"It's so good to see you again Bri." Ryder's mother's arms wrapped around me. It was comforting as she pulled pack and put her hand on my cheek. "That son of mine treating you right?"
"Perfect," I said. His father over and hugged me next.
"Of course he is. He's a gentleman." After he pulled away all of us started walking to the kitchen. "How are you? And your friend she came today right?"
"Yeah, she was just so exhausted she came right when she finished work. So we just dropped her at my place now she's passed out on my bed."
"Then we'll send you a lot of leftovers." I watched as they continued talking altogether as Ryder stayed by my side. The idea I had of family seemed so... foreign. My thanksgivings have been spent at friends' houses never my own. Castmates Friendsgiving when we weren't close to home or couldn't risk leaving and not returning on time. Seeing his family so close laughing and talking. Palets of food that they had brought as little cousins ran around. Sitting in the back yard in the child air with hot apple cider in my cup as Ryder sat next to me and his aunt and aunt across from us only warmed every part of me. I'd never been so happy on a holiday before.
"What do you want to do? Unless waitressing is what you want to do," I smiled as his aunt leaned forward. "If that's not too personal,"
"No it's okay," Ryder looked over to me. "For a while I thought about acting...but now...I'm thinking of teaching or maybe writing."
"That's good, we can always use a teacher around here. So you're just saving up for school?" I smiled as I looked away from Ryder and back to Chloe and Bill then nodded.
"Well I'm taking over the family business, If I don't run it who will." Ryder put his arm around me.
"Fine by me," I leaned into him taking in his body heat. "You with the Boston shakers and short sleeves, woo." He let out a laugh as I Watched Chloe smiled at Bill. "How long have you two been together?"
"Since we were twelve." Bill sat up. Chloe slapped his chest leaving a smirk on his face. "Okay fine, I've loved her since I was twelve. Until she finally looked my way in junior year."
"High school sweethearts that's awesome. What's the secret"
"Communication. Being open. There's a lot of things that can make or break a relationship. Even almost got us a few times. When talked and open up to one another it fixed things."
"Always fun to fix them too,"
"Bill-"Chloe slapped him again gaining laughs from Ryder and me. Ryder's mom called for dinner making everyone start to gather.
I sat between Ryder and his mother and watched as they passed the family stuffed turkey, made by Ryder's grandfather when he was a child, allowing everyone even the kids to say what they were thankful for. A few said family, work, and even a promotion they'd recently gotten. The kids mostly said things about toys. The toy rounded to Ryder making everyone look at him and some at me.
"I'm thankful for...working the day I didn't really want to. If I didn't I wouldn't have met Bri." He handed the turkey to me with a smile.
"As odd as it sounds...I'm thankful for leaving home and coming to Ouray. If I didn't...I don't know where I'd be if I didn't." I returned to turkey to Ryder's father.
Food passed around and conversations sparked. Though Ryder kept his hand on my thigh when he could make me know and feel like I'm okay. I didn't need it but it was nice knowing he can be by my side.
Everything I've said to his family rang true to me. I can be a teacher. I love working with kids on set. Why couldn't I go to school to become a teacher? Why couldn't I write books on the stories in my mind or even my life? At some point, my truth would come out and I wouldn't mind. Eventually, I'd be left alone.
As much as I love and loved acting, My father crushed it. I had lost a lot of my passion for it because of my father. Doing the roles only he wanted and thought would be good for me and doing things to make sure I got I’m the role. It make one question their own talent. After nominating and awards in started to question it less but it didn’t stop me from questioning it. If I stole chances from others. How can I return to that life.
Peyton hugged me as soon as I stepped into the door and Ryder kissed me goodbye. He left us leaving me with my best friend and I to lay on the bed in the loft area and watch TV together. “You’ve had a day.”
“Telling my boyfriend the truth. Meeting his family. Realizing just how much I miss my mom.”
“She was the best. Made the best cookies too.” Peyton leaned back. I smiled remembering the smell of cookie when we came home from a daily on set. Chocolate filled the house and drew up to the kitchen for the afternoon snack before swimming or more school.
“I don’t think I want to go back.” I turned over to look at Peyton. “I can be here...have and be a part of a family.”
“Honey, you haven’t known Ryder that love.”
“But I’ve spent most of my time with him. It’s me and him almost every day. Peyton, I love Ryder. Being with his family-“
“Only made you want this more.” She finished. I nodded and she held me close. “Okay, whatever it is you want I’m here for you. Even if it’s disappearing and staying here.”
“Thanks.” I turned back over hitting play on the agreed movie and letting her arms hold me close. As much as I want to be close to her and have my name back I don’t want to leave a place that’s brought me so much joy. A place that’s helped me see what I want. Who I want in my life. How can I leave Ouray when everything I want and need is here.