Ryan reached for his left ring finger, but nothing was there. He always played with his wedding band, but he wasn’t used to the fact that it was no longer there. It was a cold, rainy night in New Orleans in early March 2011, and he was sitting on the balcony of his rented condo watching the rain and listening to the thunder as the lightning lit up the night sky. It was 2:00 a.m., and he was tired. He just finished filming for the day, and he had to get up early for another long day of filming. But he couldn’t sleep. Ever since the divorce, he had many sleepless nights. It had been six months, but he still wasn’t quite over it yet. He never thought that he would be here at this point of his life: divorced at thirty-four. He never thought that his marriage would have only lasted for two years. He was not the ladies’ man that the media made him out to be. He was a good man. He loved her and he tried to make it work. She was the one who didn’t try. But he didn’t care what everyone else thought. He knew the truth about himself and so did his family and closest friends.
The wind was picking up speed, and the rain was starting to blow sideways. As the puddles started to form on the balcony floor, Ryan made his way inside, slipped off his saturated flip flops, and turned on the television. Even though he was a professional actor, he never seemed to be too interested in watching TV. But he needed to find a way to get some sleep, and he thought maybe the TV, coupled with the sound of the rain thumping against the window, was enough to serenade him to sleep. But not this time. After tossing and turning for almost half an hour, he surrendered to his insomnia, reached for his phone, and made a call to the one person who knew him best, the one person who was always there for him. It was late, but he knew she would answer. She always did.
“Ryan? What’s wrong?” she answered. The sound of her voice was so comforting, so pleasing, he couldn’t help but smile.
“Hey, sweetie, I am so sorry it’s late.” He really was sorry that he woke her, but not sorry to hear her voice.
“No problem. Let me guess. You can’t sleep?” It was amazing how well she knew him, he thought.
“No,” he said with desperation in his voice.
“All right, hold on, okay?”
“Sure.” He knew what he was holding on for.
Larkin James was Ryan’s best friend since childhood. They grew up next door to each other, and they had been there for each other for everything, big or little. She was the one person he went to for anything because he knew she would always be there. She was the only one who encouraged him to follow his dream of being an actor when everyone else didn’t, including his family. She made it to every single one of his movie premieres, and she was there at his wedding. She never missed anything that meant something to him. And she never missed one late-night phone call when he couldn’t sleep.
“All right, you still there, Ryan?” she finally said after about three minutes of putting him on hold, but he didn’t mind.
“Of course, I am still here.” He would’ve held for her all night.
“Okay, I’ll pick up where I left off last time, or where at least I think I left off before you fell asleep.”
Larkin began to read to Ryan. She was reading to him a novel that she was writing called Jillian’s Touch. He was the only one that she would let listen to or read the manuscript, or at least that was what she had told him. In fact, she told him that he was the only one who knew she was writing a book, well, except for her husband. And he was happy to listen. Like she always encouraged him to follow his dream, he reciprocated. But he didn’t only listen because he was her friend, he actually enjoyed the story she was reading to him. He thought it was amazing, and he couldn’t wait for her to finish it so she could hopefully get it published. Larkin wasn’t always the most optimistic person in the world, and she, of course, didn’t think it was that good. But he insisted to her that it was.
“Is that why you fall asleep? Because it’s so good?” she would ask him sarcastically.
“Of course not, Larkin. You know that. I wouldn’t keep calling to hear it if it was bad, would I?” He would try to reassure her. And it was the truth. But most importantly, he would call because Larkin reading the book to him was like her singing him a lullaby.
Jillian led Nathan to the room that would change everything. She was shaking because she wasn’t quite sure how he would react. But she knew she was doing the right thing. At least she hoped she was. As they turned the corner and entered the room, she felt him let go of her hand. She looked at his face and where there used to be a look of love and happiness was now a look of horror and desperation.
The familiarity of her voice always brought him back to his childhood where the two of them were inseparable. They shared some great times growing up, but their career choices—well, mainly his career choice—would eventually break that inseparability, but no matter what, they were still the best of friends.
The screaming of the alarm clock violently awoke Ryan, and as he battled through the cloudiness that the sleep had left in his mind, that was the last thing he remembered hearing last night before dozing off. He knew Larkin would help him fall asleep. It’s almost as if he was looking forward to another sleepless night so he could call her and listen to more of her story.
He thought that she was a great writer. He always felt bad falling asleep while she read to him, but he knew she understood and she was always willing to help him. So like every other morning after she read to him the night before, he sent her a text message thanking her.
Hey, blue eyes. Thanks for last night. As always, you’re my favorite lullaby. Can’t wait to hear what happens in the room where Jillian took Nathan. Talk to you soon. Love, Fish