Escaping too You ~book 3

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Chapter thirty-two

Pulling up outside the restaurant, there is a notable shift in the atmosphere. Even Ryann seems slightly anxious and on edge now. I want to instruct Heather to get back into the car and for us to drive away. Anywhere would be better than here. Hell, I should have canceled this idea and just have the stupid lunch catered at the condo. At least there, I would have been able to control the scene.

But fighting with Ryann.....as you can see, I lost. The options I was given were to either come with her and Travis or stay at the condo. And if I attempted to take her back to the condo instead of the restaurant, she’d sneak out. And with her history of running, I didn’t feel like challenging her to see how true her threat was.

Heather climbs out of the car, holding it open for Ryann and me to slide out onto the sidewalk. Of course, the sidewalk is jam pack with people, because when is it not? And we are immediately swarmed by Travis and Heather as we’re ushered into the restaurant.

Keeping Ryann close, Travis leads the way through the restaurant to the little room off towards the back. The room is tucked away from the busyness and flow of the restaurant. Allowing us a little bit of privacy. Passing by tables, I can hear whispers from women gasping out as we pass by. Some, I swear, screech out, which only wins them a glare from Ryann as she purposely manages to flash her engagement ring at them.

I’m not going to lie; I love this jealousy side of her.

Making it into the little room, we are entirely roped off from the main dining area and enclosed behind these four walls. There is a line of booths against one wall with one booth filled with customers in it, and they seem oblivious to our arrival as their waiter drops off the bill. Otherwise, small round and square tables fill the space.

But Jen immediately takes notice of our arrival. Travis steps out of the way just in time for her to barrel into Ryann and hug her.

“Oh, I was worried that you weren’t going to show!” She nearly screams. “Mom was about to call, but I kept telling her to wait. That traffic is awful in this city, and you had doctor appointments. How are you? Are you doing okay?”

Ryann looks at me wide-eyed, pleading for help, but I can’t help but laugh. “Jen, ya....hi... you’re squeezing me to death, and I just got my staples out.”

Jen suddenly lets go of Ryann, “Oh, shit, I’m sorry.”

Feeling a hand at my back, I turn to see Betty, “Hi, Thomas. How are you?” She asks as she embraces me.

Well, this is a good sign, right?

“I’m good, how are you? Sorry, we’re late.”

“Good, good, and no worries. Jen is over exaggerating just a little bit.”

And at the sound of Jen gasping and screaming out, Betty gives me a look of... my point. As my attention locks to Ryann, I’m watching her frantically trying to calm he sister down and keep her from gasping out in excitement. But it’s too late because Jen is jumping up and down like a madwoman.

“Jennifer Louise. What’s the matter with you?” Betty demands as she attempts to stop Jen from jumping up and down. I watch them exchange mumble conversation. I can’t understand most of it because Jen is talking way too damn fast for anyone to understand.

Ryann immediately crashes into my side, “She saw my ring,” Ryann whispers.

Welp, so much for thinking I’m back in Betty’s good graces.

“Ryann, show mom.”

I can feel Ryann cock her head, giving Jen a look of shut the hell up. But I get it. She’s excited. Overly. And Jen’s face immediately falls with realization. One that is screaming the Andersons have traditions I did not follow.

“Never mind,” Jen suddenly blurts. “Let’s eat. I’m starving. Are you starving?” She asks, pointing towards Ryann.

Betty shakes her head with aggravation, “Now Jen, what’s gotten into you? Look at Ryann’s rings, don’t look at them. I mean, we’ve seen them.......” And here it comes. I watch Betty’s eyes go wide, and she immediately storms up to her daughter, taking her hand by force as she looks at the opal diamond. “What is this?”

Ryann snatches her hand as she wedges herself between her mother and me. “A ring.”

I inwardly cringe at Ryann’s answer; now is not the time to be a smartass.

Betty lets out a snort of a laugh, “A ring? I can see that it’s a ring, Ryann Marie. It looks like an engagement ring.”

“Can we please sit, and then we can talk.”

Betty’s glaring gaze connects with mine before she storms off to the table. Jen mouths her apology as she follows her mother. Travis manages to stand in front of Ryann and me, “Do you guys want to leave?”

Ryann shakes her head as she looks around Travis, “No, I need to tell them. But Thomas, if you don’t want to be here, you can leave. Go with Heather, and Travis can stay with me.”

Snorting, “Ha, ya, that’s not happening.”

Taking Ryann’s hand, I lead the way towards the table and pull out Ryann’s chair for her to sit before taking the seat next to her. Betty’s jaw is tensing, and Jen is slowly pushing her chair further and further away from her mother and the table. Any further, she’ll be in the corner.

Again, Ryann takes my hand and places our joined hands atop the table. Her engagement ring, on full display. “Mom,” Ryann says softly, “I love you, and I really want you to support me on this next adventure of my life, and if you can’t.....I won’t lie, I won’t understand, but know that I have some pretty amazing people in my life now.” I watch Ryann slightly turn her head towards Travis, and by the small smile he’s giving, I know she’s smiling too. “Thomas proposed to me before leaving for his event in Cali. I said yes, and we’re moving to Tennessee.”

Jen seems genuinely happy for her sister and Betty....well, I can’t tell if she’s excited or still hurt that Ryann has hidden the engagement.

“Oh, well, I see. So, your mind is made up?” Betty, out of everyone knows once Ryann’s mind is made up, there is no changing it. “And you will not be moving back to Indiana?” Ryann shakes her head no. Tears start to fall down Betty’s face as a wide smile graces her face, “Oh, thank the lord. Of course, I’m happy for you, Ry. I’m through the moon happy for you. I just wish you would have told me sooner. And....” Betty’s glare lands on me, “You should have at least asked me for permission. Or told me.”

I’m not sure what to say to remedy this situation. I didn’t ask anyone within Ryann’s family because I didn’t know when I would propose, and it honestly never crossed my mind to reach out to her family. Not when we aren’t exactly on the greatest terms. If Betty had told me there was no way in hell I’d have her permission, I would have still asked Ryann to marry me.

So, does it really matter in the long run?

“Mom, does it really matter? We aren’t exactly traditional, and Ryann is the least traditional of us all. I mean, she wore an all-black dress to my wedding. She looked like she walked out of an Avril music video.”

Betty’s nose twists off to the side, “But Max asked your father....”

“And Maxwell is a giant sack of useless.......”

“Jennifer Louise,” Betty scolds. “Fighting is part of marriage. You’ll make up and move on. Lord, if I told you all the fights me and your father have been in. It’s never wise to lose the one you love to an argument over something small and trivial.”

Keeping Betty in the dark for much longer may not be wise with her nonsensical advice.

Jen rolls her eyes and dismisses her mother’s advice. “I’m so happy for you guys. So, when is the wedding?”

I’m not sure how Ryann feels about sharing any aspect of the wedding planning with her sister. When she, herself made it a point to exclude Ryann from her planning. “I....uh, we haven’t set a date yet. Valerie is helping me plan and come up with some ideas.”

“Well, as soon as you know, let me know. We’ll want to pay, of course.” Betty adds.

Shaking my head, I understand the tradition behind the bride’s parents paying for the wedding....erm, no, I don’t. I think it’s a half-ass backward tradition that stemmed from women being treated as property. Ryann does not belong to anyone and doesn’t need permission to marry who she wants. “You don’t need to pay for anything. I will.....”

“Now listen here, son,” Betty interrupts. “You asked my daughter to marry you without telling her father or me.” Ya, Raymond and I will never have a relationship like he has with Max, and I don’t think I’m missing anything. “We will pay for this wedding.”

“Mom, I don’t even want a big wedding. It’s going to be small and more than likely on our property in Tennessee. I don’t want you and dad to pay for it.” Betty attempts to interrupt her daughter, but Ryann holds up a finger, keeping her mom from talking. “It has nothing to do with the idea that you won’t be able to afford it. It’s because this is something for me. I want to do this. For us. For ourselves.”

Betty sighs, “You know you’re father isn’t going to like this.”

At the mention of Ryann’s dad, I can feel her tense up just as the waiter stops by. Her nails are beginning to cut into the palm of my hand.

“Do you guys know what you’d like to drink?′

“Water for now,” I answer for the both of us. I watch the waiter refill Betty and Jen’s glasses with what looks like tea before leaving.

“And I don’t think Raymond will have much say in the matter,” I say just as the waiter returns with a tray of bread and two glasses of water. Looking over my shoulder, I’m kinda perplexed at how quickly he returned to the table. But Ryann immediately takes a giant gulp of her water.

Betty frowns, “You need to understand that this is our eldest daughter. He is gonna....”

Ryann begins to shake her head frantically. I can sense her panic rising. Jen immediately takes hold of her mom’s arm, “Mom drop it. Ryann doesn’t want that.”

Turning in my chair slightly, I manage to create some sort of privacy as I pull Ryann towards my chest, my shoulder acting as a barrier. “You okay?”

She shakes her head again, “I can’t do this, Thomas. Fighting with my family.”

“Do you want to leave?” She shakes her head again before taking a deep breath in, and I can hear her counting to ten. Slowly, she pulls out of my hold and sits straight. Her panic simmering as she attempts to reclaim control.

“I don’t want you or dad paying for anything. Especially dad.” Ryann states evenly. “I need you to respect my decision, and I need you to support my decision. I do not care if dad is mad or feels like he is being excluded. But he will not be involved in any aspect of our wedding.”

Betty frowns before her face becomes understanding, “I’m sorry, you’re right. It is your decision, and I should respect your choice. It’s just.....you’ve had a rough go. I want to make sure you have everything you need.”

Ryann smiles as she reclaims my hand, “And I do. I really do, mom. But now, I want you to be a part of my life and see the accomplishments I’m making with Thomas. This wedding will be for us and will be something that we will do for ourselves when the time is right.”

Betty sighs, knowing that the argument will only go round and round before Ryann becomes upset and combative at trying to make her mother understand her wishes. But as I watch Betty’s eyes soften, it seems she’s slowly starting to see Ryann’s reasoning.

“If that is what you wish.”

Ryann smiles at me before turning towards her mother, “It is. It really is.”

The atmosphere slowly returns to a peaceful ambience as the conversation erupts into every and any topic filled with a lot of laughter. Even when the waiter comes to take our orders, it’s hard to get Ryann and Jen to focus long enough to place their orders. Yet, everything seems to be going smoothly, so much so that I think my gut reaction was wrong. Until I see Travis talk into his sleeve and suddenly leave the room.

Looking over my shoulder, I watch Heather stand in the entryway with her back towards us.

“Mom, how long are you staying?” I hear Ryann asks as I try and figure out what is going on.

“Until Monday. I need to get back to your father and the farm.”

“Jen?” Ryann asks.

“Umm....I don’t know. I’m hoping to stay out a little longer if that is okay with you. Oh, and do you remember Benji?”

My attention is immediately snapped back to the conversation at the table. And with one look at Ryann, it looks like she’s been punched in the gut.

“Ry? You okay?” Jen slowly asks.

Ryann looks up at me with tears of hatred, pain, and betrayal in her eyes. I can see the memory being played out behind her glossy hazel eyes. With one name. One fucking name, she remembers.

“Don’t tell me I can’t come in here.” A gruff voice erupts from behind us.

Everyone but Ryann is up from the table, “You cannot come in here.” Heather barks.

“Move out of my way.” The voice demands before he bulldozes his way pass Heather. An older man is standing in the room with us. He’s tall, with a farmer’s built and graying hair. The bright blues are the same as Jen’s, but this man’s eyes are harsher.

I don’t need a name. But, with one goddamn look, I know this is Ryann’s father.

Travis runs around Raymond and is next to Ryann in seconds. Urging her to her feet to get her out of the restaurant. She quickly complies as she buries her face into his chest.

“Where are you taking my daughter?” Raymond demands.

“Daddy!” Jen exclaims, “I told you to stay home. Not to come. She’s not ready to see you.”

“Raymond, what are you doing here!?” Betty exclaims.

Raymond makes his way towards Travis, and I immediately place myself between them.

“I’ve come to see Ryann. Now, move out of my way.”

Turning my head to the side, I’m about to challenge this motherfucker when I feel a soft hand at my back. Turning around, Ryann has pulled out of Travis’s arm and is determined to face the man on the other side of me.

Stepping to the side, Ryann steps forward, “Hello, father.”

Raymond seems lost for words standing in front of his daughter. A daughter who is standing so damn tall and confident. “Ry....Ryann, how are you doing?”

“I’m great. I’ve been great since I left Indiana. What are you doing here?”

“Well, I’ve come to see you,” Raymond answers as if this will be the last question to be asked of him.

I watch Ryann cock her head off to the side, watching her father slowly, “I never once asked you to come out here.”

“And you never asked your mom, your sister, or Max to come out either.”

Ryann’s head snaps back up. “Go back home and take Max with you. I don’t want to see either one of you.”

Ryann’s words seem to strike Raymond in the heart, “I’m your father. You cannot just send me packing. Not after everything you’ve been through.”

Wrong fucking thing to say. Both Travis and I take hold of Ryann’s arms, keeping her from charging her father. “What I’ve been through? You want to be here for me now after all I’ve fucking been through?” She screams. “Screw that and screw you.”

“Raymond, go wait outside.” Betty hisses as she marches between her husband and Ryann. “I’ll deal with you later.”

Betty is standing tall. But it doesn’t seem to affect Raymond, “Listen here, woman.”

“Woman? Did you just call me woman?” The chill in Betty’s voice is enough to make Raymond shrink. “You are skating on thin ice Raymond Louis Anderson. Go outside, NOW.”

And like some sort of cosmic fucking joke, Maxwell comes walking in with a whistle to his step. Heather manages to stop him at the room’s entrance and keeps him back. And just by the sound of Max’s voice, it’s enough to send Ryann into a frenzy as she pulls against our hold.

My gut was right. This was a terrible fucking idea.

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