Chapter 23: Rhys

“Shouldn’t I be fixed by now?” I demanded. “Or does my Young, Haught and Rich syndication money cover your children’s college education as well as your mortgage–or maybe a nice log cabin in Granite Falls?”

I wasn’t sure that Dr. Puck even had children, or that he would claim them as his own and raise them in the human fashion, but it seemed like an appropriate if predictable line for this particular situation.

His dark brows rose, but only barely. After all these years, he was accustomed to my outbursts. “Do you consider yourself broken?”

He knew my family history–the entire sordid tale, from my parents’ divorces to the ups and downs of my acting career. But it was always comforting to talk about myself to someone who already knew me so well, like performing a famous play in front of an appreciative audience who’d already paid to see it a half-dozen times.

“It all goes back to my childhood, you know,” I began.

Sometimes I asked him to pantomime taking notes, like the mundane human therapists did. I knew he was as fae as I was, if not more, and would remember my every word, but I preferred a note of authenticity in my performances.

“Does it?”

“Without a doubt. If I hadn’t chosen my mother over my father, everything would’ve turned out differently.”

I never thought that Finn would’ve chosen our father instead, before I could.

He was the son our mother wanted, quiet and thoughtful and attentive. For as long as I could remember, I heard stories of an uncle, my mother’s twin. He was kind, and gentle, and a dreamer, and other than his fae heritage, he sounded nothing like me at all.

But he was lost to her, and now she only had her sons. And then Finn chose him.

I was supposed to live with him. Our father and I had everything in common, except for our fangs and wings. We both loved attention and the finer things in life–I could never understand my mother’s preoccupation with the realm of the fae, when the human world held so many pleasures. He would’ve understood all of my girl troubles and schooled me in the art of seduction, not that I needed much help.

But then I lost both father and brother in one fell swoop.

I could’ve chosen to go with them. I would’ve, if I hadn’t found my mother on the bathroom floor, tears streaming down her face in the dark.

“Leaving me,” she whispered hoarsely. “They’re always leaving me.”

My father had always called her an unfeeling harpy during their fights. After all her awards, he should’ve known that she was a consummate actress, her mask only falling away when she was completely alone.

“I’ll never leave you, Mom,” I whispered. “I’m your son.”

“You are, aren’t you? You remind me of him…”

But as the years passed, I knew I reminded her of the wrong man. I was my father’s son, regardless of the physical distance between us.

She called any explosions of my temper “Graham moments.” Thanks to therapist-patient confidentiality, she never knew of the worst of those moments, after my show was abruptly cancelled and I showed up at Dr. Puck’s for an emergency appointment.

I could detect the subtle fae enchantment at the door, a nudge encouraging me to leave because he was otherwise engaged. Who was he to tell me to leave? I was Rhys Straud, television star. Didn’t that matter anymore, to anyone? How could my show be cancelled so unceremoniously?

And now I had nothing. No father, no brother, no show. And soon, no adoring fans.

I lost control of my glamour, one of the very first times I could ever remember doing so. An actor had to be in full control at all times.

And then I lost control completely, ravaging Dr. Puck’s verdant garden.

But he didn’t yell; he only asked if I was prepared to learn a few “coping exercises.”

He probably was worth the money, I decided, even factoring in my travel expenses from Starlight Shores.

“If nothing’s wrong with me,” I said, “why do my own brother and sister live in the same town as me and yet make no effort to initiate contact?”

“Have you attempted to reach out to them instead?” Dr. Puck asked.

“Why should I have to? I’m the eldest, and I have by far the most industry connections. If my sister wants to be an actress, she should’ve come to me, not Finn.”

Galatea had only been impressed by my acting career for less time than it took to microwave a frozen breakfast pastry.

“Do you want your brother and sister to be a part of your life, Rhys?”

Did I want anyone to be a part of my life?

It’s lonely at the top, or so they say, but I wasn’t at the top anymore. I was fighting for parts on shows that might never see the light of day–like one with a ridiculous premise called Blood and Bishops. I had auditioned for the role of a vampire hunter who defeated vampires…via chess. Ten years ago, I could’ve been on any show I wanted.

And now, I had to make do with the dregs. Even in my own home.

It wasn’t as if I had anything against vampires–my father and backstabbing brother were vampires, after all–but I was under the impression that vampires generally had a higher than average level of intelligence. Thus far, my personal assistant proved to be a disappointment.

My new butler was a little more promising, but his appearance nearly blinded me–quite literally. He had so much face. And he devoted more time to accommodating my personal assistant’s wishes than my own.

I’d rather enjoyed my first meeting with my private chef, fortunately.

Yes, I probably hired her because she claimed to be my “number one fan” and was clearly starstruck in my presence, rattling off some of Roland Rich’s more obscure lines. And because she was pretty.

Fae like pretty things, and humans are no exception. But if my mother thought I was like my father and would seduce any beautiful woman that crossed my path, she was wrong.

I knew that eventually my pedestal would crumble and the sparkle of admiration would die in even my biggest fan’s eyes–so it had gone with my former stylist’s best friend, my agent before last’s dog-walker, my previous personal assistant’s stepsister, my publicist’s niece, and all of the others who had been all-too-briefly thrilled for the privilege of dating Rhys Straud.

My new chef was off-limits, and I would admire the curves beneath that ostentatious chef jacket from a distance.

No, I would keep my distance from all of them. It wasn’t good to get too close to people who took your money to stay at your side. They worked for me, and nothing more.

But my own family…

“I think it’s too late for my family,” I told Dr. Puck.

“Is it?”

For the first time in a long time, Dr. Puck’s question really made me think.

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19 thoughts on “Chapter 23: Rhys

  1. Yup… Straud kids are definitely my faves. And yes, even Rhys!

    He’s kind of a conceited jerk, but I love the glimpses of pain and sadness. This family is so freaking broken 😦 Dr. Puck is a very patient man to deal with not one, but two of the Straud siblings!

    It’s interesting and also very sad that neither of Isla’s sons would have chosen her. And it’s very telling about Rhys’ true nature that he chose to stay with her, I think. There’s a good heart in there, underneath it all. And maybe Finn is the one who’s more obviously like Darius, but I don’t think Isla was wrong… Rhys took care of his mother just like Darius once did. He stuck by her side and loved her when it felt like no one else did.

    Sorry for a mini-novel about Rhys. He’s really sticking out to me ❤ I am rooting for all three Straud kids to have better relationships with one another by the end of this. They all share so much of the same pain! 😦

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Conceited jerks are so much fun to write. 😈 And in case you had any doubts that any of the Straud kids was totally okay…I guess this chapter got rid of those for good! Dr. Puck makes good money.

      I think Finn would’ve chosen her had he known that Rhys wanted to choose their dad. But he thought no one would choose Graham, so… And you’re right that Rhys did choose to stick by Isla and love her, just like Darius.

      And I welcome a mini-novel! Especially about these poor Straud kids. 😉 And I welcome the platonic Straud sibling shipping too.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Also, that’s so telling about Finn and Rhys… how similar they are. Finn chose Graham because he thought no one else would. And Rhys chose Isla because no one else did either.

        I guess that’s one thing the boys have that Gal is lacking… They’re messed up and probably pretty resentful toward their parents, but they love them and they try to show that.

        I think Gal loves her parents too, deep down. But the resentment she feels toward them overshadows it too much 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah I guess I used resentful as an all-encompassing term hah They have negative feelings about their parents but don’t 100% let it overshadow the love.

        And then there’s Gal… I also “ship” her with her parents too 😂 It’s clear they both love her, even if they show it in very Graham and Isla-like ways 😉 But I’d love for her to discover her own love for them too 😥

        #TeamStraudGroupHug

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay…those POSES! His diva self was cracking me up! 🤣

    But on a serious note, my goodness those Straud kids need to talk. Because Rhys grew up alone with Isla, the other two don’t trust him. And he’s too proud to go to them. Here’s hoping something brings them back together.

    Isla is a hard one, I guess. None of her kids wanted her! How sad! 😢 But at least Rhys felt pity.

    And his pose with Daisy was priceless! I noticed her daisy earrings! Cute! Cannot wait for more interaction with those two!

    I wondered why Isla was so sad about Graham leaving. That means she still loved him. What a sad situation. And her kids suffered the most. Thank goodness for the ever patient Dr. Puck. Does Finn go to him, too?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I really, really enjoyed using those poses. ROFL. A diva even in therapy!

      You’re absolutely right, the three kids really do need to talk to each other. 😦 But there might be hope for them yet, now that they’re all living in the same place…!

      Finn was probably better equipped to deal with Isla, and wouldn’t have developed the inferiority complex that Rhys has–but he was so sure Rhys wouldn’t choose Graham. Oops.

      I searched so hard for those daisy earrings. ROFL. She has so much daisy clothing and accessories…

      Finn actually never went to Dr. Puck. Isla was much bigger on pushing the whole therapy thing–Graham never really saw a point to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ha! Oh my this family. I’m with Pammie and those poses! ❤

    Huh Puck's a more serious therapist than I gave him credit for. Not that he did Gal wrong, but I figured he had a long game going.

    Rhys isn't such a bad egg, just overly dramatic. Poor kid, struggling like the rest of them and desperate to hide it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Rhys loves a good dramatic pose~ And drama in general. But like Gal and Finn, he hides his struggles too.

      And Dr. Puck isn’t too bad a therapist…! But therapy can be a long game too, right? People are so distrustful of fae… 😉

      Like

  4. Sigh….Rhys on the couch. Posing for Dr. Puck….He is such a diva and sooo messed up. Isla is a sad one. She really does feel alone and I’m sure it kills her a little bit every time Graham leaves her even though she would never let him know that. She misses Darius and Rhys thought she wanted to make him into her brother. Maybe she did. Screwed up mess of Strauds.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Screwed up mess of Strauds.” ROFL, is a group of Strauds called a mess?

      Rhys rarely lets his facade down–he’s a lot like Isla in that regard. Isla doesn’t like being alone and unloved either, and she’s repeatedly lost everything: her place among the fae, her twin, and now her family. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, he might have a tiny bit of Darius in him too–it’s just buried under all the Graham. 😉 I’m happy you love him already! He’s…kind of obnoxious, I know. Especially when he’s such a tyrant to Dru, LOL. But everyone knows his dad by now…

      Liked by 1 person

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