The positive side about staying up all night and not getting any sleep before your two in the morning leave time for the airport is that you sleep for most of the flight. The thing that still sucks is that me and Thomas’s relationship is still very much in the damn closet. Even with media outlets speculating here and there, but we finally broke a rule and found our hands conjoined under my teal blanket I brought with me.
The rule may have also been broken in a way for Thomas to comfort me. This entire flight, I felt nauseous and queasy. Not completely unnormal from turbulence.
As soon as we landed, we were whisked off into an awaiting car and off to the studio set for Thomas’s reshoot and interviews. I honestly thought they were done with reshoots, and the film was set for release. But I guess the production team and the studio didn’t like a scene. There had been rumors floating around about another reshoot, but nothing was ever confirmed. Not until the last freaking minute, and all the added task did was add stress to an already tight schedule.
While Thomas has been on set, I’ve been curled up on the couch in his trailer with my teal blanket wrapped around me. He didn’t want me on set with him today, and in a way, I didn’t want to be on set either. Not with cast and crew walking around freely and judging me for the past they think they know.
So, instead, I stayed behind with Travis and worked on finalizing the last details for New York. Emails checked and tripled checked. I’ve even managed to empty out my inbox, but I know that will change as the day goes on. And now, I’m drifting in and out of sleep. Travis is sitting nearby in a small armchair that makes him look like a giant, and I have this comical vision of the chair collapsing from under him.
I’m not sure how he’s even staying awake. With Samuel being sent home for the rest of the week, I know he’s hasn’t gotten much sleep. At least last night, he didn’t. On the plane, I hope he managed to find some shut-eye. It’s not like we’re going to be attacked thirty thousand feet up in the air. At least I’d hope not.
But every time I close my eyes, Travis is on his phone, and when I open them again, he’s still on his phone with the same damn expression. Impassive.
Yawning, I wrap my blanket around me tighter as a chill takes hold of my body. “What are you doing?”
Travis snaps his attention to me, the whites of his eyes red from staring at the electronic device for so long. That or lack of sleep. “Just work.”
“Is that code for you’re investigating?” I ask with air quotes.
Again, the impassive look that I get my way is one I can’t read, but I know Travis doesn’t just stare down at his phone or laptop because he’s on YOUTUBE or some social media site.
“No, it’s code for work. I’m finalizing security detail with the Meyers duo before getting on a plane to New York with Miss. Knox. Then there is your and Thomas’s itinerary. I need to make sure that everything is covered from top to bottom. Especially with the press.”
Sitting up from the couch, I fold my legs under me and notice the strain of the job being placed onto Travis. For the first time since I’ve started working for Thomas, I’m seeing how this job is now affecting Travis. Maybe it’s the sudden add of needed security and all of the shit that has blown up.
“I’m sorry, Travis.”
He studies me for a moment, his head slightly cocked off to the side. “And what on earth are you apologizing for me for?”
“Making your job more difficult.”
Travis, I think, almost rolled his eyes at my statement. I watch him flip his phone screen down to his lap as he slides forward slightly in the small armchair. “Ryann, you are not making my job difficult in any aspect. Okay?” I nod my head in agreement although, I don’t entirely agree with what he’s saying. I know Travis is upfront and honest with everyone, and I’d like to think he’d be honest with me. But that negative nagging voice tells me he’s lying and only being nice because he has to. “Hey,” Travis says gently, drawing my attention back to him. “Ryann, you are the only one person I’ve ever risked my job for. The things you were subjected to by Thomas were enough to make me want to quit. When you came hurtling out of the house that one day and you told me what happened. What Thomas had done. I went back to the house. Did Thomas tell you that?”
My eyes go wide, and my heart starts to pump hard against my chest. My stomach is twisting into knots with memories from that day. I remember Travis’s rage growing in his eyes with each word leaving my mouth. I made him swear to me that he wouldn’t do anything, but I guess he broke that promise.
“I know I promised you that I wouldn’t do anything. But when I went into the house to check on him, Thomas was outraged. He demanded that I go and bring you back to the house. He was drunk and attempted to fight. I pinned him to the wall with his arm behind his back and told him that if he were ever to do something that stupid again, I’d quit, and I would personally kick his ass.”
“Travis,” I say on a small sigh. “He didn’t know....”
“Don’t defend him, Ryann. Not for what he’s done to you. Don’t ever defend his behavior.” Travis’s voice is stern, a warning.
“And why not?” I ask defensively. “I understood what Thomas was going through better than any of you.” I may have just crossed a line with that statement, but Travis doesn’t show it if I did. “I saw the sweet side; I saw the troubled and conflicted side. I saw a man reaching out for help. Like any addict, our addiction becomes a friend, a part of us. It’s hard to switch that off. Even when we want help, we don’t always seek it out at first because we’re terrified.”
“Why you?” Travis asks with a seriousness that is more of a curiosity. I don’t know if he’s trying to see what I’ll say or what. But it’s a curiosity that’s not typical coming from Travis. Usually, if Travis doesn’t know an answer, he’ll find it on his own.
“I don’t know,” I say, looking down as my hands draw the blanket around me tighter. “Maybe he sensed we were more alike in some way before I did. I don’t know. You didn’t get to see the sweet side of Thomas.”
Travis arches a brow, “Like him throwing a party because he was pissed off at you. I saw the outside security footage, and Xayla told me what happened. So did Thomas when I caught him out in your apartment cleaning it up. So why did you stay then?”
Why do I feel like I’m being interrogated? “Is there a reason why you’re questioning me over something that happened last year? Shouldn’t you already have the answers to these questions?”
“No. I don’t have the answers to these questions because I was never able to ask you. You fled before I got the chance, and I thought for sure with you in New York, Thomas wouldn’t have found you. I thought that you’d be safe, start new, and Valerie would too. I never....”
Looking at him in confusion, I cut Travis off mid-sentence. “You knew I was in New York, and you never told Thomas?”
Travis shakes his head, “No. Not at first. Not until Thomas called me and told me you ran and that he wanted me to find you. When he returned from Georgia, I told him I wasn’t able to track you or Valerie down.”
I stare at Travis with utter disbelief. I’m not sure what to say. Thank you? I mean, I’m not sure if I’m even grateful he kept that secret, especially since it sounds, he didn’t want me or Valerie to come back. “But why?”
“Because I didn’t want you to have to deal with any more of Thomas’s antics. I saw what it was doing to you, and I knew you weren’t going to tell him about your past. Not at that time, at least. When I heard about Georgia, I was outraged and was ready to hand in my resignation once the car service dropped him off. But as soon as he got out of the car, I noticed something new. He was sober. Pissed off and agitated at the world, but he was sober. He stayed locked up in the house for a few days. The only person coming and going was Andrew. Thomas even ignored calls from Xayla and refused to let her inside the house for the first two weeks. You running away, switched something in him.”
I’m still not a hundred percent sure why I fled that night. A part of me says it was for Thomas, but the other half is because I no longer wanted to do deal with this world anymore. Xayla’s words were too much and became my undoing. I allowed my walls to cave in on me and sealed me in a tomb. I refused any help from anyone and did the one thing I was good at. I ran.
“That night at the party wasn’t Thomas’s fault,” I finally say. I can see the protest growing in Travis’s eyes. “Yes, he threw the party to get back at me for giving him a case of blue balls. But he didn’t know Ralph or Shelia were there. And as soon as he got word of what was going on, he bolted into the house. He was the one who pulled me away from Ralph. He was also the one who took the brunt of my anger. Hell, he took anger from everyone. But most of all, he was there for me when it scared him shitless.” Too bad he wasn’t there for me in Georgia. If he would have defended me from Xayla and stopped her from saying those hurtful things, I don’t think I would have fled, and our story would have been a little different.
But if I hadn’t fled, I wouldn’t have sought out help from a therapist. Me running and trying to deal with everything that had happened on my own was a form of self-healing and discovery. A discovery that has lead me down a path I never thought I would ever have to venture on.
“Travis, do you approve of our relationship?” I ask out of a whim. It’s not like I need his opinion to be happy with Thomas because I don’t...we don’t. But I want to know how deep my and Thomas’s support system goes.
“Does my opinion truly matter in this case?”
“No, but I need to know.”
Travis looks down at his lap before back to me. “At first, no. But I saw not only the good you were doing for him but the good he was doing for you too. I’ve never seen Thomas so protective and in love with anyone since I’ve been employed with him. I truly believe Ryann; you are it for him. There is no one else out in this crazy world for him.”
Smiling, I look down at my hand that holds my grandma’s ring and Helena’s ring. “And Thomas is it for me,” I say, looking back to Travis. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. You have no idea how appreciative I am for the care and protection you’ve given me.”
“It’s my job, but if I’m being honest, you remind me of my daughter, and that’s given me a new sense—a stronger need to protect not only Thomas but most of all, you. I want nothing but the best for you. You deserve the happiness that you’ve been denied for so long.”
Wait, Travis has a family? He’s not one to share his personal life, but I’d think he would have at least told me or let it slip that he had a daughter.
“Wait, you have a daughter?”
And for the first time, I watch a flash of sadness fall into his eyes. “Had. She died four years ago. Surfing accident. She would have been twenty-six this year.”
Oh, my heart breaks for him. I can’t imagine a parent losing their child at such a young age. And the irony of the thought isn’t lost on me. I was selfish when I almost died. Travis’s daughter was doing what she loved. She was surfing. Not getting high and doing something so moronic, knowing it could kill her.
“I’m so sorry, Travis. I had no idea.”
He waves his hand, dismissing my condolences. “And you wouldn’t. Thomas is the only one who knows. I was out of work for about a year before I returned. My Lila had hazel eyes too,” he continues with a fatherly fondness, “and when I picked you up at the airport, I saw my Lila in your eyes. I’m sorry if I’ve overstepped.”
Dumping the blanket onto the couch, I walk over to Travis and engulf him into a genuine hug. For a second, I can feel his shoulders tense up, unsure of what to do, but soon, he’s returning the hug. My emotions have been all over the place lately, and I can’t help but feel a fondness for Travis. He’s like the father I’ve never had. Or at least, he’s like the father I’ve always wished I had. The father I had and who loved me when I was a child. Not the father I got once I started middle and high school.
“You’re not overstepping, Travis. You’ve acted more like a father to me than my own. But I do need to ask. How old are you?” I ask, pulling away and sitting on the trailer floor in front of him.
Travis lets out a soft chuckle, “I’m older than you think. I just turned fifty. Me and my ex had Lila when we were young. She was twenty-two, and I was twenty-four. And may I ask you, what happened between you and your dad? I know the relationship isn’t there, and you always claim that you two don’t see eye to eye. But it seems like you and your sister are making some kind of amends. Is it possible for you and your dad to do the same?”
I shake my head as I look away and down at my hand with my rings and start to spin them. That’s the million-dollar question, is there even hope for me and my dad’s relationship? To repair it? Because I’m not sure, there is.
“I...I don’t think there is. Jen, I’m not sure what’s changed for her, but my dad still sees me as the bad guy. The one who’s effed up Jamie’s life and his future in making it big. I’m sure if I actually talked to my dad, he’d find some way to blame me for being attacked. That I somehow provoked Jamie.”
Travis leans forward slightly, resting his arms on his knees. “Ryann, can I speak as a father?” I nod my head as I look up at him. My heart is skipping a beat with an anxious nerve. “A father doesn’t just stop loving their little girl.”
“They do when that daughter breaks their father’s heart because she becomes a pill-popping whore. Listen, I’m not sure what the future holds for my father and me, but the fact that he still seems to believe Jamie over me, I think, speaks volumes. He knows the truth to some extent, but he refuses to believe it.” I think my father refuses to see the truth because it’s easier to accept the lie and go with the crowd instead of standing out. I’m not sure why he won’t stand up next to my mom. She’s not afraid to go against the grain in our small town. She’s loud when she needs to be and a force to be reckoned with.
“Don’t call yourself that,” Travis grates. “Don’t ever stoop down and call yourself the names society has given you. Society doesn’t know shit, and that small town you’re from doesn’t know shit either. You know that, right?”
Smiling, I’m starting to see that now. I know I’ve found a new family that loves me just as much if not more than some of my actual family members is a welcoming and heart-shattering feeling all at once. I’ve fought for so long to try and regain my father’s and sister’s love. To get the family back that I had before, I went down the toxic path of self-destruction. But with my new family, that need has slowly dissipated, and I no longer feel like I have to bend over backwards to please anyone anymore.
“I do, yes. It took some time, but I see that I’m so much more than what they’ve deemed me.”
The corners of Travis’s mouth twitch into a small smile, “Good. And you better believe that if Thomas isn’t able to defend you, you have a slew of people in line waiting for a chance to right the wrongs that you’ve been dealt in life. You’ve fought for so long on your own, but know, you are far from alone.”
He’s right. I know now that I’m far from alone, but that still doesn’t ease the guilt or need to protect others around me from my own past. But they don’t want to be protected. They don’t care about my past or the trouble I’ve caused because they all know that isn’t me. Not now. I’ve turned my life around, and I need to keep telling myself that because if I don’t, I’m afraid I’ll get sucked right back down that rabbit hole I was once in.