The Family Ties
T A Y A :
We managed to get out of there just in time and into Ryder’s truck. As we drove away and made sure no one was following us, I could finally let out a breath of relief. If Max had pulled out his gun or if his guys had seen what happened, Ryder and I would have been dead meat by sunrise.
“You better start talking,” Ryder said through gritted teeth, as he kept his eyes on the read. He sounded irritated and intimidating, letting me know I wasn’t completely off the hook just yet.
“Well, what do you wanna know?” I replied cautiously.
“For starters, why were you roaming around that part of town at this hour?”
“I wasn’t roaming around. I was meeting a friend… She works at Castro’s,”
“You have a friend that works at Castro’s?”
His one eyebrow rose up in suspicion as he found it hard to believe.
“And who was that guy? Why was he harassing you?”
“He’s a friend of a friend. It was a misunderstanding. It’s nothing,”
“It didn’t look like nothing,” he scoffed, “Listen T, you shouldn’t be hanging around over there, that place—”
“I know what that place is. And don’t worry about me, I can take care of myself,”
“Like you just did?” he stated sarcastically and I rolled my eyes in annoyance.
Yeah, okay, good point.
“Why did you need to see your friend there at this hour anyway?” he pressed on.
“Ry, can we stop with the interrogation, please? I just had a really long week,” I groaned aloud.
I am tired and upset. And hungry. And my boyfriend is still missing, somewhere out there. So, may I please be excused from this torturous Q and A session, please?
“What happened to you?” Ryder asked. He narrowed his eyes at me and he looked genuinely worried.
“If I tell you, promise me you won’t get mad,”
“So… I was there because I looking for someone… for Judah. He and I are dating and he’s been gone for—“
“You and who are what now?! What the actual—” he snapped and the car came to an abrupt stop by the red lights.
“Hey! You promised you won’t get mad,”
“Hold the fuck up here. What the hell? Who says that you can date? And Judah? The motorcycle kid from Thanksgiving?”
“It’s cool Ry, daddy says it’s all right,”
“I fucking knew it. That kid fucking did it. I knew it,”
“You knew what?”
“And your dad’s really cool with you guys dating?”
“Well, he’s coming around…”
“No way he is. No fucking way,”
“Ryder!” I gaped, “I am a grown woman. I don’t need you or daddy to run my life for me. I can decide these things on my own,”
“Yeah? And how’s that working out for you?” he was probably referring to the fact that I almost got myself killed in a dingy alleyway behind a strange bar.
Again, well played, Ry.
“You just happen to catch me at a really bad time. But honestly, Judah and I are great together. We became this whole other person when we’re together, we made each other better. It’s amazing, Ry. You should see us.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen y’all,” he snorted a wry laugh, and he was referring to the time I invited Judah over for Thanksgiving, “I knew there was something going on with you two then. Cover it up all you want, drama scene partner or whatever, it was clear as day. You were clueless as fuck but he’s got a thing for you,”
“What? How did you know that?”
“I had talk with him,”
“You and Judah?”
“Yeah, when we took the bike out for a spin. I asked him point-blankly if he’s got a thing for you,”
“What did he say?”
“Is it that obvious?” Ry mimicked the way Judah spoke.
Even since then, Judah’s already had a thing for me… The thought of that brought a smile to my face.
“But then he said something to me… he said not to worry ’cause he wasn’t gonna do nothing about it. He said he knew you were too good for him. And that you were only with him because you wanted to make another guy jealous,”
“He said that?”
“Yeah, and after he said all that I just left him alone. I thought he was being honest,”
Our relationship was based on a lie, so it was only natural that Judah’s always got doubts about me. I always doubted him too in beginning. I could only imagine what life would have been like if we never got a chance to be honest with each other. If none of us ever said what we truly felt. We never would have come together and it would be the greatest irony.
“Anyway,” Ryder voice pulled me from my train of thought, “I thought you and Blake were going steady? He came to see me some time ago, asking for my damn permission,”
“Well, I gave it a try... But it just wasn’t right,”
Ryder gave me a look, and I couldn’t tell if it was judgment, admiration, or confusion. Or all of the above.
“Damn, T. You got the player’s genes in you too, huh,” he snorted a laugh.
“Guess it runs in the family,” I teased back and he rolled his eyes at me.
“Speaking of family, how’s Uncle Peter doing?” I said again.
“He’s out. On a date,”
“What? With who?”
“Some lady from New York. They probably met from one of those sites Kai hooked him up with”
“Wow. Even Uncle Peter’s got game. Well, I’m happy for him,”
“Yeah, it’s whatever. At least that got him off my back with the whole college thing,”
“He’s still not coming around, huh?”
“I just won three consecutive championship titles and I got some sponsorship offers already on the table, but he’s still not convinced that I could make it out there. I mean, what more does he want?” Ryder groaned in exasperation. This was clearly bothering him.
“We’re actually not on speaking terms right now,”
“Oh come on Ry, don’t be like that. He’s just trying to look out for you,”
“I can look out for myself, thanks,”
“I know that feeling,”
“Fucking hell, like I just want him to fucking believe in me for once!”
“Yeah, exactly,” I muttered under my breath.
“What? Did you say something?”
“Nothing,” I breathed and threw my glance out to the side window.
Having faith in other people is never easy. And sure, I do trust Judah, but I just want him to trust me too with all his secrets and problems. Including this.
“Hey, why do you need to go look for your boyfriend? Why isn’t he the one looking for you?” Ryder said suddenly.
“Did he do something to you?”
“No, it’s not that,” I said quickly before Ryder got all ape-shit gorilla on me again, “He just have some family thing that he needed to sort out. And because of that he’s been gone for days and I couldn’t reach him,”
“What kind of a boyfriend is that?”
“The kind that thinks he’s doing me a favor by not including me into his mess,” I sighed.
“But the thing is though, I want to be in his mess,” I paused for a beat, holding back a tear, “I know he means well, but I’m a strong girl, alright? I can handle it, whatever it is. I just want to him to believe in me like that,”
Ryder was quiet for a moment. He probably wasn’t expecting all this tea being spilled today.
“If I see him, Imma knock some fucking sense into him,” he said finally.
“If you see him. Get in line. Trust me, I’ve been dying to do the same thing,”
“What a sucky night,” he said with a long sigh.
“Tell me about it,”
“So what you wanna do? I can drive you home, or I can help you look for him, if you want?”
“You’d do that?” I was genuinely shocked at his offer, “I thought you’d tie me up and put me in a nunnery or something,”
“A bit too late for that aren’t we?” he joked and I laughed dryly.
“Plus, it’s better that way. I’m not letting you wander the streets alone at night,” he said again.
I thought about it for a while. We could spend the next few hours going around town, checking to see if Judah was around. But I also realized how slim the chances of that would be. If Judah was really back, he would call me, I was sure of it.
“Nah, I don’t think he’s back here yet. Let’s go do something else though. I have an idea that might turn this night around,”
Ryder turned to me and gave me a puzzled look, while I just grinned at him knowingly.
Ryder and I ended up going to the local diner by my house, the one where Jenny used to work at. New owner or whatever, their milkshake was still the bomb. Although, the food’s kinda lost its touch. It was so much tastier when Jenny was in charge. Although maybe I was biased, who knows.
“Can never go wrong with a milkshake, Ry, I can tell you that,” I said as I slurped away my chocolate milkshake.
“Figures, girls and sweet things,” he rolled his eyes and said, “It’s too easy,”
“Hey,” I protested, “Don’t be sexist now. Milkshakes are genderless,”
Ryder snorted a laugh and I found myself looking at my phone screen again, for the millionth time that night. There were no new notifications and my heart sunk even lower into this bottomless pit.
“Stop looking at it,”
I just groaned in response, slumping my head against the table. I would start banging my head on the table but I was still trying to keep my manners. Ryder was quiet for a bit, and suddenly he said, “Hey, you wanna split a cake?”
“Why, are you trying to watch your weight?” I said to him.
“These guns can’t built itself on its own,” he grinned, referring to his, yes, amazing muscles.
“Nah, I’ll pass on the cake,” I shrugged, “Not in the mood for that right now,”
“Suit yourself,” he shrugged.
He then took a moment to study the cake menu, but he didn’t end up ordering anything. Maybe he didn’t want any cake in the first place. He just offered it to me to be nice. Maybe he thought that it would make feel better. But unfortunately, just hearing that word made me feel sick.
I mean, have you ever missed someone so much you feel physically sick?
Suddenly my phone buzzed and I never clicked on a screen faster in my life. My heart was racing like crazy. But it turned out to be a text from Hallee, reminding me to go prom-dress shopping with her. If I thought my heart couldn’t sink any lower before, it just did now.
“Hey, Ry, I do have a weird favor to ask…” I found myself saying.
“Do you wanna be my prom date?”
“What?” he almost spat out his milkshake.
“Prom is next weekend, and seeing as my boyfriend hasn’t resurfaced to the face of the earth, I am dateless,”
Ryder gave an uncertain look on his face as I continued on.
“It’s stupid, I know. But ever since I was a kid, I’ve always dreamt about my senior prom. The dress I would wear. The handsome date. The corsage. Maybe even getting a crown. It’s silly… But just for one night, I wanna feel like I’m special,”
Ryder’s gaze dropped and he sighed. That was pretty sappy, I had to admit. Maybe he pitied me, but I wouldn’t blame him, I deserved it. So, pity away.
“Come on Ry, I’m sure you’ll find lots of pretty girls that you can bang at the prom. And you’ll be a hit, too. I know at least fifty girls who’d be down to get it on with theRyder Jake Williams,” I said again, hyping him up and trying my best to sell my offer.
Ryder thought about it for a while and finally he drew in a breath and replied, “Nah, thanks, but I’ll pass,”
“You’re really not gonna help a sister out?” I pouted as I slumped back against the chair.
“Exactly. You’re my sister and you ain’t settling, you hear me? You’re gonna get the best prom night of your life and I’m gonna make sure that happens,”
“I’ll find the kid,” he promised, “I’ll drag him all the way there myself if I have to,”
That was really nice of him to say, but I wasn’t naïve. I knew not to get my hopes up. Judah was out there somewhere, in god knows where, and it would be impossible for Ryder to find him.
“You’re sweet, Ry. Thank you,” I smiled widely, because even just the idea that he would do that for me already made me happy.
“Someday you’re gonna make a girl really, really happy,” I said again.
“Psh, I make girls happy everyday,” he retorted, and I could only sigh in exhaustion.
Ryder could make a girl happy, I didn’t doubt that for one second. But I was starting to wonder if any girl ever made him feel happy, like truly happy. Like the way Judah made me feel.
“Hey Ry,” I said cautiously.
“Do you still write those letters… to your mom?”
Ryder and his mom were very close. When she died, he even got a tattoo of her name on his arm. Ryder and his dad were never great at communicating with each other. So after Aunt Layla’s death, it was hard for Ryder to express his pain and grief. Luckily he found a way through writing letters addressed to his late mom. He kept a stack of it in his room. I found him writing it one time and he made me swore not to tell anyone.
“Sometimes,” Ryder replied.
“Does it help?”
“In a weird way, yeah. It wasn’t ever gonna reach her, I know that. But at least I could get it out there. Even though I was the only one that could read it, some days they can be enough,” he paused for a beat before saying, “Why are you asking me this?”
“It’s just... this is the first time I ever miss someone this bad… I don’t know what to do with myself…”
My eyes were getting blurry and it darted aimlessly out the window, before returning to the black screen of my phone. Again.
“You wanna give it a try?” Ryder said suddenly as he grabbed a napkin and pulled out a pen.
“Here, tell him exactly how you feel,” He scribbled something on the napkin before handing it over to me.
The words: ’Dear J’ was at the top of the napkin, followed by a blank white space in the bottom. Before long, I grabbed the pen from him and words started to pour right out of me. There was freedom in knowing that I could say whatever I needed to say, without worrying what Judah’s reaction would be like.
I guess heartache could really make a poet of us all.
I don’t wanna be a poet
So get your ass back home to me