Private: Cecilia Ryan
”He’s got too much of his father in him.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”
– – George Lucas, Star Wars
Fort Bend County, Texas.
Tays Junior High School.
May 12th, 2014
Two young girls, eleven or twelve years old based on appearance, walk down the sidewalk away from the school. The area is busy. School let out just minutes before and cars are lined up for half a mile waiting to drive into the circle drive and pick up their children.
It’s a hot day, the lower 90s. And this is the Gulf Coast, so the humidity hangs thick in the air like a weighted blanket. Summer is already here for this part of the world.
“I’m so glad the school’s almost out.” One of the girls, a slim-built blonde-haired athletic type, still in track and field attire with the name Jessica on the back in cursive print, turns to her friend, a tall athletically built brunette who looks back at her through glasses. “Mom says we’re going to visit my grandma in Colorado, but I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to hang out, too.”
The other girl glances up at her.
“It’s okay. I’ll be out at mom and dad’s ranch for the first part of Summer anyway.”
The blonde nods then gets a slightly confused look on her face. “Something I don’t understand, Cece. Your parents have so much money, but they make you go through public school? Seems unfair.”
“Well,” Cece responds. “For one thing, I’m not the only child of millionaires at this school…”
Jessica nods again. “That’s true.”
“Besides,” Cece looks over at her as they continue their pace. “Dad said he wants me to go to school just like any other kid. Something about not growing up unable to talk to the mailman or something.”
“What?” Jessica laughs. “What does that even mean?”
“I don’t know,” Cece shrugs. “My dad’s always saying things like that. I guess he thinks I want to start up conversations with mailmen.”
Jessica laughs again. “Parents are so weird.”
Cece stops in place, staring out ahead of her. Jessica takes a few steps further before realizing her friend has stopped. She turns to look in the same direction and sees a small group of boys walking their way. One of them, in the middle, a tall lanky kid with dark shorts and a tank top on, is smirking as they come closer to the girls.
Cece grumbles under her breath. “Ughhh… Kevin Jameson… I really hate that guy…”
“Just ignore him, Ceese,” Jessica says, concerned. “He’s just a big mouth.”
Cece’s fists clench at her side and the mutters under her breath, “I just… fuckin’ hate… that guy…”
“HEY CECILIA!!” The middle boy, Kevin calls out to them as he approaches. “Nice outfit. Daddy’s money pay for that?”
Behind him, a red Ford F-150 rolls up, not unusual in Texas. It parks at the side of the road, but the occupant stays put.
“Bet he did. I bet he buys you all sorts of cool stuff because you’re so much better than everyone else.”
Jessica steps in between the boys and her friend. “Why don’t you fuck off, Kevin?”
Kevin looks at her dismissively. “Shut up Jessica.”
Slowly, Cecilia starts walking forward, and it’s at this moment that the occupant of the red pickup truck pushes open the door and steps out. The driver is tall, muscular, and has dark sunglasses over his eyes. Jessica’s eyes go wide as she sees him walk up behind the group of boys. Cecilia keeps an intense stare on Kevin. The big man reaches the group and stands, arms folded, as Kevin keeps running his mouth, oblivious.
“I bet your dad isn’t even all that tough anyway. Probably fights like a girl!!”
The boys laugh, but then Jessica laughs as well, and they stop, confused. Kevin frowns. “What the hell are you laughing about?”
“Oh,” Jessica shrugs. “I was just laughing at the joke you told.”
“Joke? What joke?” Kevin is genuinely confused. “I didn’t tell a joke.”
Jessica is between Cecilia and the group now, and the anger starts to radiate from Cecilia.
“The one about Cece’s dad fighting like a girl.”
Kevin rolls his eyes. “That wasn’t a joke.”
“Oh,” she replies, mockingly. “In that case, how about you turn around and say it again?”
“Pfft.” Kevin rolls his eyes again, then turns slightly and the color drains from his face. Slowly he looks up at the six-foot-seven, three hundred pounds hulking professional wrestler standing behind him. Dan Ryan.
“Hi Kevin,” he says, voice booming. “Boys…” He looks at Kevin’s friends. “I think you should go. Kevin and I are gonna have a little talk.”
They hesitate, looking at each other, then back at Kevin, and then the two of them take off running as fast as their legs can take them. Kevin has a look of abject terror on his face as he stands frozen in place, watching the big man step closer.
“You like picking on people, Kevin?”
“You know, I’ve never really understood the bully mentality. Let me guess, daddy treats you like shit at home so you pick on people you think are weaker than you so you can feel like a big tough man? Is that it?”
Kevin stammers. “I um… I… I was just kidding around… I didn’t mean…”
“Of course you were.” Dan smiles. “He was just kidding around, girls. Didn’t mean anything by it. That’s what you were gonna say, right? You didn’t mean anything by it? Kevin… you may walk around this school like you’re big shit thinking you can walk over everyone around here because you’re a tad bigger than the rest of the little shits around here, but let me tell you what happens to bullies eventually.”
Dan bends over, eye to eye with the boy.
“Eventually, they run into someone bigger, badder. Not so easy to intimidate those people.”
Kevin squinches up his face, trying his best at this point not to cry. “Are you… are you gonna hurt me?”
Dan Ryan stares at him for a good three seconds, then smiles and stands all the way back up to his full height.
“I don’t beat up children, Kevin. I’m not here to hurt you. I’m here to keep you from being hurt.”
Kevin looks confused. “Keep me from getting hurt. What do you mean?”
The question hangs in the air for a moment, then it dawns on Kevin that he should turn around. Cecilia Ryan is standing there, less than two feet away, staring an angry hole through the center of his head. Her fists are clenched, teeth-gritting, and she lunges forward, but is stopped by the big hand of her father.
He looks back down at Kevin one more time.
“I’m protecting you from her. Get it?”
Kevin’s eyes dart back to Cecilia, then to her father, and Dan puts his other hand on Kevin’s shoulder.
“I think, Kevin, that right now is the time you should leave. You see, my daughter, she… well, she fights like a girl.”
Dan’s face is deadly serious, but he releases his grip on the boy, keeping his grip on his daughter, and allows him to run off.
Dan looks down at Cecilia, who is still upset, but starting to cool off.
“I’m fine,” she says. “I was just about to break his neck.”
“I know,” he replies with a short chuckle. “I wasn’t kidding about protecting him from you.”
Cecilia takes a deep breath, further calming herself down, then cracks her neck to one side. Her friend Jessica stands just to the side, mouth open. Not the kind of thing that happens every day.
Dan turns to Jessica.
“Jessica, honey… do you need a ride home?”
Jessica looks at him, then to her friend, eyebrows raised just a bit questioningly, and Cecilia smiles a little and nods. “Yeah I’m okay.”
Jessica smiles back. “Thanks, Mr. Ryan.”
He waves them over.
“Go on, hop in…”
He walks around to the driver’s side.
“Your dad is terrifying….”
Cecilia smiles back at her. “I know.”
Jessica smiles even bigger.
“That was awesome.”
“I know,” Cecilia nods.
“And you wanna be just like him someday?”
“Honestly,” Cecilia says, opening the door for her friend to climb into the backseat of the truck cab. “I think I already am.”
Cecilia climbs into the front seat and gives her dad a knowing smile, and he just nods back at her and stretches his right arm out over the seat, and drives off.
”If you succeed its not only because of you, if you fail its only because of you.” – Amit Kalantri
Listen, I don’t want there to be any confusion here.
Hayes Hanlon, you are the Five Star Champion. You were the first person I ever lost to in my short career. You were even a fan of my dad’s, even though we saw what that gets you. My dad is a psychopath, Hayes. Did you know that? All it takes is two functioning eyes. People give him a wide berth when he walks into a room and the ones who don’t tend to end up a messy stain on the carpet.
The truth is, the fruit didn’t fall very far from the tree. Maybe I’ve worked too hard to seem like something other than my father. I’ve gone out of my way to set myself apart, but what does that get me? Confusion. Meandering my way through these matches. And only when I embrace who I really am do I finally see the success I want for myself.
So I’m done, Hayes. I’m done being anything else other than Cecilia Ryan, daughter of Dan Ryan, with all that entails and brings with it. I’m not gonna try and be a lady. I’m not gonna try and make anyone think that I’m more like my aunt than my dad. I’m not.
When I earned this spot to compete with you and Alexander Redding for your championship, I hurt someone to do it. I hurt them, and I felt nothing. I looked down at them and their stupid face made me sick to my stomach. I pitied them, loathed them, wouldn’t have spit on them if they were on fire.
Do you know what it’s like to be me, to be really me?
I made the mistake of trying to be something I’m not. Because there was a hunger in me to see everything and do everything. I wanted to be everyone I saw. I wasn’t enough for me. Can you understand that?
It is hard work to control the workings of inclination and turn the bent of nature; but that it may be done, I know from experience. God has given us, in a measure, the power to make our own fate: and when our energies seem to demand sustenance they cannot get – when our will strains after a path we may not follow – we need neither starve from it, not stand still in despair: we have but to seek another nourishment for the mind, as strong as the forbidden fruit it longed to taste – and perhaps purer; and to hew out for the adventurous foot a road as direct and broad as the one Fortune has blocked up against us, if rougher than it.
I’m smart, smarter than everyone around me pretty much my entire life. But I’m still learning, too. Your mind can be your enemy or friend. If you always follow your heart, your mind will feel neglected. If you follow only your mind, your heart will never forgive you. Never ignore your conscience, yet always be conscious of reason. Make your heart and mind friends and you will have peace of mind throughout life’s seasons.
I’m not gonna stand here and offer up childish threats to you, Hayes. Nor to you, Alexander. I’m not gonna spend time telling you how badly I’m gonna kick your ass, how I’m gonna break this bone or that, how I’m going to flay you alive in the middle of the wrestling ring.
What good are threats anyway? I learned from the best how to make the most of my threats. Make them big, make them outrageous. I’m never going to kick someone’s ass. I’m going to pull out their tongue and pour liquid nitrogen down their throat, chip out their guts with an ice pick, slide in a pane of glass, and turn them into an aquarium.
Oh, I tried to be better, so they say than my blood. You know? But even when I was doing mundane growing-up things like taking a dance class, watching a movie with my friends or cousins, and going shopping with my mom, every once in a while, I got the urge. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? The urge for destruction. The urge to hurt, maim, kill. It’s quite a thing to experience that urge, to let it wash over you, to give in to it. It’s addictive. It’s all-consuming. You lose yourself to it. It’s quite, quite wonderful.
I can feel it, even as I speak, tapping around the edges of my mind, trying to pull me open, slip its fingers in. And it would be so easy to let it happen. But we’re all like that… aren’t we? We’re all barbarians at our core. We’re all savage, murderous beasts. I know I am. I’m sure both of you are. The only difference between us is how loudly we roar. I know I roar very loudly indeed. How about you, Hayes? How about you, Alex? Do you think you can match me?
There is a time in the life of every girl when she for the first time takes the backward view of life. Perhaps that is the moment when she crosses the line into womanhood. The girl is walking through the street of her town. She is thinking of the future and of the figure she will cut in the world.
Ambitions and regrets awake within her. Suddenly something happens; she stops under a tree and waits as if for a voice calling her name. Ghosts of old things creep into her consciousness; the voices outside of herself whisper a message concerning the limitations of life. From being quite sure of herself and her future she becomes not at all sure.
If she be an imaginative girl, a door is torn open and for the first time she looks out upon the world, seeing, as though they marched in procession before her, the countless figures of women who before her time have come out of nothingness into the world, lived their lives and again disappeared into nothingness. The sadness of sophistication has come to the girl. With a little gasp, she sees herself as merely a leaf blown by the wind through the streets of her town. She knows that in spite of all the stout talk of her peers she must live and die in uncertainty, a thing blown by the wind, a thing destined like corn to wilt in the sun.
When she begins to understand that, what else is there to fear?
I was born a winner, a warrior, one who defied the odds by surviving the most gruesome battle of them all – the race to the egg. And now that I am a giant, why do I even doubt victory against smaller numbers and wider margins? The only walls that exist are those I have placed in my mind. And whatever obstacles I conceive, exist only because I have forgotten what I have already achieved.
The choice is mine. I can put off my dreams, my desires, my career – I can avoid your responsibilities, obligations, promises, and sovereign rights. But any person who wants to make music, and doesn’t, is a goddamned fool.
Why do men like my father want children? It must be because they hope in their poor beaten souls that these new humans, who are their blood, will do the things they were not strong enough nor wise enough nor brave enough to do. It is rather like another chance at life; like a new bag of coins at the table of luck after your fortune is gone.
Alexander Redding, you should know what I’m talking about. You aren’t the son of anyone important, but you are certainly attached to the hip of Teddy Palmer. You follow him all over the country like a lovesick puppy, getting friend-zoned over and over by the buddy who’s much much better than you, but much less dependable. Must drive you nuts watching him squander opportunity everywhere he goes. And how sad that you so desperately and consistently attach your anchor to that sinking ship. Is Teddy gone from PRIME yet, Alex? If not, it should be coming any minute now, right? Maybe he’s already gone and I just didn’t notice. It’s easy to miss the missable.
You have some desire to be successful, but it does not burn so strongly in you that you are prepared to overcome your character to achieve it. No, no championship for you. You have one foot through the door already. I feel like being the one who gives you that last little shove.
I have little respect for anyone who is not willing to put in the effort required to survive and thrive. Not everyone needs the same driving ambition that fuels me. That has led me to be possibly the most feared woman in the business without a title in her lineage. But you need to have the drive to take control of your own life.
You’d rather walk away.
You’ve done it before. You will do it again. We’ve all seen this movie before.
Risk something or forever sit with your dreams.
I think I’ll choose to stand.