Jay's Loelife: A GA Exclusive Epic-logue - 4. Gravity of the Past
Gravity of the Past
Fog hovers over the quiet street like a cemetery at dusk. A witch darts from the sidewalk to the house across the street, followed by groaning zombies and one golden retriever in a tarantula costume.
Halloween hits differently when you have kids. The motivation for the best costume shifts from work content that garners comments and pins to Pinterest, to a desire to build memories and, well, garner comments and pins to Pinterest because your twin girls are cuter than anyone else’s.
I can’t see Jay’s face in his T-Rex costume, but I know his smile is ear-to-ear. He usually stands around on Halloween and waits for me to show him what we’re doing. This year, he’s all hands-on deck.
“Ready?” he asks, then moves the joystick on the giant remote. The girls, now nine-months old, lurch forward with a giggle, then they’re off in their custom Jurassic Park Jeep, followed by one T-Rex (Jay) and one Velociraptor (me).
We go door to door and collect an absurd amount of candy. The girls can’t eat any because they’re only just mastering chopped spaghetti, but Jay and I are more than happy to tax their loot for our own consumption.
Since we spent most of the afternoon at Will’s house for an epic kid’s Halloween, the girls make it only halfway through our neighborhood before they grow irritable. Jay turns the Jeep around, places his size-fourteen foot on the rear bumper, and tilts the front end up in a mini-wheelie. The twins squeal in delight, crankiness forgotten, as we head back to the house. The insane driving doesn’t stop. Jay is a kid in a candy store as he drives the girls into people’s yards and off the curb. The little speed demons love it.
I don’t. Every jerk has me ready to throw myself at them. Thank God I had the foresight to install five-point harnesses or they might be upside-down pancakes.
As we near the house, Jay ramps up the crazy driving. I reach out to snatch the remote and save the twins from being sidewalk art. That’s when I see a figure lurking in the shadow on our porch.
I press the remote to Jay’s chest and alert him of the situation. He quickly brings the girls back to us. I snatch the Jay Petermeyer retirement gnome from the lawn and lift it above my head before slowly approaching the intruder.
“What the fuck are you doing on my porch?” I bark.
The shadowy figure steps into the evening moonlight. Tall, broad, and dressed like Kim Possible, Rob Stone stands in front of me with a bemused look.
I glance behind me. Jay watches on, his eyes wide and wary.
Rob puts his arms out. “Surprise.”
“Your phone quit working?”
His lip twitches. “Not exactly. Just thought I’d swing by and see if you had a minute.”
“Well, with two small kids, how late were you planning on staying out?”
Jay and I get Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler out of the Jeep and Rob follows us into the house. Dread turns my stomach like sour milk on a warm day as we change out of our costumes and get the girls dressed down for the night. Rob showing up unannounced nine months into investigating my childhood doesn’t sit right. Neither does his strained expression or the way his gaze tracks me like it would a widow at a funeral.
Rob sits in the club chair while Jay and I curl up on the sofa and feed the sleepy girls in their dino pajamas.
“I’m Jay, by the way.”
“Oh, sorry.” I cringe. “This is my husband, Jay. You’ve already met Maeve and Maci.”
Rob smiles at Jay. “I know who you are. Big fan.”
“Same. I listen to your podcast all the time.”
“Since season one.”
I roll my eyes and clear my throat. “As much as I’d love for us to sit and catch up like old friends, I don’t think that’s why you dropped by – on Halloween, no less.”
Rob sobers. “You’re right. I know I should have called, but things took an unexpected turn. I think what I discovered warranted a last-minute flight to Denver.”
The big question on my mind: What did Rob find that was so urgent? I know I joked with Lars, but I honestly didn’t think Rob would come back with anything I didn’t already know.
How could he?
Rob leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “If I can be frank? I thought I’d ask around, find a little information, and confirm the stuff you already know. What I unearthed is something much bigger. And all I have to say is, you’re one lucky sonofabitch.” Rob grabs a file folder thicker than the one my doctor has that holds my entire medical history, and tosses it on the coffee table. “I guess I’ll just start from the beginning?”
My stomach clenches like lockjaw. I look at Jay. Are we ready? There’s really no stopping now. We snuggle the girls a little tighter and wait for Rob to share his discoveries.
“After our initial debriefing, the red flags were numerous. How did this case get handled so fucking terribly? Why were your parents not prosecuted more? Why wasn’t Lars taken from their care? Really, there were so many questions. Then I reviewed the information Jay got from his private investigation. While it clarified a few things, it raised several more questions.
“Paul Messner was the lead prosecutor at the time. It’s like he rolled the red carpet out for your parents. Why, though? It didn’t make any sense. The first thing my team and I did was gather all the court documents from Pacer. Then we flew to Pierce County in Washington and gathered the documents not on Pacer. After that, we went to the police department.
“Between the court documents and everything we gathered from the police, all the paperwork was there. Documents filed from Mike and Julia, the missing child report filed by your parents, and a case against your parents from the county. The problem was, none of it lined up.”
Rob quickly thumbs through the folder, then lays the two reports side by side. “Here is the missing child report filed by your parents on Christmas and the abandoned child report filed by Mike and Julia a week later when they found you.”
Jay and I lean forward and study the papers. I’ve never seen a police report. I don’t know what I should be seeing. Apparently, neither does Jay. He looks at me and makes a face. ‘What the hell am I looking at?’
Rob points at a sequence of numbers in the top corner. “All reports have a case number which is composed of data points, including the year the report was filed and a sequence number, which starts over at the beginning of the year.” He flips Mike and Julia’s report so we can see it better. 097-21483-3457-031. “The year, the sequence of report, the jurisdiction, and the type of case filed. Now look at your parents' report.”
Jay’s brows furrow as he studies the numbers. “Wouldn’t that mean they filed in 1998?”
“The one-thousandth-nine-hundred-and-thirty-fifth case, to be exact. The date says Christmas but the case number says months later. We tracked down the officer who took the report. He’s retired now. He said it was a long time ago and he couldn’t remember any of the details. The thing is, when he looked at me, there was fear. He knew something. That was when I realized there was more at play. We grabbed our investigative shovels and started digging; at the courthouse, into the prosecutor, the police officer, the police chief, the mayor. If a name was listed on a document or mentioned in a note, it was in our sights. Anyone whose signature was certified was at the top of the list. We made call after call and then we hit the pavement.
“Now, I get a lot of people who refuse to talk with me. It’s part of the job. I have to say, nothing has ever compared to this. It was like trying to milk a bull. But the thing is, people don’t have to talk. They make mistakes and the evidence speaks for them. What I had was a suspicious police report filed months after the fact that had clearly been falsified. Documentation showing a county prosecutor’s gross negligence. Really, it was a willful cooperation. I also had a name that kept popping up. Every time we searched it, it came back empty. We knew it was someone important. I took all the information and tracked down your parents.”
I look down. Maci is passed out in my arms, a dribble of milk pooling in the corner of her mouth. My entire world is about to get flipped upside down, yet all I care about is this little girl. I want her to always feel as safe as she does right now.
The truth is, nothing Rob is about to say will change my life. I should be feeling … more as his story reaches a crescendo, but I only feel peace. My parent’s bullshit doesn’t hold me like it used to.
Jay squeezes my arm and smiles his ever-sincere smile. All the safety I need is right there, holding our other daughter. Jay saved my life. He resuscitated me when I didn’t know I was suffocating. Because of him, I’ll never go back to where I was.
I intertwine my fingers with his and turn back to Rob. “I can tell this is made for crime TV. I’m sure it’s riveting. At some point, I might want all the details, but for now, I think I want to skip to the end if that’s alright?”
He smiles softly. “I’m not sure if you guys remember this, but in 1997, Cody Young was kidnapped a few blocks from his home in Redding, California. It may not have made national headlines, but his parents were found murdered inside the house. The boy was never found, and his kidnapper has never been identified. I bring him up because what I found is a connection between his disappearance and your abandonment. Ironically, when confronted with all the documents, it was your parents that talked. I want you to know that what they said won't be easy to hear.”
“It can’t be worse than getting left behind.”
“I suppose there is that.” Rob says with a tight, sympathetic smile. “The truth is, your parents leaving on Christmas saved your life, Loren. It saved your fucking life. It turns out, they struck a deal with a man. In October, they received a payment of ten-thousand dollars to give you up. Several exchange dates were discussed, including Christmas. The plan had been for them to leave on New Year’s and for Clive Oiler to pick you up. They were so nervous about it they jumped the gun. If they would have left on New Year's like planned, or if Mike and Julia would have returned home one day later, you would have shared the same fate as Cody.”
Jay squeezes my hand in solidarity. “Who is Clive Oiler?”
“An alias, as far as I can tell. I don’t know who he is, but he’s no good. He’s the one who took Cody. Not just Cody. There seem to be connections to a lot of missing boys between the ages of six and eight. He’s powerful enough to have leverage over important people. I have evidence that ties him to the police chief who signed off on the missing persons report and the prosecutor who let your parents walk. Mike and Julia also saved your life. If they hadn’t fought the way they did, I think Clive would have eventually gotten what he paid for. From what I can tell, Mike and Julia had no clue what was going on, but their instinct was to keep you in their sights at all times. Thank God.”
I sit in silence as I take it in. It’s a mindfuck to hear this kind of absolute insanity. I was one wrong holiday away from being a statistic of sex trafficking or worse. Suddenly, a simple abandonment doesn’t look so bad. Still, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this information.
“What happens next?” Jay asks.
“Honestly?” Rob asks skeptically. “Legally speaking, it’s past most statutes of limitations.”
“So, what do we do?”
“Let me share it on my podcast. Let me get this information out there so we can hold people and procedures accountable. I know it’s asking a lot, but what we have here is bigger than us. Who knows how many boys are affected? If I can share this with the world, I can bring the players to light and unravel this ring of child trafficking. We can save lives here. A lot of fucking lives.”
Jay shakes his head like it’s the craziest thing he’s ever heard. “No way. Loren is not going to—”
“Of course I am! I don’t give a fuck. Those bastards attempted to sue me for defamation when they tried to sell me to the devil? They deserve what’s coming, so does everyone else involved. I was lucky when others weren’t. I’m not going to stand by when I can do something. I’ll be on the fucking podcast. I’ll dedicate my platform to bringing this thing to a fiery grave. If sharing this helps one kid, one fucking kid, then I’m all in. What if it was the girls, Jay? What if it was the fucking girls? I’m tired of so many things being kept quiet. People need the courage to speak up so others don’t feel alone.”
Jay wipes a tear from his cheek and nods. “Alright, we’re in. Whatever you want to do, you know I have your back. I just didn’t want you to feel pressured if it was too much.”
“That’s just it, Jay. It’s not enough. People keep things bottled up because it’s painful. How many people out there are too afraid to come forward? I can be a voice. I can bring people out of the dark and into the light. We have an obligation to use this platform to drive change. Isn’t that what you preached when we first met? That someone who has millions of followers should use that privilege for good?”
Chastised, Jay nods.
“You’re a heck of a man,” Rob says. “I wish more people were like you.”
“It should be the bare minimum.”
“Well, I’m going to let you two decompress. I know I dropped a bomb just now. I’ll be in town for two more days. Give me a call and we can talk details.” Rob gets up and shuffles his papers back into the file.
I get up and shake his hand. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
We see Rob off, then take the sleeping girls to their room. They don’t stir once while we change their diapers and put them to bed. We leave their door open and make sure the house is locked up nice and tight.
“Perspective is everything,” I say as we fall into bed. “An hour ago, I thought being abandoned on Christmas was the worst thing that could happen. Now I know what my fate should’ve been.”
Jay grunts as he smashes his pillow into place.
“Remember the night I told you about my parents leaving?”
He turns his head to me. “Of course. It still haunts me.”
“Remember the last thing you asked me before we fell asleep? You ask if they ever touched me, as in, if they ever molested me?” Jay nods. “God, it’s so much worse than that, isn’t it?”
“Could have been worse,” he says. “Could have.”
I let everything sink in.
“Can you do that thing you did after I told you about my parents?”
Jay gives me a soft smile and tosses his leg over mine, then wraps the comforter around us until we’re a tight little bed burrito. And just like that night, I feel as safe as ever.
Jay’s nose grazes my cheekbone. “I can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now.”
“Fuck. I don’t know how I’m feeling because it doesn’t feel real. It can’t be real. Who the fuck would do that to their own kid? The entire time Rob was talking, I thought it was a dream.”
“I don’t think dreams consist of parents selling their kid into the black market for ten-thousand dollars. That sounds like a nightmare.” Jay shakes his head in disbelief. I can’t even fathom.”
“Neither can I. I wonder if that's why I don’t feel the way I should? How can I be upset about my parents' intentions when twenty-five years later I’m lying in bed with my husband, and our two precious girls are asleep down the hall? I wasn’t kidnapped. Now, that kid Rob talked about? Cody? What about him? He wasn’t spared the way I was. He’s probably dead now. How many other kids shared his fate?”
“Probably a lot.”
“And how many more will?”
Jay shudders. “I don’t want to think about it.” A minute later, his body jolts as he remembers something important. “What do you think Lars will say about all this?”
Oh fuck. I scramble out of Jay’s hold and untangle myself from the blankets. “Shit. I need to call him.” I grab my phone off the charger and pace the room while the call connects.
“Jesus, Loe. It’s one in the morning.”
I stop in my tracks. “You won’t fucking believe what our parents did.”
In the background, the sheets rustle, and the door creaks as Lars sneaks out of his bedroom. “Tell me everything,” he demands in a loud whisper.
“They tried to sell me for ten-fucking-thousand dollars.”
“They were going to traffic me, Lars. It would have been successful, too, if they’d left on New Year's Day instead of Christmas. Just imagine, a few more days alone and— Lars?” I press the phone tight to my ear and listen. “Why are you crying?’
“Because I don’t know the people who raised me. Why would they do that to you?”
“I don’t know.”
“I wish they would have abandoned me, too.”
“Hey, stop that. It’s fine. Look at me. I’m fine. I have everything I could ever want and more. So do you.”
“Don’t do that, Loe. Don’t diminish what they’ve done.” I listen as Lars sniffles. When we were kids, he always wiped his nose on the back of his arm when he cried. “I know all the shitty things happened to you, but you’re not the only one who lives with the repercussions. I’m so angry about what they did. They ruined our lives and I hate them. I hate them so much.”
“They are pieces of shit, but I don’t think our lives are ruined. I refuse to give them that kind of credit. And I really am fine. Shocked, but fine.”
“I don’t get it. How? Everything we uncover about our parents wrecks me more and more.”
Growing up, he was always more sensitive. When our parents’ favoritism became apparent, it was Lars who took it personally. If my brother had been the rejected one, I’m not sure he would have survived. Actually, I’m certain he wouldn’t have. And the truth of it hits me.
I use the bottom of my shirt to wipe sudden tears. “That’s why it was me,” I tell him. “It always had to be me because I’m the strong one, and that’s okay, because it meant you were safe. The worst part of my childhood was losing you, but look, twenty-five years later and we’re okay.”
My words upset him. I don’t know how to stop him from crying. Eventually, I hear Courtney. He must have woken her up. I listen as he tells her what we learned.
“I’m sorry,” he finally says. “It’s hard for me to comprehend why our parents did what they did. It always had to be me because I’m the strong one is never something a kid should say to justify childhood trauma.”
“I’m not justifying it.”
“You are, in a way. You’ve always skirted around the trauma. You can’t help it. It’s a coping mechanism.”
I don’t know if it is or not. I’ll have to talk to my therapist about it.
By the time Lars and I end the call, it’s almost two in the morning and I’m exhausted. Jay lifts the covers and wraps me back up. The last thought I have is how I’ll probably be awake all night.
My eyes open at the first rustle from the monitor. I peek over to the screen and see both girls sitting up in the crib. I slip out of bed and turn the monitor off before Jay wakes up.
I slowly open their door and poke my head in. They startle as they look my way. “How are my morning beans?”
I’m met with the best sleepy smiles and outstretched arms as they eagerly await chauffeuring. After a quick diaper change, we head to the living room, where they find a burst of morning energy and end up crawling all over me. Gone are the days where they drank their bottles and passed out. Now they swat at one another and mindlessly dig their little toes into my stomach and thighs while I film them. Riveting content.
Ironically, I get better engagement ratios now than I did when I was mostly naked.
I’m answering questions in my stories when Jay joins us, rife with bedhead and sheet creases across his face. He playfully tosses the girls out of the way, launching them to the other side of the sectional so he can lay on top of me and pepper my face with kisses. “G’morning.”
I smile back. “Good morning.”
“You didn’t wake me.”
“The drool leaking from your mouth told me you needed a few more minutes.”
Jay’s eyes shine of pure happiness. A moment later, those same eyes go comically wide. “Uh-oh.”
Two little faces peek over Jay’s shoulder. Their smiles reveal the cutest eight teeth and perfect little dimples.
I grin at the mischievous brown eyes. “Are those little sneaky beans?”
The twins giggle triumphantly.
They’ve been crawling for a month, but what they lack in coordination, they make up in pure determination. Jay moves so the pair can join in without tumbling to the floor, then wraps the twins in his arms and lays down while I go back to answering questions and sharing a few candid moments of our perfect little morning.
“Rob is going to swing by around lunch.”
Jay nods and continues to snuggle with his girls before taking them to the kitchen and making breakfast. The rest of the morning is lazy and all kinds of perfect.
The girls are back in their highchairs enjoying lunch when Rob arrives. It’s a quick visit. In and out in less than an hour. With the girls cleaned up, I waggle my brows at Jay.
“I’ve been working on something.”
“You’re always working on something. You’ll need to be more specific.”
I grab the box that has been sitting in the office for weeks and bring it back to the living room. I don’t know why I’m so nervous. It’s not like Jay will be angry. It was a comment he made when the girls were itty bitty that gave me the idea.
“Life looks a lot different now than it did a decade ago,” I tell him as I open the box. “I was working on the new launch, but it didn’t feel like it accurately represented who I am now. With the design team’s help, I toyed around with some ideas.”
I hold up a jacket with the new logo and wait for Jay’s response. He stares at the jacket, then looks at me and smiles. “What did you do?”
“I married you. Duh.”
The new logo is a stylish JL. Personally, I think it’s way better than the logo I created in my early twenties.
“And the rest of the guys don’t care?” he asks. “I mean, it’s their brand, too.”
“Yep, they’re on board. Not to sound greedy, but this has marketability and they know it. This isn’t all …” I reach into the box. “Like I said, I wanted the brand to represent the new me.”
I pull out a few more articles of clothing and lay them on the coffee table.
Jay runs his fingers over the toddler sweatshirt. “Kid’s clothes?”
“It was your idea.”
“I think this is awesome. And I think a lot of the people who follow you will be glad to see this kind of expansion.” Jay sits up straight and peeks into the box. “What else do you have in there?”
I pull everything out. They’re just samples. Not everything will make the drop. The things that do will go through revisions. Together, we study the contents of the box piece by piece. We pick our favorites and toss around ideas.
The girls must feel left out because they pull themselves up and start flinging clothes off the coffee table.
I glare at the little mischief makers. “Why do I have a sudden urge to push them over?”
Jay raises his brow and looks at me like I’m crazy.
To be funny, I give Maeve a little nudge. “There’s just no need for her to be standing yet.” Her eyes widen as she wobbles, but doesn’t fall.
Jay grabs Maeve and pulls a sweatshirt over her head, static making her hair stand on end. “What do you think?” he asks. “Do you like it?”
Maeve’s face scrunches into a frown and she tugs at the offending material.
I put the other sweatshirt on Maci, who hardly notices.
I snap a picture of the girls, one who is happy about the product and one who is not, and I post a poll.
How do you feel about a children’s apparel in the next launch? Team Maci or Team Maeve?
Later, I call the guys and tell them what Rob said, and they’re outraged.
“Rob’s podcast is going to air in about a month. Halfway through the series, we’re slated to drop the new clothing line. What if the proceeds from the kid’s line go directly to the fight against child trafficking? I want to show them exactly how much I’m worth.”
The response is unanimous. We’re going to help save some fucking lives.
You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on. We get it, because we feel it too. Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.
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