After lunch, we took the town car to the docks, where I had a boat waiting for all of us. The rest of the day, we’re going to spend it on the Hudson and essentially doing a little boat tour of our own. There will be food, drinks (water), and under the deck is a small living room with a bedroom for anyone who gets tired or if Ryann starts to not feel well. I thought it would be fun to do something tranquil and not focused on the chaos in our lives right now. We need to heal, and today will be focused only on us healing.
And honestly, we’ve been relaxing since we got on the boat. Grandma and Grandpa are sitting off near the front of the vessel, watching the views that passed by. Grandma was most excited to see the Statue of Liberty and has been nonstop with taking photos. I’m not sure how she’s able to work the camera on her phone and has yet to master the art of texting. She swears up and down that texting is like learning a new language, and she’s too old for that.
Ryann is resting her head across my lap. Her sunglasses are on, and the only thing I can see is my reflection in the reflective lenses when I look down at her. She’s relaxed. I can sense it. I can see it in her body language, and I’m relaxed to the point that I could easily fall asleep from the soothing rocking of the boat. If life could be like this always, this would be heaven. Maybe we can live in a houseboat where no one would be able to find us. Hide away from the world and hope that all of our problems just disappear with it.
Ha, that would be too easy. And nothing in my life has ever been that easy. Ryann and I’s relationship isn’t a bed of roses, but I’ll take all of the bad and drama for days like this. All I need from Ryann is her love and company. The adventures are an added bonus, and I wouldn’t change anything within our relationship. It’s made us who we are.
Man, my brain has turned into corny mush. But it’s the truth.
Taking the tip of my finger, I trace a line across Ryann’s forehead, and I feel her crane her head up slightly. “Whatcha thinking about, babydoll?”
Ryann hums, “Hmm, that I could get used to life like this.”
Smiling, “Life can be like this.”
Once I rid our lives of all the harmful and toxic people in it, yes, I do. Two of them will be gone real soon. The other one....I’m still working on it. Fuck, I’m hoping somehow a house drops on him.
“I do. Life with you is all I need.”
I watch a smile dance across Ryann’s face, “And life with you is all I need.” My heart swells at an admission I already knew. But one I love to hear coming from her lips. “Thank you for coming with me today. I know meetings aren’t your thing, but I think I needed you there with me.”
Running my fingers through the soft strands of her hair, I let her words settle down around me. She needed me there today. Ryann isn’t usually one to need someone by her side when it comes to her sobriety. She normally attends her meetings alone, and a part of me feels it’s a time she needs away from everyone and everything. Even with her therapy appointment, I won’t be able to attend and sit out in the lobby like Ryann wishes, but Val has agreed to tag along and keep Ryann company.
I don’t think, for the most part, Ryann wants to be left alone right now, which makes leaving to go back to Cali for a day and a half all that more unbearable.
“Babydoll, I can make them my thing if you need me. I’ll do anything for you. You know that.” Ironically, except go to an actual meeting for myself. But she always gives me two options, so I’m technically still doing as she asks.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I feel off and like I’m unable to do anything on my own. I’m trying, but I get frustrated because if I overdo it, I’m in pain and asking for help. I feel so needy sometimes. And then thinking of going to the meeting alone, in the back of my head, I keep thinking Max will just show up.” She says on a whisper to make sure my grandparents don’t hear. “I know he’s still in New York. Isn’t he?”
I nod my head slightly, “He is. But he is not coming anywhere near you. I promise.”
“Can you promise that, though?” No, I can’t, and she knows it. What sucks about this damn situation is that I’m not in control. I can control only so much and hope and pray that the added measures work when I have no fucking clue if they will work. But what I do know is that I’m sure as hell can kick Max’s fucking ass if he steps so much as another toe out of line.
Sighing, “Ryann, I promise you that I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe. That or kick someone’s ass.” That comment alone wins me a slight laugh. “And by the way, I did not chip his tooth.” Sadly, I was able to steal a peek of his front teeth when the fucking coward snickered. All teeth are fully intact.
“Have you seen him since the hospital?”
Oh, shit. May have forgotten to mention the whole meeting debacle with her mom and sister.
“Thomas,” Ryann encourages as she suddenly sits up.
“He came to the meeting with your mom and sister. I didn’t lay a hand on him. Samuel made sure to keep himself between Max and me at all times.” I say, throwing up my Scout’s honors, mimicking Ryann from earlier.
Ryann shakes her head with a slight amusement before she lays across my lap again. My fingers start to play with the soft strands of her hair once again, and I feel her relax with each stroke. I look over to my grandparents and find Grandma leaning into Grandpa’s hold, watching the water pass under the boat. I can tell my grandma is in complete awe of everything she’s seeing.
“I don’t think I’ve seen my grandma have this much fun in years,” I say softly. “I never thought California life was truly what they wanted.”
Ryann reaches for my hand and laces her fingers with mine, “Do you think they want to move?”
“I think Grandpa does. I think he wants to move back to Tennessee, but he won’t ever admit to it.” A part of me wishes that they would have moved back and taken me with them. “California life has never been their life. Even before my mom passed, they would come out and visit, but for the most part, me and my mom would travel out to Tennessee and stay for a month....two months. There were times, I thought for sure we would move out there. To be closer to Grandma and Grandpa.”
“Have you been back since?” Ryann asks. “Since your mom passed?”
After Ryann fled from Georgia, I took a day layover in Tennessee and visited my mother’s old childhood home, my grandparents’ old farm. Everything looked the same: the house, the barn, the yard, and the woods. I felt like I had stepped back in time.
Standing in front of the old white and green farmhouse, I found myself waiting for my mom to come rushing out of the house and down the front porch. Or my grandparents. But I was left looking at the front of the house, like the trespasser I was. Wishing that I could see my mom just one more time.
I walked around the property and through the old woods. I even stumbled upon old familiar trails, and I could locate the old fort that my grandpa and I made when I was like ten. It was worn and falling apart as the elements of the earth reclaim the aged wood. The roof had collapsed in, and the walls were threatening to fall in too. But the childhood memories were still there and flooded back with times of playing hide n seek or one time we camped out in the little fort. We would have bonfires and look up at the stars through the break of the trees. Even as a kid, I knew the farm was home.
When I walked back out of the woods, the owners of the property greeted me. Ready to kick their trespasser off their land until they realized who the trespasser was. The owners ended up inviting me back into the home and even showed me around. It felt like I stepped into one of my forgotten memories. One that was unlocked and set free, thanks to Ryann. And at the time, I was mad and angry at everyone around me. Even Ryann. She left me, and I wanted to forget about her. But I couldn’t.
I ended up having a nice long talk with the owners of the property. So much so they revealed that they were actually looking into selling the property and retiring to Florida. I immediately put an offer in on the house and the land and agreed that the owners could stay until early spring.
As of April, I’m the official owner. I just haven’t told anyone yet because I’m hoping to make the property me and Ryann’s permanent home, and I’m hopeful that my grandparents will want to move back into their old farmhouse.
“I went back after Georgia. You left, and I felt like I had fucked up to an extent that I wasn’t even sure how to fix it. I wanted to go back home and just wallowed in self-pity and be angry at everyone in my life. But home didn’t seem like home without you. So, I went to the last place that felt like home.” I just hope Ryann likes what I’m about to say. “I met the homeowners while I was there.”
Ryann lifts her shades, and I can see the curiosity in her wide hazel eyes.
“They were thinking of selling the property.”
“And I bought it.”
Ryann practically bolts up from my lap. I can almost hear her heart slamming against her chest. Or maybe it’s mine because mine feels like a damn jackhammer. “What are you saying, Thomas?”
“I, uh....well, I bought the property with you in mind,” I tell her. My voice starts to shake slightly with nerves. Come on, Thomas, just spit it out. “I thought that....” Sighing, I take a deep breath in. “You are the only person I’ve met that I see a life with. You are the only person I want to have a family with and grow old with, and without you, I don’t think I’d be on this sobriety journey. You brought out the best of me when others were ready to give up. You never gave up on me. Even when I was being a massive dick.”
Ryann swipes away a tear that has fallen, “That’s because I saw you for who you are. Not what you wanted people to see. Like the way you saw me.”
“Babydoll, I still see you. I will always see you.” I say softly as I wipe away her tear. “Every aspect of my life, since we’ve met, has been consumed by you. I can’t get you off my mind. The two years that lapsed after our first encounter, I wanted to find you, but you terrified me. The emotions I feel, they terrified me at first because I was afraid of falling, only to lose in the end.” I admit with honesty.
I watch Ryann start to play with her necklace before spinning her rings around her middle finger. The moment feels right, so fucking right. I never had an entire plan on when I would do this. The only plan I did have was to execute when the moment felt right. No matter when that moment would be. And that moment is today.
Getting to my feet, I get down on one knee and take Ryann’s hand into mine. She gasps, covering her mouth with her other hand. “Thomas, wha-what are you doing?” She stutters as her eyes begin to well with tears.
Reaching into my pocket, my hand is shaky, and I’m praying I don’t drop the ring or make a fool of myself. I pull out my mom’s engagement ring. The same engagement ring that belonged to her mom and her mom before her. A ring that has been passed down through generations and carries a lot of sentimental value in our family. Each generation put their own spin on the ring. My mom added a diamond halo around the two-carat opal shape diamond along with a diamond band. But the wedding band will be ours, and one with a special meaning behind it that I’m is being custom made to fit this ring and Ryann perfectly.
“Ryann Marie Anderson, I bought that property for us. To start a life away from Hollywood and raise our family on a farm where my family lived. I bought us that property because you are it for me. You give me so much hope in life, a feeling I haven’t felt in decades, and I know I will never love someone the way I love you. I may have run into you that day in the alleyway, but you are the one who crashed into my life not once but twice. And you fit so easily into it, and I can’t imagine my life without you in it. It’s going to be one hell of an adventure, but babydoll, I’m all in. Will you marry me?”
Tears are running down her face fast. Her hazel eyes are wide with surprise, “Oh, my, god. You’re...you’re serious. You want to marry me?” Her voice cracks with hope and tears of happiness.
“From day one, Ryann, I’ve wanted to get down on one knee and asked you to be mine.” Ryann suddenly leaps from her seat and collides into me. Her arms wrapping around my neck and embracing me as tight as she can, “Is that a yes?”
“Yes, yes, yes! A thousand yeses!” She cries.
Taking her left hand, I slip the ring onto her finger, and it glides perfectly in place. Ryann holds her hand out in front of her, mesmerized by the sight, and I love the smile dancing across her face. One that screams, this is my life, and I’m not sure how I got here, but I’m where I’m supposed to be.
“I love you, Ryann,” I whisper as I place two fingers under her chin and bring her lips to mine. Her arms wrap around the nape of my neck and into my hair as I hold her.
Resting her forehead to mine, “I love you, and let’s move. To Tennessee.”
Smiling, I can tell by the glee and excitement in her eyes that saying yes to both choices is a decision she wants with her heart and soul. “You sure?” She nods her head before her lips crashing into mine. My hands tangle in the long strands of her hair as I hold her close. Her scent is intoxicating as the wind wraps us in a bubble of floral and vanilla, creating our own little world.
Suddenly, clapping erupts around us as my grandma and Grandpa cheer the new and unexpecting engagement. Catching both Ryann and me by surprise as we laugh out. Turning towards my grandparents, “You guys wanna move back to Tennessee?”
Grandma looks at me confused while my grandpa arches a brow. “About damn time.”
“Bobby,” Grandma hisses as she elbows him in the side. “Tommy, boy, California is now our home. We don’t mind....”
“I bought the old farmland and the farmhouse. It’s yours if you want to move back. All renovation costs are included if you want.” I tell them as I get to my feet and help Ryann to hers.
Grandma claps her hands together as her eyes start to gloss over, “Oh, sweet baby Jesus. Bobby!” She cries, looking to my grandpa, who wraps an arm around Grandma, bringing her in close. “You coming too, Tommy? You and Ryann?”
Resting my hands on Ryann’s hips, I bring her in close as I rest my forehead to hers. Her flawless skin is glowing like the diamond resting beautifully on her finger. “We sure are.”