Hello Readers! I know, it’s been a while since my last interview with a book character, but the person I have run into now drew me out of my hiding hole. Ryder Billings stars at the side of Lindy Johnson in Nellie K. Neves’ awesome Lindy Johnson series. I have written reviews of the first two books, but book three, Sparrows & Sacrifice, needed more than just a review. So I invited Ryder to chat with me, even if he’s not at his best at the moment.
Hi Ryder, how are you doing?
Hi, thanks for having me. I hope you don’t mind, I brought some snacks. Candy calms me down a bit when I’m agitated. Seems like I’m always agitated these days. You can have some if you want. I think I have Red Vines and Sour Worms here.
Ooh, snacks! I’ll have a few Sour Worms, thanks! Although I must admit I’m more into chocolate. So, Ryder, you‘ve just been released from hospital with amnesia. Is it very hard to deal with? What is the last thing you remember?
That’s the thing, my shrink, Dr. Tarleton, was explaining this to me—it’s not amnesia, it’s repressed memories. Think of it like dropping a glass of milk on a floor. You’re gonna want to contain it before it goes everywhere. Trauma is being contained by my brain. Anything that trauma touches is repressed. When people ask what my last memory is, I don’t know what to tell them. Amnesia is like a wall in a specific moment in time. What I’m facing is more like Swiss cheese. Half a memory here, a third of one there, not ever enough to make a complete recollection. Things spark, but I can’t quite grab hold.
Goodness, that must be so frustrating!
Frustrating doesn’t begin to cover it. Infuriating is closer. No one will give me answers. I get flashes of things, terrifying things, but they’re gone before I know why I was scared. Dr. Tarleton says it’s not the first time I’ve done this. He says all these childhood memories were already repressed and whatever happened to me brought them to the surface.
Yes, your father wasn’t exactly the most comfortable person to be around. Lindy found weapons all over your mother’s bedroom when she stayed in your place before she went to the dude ranch. It made her uneasy. You mean you don’t remember any of that, either?
I guess this is how my brain deals with trauma. It’s kinda stupid if you ask me. My most complete memories are from the summer. I remember a party at Johnny’s bar, and I remember leaving on a trip with Vanessa, but I’m having a hard time even putting that together.
Can we move back to the day you walked into a bar and ran into Lindy Johnson for the first time? There clearly was a lot of static in the air between you. Was it love at first sight?
He pauses and pops a Sour Worm into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully.
Yeah, I remember that night. Was it love at first sight? No. Attraction? Maybe. Deception? Definitely.
People can have chemistry, you know? But if that’s all there is, even the strongest chemical fires burn out. We had chemistry. I won’t argue that. But where is she now? Not here. It speaks volumes, doesn’t it? I’ve got this thing with abandonment. I guess my shrink says it’s a trigger. I’m finding out all about my triggers and faults in my twice a day therapy sessions.
Ryder shifts in his seat and looks over at me sheepishly.
Next question, I didn’t like that one.
Before I can even take a breath he interrupts.
Fine. I’ll say this about Lindy. What I can remember is conflicted at best. One side, I can’t forget that kiss I stole the night of the masquerade, or her staying with me at the lighthouse, letting me keep her safe. But on the other hand, I know she’s used me. I know she pushed me away. Shouldn’t I let go at some point? But that’s the thing, isn’t it? There’s this Swiss cheese hole over the top of most of it. I can’t let go. I can’t move on. But I don’t know why. And the only person who could tell me ran off for a case—again.
Love at first sight? No. But I wish she was here. Maybe then we could sort the rest out.
His hand automatically digs into the Sour Worms, fiddling with each one before it lands in his mouth.
You saved Lindy numerous times due to her outstanding ability to get into trouble, but she never really treated you as her hero, did she? Did that hurt?
This question makes him laugh.
Outstanding ability, understatement of the year, even with my limited memories.
Yeah, there were times I wished had ended differently. I don’t have time to catch a breath before she shoves me away again most of the time. I don’t know if I’d be that hard on her though. After the casket, I know I was her hero. She’s not one to gush, but if you’re around her long enough, you learn to read between the lines. I’ll say this about her, Lindy is the first person to truly see me. If I hold back, or lie, or tell someone else I’m fine, they let it go. Not Lindy. She’ll throw herself on the pyre trying to get the truth out of me. She’s not your typical woman. She doesn’t blurt out her feelings, or drown a guy in compliments, but those times she surrendered to me, melted in my arms, and gave me control, I was her hero, her knight and her rescuer. I’d take those stolen moments over any amount of praise or fanfare.
I’m raising my eyebrows.
Well, with that description, I’m definitely not a typical woman, either. Maybe that’s why I like her so much. Even if I also think she’s a bit hard on herself sometimes. Okay, a lot of times. Let’s move on to another little special about Lindy. You have extensive medical training, even if you‘re not a doctor. What went through your head when you first heard that she suffers from Multiple Sklerosis?
Ah yes, her big secret. Honestly, the first thing that went thought my head was, “At least it’s not cancer”. I was worried she was terminal, five weeks to live or something like that. I said it to myself like it was somehow better that she’s facing chronic disease, rather than terminal disease. I’m glad it’s not cancer, I really am, but MS isn’t easy. Where other diseases follow a predictable pattern, and treatment plans are typically clear and concise, multiple sclerosis is all over the place. She has every right to be scared and cautious.
Yes, she has. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to have that hovering over you all the time. At the same time I don’t how I would react if I found out my husband was chronically ill.
Some people aren’t made to have a chronically sick partner. You can get sucked into the role of caregiver and nurse and forget you were ever lovers in the first place. You see it across the board in the medical community, people being abandoned while at their weakest. Either pushed away by the ailing patient, or overwhelmed by the responsibility. More marriages end from chronic illness than you’d expect. Knowing the inevitable future she was facing, I did stop. I did consider shutting it down right then and there. She looks healthy now, but there’s no telling how long it will last.
Especially if she goes on pushing her limits like she does. How do you feel about her notion to keep you at a distance so you won‘t have to see her suffer? Is that one of the reasons for your relationship with Vanessa?
Her rules, yeah, she’s all about sacrificing herself. Her happiness, her health, her future, her life… I think because she feels like she’s got this expiration date stamped on her arm, none of that matters. In all honesty, I think it’s stupid to keep me, or anyone else, at arm’s length to stop us from getting attached and lessen our pain if it turns out she has less time than we expected. She needs people in her life to help her through the hard times. We’re gonna hurt no matter what. If I had a few memories to carry with me, especially now, it might make it hurt less. She must think very little of herself if she believes she can leave this world without people feeling the impact from her life. That’s just sad.
I think so, too. Maybe it’s because her parents always told her she’s weak. And because she feels chronically guilty for the loss of her sister. Perhaps that’s a lot worse than MS. On the upside, she could heal, if she’d just let anyone in on her innermost self. Why does the term ‘not before hell freezes over’ come to mind?
We both laugh and help ourselves to more snacks.
So what about Vanessa?
I don’t know what to do there. Look, don’t say anything about it, but it’s a real mess. She keeps telling me she loves me. I hate it. I feel like I woke up in someone else’s life. Everyone wants me to be whoever that guy was—the one they knew before. I keep running over the memories I have. I hate to say Vanessa was a rebound, but I can’t figure out why I took her number the night Lindy stood me up. Because she was there? Dr. Tarleton says the trauma from my childhood, all the abuse, makes it hard for me to be alone, not physically, but emotionally. I guess that’s why I was with Vanessa then, and why I let her hang around now. Because she’s there. It’s the one quality Lindy never seems to have.
What are you hoping for at this point? Do you even want to remember what happened, knowing that your brain basically shut down due to emotional overload?
At this point, I just want a life free of shrinks and projection tests. I want my mom to move out. I want to be able to drive, cook, paint, anything without people eyeing me like I might snap. I’m not even allowed to weld right now. My mom hides my keys. I think she’s worried I might swerve off a cliff or something. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it. I feel like an intruder in my own body. Like maybe this is a bad dream, and I need something big to jolt me awake. I wish I could go back to normal, but I don’t know what that looks like.
Do I want to remember? If I can be honest? No. And yes. Mostly no. The blips I see, the moments of clarity, I know there’s a reason I don’t remember. Violence. Terror. Not fear, but absolute terror. I know I’m fighting them back, wanting normal, but not wanting to carry that trauma on my conscious mind. I feel like it might tear me apart to remember it, like I might get lost forever. And as dark as my thoughts get, I’m not willing to take that risk. If I could get my life back without ever knowing anything from my past, I’d do it, but I don’t feel like that’s possible at this point.
That’s really a tough place to be in. I wish I could just snap my fingers and make everything fine again. But it won’t happen. You’ll have to fight your way through it. Wishing you all the best, though! One final question, to ease out on a lighter note: If you were a fairy tale character, who would you be?
Lighter, yeah, that sounds nice. Well, right now I feel like a troll under a bridge. Everyone is tip-toeing over the top, avoiding me, trying not to set me off, but if I got to choose a fairy tale character? Robin Hood. He lives in the woods with his buddies, he’s a total rogue, and he gets the girl. Sounds like the dream to me.
But it’s not like Lindy would sign up to be Maid Marian. She’d pick Rapunzel, up in a tower by herself. I’d be on the ground waiting for her hair to grow.
Well, if that’s the case, you’d better store up on those snacks! Thanks so much for being here and good luck for your future! I so hope it’ll all turn out alright. Bye!
He waves and throws me the rest of the Sour worms. I sit munching for a while, wondering where all of this will lead. I really hope the two of them get things sorted out and find their happily ever after!