I’m not going to lie.
Holding Brian in my arms felt so right. A part of me couldn’t believe I was holding a tiny little human in my hands, but at the same time, it absolutely terrified me. All of these thoughts started to roll through my head. Like, am I even dad material. I’m not even a full year sober yet. What if I relapse because parenthood is way too much. What if Ryann relapses.
We were so focused on what we lost during that horrible night that we’ve yet to see what having a child could entail. The challenges that will be set before us as new parents, are we really cut out for that journey? Am I? Because there are days I’m lucky I can make it through without sneaking off to find a drink. I just want to ensure that we’re both at a place in our life we can be the best parents for our child.
I know Ryann will be a phenomenal mother. The question, will I be a good enough dad for our child. I don’t want to be like my father, and that is what scares me the most. Because I don’t want to be like father, like son.
“Hmm, babe, what’s on your mind?” Ryann asks, shifting in my hold.
After we bid Rose and Alex goodnight, we made our way out into the woods. Following a small dirt path down to where my old childhood fort used to be. Alex and I met Travis down here to set up our little campout site. Ryann and Rose were distracted enough with the baby for us to pull off this little stunt. Ryann knew about our accommodations for the night, but I don’t think she knew the extent. Fire, a tent with an air mattress, and we have ingredients for breakfast near the lake in the morning. To say she was surprised was an understatement.
And we’ve been laying on a blanket looking up at the night sky through the broken holes of the tree branches and leaves. The fire, a low dim orange glow, and soon only the ambers will be our source of light.
Feeling Ryann shift in my hold, she manages to prop herself up on my chest. Her hazel eyes piercing through me and seeing every thought that was dancing in my mind. Stroking her back, “Nothing, babydoll.”
Frowning, “Don’t lie to me. I can see something is on your mind. Spill, Mr. Copeland.”
Urging her to lay back down and look up at the night sky, “Of us becoming parents.” I can feel her resisting the urge to shift in my hold as her hand tightens around mine. “I’m kinda scared after holding Brian. I mean, it felt so right, but on the walk over here, my mind started racing. What if I turn out like my father. What if I relapse or you…..or….”
“Whoa, Hunny,” Ryann shifts again. This time sitting up and looking over her shoulder at me. “First off, you are not your father. I want you to get that through your head.”
“Ya, but how….”
“Thomas!” She demands, “Stop that. You’re not Chad, you’ll never be like him. You have your mom’s heart and soul.” She says, placing her hand over my heart. “And I have the same fears.”
Bolting up, her hand remains firmly over my heart. Her fingers flexing in my tee before going flat again. “Really?”
Ryann gives me a soft smile, “Ya. I think every new parent has some sort of fear. Rose and Alex did too. When we went back into the house. She was showing me plans for the music room and guest suite, and we got to talking.”
“Wha – what? Why?”
Shrugging her shoulders, she turns her attention back towards the dying fire. “I don’t know. I mentioned seeing you holding a baby was a sight to see, and the happiness and fondness on your face…..it was really a sight to see. And Rose…well, she kinda told me how Alex found out, and I guess he freaked.”
“Yup,” she says with the pop of her lips as she crashes into me. “We all have those fears. Just promise me we will always share with each other. Even when we get mad or we’ve pissed each other off. I need to know that we will always be open with each other.”
Now I can sense her fear with the pleading. I couldn’t imagine not being able to share with Ryann. Even if I may not always be forthcoming, it doesn’t take Ryann long to realize something is up. And I can sense when something is bothering her too, like now.
“Babydoll, where is all of this coming from? You know you’re the only person who I’d ever want to share with.”
“I don’t want to be my parents,” her voice is merely a whisper with the admission. “I remembered a time my parents were happy and talked, and we all acted like a big lovin’ family. I don’t know what happened.” She pauses a moment, and I can see the pain in her eyes, and I know exactly what she’s thinking. What she’s about to say. “Maybe my addiction is what happened. Because now…now my parents don’t even like to be in the same room together. And they can be very spiteful towards each other sometimes.”
Feeling my heartache. I knew Ryann, deep down, has always felt some sort of responsibility towards the failing of her parent’s marriage. They’re two people who were once in love and, at some point, fell out of love. I honestly don’t know if there is much hope left for their marriage, but from what I’ve witnessed, they are two people who don’t need to be together. But Ryann needs to understand that her parent’s marriage isn’t her responsibility, and this is one problem she won’t be able to fix.
“Babydoll. Hey, look at me.” I urge her from my side, and I can see the hint of tears in the corner of her eyes. “Your parents’ relationship is not your fault. Sometimes people grow apart. It happens. And your dad made his choices long ago……and unfortunately, it was not the same path your mom took. But your addiction and recovery are not the cause for the hole in their relationship.”
Giving me a tight smile, she crashes back into my side, snuggling as close as physically possible and forcing me to open my arm to allow her in. I’d rather see her eyes during this conversation to gauge her emotions, but I feel like this may be a little too much….overwhelming for Ryann to discuss.
“Ryann…..can you tell me what happened? Why you turned to drugs at such a young age?” I know bits and pieces. Pieces that she’s shared vaguely and details that were shared with me by her sister. I want to hear Ryann’s perspective. Because it’s the only version, I will ever believe. “And your rehab stay.”
I feel her suck in a deep, shaky breath with her fingers digging into my thighs. Any deeper, I’ll be hissing out in discomfort. But I’m not going to give her an out. She needs to share this part of her life with me.
“If you asked anyone, they’d tell you that I’m a people pleaser. And I am….well, was. I guess. I don’t really know if that aspect of myself has changed much. But I broke and caved under the pressure my father had set out for me during my High School career. I fell into a depression state, and all I wanted to do was sleep, and when I realized I fell behind……I just needed to stay up. So, I got some help from Jamie. He started me out with SPEED first, and then everything just fucking snowballed. He saw me coming out of the woman’s bathroom, I was crying and stressed after a final, and he gave me my first taste of Oxy to help calm me. I tried to get control back, and I just fucking lost any control of my life with that first taste. As soon as I swallowed that first pill, I belonged to Jamie. I was used, and I was abused.”
Not going into any further detail because she doesn’t have to. That aspect of her life, I’m all too familiar with. And just the thought gives me the urge to punch one of these fucking trees. I’m not sure being in the same room as Maxwell tomorrow will be a good idea.
“I still don’t have all my memories back from my blackout moments, and there are memories that I wished stayed hidden. There are also words I wished I never heard come from my father.”
My jaw tenses as I imagine a teenage Ryann in her room, and she overhears the harsh tones and words from her father. Words that are insulting and refusing to understand the destructive behavior that he helped caused. Not to mention, he ignored his daughter’s pleas for help and listened to the nasty words from her fuckin’ ex and so-called best friend.
“When I overdosed, Mom and Teresa helped me get into an inpatient rehab facility in Ohio called Oak and Pine Rehab. Max and Mom drove me down when I was released from the hospital. Teresa met us down there.”
“Why did Max go with you guys?” Ryann shrugs, dismissing my question.
“Mom and Max stayed half the day. Making sure I was settled and had everything I needed before leaving. Teresa stayed the first three weeks working in the music and art room. Helping those who seek help. And guiding me to old and new creativities. After she left, I felt kinda alone. Almost like I was reverting. That’s when I met Nora and Toad.”
“Toad?” I’ve heard some strange names in my time, but I’ve never ran into someone who shared a name with an amphibian.
“Yes, Toad,” she says with a laugh. “I think his real name was Brax but went by Toad. When he was in elementary school, he searched for toads on the playground, and his friend just started calling him that. But he and Nora really took me under their wings and forced me to step out of my comfort zone and the self-pity party I was having. But Toad taught me how to play the guitar……well, the few chords I know.”
She’ll never admit to it, but I know her talent extends past learning a few chords. The first time I heard her playing, I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or my imagination had officially ran away and dreamed up what I missed. The sound of my mother’s guitar.
“And Nora really helped me to understand the reasoning for my addiction and tricks she learned to fight against cravings.” Pausing, I manage to steal a glance at her face. Her lip between her teeth and trying to keep an amused look off her face. Only to fail miserably.
“What?” I ask curiously.
Ryann lets out a little huff of a laugh, “It’s kinda funny thinking back on the advice Nora gave.”
“Because that was her third trip to rehab.”
Now I’m a little skeptical about the advice that could have been given. “And what advice did she give?”
“Don’t give a fuck what others expect. Their expectations are not yours.” Advice to live by. Ryann pauses, and I can practically feel the gears in her head-turning. “She was very opinionated and lived her life when she wanted. She didn’t care how people viewed her, sober or high. According to her, we only get one life, and Nora lived it how she wanted when she wanted.”
Why do I get the sense that this story is about to take a sad turn. I’m half expecting Ryann to finish the story, but she doesn’t. The silence between us grows as I feel her focus her attention on the night sky. “And where is Nora now?”
She shifts in my hold, her wide hazel eyes sad, “She passed away about a month before I flew out to California. Nora was set to meet Teresa but never showed. I figured Nora changed her mind about wanting help and was off doing God knows what. I got a call from Teresa about three days later after the no-show meeting…….” Ryann trails off and takes in a deep, shaky breath, and I know she’s fighting tears as her fingers flex against the material of my shirt. “They found Nora in the passenger seat of her car. She’d overdosed, and whoever was with her…….they just left her and allowed her to die alone.”
Fuck, “Ryann, I’m so sorry.”
“It took me until this year to realize that I tried to help her and did what I could within my means. But it still doesn’t make her death any easier. And I think that’s why I’m so fucking determined to see you two succeed.”
Urging her out of my side, two of my fingers resting under her chin and guiding her to look up, “Babydoll, if we fail, it’s not because of you.” And I can tell by the look in her eyes, there is nothing I can say that would persuade her.
“Wouldn’t it, though? I mean……”
Pressing my lips to hers, I stop her from coming up with or forming whatever random and incorrect reasoning is in her damn head. Our tongues meeting before I pull away and rest my forehead to hers, “No. It’s because we failed ourselves and you. You’ve done so much for the both of us. That now, it’s up to us to continue on the path you guided Xayla and me too.”
Because it is. Ryann and I may rely on each other in our time of need or when we feel the weakest. Lord knows I’ve needed a push or two in the right direction, but Ryann can’t keep putting my sobriety in front of hers. We need to find that equal balance, and I feel like we’re slowly getting to that place.
Urging her to her back, I cage her under me as my arms rest on the soft fuzzy material of the blanket. “Babydoll, you’ve given so much of yourself to those you love, and it’s one of the many reasons you’re so damn loved.”
“That or stupid,” she smirks.
Shaking my head, “You’re not stupid. And don’t you dare say your dad would think otherwise.” Ryann instantly bites her lower lip. “Because it’s his loss that he’s missed out on what an amazing and loving person his daughter is. You ignored all of those who screamed you’d fail and look at where you are now! In the middle of the woods…….”
“And fell madly in love with Hollywood’s notorious party boy.”
I feel my lips quirk into a slight smile as I hover just above the softness of her lips, “I stopped being the notorious party boy when you came back into my life. Those parties were to get your attention.”
“That was a shit way of getting my attention. You had my attention from the beginning.”
I had her? She fucking had me from the beginning.
Feeling my tongue glide across her lips, Ryann cups my face before entangling her fingers into my hair and deepening the kiss. Her moans are intoxicating and causing my blood to rush faster through my veins. The taste of her is fucking delectable, and I find myself craving more.
Slipping my hand under Ryann’s sweatshirt, her skin immediately ignites from my touch as my fingers dance across the silk softness of her skin.
“I love you,” Ryann moans against my lips.
“I love you,” Finding her neck, I slowly trail kisses down the exposed sensitive skin. Each suck, and graze of my teeth, Ryann moans out.
Arching her chest towards me, my hand slides further under her sweatshirt until I find the hardened peak awaiting my attention. Like many nights after a serious and emotional conversation, we find a way to distract our minds.
And tonight, it’s my turn to provide the distraction.