“Maxwell, stop, just STOP!” I yell into the phone. I need this conversation to end and to end now. Dealing with his pettiness is driving me to a level of insanity that a drunken Thomas never drove me.
Max is becoming needy, paranoid, and controlling. I can feel him attempting to manipulate me with every word leaving his damn mouth. He’s pissed I didn’t call him to tell him Jamie found me in Cali. He’s pissed that I’ve stopped confiding in him. He’s pissed that I didn’t tell him about my cellphone being taken off the premises, and he’s furious because he knows I’m lying to him.
And he’s right. I am lying to him. I can’t trust him, and I know deep down that I can’t, but I’m not ready to face that truth. Not yet. Not until I’m even able to understand the truth myself. It was one of the reasons why I haven’t called him. I’m angry, hurt, and feel betrayed to the highest of levels. I trusted Max. I told him everything. Every fucking thing about my life, and he used it against me. And my worst fear is that Jamie paid him to obtain any information on me.
If I think about my troubled and drunken-high-filled days, it makes sense. The way Jamie was able to control me. Using my sister as leverage, my dad, or even spreading more rumors through town. He always had the upper hand, even before he had that fucking flash drive, and I could never figure out how.
Now I have, and it’s shattering my heart.
Just thinking about it now is making me queasy.
“Ry, I don’t think you know what you’ve signed on for. I mean, the man is unhinged. He was threatening me. He stole your phone, and he’s claiming that we are the ones who sent Jamie to Cali. You’re family.”
“Ya, well, certain members of the family haven’t been trustworthy with certain secrets,” I blurt out and immediately regret my word choice.
“What is that supposed to mean, Ry?” The hurt in his voice is evident. That or he’s a better actor than I ever gave him credit for.
“I’m sorry. I’m just pissed off and aggravated with what’s happened.”
Max lets out a deep sigh, telling me whatever annoyance and aggravation he was feeling has deflated. “Maybe you should come home then. Take a breather from Mr. Hollywood.”
Crashing my head into my hand, Max’s words play over and over in my head. Mr. Hollywood, Mr. Hollywood, Mr. Hollywood. My eyes snap open with a world crashing realization. Max is the only one who’s ever called Thomas Mr. Hollywood. The same terrible nickname that Jamie called him. It could all just be a giant coincidence, but in my life, I don’t believe in coincidences.
“What did you just say?”
“Uhh...that you should come home and take a breather.”
Shaking my head, “No, after that. What did you say after that.” I can feel the tension through the phone and the panic rising in Max’s breathing. “You talked to him, didn’t you. You talked to Jamie.”
“No, no, no, Ry. I haven’t talked to Jamie in years.” He pleads.
“Don’t lie to me. Jamie called Thomas Mr. Hollywood, a nickname you use. Now, how did he know that?” I demand with an unfamiliar command in my voice.
“Ry, Thomas is an A-list actor. The tabloids call him Mr. Hollywood. It’s all a giant coincidence. Why are you making this a huge deal?” His words fall so easily from his lips. Dismissing my question with ease. Just like when he dismisses my dreams with a sickening ease. But I was attacked. I could have been drugged, raped, or murdered. Jamie told me I was just another lost fucking number. I took that as a damn threat, and if it weren’t for Valerie and Xayla, I don’t think I would still be here.
“I’m making this a huge fucking deal?” I ask with an astonished laugh. “Me? Right, right. I forgot. I was only overreacting. I mean, who would fear for their life being pinned against a fucking wall or told you’re A LOST FUCKING NUMBER.” I scream into the phone. “What the hell do you think Jamie would have done if he actually got me to where he wanted me? He threatened me, Max. He threatened my friends. And you’re on the fucking phone, telling me not to make a god damn deal about the fact he called Thomas Mr. Hollywood. A FUCKING nickname you call him.” My breathing is heavy, as my chest heaves from my words and my sudden anxious nerves of rage. Everything in my body is trembling from the rushing adrenaline, and I’m losing control.
“Ry, I’m not saying what happened to you isn’t a big deal. It’s a huge fucking deal, and we’re trying to figure out how it happened on our end. I’m saying the whole nickname. You’re making a bigger deal than what it needs to be.” Max’s voice is smooth and calm. To fucking calm.
The tears that I’ve been holding back from the heart-shattering hurt I’m feeling break free. I can’t seem to control my emotions anymore. The pain, the anger, the hatred, the heartache, and it’s becoming nearly unbearable to endure. It feels like an emotional flood gate has opened, and I can seal it back up.
“No, I’m not,” My voice wavers in an attempt to hold back my tears. “Yo-you cannot push what I’m feeling off to the side. Not anymore.”
Max sighs into the phone, “I’m sorry you feel that way, Ry....”
He’s sorry that I feel that way? That’s not even an apology or an acknowledgment. That’s a passive-aggressive way of sounding like you’re apologizing but still insulting someone’s feeling. My head is spinning in an attempt to understand, but all it’s doing is making me feel sick again.
Breathe, Ryann. Just breathe. Count to ten. Count through the sickness and....yupp, nope. Too late.
Tossing the phone to the bed, I dart into the bathroom and slide across the floor as I hug the toilet. My ponytail flopping over the top of my head as I heave stomach acid up. The amount of throwing I’ve been doing with the idea of confronting the truth and my family is making me want to backpedal. I’m the worst person to be around when I get sick. It’s seriously the most dramatic thing that will ever come out of my mouth.
Flushing the toilet, I wipe the back of my hand across my mouth and flop back against the wall and close my eyes and count to ten. Slowly at first, and then my count becomes audible with the sound of my strained voice softly echoing in the room around me.
Everything is drowned out around me as I force myself to shut down and attempt to stabilize myself. I can’t think, and anything being said to me isn’t being processed. I don’t understand a word of what Max said to me. Well, I do understand it, but I can’t make sense of Max’s words, and it doesn’t help he’s avoiding my questions. I know he knows what he’s doing, and I know he knows more than what he’s saying. Max is hiding.
The feeling of a cool, wet edge of a washcloth being applied gently to my forehead startles me. My eyes fly open, and I find Thomas squatting beside me, dabbing a damp washcloth around my face. I’m still mad at him for answering my phone and riling Max up, but I want him here. I need the calmness and safety he makes me feel. I need his love, support, and most of all, I need him to believe me.
“Wanna tell me what happened? Why you got sick?”
Taking the washcloth from his hands, I wipe my mouth before setting the clothe beside me. Thomas sits next to me, his fingers fitting perfectly between mine like the missing puzzle pieces of my life as I lean against his shoulder. The flood gate being put back into place, and the anxious nausea I was feeling has evaporated.
“How did you know?”
“Jen called me,” He pauses for a minute before squeezing my hand, and the warmth spreads through me like rapid fire. “She said she walked into the house to Max yelling into the phone for you. She took his phone and started calling for you and could hear noises in the background. That’s when she called me.”
“You and my sister-friends now?” I’m not sure why I’m grilling Thomas. Maybe it’s because I’m not used to having someone of the opposite sex be this protective over me. He cares for me and loves me, and I’m afraid one day, I’ll wake up, and this will all be some crazy dream.
“No, but I don’t have a disdain towards her. Not like Max. I’m sorry if you felt like I overstepped tonight, babydoll. I didn’t know who was calling you. I answered when I shouldn’t have.”
There is that phrase again, I’m sorry if you felt.....God, why can’t men just say what they’re really feeling? I know Thomas isn’t sorry for answering my phone. There is a reason why I’ve been avoiding Max’s calls, and there is a reason why he called me from an unknown number. But even with all of the unknown numbers calling me, I haven’t been answering them. Instead, they go to voicemail, where I short through the ones I have to call back. Most of them are legit, and some are interviews for me. Interviews that will not happen.
Grinding my teeth, “I fucking hate that phrase.”
Getting to my feet, I storm out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. My heels stomping harder and harder against the dark hardwood floor, the sound vibrating through the grain of the floor and the house. I can feel the tether pulling me back to Thomas, but I force myself to pull against it. I’m hungry....no, I’m fucking hangry. I’m sure that my lack of nutritional intake, which has consisted of me only eating dinner here lately, isn’t helping my stomach any. I’ve always gotten queasy when I’d go most of the day without eating, and I think with the added stress, it’s made the nauseousness worst.
“Ryann, where are you going?” His words come out slightly panicked, and I know it’s because he thinks I’m about to run.
“I’m fucking hungry. I want something to eat.”
Reaching for the refrigerator’s handle, my arm is immediately blocked as Thomas stands in front of me. I can tell by the irritable look in his greens that I’m tinkering on the edge of a full-out fight.
“Do you want to try that again?”
Arching a brow, I cross my arms across my chest. “I. Want. Something. To. Eat.” I say slowly.
“Don’t do that,” Thomas warns. “Don’t fucking shut me out. What phrase do you hate?”
Throwing my hands up in the air, I huff out an aggravated breath of air as I turn on my heels to head....well, I don’t know. Into a room that has fucking food. But before I’m even able to take my first step out of the fucking kitchen, I’m instantly spun around. Thomas’s hand firmly gripping my wrist, stopping me and refusing to let go.
Glaring down at his hand, I snap my attention up into the green eyes, angrily pleading with me to talk. “I hate it when you go to apologize, and it’s lead by I’m sorry if you felt....” my voice goes down a few octaves as I imitate Thomas’s voice like a petulant child. “Oh, I’m sorry if you felt like my dick invaded your personal space, but....”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. What the hell, Ryann?” Thomas nearly spits.
“No,” I scream, “If you don’t think you need to apologize for something, THEN DON’T!” I yank my hand from his hold, and my hands shoot into my ponytail, pulling strands out like a madwoman. “Where the fuck do you get off answering my phone in the first place? You just made everything worst with Max.”
“I made things worst?” Thomas lets out a dry, sarcastic laugh. “You were attacked, Ryann. A number was calling that you did not have in your contacts. I answered it because I thought it could possibly be the media.....”
“Oh, well, thank you for being my knight and shining armor....”
Thomas immediately cuts me off as he backs me into a countertop, “Lose the sarcasm, Ryann.”