Last night, we ended up sneaking out of the event before dessert was even served. I’ve never seen Xayla so determined to break the hell out of an event and sober up quickly before. She had a brilliant idea for busting out, sneaking out of the women’s bathroom window. Something told me she wasn’t a stranger to sneaking out of the woman’s window. The downfall to her little plan, her dress got caught up and ripped upped to her hip.
Andrew and I ended up giving her our jackets, and she somehow made a makeshift skirt from them. The outfit actually looked stylish and was a look Xayla easily pulled off.
We ended up finding ourselves outside of an outdoor burger joint. We sat around a red picnic table and devoured our food. Even Travis divulged and had himself a chocolate shake while he was waiting for us to finish up.
There were a lot of laughs, and the conversation was light and something I think we all needed. It felt great to talk about anything that didn’t revolve around the impending shit show that’s been my life. I only wished Ryann were with us to join in on the enjoyment last night. But I know Val is making sure Ryann is surrounded in laughter while I’m away and some secret wedding planning too, I’m sure.
But once I got home late last night, I called Ryann as promised, and we were on the phone for three hours talking and planning. She had some ideas for our new house in Tennessee.
A one-story ranch-style home. She wants to keep the rustic theme in the house and wants a large open room concept for the living room, a fireplace for the winter months, and a large kitchen—all ideas I already had. I suggested five bedrooms, a large basement with an office, a music room, and a spare bedroom. The basement will also have a small kitchenette for house guests, and for nights we have a movie night. The basement will also have large doors that will give us easy access to the backyard.
The one thing we’re in a debate about is if we should build a large patio deck that goes over the basement doors and up to the first floor. If we do that, we’ll need doors, possibly leading out of the kitchen, to spill onto the upper deck. The one nice thing, the basement deck, will be concrete and in constant shade for the long hot summer days.
We have a lot to plan, but we seem to have the same designing ideas for the most part. I even sent an email to Alex early this morning with our possible ideas to see if he wants to take on this project. He built my first home. So I trust him to come up with the designs and to create what I hope is me and Ryann’s lifelong home.
Feeling the car slow, I look out the window at the familiar skyscraper. My stomach twists in anxious knots, and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m actually nervous or because my anger is about to explode. Nevertheless, I’m ready to get this confrontation over with.
I’m ready for this, I think. Today is the day that I get all control of my life back. I won’t have to worry about Pearl hanging onto what rope she can grab to keep a hold on any aspect of my life. And Dax, well....Dax’s pervy and a creep. I know if given an opportunity, he would have come onto Ryann in more ways than making his unsettling glare. God, my mom would be so disappointed in me and the way my life was going.
Until Ryann. The moment Ryann walked into my life, I could feel my mom around me again. I could feel the hope and this overwhelming proud feeling because this life was never what I wanted. It was forced upon me. My dad and Pearl made sure of that.
One night, after Pearl carted me around LA from audition to audition, I think I was fifteen.
Ya....because it was a year before the accident.
But mom wasn’t home. She was out with her friend and wouldn’t get back until late. Leaving me with Dad. Pearl was not supposed to be over. She wasn’t welcomed at the house any longer, and it was one of the stipulations for mom and me to return from Tennessee. Clearly, my father was a King at keeping his promises.
“Did you get it?” Pearl asked. “Come on, Chad. Helena’s not home. We could.....”
I walked down the hall towards my father’s study at the sound of their voices. I’d always knew something was going on between the two of them, but I never had any confirmation until that fucking day. The day I caught my dad and Pearl kissing in his study. I froze as I peeked through the crack in the doorway.
I was a kid. What the hell was I supposed to do? Barged into my dad’s office and threatened to tell Mom. Or scream at my father, telling him that he’d crossed the last fucking line, and we’ll be moving back with Mom’s parents. Ha, ya, they knew how to keep me silent.
Looking back on it, I wished I had the courage to stand up to my dad and Pearl. Fuck, I wished I had the guts to stand up to Pearl long before Ryann came waltzing into my life. But the truth, I’m still that terrified fifteen-year-old boy.
“Let’s go upstairs,” Pearl whispered.
I remembered feeling panicked. If they left the office, I would have to bolt down the hall and not be heard, which was impossible with the squeaky floorboards. I could never maneuver and not make them squeak when I was running through the house. You had to walk slowly and carefully to sneak around the squeaking boards.
“We can’t,” my dad said. “Thomas is home. He’s upstairs.”
Pearl pouted. “This isn’t fair, Chad. We shouldn’t be hiding like this.”
“Shh.....it will all work out. I have a plan.” I watched my dad stroked the side of Pearl’s face, and I immediately wanted to vomit all over the damn floor. “I will get the ring from Helena. She won’t even know it’s missing, and it will belong to you. The ring belonged to my mom, and she wants you to have it. Not Helena. Mom knows our marriage isn’t on the right path, and she absolutely loves you.”
The few things that I learned about my father over the years. He was a loving and devoted husband and father for the first ten. But Pearl has always been in the background of my childhood, and her presence only got stronger the older I got. Which meant my father’s behavior became more controlling, more manipulative, and more of a con. He didn’t only play my mother and me. But he also played Pearl, and I really want to feel for her. I really do. But I can’t. I don’t. Not when she, herself, has been doing the exact same thing with my life.
That day, standing outside of my father’s office. I listened to him, and Pearl talked about their future plans. How he had to wait to file for divorce until I was eighteen because he knew my mom would run off with me back to Tennessee, and there, I would be untouchable. He claimed my grandpa would make sure that my father would never lay eyes on me again. That my grandmother would hide my mom and me away from my dad if he were ever to come calling.
Which wouldn’t have been untrue.
If my mom told Grandma and Grandpa, she never wanted to see Chad again or felt like I was in danger and physically told them what had been going on. You better believe my grandpa would have made sure my dad disappeared.
But I think my dad’s biggest lie, trying to get a ring that never belonged to him or his family. This memory, and what I know, it all makes sense now. Dad must have learned the hidden value behind the ring beforehand. How? I have no fucking clue, and I don’t really care to know. Mom never took that ring off. The only ring set she did take off was her engagement ring and wedding band. She left the engagement ring back in Tennessee before we flew back to Cali together for the last time. It was an impromptu two-week visit, and I noticed mom wasn’t wearing the ring on the plane ride back.
“Mom?” I remembered asking curiously. She’d hummed her answer as she smiled at me. My mother’s smile was always warm and welcoming. She could make you feel like you were in a tight hug with her smile. “Why aren’t you wearing your wedding ring?”
The smile turned sad in her dull green eyes. My mom’s eyes could change in color. Her eyes were kind of like a mood ring, only in the color of green. When my mom was happy, her eyes were this vibrant green that made you feel alive and loved. When she was sad, they turned into a dull sea green, and when she was angry, it felt like a storm was rolling in. People knew to stay ten feet back when my mom was mad. She never used violence, but she knew how to use her words—something I never accomplished.
“Oh, Tommy, you don’t need to worry about that. I must have forgotten it on the nightstand. Grandma will ship it back, or I can get it when we visit them again.” I knew it was an excuse, but I didn’t want to hurt my mom anymore by forcing her to explain the real reason. I don’t think she realized I saw more than she’d imagined.
“We can stay. In Tennessee.” I thought the statement would make my mom happy. Instead, tears started to form in her eyes. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you cry. Please don’t cry.”
Mom embraced me, “Baby, you didn’t make me cry. Tell you what,” she said softly, “when we get back home. I’ll talk with your dad about us staying out in Tennessee for the summer. How does that sound?”
I knew the idea would not go over well with Dad, but I also knew mom always got her way. “Really?”
Mom smiled, “Really.”
We never made it out to Tennessee for the summer. Mom lost the battle, but it didn’t stop my grandparents from coming out for the summer and renting a home for two months. That was the longest they stayed. Minus, of course, moving out to California after the crash. But I stayed the whole two months with them. Which only angered my dad because I wasn’t attending auditions. Pearl even attempted to talk with my grandma, but it was my grandpa who answered the door. Let’s say it wasn’t pretty, and to this day, Pearl tries to avoid my grandparents at all costs.
They are the only people besides my mother who scare the shit out of her. It’s pretty priceless. I just hope that I can have the same effect today. I need to channel my mother and my grandparents. I need their support, love, and guidance at this moment. And like my mom has heard my silent plea, I watch a butterfly fly by. Its wings flapping as the breeze assists in guiding her on her journey away from the city.
Smiling, I remember what Ryann told me. My grandma used to say Monarch Butterflies are loved ones trying to guide you onto the right path. I can’t help but feel a sense of warmth. Like a familiar hug from my mom, and I know I can do this. That I have to do this. The confidence that I lost, it’s back as I think of every fucking thing Pearl has caused: Having an affair with my dad, forcing me into auditions, fueling my addiction, refusing to let me seek help the one time I wanted to (both her and Dax’s doing), trying to steal my mother’s ring. And finally, trying to get Ryann out of my life.
Pearl’s control ends today.