoff to the foot of the bed. Two of the men are arguing, and it’s like noise-canceling headphones have been placed on my ears because all I can see is their mouths moving as they talk with their hands. At times they’re pointing at the bed. The third is just standing center at the foot of the bed staring at me like I’m some piece of meat.
My heart is pounding so hard against my chest that I’m afraid it’s going to escape or I’m about to have a heart attack. I can’t move. No matter how hard I try and force myself, my body is frozen in fear as I watch Jamie’s face comes into crystal clear view. I watch him walk up to the head of the bed and sits down beside me. Tears are running down my face as I attempt to plead with Jamie. To stop this. But all my pleading does is cause him to laugh out as he covers my mouth and nose with his hand, and everything goes black.
Suddenly, my eyes snap open as a wave of disgust washes over me.
Bolting out of bed, I dash into the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind me, and heave the contents of my stomach into the porcelain god. With each heave, a new piece of the memory fragments itself into view. Details I don’t want to see. I don’t want to know this memory anymore. I don’t even remember any of that happening to me. I thought it was a horrible, horrible nightmare that my mind had conjured up. Now, I’m not so sure that’s the case.
Bracing myself against the edge of the toilet, I hear the bathroom door open. Turning my head sideways, I see Thomas walk in with a pair of black athletic shorts on. He stops at the sink and runs a washcloth under the faucet. Squatting down in front of me, Thomas wipes at the corners of my mouth before dabbing away the sweat on my brow.
After what feels like hours of me just hugging the toilet and Thomas sitting against the vanity cabinet waiting for me to come around. Thomas finally gets to his feet, holding his hand out for me to take. Slowly and with a trembling hand, I take his hand and follow him out of the bathroom. When he drops my hand to only disappear into the closet, I wrap my arms around my naked body, suddenly feeling exposed and cold. I’ve never had a flashback like that before. They’ve only come across in my dreams. I knew I wasn’t safe when I sleep, and now it feels like I’m not even safe awake.
Thomas walks out of the closet with one of his black tees and helps me get into it. As I find myself back in bed, Thomas hands me a glass of water from his side of the nightstand and gives it to me. The cool liquid is a welcome against my now raw throat, and I chug the contents before handing it back to him.
“Where did you go, babydoll?” Thomas asks softly as he crawls back into bed with me and draws me to him. I lay my head back down to his chest. My fingers flexing against his bare chest, and the danger I was once feeling has evaporated into safety and warmth. I’m safe.
Taking a deep breath in, I release it slowly, and my tears break free from the overwhelming emotions that I’m feeling. “The day I OD’d,” I decide to finish my story before even remotely diving into what the hell happened. I’m hoping that once I do finish, the flashback will make a little more sense. “I was done with high school and was living with Jamie. We had lived together off and on for about a year. I was nineteen when I OD’d. I came by our apartment to gather some of my things after Jamie had kicked me out. He wasn’t supposed to be home, but I found him fucking some other girl I thought was a friend. I was so pissed off. My world came crashing down with a harsh realization that our relationship, the last three years that we were together, was nothing more than him using me. He never loved me, and I knew he never could. All he saw was green with me. I stole his stash of pills from the entryway desk drawer and took a handful before crushing the rest under my foot. I bolted from the home I thought I had with Jamie, and when my body hit fresh air, I knew what I did could kill me. I tried to make myself throw up, but all I did was dry-heaved.”
I paused for a moment. Allowing my racing heart to settle at the recollection of my overdose. It’s a memory that still painful to swallow because I can’t believe that I would ever do something so careless on my own. When I was in control, I knew what I was doing, but my mind was so clouded with fury and vengeance and heartbreak that any and all voices of reasoning were gone.
“I rushed to my mom’s because she’s the only one who would know what to do, and when I got there, I collapsed in the entryway of my parents’ home. Max was there. He was trying to keep me talking.” My voice starts to shake as I think of the panic look on Max’s face and the truth I’m afraid to face. “When I woke next, I was in the hospital. That is when I told mom I wanted help. Teresa arranged for me to go to a rehab facility in Ohio, and her, Mom, and Max took me. My sister or Dad didn’t know until after Jen’s graduation. I didn’t want to ruin her day with me going off to rehab.”
Before I have time to even process what I’m going to say next, I bury my face into Thomas’s chest and start to sob again. I can practically feel my heart shattering as my thoughts focus on a truth I can’t face. Not yet. Because I’m not sure what I’ll do if I can’t trust Max, or if the worst is actually the worst times ten. Everything that I’ve known would have been a big fucking lie.
Not only to me but to my sister too.
“Babydoll, hey, come here,” Thomas urges me out of his chest and forces me to meet his concerned greens. “Are you upset because you told me what happened?” I shake my head. “Ok,” he says slowly. “Does this have anything to do with what happened in the bathroom?”
Biting my lower lip, I can feel a pure hatred of vial threatening its way up, but I fight to keep it hidden. Composing myself, I push back the loose strands of hair from my face and force myself to take in a deep breath and count to ten before I can even come to terms with what I’m about to say.
“Thomas, I don’t think Max is as innocent as he perceives.”
I can see by the look in his eyes and on his face that Thomas doesn’t trust Max, and I’m not sure if he’s ever liked Max.
My body starts to shake as my tears fall freely again, “I...I ca-can’t.....” My words are so broken into my sobs. I’m not sure if Thomas can even understand me. “I....I’m not ready to face this truth.” I cry out.
I watch the rise and fall of Thomas’s chest before he pulls me back into him, his arms wrapping around me into a protective hug as he places a kiss on the top of my head. “Shh, it’s alright. I’ll be here when you are ready.”