Ryan was exhausted so he grabbed a cup of coffee in the little cafe in the gym. He still had work to do and it had already been a long day of meetings. When did things get so damn complicated? he wondered, oh yeah, when Bel decided they needed to add swim lessons, gymnastics classes, a masseuse, a nutritionist, etc, etc, etc. Although, he had to admit, that was why Total Mind and Body was so successful. It has something for all ages and fitness levels, it appealed to just about everyone.
He walked back to his office wondering why he wasn’t happier. The problem, he thought, was that he was no longer a personal trainer. And he had actually enjoyed that part of his job. Now he was the owner and had to worry about advertising, financing, membership dues and hiring and firing people. He spent more time in his office than out in the facility these days.
Ryan sighed deeply as he eyed the stack of files on his desk that he still needed to go through and pull stats for his board meeting tomorrow. It used to be that Bel was by his side helping and coming up with all kinds of ideas. It had been fun and exciting. Now it was just a drag. As Sam got more and more into modeling, commercials and pageants, Bel was always off working on that. They even had to hire a tutor for Sam since she missed so much school. He felt like he and Tyler were bachelors.
This time, Bel was with Sam in Del Sol Valley for the Strangerville audition. He hadn’t been able to go because of the board meeting. He sat down with his coffee, resigned to his fate. His email dinged and he checked it as a welcome distraction. It was from his biggest investor. Something had come up and they needed to postpone tomorrow’s meeting to next week.
At first Ryan was relieved, because now he could just go home and chill out with Tyler rather than work on his presentation. He looked at the picture of his family as he started to get up and had a different thought. Maybe it wasn’t too late to join his wife and daughter in Del Sol Valley tonight, if he could still get a flight out. It might be fun, and he could get some sorely needed alone time with Bel.
He quickly booked a ticket, then called Taylor to see if she could watch Ty for a few days. She readily agreed. Bless her heart. He knew Ty was a handful, but with his cousin Jack to play with, he wouldn’t be too bad. Jack thought his older cousin hung the moon and Tyler ate it up. Plus Taylor had a live in Nanny to help.
Ryan rushed home and packed. Ty got home from school while he was finishing up. When he told his son he was spending the rest of the week with Jack, Ty was stoked. So was Ryan to be honest. He was looking forward to surprising Samantha, and a little romance with his wife. He knew Bel always got adjoining rooms for her and Sam, so they would have a little privacy, if not he would just book one when he arrived. He hoped this would kick start their marriage and rekindle some of the romance that had disappeared over the last 7 years. Their marriage wasn’t awful, it just … wasn’t. When he observed how his sisters were with their husbands, even his own parents, he knew, something was severely lacking, and he wanted to get it back.
Del Sol Valley……
When Ryan got to the hotel, he texted his daughter to find out the room number, then checked his bag with the bellman. He wanted to see Samantha first. Then he could spend the rest of the evening with Bel. The thought of surprising them both brought a smile to his face.
He made his way to her room and knocked on the door. When she opened it she squealed and threw her arms around him. “Daddy! You came!”
“Yes sweetie, my meetings cancelled and I thought I’d surprise you and Mom,” he said.
“Where’s Tyler?” she asked with a frown.
Ryan wasn’t sure if she was worried he was here, or concerned that he wasn’t. “He’s staying with Jack. This is your time sweetie, and he would probably have been bored. So, are you nervous?” he asked as they sat on the couch in the tiny hotel room.
“A little. It’s just so exciting! I can’t believe you’re here,” she said again excitedly, her smile splitting her face.
Did he act disinterested in her activities? He didn’t mean to. It was just Tyler took up so much of his time and Bel was always taking care of doing everything for her. “Of course I’m here. I love you Sam,” he said. He wanted her to know he cared. “But, you should probably get some sleep. Don’t you need like beauty rest or something?”
Samantha laughed and it was the sweetest sound he’d heard from her in awhile. She was usually complaining. “No Daddy. I’ve been going over my lines. Your not going to believe this,” she said and paused dramatically before continuing. “Mom got Ragnar Odinssen to email me a copy of the lines I’m going to deliver. And, we actually had dinner with him. I wanted to read it, so I left early and came back to the room.”
“Wow. That was nice,” he replied.
She got a faraway look in her eye and sighed. “He’s so cool and dreamy.”
“Slow down missy,” said Ryan, and laughed, “he’s old enough to be your father.”
Sam giggled. “Don’t be silly Daddy, he’s the director!”
Ryan knew exactly who Ragnar Odinssen was. His name was all he’d heard for the last 6 months from his wife and daughter. “Right. Well, you should still get some rest, you don’t want to yawn in the middle of your delivery tomorrow. Will I be able to watch?”
“I think so. You can go with Mom,” she said.
“Speaking of Mom, I want to get to her room before she goes to sleep and surprise her,” he said, anxious to see Bel.
“She’s across the hall. Usually they do adjoining rooms for us, but this was the best they could get this time. She’s gonna come over here in the morning and help me get ready. I’m sure she’s probably in there by now though. I left an hour ago. Dang, if you gotten here a little earlier, you could’ve had dinner with us.”
They stood up. Ryan put his arm around his daughter and hugged her to him. He was thrilled that she wished he had been able to join them for dinner. “That’s okay. I only wanted to see you and Mom. I would’ve only been in the way. You get some rest and I’ll see you tomorrow. I know you’ll do fine. Break a leg…isn’t that what they say?” He leaned over and kissed her on the temple.
She giggled. “Yeah,” she said, “Bye Daddy. Thanks for coming.”
He hugged her one last time before heading to get a bottle of wine and flowers to take with him to Bel’s room. “I love you Sam,” he said smiling. He was really glad he decided to get on that plane.
A few minutes later, armed with flowers and wine, Ryan knocked on the door to Bel’s room. “Room service,” he said through the door. He heard voices, so he knew she was there and had the TV on, so she probably couldn’t hear his knock. He knocked again, a little more forcefully, and spoke louder this time.
Finally, the door cracked open just a little. “Delivery for Maribel Murdock,” he said and stuck the flowers and the bottle up where she couldn’t see it was him. He wanted her to be surprised.
“Mari, you ordered champagne. You little minx!” said a man’s voice and Ryan’s blood ran cold.
The man opened the door all the way and Ryan pushed his way into the room only to see his wife was sitting naked in bed attempting to cover herself up with her hands while looking for something to use for cover.
“Ragnar, I’m not dressed!” she scolded.
At least ‘Ragnar’ had the decency to put on boxers before he answered the door, or maybe he hadn’t had time to take them off. Ryan just stood there waiting for her reaction when she saw him.
Once she was covered, she looked to see what was going on. “Oh my god…” whispered Maribel, when their eyes met.
“Oh, sorry babe,” said Ragnar, thinking she was just embarrassed to have someone see her undressed. He grabbed the bottle of wine and herded Ryan out the door. “How dare you, get out you perv. Standing there staring at the lady like that. I should complain to the management.”
“Sorry … to interrupt,” mumbled Ryan, not interested in hearing anything more or confronting Bel. Fuck that shit, he thought.
He ducked into the nearest bathroom and threw the flowers he still held into the trash. Then he locked himself in a stall. No goddamned wonder we don’t have a sex life anymore, he thought, she’s getting it on the road.
Ryan didn’t know what to do. He wanted to go get Sam and take her home. But she wouldn’t understand and would hate him the rest of her life for screwing up her chance. Tonight had been the most they’d spoken to each other alone in awhile. This audition was all she and Bel had talked about for the past 6 months.
Ryan knew, in that instant, that not only was his marriage over, but he’d probably lost his daughter. He was pretty sure Sam would get the part, unless Maribel came after him, which she hadn’t. No text or phone call. Well, fuck Maribel, he thought, there’s no fucking way she’s getting Tyler, or an interest in the gym.
Now he wished he hadn’t seen Samantha. How was he going to explain his absence to her tomorrow. Fuck it, he’d let ‘Mari’ make up some goddamned excuse. It looks like Maribel was ensuring Sam got the job the old fashioned way. Sam would be too excited to notice his absence anyway. At least she wasn’t aware of what was going on across the hall, and he hoped like hell she never found out.
Finally, Ryan got out his phone and booked a flight home. He wouldn’t get there until midnight but there was no way in hell he was staying in the same city another minute with that bitch.
When Ryan walked into his house, he went straight to the bar and poured himself a strong drink. He never felt more alone in his life. He had expected at least a text or phone call from Bel that night. But it was radio silence. And he fucking wasn’t calling her.
He took another drink. No, he wouldn’t give her the satisfaction. She must’ve pretended like she didn’t know him when he simply turned and left without causing a scene. She was disgusting.
Finally, when he was too drunk to think or stay awake, he crawled into bed.
He slept until noon. When he woke up, he hated himself for getting drunk, now he felt like shit.
Ryan dragged himself up out of bed and went downstairs to get water, aspirin and coffee. In that order. He guzzled the water with the aspirin.
When the coffee was done, he sat down to try and think what he needed to do. He picked up his phone when it vibrated. Finally a text from Maribel.
Ryan almost threw his phone across the room. No, ‘I’m sorry, or we need to talk’, just nothing. Did she really think he was playing along? He quickly sent her a reply.
Ryan’s phone rang. He didn’t answer. Then another text….
He turned off his phone and massaged his temples. Why didn’t he listen to Evan all those years ago? Maribel had been attentive at first. But, as Sam got older, she began to be gone all the time taking her to dance, gym, swim lessons, pageants, then commercials. Then she claimed to be tired when she got home and collapsed into bed. And when it wasn’t Sam, she was working out, at the hair salon or meeting some of the other moms for lunch. He didn’t even know their names. Now he wondered if it really was other moms. Or maybe she was just fucking their husbands.
His wife had begun to slowly change and he hadn’t noticed because of the gym and how much energy it took to manage Tyler, which was all on him. She never helped with Tyler. When he was diagnosed with ADHD, she didn’t even go to the neurologist with them.
Yes, he was done with Maribel, but fuck, he mourned for Samantha. Sadly, he didn’t think there was anything he could do for his daughter. She was lost to him. She and her mother were too closely intertwined to undo it. And he had let it happen. Maribel would get full custody of her, would demand it, and he wouldn’t be able to stop it.
Ryan laid his head down on his desk and cried for the first time since he saw his wife with Ragnar. Not for their marriage, but for Samantha. He loved Sam more than anything. It hurt so bad knowing he would lose custody of her. All he could do now was try to make sure his beautiful daughter knew he loved her, no matter what.
Reagan was shocked when she answered the door and it was Ryan. He looked awful. Something was definitely wrong. “What are you doing here? I thought you went to Del Sol Valley.”
“I came back. Can I come in?” he asked.
“Of course, Ryan are you okay?”
Evan walked in just as Ryan stepped inside. “Oh Ryan. I thought I heard the door.” Evan frowned when he took in Ryan’s appearance. “Hey dude, you look like hell. Oh shit. Sam didn’t get the part.”
“Evan!” admonished Reagan.
The twins came running in behind their father to see what was going on. “Uncle Ryan!” squealed Cassie and ran to him. Reagan noticed the warm smile he gave her daughter as he hugged her. Ryan loved the twins. Everyone did, it was hard not to.
He looked at Alex, the quiet one, hanging back, “Alex, you got a hug for me too? I could use one.” Alex grinned and threw her arms around his neck.
“Girls,” said their mother, “go find something to do. We need to talk to Uncle Ryan for a bit.”
“Come on Alex,” said Cassie not missing a beat, “you can help me finish my school project then we can go swimming.”
“Bye Uncle Ryan!” said Alex as Cassie pulled her along.
Reagan observed Ryan watching the girls with longing as they ran off hand in hand, giggling. “Ryan, are you okay?” she asked again. She knew he was upset. Something bad happened and it was worse than Sam not getting the part.
“No…” he said flatly.
“You want a drink?” asked Evan picking up on the seriousness of Ryan’s mood.
“Yeah man,” replied Ryan, “But I had enough last night, just water.”
They followed Evan to the kitchen and the trio sat down at the table, Ryan with his water. “Okay Ryan, spill,” said Reagan, “What’s going on?”
Ryan looked at Evan then Reagan. “I’m filing for divorce,” he said softly.
“Wait…” said Reagan, “That makes no sense. You just went to Del Sol Valley to be with Maribel, what happened to change things? Is it the show? Sam got the part?”
“She got the part,” he said, “Maribel literally made fucking sure. I walked in on her screwing the goddamned director.”
“What?” asked Reagan at the same time Evan growled “ God, that bitch.”
“I just turned around and came home,” explained Ryan, “But I couldn’t bring myself to make Sam come with me. She worships her mother. She’d hate me if I interfered. I’ve lost my daughter Rea. And you know the worst part? Maribel didn’t even try to come after me, or get me to stay. I pretended I was in the wrong room and left. She had the gall to text me this morning and say she loves me and I didn’t understand. Bullshit. She loves herself and rubbing elbows with the rich and famous.”
“Ryan, I’m so sorry,” said Reagan, “I thought things were okay between you two.” Her heart was breaking for her brother.
“No, they aren’t,” he admitted, “Haven’t been, not for a long time. We’ve been going in different directions. That’s why I went to Del Sol Valley. I wanted to surprise her and try to rekindle our relationship. But clearly, our relationship isn’t a priority.”
“Call Genesis and get her professional advice,” said Evan, “don’t let Maribel ruin you. I’m sure she’ll try.”
“I will. But for now, I need to figure out how to tell Tyler that his mother and sister aren’t coming home. And for Samantha to understand I love her. School will be out in a couple of hours, so I need to let Taylor’s nanny know to bring him home. I can’t face anyone else right now. I just needed to tell you two before the shit hit the fan.” He downed the rest of the water and got up to leave.
Reagan pulled him to her and held him tight for a minute. “We’re here for you Ryan. Let us know if you need anything.”
A/N – I failed to mention two new casting call characters that made their appearance in my prologue. We will most certainly see them now and again during this gen.
First was Will Redcliffe’s wife – Genesis Landis submitted by PammieChick
Second is Connie Murdock’s fiance Ray Dean, submitted by Lonestar2330
In today’s chapter we were introduced to the handsome Swedish director, Ragnar Odinssen, submitted by VanPelt81
And I would be remiss if I didn’t give The Legacy Story many props for the beautiful Total Mind & Body Gym. She offered to build it for me, asked me a couple of questions and viola a perfect high end gym magically appeared! Thanks so very much for sharing your talent!