1 - "Surviving the Donovans"
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Mya Wright from Raw News Broadcasting Network. Today’s guest is a special one that the whole world has been eagerly anticipating since the moment it was announced she’d be on our show.
“World-renowned environmental scientist and self-publishing author, Deja Louis has joined us to discuss her New York Times Best Seller Surviving the Donovans. She recently published her autobiography centered around one of the most controversial and high-profile cases witnessed around the globe.”
Mya looked from the camera to Deja sitting on the plush recliner next to her. She wore an elegant white blouse that contrasted beautifully with her dark brown skin. Her royal blue skirt hugged her curves while still giving her a modest look that made her come off rather ethereal. Her fluffy, kinky curls nearly swallowed her face, emphasizing the innocence in her large doe brown eyes.
Deja remembered every bit of detail her publicist had given her, from how to dress to her facial expressions. It was imperative that she gave off a look that said innocent, but not naive. Confident, but not prideful. Hurt but not damaged. Not a victim, but a survivor.
With eyes slightly glazed over, Deja quickly snapped out of it and gave the host that famous award-winning smile she had practiced several times in the mirror before she was forced into the public eye.
“Ms. Louis, it is an absolute pleasure to have you on our show tonight,” Mya beamed.
Deja smiled. “Please. Call me Deja.”
“Deja,” Mya smiled. “I’m trying not to fangirl here but it’s a little difficult. You have been an inspiration to so many people around the world. Not just victims of toxic relationships but those who have suffered abuse.”
Deja flinched slightly though her smile never wavered. “I’m far from a saint.”
“You’re better,” Mya said confidently. “You’re a hero.”
Deja shifted in her seat as she put her hands in her lap, tightly clasped together.
She hated that word. Hero.
She felt like anything but a hero.
Her finger absentmindedly played with the ring around her finger as her mind forced her to say something. Anything.
“Thank you,” she said finally.
Mya looked down at her notes and eagerly readjusted in her seat. “This is the first book you’ve ever published. It’s only been out for a few months and you’ve already sold 1 million copies. New York Times called it ‘a horrifyingly beautiful depiction of the darkness in toxic relationships.’ USA Today said it was a ‘breathtaking visual into how quickly romance dies in the midst of evil.’ Even the First Lady called you ‘one of the world’s most resilient saviors of this planet and of humanity.’ How does that make you feel to hear those things?”
Deja took a deep breath as she calculated her words. “It’s incredibly humbling and moving, and I appreciate the recognition. I would have never imagined that such a... terrifying experience would resonate with so many people.”
“Take us into the mindset you were in while you wrote this book. How long did it take you?” Mya asked.
Deja nodded. “It took me several years actually,” she said. “I was on and off writing this book. It had become the bane of my existence at one point. It was just... so emotionally exhausting. To... relive some of the most traumatic experiences of my life and put them down on paper.”
“It couldn’t have been easy releasing something this personal, this traumatizing and controversial to the world,” Mya said sympathetically.
Deja nodded. “It wasn’t easy at all. I argued with myself quite a bit... wondering if this was the right thing to do. Concerned about the backlash that I would face, but... I felt that this story needed to get out and it needed to be heard, not just by those who have been in my position but by those on the other end.”
“You already had faced quite a bit of backlash as you expressed in the book as well as after you had published it. Some people say that you’re attention-seeking. That you’re trying to milk it,” Mya said.
Deja shook her head with a regal and self-assured smile. “I’m quite used to being the sacrificial lamb and the punching bag of the media. But, they’re not the ones who gave me tough skin. If my book can help just one woman or one man to get out of a harmful situation... it supersedes any and all criticism of my experience that I’ve ever received.”
Mya smiled proudly. “I love that. I love how confident you’ve become in yourself. And in your book, we can see how that development happens because as you mentioned in your earlier chapters, you suffered from self-doubt.”
Deja nodded. “Self-doubt. Imposter syndrome. I think that’s something we’ve all struggled with at some point in our lives.”
Deja swallowed hard as her eyes glazed over. “But there’s... something inherently suffocating... about that when... when you’re in a situation you can’t escape... no matter how hard you try.”
Deja played with her ring as she took slow breaths. “It’s like having someone’s fingers wrapped around your throat and... every time you inhale to breathe, they squeeze tighter... tighter... until your head feels light... your vision starts to go... and suddenly nothing else seems to matter anymore...”
Deja stared at the ring on her finger before she quickly looked up at Mya and smiled. “It just makes the relief of release all that much more beautiful. Free to trust yourself, without doubt.”
Mya smiled. “That’s truly thought-provoking, Deja. Thank you for sharing.” She looked down at her notes before looking up at her again. “If you don’t mind us shifting a bit.”
“Not at all,” Deja said trying to get comfortable.
“I was hoping we could briefly discuss a few people mentioned in your book before we start to dive in.”
Deja nodded. “Sure.”
“Ms. Susan McIntosh.”
Deja immediately felt her eyes well up with tears before she nodded with a smile. “A wonderful woman. She was my mentor for a large portion of my career. She helped me through... so much.”
“Do you keep in touch with her family?”
Deja nodded. “Absolutely. I speak to her daughters weekly. We have a group chat actually. It’s always going off, I find myself having to put my notifications on mute,” she chuckled.
Mya smiled. “Do you miss her?”
Deja swallowed hard. “All the time. She was like a second mother to me. Her love wavered between tough and comforting. She was always there to support me. Encourage me. Remind me of who I am and all of my accomplishments. She was a large part of my journey to self-love... my self-confidence. I think everyone needs a Susan McIntosh in their lives.”
“In your book, she sounded like such an amazing woman,” Mya said.
“She was,” Deja nodded. “She was incredible and she didn’t deserve-” Deja stopped short to temper her subtle anger. “Her legacy will live on through her daughters.”
Mya looked down at her notes again. “Caleb Byrne.”
Deja felt her heart skip a beat before it rapidly tightened in her chest. She tried to fight back her tears that always seemed to spur into action at the mention of his name.
“He was a... remarkable man,” Deja said as her voice cracked. She twisted the ring around her finger as she tried to focus on a spot on the wall. “A very remarkable man.”
Mya frowned. “I’m sorry if this is a particularly sore spot for you. Would you like me to give you a minute?”
Deja shook her head. “No, I’m fine. Thank you.”
Mya gave a worry-filled smile. “Let’s focus on something positive. What were the things you loved about Caleb?”
Deja tried to smile. “He was kind. Genuine and kind. He had his demons, as does all of us, but I think he tried to make up for that by being an impossibly selfless human being.”
Deja chuckled to herself. “He was extremely funny. Possibly the funniest person I’ve ever met. He rarely took anything seriously which was both annoying and a breath of fresh air.”
Mya smiled. “In your book, he played a rather complicated part in what happened to you. From your account, in many ways he was a victim himself. Knowing that... do you think you’ll ever forgive him?”
Deja squeezed the ring around her finger as she took slow and steady breaths. She thought she had adequately prepared herself for when moments like this arose, but she was having significant difficulty keeping her poker face.
“Forgiveness is for the forgiver... not the forgiven,” Deja said.
Mya marinated on Deja’s ominous words before she looked down at her notes again. She looked up at Deja nervously.
Deja lifted her head slightly as she let out a sharp breath. Even after all this time, just hearing his name still sent a harsh cold shiver up her spine. She slowly nodded.
“He’s been called one of America’s most infamous serial killers,” Mya said.
“Then I’m assuming they only counted those he killed in America,” Deja said plainly.
Mya raised a curious brow. “In your book you said that he said he killed half of those people for you.”
“I said he thought he killed those people for me,” Deja quickly corrected her. “But as I’m sure you’ve read... Jax’s perception of the world and of people in general is anything but... normal.”
Mya twisted her mouth. “I have to say, the way you depict your relationship with him is one hell of an emotional roller coaster.”
Deja smiled. “Imagine living it.”
Mya gave her an awkward smile. “We’ve all seen Jax Donovan on the news. We know about the infamous Donovan brothers of whom your account is one of the most astounding and terrifying I’ve ever read. We know about his multi-billion dollar empire and the part you played in revealing some of the dark secrets of the Donovan family. But we get such an intimate account of him in your book. The way you describe him so... horrifyingly dark, intelligent yet unhinged, manipulative... he almost doesn’t seem like a real person. I have to ask... what did you even like about him, to begin with?”
Deja absorbed Mya’s questions as she tried to think about how to answer this without diving into that dark place she often went when she thought about Jax.
She readjusted in the recliner. “The things I hated about Jax were also the things I loved about him. Truthfully... Jax made it incredibly easy to fall in love with him.”
Deja stared down at her lap as she counted the seconds between her heartbeats.
“Jax was very... attentive... good qualities for being a doting romantic... and a psychopathic killer.”
She anxiously rubbed the back of her neck. “He’s extremely intelligent. Very good with his words. I used to tell him he should have been a teacher or a motivational speaker. He just... had a way of connecting with people...” Deja swallowed hard. “Jax had the ability to lure people in with his words and his charm, and before they would even realize they were being manipulated, he was already soaking his hands with their blood.”
Deja let out a sharp breath as she tried to force herself back on track. She looked up and met Mya’s gaze.
“Jax was the guy every woman wanted and every man wanted to be. And I don’t mean that in a good way. Attraction to him was not genuine or natural, it was cynically purposefully. Maliciously intentional. If Jax wanted you... you were his. Regardless of how you felt. He just had a way of making things fall into place the way he wanted, how he wanted. It was his world. I was just living in it.”
Mya blinked at Deja. “You’re giving me goosebumps,” she chuckled.
Deja gave her a small smile before she averted her gaze. “Be glad that’s the only thing he can stoke out of you...”
Mya caught the strange hazy darkness in Deja’s deep brown eyes as she absentmindedly played with her ring.
“Well, I think that’s been quite an introduction. In just a few moments, we’re going to dive into the story that’s taken the world by storm.” Mya looked at Deja and smiled. “Are you ready, Ms. Louis.”
Deja tilted her head to the side. “Are you?”