“Get back in bed. I’ll bring it to you.”
“It’s just coffee,” Hannah tells me the next morning, standing at the machine in the kitchen. “I’m not going outside to clean the gutters.”
“Doctor said to take it easy.”
“I don’t think making some decaf and pouring it into a mug is over the line.”
Turns out keeping Hannah off her feet is damn near impossible. If this woman makes it more than two days working from home before sneaking back into the studio, I’ll be shocked. Already I can tell she’s going to be a pain in the ass during this pregnancy.
Hopefully our friends can rally around me and help keep her in check. Last night we put out the word to everyone we care about, sharing the good news and watching the texts roll in congratulating us. Reading the hilarious messages reminded Hannah we’re not as alone in this as she’d feared.
Grace is already talking about helping Hannah pick out nursery furniture when she gets back from Paris. Sabrina promised to help out too, though it might be harder for her because in that same text thread we learned that she and Tuck had both accepted jobs in Manhattan and will be leaving Boston at the end of the summer. I’m happy for them, but I can’t help but feel bummed that Tucker, the only dad I know, won’t be in close proximity to me anymore.
“I was thinking,” Hannah says as she raises her mug to her lips. “We should get married.”
I’m in the middle of pouring some orange juice, and my hand freezes mid-pour. “Oh yeah?” I keep my tone casual.
She takes a demure sip, then flashes a little smile. “If you’re into it.”
It’s pretty hard not to throw my OJ glass on the floor, dropkick Hannah’s mug out of her hand, and maul her. “Yeah, I could be into it.”
“You want me to get you a ring?”
“Obviously. Just don’t make it as big as Allie’s. I’m not a psycho.”
I bite my cheek to stop from laughing. “That’s it? That’s our proposal?”
“I mean, we love each other and we’re having a baby. Isn’t that all that matters? Who needs speeches?”
She’s right. “Who needs speeches,” I echo, grinning. “Now. Please.” I take her coffee mug and guide her toward the staircase. “Go back to bed. And don’t you dare get up on the roof while I’m gone.”
“Can I at least do some vacuuming?”
“Swear to God, I’ll send Tucker and Sabrina over here to strap you down.”
“I’d like to see them try.”
Chuckling, I smack her butt to get her walking up the stairs. But I trail after her, because I still need to finish getting dressed. While she crawls back under the covers like a good girl, I search for a clean button-up and slip it over my shoulders. The nerves slowly work their way up from my stomach and into my throat. There’s no part of me that is looking forward to what comes next.
“You never said where you’re off to,” Hannah says. She’s sitting up in bed, flipping through channels on the TV.
“I’m going to talk to the ESPN producer,” I admit. “I ran off the set the other day during taping and haven’t spoken to anyone since. Landon set up a meeting between me and the producer. Just the two of us.”
She looks over sharply. “What are you going to do?”
“What I have to.”
When I get to the studio, Stephen Collins invites me into his office. I decline a beverage from his assistant, trying to charge past all the doting and on to the reason I’m here before I find a way to talk myself out of it.
“I hope it was nothing too serious,” the producer says, sitting on the edge of his desk. Behind his head, there’s a wall of awards and signed sports memorabilia. “Bryan and I were sorry we weren’t able to finish the segment. Got some really great stuff out of the interview. We’d like to get you and your father back on set sometime this week, if that works for you.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t do that,” I state plainly.
His polite smile falters. “If we have to push it a week or so, I suppose—”
“I have to pull out of the show, Stephen. I don’t want you to air it at all. Any of it.”
“Impossible. We have a contract. And we’ve already put a significant investment in shooting this. People, equipment.”
“I understand that, and I’m sorry.”
He searches my expression. “Where’s this coming from, Garrett? Tell me what the problem is, and I’ll work it out.”
Over the years I’ve imagined how this conversation would go. Or a hundred like it. When I finally ripped the veil of this charade. In college it wasn’t so difficult, because I didn’t have a lot riding on it. But I’m not some unknown college hockey player anymore. I’m in the national spotlight. Now, my career and my image are at stake. The support and respect of my peers.
So for lack of the right way to say it, I just say it.
“My father abused me as a child.”
Alarm flashes in Collins’s eyes. “Oh,” is all he says, and he waits for me to continue.
Despite my itching discomfort, I do.
I’m not sure I even hear myself when I explain how my dad beat, manipulated, and scared me, barely scratching the surface of his cruelty. It’s bitter and painful coming out. But like a splinter that’s been under the skin so long, you forgot it didn’t belong there, the relief is immediate and overwhelming.
For several seconds, the producer is silent. Then he slips off his desk and takes a seat in the chair beside mine.
“Hell, Garrett. I don’t know what to say. This is…”
I don’t answer. I don’t need his sympathy or pity, just his understanding.
But of course, I wouldn’t be sitting next to someone in the entertainment industry without them trying to spin it for their own benefit.
“Would you be willing to address this in an interview? Forget what we’ve already shot. That’s scrapped. Consider it in the dumpster.” Collins tips his head. “But if it’s something you’re interested in…”
I laugh hoarsely. “Am I interested in telling the world the salacious details of my childhood physical abuse?” I feel sick just thinking about it.
But I underestimate Collins. Yes, he’s definitely trying to use this to his professional advantage, but the suggestion might not be entirely selfish, as he softens his voice and says, “I had a similar experience growing up. Not my dad.” His gaze flicks to mine. “My mother. She wasn’t a good lady, let me tell you. But you want to know the craziest part? Every time one of my teachers called social services and they sent someone to our house to investigate, I lied. I covered for my mother because I was too embarrassed to admit she was hurting me.”
I let out a breath. “Damn.”
“Yeah.” Collins rubs a hand over his chin. “Anyway. Nowadays, if I had the chance, I think I’d say something. But I don’t have a platform and nobody gives a shit who I am. You, on the other hand…” He shrugs. “You’ve got a name and a platform. You could take this crappy piece of your past and try to squeeze some good out of it.”
The words give me pause. I’ve protected Phil Graham’s legacy for so long, but why the hell should I keep doing it? Why am I so afraid of what the world will think?
And what would it say about me as a father if I continued to bury something like this? If I didn’t set a better example for my son and then someday someone hurt him, and he was too embarrassed and ashamed to tell me?
There are kids out there, adults, who are still living with these same scars. If I can help some of them overcome their fears, then yeah, I can make the sacrifice and suffer a couple of hours on camera pulling open the wounds.
“Yeah.” I lick my suddenly dry lips. “Let’s do it.”
“You sure?” Collins says, a glimmer of admiration in his eyes.
I nod. “Call Landon to set up a day and time.”
God help me, but it’s time to officially sever the cord between me and the past.
At home later, after I break the news to Hannah, she’s maybe more surprised at my decision than I am.
“I can’t believe you agreed to do it,” she marvels, her head in my lap while we watch TV on the couch.
“Trust me, I’m not exactly looking forward to it, but I think I have to do this. You were right. It’s time.”
“Are you going to tell your dad?”
Picturing him throwing a glass of scotch across the room at the television when he finds out what’s coming for him does get me a little more enthused about the idea.
Hannah sits up to snuggle into my shoulder. “This is a big thing.”
“Yeah, kind of.”
“I’m really proud of you.”
I kiss the top of her head, holding her tighter.
“So proud,” she repeats.
Those words mean more to me than she’ll ever understand. Truth is, I wouldn’t have gotten this far without her. She was the first person who helped me find some kind of peace with my past, and it’s with her support I’ve found my way to the courage to confront it.
She makes me a better man.
And, hopefully, a good father.