Escaping too You ~book 3

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Chapter fifty-one

Travis pulls up a long straight gravel driveway shielded by cornfields. For a brief moment, I think he’s drove down an old creepy vacant driveway, and I’m about to meet my doom. But an old one-story bricked farmhouse comes into view with a large front wooden porch that’s seen better days. The home is placed perfectly between tall oak trees shielding the house from the sun’s direct rays. In the distance behind the house, I can see a thick tree line and remember the stories Ryann shared about how she’d escaped in the cover of the trees.

As the dust settles and Travis throws the SUV into park, Ryann grips my hand tighter with nerves. Taking my seatbelt off, I manage to look out the windows at our surroundings and realize no one is coming out of the house. Three cars are in the driveway, so someone has to be home. “You okay?” I ask Ryann as her eyes stay lock out the front windshield.

“Everyone is home.” Her voice sounds almost lost. “Mom, Jen, and Dad. They’re all here.”

Urging her to look at me, “Babydoll, are you still……” she nods her head before I can even finish my sentence. “Ok. Take your time. We’ll go in when you say.”

“Travis, you’re coming too, right?”

Turning slightly in the driver’s seat, Travis manages to lock eyes with Ryann through the rearview mirror, “If you want me to, yes.”

Nodding her head again, I follow her line of sight to figures now standing on the front porch. Betty and Jen. Both of them attempting to figure out who’s in the car and what in the hell we’re doing on their property.

As soon as Jen realizes it’s Travis behind the wheel, she squeals out, startling her mother. “It’s Ry and Thomas!”

At the sight of Jen barreling down the front steps, Travis steps out of the car, ready to intercept her until Ryann is ready to get out of the vehicle.

“What are you thinking?” I finally ask her to get her talking.

With a shaky breath in, “I’m scared.”

Sliding across the backseat, Ryann rests her forehead to my chest, and I place a kiss to the top of her head. “I know you are. But after today, it’s your life. It has always been your life but remember why you’re doing this.”

Lifting her head, Ryann’s lips are on mine as my arms wrap around her, keeping close as she places a simple kiss to my lips. And I can feel her confidence slowly returning. Pulling away, she nods her head, telling me she’s ready. Placing another quick kiss to her lips, I open the back door and slide out of the car with my hand held out for Ryann to take. Taking my hand, I help Ryann out of the car only to let go as she’s immediately bombarded by her sister.

“I didn’t know you were coming. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I wanted Dad to be here,” Ryann says, which causes her sister to arch a confused brow. “Is he here?”

“Erm……ya….”

Walking around Travis with a slight glare, Betty embraces Ryann into a hug, “What are two doing here?”

Betty has no right to feel any type of anger towards Travis. He did the one thing that was very much overdue. Raymond receiving what he deserved. Fuck, Samuel even stopped the punishment short-termed. If anything, Betty should be thankful Raymond was able to walk out of the damn restaurant.

“I erm….wanted to talk with everyone.”

Pulling away slightly, “Ohh, well, you could have called us.” Betty says.

Ryann manages to back step the two steps until she’s at my side, her fingers immediately locking into mine. “Because Dad wouldn’t be here if he knew I was coming.”

Betty gives her daughter a sad smile, knowing the truth behind her statement. “Please come in.” Betty suddenly says, leading the way back up towards the front of the house.

Jen falls in line with Betty, and I catch her leaning in, whispering something to her mom, only to have Betty shake her head no. I’m curious, but I don’t bother to bring it up because Ryann didn’t notice as she looks down at her feet. I can hear her softly counting with each step we take.

As soon as we walk into the house, it feels like a dark, oppressive atmosphere is threatening to crush us. At first, I think I’m making this feeling up, but I know I’m not with one look at Travis. If this is the kind of energy Ryann grew up with, how in the hell did she stay in this house for so damn long. It’s suffocating as hell in here.

“I’m going to get some tea. You guys can go and sit in the living room.” Betty announces as she urges us to follow Jen out of the small entryway.

Walking from the entryway, we turn the corner into a small living room. An old-style entertainment center is against the main wall with a tiny square box television. The walls are covered in a fake wood vinyl, and there are shelves that go along the top of the walls filled with tractors and random antique farming equipment. In the corner of the living room beside the couch is a small, tall glass armoire filled with glass dolls that look like they date back to the early twenties.

And near the television is an old worn leather chair with rips and tears. My guess, it must be Raymond’s chair.

Jen waves for us to sit on the couch, “You guys can sit if you want.”

Following Ryann’s lead, I take a seat next to her. My hand never leaving hers as Travis stands at the end of the couch beside her, never leaving her side. I can tell by the nervous look in Jen’s eyes, Travis still makes her anxious.

“Sooooo…..” Jen sings. “How have you been? It’s been a while since we last talked. Well, that didn’t center around drama or Max.” I swear my jaw tenses every damn time that fuckers name is mentioned. We’re really going to have to come up with a code name for that asshole.

“We’ve been good. About to move to Tennessee.” Ryann states. “Met with Thomas’s friend. He’s building the house for us.”

“Oh.” I’m not sure why she sounds surprised. And I’m sure why I’m taking offense to her surprised tone. I’m chalking it up to the nerves that I’m trying to conceal. “That’s cool. Do you guys think you’ll be down there before Christmas?”

“Yes,” I answer. “Unless something goes horribly wrong with the rest of the construction.”

Ryann and Jen suddenly jump at the sound of the back door slamming shut, followed by grumbling. Jen looks to her sister with an uneasiness, “Are you sure you want to talk with Dad? He’s not going to be happy about being ganged up on or him being here.” She says, pointing towards Travis. “Mom isn’t very fond of him being here.”

“And I don’t care,” Ryann grates out. “Travis stays. Call Dad in here.”

With the demand, Jen takes a deep breath in, “Dad. You’re about to miss it. Come on!”

Well, Jen has been working on her acting skills. With the sound of heavy footsteps, Ryann’s grip on my hand gets tighter as we look towards the empty archway of the living room. Waiting for Raymond to make an appearance. And as soon as he does, Ryann’s grip becomes nearly unbearable.

Raymond stops dead in his tracks in pure shock at the sight of unexpected company. He’s in a dirty, greased flannel shirt and grease-stained blue jeans. It looks like he just came in from the field or a barn.

“Go, sit down,” Betty demands. Grumbling under his breath, he stomps over to his armchair and flops down. Betty sets the tray of drinks on the coffee table, but the only one to reach for a glass is Jen.

“Urgh, what the hell is this? And what’s he doin’ here?” Raymond demands, pointing at Travis.

“Dad,” Jen urges sweetly. “Ryann wants to talk with you. And where she goes, those two do too.”

Raymond narrows his eyes to me, “I understand you asked my daughter for her hand.” He can’t be fucking serious, can he? “We have traditions in this family…….”

I can’t help but snort out in disbelief and causing the tension to build further. “Ya well….traditions are meant to be broken when a father…..”

“Thomas,” Ryann hisses. “Please….” Taking a deep breath, I attempt to level off my boiling blood. Well, that didn’t take long. “He asked for permission. Just not from you.” Everyone’s eyes nearly bug out of their eye sockets. I was not expecting that. “And that’s not why we’re here.”

“It should be,” Raymond warns.

“Raymond,” Betty condemns.

Straightening her shoulders, “We don’t need your blessing.”

“Clearly. Fine, then what did you come here to say.”

Rolling her neck, I can feel the anxious nerves rolling off Ryann, making me want to take this meeting over.

“Dad, I thought you agreed that you wouldn’t act this way if Ryann came back. Why are you doing this?” Jen nearly pleads.

“Habits don’t die.” What the hell is that supposed to mean? “You’re engaged to an alcoholic, got knocked up, and was involved in a car crash that nearly killed you. I’m just watching you repeat…….”

“Raymond!” Betty screeches.

Ryann takes her hand out of mine and runs her hands over her face as she cranes her neck up. Her necklace on full display over her black tee, and my bracelet in view for all. Leaning into Ryann, “Let’s go. Your father isn’t going to listen. He’s made that evident.”

Then it’s like a balloon finally popped. One that’s been blown past its capacity for so fucking long.

“I want you to get one thing straight,” Ryann nearly yells. “Habits do die, and mine has died. It’s been dead for almost five years. But you know what? You don’t give two fucks, do you?”

“Language, young lady.”

Rolling her eyes, “You don’t. Do you have any idea why I started using in the first place?” The room goes into a dead silence, “Because of you. I started with SPEED. Do you have any idea what that does?” Ryann demands, and with the silence radiating in the room, crickets could easily be heard. “It kept me awake, so I could pass my classes and get the grades YOU wanted. Then when that wasn’t good enough….”

“Don’ you dare blame your issues on me.”

“I’m blaming you!” Ryann screams. “I blame you. I came to you for help, and you dismissed me. Your daughter. You believed the man who fueled my addiction and abused me, and you believed Max. Did Mom or Jen tell you I was raped? That I was drugged without knowing? Did they tell you what Max did? Do you believe them over me?”

Raymond stares at his daughter, his glare unwavering and the awkward silence only growing as no one knows what to say.

“I made mistakes, yes. I’ve owned up to the mistakes I’ve made. I went to rehab, and I’ve stayed cleaned with the help of Mom and Teresa and the people I’ve met along the way. I now have amazing friends that I’ve made in California. I’ve traveled all over, and I’m helping Thomas and Xayla with their sobriety. I’ve accomplished so much, and the only thing you can focus on is my past. Haven’t I made up for the stain I put on our family’s name?” The question is more of a statement in an attempt to get Raymond to answer her. But he doesn’t. He only stares at her.

“Ryann, dear, your Dad….”

Ryann immediately starts to shake her head, cutting her mom off, “Don’t stand there and defend him. I want to hear him answer.” But he doesn’t. “I’ve found my happiness in my life. With Thomas.” She says, retaking my hand and putting our conjoined hands-on full display. “Thomas and I are two recovering addicts, yes. He’s been sober for almost a year, and he has accomplished more than what most couldn’t in their first year. He was in the car with me when we were hit by a drunk driver. Don’t sit across from us, judging like you know some hidden truth that you got from Maxwell. Thomas was not driving the car when we were hit. He was in the backseat with me.”

“I don’ know,” Raymond states. “I don’ believe everythin’ I see or hear from unreliable sources.”

A stunned Jen nearly falls off the arm of the couch, “Dad, I told you what happened. You don’t believe me?”

With furrow brows, “Jennifer, your dad believes you. He’s just bein’ pig-headed.” Betty turns her attention towards her husband. “Now, you knock this shit off, Raymond.” Did Betty just curse? And by the stunning look on her daughters’ faces, they’ve heard it too.

“Why? She’s coming up with an excuse for what happened. Her condition……”

“Sloane is not a condition.” I bark out. “We lost a child in that accident. Do not sit in front of us and accuse your daughter of something she had no control over, or we’re going to have more of an issue than we do now.” The warning in my tone is primal and protective.

Raymond sits back in his chair with a challenging look, and I can feel the low blow that’s about to be delivered. “You two didn’ know about the pregnancy. It’s a condition. There is no attachment to something you don’ know about.” The gasps in the room are defining and collective. But Ryann hides her face behind my back, and I can feel her vibrations.

Catching Travis leaning over slightly, “Ryann, sweetheart, let’s go outside. You don’t need to hear any more of this.” I feel her nod somewhat as she takes Travis’s hand and starts to follow Travis out of the living room.

But not before coming to a complete stop at the archway of the living room. Ryann slowly turns, tears streaking her face. “We’re officially done.” She says with finality. “I don’t want you in my life, and I’m no longer your daughter. You don’t get to claim credit for my success, you will not walk me down the aisle, and you will not be involved in our children’s life. They will not know you as their grandpa because you don’t deserve that title. I don’t ever want to see you again.” Ryann musters enough strength to speak with confidence making her decision clear and final.

“Children should know their grandparents.” Is the only thing Raymond responds back with. His daughter just disowned him, and the only thing he cares about is whether or not he’s known as a grandpa.

“They’ll know their grandparents. Just not you.”

Turning on her heels, she leaves the room with Travis following behind her. The room falls into a deafening silence as everyone’s eyes are stuck to the spot where Ryann was standing.

Everyone but me.

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