Tyler was miserable the entire time they were in Del Sol Valley. He knew he shouldn’t have let Dr. Fields guilt him into going.
When he thought about seeing her and his father kissing on the couch, he got even madder at her. She lied to him. She said it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to be married. But he knew what they were doing. They were probably doing ‘it’ too. If they could do that or kiss, then why couldn’t they be married?
His sister hugged him and it made him sadder. She seemed happy to see him and at least she wasn’t being mean to him. She said he was getting big and that she missed him. He wished she could come home with him and their dad but he knew she couldn’t. She was famous now.
Instead he had to endure his mother kissing his cheek, leaving embarrassing lipstick marks on his face. Then listen to how great his sister was.
When they went to eat, they went in a limo with a driver. His mother said that Ragnar, the director of Strangerville, had arranged it so they wouldn’t be bombarded by paparazzi. That was kinda cool he figured.
However, once they got to the restaurant, all they talked about was how wonderful Samantha was doing.
Then random strangers came up to get a selfie with her or an autograph. He felt invisible. His mother or father barely spoke to him. His dad made him take his meds so he wouldn’t be hyper, and now he wasn’t even hungry. Tyler couldn’t wait to go home.
On the way home, Tyler didn’t want to talk to his father he was so angry. He put on his earphones and played his game for the entire 3 1/2 hour flight home. He couldn’t wait until he turned 14, then he would never have to go back.
When the got home Tyler grabbed his suitcase. He just wanted to go to his room so he could get online and play with his friends. That would make it easier to forget about the past week. But no, as soon as they got out of the car, his dad looked back at him. “Tyler – when we get inside, we’re going to talk. Take your bag upstairs and get yourself back down. I want to know what’s going on with you.”
“Fine,” he shot back.
When he came back downstairs, his dad was already sitting there, so he plopped down on the other couch and waited. He didn’t know why his dad was so mad at him. He didn’t do anything.
“Tyler, you were rude to me all the way home,” said his dad in his angry voice, “You were also rude to your mother and your sister. That’s not acceptable. You know better than to act like that. You’ve been doing so well and all of a sudden – you act like you hate the world. What’s gotten into you?”
You and everyone else, he thought. Tyler had a reason to be mad. And the more he thought about it, the madder he got until the words just started pouring out on their own. “You lied to me! You don’t care about me. Dr. Fields doesn’t care about me! Mom doesn’t care either! All she did was talk to you and Sam. Sam this and Sam that!”
“Whoa, Tyler, what are you talking about?” asked his dad, “I never lied to you. And of course I care about you. I love you Tyler. So does your mother and absolutely Dr. Fields cares about you.”
“Bullshit!” spat out Tyler before he could stop the words. But he didn’t even care.
“What did you just say to me?” asked his dad, his face even more contorted in anger.
He was surely in big time trouble now, so it no longer mattered what he said. Everything he’d been feeling just came tumbling out along with the tears he’d been fighting all week. “That you’re a liar!” he practically screamed, “Mother hates me! And you and Dr. Fields act like you can’t get married, but you’re doing IT. I saw you kissing her … just like in the movies! You lied. I hate you!”
His dad went from angry to shocked. He actually looked sick. Tyler heard him say “Fuck,” under his breath before he got up and moved next to him on the love seat. “Tyler, did you come downstairs the other night? God, I’m sorry you saw that,” he said quietly, no longer yelling. “Why didn’t you say anything? We could’ve talked about it.”
“I didn’t wanna get in trouble,” he mumbled. Really, he was embarrassed, confused and scared, knowing he saw something he wasn’t supposed to see.
His dad rubbed his hands across his face before he spoke. “Tyler … you should know you wouldn’t have been in trouble. At least, I hope you would know that. And both Tay … Dr. Fields and I owe you an apology. You’re right, I have been seeing her … we’re … dating. We have been for a couple of months. But we had to keep it secret, because you see, what she said is true. She could get in trouble if the school officials found out she was romantically involved with me while you’re a student in her charge. Plus we were trying to protect you.”
“That’s just stupid,” growled Tyler.
His dad actually smiled at him. “Well, that’s where you and I both agree. I don’t want it to be a secret Ty, but we don’t want her to get in trouble either. She could lose her job or at least her position at school.” He stopped and let out a long slow breath. “We were going to wait and see if you still needed help with school when it starts back in the fall, and if you didn’t, then we wouldn’t keep it a secret anymore. You would’ve been the first person we told.”
“So it’s all my fault!” he said getting angry again but not sure why.
“No! It’s because she cares about you. A whole lot Tyler. While we were trying to help you with your school work, we realized we really liked each other as more than friends. That’s a good thing Ty, not bad. Don’t you think? I know you like her too, since you wanted to stay with her. We just didn’t want you to get your hopes up if it didn’t work between us, or for you to maybe accidentally tell someone else and get her in trouble.”
Tyler was confused. Now things were even more weird. He could’ve pretended like he didn’t know, but now he opened his big mouth and they knew he knew that they were doing it. Kissing and having sex. It was gross to think of his principal and his dad doing that.
“Tyler, son, are you okay?” asked Ryan.
“No!” he yelled. “Did you divorce mom because you wanted to do it with her?”
“No Tyler. Absolutely not. We were divorced before Dr. Fields and I got together. I think I should call Dr. Fields and ask her to come over. We need to talk about this. She should know. Okay?”
“NO!” Tyler was horrified. He wasn’t sure he ever wanted to see her again. Even at school.
“Tyler. She won’t be angry, I promise. She’s a very nice lady. You know that already. Maybe she’ll be happy that you know that we’re dating so we don’t have to hide it from you anymore. And maybe, we can discuss whether or not you need help next year.”
“You mean I wouldn’t have her to explain things and help me figure out math?” That scared him and it suddenly was hard to breathe.
“Well, if you can manage your classes at school, then she would be able to help you here, at our house perhaps.”
That was better and his chest felt lighter again. “But what if I still need help at school?”
“Let me call her and we can talk it out. Okay?” asked his dad.
“She’s going to hate me too,” he said.
“Never Tyler,” he assured him, “She likes you very much.”
Tyler didn’t want to hear anymore and curled up on the couch while his father called his principal and ruined everything.
When Taysia saw Ryan was calling, she smiled. He was back and she really wanted to see him. But when she answered the phone he was upset. And what he told her made her sick to her stomach. She needed to get to his house quickly and try to allay Tyler’s fears – the ones that she caused.
When Taysia walked into Ryan’s living room, she saw Tyler curled up on the couch chewing on his fingers. She felt sickened seeing the rambunctious, yet sweet child miserable and her heart broke for him. He reminded her so much of herself as a child, alone and introverted, until a teacher cared enough to help her find her true potential and self worth. At least Tyler had a father that loved him unconditionally and was at a point in his own life that he would be able to spend as much time with his son as he needed. And she knew, Tyler was definitely going to need it.
But now, instead of helping him blossom, they’d put him through more than he could handle emotionally. She was so afraid he was going to shut down. She couldn’t tell that to Ryan yet. It would crush him. She just had to try and help Tyler back to where he was. She’d done this before as a Special Ed teacher, she just hoped she could do it again.
If she couldn’t reach him, she was going to recommend professional counseling. Maybe they should’ve done it in the beginning anyway, but with her little bit of attention, he’d done amazing. It seems he was way more fragile than either of them realized.
Taysia turned to face Ryan. He looked just as miserable as his son. Taysia felt like she’d made the biggest mistake of her life, falling in love with the handsome and charming Ryan Murdock. She’d become addicted to him and those big blue eyes. The eyes that usually looked at her with lust and maybe love, but now were filled with so much pain. She’d been able to feel his pain through the phone, but never expected Tyler to have withdrawn as much as he had now. He hadn’t even acknowledged her presence.
“Ryan,” she said quietly, “can you give us a few minutes alone?” Maybe if they were alone, he would feel free to say whatever he wanted, if he said anything at all.
Ryan looked like he was going to cry, but thankfully did as she requested and walked out of the room, albeit looking defeated. Her fairy tale was quickly coming to an end, just as she feared. Her heart was slowly breaking into tiny pieces at the mess she’d made of their lives by giving in to her attraction and going to the gym that day.
She took a cleansing breath, then walked over and sat next to Tyler. She began to speak softly to him. “Tyler … you know … sometimes adults make mistakes. We aren’t perfect. And your father and I, we made one of the worst. The mistake wasn’t that we have grown to care about one another. Our mistake was that we decided not to tell you about our relationship. Your father is an amazing man Tyler, and he loves you more than anything. But, I think you know that already.“
Tyler didn’t say anything. He just turned his back more. So she continued, keeping her voice soft and soothing. “Sometimes, in an effort to protect those we care about the most, we don’t tell them things for fear it might hurt them. In this case, the not telling part is what hurt you. I’m deeply sorry Tyler, and I hope that you can forgive me and especially your father. You see, I desperately want to continue to be your principal. If that means I have to stop seeing your father, I will, if that’s what you want.”
“No! You can’t leave us too!” Tyler growled out the words between sniffing back tears.
Taysia wanted to rush over and pull him into her arms, and promise she wouldn’t, but she was afraid he would retreat further into himself instead of allowing her to comfort him. Instead, she worked to keep herself calm as she spoke. “Ty, I have no intention of leaving you or your father. I said I would only do that if you wanted me to. Are okay with me and your father dating?”
“No, yes, I don’t know,” he whined, still not looking at her.
She touched him ever so lightly, like you would a frightened animal. “It’s confusing isn’t it?” she asked sympathetically. “And a lot of responsibility for a young man your age. Can you imagine that’s how your father and I felt when we realized we were becoming more than just two people that loved you? We struggled with it Tyler, and clearly we came to the wrong decision, at least as far as you are concerned.”
Tyler finally looked up at her. “Dad said you would lose your job if anyone knew you were dating. I don’t want you to lose your job and I don’t want you to leave Dad. Even if you are doing it.”
How did he find out they were sleeping together? she wondered. “Tyler,” she said sternly, “Your father and I are adults. And that part of our relationship is very personal, something that happens when two adults care very much about each other.”
Tyler looked embarrassed. “Yes ma’am,” he said.
She was relieved he didn’t make anymore out of it. “So Tyler, we need to decide what to do. And clearly none of us should make this decision alone. So, why don’t I go get your dad and the three of us can talk it out and come to an agreement about what to do?”
“Dad’s mad at me,” objected Tyler.
“I assure you, he isn’t. He’s only worried about you. Okay?”
Tyler nodded so Taysia got up to get Ryan. In the words of Ryan – fuck, she thought as she walked into the kitchen.
Ryan had been pacing back and forth between the kitchen and dining room while Taysia was talking to Tyler. He couldn’t hear anything until Tyler yelled ‘No’ and his heart sank. He was losing not only his son, but Taysia too. How did he screw up his life so badly?
At last, Taysia stepped into the dining room making him jump. She smiled weakly and nodded her head indicating for him to join them. His heart was in his throat as he walked behind her into the living room. Tyler hadn’t said a word to him after he said he was calling Dr. Fields.
Ryan was shocked to see that Tyler was no longer curled into himself. That was a huge relief. However, he didn’t look happy, just incredibly sad. Ryan was a jumble of nerves and had to work hard to keep his composure.
He sat down across from Taysia and his son. Thankfully, she took the lead. “So, here’s the deal,” said Taysia, the teacher, “Tyler is conflicted as to whether or not you and I should continue to have an adult relationship. Because he knows, if we do, I could lose my job.” She looked lovingly at Ryan before she continued. “But he is also concerned about me leaving the two of you.“
Ryan caught his breath and looked at Taysia for the okay to speak. She nodded. He’d been thinking while they were talking. “Tyler,” he said softly, as not to sound threatening, “there are few ways we can resolve this. All of them require someone to sacrifice. First, Dr. Fields and I continue to date in secret. You can’t tell anyone. But if we get caught, she could lose her job.”
“Second,” he continued, “Dr. Fields and I could break off our relationship and stop seeing each other. Her job is safe and she can continue to tutor you in the fall. We’ll do that for you Ty, if that’s what you want. And the third and final option is that Dr. Fields and I date openly. But if we do, when school starts, you won’t be able to get the help you might need from Dr. Fields at school, and that feels unfair to you.”
“So, Tyler,” said Taysia with so much empathy it took his breath away. “You see from what your father said, the choice is extremely difficult, as each choice has consequences – for all of us. So, this has to be a joint decision.” Taysia turned to Ryan with sadness in her eyes. Ryan knew, whichever scenario Tyler voted for, she would back him up. “Ryan, what choice do you want? And why?” she asked him.
Ryan wanted the ground to swallow him up. How could he possibly answer that? It had to be a choice that worked best for Tyler and he truly didn’t know which one did. Finally, he looked at Taysia and then at his son. “I think, the right choice might be … ” he stopped because he couldn’t make the words come out as tears formed in his eyes. He was going to hurt someone no matter what he said.
“Dad,” interrupted Tyler and looked at him with those big blue eyes, “It’s okay. If I don’t ask for help next year, and just wait until I get home, then Dr. Fields can help me at home. Can’t you Dr. Fields. You said. Then we can all be together and no one will be sad. And she won’t lose her job because of me.”
“Tyler,” interrupted Dr. Fields, “While your reasoning is sound, you wouldn’t get my help at school. Don’t forget that…”
“I don’t care!” shouted Tyler. “If you help me at home, it will be the same. Then you can be with Dad and me and ya’ll can ba … kiss all you want.”
Ryan was shocked and quickly looked at Taysia. Did she get what he almost said? But she was looking at Tyler with love, not with shock, and she was smiling. What did he miss in all of that?
“Tyler, you are the most adult of the three of us in this room,” she said to his 12 year-old son, “You made a most excellent choice.” Then she looked at Ryan who still had his mouth open in shock. “Ryan, do you agree with Tyler’s choice?” she asked him.
He looked between the two of them for a minute. Did his dream just come true? He could openly date this amazing woman that not only was able to reach his son, but guided him to a sound decision? “Uh, yes. I do,” he said when he finally found his voice.
“Then so be it,” said Taysia. “I think this calls for ice-cream. What do you think Tyler, you look hungry.”
“Does this mean you will be able to come over whenever you want now and can help me next year at home?” asked Tyler.
Taysia pulled his son into a bear hug. “I will definitely help you with your work,” she said, “I won’t be here all the time, but I will be able to visit. If that’s okay with you and your father,” she said.
“YES!” exclaimed Tyler. “Can we go now? I want a hamburger first though.”
“Of course Ty,” said Ryan still in awe of what just happened.