Jay's Loelife: A GA Exclusive Epic-logue - 6. The Game
I will never admit this to Jay, not under the threat of death, but I understand the hype around sports. I wouldn't say I like sports, but there is something to be said about the energy during live games. It’s addicting. Even if you don’t know what the fuck is happening.
At three-and-a-half, it’s clear to everyone that Maeve and Maci take after Jay. They love sports. They understand football better than I do. When Sundays roll around, they’re in the theater room with their dad, jumping and screaming at the television, or at the stadium, standing on their seats with their pom-poms, cheering as their uncles play.
But today — today they get to watch their dad play for the first time. I’m emotional about it. Parenthood has changed me. It’s made me softer in a lot of ways and harder in others.
The girls seeing Jay suited up for the first time isn’t the only thing choking me up. It took two years to get here, but the entire NFL organization has come together for a cause that has become part of my life, and two major networks are airing this special game. A few years ago, a fan asked Jay if he’d ever come out of retirement to play again. His answer? It would have to be for something special. Today is that something special.
“This way,” I say to the girls.
They skip down the hall, their shoes screeching against the concrete as their arms swing side-to-side. We near the entrance to the field and the girls take off in the cutest wannabe-sprint, jostling each other to get there first.
I look at Isaac and shake my head. “You’d think they own the place.”
“They kind of do. They are three, tenacious, and they have millions of people at their beck and call. It’s amazing they’re as humble as they are.”
“Humble?” I scoff. “Those girls are high maintenance as fuck.”
“Only ’cause you make them that way! You’ve been training divas since day one.”
I make a disgruntled face as we follow the bobbing brunettes onto the field. “Sorry I want the girls to have everything I didn’t.”
Isaac gasps. “Low blow, Loe. Low blow.”
“Say that ten times fast.”
He elbows me as we move on.
The field is busy. Players warm up and family members and media wander around. It’s just flag football. Evidently, the industry keeps full-contact play to a minimum. Too many millions at stake to risk it all for a charity event.
“Daddy!” The girls run into Jay’s waiting arms. He lifts them up easy enough. Jay is all smiles as he relishes a moment he’s dreamed about forever.
Maci runs her hands over Jay’s iridescent blue jersey in complete fascination. “Daddy so hamsome.”
Maeve nods her head. “Vury prudy. Wike a spawrk-arey princess.”
The uniforms are cool, designed by Nike. Each team is a different shade of blue, symbolic of the cause. I’m more into how they look. Minimal padding and tight fitting.
I run my fingers along his tanned biceps. God, he’s fucking sexy. “Yes, very handsome indeed. Daddy approved.”
Jay swats at me, then walks away with the girls. Mhmm. What a shame.
Isaac smacks me upside the head. “This is a family event.”
“How do you think families are made? Damn, Isaac. I feel bad for the wifey. No romance.”
The conversation ends as cameras make their way toward us. Jay tosses the ball back and forth with the girls, then they sit on the turf and stretch until the girls get bored and wander off with a few other kids. All the while, the stadium fills with people.
Even though I wasn’t involved in the planning of the game, I’m still a focal point. I’m the face of the cause. It’s my story that inspired Rob Stone’s podcast. Two years after the podcast began, the requests for interviews are still flooding in. What Rob exposed was more complex than we imagined.
Being the face is not easy. My parents may have had a sinister plan, but it never became my reality. I wasn’t kidnapped and forced into sex trafficking. I was abandoned at seven. That is still my truth. Yet, I am the spokesperson for something more. I have no problem being an advocate. It’s a great cause, but everyone expects me to understand the survivors on a personal level. Everyone comments on how well I’m doing given my past, but when they comment on my past, it’s never on what actually happened to me, only on what could have happened.
In the haze of the media, my truth has slowly been phased out and replaced with something different. Some might say it’s worse, but I would never discount my experience like that. Whenever interviewed, I always speak the truth, but it rarely makes the final cut. It doesn’t fit the mainstream’s narrative. I choose not to fight it because with a cause this important, any publicity is good publicly.
I smile and answer questions in a way that keeps the light focused on why we’re here – for the boys and girls who have been kidnapped and sold for the perverse pleasures of others.
By kick off, the stadium is over three-quarters full. Impressive for a first annual charity event. The game is lit. It’s less about football and more about having fun. Things fly that normally wouldn’t, like unsportsmanlike conduct and taunting. There is a lot of over-the-top confrontation between teams just to make the crowd go wild. Jay and his brothers are a three-man comedy act on the field. At one point, Taylor runs towards Jay, who kneels down. Taylor steps onto Jay’s hands and gets launched into the air, where he does a double backflip before catching the ball. He throws it to Derek, who runs it to the end zone.
Maeve claps her hands excitedly. “Ohh! See Daddy?” She slides off her chair and the next thing I know, she’s on one knee, trying to launch Maci into the air, but they topple over each other and end up sprawled over the floor. Silly little beans.
When they try again, I jump out of my chair before they break an arm. “How about I throw you guys in the air instead?”
The girls jump up and down. Uncle Lars stands across from me, and we toss the girls back and forth until they’re giggling uncontrollably.
“Look, me Daddy!” Maci says as she flies through the air.
Maeve scowls. “No, not Daddy. You Uncle Taywer!”
The buzzer sounds for half-time and I launch Maci one last time. “How about some food?”
“Actually—” Cole cuts in. “You’re wanted on the field for halftime.”
“What? Why? The girls too?”
“No, just you. Nana will watch the girls.”
I look at Cole in confusion. “Is it an interview or something?”
“Nah, nothing like that. Coldplay is doing a song. We figured you’d want to be up close for it.”
My jaw drops hearing that my favorite band from high school will be playing any minute. I hand Maeve off to Jay’s mom and follow Cole, Corey, and Isaac out the door. Lars ditches Courtney at the last second and slips out the door behind us with a giant smile. He gives me a thumbs up as we head down the service stairs to the field.
The crew is rushing about, setting everything up, so we sit off to the side and wait. It’s not a big presentation like the Super Bowl. Just a basic platform for the band to perform on.
I fidget excitedly as the crew gets things ready. Coldplay was the first band we saw live and without supervision. The four of us loaded up Julia’s Ford Explorer and drove to the Gorge. Coldplay’s music resonated with me in a way other bands never did. More than once, when I was alone and confused, Coldplay’s lyrics brought me to my knees. They forced me to feel the emotions I tried so hard to forget.
Isaac watches the venue come to life, his eyes sparkling like a kid on Christmas. “Remember when we saw them at the Gorge Amphitheater?”
“Yeah.” Corey laughs. “One of the last times we got to enjoy an event without people swarming us. No camera—”
“Loe had his camera.”
Corey rolls his eyes at Isaac. “You know what I mean. No fanfare. Four kids chillin’. You know?”
“It was a good concert.” A moment later, Cole starts laughing. “Which of you made out with that hot chick that ended up being crazy?”
Corey raises his hand and we all laugh. We reminisce over the trip. Memories I haven’t thought about in twenty years. I wouldn’t change the life I have. It’s pretty great, but there are times I miss the simplicity of anonymity.
“Coldplay was my first concert too,” Lars says in an even, not-all-that-happy tone. He crosses his arms over his chest and frowns. I get it. Just another thing taken from us. A concert we should have enjoyed together. The resentment of it all hits at the weirdest times.
The crowd roars as Chris Martin and his fellow bandmates make their way to the stage and adjust their instruments. Practice notes soon become a familiar melody.
Fix You is a great song, but it’s a ballad – not what I would have chosen for a halftime event. But we’re the only VIP to be seen, standing closer to Coldplay than I ever thought we’d be, so I won’t complain. They can play any song they want.
With the music flowing slowly, Chris Martin adjusts himself behind his keyboard. There is no introduction, no speaking to the crowd. None of their normal pre-engagement small talk. They get right into the song.
He gets a few lines out when the music cuts in and out. He looks around in confusion.
Suddenly, from behind the band, Jay walks out, still wearing his uniform. He lifts the mic to his mouth and takes over, not missing a beat and not once taking his gaze off mine. I’ve only ever heard him carry a note or two while driving. He’s surprisingly good, if a little shaking while he finds his stage-legs.
The tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
I stand paralyzed while Jay sings, taking one painfully slow step after another as he closes the distance across the field.
When you’re too in love to let go
But if you never try, you’ll never know
Just what you’re worth.
I bite the inside of my cheek to stop from crying, but it’s a losing battle. The tears fall despite myself. While the music builds so intensely my skin vibrates, the Jumbotron plays a montage of my life never shown to the public before. Glimpses of me getting lost in unhealthy vices, moments of private pain, and seasons of endless sadness. Things I carefully spent my career masking.
Then, a clip of Jay smiling at me as I wear his jersey in that shitty rundown bar.
With a smile, I wipe away tears as I watch that first encounter, and the next as our relationship plays out for millions. Flirtatious smiles, hiking trips, hand holding, snuggles, being on the field together after his game. The years fly by until I’m down on one knee. I smile as Jay hefts two little kids onto his shoulders and runs around in pure unbridled happiness.
Dancing down the aisle to Grease.
So many good memories.
And then tears after our failed embryo transfer.
Holding the twins for the first time. Midnight feedings to pureed veggies, and then spaghetti everywhere.
The entire thing triggers unresolved core memories. I lose my composure. Every broken memory of being alone as a child comes hurtling back to the present. Every rejection. Christmas morning. Having my brother ripped away.
The moment I stood in the living room, feeling truly alone for the first time.
A hand takes mine. I look up at Lars, his cheeks as wet as mine. Isaac, Cole, and Corey stand next to him. They reach over and put hands on me. I squeeze my brother’s hand, so glad they’re all in my life. Then fingers slide into my other hand. My head snaps to find Julia and Mike. The tears fall harder. Mike nods, his eyes glistening. They give me that familiar smile, letting me know they’re here.
Slowly, the area around me fills. Uniform-clad Derek and Taylor, with their families. Robert and Donna, holding our girls. Even Jay’s board members file in. Matt winks as he stands behind me with Aidan and Carson. Seamus squeezes my shoulder affirmingly, flanked by Will and Scott.
My tear-filled gaze finds Jay standing a few feet in front of me with is hand out.
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you.
One Year Later
I lean my head back and watch the mountains in the distance. I love traveling, but now I can’t wait to get back to Jay and the girls. In this case, I can’t wait to land in Mexico, where everyone has been for two days already.
The miles crawl in silence. No idle chit-chat with the driver. On the plane, the stewardess left me alone. Maybe it’s my face. More likely, she read the news.
My ‘parents’ died. I always thought I’d be relieved to hear those words. They’ve been dead to me for years, anyway. What difference does it make? None. It makes no difference. I feel no emotion. I didn’t know them and I was never loved by them.
Despite the past, I should be sad, right? They were my parents. At a minimum, I should be sad for what I never had. I spent a lot of my life trying to feel nothing. As hard as I tried, I was never successful. Until now. I finally feel nothing, and it scares me.
Jay is at the airport when I land. Since it’s just us on the tarmac, I go straight to his arms. “Why don’t I feel something?” I ask. “After all this, am I no better than them? Am I a monster like they were?”
Jay squeezes me tightly, giving me a moment to process. When the moment is up, he takes my hand and pulls me toward the SUV. “Let’s go.”
The thirty-minute ride to the house is murder. I need Jay to tell me I’m not my parents. Instead, he makes me suffer, forcing me to wonder if he thinks I’m a terrible person.
He parks the SUV and opens my door, then takes my hand and leads me into the house where the girls are waiting excitedly by the door.
“Dad! We made pic-it-tors! See!” Maci holds out a pile of drawings and starts yammering on and on about each one.
Not to be outdone, Maeve muscles in and explains her pictures. When they’re done, they drag me to the patio and show me all the cool shells they found while exploring the beach. They sit on my lap and go on and on.
“If you hoe’d it to your ear like dis—” Maeve holds the conch shell to my cheek and whispers, “You can hear’d the ocean. Can you hear’d the ocean, Dad?”
“Yeah, I can hear the ocean.”
She takes the shell back and holds it to the side of her head, her eyes wide with wonder. Her tongue snakes out as she listens intently. When she hears it, her gaze shoots to mine and she gasps. “Iss so cool!”
I pull the girls close and squeeze them. They’re so fucking sweet.
Jay sits in the lounge chair next to me and grins as he watches us. I give a warning look, letting him know he’s not off the hook. He hasn’t answered my question. Jay slides his sunglasses into place and puts his arms behind his head.
Will and Scott come around the corner wearing aprons and carrying platters of food. “Dinner is served. Everyone to the kitchen!”
The kids clamber out of the pool or from whatever recess they were hiding in and run to the outdoor kitchen.
Isaac, Cole, and Corey surround me. Isaac drapes his arm across my shoulder as we head for the food. “Missed you, brother. Glad you’re back.”
“Whatever. You’re just glad you didn’t have to go. Y’all left me to fend for myself. Where’d all the love go?”
“Someone had to run the business while you were out gallivanting around.”
“I was literally opening three new locations!”
“Ohmygod,” Cole drones. “We get it. You’re sooo important.”
“This is not the welcome back I imagined.”
We shove each other around until one of Will’s kids gets knocked to the ground. Dixon sits on the ground, trying to figure out what happened. Will looks at us with the Dad brow.
Isaac points at me. “Loe did it!”
“Did not. It was Corey!”
Will picks up his son and gives him a once over. Dixon is over it and demands to be let down. We watch as the little guy runs off. Will shakes his head at us. “You’re worse than the children.”
We sit at one of the big picnic tables, a kid on each of our laps, as we debrief our week.
There is a tap on my shoulder. I turn and find a red-headed boy smiling brightly. “Hi, Uncle Lowen.”
I tap my chin. “Do I know you?”
He rolls his eyes. “It’s me, Carson.”
“Mhmm. I don’t think so. The Carson I know is about yay high.”
Carson lifts my hand from his chest and moves it until it’s on top of his head. “See, it’s me!”
I laugh and pull him into my lap, next to Lars’ daughter, Maggie. “I’ve missed you. Tell me all the things you’ve done since I last saw you.”
“I just saw you last week, remember? I rode with you to the airport.”
“Okay, tell me everything you’ve done since then.”
“Oh.” Carson thinks about it. “We ate sushi and I beat Aidan at Minecraft.”
“No, you didn’t,” Aidan says from his nearby table. “You got killed by a pig zombie.”
Carson huffs. He moves so his brother can’t see him and whispers. “He’s lying.”
I lean in close. “Of course he is. You are way better at video games than he is.”
Maggie and Carson sit in my lap for a while longer while everyone settles after dinner. Eventually, the kids scurry off. I get up and find Aidan. He’s sitting off to the side listening to music on his headphones. I can’t believe he’ll be starting high school in the fall. A long way from the toddler I fell in love with over a decade ago.
I pop his headphones off and toss them aside. He opens his mouth to complain, but when he realizes it’s me, he grins. Aidan scoots over so I can sit next to him, and I put my arm around his shoulder.
“You’re not too big to cuddle just yet.”
“Hey.” Aidan’s laugh is deeper than the last time I heard it. Not quite a manly laugh, but it’s no longer that of a child. He’s a good-looking kid despite the pimples cropping up. His hair is a little messy, the way it was when he was little. His eyes are the same, though. Bright blue. When he was little, they were bright with excitement of everything new. Even now, at fourteen, if you look past the teenage facade, they hold the same awe of life.
“Are you having fun?”
“Yeah. Dad let me bring a friend this year, but he can’t come until tomorrow.”
“That’s awesome. Now you won’t be stuck with all the little kids.”
Aidan smirks. Heaven forbid he full-on smiles. That would be sooo uncool.
“Does that mean you can babysit the girls tonight so Uncle Jay and I can hang out for a bit?”
He sighs and does that teenage eye roll.
“I’ll give you fifty dollars.”
That changes everything. Aidan nods enthusiastically. “Sure!”
I nudge him playfully. “You’re too easy.”
A couple of hours later, as the sun nears the horizon, Aidan and Carson distract the girls while Jay and I slip away. We head to the water for a little stroll.
I bump into him as our feet hit the cool sand. “You never answered my questions earlier.”
Jay smiles at me. “Yes, I did.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Loren. The second you arrived, you had two little girls who couldn’t get enough of you, friends that surrounded you, and nieces and nephews climbing all over you. If you were like your parents—” he gestures at our surroundings. “You wouldn’t be surrounded by any of this.”
I breathe in. “I guess you’re right. It’s unnerving to feel nothing, though.”
“You buried your parents a long time ago. Their actual death is a formality that doesn’t affect you. It’s normal to feel nothing for people you don’t know. As for being them, well, it’s impossible. You’re Loren Petermeyer-Patrick; a father, an uncle, a brother, a friend, a son to people who love you, a beacon of hope to those who follow you, and a husband who has forever changed my life for the better.”
We stand on the beach, watching the sun as it fades from the sky. I wrap my arms around Jay. He’s the fucking best. The very best thing that ever happened to me.
In the distance, the sound of chatter and children grow louder. Jay looks in the direction of the house. “Hear that?”
“Yeah, sounds familiar.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t have specified where we were going.”
A minute later, a mob of kids break from the path onto the sand, followed by the adults.
Seamus brings his hands to his mouth and shouts, “Mind if we join you?!”
The twins kick up a cloud of sand as they sprint our way before jumping into our arms and wrapping their arms around our necks. Once they remind us we can’t escape that easily, they squirm out of our grip and rejoin their cousins.
Lars stands beside me. I smile but it’s lost in the breeze. My brother stares aimlessly at the sea. His mind a million miles away. The news of our parents death hit me hard, and in the middle of my own turmoil, I forgot Lars once had a decent relationship with them. Where I struggled with feeling nothing, Lars would struggle with feeling something.
Jay squeezes my shoulder and smiles. He takes a few steps backward then tip toes across the sand until he’s directly behind Matt.
“Dad!” Carson yells. “Uncle Jay is right behind you!”
Matt turns around before Jay can do anything. Jay throws his hands in the air then chases after his nephew. He tosses the tattletale over his shoulder and heads to the shoreline. Cries of mercy pierce the night sky as Carson pleads his case.
I smile at my husband and his childish antics, then turn back to my brother. “How are you holding up?”
Still staring into the distance, he shakes his head slowly. “I don’t know.”
I press my shoulder against his. “You’re entitled to feel however you feel. I don’t want you to think I would judge you for being sad. You have good memories with them.”
Lars turns his head to me and smiles half-heartedly. “I don’t feel sad, but I’m not happy either. I’m angry they died before we got real answers.”
“I don’t know what answers you were waiting for, but they were never coming. They were never going to tell us anything.”
He sighs. He knows it’s true. Lars called them a dozen times, begging for answers. The only answers we have is what Rob uncovered. It doesn’t do much for us, but it’s a lot for the other victims. The actual victims.
I wrap my arms around his shoulder. “Dead by mob harassment.”
His lip curls. “I should feel bad about it, but—”
“I don’t. I think it’s fitting after what they did. They died being chased by the sins of their past.”
A minute later, the group gathers around. With Jay by my side, the girls in our arms, and family surrounding us, I’m truly living my best life.
Thank you for all the love you've given during Jay's Loelife and again with this epic-logue. Words cannot... I also want to thank Kbois, JayT, and Geemeedee. Their feedback and red pen made everything better.
I thought it was only fair to give one last shoutout. @unilive's story U-N-I brought Coldplay to life for me. It's one of my favorites stories on this site. If you're looking for something to read, put it on your list.
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