Sequel: If Only Until Morning

Pictures on Silence

Chapter 28

After Jon had woken up and yet another love-fest had occurred with Brendon's parents, we sat in the Uries' living room, trying to formulate a plan for the day. I didn't care so much, seeing as we drove and walked around Vegas the whole afternoon before, not to mention it was 100 degrees outside. So it was decided that Spencer and Ryan make appearances to their families and the rest of us stay here.

"Unless you want to go with one of them," Jon suggested. I shrugged and looked at Spencer and Ryan, who both shrugged-- Ryan with certain reluctance.

"We're probably just going to be watching a movie or something," Brendon said.

"I'll go with Ryan," I decided, getting up.

Ryan dropped Spencer off at his house and we waited until he got inside before driving off. I glanced away from the windshield every few seconds towards Ryan; his face remained frozen and his driving was mechanical. When I cleared my throat quietly, he started and slowed at a light.

"'Are you okay?' is a stupid question," I said, watching the cross-traffic, "So what's wrong, Ry?"

He pursed his lips and drummed his fingers on the wheel. "It's almost annoying how perceptive you are," he said, not looking away from the road.

"Ryan, any idiot with half a brain and working eyes could tell something's bothering you." He exhaled loudly and accelerated. I shifted in my seat. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Ryan remained silent a moment. "My dad." Pause. I nodded slowly. "You know."

"Yeah," I breathed.

"Well, I don't want you to see that," he explained resolutely.

The car stopped outside a nice house with a green lawn and backyard. We both stared up at it, and eventually I turned to him. "I could stay in the car if you want," I murmured.

Ryan continued staring almost fearfully at the house before shaking his head and killing the engine. I walked beside him up the path, all the while thinking about my own family. How would they compare to Ryan's family? I knew that everyone was dissatisfied with his or her home life, otherwise they would never move out, but families made homes, right?

We stepped up to the door and after another moment's pause, Ryan pushed the door open. A soft autumn-coloured carpet passed under our feet and as we walked through the entryway. I stopped short at the sight of a man emerging from what I presumed was the kitchen, at the precise moment I felt--rather than saw-- Ryan tense.

"Welcome back, Ryan," he said, smiling a smile that didn't touch his eyes.

"Hi, Dad," Ryan responded. I considered Ryan's father: medium build, a little shorter than I, with sunken, cadaverous brown eyes that created a weight in the pit of my stomach. They shook hands, when Ryan's dad looked at me.

"Who's this? New slut you picked up out being a rock star?"

I frowned darkly at him but softened my expression at Ryan's pointed widening of eyes. "This is Angie, Dad. Her band Penny Dreadful opened for us."

"Nice to meet you, Mister Ross," I said quietly, shaking his hand and hoping I didn't sound as venomous as I thought I did.

"George," he corrected. He looked me up and down, standing with my hands clasped behind my back and feet together, staring him down coldly. He turned to his son and nodded approvingly. Ryan rolled his eyes, which made me crack a smile.

"The car wasn't in the driveway," Ryan observed.

George Ross Junior shrugged his shoulders. "So." His tone left a biting aftertaste.

"Where is it?"

"That's not your problem," his father answered acerbically, walking into another room. Ryan sighed, ran a hand through his hair, and smiled not-even-half-heartedly at me. I watched him ascetically. His attempt at a smile dropped to the floor with his face.

"I guess I'll just check he hasn't done anything too bad," he muttered. I followed him like a puppy up the stairs into his bedroom, where I sat on his bed. Everything that occurred I watched with disconnected passivity, like a scientist observing a test subject. My hand tightened into a fist around his bedspread as Ryan picked up and looked at a picture with a buried painful expression.

He nodded, and once again I trailed him closely down the hall, where he checked on the other rooms. As Ryan passed me through the doorway, I melted from my emotionless state just in time to sense his resonating anger.

"I'll be gone for a while after this," Ryan informed his dad from the doorway. I peered over his shoulder, seeing his father sitting in an armchair facing away from us. "Lollapalooza and Europe, you know." Mr. Ross grunted and drank from his glass filled with alcohol. Ryan's fist clenched and loosened. "Well... I guess I'm going to go now." Silence filled the house. "Bye, Dad."

"Bye, Ryan," Mr. Ross declared as we headed towards the front door. Something about the scene hurt: just walking out on such a bitter note. I looked down the hall regretfully and glanced at Ryan. Eyes hard, bearing straight ahead.

I shut the passenger side door just before Ryan sat down next to me and slammed his door shut. He laid his head on the steering wheel, and all I could do was stare fretfully.

I jumped when he thumped his fist on the dashboard. Licking my lips, I hesitantly put a hand on his shoulder. "Ryan?" I whispered.

"I fucking hate him," he growled lowly, hair obscuring his face. "I hate him for ruining all our lives. For doing it to himself and ruining his own life." Ryan's shoulder quivered beneath my hand. "I hate him so much..." He trailed off and lifted his head enough to look at me with wet eyes.

I instinctively shifted closer in the seat and put my arms around him; Ryan turned and buried his face in my shoulder, convulsing every few seconds. I hushed him soothingly and ran my hand over the back of his head. Ryan had it a lot worse than anyone I knew, myself included. He wants you to love him, the thought drifted across my consciousness. As cheap as that sounded, it rang clear with truth: he wanted his dad to love him enough to not drink himself to death.

I don't know how long we sat outside his house, but when he sniffed and loosed his grip on me, dried tears lay in crusted salt streams down Ryan's cheeks. He smiled at me, and I automatically smiled in return. How could anyone not love you, you beautiful, wonderful boy? I wondered to myself.

The deep sound of Ryan humming on the drive back sent me into a warm, contented state of being.