Catfished – Chapters 6 Thru 10

catfished

Chapter 6: The Research

“Well this one is certainly interesting…” Max comments as he sits beside Nev. Nev opens his laptop, glancing over at Max.

“For a couple minutes, I thought he was being catfished,” he says. “Then I start to think that this Kristen Gibbons is real. Then I flip back to being catfished. It’s certainly interesting for the simple fact of who he is.” Max shakes his head yes.

“Then you have the fact that she doesn’t want to meet up or do video chat – classic catfish scenario.” Nev shakes his head yes.

“I also am interested in the fact that she didn’t share a lot of details about her life with Ryan, either.” Nev opens his internet browser, loading her twitter account. He takes a glance over the tweets with Max reading over his shoulder. “Nothing that stands out. Seems like your typical 21 year old Texan who keeps to herself, but shows her favourites on twitter.” Max points to tweet that she wrote about Ryan.

Good luck @blaney this weekend. I know that you can do well, and beat @chaseelliott.

“Interesting addition with Chase’s tag,” Max comments as Nev shakes his head in agreement.

“He’s previous champion, and Ryan and Chase show their friendship over twitter,” Nev starts. “Could’ve also discussed in private tweets and such.”

“She still singled him out…” Nev shrugs his shoulders, thinking it’s nothing.

“Alright, this is telling us nothing. Do you have the phone number?” Max shakes his head yes, putting it on the table. They then go to their reverse look-up service that they use normally, typing the number in. “Kirstin Gibbons with her hometown in Texas.”

“Looks like she checks out, huh?” Max questions and Nev shakes his head yes.

“So if everything is true, why hide from Ryan?” Max shrugs his shoulders as Nev kicks back in his chair. “Now that we know she’s real, what do you do we do? Do we go back to Ryan and tell him that everything chec-”

“That’s just going to assure belief, but doesn’t say anything about the authenticity here. It also isn’t going to help him convince Darrell and Emma either, because they’ll come up with some excuse. The only thing that you can do is get her to show her face.” Nev smiles as he picks up the phone.

“Should I give her a call?” Max shakes his head yes with certainty.

Nev then dials the number that they were given, awaiting a response.

“Hello?” He hears a female on the other end of the phone.

“Hello,” he states. “Is this Kristen Gibbons?” He hears a bit of quietness at the other end, wondering what’s going through her mind.

“This is Kristen. Who is this?” Nev clears his throat, hoping that she doesn’t hang up.

“This is Nev from the show Catfish. Have you seen the show?” He hears a sigh on the other end as a slight smile forms on his face. She had caught on.

“You’re calling about Ryan, right? He got a hold of you because I wouldn’t meet up.” Nev and Max both smile, glad that they wouldn’t have to go into many details.

“Well, actually, his concerned friend Darrell Wallace Jr. got a hold of us because he was worried that Ryan was being catfished. Now, do we have something to be worried about?” He heard more silence on the other end, which worried him. If she wasn’t automatically answering, that meant that something was up.

“There’s something small that you should be worried about, actually. There’s something that I lied to Ryan about.” Nev’s thoughts immediately go to the picture that she texted him.

“You lied about your appearance?” He hears a shocked exclaim from the other end.

“Oh no – that photo that I sent him was me, actually. I don’t worry about those things. I stick to myself and those who like me, so be it. I’d rather be friends with who like me for me than some faking.” That comment caught Nev off-guard based on the fact that she had lied to him about something, as originally stated.

“So what is it that you lied to Ryan about, Kirsten?” He hears her take a deep breath, knowing that she’s contemplating saying it over the phone.

“My age. I’m not 21 years old.” Max looks over at Nev in surprise as Nev thinks it through. As he looks back to the photo, he wondered how old she could possibly be. Was she younger? Or older?”

“How old are you, Kirsten?”

“15.” Max and Nev’s jaws drop immediately in surprise. Nev takes a deep breath, not wanting to express his initial reaction.

“Kirstin, would it be okay if we met up with you? I want to talk to you about your relationship with Ryan and why you lied – give you the benefit of the doubt. Then, if you want, we could also have you and Ryan meet officially and get this out on the table.”

“I’ll meet up with you guys to talk about things and explain. As far as meeting Ryan, I don’t think that’d be the best option. Do I honestly want to screw things up for what they are by revealing that detail?” Nev was intrigued by the answer, but understood. They were faced with an interesting age gap, and had the pair been together, it could’ve caused legal problems. Still, for her to at least partially agree on meeting, it was a start.

“That’s fine. We’ll start with that.”

 

Chapter 7: Meeting Kristen Gibbons

When I was writing the last chapter, a lot of things flashed through my mind. I debated whether to have Ryan catfished or not. I debated whether everything was true with her story, or whether she could’ve lied about her age, something about herself (disability as some mentioned), or was a total lie as a whole. The whole 15-year-old thought came to me as I went forth with typing out the research by Max and Nev. Anyways, that’s a glance in my mind.  What happens now? We’ll just have to wait and see.

“I can’t believe that she’s 15!” Max lets out as they pull up to the girl’s house. “Who lies about that?” They then continue to walk up to the front door, with their producer that had tagged along for the day.

“Now with the fact that she’s under the age of 18, we will need her parent’s permission to talk to her and air this,” Ariel states, catching both of their attention. “We’re legally bound. That’s why I came with you.”

“And if they don’t agree?” Max questions.

“We can tell Ryan what she told us – the confession of lying so he knows the truth,” Nev answers, knowing that was within legal bounds. “But we still wouldn’t be allowed to air the episode unless we bleeped out her name throughout, due to lack of permission.”

“Nev is right as you can tell Ryan the information – but for airing purposes, I’d be bleeping out any mention of her last name and blurring the photo that she sent him,” Ariel adds as Nev knocks on the door.

“I just want to know what would process her to lie like that,” Max comments as the door opens. The three-some stare at the man at the door in unison.

“May I help you?” He questions as Nev and Ariel glance at each other. Nev normally would handle introductions easily, but this was a touchy situation.

“We’re here to see your daughter, Kirsten Gibbons,” Nev states as the older man looks towards him.

“Why?” Nev glances over at Ariel and she gives him a nod to go forward.

“We’re here from the TV Show Catfish that airs on MTV. Through our research and a short phone conversation with your daughter the other day, she’s catfishing an individual. That means that she lied to him about her identity – in this case, her age – to get his affection.” The man looks back in the house, seeing Kirsten standing at the top of the stairs, before turning his eyes back to Nev.

“How do you know this is true?” Ariel takes a deep breath.

“As Nev said ,we spoke to your daughter on the pho-” Ariel starts.

“How’d you get her phone number?” The man quickly cuts her off.

“The man that she is catfishing, Ryan, gave us the number. The way the show works is we get the information that they know, do our own research and figure out whether that is the case. Once the phone number checked out to be hers, we dialed it in interest of seeing up a meeting for her and Ryan. We thought it was the legal thing to do by all means since she told Ryan that she was 21 years old. Dialing the number and reaching her, she revealed her true age. At that time, Nev asked to meet with her to discuss why she had lied. That is why we’re here today. We have the full conversation recorded if you’d like to hear it, sir.” The man glances back at his daughter once again, shaking his head in shock and disgust.

“Please come in.” Ariel is caught off-guard by this and leads Nev and Max into the house. “Now, if you please wait here, I’d like to speak my daughter – alone.”

“Of course,” Nev comments. The man then goes up the stairs and Max goes to follow, but Ariel holds her arm out.

“We always follo-” He starts.

“He hasn’t given us permission to film his underage daughter yet,” she cuts him off as he relaxes. “Just be thankful that you’re in the house so far, Max.”

“I wonder what she’ll have to say to her dad for what she’s done. Say goodbye to cell phone privileges, probably.”

“This is why I always advise parents to watch what their children are doing online at all times – whether kid or teenager,” Nev advises as he had to agree with Max’s sentiment.

“Most girls wouldn’t tell someone that they’re 15 years old.”

“You’d be surprised what happens out there,” Ariel comments, having heard of some other surreal cases. “Truthfully, this toned down compared to some who lie to get into sexual chat rooms.”

“But why lie to someone that you don’t know about your age?” Max questions, still dumbfolded by the girl’s behavior. “I mean, it was just a conversation back and forth for friendship. Why not just say that you’re 15?”

“Scared that she’d get turned around?” Nev suggests as Max shrugs his shoulders.

They all then stand in the hallway, awkwardly waiting, till the father returns a couple minutes later. They watch Kirstin appear back at the top of the stairs where she had been before.

“I can’t say that I’m pleased with my daughter’s behavior after she told everything that she’s done,” the man states as the group shakes their heads understanding. “I’d like to thank you for bringing it to our attention.”

“We were only called upon due to a friend of Ryan’s who was curious as to what was going on,” Nev states as he glances back at Ariel. She was their legal person of the group, in charge of the proper contracts and papers in place for them to legally air episodes.

“Now that you know what is going on, is it okay with you if your daughter appears on camera to tell us why she lied about her age?” Ariel asks the million dollar question. “We cannot have her appear without your permission, even with her saying that she’d talk to us.”

“I think she should own up to what she did and tell you the reason,” the man states. “Beyond that, I know she wants to avoid Ryan, but I think she should go tell him herself since she owes him that after lying to him all these months.” Kristin slowly walks down the stairs at her father’s cue, standing at the bottom.

“Do I really?” She questions as her father turns to face her. “I don’t know if I can face him after what I did.”

“You should’ve thought about before you did it, right?” He then turns back to Ariel, Nev and Max. “Please – the living room would be perfect for this discussion.” He then leads the group to the living room, with Kirstin following behind. Everybody takes their seat and once the camera is set up, all eyes turn on Kirstin.

“Let’s start from the beginning with the first tweet and go from there…” Nev suggests a she slowly shakes her head. This was going to be tough to explain.

 

Chapter 8: Kristen’s Story

“Ryan always does these Q&As on twitter, and most times, I send a question and he answers – just like all the others,” Kirsten starts, remembering that night fondly in her mind. “However, I wanted to ask him something different than normal and I wasn’t sure whether I wanted everybody reading it.”

“Do you remember that question?” Max wonders, intrigued by her reasoning for the mysterious message question.

“I’m shy, quiet and don’t really do well with getting to know people. Ryan seemed like that type in a way because he always keeps to his own deal – except for with his friends. So I wanted to ask about how you go over getting to know people and over those weird fears that were there. I didn’t want all my followers reading that because it just comes out as a loner and just….not cool.” The pair shake their heads, understanding. It seemed like a reasonable answer. It still didn’t give them anything to go forward with for lying about her age.

“So you sent him the message…” Nev says and she shakes her head yes.

“After I gathered enough courage, I sent him a message, asking if I could ask him a question,” she recalls. “He told me that was fine. I was still worried, so I mentioned my fear about it – but he said no matter what it was fine. I then sent him the question and he offered some advice.”

“Now that turned into a conversation, right?” She shakes her head, remembering the series of messages. If only she could go back to how simple things were those nights.

“I then asked him a couple more things to go with it, and he answered them all. after awhile, he told me that he was going to play some games with friends, thanked for the conversation and that was it. I thought that was the end of it, and things would go back to how they were before – following him on twitter as a friend, sharing Q&As that way as normal.”

Nev shakes his head, starting to understand things. Kirsten found a special connection with Ryan, liking to have someone to talk to compared to her normal lonely world. It was nice to live in that fairy tale of having someone to look up to who was a star, and accepted you. It was like she found an acceptance that she loathed for from everyone else.

It would also explain why she lied about her age later. Perhaps he turned things serious and she didn’t want to lose that connection, knowing that something she could hold on to. Maybe she felt that she could heighten her perfect fairy tale of finding that person that she loathed for. Therefore, she lied about her age to keep things going with him.

“A couple nights later, I was caught off the blue when a message popped up asking me if I wanted to chat again,” she continues her story. “I accepted, slightly intrigued because why would he want to talk to random me when he could talk to anyone? We then began to talk more and more about things.”

“So when did the age lie come about?” Nev questions as Max continues to think over Kristen’s story so far. His theory of acceptance and a fairy tale to live in were blossoming more and more in his mind.

“I can probably answer that,” Max interrupts Nev and Kirsten as they look over. “He asked you probably about a week in, and you simply said 21 instead of 15. You were afraid if you said 15 that he’d think you were some little fan girl and run off. You were beginning to feel a connection – perhaps love – and didn’t want to lose that and be sent to the world of loneliness that you know. Am I right?” Kirsten lets out a sigh and shakes her head yes.

“I don’t have a lot of friends at school,” she starts. “I can’t socialize in public. I’m not good at introducing myself to new people. I keep to myself, and observe the world from a distance. When people approach me, I’m always worried of how they’ll judge me so I hide myself. It felt nice to finally have someone that I could openly talk with about everything, and not have a care in the world.” Nev shakes his head, understanding as Max smiles. It all made sense now. It still didn’t make up for what she did, though.

“Now about three months ago, Ryan admitted that he loved you,” Nev recalls from Ryan’s side of the story. “He said you acted surprised, and accepted. Then the text messages and photo trade began. Why didn’t you admit that you lied then?”

“Wait – you have a relationship with him?” Her dad interrupts as Kirsten slowly looks over. “You’re having a love relationship with someone over the age of 18. Do you know that’s illegal? Do you realize how much trouble you could get Ryan in? Do you realize what you could do to his career because of your little acceptance deal?” Kirsten glances down and shakes her head.

“I honestly thought about admitting, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that,” Kristen state, partially ignoring her dad’s lecture. However, as it began to sit in, reality was crashing down and she felt tears trickling down her face. “I didn’t want to lose what I had with him. It felt nice to feel accepted for who I am for once. It felt nice to have a friend. When you’re normally lonely, you don’t realize how much it means when something happens.”

“There are better ways to find that acceptance than doing it this way,” Nev comments. “You could join a club at school or speak to a councelor to find ways to help your nerves, or…” Nev then glances over at her father. “You could speak with your parents, in an understanding basis without judgment for advice. They could help bring your self esteem and find ways to help you, as well.”

“So you’re ignoring the fact that there’s an underage relationship here?” Her father questions, seeing hwo the topic wasn’t addressed by anyone but him.

“We’re aware of the underage factor,” Ariel interrupts the conversation. “That’s why I needed to ask for your permission before speaking with your daughter. Beyond that, there’s no legal bounds here. Your daughter and Ryan didn’t do anything together- besides talk – so there’s no legal bounds where charges could be pressed by any parties for underage sexual relations.” Ariel then looks over at Kirsten. “We’re also taking a very serious approach to this, with Nev and Max exploring the reasons and solutions, so therefore we can prevent your daughter from doing this again as she should learn her lesson properly.” Ariel then glances back at her father. On the flip side, we’re also going to tell Ryan that she lied. From there, he can either extend a friendship with her or cut ties – however, it’ll be known that a relationship is against the law due to sexual relation laws, which I’m sure he’ll understand.”

“Rather than taking such a hardcore approach with your daughter, I am also suggesting by what I just told her that you should be more caring and open-hearted,” Nev adds. “Take the time to understand her decisions and find out why she made them. Then, moving forward, look for ways to help her so that it doesn’t come down to having to look to a stranger on the internet for attention and someone to speak with.”

“I know I was wrong….and I’m sorry,” Kirsten lets out, wiping the couple of tears that have fallen. “It’s just….I felt it was right in the moment. I also didn’t think that things would continue. I thought that he’d get bored over a while or find a new interest and be gone – like what normally happens. I didn’t think it’d turn this serious, either. I’m sorry.”

“You read those feelings wrong for him, then, because he felt as much attention to you as you felt to him,” Max comments. “He loves you, and I meant truly loves you. This was no simple caught for little time. He fought with his friends over his love for you, despite their disbeliefs. I can tell you that you’ve made a tangled web.”

“I know…and I’m sorry…”

“Okay,” Nev states, wanting to get things back on track to the discussion at hand with those matters now on the table. “I guess that also explains why you avoided every type of meeting that he coined up.” Nev then takes a deep breath on Kirsten. “We’re going to tell Ryan the truth. We’re going to tell him that you lied about your age, and the reason why you lied about your age. Ariel is also going to explain the legal side of the matter in how it was told to you, as we have to by show law standards to keep ourselves out of jail. You have a decision to make here. You can come with us and explain this to Ryan yourself, or you can stay here. It’s up to you.” Kirsten’s eyes immediately go to the ground as she shakes her head.

“I can’t face him and tell him the truth…. I just can’t,” she lets out. “I can’t do that.”

“Then it’s on my shoulders.”

As they got set to leave with discussion complete, Max was left in thought. he had figured out her reason for not saying anything and broken it down. He had also watched her repeatedly show that she couldn’t let him know that she lied via twitter, text or in person.

As they got in the car to head back to North Carolina and see Ryan, Max glanced back at the house. It made sense. If Kristen admitted her lies, it would end things as they knew – and she wasn’t ready to return to reality. She wanted to stay in her fairy tale and pretend that everything was right, and she had a friend to lean on amongst the solitude that she knew well.

He could only hope that for both Kirsten and Ryan, everything would work out for them one way or another.

 

Chapter 9: Ryan’s Thoughts

Ryan opens the door to the apartment and sees Nev, Max and Ariel standing there, instantly feeling all the blood leave his body. He didn’t know why, but he suddenly felt nervous. What if they hadn’t found good information?

“Can we come in?” Nev questions and Ryan shakes his head yes.

“Bubba! Chase!” Ryan yells, catching the attention of his friends. They then look away from the paused game, noticing the new people in the room. “We can finish playing later.”

“Do you want us to leave?” Darrell wonders, knowing why Nev and his group were there. Ryan thought about telling them to leave, however knew that they’d find out the truth anyway.

“It doesn’t matter.” Chase went to move off of the couch, figuring that it’d be best to leave Ryan to talk with Nev and Max alone. He figured that it wasn’t information that he needed to hear. Darrell, meanwhile, stayed put. He watched how the group entered the room and given the look of thought on Max’s face, he thought it’d be better to stay for support.

“Come on Darrell…” Chase urges as Darrell slowly shakes his head no.

“I’m staying here to offer him support,” Darrell comments as Chase crosses his arms.

“There’s going to be no offers for support needed because everything is true, remember?” Darrell wanted to say that, not wanting to hear negative news. However, something told him otherwise.

“I just want to be here incase, that’s all.”

“How about you just sit down and shut up so they can talk?” Ryan suggests, growing frustrated. He just wanted to hear what Nev, Max and Ariel had to say about the situations surrounding Kirsten. Chase then sits back down in his spot beside Darrell as they all focus on Nev.

“We went through our normal research as we do in finding whether the phone number is real and such,” Nev starts. “Everything checked out, which is a good thing.” He then takes a deep breath. “I then phoned Kristen and explained the situation. I explained that I was calling from the TV show, and you wanted to meet her and the doubts that were there. She agreed to meet with us and discuss things.” Darrell feel his senses tingle even more with a glance around the room as despite that, she was not there with them. For him, that meant that something went affray in their discussion.

“So?” Darrell questions, urging Nev to continue. Nev was set on telling the truth – it had to be said – however, was dreading saying it. How do you tell someone that they were lied to?

“She meant everything that she told you – she thought you were great, and a perfect friend to have. However, there was a crucial lie that she told you and it was why she avoided meeting you. She lied about her age. She’s actually 15.” Ryan, Darrell and Chase’s jaws drop all at the same time in shock. Darrell and Chase then glance at Ryan, who was sitting between them, wondering as to what his reaction would be.

Chase was certain that the girl was real based on the circumstances, but could’ve never predicted the age lie. It begged too many questions as to why someone would lie about their age and say they were six years older.

Darrell, meanwhile, was stuck in his own thoughts. He knew that something was affray, but never thought that the reason was because the girl was younger than legal age. He was honestly ready to go kick the girl’s ass now.

Ryan sat there in shock and just shook his head in disbelief. It felt as though his heart was being ripped apart in learning the truth. Here was a girl that he had real feelings for, confessed his love to – but was only 15 years old. How was that fair? Why didn’t he see through that and see that she was younger? How could he had let her play him like that? How could he had simply believed that things were right – when Darrell and Emma were on to something the whole time? Sitting there in his own thoughts, he was stuck in between anger and sadness.

“Now, I know you’re heartbroken and I know you’re in shock,” Nev starts. “I know this also changes a lot of things as far as the feelings and such.” Ryan slowly shakes his head yes as he glances up at Nev.

“There’s also the legal sid-” Ariel starts.

“I didn’t know or mea-” Ryan interrupts, feeling all the pressure of the world on his shoulders.

“We know, Ryan. Also, while her father was visibly upset with her actions, there was no physical love connection. You both never kissed, never touched each other – nothing. Therefore, you don’t need to worry as there’s no way that you can be in trouble for what happened. You don’t have to worry about that, okay?” He shakes his head yes, immediately feeling relieved. It still didn’t make the sadness or anger easier to deal with.

“I just can’t believe that….” He then glances around the room, feeling his eyes tingle a little with tears on the surface. “Who lies to a person about something like that?”

“A catfish,” Darrell shares, catching everybody’s attention.

“That’s supposed to make me feel better?” Ryan questions. “I’m supposed to feel better in knowing that I was catfished? Thanks…” Darrell lets out a sigh, knowing that the comment was certainly ill-timed.

“Dude, I’m sorry – I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant to answer the general question that was asked. Plus, she’s not a total catfish. She just lied about that so you weren’t totally played or anything.”

“You could still be friends…” Nev offers, hoping that something of that nature possibly worked out. He could see that Ryan enjoyed talking with her outside of his normal realm of friends. he could also see that Kristen would like that based on how her life was.

“Perhaps Max should explain things further…” Ariel suggests, glancing over at Max. This was something that caught Ryan’s attention as well. What could Max say that would help the situation?

“Kristen is the type of teenager that doesn’t have a lot of friends or connections with people,” Max starts. “You said yourself that she’s quiet and hard to get to know. That goes with her personality. She’s the type of person that’s lonely and scared to make connections with people. She said it herself that she doesn’t socialize in public as she’s not good at introducing herself. She keeps to herself, always worrying about how she’ll be judged. She reminds me of the type of person that gets bullied and picked on at school, totally singled out. You were the person for her to turn to.”

“In her words, she said ‘it felt nice to finally have someone that I could openly talk with about everything, and not have a care in the world’,” Nev adds. “You were the saving grace to her loneliness world and when you asked her age, she didn’t want to scare you off by having you think that she was some fan-girl.”

“If she would’ve said that she was 15, I would’ve accepted and still treated her as a friend,” Ryan comments, knowing that fact. He enjoyed the conversation and friendship. It wasn’t attraction or sex – it was just about having someone to talk to. “No offence to these guys, but it felt nice to have someone to talk to that didn’t know everything about my life or was always around me. It felt nice to bring someone from the outside to let them see things and see how they saw it.”

“I want to know what you’re thinking right now about what Max and I have told you…” Ryan shakes his head, feeling a mix of thoughts.

Their confession had erased the anger that he felt as he understood the reason behind why she did it, and didn’t feel being angry was worth it. However, the sadness was there. They had still crushed the connection that he had felt – in the love way – and made those dreams dissipate into nothing.

There was also sadness in hearing more of her story and understanding her background. In a way, he felt sorry for what she was going through that he didn’t realize before, and it made him understand why she reached out to him. It made him want to reach back out to her despite things, and offer to be someone that she could talk to with the truth on the table. The thought of being alone in a world, especially high school where everybody picks on everybody, was just a cruel feeling.

“Would you want to have a friendship with her?” Ariel wonders, snapping Ryan out of his thoughts.

“As much as it hurts to realize I was lied to, I would,” he answers as Nev lets a small smile form on his face. That was a start to mending the fences.

“We offered to bring her to North Carolina with us and let her explain herself to you, however she declined,” Nev says, “She said that she couldn’t bring herself to tell you. she felt bad. However, you have her phone number. You can make the decision, if you want, to reach out to her whether via text or calling, and see what she says. You don’t have to as that’s a decision for you to make if you’re comfortable with it.” He shakes his head, accepting.

He thought about picking up his phone in that moment and texting her immediately, but held back. He knew that he had to give himself time. He had to think it over and make sure he was ready to do that.

If he was going to message her, he couldn’t hold anger over the lie. He also didn’t want to do it out of pitty, but for the right reasons. If there could be a friendship there and the conversation could continue as before, without any love connections, then that text could be sent with the right intentions behind it.

 

Chapter 10: Reaching Out

It had been a couple days since the reveal that Kristen had lied about her age, and the reasons why she did so. Ryan had spent the time thinking about what he should do, and what he felt was the right thing.

He didn’t want to do something just because it seemed to be the right thing or was pressured to do so – he wanted to do the right thing because of reasons that made sense to him.

He thought about the fact that she lied to him about her age and let him fall in love with her. He couldn’t be angry about it – but it was heartbreaking. He thought there was possibility of her being ‘the one’ and that wasn’t the case.

He thought about the conversations that they had. They weren’t based on flirting or attractiveness to each other. They were based on solid conversation. He would speak about his days, the fun with friends, along with other thoughts that dwindled on his mind.

He remembered even speaking about his thoughts in whether he’d truly make it full-time one day in the Sprint Cup Series, and his worries about that despite acting confident to everybody. That was something that he could’ve discussed with the boys, but that was always a roundabout discussion. They’d just tell him that he had the talent, he was in a good situation and be thankful for the opportunities so far. In contrast, she spoke about ways of facing those thoughts, relating in her own world, and finding ways to have them but not let it flutter in view.

He also remembered her reason for what she did, and it broke his heart. How could someone that bright and wonderful be left to feel alone in this world? How could someone that friendly be left to feel like they can’t make friends? He wondered why she worried about being judged, and why she had the insecurities that she had. He wondered whether it reflected life at home, life at school – or was just part of her general make-up.

Either way, as he picked up the phone and was set to dial her number, he knew that he was doing the right thing.

“Hello?” He hears a man’s voice on the other end, recognizing it to be her father’s immediately.

“Hello Mr. Gibbons – this is Ryan Blaney calling,” he states, after taking a deep breath. There was no lying – he felt nervous beyond nervous.

“I thought Nev and Max were supposed to clear things up with you, and explain what happened.” Ryan takes another deep breath, trying to calm his nerves while picking the best words possible.

“They did. They explained to me that Kristen lied about her age and told me that she was 15. I can assure you, sir, that nothing happened between your daughter and I. That isn’t something that you have to wor-”

“Then why are you calling?” Ryan sat back on the couch, feeling that her father’s behavior reminded him instantly of a no-bullshit type of a guy. He wondered if that played a role with Kristen’s behave…couldn’t think about that right now.

“Kristen and I never really had a romantic relationship, if I have to be honest. We were more a pair that would talk to each other about our feelings, and help each other with problems that would arise. She came to me for some advice, and I offered. In return, I was able to have some great conversation with your daughter. For me, it’s a friendship that we have together. I’d like to continue that friendship with your daughter.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Ryan could see why her father would think that based on everything that happened.

“Sir, I can understand why you’d be worried or hesitant. However, I want you to hear me out. I’m not asking so that way we can be together romantically. I’m just asking to be friends, still, and nothing more beyond that.”

“May I repeat that I don’t think that’s a good idea, Mr. Blaney?” Ryan lets out a sigh, knowing that there’s no way through to her father.

“I understand…” He then sits back, ready to hang up and give up totally. However, he wasn’t going to quite do that yet. “With everything that has happened, I would have to welcome your daughter and yourself to the race this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. You can come as a guest to myself and my team with pit passes and tour the garages. There’s no strings attached. You can come and stay far away from me if you want, or perhaps we can meet up and discuss things in person. I think it’d be a great weekend getaway for you and your daughter.”

“Fine. I’ll accept that. However, don’t think that you’re in the clear yet…” Ryan felt a lump form in his throat, knowing that meant her father would probably have more to say the following weekend. Thinking about it, he knew that he better keep his friends close over the weekend.

“That’s understandable. I look forward to meeting you and your daughter.”

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